Saturday, October 16, 2010

Last Post in Peru...

Wow, it seems so weird to me to finally be leaving South America, especially since I've been here for three years!! The time passed by so quickly; where did it go?? This last week I've been in Lima, Peru, mainly to get LASIK done (it went well, I can see!!), but I've had a lot of down time as well. In this down time, I found that I've been splitting my time between reminiscing about my term here, and trying to picture the future, and what I'm supposed to be doing with the rest of my life... Yeah, I know, just some light thinking to pass the time... haha
I just wanted to share with y'all probably one of the biggest things that God taught me while I was down here. I may have shared this before with some of you, but please bear with me. :) Before I came down here to South America, I was a very Type-A, had-to-have-everything-planned-out-to-the-t, and nothing could change or it was the end of the world kind of guy. I'm pretty sure I was borderline OCD as well. hehe But when I came down here for my term with the Xtreme Team, I was in for a huge wake-up call!! Through our team over these three years, I learned, time and time again, that our plans are never sufficient, only His plans will work, and we have to obey. When we plan out the next 1, 5, 10 years to the minute (and allow no room for change), we do a great disservice to God, whose plans for us we couldn't even begin to imagine!! His Holy Spirit loves to move (seemingly to us) at random; He has no schedule that God gives Him every day on his iPhone, Blackberry, or newest Android... I'm not saying that plans are bad; please don't hear that. I still make plans, to a lesser degree, but I make sure that I am always open to the Holy Spirit, and willing to change my ways to His. It all comes down to obedience; are we willing to surrender our neat, tidy plans for His incredible, and sometimes scary plans for us. Are you? Obedience is life; it is the call for all Christians. Many believe that one is 'called' to missions or to a 'ministry', but that is simply not the case. All Christians are called to obedience, plain and simple. We have to be willing to go wherever God wants to send us, do whatever He wants us to do, and say whatever He wants us to say. Do we trust God enough to simply obey Him at every moment in our lives?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Less than three weeks...

I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on how life is going down here in Iquitos, Peru... First, I want to thank everyone for their prayers with regards to the Training Manual that I´ve been working on since who can remember! :) But finally... it has been completed!! The English version has been finalized, and sent out to the various jefes who requested it. I only have 6-7 pages of just one more class to translate into Spanish, and the Spanish version is done as well; there is light at the end of the tunnel!
It seems that at least two of the trainees from this last training (Eliseo & Nestor) are very interested in joining the Xtreme Team. Please continue to pray for these young men; that they may obey wherever God leads them.
And finally, I have just 19 more days left in Peru; only 7 left here in Iquitos. It is amazing to think that my three-year term is coming to an end! It seems like yesterday that I was leaving the States to come down here... Wow... I ask for your prayers for the transition that I will begin when I return to the States; please pray that everything goes as smoothly as it can, and that I don´t experience reverse culture shock too strongly. Also, I still have nothing concrete planned as far as a job, or where I´ll be living, and that´s fine. :) Please pray for me to listen to Him for opportunities, and to obey whatever the Lord tells me to do.
I do have a confession to make... Before about a week ago, I wasn´t spending time daily in the Word; I would read from time to time, but it wasn´t a constant habit I had cultivated in my life. But for about a week now, I have been spending time every morning in His Word, reading the Scripture and meditating on what I have read throughout the day. It´s amazing how that "little" habit can make such a huge impact on your daily life! I say "little" because it doesn´t necessarily have to be an hour at 5am every morning reading the Word; it could just be a chapter, or even a verse, before breakfast, and then all day just think about that chapter/verse, and how it applies to your life as a Christian. Maybe I was the only one not reading his Bible consistently, but if I´m not alone, I challenge those like me to open it in the mornings, make it a part of your routine, and just see how it transforms every single thing you do all day!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Last Xtreme Training for Yours Truly

Good morning fellow bondslaves of Christ. I hope all of you are having a great time wherever you are reading this blog from! Time for a little update from down here in Iquitos, Peru…

The training ended the 27th of August, and all of the students did incredibly well on their final exams! Thank you so much for your prayers for them during these extremely hard three months of training. After their tests, we had a party for them, congratulating them for a job well done. The picture is of the students at the party showing off their Xtreme Team jerseys; every person who has ever passed the training has gotten one of these. Left to right is: Juan, Felix, Pedro, Nestor, and Eliseo. We visited with the students shortly after they left Iquitos, and all of them are really enjoying the home cooking they missed for the three months. I think all the mothers are trying to ‘fatten up’ their children by shoving as much food as they can down their throats… even though each student actually gained weight!! Haha They were all pretty skinny to start with, so they added a lot of muscle throughout the training, compliments of the exercise they had to do almost every morning. Please be praying for the five students as they readjust to being back home, trying to incorporate the teachings they learned in training into their everyday lives, and for direction for their lives. Adam Huser, the Iquitos Team Leader for our team, is returning from vacation on the 23rd of this month, and after a couple days of readjusting, he’s going to ask the students if the Lord is telling them to join the team at that time. Adam needs at least two team members so they can start the work necessary in this area. Please be lifting up the students, and ask for obedience to the Lord whatever He may call them to do.

J and I have pretty much wrapped up the Xtreme Team training manual… in English. Haha. J is going over the final copy now before we ‘officially’ complete it, but after that the English version is done! Thank all of you so much for praying for us for the last who knows how long since we started putting this manual together. Now, I am focusing my efforts on the Spanish version… haha The majority of it has been translated already (maybe 80%) but I need to translate the classes and changes we added the past few months to the English version to the Spanish. This is my last and greatest task that I have left before I return to the States next month, on the 21st. Wowsers… I can’t believe I can say, “next month,” that’s crazy!! Please continue to pray for focus and strength for me this last months and handful of days.

The biggest question I’ve been asked the last couple of weeks is, “so Jeff, now that you’re so close to being done, what are your plans for the States?” That’s a good question; if anyone has a good answer for me, please let me know! Haha :) Honestly, I have no firm idea of what I’m going to be doing once I get home beyond resting for a couple of weeks at my parents’ house in Wichita Falls. I’ve considered staying in WF, getting a job there that’ll support me while I work on the Emergency Management masters program, or moving to the Dallas/Fort Worth area… even Stillwater has crossed my mind. Holla Mike!! :) But truthfully, my future is in the Lord’s hands, and I’m just trying to wait on Him to tell me what I should do. My biggest prayer is that I can obey Him; that’s why I’m not planning anything for sure, because God has a way of turning our plans inside out, and upside down.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No, I'm not dead... nor have I been kidnapped!

Let me apologize for the lack of updates over the last few months; life down here is far from routine every day, and writing a blog was always on my list to do but it never made it to the top until today. I know that many of you have continued to pray for me even though I have not provided you with specific details; I want to thank you so much for those prayers. I let this fall by the wayside while I was focused on other things, mainly the training that is going on here in Iquitos.

In this current training we have five young men participating: Pedro, Juan, Felix, Nestor, and Eliseo. All five have been going strong since the beginning; that’s not to say that there haven’t been rough patches along the way, of course there have been. Most recently, they passed through the first church classes, and had a very hard time releasing their traditions in favor of the simpler model found in the New Testament. In their favor, I still have trouble some times with releasing my unbiblical traditions that are no more than that… After those classes, I partnered with Felix, and we all went on a seven-day trip to the communities so they could share stories with people who haven’t heard the Gospel yet. I had a great time with Felix as my partner; we had quite a few deep, profound conversations about the training and life in general. I also experienced some great alone time with the Lord away from all the hustle and bustle of the city, standing on the bank of the river at sunset, singing His praises and listening to Him. It was a welcome escape from sitting in front of a computer every day, but by the end of the trip I was anxious to get back and get trucking on the training manual once again. Right now, the guys are on another seven-day trip, sharing more stories they have learned in the same communities. While they’re in the communities, J and I are working full-speed on the manual; we hope to have it completely finished in English by the end of this week, before the guys return for their final week in training.

Please be praying that we can be open to the Spirit to guide us as we make the final touches on the manual. Also, pray for the students, as they are finishing up the training. Ask the Lord that He may guide them to what He wants from them afterwards, and that they may have the strength to obey Him, no matter what He asks. Finally, I have just over 2 months left here in South America... That's crazy to even try to wrap my head around right now! :) Please be praying for me that I might finish strong and focused on the work here, and not turning my attention to things back in the States.

I will send out another update on the 1st of September, when the training has ended to inform everyone as to how it went, and what the next step is for me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

He must increase, but I must decrease

For the past few days, I have been going through the book of John chapter by chapter with my girlfriend, Elaine, over Skype. Yes, you read that right, I did say girlfriend! :-) We decided that this would be a good opportunity for us to remain focused on the Lord, get to hear each other's opinions on Scripture, and give us another reason to talk. hehe She's had some great insights to the Scripture that I never would have seen before if not for her sharing it with me.
A couple of days ago we were talking about John 3, and this section just really jumped out at us: "Now a discussion arose between some of John's [the Baptist] disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness - look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.' John answered, 'A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness that I said, "I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him." The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease" v25-30.
John displays perfectly the servant attitude that Jesus talks so much about! A normal human would have responded, "Man! Why is that Jesus dude stealing all my thunder?? I was the bomb!! But now, everyone goes to see him, instead of me... What can I do to make myself better, so I can trump this guy?" (That would have been 'The Message' translation I'm sure...) But John the Baptist gets it! He's not mad at all, in fact he's rejoicing that everyone is no longer coming to see him. His joy is complete, as he says. How many Christians today actually display this servant attitude in every aspect of their lives? I know that many times, I fail utterly. Being raised in America, where it's all about me, me, me, and what I want, and how can people serve me, it's so hard to be counter-cultural with regards to this teaching.
That's why what I see in the institutional churches today makes me so sad... Let me pose a question: is a bigger, nicer building a way to decrease? Are better, more hip programs "every day of the week and twice on Sunday" a way for us to decrease? Is trying to hire the "best, most relevant" senior pastor a way to decrease? Or is all that junk just trying to make the institutional church increase in the eyes of the people? Brothers, WE ARE NOT CALLED TO TRY TO IMPRESS THIS WORLD!!! The church is not about the people, making them feel more 'comfortable'... sorry, American consumerism that has invaded the pews (that "me" attitude, "well, I like this better so we should do it"), it is about Christ! Sadly, institutional churches are run more like businesses today, rather than allowing Christ to move through His people, and speak to them.
But it's simple... if we try to increase, seeking glory for ourselves, and not for God, then we take the focus off of Him, and there's no opportunity for Him to increase. But if we give Him the glory He is due (all of it!), and let Him be responsible for everything in our lives, then people will take notice of that, and He will increase! The servant attitude isn't easy; it's my prayer every day, and some days I fail horribly. But the beauty of it all is that I can pray for God to work in me to make me more like my Lord, step by step, and know that His strength is sufficient.
A quick update on things down here... Hmm, last week I finished the first draft of the English Training manual for our team! That was a big relief! Now I'm fine-tuning it and seeking feedback from the leaders on how to make it better. Also, since that's mostly done, I've moved on to focusing on the Spanish version of the Manual. Please be praying for that because that is a bear to finish! Next weekend marks the start of our XGM, the annual meeting of everyone on our team, in all three countries (Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia). I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone again, most of them I haven't seen since the XGM, a year ago! Please be praying for the travel of everyone to and from Lima. Thank you so much for reading!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

No, I Haven't Fallen Off the Face of the Planet

It's been a long three months since I last updated y'all as to what is going on down here. I apologize (it seems every time I write an update, I'm apologizing...). I had plans to write at least one while I was in Ecuador, helping out with the training (it was even already typed up), but then the worst luck hit me when my laptop got stolen... among other things. But I promise to write every two weeks, until I'm finished down here in Peru. I pinky swear, there! ;-)

The training in Ecuador went very, very well! Puyo, Ecuador would be a perfect retirement spot!! I'm just saying... haha We had a solid group of 5 guys who really understood what the missionary's life is all about, and what it means to BE the church... amazing!! I wouldn't be surprised if the 3 Latins all joined up with one of our teams; the other 2 are IMB Jouneymen. I spent the first two months there onsite helping out J with anything that needed to be taken care of, and then we left the training in the last month in the capable hands of other Xtremers. The training ends in 8 days so please be praying for these young men as they are trying to listen to the Lord, and find out where they should be serving.

Right now, my principle job has been to finish our Xtreme Team Training Manual. There have been interesting moments, to be sure, while I've been working on it; moments that make it seem like I'm never going to finish it, but I need to just keep my head up, shake off the little roadblocks, and keep typing until it's done. :) The English version is almost completed; after that, I have to start on the Spanish version: seeing what classes I already have, which ones need to be translated, and then put them all into one manual for our Latin partners.

Other than that, there's not a whole lot going on down here. I haven't wrestled any gorillas, gone tooth-and-nail with a jaguar, or beat down an anaconda lately. I know, I know, I'm losing my edge... hehe Next month we have our annual team meeting in Lima, so I'm really looking forward to that! My mom is even going to be there... be that good, or bad... :-P haha No, I'm just kidding, I'm excited to see her. Then just a few days after that, I go home for a short vacation to see my brother's graduation, hang out with friends, and go on a cruise to celebrate Michael's finishing high school.

Please be praying for a few things these next few weeks:
  • Patience for me to get this training manual done.
  • That everyone's travels to our annual meeting in Lima is safe.
  • That I can stay focused on being in the here-and-now and get my jobs done, instead of thinking only about going home in 6 months from today (not that I'm counting... :D).
There are a few praises as well:
  • All of our teams are going to be able to make it to the annual meeting! There was a large possibility they weren't going to be able to, but they are!
  • This training manual is almost done; there IS light at the end of the tunnel!! haha

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I think God knows what He's doing....

I know my mother has been spreading the word about what direction I've decided to pursue after I finish my term here, but I figured that y'all would like to hear it from me as well. About two weeks ago, the earthquake hit Haiti as all of us not living under rocks know. At first, to be honest, I didn't pay much attention to all of the news articles written about it but then two days after it happened, one article caught my eye. It's amazing to me how God can take even one small, insignificant news article and remind me of His plans for my life. The article I read was about how the logistics for the relief for the Haitians was bogged down, and as a result, the victims were suffering even more from lack of basic things, like clean water and food. While reading that short article, it was like a smack to the back of my head that reminded me of things that I had forgotten a long time ago. When I was in high school, one of my mentors showed me a degree that she told me I would excel in; called Emergency Management, the study of the logistics of responding to national and global emergencies. Seeing as how I was in high school, I didn't really pay much attention to her advice at the time (even though I took her advice later, and joined the Journeyman program of the IMB). Now, a decade later, God, through this article, reminded me of that conversation like it happened yesterday, and everything seemed to click together, like only He can do. Talking with a really close friend and my family has only strengthened the feeling that I'm getting that this is what He wants me to do to bring Him glory in my life. I'm good at stuff like that (and enjoy it thoroughly), but only because God put it in me to be good at it for His glory. After talking about it with my friend, I realized that God even took it one step further... I've been thinking, brainstorming, planning, whatever you want to call it, about starting my own NGO that would respond to global disasters, and help the victims get the relief they needed the quickest possible way. And God has put very large plans in my head for this, as in a NGO with offices all over the globe to respond even quicker. So I've been looking at the University of South Florida's Masters of Public Health in Global Disaster Management & Humanitarian Relief (imagine how I would introduce myself with that title... haha) to do when I get back so I can start down the path God has put in front of me. So I ask for all of y'all's prayers in this. But at the same time, I ask for prayer that I can remain focused on my job here, and see it through to the end done well, and not looking at it as a hinderance to my 'life' afterwards. Thank you.
A little update as well as to what is going on down here in Peru because I know that not everyone has ways of finding this stuff out... Right now I am in Lima, the capital of Peru, but am heading to Ecuador today by bus (25 hours.... yipee.... and then another 12 hours.... woohoo...) to get everything ready for a training there. We have at least 10 confirmed trainees; they all know that it is 3 months long this time, and we have a really good feeling about it. Please pray for the trainees, and for the teachers as well during the next 3 months: that everyone can stay focused and seek God in all things. I will try to let y'all know how training went once it's over. Thank you very much for your prayers, and support.