Guatemala Bound!

For the past two years, First Baptist and LifePark have partnered with International Mission Board workers serving within the villages of Guatemala, and their efforts have focused primarily on the small, mountain village of Chancò. Four to five teams go each year, building relationships with the villagers and encouraging the handful of national believers there.

Our fifth team of the year will be leaving bright and early in the morning for a week-long trip. The team includes Larry Zimmerman, Dave Matthews, Joshua Forrest, Stewart Hulett, Renee Pauley, and Jennifer Lively. Please cover the team in prayer. Pray for safety, health, unity, and clear vision. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide their every move and, above all, that the Kingdom will grow in Chancò!

Pray fervently as the team presses upon the villagers once again the hope that can be found in Jesus. Many there have heard His precious name, but have distorted and combined Mayan customs and Catholic traditions. They worship Mary and the Saints, put faith in good works, seek favor from local “religious” leaders, and have become increasingly apathetic. While they may have His picture in their homes, they do not have a love for Him – Him alone – in their hearts. Yes, indeed, it’s time to return!

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Bittersweet Goodbyes

Our India team arrived home safely after spending 10 days in India. If you’ve kept up with the blog over the past couple of days, you’ve seen pictures and heard sweet stories about our time with the national pastors and their wives and children. It is very difficult to describe a trip like this in words, and the pictures never seem to do our experiences justice. We greatly appreciate your prayers, and there are so many things that we could celebrate from this trip. The Lord is working in big ways through so many people in India, and we were so privileged to be a small part of what He is doing.

Over the last 10 days, our team was able to form new relationships and deepen old friendships with the believers in Northern India. In addition to 2 days of training in each of the cities, we were able to visit in many of the homes of the believers and pastors. There is something special about being able to meet people “at grass roots level” as our partner, Emmanuel would say. We saw how they live, heard their stories of faith and drank lots of chai tea. They are humble and hungry to know more of God’s word, and we were so encouraged by the things that we were able experience alongside them. There were many instances in which our team felt inadequate to teach on spiritual warfare because many of the Indian people have gone through a level of spiritual warfare that we’ve never experienced. We definitely learned just as much from them as we hope that they learned from us.

I think I can speak for the team as a whole when I say that this trip was one of the smoothest, most encouraging and most personally challenging trips that we’ve ever had. The pastors were excited about the material that we taught them because it was simple and reproducible. They were engaged in the discussions, and those in attendance showed a level of spiritual maturity that we’ve not experienced in the past. The women were responsive and shared their lives with us openly. The children were loving, joyful and energetic. Our times of worship were a glimpse of what heaven will be like one day. My friend Aksa said, “I think that when we get to worship together in different languages, it’s a rehearsal for heaven.”

Saying goodbye to our new and old friends was bittersweet because we know that they are continuing the Lord’s work even as we go. This trip was full of joy, growth, life and hope for the future, and we thank you so much for praying for our team. Stay tuned to the blog over the next couple of weeks as our Guatemala team will be leaving in a few short days. The Lord is faithful and He is sending laborers into the harvest!

Jenna Hurst

Sit with them…

“So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he [being the Ethiopian Eunuch] said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”- Acts 8:30-31

This very familiar story truly captures the essence of what I have seen take place during this trip: pastors and their wives yearning to have a deeper understanding of Scripture, and a team being sent out to sit with them.

As we completed our last day of training, we were able to see immediate fruit from our several months of labor. Listening to the observations and applications from the pastors and their wives demonstrated that our time with them was not in vain and that they were successfully becoming equipped to continue teaching and leading the people of India.

At the end of one of our training sessions, I listened to a young pastor as he began to share the impact that our time in the Scriptures had made in his life. He explained that so many of them read the Bible everyday and yet don’t understand it well enough to gain much application. Many of these pastors are in charge of congregations that are also wanting to hear from the Lord, however, they have not been taught to systematically study and apply the Bible. He shared that the past two days have opened his eyes and he can now clearly see what the Lord is saying through Scripture. He also feels equipped to share the study method we taught him with those in his church. Praise God!

Today, on our way to the airport, we visited the home of one of the pastors that attended our training. He had just finished his church service. When we asked him what he preached on, he shared that he taught them the Bible study method using a passage of his choosing. Not only did he understand the method and apply it to his own time in the Word, he has now equipped 65 people that meet in his home for church. Praise God!

Though we have only been here for 10 days, the work we have done here will impact generations! However, the work is not done. There are so many pastors in so many places who are striving to preach and teach God’s Word effectively! They are committed to working and fighting tirelessly by the power and might of the Holy Spirit. What they need are more who are willing to get in the chariot and sit with them.

Are you willing to go?

Images of India

Good Times!

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Golden Temple in Amritsar

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Border Show… it’s kind of hard to explain.. :)

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Training (City #1)

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The believers learning the Sword Method (a method of studying God’s Word)…

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Pastors & Leaders discussing Scripture in small groups.

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The women…

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Henna by Jenna (aka Henna Storying)

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Worship with some national believers…

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Visiting a house church in City #1

Driving to City #2

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The view of the foothills…

City #2

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Emmanuel & Sony’s little ones…

Images of India

Women studying the Bible…

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Training in City #2…

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Carson teaching in City #2…

India Team Update!

Hello from India! I would imagine that you are all wondering where we are! We have been so busy that we have not had time to blog. By the end of each day we are just happy to crawl into our beds and crash.

Monday, we traveled to Amritsar. We spent the afternoon at another temple, this time the Golden Temple of the Sikh religion. Again, thousands of people worshiping idols. After the temple, we went to the “Border Show.” Amritsar is very close to the Pakistani border, and every evening they put on quite a show on both sides of the border. Each nation has a huge gate, placed back-to-back. They both have to open to allow passage between the countries. They both have a Border Security Force, as well. They make a big production out of changing the guard and lowering their national flags for the night. Lots of music and dancing, loud chanting (on both sides), with each side trying to out chant the other. It is quite the production. One of the pastors sponsoring the training in Amritsar is a former government official. He was able to get us access to the very gates themselves for a photo. Apparently, the photographer may place our photo in a local magazine (crazy Americans at the Border Show!). For me, it was a little unnerving being right there on the border, as skirmishes were going on at the time between the two countries just a few miles up the road. Most locals were not allowed access to the show for that reason, mainly foreigners were allowed in.

Tuesday we began the Pastor / Leader Training. The pastors and their wives slowly trickled in during the morning (everything is on Indian time, which means “oh, whenever”). We had a wonderful worship service, then training began. Several Chai breaks were included during the event, as well great Indian foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fed us VERY well. And hopefully, we fed them as well, with spiritual training and encouragement. I will defer to one of the men on the team to tell you about the pastors and leaders they worked with, but can tell you about the women. Many of them spoke English, so it was easy to converse. These women (of all ages) were strong prayer warriors, and very well studied in their Bibles. They know their scripture! I do believe they poured into us as much as we into them. We began many wonderful relationships which we hope to continue to strengthen when we return.

We ended our time in Amritsar on a high note, with a gathering of believers at one of the pastor’s home. We sang American and Hindi hymns and songs. Carson played his guitar, while Anil played the Harmonium, with Kamal on the Hindi drums. Wonderful evening of praise and worship. The Indians have such energy! Worshiping with them is so inspiring.
Thursday we drove to Chamba. Amritsar is in the flatlands, but Chamba is in the mountains. The higher we went, the cooler it became. The views were absolutely spectacular! Crystal blue lakes, beautiful pines, similar to ours, and winding, scary roads!! Liz kept asking Emmanuel to let her drive, but he refused, as he says he still has too much ministry left to do in India so he could not afford to die now!

Side bar, just had an attack of the giant spider in our bathroom (Jenna, Liz and I are sharing a room). Jenna “bravely” killed the thing with her shoe as we all ran for high ground, calling for one of the men to come save us! Yuck! Hate spiders! I bet Jenna won’t wear that shoe again for awhile!

We completed our first day of training in Chamba today. Again, wonderful worship and wonderful fellowship. It is such a privilege to be here with these people. Their faith is so vibrant and strong, they shame me! The children sang for us last night and it was wonderful. They sang their little hearts out in praise to their King. We then quizzed them on the Bible, and they got it right almost every time! They then quizzed us, and well, we got it right most of the time. They stumped us!!

Tonight we went to the home of one of the neighbors, who were all attending the training. The father shared his story of recently converting to Christianity. He became a believer 3 months ago after Emmanuel and some other brothers prayed with him and his family for 3 full days and nights against demonic activity they were experiencing in their home. Not until they took all of the Hindu idols down to the river and lit a giant bonfire which consumed them all, did they finally have peace and joy in their home. What a privilege to pray over them and their home!

We will post pictures tomorrow. It’s late now, time for sleep!

Be His feet!
Jo

Bright Bookends

I’ve heard it said that the greatest stories are the stories of a small light in the midst of great darkness, like bright stars in a dark sky (think David and Goliath, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Schindler’s List, etc.).
If this is true, then some of the greatest stories are being written in the heart of India today.

The darkness of India was all too apparent today: street children aggressively refusing to let go of our hands, old men silently passing their last days on the side of the road, ordinary workers barely providing a mean existence for their families, and throngs of people devoutly offering themselves (and their food and their money) to statues of idols.

But God was good today in allowing us to see some bright lights at the bookends of our day. At breakfast we met an elderly couple using their retirement stage to travel to India and support the work of local pastors and missionaries. And after a very long and hard day of seeing Delhi (and getting a bit turned around outside the Delhi metro station), we were helped by a young Indian couple. About three questions into our conversation, they asked, “so you are believers, yes?” My thoughts were (“so we’re that obvious huh?!”). They told us that they were also believers, and had started an orphanage in their own home. The wife was currently on her way to lead college-age girls in Bible study! After spending a day observing the darkness of Delhi, we were greatly relieved to see how God is bringing light into this place.

In the smog-filled Delhi sky, it’s hard to see the stars. But they are still there…whether we see them or not. Once in a while, you may just be in the right place to catch a glimpse of a sparkle. We were blessed to see two of those today.

Pray for us as we travel to City A and meet our good friend Emmanuel and prepare for our trainings. I’m sure we’ll be starstruck by the time we finish :)

In Delhi!

Good news… We are in Delhi! Our 3 flights were great and we arrived on time at about 1:30am (India-time, about 5pm EST). We arrived at our hotel around 3:30am. Some of us slept– but not much! Our bodies are adjusting to the new time zone. Either way, we are so thankful to be here and could not have asked for smoother travel. As I write, I’m looking at 4 clay idols of Ganesh (the Hindu elephant god) sitting on the table next to me. These small idols are a reminder of why we are here… to bring good news and freedom to those in bondage.

We are about to eat breakfast and then spend the day in Delhi. Pray for us. We will be visiting various temples to orient the team to this very religious culture and to get a glimpse into the daily lives of the people. Pray for our prayers to be effective as we boldly pray against the idolatry here. Pray the Lord will give us opportunities to meet people of peace (those who would be receptive to the gospel)! We want to share the gospel as much as we can in our short time here.

And ultimately, pray for the day when Jesus will be glorified as the only True King of Kings in India!