Do you ever wonder if sharing your faith really matters? Do you sometimes question your ability to lead someone to Christ? Do you have friends and family who seem like lost causes in crossing the line of faith?
Here's a story that has been in the making for 12 years. Grab a cup of coffee and linger a bit with me, because I need to take you back to Guatemala in January of 2006. A group of Nebraskan ranchers, while on a mission trip to Guatemala, told Cesar Gonzalez that they would like for a group of ranchers from Guatemala to come visit them for the week of the big rodeo in Burwell, Nebraska, in July of 2006. In what we called a "reverse missions trip," ten Guatemalans made the journey to Nebraska. The idea was to see if we did a missions project in "reverse" and had Guatemala friends come and visit us, we might include more people in the missions process here at home who would never be able to go to Guatemala.
Of that group of 10, only four were believers. We prayed that the other six would pray to receive Christ on that trip. I even remember on the second day in Nebraska sitting in Rex Kelly's living room going through a plan-of-salvation talk and inviting those six to respond, and not one did. I was disappointed. The guys all enjoyed the trip immensely, and we all had a good time. But our idea of seeing some pray to receive Christ while in the U.S. didn't pan out. But our Nebraska friends kept praying. And Rex and Deb Kelly stayed in touch with a couple of them by email and Facebook.
As the years rolled by, one by one, they came to know Jesus. Rolando came to know the Lord a few months before having a massive heart attack and dying. German and Juan did so later at their respective ranches in Guatemala. Otto did we think at a cattlemen's association meeting in Jutiapa. Alex did, a couple of years later after his wife nearly left him, and Rex and Deb Kelly, through many emails, encouraged he and his wife to stick it out. But Alex's cousin, Oscar, a trick roper and the life of almost any party, was a tough cookie to crack. While being generous and friendly to us--participating in several cowboy events with us in Guatemala--he just never would cross the line of faith for his salvation.
Meanwhile, Rex and Deb and many of our friends in Nebraska continued to pray. On our last trip to Guatemala a few weeks ago, Rex was reunited for a lunch with Alex and his wife Joanna, their twenty-something sons, Alan and Alejandro, Oscar, and Oscar's girlfriend. In introducing Rex to her sons, Joanna said, "I want to introduce you to the man who, with his wife Debbie, helped save our marriage." The two boys remembered how hopeless their parents' marriage seemed when they were teenagers. One of the boys told of how depressed he was in those days, but because of the change in his parents, both boys came to faith in Jesus too.
While Rex was enjoying reminiscing with Alex and Joanna, Ray Gurney, pastor of Cross Creek Baptist Mission in Oak Grove, Missouri, felt burdened to talk with Oscar, who was sitting next to him at the dinner table. Though Ray had never met Oscar before this day, he had heard about his recent troubles. For the past several years, Oscar has lived a nightmare. A few years ago, his father died in prison after being framed for an apparent murder of a cousin in the family. After his father's death, the truth came out that he did not commit the murder. In the meantime, another cousin of Oscar's turned up dead, and Oscar was similarly blamed. The authorities cleared him, but in a country of vigilante-style justice, Oscar had been living in fear that there are people wanting him dead too since the real culprits had not been brought to justice.
"Oscar, do you know that Jesus Christ can save you just like he saved Alex and Joanna?" Ray asked, referring to the miracle story told of Alex and Joanna coming to Christ and seeing their marriage saved. Alan, one of Alex and Joanna's sons, translated for Ray.
"Si," Oscar nodded.
"Would you like to get that done right now?" Ray asked.
"Si," Oscar said, with tears forming out of the corners of his eyes.
Over a family style lunch at a street-side restaurant in Monterrico, Guatemala, the prayers of a group of faithful friends in the Sandhills of Nebraska were answered as Oscar prayed to receive Christ. After the prayer, Ray prayed for protection for Oscar and that the truth would prevail and that soon the situation would be resolved.
"How do you feel Oscar,?" Ray asked after he concluded his prayer.
"Like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders!" Oscar exuded. To Ray, the tears he noticed coming from Oscar's eyes now seemed like tears of joy.
10:02 PRAYER (LUKE 10:2)
Editor's note: Just before sending this update, we have learned that in a dramatic court case, Oscar and his family have been completely cleared and the real murderers convicted. Thank God for this and for Oscar's newfound faith!
Thanks for your continued generosity that keeps us traveling and responding to what God is doing with our friends in many places.
Next week, Bill and I will be traveling to Texas to visit many of our friends in the Fort Worth and North Texas region. Stay tuned for more details on that.
For you coffee lovers, we still have a few bags of coffee left from our coffee grower friends in Moyuta, Guatemala. If you'd like some, let me know.