It was difficult to stretch two weeks in the states into our schedule, but it had to be done. Difficult because there was so much happening in La Vega, and so many things that had to be put on hold. We are coordinating the construction of the addition for the Rieles Church, and also in the process of setting up for the 8 day "Unidos Por El Youth Eventl" in February (this is a Carnaval Alternative for Youth).
We are also applying for a Christian TV channel in La Vega. In December, Debbie was following up the process of obtaining water pumps from the government for the wells we had dug in the Rieles. We now have three pumps in place thanks to Elias Castillo's help last week. She has also been gathering toys and gifts for poor children in the Rieles area to be distributed for Three Kings Day celebration (Observed January the 9th this year). A
wonderful partnering church in Boca Grande (UMC) shipped us 400 lbs of gifts.
It was wonderful to have an opportunity to be with our children and grandchildren during the Christmas season. Every three years our mission strongly encourages us to
return to the states for a retreat together with missionaries from the various islands of the Caribbean. It is a good time to compare notes and experiences. We spent five days in Texas for this retreat.
The testimonies were truly inspiring. We were not conscious of how many pressures some of these missionaries were experiencing. Some had suffered severe health reversals, others tough cultural and emotional distresses. I couldn't help but think of the passage in II Cor. 11:23-28, where Paul gave a list of the many hardships he had suffered for the cause of Christ.
There were two comforting thoughts that I came away with after listening to these testimonies, and these thoughts are not just for missionaries.
1) Ask for help. We need to remember that we are not alone in passing through difficult trials and life situations. There are others who have passed through these valleys, and they have words of encouragement and strength for you, find these comforters, they are surprisingly close to you. Don't carry the load by yourself!
2) You are never alone, there is a caring God accompanying you in every situation. Reach out to Him and He will give you strength. He often speaks to you through his Word the Bible. He can heal you or deliver you from the situation, or he can choose to work on your character instead (that hurts more). Healing or deliverance benefits you in your circumstance; but working on your character may benefit others more; that is, if we allow the potter's chisel to do a complete work. Ouch! That can be much tougher. Have you ever sincerely asked God to have his way in your life? Think about it, what if his way means pain? Jesus endured the pain for the joy that awaited him. May the Lord give us strength in all our trials.
We had a great time seeing Debbie's mom and family in Englewood, Florida on Christmas morning.
We wish you a special New Year and the strength, comfort, and peace that only God can give you!