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This was first posted on our News of Grace blog in February and was written by Kaylah Alicea who is a GMI missionary in Puerto Rico along with her husband, Harry. Their GMI webpage will give you more information on who they are and what ministries they are involved in.

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These past six months have been a testament to the faithfulness of God in my life and how there are times when He simply calls me to listen and rely on that faithfulness. Let me share a bit of a story with you and as you read my journey may you feel empowered to remain faithful to Christ in the season of life He has placed you.

Summer here in Puerto Rico is always bustling and busy with groups from the States visiting and doing different ministry projects in the barrio. We also have camp, Vacation Bible School, and themed club weeks. By the end of summer, I’m usually exhausted, but overflowing with gratefulness for all that God has done in and through His ministry here. Then everything comes to a grinding halt. All the teams go home, the interns return to college, the kids go back to school, and there seems to be a deafening silence through the barrio. I then have the privilege of getting back into our fall routine with club and adjusting back to life during the school year. However, something different happened this year. We opened club like normal for August and September and then suddenly monsoon-type rains took over our island for the months of October and November. After living on the island for over three years now, I have never seen so much rain EVERY SINGLE DAY! Because most of our kids walk to club, the rain immediately stopped them from coming and it simply wasn’t safe for them to be outside through the constant thunderstorms. We would eventually get a little break in the rain for the morning and I would prepare myself to put on club as usual and literally right at 3pm when I was about to open the gate the rains would begin to pour yet again. I began to get very disheartened. We had just finished an amazing summer and I was ready to carry those emotions into our school year. Yet, every day God was simply trying to tell me to wait on Him and trust His faithfulness.

alicea-november-2016-300x300It was during these eight weeks I found out I was pregnant with our second child and was still trying to adjust to life with an active six month old. I struggled with feeling as if I was failing because I wasn’t doing the thing I felt like God was calling me to do. Little did I realize I was doing exactly the thing God had called me to do and I simply needed to know that God was still faithful and He would prove that through the continuation of His ministry here in Puerto Rico in His perfect timing.

At the beginning of the year, we reopened club and to my joy and surprise there were 25 kids ready for me to open the gate again. It was in that moment God reminded me there are seasons in life and in ministry. I wasn’t failing because God was calling me to rest and trust Him with the outcome through the storm. A few weeks later, I was reading Matthew 14 where God used another passage of Scripture to speak His truths to my heart. In this passage, Jesus had just performed another amazing miracle and fed 5,000 people. People were following Him everywhere and His truth was spreading. Right after this miracle, He tells the disciples to get into a boat and cross the lake as He goes up to a mountain to pray. Jesus tells them this knowing there will be a storm that night. The disciples obey Jesus, and are quickly ushered into a storm of ‘perfection.’ It wasn’t a storm of ‘correction’ because they had obeyed what He told them to do – He simply was getting ready to test their faith again. This whole passage reminded me of how God had been working in my own life. I had just finished an amazing summer of ministry and God was simply reminding me to remain faithful to the calling He had placed on my life. I had obeyed by preparing and opening club, but God was more focused on where my heart was through it all. He wanted me to trust Him and know that sometimes we just have to sit back and rest as He performs more miracles in our hearts. And He once again gave me the strength to ride out the storm and see that His faithfulness would be displayed in the faces of those 25 club kids who reappeared on the other side.

Life is full of storms of correction and perfection. My prayer for us today is that we sit at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He is trying to tell us through them. May we remain faithful to His work and trust that His faithfulness will always be guiding us through the storm to the calm waters on the other side.

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Last weekend Mercy and I (Eric) conducted a seminar with the married couples from our churches in Lilongwe, Malawi, and we looked at two areas that rank among the great marriage killers, “Family & Finances” and  “Sex in marriage.” Sex and money are two difficult topics of discussion in the African tradition. To tackle such topics is like hitting on a rock. However, we cannot avoid biblically addressing these issues as they have handicapped Christianity in Africa. Traditionally sex is mainly considered a benefit for the husband and to speak about it in the open is taboo. So is money – a woman does not need to know what the husband’s income is.

We knew very well that there would be some resistance regarding some of the cultural practices we would challenge, but we did not give up knowing that God’s Word is living, active, and more than powerful to soften even stony hearts.

Asked if women should know about the husband’s income? And just as expected, there was a big NO with all the reasons culture can offer: Support is only given to her family, she overspends, everything goes to her clothing, she spends too much on donuts and French fries, and she shouldn’t because some women are lovers of money. The challenge given to the men was: suppose she is the one working…should she inform the husband about her income? Interesting enough, all agreed that she must.

Asked of the women if they should know about their husband’s income…all women agreed with the following reasons: If the woman is aware of how much is coming in she becomes wise in her spending bearing in mind the income available, she knows how to give support to her husband and her own family, she knows when she needs new shoes or a rapper and can save toward that, she knows how to make a monthly budget and works through it, if a woman knows and has access to family finances, she becomes less suspicious of her husband spending money on other women. Women also agreed that if they do not know about the family finances they spend unwisely thinking their husband gets more than what they seem to have, the budgets include daily buying because money is given only for a day’s meal, women feel their men spend more on their own families and on other women, the temptation to steal from their husband is very high and some would wait till the man is in bathroom or asleep for them to search his pockets. Some even pointed out that women fall into the temptation of extra marital affairs because there are men out their willing to shower them with lots of money that can feed and cloth them, the children, and the husband, too. They also pointed out that this has been one of the leading factors in the spread of HIV/AIDS among married couples.This was shocking for the men to hear, but very helpful.

With all further discussions and teachings we finally arrived at a conclusion that women need to know about the family finances and be allowed to plan and manage the monthly budget, but it is also important for the couple to know each other’s weaknesses regarding money and be accountable to one another as this promotes trust and faithfulness in marriage.

Couples were given time to reflect on the topic and discuss what would be helpful for their families regarding finances and to pray together. At mealtime it was all rosy as we could see them talking and laughing, eating together, and feeding each other something some may have only done on the day of their wedding, remembering old days!!! At the end of the day the couples were not embarrassed to express their love for each other in public, they called each other sweet names, and held hands as they walked back home. Some men carried their wives’ handbags which is something culture would not allow! All that were in attendance appreciated the time spent and regretted their having come late.

We are grateful to the Lord that He alone in His great faithfulness is able to make all things beautiful, heal and restore broken marriages, and refresh those who are still standing.

We look forward to another time in April when we will discuss in detail the topic on sex in marriage, the traditional and the biblical view. We cannot have strong standing churches if our marriages are failing. Your prayer support in this is greatly coveted.

To God be the glory for great things He has done and so we can say Ebenezer.

To see a short video of the seminar, click HERE.

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Steve and Barb Sherman, GMI missionaries in Mwanza, Tanzania, recently sent out an email update and it was so full of good information that we had to share it with all of you. While this isn’t in the same format, it includes the same information and photos.

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Greetings from Mwanza Tanzania. Thank you to all of you who have prayed for and supported us. Barb and I made the trek north (about 22 hours) back in October. We got straight into the ministry and still have not been able to get completely unpacked and moved into our new home.

Since arriving in Mwanza in October, Steve has preached almost every Sunday. We have 3 church plants and one established church. We lack trained leaders so Pastor Methodi Mwendapole and Steve take turns rotating in the four churches. Steve is pictured here at the Nyashimba church last Sunday.

Below the article is a picture of the Nyashimba congregation. They have some pretty lively choirs. Because of the dirt floor they kick up a lot of dust when their choirs start dancing.

Pictured below is the home of our host family where we ate lunch at the Nyashimba church.To the right are the ladies washing dishes after our meal and at the bottom is the beautiful setting we ate in. You would be surprised how comfortable it is eating outside under a mango tree with a light breeze even in the 90 degree weather.

The majority of our time is spent at the Nyangulugulu city church plant. Pictured below is Pastor Methodi, who is a Tanzanian missionary that we work with, teaching the Wednesday evening Bible Study this week. We are averaging about 60 men, women, and children on Sundays.

Barb and Methodi’s wife take turns teaching the kids Sunday School, Junior Church, and also the Women’s Bible Study on Tuesdays. Believe it or not we are in church 12-15 hours a week with each of our 5 meetings lasting 2-3 hours.

Steve had the privilege of leading a man and his wife to the Lord yesterday at the Nyangulugulu church. Their names are Benadi and Zainabu. They have three children—Peter, Margaret, and Leah. Please pray for this family as they have never attended any kind of church before and are the epitome of the phrase “babes in Christ.”

Leah took an immediate liking to Steve. She began to cry when Steve left the building. Later when he came back she came up to the front of the church where Steve was waiting to preach, sat on his lap, and promptly fell asleep.

A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to help us build a ministry center here in the Nyangulugulu area of the city of Mwanza. The building is now complete with an office, a large classroom, and two smaller multi-purpose rooms. This is where we will run our Bible School, teach seminars, and operate our correspondence school from. It is also our head office for the Mwanza region.

For now the Nyangulugulu congregation meets in the ministry center. Later, after we have grown some, we hope to build a church to the left of the ministry center that uses the fence walls as two sides of the church.

This week we are continuing to work on the fence around our compound. With the current money we have we should be able to finish about 80% of the fence.

Keep praying! Pray for our new congregations that they continue to grow in Christ. Pray as we develop leaders to work in these churches. Pray for our missionary team in Mwanza (Mwendapoles, Shermans, and Capraris who are in the States for medical treatment). Pray as we plan for further development.

In Christ,
Steve and Barb Sherman

Nyashimba congregation

Barb teaching Sunday School

We ate lunch under the Mango tree

Pastor Methodi teaching the Wednesday evening Bible Study

 

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A walk into the village of Kapenta was a common occurrence growing up in the Rukwa Valley. Most of the time it was to visit our friends who lived there, and doing this happened more often as I entered my high school years. This was because my local friends started getting married around the age of 16 and they no longer had the freedom to come to our house to hang out and “play” like they did from the time we lived there until they got married. One of my dearest friends, Esther (now Mama Mishak), was someone I especially enjoyed visiting. We could sit and talk or walk to her garden outside the village until it was almost dark and then say goodnight before the sunset so I could safely make it back to my house.

On one particular walk to Esther’s house I saw a lady carrying a 5-gallon bucket of water on her head with a young child tied to her back with a cloth (the normal way to carry a baby). We greeted each other and then went our separate ways. I didn’t think anything of it, because that’s as normal a sight as seeing a mailbox at the end of a driveway in the USA. What I had missed was the witchdoctor who had passed just before I came to the path and whom this lady was following.

Upon arriving at Esther’s house and after some casual conversation, she asked if I had seen the lady being led up the mountain by the village witchdoctor. I said I had seen the lady and Esther went on to explain what was going on. This story is heartbreaking but as you read the following think of the bondage of fear these people live in. Satan has a stronghold in every culture that needs to be brought to light, and one of those in Tanzania is fear. Fear and the bondage of darkness causes so much heartache. The light of Christ is so beautiful in contrast to these things but when the darkness seems strong, the heartache runs deep.

You see, this woman was about to take part in a ritual led by the witchdoctor, in fear of disobeying him and in fear for her child’s life. Her young boy was very sick, running a high fever among other things. Normal “dawa” (medicine) wasn’t working, so she went and surrendered herself to the ways of the witchdoctor. They were now on their way to a special site on top of a local, worshipped mountain where, Esther explained to me, the mother would have to collect sticks and they would make a fire from those sticks. They would then boil “special” water and poor this hot water over the child to wash the sickness from the child’s body. When the deed was done, the mom would have to leave the mountain without looking back. If she looked back or ever returned to that spot, she was told and believed, the sickness would return to her child and possibly take his life. My heart ached and I wished there was some way I could have stopped what I knew was happening as it was being explained to me.

The sun began to set and I said my goodbyes to Esther for the day. At the same time that she walked me to the path from her house the mother was returning down the mountain with a screaming little baby re-tied to her back and her child in worse condition than before. Oh, my heart cried inside. Why does she believe these lies? Why does she do these things?

Lies and darkness and sin. That is why. In many places throughout that culture witchcraft is a real and serious issue that many live in bondage to and in fear of daily. It is just one area where the missionaries fight a spiritual battle in their daily work. I tell you this in order to raise the awareness of the need for prayer in these cultures and lands where our missionaries are serving. Pray for the spiritual battles that are fought every day. Pray for the people affected so intimately and painfully with this darkness, shame, pain, and fear. For in Christ there is light and freedom and joy and he came that we might have life and have it to the full.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” John 8:12.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1.

Zach and Erin“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” Ephesians 6:12.

This post was written by Erin Kemper, GMI’s Director of Social Media, who spent many of her growing up years in Tanzania as part of a missionary family. She is married to Zach Kemper who was also raised in Tanzania.

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Frosty and Cathy wrote this earlier today: “The trip begins! Getting ready to board the flight to Chicago – the first leg of the journey. Good to have prayer this morning with the GMI staff and then at the airport with Craig and Pat Apel and Don TenHoeve. Thanks to everyone for your prayers and support.”

Frosty and Cathy Hansen left for Bolivia today! Please pray as they have said their goodbyes to friends and family and are traveling all the way to Bolivia. Please also pray for adjustments to their new life and ministry as it begins in Bolivia. We are excited for the wonderful things God has in store!

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