"I have but one passion - it is He, it is He alone. The world is the field and the field is the world; and henceforth that country shall be my home where I can most be used in winning souls for Christ."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

December Update

Dear Friends and Family,
After several months of praying, waiting, and planning, we are finally able to update all of you on what the Lord has been doing in our lives and where He is leading us for the future. As we've already written, we came home from Mexico at the end of August and have been traveling to various places around the States. We had a very blessed time in Mexico serving the Lord with Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama and ministering to various other churches and villages. Through our time there, the Lord taught us many things and, we believe, began preparing us for the ministry He has for us in the future.

During our time in Mexico, the Lord began to really shake up our plans for the future and put us in a place where we had to fully trust Him and simply walk day by day following what He showed us. In May, our home church contacted us by email and asked us to pray about coming back to Illinois and serving full-time as pastoral staff. Obviously, this was quite a shock to us and would involve a drastic change of plans, but it was only asked that we pray about it. So we did. There were several questions we wrestled through before God. Did He really want us to leave the mission field and go back to the States? Was there no one else to fill the position at Cornerstone? Are we abandoning the billions of people who have yet to hear the gospel? Or would we be better able to reach them by being a strong support and a voice for them from the US, financially backing native missionaries who were going to the unreached areas of the world? As we prayed through these things, we both agreed that we only want to follow the Lord's plans for us - and He had brought this about; we did not pursue it ourselves. We would not want to stay in missions if the Lord wanted us serving in Illinois, nor would we want to move back to America if the Lord wanted on the other side of the earth. So we determined that we would follow up on this opportunity, trusting that the Lord would close the door if He did not intend for us to walk through it.

Thus, for the past three months, we have been communicating with the deacons and elders of Cornerstone, visiting twice for interviews, spending much time in prayer, and waiting for the Lord to make His will clear to us. We have been trusting that if the Lord wants us to come back, He will make it perfectly clear. That is how He has always operated in our lives. Each time we have had to make a major life decision, all of our spiritual counselors, our authority structure, our parents, and everyone involved in the decision-making process has been in agreement and confirmed what we felt the Lord wanted us doing. There has always been a clear peace - that sometimes passes understanding - when we were following the Lord's will. So after much time and prayer spent on this decision, we don't collectively have that peace. We feel, therefore, that God is closing this door.

So here is where we stand now. Our most immediate plans are to make preparations for our son to be born near the end of February. We will be moving down to Aiken, South Carolina - where Abby's family lives and our other supporting church, Millbrook Baptist, meets - until the baby is born. We plan to rent an apartment for a few months and though we're still living on support, I plan to find some short-term work to supply for the extra financial needs we'll have for hospitals and doctors, etc. As far as ministry goes, we do still feel that the Lord is leading us away from Mexico and Central America. There are a number of reasons for that - the main being the shortage of unreached people and the surplus of missionaries trying to reach them. We have put in applications to Operation Mobilization and are in contact with their placement staff concerning a need they have in Spain for an assistant pastor in an area with no other gospel witness. We are just in the opening stages of this process with them and, in truth, we really have no idea where the Lord will place us. Spain obviously caught our attention because we can both speak Spanish. But we are honestly willing to go anywhere the Lord leads. It is always exciting to follow the Lord! Yes, it requires much faith and involves a lot of uncertainty, but we love knowing that He is in control and will work out His plans for us.

For any who don't know, Operation Mobilization is an independent mission board which has been sending out missionaries all over the world for many years, whose goal is to mobilize the church to reach the last unreached areas and unreached people groups of our world with the gospel. They oversee the technical operations of missionaries, manage their financial situations, and handle the international paperwork. They do not finance their missionaries, as the International Missions Board does. Each missionary family is responsible to raise their support from supporting churches and individuals. If the Lord does indeed lead us overseas, we may need to do some more support raising, as the cost of living is higher in Europe than in Mexico, but we will let you know that when we have more information on our financial needs. OM's USA base is in Atlanta, Georgia, so will be able to travel there easily from Aiken for meetings, stateside training, etc. over the next several months. They commission and send out their new missionaries in August and in January. So if our finances are raised, we could move overseas in August; if it requires more time, we wouldn't be leaving at least until January.

Most of all, we covet your prayers. As we live in Aiken, we plan to continue ministering to Spanish-speakers and other needy people by volunteering at Christ Central Ministries. And we look forward to being able to be involved in the ministries of Millbrook as well. We thank you also for your faithful support over this past year. You have enabled us to follow the Lord's leading and, we pray, impact many lives for the kingdom of God. Please be praying for wisdom as we move through this process and for Abby as she carries our son for a few more months. We'll keep you all posted on our lives and plans as they progress. God bless you all!

- Jonathan and Abby St.Clair

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lessons from Mexico

Hi Everyone,
Well, our time of training in Mexico is completed. Abby and I are back in the States, visiting family in South Carolina and Georgia. Looking back over this past year and everything the Lord has done in our lives since January, we expect it will take some time for us to fully process everything we've learned. But we would like to take some time to write down a few of those lessons and share them with all of you who have supported us, followed us, and prayed for us.

Some lessons we learned in Mexico:
1. God's plans are not the same as our plans, but His are better.
2. God always provides for His children, even above and beyond.
3. We take so many things for granted here in the USA.
4. God's work will always be accomplished
5. We answer to God alone for what we do with our lives.
6. God does everything in His own perfect timing.

1. God had a much different plan for us than we had for ourselves when we moved to Mexico in January.We expected to be going to a missions training school in the Yucatan to live and work with American missionaries while we would study Spanish, help in the ministry, and assist visiting groups from the States. What God had planned was much different. It's no news to anyone that Mexico has had an explosion of problems in the past couple of years. Between the swine flu scare, the violence of drug cartels, and the US economic recession, activity at the mission has dwindled. We never took any formal Spanish classes. We did assist with a few groups, I believe three over the 9 months. During most of our time, we were the only Americans at the mission. In essence, our plans never happened.

But God's plan for us was so much better. The first Sunday we were there, we went to church with the Mexican couple we lived and worked most directly with. Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama is the place that the Lord was sending us for our training. These people were incredible. The church was begun, continued, and fully funded by nationals. Pastor Martin started the church 9 years ago, discipled the first believers, raised up the church leadership, and is now sending out missionaries from their congregation to other parts of Mexico to continue reaching the unreached areas of the country. We got plugged in immediately with this church, helping out in the praise team, preaching one Sunday, translating the sermon for an American group that visited us, working with the children during VBS, teaching in a village discipleship program every Saturday, attending midweek Bible study, going on a church missions trip to central Mexico, and playing on the church soccer team.

The church people were such a blessing to us! They were very patient with us, as we would sit around talking with them, asking questions, and trying to learn Spanish. They gave us opportunities to minister and they ministered to us in the meantime. They invited us to their homes for dinner. They let us work with their children and lead songs and teach Bible lessons. We did get the training that we needed; it just didn't come like we were expecting it. God's plans were not our plans, but His were much better.

- ‎"God will insure my success in accordance with His plan, not mine." - Francis Chan, Crazy Love

2. A second lesson that we learned, or rather re-learned, was that God always provides for our needs. As anyone who has ever lived on financial support will tell you, it can be difficult at times. Each month your income is different - sometimes it is higher than normal, sometimes lower. Obviously, it is not difficult in a month where you receive a higher check, but you must still live as frugally as possible in case the next month is lower. It requires faith and then stretches that faith farther than you thought it could be stretched. At times, I battled the thought that I was not being a responsible husband. I thought, "It's one thing to live like this by myself, but now I'm supposed to be providing for my wife." But God was always faithful to us. We always had our needs met.

In addition, we had excess at times. And the Lord taught how we are to be channels through which He can work and provide for others. In months where we had more than we needed, we would try to discern if the extra was for us to save for a coming low month or for us to pass on and meet needs for somebody else. We learned and can testify to what the Bible says: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Our slogan became, "You can never give too much." It was such a joy to be able to give much more than we would have thought possible, living as missionaries. For example, when Cristo Te Ama planned the missions trip to central Mexico, Pastor Martin encouraged people to sign up for the trip even if they weren't sure they would be able to afford the average cost of $80 per person. So through the support of our friends in the States, we were able to give an extra portion of the money needed for the trip, allowing people to go who wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise. We learned that God always provides for His children, even more than we need.

3. Life's difficulties showed us how much we take for granted here in the USA. This is probably not a surprise, certainly not to anyone who has ever been on a foreign missions trip. I would say this is the number one thing I hear from people after returning from a foreign country: "I never realized how good we have it in America." To be clear, I am speaking of purely financial and material things. I have come to believe that, in most cases, believers in other countries have a much better spiritual life than we do in America. There are some things you just can't learn without going through hardship and spiritual persecution. We don't have that advantage here in the USA. But speaking in physical terms, life in America is unbelievably easier to live. Our degree of wealth and comfort is truly unimaginable to most Mexicans. The conveniences that we don't even think of are not enjoyed by most of the world.

A month or so ago, Abby wrote a very detailed and humorous account of some of the little things we so often took for granted. Instead of rewriting all of that, I'll just post the link to her blog so you can all read it for yourselves. http://abbymtstclair.blogspot.com/2010/08/day-in-life.html This was the third lesson we learned: We take much for granted here in the States.

4. The fourth lesson we learned was really just seeing firsthand what we already knew to be true. That is that God is sovereign. He is in control of everything that takes place in this world and He orchestrates it all together - the evil and the good - to accomplish His predetermined plan of redeeming a bride for His Son from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation in the world. The Bible teaches that clearly. But I think sometimes, when it comes to missions, we tend to think or operate as if the cause of global missions is doomed to failure without the involvement of the United States, our great "Christian" nation. We think our finances are the only hope of supporting the world's missionaries. We think our influence and training are the only method capable of raising up native pastors, missionaries, and churches. This belief is untrue. God does not need us Americans; He will accomplish His will. What we do have, more than any other nation, is the capability of surrendering our finances, our time, and our resources to be involved in God's purposes which He is accomplishing around the world.

We learned this lesson through the life of a man named, Jorge Patron Flores. Jorge was one of the church leaders, though not a deacon or pastor. He led the music with the praise team. He had taught the youth group at one point. He worked as a taxi driver for several years before he became a Christian. Shortly thereafter, he felt he could no longer work in that lucrative job, because of the rampant drug use and immorality by the many tourists and vacationers he would drive around town. So he got another job working nearly 50 hours a week as a groundskeeper of a golf course for a minimal salary. He was constantly sacrificial with his time, going to the village discipleship every Saturday in spite of his exhausting work schedule. He always maintained a joyful spirit and a true desire to serve the Lord. Soon after we began to serve alongside him in the church, Jorge told me that he and his wife felt that the Lord wanted them to serve in full-time ministry sometime in the future. He didn't know whether that would be as a missionary or a pastor or church planter, but told me that both of their hearts were ready to serve the Lord as their career.

In July, both Jorge and his wife Celene went on the missions trip to Campo Mazahua in the central state of Mexico. During that trip, the Lord used Jorge in a special way to help spread the gospel to the nearby towns, disciple one of the believers in the church, and lead several young people to salvation in Christ. As we prepared to leave and go back home, Jorge shared with our whole church group that he never knew the Lord would use him in such a special way. The church there was without a pastor and people were praying as we left that the Lord would raise up a pastor for them. The Saturday after we got back, Jorge shared with me that he and Celene believed the Lord was leading them to go back to Mazahua as missionaries. He told Pastor Martin who heartily agreed. Pastor had told me months before, "I really like that guy. He is a good Christian. I believe God has a big plan for him." So Jorge and Celene are now in the process of planning and preparing to pack up their lives and move to another part of the country to serve the Lord in missions.

America had nothing to do with God's call on Pastor Martin. The U.S. didn't fund the planting of Cristo Te Ama. America didn't take the gospel to Jorge Patron. We Americans didn't commission Jorge to leave for Mazahua. This is how we saw in life what Jesus said: "I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." We saw that God doesn't need us. He will do His work and accomplish His plans through somebody. And we can make ourselves available to be that somebody!

5. Fifthly, we learned that we answer to God for our lives. This is both a comfort and a challenge at times. The comfort is that this leaves us alone before God as a family to prayerfully decide what we believe the Lord wants from our lives. It requires much prayer and patience, along with a genuine willingness to do anything He leads us to do. But it is also a challenge because the people around you won't always see things the same way you do. There have been some people around us who thought we were crazy to leave our home country and go to a place where we could be in much greater danger of physical harm, much less discomfort. Others questioned where we should go on the mission field, whom we should work with, and how we should minister.

This lesson, I had seen played out in my own parents' lives. There will always be naysayers and it is not our job to defend our reputation or be overly concerned about what people think of us. As Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10, "Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Each one of us will answer to God one day for the way we lived our lives and how we followed His direction to us. We are answerable directly to Him for our lives.

6. Finally, we learned that God's timing is not our timing. If any of you read our initial blog entries or our support letter, you'll remember that our plan was to spend almost a year in Mexico for missions training and then go on to wherever the Lord wants us full-time. Well, here we are at the end of that time, and we are still waiting for the Lord to make clear His plans for us. Throughout the year, the Lord has presented us with different ministry possibilities for our future. With each one, we have prayed through it and then fully pursued, until we felt that the Lord was closing that door. Right now, there are a couple more open doors that we are praying about and pursuing, trusting still that the Lord will lead us into the right one.

In all of our lives, God lead us one step at a time. There is a reason the Lord says that His word is a "lamp" unto our feet, not a "floodlight" unto our path. As we take every step that the lamp illumines, the light shines another step further. Someone has said that God is never in a hurry, but He is always on time. We know that will be true in our lives as well.

We want to conclude with a big "Thank You" to all of you who have supported us financially, upheld us in prayer, and kept up with us through our time in Mexico. You have enabled us to serve the Lord this year and to learn and grow into who He wants us to be. We pray that the Lord will bless each of you in your lives and repay and reward you for being such a blessing to us. We love you all and will share more of our lives as soon as we are able. Stay faithful to Jesus!

- Jonathan & Abby

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Central Mexico Missions Trip

Hi everyone,
We'd like to begin by thanking all of you for your prayers. In our last update, we told you that we'd be taking a missions trip to central Mexico with our church and asked you to be praying. God did indeed work in a very powerful way on this trip and so we wanted to share that with all of you who were praying, so that you can hear the answers that the Lord sent to your prayers.

First of all, the Lord did provide for the many people who were wanting to go on the trip, but didn't have the money yet. I heard of four people specifically share a testimony of how the Lord provided their $1000 pesos that they didn't have at the time they signed up. I'm sure there were more than those 4, but at least them. We took some food with us for the trip and some was provided by the church there. I was reminded of what Jesus said of the widow in the temple, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." The people of Mazahua were very poor, yet they gave abundantly to provide for the needs of this group of 30+ people. Like the churches in Macedonia, "...in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord..." They were truly a blessing to us!

The trip was over 30 hours long, and we passed the time in the bus in fellowship, singing, reading, praying, eating, and sleeping. We rented a bus to take the group which was a much better plan than our initial plan of driving a caravan of vehicles. The trip was to Iglesia Bautista Esmirna in Campo Mazahua, Mexico. The church was started by our pastor here at Cristo Te Ama, Pastor Martin Lemus, while he was in seminary or immediately after. The town is about an hour northwest of Toluca, the capital city of the state of Mexico. It was a small village spread out over various hills and valleys. The area was very pretty, with lots of flowers, fruits, rivers, animals, and houses. It rained quite a lot - ironic, because we had thought the name was "Campo Mas Agua" or "Field of More Water".

The purposes of our trip was threefold - VBS (or Escuela Biblica de Vacaciones), evangelism, and discipleship. The VBS program that we did was the same that we taught at Cristo Te Ama the previous week. The evangelism was, obviously, for the purpose of spreading the gospel, growing the church, and reaching the lost. The discipleship was a specific need of the church, as they are without a pastor and have been heavily influenced by a lot of false teachings coming out of the USA and Canada. Pastor Martin was concerned that this church he had begun would carry on in sound doctrine and be rooted in the Word. I believe it was this area that sparked the interest in making this trip in the first place.

The VBS program we did was called "Vuela Mas Alto" based on Isaiah 40:31. The theme was wisdom from on high and every day we spent time teaching the kids lessons about wisdom, using the stories of Daniel and his three companions. I worked with the 7-9 year old class for both weeks and on this trip our class teacher, Dora, was not able to come, so I had the opportunity to teach the class all 5 days. I was grateful the Lord got me through it, as it's not easy to teach in another language without much time to prepare. We had a great time with the children and I really do feel that our kids were able to learn more of the Bible and grow spiritually during the course of the week. At the beginning, they just came to have fun, get a snack, and play soccer, but by the end of the week, they would show up with their Bible verse of the day memorized, remembering last week's Bible story, and ready to hear this week's. I was very grateful for Karla, Diannis, Karina, and Ixtzul for helping me out with the kids throughout the week.

After VBS was finished in the morning, the group was divided in the afternoon between evangelism groups and discipleship groups. On different days, I went with both groups. The evangelism was door-to-door, knocking, avoiding dogs, inviting people to the church, and sharing the gospel. One or two people would go to the door to talk while one or two would stay nearby and pray for them. Every day of the trip, at least one group would come back saying that someone had prayed to receive Christ. And most of the time, we would see those same people at the church later throughout the week. Each day the groups would go a different direction and visit different houses until on the last few days, they actually had to drive further out, because every house nearby had been visited. Each night, we also had an evangelistic service. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, one of us from Cristo Te Ama would preach a gospel sermon and on Tuesday and Thursday, we would show a gospel film and Pastor would give an invitation afterwards. I preached on Monday night of the hope of our salvation. Afterwards, I gave an invitation for people to come forward and talk to someone rather than my leading them in a prayer. One young woman came forward and talked to Marta. Afterwards, Marta told me that she had received Christ and would be bringing her husband the next day. The next day, her husband was saved after the video. The following day, some of our church people went to visit them to follow up. The next day, that couple came to our evening devotional and shared their testimony of salvation and thanked God for keeping them together through the difficult times and now saving them. The man had had problems with alcohol and testified of his commitment to change. He said, "I don't know if any of you have lived the type of life that I lived up until yesterday, but it is a hard life and I'm grateful to God for rescuing me from it."

While the groups were out evangelizing, the church people of Esmirna would meet with some from Cristo Te Ama for discipleship. Pastor Martin led a time of collective teaching for the church leaders and deacons. He focused on areas of doctrine that had been in question from the teachings coming out of the US and Canada. He had prepared some lessons on key areas as well as having time for questions leading into further Bible study and spiritual growth. I couldn't help but pity these believers, as Jesus had pity on the multitudes who were "as sheep without a shepherd". Without someone to care for the spiritual well-being of the flock, certainly the wolves of the false teachers will come in, "not sparing the flock." As Pastor led the church leaders, several others met one-on-one with people to personally disciple them in their walk with the Lord. And the people from Esmirna were committed to being discipled. You can see that this man is quite old, but he came faithfully to learn, as did another woman who was over 70 years old - every day she was there! It was so neat to see these people fulfilling the Great Commission to "go and make disciples of every nation".

I have to share one more story and then I'll finish this off. The man in the picture above is Jorge Patron Flores, one of our dear friends at Cristo Te Ama. One day he was waiting for this man to show up so he could disciple him, but the man was late. As he was waiting, there was a teenager standing outside the church building. Jorge felt the Lord leading him to talk to him. As he did, he shared the gospel with him and the young man accepted Christ. Shortly after, Jorge's disciple showed up and they met for their time together. Jorge said when he got back outside, there was a line waiting for him. The teenager who had just been saved had gone home to get his brothers and sisters to hear about Jesus. They, too, received Christ! Jorge was moved to tears as he shared the story with us that evening. We truly serve an amazing God and we are privileged to be in His work, allowing Him to work through us!

"To God be the glory, great things He has done!"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Update

Hey everyone,
Today officially marks the longest amount of time that either Abby or myself have been out of the United States. We do miss a lot of things about being in the States, typically the small things that we never even thought about in the States, but we are truly enjoying serving the Lord, waiting on Him, watching Him work, and taking opportunities He gives us to minister. We've had a variety of different ministry opportunities and even some new ones this past week. We'd like to update all of you who are having such a vital role in our lives through your prayers and finances.

Visiting: May 16th marked our first wedding anniversary! It is so amazing to look back and see how much the Lord has done in our lives this year. He has directed and provided for us, taught and corrected me, and grown and stretched us. I do believe that we are closer to the Lord and closer to each other than we were at this time last year. I pray that every year this will be true! For the week of our anniversary, Abby's parents flew down here to visit with us, take a relaxing weekend in a hotel, and share in ministry with us here in the Yucatan. It was really neat that they, as a part of our financial support team, were able to come visit the people and church and villages that they've directly invested money in as the Lord led.

Preaching: On Sunday, the 23rd, I was able to preach my third sermon in Spanish during the evening service at Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama. I had planned initially to preach the same Spanish sermon I'd prepared in Jimenez in 2008 on the Great Commission. But in response to the spiritual climate we've sensed here in Cancun, the Lord led me instead to preach on the book of Jude and the need to "contend for the faith" in the midst of a postmodern culture of religious superstition, doctrinal confusion, and biblical skepticism. This area abounds with churches, but as we've visited, discussed, and observed many of them, we've found that the majority of them are weak, uneducated, corrupt, cultist, or floundering with no theological or doctrinal certainty and blown around with every new wind of teaching, healing, or miracles. To the contrary, Jesus Loves You Baptist Church, founded and pastored by Martin Lemus Patiño, is a solid, Bible-teaching body of believers who study and teach the Word every day of the week. They are based on Christ, the Solid Rock. I pray the sermon was an encouragement to them and to Pastor Martin as well as a wake-up call to confront the culture of confusion with the truth of God's Word.

Serving: This week we received another special blessing in the form of a ministry opportunity. We had a couple of college students come to visit us for the week with a desire to spend some time with orphans. So we got online to look for orphanages here in Cancun. First of all, for a city of over 750,000, there aren't nearly enough! Second, we drove to find those couple of orphanages we had seen online. One that we found is "Casa Hogar Esperanza" (The Hope Home) run by Pastor Asencio and his wife Esther. They began the orphanage in 1993 when a woman left her child on their doorstep. Today they have 19 orphans, ages 3-18 who live with them. The next we visited was called "La Casita" and is an institution for helping children, teenagers, and single moms who have come out of abusive situations. They have about 80 people living with them as they care for their needs, help the moms find jobs, and legally fight for the rights of the abused. Over the past week, we've gone to each of these orphanages twice and just spent time playing with the children. We played basketball, soccer, kickball (or "foot-base" as they call it), tag, soccer, coloring, making bracelets, soccer, baseball, and soccer! We actually kept playing soccer until one of the boys kicked the ball over the huge wall into a neighborhood and we never saw it again! Then we also visited an elementary school where a lady from our church teaches special needs children - anything from Down's Syndrome to autism, learning disability, crippled, blind, deaf or hard of hearing, any special need. We came to the end of the week very physically exhausted, but internally refreshed by spending time with such sweet children.

But there is not really time to rest up just yet. Tomorrow morning, Abby, Brad, and I are flying to Monterrey, Mexico to visit with a ministry that the Lord has introduced us to that also serves orphans. The ministry is called Back 2 Back Ministries and we met them about 3 months ago through some really neat God-directed circumstances. They are praying about beginning a new ministry center for orphans here in Cancun in the near future and invited us to come up and see what they do in their ministry. So we'll be there from June 3rd-8th and then come back down here again. After that, it looks like things will slow down for a few weeks before July.

In July, we're looking forward to having our first official visitors from Cornerstone! A couple of girls from the youth group, Kristi Fanning and Brittney Beal, are coming to visit us for a week and join us in ministry to experience it first-hand. We're really excited to have some familiar faces around here and get caught up with old friends and new. Then in the middle of July, we have another very exciting adventure planned! We will be driving with a group from the church to Mexico City for a missions trip. In fact, if anyone is looking for an opportunity to help out with a financial need, here it is:


From July 17th-25th a group of 25-30 members of Cristo Te Ama will be taking a missions trip to Campo Mas Agua near Mexico City. Sunday night we had a meeting about the trip and got the details laid down. The estimated cost of the total trip is about 35,000 pesos - or $3,000 USD. That's gas, food, lodging for all 30 people for a week. Abby and I offered to pay a portion of that and another man in the church offered to pay another portion. Pastor Martin's sermon on Sunday was about missions work and he encouraged everyone to be involved in the trip - either by going or by helping someone else go. If any of you, our brothers and sisters in the States, would like to help out some of the people who have signed up for this trip and are trusting God to bring in the money, you may send the money to us through Cornerstone and we will put it all towards the cost of this trip. We don't want to pressure you, but do want you to have the opportunity to be a part of this trip and its crucial role in the life of this church. This is the furthest missions trip the church has taken in its 12 year history and one day, Pastor Martin wants to take the church to a foreign country to minister and share the gospel as well.

If you want to contribute to this missions trip, please send your check to Cornerstone Baptist Church c/o Jonathan & Abby St.Clair and mark it specifically for "Campo Mas Agua Trip". This will keep us from confusing it with our normal financial support. Also, if you are already one of our regular financial supporters and would like to give to the trip but prefer to write a single check, please just mark how much of your gift you want to designate for the trip.

Thank you again for your faithfulness to the Lord and your support of our ministry. We are grateful to God for you all!

Monday, April 19, 2010

God Takes Care of His Children

As a young "rookie" missionary, I am trying to learn everything I can about mission work. One drawback about the way that my life has unfolded is that I was not pursuing a life as a missionary until after college, two years into the youth ministry that the Lord had led me into up to that point. Thus, I haven't had the advantage of studying missions and cross-cultural ministries at the university level. While I say this is a drawback, I don't mean to imply that it is some sort of "planning error" on God's part. Rather, we are learning from our own experiences, interaction with other missionaries, and independent study. I wanted to share a bit of this with all of you.

Independent studies - I am so grateful to God for Amazon.com producing digital reading through Kindle books. When we flew down here in January, I had to limit the number of books I could bring because of airline weight limits (I think my carry-on was actually heavier than my suitcase). While any thorough study of a subject should include a wide reading selection of several different authors, I would be confident enough to say that when it comes to biblical missions theology, one need read nothing more than John Piper's "Let the Nations Be Glad". It provides such a comprehensive view of biblical passages on the spread of the gospel as to make additional reading superfluous. I recommend it to anyone preparing for the mission field or wanting a biblical overview of missions. And I'm not even finished with it yet!

Interaction with other missionaries - We've had the opportunity to meet and work with several different missionaries here and we want to learn everything we can from them - to learn from both their successes and their mistakes. Some missionaries see their responsibility as providing people with homes, food, clothes, and generally a better life. Others see their responsibility as evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. Still others see their responsibility as caring for and raising orphans and serving those whom nobody else is reaching. We are learning from all of them.

Our own experiences - We certainly are learning from everything the Lord is taking us through. I want to share one of these lessons with all of you. This was actually what prompted me to write all of this in the first place.

The longer we're here, the more painfully evident it becomes that we are rare. What I mean is that there are not many other missionaries our age nor at our stage in life. I constantly find myself wondering what the problem is and how we could be used to encourage more young couples to get involved in missions at the beginning of their lives while they have so much time left to learn and grow. One of the problems, I have come to believe, is fear. "What if we people don't support us? What kind of things will we have to give up in order to serve God? What if we can't learn another language?" May I share what we have seen and are learning?

First of all, in order to surrender your life to missions, yes, I believe you must be willing to give up some things. But if you have an eternal perspective, that really won't be difficult. To give up earthly possessions or riches for eternal rewards and riches is not a sacrifice by any stretch of the imagination. As Jim Elliot so aptly said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."

BUT! Having said all of that, let me tell you what we have learned on this side of the equation. God takes care of His children!

While we are willing to give up anything to follow God's will for us, we are finding that often we don't have to. The Lord always provides everything we need and even abundantly more, even to things we don't need. For example, the question about learning the language: When I started studying Spanish because I felt the Lord was leading me to Mexico, I was able within 8 months to speak well enough to preach and witness one-on-one. When we moved here in January, everyone was asking how well Abby would pick up on Spanish. Well she is! I keep hearing from the ladies in the church that Abby is learning Spanish rapidissimo (super fast!). Ricardo tells us, "Every day your Spanish is better." The question of financial provision: While our financial support is slightly up or down every month, we have all the money we need at the time. In a month where money seems low, we find we have fewer expenses or someone gives us a special gift. In a month where it's high, we find ourselves taking a 2,000+ mile two-week adventure or we find an opportunity to give the extra money away to meet someone else's need. That's why we want to share with everyone - God takes care of His children.

In addition, God gives us opportunities we couldn't even imagine. One happened yesterday. Two of the men that we serve with in Jesus Loves You Baptist Church work at a golf course. So they offered to take Brad and me golfing after the morning service. So we drove 6 kilometers north of town to Playa Mujeres and stepped onto the most beautiful golf course I've ever seen! I didn't realize they worked at Greg Norman's signature golf course, designed by himself. We played for 5 hours, 13 holes, with the clubs the course usually rents out to tourists, riding two golf carts - all for free! I played horribly. But I just kept riding around the course admiring the beauty and thinking about how the Lord blesses us and beyond. I'm telling you all, God takes care of His children! Oh and even the 6-foot crocodile in the fairway of the 18th hole didn't bother us :o)

If there is anyone reading this who feels the Lord leading them to the mission field or into a situation where you feel you might be financially unstable, please hear our testimony. Take the risk! Follow God. Prove your faith with your actions. Test God. There is only one time in the Bible where we are told to test God and it is in relation to finances (tithing specifically). Be encouraged and watch God open the floodgates of blessing from heaven. He always takes care of His children!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Chiapas Trip - April Update

Hey everyone,
The last month has sure been a busy one for us. We arrive at the middle of April exhausted, yet very blessed at the same time - a feeling I'm sure many people in ministry can identify with!

The month of March began with our trip back to the States for the Global Impact Celebration at Millbrook Baptist Church, one of our supporting churches, in Aiken, SC. That week was certainly one of the most refreshing and encouraging times we've had since beginning the process of getting onto the mission field in October of 2008. Its only equal would be Cornerstone's Missions Conference in 2009, but Abby and I weren't able to attend that together. 

In my last post, I wrote "Abby and I will get to minister with the young married's class throughout the conference." But after being there, I'm not sure if that was the case or not. I certainly hope that we were able to minister to them, but I must say that it was they who were a ministry to us. We not only spent a good amount of time with them as a group, but also individually with several different couples within the class. And at the end of the week, they presented us with an enormous amount of gifts, ministry supplies, and financial support that help us for a long time to come! We can't thank them enough and are grateful to God for people like them who support and care for us.

We then returned to Mexico, this time with Abby's brother, Bradley. He is coming down here to work with us for several months because he believes that the Lord is also leading him to be a full-time missionary. It has been really neat already to see him seek the Lord's will and begin being involved in the ministry. He has a real heart for children and a desire to meet the needs of people around us in any way he can. I know that the Lord will use him in a mighty way. Please keep him in your prayers as you pray for us too, that he'll keep picking up the language and being able to impact others.

Just a side note: The Lord orchestrated one of His special "coincidences" in our lives on our trip back. This requires a lot more information and a little more waiting, but we will certainly share the amazing details of this unfolding story later.

The week we got back, we immediately had a group from Oklahoma come to work with us for a week. The group of about 10 people comprised a youth pastor, several teenagers, and another adult sponsor. We kept busy with doing village evangelism, gospel films, one-on-one witnessing, blowing up balloons, feeding children, and handing out tracts during the week. Then we took the last day to drive south, relax, visit a beach, and go snorkeling. It was a neat time to meet new people and see them involved in missions work. 

After the group left we had a few days to pack before our two-week trip to Chiapas. This trip had several purposes. 1. Vicki's spring break for Easter weekend gave us the perfect chance to drive to Chiapas to visit her grandparents (Devora's family) who live in Chiapas. 2. Knowing that Abby, Brad, and I are here to see Mexico and learn the needs of the different areas, Ricardo and Devora wanted to give us the grand tour of Mexico's poorest state so that we could conocer those places. 3. Salvador Chiñas, a.k.a."the Crazy Doc", of Oaxaca had been in Cancun and needed a ride back to his work area in Chiapas. 4. Several Mexican missionaries who live and work in Chiapas were holding a series of youth and children's meetings in various mountain villages, so we went along to give away backpacks filled with gifts. The trip was very long and at times very hard, but we were able to learn a lot along the way and see some beautiful sights, too. This trip also requires a lot more information that I'll leave for more in-depth individual posts.

So now we're back in Cancun, catching our breath and waiting for the next time to go-go-go! We never know when it will be...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Global Impact Celebration

This week we are thrilled to be writing from the States! We are sitting right now at Abby's house in Aiken, South Carolina, getting ready for Millbrook Baptist Church's "Global Impact Celebration" this weekend. We are really looking forward to spending time with our friends and family here as well as being able to meet and learn from other missionaries from all around the world. Abby and I will get to minister with the young married's class throughout the conference.

On Sunday, just before we flew out of Mexico Monday morning, the people of Cristo Te Ama threw an "on the spot" going away party for us, complete with Milky Way cake. We're only going to be away from them for 10 days, but this will give y'all in the States just a sense of the fellowship and community that is so present among the believers there. They are family, in the truest sense of the word.

Please be in prayer for us this week, that we would be able to minister to people this week, encourage fellow missionaries, and challenge people with God's call to serve Him around the world. God bless you all!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod Touch

Thursday, February 4, 2010

January Ministry Update

Dear Friends,                                                              31/1/2010
Hello from Mexico! It’s nice to finally be able to write you from the mission field to which the Lord has directed us. We absolutely love it down here! In this letter, we’d like to “introduce” you all to some of the people we have gotten to know around here as well as some of the opportunities we’ve had to minister.

Phil, Marianne, Matt, and Monette Chain – These are the missionaries who have been here for years running Mexico Missions, Inc. They have been a huge help to us in getting us settled, showing us around town, teaching us Spanish words we’ll need to use, and telling us the way things work around here. Phil was a youth pastor in Oklahoma years ago at Dennis Jernigan’s church before the Lord led him to the mission field. Marianne is one of the nicest ladies you could know. She is crucial in helping us find needs that we can meet for people. Matt and Monette are pretty much our best friends, even though we’ve only been with them a short while during their moves between Oklahoma and Mexico.

Ricardo and Devora – These are the people we are the most involved with. Ricardo is an amazing cook! They live here at the mission and are in charge of the building as well as the village feeding programs. Like Marianne, Devora is always looking for needs that we can help people meet. Ricardo grew up in a gang with a history of violence, but you would never know it to meet him today, as he is one of the kindest, hard-working, faithful men around. Devora is very out-going and high-spirited. She keeps things entertaining around here.

Martin and Minerva – Martin is the pastor of “Jesus Loves You Baptist Church”, where we have really been able to get involved with the people and their ministry. Martin went to seminary in Mexico City before coming out here to pastor the church. I believe he was also the church’s founding pastor. He has such a fun personality and is also a top scorer on our church soccer team.

Jorge and Selene – Jorge is the music leader at the church and also heads up some of the youth activities. Along with leading music, he is a passionate speaker for proclaiming the gospel. He has a great sense of humor and is always trying to trip us up with Spanish tongue-twisters and jokes. He’s also the goalkeeper on our soccer team. His wife Selene teaches English and sometimes helps us with our Spanish.

Venancio and Raquel – Venancio is crazy! That’s the only way to put it – He’s crazy for the Lord. Venancio is the Minister of Evangelism here at Mexico Missions. He lives to tell people about Jesus. The statement was made to me: “Unless you are able to shake Billy Graham’s hand, I don’t think you will ever shake the hand of anyone who has won more people to the Lord than Venancio.” For you people at Cornerstone, Venancio reminds us both of a Mexican Don Rice – that will give you a good idea of what he’s like! Venancio used to be a part of the Assembly of God, but was kicked out because he wanted to start churches from people’s homes, rather than putting up a building and then trying to bring people in. He told me, “Now I just preach to prepare people to meet Jesus, not to enter a denomination.” For example, we have been working with him on Isla Mujeres, where he has been trying to start a church in a tiny village on the south of the island. He has led one family to the Lord there and we now meet at their house on Tuesdays. There is another family nearby who is Catholic, and since they wouldn’t leave their house to come to the Bible study, we had the Bible study at their house! Venancio will do anything to tell people about Jesus.

Gabriel and Marta – Gabriel is a doctor who attends the church. His wife Marta teaches the women’s Bible study when we go into the villages. She also is a very passionate teacher and very clearly communicates the message of the gospel each time she speaks. Abby has really enjoyed spending some time with her and learning from her in the Bible studies.

Jose Luis and Hilda – These two are a very fun couple. They both speak a good bit of English, so Abby’s really been helped by spending time with them. It’s funny to be listening to someone and trying to understand their Spanish, when they suddenly say something in English! It really catches you by surprise!

We’ve been here for a little more than 3 weeks now and we feel right at home. The people here have welcomed us warmly and we love being involved in the ministry here with them. Here are a few highlights of the ministry opportunities we’ve had thus far.

• Isla Mujeres

I already told you a bit about this opportunity. It’s been neat to see how a new church is planted. It started before we got here with witnessing until at least one person, or couple, or in this case family accepted Christ. Now we are in the process of discipleship with them. Venancio explained on the first night we were there the importance of discipleship and following after Jesus with all of our hearts. We have a very basic Bible study book that we’re now going through with those people and trying to invite others in as well, so they can hear about Jesus, too.

• Victoria

Victoria is a small village about 100 km west of town. We go there every Saturday to do a feeding program for the village, as well as another small village nearby. We drive to the villages and pick up all the kids and adults we can pack into a van and suburban (about 50 typically) and bring them to a thatch-roofed building where we sing choruses, preach the gospel, and then split up into separate age groups. We always ask the people who came if they have a Bible and if they don’t, we will bring them one the next week. The men do a Bible study led by one of the church members. The ladies are taught the basic principles of salvation by Marta. Jorge teaches some of the teenage guys to play the guitar using praise choruses. Susi teaches the older children about the Bible, starting in Genesis 1 with creation. And a couple other ladies teach the little kids about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. While we are in classes, Ricardo and Devora and Abby make lunch for everyone, and then we eat and take them home. On some Saturdays we will have bags of clothes or shoes to give away, a doctor to come give free checkups, a hairstylist to give free haircuts, and of course we play a game of soccer with the kids on the basketball court.

• Film Evangelism

This is Venancio’s specialty! He knows hundreds of pastors with new church plants in the Yucatán peninsula. So we get with a church – any church – and schedule a night that we will meet in their village and show a gospel film with Venancio preaching afterwards. It’s a bit irritating sometimes because he will turn up the speakers absolutely as loud as they will go, but it’s only because he wants everyone that possibly can to hear it. Pray that people will continue to be reached and will respond to the call of God to salvation.

• Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama

I could put several more areas of ministry, but they would all be summed up by this church. The ministry at Victoria, in fact, is led by the people at Jesus Loves You. We have been asked to be involved in the music ministry at church as well as possibly doing some kind of teaching for the 10-14 year-olds. They have also asked if we could teach English classes so that they could bring in people from the surrounding areas and have the chance to witness to them as they study English. We have both been invited to men’s and women’s Bible study, Friday night prayer meetings, and soon we’ll be having special meetings with a group of Americans coming in February. The church is also involved with the Cancun Bible Institute and I’m hoping to be able to attend some of their classes coming up soon. As we have been observing, studying, and visiting different churches in the area, we have found that there is a lot of confusion here – doctrinal confusion. We have found Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons, along with all the different denominations that disagree about what day to have church, how and whom to baptize, who Jesus really is, speaking in tongues, healing, visions, and prophecy. In this way, Cancun is not much different from the United States. But while we are working with many different churches of different denominations, we are committed to the truth of the Word of God. The people in this area are very confused. And thus, we want to plug into a church where the Word is being preached. We want to minister with people who only teach and believe what the Bible says. We want to work with people who are committed to the Scriptures. And Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama has been a breath of fresh air for us. These people know the Bible, they teach it, and they live it. They are the ones reaching out in ministry to Victoria every Saturday. They visit homes every week and then give a type of “roll call” of the families they went to visit to see if they came to church. Typically, more than half of the families visited come to the church that week. Every Thursday night, they get together at the church and go visit people who are sick and can’t make it out of the house to come to church. Monday nights the men meet for Bible study and they stay around for hours fellowshipping and playing volleyball or soccer. On Sundays people will stay around after church and then eventually just start cooking food for everyone there. The women meet for Bible study on Wednesday nights. Some Friday nights, we have a prayer meeting from 8 PM – 12 PM. This church reminds me of the first-century church in Acts, when it says, “And they continued daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house… and daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

I have now heard ten different people from Cristo Te Ama, men and women, preach or teach a lesson. Every single one that I have heard has been completely accurate to the text of Scripture, passionate to communicate the message to the people they were teaching, and correctly applying the truths of the Bible to our lives. Pastor Martin is doing things right. He has been here working at this church with these people for 9 years, I believe. So while the process of discipleship, and passing on truth to people who will be able to teach others also, is no short task, they have got it right. These are the people we want to learn from. We are getting involved with this church because they are the only people we have found in this area who are rock-solid in their doctrine and practice. We thank the Lord for leading us to Cristo Te Ama and hope we can help and encourage them as much as they are us.

We’d also like to thank all of you at Cornerstone and Millbrook for your sacrificial giving to the Lord so that we can be here. Through you the Lord has provided for all of our physical needs down here. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on our needs and prayer requests so you can be involved in a very close way with us. Our prayer requests right now involve just getting settled down here. With the many ministry opportunities, we need wisdom in knowing which we can be involved in and which we should not be, so that we don’t overcrowd our schedule. We could also use prayer just for our bodies adjusting to life here. We’ve had a few sick days and upset stomachs from the food here and the weather adjustments. All in all though, we’re taken care of. We’re enjoying ourselves and just love being here!

God bless you all and please let us hear from you as well. If you have any prayer requests, we’d be happy to pray for them for you or if there is anything we can do for you, please let us know. As you probably know, you can keep up with us on our blog (http://stclairsinmissions.blogspot.com) and through Facebook. We love you all and will be praying for you!

In His Service,

Jonathan & Abby St.Clair

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Discipleship Begins

What a neat time of ministry we had with Venancio today! We drove to Puerto Juarez and took the ferry to Isla Mujeres. The island, which is about 9 kilometers off the coast, is 7 kilometers long and only 600 meters wide. But it also houses 17,500 people, of which maybe 1,000 claim to be Christians. We met up with a brother there who drives a taxi and he took us to a small village called La Guadalupana. As he dropped us off, he promised to return later and charged us no fare saying "This is God's Taxi. He pays all of my bills."

Venancio knew about 3 different families in the village, two of which were believers and one Catholic. It was too cold for us to show the Jesus film outside, so we invited several different families to a Bible study at one of the believers' homes. We visited the Catholic family for a good while, talking. Outside of this home was a miniature chapel - I suppose you would call it - made of concrete. Inside it were colored, blinking lights and beautiful decorations. It housed a statue of the Virgin Mary. The "chapel" was made of concrete, while the house comprised wood and corrugated metal. The "chapel" had fancy decorations and electricity, while the inside of the house was left in the dark. We couldn't even see the people we were talking to until one of the daughters finally brought in an old, battery-powered lantern.

Though I'm still trying to get my Spanish back in practice, I was able to catch most of the conversation and was a bit surprised, yet very encouraged, by what I heard. While Venancio was inviting them to Bible study he said, "I know 2009 was a bad year for us all, but we are expecting a better year in 2010." And the man of the house spoke up, I think arguing. "No, this year is not going to be better. All of humanity is dying. It is colder here than it has ever been. There are storms and natural disasters more than there have ever been. We are in a financial crisis. We are in a health crisis. We are in a violence crisis." It seemed to me like the perspective of a pessimistic old villager who is fed up with the world. I was waiting for Venancio to respond when the man continued. "And where is the church? What are they doing to help? Why do we have so many children starving in Africa and India, people dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, why don't they help them?" All of this is coming from a man who obviously is a devout Catholic, ensuring that the statue of Mary has a better lodging than his own family. "What is wrong with the Pope? He is supposed to be the representation of Christ on this earth, but he does not follow the steps of Jesus. He just sits there with his big, tall crown on, made of pure gold, while the poor people of the world starve. Jesus went to the poor. He helped them, talked to them, healed them, ate with them. If he is supposed to be the representation of Jesus, he is not doing his job!" So I finally spoke up. "But that's not his job. That's our job. That is our responsibility as Christians. Jesus said that we are supposed to be the light to the world. And that's why we're here today."

Please pray for this family. As I talked to Venancio later, he was as encouraged as I was. He said, "You see??? God is working in him, in his mind! He is preparing his heart." The family didn't come to Bible study, but pray that as we continue to work there, we will show them the true representation of Christ on this earth.

So we began the Bible study - the first one in this village. Along with Venancio, Abby, and me, we had four people - a lady, her 16/17 year-old daughter, her 11/12 year-old son, and the man whose house we were in. By the end of the service, three more people had joined us. We sang a few Spanish choruses (all back to back in the same key - mas o menos) and I played along on someone's old, out-of-tune guitar. Then we shared praises and things we were thankful for during this past year. After prayer, Venancio preached on Luke 13:6-9 and the parable of the fig tree. He did such a great job of explaining how we are called as Christians to bear fruit. He explained how Christ intercedes on our behalf to the Father, always wanting to give us one more chance, another opportunity. He explained how a life not spiritually cared for will not spiritually bear fruit. And from there he shared his goal for this Bible study to begin the process of discipleship. We handed out some very basic Bible study materials that we will be going through each week and assigned everyone the first chapter to read before our meeting next Tuesday or Thursday. Venancio explained the Great Commission to "make disciples" of all people and that today is the day that discipleship begins.

It was such a neat opportunity to be here at the very beginning of the growth process for these very new Christians and the start of the church body on Isla Mujeres.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Culture of Confusion

Two days is certainly not enough time to fully understand the culture of a city, so I will say that everything I write here is merely my initial perception of this region of Mexico. It seems that we are living now in a culture of confusion - religious confusion.

The city of Cancun itself is a mix of rich and poor, American and Mexican, healthy and hungry, tourist and native. It is a melting pot of people and cultures. In that way it is similar to many cities in the U.S. - New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit. But that same trend seems to be present in their religion. We are living and working with a non-denominational mission run by Baptist missionaries. Down our street to the east is a Presbyterian church. Across the street is a small Christian bookstore. Down our street to the west is a Baptist church. Across the street from there is a Pentecostal church. Beside the Baptist church is an Adventist church. And behind it is a large Catholic church. In town yesterday, we walked near another Catholic church and I went in. They were holding a service for the baptism of a young lady - maybe 16 or 17 - who had apparently converted to Catholicism. Catholicism here is so ingrained in this culture that many people here think to be Mexican is to be Catholic. Some Mexicans who have never set foot in a church will tell us that they are Christians. As I was standing outside the church, a woman approached me claiming to be a Jehovah's Witness and asking if I was as well. Thus, my initial perception of this area of Mexico is a culture of religious confusion.

However, there is at least one light shining brightly in this city (on our street, in fact!). Iglesia Bautista Cristo Te Ama, or Jesus Loves You Baptist Church, both knows and is preaching clearly the Word of God. This morning we visited this church of about 150 people with Ricardo and Devora, a dear couple that we are living and working with here. Pastor Martin Lemos was not afraid to speak out against the doctrinal errors being taught in the church right behind us! The message was a continuation of a series on salvation and focused today on Ephesians 2:8-10, how we are saved by faith alone and not by works of our own righteousness. The passage was preached along with James chapter 2 to show that while faith alone saves, good works prove the existence and validity of that faith. Examples were shown in Hebrews 11 of the great men and women of the faith whose good works accompanied their faith and proved it to be real. At the end of the sermon, Pastor Martin didn't simply close the service; he made the application very clear: "If you are one of those who say that you believe in Jesus, but you still go on living the same way you were before, your faith is dead. To believe in Jesus is not enough, for even the demons believe and tremble - James 2:19. Unless the faith you claim has changed the way you live, your faith is dead." I was so encouraged to hear a brother speaking the truth to his people - faithfully preaching the Word.

Other parts of the service included sharing prayer requests and praise reports, announcements, welcoming visitors (including us), singing hymns and choruses (led by the youth group), meeting and greeting the people, Bible reading and prayer. We will be back there for the evening service in about 4 hours and we're looking forward to getting to know these dear brothers and sisters better.

So as we minister, please pray that we will be able to keep doctrinal clarity in our preaching and be able to "speak the truth in love" to this very confused people.