God is Working in Juquila

Before Annie and I arrived in Juquila we had no idea what was going to happen. We didn’t know if the people would be welcoming or cold, whether they would accept the message of the gospel or reject it. From the things we had heard in the past we didn’t think they would be to fond of our school and the message we had to share.

Our first year we had about 20 students, a few brave families that were willing to try an alternative education (there aren’t many christian schools in Mexico, especially our region). We were able to share the gospel with these 20 or so students along with their families, they were receptive but we had yet to see much fruit from it. The parents were telling us that their children were different, that they were kinder, happier, and excited to go to school. We saw this as some fruit of the school. Parents would have us over for dinner and we would have opportunities to share God’s word with them.

This school year we now have 35 students! More kids, more families, more work, but also much more opportunity to share the love of Jesus.

One of our new students this year, Ivan, is always excited to learn about the Bible in Bible class and also in Chapel. He is always telling the Bible stories and verses to his parents. One day Annie and I were in a store and some man who appeared to be drunk was saying my name over and over, we asked him who he was and he said that he was Ivan’s dad, he then began to recite a verse back to us that our students had been learning, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10). He went on to say that he was so happy his son was in the school learning these things, and that he didn’t want him to end up a drunk like him. We reassured him that it wasn’t too late for him either. A few months passed and Ivan’s mom came to the school, she asked us what religion we follow, we said we are Christians, and then she asked if she could come to church with us! We were so excited! We are coming to find out that our students are sharing the gospel and the Bible with their own parents, how great is that!?

We have another new student this year named Bryan, his parents decided to put him in our school because he experienced lots of bullying in the other schools. The first few days of school we could tell that Bryan did not have a good school experience in the past, he was very quiet and didn’t appear to be happy. With time he became more and more talkative and happy, a few weeks in and his parents said that he couldn’t wait to go to school in the mornings. In December Bryans mom came to the school to talk with us, she began to tell us how much Bryan has changed. She said that one day she walking into his room and she saw him down on his knees praying, the mom was overwhelmed at how her son had changed! She said that he will often lead prayers with them and teach them things from the Bible. A few weeks ago we got invite Bryans family over to the school to have dinner, we ate together and shared from the Word with his family. After we finished talking with them, Bryan’s dad spoke up. He began to share how thankful he was that we had been investing in his child and his family. He also told us that he wanted to learn more about the Bible, he said that he was relieved at how simple the gospel was, that all we have to do is put our faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us, not the Virgin of Juquila or anything else. They are excited to learn more abut Jesus!

These are just a few of the things that God has been doing in Juquila! Please continue to pray for our school La Luz and the people of Juquila. That God would continue to soften hearts and draw people to himself!

Wisdom in Silence

Alongside my position with Global Education Ministries, I also get to run a coffee shop with my husband. It’s our dream business, and we have been up and running for almost a year now – praise God! One thing that comes along with being a barista, is getting to know my customers. I always say that baristas are the new bartenders. People for some reason really let their guard down and love sharing with the person providing their daily caffeine fix. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. I love getting to know people who I normally would have never crossed paths with. I enjoy hearing about the highs and lows of their days. And I’m blessed to even get to see so many customers turn into true friends. 

Anywho, where was I going with that? Oh yeah. Hearing about people’s problems. Everyone has something difficult going on in their life, and some people just feel good about sharing that. As an extrovert (and an enneagram 2), I love talking back and forth… and I especially love the opportunity to give advice. I hear a problem, and my instant thought is: “how can I help solve this?” This happens even with my family, friends and in my marriage. 

Recently, I’ve been reading the book of Job. If you’re not familiar, the book of Job tells the story about a faithful man of God named Job who was blessed with great abundance. The story starts in Heaven with a conversation between God and Satan. Satan implies that Job only loves God because he has such a great life, and he would surely deny God if it was all taken away. Confident in his faithful servant, God allows Satan to strip Job of everything he loves– his family, his wealth, and his health. Job suffers terribly, even though he didn’t sin or disappoint God in any way. Most of the story describes conversations between Job and his friends, who assume that Job must have sinned greatly if he is suffering so terribly. Although Job goes through horrific events that most of us have never seen, he keeps his faith in God and remains steadfast.

I remember reading this story in the past, and my main takeaway always was– “Wow, look how strong Job’s faith was! He must really trust God. I need to trust God like that.” Which is a great takeaway and lesson to learn. But this time I noticed something different. When Job’s suffering began, his friends came to his aid – but for the first week they didn’t have any words. They just sat with him in silence. After some time, they began to “give advice,” emploring Job to confess his secret sin and repent so he can be healed. They described the horrible ways God will judge wicked people, insinuating that Job must be wicked because his life looked that way right now. Great friends, right? In the middle of losing everything, and they only come over to tell you how wicked your are.

While reading it these speeches made by Job’s friends, it’s easy to pick out truths that they share. The way they described God’s hatred of wickedness is TRUE. God does detest sin and evil, and he will bring judgement to all of those who don’t come to Him in repentance. But this wasn’t true in Job’s case. His friends had NO CLUE the interaction between God and Satan in Heaven… They assumed they knew everything which in turn made them out to know nothing at all. It is crazy to think that you can be so right (speaking truths) and so wrong (speaking them out of context, or assuming God’s will) at the same time.

The commentary I was reading during my study time turned to the fact that the wisest thing any of Job’s friends did during the entire story was the very beginning when they were silent for one week. They sat with Job and said nothing. This made me think of all the times anyone has brought problems or suffering to me, and how quickly I am to jump in and add comments, truth, or advice. I now realize how much wisdom there is in silence. In listening. In being humbly quiet before your friend and before God. I can speak truth after truth, but how do I know what God is really doing in the hearts of others if I’m so quick to assess the situation and put my human spin on it. 

There is humility in acknowledging that I don’t know everything, and I especially don’t know God’s purpose in every problem or trial that myself or my loved ones encounter. Of course there is time for lifting up and encouraging, and maybe even speaking into a situation with truth and love – but I think that should come after the silence. After the listening. After the quiet seeking of God’s heart and guidance. So that’s what I’m aiming to practice in the coming weeks with my friends and even my customers. Let’s see how God can speak to us if we are quiet enough to listen, even on the behalf of others. I don’t want to assume that my advice is needed or even wanted. I want to walk in God’s leading and love others the way He will guide me to. That’s my takeaway from Job this go around reading it, and I can’t wait to see what God will teach me next time.

– Rachel Ellzey, Director of Communications

Rachel graduated in 2014 from the Communication Studies department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, with a focus in video production. She loves her home state of Texas, where her family still resides. Rachel served as a missionary teacher for a year and is now living in North Carolina with her husband working as GEM’s Director of Communications and running their coffee shop, Social Coffee & Supply Co.

We Have Nothing To Lose

Pontius Pilot, a Roman governor of Judea from A.D. 26-36, will forever be known for his role in the crucifixion of Jesus. Historical accounts of Pilot describe him as a cruel, ruthless, and an unimpressive man governing a seemingly insignificant Roman outpost.  He was given his position through marriage to the granddaughter of Caesar Augustus. The historical accounts are consistent to what we see in scripture where he tortures Jesus and condemns him to death while knowing he’s innocent. 

What I notice the most in scripture is how weak and cowardly Pilot is.  His driving emotion, through the whole encounter with Jesus, is fear. He was afraid of the mob, the Jewish leaders, Jesus, Caesar, etc. One of his last acts, motivated by an evil fearful heart, is recorded in John 19:16. “Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.”

I’ve read this many times but today while I was reading a commentary I was really impacted by the words of Charles Erdmen. He said: 

“You may do today exactly what Pilate did. He is simply an example of a man who lacks decision of character, who does not possess the courage of his convictions, who tries to compromise with wrong, who disobeys conscience through fear of personal loss.” 

His words struck me because I know much of my Christian life has been lived like this.  Lacking decision of character …not possessing the courage of my convictions…compromising with wrong…and disobeying my conscience. Sadly much of my Christian life has been lived looking more like Pontius Pilot than like Jesus Christ.  

On the surface, it might seem like Pontius Pilot and I have nothing in common.  But look at his fear…the motivation for his actions, the thing that sets him on his course in his life. He was weak, cruel, and unremarkable, and his decisions were motivated by fear of personal loss. He wanted power, comfort, and respect.  And his chief concern was making sure that nothing disrupted that. It’s at this level where he and I (and probably many of you reading) converge. Fear of personal loss is where I start to look a lot like Pilot.  

It’s discouraging and sad…but it’s not the end of our story. 

God is gracious and loving to us.  Not only did he sacrifice Jesus on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, He has given us His Spirit in this life to guide and help us.  We are forgiven and we are given the Spirit of power. God knows our weaknesses, fears, and sin, and He has chosen to remove our offenses from us and remember it no more. We truly are free people who have all things in Christ. Even though we struggle and fail, in Christ, we have nothing to lose. Our hope and our salvation are secure.  We have a loving Father who meets all of our needs in this life and the next. What an incredible and blessed thing!

What is your driving motivation? Is it fear of personal loss? Maybe people won’t respect you, like you, or want to spend time with you if you are unwavering in your convictions? Maybe it loss of comfort if you actively engage in missions and sacrificially give of your time and money? 

As Christians, missionaries, people looking to eternity, let’s look more like Jesus than Pilot.  We should be motivated by love, not driven by fear. Imagine what impact we would have on our families, our neighbors and our world if we consistently were people who had unwavering courage to our convictions, and who refused to compromise with wrong.  Compromising with wrong, giving ground to evil, little by little is a reality in our lives because we fear personal loss. Imagine if we lived as people that embraced the reality that we have nothing to lose.

– Casey Herring, GEM Co-Founder

If you’d like to support Casey and his wife, Meg,  as they serve with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact them directly to talk further about what it means to be on their support team and find out how you can be praying for them!

In The Waiting

If I am being honest, this semester has been very different from what I had expected entering into it, in a lot of good ways. While there have been different challenges, I have experienced so much more of the Lord, and for that, I can only rejoice. In experiencing more of the Lord, He is teaching me in several different ways. One thing that God is teaching me in this season is what it looks like to wait on Him. Up to this point in my life, I have either had really hard seasons or really joy-filled seasons, but I have never had a season that feels more like a steady waiting. That is this season.
If you are into the enneagram (a type of personality test), like many of us here in Mexico, you will understand what I mean when I say that I am a Type 3. I am an achiever. I like to have goals and things to look forward to in the future. Accomplishing things can become what I work towards, and I can often get too focused on my work if I am not careful. My natural tendency is to not wait and just act because not much seems to be accomplished in waiting.
However, that is not the case when it comes to the Lord. A friend of mine recently has reminded me that the Lord can accomplish more in a year of us praying than what we could do in ten years of trying our best. In this season, while I do not feel like I am accomplishing much in human standards, I am reminded that God is always working. Even when I cannot see Him moving, He is. He is always working. In fact, even in the waiting, He is renewing me.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31
In the waiting, God is moving. He does not have us wait just for the sake of waiting. It may be easy to be discouraged in seasons like these, but I am encouraged as I remember that God is not done. When I am wanting to see so much change and growth in the hearts of my students, I hear the Lord say, “Just wait until you see what I am doing in some of their hearts even now.” Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” I can trust that what God has begun in their little hearts, He will bring it to completion in His timing, not mine. When I am quick to question what the future may hold, I am reminded that the Lord is the One who will establish my steps, I just need to wait on Him. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps”. That is not dependent on my actions.
God is good, even in the waiting, and He is to be trusted. In whatever season you may be walking through right now, be encouraged as you rest in knowing that the Lord is good, and even though we cannot always see it, He is working in the waiting.

-Rachel Hill, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Rachel as she serves with GEM in Mexico, you can do so HERE. You can also contact her directly to talk further about what it means to be on her support team and find out how you can be praying for her!

We Are Made To Connect

Last week I sat at the graveyard here in Juquila, holding one of our students Hugo as he cried, watching his grandfather be lowered into his grave. At that moment, really nothing else mattered. All of the choices Brett and I had made to end up here led up to this very moment. These minutes, sitting, being the one to comfort this child. The one to teach him every day and be a real part of his life. That is why we’re here. To walk through life with these kids through the joy of learning in the classroom as well as walking through the really hard things of life.

I experienced pain with Hugo mixed with a deep peace that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. On this day, I almost didn’t go to the funeral because our day was so filled with things to do and get done. So often I am so selfish with my time and I lose sight of what is most important. I am so thankful for God’s grace that brought me to this moment, completely surrendered and in awe of what He has for us. In moments like these, all the doubts, the struggles, the really hard days are made worth it. The struggles that have at times consumed my days didn’t come to mind other than to remind me that if it wasn’t for the struggle, I wouldn’t know the strength and love God has for me as I do now.

I know the doubts will come and the hard days also but this moment in the graveyard really refreshed my heart and reminded me of the very essence of life. We are made to connect. That is our purpose. With God first and then with others. We have a choice to walk idly through the motions of life, striving after productivity or to open our heart and eyes to the numerous, precious, holy moments that make up our days as we connect with our Heavenly Father and His beloved people here on earth.

My sister in law shared a quote with me that says, “There will never be a time in eternity, when standing before Jesus and worshipping Him that you will regret giving up everything to follow Him.”
My prayer is that my eyes will be open to all of the moments God has for me to be a part of and aware of. I don’t want to just get things done and be productive, I want to experience all He has for me, slowing down and taking part of whatever He has.

-Annie Balsley, GEM Missionary

If you’d like to support Brett and Annie as they serve with GEM in Juquila to share the gospel with this unreached town, you can do so HERE. You can also contact them directly to talk further about what it means to be on their support team and find out how you can be praying for them!