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. 

VOB News January 2023 “The Making of a Missionary”

Usually this time of new year we reflect on the old year and often like to highlight several things the Lord did among the worship and compassion ministry of Voice of the Bride. There are so many things to mention that God is faithful in.  But there was a recent occurrence that blessed us, so we felt it deserved the mention! 

As you know we traveled to the east coast again to be with our family for an extended season of caretaking, for Carol’s mom. Typically, when we are going to be away from the Mexico ministry, Wayne makes effort to stock his weekly food recipients so they have some provision during his absence. Last year, when we unexpectedly were gone for a longer time, we sorted out a way to provide funds for our ministry colleagues, to purchase food for those we care for. 

This holiday season I did the same. But instead of having a ministry partner come by a couple of our adopted family homes, I enrolled one of our adopted family members to help. We have spoken of Ivonne often through various events that have surrounded her family over the years. She is the oldest  daughter of Veronica, and the oldest sister to Karen, Jasmine, Carlos Jr and Fernando. She is also mom to daughters Alexandra, and Gabriella and raising her brother’s son, Carlos III (Carlos Jr has gone through some rough times since losing his father tragically, but we are keeping check on him and he is doing better.). Last year, with your help, we built the house they all live in now. They are so grateful, and have been so blessed for over a year now, with their home they call ‘a blessing from GOD.’ This summer, they sent us photos of the family working together to paint the inside of the home since that had been left as an unfinished project for later. The family did so with great pride and joy!  This Christmas, they were super excited to show us how they put up a new ‘first’ Christmas tree. 

After we left San Diego, to drive to NC before Thanksgiving, I arranged to wire money to Ivonne, in order to buy food for her family for that month. I asked if she would mind also buying a bit more food, and delivering it to an elderly neighbor who lives around the block from her. Amelia has been one of our friends also, for many years. She lives alone, and welcomes the help and visits. Ivonne was so happy to do this. Without us even asking, she sent a photos of all the items she bought, one of Amelia putting her items away, and a photo of her daughter, Gabby, with Amelia. Our heart was touched by how much joy it brought them to serve!! 

It has always been our overall goal, for the compassion mission in Tijuana, to be one that helps the folks help one another. For years, we have undergirded the ministries of brothers and sisters we call partners, so that they can care for the folks in their communities, and share the Gospel in practical ways. It just seemed extra special to have one of our families raised up, to also accomplish that goal. When Ivonne was eager to do the same again at Christmas,   delivering gifts to Amelia, it occurred to us…we have empowered our first missionary!! Praise the Lord!! Certainly a highlight of 2022! 

p.s. As you receive this newsletter, we will be in process of helping Carol’s mom transition to living with Carol’s sister full time, with a part-time caregiver. We appreciate your prayers for them and us as we then load up our truck and drive back to San Diego.