Day Five: Friday


Executive Summary

Return Journey. Two more divine appoints we didn’t expect.

Details

Because one of our return flights was canceled, Pastor Ruben had to route us through Santiago, Chile and Mexico City, then to Houston. It’s a total of about 32 hours layover and flight time.

With 12 hours to wait in Santiago, we decided to see some of the city. I won’t bore you with the details except for two events.

We caught a shuttle downtown. On board was a young couple vacationing from Belgium. We took opportunity to share the gospel with them and talked about the power of Christ to transform. Neither was ready to commit, but gospel seeds were sown. We actually “happened” to run into them hours later at a popular tourist site. We didn’t push the gospel, but I imagine they also thought it strange that they would repeat a chance meeting with two pastors from Texas.

AND, on our way back to the airport we struck up a conversation with the taxi driver. He said he was Assembly of God-unusual in a strongly Catholic country. But he hadn’t attended church in years. When asked about how one gets to heaven, he said was a good man. You can guess the conversation that followed! He wasn’t ready to commit, either, but we encouraged him that Jesus is the only way.

My impression of these divine appointments? One of our take-ways of the South American vision trip is that personal evangelism will be super important. And how can we bring a team to evangelize in South America if we aren’t evangelizing at home and ourselves? Sow more seeds.

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Day Four: Thursday

The first full day in Asencion

Executive Summary

We visited the Chaco-i people and met with church leadership in Paraguay

Details

We took the bridge to Chaco-i today: a much longer drive time than yesterday’s boat ride across the river. Our two hosts were Pastor Jorge of the sponsor church and Pastor Miguel, who works directly with our target community.

Pastor Miguel has already been working in Chaco-i for some time. He has baptized several (4?) and is planning to baptize 2 or 3 more in February. His great love for the people is obvious and his heart is big. We drove on bumpy dirt roads and saw a simple school and a clinic. What touched our hearts was visiting the homes of families who have opened their homes to Bible studies. Some have received Christ and some are “pre-Christian.” They are interested and receptive but have not put their faith in Jesus yet.

After

After our tour we returned for a meeting of church leadership. The sponsor church is the El Campo Evangelistic Baptist Church where Pastor Jorge serves.This meeting was much like the one in Uruguay. The partnership model is the same. One difference in Paraguay is that El Campo has worked worked in partnership with USA churches before.

We ended the day with a delightful dinner in the home of a leading member of the El Campo church. We returned to the hotel to pack for the journey back to Texas.

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Day Three: Wednesday

Executive Summary

We traveled from Uruguay to Paraguay to begin looking at our second potential site. We also met the sponsor church staff.

Details

We got up way too early to catch a short flight to Paraguay. The high temperature Tuesday in Uruguay as 68. Today, Paraguay was a humid 99.

We unloaded our gear at a hotel, and then went on a driving, boating and walking tour of our area. Just an introduction to the field. One of the ways reach the target neighborhood of the Chacho-e is by boat across the Paraguay River.

Then we met more of the sponsor church leadership over dinner at a restaurant to begin getting know each other. The real work will begin tomorrow.

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Day Two: Tuesday

Executive Summary

Amazing divine appointments; great meeting with the church leadership

Details

Today was amazing. After a simple breakfast at the sponsoring church, we linked up with Pastor Richard, a co-pastor and Bro. Donnie, a strong lay member of the church. Donnie lives in the target sector of town. We drove through the street getting a feel for the community and envisioning the kinds of evangelistic projects that might be effective there.

Divine appointment #1. We saw a public park where we could stage an outreach event but wondered how to get permission to use it. So at a bus stop we asked a man named Daniel if he knew who to contact. He said, “I’m the president of the coordinating group for that facility.” I thought, what an interesting coincidence that we should meed the president of the community organization.

Divine appointment #2: While we’re standing at the bus stop, Candice walked up. She was an old friend of Donnie’s that he hadn’t seen in years. Candice is a strong believer and said that her home would be a possible site for a home Bible study.

Divine appointment #3: While we were chatting with Candice, a teenage girl named Danielle approached us. Her Twelve-year-old brother is in the hospital after his second suicide attempt. Pastor Richard began witnessing to her. She prayed to receive Christ at the bus stop.

Divine appointment #4. We passed by an old church that was for sale. We got out to look at it and an older couple met the gate. They owned the adjoining house, also for sale. When they heard we were preachers, they said they were believers, too, and invited us into their home. The husband, Carlos, pulled out a guitar and an accordion. Carlos, Pastor Richard and Pastor Ruben began to jam.

Then a sad story came out. Carlos’s wife goes to church, but Carlos doesn’t any more. Their son committed suicide four years ago and Carlos hasn’t been back since. We all laid hands on Carlos and Pastor Richard prayed an amazing, passionate prayer for spiritual healing.

All this before lunchtime. At first I was skeptical, but after a while it was obvious: God was moving in an unusual way.

That evening we met at the sponsor church for a wonderful fellowship meal.Co-pastor Mario joined us and we talked for two or three hours with about twenty members of the church leadership. If God should lead, what could a partnership look like?

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Monday, First Day

Executive Summary

We spent the day getting to know our hosts better and resting from the trip.

The details

What a great start to our stay in Uruguay! We arrived about 10:00 a.m. local time after a long but uneventful trip. Our missionary host, Tim Kunkel met us at the airport. We came to Iglesia Radio Norte (North Radius Church) for a light breakfast, where we met the two local pastors of this chuch: Mario and Richard. Then Ruben and I settled in for a siesta.

After a bit of rest we took a driving tour of the city and focused on the main plaza. A neautiful place to walk and sightsee.

Our main goal today was to get to know the pastoral team here better. We lingered over meals and chatted while we walked the Independence Plaza near the Old City. Mario and Richard are people who are dedicated to sharing Christ with the people of Montevideo.

Our missionary host, Tim Kunkel is truly gifted evangelist. He passed out 20 gospel tracts today. As we walked along the cobblestoned streets, a young man named Bruno approached, selling a book he had written. Within 10 minutes, Tim had bought the book, given Bruno a tract, and gained permission for us to pray with him. And so prayed that God would prosper Bruno in his livelihood and especially in his heart.

Tomorrow we begin to explore the specific opportunities in Montevideo. Pray for us for leadership, and pray for Bruno.

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We Might See a Penguin

Note: these diary entries are in reverse order. The newest entries are on top and the oldest on the bottom.

Maybe we’ll see a…

The Adventure Begins

Every mission trip is an adventure. You never know what will happen, so you stay flexible. Flexibility may not be one of the fruit of the Spirit, but it’s in the same food group.

Our “adventure” has already begun and we haven’t left Caldwell.

For reasons unknown, one of our return flights canceled. This throws the whole trip into chaos. Pastor Ruben worked quickly and found a new itinerary that gets us back to Houston at the original time. But when you have to change things on the fly, you make some sacrifices (no pun intended about flying). So we will now spend 20 hours waiting in airports on our way home. Plus our time in the air. The homecoming days of Friday and Saturday are going to be long.

The good news is our new route takes us through Chile. Maybe we’ll see a penguin.

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Vision Trip to South America: Introduction

Friends,

Pastor Ruben and I will leave Sunday evening, Dec. 16 for the first leg of our vision trip to South America.

Executive Summary and Trip Purpose

  • Confirm God’s leadership in adopting a new strategy for international missions
  • Consider an affinity group of people in South America for our focus

Detailed Explanation

Why South America?

What led our Evangelistic Missions Team to this new project? After three years and five or six rewarding trips to Guatemala, we felt led to seek a people group that was unreached by the gospel. Guatemala is considered a “reached” people group, with about 40 percent of the population professing Christ. Our heart is to share the good news of Jesus with those who haven’t heard.

We began by reaching out to our International Mission Board (IMB) for help. They discussed our interests, church size, access to Spanish speakers, and previous mission trip experience. The IMB provided a list of seventeen (!) affinity groups in the Americas for us to consider and asked us to winnow it down to two or three. After months of prayer and research we contacted them with three possibilities.

Almost immediately the IMB put us in contact with Brother Tim Kunkel, the IMB ambassador for the Americas. He coordinates U.S. based church groups in their efforts all over Mexico, Central and South America. He suggested we decide between two of our choices: the Chao-I in Asucion, Paraguay and the La Curva De Maronias in Montevideo, Uruguay. Both these affinity groups have an Evangelical population of less than two percent. They are truly unreached.

Pastor Ruben and I will be visiting these two sites to help First Baptist discern the feasibility of the project and which people group we could focus on. Should our church feel led to undertake this gospel challenge, Brother Kunkel will get us started with our work on another trip, focusing on coordination with local pastors who already have a love for these people. Then our church will work directly with the local pastors and Brother Kunkel will serve as a resource when necessary.

The New Strategy

Brother Kunkel is asking us to make three to five trips a year, bringing groups of two or three team members at a time. Large groups are difficult to manage logistically and can create an unhealthy dependency between state-side chuches and he mission points.

This new strategy will take some getting used to, but opens exciting possibilities for First Baptist. Instead of mission trips being a once-a-year event, they will become an ongoing process. We will continue a year-round cycle of preparing, sending, reporting and rejoicing.

Questions? Feedback? Leave your comments below and we’ll get back to you.

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