Deuteronomy 31:8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
This verse was told by Moses to Joshua and the Isrealites just as they were crossing the Jordan river into the promised land. They had been wandering in the desert for 40 years because of their doubt the first time around; and finally the Lord was giving them what He had promised… and what they had been desiring.
I think it’s interesting that even though the Lord had been guiding them to this point for so long, they were still afraid. Moses had to say these exact three phrases two times in his speech: “The Lord Himself goes before you”, “He will never leave you or forsake you”, and “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged”. They knew that this final step was God’s plan for them, yet they were still afraid. I can relate!
I love teaching middle-schoolers! They’re hilarious, random, able to understand humor, and about as ADD as I am at times. We have a blast! But, when I’m teaching them, I know that I need to repeat the main points (usually more than once… ha!). Everyday, as I’m teaching, I have them repeat the main points after me, sometimes in a loud voice, so I know that it’s sinking in. Even in our worship songs, I like having songs that repeat main points. It allows the truth to really sink in… to our bones. “How He loves” and “No sweeter name” were some of the favorite worship songs this year in middle school for that reason… we allowed those truths to envelop us.
As I was sitting, thinking about Moses’ speech this morning, I couldn’t help but think how I would encourage a multitude of ECA elementary and middle-schoolers, the kids in the different ministries around Bogota, the kids in the Jungle… the people I was called to minister to the last 5 years. I would definitely repeat those 3 main phrases, and have them say it out-loud with me. I would have them visualize what those specific phrases mean to them. There would probably be hand motions involved.
And then, I thought about myself and how I need to be reminded of those very important phrases these next few weeks… today… this minute. I probably don’t need hand motions, though. 🙂
Praise God that He’s promised to go before us (believing in an omni-present God, we know that He is already there, working things out in advance for us).
Praise God that He will never leave us or forsake us!
Praise God that because of His presence in our lives, we don’t have to have fear or be discouraged. Perfect love casts out all fear, and He is the joy and lifter of our heads!
One of my favorite quotes that I often give to people who are in transition is:
The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it His presence and His promise. — Brennan Manning
There are so many things to be grateful for in this process:
That Leo is with our dear friends, Jonny and Suzie Pineda, another bi-cultural ministry couple (now a family!), who did what we’re about to do 3 years ago. Leo is soaking up all the time with them… asking them the hard questions about leaving behind family, friends and ministry, and what it’s like to start all over again, trusting God to lead him as the head of our family. Hard questions.
That there are wonderful women here that have spent hours on the phone with me through my tears encouraging me, kicking my butt, praying for me, and offering to help, etc.
That I got an email today from our mission pastor’s wife (also our small-group leader) from Vineyard Columbus informing me that because of the great need for immigration counseling within our church body (there are over 100 nations represented! We love our church!), she is sending our case to someone we can talk to when we get to the States! This is a huge relief to both of us!
That ECA is going to be able to rent our apartment to other missionaries, so we don’t have to pack up everything.
That Leo’s dad is coming over on Friday and Saturday to help fix random things around the apartment that we haven’t had time to fix.
That God cares about us so much that He would make it absolutely clear which way we should go! We’d been praying all year that He would give us direction; and while we didn’t ever imagine He would answer us in this way, He did. He heard our prayers and answered them!
There are so many things to be thankful for!
You can continue to pray for these specific things:
Good-byes (especially Leo’s family… it hit them pretty hard!)
My focus in sorting and packing (I’m really having a hard time with this… I need help!)
That God would continue to speak to Leo while he’s in the States with our friends
That if God wants the outreach, missions and worship ministries at ECA to continue, that He would put it on people’s hearts to step up to the task.
That God would rise up another worship leader at our church to replace Leo.
That God would rise up someone to continue working with Leo’s indian group.
That we (I) would stop worrying about all of the above. Ha!
Thank you all so much for your encouragement and prayers for us!
I am a person who can’t see the trees for the forest; so organizing a trip for 24 people is a little overwhelming… let alone the fact that 14 of the people on the trip couldn’t pay for the majority of the costs. On top of the individual trip costs, we had to raise money for the medicine, supplies, and toilet project… a total of $4000 additional. I’m also not good at coming up with crazy ideas for fundraising, especially here in Colombia, where missions and mission trips are a relatively “new” idea to most churches.
We had our annual “Celebrate Colombia” day at school, and I was able to tell all the parents about the upcoming Amazon trip and ask for their prayers and financial support. I like talking about the trip and getting people excited about what the Lord is doing in the Amazon; but what put me out of my comfort zone was walking up to the parents after the main celebration and asking them to donate towards the trip. I had an offering bag, and just walked up to everyone. It made me feel so uncomfortable, but I knew that if I didn’t ask, they wouldn’t give. We raised enough money that day to pay for 1 ½ trips! So, it was worth it… but it was hard for me!
That same day, I was talking to a mother about putting together a worship event/fundraiser for the trip. I think I looked at her with a blank stare, wondering how in the world it could happen. I knew we would be able to use my church, but I didn’t have time to work on getting a whole concert together! The mom told me that if I organized it all, she would get her dance team together to help out. There was that word again…. Organize. As if I didn’t already have enough to organize!
But, we did it! The following weekend, my middle-school worship team put together a great bi-lingual worship concert, and we had an amazing time of prayer for the Amazon, Bogota, Colombia, South America and the Nations. The community also surrounded the team and prayed specifically for us and what the Lord had for us in the Amazon. We felt so empowered!!! The dance team was also a great addition to everything, as they danced while we worshiped with song! I can honestly say that the entire evening was one of the coolest things I’ve been a part of for a very long time! And, we raised enough money for 3 more people’s trips!
During the months of planning and preparing, the Lord was so faithful in my weaknesses! He would continually bring people alongside to help me, as well as allow me to push myself to get better. However, I don’t know if planning and organizing is something I should keep pushing myself to get better at, or if I should find one person who thrives on details and organization to be a part of our team. This is my struggle now. I can honestly say that I drown in details. I am so much more of a big-picture person that I get lost in the tiniest of details, and it really affects me. The tricky part is finding a person who is going to stay around for a while. Most of the teachers at ECA stay 1-2 years… if they stay for 3, that’s a blessing! So, I am praying that I find a Colombian who will come alongside me and commit to these trips as much as Leo and I have… for the long-haul!
I am so sorry that I haven’t communicated very well the last few months.
I was doing a good job with our blog until around November, and if you’re interested in what was going on during the fall, you can check it out here:
We had a GREAT Christmas break! We went on a week-long vacation with Leo’s family, and I got to experience Christmas eve in a whole new way… dancing and celebrating all night. It was a change from my family’s yearly (more somber) Christmas concert and candle-light service!
The most important part of our break was that it was really a break! I had a lot of work to do at the school, but Leo forbade me from going in (in a loving way, of course!). So, we had 3 weeks of rest and relaxation. It was the first time in a year that we weren’t leading a trip or traveling during our vacation time.
This semester has started off well! We took the 8th grade girls on an extreme overnight camping trip, and had a blast! One of my girls even proudly exclaimed “Mrs. Morales!!! I just peed in the wilderness for the first time!”. Hilarious! I’m so blessed to be able to mentor and disciple this group of girls this year. They were my 5th grade class just a few years back, and it’s been a joy to watch them grow into incredible young women as the years have passed!
You can see pictures from our trip here:
Last weekend, we were able to take some of our kids from Ciudad Bolivar on an overnight retreat out of the city. These are the kids we’ve been working with the last 4 years, and when we started with them they were 9-13 years old, and there were thirteen of them. Now the youngest is 13, the oldest is 16, and there are only 7 of them that have continued coming to the ministry. It was the first time some of them had ever left the city, and they loved it! One of the kids had never even been in a pool before! We had great conversations about what it is for us to live out our faith daily, and how to trust the Lord in all circumstances. If you’ve been following the blog where I mention these kids from time to time, you know that they are all on our hearts, and it was great to just bless them and spend quality time together! We loved it!
You can see pictures from our time together here:
And, it’s time for us to head back to the Amazon! We have just a little over a month and a half before we set out for our 3rd time to partner with YWAM in the work that they are doing in various villages along the river.
We have some financial and physical needs for this year’s trip, if you are interested in helping out. 🙂
1) We will be taking 4 doctors, and 4 dentists with us to do a medical brigade, and we need an additional portable dental chair. We can buy one here in Colombia for about $1,200.
2) Out of 8 members of my ministry team, 5 need some serious financial help. 2 of our doctors also need some help with the trip cost. The total cost of the trip, per person, is $400.
3) We are partnering with a middle-school group out in Portland, Oregon to help raise the funds for putting in latrine toilets in one of the villages, Puerto Alegre. Last year, when we got to this village, 4 babies had died in 2 weeks because of lack of sanitation and fresh water. We are involving another village that is a lot better off to come help put in the latrines and share the Gospel with this tribe… in their own language. We are really excited about this portion of our trip! We are paying for the gas for the boats of the visiting village, and the gas for the chainsaws to cut down the wood for the latrines, in addition to the purchase of around 40 latrine toilets. The total for this project is around $1,000. We are hoping that the group from Portland can raise this for us!
4) We will be taking much-needed medicine and toothbrushes and toothpaste with us as well. Last year, we bought around $1,000 worth of medicines here in Colombia and were able to serve around 800 families… most of which had around 4-5 kids at least. It was amazing! We had anti-parasite meds, children’s tylenol for their fevers, vitamins, anti-fungal cream, eye-drops, cough medicine, and a whole host of other medicines that are specific to the needs there in the jungle. We are still in need of donations for the purchase of medicine and toothbrushes and toothpaste this year.
4) Leo will be going to the States in March to collect donations and buy whatever else we need that we can’t get here in Colombia. We are looking for people who would be willing to donate boxes of Clif bars, crystal light, insect repellent and powdered gatorade. We also need Nalgene bottles and old or used long-sleeve button-down shirts to layer over our tank-tops to help keep the bugs off of us! 🙂
5) PRAY! Last year, I had 8 seniors graduate off of my ministry team, and this year my team is basically new. They are amazing students, but it is definitely a growing year. Please pray for team unity and for their continued trust in the Lord while we are planning and preparing.
Pray for the families to be blessed. This year, we are taking 2 pastoral couples with us who will be doing marriage and family seminars. There are many issues in the family dynamic in the Jungle, and we are praying that these seminars will be a step in encouraging the families to truly love each other. Obviously, true love can’t be found unless Jesus is Lord of their hearts, so we are praying that He will be known by the families.
Pray for the people from the village that will be coming with us, as they will be on their first mission trip! We are so excited to come alongside them as they learn what it is to serve the Lord and love their fellow tribe members. This village can be a huge example on the river, as they’ve basically outlawed the sexual abuse practices that are so prevalent in their culture, and they are raising a generation of children who will arrive to their wedding day untouched. The pastor is doing a great job discipling his people, and we hope that they will pass on a little of what they’ve learned to bless the villages around them!
Pray for wisdom for the doctors and dentists as they meet a variety of needs. 2 of our doctors were with us last year, and they have been looking forward to returning!
Pray for Leo and I as we are leading this team. In the past we’ve had a great team of leaders take charge of different areas, and this year, it’s all us. Pray for our unity as a couple, common vision, and patience with each other.
If you would like to partner with this trip financially, you can send donations to:
First Love International
PO Box 15836
Loves Park, IL 61132
You can also donate on-line at www.firstloveinternational.org
Please make sure you put Morales- Amazon in the donation line.
We need to have the full amount of money in by March 5th, which only gives us a few weeks. So, we’re praying for miracles! 🙂
If you would like to donate any physical things, you can send them to:
C/O Randall Hicks
2222 Enterprise Drive
Westchester, IL 60154
If you are sending donations, they need to arrive by March 14th so Leo can bring them back down with him.
Thanks for continuing to love and encourage us! We know we are not alone in the work here!
Continuing the journey,
Lilia (and Leo)