Friday, August 26, 2011

The Journey Begins

So it’s my turn to write on the Colombia Grace Foundation blog! Having a deadline has certainly helped me take some time away from all the madness to sit down and truly reflect on all that has been going on. So as I have learned in Colombia that it only takes 1 rock to scare away 2 or 3 stray dogs, I am going to write this blog for the beloved readers of the Colombia Grace Foundation blog AND the 1 or 2 people who actually read my own blog Hands and Feet. (Love you Mom!).

I am a punk of kid who is loved by an amazing God. He planned for me to be born in a sketchy Colombian orphanage, but adopted as a baby by an awesome Christian family. I was taught to walk in His ways and revere Him. And even through my own personal rebellion, He captured me. Though I enjoyed a superficial walk of faith for many years, by His grace I am being refined. As He stripped more of me away, a call to missions was placed on my heart. He never let me forget my past and therefore a burden for orphans and the poor has come forth. I returned to this country as a teacher in a very needy village outside of Cartagena. Last year, at a random pastor conference in the city, God introduced me to 2 guys who possessed a passion and vision my heart burned for. I left this divine appointment knowing God was calling me to join this ministry.

Have you ever let guilt, shame, fear, or inadequacy suffocate something beautiful the Lord was trying to do in your life? I almost did. After I met Josh and Mike, I left that church beaming like a 13 year old who just found out that Sports Illustrated makes a swimsuit issue. I could not stop praising the Lord for such an answer to prayer. The exhausting 2 bus, canoe crossing, and motorcycle taxi ride back to my “pueblo” had never passed so quickly. Yet, just like the infamous disciple of Christ, I began to pay attention to outside things and began to freak out. However, God is sovereign and continued to use adversities of living third world style and my personal struggles to refine this wretched heart. This year I began working with the gang just every weekend and in these precious moments He nailed some pretty tough convictions on my heart. So I took a step of faith that was leaving my teaching job to truly commit to work for treasures that will not be destroyed. I have no intention to looking back. I am exactly where He wants me to be and just saying those words brings a tear to my eye. God is worth everything we can offer Him. The only shame I have now is that it’s taken me so long to truly understand that.

So what the heck is going on here lately and what am I doing?

For you people who are probably reading this on my blog, the orphanage is called El Nido de Gracia (Nest of Grace). The Lord brought 2 families all the way from somewhere “in the sticks” of Oregon to a small village outside of Cartagena, Colombia. These wannabe “rednecks” have amazing hearts and are truly known by God!

The property at El Nido is coming along! Supposedly a free bulldozer will be coming soon to help us prepare the plot of land that will be Mike and Stacy’s house. The wood has arrived so the testosterone is flowing. I am betting Josh will be growing out his beard soon in order to prepare for this new manly task and I have noticed that Mike has been wearing a lot of cut-offs lately. So I think I either need to start smoking or letting my Colombian mustache capability take flight. Having this house built will then open up 4-6 beds in the main house for orphans.

Stacy and I have been working to organize the “El Nido School.” Things have been improving each day but we have all been praying about help in the school. Our “Spanglish” skills can only take us so far when we are teaching Colombian children who can barely read themselves. However, the Lord is faithful by giving us grace in these moments and by also bringing us help! Please pray for 2 amazing woman who are and will be doing a tremendous work with these kids, their names are Luz Mercy and Darlys.

God is continuing to strengthen His church here in Turbana. Please join us in prayer as we ask the Lord to reveal a place within the pueblo that we could possibly have hold services. Seeing the van just broke down today (broken axel), I might be unable to pick up the regular 50+ people this Sunday. Having a place within town will be a tremendous blessing and so we have been asking the Lord to provide this. Also a cool story was that Luis Fernando was super sick last Sunday, but just like when Jordan had the flu in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Jazz, he came out and “lit it up.” The Lord is using this little guy in such a mighty way. Please remember Him as he continues to recover from this illness.

While there is a million cool but not important things to share like how the dogs we have enjoy eating our chickens, how I learned to ride a very stubborn donkey, Josh had to get a few stitches in his knee from a run-in with his machete and the assortment of things that bring color to this ministry, nothing is more worth writing about than the two brothers named Geiner and Carlos who just recently were brought to us and what the Lord is teaching us.

We have known about the possibility of them coming to live with us for a while. Without going into all the wretched things they have seen in their short 7 and 10 year lives, they have been abused in ways that make me want to scream. They bear physical scars to remind them that this world is cruel and evil. Yet, nothing compares to the hurt and distrust that lies within their heart. These children are broken.

On my blog I thrive to be transparent and honest. So even though I am giving an update for the Colombia Grace Foundation blog as well, I desire to continue in this manner. This ministry is incredibly hard! I wake up each day on my knees asking the Lord to show up. I have been given the task to have primarily responsibility over these fragile gifts and I am over my head each and every day. As we say here “if the Lord does not show up, we are done!” While this comment could go much deeper, I will just say that for the first time I understand what it means to “trust in the Lord with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).” While I have gone through tough adversity and trials, I have never been in this situation. What I see has happened is that I have finally moved directly behind the Lord in this journey to be His hands and feet among the nations. And when you stand behind the Almighty, you can’t see what is in front of you. You simply have to follow him step for step and have faith in Who is leading you. Working here in Colombia is a blessing. I am humbled to have this calling. However, this is more than I can handle.

Geiner, Carlos, and all of us need Jesus. He is our only answer to everything we are experiencing. God is making it clear to us that the children we will most like be caring for are not the adorably thankful children seen in other ministries. These are shattered abused children that have already been selling drugs, been involved in prostitution, and have learned to trust no one. But even in that tough sentence, I smile, because I already have seen the Lord working in ways I can’t explain. May He receive all glory and honor as He fills their deep wounds and rebuilds there precious hearts. I promise to write more about “my boys.”

I can’t believe this is most as long as Josh’s last blog…! Please pray for me, Stacey, Mike, Josh, Julie, Fernando, Daiver, Erianis, Geiner, Carlos and the rest of the family and friends whom the Lord has brought to El Nido de Gracia.

And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Peter 5:10

Thank you all for your support and prayers!


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Thou shalt not tempt the Lord"

“Thou shall not tempt the Lord.” When we considered the calling of God on our lives, to come down and serve the Lord in Colombia, many well meaning people have used this verse, in the list of why we shouldn’t go. Let us observe for a bit if it is used in true form.

One of us would say. “So we feel like God has called us to go to Colombia, to start a church and a home for displaced children and widows.” The response often was something like this. “Wow, Colombia,why there? You know that is a very dangerous place. Are you you planning to take your family down to such a risky country?” Many well-meaning people would say. To that we may respond,“God will be our shield and our protector.” Then, this would almost always come, “Don’t you think that is putting the Lord to the test?” Hmm? “Don’t you think that is putting the Lord to the test?” Is that statement true? Please labor with me for a short thought on this subject. We are going to take a look at some scenes in the Bible and church history to see what God shows to us about risk, and when is it ever right. Also, I think we will see clearly what the Lord intends from this verse.

What is the final command of our Lord before he leaves this planet and ascends into Heaven? Mathew 28:18-20 -And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” So you see our commissioning has been made clear here as well as who will be with us in this work, Jesus himself. Do you believe this Josh? Is the question I had to ask myself before I could make a commitment to move from everything I know and move to a country that is unknown and not the safest place to raise our white families? Putting yourself at risk is easier for a young man, I do it every time I get on a motorcycle or go on a lone hunt in the wilderness or ever time I would drive too fast to make it to an appointment on time. But throwing my kids and wife in the back with me, it becomes a different type of risk. I studied the life of missionaries and ministers that have gone before me. Men that are still recognized just by there last names, like Taylor, Judson, Patton, Carrey, Bunyan and Luther. Then I looked at our beloved Paul as well as the first martyr of our faith, Stephen. I studied the life of these men and found that they all had one common denominator. They served under a Great God for a greater purpose then the common man lives for in this life, and because of this, God was with them in power. They had as Jonathan Edwards said” Eternity, stamped on there hearts.” They risked it all for the sake of the advancement of the Gospel. They all left behind loving families and friends. Many of them left behind good paying jobs and or successful ministries as well as would have “lives of ease” in the country side. Many never saw there fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters ever again this side of heaven. Some lost numerous children in the field, wives and there own life’s for this cause, a cause that has very little to do with themselves. It offers no gain this side of eternity. Why would they do this? Was it worth it? Then I looked at the great and first cross-cultural missionary, Jesus. He came from Heaven to earth. I would imagine that was a large culture shock. He came to a people group that for the most part didn’t want Him to come. He came with one Great purpose in mind. To set the captives of sin free and pay a great debt that wasn’t his own, but the debt was paid in full for all that turn to Him in repentance and faith. Also, He came to show us all how to live and love others. Why, so that we who believe in Him would spend our lives making Him known and glorified to all the peoples and nations, and that this all could be done “to the praise of his glorious grace.”

Lets take a quick look at another. John G. Patton headed to the New Hebrides’ Islands in 1858. He took his new wife and a few belongings. Just 19 years after two young men, John Williams and James Harris went there to be missionaries. These two men were killed, cooked and eaten in the sight of the ship before they got out of the Harbor. Needless to say, this was a dangerous mission field, that nobody ever lived through. They were known to be the South Sea Islands of the Heathen Cannibals. He was told by many of his strongest Christian friends that he was tempting the Lord by taking unneeded risks, such as taking His young pregnant wife, you will be eaten by Cannibals, they would say. Why would you leave a successful ministry here? The Lord has really blessed you. He heard the call from God and he had to go. He lost his wife and newly born son early on. His own life many times was near an end with the same sickness that took his wife. Over and over He was on deaths door. The enemy tribe’s men would follow him around with loaded musket and point it at him as he did his chores around his house, day after day. What would keep this man here? Doesn’t that seem to be tempting the Lord? He trusted His Sovereign God that the musket hammer couldn’t fall down unless God gave it permission. If God gave it the Okay then he was satisfied with it. God numbered his day before he had one. He states that, “I am immortal till my masters work with me is done.” OH that God would be pleased to raise up these kinds of followers today! He is not tempting the Lord my friend he trusted Him. He worked for regeneration from The Holy Spirit in faith not just a decisions. In the end of his life’s hard labors among the Island people in trial and deep trials of faith, he left behind a legacy that still holds today, of Christ lovers and Reformed Presbyterians churches on every Island that the old Cannibal people dwell. They profess to be over 80% Christian. Was it worth it? Now it is easy to say yes. It seemed as though he may have been tempting the Lord by undo risk to some. But based on the purpose of the risk, Patton risked nothing.

Now let see what Happens with Stephen. He is a young Deacon in the church filled with the Holy Spirit. One thing I have learned in the scriptures is that anytime that someone was filled with the Holy Spirit you knew they were going to do something that was would be for the betterment of the Kingdom and the Gospel. He was doing exactly what God had commissioned him to do and he was captured by the leaders of the day. They put him under Blasphemy charges and put him before the council of the religious rulers of the day. He lays forth for them The history that they all hold to and fulfills it all with the coming of the righteous one Jesus the Christ whom you killed Just as your fathers did the prophets. They in anger and pride take him out and cast him out of the city and stoned him to death as a young man named Saul held the coats for them so he could be killed. Like His lord he cried his last “Hold not this sin against them Lord. “ This raised a great persecution to the church in Jerusalem. The people of the church were scattered about the country side. Do you know what they were doing as they went? They were making more Disciples. This killing of God young faithful man spread his Gospel to whole country side. Latter on one of the young men in that crowd of Killers was saved. I’m sure there was a memory from that faithful saint’s testimony as well. Saul became Paul and then becomes the Greatest Theologian with hands and feet that the world has ever known. Was it wise for Stephen to be preaching in the Synagogue of the Jews? I mean it was full of haters of Jesus. Is that Tempting the Lord? Jesus said, “I send you out as sheep into a mist of wolves.” When doing things in the service of the Lord, there are always dangers. We must walk by faith and be wise oh yes. But friend don’t let wisdom keep you form from walking in faith. Prudence is more prevalent in Israel and the church I’m afraid, then real faith is. OH church, how many times will you doubt your Gods ability to act for those who wait for Him and walk with Him?

God never told Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple. That is the answer, Josh and church. Let’s see what the word says; Ps 91:11 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Ps 91:12 “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
God says in the passages that the Devil twists in use against Jesus, that He commands his angels guarding you in all your ways. You see the ways are the ways of life and service to and for His Glory. Not jumping in front of a moving train, no. But, preaching the Gospel in a foreign land, yes. What about jumping out of planes for a rush? No, the promise is not for that. But flying into Dangerous countries and parachuting out under the cover of darkness to hand out bibles, yes.
John Calvin’s Bible commentary on Mathew ch 4:
“When Satan wickedly tortures Scripture, does Christ give way to him? Does he allow him to seize and carry off the Scripture, with which he formerly armed himself? On the contrary, he quotes Scripture in his turn, and boldly refutes Satan’s wicked slander. Whenever Satan shall cover his deception by Scripture, and ungodly men shall labor to subvert our faith by the same means, let us borrow our armor exclusively from Scripture for the protection of our faith. Satan twist it to say, If you expose yourself to death, contrary to the will of God, angels will protect your life." It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” The reply of Christ is most appropriate. There is no other way, in which we have a right to expect the assistance promised in that passage, than when believers humbly submit themselves to his guidance: for we cannot rely on his promises, without obeying his commandments. God is tempted in many ways: but in this passage, the word tempt denotes the neglect of those means which he puts into our hands. In short, whoever desires to make an experiment of the divine power, when there is no necessity for it, tempts God by subjecting his promises to an unfair trial.”

So what I have learned about this topic so far; you are not tempting the Lord by going anywhere he calls you to, if the calling is for His name sake and not some crazy idea in your own head. You see it’s not about weather there is high danger or safety. You may die in the service of the kingdom, and then you join the ranks of many fine men and woman before you. Hebrews 11 tells us the world is unworthy of ones such as these that give it all for the faith. And in the end you will hear “Well done thy good and faithful servant. “ If you shut the mouths of lions and put foreign armies to flight by faith and Plant 20 new churches and win a nation to faith for Jesus? You will hear “Well done thy good and faithful servant.” Why? Because walking by faith is walking for God no matter what it calls for or where it is or what it cost you. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. God has provided something better than this life. A Resurrection to glory. The question is will you join Him on the Calvary road to death to your self. Hebrews 13:12-14 “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” My brethren it’s not about earth. For here we have no lasting city such to prepare. Look to the Kingdom. Ask God, “God stamp eternity on my heart.” I have, and it has changed everything!


Monday, August 8, 2011

CGF Newsletter August 2011

Friends and Family Newsletter August 2011

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

God is so good! Much has happened here at El Nido de Gracia (which is the name of the farm meaning “Nest of Grace”) since the last time we were able update you all. Most things do not turn out to be the way they are first envisioned and this has been the case with our internet connection. Most of you know that our internet does not always work and many times, mid-email will cancel our connection, many times we simply cannot connect at all. We have also found ourselves yoked with many different projects and this at times has distracted us from our commitment to keeping people updated through this newsletter and especially through our blog. Thankfully the Lord is able to use us despite all our shortcomings. We will continue to strive to be better at communication and keeping you all updated.

These past two months have been filled with many experiences. One experience was helping a young teen and his mother who was and still is mentally unable to care for her son. The teen now lives here at the farm and we are pleased by the changes we are seeing in his character. He grows and changes every day and we’re excited to see who he will become. Our preteen girl is doing well also, healthy and happy. We are looking forward to welcoming some more children to the farm in the next couple weeks. It has been hard waiting, but paperwork and preparing the rooms has taken a lot of time.

We were also blessed last month to have a church from home send a mission team. Wow! You would not believe all the goodies they were able to pack in the 11 storage totes they brought and left here for us to store things in. A million thank-you’s to the team who built a roof on our tool shed, among many other things. We were especially blessed by the fellowship you brought into our home.

One of the biggest accomplishments of the past couple months has been receiving our VISAS. The process had many curves including multiple trips to Florida for Josh and a 2 week stay in Florida without family for Mike. In the long run both families and all our kids had to fly to Florida to apply for our VISAS in person. While being a costly trip it was also very enjoyable catching up with friends in Florida and the Riffle kids were able to visit and play in the pool with Grandma. A huge blessing from this trip was that the sores, rashes and mosquito bites were able to heal in Florida and now we are working hard to keep them from reoccurring. We were also blessed enormously by people while there in Florida and are now able to build another orphan house, buy a piano and buy some Spanish curriculum that we have needed. God’s blessings have been numerous.

Most of you reading the above paragraph are probably wondering what I meant when I said build another orphan house. The board approved us to start building a house on the lower part of our property. We were given a donation that enabled us to do this and now thanks to another donor we will be able to start a second then a third. God has been very gracious. We look forward to clearing land and breaking ground this week.

It has been one of our goals since the very beginning to become as self-sustaining as possible here on the farm. We have taken some steps in this process by buying some chickens who will start laying eggs in a couple months and by purchasing a pregnant milking cow from our neighbor. This same neighbor also gifted us two donkeys for packing and hauling or for having the kids ride.

Another exciting aspect of the ministry here has been starting church services here on the farm. On average there have been about 60 people attending including our families. By God’s grace, several have come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ! After spending some time with them examining the Scriptures and studying Evidence of Spiritual Life by Thomas Boston, we had the privilege of baptizing a group of people last week. While this ministry continues to grow another has just started on the island of Tierra Bomba, (which is translated Wasteland.) Every Saturday Mike and his family travel to the island where Mike has felt lead to hold a Bible study for young men, and Stacy and the kids work with a friend’s ministry for the local children. This island is a dark place and in desperate need of the Light of Christ. Please pray that the Gospel will take root there, and that God’s name will be glorified as He draws and saves people on Tierra Bomba.

Please be in prayer with us as we begin building and take in more kids. We are in need of more permanent help especially with teaching school and we need widows so that we are able to take in more kids as the space becomes available. We are also praying about what type of curriculum to use for teaching now that we will be responsible for teaching more children. There are many aspects to the building process that need prayer. Pray for us also as we try to make sure we have all our paperwork in line with governmental regulations. Pray for the souls of Turbaco, Turbana and Tierra Bomba as we continue with Bible studies and church services. Our God is our strength, to Him we look as we continue with the mission he has allowed us to be a part of. Glory to God!

Colombia Grace Foundation
PO box 114
La Pine, OR 97739