Misfortune and Milestones

Good morning everyone,
     I hope you all are doing well. Thank you for praying for the work here in Chile. Unfortunately I have a herniated disc in my  back, and several other issues. The herniated disc is the most serious. And I may have to have surgery, although we are praying for an effective outpatient alternative.
      As a result, I had to spend a lot of time in bed and used what time I was on my feet to focus on ministry instead of school. I WILL ALWAYS CHOOSE MINISTRY OVER SCHOOL WHEN THE CHOICE MUST BE MADE. Now I am behind on one of my classes and will not be able to catch up. I plan to find out if it is possible to move the class to the next semester. More info on that as it develops.
     The good news, FINALLY… I was invited to preach at a church on the north side of town yesterday. What is exciting about this preaching experience is that the pastor let me pick my own topic and so for the first time I DID, EXACTLY, WHAT I CAME TO CHILE TO DO… I taught the people of Chile what I have been learning about in school. This was a milestone, because for the first time God brought me to practical application of my long-term life goal!! 🙂
     Please praise God in celebration with me. This was especially exciting because the church we visited was one of the larger ones of Chile, therefore more people were affected by the message. And better yet, the pastor invited me back to preach whenever I want, and is giving permission to LET ME PICK the topic of the message.
     Being able to pick my own themes, means that I can simply teach on whatever I am learning about in school, and I don’t have to work so hard to prepare. It’s also exciting to apply something learned from Jack Swanson, that when you have to give multiple messages at the same time, preach on the same topic. By the time you get to the last audience, your more practiced at giving the message. Though you may change the topic here and there to better communicate to your audience, the overall pattern is that you are reaching more people with less time, which in turn gives you more time to reach more people. 🙂
     So, that is what I did starting out with the same message last Saturday night at the youth meeting for the Iglesia de Cristo on Capitan Thompson Street. Everyone was more attentive than usual, but next week, and as time goes on, we’ll be trying to make the meetings more interactive. It’s just taking some time to find a healthy balance. 🙂 Please pray for progress in this area.
    So, how did I go from “bed-ridden” to “doing more” if the back problem is more serious than initially supposed? Once we had a better idea of the diagnosis, I purchased a back brace that helps me stay straight when moving around. Hopefully I’ll be referred to a specialist today to get a better idea of what’s really going on.
     It feels like there were a lot of “I”‘s in this letter, so it seems appropriate to give some honor to the One who can use all of the good and the bad for His glory. He will get us through the hard times and He is the One who blesses us with the good times.
     Todd/Toni

September – Pray for God’s Providence

The two ministries for this semester have both started, along with the long-term relationships that continue to grow.

English Outreach with Oasis: is in it’s second month of the second semester of the year. Betsabé, Pedro, and I have been attending and apart from the English outreach itself, the others and I get to spend time together on the hour or so trip to and from the event. Pedro, his mother and I had dinner the other night as well and always have good and challenging conversation about The Bible.

Iglesia de Cristo (on Capitan Thompson Street) Youth Gatherings: Two Saturdays ago we met for the first time in the side-room of the church one block or so away from where I live. Most attendees of the church live within a three block radius. The first week Daniela and I’s attendance expectations were surpassed by 33.3% as four young people showed up in stead of three. That is not said to make light of the situation. We are very thankful that God helped us minister to more people. This is only for communicating our realistic goals and the typical attendance situation as has been occurring at for the youth gatherings. Last Saturday two showed up, Betsabé (the pastors daughter) and Silvana (a special needs adult). But even though only two came, we still had a great study on what The Bible says about substance abuse, a theme the young people elected the preceding Saturday. Betsabé and I had spiritually impactful conversation and it was rewarding to include Silvana in the discussion as well. 🙂 She is very sweet.

Praying in Community (a cultural topic?): At the end of the first youth gathering I suggested that we always close with a time of prayer for one another. The youth were confused when I asked who wanted to pray, asking why we couldn’t all just pray at once for each other. After politely expressing my view that it is pointless for us to pray in community if we are not going to listen to each other, we began to pray for one an other one by one. One of the young persons seemed to be apprehensive of praying aloud for others to hear and agree with him in mind before God. Although this youth is one of the most active in the church, he quickly evacuated the gathering in the middle of the prayer before it was his turn to pray.

After speaking with Dani and others it appears that engaging people’s minds in prayer and study of Scripture is not a priority in Chilean Christian culture. One Chilean said, “People just go to church and say, ‘amen!’ without having to think about what the pastor, or minister, is saying”. So it makes sense that the thought of praying in community and sharing your thoughts, and way, of speaking to God with others might be daunting.

Logical Next Step: These first few weeks have been essential in discerning those young people of whom their relative say to be members of the church from those who actually want to come and participate on their own accord. At this point we have a better idea of the situation. The plan is to engage more young people in the community with the teachings of Scripture beginning by seeking out those who have a link to the church, but do not necessarily attend.

The Biblical example seems to put high priority on taking time to form relationships with people one day, and step, at a time, and praying for their spiritual growth. Therefore the best thing to do seems to be to pray for God’s help, and to seek out the youth who do not attend even though their families may like them to, and to spend time with them playing fútbol (soccer) or whatever they like to do. The blessing is that Betsabé is interested in learning, so as people do begin to come, we will have a healthy model for a Bible study already taking place.

Overcoming Obstacles: Unfortunately, there has been something wrong with my back for a few weeks that makes it hard to walk around. At times it’s nearly impossible to walk. I saw the doctor yesterday and we are hoping for improvement over the next week. We’re hoping that there is no chronic issue as a result of a long medical history.  So as a result, I plan to use social media to reach out to youth in the community during the week until I can get mobile again.

Prayer:

  • Please pray for God to bless the youth ministry on Capitan Thompson Street.
  • Dani was involved in a cell-phone-robbery (extremely common in Chile) in a pharmacy. They were not violent with her, but were with some of the others and guards. She is still a little shooken up. Please pray for comfort and peace.
  • Please pray for God to bless my recovery.
  • Pray that God would provide good outcomes for reaching out to youth through social media this week, and reaching out to them in whatever way God provides during the rest of the month.
  • Thank God that Irma didn’t end up hitting Florida as hard as we thought it would.

Don’t forget to check out the new home page and other places on the cite! 🙂