VOB News February/March 2023 “Living HOPE”

I’m reflecting this morning on the saints who have gone before us. Honestly, this same reflection has been on my heart this year, with the passing of a colleague before the holidays, then another friend, over the holidays. After that, 2 more partners in ministry also lost their fathers. One of whom pastored for decades, while the other faithful man ministered decades upon decades. mentoring some of our closest friends. These have all been fathers of the faith. Having lost Carol’s father the year prior, we are especially aware of the great loss and all that it entails. Of course, one of the things we know, is that the Bible tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, that we do not grieve like those who have no hope. This promise comforts us. It also comforts our oldest and dearest best friend, who called just last night announcing the sudden stepping into heaven of his sweet mom, a mother figure to us as well. “This present life Is not the end. Each of us has an inner sense, or feeling that death is not the end, because God ‘set eternity in the human heart’” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) [Billy Graham]  

So we carry these encouragements with us, knowing that all the saints before us are in a better place. No more pain or suffering. No more struggles on this earth. Yes, still a struggle for us who remain in our losses and in our pain, perhaps even suffering. But as believers, we are meant to live on this earth with a living hope. To believe of course, meaning that we believe Jesus said He is the Resurrection and the Life, and believing in Him, we will have eternal life (John 11:25-26). Jesus told his disciples this often. As it happens, Carol and I are finally watching the series “The Chosen”. I know, I know, we are a little behind perhaps some of you who have already caught all 3 seasons.  But thankfully, the right time is always the right time – and often the more perfect time. Hopefully, now is the perfect time to encourage you, with these reflections. I know we hope to encourage our friends in their losses. We’ve attended one memorial last month, with 2 more scheduled this month, and perhaps a 4th, unexpectedly. To be honest, all of these dear ones passed unexpectedly, generally speaking. Perhaps this can lead us to each be greater motivated to be sure and check in with friends and family members. We want to be sure they have a Living Hope. Hopelessness is a terrible, lonely place.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4

I’ve encountered many folks with great deferred hope in their circumstances, whether it be the orphaned child, the elderly person living in the home having been the last surviving member of their family, the sick confined to their bed, or the addict sleeping in the street. Each of these are those we continue to provide food to, and lend an ear toward their troubles. A heavy weight can really be lifted, when a person feels heard and encouraged. But there are those who are overlooked even in a crowded room or busy work place – friendly neighborhood – and yes, even sitting among us at church.  We have sure learned how much it means when someone tells us they are “praying for us”. We have also learned what it means all the more, when asked “how can I pray for you?”. Give it a try and see if that rings true for you too. 

Frontline Update:

We have resumed border crossings once a week for now. We have quickly learned, just as our ministry partner has been experiencing in our absence, that favor with Mexican customs is still delayed.  This is similar to times in the past, but seems more relentless at this time. One BIG change, has been with the Mexican government sending National Guard (Guardia Nacional), to regulate customs at the border. They were first assigned to the southern border of Mexico, to stop some of the migration of illegal immigrants into their country. They have since been also assigned to Tijuana, to address the growing corruption among customs and police forces. The greater military presence, has reduced some of the drug and weapon smuggling that comes in (sadly from the US). The atmosphere change is evident. I note it while I am there, and the locals (my friends) report that it is a good start in making their neighborhoods safer. However, safer with military presence, does come with a cost, as those who fight to keep their illegal activity going, are retaliating. We don’t share these details with you lightly, nor do we intend to elicit fear. But we are nudging you to be more greatly aware of the concerns. And if you could say an extra prayer for Wayne’s safety and all those who he works with, that would be so appreciated. Also, prayer for ongoing favor at customs, with a lessor import fee, would be great. We have been through seasons where there was no fee. And seasons where it was a flat affordable fee. Right now, we are at the mercy of whoever checks the trucks and decides what the load is worth – despite our sharing that it is all free food for those who need it most. So far we have paid fees ranging from $40-$105 dollars each time we cross. Thank you for keeping all these things covered in prayer.