Wednesday, April 26, 2017

"A man's best friend is a good wife." Thomas Edison

I sat across the school room table and watched my wife interact and teach three of our four children.  Balancing on an edge the different strengths and weakness and personalities of these three.  While all at the same time bouncing between subjects and grades.  I looked on in admiration.  She was gentle yet firm (every now and then frustration gets ahold, but if you knew my kids, it is surprising that frustration and yelling isn't the every moment of the school day).  Proverbs tells us "He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD."  I have found this to be true.  I know that many men throughout the world will tell you they are the most blessed men on earth.  Well I am no different.  I am one of those guys.  I truly know in my heart of hearts that I am the most blessed man on earth.  First and foremost because I have been adopted into the family of God.  Before the foundation of the earth, the Lord set His redeeming love upon me and chose me in His precious Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is not a higher blessing that can be bestowed upon anyone.  Apart from that glorious truth, the Lord continued to shower me with blessing.  He gave me a woman who is like no other.  I could write and write until this blog was overtaken by all she does, but that isn't really the point I am trying to make.  What I am trying to say is that my wife is an amazing woman of God who pushes me to fall more in love with Jesus each day.  She radiates the glory of Christ and is always challenging me to be more like Him.  She always encourages me in the ministry as well.  Even though she never had the desire to be a pastor's wife or to live cross culturally, when the Lord prompted me, she humbled herself and stepped up to do whatever was necessary to support me in what the Lord called of me.  I must say that I don't have any stories like William Carey or John Wesley.  I have been blessed by an overly supportive help meet.  Full time ministry (cross culturally or not) is hard enough on it's own.  I couldn't imagine having a wife who wasn't supportive or in some cases resentful or combative.  God is gracious.  Giving me Nicole is just another proof of that.  Without her on my side encouraging me and helping me to press on, I wouldn't be here today.  Someone said that behind every good man is a good woman.  I have no idea who said that or how that developed but I will say it is true in my case.  Most of the time, she gets no recognition for all she does, nor does she want it.  But as I watched her teaching our kids this morning, I wanted to take a moment and express my gratitude towards her.  I pastor a church of several dozen people.  I speak at churches in the States when we are on furlough.  For the most part, it could appear that I do all the ministry.  But since coming to Peru I have always said my wife has a bigger ministry than I do.  She is elbow to elbow with the people.  She made the first relationships.  She is doing more than I ever could.  Even this week, in the midst of packing for Chile and homeschooling and all the house hold duties, she is running over to the church morning and evening and dealing with the landlord and the maintenance people that are there doing repairs.  All the supplies for Sunday's, she takes care of that.  She is writing all the women of the church and seeing how they are doing.  She just pours herself out day after day.  I was so blessed and honored a couple weeks ago when the Mud and Miracles team was leaving they acknowledge just how much my wife did.  I swelled with pride!  Even after they returned to the States we received a few emails commenting on how amazing Nicole planned and maintained the schedule.  They got just a glimpse in 10 days what I get to experience everyday.

The great reformer Martin Luther said "Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave."  That is my experience.  Nicole is my best friend and as cliche as it may sound, my soul mate.  I have become a better man since she has been in my life.  She is a Proverbs 31 woman no doubt.  I can confidently tell my daughters to look to their mom to see a true virtuous woman.  I don't have to teach them how to become a mom or wife.  They just look to Nicole.  I don't have to teach my son what kind of woman to marry.  All he has to do is look at his mom to see.  I am a most blessed man.  The Lord is kind and gracious.  Giving me salvation and a woman to share my ups and downs with.  To share my fears and failures with.  A soft and forgiving and gracious woman.  What more could a man want?  I have to say nothing.  My cup truly over flows.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mud and Miracles

It has been almost a week since the Mud and Miracles team from Half Moon Bay have returned to Northern California.  To be honest, I don't even know where to begin or even what to say, but I know that I need to put on paper some of my thoughts.  We have had the blessing and privilege of hosting several teams and families and even individuals over our years here in Peru.  Each team or group or person has brought lasting impact in Peru and within our family.  I think back of our first visitors, the Wettengels, and just how them coming almost gave us some legitimacy in what we were doing.  Their daughter Anna has been down here 3 times now!  Or I remember when I was first contacted by Zach Wise.  He came down here for a few months with his beautiful family and his sister in law (who ended up marrying one of our leaders at the church and now lives back in the States).  Through that trip our families have developed and incredible friendship, one that we are so eternally grateful for.  By far, we were the benefactors of their visit.  They literally have become our family.  Or what about the Epic youth team.  This was a huge group.  More than 30 people all fired up to just get in and serve Jesus here in Peru.  Lifelong relationships were formed from that trip also.  Every year we return to the States I get the blessing to share at their youth group.  Justin is my brother from another mother.  We had the privilege of working with Global Cane Outreach, not once but twice.  This is an incredible ministry which has blessed the people of Cajamarca in ways that probably would have never happened if Bev never took the step of faith to start this ministry.  Through their first trip we got to know Char whose church now is partnered with us.  A church full of joy and passion.  Of course we can't forget ReGen, our sending church.  To be honest, when this one was developing I was thinking, "what is going on here?"  I didn't really know Josh and Erica (the youth pastor and his wife).  They started serving at ReGen after we had already moved to Peru.  Our interaction was limited with them.  I will be the first to admit, they were on the ball and a huge blessing.  All my hesitation was wrongly founded.  This team was great and we love Josh and Erica in ways that can't be expressed.  Not only did a friendship and partnership start with Josh and Erica, but the with the whole Mata family.   They have become so dear to us.  We just can't wait to go back home so we can hang out more with them.  They are an amazing family with such love and passion for Jesus.  One of my personal highlights (one of many) from our last furlough was hanging out with Miguel at Fredrick Street Park and rapping about everything from the Raiders to the government controlling weather patterns.  Skating a few parks with Ezekiel was pretty tight also!  So with all that, we have been blessed beyond measure by all who have come to visit and serve here in Peru.

Now let me get back to Mud and Miracles.  We have always had such a deep and heart felt connection with CC Half Moon Bay.  From the first time I heard Pastor Brian preach, I was moved to the core.  Over the years, he has taken time to help me and guide me and I have grown even more fond of his ministry.  Well that fondness had grown beyond him to the church he faithful pastors.  So when they told us they were planning on coming down to serve, we couldn't have been more excited.  From the embryonic stages of planning this trip, we knew this was going to be a special one.  Not only because of our relationship with Pastor Brian, CCHMB and even the Mud and Miracles group, but because we truly knew that the timing and what we were going to be doing was amazing.  Several other missionaries here in Cajamarca helped and poured their hearts into this trip as well.  That alone was such a blessing.  Too many times, fellow missionaries are only worried about building their own little kingdom and loose sight of the fact that the we all are part of the body of Christ and that end game is the glory of God and that people would come to know Him. So to see this unity and willingness to help and to use their giftings was great.   If you remember, pray for me specifically that I don't ever loose sight of the fact that I am a tool in the makers hand to build His kingdom and not mine or get consumed by what I am doing.  Anyways, from the moment this team got off the plane, it was something special.  I am not at all a mystic.  But you could feel the love and energy that this team brought and right away they showed my 20 complete skateboards to use for our skate ministry.  Pastor Brian even brought me 4 cases of Big Red (that alone made this trip special).  I will admit that over the years of growing closer to Christ, I have become more emotional.  I will cry on occasion.  But I cried probably every day with this team.  And on the day the left, I really cried.  I cried like haven't cried in a long time.  Each person on this team was so vulnerable, so open, so honest and so real.  They served their hearts out.  They gave all they had.  For some, it was the first time ever giving in the way they did.  From loving the forgotten and abandoned to physically busting their humps building a house for a family of 9 who didn't have a dry, warm, comfortable, clean place to lay their heads, this team gave it all.  Once again, we were the benefactors of their coming here.  My life is changed forever.  I know as one of the pastors at Refugio, our church is changed forever.  I know without a doubt, the family who received a new home are changed forever and several of the orphans are changed forever as well.   But my biggest hope and prayer (as it has been since planning this),  I hope and pray that every member of Mud and Miracles, those who came and even those who couldn't, are changed forever as well.  M&M, you guys should have learned in your 10 days here, that you have so much to give and that all the drama and issues you have doesn't mean you aren't valuable in the kingdom of God.  You most definitely are! You conquered struggles and emptied yourselves of yourselves.  You focused on serving others, in love, and gave all you could give.  Don't stop that.  Press on.  Fight the good fight of faith.  Every single one of you has challenged me to grow in Christ and serve with more passion and love.  To me, you guys are the real deal.  You guys truly epitomize the name Mud and Miracles.  What a glorious example of what Christ can do with those who just are willing and who will be honest and open.  All of us in reality are just mud.  Some don't like to say that or think that, but we are mud.  Yet all of us, can be miracles.  You guys are!  I can't say it enough, but thank you for coming to Peru and serving Jesus and serving Refugio and serving our community.  We love you guys and are beyond blessed by all you have done.  We are praying for you and we can't wait to see you soon.  Mud and Miracles!!!!!