Several years ago, I worked for a small company specializing in online event registration. My job was to design and manage websites – ranging from those providing information for single large events, to others serving as permanent homepages for summer camps and sports leagues. As a one-man division I created themes for each event, trained clients to use editing software, supported existing sites with changing needs, and helped troubleshoot the little problems which always came up. It was a lot of work, and at times seemed too much for one person to handle!
One year after taking this job, a larger business from California acquired my employer. Suddenly, I was part of a team – I had coworkers working toward the same goals I pursued: teammates who shared my vision, constructively challenged my ideas, helped when things got crazy, and encouraged me regularly. Can you imagine the difference this made in my daily work? Sharing the load transformed how I perceived my job and allowed me to enjoy the challenges of difficult projects. In that moment, I realized the critical importance of working as part of a good team.
Two weeks ago, I took my Spanish language evaluation. This has been the standard for deciding when Amy and I are done with national language study. Amy had reached her target level (‘Advanced Low’) two weeks before my test – which encouraged us tremendously! Now I needed to go one level further (‘Advanced Mid’), which would allow us to join our teammates working with the Nahuatl in the Mexican sierra. However, when I received my eval results the next day, the testing company placed me in the same level where I’d been for the past year.
This is obviously not the outcome we desired. Yet, despite some hard moments, God has not allowed us to remain discouraged. Working through the extended team He has given us – our coworkers in the mountains, our leadership here in Chihuahua, and our partners outside of Mexico – He has strengthened and encouraged us daily. Each day it seems someone new emails, calls, or texts – just at the moment we most need it! – affirming us, encouraging us, and reminding us just Who this amazing God is that we serve. We are so blessed in you, this team with whom God has surrounded us!
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul commended the church for their partnership with him while in prison. Their faithfulness was a great service to him while in impossible-but-for-Christ circumstances! Paul was encouraged through joy from shared fellowship in ministry (1:3-8), Epaphroditus’ presence sacrificially ministering to Paul on their behalf (2:25-30), and their help with his physical needs (4:10,14-18). Today, I begin to see with new eyes the depth of Paul’s affection for these dear brothers and sisters, who stood beside him in the hard times God allowed in his life. Please know that, as Paul did with the Philippians, we thank our God every time we remember you… praying with joy for all of you because of your participation with us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So in light of these test results… what does the immediate future look like for Amy and I? The short answer to this question: we are not quite sure yet!
In response to this situation, our field leadership here in Chihuahua has begun reviewing how we determine when Spanish students are ready to stop formal language study. This evaluation method is new to us (I am the first language learner trying to achieve the ‘Advanced Mid’ standard in Mexico) – and while the testing measures many things very well, our consulting team want to take a look at how well it focuses on aspects of language most important to us as church planters. They may determine I have actually already learned all I truly need… or, that my studies in fact do need to continue. At the end of the month (when everyone is in town), Amy and I will meet with the consultants and learn what options they have decided to place before us.
As you can imagine, waiting ‘in limbo’ is not very easy! Furlough visits, mountain house planning and building, Nahuatl language studies… there are a lot of things waiting on the end of Spanish studies, and we can’t plan the next steps until this is decided. It’s an important decision, affecting incoming missionaries as well as our own family, so – though waiting isn’t easy – we fully support our leaders, as they take time to prayerfully consider how God is leading in this situation! God is using all of this to teach us patience and conform us more to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28-29), so – though it may not be comfortable to be clay the Potter works in His hands, we trust in His ultimate design.
Thank you for how you stand beside us, encouraging and praying faithfully for our family. As part of the good team God has provided to work alongside us, you have made it far easier to wait in patience on His timing.
- Though the Nahuatl teaching was delayed a week (while the village discussed where it should be held), the introductory first lesson was taught yesterday – Tuesday July 11th. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, our teammates will continue teaching through the Bible chronologically from Genesis to Christ… the first time this has ever happened in the Nahuatl language!
- As a prayer tool in support of the teaching, short Scripturally-based emails are being sent out by Tom and Teresa Elkins – our coworkers with Pioneers. If you’d like this aid in praying daily for the birth of the Nahuatl church, please send me an email and I’ll make sure you receive them! The emails rotate weekly, and will be refreshed at the end of each month.
- We’ve gotten some clarity on our truck situation; due to greatly increased difficulty (and cost!) in importing used vehicles, we will likely have to buy locally. While not our preference, this does bring clarity – and we can look in earnest at the end of the month. Lord willing, this will allow our vehicle search to end soon.
- Ethnos360 has partnered with Twin Valley Coffee to support church planting through caffeination! If you are interested in buying coffee beans online, you can do so at www.CoffeeForThrivingChurches.com and they will donate the profits to the missionary of your choice.
- I’m looking into scholarships helping missionaries’ kids attend college in the United States. If you know of scholarship programs willing to accept non-American MKs, please contact me!
Praise God with us!
- God’s Word is being taught for the first time in the Nahuatl language!
- We have amazing, healthy kids who are growing… not just in the physical sense, but more like Jesus as well!
- For God’s provision of an incredible team of partners all around the world, who faithfully stand with us in serving Him.
Ways you can pray:
- That the people of Las Moras hear the truth of who God is and what He says, free from confusion from any outside influence, and that they continue coming regularly to the teaching. May many come to Jesus by grace through faith.
- For our teammates in Las Moras – Pete, Liesl, Katie, and Rachel – continuing to proclaim God’s Word among the Nahuatl every Tuesday and Thursday for the next few months.
- That God quickly lead us to the right vehicle for our family and ministry needs, granting we and our mechanic wisdom in evaluating the condition of local options.
- Clarity and wisdom for those in our leadership considering how best to test language progress; that our family continue in patience, encouragement, and trust in God’s plan while waiting.