by Josef & Lina Urban
Dear brethren and friends,
My heart has been weighed down over the state of the Gospel in Mexico. As I sit here, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, there is a large map of the nation in front of me hanging on the wall. As I ponder the vastness of the nation before us, and the desperate need for the proclamation of the biblical Gospel in all corners of this Gospel-barren and sin-soaked land, a real sense of the immensity of the task at hand grips my soul with a sense of urgency and desperation. Questions begin to flood my mind. How can we most effectively labor in the city of Guadalajara in order to impact not only Guadalajara, but the rest of the nation with the biblical Gospel? How can we, being so few, so weak, so pitiful, so under-trained, so lacking in resources, even begin to make inroads into this nation with the truth of Jesus Christ? How can we make any impact whatsoever? It all appears as if we’re just tossing a pebble into the vast ocean with all our efforts and preaching. We need more brethren to catch a vision, a burden, and a passion for reaching Mexico with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I often compare Mexico to Lazarus, the poor beggar. I know this is not a teaching in the text itself, but suffer me to use it by way of analogy. "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table” (Luke 16:19-21). As the rich man feasted and Lazarus longed to eat just the crumbs of what fell from his table, so it is, spiritually speaking, between the USA and Mexico. The USA is sitting at the banquet table of feasting upon the greatest teaching resources, theological resources, monetary resources, and more in the church, while Mexico is like the poor beggar who longs to just have a crumb of what America is feasting upon.
Brethren, the Christian church at large in Mexico is theologically shallow and destitute of the rich fatness of sound biblical doctrine. It is in desperate need of missionaries to come here and to just teach sound doctrine. On top of this, the population at large sits under the yoke of Catholicism, empty religion, idolatry, and religious superstition, ignorant of the true God. We are in the midst of a region where, according to statistics, if indeed such are to be counted as accurate, only 2-3% claims to be Christian (as opposed to Catholic). I do not think this statistic is too far off. Mexico has barely a crumb of the amount of light, Gospel truth, and access to biblical teaching and theological resources that America has had.
This means that we must not back up, let up, or coward out. Our resources are scanty, our number few, and our stature very small. Yet our God is very big. We must press on for the sake of our King who has given us command to herald and proclaim His glorious Gospel. He is mighty to save. He will build His church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it!
God has shown Himself faithful in our midst, brethren. We have some exciting testimonies to share with you in this update. The Lord has opened up the doors for us to take in orphans. Such is an awesome opportunity to not only obey the biblical mandate to do such, but to also invest in the lives of these little ones, to show them the practical love of Jesus Christ, and to, most importantly, teach them the Word of God. We are greatly in need of your prayers at this time.
CHURCH PLANTING UPDATE
The more we progress in planting a church in Guadalajara, the more I’m convinced that it is only through church planting that we can see a lasting, persevering, Christ-glorifying, fruit-enduring work of God established in this city. We are pressing on by the ability which Christ gives, and by the grace of our mighty God we are seeing some fruit as a result of our labors, praying earnestly that God will save more souls and raise up laborers to preach.
Our Sunday meetings in the church have been averaging somewhere between 12-20 people. Our prayer meetings and Bible studies have also grown some since the last update. God has been blessing our time together with His sweet presence. The believers are growing in grace. God is supernaturally granting our requests as we meet together every week to seek His face and cry out for Him to move in power. Many people come through visiting and hear the exposition of God’s Word.
In reality, so much has been going on with relation to the church plant that there is no time or space here to tell of it all. Yet we are convinced that God is moving and raising up a lasting work in this city. Though we greatly desire to see the church grow numerically (by means of genuine salvation) we also realize that it’s just as important that it grow spiritually (by means of a deeper work of growing in grace and sanctification in each person). It seems like the Lord is doing both in our midst, in His own manner of doing things and in His own timing. Yet He is at work and for that we praise Him!
The older couple I mentioned in the last update is still congregating with us. The husband still does not seem to be saved. Please cry out for his salvation before the throne of grace. However, the wife recently professed to be saved. This happened in a meeting of the Lord’s Supper. After Aaron proclaimed the Gospel, and I explained the meaning of the bread and fruit of the vine, during the partaking of the bread and juice, her heart rose up in prayer to God and she testifies that she trusted in Christ with all her heart. She did not partake of the Lord’s Supper since we explain it’s only for believers who have been baptized. But after the meeting, she was beaming with tears and joy, and enthusiastically told Lina: “Lina, I know I’m saved!” Lina asked her why. She responded: “Because Jesus died for me! I know He saved me!” She said she had a revelation of Christ and of His finished work as the bread and juice were administered and trusted Christ with simple faith like a child. Ever since then, she has testified without wavering that God saved her there, and has been testifying to friends and family about Christ. This was a couple months ago and she still continues strong and congregating faithfully.
Ever since she has professed to be saved, she has been praying relentlessly for her children to get saved. At our prayer meetings every week, we would pray particularly for one of her sons who was in heavy bondage to alcohol and drugs. We prayed continually when we gathered together that God would save him. Recently, that son went into a drug rehab center and came out. Then, the Lord started getting a hold of him. He came to the meeting of the church one Sunday and I preached on the text, “Believe the Gospel” (Mark 1:15). He has been drug and alcohol free, and crying out to Christ to save him. Over a week ago now, he completely stopped smoking cigarettes (he used to smoke 40 per day). He has been coming to our meetings on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, eager to hear God’s Word and claiming to desperately want to be saved. We are praying that God will save him and confirm his faith by the inward testimony of the Spirit of adoption.
God is answering some of prayers beyond any doubt. We have seen His hand at work. Several people seemed to be deeply moved by the Word of God recently. It seems like the Lord was calling one man in particular who, after the meeting, approached me and said, “I realize I’m a sinner, I’ve committed horrible sins, and I want to follow Jesus and give Him my life. How can I follow Jesus?” We spent a couple hours with him and it seems like the Lord was giving him revelation from Heaven in understanding Scriptures we would show him. He said he felt the Word enter his heart and felt different inside. This is a man who had no prior background in Christianity whatsoever.
Please pray! And keep praying! If you want a more detailed update, with more testimonies, contact us on skype. Contact info is at end of this update.
TO LAUNCH AN ORPHANAGE
By the grace of our great God, we are now in the plans of starting a small orphanage in Guadalajara. This has come about by miraculously answered prayers and by God’s miraculous provision for a house. Here’s a few statistics about orphans in Mexico, according to online sources:
► There are 1,600,000+ orphans in Mexico.
► Mexico has the second highest orphan rate among Latin American countries.
► 15% of the minor population (0-17 years) are orphaned children.
In Mexico, domestic violence rages, broken families abound, kidnapping and murders leave many children fatherless, and drug and substance abuse cause many children to be permanently removed from their families by the government. The DIF, a government agency, has a surplus of children that have no real parents (either dead or as good as dead to them), and this agency takes them and puts them into orphanages all over Mexico. The DIF always has a surplus of children with not enough orphanages to care for them. This means there is a dire need for orphanages to be planted. However, all of these orphanages are required to pay their own expenses, as the government does not help them at all.
It has been in our heart to help orphans in Mexico for a long time, though there was scarcely the opportunity to do it. Now, the opportunity has fallen right on into our lap without any major striving or effort of our own! Through a series of events and circumstances, the doors are swung wide open to take in orphans and plant an orphanage. Let me share how it came about.
MIRACULOUS PROVISION FROM A SOVEREIGN GOD
About a year and a half ago, there was a tremendous tugging on my heart to help orphans in Mexico. At that time, we were renting a tiny little house for about $275 per month and were strapped when it came to financial support. We were just scraping by financially and had no means for starting any sort of work with orphans. However, I prayed, and realizing that starting any sort of orphanage was then out of the question, searched diligently for a Christian orphanage to partner with. During that time, at a birthday party, I met a man who is the director of an orphanage in Guadalajara. After talking with him a while, I discovered that he was the man in charge of Keith Green’s orphanage in northern Mexico for many years. He began to tell me about how he knew Leonard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson and the history of the orphanages he works with. We immediately got along very well and realized we had much in common when it came to understanding biblical salvation. It wasn’t long after that we began visiting his orphanage in Guadalajara and spending more time with him and his wife. Since then, we have been helping them.
Now, recently, we were with a group of brethren at our Wednesday evening prayer meeting. That day, our usual borrowed room in a mall was booked and we had nowhere to pray. So we went to a nearby park and were forced to pray in public. We decided to start praying that God would provide a large enough house near downtown Guadalajara for us to have our meetings in as a church, so as to not to continue to have to battle to find places to meet. That day we prayed together specifically that the Lord would provide a house near downtown. Then, two days later, a brother in the Lord (who doesn’t congregate with us) contacted us and said that he knows some Christians who were looking to support a church planting work and he told them about us and they decided to rent a house for us for a year. They decided to pay the rent on our behalf for a year. It was a miraculous answer to prayer! Total strangers wanting to rent the house we need, who had no idea that we had just prayed two days before!
We then realized that the amount they pledged could rent a large enough house for us to have extra space to use for the Lord’s work. Immediately I thought of the orphans. Would it be possible now to take in orphans and use this house for the glory of God by visiting the fatherless in their affliction? We immediately called the director of the already existing orphanage and asked about the possibility.
It turns out that because of a tremendous provision, he told us that we could start an extension of their orphanage. It would technically be considered, for all legal purposes, a part of their institution, but we would be in charge of it in all practical purposes. He and his wife were rejoicing at the possibility and we committed it to prayer and seeking counsel.
TO TAKE A STEP OF FAITH
After praying and receiving counsel from many brethren, we believe it’s the Lord’s will to move forward and take in orphans. We have now rented the house and it has ample space to start this work. The new house is pictured below:
We are now in the process of preparing to take in the children. We have much to prepare, both spiritually and physically. We can desperately use your prayers at this time as we have so much to learn and so little experience in many things.
The house still needs a lot of work; mostly little things here and there. We need to purchase furniture for the children (bunk beds, dressers, etc.) and many other things to prepare before taking in the first children.
Numerous people have asked how we plan to provide for the children. The answer is through prayer and trusting God. In the same way He has provided for our needs on the mission field these 3+ years, God, in answer to prayer, will provide for the least of these little ones. We desire that God would get glory for His name in providing for the needs of these orphans as we commit everything into His hands. He is faithful and He will not let us down. If He has brought us this far, will He not take us all the way?
This is a huge step for us and a huge transition in the ministry God has been pleased to entrust to us. I move forward with much fear and trembling. My only consolation is that God is with us. My great prayer is that God would raise up soldiers for Jesus Christ in Mexico.
Our current plan is to take in the first children in June if the Lord wills. The children we will be taking, at least initially, are already at the other orphanage, and we have been given the privilege of choosing which ones to take. We are not sure yet as to all of the children we will take, but have so far decided to take in two boys who are brothers as the first ones. They are pictured below with Lina:
We’re not yet sure what is the ultimate number of children we should have. It is our prayer that as we step out in faith in this work, that the Lord will raise up faithful brothers and sisters to volunteer and help us care for these children. Our goal is not to just care for the needs of orphans, but to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all facets of life, that they may serve and glorify the blessed Lord of glory their whole lives.
We praise God for the great things He has done and is doing and we believe that this work with the orphans will not hinder, but actually help, the mission to plant a healthy biblical church in Guadalajara, especially if the Lord is pleased to look down upon us poor pitiful creatures with delight and pour out the blessings of Isaiah 58 upon us.
We earnestly beseech you to pray for us during this time. May God be pleased to demonstrate biblical Christianity in our midst and glorify His beloved Son.
EVANGELISM AND OPEN AIR PREACHING
God has chosen to use the foolish things of this world to stand up publicly and proclaim a message that is foolishness to this world and has ordained to use the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21, 27). Yet the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men. Standing up in a public square and proclaiming the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ may seem foolish and ineffective in the eyes of the carnal mind, but God has commanded His people to preach whether the world wants to hear it or not.
We have not been attracting any large crowds as we preach the Gospel downtown. Yet, almost every time we preach, there are some who stop to listen who otherwise would never hear, because they have never stepped foot in a Christian church and had no plans of doing so. While the majority pass by and refuse to listen, there are some who are detained by the Spirit of God and feel a weight of conviction press down upon their sinful soul at the hearing of the Word of God. By preaching in the open air, we are able to reach those who otherwise would never hear the Gospel.
In the heart of the “Circle of Silence” (the region of Mexico with the least percentage of Christians), Catholicism is a major stronghold and the last thing a devout Catholic is going to do is attend a Christian church. Even though we are working at planting a biblical church in this desperately needy city, the fact remains that without going out into the highways and hedges and compelling men to come into the Kingdom of God, they will never hear the glorious invitation to eternal life in Christ. Only by the public, aggressive proclamation of the living Word of God can we see this city, region, state, and nation adequately reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Inner city evangelism and open air preaching has been our primary means of sowing the precious Gospel seed. We have and are continuing to proclaim the Gospel, and slowly but surely by the grace of God are making inroads into the heart of this city with the truth of God’s Word. The majority of those who visit our Sunday meetings in the church plant are those who heard the proclamation of God’s Word downtown. Also, the majority of those who congregate consistently with us are with us because they initially heard one of us preaching in the open air downtown. So, while such a method may seem foolish to the world, it is bearing fruit. A church’s foundation must be the preaching of the GOSPEL, for the church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, and the Gospel is the heart and essence of all truth. We refuse to resort to using carnal and man-made methods which compromise biblical principles in order to draw people into the church. By evangelizing people personally, and proclaiming the Gospel publicly, God is building His church. While we have and are seeing some fruit from the evangelism, we greatly long to see our great God save sinners and do a mighty work of outpouring grace in our midst. We are crying out for God to show Himself mighty to save in our midst.
There have been too many conversations and encounters to possibly detail them here. We constantly run into everybody from religious hypocrites and cult members, to drunkards and drug addicts, to nice moral family people, and everything in between as we testify of Christ. Your prayers are greatly longed for, that God would cause more fruit to spring forth from our evangelistic efforts for His glory. Christ is worthy. We must press on.
TRIPS TO THE USA
We are still in the process of coming under the oversight of Grace Community Church of San Antonio, TX. We recently made another trip there and spent a couple weeks in fellowship with the church. Lord willing, we may be taking another trip in several weeks, before taking in the first orphans. We believe that coming under their oversight will help us, provide accountability, help to sharpen our effectiveness on the mission field, and be a great blessing as they pray for us, as well as a source of potential future co-laborers. All of this is extremely important for missionaries, and having such accountability over us will ensure our supporters and friends that we are submitted to biblical leadership and not straying into error. If you are in or around San Antonio and would like to meet up with us while we’re there, contact us. The church’s website is: http://www.gccsatx.com/.
NATIONALIZATION IN MEXICO
Some time ago, after a long, debilitating and somewhat stressful series of events, I (Josef) finally obtained immigrant status in Mexico! This means that I will no longer be forced to leave the country in order to renew my permission to stay, and such gives me more rights and protection within the country. After having this immigrant ID card for two years, I may then be eligible to obtain citizenship (dual-citizenship). I greatly appreciate those who prayed for this while we were going through the long process.
LABORERS BEING RAISED UP
As we are laboring to plant a church and orphanage in Guadalajara, and reach Mexico with the Gospel, we have a need for more laborers. As the work expands, so does the need for more laborers. And as we have more laborers, so we likewise have more opportunity to expand our labors.
One Mexican brother from Guadalajara that we have been pouring into for about 2 years now is considering the possibility of entering the ministry to teach God’s Word. He recently left for Peru and is now spending 6 months with the church in Lima that Paul Washer planted in order to study theology. The institute he is studying at is the Heartcry base in Peru where all their Latin American missionaries must study. We’re praying that God will use this time tremendously to equip and raise this brother up. After these 6 months, his plan is to return to Guadalajara.
There are also several others who are praying about the possibility of joining us as missionaries. Please pray that God will have His perfect way, and if He is calling them to come here that He will make His will clear to all. Our Lord told us to pray for the Father to raise up more laborers. We have His Word on it.
If you believe the Lord would have you to help us financially, information on how to support us can be found on the Donate page of our website. We are able to live, labor, preach the Gospel, plant a church, show hospitality, help other missionaries, distribute Bibles and literature, and care for orphans in Mexico only because of God’s grace and gracious provision by means of His people. We are so grateful for your prayers and support and know it will bear fruit into eternity.