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Defend The Defenseless

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“Learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” -Isaiah 1:17

Today is my 24th birthday. I didn’t want to make much of a big deal about it, but part of me wondered if this would be one of my loneliest birthday’s yet. God on the other hand didn’t forget about it; He has made this day a blessed one and it is only half way through so far. I woke up at 6AM for our daily prayer then rode my bike over to my Kung Fu class. I have started to learn another form of Kung Fu besides the Ip Man Wing Chun system called Black Flag (or Hek Ki Boen for those of you who speak Cantonese). It is a much more powerful system but combines well with the Ip Man Wing Chun that I am already learning, not to mention both are taught by Sifu Oscar Choco. I didn’t have to pay much more to take the extra classes (80 dollars for a year, that’s the price of about one month in the states) so its a really good deal. It keeps me active and over half of my fellow students are Atheists, Agnostics or non-practicing Catholics. I have already seen a lot of opportunities to be an example and share the love of Christ with these guys.

I'm the one white guy in the back, if you couldn't tell.
I’m the one white guy in the back, if you couldn’t tell.

Also, as I have mentioned before I believe it is the duty of every Christian man to know how to fight. That might sound a bit controversial in some Christian circles, but I believe it is our duty to know how to defend ourselves and more importantly defend others. If you think that is wrong then I encourage you to take a look at the scriptures and see the overall character of God Himself. God is not a violent God, in fact He abhors violence and the man that practices it. That said though, He is known as the Lord of Hosts. He is the commander of legions of warrior angels and is Himself a warrior, but He only uses violence in extreme situations when no other options are left. In Psalm 68:5 it says that He is “a defender of widows” and in Psalm 82:3 we are encouraged to emulate Him where the psalmist states “Defend the poor and the fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy.” To defend the poor and the fatherless sometimes requires more then just words, as the ancient king of Israel, David, knew very well. Ecclesiastes 3:8 says there is “…a time of war, and a time of peace.” In the context of Jesus reminding His disciples that He would soon be departing from them, and attempting to get them to start thinking in the lines of common sense, Jesus told His disciples “…But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” (Luke 22:36).

So how do we balance this with the statements of the Bible such as when Jesus said “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38-39). This is one of my inner struggles that I had for many years, being that my entire life I had wanted to join the military and it was because of this inner struggle that when I started to follow Christ I decided not to. How could I learn to kill, especially if I was forced to kill knowing that the one I killed likely did not know Christ and would go directly to hell? I took the path of the pacifist, dedicated myself to the study of the word of God in Bible College and put this very verse into practice many times. There is a balance to be sought though. The Word of God does not contradict itself. It balances itself.

We, as Christians, are to be known as peacemakers and lovers of even our enemies. As God is. Yet, just as God does, there is a time for peace and a time for war. There is a time to fight and a time to surrender. The hard question is when and how. If God gives you a family it is your duty to defend your family, just as God defended His children Israel. There really is no easy answer to this question though, it will all come down to the individual conviction in that moment. Can the kingdom of God be advanced through your martyrdom, or is it your Christian duty to put a stop to evil when you see it, lest you be guilty of the sin for not stopping it when you could have? Those are questions you must ask yourself and they are not easy to answer. The point of Jesus teaching us to turn the other cheek is so that we would leave vengeance to the Lord, we are not to reciprocate the evil that is done to us. That does not mean you don’t defend your loved ones. So what am I getting at? Defending yourself and others is OK, more than that it is just and commanded by the Scriptures, but setting out to take vengeance on those who have done evil you is not. There should be no anger, no vengeance when we are forced by force to fight, rather it should be out of love that you do so.

Right, that concludes my little rant. This month I also got the opportunity to help out as a translator for a day with a medical mission team from the States. I actually really enjoyed it and I think I may be doing more of it in the future. They asked if I would come back the next day, and I wanted to but was unable to make time to do so. I have a feeling though Unsion (the Christian TV channel that was organizing it) will be hitting me up more for things like that in the future. Not only that, I have also been attending a pastor’s meeting every Monday morning with Pastor’s from all over Cuenca. At first I really didn’t like it, since it is a very charismatic group and the majority are Pentecostal. That said though it has been good for me and I have had some chance to encourage them to be more loyal to the Word.

People in line waiting for the free medical clinic. They also were prayed for before they left.
People in line waiting for the free medical clinic. They also were prayed for before they left.
At the Pastor's Meeting, Kelber the Worship Leader with the long hair sitting in front of me.
At the Pastor’s Meeting, Kleber the Worship Leader with the long hair sitting in front of me.

If you remember my last post I asked you guys to start praying for Basem, the guy who came from Egypt as a persecuted Christian, that he would find a job. He has since found three jobs, PRAISE GOD!!!! He is working with Unsion as an IT guy, teaching English, and at times helping to keep an eye on possible thefts in a retail shop. While we are talking about Basem I figure it is a good time to let you know the amazing things God is putting on our heart to do. Basem used to organize mission teams that arrived in Egypt, so he has connections and experience leading teams all over Egypt. One day we were walking home and he casually said “Why don’t we go on a mission trip to Egypt?”. “That’s a great idea!! Lets pray about it!”

Well a few weeks later and I was reading through my devotionals and the Lord showed me Acts 7:34 which says “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt; I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.” So that’s that. The Lord is sending me to Egypt. Basem and I sat down and planned out a 20 day trip where we will visit three cities; Alexandria, Cairo, and Port Said. My heart is to encourage the persecuted church there and to evangelize (obviously cautiously since you can get thrown in jail or worse there). Even though there is persecution and things have gotten a lot worse for Christians in Egypt there is still an open door there, and the people of Egypt need encouragement now more than ever. We are going to take a team from the English Service down there sometime this year (we are looking at around August-September). Please keep us all in prayer. Also, if the Lord lays it on your heart to help support the trip costs about 3,000 in all per person, so if you want to help send Basem, someone else on the team (still not sure who all will be on the team yet) or I and be apart of what God will do down there on this trip see the tab that says support on my blog or email me at matthewcamphuis@gmail.com.

Map of Egypt
Map of Egypt

This year is going to be an exciting one and I am looking forward to all the things that God has in store. Some things that you guys could be praying for is that God would move on the hearts of all the foreigners here in Cuenca to come to Him (there are around 3-5k but we only have 20-40 that attend church). I have joined a Spanish Conversational Group for Gringos and have been meeting a lot of new gringos through that, so you can pray that the Lord opens the door to witness to these guys through that. Also, we are planning a “pound party” to raise food for in need families Feb. 2nd, but we will be doing it in a “gringo” restaurant in town which will be also somewhat of an outreach to all the extranjeros. Besides that I have it on my heart to plan some sort of retreat for the English Service that is a mix of good solid Bible Study and outreach in Ecuador (maybe some good beach time too!!!). I probably don’t say this enough, but I really do appreciate all the support that you guys give me.

2nd Service in Spanish, it was amazing to see it overflowing.
2nd Service in Spanish, it was amazing to see it overflowing.

Much Love and God Bless,

Matt


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In Weakness He Is Strong

“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:9a, 10b

Even though this verse was the subject of my last post I have decided to talk about it once again to start off my Mission’s Update; since it has been a constant encouragement to me lately. I have really been personally learning all about how God is so much stronger than I thought He was and how true this verse really is. It has been interesting because I feel like every week I am getting weaker and weaker and yet God continues to empower me more and more. For example, I feel like my messages on Sunday have had less time and study put into them, and yet people have been telling me how much better it is every week and how blessed they are. Last Sunday one of the guys came up after the message and said “I am just so happy right now. I feel like God has met with me with His presence. I am just so happy.” That particular message was taken from the notes of a study I had done in California. I hadn’t had time to study John because we had just gone on a Mission Trip to Loja and had gotten back that morning. I was running on 4 hours of sleep when I gave the study and had put all my hope into God. I have to say I agree, it was one of the most blessed Sundays yet and the only reason is that God showed us all grace and that it was sufficient for us.

As I had mentioned above we took a short mission trip to Loja this last weekend. We only went for about two days but managed to get a lot in. We left Cuenca around 7 AM, stopped on the way to eat lunch, then when we got there we ate lunch again. I think the first lunch was supposed to be breakfast but the way things worked out it was more like having two lunches, but hey I’m not complaining. After that we started work in setting up a puppet stage and some of us went around the neighborhood to announce that we were going to have a children’s club. Freddy, David and Estafani were at the ready with face paint for once the kids arrived; I tried painting a butterfly on one girl only to have another little girl ask “What’s that?”. “A butterfly” I replied. “It doesn’t look like a butterfly” she so graciously informed me. I decided that she was right though and tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to make it into a bee. After that Freddy put on a puppet show for the kids while Jenine played along as the MC. The puppet show was about how calling out to Jesus can help us no matter where we are or how far away from home we have gone, Jesus can always help us.

David, Estefani, Paola, and Freddy face painting.

The whole group that went to Loja from Cuenca. It is cool to see nationals doing mission trips in their own country.

Puppet Time!!!

David keeping the fun going.

After that David preached it up some and then we had a Christian concert by a guy from Colombia who also told his testimony. We had a pretty good turn out and I think God touched a lot of peoples hearts with it.

David preaching it up.

The next day we did some door to door street evangelism and handed out tracts. There was one woman who was just ready and waiting to receive the gospel, she ended up praying to accept the Lord and had a bunch of questions about the Bible. It seemed like she had just been waiting for someone to come talk to her about all of this, it was that easy. It was a good reminder that we never know who is ready to receive the gospel and sometimes we just need to step out there and try it. Granted there were many rejections before her, but they were worth it.

Later on that night we put on a Biblical Dinner and spent the whole afternoon and evening preparing for it. A Biblical Dinner is a recreation of the last supper, along with a teaching about the cultural meanings of a lot of things that happened that night; such as what did bread mean to the Jewish person. Everyone sits on the floor and they eat the same type of food that they would have eaten in the days of Christ, and the only lights are the oil lamps on the tables. Biblical Dinners have been an extremely successful way to evangelize as well as to teach here. There are a lot of people that have a misunderstanding of the gospel, communion, and how much God loves them and wanted to have fellowship with them. The Biblical Dinner is a great way to help the many different people, from many different backgrounds and ideas to understand the simplicity and yet depth of the actions of Jesus during the Last Supper.

Every Biblical Dinner I am so blessed to see all the happy faces enjoying the message, the fellowship and the food.

This last month has been a real blessing and God has been doing a lot here in Cuenca. With all the good though there have been plenty of hardships. The worst is that Julia, our beloved sister in Christ who is a Missionary from Ireland, was told she has a 70% chance that she has MS and was told to return to Ireland immediately. We are still praying that God works a miracle, and I am inviting you guys to pray to do the same, but she will be leaving on a rush flight back to Ireland this Friday to get it all sorted out. She wants to come back and Lord willing she will. We know that she will be missed here; since she has been a constant source of blessing, encouragement, purity, and strength to all of us. One thing is for sure though it has been bringing the English Service group a lot closer, and everyone has been showing love to one another. I am so proud of Julia and I am so proud of the English Service for how they are taking this and how encouraging and loving they have been to each other through it. I personally am very sad to see Julia go; she has become something of a big sister to me and a person I could always confide and trust in. She actually reminds me a lot of my big sister Chris. Julia has no fear except the fear of the Lord and she is a true woman of God. She has given God and Ecuador everything and she has been an amazing example to me of what a true missionary is like. She is a hard worker, she is honest and has no hidden motives or agendas; she simply lives to serve God. We are praying and waiting in hopeful expectation until the Lord brings her back to us. In the mean time, I will be moving over to the mission house to assume the responsibilities over there.

 

This is the group that helps out with the English Service, with Julia to top row second to the left. We call ourselves the servant leaders.

All in all God is faithful, and His grace is sufficient. We have all been going through weaknesses here, and I ask that you would please pray for us diligently since we are all feeling attacks daily from the enemy. Just recently I have been having severe heart pains that persists throughout the day and at times feels like it is seizing up. I have been told that it is probably just stress and am going to get it checked out tomorrow, but prayer would be appreciated. That said though, God has also been showing Himself stronger and stronger despite all our weaknesses.

Praise God for His grace,

Matt

 

 

 

 

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Along The Way

Enjoying “The Color Purple” a fundraiser put on by Gary and Sue Gaither from the English service to help raise funds for the Children’s Cancer Hospital.

“Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, And He shall hear my voice… Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Psalm 55:17,22

I have been crying out to the Lord; evening, morning and at noon and it seemed as though He was not hearing my prayers. That was until I read these verses and the Lord comforted me that He was listening. He just had to bring me to the point where I had nothing and no one to trust in but Him alone. He has heard my voice and I have cast my burden on the Lord. I am not so worried about the things I was worried about before, because I know the Lord has heard me.

It has been a while since my last update, as usual. A lot has passed since the last update and now, also as usual. I am not sure if I have already mentioned to you guys or not but I was finally able to get my visa, which was an answered prayer and a miracle. Most people have to wait years before they get their visa, I got mine in two months. Also, first time missionaries rarely get a visa for more then 6 months… I got mine for two years. The Lord has just shown me in so many ways that this is the place for me and everything has just fit perfectly. Waiting on the Lord for 5 years payed off, since everything is perfect in His timing. I think, praise God, my Spanish has improved a lot… although it is still always a work in progress. I have been keeping myself pretty busy and have just been getting busier. I joined a Wing Chung Kung Fu gym a few months back and finally made my white belt (in Kung Fu they don’t give you the white belt, you have to earn it). For me it has been something to look forward to and it helps me stay mentally and physically fit (something I think every missionary needs to be concerned about).

Ohhh yeah, getting dangerous!!! No, actually my motivation was to have something to keep myself healthy and also to learn how to defend myself and defend others… something I think every man needs to know.

Woooo!!! I’m legal! :)

Besides that the Lord has moved on the heart of some of the people in the English service to start fixing up the mission house next door, being that it was in need of some loving. We have two houses here right next to each other, the Pastor’s house where I live (which also functions as the church office, Sunday school rooms, and a place for fellowship and prayer) and the Mission House (which is designed to allow visiting missionaries and teams to stay while they do work here, there are also various Bible Studies held there as well as Sunday School classes). I am pretty proud of the people in the English Service, we have been going through the book of Nehemiah and how God moved on his heart to repair the wall and help out Jerusalem, and I have a feeling they are just applying what they are learning. I haven’t been able to help out in all that they have been doing, but the Lord did lay it on my heart to restore and repair all the cabinets in the kitchen. I wasn’t exactly sure how I would do it and had mentioned to George (one of the Ecuadorians at the church) for some advice in how to do it since he was a carpenter. To my surprise he offered to help. We spent about a 4 days or so working on it and they ended up turning out really nice. The rest of the group from the English Service have been doing some painting of their own, including all of the downstairs floor and Julia’s room (the resident missionary in the house).

Other than that I have just been working to help bring more order and structure into the English Service. I have been praying about leadership and observing many of the people from the church to see who they are and how they would fit into leadership. We are going to have our first bi-weekly (every other week) servants meeting this Friday at 10 to spend some time together praying for the church, organizing, and seeking the Lord and His Word in order to be of the same mind. I am going to be calling it a servants meeting since I think that’s the most Biblical thing to call ourselves, since when God calls people to leadership He calls them to serve and not to be served.

Being a missionary here hasn’t been a whole lot different than when I was back in California, and I think that’s God design. One thing that I admire about Jesus’ ministry is that wherever He went He ministered along the way. That is something I have tried to imitate, but really I haven’t had to try too hard since it has been the Lord opening the doors for me all along. For example, I have made it a habit of going to a local coffee shop to study, for two reasons; one the coffee is great, and two I never can study at home… I have to go somewhere with the purpose of studying in order to do so. Besides that coffee shops have always been a Gethsemane for me. While I am there though the Lord has always opened up opportunities to minister there in one way or another.

The other day I was reading my Bible and notice that two girls were talking in English next to me, I also noticed that their conversation started out talking about cute guys. Once my food came that I had ordered I decided to pray silently, bow my head and close my eyes (I don’t normally do this, I find it showy and Jesus said let your prayers be done in secret… so I normally just pray to myself in my heart). Yet, I had a feeling though that these girls needed to see that. After that, their conversation changed and they started to talk about the Bible and how they wanted to give a Bible to one of their friends. Seeing the change in the conversation I leaned over and asked them if they were from California. They told me that they were originally from Ecuador but were living in New York. They asked me if I was reading the Bible and if I had prayed before I ate, to which I replied yes and to which they told me they thought was pretty cool. Come to find out they were Jehovah’s Witnesses who were here visiting family. We kept it cordial and just sorta vaguely talked about God, I had been praying in my heart on whether or not to bring up some of the doctrinal issues but decided now wasn’t the time. We said our goodbyes and ended on a good note, I told them I was there all the time and hoped to run into them again. Sometimes it is not always what you say but how you say it, the light and love of God can shine out of you and be a witness even if you don’t speak of it directly. Although we never got to speak about the divinity of Christ directly, I had hoped they would see it in my life, being that I shared I was a Christian Missionary.

After a while an American guy and girl (college aged) sat down next to me, and I over heard one of them ask “So I guess I got to try the coffee here”. To which I replied “Get the cappuccino, its the best one they have here”. Which began another conversation, which ended with them asking why I was here. The guy sounded like he was a Christian (just wasn’t practicing) and the girl was an atheist, both had come to live in Ecuador to study abroad and both told me they were very open to hearing about God. We talked about everything from the problem of evil, to the evidence for the existence of God, the ethics of missions, cultural relativity, the nature of truth (is it absolute or relative) and ended with me having the opportunity to share my testimony and the gospel. This sort of thing happens a lot to me, and I pray for it to happen every morning and more-so that God would go before me and give me the words to say and the love to show when it does happen. The key is to be willing to be used anywhere at anytime, watching for the leading of the Lord, and ministering to people as you go about your day. I have learned you don’t have to go out of your way to evangelize (although I am not opposed to doing that, in fact we will be going out to street witness and give coffee and bread to the prostitutes and drug addicts this Friday night), and in fact it is much more successful and personal when you allow God to work through you in a more natural and normal way.

Coffee Tree, my Garden of Gethsemane.

On the way home as I was walking down some steps I noticed a young adult aged street vendor with his head hung down low, and hitting the side rail repeatedly out of frustrations. I walked by and my heart was struck, and decided I couldn’t just keep walking on. I went back and asked him (all in Spanish of course) if he had had a bad day. He told me he just hadn’t been selling anything, and also that no one wanted to listen to his music since he only knew how to play the traditional tribal type of music. I started to tell him how much of a blessing it was that God has separated one day from another, because if you have a bad day today you always have tomorrow to have a good one. After talking with him for a while I decided I wanted to give him some of the money I had, as well as a gospel of John, and told him that I had stopped because I saw how down he looked and wanted to share God’s love with him. I told him that God is love and because of that I couldn’t just keep walking on when I saw that he was sad. I got the chance to explain the gospel to him and he said he would read it and we got to pray together. Just as I was about to get up and leave he told me he wanted to give me a gift, and handed me a bracelet, which I have to say is probably one of the most precious possessions I now own.

This is the lesson that I have learned though; as you go about your day make time to let God use you along the way. Let’s look at the Samaritan woman at the well for example. Jesus ended up at the well because He was wearied and thirsty, then when the woman came he started up a normal conversation in asking for water until He eventually brought her to a correct understanding of who He is, which then lead to the salvation of an entire village.

So many things have been happening that I am pretty sure I would just bore you if I wrote them all down, but every step of the way the Lord has shown Himself to be with me. Last Saturday night I had the blessing of going to a wedding and got to dance up until 2 AM, followed by an unexpected funeral Monday night (quite the contrast). I also got the chance to go to a fancy dinner that some of the people from the church put on to raise money for the children’s cancer hospital (oh the sacrifices we missionaries make, fancy dinners and all, hehe). God has just been using me in so many ways, and unexpected ways at that, and I am just so blessed and lucky to be a part of what He is doing. His grace is ever astounding and unending. So, my encouragement to you is this; don’t get too busy to let God use you as you go about your way.

Until next time,

Matt

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None Of These Things Move Me

Acts 20:24 NKJV

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

I have to confess I am quite the Lord of the Rings fan. *Places nerd glasses on* I have read all the books, own books of the compiled notes of Tolkien (there are over 10 books or so just on notes), have seen all the movies and am anxiously awaiting The Hobbit movies. One of my favorite scenes is at the end of the third movie where Aragorn and his army decide to mount an offensive against the very gates of Mordor themselves. They place their hope in two small Hobbits to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom to finally defeat the incarnate power of evil, Lord Sauron himself.

Aragorn stands fast against all hope.

This offensive had one purpose; to distract the eye of Sauron long enough in hopes of giving Frodo and Sam (the hobbits) a chance at destroying the ring of Sauron (comon I know you know the story, everyone saw the movie!!!). They don’t even know if Sam and Frodo are alive, they are just taking a chance on hope.

The battle is against all odds and they become surrounded on all sides, just when all hope seems dim and death certain weary eyes look to the horizon to see the tower fall and the army of darkness flee. They did it, Frodo and Sam destroyed the One Ring and Middle-Earth is saved from certain destruction. Everyone had a part to do, but Aragorn fought valiantly and stood fast; not counting his life dear to himself. Despite having hope in such a small thing, in something that he couldn’t even see happening, he stood fast in the face of death so that hope could have a chance.

Thankfully our hope is much more sure than Aragorn’s; although it can feel sometimes like we are in the same circumstances.

There is only so much I can tell you guys on here. I have learned that part of being in the ministry means there are very few things you can talk to people about, you know too much of the in’s and out’s of a church or of people lives to talk about your day. When someone asks me, how was your day and what did you do? What can I really say? Especially if you know things people have told you in confidence. It takes a faithful spirit to serve God in leadership, to those of you who want to serve in the ministry start praying for self-control ahead of time.

What I can tell you is that I am battling. I am fighting for my faith and I am fighting for the faith of others. I have already thought a few times about going back home. You may have noticed not many posts recently, it is because I couldn’t find the strength to do so.

God is faithful though, I have learned I have none but Him to trust and rely on.

A few weeks ago I was walking home on Calle Larga and the sun had started to set. Once the sun goes down Calle Larga turns into a party street, where people gather to wait for the clubs to open. I started to remember how much of a joy it was for me to share the Gospel in the streets of York, England to the same type of people. Mostly college or high school kids drinking in the streets. Since the Lord had been stirring my heart it was an easy answer to Klever (the new worship leader for all the services, he will be going on staff in October) when he asked if I wanted to go street witnessing last Friday night. We passed out at least a thousand tracks and three girls accepted Christ, and many more were interested in learning more. We are praying about making it a regular thing.

Besides that we will be having an all night prayer vigilia October 5th, a mission trip to Loja November 1-3rd and a Thanksgiving Day Feast November 22nd. We are starting to get more and more active, but I am not really sure how ready the English service is for that. The English service is what I would call explosive. This can be both a good and a bad thing. It’s explosive because it has people from all over the world, with different backgrounds, different denominations, different ideas on how a church should be run, etc. Because it is primarily made up of people over 50 these are ideas they have had for a long time. The good news is we can use their ideas, their lifelong experiences with Christ to explode for Christ in a good way. The bad news is that there may be some things that they have been taught for years that are not Biblical and changing that might be difficult. What we need the most right now is structure, a solid leadership team, and the grace and miraculous power of God to make it work. I can already tell you if God doesn’t build this house, there is no way it will stand. In fact it is already starting to split at the seems, so pray for us.

Despite all these complications the Lord is adding to the church daily, although they are always surprised to see such a young shepherd serving the flock there.

Although for the past week I have felt overwhelmed by one thing after another the Lord has strengthened me. The secret is alone time with the Lord, in prayer and in His word. I have decided to stand fast with the convictions and vision the Lord has given me for the English service or die trying.

None of these things move me, I will finish the race that I started. The key will be endurance and laying aside the things that weigh me down. One step after another. Thankfully I am not running alone, the Lord goes before me and with me, and if I do finish this race that I started it will be for no other reason except the grace of God that caused me both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Get back up. Purpose in your heart to fight and do what the Lord called you to do, only then will your heart begin to heal from the pain of defeat. Place your hope in the sure confidence of Christ, your God and your Savior, the promises of His Word, and the empowerment of His Spirit, only then will you be able to say “None of these things move me”.

Stand fast. Fight the good fight. Keep the faith.

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Amazing Grace

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.” Psalm 32:8 

God is so amazing. I am just astounded at Him and how He works. This last Sunday was my third Sunday teaching, which means next week I will have been teaching here for a month. Time really goes by so quickly. It went a little rough last Sunday since I had been sick from Wednesday night until Saturday night and didn’t have all the time I wanted to have to prepare. I also didn’t realize until the day of that we would be doing communion this last Sunday, thankfully the church already takes care of buying all the stuff for it. I prayed about it the morning of and asked the Lord how he wanted the order of service to go. After praying I had decided (hopefully by the influence of the Lord) to change the order of service to be a little more like it was back in Phelan for communion. Thankfully the guy who sings for worship, Brian, adapts quickly even though I sprung a last minute change on him and asked if he knew Amazing Grace and if we could play it during communion. I also found four men to help out pass out the elements (they normally just form a line and go get it and bring it to their seats) for communion. Thankfully everyone did a great job, but I am going to try to get that more organized in advanced for next time. After that we did a study on the life of Barnabas that I had been wanting to give for a while, but just didn’t get the chance yet. Since I was sick in bed most of the week I didn’t get a chance to study John and decided that I would just have to go with the Barnabas study. At first I had a hard time starting the study out, a moment without the anointing on the Lord while your teaching seems like an eternity, but then the Lord came through and gave me the grace to finish the study. The lesson to learn is that without God empowering you, you can’t last five seconds on the pulpit. I don’t even want one second on the pulpit without the anointing of the Lord on me, since I am nothing without Jesus.

After church we headed over to Gualaceo to do some baptisms. Freddy offered for me to help him so I accepted. It was the first time I have ever baptized anyone. The whole time leading up to it I was a little nervous, while at the same time just completely amazed at the grace of God. On the way to Gualaceo I was laughing to myself about how crazy all this had been and how quickly God was moving in my life, but that is why waiting on the Lord and his timing is perfect. While we were baptizing I prayed that the Lord would keep me warm, since the water was freezing and I would have to be in it the entire time. Amazingly enough I wasn’t cold the rest of the time. I am not sure if I should credit that as a miracle or that I just got so cold I couldn’t feel my limbs anymore. I am going to go with miracle, since seriously it was like warm currents passing through my legs in what should have been ice Andes water. I wasn’t shivering at all, even though the day that had started out sunny now looked like it might rain. I think the Lord just blessed me. Even when I got out of the water, and the air hit me, I still wasn’t cold. Pretty awesome. Its just amazing to see what God is doing in my life, and how He is the one calling me and the one raising me up into this. All I have done is just been willing to do what ever God wanted and have been along for the ride. It was just such a blessed day. Freddy was saying the same thing. On the ride back home we were talking about how it is days like those that make the bad days worth it.

Don’t let me give you the wrong impression about being a missionary that everything is roses and chocolate, most of what I put on here is the good news of what goes on. I leave a lot of the bad out, mostly since it would be too close to gossip. What I can tell you is that already people have been coming against me and spreading lies about me, but I knew that this was part of my calling. The Lord told me there would be opposition and I am sure this is only the start of it. There are hard days of serving the Lord, where people will hate you for doing the right thing… those are the days where your love for the Lord is put to the test. Then there are good days of serving the Lord, where you go home so blessed and content that the memory of the bad day just becomes that, a memory.

I waded into the water first to find the best spot, only to realize Freddy wanted to give a message before we started… so I headed back to shore.

On my way back to shore, was too cold to wait in water fed directly from the Andes.

Freddy giving the message.

This guy literally jumped in, total trust in us haha. Almost caught us off guard.

Can’t tell you how joyful it was to be a part of this.

Jessica (the church secretary) was feeling anxious, but she was so happy and excited afterwards. She said this was a big step of faith for her.

It is just so cool to see God keeping the promises He told me. He told me to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19) and then God actually made that happen. He brought me to another nation and allowed me to be a part of baptizing disciples of Jesus. You are amazing God.

Today was also a really blessed day. I went to my usual hideout, the CoffeeTree, to drink a great cappuchino and spend some time studying. I like to move around when I study, since if I stay in the same room or the same place the whole time its a lot more difficult for me. Not to mention, going to a coffee shop for me is where the Lord meets me. Its my garden of gethsemane. I love coffee and I love coffee culture. I love just sitting around at a coffee shop. Its just part of who I am. When I go, the Lord always meets with me and its often where I get instructions or where He has divine appointments for me. Today I ran into Hannah, a young adult woman who decided she wanted to spend a year teaching English in Ecuador, her Dad and their friend Jesus. Hannah’s first week at the church was last Sunday, she is looking for a place where she can come and serve. There is a lot of people in the English service that feel like that, they all want to serve. I am still trying to wait on the Lord though and not move fast, but it is nice having so many people who want to help. Hannah’s Dad, Chuck, was a former missionary here in Cuenca but had since moved back to the states to teach at a Bible College. Today just so happened to be his last day in Cuenca, so it was great to meet him before he left. Hannah said she would be back next Sunday. I really want to be able to reach out to the young adults here more, but we are still praying about how and when. There are a lot more English speaking people like Hannah here in Cuenca that we are just not reaching.

Overall things are going great, the Lord is with me and His hand is guiding me. I am just so thankful and amazed that He would use me. He really is a God of mercy and grace. Sometimes I feel like I need help or that I don’t know what I am doing, then the Lord gives me verses like Psalm 32:8 assuring me that He will help me, He will guide me and He will instruct me. As you can see there is a lot to pray for over here, and with all that has been happening I am sure you have already been praying, so thank you for that…. its making a difference.

God Bless you all,

Mateo

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Building up Immunities

Philippians 1:29 NKJV

“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,”

imageAttempting to study, man I love my job.

Today I had planned to give the day to studying and preparing for Sunday, being that the Lord has opened the door for me to teach in English here on Sundays, but it has been a little more difficult to concentrate than I had hoped for. I woke up this morning with what I call “enfermedad de gringo”, in other words my body doesn’t have all the bacteria immunities yet to a lot of the things going around in Cuenca.

I was told the water in Cuenca is the best in South America and you can drink straight from the tap, I still think they were right about that since I have been drinking the water for weeks with no issues. Although I didn’t bring immunities with me to Ecuador I certainly still brought my appetite for food. I feel like what I have been doing for the last 4 or 3 weeks is eating and eating and eating. I think my appetite finally got the best of me.

I went to bed last night with a mild stomach ache and woke up with traveler’s runs and stomach pains. I am thinking that I have a more mild case of it since I had a full dose last time I was here in Cuenca two years ago. I don’t want to make it sound worse than it is, because I have had worse in my life and there are others that have it much, much worse. I am only going to use to teach a lesson, since it is something the Lord is teaching me through it.

My first thought was take some antibiotics that I brought with me for this very purpose, but after thinking about I decided to sit it out as long as I could, in hopes that my immunity system would be stronger because of it. That’s still my plan and it looks like I am going to make it, since as the British say it, I am on the mend. That said God has given me a brain, if I need to use the meds at a later date I’m not too proud to do so, I’m just trying to make a point that a little bit of being sick can be a good thing.

What the Lord reminded me though was that suffering builds immunity for your faith like suffering through traveler’s runs builds immunities for your body. It’s necessary and sometimes you just got to grit your teeth and go through it. I was not without the comfort of others through it though, Maria the house cleaning lady (before you scoff that we have one let me point out the house functions as both the church office and a place of fellowship, as well as a Sunday school and the place where other studies meet. Churches have janitors do they not? If it were not for hiring her we would literally spend all week cleaning up after people and have no time for study and prayer), made me some herbal tea, consisting of a concoction of lime, sugar, oregano, and some other thing that I don’t think translates to English. It actually helped a lot.

After trying to study some more I thought better of it and resorted to a good old fashioned nap. I felt a little bit better after I woke up, just in time to go to a prayer meeting, at which Freddy had prepared another type of tea to which he promised would clean me out. He also jokingly said I would wake up knowing perfect Spanish, which further caused me to wonder at the contents.

While making some toast for dinner (which just so happened to be the same meal I had had for breakfast and lunch as well) I remembered that we had some wine in the fridge that had been accidentally purchased for communion one night by a person who didn’t know there should be a difference. Fed up of the piercing stomach pains and recalling Paul’s advise to Timothy I decided to take it literally and give it a shot (no pun intended).

1 Timothy 5:23 NKJV

No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.

The fact that Timothy was abstaining from drinking wine and had only been drinking water implies that this practice is the rule for elders, with rare exceptions. Still though I was willing to put the word to the literal test. Being that I just did it ill let you know if it helped or not.

James 1:2-4 NKJV

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have  its  perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Just like my traveler’s runs would produce greater immunity strength in the present, so would trials and testing grow my faith and produce patients. The word for patients in the Greek is Hupomone, and strong’s defines it as;

1. steadfastness, constancy, endurance
a. in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings
b. patiently, and steadfastly
2. a patient, steadfast waiting for
3. a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance.

So going through trials grows your faith in such a way that endurance and loyalty to God is steadfastly birthed. A faith that says “God got me through this last time and He can do it again”. The faith of David to fight Goliath was birthed in his battles against wolves, lions and bears; the Lord had delivered him from them, what could one Philistine accomplish that a lion could not?

1 Peter 4:12-14 NKJV

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed  are you,  for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.

As you can see above we are not to rejoice in when we suffer due to our own wrong doing, although God can still teach a repentant heart through his failures, but the calling to rejoice is for those who have suffered due to directly obeying the will of God. It is to them that know the suffering of obedience which also have a greater understanding of Christ.

1 Peter 1:6-9 NKJV

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith,  being  much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see  Him,  yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of  your  souls.

So you see we are to rejoice in trials, not rejoice about the trial but rejoice in the trial knowing what it will produce for you, a greater faith,  faith that perseveres on to greater and bigger conquest for the Kingdom of God. A faith that is much more refined for the coming of the Lord, a perfect faith that will have no doubt in its assurance of salvation at the return of the Lord.

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“Encouragement” From the Author´s Mind to Yours

Encouragement

Wait!!!! Stop!!!
Let that breath enter in…

Hold it!!!! Be still!!!!
Now exhale…

Look up, look up!!!!!
Fix your eyes on Him.

You see, much better now…
Give it a second,
Let Him speak,
Open His Word and bow.

Comfort it is,
that you seek.
And comfort it is,
That He gives to the weak.

You’ll find it in one place alone,
When your eyes are weary,
And your mind heavy,
Look to Jesus, for His yoke is easy.

Wait, stop.
To others you’ll say,
I’ve been comforted by God in this way.
Breath of His presence in…

Now hold it and be still,
I know exactly how you feel.
Much was learned in it;
So breath out your worries to Him.

Look up, look up, my friend.
See there He is, you’ll say.
We’ll know Him better now,
And you can comfort another the same.

© 2012, Matt Camphuis all rights reserved.

From my Mind to Yours

One of the joys of poetry is trying to figure out what the author had intended to say to the audience, and typically poetry (as does all art) finds a way to take on a meaning for the person individually, if they allow it to.

That said though I think we have all wondered while reading a poem or staring at a work of art, ¨If I could only ask what that painter wanted to say…” Or “I wonder what he meant by that part…”. Every once in a while I will be taking one of my poems and explaining to you what was the heart behind why I wrote it and what Bible verses it came from. I still want you to gain your own application from the poems though, I wouldn´t want to ruin any way that it may have spoken to you, but my objective with poetry has always been to encourage and teach people through the medium of poetry.

What better place to start then than with “Encouragement”. “Encouragement” is a poem that expresses what it is like to be encouraged by God, and then how we are to take that encouragement and use it to encourage others in what God encouraged us in, with the hope that they would continue encouraging others with the encouragement they received.

The main verse that inspired me came from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 which says,

“Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, [it is] for your consolation and salvation.And our hope for you [is] steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also [you will partake] of the consolation.”

What does that mean?

Paul knew the comfort and mercies of God all too well, in fact here it is part of His title, the “Father of mercies and God of all comfort”. Showing mercy and comforting is part of who God is. Paul calls God blessed, and how can we not after we have known His mercy and comfort through sufferings? Paul states that God comforts us in all our tribulation, why? So that we may be able to comfort others, with the very same comfort we learned from God. When you learn something as a Christian you are expected to pass that knowledge on, and the same goes for comforting. When someone you love dies, and then God comforts you, use that comfort to comfort others who are grieving the death of a loved one. The goal is that the person you comfort would then comfort another, and so on and so forth with a never ending chain of comfort. This is the way that it should be and it should be what Christians are known for, since it is what God is known for.

Isaiah 40:1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God.

Heres the catch. If you never go to God for comfort in tribulation, you will never be able to effectively comfort others. Not only that, you won´t know the comfort of God in tribulation, and without the comfort of God this life is only misery and purposelessness. Going to a funeral or experiencing the death of a loved one is never easy, and despite what some Christians may tell you there is a grieving process and it is OK to experience sorrow. I am not proposing you fake joy, since faking is just another form of lying. Part of being human is grieving, and to know comfort in reality you must first know sorrow. For the Christian though funerals are much more bearable, provided that the loved one was a believer. They are comforted knowing that they have gone to truly rest in the peace of God. I have seen some of my family that does not know God completely destroyed and dismayed over the death of a loved one, while the other family members that knew God, although they grieved and experienced sorrow, grew spiritually tenfold through it.

Some will say, well I do not have much life experience so how can I comfort others? Or others may look down on you for not having much life experience. While experience is important, what is more important is experiencing Jesus. This is available and open to everyone, despite your life experience. You can always point people to Jesus, which is what you will have to do no matter your life experience since we all experience everything a little bit differently, even if you can somewhat relate. Beware though of the pride of experience, equally beware of the pride of not having experience, both can lead you and others into sin. When you can´t relate completely to what someone is going through you can still go to God to receive the words of comfort that someone else may need to hear, because God is the God of all comfort and He can relate even when you cannot. When you can´t relate, you can direct them to the One who can.

Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all [points] tempted as [we are, yet] without sin”

Jesus knows how to empathize and sympathize with anything that you go through, since He was tempted in all ways as we are, being that He was fully human, while still being fully God. The only difference is that He lived a life of victory over sin. He knows what it is like to suffer in struggling against sin, but He knows how to win. Not only that, you have not resisted sin unto bloodshed like He has. What I mean by that is if you think you are going through the worst and no one can understand then you have not thought about how much Jesus went through. Your still alive right? Still breathing? Ok then you don´t know what death feels like. Jesus does. He can relate. He understands, and He can sympathize with you.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke [is] easy and My burden is light.”

The Bible encourages in 1 Corinthians 1 that as often as your suffering will abound, so will God´s comfort abound. In other words the more you suffer the more God will comfort; His comfort never runs out. Paul says that when he is afflicted it is for the sake of others, that he may pass on that comfort he received and more importantly that others would come to know Jesus and have eternal salvation as a direct affect of his suffering. Paul was willing to go through the worst sufferings planet earth had to offer, in hopes that some may experience the best blessings heaven had to offer. The strongest testimony is that of one who trusts and clings to God despite the worst circumstances. The world is left speechless at it.

Do you want to help others to know God better? Do you want to be comforted by God so you can comfort others? Do you want to be an effective Christian leader? Then rejoice in suffering, because it will school you in the comforts and mercies of God. Paul finishes his statement about comfort in verse 7 stating “And our hope for you [is] steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also [you will partake] of the consolation.” His hope for the church in Corinth was steadfast, he knew that they were going through sufferings, but he also knew that they would get the joy of partaking in the consolation (comfort) of God.

Acts 23:11 But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

When Paul was persecuted by his Hebrew brethren, by those whom he loved so much and those whom he desired to come to know the Messiah as he had, he became discouraged. Yet, the Lord stood by him. Imagine the comfort that would have brought Paul. He must have felt alone, alienated by his piers in the Sanhedrin, probably his former friends. The Lord comforted him though and told him to keep testifying and called him to do the same as he had done in Jerusalem at Rome. ¨Be of good cheer¨Jesus told Paul, I think just the presence of the Lord would have been enough, which may have been why the Lord didn’t tell him why he should be of good cheer.

Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us”

The times that I treasure the most in my life, the memories that are most dear to me, are the ones when the Lord stood by me and comforted me during troubles and tribulations. Those times when I failed and sinned against God, and I was grieved in my soul and anguished by my wickedness, and God comforted me with His mercy. Those times where I was persecuted for righteousness sake and cried, desiring to give up, only to feel the very presence of Jesus Christ Himself, comforting me without a word spoken. Those are the times that I treasure the most, and I can say it was worth every bit of suffering, which was naught but a moment of time in comparison to the eternal joy that I will experience in heaven.

I have hope for you, that as you suffer you will experience the comfort of God. This hope is a confident expectation in the promise and ability of God, the God of all comfort and the Father of mercies, that He will comfort you in all your trouble, just as He has comforted me. So what are you waiting for, bring your troubles before the throne of grace and then comfort others with that same grace which you are bound to find.

Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

© 2012, Matt Camphuis all rights reserved.

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Day 4 for the Phelan Team

James 1:2, 22a, 25b “My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials,… be doers of the word, and not hearers only… this one will be blessed in what he does.”

“I’m gonna have some tea, because I feel English right now.” Zeke says and does a lot of funny things, but this was one I never expected him to say. As you can see from the picture below we are sitting around the table right now talking about stuff as random as shoes to things we enjoyed about during the day.

Don’t let Erika fool you, her Bible is upside down (Chendo).

Today was our first day of VBS and it was a rewarding day at that. It began with a great devotional from Amanda inspired from the book of James chapter 1 verses 2-8 and 22-25. I have to say I am pretty darn proud of this girl, she can lay it down. Not only that I know we all took something from it. For me, it was a good reminder that trials are a joy, a blessing in disguise from the Lord. When we go through trials it will produce in us a patience, which produces completeness, or as Amanda said contentment. Want to be content in the Lord, or complete, go through trials. But we don’t stop there, we must move on to be doers of the Word. Doing this will make you a blessed man (or woman).

Doing the VBS is where you start to see the reward for all our preparation, and oh how these kids can soften a hard man’s heart. After the devotionals we did a little more preparation then headed to a local grade school to invite the kids to the Colonia Vacacional (VBS).

Handing out invitations to the Colonia Vacacional

One of the first things you notice is how different the culture here is in regards to dealing with children. After inviting some of the kids we returned to the church, ate lunch then went to El Mercado to collect the kids and bring them to the Colonia. Walking around the Mercado all the children gather around you and run from every nook and cranny, grabbing onto your hands or holding hands with other ninos (children) as we walk around inviting and gathering more kids. No parents follow, just us and the kids walking around until almost all the kids from the market are found and ready to go. Excited, we made our way back to the church with all the kids, some ran on ahead unable to contain their excitement while the rest walked slowly with us. Once there the madness begins. We start with worship, followed with a puppet show and then do some different stations (crafts, games, snacks with crafts). We also did a skit about the centurion who had a servant who fell ill but was healed by Jesus. In asking Eddie about his favorite thing of the day he told me “When I helped a kid make their necklace.”

Zeke, Edward and I acting.
Puppet Show
Worship with the kids. Cuenca VBS

After the VBS we had a little bit of time to break things down and eat dinner, we were rushed since Zeke had to teach the mid-week Bible study tonight, which he did an amazing job at based on Titus 3. We still have one more day of VBS tomorrow and we are probably going to be even more tired then we were today, so please keep us all in prayer. I have to say my heart is getting softer by the day, I can’t help but love these kids. There was a girl at the VBS who remembered me from 2 years ago, which is amazing. Two other kids remembered Justin McCoy (Sheri if you read this tell Justin that Angelica and Juan Diego say hi). This is the impact that we are making on these kids lives, we were there for a week 2 years ago and they still remember our names. What do you think will happen when all these kids grow up? All these kids who may go to different churches or Christian denominations or maybe don’t have church going families, but they know of Jesus, the foundations are there. This work must continue, because if it does all of Cuenca will be Christians in 10 years, Christians who believe and trust in Jesus, if only they have their childhood memories to fall back on.

Well, that’s about all I have to say on day four, I would say more but I am actually having a hard time with English right now (this has been the hardest blog to write, partly because I’m sleep deprived, yet full of the joy of the Lord, and my brain is constantly trying to translate everything into Spanish).

As promised though I am going to be having a word from each of the team members each day, so here’s a word from Amanda Hudson.

“Today our VBS theme was “No matter who you, trust God!” We all, no matter who we are, need more of Jesus in our lives–we need to trust in the plans that He has for us. We need to be in His word daily so that we can always be learning new things. We need to apply the truths of God’s word in our daily lives and live out our faith. We need Jesus, and the more we lean on Him, the more He will provide for us and teach us. To quote Zeke, “I don’t know why God loves us so much!” But the good news is: HE DOES! God is amazing!”

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Day 3 for the Phelan Team

2 Timothy 1:7-12

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”

Your probably thinking right now, really, did he just write all of those verses to start out this blog post (If not, kudos to you, your awesome)? I know, I know, I usually only post one verse or maybe two at the most but this stuff is just too good to skip past. These are the verses that Zeke did for his devotional this morning, and I can’t begin to tell you how encouraging it was.

That said, before I continue on in explaining I have to apologize for not writing yesterday, I didn’t have the password to the WiFi yet and not to mention we were extremely jet lagged. We began our journey by arriving at the church at around 7:30 (well some of us did, not mentioning any names but the Camphuis family was the first ones to show up besides Lindsay Spampinato who might as well be blood family, and not only that we were early!!! Yes you heard that right, the same family who comes after the first song was early!!! Woot) then driving down to LAX. Before getting all the way though we had to get our last supper, AKA In-N-Out (3 by 3 baby, with animal style fries). We said our goodbyes then headed off, with our flight leaving around 1:45 in the AM. I will miss my family, but my brother (Ill say in-law for the sake of clear communication, but he is a full fledged brother in my eyes) said only two words which upon reflection mean the world to me. “Strength and honor.” That was his goodbye, and it couldn’t have been better.

The plane rides were long, but fruitful. Sitting on the plane I saw a blond girl coming towards me then sitting down, being the friendly guy that I am I asked for her name, to which she responded Heather. Coincidently enough Heather was headed for a mission trip to Costa Rica. She asked what I was doing and told her I was going on a mission trip to Ecuador with Calvary Chapel as I noticed her eyebrow raise in an amazement that also communicated that look you get when you see that God is doing something, and it half frightens you. Interestingly enough, she was also from Calvary Chapel. Instantly we were able to have fellowship with each other. I told her my life story, and she told me hers, and we were able to understand and relate to each other more then I am able to relate to some of my own extended family, who do not know the Lord. How amazing is that? We have brothers and sisters all over the world, committed to following Christ. If you think of it please pray for Heather and her team in Costa Rica. When she got off the plane in Costa Rica we changed planes headed and for Ecuador. There was more to be said about the flight, but it would make this post even more long then it already is, so ill leave the rest to your imagination.

Waving goodbye inside the terminal at LAX.

We had a brief lay over in El Salvador, I was pleasantly surprised to discover this coffee shop in the airport, the baristas were very skilled and they even had a Nuevo Simonelli (the four group head version) Espresso Machine. For Zeke’s drink they made a Rosetta, for mine they made this teddy bear. This pic is for you Alex Spampinato. :)

Now that your about caught up, let me tell you about today. I woke up to the loudest alarm clock I have ever had, who knew that a house alarm going off would work so well? Apparently there is now an alarm system in Freddy’s house, which Zeke accidently set off at about 7 AM. It was actually a good thing though because I had set my phone alarm for 7 but forgot to change the time zone.

As I had said before, the devotional that Zeke gave was very encouraging and it was exactly what I needed to hear, and I am sure the others will agree with me. Zeke tends to share this verse almost every time, and every time it becomes more and more valuable and meaningful to him. When I asked him what he wanted to say for todays blog he told me, in typical Zekisms form, “God wants me to not be a little girl and have no fear.” Fitting words, as this is something he has told me and all the other leaders in Phelan many, many times. It is nice to know he lives by what he preaches.

I personally was challenge by three things during the devo, one have no fear. This is what God has been telling me all along, since I first began to follow Him. But it hasn’t changed, I still need to have no fear. If I have fear, then it isn’t from the Lord, since God does not give us a spirit of fear. Two, do not be ashamed of the gospel. We need to hear this about everyday. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you have shared the gospel, you need to be constantly encouraged to not be ashamed of it (how terrible sinners we are, that we can be ashamed of the very thing that saved us). I must not, and I will not be ashamed of that which I know has saved me, even if I can’t always fully explain it without feeling slightly foolish. I am praying for boldness in this, so feel free to join me in it. Thirdly, hold fast. Hold fast. God has taught me so much good doctrine, and is always teaching me things. I do not want to forget the things the Lord has taught me, I want to live them out. I was comforted by knowing the Lord can keep the things that we commit to Him.

The rest of the day was filled with gathering supplies, shopping around el mercado (market for you gringos) for food and VBS supplies and practicing for the VBS (much needed since we all feel very unprepared). Thankfully we don’t have to do it alone. There is a missionary here from Colombia named Lorena, who is well seasoned in the work of the Lord and is a great blessing to us. There are also a lot of other Ecuadorian people, mostly youth, helping out. My biggest fear is that I have to memorize a few rap lines in Spanish for a solo, (it is part of the worship song for the kids). Wow, never thought I would be saying that one.

Posing in front of El Mercado. Left to right, Kristina, myself, Zeke and Erika.

Some random street in Cuenca. Amanda took the picture so don’t ask me where it is. :P

Erika

Eduardo leaning casually against the wall in front of the mission house, Zeke and Oscar chatting.

Awwww, Amanda and Blancita.

After that we went out for dinner, where some of us had comida tradicional Ecuatoriano, and others just had Burger King. To my dismay the local coffee shop is under renovations, thankfully the Lord knew my plight in advanced since my former bosses (Mike and Darlene) will be sending me an espresso machine that the Garcias donated, along with a free bag of espresso and a grinder that he bought me (yeah, I had the worlds most amazing boss). Following our dinner, we went for a walk through the mall to the Hipermercado (Supermarket, basically a Target except they also sell motorcycles, and don’t think the idea to buy one didn’t cross my mind) in order to buy a coffee maker. Is it just me or do I talk about coffee a lot? Anyways… it was a great day of rest and preparation.

Right now as I speak, Zeke, Freddy and the elders are having a meeting. It started out with a man named… well I don’t remember his named but hey I am still learning Spanish so give me a break… a man who was a pastor and was interested in turning his church into a Calvary Chapel. I was part of that meeting but once he left I decided to write this blog post for you guys, they are still talking and I can tell you they really really need your prayers. In short, without giving much details and only for the sake of your prayers, there was something of a church crisis, where some people left. They all need your prayers, and I need your prayers since I have a feeling my responsibilities have increased a lot more then what I thought they would be when the Lord first told me to go months ago. The way everything worked out though I see the hand of the Lord in it. I was called before this issue came to the surface, I was invited by the Pastor to come, not knowing how much things would change in coming months. And here I am. I could complain to the Lord and say, who am I? And at times for brief moments I have, until I was reminded of God’s grace and power. I know the Lord has called me, and I will not be afraid.

Zeke, Freddy and the elders finishing up some prayer time after the meeting.

Pray for us my friends, pray for Pastor Freddy (the Pastor here) pray for the team, pray for the people of Ecuador and the two upcoming VBS, and please pray for the church. Pray for unity, love humility, strength, encouraging, and all that the Lord’s will would be done.

Hasta manana amigos!

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Eres Mi Gran Aventura

You are my great adventure.

This is the title of one of the songs we have learned in Spanish and will be singing to lead kids in worship during our Vacation Bible Schools. The theme is adventure, and I cannot help but see the hand of providence in it. I happen to be a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings, and there was a time a while back where I was wishing there would be some great adventure that I could go on beyond heaven. I thought to myself, “Lord you could equip me with great weapons and abilities, being that you will be giving me a new resurrection body in heaven and all, after all.” I imagined heaven might be boring otherwise, if there was no adventure to be had. Then a thought occurred to me. I was living in the one time of my life, which is an eternal life, where I could truly have an adventure akin to the saga in the Lord of the Rings. Now was the time for me to sacrifice all and bear heavy burdens for the sake of my King and the good of mankind. Now was the time to go forward to battle and face foes that are greater than me. Now is the time to fight for the Lord.  There would be no other time except during life on this side of heaven. It would not be till Christ returns, and we sit in His presence that I would  hang my worn sword on the wall, and place my scarred shield next to it, as other Christians and I gathered around the feast of the Lord and to tell stories of glory and battle past.

Esther 4:4b “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

There is no greater adventure then following Christ in this life, and there will be no such greater adventure in the next life (at least as far as Scripture tells us, which is about as far as I am willing to bank on).

Today I and six others, making seven (perfect!), will go on an adventure of a life time. And without further a due, I would like to introduce to you my fellow warriors and soldiers in the faith, of whom are Zeke Flores, Blanca Flores, Amanda Hudson, Kristina Boenisch, Erika Rene Romero, and Edward. I would ask that you prayer warriors would please keep all of us in prayer as we set out to help bring encouragement and strength to Calvary Chapel Cuenca and the surrounding area. Check back everyday this week and I will be posting a day by day update as well as current requests, possibly with some words from each of the members of the team on something that they learned that day or wanted to share. We will all be in this together, and if you follow along with us you can be in it with us as well. After they leave, ill be staying in Ecuador until my King says otherwise but still posting, so keep coming back if you want to continue to be a part of what God is doing there, even after the team leaves.

Today for me was a day filled with so much emotion. I felt loved, and felt love for others back. I felt saddened at leaving my friends and family, but excited to start this next adventure. Overall though, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of gratitude. Gratitude to God for how much love and grace He has shown me, and how amazing it is that He would call me to this. Gratitude to my family for being there for me for so long and loving me so faithfully. Gratitude to my friends for being better than anyone could ask for. Gratitude to my church for supporting me so abundantly. Gratitude, just so much gratitude.

We will be leaving from Phelan, CA around 7:30 PM (PST) tonight and arriving the next night at about the same time, so its about a 24 hour travel period. It can be pretty draining, but don’t worried I’m all showered up (I even used soap this time!) and have plenty of books for the road.

All Packed and ready to go, goodbye California, hello Ecuador!!!

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