If I was a gambling man I would bet that the majority of Christian homes have Joshua 24:15 mounted on the wall somewhere. I know the majority of Christian homes that I have been in have that verse on display. As cliche as it may be, that is a superb vision for anyone's home. We want to serve the Lord in our home in the way we love each other and treat each other. We want to serve the Lord with what we do for entertainment and in our free time. Every aspect of our home we want to honor and serve our Lord. Obviously we fail in this area every day. Each member of my household. Yet, by the Lord's grace we press on to do just that. And by the Lord's grace we will be doing that in a whole new way and literally in our own home. Let me explain.
When we got confirmation to head to Valdivia to pioneer a new church plant we were once again stepping into the unknown. Logistically we didn't know how things would line up. There are still many factors that we aren't sure of but we are just waiting to see how the Lord directs and what doors He opens. It has been so encouraging already to see the connections made and opportunities opened. When we took our visionary trip last year to Valdivia, we couldn't have been more excited to get down there and start the work. Some hiccups have come on the way, but that is to be expected. But during that trip I remember my dad saying with a little joking in his voice (I think), "Even if you don't come down here, I am." You have to understand something about my dad. He is a beach bum. He loves coastal living. There is something about the salt water that is in the air and the sand that gets stuck everywhere and in all places. Being there on that visionary trip drew him in!
Allow me fast forward. I can't remember the exact timeframe, but my parents told me they purchased a piece of property outside the city of Valdivia. I was so overwhelmed with joy for them. Especially after they told me they could walk to the beach in five minutes! This is what they deserved. Both of them worked very hard to provide and take care of their family. My dad worked in heavy construction for what seems like forever. They to me are such an example of finishing strong. Here is my dad at the time of retirement. The normal "American dream" is to work hard and then retire to some nice place. No one would have ever blinked an eye if they took off to some remote island in the South Pacific to live out their days. But they packed it up and headed to the mission field. They came to Cajamarca. Yes, Cajamarca is a wonderful place, but it isn't retirement material. Not only that, we are like in the back end of space from the coast. We are 9000' up in the Andes Mountains. The only coast you will see is when your surfing the web which will just get you grumpy. So when they shared that they bought a coastal property I couldn't have been more happy for them. But the news didn't stop there. I could talk about all the open doors that have come by them doing this and the people they have meet and opportunities we have learned because they purchased this land. Hopefully in future posts I will share some of those things. Let me just say, we are way ahead in the game in understanding options in Valdivia and the culture through this process. It was a crash course on Valdivia. But that isn't all either.
During a Skype conversation my dad told us that they would like to give us some of the property if we wanted to build our own home. Nicole and I were completely shocked and beyond grateful. We didn't know how this would all work out, but we knew the Lord had some type of plan. During our visionary trip we looked at the cost of renting. Valdivia is a very expensive city. So the opportunity to build a house could in the long run be a benefit for us. Still, there were many factors. We both just couldn't believe that my parents were willing to give us a section of their property that they had worked so hard for and so deserved. I wrote them after the Skype and asked are you sure? To our great delight they said yes. We want to help you guys out. So Nicole and I with grateful hearts said yes we would love to build our own home, even though we didn't know how we would afford it.
Through some contacts, my parents recently told me that the city of Valdivia is planning on incorporating the area where the property is into the city. According to the Valdivia zoning laws, the size of the property can't hold two homes. They have permits to build two homes, but if and when the city incorporates our area, they wouldn't allow it. These contacts told them you need to get a second house built on the property so it can be "grandfathered" in. So next month I will be heading down there to put in the foundation and the sub floors and hopefully to roll up the exterior walls. But we didn't know how we were going to pay for that. So here comes the next part.
Nicole Skyped her parents and told them all that was happening. Once again to our surprise, Nicole's parents joyfully said they would help us out with the costs of the house. Without their help we really had no idea how this would even be possible. We are beyond grateful for their willingness and hearts to help in all the ways they do. Without hesitation when they heard about this, they said what an amazing opportunity, whatever it takes we will get it done. Much like my parents, they have worked hard and provided and continue to provide for so many. They are getting towards the retirement age, I think, yet they keep on so they can support the ministry here and many others. We couldn't do it without their help.
Are we going to be in Valdivia for ever? Only the Lord knows. There is plenty of ministry to do. Plenty of zones to reach there. What if the Lord moves us on like he is doing here in Cajamarca? Well, we would have a house that we could rent out to help cover our ministry expenses if we leave. Or even a house to sell if needed to cover a move to another location. Or when we get to retirement age, we can have a place to live out our last days on this earth. Who knows what the Lord is going to do, but there are many options.
Nicole and I have been blessed with incredible families. We are beyond thankful to our God for the families He placed us in. We are beyond grateful for what both sides are doing for us. We know that it is the Lord who has given us all this and we are thankful first and foremost to Him. I know for a fact, that neither of our families want any credit or glory or praise or thanks, but I wanted to share and to share this, I need to paint the whole picture and give thanks and credit where it is do. Our families are incredible even if none of this transpired. Our love for them and gratitude for them would be no different.
I am also thankful for ReGeneration and CCC and CCS and CCHMB for your love and support and to be so willing to help out in any way possible with this. We are overwhelmed by all you do for us and by expressing such joy and excitement about this and what we are doing.
In a few weeks I will post some pics of Valdivia and the property and the work we get done. If anyone is wondering at this point about the ministry here in Cajamarca, yes it will be continuing and the Lord is doing some really cool things right now. Our goal here is to see this church have it's own property as well, which we are praying for. I will be sending out a newsletter next week or so. If you are not on our mailing list, shoot me your email and I will add you.
Soli Deo gloria
Friday, June 2, 2017
Several years ago I met Alistair Begg at a conference. We talked for a few moments, but we kept in contact over the years through email. Several times he asked me to come up to the BASICS Conference which his church Parkside puts on. Last year I finally went. I didn't realize that when he was asking me, it meant Parkside was taking care of all the costs. But it was God's plan for me not to go until last year. Parkside owns several houses around the church that they use to house their missionaries. They put me in a house with Kep James who was really their first missionary and who has been in Boliva since the eighties. Kep is an awesome guy with an amazing ministry. He planted a church in the city of La Paz and a few years ago he transitioned the church to a local Bolivian. So it was cool to pick his brain as I am going through that process right now. Before I left the conference last year, Parkside approached me about partnering up with us to do ESI in Cajamarca. I was so excited about this for numerous reasons. If the local pastors here can be equipped and get a good grasp on the gospel, no one can even imagine the impact this could make in our region. Beyond anything I had ever hoped for. Besides that, we have had several pastors and leaders from other churches throughout this region come to the church and ask us if we could train them on how to preach the Bible like we do. The problem was, I couldn't. We just aren't equipped to do that or have the means. Well now through ESI, that is possible. One pastor who had approached us several times is from an area called Bambamarca, which is a good distance from here. This is getting ahead of the story, but he is signed up and will be going through the training. So let me explain ESI. ESI is a ministry that Kep developed in the past few years to help equip local church leaders. It is a three year program that works to encourage and train faithful servants to build a biblical model of ministry, as Paul outlines in Romans 15:14, “I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness (godly character), complete in knowledge (biblical understanding), and competent to instruct one another (ministry skill).” So the training equips and mentors church leaders to reflect Jesus in their Character, Bible Understanding and Ministry Skills. One of the things I love about it is that, it focuses in on the gospel. It focuses in on the main issues. It focuses in on the majors. You know like grace alone, justification by faith alone. The things that are salvific. All the other stuff, all the peripheral, all the issues that don't lead to salvation, are not emphasized. So it breaks down barriers. It allows us to work with any denomination. What has happened here in Peru and South America for that matter (that is why Kep had this vision to establish this ministry), there is a line. That line is the gospel. So many churches operate above that line or below it. Meaning that if you are below the line, character and godly living doesn't really matter. Correct doctrine and theology surely don't matter. Cause correct doctrine (if applied to the heart) always leads to and produces godly living. But if you are below the line, you don't want that. These are churches indifferent towards doctrine. Below the line is liberalism and various other issues. Below the line you have no guidelines. If you are above the line, you have added to the simple truth of the gospel. You have added man made traditions and called them law. It is the legalistic churches. These are the churches that add to what it takes to be Christian or to be saved. Many of these pastors don't even know they are above or below the line. Many of them have not been trained in any way, shape, or form. Many of them have heard a story and that is all they know and they just repeat that. They don't know how to study on their own or apply the Scriptures on their own. Many have been "schooled" by what they see on "Christian tv". So Kep saw the need to help out the local churches. So out of his church he started this program. The program has expanded. There are now ESI centers in 5 Latin American countries. Last September, I believe, Parkside flew 2 of our guys and another pastor who I knew was doing training in a region north of us, down to Southern Peru to learn how to do this training. It looked as if we were only going to have 5 or 6 guys in the Cajamarca region doing the ESI. But we had 19 pastors and leaders signed up in the region north of us. But a few days before Edwin (the director of ESI in Southern Peru) ordered the material I got an email from the pastor in the northern region saying he will not do the training cause he wants a good relationship with his sending church. Only God knows what took place in that situation, but it is sad that for whatever reasons, the gospel and the training of men in the ministry was deliberately hindered. But I know God will deal with that and the repercussions of it. But we had 5 or 6 guys here so I was still excited. Well, things have developed. The city heard about this training and approached us asking if they could help out in any way. It is so the Lord's hand. We now have 30 church pastors and leaders who will be coming every Monday to the municipalidad (the city has given us a facility to host this) and going through this training. This is a huge blessing. There are several guys who will be coming from different churches that are over an hour away. This is exciting for us as a church. This week we had an elders meeting and we went over the vision and direction of the church. One of our passions is for people to have a high view of the Scriptures. We feel that we need more biblical churches. We need churches committed to the preaching of the word. We feel that is the means God has ordained to reach and feed His people. The minute we start diverting from the Bible and using gimmicks to reach people we have strayed from the plan of God. The Apostles didn't use gimmicks. They preached the word and that was the pattern that was laid down since the beginning. They didn't make it up. But now man thinks we are wiser and we use drama and other gimmicks in church. We think that is going to save people. Isn't it amazing that the Apostles saw anyone saved? How did that happen? They didn't have movie equipment or anything like that (I am saying that tongue in check). Alistair always says, don't play any movies cause the people are gonna want to see the movie and not listen to you. That is some great wisdom there. I went to a church for years that would play movie clips during the sermon and once the movie came on, all I could think about was the movie and I would want to get home as fast as I could to go watch it. I wouldn't even remember what the pastor was talking about. My fellow elders feel the same way. So we have this strong conviction that the word of God is to be the center point of the public gathering. We feel we need more churches who have a high view of the Scripture. Well through ESI, there is no doubt this will begin to take place in the churches of those who go through this training. We don't need to plant more churches in this area, we need to equip and train the pastors who have congregations and churches that are already established. Sure many of them are off theologically. Many of them I would not step foot in. But the great thing about ESI is they will learn the gospel. They will learn how to live the gospel. And they will learn how to minister the gospel. Of course there will be some issues and practices that we might not do in our church, but once again those are the peripherals. Some guys will be way over on one side of the spectrum and other guys will be way over on the opposite side of the spectrum, but it's ok cause once we get them clear on the gospel and in agreement on the essentials we can build on that. Everything else will fall into line. Augustine said, "In essentials unity, essentials liberty, but in all things charity (love). To quote Alistair again he says "Let the main things be the main things." He also says "the main things are the plain things." I like that. So I got a little sidetracked there, but Monday Edwin will be flying up and we will introduce ESI to all the applicants and to the mayor and city officials. I am super grateful and thankful for Adolfo and for his drive and vision to help get this going and all the work he has already put in, not to mention all the work that is still to come on his part. I am grateful that Parkside is flying Edwin up to be at the kick off of this Monday. Not only that, but Parkside provides all the material for each person going through the training. Each person receives a personal library that runs about $600.00. Many of these books for this program Parkside had translated. It is such a blessing for these guys to be able to get these books. I am excited to see how the Lord uses this. Our church is excited to see how the Lord uses this. Looking back I can see how the Lord's providence led to all of this. God began orchestrating this years ago. As I see that, I am so expectant to see Him do amazing things here in Cajamarca. I will be leaving this area soon. Sooner than later. I am really on my last days here. So to see this established before I go gives me a great joy and peace. The Lord does His work. Oh, one more little piece of exciting news, ESI will be happening in Chile as well. More to look forward to!
Soli deo gloria
Soli deo gloria