Our lives continue to be bound by an endless quarantine, prohibiting social gatherings including church services. September 20th marked six months of remaining indoors and not gathering as a church family! However, amidst the upheaval and the setbacks this causes, we have seen the truth Paul highlights in 2 Timothy 2:9. The apostle, while imprisoned and in chains, describes his resolute focus for the sake of the Gospel. He expresses a passion to do all that is necessary, and endure even as a prisoner, so that others may hear the good news. The basis for it all: “God’s Word is not bound!” Even though we have been in this quarantine lockdown for so long, we can firmly state “God’s Word is not in quarantine!” Here are some of the ways this truth has played out recently:
We have been able to continue meeting through Facebook Live streams, Zoom and Whatsapp calls, and even visiting many in person during these months. One on one discipleship has increased, and people who normally would not reach out for help or counsel are doing so in this time. One of our church members has lived in her neighborhood for over 30 years, and everyone knows she is a Christian. In the past couple of months desperate neighbors or family members have reached out to her and she has been able to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, leading 3 of them to the Lord! She is also beginning to disciple them and see them grow in their walk with God. We praise God for how God is using her and others in our church to reach out in these hard times with the Gospel.
Sunday, September 20th we had a BAPTISM in our backyard pool! Martin and Carolina were saved last year, and have been discipled throughout the quarantine. Since we didn’t know when it would be possible to do a baptism at church, we did not to wait any longer. It was wonderful to see them take this important step in their spiritual growth and walk with Christ. We have also been inviting individual families of our church over to eat once a week. Some of the families do have immuno- compromised family members and we respect their need to stay isolated, but others so desperately need to be in contact with others, especially their church family. We are seeing small steps in this direction, but pray that churches will be allowed to legally gather and worship together very soon!
We were hoping that by now we would have some differences or changes in the lockdown situation here in Argentina to report to you. Unfortunately nothing much has changed. As of the end of June we have spent over 100 days in quarantine. Our kids have only left a couple of times each to go the the doctor, a trip to church in the van to check on the church building, and going to the corner stores to buy candy or dog food. The only two to go out are Ben and Rachelle, to the store regularly, do some visiting (always armed with a government-mandated mask and permit), or take some food boxes.
As a family we are coping fine, but 100 days indoors is still 100 days! We have a large back yard which we are thankful for, and a large enough house that we are not tripping over each other, but the novelty of it all wore off after the first month. We have tried to use the extra time (time that would normally be spent with other people, or traveling) to play with our kids and be more actively involved with them as compared to when we are running here and there with ministry that normally occurs outside the walls of our house.
Ministry is still occurring, but most of it has still continued to be delegated to Zoom through Wednesday night meetings, men, ladies, and youth Bible studies, and facebook live Sunday morning services and children’s classes. It has been a difficult time trying to continue to minister to our people who are tired of being indoors, some in hard family situations. Many are hurt and frustrated at loss of regular jobs, the lack of real connection, and poor internet adds to an ever increasing spiritual distancing from the rest of the church body.
The end is still not in sight. The government will not say when they will lift restrictions, and as of right now, restrictions state that people can only go out of their homes to do “necessary” errands such as grocery shop and go to some doctor appointments. Everything else is closed. Failure to have legal “papers to circulate” when stopped can result in fines, vehicle impounded, and even a night in jail. Tensions are high in the country, but so far only peaceful protests have taken place. Please pray for Argentina. Desperate economic times are resulting from this shutdown. We pray it will all be resolved soon.
MARCH came in quietly but busily. We had no clue what was in store for us as we prepared for the beginning of the school year, an evangelistic event and a missions team! However, amidst the preparation for the event and the missions team arriving we heard whispers about a virus that was making its way through many regions of the world. We did not put much stock in it and were genuinely saddened when the missions team had to cancel their trip just days before coming down, and then the news exploded with possible ramifications due to this virus and we knew something bigger was beginning to occur. Praise God, we were able to have our event on Saturday, March 14th! Our church family turned out as a collective unit to serve our community through handing out school supplies and providing discounted physical exams. Amidst all of this we all shared the Gospel to dozens of neighbors. What a privilege to not only serve their physical needs, but also their most basic spiritual need of all: their need for a Savior. Many were interested and said they would come to visit our services, and one young mom, Daniela, accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior! We Praise God for this decision!
That very next week, the government set a quarantine for the country, shutting down everything except the most basic services like food stores and hospitals. As a result, we have not been able to visit those who indicated they wanted a church visit from us, and also have discontinued church services and meetings. The quarantine began officially on March 20th and has continued through now, supposedly until May 27th. That might change however, as it has been continued to be pushed back every two weeks. As a result APRIL was a learning curve- figuring out how to meet our people’s needs virtually. This has included facebook live Sunday services, Wednesday night Zoom meetings, online ladies’ Bible studies, and discipleship and counseling sessions through Whatsapp video calls. Thankfully Both Ben and Rachelle now have religious ministry permits to do visiting, but we long for the day when we can once again meet as usual with our church family.
CAMP SEASON is finished and we are thankful for a full January, and part of February with different camps and retreats to keep us running besides the regular ministry. Ben was a counselor for 2 of the 3 weeks of youth camp. There were over 80 older teens and more than 60 kids , which was a high attendance, so we praise God for that! We especially praise God for all the decisions made for Christ during those weeks of camp. We thoroughly enjoy ministering during camp season, because so many life-changing decisions are made during those weeks. Ben also spoke at a camp that is over 2 hours from here, and was thankful for the opportunity to serve there. Please pray that the decisions made during these weeks will be long-lasting.
We also enjoyed a MISSIONARY & PASTORS’ RETREAT in February, which had helpful teaching, and great companionship with other ministry families. Also, we took eight couples (including Ben and I) from our church to the annual MARRIAGE RETREAT. The attendance was over double last year‘s attendance from 20 to 46 couples! We praise the Lord that there are so many couples in the area churches wanting to strengthen their marriages. Please pray for these marriages to be healthy and God-honoring so as to have spiritually healthy families in our churches here in Argentina. As far as our church’s couples, please pray specifically for Martin and Carolina, and Gabriel and Celeste. Both marriages have many obstacles to overcome.
The rest of February has been spent planning for the following events coming in MARCH:
* The beginning of the kids’ homeschool year
* The beginning of the seminary school year (for Ben)
* A large evangelistic event our church held on March 14th.
UPDATE: Since this prayer letter is being released after the community evangelistic event, we ask you to pray for the soul saved, and the many visitors who listened to the Gospel and showed a desire to know more. More details will be given in the next prayer leter. Also, Please pray our church will be a light in the community around us through this trying pandemic that is sweeping the world..
After being back in Argentina for a month, we realize we have experienced some CULTURE SHOCK once again after coming back, even if we were only gone for 3 months! Living in a different country and culture rewires your brain in what to expect on a day by day basis, and going back to your “motherland” changes it all up. Then, just as you were getting comfortable and used to the many diferences (such as having a hundred varieties of cereal to choose from, shopping at a store where everything is available and even just the courteous and organized way people drive in the U.S.) you move back to the country God has called you to, and are shocked all over again at the lack of cleanliness, the chaos and disorder, and the other many differences in the cultures. No wonder missionaries have to be hardy, resilient people! However, we believe we are adjusting, and trying to guide the children through all the changes once again. Please PRAY that we will continue to adjust well so we can be most effective here as a family.
DECEMBER was spent unpacking, readjusting, getting ready for Christmas , but also dealing with some situations that had arisen while we were gone, encouraging the believers, and planning for this coming year. As it is in the United States, December is extremely busy, and flies by quickly.
We thank God for the hard work of our people while we were gone. They ministered to each other and also took care of visiting families, which have been coming faithfully, and were able to lead 2 people to the Lord! We praise God for the salvations of Martin and Ana Maria! PRAY they will both continue to grow in their walk with the Lord. Now we continue alongside our church people, building them up for the work of the ministry, and sharing the Gospel. Please PRAY that our church family will be rooted and grounded in the truth this year so as to better love each other and show Christ more effectively to the community around us. This is our desire.
Click the following link for a printable prayer letter:
FURLOUGH is what has kept us busy these past 3 months! We flew up to the U.S. at the end of August, and are looking forward to flying back this coming week on December 3rd. What has come in between has been a whirlwind of traveling through or to twenty states, reporting to almost twenty churches, and seeing many family and friends on the way! We enjoyed ourselves, tired ourselves out, and thoroughly appreciated being able to report about what God has been doing during the past five years in Argentina.
We were very thankful to have been able to see Rachelle’s grandparents while in the US, and spend the Thanksgiving holiday with all of Ben’s family.
It is a privilege to serve there, and to represent our supporters on the field of Argentina. THANK YOU all for your prayers and your financial support. We do not take lightly the sacrifices others make so we can live in Argentina and dedicate ourselves full time to sharing the Gospel and discipling the believers God has given to our care. While we were gone, we left many of our CHURCH FAMILY in charge of the different ministries at the church. We are very thankful for many of our church people, who have ministered faithfully to each other and to new attenders while we have been gone. We are also thankful for the help from our church’s mother church, Calvary Baptist church. It has been good to know our church is taken care of, but we have missed our people and the country God has called us to, and look forward to being back just in time for a women’s retreat and Christmas events. Please pray that God will be glorified through the end of this year in our ministry, and that our yearly church planning and camp season in January will go smoothly.
We praise God for all He is doing! JULY brought with it winter vacation, which is always busy! Our youth attended two conferences during these two weeks, which helped strengthen them and unite them more as a youth group. Many spiritual decisions were made through these conferences, and we thank God for that! AUGUST came in with a whirlwind of activity because we had last preparations to make before leaving for furlough. Our church people banded together to take on the tasks we usually do.
The Sunday before we left was CHILDREN’S DAY, with a special event to celebrate it. We had a wonderful day celebrating the children of our church, with many visitors, and one mother accepting Jesus Christ as her Savior!
As I write this update, we are in Springfield, MO on our first weeks of our FIRST FURLOUGH! We cannot believe that it has been 5 years since we set foot on Argentine soil as missionaries. So many things have taken place, but two things have been confirmed to us repeatedly: 1. God is in control, 2. He has led us to serve and minister to the people of Argentina.
Because of this, it is a bittersweet time for us to be here in the United States. On one hand we are happy to see family and friends that we have missed, but on the other hand we miss our church family and home in Argentina. PLEASE PRAY for us during these three months that we are away: for it to be a profitable, restful, and enjoyable time for our family, and also that our church people will be spiritually strong and faithful during our absence.
We rejoice in all that God has done these past two months! MAY brought many work days at the new church building, along with a couple of church family work/picnic days. We were very encouraged to see our church family work together to get the new building ready for the official opening on our church’s anniversary. Having this new location, and a larger property has been a blessing for our church people, and it is more accesible for many who before traveled an hour by bus!
JUNE arrived, and along with it Iglesia Bautista Redención’s 2nd anniversary! We were blessed to have a full house, with many from our mother church, and also visitors from the neighborhood joining us! It was exciting to see how God worked it all out. And since then, for the past month we have had 1 new family, plus a few individuals, and one returning family coming faithfully to every service. Please pray for continued growth for these families. Some have not been attending church anywhere for over a decade!
A MISSIONS TEAM from Faith Baptist Temple in Ohio joined us at the end of June to help with painting, a multitude of other odd jobs, and to help coordinate an evangelistic event. They tirelessly worked to help us get everything together, and were such a blessing to our family and our church! Many neighbors showed up at the event to recieve free eye checkups, clothing, and haircuts. One young lady recieved Christ as her Savior, and a few more visited our church the next day as a result of the hard work and prayers! Praise God!
MARCH was definitely eventful for us. We had so many things happening at the same time, so we will just mention them quickly: the first week of March we participated in an awesome two-day MARRIAGE RETREAT, then held a baby shower for a new mother in our church.The second week of March we not only moved to a NEW HOUSE just a few blocks away, but also started a NEW HOMESCHOOL YEAR with the kids, and Ben started a new year teaching in the Bible college in Casanova!
We are, thankfuly, settled into the new house, and settled into the new routine of a new school year. The second Sunday in March, we had 5 follow the Lord in believers’ BAPTISM, and we had a special service in which we formally established church MEMBERSHIP! The end of March, saw us receiving a huge blessing as a church family. We have had a PROPERTY lent to our church rent free for now, with the possibility of it being GIFTED to us in the future. We are overwhelmed and grateful to God for His goodness to us!
APRIL was no less busy. Along with the usual ministry, we took part in a family EASTER RETREAT, with 39 going from our church. Rachelle was able to lead a young woman, Solange, to the Lord while there! April 27th was the date for a joint YOUTH EVENT, with our youth group involved, and Ben was able to lead a young man, Lucas, to salvation! Please pray for the UPCOMING months: May- working on the new church, June- 2nd church anniversary (at the new property), and Father’s Day, then hosting a team for ten days!