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)

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.).

Thursday, October 12, 2017

October 2017 Report

“Uruguay is the country with the most atheists in Latin America, matched only by the Scandinavians.” So began a December 2016 online article, “Uruguayos de poca fe.” This was not good news. Nor—indeed—was it news at all, since Uruguay has long been known for such statistics. Secularism is the air our students breathe. We’re thankful for the opportunity FEBU has given us over the last four years to have a small part in equipping Christian young people to live and serve in this context. Thank you for your part! Ultimately we are grateful to God for this grace.

In October and November seven students in our Apologetics class will be presenting a final project, part of which will include each one’s public presentation countering some non-Christian or non-theistic philosophy or position. They are each required to invite ten people, including at least one non-Christian. Research & Argumentation students are working on papers in which they argue how a Christian should vote (or not) in light of biblical teaching on life, family, government, and the Christian’s place in society. Hermeneutics students are learning to identify relationships between clauses in order to preach and teach the Bible’s flow of thought.

FEBU’s first graduation program—a cause for much thanksgiving—is scheduled for December 2! Over the past years God has provided, guided, and preserved students and teachers to make this moment possible. Please pray for the five graduating—Gabriel, Manuel, Maxi, Vanessa, and Exequiel—that the Lord would continue to lead them as they move on to the next stage of their lives and ministries. In December our E will also graduate (from sixth grade). The kids’ school offers only elementary grades, so we are in need of wisdom during these months to know how to proceed with their schooling in the coming academic year (beginning in March).

Thank you for praying for our parents—D’s in FL and JM’s in SC. In August JM’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Though we were not with them, we’re thankful for this milestone and for their unwavering faithfulness to the Lord, each other, and us. A helpful book in preparing for Apologetics this semester includes these comments: “I grew up in a home where the Bible was assumed to be the infallible word of God. Whether they succeeded or failed, my parents tried to submit to the authority of the Bible. I think they succeeded pretty well. [We would say, “Very well!”] That’s probably one reason I never rebelled against them. They tried to form their ideas about God and man and sin and salvation from the Bible. They tried to bring their attitudes and emotions in line with the Bible. And they tried to form their behaviors by the Bible” (Piper, A Peculiar Glory, 24).

Our children, like our students, are growing up in a culture that doesn’t value the Bible. As we write, concerned citizens (many Christians included) are collecting signatures to counter the latest implementation of sex education in elementary schools. The new guidelines are blatantly and explicitly biased away from biblical (and traditional and even proven scientific) norms. Please pray for God’s protection for our children and for wisdom for Christian parents to instruct their families and to win their children’s hearts by consistent lives and biblical words.

We know that votes, signatures, and even logical arguments—as helpful and right as all of these can be—are not the final answer. Nor is there any geographic refuge from the onslaught of unbiblical ideology. We—and you—are where we are by God’s appointment and must be faithful, depending on Him and on His self-authenticating Word, especially His revelation of Jesus Christ in the Gospel.

We rest on Him and in His strength we go!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 2017 Report

Thank you for taking a few minutes to read this slightly abbreviated July 2017 update.

Tonight we said “so long” to Ken Casillas, one of our former pastors and seminary teachers and a longtime friend. During the past week he taught an intensive Hermeneutics class to a group of pastors and other leaders in Paysandú, a city on the river that separates Uruguay from Argentina. Numbers of you prayed over the last several months that the Lord would superintend the logistics of this class. Thank you! We’re thankful for the group of approximately 25 students who were able to attend and for the excellent reports we’ve heard.

A highlight of Dr. Casillas’ time in MVD for E & DJ was
asking lots of questionsand learning a little Hebrew!

Tomorrow evening the new FEBU semester begins. Our focus for the next several months will be the teaching of Hermeneutics, Apologetics, and the second semester of Research and Argumentation. We will undoubtedly be entrusted with many discipleship opportunities. Please pray for wisdom!

Punto de Contacto” is the electronic newsletter that FEBU has begun to publish—in Spanish. (We’re sorry that an English copy isn’t available.) Please feel free to pass this along to your Spanish ministries or others who may be interested.

Pictured next are teens and young adults and some of the staff that attended the brief winter camp in Guazuvirá earlier this month. Some of the faces are those of current and future church leaders. Others represent struggles with love for the world or such questions as the truth of Christianity or whether to believe in a God that mandates sexual norms. Some represent youth who have grown up hearing the gospel and have yet to follow Jesus.

Four from Iglesia Bíblica Maranatha in Pando (and two invited visitors) attended camp. Please continue to pray for perseverance and growth of (especially) the teens and young adults. Several continue to take good steps. A few hours before going through security at the airport this evening, Dr. Casillas challenged the church from Psalm 84:
The Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man who trusts in You (Psalm 84:11-12).

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.