Dear Gentle Reader,
In Psalm 29:10, David, using metaphorical prose, states: The Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth king forever. He is alluding to God’s power and sovereignty over men, and even nature.
Our family experienced first-hand God’s power and providential protection these last few months, as we had unusually prolific monsoons this year in the mountains of Sonora, Mexico. These heavy rains bring flash flooding and have made our river crossings especially dangerous. On several occasions we have been delayed for hours waiting for the waters to recede. Even then, at times, we have been obliged to ford these swollen streams with water up to the headlights of our four-wheel-drive pick-up. It is a frightening experience for my wife and children, but God has taken us through safely thus far. The only reason we take such risks is, once we start the trip up or down the mountain, we must race the fall of night because the danger increases as darkness overtakes us. It is harder to judge the swift currents and the boulders in our path once we lose our visibility. Also, the roads belong to the drug cartels at night. We don’t want to be
mistaken for the enemy cartel. They have been known to accidentally kill innocent families because of mistaken identity of a vehicle.
Your prayers for our safety have often times made a difference in the outcome of our circumstances. Thus we are grateful for every prayer that is offered up on our behalf.
This summer we were able to have a VBS in Matarachi as COVID restrictions have loosened. God blessed in a mighty way. Pastor Juan and his family came up from Arivechi, accompanied by two other young people who were on summer break from Bible school. Their help was invaluable; we would not have had the wonderful results we saw without their assistance. We were praying to have 50 children attend, and to our joyous surprise, we got to share the gospel with over 70 children. Readjustments were quickly made to our crafts and refreshments to meet the increased attendance. It was our pleasure to experience this unexpected but nonetheless appreciated enthusiasm from our villagers. Many of them expressed their amazement, as well as ours, about such a good turn out. We had probably about 3/4 of the kids in our village show up for classes. To God be ALL the glory!!!
Of those 70 some odd attendees we had seven decisions for Christ by the end of the week. God is good all the time! We ended that week exhausted yet praising God for what he did. Another amazing work that God did was the bringing about of one of His divine appointments. One morning last month, while our family was finishing our breakfast and doing our family Bible time together at the kitchen table, we closed our devotion with prayer. God led me to ask him to put someone in our path that day that our family could minister to and share Christ with. That afternoon, as I was weed-eating a neighbors yard, a stranger approached me and began greeting me in perfect English.
After we exchanged formalities, he finally broached the subject for which he had truly wanted to talk with me. He told me that he was in a very difficult situation and that he needed some counsel (other people had told him to come talk to me and that I would help him). I thought that he was a mine worker, and that he just needed some advice about a decision he needed to make.
That night, after dark, he came over to our house. He had a bulletproof vest on, and the barrel of an AK-47 sticking out from under his long coat, and a walkie-talkie in his coat pocket that every once-in-a-while streamed radio comms from his other narco-guerrilla squad members. He was supposed to be on watch duty that night (what they call a “punto” or “look-out”) so as to avoid a surprise raid either by the army soldiers or another enemy cartel.
We had just recently had several big shoot-outs (balaceras) near our town of Matarachi, and Andrew had been involved in all of them. The second enfrentamiento (confrontation) was with the army, and they had ambushed him and his buddies just a few miles out of town. Sara and I were just going to bed after putting our kids to sleep, when the night erupted with the deep staccato bursts of a 50-caliber machine gun (only days before the opposing cartel from Yecora had attacked deep within Andrew’s territory and actually overrun and shot some of his group). In the fire-fight with the army, Andrew was nearly killed. He told me that the only thing that saved him was that their vehicle was armor-plated, and he was sitting in the backseat. He immediately dismounted the vehicle with his AK blazing and ran up the side of the mountain and into the deep woods. The gun battle ensued for the next hour and a half as the soldiers pursued them on foot. It was a cold, rainy night, and Andrew told me he had never shivered so much as he did that miserable night. He finally circled back around into town during the wee hours of the next morning, found a water tank truck that belonged to one of the mine contractors (with the door unlocked). He hopped up into the cab and tried to get a little sleep before the sun came up. Then he would have to head back into the woods.
Andrew told me that he got mixed up with these narco-guerrillas because of a troubled home life. He confessed to me that it was a very foolish mistake and now he was regretting his bad decision. The cartel had enticed him with the promise that they would be his new family and that they would take care of him and have his back. They promised him guns, easy money, and protection in exchange for his services. When Andrew came to me that night, he confessed that he didn’t have a penny to his name, he was hungry (hadn’t eaten for several days), he was cold (had one blanket to cover himself at night), and the soldiers had taken his cell phone away from him in one close encounter (and so he couldn’t call his family). He told me, “They lied to me! They don’t care about me! If I go to prison or get killed, like some of my other buddies, they’ll just go find someone else to take my place.”
Sara gave him a hot cup of coffee and a bowl of beans that we had left over from supper. He asked me if I would let him use my cell phone to call his dad and see if he would let him come back home. I did, and his father said he could have another chance. Andrew, surprisingly enough, comes from a well-to-do family with influence and prominent social standing. He had no need to live like he was living. His father could offer him a good, comfortable, easy life. Satan had deceived Andrew and convinced him otherwise.
I asked Andrew if I were to take him home to his father, would that put me in danger with his cartel boss. I reminded him that I have a wife and five young kids, and I couldn’t risk making them a target of the cartel if they found out that I had helped him get out of that business. There was also the risk of running into an army patrol. They would be less than sympathetic of me for trying to help Andrew get a fresh start. He promised me that he would make sure that my family would not be compromised if I would help him get back home.
Andrew kept his word, and unbeknownst to me, all that night he was on his radio sending and receiving messages from his contacts. He was making sure that we would not be stopped on our way down the mountain the next morning.
I tossed and turned all night as Satan attacked my thoughts and showed me all his worst case scenarios. But, I just kept remembering my prayer the day before asking God that our family could minister to someone that day; how God had sent Andrew to our home; how Andrew had told me that he was desperate and didn’t know where else to turn. He said he felt like he couldn’t trust anyone else with his problem; no one would want to take the risk of getting involved. The Holy Spirit would bring to my mind the story of the “Good Samaritan”, how the religious leaders were too busy to mess with the “wounded stranger” in their path.
We left early the next morning, before sunrise, while much of the townspeople were still just waking up. Andrew had turned in his weapon, body armor and fatigues, walkie-talkie, and was dressed in civilian clothes now. But even so, I knew if we were stopped with his sin-hardened face, scraggly beard, haggard physique, and nervous eyes, that he was a dead-ringer for a narco.
For the next seven hours, I had a captive audience, and I knew that God had put Andrew in the passenger seat of my Chevy Silverado to hear the gospel. I began by sharing my testimony, how God had changed my life. I shared what a good God he is, what a wonderful plan he has for me, and how he transformed my life in a radical way. Then, I told him how horrible a taskmaster Satan is; how he wanted to ruin Andrews life; and eventually destroy him and ultimately damn his eternal soul. Next, I shared the Bible story of the prodigal son. It really hit home with Andrew. He had spent the last couple of years living that story himself.
When we finally drove up to his father’s little farm, I dropped Andrew off at his boyhood home. Immediately, he began to introduce me to all his family and friends and tell them how I had helped him get back home from the mountains. His changed demeanor was like night and day. His nervousness had melted into exuberant happiness. His tired and exhausted body (that had been beaten to a pulp a few weeks before by the soldiers interrogating him- he had some broken ribs, I suspect) suddenly took on new life as he began to realize that he was back home, in a safe place, surrounded by friends and family. We ate lunch (he hadn’t wanted to stop anywhere along the way to grab a bite to eat because he told me it wasn’t a safe zone for him). Then, he insisted on giving me a tour of his dad’s farm and loading me up with red chilies, grapefruit, lemons, and oranges to take back home to my family. He was very generous and showered me with these gifts of gratitude and appreciation for taking the time and the risk of helping him get out of a bad situation.
As we drank a hot cup of coffee on the porch of the little farmhouse, I told Andrew that I wanted his permission to take God‘s word and show him how he could give his heart to Jesus and start his life afresh.
Andrew gave me permission, and in the presence of one of his uncles, Andrew heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and how he had suffered and died for him. I told him that God had a wonderful purpose for his life, and He wanted Andrew to experience true soul-rest and peace of mind. As I took the Bible and explained the Roman Road of salvation to Andrew, he listened intently. He was beginning to “see the light.” His understanding, and his heart, were opened by the Holy Spirit of God. As we came to the end of the gospel story, I asked Andrew, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for you and rose to give you new life?” Andrew nodded “yes.” “Would you like to let him come into your life?” I asked. “Yes, I do.” he replied.
As I helped lead him in a prayer of repentance and turning to Christ, Andrew began to weep, and the flood of God’s mercy and forgiveness began to wash over his repentant heart and soul. He looked at me through his tears and thanked me for telling him the story. As I was preparing to climb into the cab of my pick-up and head back home, he couldn’t let me go without giving me a big bear-hug and a grateful smile of thanks. I left him with a handful of chick tracts that Lindsey Chapel Baptist Church had sent us to hand out in our village. I told him to read them and prayerfully share them with his family and friends back home. Andrew had come to himself. He had decided to leave the hog-pen and go back to his father’s farm. Pray for Andrew to grow in his new faith in Christ and to be a witness to his family and his town. Glory to God for his divine appointments!
Pray that there will be no reprisals to my family as a consequence of stepping into the gap to help brother Andrew.
Thanks for helping send us to preach the gospel to those people who walk in darkness, that dwell in the land of the shadow of death. For unto them hath the light [of God] shined. They have seen a great light [Jesus]! Isaiah 9:2 With heartfelt love and thanks for your prayers and support,
Your missionaries to Mexico