Friday, September 9, 2016

Prayer letter August 2016

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
Psalm 28:7a

Dear Friends,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who lived and died during the Nazi Era, wrote a poem during his final days of life. Below are the last lines of the poem:

Who am I? This one or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? Before others a hypocrite,
And before myself a contemptible, sniveling weakling?
Or is something still within me like a defeated army,
Retreating in disorder from a victory already won?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest me, O God, I am thine!

People ask themselves the question, “Who am I?” whether they are the middle of a crisis or just in daily life, in youth or advanced age, in daily conversations or in evangelism, during Vacation Bible School or during a natural disaster like the earthquake we experienced in Ecuador in April. It is normal to question oneself, and it is not always an easy question to answer. As missionaries it is our desire that people be able to answer the question, “Who am I?” with the response that Bonheoffer had: “Whoever I am, Thou knowest me, O God, I am thine!” Keep reading to see how we face this question in our ministry.

“Who am I?” is a basic question in counseling. Last week a young man came looking for help: healthy, cheerful, successful, but frightened by life. He can’t sleep at night. He has panic attacks. Many things have changed in his life in recent months, and now he doesn’t know who he really is and what he wants to do with his life. As I read Galatians 5:22-23 (fruit of the Spirit) with him, he has tears in his eyes. He has neither love nor joy nor peace in his heart. Who is he? Who does God say he is?

Since May I have been working on further training to become a certified Biblical counselor, in order to help people like him. It is my desire to help people by means of counseling, mentoring and coaching, and to help them find their identity in God. A healthy relationship with God provides a healthy basis for all other relationships.

Vacation Bible School in Mira
“Who am I? QuiĆ©n soy?” was the title of the Vacation Bible School that we held at the end of June in Mira. With our family and church members, Dana’s cousin and her family who were visiting, plus a few Impact Team members, we organized an English VBS. The theme was who we are in God. Instead of “guilty,” we can be “forgiven.” Instead of “useless,” we can be called “loved.” Instead of “lost,” we are saved. Instead of “rejected,” we are “loved by God.”

The children learned Bible verses and songs in English and Spanish. It was fantastic to see how the children’s interest and excitement grew throughout the week. Our Youth/Kids Club has since grown to 16 kids.

Church Growth in Mira
As head pastor, it is a challenge to find suitable leaders. There are church members who are willing to help, but who are not qualified to lead. Then there are others whom I would like to see lead, but who lack the necessary maturity. My job as pastor is to develop and guide them through conversations, mentoring, training, teaching and prayer.

Who am I? The head pastor – authority in spiritual as well as administrative areas. On the other hand, also a servant – providing rides, practical help, financial assistance, cleaning and much more. As a servant leader, it is my job to encourage growth through training and to involve others in Bible studies and visitation. For example, in the cell group in La Portada the members are enthusiastic about reading and understanding God’s Word. They want to put God’s Word into practice, and I see a lot of potential here for future leaders.

The people on the Ecuadorian coast, however, have completely different, existential questions. After the earthquake on April 16, the question is more, “Who am I? It could have been me under the wreckage. Why am I still here and my family member not?” Or the question, “What am I supposed to do now? Everything I have worked for is gone.”

About one month after the earthquake, I travelled to the coast with three other leaders from the Liebenzell Mission Ecuador to see how we can help out. We realized that some of the reconstruction is being financed by the State, though there is still much to be done. What else is lacking, however, is help with the daily needs: counseling after such a traumatic event, programs for the children, practical help through food baskets, etc. Several teams from the Mission have already gone to the coast to host events for youth and children, to share in church services, to rebuild homes, and to hold evangelism and other outreach programs. We would like to say a big “thank you” to everyone who donated and is praying. May God bless you.

“Sheila Team” (Dana & Jessica)
In the middle of June, Dana and Jessica were able to go on a special outreach. Every year a group of doctors, nurses and vacation Bible school volunteers come to Ecuador from Kentucky and provide medical help as well as programs for the children. They visit the Awa during their stay. This year Dana and Jessica assisted as translators and helpers. They enjoyed their time serving together alongside our colleagues, who host the group each year. Jessica is becoming a great helper, at home as well as in the ministry.

Our kids are all growing. Benni and Caleb have matured and become more independent thanks to the good experience they’re having in the boarding school. The twins are still the “little ones,” but they have become big helpers at home as well.

Baking Class in Mira
Recently a church member approached Dana and asked her to teach her how to bake the various cookies and cakes Dana brings to church. This was the beginning of a great and tasty time. Dana and three other ladies from church have been baking now for several months. The women in Mira would like to increase their income by baking and selling different snacks, and Dana enjoys the fellowship she shares with the women. After youth group/kids club in Mira on Wednesdays, the youth and I stop by and test the newly acquired cooking skills. J Please pray that the baking classes not only help the women financially, but that they will also lead to many good conversations. Dana hopes to start up the classes again after school starts.

We have been serving together as missionaries now for 14 years. Time after time we have seen how God supports us financially, personally and in the Mission. We would like to take the opportunity to thank you and to encourage you to continue to pray for us and the ministry, as well as to financially support us as possible. Each month we are encouraged by the names we see on our donation list and we thank God for you. Thank you all for sharing, supporting and praying for us and the ministry.

“Who am I?” Bonhoeffer came to the conclusion that he belongs to God. Let us live in this assurance. God knows us and our future. HE is our strength and shield and will guide and carry us, whatever comes our way. We pray that you will have this assurance, and that you will trust in Him and be helped.

Greetings from Ecuador,

Daniel & Dana, Benjamin, Caleb, Jessica, Sabrina, Alexa

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