Below is a travel journal that I kept. It is pretty long so if you plan to read it you may want to read it one travel day at a time. Enjoy!
January 5, 2008
Today has been a day of travel. We left this morning at 6:30 and things went smoothly. Unfortunately, I have carried a lot more baggage coming into this trip than what I packed in a suitcase. What I mean is that I am still emotionally drained from the difficult semester I just finished, the hectic pace of my holiday travels, and the everyday worries of finances and future. Therefore, my prayers today have been to ask God to calm my heart. Also, I have asked for forgiveness for the bad attitudes I have been carrying and my ungodly worrying.
I really want to be used by God to share the Gospel in Ciudad Acuña because peoples’ souls are at stake. But first I have to get over my own selfishness.
As the day’s travel progressed my attitude improved. Also, I began to think more of the team and our mission in Acuña. I also got excited a little about the prospect of seeing God work firsthand in people’s lives.
By the end of the day I also felt less lonely as I got to know more people on the team and began to feel like I am a part of something bigger than myself.
The day ended at Acuña with a bright week ahead.
Thank you, Lord, for allowing me the privilege of sharing the Gospel. Please help me to love You enough to obey You and to love others enough to share your truth with them. Please give me clarity and boldness tomorrow. Amen.
January 6, 2008
The day began at 6:00 for me. Although this is a little early for me, I felt refreshed after getting some sleep since the previous day was so tiresome from traveling. I read my Bible and was challenged by Genesis 7-8. Noah is protected from God’s judgment by the ark and in the same way we are protected by being covered by Jesus. I vowed to take this point and share Christ with others today.
Next, at 8:00, I went to Dr. Calvert’s devotional meeting. It was great because he used the story of David and Goliath to encourage us to go forth in the strength of the Lord.
Next, my group traveled to La Iglesia de la Roca (Church of the Rock) where we were to assist with Sunday morning evangelistic visitations. When we arrived at the church our team of 6 broke into 3 and 3. I was one of the three who stayed behind to help with the children during the normal Sunday service. To be honest, I would have rather gone out to share the Gospel but our leaders decided the groups based on language proficiency.
However, it was good to serve the church in this capacity. There were a lot of children and I know that our help allowed their parents to worship God and listen without distraction. Actually, we helped the pastor’s wife with the kids and she was really good. We played games and colored and learned Bible verses through simple activities like having the kids write “Fe es un regalo de Dios –Eph 2:8” (“Faith is a gift of God.”) At the end of the Sunday morning service the rest of our group returned and reported that 6 people had prayed to ask the Lord to save them! That really excited me. We had a good lunch and got to know some of the local pastors better. When we returned to the hotel, I used the time we had before the evening service to pray and play worship songs on the guitar. I wanted to make sure my heart was right before God because I had to help lead worship at the church that evening.
Later, when we did lead worship it was a great experience because I heard the congregation praising God in their own language. At times while I was playing the guitar I would sing out in Spanish. During the song “Cuan Grande es El” (“How Great Thou Art”), I sung the chorus with all my heart but I am not sure others heard me above their own hearty singing. It did not matter though because I was truly praising God—even in another language!
I am usually not very charismatic or emotional but this time I found myself saying things spontaneously like “Thank you, Jesus!” during the song. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit pealed back the hardness of my heart tonight long enough for me to see, hear and praise Him.
After we sang, Chris preached the Gospel and Nelson translated. Nelson did such a wonderful job in translating that I can not help but wonder if he was spiritually gifted to do so. There were no salvations tonight that I know of but God was glorified all the same. I look forward to tomorrow and to hitting the streets to tell others about the saving love of Jesus Christ.
Lord, please humble me and let me rely only on You. Amen.
January 7, 2008
Today began with Bible reading and personal prayer. I read about God’s promise to Noah in Genesis to never again destroy the world by water. I thought about the rainbow in the sky that God said was a sign of that covenant and I thought about how many rainbows I have seen in my life. God is so faithful! He never forgets. He keeps His promises. And yet I was reminded by this passage that a day of judgment is coming when God will judge everyone according to what they have done. Those who did not trust Jesus alone and His death on the cross as the payment for their sins will spend an eternity in Hell. I wanted this to motivate me to share the Gospel with people for the day.
Dr. Calvert lead a devotional time again this morning at 8:30 and this time he talked about putting on the full armor of God as mentioned in Ephesians 6. Also, Dr. Calvert talked about there not being gloves in God’s armor and made an analogy that we need to touch people’s lives and not be afraid to get our hands dirty with people who have messy lives (drugs, mistresses, alcohol, etc.) This was an encouragement to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone, including someone who we might consider a “moral leper”.
After the devotional time the group that I am a part of traveled to the church we are helping this week and we went door-to-door sharing the Gospel, handing out tracts, and talking with people. We walked around in some very poor and dirty neighborhoods near the church. Stray dogs roamed the bumpy, dirty streets.
However, from what I have seen of Ciudad Acuña, I am not sure that this neighborhood was any dirtier than others. To Americans like me, this kind of environment can evoke all sorts of emotions like sympathy, or even pride and disgust. More important than the environment though was that people—souls created in the image of God—lived there and needed the life-giving message of God.
I discovered that the people here in Acuña
I shared the Gospel with several people in broken Spanish. I shared the Gospel with one girl, who was about 14, and she said she agreed to all the facts that I had asked her about (“does she believe in God, Jesus, that she is a sinner, that Christ died for her sins...”)
However, when I asked her where she would go when she died (Heaven or Hell) she said “I don’t know”, then she timidly said “heaven?” I asked her why she thought she would go to heaven but she did not know a reason. So I shared with her again the Good News that although she was a sinner and therefore deserved hell from a righteous God, that God loved us so much He sent his Son to die on a cross and pay for her sins and if she trusted in Jesus alone she could be totally forgiven. I told her she needed to pray and ask for forgiveness and to trust Jesus alone.
At the beginning of our conversation she was a normal 14year old—bubbly, excited, and laughing. By this point she had changed enough to be quiet and misty-eyed. She said she understood now and wanted to pray. I was very touched and humbled that God would use me to share His Good News and change the life of this young girl.
We continued sharing with as many people in the neighborhood as we could. Later, I was rushed to a church (Nuevo Jerusalen) to help play worship songs. We were late and got lost on the way but arrived just as the service started and we were able to play. God is so awesome! One of our fellow missionaries preached and at the end of the service many in this small church came forward to pray and cry. I am not sure what each of them prayed for but it was evident that God was moving in people’s hearts. I am shocked to see how God is working here and I am hoping to have a revival in my heart as well so that my indifference and callousness towards the things of God is removed.
Lord, I am sorry that I have a let the trials and busyness of life close my eyes to loving others and You. Please forgive me. Amen.
January 8, 2008
Today is a great day! During the morning devotional time, Dr. Calvert talked about building up others with our speech (and tearing them down with negative speech). Our speech has such power in it. Ironically, with the same mouth that we praise God, we say curses.
At 10:00 this morning we returned to “la
However, our little group got separated early from the others and I ended up being the translator for our group. I did not think I would be able to be a translator before coming on the trip but God helped me today. In fact, some of the first people we met were three guys leaning on a truck. All three understood the Gospel and prayed. ¡Gloria a Dios! All I can say is that God uses our meager gifts for His glory.
For lunch we went to Sorianos (a store very much like Super Wal-Mart) and after eating in the deli we went out in the parking lot to share the Gospel with people there and at the bus stop. One of the guys there said he would come to church the following day. That made me excited because I will be preaching during that service. Later in the afternoon we went to the neighborhood around a local church (Iglesia Bautista Bet-El). Again I was the translator for my small group. Basically, the more small groups the team can break up into, then the more ground we can cover.
This time I had a lot more confidence in translating since God had blessed us so much earlier in the day with communication and salvations. I do not quite remember how many people we talked to in a short time but something like 4 or 6 people prayed to be saved.
The amazing thing is that I have been a Christian for almost 10 years. I have shared the Gospel many times but today is the first time I have ever led someone in a prayer of repentance and is was about 6-8 people. All I can say is that God is awesome.
Later that night at a church service we played music again. At one point during the service everyone was praying and crying out to God while Jacob and I sang. I looked over at Jacob while we were playing “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and tears were streaming down his face. God is at work in Mexico and I am so encouraged by this because it made me realize that God is moving not just here but when I return home to Texas (if I will only trust Him).
January 9, 2008
What can I say? Today was an answer to many prayers. This morning after getting out of bed and getting ready for the day, I sang a song as a prayer:
Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee
Take my Hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love
At the impulse of Thy love
I believe God answered this prayer. A group of about 8 of us went to share the Gospel in the neighborhoods near the church, Bet-El. I was struck by the contrast between the beauty of the landscape and the trash around the ramshackle, cinder block houses. Now that I think of it, it is an analogy for the beautiful, precious souls of the people who live here and the filthiness of their sins before a righteous God.
Today I did not have the privilege of leading someone in a prayer of repentance but I did have the privilege of sharing the Gospel many times. We would walk to houses, knock on doors, and engage people with the Gospel (at the very least we gave them tracts). We dodged a lot of dogs. Many people have guard dogs and not all of them are on chains! One man we spoke with was a solid Christian and that was encouraging. Two teenage boys listened carefully and intently to the Gospel but wanted to think further about it before surrendering to God. One man talked to us on the porch for a long time. He was very friendly and listened carefully to us. His wife is a Jehovah’s Witness but he is not. We have encountered quite a few Jehovah’s Witnesses here. It is sad to see so many people deceived by another Jesus (one who did not die on the cross but the archangel, Michael, did), and another gospel (of works). The sad reality is that no one is spiritually neutral. We are all created to worship but many have not turned to the true God, the God of the Bible.
We ate lunch and got some authentic Mexican food. The food here has been good but a little spicy and full of beans, which has been tough on my digestion.
After lunch my team went back to help La
At 6:00 we returned to the church for the Wednesday service. We played music for the service again tonight. Chris shared his testimony and I preached. God is so good because he allowed me to share the Gospel clearly through an interpreter which is hard to do. I preached from Mark chapter 2 about the paralytic and how our biggest need is to be forgiven, not healed. Also, Jesus has the authority to forgive sins but he came not for the righteous but the unrighteous. We must realize our position before Him and cry out to God. Many came forward to pray while Pastor Juan prayed over them. I am not sure if anyone got saved but the people were touched and wanted to pray before God. We played some songs in Spanish that I did not know but Pastor Juan sang and the whole place was clapping, smiling, and shouting out things like “Glory to God!” It was easy at the end of the day to thank God for the joy that I have in Him.
January 10, 2008
In devotional time this morning, Dr. Calvert talked about the mountain-top experience of Elijah against the prophets of Baal and how his great victory was followed by despair. Dr. Calvert talked about how this week is a mountaintop experience of sharing our faith but when we return to
Today a group of 15 of us guys went to a local prison. There are about 150 prisoners in this Mexican jail. We guys had to prepare ourselves spiritually and emotionally before we went into the jail.
A local pastor, Fernando, goes to this prison every Thursday and ministers to the prisoners. We went along with Fernando. He brought food for all the prisoners.
God was so good to us because many prisoners came into the courtyard to see what we had to say. We shared the Gospel through our testimonies, through magic tricks, and one guy named Brent used his amazing strength to rip up phone books and roll up a frying pan. All of these things were amazing demonstrations of how God can save us from our sins when we trust in His Son alone. We shared the Gospel in at least 20 different ways. I think many of them understood it. After the presentation, Nelson challenged the prisoners to step forward, put their trust in Jesus and be saved. “Who wants to come and pray?” he asked them. Eight people came forward and in front of all the other prisoners they gave their life to God. It was an amazing testimony of God’s power and I am so glad I got to be a part of it.
After lunch we went door-to-door in the neighborhoods to present the Gospel orally to as many people as possible or at the very least to get it in their hands through our written testimonies and tracts. We have been keeping track of how many people we are contacting, sharing the Gospel with, and seeing the Lord save. We do this in order to judge our team’s effectiveness in sharing the Gospel. Of course, salvation is a work of God and the fact that we are seeing hundreds profess Christ is not our doing—we are just the messengers. Much more goes on than just the numbers alone though. Hundreds, thousands, and even ten thousand tracts have gone out and I can not help but wonder if we will see bigger results than we expected when we reach Heaven. I came to this trip a discouraged and preoccupied person. Also, I was somewhat apathetic in ministry but God has revived me in this short time. He has shown me that He is big and at work in the world and He can use me. I am full of joy that God is using me as a messenger of His grace and I want to continue burning for Him when I return.
Lord, continue the fire You kindled in me and let me be Yours alone everyday. Amen.
January 11, 2008
Today was the last day of the mission in Acuña. Tomorrow we travel home. As a final push, we wanted to distribute all the tracts that we had left which was around 4,000. So instead of our morning devotion we went to a plaza downtown to catch people in the morning. We worked in small teams on both sides of a busy street and we gave a Gospel tract to everything that moved! We did it with a smile and a “God bless you.”
I discovered that if you hand out hundreds of Gospel tracts there will be a few people who will ask you what it is and have questions about the Gospel. These are people who God has prepared because they are asking us about how to be saved instead of us having to chase them and convince them of their need. For this reason, we presented the Gospel many times today as a team even though we had only planned to hand out tracts as quickly as we could. I know of several more people today who God saved through these Gospel encounters.
I am overwhelmed by God’s power this week. He has done more than I ever thought possible in our mission here. Everyday I have been stretched to share and do more than I thought I could do in sharing the Gospel. I am so encouraged by God’s faithfulness and I realize I need to trust Him more everyday and not just on a mission trip.
At the end of the day our whole mission team, all 30 of us, gathered at a local church building. We had a special time of praying, singing, and testifying to what the Lord has done this week in Acuña.
Is anything too difficult for God? No. That is part of the testimony of this week.
Thank you Lord for opening my eyes to Your power and Your work in salvation. Help to realize each week that Your kingdom is advancing and to labor for You while I still have time. Amen.
January 12, 2008
Today we got up early and spent the day in travel back to
Furthermore, I am just a messenger. I am called to be faithful in sharing the Gospel. How people respond to the message is not in my hands.
I am thankful to God that He allowed me to see in a week what mighty things He can do to change lives. I vow to believe Him to be able to do more than I expect even in this cynical and jaded generation.