Greetings in the name of Christ!
Here is a brief update of what’s been going on lately. My thoughts may be kind of choppy, so bear with me, as I wrote different parts of this update at different times.
LABORERS BEING RAISED UP
Prior to our trip to the US in the month of May, a brother from our church in Guadalajara stepped up to fill in the gap for us while gone, leading the evangelism team to the streets and preaching in the usual spot. He had never open air preached before in his life, yet has been since. I was able to instruct him a little in some practical lessons on open air preaching before leaving, and he’s been preaching the Gospel to the lost and the Lord is really working in him. Now that we’re back, he is still continuing to preach on the streets. He is really a dear brother in Christ and I’m always edified to be around him as he overflows in testifying about Christ and the things of Scripture. It is my desire to spend more time with him and help to equip him with more solid doctrinal foundations which will enable him to teach the Word of God more effectively.
This was really an answer to prayer. I view our labors here as a success if, after we (the foreign missionaries) leave, the work continues on and keeps bearing fruit in our absence. For this, the natives must be equipped and trained to do the work of the ministry. This is great progress thus far, but is just a small taste of what is my great desire to see here in Guadalajara.
We also have a steady team that is sharing the Gospel with strangers regularly, with or without us, and going out to the streets on a regular basis for the purpose of proclaiming Christ. May more laborers be raised up to testify to the Gospel of grace, and more souls be brought into the Kingdom of God!
Of course we are still evangelizing in the city center. It has been a little slow lately, but the Word of God is still going forth.
Sometimes when we go out, it seems like it’s all in vain and nobody responds and we have no good conversations. Other times, it seems like it’s just an awesome time and God really moves. Recently, we had one such time. Numerous people came to us seeking to know more about the way of salvation after open air preaching. I had two men in one night at different times say to me personally, “What must I do to be saved?” It’s always a joy to explain God’s way of salvation to those who are sincerely inquiring under a sense of their sin. For street evangelists, that is the most beautiful question to hear!
We’ve also been having GREAT conversations with the police officers who work in the area we preach in. They actually have stopped next to us while preaching, but not to stop us, but rather to listen to us! Even further, they ask us if we have any Bibles! This has happened twice now. We were able to give them to them. Believe it or not, one of them is a Christian, we found out (he appears to be a true believer). That one has been testifying to his co-workers, and seeing his good testimony, another officer has been under the conviction that these things are true. At first, his co-worker told us he too was a Christian. But then, as we continued talking, we found out that he was living in a fornicating relationship, among other things, which seem to strongly indicate that he doesn’t truly know Christ (because of a lifestyle of willful sin). We admonished him with Scripture, explaining to him what it means to be converted. He confessed that he’s never been born again. Yet he remained really open, and the Lord really seems like He’s had His hand on him. He just seems so close to the Kingdom. He even tears up when he talks to us, and has such a sincerity about him, asking many questions about different topics and spending time, while on duty, conversing with us about the things of God. That would be wonderful to see him soundly saved. I gave him a copy of my booklet about the Gospel and he read it, saying it was very clear, and that he needs to surrender his life to Christ. Pray for the police officers of Guadalajara!
One of the great needs here in Mexico is teaching simple, but important, Biblical doctrines to the believers. Some have been in the church for years but still lack any solid foundation in this respect. Many of them see their need for this too. Because of this, I am currently working on discipleship materials which I can use to instruct them and equip them effectively. These will be used to teach the believers in our church, as well as to instruct new believers who come to the Lord.
There is a need for this with another open air preacher in this city also. He does not fellowship in our church but lives some distance away. Yet he regularly comes into the city to preach and evangelize. He also teaches in churches and home groups in his area. We regularly give him tracts and other materials (literature teaching sound doctrine) and see him from time to time. He is a powerful preacher with a deep booming voice and a passion for proclaiming Christ. But though he knows his Bible fairly well, he is really lacking in some solid understanding of basic Bible doctrines. I gave him a booklet a while back entitled, “Bible Doctrines Simply Explained”, which was originally written for children, being simple enough for them. However, this brother loved the book, said he learned so much from it, and even began teaching it to others! So that which was meant for children is able to teach preachers here (this brother is about 60 years old). That is the serious lack I have seen on all sides. Discipleship is truly lacking, and instruction on how to “rightly divide the word of truth”. Those who have been in Christ for years have never received basic foundations of Bible doctrine. We have talked to this brother, and it is our desire on both sides to meet together regularly so I can teach him these things more thoroughly. Such will equip him to be a better teacher and preacher, and to be more fruitful in his ministry. If I’m able to thoroughly instruct him in sound doctrine, and he retains it effectively, able to teach and preach in an accurate, God-glorifying manner, then it is my hope to help support him regularly with Bibles and other materials for his ministry.
Sometimes people look at open air preaching and street evangelism as a less effective sort of way of doing evangelism, not seeing any visible fruit among those who do it. Yet public proclamation of the Gospel is sorely needed all over the world in our day. There is no other way to get the Gospel to all the common people.
There is a man who, almost exactly one year ago, responded to our message when we were open air preaching in the center of Guadalajara. His name is “Jesus” (pronounced, “Hey-zues”). Or we can call him “Chuy” (a nickname for “Jesus” in Mexico). After hearing us preach, he continued to come to our Bible studies week after week. Each time, the Word of God seemed to pierce him, but not convert him. He had heard some Christian teachings, having attended periodically an evangelical church in the past. However, pretty much everything he learned had to be unlearned and destroyed because it was false (for instance, when he first met us he thought he was saved because he said the sinner’s prayer even though his life didn’t match up to anything the Bible describes as a real Christian, and he also thought that the “prosperity gospel” was taught in the Bible). He eventually got to the point of being undone. In one of the messages I taught, he broke out weeping openly, interrupting the message (I always love these types of Holy Spirit interruptions!) by confessing he’s a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness, causing us to stop the teaching and start interceding before the Throne. –And get this, it was in the middle of a message not about the depravity of man, the wrath of God, the law of God, or the justice of God, but was a message about mercy! It was as if he saw God’s mercy and love and it melted him as he saw how merciful God was, but how much he didn’t deserve it. Yet he still didn’t get converted.
A short time later, he visited our church. After the meeting, numerous people befriended him and asked him about the state of his soul, if he knew he was saved. If you are a visitor at this church, you will probably not get out until at least three people, recognizing you as a visitor, seek to know where you stand before God and if you have a testimony of salvation. If they hear anything questionable, they will proceed to evangelize you. After we left, he told us, “I felt like Judas Iscariot on trial! They didn’t believe I was saved, or what?” We then asked him if he knew he was saved, because we weren’t sure either. He admitted to us he’d never repented because he can’t stop sinning no matter how hard he tries. He had the false idea that you have to repent in your own strength before you can come to Christ, and that “to repent” means to stop sinning. So he was trying to clean the outside of the cup before surrendering his heart to Christ in true repentance (change of mind and heart, from serving sin to serving God) and faith (trust in Christ alone for salvation). We explained to him the way of God more thoroughly and he received it with astonishment as to what saving grace is.
Shortly later, he called us on the telephone to tell us that he had just surrendered his life to Christ. Keep in mind that this was after a couple of months of being broken in contrition under the weight of feeling his sin. He said that now he feels like a burden was lifted off of him and has a lot of peace and joy that he never had before. This was about 9 months ago. We have not had contact with him since. This is because he found a job right after this surrender to the Lord and works a lot, on a completely different side of the city from us. So it’s hard to keep in contact. But Lina just talked to him the other day, and according to his own testimony, he is still serving the Lord, living a sanctified life, and is reading the Word regularly. The only thing he said is that he’s not congregating anywhere (this can be a good thing, since there’s so few churches, and many of those few are pretty corrupt and deceptive).
Now I’m not saying the man is certainly saved, as I dare not presume upon God, but from the appearance of it all, it seems like he has a definite testimony of salvation now, along with a good amount of time to confirm it by obedience. At the very least God has done something with this man, and very possibly has saved him. Just think, if we had never gone out and proclaimed the Gospel publicly, this would have never happened! There’s a reason that Jesus tells us to “Go INTO ALL THE WORLD to preach the Gospel to EVERY CREATURE”. That can only be done by actually going out into the places where every creature gathers and proclaiming the Gospel where the sinners are.
THE GREAT NEED FOR BIBLES AND BIBLE LITERACY IN MEXICO
One great, lacking and desperate need of the people of Guadalajara is Bible literacy. What I mean by that is there is such a gross ignorance to the most basic truths of the Bible among the vast majority of the population to such a degree that the average person is not only Gospel-ignorant (as to the true meaning of the Gospel) but is also Bible-ignorant to the most basic Bible knowledge. Now this is to be expected in los campos (the remote, small-town farming regions) where many don’t know how to read, but here in the city, education is given high value and there are very few who can’t read. Therefore it’s mind-boggling to think of how great a lack there is of knowledge of the Bible itself!
Of course, the fact that Catholicism has reigned here for centuries doesn’t help, nor the fact that Guadalajara is in what is arguably (by the word of the people we talk to around Mexico, and by certain missiologists) the most Catholic region of Mexico. A religion that holds precious souls in bondage to ceremonies and superstitions with a form of godliness but denying the power of true salvation by grace is the major culprit behind much of the evils we find ourselves confronted with here as we labor to spread the knowledge of the glory of God in the Gospel of grace. A religion that has historically discouraged the reading of God’s precious Word and martyred those who fought for such liberty, drunken with the blood of the saints of Jesus, is certainly guilty of veiling the message of God’s salvation from the common people all in the name of “the one true church”. The power of tradition is a stronghold that only the mighty power of the love of Christ can break, and only the Word of God taught and followed can unleash the truth that will set souls free from the bondage of such religious deception (John 8:31-32).
Some Christians think that Catholicism isn’t so bad –that we have much common ground between us and Catholics and that such is helpful in trying to evangelize them and win them over to truth. While the few things we have in common must be used as a bridge to relate to them, (i.e. the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the virgin birth, etc.) they have mixed these truths with so many lies which contradict God’s written Word that most of what they have learned in the religion of their fathers needs to be unlearned before they can understand grace aright. The whole system is the Devil’s crafty counterfeit of the true church and since it gives the outward appearance of godliness, it is all the more deceptive.
Charles Spurgeon said: “Did the apostles preach the sacrifice of Christ?—the devil’s apostles preached the sacrifice of the mass. Did the saints uplift the cross?—the devil’s servants upheld the crucifix. Did God’s ministers speak of Jesus as the one infallible Head of the Church?—the devil’s servants proclaimed the false priest of Rome as standing in the self-same place. Romanism is a most ingenious imitation of the gospel: it is the magicians “doing do with their enchantments.”
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” (2 Cor. 11:14-15)
In the face of this harlot that rides the back of the kingdoms of the earth (Rev. 17) we are battling for truth. And I firmly believe that the best, more sure, and effective strategy is by getting God’s written Word into the hands, heads, and hearts of the common people.
First, into their hands. Every person must own their own copy of the Holy Scriptures. If they don’t have immediate access to the Bible, they are far less likely to read it. Putting a Bible in every home gives everyone access to the saving truth of God. It opens the door for the Holy Spirit to enlighten their understanding, which is the first step of conversion. Without knowledge people perish (Hos. 4:6).
Second, into their heads. The people must read their Bibles. To facilitate this, they should be taught how to understand the Bible and its’ most basic truths regarding its key salvation-related themes; to see Christ in the Scriptures (Luke 24:27) that He may reveal Himself to them in a saving way (2 Cor. 4:6). The Word must also be preached, because it is the foolishness of preaching which God has ordained to save those who believe as a result of that preaching (1 Cor. 1:21). Good preaching and teaching will simplify the truth of the Bible so everybody can understand (Neh. 8:8) “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.” (Psalm 25:8)
Third, into their hearts. Once they possess the basic knowledge of salvation from God’s written Word, they will have a firm foundation upon which the Holy Spirit can impart saving faith to their hearts; a faith by which they can lay hold on eternal life. When the people come to understand God’s redemptive purpose and the true meaning of Christ’s sacrifice and why they need it, God will be gracious to sovereignly give the increase and bring forth an inward work of grace in salvation among those who are appointed to eternal life (1 Cor. 3:6-7, Acts 13:48), and thus He will glorify His name in the work of redemption by demonstrating the riches of His grace to those who least deserve His favor.
Historically, the Bible being put into the hands of the common person by translation and distribution, and put into their heads by preaching and instruction, is what resulted in that truth penetrating their hearts, and in the response of their hearts which liberated world history from the dark ages of Catholic reign. –THESE are the things which sparked and fueled the great Reformation. THESE are the things which changed the entire course of world history. THESE are the things which have given us all the privilege of sitting right here, right now, knowing the truth of God and rejoicing in the salvation that has been revealed to us. And it’s because of this that, in addition to proclamation evangelism, the ministry of distributing Bibles to the common people is such an essential, important ministry anywhere, especially on the mission field in regions where biblical Christianity has not seriously penetrated the pagan beliefs and culture of the common people who lounge under the shadow of darkness. That is why we are committed to purchasing and distributing Bibles in Guadalajara in addition to preaching and teaching God’s Word wherever the opportunity comes, that God may get glory where He is currently not worshipped in spirit and truth.
The ignorance to the Bible among the majority of Guadalajara is staggering. Many do not even know what the New Testament is when we have given them out alone, looking at it as some strange book, not knowing that it’s a part of the Bible! (NOTE: This is one reason why we must distribute complete Bibles and not just New Testaments.) Many do not know the most basic facts about the Bible, or have even heard the names of the books of the New Testament. Many have never even heard the 2nd Commandment of the Decalogue which forbids making and worshipping images (the Papacy conveniently removes this command from their version and splits the 10th Commandment into 2 in order to keep an appearance of having 10). Many exalt and pray to Mary to the extent that Jesus Christ is delegated to a second place position of honor, and they will freely admit this. One time, we even found that a group of children actually thought that Jesus Christ was the husband of Mary, and that He was still dead, not knowing He was the Son of God, that He bore our sin, nor that He is risen and alive.
There is gross Gospel and Bible ignorance in Guadalajara, as well as in the rest of the country of Mexico. Therefore, we must stand up and combat the forces of darkness and shine the glorious light of the truth of God’s Word to the farthest corners of the city and nation. We must distribute Bibles in the marketplaces. We must assimilate Bible-saturated literature. We must proclaim Christ in the public squares. We must instruct sinners in Gospel truth. We must meet the people where they are and confront them with the truth of God in love. We must take a stand against religious traditions which nullify the commandments of God. And we must equip the remnant of saints who are already here to be solid disciples of Jesus who can effectively reach their own people, demonstrating for them how to reach the lost most effectively, that the task may be finished, the elect may be harvested, and the Lord of glory may return.
MARKETPLACE MINISTRY & BIBLE DISTRIBUTION
We have been blessed to obtain a central location in a local tianguis (outdoor street market) close to our house in Guadalajara, where we’ve been given permission to set up a table every week in order to distribute Bibles and Gospel literature and to share the Word with passers-by. The Lord really opened this door and we were offered the booth for free. Every Tuesday the entire street is shut down and early in the morning it is filled with vendors selling everything imaginable. It is a great place to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, and other groceries, so nearby residents frequent the same market every week –an untold number of people. It’s a wonderful place to set up a booth to evangelize from, and that’s what we’re doing.
So far we have been there a few times, and they were a real blessing. We were able to share the Gospel clearly with quite a few people, young and old alike. Most are practicing Catholics and proud of their religion, but God has given us grace to share the truth in love with those who talk to us, and we have found some open hearts.
Here’s what it looks like: We have a little table with Bibles, tracts, and booklets, and a little sign on it that says, “Un Regalo Gratis Para Usted” (A Free Gift for You). We set up from about 9am to 2pm while the market is busy. We are right between a women selling fresh cut chicken and a man selling flea market type trinkets. As people walk by, we give them tracts and tell them that we’re there giving out for free everything on the table. Those who stop, we quickly engage with the Gospel and try to engage in meaningful conversation about their eternity. Some at this point will proceed to browse through the items on our table, and when they find something interesting, they will ask, “how much does it cost” (despite the sign and despite us having already said it’s all free). We tell them again, “it’s all free” and they will take something and thank us. But though we have a variety of appealing Catholic-looking tracts and other booklets, the thing that excites some people the most is the Bibles.
The Lord is giving us divine appointments and sending those to receive Bibles who really seem to be on the verge of encountering the true God. I can’t describe here every person who’s come for a Bible and what they’ve said, but those who had recently intended to read the Bible and seek the Lord yet didn’t own a Bible have run into our booth and received not only a free Bible but a divine confirmation that God is calling them and that now it’s time to seek the Lord.
We’ve only set up three times thus far, but both times the Gospel went forth. The first time, we gave out about 10 Bibles. The second time, we gave out 15 Bibles. In addition, hundreds of tracts and many booklets were distributed. Dozens of great conversations were held with individuals, some of whom were holding back tears. Amazingly, those receiving a Bible had not owned one and were clueless as to how to start reading it, so we explained to them where to start and how to read it.
Last week, there were a number of good encounters:
-A middle-aged man got blindsided with the Gospel and seemed deeply impacted. He did not own a Bible nor know what Jesus did to save him. By appearance, he looked like he would never have considered the things of God, but he was extremely open to talk to us and hear the truth about salvation, humbled under the Word. He left after we put a Bible in his hand, saying he would seek the Lord.
-A group of young girls (early teens) stopped by the booth as Lina preached the Gospel to them. They were gathered all around the booth. One of them, though so young, was already very Catholic. Yet there was something different about her –she said that almost every day she would read the Bible. She knew many stories from it. Lina was able to take them through the Law, show them their need for a Savior, and explain to them what Jesus did to save them. They saw their sin and their need for repentance.
-A middle-aged woman who was a devout Catholic stopped by our booth. She was excited to find Bibles, and very gratefully took one. As we engaged her in conversation, the subject of Mary came up quickly as she asked us, “What religion are you?” –Christians, we answered. “Do you believe in Mary?” “–We believe she was a blessed woman, but we do not believe she is a mediator between us and God nor that she is to be worshipped or prayed to.” With that, we took her to Exodus 20 to read the 10 Commandments. She was shocked to read the second commandment. Then she told us that she had built a shrine to Mary! As we talked, she appeared to see her error, and saw her need to study the Bible for herself and not just accept religious traditions blindly.
There are more such encounters I could share with you, but time and space fail me. Yet needless to say, this is a great way to reach out to our surrounding community in this corner of this vast city of countless multitudes. I know the Lord has opened the doors for this and I’m hoping to get other believers involved in this type of ministry in other parts of the city, namely from our local church. It’s a lot less intimidating to sit behind a table and pray for God to lead those to you He’s preparing, and to talk to those who approach giving them free gifts then it is to randomly approach strangers on the street and confront them with the Gospel, especially in an open air preaching context; thus I think it will be easier to get others involved who really have a desire to reach out to the lost.
The Lord has also brought us to partner with an apologetic ministry called Lighting the Way Worldwide (www.lightingthewayworldwide.org) which has already been doing this type of table ministry around the USA and in different parts of the world for years. They are graciously helping us with Bibles and materials for the table as they’re able. We can never have too many Bibles to distribute, especially at a pace of giving out 50 or so per month! And more Bibles would mean more opportunities to expand the outreach. We are so grateful for all who help us to be able to labor in this type of ministry and make the Word of God available free of charge to the people of Guadalajara. It will certainly bring forth eternal dividends as God gets glory for His name!
OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS AND PRAYER POINTS
-Brother Aaron (see previous update) will be arriving here in Guadalajara on May 12 to preach the Gospel with us.
-We are moving from the current house we’re renting into another one that is slightly larger so that Aaron can stay with us (the house we’re in now just has absolutely no room for the three of us). We’re praying for the perfect place, also with the intent to have Bible study meetings in it, and that God would provide for the move.
-We are still working on paperwork to try to obtain permission to be in Mexico long term. This is a process but so far it’s coming along.
-Many of our brethren inquire frequently about our health. Along these lines, both Lina and I have had our battles recently. Both of us have had to go to the hospital within the last month. Lina is fine now, and I’m getting better. I somehow contracted some miserable stomach virus which laid me out for a couple days. It was so bad that I went to the emergency room. Thankfully, we know a doctor who works there who is a brother from the church, and he gave me a diagnosis free of charge in the name of Jesus. He put me on an anti-biotic and some other medicine, which helped to heal me up. It took about a week to return more or less to normal, but now I’m feeling a lot better.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” -Ephesians 6:10-19
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” -Charles H. Spurgeon