I cannot believe it is Tuesday already!! Time flies when you are riding this big wave of God’s mercies and provisions. This is an incredible ride! I’m a story teller, so this may be long. 🙂 but an important journey.
When I signed up to lead this team it was truly a calling. I have had 10 years of experience leading mission teams that wanted to come and serve in Helena AR (one of the 20 poorest counties in the United States – focus of the Together for Hope initiative of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship), but I had NO experience leading on the other side of the fence (on the sending side of mission teams). Little I knew God was going to grow me also, on yet another journey of trusting in the Spirit’s leadership and leading a team in this process.
God clearly planted a Bible verse as a theme for this journey to Laredo (which only has started) Genesis 22:14 “And Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide” and till this day it is said: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” In Bible study we were reminded that both Issac and Abraham had burdens to carry up the mountain as they obeyed God’s calling to go worship (for us, burdens to carry on our trip to go worship in LAREDO). For Abraham the weight on the dagger and the fire, knowing what he had been called to do, for Issac the wood, which he probably did not want to carry as a teenager. For me, I was carrying this burden of not having a very specific program and schedule for the week and no numbers for food planning or how many meals to plan for as we were coordinating cooperation of two churches working in the same community together etc…, for other team members…having to wait and trust that the schedule and activities would take shape in God’s timing and not ours, for the LAREDO church (I imagine) the pressure of not knowing how Woodland would react to the need of flexibility in the Hispanic culture. God, through His word (as shared with our team) made it clear that He would use us all according to the skills he had provided in each one of us! God had entrusted each one of us with a “talent”, and we would use them all!
So here we are! Our team is composed of a cross section of our church! Not an individual group of only adults, young families, youth or children on mission, but instead a sampling of them all! New members of the young families class (which has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 6 months represented by the Millers), new church members (the Newells), church staff and several older church members. How beautiful the Body of Christ! Not all of us are here for the whole week! But all of us are experiencing what God has planned for each one of us.
Saturday we as a body experienced doing church at the Park alongside Iglesia Bautista Emanuel and 2 other sister church plants. As loud speakers were blasting music Spanish worship songs and the church was invited to share tracks of Gods word to park visitors, some of us froze in our tracks, regrouped and found out our niche’s in different ways. Some of us prayer walked, some of us sat and observed, others joined right in. All of us working together. People heard the Gospel, experienced fellowship and were fed. The presence of some Spanish speaking Woodlanders was a huge asset! We were being immersed in culture. Our facilities are fantastic!
Sunday we worshiped at Iglesia Bautista Emanuel and celebrated father’s day. We were at church from 10 till almost2:30! Translators helped, we participated in a discipleship program, followed by a full program to honor the Father’s in the church and a big meal! Team members helped in the kitchen while teaching English and learning Spanish, youth helped in children’s activities, Darren Ballenger gave his testimony, and Shirley Merritt brought a message in the honor of Fathers. The challenge of the day: After church….all our Spanish speaking Woodlanders were returning to San Antonio because of other responsibilities! The Ortiz girls have been a huge asset in helping with translation, and God yet again provided with us the opportunity to become like 2 year olds and learn Spanish from scratch!! in this way, allowing for Iglesia Bautista Emanuel to be the lead in helping us understand and learn about the community. On the way home we stopped at HEB for 72 hot dog fixings as we were preparing to go back to the park. This time armed with several games provided by Barbara Brigdon and led by our adults and teens as a form to engage with the community! We were fashionably late… because we were starring at the pot of water that needed to boil in order to heat our hot dogs! Little we knew God was preparing us to know what we needed to do in the kitchen! 2 days later! Cooking for a larger crowd takes LONGER! LOL. The experience in the Park was a huge success! We were developing relationships and following the local church in activities they had planned!
Monday, construction crew went to clear property and lay the foundation of the beginning of a small model building made out of compressed earth block. The others set up for activities with no Spanish skills, but a great team from Iglesia Bautista Emanuel and no idea of how many would come. God sent two people (from the community) and a whole contingency of members from Iglesia Bautista Emanuel into a English class led Curtis Peterson, Accounting basics with Cheryl Sharp, Duct tape art led by Gabriela Newell and Oralia Ortiz, and Art led by Lucas Newell and MariaHelena Ortiz, and Games led by Jared Miller, Nate Newell and Clarissa Perez. All a combination of Woodlanders and Iglasia Bautista Emanuel. We closed our day by having a food experience eating “suchi in LAREDO!”, prepared by the hispanic community for us! Some were challenged and other had the best food experince in their lives! A true cultural experience.
Today we had 50 people for lunch! Classes are growing and relationships are solidifying and Iglesia Bautista Emanuel is firming some trusting relationships with local people from the Colonia of Penitas through the activities we (the multicultural body of Christ) are sharing. We are learning Spanish, they are soaking in English lessons, We are growing to respect and engage in the community, they are continuing to carry out their vision into the community. Each one of our gifts/talents are being used!
Pray for us as several more will be returning home tomorrow. Yet, I truely believe that God has a plan even with this paradyme: Usually word of mouth makes numbers grow… yet our team in decreasing…and I know God will provide the hands and resources to finish strong! The theme for the week is “The LORD will provide!” Walk and pray with us as Woodland and Iglesia Bautista Emmanuel embark in the work of HIS kingdom as “one body” with great different backgrounds, languages, experiences and passions, yet being part together is this beautiful yet difficult journey up the mountain to worship the ONE AND ONLY TRUE GOD. It takes sacrifice! And it is not a sacrifice if it does not hurt. Each one with our own burdens, yet with hearts determined to serve God who loves us unconditionally and makes us one. Hold the ropes at home, in unity with one another as Woodland is on mission. The purpose? “That all may proclaim God’s praise” (Isaiah 43:18-21)
in His service,
New International Version (NIV)
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
20 The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
that they may proclaim my praise
From your team of Woodland on Mission!