Thursday, March 19, 2009

Our Testimony

Jim and I were able to share our testimony in church last night. It was an awesome experience and I thought I would post what we said here since some of our friends were not able to be there. It is amazing to think about the process that God has been leading us through and that after five years of preparation, we are down to just three and a half weeks until our departure. We will continue to keep you posted as we get closer. God bless!

It has been five years since Jack Hayford came to East Hill and the words he spoke forever changed my life. It was that night the Lord renewed a long dormant call to serve Him full time. I always wondered when God would renew that call as I always knew someday He would and He did just that in a way I never expected.
That night God made His call so clear to me, that in fact it was a little bit scary. Not only did He call us to serve full time but He gave a clarity that was amazing. It was a call to serve Him in Mexico. As a native Oregonian I am rather fond of the rain and detest the heat, yet here God was calling me to serve Him in Mexico, a place where I had only been once in my life. It was also a call to work with children, children who have no place of their own to call home.
This provided a bit of a difficulty for me since I did not know of any such place. I prayed that God would show me where we were to serve and that He would make it clear to me when I found it.
I began my search by looking at missions that I had heard of, there were some in Honduras and other places and I even found one in Mexico that were all worthy of support but the Holy Spirit said to keep looking. I began to search the Internet and one night I spotted a link to a web site that I had not noticed before. It was to a place called Esperanza Viva which means Living Hope. When I clicked on the link and as the page started to open, it was the closest thing to an audible voice that I have ever heard God speak to me. I heard the Spirit clearly telling me, “This is the place”. I have to admit that took me aback, at that time I was not used to hearing God so clearly.
I literally did not know anything about this place or even where it was. Yet, there so clearly in my heart was the Holy Spirit reminding me that I had asked for it to be made clear when I found the place he had set aside for us to serve. I had to admit that was exactly what I had prayed for; I just did not expect it to be answered so clearly. I found myself saying aloud “All right Lord, this is the place and I will serve you here”, still knowing nothing about it other than this was where God was calling us to go.
In August of 2004 we took our family to Esperanza Viva to witness with our own eyes what was happening. We found orphaned and abandoned children given a safe home, an opportunity to find hope in this world and more so, Jesus. Everything was just as God had said it would be. The people were absolutely amazing and the staff is as dedicated as I have ever seen anywhere. As an added blessing to me, It turns out that Puebla has a temperate climate which seldom reaches over 85 and has an annual rainfall close to Portland’s.
I knew we had much to do before we could ever relocate our family to Mexico. One key thing was that I had made a promise to my employer and good friend to never quit. I shared with him our vision and calling. While he is a believer, he said he did not think he could ever agree to us going. I told him I would not pressure him and I left it to the Lord to figure out.
After returning home we decided our next step was to be involved with East Hill’s Missions Department. Brad Ketch met with us and while we were envisioning things like writing to missionaries, helping to pass out flyers, prayer meetings and other such churchy things, we were to find out that was not what Brad had in mind at all.
Brad brightened when we shared our vision; he is very big on regular people being used by God. He said God had sent us at just the right time for a certain project, and that was the Christmas tree lot. Though that was not even close to what we had in mind, we have now done it for the past five Christmas’s and through that we were able to get to know more people and obtain more exposure for Esperanza Viva than we ever could have hoped for.
While we were waiting, God was directing us to help raise funds to purchase land for the orphanage. All of the current facilities are rented and are not capable of housing all the children and the other ministries.
Finally with God increasing the harvest, the funds to purchase the land were raised. We gave, we approached others, they gave and they approached others and so it went. In the end it was a domino effect of Godly proportions where from just this area we ended up raising a significant amount of the funds needed.
With this project done I often talked to Gail that it seemed strange that we had still not been released to go. I said it just feels like there is one more thing we had to do before we could go. I just had no idea what it was
Now that the funds had been raised, it was time to buy land. One lot was selected that we believed God wanted the home to be built on. Once the negotiations were completed the money was transferred from the United States to a currency change house in Puebla, which Esperanza Viva had been using for almost fourteen years. Then disaster struck, the Mexican government froze all the funds because the change house was suspected of criminal activity. This included all the funds Esperanza Viva had transferred. We were devastated, so many had donated so much to support these children
Efforts to regain the funds included requests for help from US politicians. One day I asked Ray Young if he happened to know Gordon Smith, it turned out he had just had lunch with him the week before. Ray said during the time Senator Smith mentioned that if we ever had any trouble with foreign governments and our missionaries, he would do what he could to help. I was amazed at how God had done this. If we had already left to go to Mexico we would not have been in the right place to ask this simple question. Afterwards I turned to Gail and said, “I wonder if this was the “one last thing” God wanted us to do before we left.
We did not have to wait long to receive the answer. That weekend I went out to dinner with my employer and he said he was giving us his blessing to go to Mexico, this was in March of 2008, fours years after first being called but within four days of “that one last thing”.
Through the efforts of Senator Smith and others, in August of 2008 the Mexican government released the funds. Moreover between the time the money had been released and when the land was purchased the value of the peso against the dollar flipped. With the same amount of money we now had more pesos so we could build a dormitory as well!
Through the encourager's group God has given us verses and words of promise from Joshua.
To Jonathan and Erin they gave Joshua 1:5 "No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you." Their words were: I believe you are not going to Mexico just because your parents are going, but because God has called you to let your light shine to this younger generation. When the excitement and newness of the trip wears off and the times of loneliness come, remember your calling and that your God will bring new friends, new experiences, and new faith and trust in Him because He will never leave you or forsake you.
The verse to me is Joshua 1:3 "I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses." The words He gave are: God sees you as courageous! As you are leading your family into a new adventure, God says He will provide everything you need along the way. Jim, His promises to you will be fulfilled! The things that have happened in your life have prepared you for this time. You are coming into the fulfillment of your destiny!
The verse The Lord gave to me is Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." The words were: Gail, God is so pleased with you. You listened with an open heart, heard his voice, and responded. This is just the beginning of the ways the Lord is going to use you to touch many. Through this process, God has brought this verse to mind many times when fear would start to arise and it has given me the strength and courage to continue following His call.
We will be leaving April 13th and more than ever we need to rely upon the Lord and His provision. From a worldly perspective, staying would be best. Jonathan age 13 has Asperger’s syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, which makes it difficult to socialize, he has more friends than he has ever had in his life. Erin who is turning 11 is active in Kids Church and gymnastics and won four medals in only her second competition and could have a real chance at college scholarships. In this recession my job of 29 years would be quite secure. We have a beautiful home and a decent savings, and we have four grandchildren who live close by.
Yet God is calling us to leave all this, put all of it the line to go where He is calling us to go, to an area we do not know, we are strangers entering a foreign land. He is calling us to "risk it all".


Middleton said...

So glad you shared that... through tears I rejoice with you in the call God has on you and your family and the impact it will have on his children in Mexico. Being faithful to God seems like a risk to so many but I say you are taking the ONLY safe route!

Gail said...

You are right, it is the only safe route because it means that we are in the center of His will. It is just one of the toughest places to arrive at because it means surrendering our own desires, hopes and dreams. Of course when we surrender these things, our desires, hopes and dreams become His desires, His hopes and His dreams for us. I just need to follow His calling on my life. It is the most exciting adventure I have ever been on. I can't wait to see what God is going to do in and through our family as we take this step of faith. Well, on to packing. We move out of our house on Tuesday!