Friday, February 27, 2015

New Happenings

Revival. I've heard about it, read about it, experienced it in the church and personally. But I didn't even know I needed it this time.
As many already know, I was able to spend three weeks in the US over Christmas, and it was a huge blessing and great time of relaxation. But coming back to the mission field was like stepping into another world- one I had thought I knew but had changed tremendously in three short weeks. A friend and disciple passed away unexpectedly during my vacation. She was one of the most faithful of the church and a hostess in one of the houses of prayer I share with my ministry partner Abi. Three people left the team as well in a short period of time and all for different reasons. Neither the team nor the church were in a good place, with attendance plummeting and the team filling the gaps the other three had left in the ministry all while keeping up with a regular workload and trying to encourage the people to come back to church.
I did not write about these difficulties while they were happening because while I kept faith in God for His response I did not see it happening at the time. Now, after some time has passed, I can write about God’s glory rather than our problems, because God is faithful to those who love Him and he has been responding.
The house of prayer I mentioned is now being hosted by the son of the woman of faith who passed away, and he who says that even in the grief God has given him peace. A few weeks ago, Abi and I went to the house of prayer and the host was the only person there. Instead of being discouraged, however, we got down on our knees to pray and declare God’s victory over the house of prayer and the lives the attendees (future, past, and present,) and then we ordered chicken and ate together. Now people are once again attending on a regular basis and are excited about a new plan that we have made together to go a out and evangelize door to door in the neighborhood.
Of the three people who left the team, one is still serving in Extreme Nazarene Missions, and another is serving in ministry in their home city. As a leadership team we have been able to cover the gap left in the workload by taking on some more responsibilities ourselves, but also by handing some off the the local leaders in formation. Church attendance has been crawling back up (attendance always seems to drop faster than it grows but it is growing) and we’ve had evangelistic activities and events in this month of February for the holidays. Valentines day is probably even more of a big deal down here than it is in the United States, so we had a special youth service on the 14th and a couples’ event after. Also, there is a national holiday here called Carnaval, during which everyone gets a week or more off of school and university and there is a lot of play fighting that consists of throwing water, foam, paint, and sometimes mud on your friends, family, and people you don’t know. If it sounds crazy or confusing, that’s because it is. But it is also a lot of fun, especially for the youth, so the Evangelistic Ministry organized a paint war out at the lake as an event to draw more youth into the church. And thanks to God, good things have been happening in youth ministry!
A few weeks ago as I was giving the message during our Saturday night youth service, I was surprised at my own Spanish skills. I didn't ask anyone else, so I’m not sure if it was noticeable, but I certainly heard myself stuttering through the message. My Spanish was worse than it had been in weeks! I had prepared and practiced and prayed over the message beforehand, about loving your brother and your enemy, and there should not have been reason for me to feel so insecure while preaching. On top of that, I was feeling exhausted- mentally, physically and spiritually- before the service. Though I had prepared thoroughly, as I began to speak I thought that this service might turn out to be another embarrassing display of how much I still didn't know Spanish rather than a powerful message from God. But as it turns out, what I perceived as weakness God used for His glory. As I looked into the eyes of the youth listening attentively, I realized that many of them were being deeply touched by the Holy Spirit, and as I began to pray at the end of the message I realized the spiritual battle that was going on in that moment. The presence of God was there in that room and the youth were aware and responding. Sometimes we joke that “tears are success” but the reality is that God showed up in that youth service, spoke straight to the hearts of the youth, and all of the glory is His. In my human limitations, I couldn't even speak clearly, but God had something deeper to say and used my weakness to speak to my heart as well, and humble me before Him, because He is the one who was acting that night and any “success” had belongs to the King. Since that service, the youth group has been steadily rising in numbers once again.
As a team, we've drawn closer together through this time of difficulty and have become more united. Before, we had two regularly scheduled team meetings during the week, to plan ministry and pray together, but we have added on Thursday mornings (our church-wide fasting day and the day of our fasting and prayer service,) a time set aside only for prayer, as a team of leaders and as people who need Christ just as much as anyone else and are desperate for His presence in our lives.
As an individual, God has been constantly renewing and reviving my life in ways I could not imagine. In these past two months, He has freed me from a personal struggle I had had for years and has been drawing me closer to Him every morning of every day.My personal time with Him is so much deeper and more powerful than anything I have experienced before and I have found a new passion and hunger for Him that has crossed over from my personal life into ministry. One of the things I had been praying for and continue to pray for, is a love and a passion for the work that God has called me to do. I was struggling with my attitude and began dreading the work and stress that the week brought. but God has renewed my Spirit and has been teaching me how to depend on Him. After all, He never promised that his would be easy, but He did promise that He would never leave me. With our one year anniversary as an official church in Ibarra coming up next week, I can’t help but be excited and grateful for all that God has done in the past year and hopeful for all that He will do in the next.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

First Baptisms!

So now in the States we're well into autumn, a favorite season for many, but down here in Ecuador the changing months only mean a bit more fog and rain. No changing leaves, no pumpkin patches or Halloween decorations, but that doesn't mean that we aren't celebrating. A few weeks ago we had our first baptism service in the church. Because we have no built-in facilities to use in our church building for baptisms, we traveled about forty minutes outside the city, with the nearly the whole church packed into buses and cars and went to a beautiful little resort with pools for the baptisms (and to swim in afterward) horses to ride, a volleyball field and even a little hiking path.
More than ten people got baptized that day, and I had the privilege (for the first time in my life) of helping with two of them. Seeing the emotion and passion in the people being baptized, and really committing their lives to God's service in public, was very inspiring. After the baptisms, we of course did the Nazarene thing to do, and had food and fellowship. It was a great time of celebration and community as a body of believers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Summer Ends With Great Things Ahead

Last week our church completed six months of existence, but that's not the only milestone we've hit recently. With our completion of six months, we now have enough people attending to open a second service! We start this Sunday with two services every Sunday morning, the first at 9.00am and the second at 11.00am. The summer has been full of activities such as Love Extreme, Encounters, and our first children's Encounter!

God worked incredibly in the lives of the 60 short-termers who came down for Love Extreme. We had five days of activities with them before they left to for their work in Ambato. I was able to lead a group to a retirement home to do a games and a cooking demonstration with the residents there. God blessed us all with the smiles and sweet natures of the people who just wanted to spend time with someone. What impressed me most was the mission of the place. It was not just a place to put aside people unwanted by their families- this center works with the family members as much as they do with the elderly. Their mission is to teach compassion and caring to the family members, so that they take care of their elderly instead of shoving them aside. After we left the retirement home we went to a hospital to pray for the patients and hand out sandwiches to the family members. I had told the short-termers to pray with all faith, because even though we would most likely never know if God had healed these people, we don't know what blessings He will bring with our faith. We left the hospital, and I was not expecting to hear any news from the patients there. But a couple weeks later, a team member of mine reporter that a taxi diver had expressed interest in our church because she said that some North Americans from the Nazarene Church had prayed for her brother in the hospital and it was a great blessing to her family.

We had our third Encounter in August with the largest amount of people yet! People even came from outside the city to receive God's blessing! By the end, every life had been changed, there were two marriage proposals, and even more families and relationships restored.

God proved to us once again just how much He loves children in the our first Kid's Encounter just last week by touching their lives personally. It is a mistake to think that children have easy lives or do not have problems because of their age. Even the children from the most Christian families had hurts that needed to be healed by God. And God touched the lives of the adults and youth working during the Encounter, by showing His special love for children. Two children gave their testimonies in the Sunday service and one little girl began to cry as she said, “I felt God hug me, and felt that I am a daughter of God.”

We've had an exciting summer full of God's blessings, and our church is starting to mature into a much for formal structure, something very much needed. The thing about church building from nothing to something, is that for a while it needs to be very informal and unstructured as we learn to put the structure in place, and wait for the direction for God and for more workers to form the church leadership and lead ministries. But as time goes on we are becoming more structured and are always thinking in the future. God has directed and guided us this far and I know that He will continue to keep this church firm and steady for many years to come.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

First Short Term Team

This month, we had the privilege of hosting a short term group from Trevecca Nazarene University  for four days, Saturday through Tuesday, to work with us and help out the church before they left for Ambato to complete the rest of their two week trip. The fifteen people who came down were more of a blessing for us than I could have possibly imagined.

Before they came here, I was thinking with the perspective that short term mission trips changes the person who goes more than the people they are serving, and I certainly hope that this is true for every one of them, but I did not expect to be blessed in such a grand way, either.

The team arrive early Saturday morning, and by 11:00am we were with them in the church giving an orientation and then taking them all over the city to pray for the people and the issues specific to Ibarra. Later that day, they participated in a talent show that I had organized with the youth group, as more of a way to gain more contacts than to show off our talents. Later, they helped us with a kid's event on Sunday, but my favorite times with them were Monday and Tuesday.

Monday morning, the short term team came into the church to pray for specific issues that surround the church and the church neighborhood. Each person chose a piece of paper from a table in the middle of the sanctuary and followed the instructions. For example, one might say something like: “Stand by the table at the entrance of the church. Here is where he greeters stand every service to welcome the people into the church. Pray that the greeters always show the love of Christ to the people coming in and that everyone who enters this place knows that they are loved by God and that this is their family.”

We prayed with them, and I, along with a few others, began to cry at seeing a group of strangers praying so passionately for people that they don't even know. I could only give thanks to God and wonder how He was so good to bring these people from so far away to bless our little church.

The rest Monday was spent painting the church, filling and delivering Love Baskets, cleaning and organizing the church building and putting in new shelves for the kitchen. Tuesday was a more normal day for us. We began with the 4am prayer service, and then had three girls from the short term group join our house of prayer in the morning. We had visitors from Spain that day who prepared us a Spanish omelet! We then went to present two dramas that the team had prepared in a neighborhood where we hold more than one house of prayer. We finished the day by meeting with everyone in our house, singing hymns and having a time of prayer that was truly powerful and special.

I am so grateful for all of the help that they gave us and for the blessing that they were to my team and to the church. I continue to pray that God changes their lives radically and that they grow in their passion to work for Him that stays with then as they go back home to regular life.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Encounter with God

“Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” -2 Corinthians 5:11

Everyday I find myself understanding more about the truth of God and realizing that mediocrity not only doesn't cut it with God, it's spiritually unhealthy. We are designed as humans to grow in our relationship with God, not stay in the same place.

On April 12 and 13, we had our very first Encounter with God. An Encounter is two days of conferences that are designed to confront the areas of your life where you are not right with God. Whether it's an issue of forgiveness, resentment, habitual sin, low self-esteem, or something else, these issues are confronted at the Encounter. For some people, the Encounter is the first time that they ever experience anything about God. I had already attended an Encounter in Cali, Colombia, with the rest of the team, but attending it and leading and organizing it is a completely different experience, and in my opinion, it is a far greater blessing to lead it.

Ten people from our church came to attend, some excited, some nervous, some a little reluctant, having come on our insistence. By the end of the conferences, even the least emotional were crying, and the ones who were hesitant to come did not want to leave. From the houses of prayer that I share with my partner, five people went (at least one person from each house) and I cannot express the pride and happiness I felt that weekend to see them open up completely to God and let Him take control of their lives.

We saw families restored, sin rejected, spiritual healing happen and God embraced wholeheartedly, and now we have ten people in our church on fire for God and eager to tell everyone they know about the goodness and mercy of God, and eager to grow spiritually in their own faith.

And the part of this whole weekend with the most impact was the presence of God in the room during the conferences. He is the One Who made this all possible and responded to our prayers that this Encounter be something incredible.

And after the Encounter, we had the most attendance to our service that we've had yet, as family and friends came to receive their loved ones from the Encounter.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20- “We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” As we saw this weekend, sometimes the people who seem the most righteous need help from God the most. We cannot lose time. God wants us reconciled to Him NOW. He can see the destructive things in our lives that we cannot. Many times I have heard this testimony after an Encounter (I in fact said the same thing as well after the Encounter in Colombia): “I thought everything was fine with God. I pray, I read my Bible, but God showed me the truth. That things were not right with Him.” God wants to heal every area of our life, even the ones that we don't know about! I am so grateful to God for the opportunity to not only attend an Encounter, but to organize one, and I wait with anticipation for many more to come. And I encourage all of you to grow in your faith- and what better time to get excited about God than Easter?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

First House of Prayer!!!

So of course we know about the power of prayer, but the real fun starts when we start seeing the answers to those prayers. Ever since we first started in August, our team has been praying for the people in the city of Ibarra, that God would lead us to people ready and hungry for the Word, and that we could open up houses of prayer all over the city with these people.

Last week, my partner and I secured three houses of prayer with three different families all desperate for the Word of God and ready to open their homes to meet one day a week to hear more of the Word. And this morning was our very first house of prayer! Because my partner leads 4 am prayer on Tuesday mornings, I planned out the lesson, praying that God would lead and direct me in the topic, the words I had to say and how I presented myself as a leader. The topic this morning was in John 6:25-40, when Jesus is telling the people how he is the bread of life. (We are supposed to follow a certain lesson plan, but we do not have the books available to us yet, so my partner and I did a lesson specifically designed for this family.)

Last week, when we went to their house, one of the sons of the owner of the house prayed a prayer of reconciliation with God, and the owner told us how much she desires spirirtual growth. The focus of the lesson was to reaffirm the decision of the son, and encourage the whole family to seek spirirtual sustenance. And God certainly provided spiritual sustenance for my partner and I this morning, during a powerful time of prayer.

During the house of prayer we were laughed, prayed, and listened to God speak and I had no fear or hestiation in my heart. It was such a beautiful time, and I cannot wait for our next house of prayer with this family and watch how they grow in the Spirit, and my partner and I alongside them.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Aaannd yay! We're finally here!

Happy January! Down here we keep hearing about how frozen it is in the States! I'm so glad to be in Ibarra, where the worst that happens is some rain during the evenings or fog in the morning. Ha! This weekend is only our second weekend in Ibarra and we already have a significant number of contacts. We have been working more as a group when meeting people, making contacts and planning events. As individuals, we work on the specific ministries that we have been assigned, which were decided after much prayer and direction from God. I have been blessed with the responsibility of leading the youth ministry! I ask for your prayers, that I might have wisdom, discernment and creativity as I begin this journey. I have no fear of this job, because youth ministry is a passion that God placed in my heart when I first arrived to Ecuador, and I have only received conformation after confirmation that this is where I am supposed to be. But still, I and the rest of my team are always in need of prayer! Ibarra is a wonderful place, and we have already met people open and hungry for the Word. I ask that you remember us in your prayers as we begin our ministry!

And it's so exciting to finally be here! After four months of training, I am feeling so blessed to be finally working for the advancement of God's Kingdom! And the people are responsive!

Yesterday evening, the women in the team made little cards with encouraging messages, bought some chocolate, and went out to greet our neighbors. We introduced ourselves, as "your neighbors who are new to this city and eager to make friends" (though not exactly like that, as it was in Spanish,) conversed with the people a little, asked them if they had any prayer requests, and explained that we are a group of missionaries and would love to pray for them. We then took down their contact information to check in later and see how they are doing, and to invite them to future events.

Every person we encountered had a request and some even had questions for us. When one person asked us specifically what our job was, we responded first with, "well, we go out and make friends, like this," and then went on to explain our work more specifically. But it is true. Our job is going out and making friends (and much more,) but conversing with people and getting to know their hearts is something special. I have great hope and confidence that our church in Ibarra will grow rapidly and that God will use this team in incredible ways!

Thank you for reading! And if any of you have a specific question about our ministry or are interested in knowing something that I haven't blogged about, post in the comments section below or email me at I want to stay connected with all of you back home and would love to hear from you!