Freed From Prison, Freed From His Past!

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!

Together, we build HOPE!

Deborah Sims

A Rooftop Prayer! Small Things Turned To Big Things!

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.

Wooden hanging bridge in a trekking route to Annapurna Base Camp

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

Together, we build HOPE!

Deborah Sims

My Heart 4 CUBA!

Of all of the countries in Latin America that I’ve had the privilege to work in, Cuba has in my heart a special and unique draw. In this world there are many challenges that can stretch us to our limits. In Cuba, though, I’ve experienced a perseverant and giving people who are genuine in their passion for God. It’s absolutely amazing and refreshing to your spirit to be around these wonderful people.

Panoramic view of Havana, the capital of Cuba

The Team . . .

This last team I had the privilege of hosting from JRC were both veterans and a few newbies, who all did an awesome job. Our team slogan for the whole trip was, “We move as one!” We also suffered as one, due to a virus of some sort that infected us. The local tonic of the day was “Onion Oil” and I’m not sure it made it worse or became the remedy. In spite of the circumstances, everyday the team was prepared to work and serve. A hundred pairs of new shoes were carried and given, tools for the job delivered, worship instrumentals were played, and testimonies shared. Everyone gave 100% and in return were blessed immensely by the loving Cuban people.


The Church . . .

The construction project at the church in Manzanillo is strategic to the area. The Pastor and congregation take seriously the responsibility God has given them to encourage and build up other surrounding churches. The special women’s ministry is another key part of growth in this area.

In a women’s meeting and several other services, we were given ample opportunity to encourage, pray, share, and minister. The team and I were excited to be a part of what God was doing. Some were saved and others experienced healing in their bodies.


The Project . . .

Altogether, in my estimation, the work in the church is half finished. To complete the building there is a need for several more teams willing to go and at least $80,000 in project funds to be donated. I join with the church in their excitement and hope in seeing the completion of this building.


DIOS BENDIGA a CUBA!

Together we build HOPE! John Sims

HOPE FOR URUGUAY

Uruguay is one of the most stable countries economically and politically in Latin America, yet one of the hardest to reach with the gospel. It is the only atheistic country in the Americas and the only country in the world to have legalized abortion, same sex marriage, prostitution and marijuana. It has been called the most unevangelized nation in the Americas and the “Graveyard of Latin American Missions.” – Steve and Jill McCarthy, Missionaries to Uruguay

Continue reading “HOPE FOR URUGUAY”

HOPE Along The Amazon!

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THE LOWER AMAZON RIVER . . . When I hear the stories told by teams returning from the Amazon, I am amazed at what is being accomplished along the banks of this enormous river. Many of you may have heard of the movie that captures the majesty of the Montana wilderness called, A River Runs Through It. While the lower Amazon River does not display such beauty, it has an amazing uniqueness of its own. Outside of Manaus, the Rio Negro  and Rio Solimoes converge forming the lower Amazon. Along its banks are villages full of families, linked to 300 unreached ethnic tribes nestled deep in the dense jungles. The river people make their home on the riverbanks like in the photo above.

The teams going join missionary Mark Lemos and board the blue vessel (river boat) in route to the villages along the riverbanks. They’re ready to work and build churches that will help village pastors reach further into the jungle. The teams are equipped with water filters, building supplies, medical, and most of all ready to share the love of Christ.

“The spiritual rivers run dark among people unaware of God’s grace. But as the stream of God’s workers flows into the region, there will be a meeting of the waters.” – Andy Raatz

Check out this video of the journey into the Amazon! https://vimeo.com/313546141

At Builders International we believe everyone deserves a place to find HOPE. The Amazon river is a place where we are striving to bring that HOPE, where there is sickness, violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, murder and suicide.

There are more projects bringing HOPE through the construction ministry with the help of  many appreciated volunteers and donors. It is our joy and privileged to be a part of this work and effort.

And you can be too!

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