Archive for August, 2009

IT’S BACK TO SCHOOL – MISSION UPDATE

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on August 22, 2009 by filerofish

2009-04-30_13.58.16IT’S BACK TO SCHOOL

Summer has come and gone and it’s back to school again for the fall semester. The traffic around town is picking up speed as parents and teachers rush to prepare for the challenge of educating their young. 2009 will go down as one of the most testing years in terms of the economy. Just to give you an idea, in some cases it will take a month’s salary of both parents just to cover the costs of sending their kids back to class. The number of households who will simply not be able to afford that expense is at an all-time high.

There have been many cutbacks in school personnel and budgets as well. Toward the close of last semester, Miriam was left hanging without a job. The private elementary school where she had been teaching was faced with the decision of either cutting back or closing its doors. Then the opportunity came up to take the teacher’s test to enter into the public school system. The government pays better and there are far more benefits. However, only 600 out 6,000 teachers would find job placement regardless of the results of the test. As you can tell, the selection process is less than fair. Only God knows if she will make it in.

God is good! Miriam received a call from the private school where she had been working and they want her back for another year. That’s wonderful news and the Lord knows that we need that extra income to pay for our own kid’s education. My daughter Kimberly will not be receiving a full scholarship like last year, but at least she will get a 50% discount.

Neftalí’s education is our greatest investment. He still has at least a couple of semesters to go before he graduates as an engineer.

WHAT WE MUST DO NEXT

As announced in an earlier update, the next step in ministry here is to train leadership for ministry. Sometimes I wonder if all the mission work that has gone on in Mexico for so many years has had a significant impact. Most of our churches in the country are rather small, usually with less than 100 members. Only a few top that number. Colleges and institutes have generally failed to produce the quantity and quality of leadership required to meet the growing needs of existing churches, much less the demand for new churches. So far, all of these educational institutions have been located on the eastern side or in the interior of Mexico, way out of reach for most of our membership in northwest (Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora and Sinaloa). Somehow, we need to come up with a new plan and fast.

The non-instrument Churches of Christ have come up with some novel approaches in the last few years that have begun to show some promise. We could probably learn something from them. Unencumbered by the trappings of traditional higher education, they have implanted a variety of programs directed toward the busy working adult who wants to get involved in ministry. A lot of this material can be found on the Internet, usually in a guided learning format. For example, the Instituto Biblico del Golfo located in Florida is at the forefront of this push to make college-level courses readily available. I have been told that they are working in collaboration with Sunset International Bible Institute to provide an on-line classroom experience for the increasing number of Spanish-speaking students worldwide. It’s quite an undertaking.

Other options that exist are Cursos Bíblicos para Obreros Cristianos by my fellow missionary colleague Larry White, the Hispanic Department of Brown Trail School of Preaching under the guidance of brother Willie Alvarenga and the Escuela Quiteña de Estudios Bíblicos located in Ecuador. I’m sure there are more, but this is a pretty good sampling of what is being offered.

We must move now if we are going to train the next generation of churches leaders for the increasing challenges the lie ahead of us. This following semester will play a crucial role in the months and years to come. If God still has a plan for our family’s involvement in the work here, we need to hear from you right away!

SEEKING FOR GUIDANCE

I suppose that I don’t need to remind you of the uncertain times that we are living in. The economic meltdown, the loss of individual freedoms, and the increasing restrictions on movement have made even the most basic movement unmanageable. There is growing concern among the missionary community for the future of world evangelism. Even so, we continue to plow forward as best we can.

Since I still have young children who are dependent on my care for them, I have given some consideration to other options for a steady income. I have appealed to our supporters and friends who are living in the southwestern U.S. to help us secure a ministry among Hispanics in this area. A few of the possibilities have been L.A., San Jose, Salinas, Bullhead City, Phoenix and Yuma. Nothing has come up so far. One good brother in Tampa, Florida offered his church building there to host a Hispanic group, but that is clear over on the other side of the continent. The latest development has been an invitation to work with a bilingual group in Chicago – another far off place.

It seems that the only options for full-time ministry in the U.S. are all on the other side of the country. Although a few of my friends have encouraged me to accept the invitation, to do so would pull me away from any significant involvement with the ongoing work in Mexico – my “first love.”  I need some serious direction from the Lord. Please pray for us as we struggle through this phase of our lives.

FIRST SIGNS OF AGING

We’re sure not getting any younger with time. Lately, I have been experiencing some of my first signs of aging, namely broken teeth (always a nightmare), loss of good eyesight, and some minor loss of hearing. I think that most of these symptoms could probably be reversed to some degree with proper care. We live in area with high contamination levels: noise, cement dust, smog, etc.

I will need to get some extensive dental work done soon and a new pair of glasses soon.

Please pray that these needs would be met somehow.

THE FINAL PAYMENT ON THE HOUSE PROPERTY IS DUE IN DECEMBER!

The owner of the house that we are living in (next-door to the church property) called me earlier this month to notify me of the upcoming deadline in December for the last balloon payment of $30,000. There is no way that we can afford it at this time, so it’s going to take a mega-miracle to meet that need. Maybe someone could come up with a loan or something. I am confident that we might be able to negotiate an extension, if we can at least cover the half of that amount. He knows that the situation of the economy is not good, so I am trusting in the Lord to guide us both.

A FITTING TRIBUTE TO THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE GIVEN THEIR LIVES FOR THE CAUSE OF CHRIST IN MEXICO

As the family and I were driving home last night from San Diego, my thoughts turned toward the faithful men and women who have literally laid their lives on the line for the cause of Christ, especially in Southern Mexico. Then, as if God had planned it that way, I picked up the most recent bulletin from brother Gil Contreras’ mission, and discovered that the main article deals with this exact theme: “Men of Whom the World Was Not Worthy”. If you get a chance, I would encourage you to read it.  Just write to Southern Mexico Missions, P.O. Box 7956, Riverside, CA. 92513, and request the summer of 2009 issue of “Outreach To Mexico.”

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THE 2009 FAMILY CAMP IN ENSENADA

Posted in Mission Updates 2008 on August 4, 2009 by filerofish

Campamento Familiar 2009 00114Family camp in Ensenada was a huge success this year. We were expecting around 25 to 35 campers, but our total attendance was 45.  It only lasted a couple of days, but everyone had a blast. There were several youngsters that came this year and that is encouraging. There was more of a team effort this year. Even those who have not attended in the past had a pretty good idea of what they should do, even without much oversight on our part.

I presented a series of lessons on the full amour of God and an evangelistic message on Saturday and Sunday. There were not decisions made at this time, but the seed was sown and lives were enriched by the Bible teaching. Everyone that I have talked to after camp have expressed their satisfaction with result. Truly God has strengthened us all.

2009 HISPANIC CONVENTION IN FULLERTON CA

Posted in Mission Updates 2009 on August 4, 2009 by filerofish

Convencion Hispana 2009 011This past week, the family and I attended our first Hispanic Convention hosted by the Spanish-speaking Christian churches and churches of Christ in the States. This year it was held on the campus of HOPE International University in Fullerton, CA. Events like these provide an excellent opportunity to rekindle old friendships and make many new ones. I hadn’t seen some of my brothers and sisters for over two decades. The rich fellowship among those of a like mind is possibly one of the most significant benefits that this convention provides.

After VBS, I had not been feeling well at all. As the summer heat continues to rise, my energy level has discovered a new low. Furthermore, our vehicle wasn’t in any condition to make the trip to L.A. and back. After the accident that happened over two months ago, a series of mechanical problems has begun to surface. Nevertheless, my wife encouraged me to make to attend. So I did everything I could to fix at as many malfunctions as possible and then prayed that God would take care of us as we traveled. I thank those of you who were praying for us.

We stayed in the home of a friend from my childhood years who lives in a community near Victorville, CA. It was an hour and fifteen minute commute each way, but the opportunity to visit with her and her family was well worth the extra effort. We also spent time with her sister’s family who lives nearby.

Here are some things that I learned while attending the Hispanic Convention in Fullerton:

The need to pray more and depend less on human wisdom, devices or gimmicks to build the kingdom of God in the hearts of men and women.

  • The value of a good sense of humor among believers.
  • The importance of guiding rather than coercing others toward discipleship.
  • The need for the true Gospel of Jesus Christ among Hispanics in the U.S. couldn’t be greater. In the words of one minister who was there, “the denominations and sects are gaining ground and leaving us far behind.”
  • The ties that bind brothers and sisters in Christ transcend time, culture and geographical boundaries.
  • We must take greater care in how we use multimedia tools in congregational worship. Projected images of “Christ” are probably inappropriate in that particular context. It is one thing to illustrate a story using an artist’s depiction of Jesus, and quite another to be raising hands in worship in front of such depictions. It would great if we could eventually do away with both.
  • L.A.T.M. and SPANAM have a growing catalog of books, tracts and teaching resources in Spanish that are of very good quality.
  • A worthy representative of the non-instrument persuasion was present at the convention in the exhibit area, and his booth featured a very interesting model for local leadership training that is being implemented by the Golf Coast Bible Institute.
  • The travel challenges that potential convention-goers face each year have undoubtedly been a contributing factor in the birth of several other “competing” local or regional alternatives that are more attractive to low-income families.
  • I discovered that there seems to be a leadership vacuum among many Spanish-speaking or bilingual churches. This vacuum is quickly being filled by unskilled or faith-only evangelical preachers.
  • There is a tremendous need for non-traditional local leadership-training programs that can be adapted to the schedule of busy working adults.
  • The next convention will be held in Iowa.