Monday, November 30, 2009

5 days, REALLY???

WOW, only 5 more days until we are loaded up on the first airplane of 4 in our trip back to the USA.  My emotions run a muck right now.  I'm sad to be leaving but thrilled to be going back home!  (NOTE: The saying of "Home is Where Your Heart is." is true for me - only my heart is in two places Uruguay and America.) 

The last few months since we decided to take furlough have passed quickly and we're thankful for that because these last few weeks we all have felt very homesick.  I guess the knowledge that we will soon be with family is a trigger.  In the same instance we are feeling homesick for our friends here - in other words we will miss them terribly! 

Last night was our final Sunday night in this ministry.  And there is really nothing remarkable to note about it.  In all ways it was like every other Sunday service, except for the brief time before the bus left to say some goodbyes.  Several people reminded me that they love us and have undertaken to pray for us during our furlough and also for where God wants us to plant our first church upon our return to Uruguay!  Each day that passes I am more and more thankful for these dear believers whom God has allowed us to minister to, and them to us.

Scott finished out the focus on missions by preaching on 1 Corinthians 3:5-8.  He encouraged people here to see that they must follow after Christ not after man!  He reminded us that some plant, some water but God is the One that gives the increase!  He will give the increase in souls, in ability, in faith, in finances, in everything! 

Our desire for ministry has been, and is, for believers to know that they are solely instruments for His use.  Teaching them and training them (discipleship at its core) to do the work of the ministry themselves so that they can carry on without us.  It is important for them to know that we are not God!  Just as we must trust God to provide for their needs so must they!  God who has no shadow of turning is able to provide for believers throughout world - NOT just in, or through, the USA!  He will support His work through His people - nationality is of no importance - their faith is!  And so, it was thrilling to have a conversation with a Uruguayan who believes that support can be gained from Uruguayan churches!!!!  PRAISE GOD and GLORY to Him, this is the concept of indigenous!!!!  God is Jehovah Jireh, not America.  Pray this Uruguayan believer's faith will not deviate but will grow and that others will understand the principal of indigenous missions.

But I digress...sort of....there is a lot to get done and I probably should get off this computer and take care of the seemingly millions of things to do, like a couple dozen suitcases that need to be packed.  Thank you all for praying for us these last few days of our first term!   

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mi Despedida

I cannot believe that we are only a week away from heading back to the USA!  As we begin these last few days here in Colonia we are reminded how blessed we are to have had the opportunity to minister here.  A few weeks ago one of the ladies asked if she could organize a despedida for me. 

I had no idea what to expect but I was really excited that she would think of me and desire to do something special for me.  And the night was one of the most special times I've had in my life.  I left feeling so blessed and loved!  There have been times where the enemy has wanted me to believe I haven't had any impact here and that no one would miss me.  To listen to the testimonies last night one would have to conclude that the enemy could never have been more wrong! 

Valeria organized and hostessed my farewell party.  She is one of the ladies that I discipled as a pastor's wife.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what the Lord will do in her life as she ministers alongside her husband.

This is Silvia, our adopted Uruguayan Mom.  She has been so sweet to our family!  And such an encouragement!  The Lord has used her countless times to lift our hearts.  She's also known as the Candy lady and is always ready with a bag of candy for Simeon.  Poor thing spent most of the night crying.  Everytime I looked at her I started up again.

Abuela Paulina has been so wonderful for our family.  Our children really needed someone to think of as a great grandma and the Lord gave them Abuela Paulina.  She can't always make it to church but she is faithful to pray.  There is so much I've learned about faithfulness through this dear lady. 

Amparo arrived here to Colonia with her husband and children just a few months after we did.  In spite of the language and obvious lack of ability to communicate well we became fast friends.  God has knit our hearts together in a way I never could have imagined.  I'm so thankful for a dear friend in the ministry who can understand all that I go through, who encourages me, and who loves me in spite of my flaws.

The ladies all gave sacrificially to buy me something as a going away present.  Here I am with all three of them: a daily planner, a special memory book filled with notes from the ladies here, and a watch.

At the end of the night these two partners in crime devised a scheme that went something like this:  "Debbie, come here.  Can we have a favor?  Just one little bitty favor?  Can we pick you up for a picture"  They didn't leave me enough time to answer and before I knew it.... 
I was up in the air but I'll spare myself the embarrassment by not posting the picture of my look of surprise when they, literally, began hefting me in the air.

The teen young ladies who came to be a blessing to me.  During the testimony time Yeny, to my right, thanked me for my example and for SIGMA.

The group shot of all the ladies who came.  Minus a couple ladies who had to leave before we could take the picture.

The silly foto...I love these ladies and their fantastic sense of humor.

Thanksgiving Day 2009

Chickens in disguise as turkeys once again fooled our taste buds this Thanksgiving.  Maybe it is all the normal fixin's that help them along.  This year we had ham, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, sauteed green beans, macaroni and cheese, stuffing and rolls.  For dessert we had pumpkin pie, pumpkin rolls, carrot cake, and berry cobbler (with berries from our back yard).  The food was only a very small portion of our day.

Our special guests for the day were Daniel and Amparo Lopez and their daughters, Debora, Cesia, and Keren along with Rebeca, Sebastian and Rudy.  Juan Carlos also stopped by for some fellowship.  The guys started off watching futbol (soccer) because there was no American football to see.  Then they headed outside to fellowship.  Meanwhile the ladies were finishing up the meal...and I was setting the oven on fire.

 You know I don't do it on purpose but it has literally become a tradition for us to have some sort of fire on Thanksgiving.

After lunch we began our traditional game of Dominoes.

 Took a break for dessert.

 Played some SPOONS.

And finished Dominoes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving week

Thanksgiving on the mission field certainly adds a new dimension to the holiday.  Some things we just have to do without, like Turkey.  As you know from reading about our other Thanksgivings here in Uruguay we replace the Turkey with large chickens...just can't get ourselves to pay the $100+ for a gobbler.  And it actually tastes like Turkey!  Don't roll your eyes...go ahead try it. :-) 

This years adaptation comes in the form of lack of a van.  As I began this post Brandon declared the Micro Macro van was here.  It turns out that we had to move to the mission field to reach the elevated status of having our food delivered.  Just kidding.  It's actually a free service they offer for purchases too numerous to load onto a moto.

I debated about having a real Thanksgiving meal this year, with all we have going on it just didn't seem possible.  It wasn't until last night that I decided I could swing it.  I'll have to get everything prepped tomorrow after our Baptist World Mission meeting in the morning because we have a full day in Montevideo on Wednesday, but it will be well worth it. Although this year will not doubt be bittersweet we are really looking forward to enjoying the meal and fellowship with dear friends! 

Please be in prayer for us this week as it is exceptionally busy:

Tuesday - School, BWM Uruguay meeting, Thanksgiving preps
Wednesday - Day in Montevideo for my MRI and paperwork errands so we can fly out with the kids.
Thursday - Thanksgiving day
Friday - School, my goodbye party
Saturday - School, Kaitlin's goodbye sleepover
Sunday - Final Sunday here, Family goodbye party in church, Brandon's goodbye camp out

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To the Harvest Conference report.

It is indeed a thrilling thing to be a missionary serving God on the mission field.  As we served the Lord throughout our deputation ministry we used that time in churches to share our heart for the people of Uruguay.  Before that, when we didn't yet know where we were headed, we would listen intently to each and every missionary and ask God, "Is this where you would have us to go?" 

Often times, especially after a missions conference, we would become overwhelmed by the need for world-wide missions and we would chomp at the bit to get out of Bible College and to the field.  It was hard to be patient and wait on the Lord but we knew we must or we would be unprepared for what lay ahead.

This week of missions conference was very interesting, it was as though God cut a new facet into our lives as missionaries.  It certainly adds a new dimension to missionary life to have a missions conference on the mission field.  While sitting in the services listening to Pastor Daniel Lopez, missionary from Peru serving here in Colonia, share different needs world-wide I found myself praying for the Uruguayans to hear and to see and to go. 

Details are important to God and He certainly didn't hesitate to work through even the smallest things in this conference.  Our original special music schedule had to be changed and when I printed out the conference booklet all the missionary quotes ended up on different pages than I had intended.  It turned out that the changes made to both the music and the booklet fit better with the preaching.  Since we had no idea what Missionary Jeremy Estrema was going to preach it made it fun to see how the little adjustments would play out with the messages, and/or with Pastor Daniel's missions presentations.

I'm very thankful that God gave us the idea and burden to have this missions conference.  The preaching this week was some of the best we have ever heard on missions.  We trust He is at work in hearts helping them to beat along with His, giving compassion for the lost, helping eyes to focus on the need for workers in the harvest fields world-wide and loosening the grip of fear of living without money, family, and all things familiar.  Our prayer is that each and everyone of us that attended the conference would live in open handed surrender, that we will say Here am I Lord, send me, and that we will follow through.  

Kaitlin and Amparo Lopez took the kids to China via the story of Hudson Taylor.  Each child got their own "passport".  They also learned more about our guest missionaries Jeremy and Katie Estrema.

Having fun together during lunches at our house.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wrestling Match

Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Missions has always been at the forefront of my Christian life.  I thank God for our sending church that places a focus and importance on the heartbeat of God - sharing salvation through Christ with the world! 

We loved missions conferences in our home church!  I'll never forget the conference that followed, by a mere week, Scott's surrender to serve God full-time as a missionary.  Having the missionaries into our home was thrilling and we soaked up all they had to share with us. 

When we moved to Bible college we were able to experience two missions conferences every fall; one at the college and one at our church.  Every missionary presentation was an opportunity to pray and ask God if that was the country and the people He would have us to go and minister.

Then we were appointed missionaries with Baptist World Mission and suddenly became the missionaries.  The Lord blessed us with the opportunity to present the need for the Gospel of Christ to be shared here in Uruguay in over 100 churches.  Each church was a special blessing to our family.  And it was clear that missions was more than a concept it was what made the church.  It became clear that if the churches focus was on missions that church was a thriving vivacious work. 

I never take lightly the sacrifice of money and time on our behalf, personally, and on the lives of countless other missionaries that had already passed through the doors of each church.  However, I never understood, until now, the battle that rages around a missions conference. 

As soon as we began planning for this conference we have had to duck and cover.  We are being bombarded! 

Sadly, friendly fire along with the expected fiery darts of our natural enemy have hit their marks.  Even so, you all are praying and our battle gear is in place so those fiery darts have not quite had their full intended effect.  (Eph 6:16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.)

For the past few weeks we have had one thing or another happen to us our the kids.  Since this past Saturday it has been literally non-stop.  Simeon dropped a huge rock on his pinky finger leaving it swollen and black and blue.  Later that day Silas and Brandon came down with something respiratory.  Brandon was barely able to stand on Sunday morning and he was scheduled to preach that night.  We encouraged him to plan to preach.  God intervened and gave Brandon the strength and ability.  By the time we got home Sunday night Silas was in a major asthma attack and we had to put him on steroids before the day began on Monday.

Tuesday morning Simeon got his finger caught in between a bike chain and the sprocket.  And that afternoon Silas fell and cut his chin open.

Wednesday during school the window above Isabel's desk fell and the glass shattered where she would have been sitting.  Thank God she had already finished school and was not at her desk.  Later our guest missionaries arrived to our house for lunch and their oldest daughter was bit by our dog.   Yesterday their son had a bad allergic reaction.  And Silas touched the hot tail pipe of the moto. 

This morning Adeline woke up in a severe asthma attack.  Yesterday she ran out of her miracle asthma medicine, my fault, I miscalculated.  I don't know if the crisis was a result of not having her meds last night or not.

I praise God for His protection in all of these incidents.  Clearly many of them have been life threatening.  Yet God in His grace has not allowed them to go beyond the superficial and the almost.  God is on the throne!  And we will continue to share God's heart for worldwide missions with the Uruguayans!!!

Monday, November 09, 2009

Youth Night part 2

Kaitlin playing the offertory.  Her ability to play the piano has increased exponentially in the last year.  It was exciting to see her playing arrangements of intermediate level music.   

Jony leading congregational singing.

Yeny, Eliana G, Eliana Q, Maria Eugenia, Elizabeth, and David singing the special music.

Brandon preaching for Genesis 12 about how even little things will affect our lives, and lives of others as well.  Abram's half truth was still a lie.  That "little" lie led to other lies and even retelling the same lie but to someone else.  He reminded us that we need to be faithful in going to church, reading the Bible, prayer, meditation and doing what we learn.  He applied what he preached by asking how we would like to know that a decision we made negatively affected the whole world for thousands of years.  There were several decisions made for the need to be faithful.  We praise God for His enabling Brandon to preach as he was very sick yesterday morning and we prayed all day for God to give him the strength he needed. 

The six top verse memorizers - Nacho, Eliana, Elizabeth, Paola, Kaitlin and Belen.

Yeny was one of seven young people who received an award for faitfulness in devotions.  She along with Belen, Brandon, Eliana G, Elizabeth, Kaitlin and Paola did more than 80% of their daily devotions.

We honored the faithfulness of our youth leaders by giving them Character Awards.  Pastor Daniel - Dependability, and his wife Amparo - Enthusiasm.

Sebastian - Contentment, David - Availability

Pastor Andres - Joyfulness, Maria Eugenia - Boldness.

The youth leaders then gave their Character awards to each of their teens.

Our youth group and leaders excited about all their hard work.

Kappa Theta Fishermen - Alvaro, Pastor Andres and Maria Eugenia, Kaitlin, Eliana, Yony, Mauricio, Yeny and Flavia.

Chi Alpha Gideons - Paola, Tatiana, Pastor Daniel and Amparo, and Nacho.

And the winners are the Nu Delta Trastornadores - Mauricio, Brandon, David, Elizabeth, Eliana, Belen and Sebastian!  Great job guys!

Brandon with his "preacher-only" soda...a proud moment in his life. :-)

Youth Night

Teaching young people to do the work of the ministry is wonderful especially when they have the opportunity to put their lessons into action.  We are thankful for the way that the Perezes have organized the church and annex here in Colonia, allowing for the young people to serve in nearly every capacity.  It puts the church at a distinct advantage!

This weekend SIGMA ended and we completed our official responsibilities here with the youth.  It has been a tremendous pleasure and blessing serving the Lord in this ministry!  We trust God has allowed us to impact the lives of these young people.  Our prayer is that they will continue taking sermon notes, memorizing Scripture, doing their devotions, serving the Lord and following after Him as they seek His will for their lives.  Below are pictures of the last SIGMA meeting and last night's youth service. 

Kaitlin playing and David leading for song service for the last SIGMA meeting.

Getting ready to watch Nu Delta's announcements video - absolutely hilarious!

These guys pretended to be news anchors, David Eastiene (Dav ideas tiene) and Brandon Oticias (Brando noticias).  This was their 2nd video.  

Pastor Andres, Mexican missionary to Uruguayan Jewish people, preached on the need for workers in God's Harvest fields.  He reminded us about God's provision - where He calls He will provide!

Brandon and Jona heading off to pass out invitations to the Cola Wars rally we're holding next weekend.

Everyone heading up to Centro to pass out invitations to Cola Wars.

Eliana, Elizabeth and Kaitlin passing out invitations to the Cola Wars.

Reading their invitations.  You can see the girls in the center background.

Our 2nd annual ice-cream treat.  Jony is pretending to eat this cone he found in the trash.  I didn't realize it was actually from the trash can...GROSS!

Some of the girls enjoying their soft-serve.

The rest of the girls.

Our honorary youth...aka missionary/youth leaders kids.

Some of our youth leaders.  Seba was avoiding me, for some reason I've earned the title of paparazzi.  David had to take his sick brother home.  And I'm taking the pictures.  :-)

Thanks to all of you who were praying for the SIGMA year!  No doubt the Lord worked greatly as a result of your prayers.  Please continue to pray for these young people as they continue to walk with the Lord.  Please pray for David and Mark Perez as they will be leading the youth group.