Every fall, the students at Binimea – the mission’s school here in Chihuahua – take time off from normal classes for Spiritual Emphasis Week (SEW). For the junior and senior high, this entails a week-long trip out to a remote mountain retreat. There, surrounded by the beauty of God’s Creation, guest speakers present a series of sessions on Christian life principles. The goal is to see the students look seriously at their relationship with the Lord, intentionally step into a closer walk with Him, and grow in a personal appropriation of the Gospel beyond a “well, I believe this because my parents do” mentality. It’s a fantastic program, and one the kids look forward to every year – especially with rock climbing, canoeing, capture the flag, and several other activities to anticipate between sessions! When asked if our truck could tow the luggage trailer this year, I was excited to be able to say ‘yes’ – thereby getting to stick around as a chaperone, participate in the week’s events alongside our older two kids, and have a ton of sleep-deprived fun.
This year, a team flew from the Ethnos360 Bible Institute in Wisconsin to lead those sessions. The week’s theme was ‘Influencers’ – leveraging the popularity of that social media concept to help kids evaluate the voices speaking into their lives. Do they recognize ‘The Liar’ (Satan) trying to pull them away from ‘The Truth-Teller’ (the Holy Spirit)? Can they categorize the diverse opinions in ‘The World’ and their ‘Life Experiences’ to discern in which direction each points? The simple truth is that all of us are influenced people – we cannot escape it! This is why Paul exhorts us to “…not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our minds],” (Romans 12:2, NKJV). Our hope in our daily walk is the same as it is in our justification-salvation: that we come to Jesus, humbly confessing our inability to save ourselves, and relying upon His provision of grace through the Cross. The students studied and discussed these concepts, even putting together skits to illustrate the truths learned through their fantastic SEW experience. The teaching was an enriching, joy-provoking experience for we staff members as well… and I hope to have the privilege of going again someday.
The last time we sent out an update, the summer was half-done and we had crossed from eastern Washington over to the west side. Our ministry there among church and individual partners went well, and continues to encourage us even now. It was a sweet and productive time of fellowship with family and friends alike! Although we will wait a few weeks more to officially evaluate how the summer’s work has impacted our monthly support level, we did receive a handful of pledges toward that end which have greatly encouraged us. Amy and I will keep you all posted on that regard as things settle.
Travel back to Mexico was relatively uneventful – in fact, contrasting with prior years where we home-schooled on the road, it was downright restful! As always, there is a certain satisfaction which comes when ‘packing’ becomes ‘packed,’ and you can simply put highway miles in the rear-view mirror. We are always sorry to leave loved ones behind, but in those moments also anticipate the return to ministry and friends in Mexico… ultimately rejoicing in the Lord’s provision of our true needs. Arriving home safely, we found a number of projects ahead of us. Some things always seem to need repair after an absence, and this time was no exception: among other things my laptop’s battery had swelled to twice its normal size, our ceiling fan and refrigerator stopped working, and we found our truck’s tires needed replacing. Bit by bit we chip away at these tasks, and things are slowly coming back to good order.
Since returning home, things have not always been the easiest – no great surprise when in ministry, to be sure. One particular challenge has been family health. This summer, Amy’s sleep and energy problems were diagnosed as reactivated mono – a resurgent (though non-contagious) form of the classic illness. We are thankful to know the root cause of her symptoms, and that it is not life-threatening… and still hope to learn whether it could be curable, and how best to manage its effects. In the meantime, our most pressing priority has been helping Titus with gut pain and nausea – which, at one point, kept him out of school for nine of eleven consecutive school days. We still do not know the underlying cause here, but a local naturopathic gastroenterologist has gotten the symptoms under control – and, praise God, Titus has now been back at school for two pain-free weeks (and with all his make-up work completed!).
Amy and I have greatly enjoyed reconnecting with neighbors and coworkers since getting back to Chihuahua. We have missed Amy’s sister and her family since their shift to ministry in the United States, but are adjusting to the ‘new normal’ – leaning in to awesome friendships God has provided for us here. One particular joy has been the presence of Allie – the daughter of our Nahuatl sister-in-Christ, Agatha, whose testimony we shared with you a couple of years ago. Allie has for some time hoped to come to the Spanish language Bible school in Chihuahua, and this fall she made it here! We are excited to have one of our friends from Las Moras in town for a while, and are working to be a resource to her as she pursues a deeper walk with the Lord through this time at the Bible Institute.
All things considered, settling back into ministry roles in Chihuahua has gone well. In my role as IT Coordinator for the field, an expected quiet season got quite busy when new technology resources were made available to us. There is a large, multi-month transition coming – but Ethnos México will be able to manage and distribute various kinds of digital content much more easily from here on, and we look forward to getting everything up and running. I have also enjoyed filling in as the manager of our field’s administrative offices. The usual manager is on home assignment, so while he is away I look out for the needs of that building and the missionaries serving within it.
At Binimea, I have been teaching both Geometry and Precalculus. While the first class was part of our plan, the second involved stepping in last-minute for a teacher needing ocular surgery. I am happy to report that his recovery went well, and he has now taken that class back. The time that frees up will permit me to meet another unexpected short-term need: teaching our son Joel’s third grade math course. Meanwhile, various factors in the Geometry class – including (among others) the student mix and difficult new concepts – resulted in many extra hours of work for me. We anticipated some of this, and part of reason I took this class was the opportunity provided for growth by working through these kinds of obstacles. Much work still lies ahead, but we have brought that role into a better time balance – and the students are making measurable progress as we go through the material together.
One of the strengths of our mission’s ministry strategy is the degree of help provided to our church planters through a consultant program. Specialists in church planting, translation, literacy, and several other areas have regular planned check-ins with our remote missionaries, helping them work through the challenges which generally come up in the normal course of ministry. At times, however, we lack sufficient qualified consultants to provide the degree of support we believe necessary. As Ethnos México works to keep growing its consultancy program, I was invited to participate in a training workshop which may open the door for me to help in this area.
Suspending my ‘normal’ ministry schedule for this past week, I joined several coworkers out at our field’s Spanish-language missionary training center for a course on ‘CLA’ consulting – which stands for ‘Culture and Language Acquisition.’ This is the process through which we work not only to learn a new language, but also to understand the culture to which language is inextricably linked. Amy and I went through CLA for Mexican Spanish during our first years in Mexico, and began a similar process in Nahuatl while living in Las Moras. During those times, the assistance provided by our field’s available consultants was invaluable to our progress in this foundational step of ministry. This week of training is laying a foundation for me to do the same for future missionaries studying Spanish, helping with biannual evaluations that assess progress and identify some of the best ways for learners to keep moving forward. It is an exciting step to take, and we look forward to seeing if this can be another fruitful way for our family to contribute to the larger work of planting churches among Mexico’s unreached.
- For safe travel in our return to the field, and a great home assignment this past summer.
- For diagnoses of various questions we have had about family health issues.
- For opportunities to continue serving the Lord here in Mexico, His provision toward that end, and the privilege of participating in making Jesus known among Mexico’s least-reached people groups.
- For the provision of rain for the Nahuatl people, that their corn may produce a sufficient harvest for the year’s needs.
How to Pray:
- That the Lord continue upholding the Nahuatl church and missionary team, as all work through the challenges of life and ministry together. Pray for a rich testimony of God’s faithfulness in Las Moras, which is irrepressibly attractive and draws people to Jesus.
- For increasing clarity on how to apply what we are learning about health situations… that we rest in the Lord rather than ideal circumstances, and that He provide what is needed for us to best serve Him in this context.
- For the Denham family at our home church, who recently and unexpectedly lost their dad (Bert). Praise God that he is home with Jesus, and that the Lord’s faithfulness has opportunity to be richly displayed in the lives of those he has for now left behind.
- For wisdom in balancing the many ministry opportunities which present themselves. Pray for both the ability to serve well wherever we do minister, and good discernment to turn down roles in which God is not intending us to serve at this time.