As cold waters to a thirsty soul,
So is good news from a distant land.
Proverbs 25:25

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, . . . "Your God reigns!"
Isaiah 52:7
good news from a distant land (all posts)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

April 2017 Report

Greetings from Montevideo! Thank you for your partnership in so many ways. The past three months have been some of the most intense since our arrival in Uruguay. We rely on your prayers. We appreciate you.

Campamento Emanuel and Misión Evangélica del Uruguay (MEU). This year’s camp theme was the Scriptures, taught and applied in different ways to age-oriented camps. During the adolescentes and jóvenes camps, JM taught basic Bible study steps, and we repeated this theme as our family worked again with the children who attended the MEU workers’ conference with their parents. MEU pastors have also been studying principles of interpretation and recently asked JM to teach grammar for Bible study in their twice-per-month meetings. Several students and pastors are showing interest in learning to analyze, phrase by phrase, passages of Scripture through an online program that JM enjoys. We have requested prayer in the past for this kind of commitment. It is appropriate to conclude that God is answering your prayers! Personally, we have also grown more and more excited about tracing the argument of Scripture. Please pray that we would humbly respond to God’s way of thinking.

Facultad de Estudios Bíblicos del Uruguay (FEBU) (College of Biblical Studies of Uruguay). In early March, D finished a six-week course toward the MEd in Teaching & Learning, which is already helping in the developing college program. We both hope to graduate in 2020. FEBU’s first semester classes began March 6, once again with approximately 27 students, 9 of these full-time. D and JM are teaching Research and Argumentation; JM is teaching Church Music and preparing to teach Hermeneutics and Apologetics.

In a recent video call with one of our partner churches someone asked what our weekly schedule looks like. On Sunday we continue to help Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha in Pando. (We’re encouraged, overall, with steps that some of the teens and young adults are taking. Please continue to pray for the growth of this church and for the Lord’s provision in His time of a Uruguayan pastor.) Monday through Friday our mornings tend to be dedicated to study and class preparation, bookended by JM’s taking the kids to school and picking them up. (The schedule this year is much easier now that both E and DJ are in the same school and on the same schedule.) FEBU continues to use the MEU library (downstairs from our living area) for classroom space; both FEBU and the MEU Bible institute have classes two doors down in facilities managed by Iglesia Templo Calvario. This usually means—Monday through Friday—that students begin arriving mid-afternoon to study and socialize before evening classes. Afternoons and evenings are punctuated by details related to classes, students, and teachers. The blessings of these opportunities—unexpected and in some ways unsought—so far have outweighed the inherent challenges of the living situation. Please continue to pray concerning the Lord’s provision of the right facilities for FEBU. More important—especially as FEBU has begun, step by step, to provide dormitory accommodations for students—is the need for personnel prepared to provide the kind of discipleship that we desire to give to our students.

We were recently reminded that “there are two cosmic powers working in creation. The power of God and his plan are now battling against the power of Satan and his legion. These powers are not at all equal; one depends upon the other.” (Oliphint) This battle is always real and often unseen. It centers in the realm of ideas: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5 NASB). At times, though, the enemy’s attacks are tangible. Our brothers and sisters—and we—are vulnerable and in need of God’s protection from temptation and from physical harm. Following Jesus is much more than war, but it is never less. We remain confident that God is sovereign over all.

Monday, January 2, 2017

January 2017 Report

October through December. Our entire family are legal, permanent residents of Uruguay! Thank you for praying over these past 3 ½ years. The Immigration Department recorded the final decision on October 28. We are thankful.

In November, FEBU and Bible institute students (including one graduating Bible institute student) finished their semester of study. A couple FEBU students returned home for the months of December through February. Two were married in December, thus forming two more Christian families. Please pray for these students who represent an important part of the future of the church in this region, the “Southern Cone” of Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile.

Between October 19 and December 9 we visited our parents in FL and SC; and JM finished the course “Expository Preaching in Ministry Context.” The class increased his appreciation for the need for prayer and for the Holy Spirit’s intervention during preaching; honed his understanding of such things as the proper use of cross-references in preaching and what it means to preach Christ from all of Scripture; provided ideas for a weekly sermon preparation plan; helped him develop a three-year preaching plan for Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha; and exposed him to Puritan practices of preaching and catechizing. Please pray for wisdom in choosing a research topic that would benefit Uruguayan churches and the FEBU and Bible institute programs.

During November and December, E and DJ attended school in English, thanks to the kindness of teachers and staff at Bob Jones Academy, who assimilated them for a month. Upon our return to Uruguay, DJ graduated from kindergarten in a program that included his speaking publicly—a big day for our family, given his struggles during these years of required K4 and K5. Elizabeth finished fifth grade and—to our surprise—was honored to be among those chosen to escort the Uruguayan flag for next year’s school programs. Our Shepherd—though He would not have had to do so—has demonstrated His trustworthiness in life changes that were in many ways out of our control.

January through March. Please pray for this year’s summer camps, represented in the brief calendar below. Especially pray for several teens and young adults that might attend from Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha, our church in Pando. Many of them have significant needs; the weeks of camp are often encouraging times for them.

Facultad de Estudios Bíblicos del Uruguay (FEBU) (College of Biblical Studies of Uruguay). By the time we report again in early April, FEBU will have started its fourth year. Please pray for ongoing teacher training, the right students to return, and adequate facilities to receive and train every single student God wants to train in FEBU.

January 11-14—Staff training, Camp Emmanuel (JM teaches several sessions)
January 16-21—Children’s camp, Camp Emmanuel
January 23-28—Older teen and young adult camp, Camp Emmanuel (JM counsels)
January 30-February 4—Younger teen camp, Camp Emmanuel (JM teaches morning sessions)
February 13—FEBU teacher training; election of new FEBU president (required periodically by Uruguayan law)
February 20-23—EMU workers’ camp, Camp Emmanuel (D and JM teach workers’ children)
March 2—E and DJ begin school
March 6—Beginning of FEBU school year (D and JM teach Research and Argumentation; JM teaches Church Music)

Thank you for praying!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

October 2016 Report

July through September. Last-minute illness and issues of logistics moved the July block class from Paysandú to Montevideo. Mark and Paula Batory stayed with us for the week while he taught a Biblical Missions course to pastors and church leaders. We’re thankful for the many hours invested in preparation and delivery of this class.

Please pray for long-term fruit from Deborah’s teaching at a ladies’ retreat in Treinta y Tres and JM’s preaching at Iglesia Evangélica Siloé in Colón, a Montevideo neighborhood. Feedback from both opportunities was encouraging.

October through December. In October JM will finish teaching Systematic Theology (Soteriology and Christology) in the EMU Bible institute. This month we also expect to finish a study in the book of James in Pando (Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha), with plans to begin working through 1 Peter early in 2017. These studies in the General Epistles, along with some extra reading Gonzalo is doing, are also serving as a Bible institute course for him.

Between October 19 and December 9 we will be in the U.S. for continuing education and to see our parents in Jacksonville, FL, and Greenville, SC. E and DJ will likely attend a month of school in Greenville. We will return to Uruguay for the end of their school year here: E will finish fifth grade and DJ will finish K-5.

“Happy Campers!”

During the weeks we are away Daniel and several FEBU students will continue the weekly preaching in Pando. In November FEBU will host another block course (Pastoral Theology) and complete its normal academic year.

Facultad de Estudios Bíblicos del Uruguay (FEBU) (College of Biblical Studies of Uruguay).
We would appreciate prayer for all involved in the FEBU program. As the third academic year comes to a close, our perspective is positive. We want to see growth in the areas of academics, student discipleship, and practical ministry; but we are convinced that FEBU is the best opportunity now available for Bible training in Uruguay. Classes continue to be held in local church buildings and in the library of the EMU mission house/office building.

FEBU attempts to facilitate housing as able for students who come from the interior (areas outside Montevideo) or the exterior (other countries); but capacity to do so is limited, effectively reducing the ability to serve certain potential students. A dormitory would, it seems, facilitate discipleship and meet this need for housing.

Another group of students comes from the geographic area that includes Montevideo and the edges of neighboring departments (Canelones and San José), the south-central area that is home to half of Uruguay’s total population. Due to work responsibilities or other factors, many of these students are unable to study full-time (though some can). This group potentially includes local pastors (and currently includes one).   FEBU’s administration regularly revisits the question of what physical facilities would best serve its mission. Please pray for wisdom! Pray, too, for our students. They are a dedicated group but wrestle with the same trials, temptations, and discouragements that we all do. Deborah and I are regularly (and often unexpectedly) entrusted with counseling opportunities.

Thank you for your prayers, ongoing support, correspondence and encouragement. May the Lord remind us all— often—of His many mercies, especially the blessing of being known by Him.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

July 2016 Report

Mid-semester Break. Final exams in FEBU classes ended on Friday, June 24. During their break students either remain in Montevideo or scatter to other places outside the capital. At least two have traveled to Argentina; another will visit Peru to evaluate future ministry opportunities there. Lifting our eyes (sometimes a bit glazed from correcting writing assignments) to remember the places these young men and women will be serving—not only during vacation but also after graduation—reminds us of why we are glad to have a small part in this good work.

Taking a break from class for Deborah’s birthday
with the FEBU students

Earlier this month in Guazuvirá, at Campamento Emanuel, JM counseled for a three-day winter retreat. He also shared the preaching with his friend Ovidio Acevedo, a pastor in a Montevideo neighborhood. Please pray that this group of 35 to 40 teenagers would continue to receive the Word with humility and that God would spare them from the many temptations and dangers that surround them. The themes for the week were “A Complete (Integral) Life” (from the book of James) and “Being and Making Disciples.”

FEBU is preparing for the next pastors’ block course the last week of July. Mark Batory, a mentor and friend from our home church in SC, will cover the theme of missions. A camp outside Paysandú, on the west side of the country, will again host the class. These courses attempt to supplement the training and experience of pastors and other church leaders. Please pray both for a productive week and for continued development of this program that has the potential to be of great help to churches in Uruguay and Argentina.

Primer Instituto F.V. Dabold. The EMU Bible institute (and FEBU) will resume classes in August. JM will be teaching Soteriology in the Bible institute, a course that will require some care and much grace (so please pray). For the last several semesters the Montevideo Bible institute program has also offered one of its classes in some of the local churches. This semester’s class in the churches will be the General Epistles.

Iglesia Bíblica Marantha. Two teen girls from our little group in Pando attended the retreat mentioned earlier. Camp is always an encouragement to the teens, several of whom are now young adults making significant decisions about their future. Some have expressed interest in taking the Bible institute General Epistles course at the church in Pando. This appears to be a real possibility, which would mean that the weekly teaching for everyone would focus on these books, with several of the young men and women being required to do additional work. This could be the next step that some of them need to take.

Celebrating Dad Garwood’s birthday long distance
with the church in Pando

One year ago Don and Pat Garwood returned to the U.S. after years of faithful labor with this and other churches. (Don is Déborah’s father.) In June JM was able to spend two nights with them in FL and two nights with his parents in SC, where he took the next class in the D.Min. program. (It was a brief but encouraging week of study and of profitable conversation with friends, teachers, and family. Upcoming work in the program promises to mesh well with the Bible-college project.) Pray for the Lord’s continued strength, health, and encouragement for our parents as they continue to serve in their churches in Jacksonville and Greenville.

In September we plan to travel to Treinta y Tres, where Déborah has been asked to speak at a ladies’ retreat.

Thank you for your continued prayers for health and safety. Much of Montevideo—compared with many places in the world—is relatively secure. We do not take this for granted and are in need of the Lord’s daily (and nightly) protection. The kids continue to be healthy and are doing well in school.

Thank you for all your kindness to us!

Monday, April 4, 2016

April 2016 Report

January & February. Thank you for praying for summer camp at Camp Emmanuel in Guazuvirá. Our entire family participated each week on some level, either as campers or staff. We’re especially grateful this year for the ministry of Elías Huamán, who dedicated many weeks away from his family in Peru to serve the Uruguayan church. He turned our Uruguayan, Argentine, and North American eyes away from our familiar, comfortable surroundings to realities in the rest of the world—the real world of primitive and civilized savagery, where billions do not know Jesus and where Christians suffer for their loyalty to Him. At the same time he encouraged our churches to financially support their pastors and to engage in gospel work on the local level. His preaching coincided with some difficult but positive steps toward independence among some of the churches here.

March. FEBU (Facultad de Estudios Bíblicos del Uruguay: College of Biblical Studies of Uruguay) began the third year of classes with 27 active students. Most of these are studying part time; some are auditing a course. Ten students (these from Montevideo, interior Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica) are taking a full schedule of classes: Gabriel, Manuel, Exequiel, Maxi, and Vanessa (third-year students); Noemí (second-year student); Iván, Katherine, María, and Priscilla (new first-year students). Please pray that these men and women (and others who have studied in past years) would continue to seek the Lord, be diligent to take full advantage of this opportunity, and discern and follow God’s leading for future ministry within Uruguay and beyond. If the Lord continues to bring new students, the need for a more suitable location potentially increases. Our desire is especially to strengthen the FEBU program (in terms both of discipleship and academics) and to further equip our teachers. Please pray for wisdom as we seek to know the Lord’s mind and as we take steps toward these goals.

FEBU students, March 2016

Opening service of the 2016 academic year

April. FEBU is set up as a non-profit organization, subject to a general “assembly” of Uruguayan pastors and other church leaders. This larger group approves two committees that work together to make decisions and handle most day-to-day business. We seek input from students and teachers. All of this takes place within the bounds of a doctrinal statement that has, so far, been very functional and agreeable to all of the churches and mission organizations involved. Please pray that God would preserve this wonderful unity. On April 18 FEBU will hold an annual meeting of this larger “assembly.”

The first children’s class in A’s neighborhood

Later in 2016. In an earlier letter we mentioned churches we have not visited for several years and the possibility of our traveling this year to see them. We are not currently planning a trip of this nature for 2016. We are waiting for an answer from the Immigration Department to our request for permanent residency (for JM, E, and DJ). When we receive this status, we will also be eligible for a six-month window of permission to bring a tax-free shipment of household items into the country. Please keep praying not only for permanent residency but also for the timing of this status and for the timing of any corresponding travel to prepare a shipment. Elizabeth’s and DJ’s schooling and the differences between the academic calendars from one hemisphere to the other also complicate planning.

The 2016 school year is off to a great start!

This semester’s schedule will be challenging for our family: E is in school in the morning (8:00- 12:00, a 20-30 minute bus ride away) and DJ in the afternoon (1:00-5:00, a 20-minute walk away); JM and D teach or are otherwise on call in the evenings (7:00-10:00). So far God has given grace. We rely on your prayers! Thank-you!

Monday, January 4, 2016

January 2016 Report

We want to thank you for your part this past year in what God is doing in Uruguay. We don’t know what 2016 will hold, but we do have full confidence that Jesus, the King of the nations, is building His church. In this report, we’ve described several situations that seem to show us a glimpse of some of the specifics of His building work:

Several teens from Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha (IBM) in Pando recently graduated from high school and plan to pursue further schooling in March. The Lord has kept them from much temptation; but please pray that they would persevere and that God would continue to guide and keep them. Some of them have expressed interest in taking classes in FEBU or in EMU’s Bible institute. Please continue to pray for the Lord’s provision of a pastor for IBM.

The Lord has given grace to us and to our children as they have adapted to schooling in Spanish. In December Elizabeth finished fourth grade (her second year of school in Uruguay) and Daniel James finished the required K4.

In October we mentioned the family of A, whose decision to keep her twin babies had led to opportunity for individual Christians to respond to the family’s great physical and spiritual needs. This relationship continues.

At an October pro-life event

This month many children and teens (including several from IBM) attend summer camps. JM will be counseling and helping with music during some of these weeks. Please pray for God to use His Word in the hearts of each.

In March JM will teach Intro to Music and Homiletics I, and Déborah plans to teach Spanish Grammar. Please pray that God would use these classes (especially the last two) to give further ability in, understanding of, and commitment to expository preaching among the churches in Uruguay, beginning with these students of the Bible.

On a daily basis we are in contact with needy people. We walk past them on the sidewalk. We physically brush (read “are shoved and crammed”) against them on the bus. They come to our door asking for help, sometimes leaving with a bottle of water, a blanket, or a tract. We do business with some of them, and some are neighbors. We need wisdom and grace to move from superficial contact to conversation about their need of Jesus to save them from their sins. And we need God’s Spirit to work in the hearts of those who have listened to the good news. Please pray specifically for eighteen individuals with whom we have ongoing opportunities.

The Facultad de Estudios Bíblicos del Uruguay (College of Biblical Studies of Uruguay (FEBU) opened in March 2014 with approximately fifteen students, half of whom took a full load of classes. While totals remained fairly steady for these first four semesters, the number of new students the second year (2015) was much smaller, resulting in scheduling changes. Beginning in March, we plan to offer first and third year classes; but, again, the class schedule assumes a minimum number of students. We believe that FEBU represents a very good opportunity for Christians in this region to be trained in preparation for service in their local churches and beyond. And we believe that FEBU is the best option for some. We want no fewer and no more than those whom God chooses to send. The next couple of months will hold opportunity (especially during the weeks of camp) to encourage potential students to consider training in FEBU or in EMU’s Bible institute. We are in need of prayer that—by God’s grace—we might play whatever role God wants us to in the discipleship of each one, both in and outside the classroom.

Students at the November FEBU pastors’ block class

Thank you again for your part in all of this.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Post by Deborah: "Blessings!"

We’ve been blessed in extra special ways by our most recent visitors!

Gina shared her testimony at a multi-church ladies’ meeting, hosted by Templo Calvario here in Montevideo.

Jerry and Gina “remodeled” the hallways (downstairs and up) as well as the main stairwell and our master bedroom! In the words of E and DJ: “This is a different place now!”

We heartily agree! It is a different place!

We thoroughly enjoyed a very competitive soccer game on Tuesday night – probably the most competitive I’ve ever attended! The stadium was packed! (If you followed the events of this year’s Copa America, you’ll understand the background.)

These extras didnt stay empty for long...


We won 3 to 0!

We’re very thankful for these friends and their time with us.

And we’re going to miss them!