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)

Friday, July 19, 2019

July 2019 Report

¡Saludos desde Montevideo, Uruguay!

Campamento Emanuel. Thank you for praying for the Winter Retreat at Camp Emmanuel. Approximately thirty-six teens came for three days, mostly from the Montevideo and Pando areas but several from interior Uruguay. The weather was chilly: Cold rain (and even some sleet) fell the first evening, and temps during the days hovered in the 40’s F, with usual high humidity. Please pray for the Spirit’s continued work in the hearts of those who heard the Word. Nico taught from the life of Joseph, highlighting God’s providential control of circumstances on behalf of His children. Robert and JM spoke on the effects of music, a general theme introduced this month with more extensive treatment planned for the Jan-Feb 2020 camps. Three teens attended from our church in Pando.

Training programs. In addition to the four Bible-institute locations in the interior (Rivera, Tacuarembó, Pando, and Treinta y Tres), churches in two other locations (Vergara and Durazno) have expressed interest in starting local classes as soon as possible. Please pray for the Lord’s clear direction in these two places—especially in Durazno as there appears to be potential for the development of future church leadership there. The second semester of classes begins on August 5 and runs through the end of November. In Montevideo JM will be teaching Bible-institute and FEBU classes, including Hermeneutics, General Epistles, and Church Music.

In another context, JM has the opportunity to participate, as a group of pastors evaluate and revise their joint doctrinal statement. Please pray for the Lord’s guidance of all those involved.

CCB Cristo Viene. This is DJ’s elementary school outside of Las Piedras, just north of Montevideo. The early-morning commute is long, but the combined benefits that address DJ’s needs and offer many ministry opportunities cause us to be thankful for this situation. Both of us have been able to clearly share the gospel with significant groups of students and their family members: D to the mothers and students, and JM to groups of grandparents, parents, and students. D has also been given the opportunity to teach elementary English two mornings a week. Apart from the impact on the students, her teaching is facilitating DJ’s attendance there. Much closer to home, E continues to do well in a local public middle school just two blocks from our house.

Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha in Pando. Please continue to pray for the Lord’s provision for this church. JM recently returned to a study in 1 Peter, and Jorge has taken several weeks of Sunday school to instruct about evangelism. Pat Garwood arrived in Uruguay on June 18 and is thankful to have seen many people from the church here (and elsewhere) where she and Don served for so many years. Please pray for her continued healing from a fall that she took on her second day here, a providential turn of events that significantly altered the nature of her trip.

The Lord’s dealings with us, in fact, over the last several months have been reminders of His providential control of everything. We do not always see His hand, but we are assured that He is guiding all. We do not ever need to say, “God must have some purpose for this,” because He has already revealed that at least one of His purposes is always our transformation into Christ-likeness (Romans 8). We are more fully convinced than ever of His keeping of His own and of the ultimately irresistible grace of God. Without sharing details, we want you to rejoice with us that God is keeping our current and former students. Though some have stumbled, most—and we hope all—are enduring. And we are watching God graciously rescue and restore in His own time and way. Our hearts are full! This month we are also celebrating His blessing and keeping us for 20 years of marriage. We are thankful! Please pray that we will be faithful with whatever more time the Lord may give us.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

April 2019 Report

In a recent newsletter our mission director observed that the EMU mission house in Montevideo shares the same latitude—in the other hemisphere—as Greenville-Spartanburg, SC. This means that our summer camps take place in January and February. Summer plans this year had included JM’s participation in staff training at Campamento Emanuel and a week of teen/young-adult camp, plans that were adjusted on Thursday during staff training when Dad Garwood’s health rapidly destabilized. Early Friday morning, January 11, we received the message that “Don went Home . . . very peacefully.” Though we had planned to see him once more, the timing of his Home-going was determined perfectly by the Lord whom he had served for over forty years as missionary to Uruguay. The summer break allowed our and Daniel’s (Deborah’s brother’s) families to be together with US and Canadian family for the memorial service in Jacksonville, FL, and interment in Greenville, SC.

The grandchildren sang a favorite hymn in both English and Spanish.

Since 2012 JM has taken an average of one class per year toward the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) degree from Bob Jones University Seminary (though changes in the program now require more accelerated completion). In December he finished an independent study course (in Montevideo) and in February took his last class (during our trip to SC). The DMin is usually done in conjunction with current ministry, and the Seminary in recent years has refined the focus of the program toward expository preaching. During the next several months JM will seek approval for a research project that maintains this focus and directly serves the training programs in Uruguay.

We returned to Uruguay on March 6 in time for the beginning of the FEBU, Bible-institute, middle-school, and elementary school year on March 11. FEBU had organized its first student-teacher retreat during the first week of the semester, a productive time likely to be repeated annually. Though only able to attend the final morning, we are thankful for this opportunity for the teachers and approximately 18 students (9 full-time) attending this year.

Bible-institute classes take place Monday through Wednesday evenings, this semester including Systematic Theology and a course on the pastor’s life (both taught by local pastors), two video courses (Bible Geography and Pastoral Epistles), and Apologetics. The latter, with 11 enrolled, is larger than most due to several FEBU students who join us. Not counting those, 8 students in Montevideo and 19 more in the interior locations are studying in the Bible-institute programs. In March we participated in the graduation of Nanciley, a former Mormon who completed the four-year video program in Treinta y Tres. Her husband and son are 2 of the 7 studying there.

Overall the semester is off to a good start, and we’re very thankful for your prayers. Elizabeth and DJ are adjusting well to their new school situations. E actively looks for opportunities to befriend and share the gospel. One of her friends in the local public middle school is one of many Venezuelan immigrants now in Uruguay.

In Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha we are currently taking time to help our people know how to talk to members of some of the more prominent sects and cults. We received encouraging reports about the work Agustina, Gonzalo, and Sebastián did this past summer as staff help at Campamento Emanuel. Please pray for their growth and that of other teens and young adults in the church: Sofía, Lucía, Florencia, Tabaré, Stefi, Selena, and Elizabeth. In June Bible-institute students plan to help us with an evangelistic outreach to the neighborhood around the church.

With Dad Garwood’s Home-going in recent months we are aware of the brevity of life and the need for laborers. In addition to the work in Pando, two other churches he helped to start continue in San Fernando and Minas. These and others are in need of laborers. We trust the Lord of the Harvest to accomplish His work—sometimes in ways we don’t understand—but we also know that our Lord instructed us to pray for laborers. Thank you for your part both here in Uruguay and there where He has placed you. Please also be willing to be moved!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

January 2019 Report

Facultad de Estudios Bíblicos del Uruguay (College of Biblical Studies of Uruguay). In November the FEBU Pastors’ Program and the UCB Camp in Paysandú hosted the first of two Systematic Theology classes. Several undergraduate students worked at camp during the week while another served in Chile. FEBU desires to provide abundant practical ministry experience, locally and beyond Uruguay. Please pray for those directly responsible for this Ministerio Práctico, especially now in preparation for the 2019 school year (beginning March 11).

The Instituto Bíblico F.V. Dabold is a three-year cycle of live classes (in Montevideo) and a four-year video-based program (in several churches in the interior). Our desire is to take full advantage of the particular strengths and reach of these structures to train and encourage Uruguayan church members, pastors, and potential pastors both in the capital and throughout Uruguay. Recently the Uruguayan leadership asked JM to direct the Bible Institute.

Campamento Emanuel. Between January 10 and 12 JM will teach counseling to summer staff in preparation for the camp season; he will work as counselor during the teen/young adult camp (Jan 21-26). Other camps include children’s (Jan 14-19), younger teens (Jan 28-Feb 2), EMU workers’ (Feb 25-28), and family camps (Mar 4-9).

Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha. In November Gonzalo’s and Sebastián’s grandmother passed away during a lung surgery. Ana had spent most of the year in fragile health, awaiting a heart-valve replacement and dealing with other physical issues both before and after that surgery. Earlier this year she professed faith in Christ in direct response to the twins’ testimony. Their extended family has been exposed to the ministry of the gospel for years, especially during the time the Garwoods worked in Pando; however, most of them are not Christians. The family reported a significant change in Ana’s attitude and outlook following her conversion, and the grandsons have given public testimony about the Lord’s work through this situation. We believe that God has been glorified, that the church has grown in unity, and that there is opportunity for future gospel influence in this family.

Both Gonzalo and Sebastián plan to serve at camp in January, along with another young lady from the church. Please pray that this experience will be one of growth for all three. By March as many as four of the teen and college-age group plan to be studying in the national university, some of them also considering Bible-institute classes. May the Lord continue leading and maturing these youth, part of the apparent future of this church.

In March, Elizabeth will begin the first year of liceo (seventh grade) in a neighborhood public school. Daniel James will begin second grade in a small community north of Montevideo, in a Christian elementary school where one of our students teaches. Déborah also expects opportunities for involvement. E and DJ have proven to be capable students (in both languages), but the new school year with multiple schedules will require a number of adjustments for our family. DJ turned 8 this past October, and E turns 13 this month. Thank you for praying for the Lord’s ongoing work in their (and our) hearts. Schooling affords ample opportunity to share the gospel.

During the Christmas holidays we enjoyed a visit from Déborah’s sister, Esther, and her family. Esteban, Esther’s husband, is a graduate of EMU’s Bible Institute and now pastors a bilingual church in SC.

JM’s father had heart difficulties in 2018, but otherwise he and Mom Steel are well; they are active in their church in SC. Don Garwood (D’s father) struggles with heart and lung issues. He and Pat are fondly remembered here and have frequent contact with many via internet media. Pat continues to teach Spanish in their church’s school.

Abu (“Gramma”) Julia, the retired housekeeper for the mission home and office, turns 93 in February. She lives with us, receiving regular help from several in her church. The Lord has not yet finished His work in her!

Monday, October 8, 2018

October 2018 Report

FEBU Pastors’ Program. In our last letter we were preparing for the visit of our pastor, Mark Minnick, who spent a week with us in late July. He visited our church in Pando and taught Romans for FEBU’s pastors’ program. He focused on the doctrinal section of the book, chapters 1-11, which tend to be the most challenging (and most controversial). His teaching was very well received by pastors, students, and lay people who attended the week of classes. FEBU has two more classes planned in this original five-year cycle: two blocks of Systematic Theology scheduled for November 2018 and July 2019. Please pray for wisdom concerning plans for next steps in 2019.

Second semester began the first week of August. JM is teaching Introduction to Music (Thursday mornings in FEBU) and OT Poetic Books (Monday mornings in FEBU and Wednesday nights in the EMU Bible Institute). D is teaching Spanish grammar in three venues: Bible Institute students meet one night per week in person; several others are following online; and FEBU students are using the online video format. Beginning this month JM is helping to facilitate an online Bible study course, which includes live video sessions with a pastor in Honduras.

Two mornings a week FEBU students attend a “chapel” service that consists of 30 to 45 minutes of singing and preaching. This semester some of FEBU’s first graduates have returned to preach in chapel. We ask you to pray for all our graduates, other former students, and current students. Among these there are both evident victories and bitter struggles. The need for both groups—and for our own hearts—is He “who is able to establish us according to the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 16:25). Please pray for wisdom in our ongoing relationships with current and former students and that we would accurately represent Christ to them.

The sometimes-subtle and often-blatant warfare against the biblical family in Uruguay and Argentina is disheartening; and it is tempting to think that the task of raising and educating godly children is impossible. Iglesia Bíblica Comunidad, a new work being started in Carmelo, on the river that divides the two countries, has as one of its core values “the family.” Last December Mariano had asked us both to prepare several sessions (held last month), for men and women, on the theme of family and current cultural issues, the second such conference the church has held. Please pray for the success of the Gospel in Carmelo.

Campamento Emanuel and Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha. Several times a year Camp Emmanuel meets with representatives of local churches to review previous camps and to prepare for the upcoming camp season. For now JM is representing our church, Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha, in these meetings. Our teen- and college-aged group has benefited greatly from the camp ministry over the years, and they continue to be enthusiastic about attending and supporting the camp. Twice this year they have participated in work days; and last month three of them spent a Saturday in the first phase of camp training, in preparation for possibly serving as summer staff. The next phase of training is in January. The camp theme this year will be “the church.” Please pray for those preparing.

We regularly find ourselves assessing which of many opportunities God would have us prioritize. We continue to believe that our role here—and the purpose for which you have sent us—is the training of current and future Uruguayan leaders and church members—in cooperation with their local churches—to follow and serve the Lord Christ in this culture. Please pray for wisdom to know how best to leverage resources of time and energy.

Thank you for praying for us!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

July 2018 Report

Thank you for praying! We returned to Montevideo on July 6 and are in the process of returning to the routine of life here while preparing for a new semester that begins on Monday, July 30.

March through June. During our four-month absence we visited almost all of our North American supporting churches and most of our individual supporters. We regret not being able to see a few of you. Though the trip was not especially restful on the physical level, we are very thankful for the encouragement of the Lord’s people and the gracious reception we were given in every place. Many of you opened your homes or shared your time and resources, making yourselves vulnerable and us very grateful for your love. We have indeed experienced Jesus’ generous promise to those who follow Him: family, houses, and lands…not to mention eternal life in the age to come! And we know that neither these beautiful lands, nor the persecutions Jesus also foretold (not experienced in your homes!), are worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us on that great day.

During our travel JM taught an online Homiletics (sermon preparation) course to 9 FEBU students in Uruguay, following a regular weekend pattern of receiving student assignments by email and sending them written and video material via internet. The experience was positive; but we look forward to being in the classroom in person!

Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha (Maranatha Bible Church). We are thankful for Matías and Bethany Acevedo’s ministry with our church for 10 weeks during our absence. In addition to his preaching and teaching, he and others in the church organized evangelistic and service efforts in the neighborhood; and the timing of his visit allowed him to baptize five believers in late May, an event we were able to watch via Skype from Fairbanks, AK. In late June, following the Acevedos’ return to the U.S., we all met in Kentucky for two nights and a day, allowing our families to get to know each other better and to glean from the experiences of these months. Please pray for the Lord’s leading and provision, both for the Acevedos and for this little church plant in Pando.

FEBU Block Course (July 23-27). We look forward to a visit from our pastor, Dr. Mark Minnick. While he is with us he will teach a block course on Romans as part of the twice-yearly FEBU program for pastors. The class will be held at Iglesia Templo Calvario in Montevideo. Please pray for a good group of pastors, leaders, students, and laymen to attend. We’re very excited about this opportunity and greatly appreciate our church’s generosity in sending him. Translation and printing of the written material has been one of our first main tasks upon arrival.

Thank you! Once again, we appreciate all of you and the opportunity to spend the past four months with many. We were refreshed by dear friends and committed churches in the far north and west, by the unconditional support of our parents in SC and FL, and by your kindness and fellowship everywhere in between. Our being able to attend part of the Whetstone Conference in our home church was a special blessing for us. Thank you!

The Uruguay we returned to seems less safe than ever. Robberies and murder are increasing in this place that for so long has been known for its tranquility. More dangerous is the bent of our own hearts. We know the enemy and the flesh are unrelenting in their warfare. Please pray for the Lord’s protection for us, for our children, and for our students—in realms both seen and unseen.

Monday, April 2, 2018

April 2018 Report

Greetings from North America! We arrived in Miami, FL, on the morning of March 7 and have spent the past weeks visiting family, friends, and churches in Florida and South Carolina.

Thank you for your continued prayers for the training programs in Uruguay. The FEBU school year began with meetings on Saturday, March 3, and classes the following Monday. We’re thankful for new students from Argentina and Uruguay. The FEBU library and classes were moved from Avenida Garibaldi (Templo Calvario and the MEU library/office area below our home) to a nearby church in the Parque Batlle neighborhood of Montevideo. Most classes are now offered on weekday mornings. There are 23 FEBU students enrolled this first semester: 16 part-time and 7 full-time. JM is teaching an online Homiletics course to 9 of these. Please pray for their ability to understand and for grace for both teacher and students to keep up with the course load. Classes in the MEU Bible Institute also began on Monday, March 5, with 23 students: 8 in Montevideo and 15 others in 3 local-church locations in the interior.

Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha (Maranatha Bible Church). Toward the end of last year we were contacted by Matías, the brother of one of our FEBU students. Matías grew up in Templo Calvario in Montevideo but is currently living in the U.S., preparing to return to serve long-term in Uruguay. He expressed interest in the ministry in Pando, and by the end of our conversation we had discussed the possibility of his helping the church this year during part of our four-month absence. He, Bethany, and their three young children arrived in Uruguay on March 23 and will remain until May 31. Matías’s special interest is the discipleship of the teens and college-aged youth. They are living in nearby Totoral del Sauce, and his presence and availability during the week—together with his training and his already-evident love for this group—seem to be exactly what is needed at this time. He will also be helping Daniel with a large share of the preaching and teaching. Thank you for praying!

April through June. In mid-April we will drive west to report to churches in Iowa and Utah. On May 1 we will fly from Salt Lake City to Anchorage to visit our half dozen (or so) churches in Alaska for 6 weeks. We will return via Colorado. Here are several requests for prayer during this time:
  • Please pray for safety in travel and encouraging meetings with ministry partners and friends.
  • Our travel spans the first semester of the Uruguayan academic year. Please pray for efficiency (and focus!) for E and DJ as they (road-) school. Please pray for the Bible students in Uruguay, especially for growth in their ability to interpret accurately and to preach and teach faithfully.
  • We are spending time with our parents during these months. Thank you for praying for their health and for their ministry in their churches in Jacksonville, FL, and Greenville, SC.
  • We’re thankful for EMU International, our mission agency, for its service to local churches and missionaries by handling office responsibilities and supplying administration. EMU recently asked that we communicate the need for an increase in our monthly support. Though not the purpose of our current trip, we do want to clearly offer this information to anyone interested. God has consistently supplied!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

January 2018 Report

Happy New Year! Five years ago we were preparing for a final move to Uruguay. We’re grateful for the network of churches and individual partners who have supported and encouraged us over these years. Beginning in March we hope to present a five-year report to these churches and to see as many other friends and family as possible. This has been a period of transition, learning, and—by God’s grace—much opportunity. Our report is summarized below, along with a brief update in key areas. Thank you for your continued prayers!

Instituto Bíblico F.V. Dabold. EMU’s Bible institute has trained many pastors and leaders over the decades since the 1940’s. The program offers classes both in Montevideo and interior Uruguay. JM has taught an average of one class per year in the Bible institute since our arrival, and we anticipate continued involvement in 2018.

Facultad de Estudios Bíblicos del Uruguay (FEBU) (College of Biblical Studies of Uruguay). By the time we arrived in 2013, a project was underway to provide a college-level program to train servants for local churches in Uruguay. Classes began in 2014, and we were privileged to participate in the early stages of this effort. Our work with FEBU has been the focus of our energy during these years: We’ve taught music, hermeneutics, homiletics, apologetics, and grammar and writing (skills that most students have not had prior opportunity to develop). Administration and counseling (student discipleship) have also taken large amounts of time.

At the end of 2017 FEBU’s first graduates completed a four-year program focused on Bible-study tools, theology and pastoral training, and practical ministry. Please continue to pray fervently for FEBU’s ongoing development in these and other areas. JM is preparing to teach Homiletics I (beginning in March, this time online while we travel).

Campamento Emanuel. Each summer (January and February in Uruguay) we have served in EMU’s camp in Guazuvirá on the coast. Opportunities have included staff training, preaching, music, counseling, and supervising an informal camp for some of the EMU workers’ children. In January (2018) JM will teach counseling sessions and workshops to new and returning staff during several days of staff training.

Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha (Maranatha Bible Church). This is our local church in the city of Pando. In June 2015 Don and Pat Garwood returned to the U.S. due to difficulties with his health. (Don is D’s father.) JM is now responsible for most of the weekly preaching. Daniel and Viviana (D’s brother and sister-in-law) are a great help, but there is need for a full-time pastor to lead in evangelism, discipleship, and vision for the future.

We don’t view the development of institutions as God’s primary purpose; such ministries are tools, means to an end. Often that end is not only the students that so captivate our attention, energy, and affection: God’s goal is our own transformation into Christlikeness, that the Son be preeminent among many, many brothers and sisters (Rom. 8:28-30). We know that this—our own sanctification—is a work in progress. But we are just as confident that God will complete that work. We look forward to the great day when we will be completely changed, because we will see Him as He is!

We expect our involvement in all of these ministries to continue for the foreseeable future upon our return to Uruguay, scheduled for July 6. We anticipate seeing many of you soon: March (Southeast U.S.); April (Midwest and Mountain States); May (Alaska); and June (Alaska and Southeast U.S.).