John and Deborah serve as Regional Project Managers for Latin America/Caribbean with Builders International/MAPS Construction. Every 45 minutes a new Assemblies of God church is planted around the world, that is over 11,000 churches per year! As Project Managers, they assist in the building of Bible schools, churches and training facilities that help meet the needs of this rapid church growth. They serve in the areas of project management, team leading, and development of training facilities that will carry the Gospel to the nations. The Sims have served over 19 years as missionaries to Latin America in church planting, evangelism and building, giving them a wealth of knowledge and experience to help facilitate reaching the lost.
The hallways were empty and silent on the campus of Continental Theological Seminary (CTS). The Coronavirus had invaded Belgium like the rest of Europe. Suddenly in one day everything had changed.
It had been such a fantastic school year for the CTS students. Now the future was bleak and full of uncertainty. It was heart wrenching as the staff watched the students pack their bags and prepare to return to their homes and families.
At the peak of Covid-19, it was estimated up to 600 people a day were dying in Belgium. Like every other school and business in Belgium…and across the globe, CTS would have to close their doors too.
The CTS President, Dr. Joseph Dimitrov, explained how in moments of a trial like COVID-19, your dreams are tested and it is easy to question the plans God has given you. Discouragement can take over as the trial seems to dictate the circumstances.
Dr. Dimitrov continued by saying, “I have never doubted about the faithfulness of God to CTS as we went through this coronavirus period.
James 1:2-3 says, ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kindsbecause you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.’
The Coronavirus was one of those trials. We learned new virtues of endurance and patience.”
What was Loss, Now was Gain.
Education in Europe is taught in a more traditional way in classrooms. During the time of the pandemic, the staff was given new tools and developed skills for teaching online. Three months later, every student passed their final exam after participating in these online courses! The graduating class of 2020 will have its commencement service on October 3! The new school year will begin in October, as well, with two first-time students from Greece and Honduras.
The school faculty and student body stayed connected, sharing testimonies of the goodness of God in challenging situations. Now, at Continental Theological Seminary they are redreaming the dream.
What was considered as a loss in the beginning, now is considered gain!
The Construction Phase Is Happening.
The architectural and engineering plans are completed on the Continental Theological Seminary expansion for the Pentecostal Center. Now begins the Construction Phase for the new dormitory, cafeteria, and administration offices. The Pentecostal Center will prepare students to reach the post-Christian culture with the good news of Jesus!
I’ll leave you with a powerful thought Dr. Dimitrov shared:
“Tell me what your God is like and I will tell you what your trust should be!”
In a time when the world seems to have stood still, unexpectedly, some things moved forward. Just when we thought all was lost, the opposite happened. Our projects with Builders International continued to moved forward. Thanks to generous donors, committed missionary partners, team leaders, and God’s help, the work has continued to grow. Plans are being made to build the very first church of the Hope for Uruguay 100 initiative…CHURCH #1 of 100!
Our goal with Builders International is to help build 100 churches in 10 years throughout Uruguay, which is known as one of the most unevangelized nations in the Americas.
“Hope for Uruguay 100 will bring hope to communities across this secular nation ravaged by drugs and alcohol, legalized abortion, and prostitution. It will provide permanent buildings for established, growing congregations.
A building adds immense value to a new congregation. It provides a central place within the community for evangelism, discipleship, worship, and fellowship. Needs are met, lives are changed, and families are transformed. A new building also gives the pastor credibility within the community.”
– Builders International
Meet Pastor Marcelo and his wife Virginia!
Marcelo grew up with eight siblings and a father who was an alcoholic. Chaos, violence, depression, and financial insecurity constantly surrounded his family. Marcelo was always looking for places to go to escape his home.
He lived down the road from an Assemblies of God church. One Saturday evening, as he wandered off from home, he decided to go to the church. That night he attended the children’s service. The children’s ministry workers displayed a genuine love and concern for him he had never before experienced. This impacted Marcelo, influencing him to go back week after week, until finally he gave his heart to Jesus!
Many years later, Marcelo had the opportunity to lead his father to Christ…just days before his father passed away!
While serving in their local church, he and his wife, Virginia, sensed the call of God to pastoral ministry. They began to prepare through Bible school training in the evenings.
Twelve years later, Marcelo and Virginia pastor a church in the Barrio Flor de Maroñas community of Montevideo, Uruguay. Their church currently meets in a tent, as they await their new building.
Most every night of the week you’ll find one of the church groups meeting in the tent, whether it’s children, youth, women, men, or everyone together! They meet rain or shine, cold or hot, week in and week out, under the tent on their property. No matter what the temperature is outside, their main concern is the salvation of those in their community!
Plans for CHURCH #1 (in Barrio Flor de Maroñas) have begun!
“The plan is for the construction of this church building to be finished by the end of September, so this growing congregation can continue sharing the Gospel with more people in their community.
The first four projects of Hope for Uruguay 100 have already been determined. Each church already has a congregation meeting in a temporary location and a trained pastor. The properties have been purchased and they are ready for construction with the goal of all four buildings being erected by the end of the year.”
– Builders International
The Victories for the first 4 churches in Uruguay!
A pastor trained and a congregation formed.
Property purchased in the name of the Uruguayan General Council of the Assemblies of God.
Building design completed.
Building permit received
To be a part of building the very first church of the Hope for Uruguay 100 initiative, contact:
Adrift on the deep lake and surrounded by cliffs, I couldn’t help but question the decision I’d made to get into the boat with my family. With every passing moment the lake was getting rougher and rougher! There was no place to go except into the steep ledges. With no life jackets on board, the tension was rising. We now found ourselves in a life threatening situation!
It was a holiday and we had spent the last two days with another missionary family from the church at Lake Atitlan. The beautiful lake was formed in a volcanic crater, expanding 50.2 square miles, with a surface elevation of 5,125 feet, and reaching a depth of over 1,120
In the early morning hours the lake had been peaceful, as I’d watched the sunrise from the dock. Then it was time to go. We gathered our things and headed for the dock only to discover the only water taxis (alancha) crossing the lake were departing from a town called San Marcos. We’d heard rumors of dangerous drug trafficking in that area. This meant we were in for a long day of zig-zagging across the lake to get to our destination.
Once we arrived in San Marcos we found someone with a boat willing to transport us. We boarded the boat only to learn we had another two hours of waiting before departure. Time was of the essence. No one wanted to be traveling at night. It didn’t take long to realize this was going to be an all-day affair.
Out came the peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Everyone in our group was hungry, so we figured the next best thing to calm the moods and stop the hunger pains was to introduce the famous Fluffanutter Sandwich. Before we left the states, my father had insisted we take marshmallow fluff and peanut butter with us as a trusty survival staple in a hard pinch. This time we were grateful to have it.
Finally the time came for departure. We were relieved to be leaving San Macros and on our way to Panajachel on the other side of the lake, where we could continue traveling to our final destination. We settled in for the 30-minute ride across the lake.
We all began laughing and reminiscing about the great weekend getaway, when suddenly, halfway across the lake the winds picked up and the waves became increasingly choppy. I could see the anxiety on everyone’s faces. John and I assured them all it would be okay; but I knew we needed to keep moving.
Then it happened! The engine made a choking sound, accompanied with a strong smell of fuel, and followed by a black cloud of smoke rolling out from beneath the boat. We stopped dead in the water!
We were adrift! I looked to the shoreline for a place of safety. There was nothing to be found, only sharp cliffs rising abruptly from the water’s edge. The water was cold and dark with an eerie, bottomless feeling. I knew that, if we slammed into the cliffs the heavy steel boat would sink like a rock. We all began to pray. I tried to calculate who could save whom. Not everyone on the boat could swim. There were ten of us altogether. A missionary widow, her two teenagers, a two-year-old, my two sons, my husband John, the captain, and his assistant. The boat became a breach in the waves, causing a loss of control over it.
The captain ordered his assistant to go below to the engine room. We heard loud noises as he repeatedly hit the engine with a tool. The boat chugged and sputtered, but only produced more smoke. The captain called for him to return to the bow of the boat and take the wheel. The captain made his desperate attempt to fix the engine, but again no power was produced. With every minute, the ledges drew closer and panic was taking over among the group.
I suddenly heard singing! Unbeknownst to the rest of us, the Lord had spoken to John to go to the front of the boat and talk with the captain’s assistant. After introductions were made, John discovered the captain’s assistant was a Christian and the choir leader in his church. John asked him, “What is your favorite song?” He immediately began to sing with great passion and John joined him in singing!
At that very moment, the captain called out from below, “Start the boat!” The motor chugged and we moved forward. As long as they continued to sing, the engine continued to run, propelling the boat forward.
After an hour of singing, their voices were exhausted. They stopped for a moment’s rest, when to their surprise, the boat abruptly stalled again. John realized in order to keep the boat going, they needed to continue singing. We slowly crossed the perilous lake to Panajachel, singing all the way. By the time we arrived, the 30-minute water taxi ride had taken over two hours of singing praises to the Lord.
In 1914, Ernest Henry Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica with a crew of 28 men in an attempt to reach the South Pole. The last 800 miles, he sailed a 16-days’ journey with five men in a small whaleboat. He navigated across the open ocean through terrifying conditions and circumstances with dead reckoning. (Dead reckoning is a navigation technique based on mathematical calculations of time, speed, distance, and direction. These measurements are taken with a tool called a sextant.)
Adrift on Lake Atitlan, our song (the sextant) was the measure of our faith. And obedience to worship released a miracle that propelled us forward to the safety of the shore with dead reckoning. We sang with full hearts, praising God for His goodness.
2 Chronicles 20: 21-22a, “And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever. And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments . . .”
Life can challenge us in ways that cause us to lose our direction. How do we navigate with dead reckoning? I have found in those times the Holy Spirit can guide us when we exercise our faith, making our hearts glad with songs of praise! What seemingly looks impossible can change in that moment of faith.
Act 16:25-26, “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.”
Together we build HOPE,
*(This took place in 1998, while we were serving as missionaries to the country on Guatemala.)
I passed by the prison cell laden with stone and iron. The heaviness of the atmosphere seemed palpable to me. The night before we arrived I laid in bed wide-awake and pondered, “How would I tell these men God had delivered me from men just like them?” My stomach churned with nerves. They were murderers, rapists, and thieves, much like the men who had robbed us just weeks earlier. I needed peace. “Didn’t they deserve to hear about the love of God? But, what if they felt judged by me? And, how would I overcome intimidation and find the courage needed?” I tried to piece together words that would bear hope.
I was grateful for our team. Our interpreter and his wife were experienced in these things and seemed to be confident in the plan. They had invited John and me to share our terrifying encounter and rescue in this country of Guatemala.
The old Catholic convent now served as a prison for men, isolating them from society. Once we arrived, we were searched and given permission to enter. The thick stone walls and iron bars made for cold and lonely surroundings. There was nothing in the way of furniture nor personal belongings, except for soccer balls in the courtyard. My thoughts from the night before continued to weigh heavily on my heart.
We entered the courtyard where the games had begun. I was nervous. Quickly we were escorted into a room where a group of men stood waiting to hear what we had to say. I wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?” After introductions were made, it was my turn to speak. Suddenly, compassion overcame me. It did not seem important why I was there, but what God was doing.
In the next few minutes, I shared John’s and my story of the highway robbery and the men who had attacked us. Silence fell over the group. As I dared to look in their eyes, I could see pain. Tears ran down their cheeks as I continued to share how God had rescued us from an impossible situation. If I could only help them to understand how much God loved them. At that moment, I was reminded of our primary purpose as believers; and my reason for being at the prison was clear. It was not to tell my story, but rather to be a manifestation of God’s love. For we had also received freely the forgiving love of God.
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 1John 3:1
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1John 3:16
It was hard to say good-bye. We prayed with the men and as we left they were kind and showed their gratitude. One young man had caught our attention. He stood out because of a serious, debilitating injury to his eye. His name was Pedro. It wouldn’t be until months later that we would come to realize the full magnitude of what God was doing that day in Pedro’s life.
The evangelistic crusade would be held in a three-top circus tent with capacity for 1500 people. People gathered out of curiosity to watch the enormous tent go up. The local soccer field near the busy food market was the perfect place. It took weeks of preparation and prayer. Daily announcements were made on a loudspeaker inviting people to the crusade.
At the end of the week-long crusade, Pedro walked into the back of the tent. We couldn’t believe it! We greeted him with excitement! He explained how he’d just been released from prison. While in the courtyard of the prison he had heard the announcements on the loudspeaker coming from the street. The crusade was the first place he had decided he wanted to go. He had remembered our visit to the prison and wanted to know this God we had talked about. Set free from prison in one moment and from his past in the next, all in that same day! He became a new and changed man when introduced to the love of God.
Pedro attended a training center where he learned more about God’s love. When he returned to his village at the foothills of a volcano, he was not the same man he had once been. Pedro decided to serve in his local church introducing others to the same love and forgiveness that had set him free.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16
It is not only what God does in us, but it’s what He does through us. During this time of COVID-19, I am reminded of the opportunities we have to introduce people to God’s love. Instead of being consumed with fear, judgments, and intimidation, let’s do the opposite and use every opportunity we’ve been given to share the love of God with people just like Pedro!
Nate burst through the front door frantically yelling for us. Just minutes ago he had left the safety of our home and stepped onto the cobblestone streets, locking the large, gated door behind him. Off he had gone to buy a loaf of bread at the nearby tienda with the last of our Quetzales💰. He was only 12-years-old. I had watched him go, then headed to the rooftop to pray with John.
The rooftop patio was covered with beautiful, dark-pink Bougainvillea. You could see Agua, the silent and peaceful, majestic volcano rising 10,000 feet over the city. It was inspiring. I listened to the sounds in the street and could smell the tortillas cooking, as we began to walk and pray.
We were broke. What should we do? Only weeks earlier, while entering the country of Guatemala as missionaries, we had lost almost everything we owned in a highway robbery. Our supplies and money were gone. Should we stay in this country, or should we go home? How would we sustain ourselves, pay our rent, feed our family? We had limited communication with friends and family. We felt stuck.
Everything was still so fresh in our hearts. Our passion for the Lord and the people had continued to grow since the robbery. We had no desire to return home; but how could we possibly stay? One thing had changed. We were determined now more than ever to know what God wanted us to do before making any decision. We were willing to follow His plan more than our own. For if there is one thing we had learned, He was a God of miracles. He could provide in a situation that seemed impossible.
Out of breath and covered with sweat, Nate started to tell us what had just happened. He had purchased the bread and started home when he was stopped by an old man pushing a wheelbarrow full of firewood. Nate further explained, “He tried to say something to me, but I told him, ‘no hablo espanol’ (I do not speak Spanish). But he kept speaking more Spanish to me!” Nate continued to tell us how the man had pulled out a bundle of money and gave him some Quetzales 💰💰💰. The old man then patted him on the back and went on his way. Nate pondered aloud, “I wish I’d had a tract to give him. I wonder what he was trying to say to me.”
How could this be? We had just prayed, asking the Lord to increase our faith, and to give us an understanding of what he wanted us to do.
The old man’s gift of a few Quetzales 💰💰💰, with such little value, suddenly gave great value to our faith! In a country where robbery is a common daily event, this was nothing short of a miracle! We thought, “If God could hear and answer us so quickly, He could do anything.” Our faith grew! “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.”Luke 17:5 We began to pray fervently over the next several weeks.
We planned to do an outreach in a town called Sumpango on November 1st, the Day of the Dead. During the All Saints Day Giant Kite Festival, hundreds would gather on this holiday to watch the 30-foot kites, built from crêpe paper, take flight over Sumpango in celebration of their dead.
We started with live worship on the edge of the road, near the cemetery. Testimonies were given by the Master’s Commission students, and the Heart Of Man preached. Afterwards, we prayed for several people to accept Christ as Savior. One young man came out of the cemetery, drunk; but he was instantly set free from alcoholism when the local pastor and John prayed for him.
At the end the outreach, we formed a line to pass out tracts to those traveling on the road to the festival. We were also warned by our fellow missionaries to be careful; for it was a day when there was a high risk of being robbed. As the crowds proceeded up the road, a man passed us and slipped something into John’s pocket. It was money! 💰💰💰 This was the second time our faith was increased! God was still listening!
ON CHRISTMAS EVE 🎄🎄🎄 there was a knock on our door! There stood a missionary friend with a fax in his hand. News had arrived! Our financial needs had been completely met through generous givers in the states, people unaware of our circumstances!
When I look at this picture, I am compelled to move forward; but, at the same time, I am hesitant and frightened by what appears to be risky. Many times it’s that way with our faith. In our love for God and desire to follow him, He leads us on a path and in a direction that appear to have risk.
Our journey often begins with excitement! We trek through the jungle of life with faith-filled expectations of what God has in store for us. Then we encounter “the challenge.” That’s when the doubts hit, and the “what ifs” flood our minds, confusing our hearts. Did I take the right path, make the right decisions? It wasn’t suppose to happen this way. Has God left me? But, faith does not produce the risk.
Faith is what connects us to God’s promises when we are faced with an unexpected challenge that appears risky.
I have learned . . . He is always faithful to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 I’ve resolved to live as the writer of Proverbs reminds us to,“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-7
I am reminded . . . misplaced trust can lead to disaster. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalms 20:7
In 2 Chronicles 16:9, Hanani the seer came to King Asa of Judah and rebuked him for relying on the king of Syria instead of relying on God. “The Lord’s eyes keep on roaming throughout the earth, looking for those whose hearts completely belong to him, so that he may strongly support them.”
As I maneuver through life in the face of things that challenge me, I take the opportunity to spend time in His presence listening. It’s much easier to exercise faith when your focus is on Him! He provides the answers and the miracles!
Paul writes, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:4-6