Rest – in Florida

The last time we set aside a block of time for a Family Vacation was in late 2014. Now, there were ministry trips, where we did enjoy family fun, but we were due for another block of time to be intentional to disconnect, in order to be refreshed. Trisha received an invitation to participate and serve in a conference for women in NY state in October this year and was blessed by having an anonymous person cover her travel expenses. So we began to make plans to travel as a family to Florida and spend three weeks with family and enjoy the ocean!

We were blessed to visit both the Atlantic and Gulf sides of Florida with our extended relatives and celebrate Michael, our oldest son, getting his learner’s permit!

John and Barb Windler (Mike’s sister) traveled south to meet up with us and Mike’s parents. We took advantage of the time together to have our Annual Board Meeting for Partners For Paraguay. We are pleased to welcome Dr. Keith Wiebe Sr. as the most recent and 8th member of our Board. 

God has greatly blessed us in the founding and setting up an entity in the USA that exists to partner with the believers in Paraguay! As Partners for Paraguay, we are nearing our first year anniversary and have loved every minute of it. Not only is God taking care of our basic financial needs, but He is blessing the ministries we are partnered with. 

Recently, we were amazed how God heard the prayers of First Nations missionaries in both Paraguay and Bolivia. He led Renew World Outreach to partner with them by equipping them with some amazing technology designed to facilitate sharing the Gospel and growing in their faith. 

We brought the all the equipment from Renew World Outreach back to Paraguay and are now making arrangements for our first delivery/training. Our game plan is to customize each delivery/training for the reality of those involved in outreach. 

More to come in future updates! 

“God, give me courage”

At the age of 18, a young lady left her parent’s home to marry her best friend. There was always someone to take care of her and her needs. Now, fast-forward 16 years, she was to travel and do everything alone. She can be quite independent when she needs too, but she had become comfortable. So when it came to kiss her husband goodbye at the curve of the airport, everything in her knew that she wasn’t going to be able to do it alone. That is where she whispered, “God, give me courage.” 

This was me. Last year, God provided me with a donation that would cover all my expenses to attend Raising Generations Today Thrive conference in New York. Little did I know that it would be an amazing opportunity to truly learn to embrace whatever God had for me.  

God used the three and a half days when I was away from my husband and family to allow me to face some of my fears by stepping out in courage and to intentionally move beyond what I am comfortable with and be taken forward – step by step, learning to truly embrace whatever God had for me, knowing that I was not alone. It was Him through me, a willing vessel to be used for His honor and glory. 

Book Review: FierceHearted

“FierceHearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely” by Holley Gerth challenges women to truly live, to love without restrictions. She comes alongside as a mentor sharing her personal stories of how each of us were created by God for a unique purpose.
Holley says,
A fierce hearted woman…looks life in the face and says, “You can’t beat me.” … [God] offers what she longs for most – for Him to tell her who she really is, to whisper in her ear that He has made her funny and wise and strong and brave.
I am learning that a fierce-hearted woman is one who takes steps to face some of her fears by stepping out in courage, to intentionally move beyond and be taken forward, to walk out her faith, and to abide in Him.
The whole book is awesome, and I have way too many favorite sections of the book to share with you here. The one section that stands out the most to me right now is when Holley talks about “FOMO” (fear of missing out). She says,
I have worried about what I might miss out on if I don’t hold on to everything. But I have never thought about the risk – the one that’s actually much more likely to happen – and that’s if I live that way, I will certainly miss out on at least some of what’s right in front of me.
I know that my email inbox, social media posts, and websites I visit “scream” DO NOT MISS OUT. Yet I came to a point a couple of months ago, where I realized that I was NOT MISSING OUT (or “NMO” as my mind calls it). I purposefully cut down my social media platforms to bare bones and became intentional on enjoying the here and now, especially those who God has put into my path. Because as Holley says,
I do not want to come to the end of my life and say, “I didn’t miss out on anything.” What I’m aiming to say is, “I missed out on exactly the right things.” 
“FierceHearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely” is a book that encourages and challenges you and me, women of God, to be fierce-hearted women. There are times that Holley makes you laugh and other times, where you lean in to hear and ponder the Biblical truth. It is a book for women of all ages, and I personally can’t wait for my teenage daughter to read it, because Holley has become one of her favorite authors and mentors. 
Girlfriends, you and I can become fierce-hearted women, who live fully and love bravely. How? Holley says it perfectly, “Stay close to the Maker; let the transforming come and do not be afraid of it.”
I highly recommend this book! I received a complimentary review copy by the publisher. This review is my honest opinion.

Learn more about “FierceHearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely” here: FIERCEHEARTED 

Learn more about the author: Holley Gerth


Book Review: Daily Power

In “Daily Power”, Craig Groeschel encourages every believer to set aside time each day to dig into God’s Word, to become learners of the Word, and to remember that the Holy Spirit lives inside each of us, empowering us to live out the truth of God’s Word.
Craig says,
He [God] delights in teaching us His truth. Through His Word, we have the opportunity to study His many lessons, each day discovering a new insight for a fresh angle to His truth that endures forever.
In a world that is full of discouragement and hopelessness, I find true hope in God and His Word. My worldview (the way that I see the world) is transformed with a Biblical worldview, as I learn more about God through His Word, which becomes my foundation and the truth that I stand on.
I learn to daily die to myself, knowing that my hope is in God.
I am empowered by Him, the Holy Spirit, to live out God’s truth daily. 
Craig’s style of writing is refreshing and empowering. The “Daily Power” devotional is a tool for spiritual growth written to enrich your daily time with God and His Word. Craig states in one of the devotionals:
We don’t have to be perfect; we just need to rely on God as the source of our daily power.
365 daily devotionals – each one with a daily Bible verse, practical application, which is usually brought out through real life stories, and a “live it out” reflection prayer at the end. Get “Daily Power” today. It is for every believer – adult or teen – who is ready to be challenged to grow and become transformed by God’s Word. 
I received a complimentary review copy by the publisher. This review is my honest opinion.

Learn more about the book “Daily Power” and author, Craig Groeschel here: Daily Power

There is no one here like that!

As we sat on the back of our pickup truck after a night in our tent in a First Nations community, we reflected on the day before. Mike had asked a member of a community where there had been an Evangelical church for nearly 40 years, “Out of all the families you know in this community, who would you say lives a life above reproach and of integrity?” He quickly answered,

There is no one here like that!

Earlier, the same issue came up in a conversation with one of the newly appointed church leaders. He said, “The community doesn’t trust their leaders. They don’t have any financial accountability, and money is always disappearing.” Mike thought quietly to himself, “Surely this is an opportunity for the followers of Jesus Christ to make a real difference!” Mike’s hopes were dashed at what came next, “The members of our church don’t put much money in the offering plate, because they don’t trust the Pastors.” 

We are overwhelmed with concern for the health of the First Nations churches in Paraguay. Many church planting agencies speak of leaving behind “mature” churches, but few have produced a solid and sustainable model of what that looks like in Paraguay. 

Recently we drove past a very, very old tree, one that Mike remembers from his childhood. It is a “Lapacho” tree, a very exotic hard wood native to Paraguay and worth a mint on today’s market. For a tree like this to weather the storms, deforestation, forest fires, drought, floods, etc. it must be deeply rooted and firmly established in good soil. 

We long to see First Nations men and women firmly established in the truth of God’s Word and walking in integrity in every area of their lives and committed to leading their people in truth, honesty, service, loyalty and justice.

The vision statement of the organization we lead in Paraguay states: “Communities holistically transformed through sustainable development”. In our Biblical terms, that means men and women of God are empowered to live out their faith and glorify God through visible action in the community where they live. 

Men and women of God are needed. Men and women of integrity. People willing to place their own personal needs and desires aside for the life and livelihood of the community.

Transformation has to begin with each person, and then, and only then, will we see communities transformed.

Please pray for the First Nations of Paraguay to be firmly planted in the Word of God and for those who are still lost, that they will see their need of a Savior and a personal relationship with God Himself.

Other Activities in September 2017

INTERVIEW ON TV: Mike and Cipriano Ayala were invited this month to talk about First Nations on a Christian TV program. It was Cipriano’s first time on television. His comment to Mike was,

Your ministry in Asuncion is essential for the tribal voice to be heard. This is yet another example of what ’empowerment’ looks like!

SURVEY TRIP: Mike and Kaleb made a trip to visit Wayne Goddard (Mike’s cousin), and together, they visited a region of the country where many Ava Guarani have yet to hear the Gospel.

We are excited how God is leading Wayne and that we could have a small part in his ministry by surveying with him. We even traveled into Brazil where there are several communities. 

TRAINING SEMINAR: In partnership with ASIEP, Mike has began training teachers in how to use The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus material.

This month, we presented to 40 Pastors and Christian leaders an overview. Many are asking for follow-up sessions in their local churches and denominations.  The next session in October will be done without Mike’s help.

YOUTH CAMP: The Ache youth of Cerro Moroti had a camp organized by a Paraguayan ministry. Mike was invited to take a couple of sessions to teach the Word of God.

It’s always fun for our family to visit the community and church where Mike grew up and was baptized. Each time we visit, people ask about all the missionaries that used to live there and what they are doing at present. 


Investing in Leadership

Since 2013, our ministry focus has been on working primarily with Christian leadership. Leaders of churches, organizations, businesses, and communities. Over the past 4 years, we have seen the impact our role is having in Paraguay. The way we gauge the success of our ministry is by rejoicing in the success of those with whom we have partnered with. Our model for partnership is one of empowerment. 

This month, Mike traveled north with Cipriano Ayala and missionaries from a Paraguayan Mission agency to meet with the Pastors and leaders of 11 different Paĩ Tavyterã local churches and one Mbya Guarani church. They arranged to meet up in one of the communities with the Pastor of a local church in Pedro Juan Caballero that has been working with the Paĩ for several years. 

In the hours following, they presented the vision of RELIEP (First Nations Christian leadership network) and the importance of coming together for the defense of religious freedom, leadership training, community development, education, etc. Each community visited, expressed that they were facing challenges that were beyond their ability to handle alone and that together the Body of Christ is stronger.  

The Paĩ pastors and leaders affirmed that they would like for RELIEP to organize and facilitate a Consultation in the city where they could continue the dialogue and be more intentional. 

A few phone calls later, our partner in Pedro Juan Caballero had tentative location and dates for the first of its kind: First Nations Leadership Consultation of the Amambay region!  

It is our firm belief that the transformation of communities is a result of the transformation of its leaders. Please pray for these Paĩ Tavyterã men and women as they seek to grow in Truth.  

Be sure to read our November Newsletter for the follow-up article.   

1/3 of our Homeschool Year is Completed!

Our Homeschool year began July 1st, and it has been filled with all the main subjects like math, language, history, science, and reading, but it has also been a time of serving at conferences, trips to First Nations communities, opportunities to use the Spanish they know (and learn more), and fun times like exploring the creek where Mike used to play in as a child and eating an impromptu meal of meat, cornbread, and cake at an Ache First Nations home.

Our children’s homeschool is unique, and they absolutely love it!

They are our first ministry, and together as a family, we takes steps beyond our comfort zone to serve the Lord. We count it a joy and privilege to homeschool our children, but even more so, the opportunity to ground them in God’s Word and walk alongside them as they get older, encouraging them to obey God and His Word. 

This week, it is extra hard to keep focused on our main subjects, as we are only one week away until our Florida vacation that has been planned for over 10 months! We didn’t take a vacation last year due to ministry changes, and we look forward to taking advantage of time at the beach and spending time with both sets of grandparents as well as some uncles, aunts, and cousins. 

Pray for Trisha as she guides the children in their homeschooling. Pray for safety and a time of refreshment during our trip to Florida.

Book Review: Ordinary Graces

In “Ordinary Graces: Word Gifts for Any Season”, Lucinda McDowell encourages the Christian follower by using short devotionals that include a daily Bible verse, where she selects one word and expands on it by sharing a reflection, short story, a quote, and/or commentary and then, ends with a prayer. 
In the beginning of her book, she says,
To me, ‘Ordinary Graces” are surprising gifts that come to me while simply living my story. If I am in a hurry, I will miss them. If I am distracted, I will ignore them. But for anyone weary from effort yet thirsty for more, God offers grace, strength, gratitude, and life.
These four words become the key words for the 120 daily devotionals in her book. 
While I read, I was encouraged by every devotional. The one focus word for the day allowed me to see and reflect on the “gift” that God has given me.  One of my favorite devotionals was “Chose”, under the section of Gratitude. The key verse was John 15:16 NLT You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit. In the devotional, Lucinda quotes,
Choose in the New Testament Greek is eklego, which means to ‘pick out or select, especially with the motivation of love and kindness’. God’s grace is a gift to all and, as we embrace it, we each become a chosen one-specially selected. The question becomes, will we choose to accept this gift?
Lucinda’s style of writing is unique as she focuses in on one word from the Bible verse, allowing each devotional to became a time of personal growth and reflection.
When you read “Ordinary Graces: Word Gifts for Any Season”, you will find encouragement and hope as you take time daily to read a devotional and learn more about God, the One Who gives grace as well as word gifts that are taken from His Word – for every season of life. 
I received a complimentary review copy by the publisher and author as a part of the launch team. This review is my honest opinion.

Through inspiring devotions, Lucinda Secrest McDowell reveals biblical blessings that remind us that: God’s promises give us strength, God’s grace can be most evident at our weakest points, a proper response to our abundance of blessings is simply gratitude, and the “more” we are all looking for is the same abundant life that Jesus came to give us.  

Learn more about Lucinda Secrest McDowell and purchase a copy of Ordinary Graces: Word Gifts for Any Season. #ordinarygraces

Serving Him Wholeheartedly

At the young age of six years old, I was challenged to walk out my faith and go beyond the borders of my country to an ethnic group that did not have access to the truth of God’s Word. Now, I did not truly understand what serving Him wholeheartedly meant, but I did know that it was something that I wanted to do. In my early childhood, I heard stories of ethnic groups in Papua New Guinea in need of someone to tell them about God.
My life verse became Romans 10:14-15 NIV: 
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Read the rest of my #WalkItOut story, Serving Him Wholeheartedly, on Tricia Goyer’s blog.