Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I love fall and the fall colors in the background make me happy. And the wonderful faces of my family make me even happier!
Monday, November 14, 2011
Earlier this Fall, Matt was asked to join a team from our church traveling to South America to help share the gospel of Christ and be a part of a team that will be working to build church-based coalitions to work on social, economic and spiritual issues in the city of Barranquilla, Colombia. We are so proud of our husband/father for his willingness to go and serve (and I was so thankful to have the help of my mom who stayed with us the week he was away)!
Here is a copy of the letter he sent out initially explaining his trip:
September 3, 2011
Dear friends and family,
Colombia, South America. What images does this country bring to your mind? Drugs, guns and politics? Soccer, salsa and Shakira? How about forty-five million people loved by God, many of whom have yet to learn of that love?
My pastor has invited me and one other person to participate in a strategic mission trip next month. We’ll be in the city of Barranquilla, Colombia, sharing the Gospel and exploring the possibility of planting a church there. The two of us are serving as scouts, not unlike Joshua and Caleb who were sent to bring back a report on the Promised Land!
This promises to be a very exciting opportunity to trust God. Our church is looking to become a church-planting church, and this is a way for me to play an important role during this transition. The trip is eight days long; we’ll leave Saturday, October 29, and return Saturday, November 5.
Having never been to South America, I’m excited to travel there. This may even justify that Spanish 101 class I took so many years ago (although I rather doubt it)! More than that, I’m thrilled for the opportunity to watch God at work. I am absolutely certain that if anything good is going to happen while I’m there, it’s because the Lord will accomplish it.
I know I will come away from this trip humbled by God’s power and love, as I see Him take my meager and imperfect efforts and turn them into glorious results. Lord willing, my experience in Colombia will encourage others in our church to engage in our future ministry in Barranquilla, as well.
I’m going to need your help in a couple of ways. First, will you begin praying for me right now? The Lord has a plan for this trip; I want to know and participate in His plan. Please also pray for my family while I’m away those eight days.
Second, I’ve been asked to raise my financial support for this trip. The total cost is $2,600. Would you consider joining my team? Make your tax-deductible checks out to “Trinity Bible Church” and mail them to me.
Thank you for your support, financial and otherwise, and I look forward to sharing what God has done when I return.
And here is a summary letter he wrote after retuning from his trip:
God is faithful. If my time in Colombia taught me nothing else, it taught me that God is faithful.
God is faithful. When I was first approached with the possibility of going on the trip, one of my first concerns was having enough vacation time. You see, Amanda and I have plans to visit Israel for two weeks in the spring, and we'd also hoped to spend one week together next summer on a vacation. When we worked the numbers, we discovered that I could go on this trip, and still have one day to spare.
God is faithful. A second concern about the trip was the extra strain on Amanda with me not around to help with our three young kids. Amanda's mother was able to stay for the week, and Amanda's sister Natalie, who just moved to Dallas, was a big help, too.
God is faithful. One of my chief concerns was raising $2700 of support for the trip. Oh, me of little faith. By the time I left, God had raised up for me $4040! This extra blessing spilled over to help cover the cost of another team member on the trip.
God is faithful. Yes, he is faithful to me. But he is also faithful to His people all over the world. In a dirt poor barrio called Mesolandia - where raw sewage runs through the streets and little children run barefoot through that sewage - there is a small coalition of four pastors who have joined together to tackle their neighborhood's ills. They are gaining confidence in their abilities to make a positive difference around them, particularly in the areas of health and security. I am excited to see how God works through them in the coming months and years.
God is faithful. In another barrio across the city, another group of pastors has come together to solve their neighborhood's economic poverty. They are starting a business to turn their trash into recyclable materials that can be sold for a profit. Lord willing, this will create up to 100 jobs in a community where unemployment rates approach 50%.
God is faithful. He took a nervous white American and used him as the foot in the door for sharing the good news about Jesus Christ with 40 people, most of whom prayed to accept God's gift of salvation through faith in His son. I was blessed with the opportunity to share the gospel myself, and then eventually to turn that part over to a member of the local church, so that she could be confident in doing it on her own after I left.
God is faithful. Despite all that God was doing around me, I woke up Thursday morning ready to come home. I missed my wife, I missed my kids, and I didn't feel like I had the energy to keep going. Before I knew it, it was 4:00 pm, and I realized that I was nearing the end of an incredibly rewarding day. Without me even noticing, the Lord had lifted my spirits and given me energy through the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that His power got me through that day, and I now look back on His faithfulness there as being one of the defining moments of the trip for me.
God is faithful. I came to see Colombia, to think about how my church might be involved there in the future. I came away with a much larger definition of church. It remains to be seen exactly what role Trinity Bible Church will play in Barranquilla, but it is clear that The Church there is growing.
I want to thank all of you for your support, whether through prayer or money. One fellow traveler told the members of a local church that whenever they see one American in Colombia, there are fifty more Americans back home praying for them. It was a great feeling to know that I had such support behind me.
My pastor is fond of saying that God never uses a tool without changing it in the process.
In this, too, God was faithful.
Matt meeting with some of the local pastors. Sitting next to him in the blue shirt is his translator David. The other man in the hat (and the American Eagle shirt) is another translator named Hansel who Matt really hit it off with!
This is the view from the third floor of the hotel that he stayed at while on the trip. It was also one of the only quiet places to get internet access. So I talked to him every evening while he sat here by the pool :)