It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written, but for good reason. As you know, we finally got back to Sucre in late August, after traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina for a Cell Church conference that was being held there. After returning, we’ve been so very busy, especially with the church. We’ve also traveled several times after being home. I traveled to Cochabamba in September and to La Paz in October, and Norah went to La Paz for 2 weeks in early October also!
Anyways… here’s the BIG NEWS»»»»» Derrick Asher Skipper was born at 5:17 am on November 10th. He was born through a normal birth (Erynn was normal, Jordan was through a C-Section), weighing 7 lbs 1 oz and measuring 20.1 inches long. As both Erynn and Jordan, he’s fairly white skinned, brown eyed and darker hair. As far as we can tell, he’s totally healthy. He has been great since his birth, and as long as his stomach is full, he’s a happy camper. The kids just love him, although surprisingly Erynn is the one who seems most affected by it. She has been pretty sentimental ever since he was born. I guess that’s pretty normal for kids though. If you want to see more pictures of him (and I’m sure you do!), you can follow this link. Derrick’s “First Days” Album
Norah hasn’t had the same luck as Derrick. She’s had quite a few problems since his birth, and is just now recuperating from most things. He was born quickly that morning, and they didn’t even make it to the delivery room. Thank goodness we made it to the hospital! He was born on the bed in Norah’s room, and I had to yell for the nurses to come running, because I saw his head coming out!!! But with that quick birth, Norah was ripped up pretty badly down there, so she had to get several stitches. The next day, Sunday the 11th, she got her tubes tied (Tubal Ligation). That was supposed to be pretty simple, but when they opened her up, just under her belly button, they found her bladder was stuck to her uterus. So, they had to separate both of them to be able to get to her tubes. In that process, the bladder ripped, so she had to get stitches in it. She had a catheter put in afterwards, and was with that for about 9 days, until blood stopped coming out in her urine. She has also lost a lot of blood from her uterus. This past Wednesday we went to get a sonogram after 12 days of intense bleeding and pain, and found that she has Endometritis. Endometritis refers to inflammation of the endometrium, the inner lining of the uterus. Apparently she still has something in her uterus and it is causing quite a bit of problems, so she is now taking medicine that is causing her to have contractions again, hopefully to expulse all that is in there soon. Not fun, but she’s coping. She’s finally able to walk around some since she got the catheter taken out. Still she seems very weak, probably because of all of the lost blood. I’m not quite sure why, but she has had TOO many problems with the births and miscarriages that she has had… thank goodness this will be the last time!
Change of Plans
Since we’ve been back, one of our main goals has been to prepare the church for our leaving. That hasn’t been as easy as I would have wished, although it’s probably about as expected… We stated in our last letter that we would hopefully be heading back to the states in late December or early January. Let me just say out front that it isn’t going to happen. I have to admit that at times I am very impulsive, and one of the things in my mind was… “If we’re going to spend the rest of our lives planting and raising up a church in the United States, then I want to start as soon as possible!” I acknowledge now that that was some pretty poor thinking/planning.
The problem is this. We have something very important and special happening here in Sucre and in our church. This is the only truly growing church in the city, and it has become an important part of the national church in Bolivia. For us to leave here, we have to be able to leave it in a way that it won’t only “survive” our departure, but it will continue to grow the same or even more than it has up until now. After returning from our trip to the states, we realized that two important things were missing. Visionary leadership and finances. Let me explain…
While we were in the states, we maintained close contact with those who we left in charge of the church. They told us of the great things that God was doing, how he was moving, about miracles that were happening, etc. Upon our arrival here, we found that this truly was the case, but that most leaders were so excited about what was going on, that many of them were spending all of their time in the church, but quit holding their small group meetings. Since we left in June, and up until a few weeks ago, the church had pretty well stopped growing. Cell groups had closed and fewer and fewer new people were coming to the church. Since our return, we have had to work hard on getting people focused and back on track again. Finally things are going well again, as most of the cell groups that had closed have opened up again this month, along with several new ones. We’ve also had many new people in our services, which has been wonderful. Last Sunday over 20 people received the Lord after the sermon! Interestingly enough, the title of my sermon was “Losing My Religion”.
So things are back on track as of now, but all of this has caused me to realize that several things are missing yet if we want to truly leave the church on a victorious path! Studies have shown that apart from intense passion and spirituality that is needed for church growth, there are two factors that make or break the growth of a church: 1) The church must have enough money to support itself and to also reach out and do many activities to impact the community and 2) The correct person must be in charge. If the wrong person is there, if the person who is at the top does not have the leadership skills necessary to move the church forward on a visionary path, then it’s almost a given that the growth will stop and quite possibly the church will fail.
Still We Feel God’s Calling
Even though we won’t be leaving in December or January, we still feel that God has called us to continue our ministry planting a church in the United States. I think that maybe we messed up on the timing some, but I don’t feel that we messed up on the calling… We are now working hard on organizing the church in a very efficient way, and also I am working hard on training Joel and Verónica, along with several other leaders in leadership skills. I’m trying to teach them all that I know and a whole lot more… (It’s a given that I don’t know a whole lot! ) We are also working hard on finding ways of increasing the income that the church generates itself. As of now, it gets by, but just barely. That’s not good. In any case, we HOPE, and I want to make that very clear that this is our WISH/HOPE, that we can return to the states sometime in June of 2008. We still are in contact with this Organization ELI (Emerging Leadership Initiative), and hope to continue with them after our return. Even so, we are totally adamant on this: We must leave this church on a path that will assure it’s continued spiritual and physical growth, and we will stay here until we are sure that will happen.
I had planned on writing quite a bit about all the crazy stuff that’s happening politically here in Sucre, but I realize that this has gotten very long. I will write about all of that in a later post. We ask that you would please pray for us, for our safety here in this crazy country, and for strength and guidance for all that we will be doing during the next few months. May God bless your lives richly, and thank you for everything!
Please write us or comment here at the end of this document! As you probably have noticed, I’ve been working on this new website model. Please let me know if you have any problems with it, since it still is in beta!
Jason, Norah, Erynn, Jordan & Derrick!!!