Once again I find it a challenge to post more than about once a week.
We’re in Parkersburg, WV as I write this post and we’ve been here since Saturday afternoon. We’ve been participating in the missions conference of our sending church, Bethel Baptist Church. The theme has been…”How to Be a Sending Church” or something close to that. (see how close I read things) BBC graciously accepted us as members in 2003 (I think it was) so that we could have a sending church (our previous sending church was going through some very difficult circumstances and just couldn’t commit to sending and supporting us). We were the first missionaries BBC had ever commissioned to an overseas mission field and this was new for them just as much as being missionaries was new to us. Now they’re in the process of sending their associate pastor and his wife and children (Jamie and Mandy Smith) to Zambia as missionaries. The theme for this conference is à propos for the church and for us too. The renewed fellowship and sharing has been encouraging and helpful.
On Saturday the missionaries were treated to a very nice multi-course dinner along with the missions committee, the church leadership, and our hosts/hostesses for the week. A number of teens served us with a great spirit and a sacrifice of their Saturday evening.
On Sunday the morning session was mostly a historical review of BBCs commitment to and involvement in outreach and missions. The Sunday school hour was devoted to Wendy Heinzman (spelling?) who is a single missionary in France and has ministered to women there for 14 years.
The presentations from her and all of the missionaries were to contain a cultural representation of what we experience routinely back in our ministering countries. Wendy had us (the audience) participate in a “Christmas Tea” which was a novel (for France) approach to making acquaintances and building relationships at Christmas time.
Sunday night we were in charge of a kids’ presentation for ages 2 up to grade 5! What an age spread! Gratefully, we had a number of teenagers helping us with the kids. We were to share a Bible story or some sort of Bible-based story from our culture in Mexico. We adapted that idea to share an untrue story because in Mexico, that is the story that gains the most attention, the most followers, and affects the reasons why we minister in Mexico more than any other culturally based story. That would be the story of Juan Diego (the Indian peasant) and the Virgin Mary’s appearance to him. We made sure the kids understood that this was not a true story but it is the story the every Mexican knows. They did some coloring and received some pin buttons.
At that same time Randy and Cari Woughter were sharing their ministry in Nicaragua. They propped up tables on their sides all around a small rectangular area and made all the chairs form very tight rows with very little space in between rows and no space in between the chairs (from side to side). Except for the dirt floor, the roaming dogs, chickens, and pigs and many ambiant noises, it was just like a church service in Nicaragua!
Last night was our turn to present and we shared an update of our varied ministries as we sat in a U-Shape. This was to represent how we often meet in our house church plant on Sunday mornings. We then had four of the church members read a first-person testimony and prayer request of four of our house church members. We had to write these ourselves but we did our best to make these as “non-fiction” as possible. They were brief but it was great to see the church members listen and take to heart the grace of God in how He saved the core of our small group. One of the ladies who was waiting her turn to read a testimony seemed in awe of the testimonies. She asked Beth (who was sitting next to her), “Are these real?!?” Yes, they are real…God is real…these dear friends are real…their stories are real…and God is really changing lives in Mexico! We only wished they could be here with us to share their testimonies in person.
Tonight we’ll be “visiting” Colombia with a young couple (the Breyers) who are raising support to serve at a camp there. We’ll conclude tomorrow night with our keynote speaker, Mike Allen, who is a Captain and Chaplain in the National Guard and also serves several times a year in Romania in a ministry there in leadership training.
Small world: Captain Allen went through chaplain school at Fort Jackson (?) with our good friend and fellow chaplain, Mark Olson. Also, on Friday night we stayed in Beckley, WV with and old college friend and she and her husband asked us if we knew Mike Allen who they knew was from this area around Parkersburg. I wasn’t sure if we did or didn’t…but we surely do now!
This morning we were up and at ’em at 6 a.m. (and that’s not normal for us night people!). We and the other missionaries were special guests in 4 different high school classes and were given 45 minutes in each class to present cultural and language themes to each class. We enjoyed that experience and it was a familiar feeling to walk into a large school once again and drink in the hallways and classrooms and the presence of all those students in one place. I must admit, teaching just gets in your blood and it’s not something you ever really lose even though it has been 10 years since I taught in a formal classroom on a permanent basis. Well…not so “permanent” since I’m not doing that now!
We conclude tomorrow evening during the AWANA time and will be with a group of kids during their counseling time. I’ve not been in too many AWANA groups over the years so I don’t even know what a “counseling time” is but I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
We load up the van and hit the road again on Thursday; destination Traverse City, MI. Not sure of our route yet (I’ve looked it over on Google Maps more than once already). Not sure where we’ll stay on Thursday night. We’ll figure it out I’m sure. We’re scheduled for Rollins Christian Fellowship, Manton, MI for this Sunday morning (combined Sunday school). If you’re near there and want to join with us, I think it starts around 9:45 if I recall correctly.
Still not doing a good job of taking photos. I’ll post some eventually. Keep checking in and thanks for your patience. We greatly appreciate your prayers as we continue to travel and share and talk and talk some more and talk yet even more. Whew! (good thing we’re pretty good at talking!) Dayton has had a cough/cold since we left Mexico on 9/23 and today seems to have a fever. You can pray for him. I’ve not felt too well but I think it’s sleep apnea. I didn’t snore last night (says Bethie), and I do feel much better today even on 6 hours of restless sleep.
We’re eating well…too well or perhaps too much as is often the case on home assignments! If you’ve ever seen the animated flick, “Despicable Me,” I’ve changed a favorite quote to: “I’m so fluffy…I think I’m gonna die!!!” (a few of you might get that)