Saturday, December 31, 2011

One last thought....

I learned a lesson this holiday season that is helping to reshape my mind and heart. As we prepare to turn the page on a new year, I want to share a recent incident that has brought comfort as I continue to trust God for what He has in store for us in 2012.
“Please, not last year’s Christmas tree,” said our girls when we began to see the Christmas tree lots around the neighborhood. 
Unfortunately, not only did Melissa and Elizabeth remember the miniature, artificial tree that we brought to the house last Christmas but so did their friends. “Remember that sad tree your family got last year, I hope you guys won’t repeat that again,” sighed a friend of Elizabeth over the telephone when she asked about our holiday preparations in Idaho. 

So as this year’s Christmas season approached, we meandered to a local store that was selling beautiful, fresh cut Douglas and Noble Fir Christmas trees. Our eyes were mesmerized and the scent the trees projected as we paced through the rows and rows of stunning trees gave us goose bumps of holiday magic. A particular 8 foot Noble Fir stunned our senses and we were enamored right away. As we dared inspect the tree and its foliage, a family came over to us and showed us a store coupon. “Look, all trees are $5 off if you buy it this weekend,” said the mother with a grin. I thanked her for sharing the savvy discount with us and off went the family discussion. “Let’s get the tree, pretty please,” said our youngest daughter.

As the excitement in our girls’ faces was as bright as Rudolph’s nose, Tony and I looked at each other and walked the tree over to the counter where the sales clerk waited to scan it. We felt uneasy about buying the tree and even the stand that necessitated its purchase.  As we drove home, the girls were ecstatic and now Christmas could commence. The two of us had mixed feelings but as parents we couldn't resist the joy the beautiful Christmas tree provided.
Then the unexpected happened. As we entered the house, we opened that day's mail and behind the store ads was an envelope that included a rebate check that would cover the entire cost of the tree and its decorations. You can just imagine the smile on our face when we realized the Lord had just blessed us.. Not only Tony and I but our girls since they had just hand picked the best 8 foot Noble Fir we had ever laid our eyes upon. As Tony and I attributed the Lord’s goodness in such an amazing way, we brought everyone together and prayed. Our simple prayer was just, “Lord, thank you for providing us with such a beautiful Christmas tree. Even though we don’t deserve your goodness, you have still chosen to give us an incredible gift. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.”  The Lord’s provision filled our family’s hearts with gratitude that afternoon. I am humbled He knew the longing of our hearts and provided in every way.
So on this last day of 2011, I turn to 1Corinthians 1:31, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” It is with this verse that I want to conclude. As sojourners passing through, all glory and praise goes to our Heavenly Father who holds the future and whose kindness never ceases.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Isolated in San Jose, Costa Rica

One of the most fascinating things I have witnessed these last few months has been seeing the collaboration of mission organizations and missionaries alongside the poor and disanfranchised. I saw it firsthand when I visited La Carpio, a slum inside the capital city of San Jose, Costa Rica.
After spending a week training indigenous church leaders with my teammates near the Costa Rican and Panamanian Border, we traveled back to the capital city to see another area of ministry where a different group of "isolated" people live.

Over 30,000 migrants from Nicaragua and other countries in Central America live in this dense barrio surrounded by a landfill and two of the most polluted rivers in the country. The good news, however, is that  although this marginalized community is an eyesore to many Costa Rican nationals, the gospel is alive and well despite the harsh living conditions that many families here endure.

Christ for the City International and Mission Aviation Fellowship are working together to not only spread the Good News to the poor in La Carpio but to also serve the families in practical ways. Two missionaries, one with MAF and the other with CFCI, are serving alongside the youth of La Carpio to bring about spiritual and physical transformation. While Brendan and 'Lalo' play different roles in ministry; Brendan in technology and Lalo in sports, both are uniquely suited to help and encourage the community's young people. It was just this past summer, that over a dozen kids completed classes in 3D computer programming while living in La Carpio. Not only did the kids attend the computer lab for instructions but they even learned to make skateboard ramps that are used on the weekends for recreation. Whether it's technology or sports, the children that live in La Carpio are growing alongside godly people who live out their faith not as outsiders but as insiders as both of these men live in La Carpio themselves.

Watching the Body of Christ work together to mentor and build up of those who would be overlooked or trampled upon is a blessing I find comforting and worthy of praise.

    And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. Isaiah 58:10

                                         (A brief description of La Carpio by 'Lalo')

Mauricio, Brendan, Jose, Lalo, and Laura

The smiles tell us the computer lab is OPEN

Ramps and skateboards abound on Saturdays
The dumpster tells you La Carpio is around the bend

Street vendors selling home made goodies

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Overcoming Barriers in Central America

    The invitation by Wycliffe Bible Translators to send a MAF-Learning Technologies team to help three indigenous communities with discipleship training was a blessing from above.

Not long after fellow MAFer, Regina Manley and I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, we made our way south  using the Pan-American Highway with our colleague and driver, Mauricio Sanchez. The four hour drive to the mountainous area of Buenos Aires Puntareneas meant that we would be only two hours away from the Panamanian border. It is in this region where the original or native inhabitants of Costa Rica live to this day.

The Bribris, Cabecars, and Ngobes are three indigenous communities that received the New Testament within the last few years. It was just in 2011, that the Bribris received their own NT translated for the first time in their own heart language.

As Regina and I heard the pastors, evangelists, and missionaries tell us what they did to take part in this  workshop, we were astounded. Many who attended reported walking an average of 5 hours by foot to a bus station for a 4 hour bus ride to get to Camp Bethel, our campground and workshop location.

The anticipation of learning more about God's Word was reason enough for these devoted followers to make the long journey. Our purpose for being with the forty participants was to teach them how to memorize Bible stories, make spiritual observations, as well as to look for personal spiritual applications.

One Ngobe man after hearing the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke Chapter 10, began to repent in the presence of his small group friends and asked God for forgiveness for lacking compassion toward his neighbor.

At the conclusion of our time together, a love for the Bible and a commitment to read and share the Word of God was the overwhelming sentiment expressed from the leaders who participated.

Although the sounds of monkeys, bats, and geckos were ever present during our stay, the privilege to teach Bible stories like the Parable of the Mustard Seed & the Parable of the Lost Coin taught me that these stories transcend cultures no matter where you live.

As an eyewitness to this blessed event, I long for the day when I, along with many others, will see the words of the Apostle John, in Revelations 7:9 occur before my very eyes, "After this I looked, and there before me was great multitude no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb." 


Group leaders about to kick off the event
Cabecar participants ready to learn
Martin, Ngobe leader, is greatly respected among his people
Yolanda, was the only female representative from her people group
Santos, a pastor in his village, loved sharing his testimony
Ngobe, Bribri, and Cabecar men enjoying a coffee break
The New Testament for Ngobe Speakers
Newly published New Testaments for Bribri Christians

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Local & Global Opportunities

             One day in the middle of summer, Tony and I decided that it was time to begin the process of finding a house of worship during our season in Idaho while training with our MAF-Learning Technologies team. As we attended a church that was recommended by a friend, our family began to take first steps to meet and greet new faces and introduce ourselves to the various members of the congregation. 

             It was by accident that on one Sunday, we read in the church bulletin the words: International Ministries/Intercultural Worship meets today at 11:00 a.m. We made the long walk down the hall of the church only to hear the sweetest hymns in a foreign language. As we entered the humble room with a simple wooden cross behind the pulpit, I felt joy in my heart as I saw a sea of cultures sitting near our chairs smiling and welcoming us in their native tongues.

            After the initial visit, we made a point to return on Sundays and worship alongside our new friends from Intercultural Ministries at College Church in Nampa. It was during a Sunday afternoon potluck that Pastor Edwin asked Tony and I to consider teaching a Bible study to young adults from the different college campuses in the Treasure Valley that come and attend church every Sunday. The opportunity to teach international students who for many are hearing about Jesus for the first time, was a chance we could not pass up. As a result, we asked our good friends and fellow MAF couple, Ralph and Val Dawson to join us as the four of us would teach this generation of young people Bibical truths relevant to their daily lives.

            The Lord saw it fit that we would not only proclaim His name to the ends of the earth as we travel to indigenous communities while serving with Mission Aviation Fellowship but that we would also make use of our time here in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8) in order that we may share the Good News of Jesus Christ with those He has brought to our doorsteps.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Beginnings

Coming to live in Nampa, Idaho has been a gradual acceptance of new and familiar things.  Although it would have been nearly impossible to have welcomed the sights and sounds of horses, cows, and barns a year ago, the Lord saw it fit that we would make country living our new humble abode. We are thankful to the Lord for allowing us to move into a home that He provided while we train with our MAF-Learning Technologies team for our field assignment of San Jose, Costa Rica.

I must confess that Tony was the first to take the DMV's written driver's test. He passed the test with flying colors but I hesitated in doing so because I wanted to retain my California driver's license for as long as I could. The thought that I had to relinquish my CA license and pursue another identification other than my cherished Southern California one, was not something I was prepared to do.

It was early in the morning when the Lord spoke to me through the book of John. In John chapter 12 verses 25 through 27,  Jesus tells his disciples that the man/woman who loves his life will lose it. In addition, Jesus mentions in verse 26, "..whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be also." In an instant, I felt the Holy Spirit softly correct me. The realization that I was clinging to an identity that was marked by state and zip code and not on the one who saved me from sin was enough for me to ask Jesus to forgive me and help me surrender to what He wants to accomplish in my heart minus the futility of my residence status.

Thank goodness for new beginnings. Not long after I prayed and asked God to give me a set of godly lenses that I began to appreciate and accept where He had me......not Orange County, not California but a different garden from where I would grow and bloom as a servant of the Living God.

Enjoying a summer day with some horsies.

Snow cone shacks are prominent throughout town.
Our bike trail includes pretty vistas
Nearby pond is calling our name
A street sign that warms the heart

An old tractor sits at the end of our greenbelt

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sensational Send Off

This past Saturday, we had an opportunity to gather with many dear friends before departing for Nampa, Idaho. The special get-together was hosted by Tim and Suzanna Bond who welcomed everyone with open arms as we bid farewell to our friends and supporters who made the past eleven months of ministry partnership possible.

Tony and I could not have been more thankful. The words of encouragement that we received throughout the four hours blessed us immeasurably. "Whenever I think I'm part of a team that is helping spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, I get very excited," said an exuberant long time friend. Others also stopped by to tell us that we were their first missionary family that they have partnered with. There was one comment that was shared by almost everyone in the room and that was that they would pray for our family and for the ministry.
The grace that has been extended to us by churches and individuals has been a direct result of the prayers that have been made on our behalf. We are humbled and grateful for the prayers that are made in order that we may soon serve dedicated pastors and remote church leaders in the developing world.

As the afternoon drew to a close, we thanked the Bond family for hosting such a lovely event. Although it would have been nearly impossible to have met with everyone who makes up our ministry support team, this casual yet special gathering allowed us to express our love and sincere thanks for making our entrance into missionary service possible.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:10

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mi casa...tu casa

Our visit to Florida is the first trip out of state we´ve taken in our season of raising ministry support. We came to share our work as MAF missionaries with churches, individuals, and also to say good bye to my grandparents who also live in this state. We have been very blessed these many months in that most of our ministry support has come out of Southern California. Although we attempted to come to Florida earlier this year, the doors of opportunity had not yet opened and life went on as usual. Recently, we contacted churches in one final attempt and this time the doors flew wide open. I attributed this occurrence to the Lord´s perfect timing as Tony and I prayed that the Lord would show us His will and not ours.

One of the most humbling aspects in this trip has been staying in people´s homes. In the past, we would make airline, hotel, and car reservations and rely on our efforts to travel outside of California. This season of life requires that we travel more frugal than before even though much planning goes into every city we plan to visit. The folks we´ve been able to stay with were once strangers. All of them were once contacts we had been given by friends who knew we needed a place to stay. Now, these strangers have become our friends and their hospitality has been a blessing to us. ´´Here, take what you want from the refrigerator. Mi casa... tu casa.´´ It´s humbling to say the least to have people who didn´t even know you a week ago, open their homes and treat you like you like you are already a part of the family. It´s a great lesson for me in the area of generosity and hospitality. As Jesus traveled from town to town by staying in people´s homes, I realize there is more to be gained by humbling myself and taking notes from those who are willing to make themselves available so that others may be blessed.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Forty weeks and counting

We have just concluded over forty weeks of Ministry Partnership. This simply means that Tony and I have been raising a team of prayer partners and financial supporters for the last ten months. The number forty has often been associated in the Bible as a time of testing and transformation. For example, Jesus was tempted by Satan for forty days in the wilderness (Mark 1:13.) In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were led by God to the desert for forty years in order to test their hearts in light of his commands (Deuteronomy 8:2.) Although we have not been led to the desert or been subjected to relentless temptation by the Devil, we have learned many lessons in these past forty-two weeks.  Tony and I have undoubtedly felt tested and at times even transformed as a result of learning how to walk by faith since embarking on this new season of life.

Here are few lessons I’ve learned in the process:

1) Trust in the One who called you into missions.

Even though some have told us this is not the right financial climate to enter missionary service, we have learned that the Lord has been faithful in putting together a team of prayer and financial supporters in an amazing amount of time. If I lean on Jesus and don't rely on my wits and good intentions, I sense His peace and joy in my heart.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

2) When you have a bad day and doubt the call, count the many times the Lord has kept His promises.

There have been plenty of times where I have lacked confidence in stepping into a new role.  The task of leaving everything behind and setting foot in to the unknown can be a bit disconcerting.  It is in these times where I will go for a walk at a nearby park and think back to the many instances where the Lord has been there to sustain me in my times of weakness. Therefore, I press on because He alone provides me the strength.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

3) Give thanks to the Lord for the way the day turned out.

I have never felt so out of control and yet so at peace at the same time. This new reality has become a new way of life for me. There have been plenty of rejections, cancellations, postponements that would have sent me packing twenty years ago. It has been my experience that many of these negative experiences have turned out for the better. For instance, a canceled appointment opened a time slot that was filled by a pastor who wanted to hear our work. The pastor encouraged by our work with MAF, decided to have us meet the church’s missions board so we may be included in next year’s budget. This is not an every day occurrence but one that reminds me to give thanks to the Lord for He is clearly at work.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:29

4)Seek balance and don't forget to smell the daisies.

Ministry life can be all consuming at times. Tony and I have often looked at each other and without a hesitation said across the room, “It’s time for a walk….” And so with that invitation, we’ll leave the pile of work and abandon the emails and go for a long walk around a city park. After strolling in the park and sharing with each other, we’ll then return to the work that was left unattended and realize the Lord was at work even when we are enjoying His creation and resting in His sovereign hand.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

These are only a few of the lessons I have learned along the way. Some of these lessons I had read about in missionary biographies but now they are personal accounts.  There are more lessons yet to be learned in this journey of faith.  Although the road can get weary at times, we are sustained by the prayers of God’s people. Tony and I are encouraged that we are not alone as we step out in faith.

As scripture often reminds us,  And I  pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:18

**As of this past weekend, we have met our ministry support goal set by MAF. We are thankful to the Lord for His promises. Tony and I are blessed to have such faithful partners. Praise His holy name !

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Down memory lane (and pictures too)

The early years
     Thirty-seven years ago this spring, I arrived in LAX from Madrid, Spain. Anxiously waiting for our family were my abuelo and abuela who had emigrated from Cuba to the United States many years before our arrival to California. We were very fortunate to have grandparents waiting for us as we made the transition to learn a new language and call America our new home. The dreams of a better tomorrow were in everyone’s hearts as we envisioned a country full of opportunities as long as we'd worked hard and played by the rules.

     It should not have come to my surprise that while Tony and I began to prepare  for full-time missionary service in the early part of last year, my mother expressed her disappointment in our pursuit. It was over a phone call late in the evening where she reminded me why we came to the ‘land of milk and honey.”  Shortly after our phone conversation, I prayed and asked God to work in the heart of my mother. Our relationship was strained afterward. We stayed away from the topic of missions and any talks of MAF. My mom had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior in this country like I did many years prior but asking her to give up the American Dream for her own daughter was something too difficult to imagine.
California Dreamin'
        When summer came and it was time to travel to Idaho and be accepted as a career missionary in Latin America, I continued to pray. “Lord, if this is truly your call, I ask that you may grant her your peace about our entrance into missions.”  There were no miraculous signs after we returned home and shared the news that we had given up our jobs as public school teachers to serve cross-culturally in missions. However, the Sunday before Labor Day, my mother addressed the “elephant in the room” and accepted our decision to serve in ministry after nearly twenty years spent in the field of education.
Even though my mom had decided she had no choice in the matter, I sensed I had to lean on the Lord for the months that would be filled with questions and discussions. And so I prayed….and prayed that would orchestrate His will in all our lives.
...but the greatest of these is love

As the days on the calendar always reminds us; time never stands still. Last weekend, we celebrated Easter with my parents and we reminisced over lunch many wonderful memories. I was thankful to God for the gift of a simple meal shared with loved ones around the table. But what was more special was the voice mail message my mother left on the answering machine when I got home. “Laura, I want to tell you how much I admire your courage and love for the Lord. I don’t want to be a burden as you leave and prepare for something the Lord has called you to do. I love you and you have my blessings.” My heart swelled up with gladness in awe of what God had accomplished in over 12 months. I don’t seek self-adulation in anything that has transpired; I can only stand back and watch the wonders that God performs as He asks us to, “…walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthinas 5:7

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jehovah Jirah - I am the Lord who provides

Every once in a while, you are granted a sneak peak into the future. Such an occasion occurred to us this week.
Not long after Tony and I began praying several months ago about where we would live in Idaho did the Lord answer our prayer in a most unexpected way. Although our time in the Treasure Valley would be transitional as we make our way to our field assignment of San Jose, Costa Rica, it’s still nerve wracking as the uncertainty and the unpredictability of moving across states can drive anyone to their knees.
It was in a phone conversation with our MAF-Ministry Partnership coach, where the subject of housing came up. “So, have you guys looked into what area you’d like to move to when you come up north?” inquired our beloved coach. “Well, we have been looking at a couple of apartments on the web and we’re just not sure,” I replied. As the conversation progressed, she mentioned the name of a MAF family who lives less than five miles away from MAF-US headquarters. This particular family who we met during candidacy last summer is getting ready to head back to Africa in the summer. On the morning of our phone call, they had mentioned their desire to rent their home to another MAF family to our MP coach. It was within minutes, that Tony and I looked at each other and realized the Lord had answered our prayer. Even though we didn’t know all the particulars about the house, we began to sense the Lord had provided a place for us to live upon completing our season of deputation.
As a result of the answered prayer, we made the long drive on Monday to house sit in what may become our new residence. The timing couldn’t be better. While the family is outside the US, we have the pleasure to stay in the home and “play house.”  It’s a blessing beyond compare. The Lord has once again showed us that He knows our every need and is more than able to supply it. Philippians 4:19 states, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Upon reading and memorizing this inspiring verse, I praise God for increasing our faith as we continue to place our trust in Him.

- Laura

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Pastors Behind the Numbers

Quechuan pastor in South America

 If you have heard one of our ministry presentations, you have probably heard Laura and I speak about the percentage of remote and isolated pastors that do not return to their homeland if they are sent to far away seminaries or bible colleges to receive pastoral training. The numbers are astounding, 80%-90% of rural and remote pastors do not return to their homeland to pastor churches after receiving training in another country.  The reasons are many and varied. Better quality of life, safety, and security issues are some of the most common reasons why these isolated and remote pastors stay in their new country.  
Pastor in rural Mexico
Guatemalan church
In the many months that Laura and I have been building up our prayer and support team, we have mentioned this statistic more times than we can remember. At some point over the past few months, 80%-90% became just something that ‘was part of our presentation”. This remained true until last week when we met with a pastor who is also an administrator at an all Hispanic bible seminary in the Los Angeles area. The seminary trains and equips Spanish speaking pastor for church leadership. Many of these pastor come from Latin America to receive their pastoral training. After a wonderful conversation with him in his office, we asked the pastor what percent of his 22 seminary students would be going back to Latin America to pastor churches. He paused for a moment and answered....none, 0%. At that moment, 80%-90% became very real to us. 

As we made our presentation, the faces of these future Hispanic church leaders looked back at us, very focused and attentive to what we were sharing about MAF Learning Technologies. We explained how MAF-LT provides equipping and training to remote pastors who have little to no biblical training by taking the training to them in the places where they live and pastor. After the presentation, one student felt so convicted about returning to Latin America that he decided that he needed to ask God what God wanted for him instead of him asking God what he wanted for himself. 
As the night came to an end, the seminary staff fed us a traditional Mexican tostada meal and it gave us an opportunity to speak further with the men. It was a special night for Laura and I because the Lord revealed to us, through this seminary, how great the need is for pastoral training in Latin America. On this night, 80%-90% was no longer just a statistic in our presentation. It represented real pastors behind the numbers. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Can I Get A Witness?

Sister Loretta and Tony
A wonderful surprise during this time of deputation has been visiting a wide range of churches. I am blessed to be able to spend this season of my life visiting different congregations and enjoying a myriad of styles of worship on Sunday mornings.

A recent visit to our first African American supporting church made our family feel like we had arrived in heaven. Pastor M.L. Carter Jr. is the senior pastor of Holy Missionary Baptist Church in Pomona, California and his lovely wife, Donnie, along with the rest of the joyful congregation sang with passion and reverence unlike anything I had ever seen. Their love for the Lord was evident as they greeted one another with ample hugs and kisses. Young and old folks clapped and lifted their voices as the organ played old hymns and spirituals. As we took our place in the pew before the 11:00 service began, we unknowingly sat next to Sister Loretta, the spiritual mother of the 41 year old church. Sister Loretta is nearly 80 years old but her ability to confirm the pastor’s message with an “Amen” or “Praise the Lord” could be heard from one end of the pew to another. Reverend Carter’s message from Matthew 28:18-20 challenged the members to boldly share the Gospel because Jesus would never leave them nor forsake them. As the minister sighted the scripture of the last verse of the book of Matthew, he turned to the choir behind him and asked,“Can I get a witness?”  The members of the brightly robed choir all replied, “Oh, yes!” And with that reply, I realized how delightful it was to watch Pastor Carter stand in the pulpit and receive an affirmation to the unrelenting challenge to “Go and make disciples of all nations….”

My prayer that is that I may I learn from the members of Holy Missionary Baptist Church in their demonstrative love for God and for each other. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

It's All About People

 One of the things I was told by fellow MAF missionaries after concluding our training last summer at US headquarters (Nampa, Idaho) was the amount of opportunities that would present themselves to minister and counsel with people. I must confess that I really did not understand what my colleagues were referring to… until now.

With the various times we’ve had to present and discuss our work, there have been even more times to listen and care for people. I have begun to understand that full time ministry even while on deputation is a life revolved around people. It has been eye opening to realize that no matter what your gender, social or marital status is, we all face daily challenges that are painful and at times debilitating. It has been during those times when a friend will call or meet with me at a coffee shop that I feel most inept and powerless in offering any meaningful advice. All I do is listen and come to the conclusion that the most important thing is to offer a listening ear to my dear friend. Life’s burdens are meant to be shared with others. Scripture reminds us, Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ- Galatians 6:2.

Little did I know when I ceased being a public school teacher that the Lord would be using this season of my life to be a friend who ministers even when I sense I don’t have life’s answers.
A friend of many years called to confide about a struggle they were experiencing. I was thankful to be there because I was no longer bound by a work schedule that would forbid me to meet and pray with my friend. When we concluded our time together, I asked her to pray for me. She prayed that the Lord would give me the strength to persevere during this season of support raising and that our family’s faith would grow as He provides our every need.
In the following verse of Galatians, the Bible also goes on to say: If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.-Galatians 6:3. Therefore, as I listen and learn to put people above a to-do list, I experience grace from God AND from others.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Simply the Story Workshop - Feb 2010

Regina & I

One year ago this month, I flew to Idaho to be part of a Simply The Story story-telling workshop with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF.) The workshop was sponsored by CATCH ministry and held at Castle Hills Church of the Nazarene in Boise. The intent of the workshop was to teach the Nepalese Christian community how to lead interactive discussions on Bible passages as participants grasp truths and apply them to their daily living.
 The workshop was conducted by MAF’s orality specialist, Regina Manley and her team of volunteers. It was an amazing experience to be surrounded by men and women of faith who spoke Nepali and who through a translator where able to discuss the parables of Jesus by discovering the spiritual treasures and personal applications within the different stories.

CATCH & Nepalese Christians
As I participated in the three-day practitioner workshop, I realized what a blessing it was to see the parable of the Good Samaritan apply to any culture. More than thirty people gathered in circles of 5 people per group and listened to the twelve verses carefully. It was followed by the practitioner acting out the role of the priest, the Levite and by the Samaritan according to Luke 10:25-37. Next came the questions and the discussion that make this oral inductive bible study an incredible way to impact those who participate. At the end of the session, I was not only able to memorize the parable verse by verse but most importantly, appreciate the timeless story as my new Nepalese friend and I found the Good Samaritan still relevant in our daily lives.

Group Discussion
Although I was not an MAF missionary when I participated in the eighteen hour training session, I was beginning to sense that this was an area the Lord was preparing me for. The thought that I would be sharing the Word of God with people from different ethnic groups was a dream that I had had for many years. As a result of attending this captivating workshop, I began to ask God in my prayers to make a way for me to share His ageless stories with people groups from diverse places in the world. Since then, the Lord has answered my prayer and beginning this summer, I will have an opportunity to work with Regina Manley and the outstanding MAF-Learning Technologies team. -  Laura

Friday, January 28, 2011

Never Stop Praying

        One of the many blessings our family has experienced in the last 24 weeks has been the amount of people praying for us.Whether we conclude a presentation of our ministry at a church or whether we share with a friend we’ve known for a long time, the number of people wanting to pray for us has been incredible.
Recently, we had a dear friend of over eighty years of age tell us he would not be able to come alongside and support our ministry. “I won’t be around long; it would not really help you in the long run. BUT, I will pray for you and for your children. I promise I will pray for you on a daily basis AND that I can do,” said our elderly friend to Tony and I with a smile on his face. How precious those words were to us; a pledge to pray and be involved in our ministry in a way that matters most.  

For Tony and I, a day doesn’t go by and that we don’t stop and pray for strength in our journey of faith. Without a strong prayer life, it would be impossible to move forward in faith and trust God to provide for the results that only He can provide.
One of the most memorable examples of how prayer has shaped our hearts and minds was when we contacted a church hundreds of miles from our home on the telephone. Prior to contacting this church, Tony and I had spent the morning praying that the Lord would open more doors of opportunity. An hour after we concluded our time of prayer and meditation, I picked up the phone and called a church I had never made contact before. Their name was on a list I had but I did not have a name of a senior pastor nor of a missions pastor. A male voice responded to my greeting and introduction and he began by telling me that he had been praying that his church would become more missions minded. “Sister Laura, I believe your phone call is an answer to prayer. We’ve been praying on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a greater involvement in missions and I believe you’re ministry is going to play a role in it,” said the enthusiastic senior pastor of an African American church on the telephone. My reply, “Praise the Lord! We’ve been praying that the Lord would lead and guide our steps! How amazing that He would honor our request and bring us together.”  The result of what was accomplished only through prayer gave not only the pastor but also to Tony and I the encouragement we had been seeking. The encouragement to trust in God for our heart’s desire and to know He can orchestrate circumstances and events beyond our human understanding. No wonder Scripture reminds us to “pray without ceasing” – 1 Thessalonians 5:17. 

With humility and a heart of thanksgiving, I would like to express our  appreciation to our friends and loved ones who pray for us on an ongoing basis. On behalf of our family: Thank-you and never stop praying.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What do former US presidents and a governor have in common?

They recently commended Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) for being an exemplary organization.
Former president Bill Clinton of the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund praised MAF's efforts saying the group has had a critical impact on Haiti's recovery. "By organizing hundreds of relief flights and delivering thousands of pounds of supplies, MAF has had a critical impact on Haiti's recovery," said Clinton.

I am not surprised by the President Clinton’s kind remarks about our role in the relief and rebuilding efforts. MAF has been working in Haiti since 1986 and has four aircraft at a permanent base at the Port-au-Prince airport. After the earthquake that crippled Haiti's already weak infrastructure, MAF partnered with some 60 relief agencies, transported medical personnel and aid workers, delivered critical relief supplies, and performed many emergency medical evacuations. Since then, MAF has continued flying provisions such as food, water, and medical supplies -- -including IV solution to help combat the country's cholera outbreak.

Idaho governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter, made complimentary comments this week as he delivered his State of the State address at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise on Monday. Otter’s state budget recommendations mentioned Mission Aviation Fellowship located in the city of Nampa as a bright spot in Idaho’s economy, “ MAF is courageous and forward-looking; examples that we should celebrate.”

It is with a smile on my face that I count my blessings as Tony and I serve with such a quintessential organization. As someone who never envisioned a midlife career change, it is encouraging to realize that we will now be involved in a ministry that makes worldwide impact wherever we serve. We, along with nearly 200 missionary families serving 42 countries, desire to observe MAF’s mission statement: Sharing the love of Jesus Christ through aviation and technology so that isolated people may be physically and spiritually transformed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Let Us Go To Them......Impressions from our first missions conference.

The Calvary Chapel Missions Conference in Murrieta was an enormous blessing to us. Tony and I had many wonderful opportunities to share our work with pastors, missionaries, and ministry leaders. The phenomenal speakers spoke on their own ups and downs of serving Jesus in foreign lands and people groups they would have never had the privilege of working with had they not entered missions.
One of the biggest surprises and delights of the three-day conference were the amount of participants who asked us to help provide educational and technical expertise to facilitate the training of new and untrained indigenous church leaders. Those that came by our table acknowledged the large leadership gap that is taking place in places like Colombia, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador to name a few. When Tony and I validated the lack of access that exists in rural and isolated places in Latin America to receive biblical and discipleship training, they asked us how soon can their village pastor come to Costa Rica and receive adequate theological training. Our answer: They will not need to come to us; we will go to them. Tony and I explained that MAF-Learning Technologies believes that remote pastors are better served by keeping them in their native country while receiving support and training from us rather than by plucking them out of their natural setting for seminary training (3-5 years) in the United States and risking the chance that they will not return to care and shepherd their flock. Our response clearly hit a nerve. The realization that ethnic Christian churches in America are often the result of national leaders not returning to their homeland to  lead their own people was quickly acknowledged. Many were able to tell us about pastors who meant to go back to Central & South America while studying in seminary or bible colleges in the West only to stay and raise Spanish speaking churches in the United States instead.
Although we did not know what to expect when we arrived at our first missions conference, we walked away encouraged by fellow missionaries and pastors and most of all, desiring to get to San Jose and assist church leaders in Latin America lead strong and healthy churches in Jesus’ name.