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. 

Book Review: Walk It Out

In “Walk It Out“, Tricia doesn’t shy away from challenging the Christian follower. Be ready to be challenged to the core to walk out your Christian faith by obeying God’s Word and impacting the world or don’t read this book. I can guarantee that if you take the challenge to read “Walk It Out“, you will never look at your Christian life the same again.    
She quotes,
God designed us for a purpose that will impact His kingdom. The purpose we all share as Christ followers is to worship God, love Him, love others, and live a godly life.

Move Beyond

I’m so excited that I had a part on Stacey Thacker’s launch team for “Is Jesus Worth It?“! This article was inspired by the book. Learn more about “Is Jesus Worth It?” and read my book review here.

Stories of excitement, passion, hardships, and challenges. Stories that show a heart of obedience as well as disobedience. Stories that shout out God’s goodness and faithfulness.

Each of us have a story. Each one is unique. Yet often times, we have a hard time moving beyond our fear to speak up and share it.

“I know that there are girls who need to hear your story. Will you teach a session?” This was the question asked of me by a friend recently, who also happens to be the director of a Paraguayan organization which organizes a yearly missions event for youth.  

August Ministry Activities

On our way back home from an Ache community, we stopped by a Mennonite community where MOVIDA had organized a youth missions event. Mike shared two messages and workshop on Evangelism for the young people receiving the training. We are excited that many young people from Mennonite churches are being called into full-time, cross-cultural ministry. 

We partnered with RELIEP to jointly sponsor Marciano Chevugi to receive Fundacion Caracter’s computer training provided for Christian leaders. They teach the basics of operating a laptop, how to use powerpoints, use Bible programs, and make videos. A Christian businessman subsidizes the costs of the laptop and projector for greater affordability. 

Mike received a call from a Chamacoco friend asking him to visit his pastor and wife who was very ill and in a hospital about an hour drive from our home. We encountered a very discouraged man. All he needed was to know God loved him and that he hasn’t been forgotten.The food that we took them as well as the time of prayer together was just what he and his wife needed! 

Once a year, many organizations come together to spend 24 hours in prayer for Paraguay. Mike has been responsible to lead in prayer for the 19 First Nations people groups in Paraguay during this yearly event. We believe the reason God is working so mighty in Paraguay is due to prayer.

A Parent’s Responsibility

“I’m so excited that I had a part on September McCarthy’s launch team for “Why Motherhood Matters“! This article was inspired by the book. Learn more about “Why Motherhood Matters,” and read my book review here.

As I read September’s book, the one thing that really stood out to me was how every family has to decide their foundation for training. My husband, Mike, and I have three children, ages 15, 13, and 11, and I can say without a doubt that for our family, our foundation for training is God’s Word.