El Salvador Rises
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
It wasn’t until we stood on the top of a mountain several days into the trip that we saw the first white person in El Salvador besides those on our team. People don’t travel to El Salvador for tourism or business. It’s not really advised.
El Salvador feels almost muffled behind a violent gang culture and a corrupt political and judicial system. As we walked the streets, we didn’t see any open violence or extortion, but there was an oppressive feeling of hopelessness and fear that cuts through the shy smiles and long stares.
Here’s some stories we heard:
A gang member wanted a daughter of a single woman as his girlfriend. When the girl refused, the gang threatened to kill the entire family for resisting. Thankfully, the family was able to relocate to Guatemala for a while, and they recently moved into a safe house in a mission compound. They loved the new house because they had never lived in a home with windows.
One pastor explained that the government is trying to crack down on the gangs, so anyone associated with a known gang member is liable for arrest. This means if a gang member walks into his church to learn about Jesus, the pastor could be arrested for “assisting” him.
But the violence and threats have not stopped the churches.
One pastor we trained lost two brothers to gang violence, but he will soon be running a school with seven ex-gang members who are now believers. He showed us a picture of one of the future students whose face is covered with blue tattoos. This man will now be trained as a missionary through Live School to take the gospel back into the gangs he came out of.
Alex grew up homeless in Los Angeles, got involved in gangs and drugs, and went to prison until he was deported to El Salvador. In El Salvador he repeated that lifestyle until he was radically saved in prison. Now, he works among juvenile prisoners in San Salvador – teaching them English, soccer, and most importantly, about Jesus.
Alex will soon start a Live School with some of the young prisoners he has led to the Lord. Once they turn 18, many of these boys will be moved into the regular prisons, prisons where no one is allowed in or out. Alex’s hope: train these young men as missionaries who will go into a place that no one else can get into…and share the gospel.
The two facilitator trainings went incredibly well in both Guatemala and El Salvador. The facilitators were attentive and excited even though the days were long and the material rigorous.
Altogether, 11 Live Schools should start within these countries by the end of the year! These schools will train around 90 believers as missionaries! Praise the Lord for these first schools!
These pastors and students are brave. They reach people groups within Central America that very few of us could reach. They face opposition and violence and arrest.
Can I, as white American woman, reach El Salvadoran gangs on the streets? Probably not. But God has drawn to himself many El Salvadoran believers who are ready and willing and able to reach those groups.
God has supplied his Church with everything it needs to reach the world with the gospel. It always takes bravery to bring the gospel to someone – whether you’re in the Bible Belt of the South or on the El Salvadoran streets.
So that’s what I returned home with – be brave with the gospel. Even when it’s terrifying to be obedient in sharing.
We are placed precisely where we are, in a particular culture, among certain people, each with our own personal history to be the disciple-makers Jesus told us to be.
Who is the Lord calling you to minister amongst? Look and then go. Let’s be brave with the best message on earth.
Luke 18:16 reveals the LORD Jesus’ response to children: When “the disciples…shooed [children] off. Jesus called them back. “Let these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These children are the kingdom’s pride and joy. Mark this: UNLESS YOU ACCEPT GOD’S KINGDOM IN THE SIMPLICITY OF A CHILD, YOU’LL NEVER GET IN.” (MSG)
THE SIMPLICITY OF A CHILD: Children have remarkable faith. They seem to have an enormous capacity to love, to evidence total dependence and trust. I remember how my son Danny on occasion put me in some awkward situations by claiming that he knew that his Dad could do anything—the simplicity of a child!
I am blessed to have 4 Great-Grandchildren living next to me, in the larger section of our home. The oldest, Mia, the fourth, is an adopted Ethiopian great-granddaughter, special and remarkable in many ways. When we had the house built in ‘94-’95, no one imagined that in my advanced age I would be blessed by all of them, including their parents, but usually by my amazing great-grandsons, Eli 9, Levi 8 and Makai 5, My faith has been strengthened and grown just by observing and interacting with them. For example their faith, trust and showing love, are so very evident. They are not concerned for what they will eat, where they will sleep, who will care for them, etc., etc.
Every once in a while they are left in my care and just their knowing I am there, (of course true for their confidence and dependence upon their Dad and Mom) is their security, no questions asked. Quite frequently they frolic in my living room, just because I am there, feeling totally welcome. They jump, run to and fro, roll around or do whatever amuses them.
If they do not find me in my section of the house, they will search and call out, ‘Pop-Pop where are you’? At my response they join me, in whatever I may be doing. It may be on my daily walk through the woods, or being busy somewhere in the yard or garden. Our interaction is nothing profound, sometimes just small-talk or imaginary things. Regardless of what I may be doing they are just content to be where I am. The simplicity of a child!
Needless to say I love them dearly and they respond to my loving them by loving me in return. Hugs, crawling onto my lap, sitting with me in bed— these little fellows readily show their ‘love’ with no pretense. It is simply who and what they are—their norm for life. There isn’t much that can compare with such childlike simplicity.
Can I possibly meet all their needs, or respond fully to their love for and trust of their Pop-Pop? No! I am not omnipotent—I am very limited in my physical ability. Can I know all they think or want me to do? No! I am not omniscient. Can I always be with them, as they sometimes expect? No! I am not omnipresent. But do I love them? Yes!!!
GOD LONGS FOR SUCH SIMPLICITY FROM YOU AND ME. No pretense, unswerving trust, total dependence, amazing confidence, enjoying our daily walk with Him, knowing that His love is constant and unconditional. He loves us with an unchanging love, never less, nor more. His love is inexhaustible. When Thomas Cromwell was shown a picture of himself for his approval, but without his many warts, he exclaimed, “Paint it warts and all!” To know and rest in the fact that God loves me and you, ‘warts’ and all (our many flaws), is beyond my comprehension.
This brings me to reflect on God’s amazing love seen in both the Old and New Testaments. In Psalm63:3-4, the Psalmist declares that God’s ‘lovingkindness’ is better than life. The psalmist David wanted others to know that His God is the God of ‘lovingkindness’. His love is demonstrated in His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. That’s why John 3:16 is so remarkable—in spite of knowing and seeing the sinfulness of humankind, God’s love and compassion sent Jesus Christ to the Cross to redeem us and transfer us into His Kingdom. WOW!!! What love and kindness.
Psalm 136 reveals that God created in and because of His lovingkindness, as well as all the events covered in this Psalm. That being so we can safely conclude that the crown of His creation, man, described in Psalm 139 was created because of His amazing lovingkindness. What follows is my attempt to align Psalm 136 with Psalm 139 so God’s Lamb’s Book of Life disciples will know beyond doubt that all God has done and continues to do are all because He loves and has boundless ‘kindness’—compassion for mankind.
Psalm 136:1-3 God is acknowledged as SOVEREIGN GOD—Lord of lords and He is good, all due to His love. He is not in competition with anyone or anything. All is in His control. In Psalm 139:1-4 His goodness and sovereignty are underscored: “O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. 3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, You know it all.” Amazing! God knows everything about you and me, and yet He loves us in spite of the many times we are so unlovable!!!
Psalm 136:4-9 He is acknowledged as CREATOR GOD motivated by love. Nothing exists that He did not create, “all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossian1:16)—and all because He loves and is Love. Psalm 139 covers the creation of man:” 13 You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance….” God knew before our birth every detail of our life and beyond, because He loves.
Psalm 136:10-15 He is known as GOD THE DELIVERER. Because He loves, and being Sovereign God, absolutely no circumstance is too hard for Him:”27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jeremiah 32). Psalm 139 illustrates: “7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,10 Even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me.” Again—because He loves and is compassionate.
Psalm 136:16-20 He is known as the SUSTAINER/PROTECTOR GOD. His amazing love put a hedge about Israel as they traversed enemy territory, and so Psalm 91:11, 14 pledges “He will give His angels charge concerning you….Because he has loved Me…I will deliver him….” Thus Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written. THE DAYS THAT WERE ORDAINED FOR ME, when as yet there was not one of them.” 18 …. When I awake, I am still with You.” His constant PRESENCE is guaranteed—“I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
Psalm 136: 21-25 He is identified as the FAITHFUL/PROVIDER GOD: Knowing “You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19).And Psalm 139? 17 “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand….” Does God’s thoughts exclude anything concerning us? No! Why? Because of His love and compassion, His kindness.
Psalm 136:26 He is celebrated as the SUPREME RULER. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8). Psalm 139: 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night, 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.” All because He is the God of Love.
WHY SUCH DECLARATIONS? All of the above are given because He loves you and me! AND THAT’S WHY “13 He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Wow!!!
HIS LOVING DESIRE— is “9 that [we] may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 [to] walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously 12 giving thanks to the Father,”
WHY SUCH AMAZING CONCERN? Because: “16 FOR BY HIM ALL THINGS WERE CREATED, both in the heavens and on earth,… and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:13-14; 9-12; 15-17.
God loves us with an untiring love. He plans and allows only what is best for us so we will be ‘blameless’ on the day we appear before Him. Regardless of what you may be going through right now, TRUST HIM. “GOD IS BIGGER THAN ANY MOUNTAIN (trials) THAT I CAN OR CANNOT SEE.” “Bigger than all my fears; bigger than all my confusion; bigger than all my questions; bigger than all the shadows that fall on my back; bigger than anything; God is bigger than any mountain that I can or cannot see.” (Gordon Jensen).
In childlike simplicity, trust Him, enjoy Him and rest in His love. It is unconditional. Keep ‘short accounts—and when necessary, confess and repent’ (1 John 1:7-9). And do not forget Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:18-20—in your daily goings, wherever it may take you, ‘disciple’ for the glory of God.
In God’s grace,
Philip M. Steyne
A story from Zambia
He was wheelchair bound, and so he was unclean. His body was not whole, so he was not qualified to minister.
That’s what Lemmy’s church told him in Zambia.
Lemmy had been wheelchair bound for many years, but that hadn’t stopped him. He had become a youth pastor in a local village church in Western Zambia…until the pastor told him that he could no longer minister because he had been cursed by God and was unclean due to his paralysis.
Lemmy went into depression. He left the church. He left his community. He stopped preaching. And he was angry at God.
But God did not forget Lemmy. By His grace, several Live School students in Mwande met Lemmy while on outreach. They encouraged him to come and attend the Live School classes with them.
Lemmy agreed and went through the whole of the Live School curriculum, learning about discipleship, theology, leadership, evangelism, perseverance in ministry and much more.
By the time of graduation, Lemmy was a new man. He realized that his physical state had nothing to do with his spiritual state. He learned that because God had given him the message of the gospel, he was commanded to preach it despite all obstacles. Lemmy was rejuvenated to continue ministry, and this time he was equipped with the tools and resources to do it even better than before.
If you ever venture into the villages of Western Zambia, you’ll probably meet Lemmy. Every day he goes house-to-house preaching the gospel and ministering to those in need.
There are only a handful of paved roads in his area, but you’ll see Lemmy’s arms pump up and down as he plows through the sand to get to each household. And he does so with great joy.
Lemmy’s wheel tracks in the sand are a testament to the goodness of the gospel. Nothing can stop Lemmy from sharing it with those who are lost…not even some irksome sand.
And Lemmy’s life displays the gospel. What the world calls broken or cursed, God calls strong and worthy. He takes weak vessels like you and me and calls us to be his royal ambassadors, taking his message of Life to those who are living in death.
Let us not allow rejection, or brokenness, or some sand to get in the way of us displaying the gospel to those around us. Let the rejection from the world be in stark contrast to the acceptance of our Heavenly Father. Let our brokenness be a testament to the strength of our King. Let the obstacles to ministry push us towards Jesus, our mountain-mover and mighty warrior.
Keep going. Keep plowing through the sand. Salvation is at hand.
Through the students of the Live School, which Lemmy attended, seven churches have already been planted in the villages of Western Zambia.
Cuba is a fascinating country with a hard but hopeful history. It’s a land stuck between the third and first world, between 1950s’-style suburbs and concrete apartment buildings, between European streetscapes and two aisle grocery stores with only hot dogs in the meat section.
The island landscape is beautiful, but the people even more so! Few speak any English but their smiles and hugs and multiple kisses on your cheek speak volumes. They are friendly, hospitable, and kind.
We had truly productive and inspiring meetings with the regional leaders while there. During the meetings there was honest discussion and decisions were made concerning organizational leadership, funding, office roles, and unity of the team members.
The Lord also restored the vision and purpose of raising up one million laborers for the harvest fields of the world. Recently, most of our staff and leadership have gotten so bogged down in admin, details, issues, and funding that we had forgotten to look at the bigger picture, the grand horizon of training laborers who will bring the gospel message to the ends of the earth. The regional leaders were re-inspired to take up their roles as apostolic, visionary leaders and strategists who can help churches see greater kingdom vision within their countries.
Without vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18); we thank the Lord that He renewed and granted vision again.
We had the privilege of attending house churches on Sunday and joining them in worship was refreshing. We also got to meet and encourage the facilitators of the first schools in Havana!
The facilitators were energetic and excited about their schools and many showed us their organized files with the one-page notes from every student! They are already half-way through the curriculum. When asked about their outreach, every facilitator wanted to share how they had done door-to-door or street evangelism and seen many come to the Lord! We had to stop the sharing time because there were so many stories! 🙂
Praise the Lord that Cuban believers are taking to their streets to proclaim the gospel!
Another team from Columbia came down to do facilitator’s training in a more remote village in Cuba that week as well. The church was ecstatic to see them as they had never had missionaries come to their village! The Lord granted the team incredible success in training and they have some amazing stories to tell!
Behold, it is a new day.
It’s harvest time!
Therefore, it’s time to pull the combines out of the barn – out of the four walls of the church – and get them into the field! 2016 was a time of revealing and healing. Let 2017 be the time to reap and keep the harvest! Fill your tanks up with the fuel of the Holy Spirit! Crank up those engines by stirring up the gift of God in you! Head to the fields! Launch out into the deep! Drop your cutting blades in! Throw your nets on the right side of the boat!
It’s harvest time…may your boats almost sink with the catch! HARVEST! HARVEST! HARVEST! The fields are ripe unto harvest! Let us celebrate the New Year, for today is the day of salvation! Open your mouth and prime the pump. Declare the Good News and people will come to see you burn like a stump…a stump that burns and burns and never goes out. This is the fire of the Spirit, which drives darkness out. You’ve been trained and raised armies for battle. Now it’s time to run at full throttle. For the Harvest is ripe, and you are strategically placed.
Lift up your eyes and run your race! Lift up your eyes and give glory in the light of His face! By the power of His grace, we will finish His race! Therefore run with focus; there will be no disgrace. Run with abandon in Christ our King, and let Him subdue His enemies through you and through me! Multitudes on multitudes will bow their knee. And then you will see why He has called you. Then you will understand why He called you to himself.
– Chip & Kathy Carroll, West & Central Africa