Last Saturday was my birthday, and it started me thinking about how wonderful God has been to me. This newsletter is going to be a bit longer than normal, but this month I want to give thanks to God for what He’s done for me and for who He’s placed in my life.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews (12:1-3 NIV)
These verses from Hebrews 12 follow the most famous section of Hebrews about the men and women of faith. Hebrews 11 talks about men who believed impossible things by faith, and by God’s will they became reality. Men who faced danger, suffered, and were persecuted for their faith, but persevered through the trials because of their faith. Go back and read chapter 11 again and think about what incredible faith it would take if you were confronted with situations of these men. Hebrews 12:1-3 perfectly captures what our response should be: throw off everything that hinders us and run our race!
These verses get me so excited and inspired, and so I want to write about the men of faith that God has placed in my life. These men have been incredible witnesses to me, and I feel so blessed that the God of Heaven would look down on someone like me and provide these men to guide me, teach me, train me, model for me, love me, and always point me to Christ. I’m not planning to name them by name, because the purpose is to show how God has been so wonderful to fill my life with a great cloud of witnesses. (And I know that each one of them will be reading this and know who you are.)
Like any good story, my cloud started right from the beginning. God blessed me with incredible parents, and I never had any reason to doubt that they loved me. They were fully committed to raising me as they felt God wanted them to, and I knew the Lord at a young age because of them, and my parents taught my sunday school classes often when I was growing up. A few years ago I was visiting them and I got to sit in on my Dad’s Bible study where he was going through the book of Acts. Paul had been severely persecuted to the point of death during his first missionary journey. And yet when he finished the arc of the cities he wanted to preach in, instead of returning home he instead retraced his steps and spent much more time in those same cities discipling and forming the new churches. The study really opened my eyes to the need to follow-up with new believers. Not just run away from confrontation and persecution, but to persevere and finish the work that we’ve been given. Thank you for your love and guidance, for raising me, and for introducing me to Jesus!
I entered high school as any geeky teen does: very shy, quiet, timid, and more excited about my computer classes than anything else. I wasn’t prime evangelistic material, and I certainly didn’t go into high school thinking about how to impact it for Jesus! I wasn’t searching for a group like Young Life, but God had different plans, and it found me. Our leader was so committed to us that he positioned his job to be close to our school so that he could stop by when we were getting out of class in order to build relationships. And he modeled how to reach out to my friends in a non-threatening and “cool” way. He helped me develop my quiet times and my prayer life. And I got to see my best friend come to know Christ. Thank you for developing me and for showing me how to reach out to the lost!
Then I went off to Georgia Tech, where I didn’t know anyone. I tried to find a good Christian group, but I wasn’t able to find anything my first year. Through my parents’ help I was introduced to the Tech’s Navigator leader. He worked me over like no one else! He made me do in-depth studies and analysis on many books of the Bible. And once when I didn’t finish what I was supposed to, he sat me down and made me write out every last detail of my weekly schedule so that it would be clear to me that I was being lazy. He was really hard on me, and it was exactly what I needed! But the greatest lesson that he taught me was love. He had incredible love for me. He had incredible love for all of the students. Christ’s love compelled him in such a unique and powerful way, and it impacted me deeply as I watched and learned from him. It was during our time together that I first got my call to be a missionary, and it was though him that I heard about Guatemala. Thank you for your LOVE and for discipling me!
In Guatemala I first worked with Hearts for the Children Ministry where I lived with the leader and his family. He modeled a life fully submitted to God’s will. He prayed and what God said, he did! The ministry had lots of medical clinics, feeding programs, clothing donations, out reaches, kids programs and church services. It was hard to keep up with it all! But in everything his mission was never material provision. People would get sick again, clothes would get worn out, and they would get hungry again. He used all those as only a means to an end. To get everyone’s attention the best he could in order to reach the most people possible with the gospel. I also learned so much from him and his family about breaking down the barriers that exist between American & Guatemalan, English & Spanish, rich & poor. Thank you for your Obedience to God’s call, for helping me adjust to life in Guatemala, and for your example!
I then transitioned to helping out at the orphanage Casa Shalom which was just down the road. My time there was like none other. The director loved those kids like they were his own. His house was FULL of crying babies, and he constantly was checking in with all the other kids to see how they were doing. He was a man of faith, who didn’t freak out or doubt when the home’s finances were in the red but instead acted in faith to expand the ministry believing that God would provide. He imprinted on my heart the verse “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) Those preteen & teen boys that I was put in charge of during my time working at the home stuck in my heart permanently. It was during that time that God started giving me a vision for the boys and our future together. Thank you for your example of faith and for your love of the kids!
When I moved to Texas six years ago to start a job there, I wondered where I was going to go to church. After living in Guatemala, I was really unsure if there was a church where I could fit in and grow in the few years that I would be living there. I clearly underestimated God and His plan for my life. He quickly led me to a small church down the road from where I lived and worked. I found a church with the most wonderful mix of hispanics, black and whites. Although small, it had the biggest ministry to the community that I’ve ever seen. And I found a pastor and congregation that were incredibly passionate about God. Church wasn’t an hour on Sunday mornings in order to check a spiritual box off, but instead lasted as long as was needed to fellowship and grow in the Lord. One of the things that I miss most about living in Guatemala is this church. The pastor’s house was always filled with people, and he helped raise many other kids. It was during this time that I was praying a lot about what God wanted with the half-way house, and He used my pastor as a great example, mentor, encourager and help. Thank you for your example, help, training and love!
One of the biggest and most important things that this great cloud of witnesses has illustrated to me is a dedication to their families. I sometimes hear such sad stories of missionaries who set out with such great hopes and ambitions, but in all the busyness of doing “God’s work” they left their family behind. And I can see how easy it is to do! It’s so easy to get overly involved in the busyness of ministry that there’s just not enough time for anything else. I’m grateful for the examples of these men, and I could write so much about their incredible wives too! Please pray that God will help me never leave my family behind. This presses on my heart so strongly as we’re only about two months away from having our first child. Thank you (and your wives) for your great examples with your dedication to your family!
Thank you, Lord, for the family you’ve given me. Thank you for all the blessings that you’ve placed in my life: the incredible spiritual leaders, the pastors, the friends, the family, all my dear brothers and colaborers in the faith, and most of all my wonderful wife! I pray that you help me as we form our own family: that we can always point all of our children, both biological and pseudo-adopted, towards You.
This is my birthday wish: as God has so richly blessed my life by surrounding me with great witnesses, that He would in turn use me to be His witness here in Guatemala. That I would be found to be a man of faith and would persevere in God’s calling to share His love with the children, teens and young adults that He has place in my life.
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)
Paul’s final letter before he was put to death was to his “true son in the faith” Timothy. He encourages Timothy to not let the message that he learned stop with him because it was now his responsibility to share the gospel message with others so that they can then share it with others as well. No matter what the cost, Paul encouraged Timothy to proclaim the gospel, and my own cloud of witnesses have challenged me to do the same. I ask that you pray for me that I would be faithful to the task that God has given me.
Please pray for us as we now have our own Timothys living with us. Pray that Christ’s love would penetrate their hearts and transform them. Pray that I would be faithful to my calling and that God would be glorified by my life. Pray that the barriers would be broken between us. Pray that the works of the devil which brought the boys to the orphanage would be broken. Pray that God would give both me the words to say and the way to say them. Pray that I would give a good testimony in the good times and the hard times. And pray that they would leave here equipped and ready to teach others.
Thank you so much for your support and prayers for Yuli, myself and our ministry with these guys. We pray that God also blesses your lives and draws you closer to Him.
Brent & Yuliza