Monday, October 10, 2016

Ecuador Mission Team Update (Day 5, 6 & 7)

October 8, 2016 - Day 5
We have had such a fun and great day. Do we sound like a broken record? Today we began our day with an incredible devotional, followed by a wonderful breakfast, and then we had one of our team head to Cayambe to encourage a Christian Sister of ours, and the rest of the team began their "down time" day. Earlier this week we were invited to visit the lakes at the top of the mountains behind Tabacundo. At about 11:30 our friend came to the apartment to pick us up. We grabbed water and blankets and jumped in the back of pickup truck. Maybe I should rephrase that last sentence. Ten of us climbed into the bed of the pickup truck, then scrunched ourselves down so we wouldn't be pulled over, and off we went to the Lagunas de Mojanda. It's about an hour drive to the lakes, with the majority of the ride on a well kept dirt road. On the trip we experienced sunshine, clouds, rain, hail, more rain, cold, but most of all we enjoyed the beauty of God's creation and the fellowship of believers. The lakes are nestled in the mountains, originally created by volcanoes, and absolutely breathtaking. We probably spent about an hour up at the lake, taking pictures, laughing, getting soaked in the rain, drinking hot chocolate and coffee to try to warm up, and then finally headed back to Tabacundo. The return trip was dry, faster, and filled again with laughter and fellowship. Back in Tabacundo we changed into dry clothes, ate lunch, and then prepared the apartment for our evening meeting. And what a meeting it was!!!!! We had 19 people join the team in our apartment to learn more about discipleship and sharing their testimonies. We had a packed house! We recapped "one verse evangelism ", shared testimonies, and then officially closed the meeting making sure anyone who had questions was welcome to stay and talk. And stay and talk they did. The 11 year old girl from yesterday's post confirmed her understanding of salvation, expressed her desire to be baptized, then had her little heart broken because her dad and she are leaving Tabacundo in the morning to head to the coastal region to live, meaning she would not be able to be baptized tomorrow. After reminding her that obedience to her dad is more important than baptism, we gave her her own personal Bible, and her beautiful smile returned. Other conversations involved encouraging church attendance, confirmation of salvation, and just plain fellowship. It was an incredible evening! Tomorrow is our last full day here and as much as we miss our families and friends, we really wish we had more time. Now sleep must come, so we close wishing you grace and peace.

October 9, 2016 - Day 6 
This was our last full day in Ecuador! We can't believe it has passed so quickly. We're pretty sure this will be the last update, so hang on tight. We began our day with a surprise. The first interpreter we ever had in Ecuador was on his way to Otavalo, and popped by to say hello. What a sweet reunion! We then walked to the Iglesia Cristiana Betesda with one of our Ecuadorian friends and her three kids and worshipped our Lord and Savior, even though most of us couldn't understand a word of what was said. We did sense the Spirit who lives in us as we joined their service. Afterwards we went to lunch with a few friends, whom we met at church, and then went to the apartment to start the packing process and prepare for our last evening meeting. At 4 pm we headed to Cayambe to visit with one of our own's family, and then back to the apartment for our evening discipleship meeting. Perhaps because this was our last meeting, the discipleship training did not really occur. Instead our friends came and went, and we had one on one conversations and a short devotional. Although it was not what we had planned, it was a very good time, and we felt God's promptings throughout the meeting. We have now finished packing, cleaned the apartment and are as ready as we can be for our departure in the morning at 7:30. Thank you again for your prayers this past week. We could not do God's will without your prayer cover. Blessings to you all!

October 10, 2016 - Returning Home 
We have landed in Orlando and are on the van heading to Bowling Green. Today we began the day with an awesome praise time which we ended by singing Jesus Messiah. We are truly thankful for all He did this past week. We then loaded up the van and headed to Quito. We ate breakfast right outside the Middle of the World Museum, followed by an enjoyable tour of 00'00'00 Latitude. Then off to the airport where we ate lunch and then boarded our plane to Panama. Our plane from Panama to Orlando was slightly delayed, which might help you understand why we got in later than expected. Otherwise the flights were in essence routine. We are all tired, yet our hearts are so full of God's goodness. We have been so blessed to see growth in our Ecuadorian brothers and sisters in Christ. To God be all the glory!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Ecuador Mission Team Update (Day 4)

Ecuador Team Update - October 7, 2016 (Day 4)
We have had a great day!!!! May we stop right there? OK, OK... I know that isn't enough. After our morning devotional and breakfast we hit the streets. Some of the people we intentionally sought out, many we simply encountered on our walks from here to there. ALL we invited to join us for tonight's discipleship meeting. Just before noon we handed out tracts to the elementary and high school kids just below our apartment. For those of you who don't know, for reasons that are not completely known by our translators, school is divided into morning and afternoon sessions. Right around noontime some kids are going home for the day, and the others are headed to school, and this means the streets are teeming with kids. It was fun to hand out the tracts and we did not find any thrown away after the fact. We then continued with our visits around town, prepared the apartment for the evening, and rested just a bit before heading to eat some "quimbolitos" at one of our Christian sister's homes. Quimbolitos are little cakes cooked in leaves with steam and are delicious! Then back to the apartment for our meeting, which went very well. We had 16 plus the team and translators smushed in our living room. We recapped the previous evenings and then broke up into groups to practice sharing the one verse evangelism with one another. After some initial hesitation, everyone participated. YAY!!!!! We then shared testimonies, starting with one of our team, and then opened up the floor to anyone else. A few took us up on the offer and shared. It was very encouraging. A big shout out goes to a few on our team who took charge of the kids so the adults could pay better attention. THANK YOU!!! After the meeting was officially over, a man and his 11 year old daughter stayed behind for some more teaching. Please pray she grasps the difference between works based salvation and doing good because you love God. Now we are heading to bed. We can't believe we only have two full days left in this beautiful country. Please pray we accomplish God's will. May you be filled with peace.

Ecuador Mission Team Update (Day 2 & 3)

Ecuador Team Update Day 3 (10/6/16)
Hola mis amigos! Hello my friends! We began our day a little differently from most days. Last night, in the excitement of the evening, we all forgot to eat supper. Between preparing for the evening and then the great time we had, and the fact it lasted til 10 pm, food simply did not pass through our minds. However, this morning we all woke up HUNGRY!! So... as soon as we were all up and dressed, we headed out the door to a restaurant just a few yards away and had breakfast. THEN we returned to the apartment for our morning devotion. Afterwards we split up into two teams. One group headed to La Esperanza, where we attempted to visit with some friends, who ended up not being at their home, so instead we met them at a local park and had a very good time of encouragement and sharing. The other group stayed in Tabacundo, with certain ideas of whom we would visit. Instead God took us to meet some new friends with whom we shared about God's love. Both teams joined back up for lunch in Tabacundo with one of the first families whom we meet back in 2012 when we first began our ministry down here. What a blessing! After lunch our team went many different ways seeing old friends, making new ones, inviting all to join us for the evening discipleship time. We had a short rest time, prepared for the evening, visited with some dear friends and then we began our meeting. One of our translators started us off with a quick recap of "one verse evangelism", followed by testimonies. What was so exciting was only one of our team and one translator shared their testimony; the rest of the sharing was by those who joined us. Did you all catch that? THEY shared their testimonies! AWESOME!!!!!!!!! We are now finishing up the night, with empty tummies again and full hearts. Our heavenly daily bread is all we need.




Ecuador Team Update Day 2 (10/5/16)
Wednesday has come and is going, going, almost gone. Today has been a great day. The team started with a great devotional and then headed out the door at 7 am to catch the bus to Cayambe, where we met our farmer friend and caught another bus and a then took a short walk to his tomato farm. We spent the morning helping him support the vines, something he does every two weeks, and it takes him about 2-3 days. We truly found joy in assisting him in his manual labor and even had one of our Christian sisters here in Tabacundo join us in the work. After our fingers turned green, then black and beyond, we headed back to Cayambe, leaving our brother in Christ to finish his work (and possibly to undo anything we might have messed up). In Cayambe we had a quick snack, said see you later to our Ecuadorian sister who had to return home, then headed to the market to visit with another dear friend who graciously made us empanadas, which we devoured for a late lunch. After our tummies were full and happy, we took care of getting some snacks for our evening discipleship meeting and headed back to Tabacundo to rest a little and prepare the apartment. At 6:30 our first guest arrived and from there our day just got better and better. Our focus this evening (and for the next few evening meetings) is discipleship. Tonight we laid the groundwork why we should share our faith with others. We shared verses regarding being witnesses and sharing the good news, and then turned the floor over to our translators, who explained "one verse evangelism" as a tool for witnessing (Romans 6:23). Everyone was very receptive, and many great conversations occurred, before, during and after the actual share time. We had 15 people join the team this evening (the apartment was full), one who heard the gospel for the first time, and was VERY excited about what he heard. When asked if he had ever accepted Jesus into his heart, his response was "I think I just did". We will be following up on that response for sure! Praise God! The last person left at 10 and we are now winding down and heading to bed. Pray for continued opportunities to share Christ and equip the saints. May you experience God's peace and grace this day.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ecuador Mission Team Update - Day 1






Ecuador Team Update-How honored and humbled to be here in Tabacundo as ambassadors for our Lord and Savior. We have had a busy day, as we're sure you can imagine because of the time of this post. 

We began the day very early (one of us had a phone whose time did not update, and therefore we were up an hour earlier than expected), and God used that time so we could exercise, eat breakfast, have an awesome devotional time, and still be ready for the day by 8:30. We did a few housekeeping items in the apartment and then met with our awesome landlord who was in town to fix a potential problem which ended up not being a problem at all (Praise God!!!!). 

Then around 10:30 we broke up into several groups and hit the streets. We met with several friends in Tabacundo, some who were planned, many who just happened (divine appointments) to see us and want to chat, all who were a joyful reminder of God going before us. After reunions and eating lunch, some of us headed directly back to the apartment, where we barely arrived before the heavens opened up with rain and then HAIL! That was a first for all of us, and one we would prefer not to repeat (especially since it makes everything extra slippery, and can cause one to slip and fall-true story). 

While waiting for the skies to clear at least from the "raining rocks" some of us took a short nap (to make up for the extra early morning, we're sure), and others shared and laughed about the mornings experiences with one another. By early evening we were ready to go out again, but not before the skies cleared and we got some beautiful shots of Mt Cayambe. Our team split in two this time. Five of us went up the mountain from Tabacundo to meet with a group of leaders who want to know more about us and see if we can help their community. We are excited about this door which has opened for us to share Christ and his love with a people who seem very eager to know more. 

Please continue to pray for each step we take. The other four of our team went to the local "mall" where we have several contacts and invited them to join us for our discipleship sessions which we are going to have the next few days at the apartment. We ended the evening with supper at a Chinese restaurant, with a very dear couple. After our goodbyes we returned to the apartmen, had a short share time, prayer, and now most everyone is in bed, which is where yours truly is also headed. Please be in prayer for tomorrow. May the God who brought us here continue to go before us. Blessings to you!

Friday, September 30, 2016

SMM Welcomes New Board Members

SMM would like to welcome our 2 newest Board of Directors, Sarah Idsardi & Ron Herron. While you've probably already seen them at some of our past events, both of these Directors will officially begin in January 2017.
Sarah lives in Hardee County and is a School Teacher at Wauchula Elementary School. She attends First Baptist Church Wauchula and serves with the youth and missions committee. She has been on several missions trips including Montana, New Orleans, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and most recently a 3 year international teaching experience in Kenya, Africa. "I love missions because through the lens of missions we realize and learn how to use our gifts, talents, and resources to further God’s Kingdom." -Sarah Idsardi
Ron lives in Hardee County and is an Administrator at Hardee Senior High. He attends First Baptist Church Bowling Green and serves with the Men's Ministry, Personnel Committee, and soon, a Deacon of the Church. Ron also serves on the Board of Caring People Recovery. He has been to Haiti and serves frequently in Hardee County. "Serving at Hardee Senior High School around teenage students and other adults, I have a chance to share the Love of Jesus and the Gospel message. And that's one of the most important mission fields to me." - Ron Herron

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Louisiana Disaster Relief Trip - Day 4 Update

Today was our last day working in Louisiana. It hurts to know that there are so many homes that are desperate for help and we have to leave; however, it brings such joy to look back at the 7 houses we completed in just the 4 days we were here. Today we split into 2 groups: group one continued the "mud-out process" and gutting out houses. Group 2 consisted of 4 members, it was the group that sprayed homes for mold. Group 2 set out to spray their first home and then met up with a Disaster Relief Team to help finish the gutting of one home. One of our team members, Tonya, volunteered to work with the Alabama Relief Team a.k.a "The Food Unit". They fed approximately 3,700 people in the area all before 2:30!

We've met several people throughout the days we've been here.  Today after dinner, we went for a treat at Baskin Robins with our team shirts on and we met a few ladies who we spoke with while we were there. They were all their with their friend who was affected by the flood. They wanted to take her out and get her mind off her tragedy. They all thanked us and said how grateful they were to receive any kind of help.  Although we hear thank you from the people of Louisiana, it truly has been a blessing to work in their homes and to offer up the help that is so desperately needed. Through all the devastation the good news is that many have found Jesus and many have grown stronger in their relationship with the Lord. We are grateful that we've were able to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Louisiana Disaster Relief Team - Day 3 Update

I apologize to my readers for not updating the blog yesterday. I fell asleep a little early, but I am back and ready to inspire your souls. We had another amazing day helping the people of Louisiana. This morning we went back to the home of Mr. Brown to finish cleaning out his home. Every time we met with him, he would greet us with a smile and a hug. Talk about inspiring! Anyone could see the joy of the Lord in him just by his countenance, even through this disaster.  We finished the job early in the morning and said goodbye. Then we were given our next work order, and we went to the home of Mr. Joe while Team 1 stayed to finish up the wood floor in Mrs. Tracey's house.



Mr. Joe is an older gentleman who would definitely not be able to do this on his own. We tore out the walls, took out furniture, and cleaned it up as best as we could. After a home is cleaned up, another team will come and spray it down in order to stop and kill any mold.  Toward the end of our time there, we met the neighbors who were graciously mowing Mr. Joe's yard. They ended up joining us in a word of prayer when we were all finished. With tears in her eyes, the neighbor thanked us for all of our help. Not only was she thankful, but Mr. Joe was also thankful. His son and Mr. Joe hugged us all and thanked us for our help. Jesus says in Mark 12:29-31 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these. - Martha Valadez (SMM Team Member)



Friday, September 2, 2016

Louisiana Disaster Relief Team - Day 2 Update

It's been a long day and our team worked incredibly hard today (which is why our updated isn't being posted until today - Day 3). Hardee County & Polk County should be very proud of the people that are here representing them. Our teams are "promoting" daily in their work and becoming very skilled at gutting homes. There is such a sweet spirit with all of our team members and there is unity with everyone!

Our SMM Team was split into 2 teams today, but still worked within a few homes of each other in the same neighborhoods. Team 1 completed gutting our first home from yesterday and started on another. Team 2 completed a new home today and started on another one. We had the opportunity to meet several of the homeowners today and hear their stories of devastation and, for some, hope. No matter where we were, we did our best at sharing where our hope comes from no matter what's happens here on this earth.

So what does a typical work day look like for us...

7am Breakfast
7:45am Team Meet Up to receive assignments for the day
8:30am Arrive on Work Site
12pm Lunch
4:30pm Head back to the church
5pm Showers
6pm Dinner
6:30pm Devotion
7:30pm Team Leader Meeting
8:30pm Team Share Time

So what does it look like when we gut a home... Everything that came in contact with the water has to go! Furniture, beds, clothes, dressers, cabinets, floors, toilets, dishwashers, stoves, refrigerators, and even the walls. The picture below is of our first home that we completed. Most of the homes at this point have all of their personal belongings out, but the walls & floors haven't been prepped. Once we completely gut the home, then a team will come in and spray it to kill any mold that may be forming. This completes our process and then the homeowner will have a contractor come in and restore the home.

In talking to most of the families, while some of the homes did have flood insurance, others didn't, but this type of flooding has never happened before. No one was ready for it. The rains just kept coming, the levee broke, and there was little time to prepare to leave. Most had to evacuate and for those who didn't, as one lady said, "the man was just floating down the water on an air mattress, waiting for someone to come help him."

After

Tonight we also spent some time sharing with each other what we did, what God has been teaching us through this experience, and then we had a special time of prayer for some of the families, some of our families and for those in Florida that may be hit by the hurricane that's on it's way. While the weather doesn't look good for our hometown right now, the weather has been just perfect for the work we are doing here in Louisiana.

Please continue to keep praying for:
  • Safety
  • Strength for each day 
  • One of our team member's mom who is in the hospital
  • More opportunities to share Christ with others 
#PARTNERUNITESERVE #SMMLARELIEF