First day in India!

Today was our first day in India. After 24 hours of travel where we flew from Charleston to Atlanta to Paris to New Delhi, we finally arrived! 

After some much needed rest at our hotel, we had breakfast with our national partner E and afterwards spent time in God’s Word before heading out for the day.

Our first stop was the Lotus Temple. It is a massive stone temple surrounded by beautiful gardens and felt more like a tourist attraction than anything. It is a temple of the Baha’i religion; a pluralistic religion that claims that all religions are worthy and should all be celebrated equally as well as science. Honestly, it reminded me of all the “coexist” bumper stickers I see on the back of cars in the US. There was a short, silent prayer service within the temple and afterwards we got to speak with one of the men who led the prayer service and another worker at the temple, Davet and Askir. I (Sam) got to ask him about Aristotle’s “Law of Non-Contradiction” and what Jesus says in John 14:5, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “ I asked them to consider that if all religions are valid ways to God, Jesus has to be a liar if He says that He is the only way to God the Father. If all religions were true, they contradict one another and cannot be true. I showed them that he could truly know God and have a relationship with him if he believed in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. They were such great guys and were very willing to have a pleasant discussion about God! One of the things that has stood out to me is just how friendly the Indian people we met today are. They were all eager and willing to share about their families and religion and hear about ours as well. 

Afterwards, we drove to Kalkaji Mandir by way of auto-rickshaw and stopped in at a shop where Logan and I were able to get custom-tailored suits made for us in less than 8 hours for $160! The girls, Liz and Shelby, were able to get some traditional Indian clothes and we were able to share the gospel with some of the shop workers and meet a fellow Christian named Robin who was so happy to meet other believers! It was great to hear of how he is living out his faith in such an exemplary way. After lunch, we headed to the nearby temple. Once we took off our shoes and walked down the narrow alley to the dark, crowded Hindu temple, the mood shifted. It was a place heavy with darkness and that spiritual darkness was evident in some of the grotesque idols that were fashioned by craftsmen and worshipped by Hindus of all sorts. It always amazes me how western culture has such a sanitized and more comfortable idea of Hinduism than what it really is. Many Hindu people flowed through the snaking alleys of the temple stopping at the idol of their choice to pay an offering of puffed rice or flowers. They stopped low to bow prostrate to the ground in front of pieces of wood and metal shaped by men to depict gods. It was fitting that Liz lead us in reading Isaiah 43 which reads, “Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human.” On the way out we stopped by each of the beggars who were either sitting on the ground or feebly laying on the concrete to touch them and give them food in the name of Jesus. To be able to look into the eyes of people who are considered deserving of this kind of life because of bad karma was a powerful testimony to how Jesus calls his followers to love all people from the least to the greatest. 

We departed from Kolkajit Mandir and headed to a Muslim mosque a few miles away. The area where the temple was had to be the busiest place I have ever been. Cars, motorcycles and rickshaws raced past one another in organized chaos as we walked down a bustling street lined with shop fronts whose owners hawked their wares. Rich smells of spices, garbage, fresh rainfall, and exhaust fumes made the air thick and the sprawling mess of hundreds of power lines barely overhead made it seem like some urban jungle. We navigated to the Muslim mosque (the largest one of all India) where we were told it would be 300 rupee each to get in. We decided not to venture in and instead headed for dinner. Our partner E told me later that it was a foreigner tax, which he described as more of a “skin tax”. After dinner, we got on the subway and headed back to our hotel exhausted. 

The sights, smells and experience of today was truly life-changing and eye-opening for me. What stood out to me most was not the sensory experiences, though. Rather, it was the people of India that made this day most remarkable. The friendliness and openness of them was so refreshing. Many people in the US are so hesitant to talk about spiritual matters but not so with the Indians. Today reinforced for me what we are here for: to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people of all nations so that they can truly know God and have a relationship with Him. 

Please be praying for all of our upcoming travels (we have 6 in-country flights!) and that none would get delayed or canceled and that also our luggage would arrive safely. Pray also for the people we got to share the gospel with today: Davet, Askir, Kahn and others whose names escape me; that God would grow the seed of truth that was sowed in them today and that it would grow into belief. Pray also for our upcoming trainings that we are doing for the remainder of our time in India and for the men and women who have gone through the DMTI program. Pray that we would speak boldly and clearly and that the students would grow in their understanding of what it means to make disciples and to apply what they have learned

God bless!

Sam

 

Healthy Disciples Go

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Happy Easter!

While this week I have tried to prepare my heart for such a magnificent holiday as we remember that our Lord has risen from the grave, my mind has wandered to all the details of our trip to India. Even tonight I feel as if I am not yet prepared to go. God has been humbling me these past nine or so months to remind me that we don’t do good things for God so that he would love us, but rather that we do these things because he has loved us. Even as I write tonight my heart has been troubled I have felt very inadequate to teach, to get all the things I need to pack, and to be aware of God’s moving. But let us not forget that our Lord did not come to us while we were bringing him good gifts, he came to us while were yet sinners and died for us.

While I urge you to pray for me, and my confidence in God, I urge you to begin to think on Easter.  If God did raise from the dead, and if the scriptures are true that the same power that rose him from the dead lives in us, Why do we not live in Joy? Well maybe you are like me, you forget. The world pushes its demands and your job becomes a little more tiring and you forget to rest in him. I am so thankful for the team that I am going with as Shelby is like my sister and I know that she prays for my witnessing; Joey is like my brother always urging me on to know God; but lastly Sam and Liz have been like spiritual parents to me keeping me in the love of God, warning me, encouraging me and spurring me on to confidence in God working in me that which is pleasing to him.

While I am not the best public speaker and I fail often, I have been entrusted with the gospel.  To share of how God has used discipleship in my life that I can trust God when I feel hopeless, and I can share the gospel with others that they may know God, and then that I may make disciples of those in Christ. As I’ve shared personally of how God reminds me of the gospel in these relationships, I thank you that many of you have begun to pray for the work in India we go to do. We will be sharing the characteristics of a healthy disciple with nearly 300 national believers in India. Expounding upon our relationship with the Father through daily bible reading and prayer, being discipled and making a disciple, and sharing the gospel with the lost.

We leave on May 1st for India to work alongside our partner E and will be going to many stations in the country. We will also spend a brief time with our partners D and A and their new child.  As we go we desire that our church would be an example of a discipleship based church.

So I dare to ask you, who is in your life that is close to you, but far from God? And who is in your life that is faithful, available, and teachable that knows Christ? Will you share the gospel? Will you intentionally disciple someone? We go to India to continue what God has us doing here in Mt. Pleasant thanks to your support and your prayers.  

Thank you for all you have done in my life, we crave your prayers.

Logan Todd   

Here are some ways you can pray for us:

  • Pray that God will open doors for the gospel and give us words to speak.
  • Pray that God will keep our flights from being canceled or will guide us in his direction.
  • Pray for all of our interactions in travel, by plane or rickshaw that we may be faithful to share the gospel with any who will listen.
  • Pray for our teaching that it will be clear and understandable and that God will awaken desire for obedience to his word to make disciples.
  • Pray for D and A as they travel to see us.
  • Pray for E as he faithfully preaches to those in Northern India.

His Glorious Might

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14)

What a wonderful day we shared with the White family yesterday! They were so gracious to show us around their new town – from amazing overlooks and market shopping to the coffee museum and a fabulous dinner, it was a fantastic day in Antigua. Through it all, of course, we were able to hear more from the Whites about their new role with Americas Connect, and how Antigua is a perfect staging point for the work they will be doing with new teams.

After dinner, we returned to the Whites’ home for Team Time. David shared a devotional and we had a great time singing worship songs together. We also had a bittersweet time of prayer with the Whites, knowing that our time with them was growing very short. But, we have this morning, and we’re looking forward to a nice breakfast with them in just a few minutes!

Our flight should leave around 3 pm (4 pm EST), so please join us in praying that our travels go smoothly and that we’ll be able to keep all the things we’ve seen and experienced close to our hearts as we return to our everyday lives. We so appreciate your prayers this week. We can’t wait to tell you even more about it!

-Jennifer

Safe in Antigua

Although we were all sad to leave Chiquimula this morning, we were even more excited to be reunited with Regina and their two sons. God blessed us with an unusually short and uneventful trip (according to David White, at least!) into Antigua. The drive was a nice time for us to reflect on the last three days, to laugh and enjoy one another’s company, and to see more of the Guatemalan countryside.

We arrived in Antigua just in time to meet Regina, Cruz, and Ben for a quick lunch before going back to the hotel for some downtime. Our trip has been so full of visits, hikes, and new sights that we all needed a little rest to process all we’ve seen God doing.

David and Regina hosted us for a great evening of pizza, homemade brownies, and playtime with Ben and Cruz. The boys took a shine to David M. right away! The three had quite a few light-saber fights in David and Regina’s yard. Regina, Jennifer, and I were able to chat after dinner for a few hours about the Whites’ time in Guatemala and where they see God leading them this year.

We ended our night with a look at Isaiah 51:1-16. We talked about how God uses the testimonies of those who came before us to encourage us and how we can use our testimonies to encourage those around us. We also talked about the certainty of God’s will being accomplished and the comfort that bring us.

We’re all looking forward to spending more time with the Whites tomorrow and seeing Antigua. Our time in Guatemala has been eye-opening, encouraging, and fruitful and we’re thankful for everyone who has prayed for us back home.

-Katie

Into Marvelous Light

Into marvelous light I’m running,
Out of darkness, out of shame.
By the cross you are the truth,
You are the life, you are the way

My dead heart now is beating,
My deepest stains now clean.
Your breath fills up my lungs.
Now I’m free. Now I’m free!

Sin has lost it’s power,
death has lost it’s sting.
From the grave You’ve risen
VICTORIOUSLY!

Many of you will recognize these lyrics, and they’ve surely been echoing through my mind all week. We listened to it on our second day in Chiquimula after talking about how God “has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6), and we witnessed the truths of this song and verse as we visited in the village of Nearar today.

Just six or seven years ago, Nearar was so dark and sinister that our college team, local workers, and even the missionaries dreaded making visits there. There were very few believers in the community, and those who professed faith were targeted and alienated. Praise God, though, the marvelous light is shining in Nearar!

While the change has been slow to develop and there have certainly been set-backs along the way, we were able to worship with our brothers and sisters in Nearar this afternoon. I sat in a church with 20 or so other believers on a lot that was just dirt the last time I visited. We sang songs straight out of the “Baptist hymnal” (with some adjustments…like being sung in Spanish!), and heard messages from Pastor Rafael, Miquel, and David M., who shared his testimony. It was a powerful afternoon! It’s one thing to hear how God has been working in Nearar, and another thing to experience it first hand.

But the day was rich and full even before the church service. By breaking into two groups we were able to make eight house visits in the morning and early afternoon. Some of the people we met with were new in the faith, some had experienced terrible persecution, and others have witnessed things we could never imagine. We can trust, though, that the Lord will use our sincere prayers and words of encouragement to draw these people closer and closer to Him.

The mountaintops were covered with clouds all afternoon, but as we left the village just before sundown, a little light broke through on the horizon. I’m going to hold on to that image as God’s promise to continue to bring “the glorious light of the Good News” to the people of Nearar until all have heard. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

As wonderful as the day was, it also felt a little bittersweet. It was the last day in the villages, and we know it will likely be months or even years before we’ll be able to return. We are very excited to drive to Antigua tomorrow, though, where we’ll spend a few days with the White family. I just can’t wait to see Regina and those boys! Pray for safe travels and sweet fellowship as we continue on this amazing journey!

-Jennifer

Glimpses of Grace

Today was another amazing experience in the advancement of God’s kingdom! Our day started by visiting an amazing mission family, we also made several visits throughout our day to encourage some very new believers, and wrapped up by attending a local church service where Jennifer and Katie both did a phenomenal job sharing the Word of God.

Our first stop of the day was at the Lubecks’ home. They are a husband and wife team who have been in Guatemala for over 40 years. They are currently translating the Bible into the Chorti language and are also actively involved in children’s ministries for the Chorti people. They shared with us that after many years of seeing few results, they are starting to see the hearts of the people changed and their work paying off. They were an incredible example of steadfastness and an encouragement to us. Let’s pray that God continues to use them to spread His Word.

Then we visited Ms. Aurelia in Chanco. She isn’t quite a believer, but we’re working on her! Her heart has softened since David and Miguel began visiting her. We pray that God continues to work in her heart and draw her to Himself.

From there we had an incredible experience visiting two young men in a mountain home we had to hike up to. Peter and David are both believers who have a gift for playing music. We sat and they played us Christian songs on the guitar while singing several duets. It was a breathtaking experience to see the light of God in their musicianship in such a remote and beautiful location. They asked us to pray for wisdom and health as they seek the Lord’s will in their lives.

img_0267After that, we visited Cornelio and Cindy, a young couple with a 6-year-old boy. Cindy has been a believer for a long time, but until very recently Cornelio did not share her faith and was hostile toward it. But God in his infinite love softened his heart and called him to faith. They need prayers for wisdom and direction as Cornelio learns to put off his old self and live as God would lead him.

Finally we attended a church service in Chiquimula led by Pastor Fito. Katie shared from Isaiah 55 and Jennifer shared from Psalms 119. I’m very thankful to be serving alongside such women of God, and I know they meant a lot to the locals at the church as well. While we were there, a baby was dedicated to the Lord. It was a blessing to be there for that, and it made an already incredible night that much more wonderful.

We thank you for your prayers and please keep them coming! God is doing big things here, as he is all over his creation. We praise him for allowing us to be a part of fulfilling the Great Commission.

-David

 

Encouraging the Faithful

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

What a blessing and an encouragement today was for our team, and hopefully for those we visited as well! David White and Miguel had arranged for us to visit a few families of believers so that we could see the current state of the Church in Chiquimula.

We began the day in the village of Jocotan, visiting Jane and Hoseas at the Christian school they run. According to David, their witness has won the hearts of some of the school’s teachers to the Lord. We prayed that the Lord would provide for them as they consider buying new land for the school and that He would use their faithfulness to reach the children who attend the school.

Then we visited Nicholas and Prudencia in La Libertad. It was their daughter Stefani’s eighth birthday, and we gave her and her sister Esther a children’s Story Bible. David McKenney shared some encouraging verses with Nicholas, including Romans 8:28. It’s a verse that the Lord had also put on my heart this morning and one that Miguel had preached on just yesterday.

We stopped briefly at the home of Fabricio, a man Miguel has begun to disciple. Fabricio was partially paralyzed 6 years ago at the age of 14. He is being cared for by his mother Juana, who is recovering from major surgery, and his grandmother. We prayed for the health of their family and encouraged Fabricio to spend time in the Word, drawing closer to the Lord.

After lunch, we traveled far up a mountainside to the home of Rigoberto and Maria Luz. Theirs is one of only five or six families in that area who are believers. After many years of delays and disappointments they are finally seeing a church being built in their area! We enjoyed conversing with them and playing with their children. It was incredible to see how God is calling His people to Him even in these remote areas.

Our last stop of the day was to visit Pastor Elias and his family. Elias has been in ministry for over 50 years, most recently pastoring in a large Baptist church in Chiquimula. He has been sick for many months and has undergone treatment, but is now nearing the end of his life. His faith and that of his family remains unshaken. It was truly a testament of God’s faithfulness that He has sustained them with joy even in the midst of suffering.

We ended our time together reading through Isaiah 55 and talking about how faithful our Father is to keep his promises and how His words never return to him empty. We sang How Deep the Father’s Love and Revelation Song. We are all excited to see what tomorrow will hold as we meet with fellow missionaries and visit the homes of new believers and seekers!

-Katie

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His Mercies Are New!

Lamentations 3:22-23
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Indeed, the Lord showed His great mercy toward us in every step of today’s journey. Despite our sleepiness, we were able to arrive at the airport by 4:30 a.m. (thanks again, Ms. Cindi!), make our connection without incident, have pretty smooth flights, and meet up with David White in Guatemala City with no trouble at all. We’ve been blessed by His presence at every turn – not to mention the fits of laughter we were able to share along the way!

David M. and Katie are experiencing Guatemala – in fact, Latin America in general – for the first time. It was a joy watching them take in the cultural norms and beautiful mountain landscapes during our nearly 5-hour drive to Chiquimula where we’ll spend the next three days. David, with his wide-eyed grin, even got excited about cows and street dogs! (Bless his little Boston heart.)

My favorite part of the drive, though, was listening to the stories we all shared – stories of  trial and redemption, stories about the dead being brought to life! The Lord has been so faithful to us all!

We enjoyed dinner at the hotel this evening, followed by Team Time. I shared a little from 2 Corinthians, encouraging the team to shine His light this week, despite the language barriers and uncertainties.

4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

And so it begins! We’ll start tomorrow in the village of La Libertad, visiting a few homes to offer prayer and support to the believers  and sharing the Good News with those who haven’t yet heard. Please go with us in Spirit as He leads our way.

-Jennifer

January Guatemala Team

Hello church!

This upcoming Sunday, we have a small team heading to Guatemala to serve alongside our partners David and Regina White. This team will be spending some time with the White’s to encourage and love on them, and also spending time in the villages where we’ve worked in the past, visiting and encouraging believers, and seeking opportunities to share the gospel. They’ll  be gone January 13-19th.

Here’s the team! 🙂

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Jennifer Lively, David McKenny, Katie Vinson

Not only is this our first time back in Guatemala for a couple years, it’s also Katie and David’s first time going overseas on a missions trip. What a joy it is to hear about their heart for going and of the work that the Lord has done in them!

As we send this team out, I’d like to remind you all that as a church, we’re called to “hold the rope” for them. Our prayers act as spiritual weapons for the spiritual battle they are walking into. May we be faithful to bring this team, this trip and the Whites before the Lord on a regular basis!

As the team prepares to leave, here are some ways you can be praying:

Pray that they would be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2)

Pray against any distraction and that they would set aside the time to prepare their hearts for this trip.

Pray for good health, sound sleep, and calm spirits.

Pray against any fear or doubts – that they would remember that Christ has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col. 2:15).

Pray that they would be an encouragement to David, Regina, and their two boys, Ben and Cruz.

Pray that the Lord of the harvest would lead them to people He has prepared to hear the Good News and that they would be bold in their witness, whether it be in the airports, on the planes, in the villages, etc.

As always, the team will post updates about the trip and ways that we, as a church, can be praying for them. If you aren’t already, subscribe to the blog and it will automatically email every time they post something.

May God be glorified!

Marylou

One Last Story from South Asia

Hello, Church!

I made it back safely on Saturday afternoon. Man, was it sweet to be with all of you on Sunday morning! Since being back, the following is one story that is still fresh on my heart…

One of my last days in South Asia, I took Lacey to a delicious cafe I had been to in January. It was full of chocolates, cakes, pastries, and all sorts of other sweet things. Despite my earlier excitement to go, I wasn’t in such a sweet mood prior to leaving. For no good reason, I was annoyed with Lacey and harboring some major attitude.

As usual, we grabbed a cab. It was a pretty short drive, and I spent the first couple minutes internally battling. I had resolved within my own heart at the beginning of the trip that I would make every effort to share the Gospel with our cab drivers but at this point in time, I wasn’t really in the mood to share; I was trying to work through my attitude problems with the Lord and “really,” I told myself, “there just isn’t enough time.” But the internal battle between flesh and Spirit ensued, and despite my stubborn and selfish heart, I managed to push out some questions. As Lacey and I both engaged the young man, the conversation gained some momentum, and I began to feel my heart soften. I thanked God for His grace and the unity of the Holy Spirit.

We came to a stop in traffic around the same time our conversation came to a halt. At that point, it hadn’t really led anywhere spiritual. With about 6 minutes left to spare, I asked the young man if he had ever heard of Jesus. He said he knew the Name but not the story and said he would be interested to hear more. I glanced back up at the GPS sitting on his dashboard. 4 minutes. “Well,” I said. “We’ve got 4 minutes. I’ll see what I can do!” We all laughed a little as I began to share the wonderful story of our Messiah. About ten minutes later we were still in the same spot. There was a train stopped on the tracks right in front of us.

After a small moment of silence, I realized how much time had passed. I had been worried about the time, and yet I was able to share the full Gospel, answer questions, and engage in even deeper conversation. Sort of thinking out loud I said, “You know, I think God wanted you to hear that story and be able to talk about it with us. I think He allowed us to get stuck here in this traffic just so we had time.” The driver laughed that good ol’ South Asian laugh and replied, “I was just thinking the same thing!”

Maybe that young man surrendered his life to Christ that night. Maybe it was that week. Maybe he hasn’t at all yet. Maybe he never will. Only God knows. But he did hear the Good News because our sovereign and merciful God is seeking to reconcile lost people to Himself. He orchestrates the smallest of details so that we can share and people can hear.

What struck me personally was that even after my own moment of sinfulness and rebellion, God didn’t see me as useless for His Kingdom work. His grace is so deep. Right as I repented, He opened up the opportunity for me to extend His grace to another out of the overflow I received.

Church, may we not be a people that chalks everything up to “just coincidence.” May we not think God’s love is dependent upon our performance, or that our usefulness is dependent upon our perfection. It’s all about Him, and His love is unconditional, His grace constant. Praise be to His Name!

In Him,
Marylou