When your heart is consumed with a passion for missions, it can be frustrating when confronted with closed borders. With restrictions on travel it can seem nearly impossible to continue your missions work…or is it? This was how we felt at the beginning of March this year.
What do you do when faced with a global pandemic?
Builders International construction teams missions trips are a vital part to the work. Not only are the lives of team members impacted, but the work itself is advanced for our missionary and national partners building places where people find hope!
With borders closed our projects no longer had the huge resource of teams, which brings physical labor, as well as project funding for construction materials.
The Answer to the Dilemma.
This is where the strength of our amazing network pulls together. In the middle of this global pandemic, churches have continued to send the construction funds needed, so materials could still be purchased and local labor hired. Our missionary and national church partners have been able to keep the work moving forward.
Because of this, great things are taking place this month!
Often I am reminded of the missionary work of Andrew van der Bijl, also known as Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors. During the Cold War, he traveled to the Soviet Union in a Volkswagen Beetle to encourage Christians who were living under great persecution. He smuggled Bibles into communist countries, earning him the name, Gods Smuggler.
If we have no eye for the lost around us, how can we then ever have God’s love for the people far away?
Because no one ever becomes a missionary by crossing the ocean. You are a missionary here or you’re not a missionary.
– Brother Andrew
We are very thankful to be a part of the Builders team and to all who have partnered together with us to bring HOPE to communities around the world, by assisting the national church with their construction needs.
I have committed in my heart, whether here or across the ocean, to share the love of God daily with those around me.
And together, we will build places where people find hope!
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:
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