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 March/April 2022 “A Time for Everything”

Rita, Grizz, Wayne & Carol at the Georgia State capital in Atlanta

A time for everything… If you get a chance, read Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 to familiarize yourself with the whole passage. It will be easy to see where to apply “a time”, to many things going on in our world today, the hard and the good times. For us, in this season, it has been the uncomfortable realization of the “time to die”.  Many of you would have your own experiences with death, and the sorrow that relates to it.  Early, in our first fews years of ministry here in San Diego, we lost our ministry partner, and mentor Mark McCoy.  Then, a year later, we lost another dear co-leader, Sherman, in our church who was also a great supporter and encourager in our marriage and ministry – including a father figure to Wayne. I remember Carol’s dad telling us that we were much too young to be having friends pass away. Fast forward 20+ years and there have been many other co-laborers, friends and family who have passed on. Naturally, this includes our current season, where losing Carol’s father would have been more than enough to handle.  Sadly, however, we just returned from a celebration of life this weekend, of another fallen ministry partner. Our dear friend Larry Grizz Brown, an elder in the Native American community, passed suddenly and unexpectedly. We had just spent time with Grizz and his new bride, our friend Rita Bear Gray, in Georgia, and again in Pennsylvania. Another dear brother in our worship community, Dan Simonek, passed recently as well, and we will gather to remember him at the end of the month. They all are in heaven, which is amazing and truly wonderful for them!!   It’s just a little hard to stay on that reflection for those of us left behind. 

I know this letter may seem like a downer, but we wanted to be honest about where we are at in this season of our lives.  Perhaps you are there right now as well, or have been there at one point in your life. We live in a very difficult time – standing for our families, our nation, the world. We know to keep our eyes on Jesus. We know His promises. We know that so many things we endure, would be hopeless without Him. The Bible also says in 1st Thessalonians (4:13) to ‘not mourn as those whom have no hope.’  Our hope is in the Lord!!!  But we do need one another, to be reminded of that. And yes, we all endure these hardships and sorrowful times, so that hopefully we grasp a deeper empathy and compassion for others in their day to day struggles. Ultimately that has always been my (Wayne) goal – to use the areas in my life that are the weakest—or yet to be healed—to motivate my compassion for others. Work for our salvation? NO. But work OUT our grief, trust and salvation? YES! These life setbacks, discouragements, and shortcomings make us stronger. His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. (2nd Corinthians 12:9). His grace is sufficient. I trust these promises to give me hope. I hope you do too! Yes there is a time to mourn. But there comes a time to dance as well! (Ecclesiastes 3:4)  Always remember that, dear friends. 

Wayne, Lorenzo, Genesis & Carol

On the ministry front…

We are in the process of returning to our regular routine and schedule in Mexico. Sorting out the usual customs issues. However we have made some strategic trips across the border. We attended the wedding of a young woman we have known since she was a small girl!  Our ministry partner Vicente’s daughter got married.  Through a VOB sponsor, this young woman has received saxophone lessons for years, a skill we hope will help her take a small step higher in economic advancement in her life and culture. Her instructor, a sax player in the Tijuana symphony, played her bridal march at the wedding, and joyously celebrated with us.  

Nurse Angelica – The oil lamp in Angie’s hand is an international symbol for nurses widely known to symbolize Florence Nightingale and her transforming work in the nursing profession. Her lamp became synonymous with goodwill, reliability, and compassion, which are all attributes that are highly desirable in the field of nursing today. [Google]

Also, we were able to deliver a large amount of medical supplies to a missionary nurse about 2 hours south of the border. This missionary nurse works with disabled kids and their families in Maneadero, a very poor area south of Ensenada Mexico. Our hope was to share the many things we collected while caring for Carol’s dad.  This dedicated nurse has alread  y written us, and spoken of how deeply appreciated, in particular, a donated pair of special soft booties were to a 12 year old boy who is bed ridden with pressure sores on his legs and ankles. These booties are a resource they would have not had available to them otherwise. It is a real blessing for us to be able to provide relief for another, through resources from a difficult experience of our own. Lastly, though we did not get to attend her graduation which happened while we were away, another young woman (whom we have also watched grow up) who VOB has sponsored with your help, graduated from nursing school!  We are so excited for Angie’s future! Your partnership investment is one of the highlights of what we get to do. Making a difference for one who can make a difference for many.