Three weeks ago our family set foot in beautiful California. After four years in Uruguay, we have just begun our year long home ministry assignment (HMA). Praise God that we made it! We are living with Michele’s parents in Orange County, California for the first few months.
What do grocery stores, armored cars, ATM machines and my back patio all have in common? Theft.
Over the course of 2018 we have seen a rise in crime. There were at least three attacks by gangs of armed criminals on armored vehicles transporting money. That is quite an undertaking as each armored truck has two armed men with a car full of armed men following behind. Unfortunately, they were taken by surprise and some of the guards were shot. If my memory serves me well, I do believe that the men recovered, though I imagine that there must be lingering effects from their wounds. Two of the robberies were within five blocks of our home. The first was at a bank on the corner and another took place in the parking lot at the mall – both within broad daylight. Even more striking, the third robbery took place very close to the Uruguayan seat of government – the Palacio Legislativo (Legisltative Palace)!
One of the most tragic crimes took place at a grocery store a few miles away where two men entered a supermarket, robbed it and then shot and killed one of the employees on the way out. The victim was a young mother. Later, the shooter was found by police which ended up in him being shot and killed. A friend of mine had met this young man years ago – an example of what a small world Uruguay can be at times.
Very recently, I have been seeing news of ATM machines being blown to bits so that criminals can steal the cash. Some ATM’s are even equipped with an anti-theft ink system which sprays the money with ink so that it will be recognized – making it hard to spend. Sadly, sometimes the ATM machine is the only one in a small town and it can be difficult for the retired folks living there to withdraw money if the banks decide not to install a new one.
One day last month I woke up and went to the kitchen like normal to turn on the burner so that I could cook up some fried eggs. Eggs are my favorite breakfast. But to my surprise, the flame would not start. I thought that was odd and I eventually had the idea of checking the propane tank just outside the kitchen in the back patio. It was missing. Not only was it missing, but the valve and another empty propane tank were gone. Someone had climbed our roof, descended into our back patio and carried out two propane tanks! They are not easy to lift either! I filed a police report, but nothing much came of it.
As we heard news of these various crimes, we prayed – asking the Lord to be at work. Begging God to change the hearts of the criminals. Praying for healing, comfort and peace for the victims and Continue reading The Rise in Crime
What if the children in Christian families today would grow up to live lives of radical obedience to Christ? How would that change the world in which we live? What would it be like if these children had a passion to share Jesus with their friends at school? When our baby was born with health problems two years ago and I was with him in the hospital, I became reacquainted with the ministry of Moms In Prayer (formerly Moms In Touch). This is a ministry devoted to getting moms together for the purpose of praying for their children and their children’s schools. Many of you may be familiar with the ministry. For those who aren’t, Tim Challies does a great job describing it on his blog, here. For me, I was feeling helpless to fix our baby’s health problems, and helpless with some of the struggles my children who were at home without me were experiencing. It was a time for me to remember that we serve a loving and powerful God who cares more about our children than we do, and who is eager to answer the prayers of His people.
Continue reading Praying for the Children
The team was composed of folks from Little Farms Chapel OPC (Michigan), Holy Trinity PCA (Tampa) and Spring Hills PCA (St. Louis) in Missouri. We are grateful the Lord Lord and to this team for blessing our church and the community with Continue reading Short Term Team Leads English Club!
It was early afternoon and our thirteen year old son and his classmates heard a series of gunshots (turned out to be 18 in all). Right away the administration moved all the students into an upstairs classroom, away from the street. Continue reading Starting High School
We had been visiting from church to church, on the road and far from home for several months. We were in South Carolina. Sunday morning arrived, and we did not have a church to speak at, and is our custom, we planned to visit a local Presbyterian church. No one at the church knew we were coming, but we were happy to just be refreshed and worship with God’s people.
After service, one of our children struck up a friendship with another girl. This girl invited us to her home for lunch, and then went to ask her parents. Continue reading Simple Hospitality
I don’t know about the United States, but here in Uruguay, Day of the Woman is a big deal. There is a call for women everywhere to not show up to work, to prove that they are an indispensable part of the economy. Likewise, every year in school the children learn about the advances women have made just in the last 100 years to go from obscurity to a place where they are just as valuable as men–almost just as valuable anyway, as they also learn about the advances that still need to be made. Continue reading Happy Day of the Woman
What is it like to be a Christian missionary in the most secular country in the Americas? Uruguay is unusual in Latin America for its level of secularism, as the Pew Research Center explains here and here. It isn’t just the most secular country in Latin America, it is strikingly more secular than any other country in the region. Many think that is because Uruguay is following in the footsteps of Spain, but in fact as this article in Spanish describes, Uruguay has a much higher percentage of atheists and those who are religiously unaffiliated than Spain or many other European countries. And although Argentina is the close cousin culturally of Uruguay, the religious landscape between the two nations are quite distinct. Continue reading Baptism and New Membership in a Dry and Parched Land
Much of the daily life of a missionary is the same as the daily life of anyone else, but done in the backdrop of another language and culture. This past Christmas, for our family, was a time that combined the sadness of a miscarriage with joy of celebrating the Incarnation with our much-loved and expanding family.
Life in Uruguay can be different from my life as it was living in southern California or in St. Louis, Missouri. Take getting the car fixed for instance. In the U.S., if I needed the car fixed, I would leave it with my mechanic and ask my wife to pick me up. When it was done, she would drop me off and I would pick it up.
Here in Montevideo, we only have one car. The picture to the left is not our car, but I thought it was cool – so I put it here for you to enjoy. The cost of living in Uruguay is very high and the salaries are lower than in the U.S. Also, all vehicles are manufactured outside of Uruguay, which means there is no local Uruguayan car industry as far as I know. The government charges high import taxes, putting the value of even a used car at around double as it would cost in the U.S. Sometimes even more than that. Many people don’t even own one car, much less two. Thankfully Montevideo has a good public transportation system, including buses and taxis. For our first year here we had no access to a vehicle unless someone lent us one or we rented one. Thankfully, our second year we were able to borrow a car and our third year we were able to purchase one due to the generous contributions of several individuals.
But I diverge. What does all this have to do with the mechanic? Because we only have one car, when I take it to the mechanic I usually have to do a lot of walking to get to an appropriate bus stop – unless I want to spend more money and get a taxi. And when one walks, one sees more of the city.
A couple of weeks ago I was walking along and saw a beautiful Mormon building. It was made of bricks and had a great basketball court outside. I’m not sure what they call it. Is it a church? Is it a local meeting place for their ward? I’m not sure. What I do know is that their theology departs from the historic Christian faith. Their conception of God is very different and they deny the Trinity. They also adhere to a works oriented salvation, whereas the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – God incarnate, the Second Person of the Trinity (Eph. 2:8-9; John 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1).
I have seen many Mormon missionaries and even ran into a whole slew of them while out hiking Pan de Azucar, a small mountain a couple of hours outside of Montevideo. Michele and I also had a couple of young ladies into our home to discuss the true meaning of the gospel. Needless to say they were trying to convert us and we were trying to convert them.
The reason I bring this up is to bring up two points: commitment to evangelism and the need for the true gospel. The Mormons have an army of missionaries. While the evangelical church has a number of workers in Uruguay and the Reformed churches have sent four full time missionary families, the Mormons have dozens and dozens on the ground right now. This is not to mention their continuing cycle of sending more after their terms are up. There is true commitment. We should be asking ourselves this question: How committed are we to working toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, teaching them all that Christ has commanded and baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20)?
The other point has to do with the truth. We believe that the Mormons don’t have it right. They have departed from the Bible and have created a false system of worship. When Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, He said that we should be teaching everything He commanded. That implies the full counsel of God. The whole Bible. In Uruguay and throughout the world today there is a great need for men and women to bring the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The nations need the truth of the gospel, and what they need even more is the Person who is the Truth – Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).
So next time you are walking to the mechanic or driving or however you get there, be sure and pray that God will raise up an army of laborers that will be committed to declaring the gospel to the ends of the earth. And pray that God will use you and other Christians to share that message of truth and the Lordship of Christ to all who will listen. Who knows, maybe God could be calling you to be more involved in World Evangelization!