Hello! Greetings from beautiful, finally cooler (after the hot summer) Santa Cruz, Bolivia! As we head into fall here in the southern hemisphere, we know that you are heading into spring! What a wonderful time of year spring is, with the vegetation and the birds returning… I haven’t been home in the spring since I came to Bolivia 15 years ago! This year, though, we will be home! We have big news to share with you in this letter!
Our Burden: For many years now, Norah and I have discussed the possibility of some day returning to the United States to live and to plant a church there. Every time we travel home, I feel a large burden for the people of our country. We are sent from the USA, working so hard to reach and impact the people of Bolivia for Christ… BUT the truth is that America is just as much of a mission field as most of the rest of the world is. Statistics show that in 2010 only 16% of Americans attended ANY type of church on a regular basisThat percentage is even lower among younger generations. The church is losing ground fast! In 2007, before moving to Santa Cruz, we almost took the plunge to move back. We even announced it to quite a few people. After returning to Sucre though, we felt that God told us “not yet.” Later when we felt God calling us to plant a church in Santa Cruz, I pretty well gave up on the idea of ever again returning to the USA to live.
The Announcement: Amazingly enough, here we are today announcing the following… The time has come! After 15 years of ministry throughout Bolivia, we will be moving back to the United States in June to continue our call to expand God’s kingdom through church planting there. God has opened all of the doors and has resolved all of the problems of our leaving Bolivia – in an astonishing way!
God’s Ideas: Let me explain. In December of last year, as we were praying and making our plan for the churches in 2011, we felt God tell us that the time had come for us to go. We wrestled with the idea for awhile, thinking that it was just our ideas or emotions; but we finally came to the conclusion that God really was speaking. Our biggest worry was leaving the churches. Although we have progressed a lot since we began here in Santa Cruz, we felt that leaving the church right now would be murder. We also felt that, although the church in Sucre is doing very well, they could easily veer off track without our close supervision. We have put so much time and effort into the work here and in Sucre, and so many of you have given so much, that allowing those things to happen wasn’t an option. I told God that if he really wanted us to go, then he would have to give us a viable option that would not only allow the churches to continue forward, but to do so very strongly! Honestly, that looked grim. I finally wrote the pastors who have worked with us for years from the church in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After several weeks of contemplation, they finally asked that Joel (the pastor in the Sucre church) and I travel to Argentina to talk to them in person about it all. What happened there just blew us away! After our trip, we know 100% that God was behind all of this, and that He has everything under control.
What’s Going To Happen With the Bolivian Churches: Basically, the church in Argentina is going to take over the leadership of our churches in Bolivia. They are going to send a couple as missionaries to the Santa Cruz church, and they will be guiding and helping Joel & Veronica in the Sucre church. This church in Argentina has more than 25,000 members in their congregation, and of those over 500 are Bolivians. These 500 Bolivians are uniting to pray and fast for the Bolivian church and to give towards our two churches. They have set a $5,000 dollar monthly budget to help rent better, more visible, centrally located places and to reach out to the cities through advertising and evangelistic campaigns! The pastor of that church said,
“God has called us not to just plant another church. When we go to a city, we have to impact that place for Christ. We have to touch all parts of society: the rich, the poor, the government, etc. The churches in Sucre & in Santa Cruz must become ‘THE’ church for that city. When non-Christians think of a church, they think of that church.”
All that we could say was “Amen!” We are now preparing the Santa Cruz church for our leaving and the new couples arrival. We have announced this to them, and although many are sad, there is a great deal of excitement also.
What We Will Be Doing: Over the next year to year and a half, we plan to plant a church in a small to middle size city somewhere in the USA. Norah and I will be traveling home next week (on April 11th), to do a road trip to visit several possible plant locations. We will be traveling up to Minneapolis, and down through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North & South Carolina & Georgia. We will also be attending a church planters conference in Orlando Florida from April 26 – 29. After that we will return to Bolivia through May to finish selling off all that we can and then we’ll head back north with the entire family in June.
It may take quite a while, but once we are able to plant this church, we plan to continue working in Bolivia. We plan to use a percentage of all income in the church to help the Argentine church plant new churches all around the country. We also want to set up teams to travel there to help in building, evangelism, and anything that can possibly help advance the gospel in Bolivia.
Our Current Situation and Closing Petition: We’re a little nervous about how all of you, our supporters, are going to take this. We know that you have given so much, and it’s very important to us that you know that what you have given has not been in vain. God has, is and will continue to do so much in Bolivia, and it wouldn’t have happened without you. This, although very exciting in some ways, is very scary for us. We are basically starting over. We have nothing in the USA. Both Norah & I are 34 years old with three children, and we don’t have a house or a car or a bed. Of course, we are trying to sell our things here, and plan to buy a few things there. We’ll be able to sell our car at a good price, but most of what we have will not sell for much money. (Even the car isn’t ours; it’s the Hand of Hur’s vehicle!) We’ll only be bringing luggage home. We have no insurance and the income that we receive here will not reach living back there. It’s scary, but even so, WE BELIEVE GOD and with pleasure we are taking this step of faith!
We ask that during this time, you would PLEASE continue to be faithful with your gifts and support. This move is going to cost a lot of money, and we don’t have all of that money at this time. (By the way, we’ve never had all of the money BEFORE we decided to do what God tells us to do! ☺) In June we will begin fundraising for the new church plant, and we will talk individually with you about continuing your support for the first stage of the planting process. But before that, we ask that you would help us in any way possible to make this transition smooth for our family. I HATE to ask for personal help, but we’re at a place right now that we have no other option! Please pray for us too!!! Thank you once again for everything, and may God bless you abundantly!!!