What a wonderful blessing it is to be a servant of the Lord! It is a mixture of total humility, dependance, following, obedience combined with the knowledge that we are totally important to, loved, pursued and cared for by God. It is being both the precious beloved as well as incomparably small. It brings so much freedom and also a great desire to be pleasing!
Does anything ever work out just the way we expect...? Maybe not... but sometimes do we learn a whole lot, grow relationships we might have otherwise missed, see new things...? Yes. This work here is hard for each member of the team, but I am grateful for this. It forces us toward God and makes His glory visible in spite of our frequent blindness.
I must begin with a BIG THANKS to the short-term team that was just here. Each of you touched my heart and it was a total joy to be with you on your journey and for you to be here as a part of mine. Also, it was a wonderful blessing to have met particularily the female side of a few amazing couples that are involved in the administration and sheparding of the internationbal Church of the Nazarene. Sarah Foster (Financial Coordinator of the Paraguay project for Extreme Nazarene) hosted a beakfast (Thanks Sarah!) for Sharon Graves, Natalie Ward, Lilliana Vargas, Charlie Carney, Margite Sarmiento, and myself. What a blesing it was for me to get to know in such a small way the hearts of those leading us as a whole. It was such an encouragement to have them and their husbands here in our church. In addition...at the tail end of the Impact project with the short-termers, we were thrice blessed with the presence of the team of officers for Extreme Nazarene Ministries. Again, we have such confidence and trust in those leading us. It is super exciting to get a small glimpse of where God is leading our organization. We are so thankful to be working with so many people that eagerly and faithfully follow the Lord's leading at every turn. If any of you are feeling called to join with Extreme Nazarene with the expansion of God's kingdon, stay tuned!! There is some exciting news coming in September!
As a team and as a family we have had some cool breakthroughs : ) Many of us began to feel the need for a shift in our approach to ministry that seems rather obvious now, but for some reason we had sort of missed it before... I think we were missing the element of friendship in some of the relationships between our team and the "contacts." I do believe that preaching and evangelism have great impact on people, clearly, but the deep discipleship and sincere love that God calls us to is best expressed through trusting, fun-filled, mutual friendship. It is the living of life together in Christian community that truly fulfills and strengethens the body of Christ. Some new friends of ours, the Hernandez family, have been missionaries here in Paraguay 7 years now, told us that they are very much missionaries in the eyes of those that send and support them, but for them now, Paraguay is their home and they are just Christians living out Christ's love and gospel. When we look at it that way, it draws us so much more closer to the people here... I think it helped us to feel so much more a part of life here and less of an outsider trying to bring them something. What we have in Christ in truly good news and witnessing to others is merely testifying to what we have seen heard and felt in regards to Jesus Christ. We testify to who he is. There is no real method to that except sincere love that is led to action by the holy spirit. Another special tidbit that has stayed with us was spoken by John Armstrong, former missionary with his wife Glenda and kids all over South America, which was that we should try not to become worried about the splash we do or do not make and that all we need to do is follow Christ being exactly who he made us to be...and Have Fun!... the rest of the spiritual work is for God. We follow in obedience, trying to love sincerely and we trust that the power of Christ and the words of life from the Bible will accomplish what they are sent out to accomplish. It is beautiful and freeing. His yoke is easy.
Some of the cool new blessings and people God has brought into our lives:
~Gabriela- a worker at the market where we always shop. Has started coming over weekly to practice English! She is the most sweet gal! She has a little girl that is 3 years old : )
~Matias- a shop owner of the Panaderia (bakery) that we frequent. Yesterday we were invited to his family's farm and was amazing! A very special treat for us!
~Lilliam and Raul- coming over for dinner Sunday : ) They plan to get married in December.
~Tonight we have invited some people over including some of the folks from the last blog prayer list for a movie night outside! We will be showing Joseph King of Dreams in Spanish. We hope to just get to know some people and open our lives to friendship and through this share who Christ is. Our aim is to Love them to the Lord.
~Our team has been experiencing very much the same things! Each of the pairs have started having people out of nowhere asking to spend time with them, asking for in-home bible studies (I believe we have 2 or 3 new groups just this week!), and asking more about the church. God is truly working here in our lives, in the lives of our team and in the people of our community. It is beautiful.
Thank You all so very much for your prayers! It is so important that we ask the Lord for his presence, peace, words, guiding, widsom...the whole bit! There is nothing we can accomplish for him without him. You are such a blessing and encouragement to us and we love you! Grace and Peace to you all and press on in this unpredictable journey we all have as we walk with Christ!