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




Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Day 1 - Louisiana Disaster Relief Team

Today was the first day of our Louisiana outreach. As we first arrived, we didn't even have to see the people to see their pain. Basically, we could see the lives of the people thrown out on the streets. Their homes laid torn apart in piles of rubble some being their furniture and even pieces of family photos. As the day progressed, we went out to a home of a family where the wife is in a wheelchair and her husband was recently diagnosed with leukemia. We tore down the areas of the house that were destroyed because of the flood. Although there are times in our lives where we feel like our life has been destroyed just like the home was, there is always joy knowing we have hope in Jesus. I pray that we can share this joy and hope with those who are hurting here. - Martha Valadez (SMM Team Member)

Disaster Relief Team is on their way...

Our team headed out a little past 6pm on Tuesday night from Florida's First Assembly. We got to meet our team members, pack all of our luggage and pray with our community before hitting the road. We got to Ft Meade and noticed some complications with the bus. So we stopped in Bartow to assess the situation and determined it was best that we turn around and head back to Bowling Green.

Finally, after 3 hours, we were back on the road in 2 different vehicles on our way again. Our drivers have been phenomenal and the weather right now is beautiful! We're currently in Mobile, AL and only a few more hours until Baton Rouge, LA. We're packed in these vehicles like sardines, but praising God for safe travels so far. Satan tried stopping this trip, but Christ has the victory for sure.

Keep praying for our team. Some have not slept all night and we'll begin working shortly after we arrive.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ecuador Mission Team (Update)

August 22, 2016

This update is my last update for this missions trip. I was telling one of the team members today that I always get into a funk on this last full day of ministry. The reason has many aspects to it. Firstly, I am physically tired because I average less than five hours of sleep a night. Secondly, I am missing my family. Thirdly, I love these people of Tabacundo and do not wish to leave them. My life has been intertwined into their lives and it is difficult to leave them.
Well, here is the update. The ladies of the group had their own meeting with a lady who works in the market. The ladies said they had a good time and they received presents (which were just for ladies). Now, what you need to know is the men got sent out to go shopping for the Bible study we had tonight. Can you believe that? Men, shopping for bread, cups, tea, etc.? What is this world coming to? I kept telling the guys, “Guys, you know we are not going to get this right, don’t you?” Well, we shopped any way and got it done.
We left for Cayambe to get me some ICE CREAM!!! Can you believe I never made it to the center of the universe (not world, which is what Ecuador is known as) until the last full day of our trip to Ecuador? Some of our team went to meet a new individual and ride horses. The team did not get to meet the intended individual, but did get to meet another person. The team also did not get to ride horses, but only got to pet one. The individual intended for the visit was at the ER with the son. We don’t know the details, but please pray for this family. The other team had returned to the apartment and started cleaning it in order for us to depart tomorrow.
After the teams reunited we started preparing for the Bible study. 30 people told us they were going to attend the Bible study and because of the size we had made arrangements to hold the meeting in another place. To our surprise, only four people came. I do, however, believe the four people that attended were supposed to meet each other. In other words, two of the four people were a married couple and they are a part of the new church about which we have been telling you. In fact, the home group Bible study that our team attended last Friday is held in this couple’s house. The other two people exchanged contact information and we told the Bible study hosts to really encourage these other people to attend the Bible study.
The other part of the Bible study that was exciting for us was that our translators did all of the work. We did not lead this Bible study, rather, our precious translators did and they did a great job.
I now have to pack and then go to bed. Please pray we have safe travels home and we can’t wait to see our families, as well as, our church family. God bless you and again thank you for all your prayers and support.

August 21, 2016

I have gotten to speak brief testimonials in churches here in Ecuador before. Today, however, is the first time I have had the opportunity to preach an entire sermon. I preached at the church we have been talking with in regards to a partnership. I was truly blessed and honored by the opportunity and I pray my words encouraged this congregation. We had nine people with us with whom we have been ministering attend the service. I pray they will start attending on a regular basis.
We had one individual in the church service that we know is agnostic or atheistic. This individual came to lunch with us and the worship pastor of the church had the opportunity to speak with him regarding his belief system. Please pray for this person.
The afternoon was very slow and relaxing. In fact, I even got a nap and so did several others. As the afternoon progressed a group went out again and revisited with several people and invited them to our Bible study tomorrow night. The other group went up into the hills to meet with the president of the community in which we are trying to begin a work. Our meeting with him was just to say, “Hi,” and to confirm our meeting with the community counsel for our October trip.
When these two parts of the day ended we had supper and prepared for our evening meeting. This meeting was one I have been longing to have. It was a follow-up from the new believers from March’s trip. We had a chance to encourage them again and to hear some of God’s work in their lives. It was an amazing three hours and I wish it could have gone on longer. I have for some time thought this family would become our family of peace in Tabacundo. I still believe they will be. Please join us as we pray for the Lord to take them deeper in their walk with Him.
It is now 11:30 and we have a very full last day. Pray it goes well tomorrow, especially for the last Bible study. It is being held in the same place where the summer team showed the movie. Many, many people have told us they are coming. Please pray they actually do attend. Pray the believers are strengthened and pray for lost people to hear the gospel.
Thank you again for your prayers and support.

August 20, 2016 

Are you ready for this second sentence? It is very late, again! Today was our “free day” and we went to Otavalo and it was my first time on a Saturday. It is the traditional market but on SUPER steroids. It shuts down virtually every street and there are vendors covering the ENTIRE city. It was amazing. We had a lot of fun socializing and shopping.
We returned back to the apartment and split the group up again. One group went to La Esperanza and met with a family we had previously met in March. We are not certain this family is Christian yet, but they are definitely being drawn on by the Lord. I honestly can see them as being people of peace for La Esperanza.
The other group went out and followed-up with most of the people we have contacted this week. As they reported back this evening, their report was very positive and many of the people they met will be joining us tomorrow at church.
The first group left their La Esperanza meeting and went to a counseling session with a family for which we asked you to pray earlier in the week. It was a good meeting. They are being attacked by Satan and are in need of a lot of prayer, but some positive things were observed by our team. As a result, we feel comfortable calling tonight a success all around.
Tomorrow we have church and I have been asked to preach. So, please pray for me and our translator who will be working with me during the sermon. After church we have another full day of scheduled activities. Pray all goes well for the Lord’s glory.
Good night and again thank you for your partnership with us in prayer and in all of the many other ways in which you support us.
God bless.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ecuador Mission Team (Update)

August 19, 2016 

Another great day, but aren’t all days great in Ecuador? We started the morning somewhat slowly. After morning devotional and breakfast our team split up (a common theme this week). Half went to take care of some personal items and on their journey met some new people and confirmed some upcoming meetings with others. The group came back very excited about their adventure.
The other group went on a specific mission to speak with an individual who is in need of much prayer. Satan is attacking this family and this group felt compelled to go and get some information. Our team hopes to meet with the family again before we leave and even to put them into contact with our new local pastor friend, if this family is willing.
We then made a run to Cayambe and I am sorry to write we did NOT make it to the very special ice cream shop. I have been in Ecuador three full days and have not made it to the MUST HAVE stop of every trip!!!! I hope all of you back in Florida understand the pain and torment I am presently facing. What makes this heart break worse is we had to leave Cayambe in order to get back to the apartment by a certain time for an appointment. The appointment got rescheduled. WE ACTUALLY HAD THE TIME TO EAT THE ICE CREAM!!!!
Now the reason we went to Cayambe was to meet with a family and encourage them. We also got to talk about ministry possibilities for the future and the role FBCBG may play in that future. It was productive and very enjoyable. The only thing that would have made this trip better would have been the ICE CREAM. I am not bitter at all 
In the evening the team split up again. Half of the team was requested to lead a Bible study at one of the home group Bible studies from the new church about which we have been writing. The report came back that our team could truly feel the Holy Spirit’s presence and they are truly a Christ centered group of believers. They had a very enjoyable time and the home group asked when we could have another Bible study with them. We hope we can make this happen, but we are not certain. We have a lot still on our plate and even more to put on that plate.
The other group went to a dear friends house. This individual is a new believer, but one with whom we think they may be a person of peace. Please pray with us that this person becomes this kind of follower of Jesus. We learned that they were a part of a group that was having Bible studies a couple of times a month. Here is the cool part, none of those in this Bible study are church goers. They are just wanting to learn more about God. We encouraged our new believer friend to join us this Sunday for church and to start attending church regularly. Pray the Holy Spirit will convict this person’s heart to become a faithfully attending member of this local church with which we are starting to do more work.
We got in just a few minutes ago. We have our normal morning wake up time tomorrow and it is going to come quickly. Please pray for our strength and endurance. We did have one team member who got some motion sickness today and has not felt well this entire evening. We have a pretty long bus ride tomorrow, and therefore, ask for you to please pray for this person to do well on this trip and to remain healthy. This individual has been, as all of them are, a valuable member of this team and we need this person’s involvement. 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of our need for the entire body. Thank you for your prayers and support.
God bless and good night.


August 18, 2016

It is 11:00 and we got in about an hour ago. We finished debriefing and now you are getting an update.
This morning we had a meeting with a local pastor. We spent almost two hours taking him through a pastoral ordination grilling that was very enjoyable for me. I think the local pastor enjoyed himself as well. The main point of this update regarding this meeting is that any reservations I may have had were dispelled and I am now very confident in our potential partnership with this local ministry.
During lunch the team split up and one team went to met with some people who our Summer teams had met. In the meeting our team met a new individual and we have a follow-up meeting with this person on Sunday night. The interaction with this person was very positive and there are some indications the individual is a believer. We will learn more on Sunday.
In the afternoon our team again split up. Some were preparing for upcoming Bible studies and the others went and met with another person. This person was a “one on one” type of meeting with someone who needs a lot of encouragement at the moment. In fact, we had an opportunity to capitalize on our new local pastor as we called him and allowed these two individuals to schedule a time in which he might be able to provide better assistance and information than we could.
After that meeting the entire team regrouped and went to another Bible study with a husband and wife. He told us the Bible story of the prodigal son and then we had the chance to ask them the two diagnostic questions. After they gave work based answers or even doubting answers, we had the opportunity to share the gospel. By the end of the evening, we had two more siblings in the family of God.
Tomorrow is scheduled to be just as full of a day as today was. We are tired, but excited. Please pray for our meetings tomorrow and for us to have strength. May God be exalted in our work here in Tabacundo.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ecuador Mission Team (Update)

August 17, 2016 

Today started our first full day of missions ministry. The morning started with a Bible study centered on prayer and was followed by us watching a video on prayer walking. We divided the team up into three teams and divided the city of Tabacundo up into three sections. Each team took a section and spent the next couple of hours prayer walking the city.
After lunch we started marking the calendar for the events we have already started scheduling for the remainder of our time here. As a result, our team split up into two groups this evening. One group went to a school and shared with the students. One of our members gave his testimony and it was his first time. He did great. I am very proud of this team and pleased with them.
The second group held a Bible study in our apartment. Most of the attendees of the apartment were second touches from teams from the June and July trips. It was a good time of encouragement and help. I am also pleased to say it was a growing and stretching time for our team as two of our first time ladies co-taught the Bible study and gave their testimony. I was very proud of them and pleased with their willingness to be instruments used by the Lord, as well.

August 16, 2016 

The update from the FBCBG Ecuador Mission trip is we have arrived safely. We have obviously very tired having left Bowling Green at 4 a.m. this morning. Please pray we have a fabulous week of taking disciples of Jesus deeper in their walk with Him. We love you and are grateful for FBCBG’s continual support and prayers as we spread the gospel here.