We hope and pray that you are doing well after this wonderful summer that we have had. We’ve been home since June 15th and, although we have had lots of rain, and also heat over the past week, this has been a wonderful summer for us. One, because we can get out of the cold temperatures of winter in Sucre and two, because we’ve been able to see a lot of friends and family since we’ve been home. In this letter I want to share how things are going with us and the church… AND we have some BIG NEWS! This letter will be longer than usual, so I’m going to put headings on each section so it is easier to read.
What’s Going On In Our Lives?…
For us, things have been going VERY WELL! After all of the commotion of the International Cell Conference, the Encounter Retreats, and many other things that were going on in Sucre, we were really tired and kind of stressed out. (If you don’t know about all that has been happening down there over the past year, go to www.hohnet.com where I have uploaded all of our e-mail letters about those events.) Alas, having a rapidly growing church is wonderful, but it does bring its share of problems and stresses! We decided that we would take it easy this time while at home. We have and it’s been good for us. Of course we’ve still needed to raise some funds for the work down there, but we decided that taking it easy was our number one priority. We have visited a few churches, but have not been able to get around to all of them… but don’t worry, we’ll be back soon!…
Norah is now 6 months pregnant. This baby is an active one! (We know it’s only one baby because we got a sonogram before we came back) Sometimes it looks like a boxing match is going on inside of Norah when we sit and watch her tummy. She feels much better now than she did at the beginning of her pregnancy, but now she’s having trouble sleeping because of all of the movement going on down there. Erynn and Jordan just love it back here. They are really taking advantage of being outside while they can! We were able to get Jordan screened by a speech therapist, since he still isn’t talking much. They can’t seem to find a reason for why he isn’t talking yet, but they believe that it’s not related to anything other than a speech delay. They wanted to do more general testing on him, but we haven’t been able to coordinate that with them. The Board of Education is doing all of this, and summer is not normally the time to get those things done.
How’s The Church?
The church in Sucre is just doing fantastic. We’ve been in constant contact with them, and the church continues to grow. They’ve continued to be very active while we’ve been gone. They just completed a seven day fast as a church. They didn’t fast for 7 straight days, but each one fasted for half a day 7 days in a row. They met together at the church early in the morning and at lunch time to pray. The main focus was Bolivia, asking God’s favor over the church to continue reaching out and making an impact on Sucre and all of Bolivia. They’ve had a few Encounter retreats, and God has moved in a great way in their services. Flora, who is part of our main team of 12, preached in a service a little over a month ago. Towards the end, she asked for anyone who was sick to come forward so she could pray for them. Many came forward, and were healed that evening. Over the next several Sundays people were giving their testimonies with sonograms and x-rays showing how God had healed them totally. From what they say, it was quite incredible. We know that many friends and families of those who were healed have come to the Lord since this happened, so that’s exciting! All in all, the church has been doing very well in our absence, and that makes us happy!
Now, here’s the BIG NEWS. Norah and I have been struggling with God over the past few months, feeling that he has been trying to move us into something different. Since we began this church, we have figured and many times even said that we would probably end up living our whole lives in Sucre. But lately we have felt that God has been leading us to return to the United States and begin reaching the emerging generations here. Even thinking about that has been scary, mainly because it’s hard leaving something that is established and going well, and starting all over again. It’s also difficult thinking about starting our lives over; having no way to support ourselves once we got back. But God has showed us this, and has confirmed and reconfirmed it to us many times, and we have decided that we WILL return to the USA very soon to do His work here.
Our Immediate Plans
Or first priority will be leaving our church in Sucre in a way that it will continue to grow in every possible way. That is hard, but we feel that those who we have trained over the past 4 ½ years will be able to do well. We will leave Joel and Veronica Cuellar as the head pastors (they are part of our team now, and we will advise them after returning to the states. We may help the church financially if needed and for large events, but they need to become completely independent of us as soon as possible.
The great thing is that the church has many cell group leaders, so even though we won’t be there, ministry will continue normally. We feel that the church is at a point that we can leave it, and it will continue to advance without us. We’re excited about that, because that means that we have done our job there!
We will return to Bolivia this coming Tuesday, August 14th. We will be working and preparing the church and leaders for this change and we will also be selling whatever we can of our things and getting all necessary paperwork done so Norah and the new baby (due in November) will be able to come back without problems. We plan to move back in late December or Early January. Erynn will be in school there, and we hope to be able to transfer her into local schools here in Garrett County when they are starting their 3rd grading period.
Joel and Veronica Cuellar being
married last year by Jason
Our Return, Statistics and Calling
What do we do once we get back? We at first were pretty worried about this, but God has opened several doors for us. God has put a large burden on our hearts for the emerging, younger generations of our country. Statistics show that the United States is only one generation away from becoming a Post-Christian nation, following the heels of many countries in Europe where church attendance is around 5%. Even now, statistics show that only 9% of Americans are true “Evangelicals”. That means they believe in salvation by God’s grace accessed through faith, they believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead and is the only way to eternal life, they believe that the Bible is 100% inspired by God, etc. I am saddened when I see that my generation and younger is mostly unchurched, and we feel that God has prepared us and is now calling us to return and reach this generation for him.
We have been in contact with a church planting organization that is dedicated to planting High Impact churches for the Emerging Generations. Basically this is a group of like-minded churches that work together to raise up leaders, prepare them and send them out to start these High Impact churches in metropolitan areas. It’s not easy to be accepted by this organization, but if they do accept a person, they will prepare them with practical hands on training in a church that is successfully reaching the emerging generations, and they will help them with materials, in building a team, in counseling, and funding up to $200,000 for their church plant (This can be in any denomination or even independent). They ask two things of the leaders that they choose. (1) that the leader raise his own salary for the first three years, and (2) that each church that is planted give 5% of its income to planting new churches to reach the emerging generation.
After applying, much online testing and communication with this organization, we are one step away from being accepted. Norah and I will go to a 3-day assessment retreat once we get back in January. They are excited about us, mainly because they rarely have previously successful church planters apply. Most successful church planters are still with their churches, so they are pretty certain that this will work. Still, we haven’t been accepted, and won’t be until we go through this assessment retreat successfully. (They say it’s basically putting us through the ringer for three straight days to make sure that we really are who our tests show we are, and to see if we can handle the pressure.) Even so, whether we are accepted by this organization or not, we will somehow be planting a church for the emerging generations somewhere here in the United States. We will be keeping you up to date on that.
What We Need
We are sooooooo grateful for each one of you. Your prayers and financial support have basically formed us and helped us to begin this large work in Sucre that we are sure will never stop growing. That seed is growing, and I believe that Bolivia and many other nations will be touched because of that church.
One worry that we have is that once many of you see that we will be returning, you’ll stop supporting us quickly. The truth is, probably more than ever, we are going to need your support to leave things in good shape there, and to get back here and get on our feet. It’s a scary thought coming back to live here in the US with three kids and nothing to live on. Our salary, while fine for living in Bolivia, get’s us nowhere except into a big black financial hole here! We ask that each of those who support us (and those who don’t can start too!) to please continue to do so for at least six months after we return, or probably until July of 2008.
We are not 100% positive of how, what or where we will be ministering back here, but as soon as we know, we will inform you. Possibly we will have to raise funds for the first three years of salary for our church plant, but we don’t know that yet. If that is the case, we will probably live here in the Garrett County area for at least 6 months to raise what we need to get started. We will update you on our situation continually, and once we figure things out, if we need it and you want to continue supporting us later, that would be great. But we ask now that if possible; PLEASE help us to leave things in Sucre in great shape and to help us get on our feet back here.
We love you, thank you and praise God for each of you. May he bless your life richly, and may he be with you and guide you in all you do. We have been and will continue to pray for you, and we ask that you do the same for us. We really need your prayers at this time. Thank you so much for everything, and we’ll be seeing you very soon!
Jason, Norah, Erynn & Jordan