Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Memory Tree



Terry and I don’t just hang ornaments on our Christmas tree, we hang memories.  The slightly tarnished brass ornaments come from our first Christmas together, 1978 in Germany in the Army.  Our real pine tree was about four feet too tall for our apartment, and I had to hack off part of the bottom and the top with a tiny hand saw.  We decorated with the few ornaments we could afford, strung some popcorn, made construction paper chains, and loved it!

My brother hand painted and lettered Jason’s first ornament in 1981.  (Brianne never let us forget that she didn’t have a “Baby’s first Christmas” till we had one made for her when she was a teenager!)  And I’ll never forget the hours of Terry’s work that produced the beautiful cross stitched ornaments during the early days of pastorate in Weston, Ohio in 1986. 

Then came all the photo ornaments, the pop stick reindeer, and the gold painted macaroni from the kids’ school years.  Every year we added another memory, some that we purchased, some were gifts from family and friends. 


We still hang one or two of the paper ornaments made out of the Christmas cards that Terry’s sister and her kids cut out and sent to us for our first Christmas as missionaries.  It was 1992 and we were in language school in Costa Rica. 

There are many others. Each brings a warm remembrance of the almost 36 years the Lord has given us together.  My favorites are the several miniature nativity scenes. One is a hand painted pottery from Chile.  Another is made of Spanish olive wood.  Terry says she has no one favorite ornament, but every year she sits and studies the tree, moving one up a branch, another down or over until every inch of our tree is perfectly covered. 

This year we put up our memory tree early.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  Friday, Terry begins chemotherapy for breast cancer.  We are looking for a special ornament to help us remember this journey. 

As I look at the tree again, I can see a blue cross stitch ornament near the bottom on the right that says, “Happy Birthday Jesus”.  Coming around just past the middle is a little old friend who’s been with us from the beginning, a little mouse in a tiny Santa’s hat
tucked into a half a walnut shell and covered by a Christmas blanket.  “Sleep in heavenly peace.” 

Joyous Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas Friends.  We pray that God blesses you with a special memory or two this Christmas season!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Building the Kingdom in Bella Union, Uruguay


God is doing amazing things in Bella Union, Uruguay . . . through Pastor Richard, his wife Ivonne, and little Esteban! 
 
 
 
 
 

Richard had been one of my students at the Bible school, but I had lost contact with him when he moved up to the northern tip of Uruguay.  Then the stories began to come of the annex Richard was in charge of . . . several healings, and many lives changed by the power of Jesus Christ. 
A few months ago I took the overnight bus to Bella Union to see for myself.  I found a small church packed out by transformed believers, and a children’s ministry reaching an impoverished neighborhood.   
The church was attempting to move a wall six feet and add a balcony for more people.  I talked to them about a Tennessee church who wanted to help with new property and a new church building, and God began to work. 
Today they are building in Bella Union.  Richard leads a team of teens.  Even Ivonne and Esteban pitch in.  A construction team from the mother church right there in Bella Union will be helping to pour the subfloor, and God will give the increase!  Thank you Tennessee, and thank you Jesus!
What a Ride!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tomás

 
Tomás, the electrician, was one of those amazing gifts from God waiting to be discovered like a gold nugget glittering in a clear stream.  We were desperate to find a certified electrician to help us wire and then sign off on our three new churches.  I had heard about Tomás from Pastor Fabian Recalde at our new work in Tala.  He attended his brother´s church in a nearby town, but had expressed an interest in helping us.  However, I had no idea just what "helping" meant to Tomás. 
 
Tomás insisted on personally doing all the wiring himself and I found myself picking him up several times at 5:30 am for the hour trip to Costa Azul, and then the hour and a half trip to Playa Pascual.  I would drop him off at at the beginning of the work day and then bring him back eight hours later. 
 
The man I grew to know during those long trips proved to have a deep love for Jesus Christ that led him to donate materials and multiple hours of his time.  Tomás was an electrician and a self taught clarinetist who has played in the Tala city band for 28 years.  He knew everyone in Tala, and everyone knew him.
 
He came by one evening in September as our first construction team was praying at the end of their work at Tala.  The pastor asked him to pray, and the words poured from his heart like an artisian well as the tears fell from his cheeks. 
 
Yesterday, I took Tomás back to Playa Pascual.  He didn´t get done, but said that he would go back in a few days on his own with his wife to finish.  As we talked and laughed all the way back to Tala, I marveled at what a blessing he has been to Terry, me and to each of our churches. 
 
 
Ephesians 4:11-12 tells us that "Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up".  I think it does no harm to the word to include a clarinet playing electrician to that list . . . at least here in Uruguay. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Campaign Time in Uruguay

We are in evangelistic campaigns at our three churches!  

Sixty believers from Cordoba, Argentina drove through the night to launch our church planting campaigns in Tala, Costa Azul and Playa Pascual.

They were greeted by torrential rains Saturday. But God gave us clearer weather from about noon on. 

Team Costa Azul dressed up as clowns and rounded up neighborhood kids for a special afternoon service at our campaign tent.  Team Playa Pascual went door to door with invitations.  Team Tala visited the local hospital before hitting the local sports plaza, reaching many through sports evangelism.

We are looking at another overcast day with rain in the forecast, but we are trusting the Lord to do AMAZING things through our teams regardless of the weather.

All this began last year when Missionaries Steve and Jill McCarthy went with us to Buenos Aires with us for a Church Planter’s conference.  The McCarthys are working with us in our three church plants.

A chance meeting with an Argentine Pastor lead to ministry in his church and a friendship with the McCarthy’s that now has brought the team to Uruguay.  They organized this first outreach.  God bless you richly Steve and Jill!

Keep praying for us.  One construction team has come, and four more will be with us over the next 45 days. 

Please pray for us.  Our goal is to have our three churches built and ministering by the end of the year. It's huge, but God is faithful.  It will take miracles, but God is faithful.  There will be setbacks, but God is faithful. . . . .

Forget everything else.  GOD IS FAITHFUL!

  
 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Year On . . . Mario


It’s been a year, now.  A year of great steps of faith.  A year of crushing disappointments.  A year of growth . . . oh, this is not my story, but Mario’s. 
This actually an update from our November 7th, 2010 blog: (http://isaacsmythia.blogspot.com/2010/11/mario-graduated-last-night.html) Mario was one of our Teen Challenge graduates who four years later graduated from Bible school and began to fulfill his calling, his passion, to open his own drug rehabilitation center.  Together help of his pastor, Santiago Suarez, Mario opened Hogar Nación (Home for a Nation) last year in an old butcher shop. 
The center began as a nonresidential center, but every night the young men left the center facing too often yielding to the temptations of the streets.  So Mario turned the meat locker into a small bedroom for four or five young men. 

Financial support miraculously has come in from the most unexpected places, a stove and a refrigerator from an appliance center, meat from a local butcher, and odd jobs that Mario found to make up the difference.  He has no salary.  He literally lives by faith.  And for the past year God has used Mario to bring the hope that only Jesus Christ can give to drug addicts on the streets of Montevideo, Uruguay.

Monday, February 6, 2012

22 Hours in Tala

4:00 PM, Thursday

I pulled into Tala just ahead of the afternoon shower that broke the 90˚+ heat that had been baking the city.  My task is to spend 24 the next hours praying and listening to the Harvest Master for this rural city where we will be planting a church this year.
Tala is home to about 6,000 people, and services another 4-5,000 who shop and send their kids to school here.  By Uruguayan standards, Tala is fairly well to do.  The blocks surrounding the central plaza are full of small businesses, and there are mopeds (motos), and cars (in good repair) everywhere.
Everyone knows everyone here.  Folks greet one another with the traditional kiss on the cheek.  However, outsiders are viewed with suspicion.  Our first challenge will be to break through the barrier designed their way of life.
I thank the Lord for Fabian, Natalia and eight year old Ana, who have agreed to leave their church in the interior city of Santa Clara to begin the work here.  They understand the mindset of rural city folk, and we needed someone with experience and maturity for this church plant. 
Just months ago a Uruguayan pastor and his family pulled up stakes after years of frustration here.  In fact there is almost no evangelical witness in Tala.  These people are essentially unreached, and it drives us to come back to Tala. 
God’s leading for me is clear.  He wants to establish a strong church here.  Jesus died on the cross for these people, and he wants Tala to know Him. 
7:00 PM


I walked the four blocks from the town plaza to the property that we are considering as a location.  It’s in our price range, and has a dilapidated house that looks like at any minute it will fall in on itself saving us some of the work of tearing it down.  It is inhabited and Uruguayan law makes it very dithis project.  The Lord will open the right door for us.  9:50 AM, Friday 


Second prayer walk.  As I walked, looked, and prayed this morning, my first sense of this community began to form.  The mornings belong to the seniors.  They still observe the older traditions; they get up earlier.  Businesses were taking deliveries from Montevideo, about 40 miles away.  The tiny street market, just a block off the plaza boasted only four or five venders of fruits and vegetables yet.  I wondered if more will show up as the morning wears on. 
The residents of Tala take pride in their homes, much more so than Montevideanos.  Many houses were freshly painted, and I have been amazed since the first time I visited at the number of front yard gardens.  They plant earlier, and even seem to try to get in a second crop of corn, squash, or tomatoes before the end of the growing season.  I’ve not seen that anywhere else in Montevideo.  A man with a bicycle and a cart was selling fresh milk door to door in two liter coke bottles. 
Father, what will it take to reach these people?  I pray for Fabían and Natalia, our new pastors for this city.  I know that they are seeking your face.  Give them a vision for Tala.  Lead them to form key relationships that will open doors of acceptance and hearts to their message.  Father, show us what we can do to minister to the needs of this community.  Is there a clinic that needs sheets or beds painted? What could we do in the schools?
I know that you have led us to Tala, Father.  I trust you to lead us, to help us avoid big mistakes, and to build your Kingdom in Tala.  

1:50 PM, Feb 3
Parked in front of the local bank, I have just finished the last hour and a half traversing all the north and south streets of Tala.  On each of the four corners of the city, there are small public subsidized houses, built by the government and sold at a discount to the people.  The southeast corner has the beginnings of about 15 brick homes, all without roofs.  It’ll be a wonderful place for a home group. 
I talked to grey headed Ivan about five blocks east of the plaza.  He was watching his three sheep as they ate grass by the side of the street and cavorted in the empty lot.  He tells me that he uses them to cut grass, but the love in his crinkled blue eyes tells me that they are more to him.  He stood in the street with a switch while we talked, waving it every so often to keep his pets on their side of the road. 
 
Oh yes, the horses . . . everywhere.  All are fat and well groomed, very different from the bony creatures that pull the two wheel trash carts in Montevideo.   I watched a 9 or 10 year-old boy plink, plink, plink the tether stake for a beautiful sorrel.  She ignored the young fellow as she tore at the patches of grass now within her reach.   
It would be easy for me to fall in love with Tala.  The people love the same things that I love.  They have a sense of pride in their homes, their gardens, and their animals.  Most of all they need what I have discovered; Jesus Christ.  I am already beginning to imagine the first dinner that we sit down to with the first believers from this church plant, the folk we are praying for right now.
Dinner . . .It’s time to get back home to Terry.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Marcelo, Natalia, and Costa Azul

 
Marcelo didn’t have a clue what was going on.   He had brought his girlfriend, Natalia, to the meet and greet encounter at the local community center.  Pastor Roberto Mairena and I had arrived at the beach community of Costa Azul, about 30 miles outside of Montevideo.   We came to explore the possibility of making Costa Azul one of our new plants. 
One of his lay-leaders began the work last August, going door to, praying for anyone who would give him a minute.  Last month a group of 34 new believers climbed on to a rented bus to attend Christmas services at  Roberto’s church in Montevideo. 
Natalia was on that bus.  When Roberto gave her a New Testament, she eagerly opened it, as if God had a special word for her.  Her eyes fell upon Acts 10:33 “I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded  . . ”.  Cornelius´ words to Peter resounded in her heart.  She knew that God had sent for her.
That afternoon Pastor Roberto began by sharing Natalia’s story.  Halfway through, Natalia and Marcelo arrived.  They had trouble finding the small community building, and arrived a little late.  The group usually meets in an open soccer field Sunday afternoons. 
And Marcelo?  All he knew was that something amazing had happened to Natalia, and his scooter was her ticket to the meeting.   At the end we took time to pray with the people.  I prayed for an elderly husband and wife before joining the young couple.  Marcelo looked a little nervous.
“Marcelo, how can I pray with you?”, I began, never expecting his response.
“I . . . I would like to know Jesus.”  Now I was nervous!   I had to ask again just to make sure I was hearing him correctly. 
After leading Marcelo in a simple prayer asking Jesus into his life, I watched the transformation wash across him.  He began to rub his hands, and then his sides as his eyes opened wide.  Natalia began to bounce a little.  She understood what was going on even if Marcelo didn’t.
We are still praying for the cities of Costa Azul, Peñarol and other possible locations for our third church plant. But whether or not we build a church in Costa Azul, God is already building his kingdom there.