We're still alive! We're just extremely negligent (to my own fault) at getting updates out there. In addition to conveying our sincerest apologies, I would like to express our honest intention to make a better, more conscious effort at sending them out more punctually. We have a major project in the works right now which includes updating you more frequently, consistently, and practically.
The 4 boys are no longer with us. After being their caretakers and "parents" for 3 and a half years, having lived with us during that time and integrated into our family, the Mexican government pulled a political move and sent them to another house. They are now in an orphanage. We've been to visit them, but it's much different around the house without having these little guys around.
The good news is that two of the brothers (pictured in the middle above) are in the process of being adopted! And not just by anybody, but by a beautiful family from our church! If all goes well, these two will have a permanent home and be raised in the fear, instruction and love of the Lord. Please pray for them. The other two are soon to return to their mother who had previously abandoned them, but has won rights to receive them back. Please pray for their wellbeing in every way (spiritual and physical).
With the boys gone, it's just the 3 of us now. Josiah is 2 and a half and is growing healthy and happy. We've been researching his future in terms of education and will probably be giving him a classical Christian education. Lina is doing well.
Many have asked if we plan to have more children. We would love to have as many as the Lord gives us. But that just means just one for now, I guess...
What does a preacher do when he loses his voice?
These past years on the mission field have consisted of a great many trials. In my case, health-related infirmities have been frequent and persistent. If you care to hear my rant, you can read this section; if not, feel free to skip ahead to the next heading! (I won't be offended!)
In the early part of last year (2014), I was coming down with frequent, severe stomach illnesses about once per month that would lay me out for days at a time, having all vitality leeched from this mortal frame to the point of utter despair. Prayer availed much toward spiritual sustainment but little to support the flesh. Hospital and doctor visits helped to only maintain me hydrated via IV's while the infections would pass their dreadful, natural course. The frequent travels, seeking nourishment from inner-city Mexican street-vending taco carts, ingesting amoebas and vicious bacterias, the jam-packed schedule with studying, preaching, teaching, counseling, organizing, fellowshiping, the daily care of the churches, stress, and a weak immune system all took their toll and laid me out like an old pancake in the hot noon-day sun. I was becoming almost useless, though the grace of God sustained me and kept me pressing on with the drive to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.
So I cut down on traveling, changed my diet and began a rigorous exercise routine. My stomach health drastically improved. But then, I began having serious complications with my VOCAL CORDS (of all things)! I couldn't preach half a sermon without my voice getting hoarse and inflicting a moderate amount of pain. This continued for many months. After the pain was persistent, I decided to get a laryngoscopy. They diagnosed me with a vocal nodule. The gist of it was that supposedly, preaching was over for me, at least until I underwent surgery. Rather than going under the knife, I went to California for 2 months and underwent a vigorous vocal rehabilitation and training therapy with one of LA's most reputable speech pathologists (who the Lord provided at a 50% discount!). Apparently, it was effective. After several months, I got another laryngoscopy, and by the mercy of God, the nodule has now dissolved! It is g-o-n-e!
But some irritation was still persistent. After a seven month journey of trying to ascertain the root of my vocal problems, we recently discovered that the problem was instigated by recurring "silent reflux" (the craftily, creepily sneaky and asymptomatic sister of heartburn), in which tiny amounts of stomach acid quitely lodge powerful digestive enzymes in the throat and cause the throat itself to be slowly and progressively digested! The saying goes, "What you're eating could be eating you"! Ouch! I felt it! This, in turn, was apparently instigated by chronic digestive problems causing bacterial overgrowth in my stomach (this link is to an article that outlines natural remedies that have helped me). So I'm in the process of dealing with this through lifestyle, nutritional and dietary implementations and have begun to feel significantly better. My vocal strength, projection and endurance is drastically improving as I've been able to preach at normal volume upwards of an hour at a time with no significant hindrance or pain. Praise the Lord!
This has been a trial that is particularly tempting to provoke despair and discouragement. "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel"! I remember telling my wife at one point that I prefer to just die than to never be able to preach again. What a journey this has been.
Recently a brother approached me and, expressing sympathy, inquired of me what I've learned over these past 7 months, especially early on when we all felt like my ministry was on the verge of collapsing. I can't begin to describe all the emails that poured in from all over Latin America when the news went out, the sadness in the churches in Mexico, and my own sense of confusion and lack of answers in terms of when, how, if ever, I would be back at preaching. My answer? I've learned that Christ is sufficient. My identity is not wrapped up in some ministry, however "successful" it may appear to be. My source of hope and joy doesn't come from the exercise of any talent or spiritual gift the Lord has entrusted to me. Christ is my all, and He is sufficient. I may be stripped of my voice, and therefore of my ministry, my support, my income, and everything else, but as long as I have Jesus, I have more than enough. It's been helpful to not only know this, but to feel it as a present reality. God is good. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!
I've been back at preaching every Sunday since the beginning of December along with a ministry schedule that normally requires at least several hours of speaking daily. And the Lord has helped me to do so with no significant hindrance. I earnestly desire your prayers for my speedy and total vocal recuperation. I long to take up traveling again to visit all the church plants, lay some important ecclesiastical foundations in place, encourage the brethren, spend extended time with key men who need mentoring, spearhead some important projects, conduct some conferences and teach some theological modules in other places in Latin America.
Great Commission Advancement Through the Establishment and Building of Christ's Church
We continue to remain persuaded that the Great Commission primarily entails the establishment, nurturing and building of biblical churches. Our efforts continue to focus on this sorely needed ministry in Mexico.
Our original church plant in Guadalajara continues to prosper by the grace of our Lord. I am spending most of my time here seeking to teach and pour into the church that it may be a strong ministry base in Mexico. We are seeing encouraging things, as brothers and sisters are growing in maturity, stepping up to serve and helping to meet many needs in the church. Our prayers from the beginning were that the Lord would make this church an Antioch in Mexico--a sending base to initiate and nurture other church plants--and He has begun to answer our prayers, in part. The church continues to expand, to grow in terms of depth of a work of grace and in numbers of those who are being saved. Most of all, the love of Christ is felt in this place and experienced in a rare and invigorating way that is truly refreshing to our hearts.
Lord's Day meeting in Guadalajara:
The other church plants that have flowed from this work are the Mexico City and Queretaro churches. In September, 2014, my fellow co-laborer Aaron Block was ordained as a pastor. Aaron has moved to Queretaro to shepherd the church of God which he bought with his own blood in that place.
Aaron preaching in Queretaro:
The church in Mexico City also continues to grow and advance. After many hellish battles, attacks by false brethren, and threats of division in that place, the church has been strengthened and solidified in grace, love and unity. It is very encouraging to see what the Lord has done in Mexico City!
Below is brother Miguel from Mexico City sharing the Word of God:
In 2014, we initiated two new church plants: one in Monterrey and one in Toluca. We have seen encouraging things in these places as the Spirit of God works to save and to sanctify. In Toluca there is a small congregation gathering that is slowly growing in number. There have been a couple of glorious conversions there recently. They are about to constitute as a local church with the first baptisms, membership integration and practice of the Lord's Supper. Grace Community Church of San Antonio is colaboring with the church in Monterrey, and between them and the churches in Mexico, we are sending preachers every other week to Monterrey.
Congregational photo in Monterrey:
Our Academy of Theology has about 150 students who are persevering in their studies. Many others are on the waiting list to join but we've not yet opened registration for any new students. We hope to open it up for new students soon if the Lord wills, since we have all the classes recorded in high quality video and audio format and integrated into an online learning system. Thanks to a volunteer who is a computer programmer, we are now up to date on the latest and best distance learning platform available in Spanish. Soon we hope to expand the course offering and improve the quality of education offered by producing more resources such as lecture transcripts and events that facilitate community among the students.
New clases have been postponed since the diagnosis of my vocal problem in September, but now that I've been recovering, we are launching classes again next week. We will then be holding classes, Lord willing, on a weekly basis. For the remainder of this year, I plan to plug away at teaching our courses on Biblical Survey, which offer a biblical-theological overview from a historic-redemptive perspective according to each individual Bible book's particular canonical context, key passages and major theological motifs. We plan to view all of this with an eye to comprehending and beholding the beauty and glory of Christ in all of Scripture, that our students may be able to preach Christ and the glories of the gospel from any text of the Bible, all the while being faithful to practice a sound exegetical method according to the proven principles of historic-grammatical hermeneutics.
In April, we will be hosting a module on Historic Theology taught by pastor Robert Elliot (M.Div.) of the Reformed Baptist Church of Riverside, CA. Pastor Elliot has done somewhat extensive studies in this area and will be teaching our students a series of 20 one-hour lectures on the subject of Early Church History. I had the privilege of congregating in the church he pastors while in California and was encouraged by his sound preaching ministry. Here is a picture of this Scottish brother:
Numerous evangelism teams, organized as ministries of each respective local church, continue to preach the gospel on the streets. They have hundreds, even thousands of conversations on a regular basis. They also preach in places such as drug rehab centers and hospitals. We are working with a brother who is gifted at evangelism to launch a major ministry project geared toward providing training for churches and groups we are in contact with. Lord willing, we will send another update soon with more info on this.
Gospel Projects in Cuba
We are working somewhat closely with a Cuban pastor and church (who holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession) to spearhead what seems promising to be a significant movement of the mass dissemination of Reformed theology in that closed-but-opening country. This includes the mass distribution of literature, CD's and DVD's with gospel-centered and theologically-substantial material (everything from Puritans and Spurgeon to Paul Washer). We hope to share more details about this soon in another update… stay tuned. We're very exited about this opportunity to reach such a desperately needy place as Cuba with the biblical gospel.
Cristianismo Bíblico Conferences
We are now conducting an annual conference in Guadalajara. Our turnout for our first annual conference in 2014 was about 700 persons from 6 different countries and was a glorious time of blessed fellowship and mutual edification with brothers and sisters from a number of different churches. This year, we are expecting more. Our special guests last year were Charles Leiter (author of Justification and Regeneration) and Timothy Conway (pastor of Grace Community Church of San Antonio, TX).
This year, our special guest is the ministry of Answers in Genesis. We will be teaching on biblical creationism, presuppositional apologetics, the importance of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, and the implications all this bears on the gospel of Jesus Christ. We hope to equip believers in Latin America with a solid understanding of a biblical worldview grounded in a biblical view of God the sovereign Creator, that they may engage their culture, defend the faith and evangelize the lost biblically and effectively with the unchanging truth of God's inerrant Word.
Other Projects in the Works