The Road Ahead

Looking back! Blaire and I come to the end of a season with great memories to look back on and new adventures to look forward to. We’ve spent over four years living in Mexico. I am reminded of the man I was when I first showed up. I was single, beardless, and searching for God’s purpose for my life. Four years can change a lot. I’m proud to say my seventeenth beard hair came in last week! Even more importantly, I successfully convinced the highest quality woman on planet earth, to marry me. I can still remember pretending I let her win when she smoked me at ping pong. Little did I know, God would speak His plan for me through this woman. We talked long distance on the phone while I worked as a camp counselor in Pennsylvania. One night she told me about an amazing opportunity to partner our bible school experience with a seminary in Boston. Throughout this time Blaire and I would pray for my brother Eric. It’s interesting to look back on how all the pieces fit together. We’re leaving for Boston and now He’s leaving for outreach but before then we were able build my last house in Mexico together. 

Looking up and out! We’ve learned that things look up when we do. God will always be faithful. He has continually surrounded us with such loving friends and family. Only with the prayer and support of our partners have we been able to work with so many ministries. Together we were able to help build around 35 homes for the poor with the Homes of Hope ministry. We have seen 30 students from 9 different countries graduate from the School of Biblical Studies. We have been able to teach the bible in churches all across Mexico with the Titus Project ministry. In just four years we’ve been able to serve in worship, the preschool, with the youth, the local prisons and hospitals, and we’ve had so many other humbling opportunities. We cannot say thank you enough for every single person praying for us and partnering with us. It has drastically changed our lives and we hope that we were able to change lives in Mexico as well.

Looking forward! We have never been so excited to take the next step in ministry! We feel God calling us to train for something big. I have been selected to partner and grow at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. We have a vision to impact the local and global community with God’s word. Our time of getting equipt at Gordon-Conwell will prepare us for the most exciting opportunities to work and serve. We’ll need the prayer and support of so many but really we want to thank everyone for showing us God’s faithfulness every step of the way!

 

Favorite quotes right now…

And now you’re my whole life; Now you’re my whole world
I just can’t believe the way I feel about you, girl
We’ll look back someday, at this moment that we’re in
And I’ll look at you and say
And I thought I loved you then; And I thought I loved you then

– Brad Paisley

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:8b

Faith Over Fatalism: Our December in the Mountains!

This year has been transformational to say the least. We’ve seen a lot more of the world and learned a lot more about ourselves. We wanted to share this story as an example of how we’ve seen God transform a community. This is pastor Martín…

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He is the head pastor for the indigenous mountain villages we traveled to. He teaches the truth of God in 3 churches each with about 35 adults and 5 million adorable kids:)

Here are just a few…

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He’s never been to bible college or received any kind of formal training. Over the course of 2 weeks we covered the whole story of the Bible! As we taught he listened closely and filled a little green notebook with the truth of God’s word. We found out that he was preparing his sermons for the following year based on the new truth we were teaching from the bible. Wow! These truths have the power to change every life in his community!

The predominant worldview of in this area is Fatalism.”Que Sera, Sera” (Whatever will happen, is going to happen). Mixed with a bit of Karma (If it happened, you deserved it)! Now think about if you were poor living in this place with this mindset… You would be taught that not only do you deserve to suffer because of your wickedness but also there is absolutely nothing you can do about it because it was meant to be. Can you imagine? How would you be motivated to grow or improve your situation? How could you really believe that God loves and forgives you if you’re still suffering even with all your hard work ?!

We were able to challenge this worldview with the freedom of life in Christ. “You weren’t created to suffer, you were created to have life abundantly!” No matter what our financial situation may be. “When you’re forgiven by Jesus that’s it! No more punishment or shame for your sins. He took it. You’re loved and free to enjoy it!” We trust that God will speak through Pastor Martín and transform their community in the years to come.

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Favorite quotes right now…

“The pain of regret is far worse than the pain of discipline.” – Nathan Whitley & Patti Peviani

“We shouldn’t move forward by running from a bad situation. God calls us to run to what he has for us.” – Kerry Ast

 

Teaching about Freedom in a Mexican Prison

I’m 23 years old. I’m a “gringo.” And I’ve never been to prison to my own country. What could I possibly say about heaven to a group of men who’ve gone through hell? That’s all I could think as we were being escorted along the wall through locked gate after locked gate.

View from the Outside

As we walked I noticed something interesting. Birds. They flew over the high razor-wire and settled in the small trees that grew in the courtyard. I thought it was kind of ironic. But I kept walking. We walked down halls and through fences until we finally got to the location where I was teaching. I shuffled to quickly set up my material before the last worship song. After a quick look at my notes I lifted my head. They chose to come hear me?

I could see so much in their faces. So many things I wouldn’t understand. Yet here I was speaking to them.

I realized I had absolutely nothing to offer these men. I couldn’t make them any promises. I didn’t have any money, food, or influence. I looked desperately down at my notes, closed my eyes, and asked God for help. I heard the men singing the chorus of last worship song “Creo en ti Jesús… (I believe in you Jesus), Y lo que aras en mí… (And what you will do in me), Recibe toda la gloria… (Receive all the glory), Toda la honra… (All of the honor), Precioso hijo de Dios… (Precious Son of God).” I was right. They didn’t need me.

For the next hour we went over the history of Israel from Exodus to Exile. God frees his people from 400 years of slavery only to see them deny him time and time again. In His mercy he sends prophets to call them back. He warns them for the next 860 years! Until inevitably they’re exiled from the land he’s given them.

Why do we fight for the freedom to choose our own prisons? Whether our filters are on cigarettes or Instagram, we let the wrong things control us. When the bible says “Know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” It’s not just talking about a perspective, but a person. Jesus says “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

At the end I shook hands with a man named Carlos. He told me that his oldest son was about my age. He pauses and looked at me with pain in his eyes. He shared that all 3 of his children grew up while he was in prison. He’s been there more than 20 years now. “Looking at my life it would seem I’ve lost everything” he said. “But I see now this is what it took for God to get through to me. For me to finally listen. And for him to set me free!” He told me personally knowing God made it all worth it.

“I get out next year but I’ve been free a lot longer”… 

Favorite quotes right now…

“The bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” – D.L. Moody

“Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.” – “Which is?”

“It’s not about you.” – The Ancient One (from Doctor Strange!)

Two taxis and a boat

Honored to take two taxis and a boat to get to one of our churches!

 

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10,730 Miles and Counting

We’ve gone 5,970 miles on the ground (that’s 109 hours in the car) and 4,760 miles in the air. We’ve stayed in 14 different housings in 7 different states (and 2 countries)… in just 52 days. Thank you every single person who lifts us up in prayer, support, and friendship! We couldn’t move without you.

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Our time in Pennsylvania was filled with the best friends and family we could’ve ever asked for. We even got to celebrate our 1st year of marriage in a beautiful place away from home but home together!

   Montana was unbelievable! The TWO DAY van ride (one way) was… fun, but the amazing relationships and teachings were even better. It was an honor to help represent our base at the North American Hub of Biblical Studies.

Finally our trip to Bend, Oregon! What an amazing place to see both a friend’s family and a friend who feels like family.  If we learned anything from our near 11,000 miles on the road this summer it’s that relationship is the main point! It’s what God wants FROM us and it’s what he wants FOR us.

14117682_10154306369605638_5322733539260388208_nIMG_0102Favorite quotes right now…

“You can’t go on explaining away forever: If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.” – C.S. Lewis

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. – Romans 12:9-10

Another Year Closer to Death

This year my birthday was particularly… growing. A couple people asked me if I felt any older and I think for the first time in my life I really do. Married at 22 with an apartment in Mexico and an income made up entirely of support. This undoubtedly grows my faith but as my faith grows my responsibility grows with it.

How do I provide for my family? How do I glorify God in everything? How do I live?

Blaire and I were teaching in Ensenada, Mexico on my birthday. We didn’t have very much money but we still felt God wanted us to celebrate. So we went and even agreed to pay for my friend who has the same birthday as I do. As we walked to the car I looked at the ground and saw something buried in the dirt. I bent down and picked up a dusty 500 peso bill (about 30$). At that moment I felt like God was speaking to me. He reminded me that “faith is confidence in what we hope for and the assurance of things unseen” Heb 1:1. It’s about trust. He also reminded me that He was our provider, even if He had to pull it out of the dust! The money covered every expense we had to the penny! HE IS GOOD!

So here’s the way I see this christian life thing.

The older I get the more responsibility God gives me. But it’s a responsibility to trust Him. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Prov 3:5. To be obedient to His sovereign voice no matter what. So we learn to die to ourselves, and Christ lives in us. John says “He must increase but I must decrease.” John 3:30. Even as Paul is chained in a jail cell he says that “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Phil 1:21. We die to ourselves and have eternal life in Christ. This, in my opinion, is our only hope of true peace. Jesus knew the world would reject him and those that followed after him. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33. This is the good news of the gospel, and the only hope we have.

…And this is us praying over the city of Ensenada and camping with friends!

 

 

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Chain Me Free

How would you define worship? Really, take a second… Would it be a song on Sunday morning or maybe, like me, you know it’s deeper than that but have never really searched it out. The bible says so many things about it and I’ve seen first-hand some of my favorite Christian leaders come to slightly different conclusions. I ask because over the last couple weeks we’ve been blessed with quite a few opportunities to lead worship. So we started to practice. Almost immediately we could feel a microscope on our motives. We wanted to do a good job but is worship a performance?

Leading Worship In Spanish

We were honored to lead worship at a ministry called the Ranch. A drug rehabilitation center for the struggling men of Tijuana. This was one of the most refreshing places to lead worship that we’ve ever seen. In broken Spanish we sang “Señor te exalto” (Lord I exalt you) and the prodigal sons sang as loud as they could. The stress of hitting the right chords melted as I could hardly hear the guitar. You knew they were singing to the awesome God that freed them. To sing in unity with those men was a gift and it reminded me that “streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.”

One of the men shared his story with us after the service. This was his 4th time returning home. His eyes were tired and his hands were worn. Why would he do it?! Why would he keep going back to the dark and distorted loneliness of the world? We prayed for him at the end of the night and he only wanted one thing: a fetter. He wanted a chain to bind his wandering heart to the Father.

The Ranch

“O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, Lord take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.”

So what is worship? Jesus tells us that true worshipers will worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Surrendering exactly who we are and placing Him above ourselves.

Favorite quotes right now…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2

“Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.” – Yogi Tea!

Words in Action

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. In our ministry we have the privilege to study, grow, and teach from the very words that God breathed.Blaire Teaching

The books of Hosea and Ezekiel are about two incredible prophets who had amazing lives and very difficult callings. Chris and I had the opportunity to teach and apply these books in our lives in the past couple months.

Hosea was called by God to marry a prostitute and an adulterous woman. Ezekiel was called to bring a message of destruction in extreme ways to the people closest to him. I look at these men with a burdened heart for what God can call his followers into. The feeling of being ill equipped or fear for my own calling can creep into my mind.

          BUT God is faithful with these two men. Giving them powerful messages and visions of His restoration. Revealing that they are not alone in their calling but that He is walking with them. I believe that God repeats this same message to us today. That He will walk with us through the hardships of ministry. This knowledge helps me put into action the calling God has given me. I feel the scriptures becoming more of God’s breath to me every day.