Just a good old update

So much has happened over the past couple months as we prepare to move to Uganda that I thought it appropriate to post a more traditional point-by-point update. So, without further adue…

To begin, we are delighted to announce that Borderlands International is officially acropped-borderland-logo3-e14964113713551.png recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization! This allows us to receive tax-deductible donations directly and register as a nonprofit in Uganda which offers many resources and opportunities related to the work we’ll be doing there.

Salazar returned from Arua, Uganda safe and sound. The girls are beside themselves with joy and relief to have him back. We are a close-knit family and his absence was very tangible. His first-account stories of hope, desperation, need and opportunity have only intensified our desire to return soon.

While Sal was in Arua we started a GoFundMe Campaign to purchase a 1995 Land Rover. We are grateful and excited beyond measure that we were successful in purchasing it. The family that sold us the vehicle was a missionary family who were returning to the US. They had fallenreceived_10213873183816327.png in love with the refugees and, as a way of giving them a final gift, they sold it to us for half its value so that we can now reach the camps with teams and supplies as well as transport ill and injured refugees to the local hospital.

Sal also got us set up with a house on the YWAM base to rent for the first 6-12 months. This grants us a stable residence with support and security until we establish a more long-term living arrangement.

We are only a few hundred dollars shy of purchasing our plane tickets. We believe that God has given us May 7th or 8th as a leaving date. As soon as we raise what we need, weplane and globe will purchase the tickets. If you would like to make a donation to that effect, please click here.

We are also still collecting useful items to take with us that can be challenging to obtain in Uganda. Please see our Amazon Wishlist if you are interested in helping us obtain any of these items. From there you can purchase mentioned items and have them shipped directly to us.

God’s people have been exceedingly generous towards us during this transitional time. A few weeks back one of Talai’s fillings fell out while she was chewing gum. We took her to a Christian dentist who also squeezed in cleanings for both her and Mila and then surprised us by not charging us a penny. Others have given us food, offered us a place to stay, invited us for dinner and snuck cash into our back pockets. We have been overwhelmed by the love expressed towards us by the body of Christ.

received_1922843044454275.jpgThe girls have thoroughly enjoyed some of the blessed opportunities of the First World. Mila played an angel in a skit that opened for the Preacher in the Patch at the renown Gillette Camplex. She also recently attended the homeschool Victorian Ball and danced her heart out. Talai and Hadassah danced on Easter morning with the Let it Echo dance team and they will be performing in a Christian dance recital shortly before we leave. We even got to go see a movie at the cinema, which is a very special treat indeed.

So there you have it. If all goes according to plan we will be writing you from Uganda within in a month’s time. In the meanwhile, we’ll be working on updating other areas of our website, such as the media and vision.

Thank you so much for your interest in our work and lives. May God bountifully bless you and yours.

The Fifth Gospel

Stories from a Sheikh, a Texan, Wyoming, Africa and the heart.

Salt and light… a light not hidden… a salt uncompromising…an understandable gospel for those who won’t read the the written Gospels.

Please, allow me to start by telling you a story.

Two nights ago in Arua, Uganda I was sitting with a new friend, Sheikh ***** **** Muhammad (for his protection we will refer to him simply as “Muhammad”). Muhammad was, a Sheikh (an authorized teacher of Islam) and has a wife and 15 children. His first-born is a Sheikh as well. In fact, his father, grandfather and so on for 5 generations have been Sheikhs.

Growing up he went to an Islamic school and eventually studied in a Shiite University in Kampala. Later he moved to Saudi Arabia where he taught as a Professor in the Sunni University for 17 years. After returning home, Muhammad, being a Sheikh, continued teaching Islam in his homeland of Uganda and developed quite a following. Until recently, that is. You see, Muhammad is now a Christian. He told me that one day, as he was out walking, a forum caught his attention. Christian missionary was explaining the difference between the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of the Koran. Muhammad heard and instinctively knew some of it for true. Inside his heart he yearned for the truth.

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“Josh” (the missionary) had said that Jesus was the Truth and that the Truth would set him free. That same day Muhammad secretly gave his life to Christ. Yet for two years, Muhammad lived publicly as a Sheikh who privately didn’t believe in what he taught. As I understood it, he finally felt that he couldn’t live that life anymore; it was hypocrisy. Only four days ago, he came out as a Christian. He told me that he could no longer put his light under a cover. “No.” he affirmed, “I must not be ashamed; no compromise.” Since publicly proclaiming Christ, all of his disciples have accepted the Lord which makes sixty in all, of all ages and races and all being former Muslims.

The day after his public proclamation, a car pulled up in front of a his home and the driver yelled, “Muhammad quick come here!” As he walked out the door, he was abducted. His mouth was taped and he was beaten and taken to a deserted place outside of the city and left for dead. “As I laid there I prayed, ‘Jesus You are still king.'” He told me. “And, as I was crying and praying, a woman came to me from out of nowhere. A woman came to me…Where did she some from? Where was she going? A woman came to me and she saved my life.” This woman took Muhammad to a hospital in Arua where he received medical treatment and was released.

This brings me to the day I met him. Sid (a YWAM buddy) said he wanted to take me to meet a guy he knew who had just been released from the hospital. We picked him up, took him to Sid’s house, made him food and encouraged him. He told us about how he would soon be returning to his home. Because, as he shared, “The time has come and there is a change in my City. They are ready for Christ.” He continued, “When I come back, many will see and not be afraid. Jesus will come with me…”

The former Sheikh had become uncompromising salt and light.

To better clarify for you what the Lord has been speaking to me over these past five weeks in Arua, Uganda, I have to tell you another story of another man, who I highly respect, of his pursuit of the Lord and for the way it transformed his family. It is a story of the change he made from being a passive Christian to a burning one.

Shane has set himself on fire with a passionate relationship with Jesus through His word, actions and prayer.

As he spoke with me he told me about a change that had occurred. Shane said, “I was living a compromised Christianity.” He shared how his family went to church every Sunday, how they invested time and money in the institution and were good people by American standards. But, something was missing. He had no burning desire for the Lord, and neither did his family. He made a conscientious decision to submit his whole life to the Lord and root out every compromise in his life and heart and to live a real gospel. He prioritized and completely reconstructed his daily life, right down to avoiding the TV shows he usually watched with his wife and kids. It didn’t happen overnight, but his family soon followed his example, seeing the Truth evident in his life. Him being that fifth gospel was more effective than a plethora of sermons on Sunday morning.

His story touched me. I met his family and I prayed my girls would grow to be as Godly as his children are, burning with love for Jesus and the world. I heard what people said about him and his family, that he was a man on on fire for Christ, that he was a man who lived the fifth gospel. As my wife and I visited with Shane and his family and they told us their story about how the power of Christ transformed a family when the the father and husband relentlessly strove to know Christ deeper and be more like Him, I was convicted and inspired.

Finally and briefly, I’ll tell you about a man whom I love dearly. He is like a second father to me and my children call him “Grandpa Dan.” His name is, of course, Dan. He is a salt spreader. I could write a book about what he means to me and all he has done to shape me, but I will save that perhaps for a later blog. Just know, he is a walking gospel.

This brings me to the point of writing this post. As I’ve been praying, and I’ve been praying a lot since I’ve been in Africa, the Lord is giving me direction, or vision, or perhaps a mission. I believe that the Lord is guiding me, guiding all of us in fact, to be the Fifth Gospel. This is nothing new but I’m just now getting a hold of it, or maybe he’s just giving me revelation in a way that I can understand. With some luck, the lesson He is teaching me can become revelation to others as well.

Here in Africa there are a lot of people who either can’t read or would never read the Bible: Muslims, witches, Hindus and even ex-pats. But everyone watches, observes, listens, weighs. What has he gained? they wonder. What has he given up? they ask themselves. Why is he here? Where has he come from? Does he live what he say he believes? Is this Christian like the Christ I heard about?

I see the story I’m about to share repeated in my own life. But where my story takes place in a refugee camp in Uganda, the following story takes place in Tanzania.

A group from my church in Wyoming, Family Life Church, went to Tanzania to fix wells and drill some new ones. When they arrived in one village they saw that a well which they had previously drilled was broken and in need of repair. Throughout the several days it took to repair the well, it seemed as though the the village has assigned a man to supervise them, if that’s what you could call it. As the team worked fixing the motor, putting up protection for the solar panels and making other repairs, they would stop from time to time and try engaging this man in conversation. He made no reply but instead just stood stoically by watching their every move. The man was part of the village group of elders with whom the US team had been working with for years. Even after drilling and putting in the well years ago and promising to stay in touch and help in whatever way they could, the elders of the village seemed skeptical and suspicious. However, after days of labor to repair their broken well as well as teaching locals how to keep it running and repair it themselves, the “supervisor” finally spoke, saying something rather astounding. He said, “Now I know that you are true and you are a man of your word. Now I can trust what you say.”

This has great implications for the gospel. It shows that the gospel message is often best received from men and women who are living the Gospel, speaking Gospel, and demonstrating the Gospel. They have salted the food; they have erected a lantern on a hill; they have not compromised or taken the easy way out. Instead, they conquered all obstacles to prove themselves true to their word which in turn gave validity to Christ.

 

This is what the Lord is teaching me about: embodying Jesus, being the salt, shining light in the darkest places and bearing peace and calm even when it’s hard. Even when I don’t get what I want, or when I’m afraid, or even when I feel like I am taking on a very large burden, it is for His sake.

The Word commands us to take up our cross daily and to do all things for the glory of God. This is my mission: to be light and salt; to be a Christ bearer, the fifth Gospel account; always ready to give the reason for the hope that I have in Christ that he may gain glory and that people may be saved. Just something on my heart. Thanks for reading and may God bless you.

A week at the “Place of Leprosy”

The following is a correspondence Sal wrote me after his second week in Uganda.

FB_IMG_1517680544806.jpg   For the past week I (Sal) have been camping in the Ofua district of the Rhino Refugee Settlement in Uganda. Upon reaching the camp I was immediately told the meaning of the word Ofua. So too, I will start  this letter with the the place’s history. Ofua, literally meaning “the place of leprosy, used to be the designated area for lepers, and so became a leper colony. Today it is packed with thousands of refugees from countries all around Uganda who fled their homeland for varying reasons.

   After learning the history of the camp, we began setting up our tents. We arrived with IMG_20180201_135330enough beans, potatoes and water for our team of ten to eat for one week. Every morning we ate a slice of bread, for lunch and dinner we had potatoes and beans.
After breakfast we would start the work day by going to a workshop hosted by the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) where we shared a message of encouragement to believers there. Next, we returned to the tents to prepare for door-to-door evangelism. We shared the Gospel, listened to concerns, prayed for peace in South Sudan, prayed for healing and the reuniting of families and more. It’s amazing how much simply taking the time to enter someone’s world, listen to their story and pray with them can do for a person. The first night, we found a high spot on a hill in Ofua where we worshiped and interceded on behalf of the residents and their home countries. All other nights we helped local pastors with “crusades” (this is a term used by locals with no negative connotation or offense). To be honest, I couldn’t even count how many people received Jesus but it had to be in the hundreds. Local pastors dived people who had received Christ amongst the involved churches and handed out Bibles and schedules for discipleship classes. I was very impressed with the pastors and their congregations who all lived within the camp. The church we partnered with, whose building had no walls or chairs, collectively cared for 40 orphans within the camp.
IMG_20180201_133744The amount of sickness in the camp was overwhelming. Every night people would stream into our camp with various needs requesting prayer or help. Many sick were healed, drunks became sober and, I believe, many strongholds were torn down. It was truly amazing to see and be a part of it. For some unknown reason, I seemed to be a drunk/drugged guy magnet. These guys would come to me and, usually through a translator, I would tell them about how Jesus had died and risen so that they could be free of the bondage of alcohol and drugs. During discipleship classes, these men would all come to the one I taught. Many of them seemed accepting but I questioned their sincerity and a few renounced drinking and drug use and immediately joined in helping with the crusades. One man renounced drug use in tears as he emptied his pockets into my hands. In the end I was left standing in front of the UNICEF building with cupped hands full of illicit drugs. Talk about awkward!
received_10213829429002484I also spent many hours playing with children. I  taught young men the importance of being strong leaders and God fearing men who would treat women with dignity and respect as Christ did the Church. Our last night they brought to our team a girl who had malaria and typhoid. We prayed for her through the night until we could take her to a health clinic in the morning. The experience was hard on our young international team as one lamented, “She is all alone; she has nobody. They just left her here.”
During our time there we also helped another YWAMer named Ntale Godfree who is IMG_20180201_135229planting orchards. We planted over 2,200 seeds in a nursery outside the camp. She said that she would transplant them into the ground one week before the rainy season.
All in all, the refugee camp was not what I  had expected. There is much hope for peace in South Sudan. The South Sudanese are a very strong and intelligent people, many speaking three to six languages. I felt very safe while there and the culture is very hospitable. I was not as short as I thought I would have been either, but that might be because, as far as I could tell, a majority of the camp is under the age of 15. I was very grateful for my week in the camp, and look forward to serving there throughout the years to come.

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2018: A year of HOPE

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Photo courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net

As I peer out over the uncharted waters of 2018, there are tempests and waves, darkness and thunder; but through it all stands a man to whom the winds and waves obey, who penetrates the deepest darkness and who embodies love and mercy. The times grow increasingly uncertain, the urgency of the hour is palpable; and one thing rises above the melee: HOPE.

I believe this will be the theme of this new season which the Lord is drawing us into: hope. We sense it in our own lives and see it at work in the greater body of the saints.

“So the poor have hope, And injustice shuts her mouth.”

Job 5:16

As we counted down the seconds to midnight and bid 2017 adieu, our family was surrounded by abount 20,000 other Christians all gathered at the Kansas City Convention Center and bringing in the New Year with worship following the 2017 OneThing Conference. At a time where radical liberal agendas are forwarded in our nation and globally at unprecedented speeds; where civil discourse retreats before hostility; where Christian ideals are increasingly portrayed as dangerous and detestable; and where the kingdom of darkness seems to be steadily advancing, I looked around at the vast crowd of primarily young people lifting their praises to heaven, pledging their allegiance to the King of Kings and offering themselves entirely to the Lord and an overwhelming sense of hope swelled in my heart and spirit.

 

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The Lord’s arm is not short. He is not surprised. He cannot be usurped. He is in control. And He is raising up an army of selfless and courageous Christians for such a time as this. I am reminded of what John Wesley famously said, “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.”

New Year’s Day found Sal and I stuck in Kansas City without the funds to get home. Unforeseen circumstances had taken from what we had budgeted for the conference and we had enough either to pay for one night in our hotel or one tank of gas (which would carry us one-third of the way home). With our eldest daughter running a fever and outside temperatures dipping well below zero, we decided to purchase another night.

After check-out the following day, we thanked God that our daughter was healthy again and then headed to a neighboring cafe where we spent our last dollar on two 50 cent coffees. Normally Sal would have been stressed to breaking point, feeling the weight of his responsibility as protector and provider for our family. Multiple times he looked at me and said with a touch of wonder, “I should be freaking out, but I feel great and filled with joy. This is crazy.” He seemed…hopeful. The Lord has been calling us for a while to relinquish control and depend whole-heartedly on Him for our every need. I think as a woman this just came easier to me than it did Sal. New Year’s Day marked a pivotal moment when the obedient agreement Sal had made with God in his head to let Him take full responsibility for our family became a reality in his heart.

“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

Romans 8:24-25

While enjoying our coffee we visited with an old friend and fellow missionary who had just completed an internship at Hope City in KC. She told us, “God told me to pay your way back to Wyoming, but I won’t have access to those funds until midnight.” We brainstormed but failed to come up with a good option for a place to stay that night, and since temperatures were still well below zero, the van simply wasn’t an option.

When a change of scenery was due, we headed to the public library. Our friend informedImage-1080_1920_20180111T065400.jpg us that she needed to pick up her friend but she would meet us there briefly. Sal, starting to feel ill himself, took a nap in the van while the girls and I read books and performed puppet shows. It was a very fun time. Somewhere between two and three hours later our friend and her companion arrived and we rendezvoused in the parking lot. She opened her trunk and produced three bags of groceries. With only a few dollars in her own bank account and unable to purchase food, she had visited a local food pantry on our behalf. She then instructed us to follow them to a gas station, explaining that her friend (also a missionary) wanted to fill our tank which would carry us until midnight when our friend would send us the remainder of what we needed to get home via PayPal.

We spent a brief but beautiful time in prayer huddled in the gas station parking lot. Not even the constant subzero wind could detract from the beauty of that moment where brother and sisters united in praise, petition, affection, faith and hope.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”

Romans 12:9-13

We made it home without incident. The Lord even strengthened me to drive much later than I thought I’d be able to stay awake allowing Sal, now a bit feverish, to get some decent rest before taking over for me.

At home we prayed that the Lord would guide and direct us as well as open doors that we might fulfill His will. Our plan had been to drop Sal at the Denver airport on the way home, sending him to Uganda, but we had been unable to secure the tickets. We told God that, just as we had waited upon him in Kansas City, so too would we wait on Him to clear a way for us to head to Uganda. The following day our pastor from Michigan got a hold of us and told us that a large donation had been made to us. As it turned out, we didn’t have to wait very long for an answer to that prayer.

And so, Sal leaves for Uganda on the nineteenth of this month and will return on the

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Photo courtesy: freedigitalphotos.net

22nd of February. During his time there he’ll set up a place for us to live, clarify our responsibilities with our YWAM leadership, get to know the people we’ll be working with, get a feel for the local people and culture and work in the refugee settlements. We’ll be around for approximately three weeks after his return and then we’ll move to Arua, Uganda as a family.

Keep checking back as we’ll be posting articles and pictures of Uganda soon. May our Lord richly bless you and strengthen you as you face your own challenges, victories, battles, choices, sacrifices, joys and trials in this coming year. May you choose radical obedience to Him and reflect Jesus to the world in all  you do. May you be fruitful with the Good News, patient in suffering, faithful in uncertainty, repaying evil with good, giving love in exchange for hate and being abundant in grace. And may you be hopeful, keeping in sight the enormous hope that dawns on the horizon of 2018.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

 

The blessing of the time in-between

It’s been three weeks now since we left Michigan and this time of travel has been filled with blessing upon blessing. As we prepare for our move to Uganda, one of our primary purposes of this trip was to fundraise and seek out ministry partners. The Lord, however, has turned it into so much more. As we reconnect with friends and church family, God has provided us with many opportunities to minister and be ministered to and we have been humbled, encouraged, convicted, rebuilt and drawn into more intimate fellowship with Him.

During our last week in Michigan some friends of ours, a fellow homeschooling family, handed us a wad of cash and insisted that we use it to go to the Creation Museum which we would pass on route. We spent two days visiting the Museum and the Arc and it was amazing.

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To get to the Arc, you have to park and take a shuttle. We told the girls that the shuttle buses were time-travel buses and that we were going back pre-flood to the time of Noah. It happened to be a day of heavy fog which created a convincing and magical effect. Mila, of course, didn’t believe us but played along. As you enter the Arc they play wind gusts and thunder through speakers which happened to match that day’s weather. When Hadassah bravely declared that she was ready to face the flood even though she knew that she wasn’t included in the eight people who would be on the Arc when it came, we decided it was time to let her know it was all just a game. After that she and Talai had fun running around and pretending to tend the animals while they “waited for the Arc to stop on dry ground.”

For those who don’t know, the Creation Museum is a museum which showcases the Creationist worldview of the earth and everything in it. The Arc is a replica of Noah’s arc built to Biblical proportions. Inside it showcases how creatures of every kind could have fit within the arc and just how that might have been managed, answering questions like: how would they have fed all those animals and what did they do with all the waste. Whereas the girls enjoyed and learned a lot at the Creation Museum, they were absolutely captivated by the Arc. The sheer size of it is very impressive and I thought it was fascinating to no end to consider the technology that may have been used to address needs like watering the animals and creating a current of fresh air.

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We also ran into a YWAM team from Tyler, Texas while we were at the Arc. We spotted a van with the Tyler YWAM logo on it and so we took a picture of it and sent it via Facebook to the base, letting them know we had seen their van and were also at the Arc. They, unbeknown to us, then took a picture of Sal and I from Facebook and sent it to their team. While we were on the second floor of the Arc we noticed a young woman staring uncertainly at us. When we made eye contact she seemed to make up her mind and walked over to us. “Are you Sal and Heather?” she asked. She was part of the YWAM Tyler team and had sook us out to say hello and introduce us to leaders and other members in their team. We had a great time of fellowship and later when we were on our way to Austin, Texas, we stopped the night at the Tyler base which turned out to be an awesome YWAM base which really embodied the generous and mission-sending heart of Youth With a Mission (YWAM). We reconnected with some of the YWAMers who had been on the Arc and enjoyed an overall time of rest and delicious food. We also connected with a YWAM family whose vision is to take entire families into the mission field. Since we share the same philosophy of families in missions, we decided to keep in touch with the idea of possibly working together in the future. This is just another example of the grand family that YWAM is.

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After our visit to the Creation Museum and Arc we headed to Charlotte, North Carolina where another family and friends of ours hosted us and arranged for us to share about our mission work on a college campus and in their church. With their help we made some valuable connections with others who are either already ministering in the same area of Africa or interested in extending their resources to help with the mission work we will be doing. Already we are communicating with a ministry that wants to get practical technology into the hands of students in Northern Uganda and excited about how we might work together to do that.

These particular friends who hosted us in Charlotte are some of the most generous and devoted Christians we know. Being with them was both convicting and encouraging. Our hearts were filled as we fellowshipped and discussed deep truths late into the night. They are steller apologists which means we had a lot of fun thrashing out and debating many different theological and philosophical issues. Overall it was an extremely blessed time.

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Queen’s University in Charlotte, NC where we shared about our mission work

Currently we are camping on a friend’s property in Austin, Texas. To understand the significance of our time here, you need to know a little of our history with this place. Back in 2007 Sal and I dedicated our lives and family to the Lord after God had miraculously saved our marriage. Shortly after, following God’s leading through prayer, we moved out to Austin, Texas to “start over.” On the Sunday after our arrival we decided to start our church shopping by attending the church which was inside a warehouse across the road from our apartment complex. It was our first experience with a fiery charismatic and passionate for Jesus group of people and we were amazed. Neither of us came from Christian families and we had no idea that such a sincere and tangible relationship with God through His Spirit even existed. We were challenged and captivated and hooked immediately. It was from here that God truly restored our marriage, gave us a vision for the future, captured our adoration and called us to the international mission field.

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There is something unique about returning to where it all began that stirs our spirits. In the few days we’ve been in Austin and reconnected with our old church, Northwest Fellowship, we have already been laid bare before God as we repent of areas of compromise in our lives and press into greater obedience and fellowship with Him. God is faithfully drawing nearer to us as we draw nearer to Him.

Our friends who, from our first days in Austin, became spiritual parents to us and grandparents to our daughters invited us to share in their family Thanksgiving. It will be a huge blessing to do so. On Friday night I am accompanying the young adult prayer team that goes to Sixth Street, Austin in bright orange T-shirts to offer prayer and words of hope in a mardi gras-style environment. Sal and I were among the original group of young people who dreamed up the idea and participated in its birth. It will be a great blessing to partake in what it has matured to over the past nine years.

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Highest point in Louisiana. We got out to stretch our legs… it was definitely the easiest peak we’ve ever bagged 🙂

In about a week we will head to Gillette, Wyoming to reconnect with our home church family there. We look forward to seeing old friends and fellowshipping with them for a time before we head to Uganda.

As missionaries, a large part of the purpose of this trip was “business,” a.k.a., fund-raising and resource partnering. However, God is always working a myriad of purposes at once and He has used this trip to expose a weariness within us that we hadn’t realized was there. He is abundantly filling that place of weariness with renewed strength and intimacy with Him. It comes as no surprise that the Lord knew far better than we what our real needs were and He is fulfilling them with His own perfect methods.

We appreciate your continued prayers as we prepare for long-term mission work in Uganda and will do our best to keep a regularly updated report of our progress. We pray abundant blessings for you and your familly throughout this holiday season.

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Our Texan by birth Talai “representin'” after we crossed the Texan border

PS: There has been a slight change in our plans. Salazar, who was planning to head to Uganda in mid November, is now remaining Stateside until the first week of January. After reevaluating our timeline and speaking with the Arua base, we decided to delay his departure until after the New Year. By mid December the YWAM base in Arua will close for the Holidays. Together with the base we decided that it would be better for Sal to go when his stay wouldn’t fall on their vacation time which also freed him up to complete our US loop with me (super helpful) and cut out a second trip to Austin before we left for Uganda. Overall it made more sense to do it this way and proved a better use of resources. I will update the calendar in our earlier post promptly after publishing this article.

Special Report: Northern Uganda

Northern Uganda is the primary receiving area for South Sudanese refugees. South Sudan, although the world’s youngest nation, is home of the fastest growing refugee  crisis on the globe. Below is our Special Report newsletter which takes a look at the situation in this West Nile region and explains what our family is doing about it.

If you would like to receive our monthly newsletters, please contact us via email at <hsanchez5811@gmail.com>. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking on the “subscribe” button in the right column.

Please click the link below to view/save/print our Special Report newsletter. Thank you and God bless.

Borderlands special report

Uganda, here we come! Calendar

If you receive our newsletter, then you have already received our calendar.  If you are not currently receiving our newsletters and would like to, please contact us at <hsanchez5811@gmail.com>.

Below is a calendar of where we’ll be and when during this short period before our family leaves for Uganda. We are making a loop to visit friends/partners and fulfill speaking engagements. If you live in or around those areas we would love to see you while we are there. Please contact us via email to connect. Also note: from November 15th through December 22nd Sal will be in Uganda. He is going ahead to work and prepare a place for the family.

You can also view/save/print our calendar in pdf form by clicking on the links below.

Sanchez 2017 calendar

Sanchez 2018 Calendar

November 2017

December 2017

January 2018

February 2018

YWAM: Our Family

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courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

This Fall when we arrive in Uganda, Africa, we will be received by the staff of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) Arua. We have been in contact off and on with these guys for about four years now, since we first believed God was calling us to Uganda. We have enjoyed getting to know them and learning of all they do. Their examples of courage and humble obedience to the call of God delights our hearts and it will be an honor to work alongside them and learn from them.

Interpersonal relationships within YWAM are a peculiar and special thing. Jesus taught us that Christianity is a brotherhood, that we are all family. Theoretically I know this, but it is a principle truly manifest amongst YWAMers. For example, if a ragged travel-worn stranger showed up at my front door and said, “Hello, I am a Christian. I was told you are a Christian also. May I stay here for a few days and rest from my travels?” I would likely invite them in, but my hospitality would not be so great as it is, for example, when my sisters come to visit nor would I likely trust them alone in my home. Please understand, I’m not saying

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courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

that is the Biblical response, I’m simply saying that in my flesh this is what I would do and I suspect most of those reading this article would react similarly.

However, if the same stranger said, “Hello, I am a YWAMer. I heard you guys are a YWAM family. I’m just passing through and a bit hungry and tired. Would you mind if I crashed here for a bit?” I would be genuinely excited to invite them in with open arms, open fridge and open trust. White, Black, Brown, Yellow, African, Indian, Russian, male, female, old, young it simply wouldn’t matter. This is the heart of YWAM.

Before you challenge that statement, or claim it unique to myself, I would share that we did this exact thing many times during our trip through Central and South America. Inevitably we would run out of food, gas and money and be unable to travel any further. At these times (and others as well) we headed to the nearest YWAM base, knocked on their front door and said something along the lines of, “Hello, we are YWAMers. We are from the USA and on our way to Argentina but we need a place to stay until God grants us provisions to continue on our journey. We have no idea how long that may take, but could we please stay here until then?”

Through the many countries we traversed they always welcomed us in with open arms and hearts. They would feed us, show us around the town, give us gifts, pray with us and bless us tremendously. They even let our dogs sleep in our rooms with us, which is culturally unacceptable in most of these countries.

IMG_20160505_163722Once in Columbia we called ahead of time and asked to stay at the base. We were told that although they would love to host us, they were packed to over capacity. With several visiting teams they had people sleeping on floors and outside in tents and simply had no space. After spending a week in a Columbian hostel while waiting to receive our van (we had shipped it from Panama), we picked it up and realized that we were too broke to continue. So, we prayerfully decided to show up at the YWAM base anyway where we asked if we could sleep in our van in their driveway. Again we were invited in with open arms. There truly was no space within the base but a few YWAM girls who lived down the road and were headed out of town gave us the keys to their apartment and told us we could stay there. And as always, they fed us too.

The following day a young woman we had not yet met walked up and introduced herself. “Hello, My name is Evenly,” she said. “There is a Bible school I’ve wanted to attend in Uruguay for a long time, but I’ve never had the resources to go. However, two days ago God told me that He was sending me there soon and to pack my bags. So, I packed my bags, prayed that God would provide a way and have been waiting for a miracle. I believe you may be the answer to that prayer. Could I ride with you as far as Corrientes? From there I can take a bus”

For Sal and I, there really was no question. She absolutely could come. We responded, “Of course you can come! After all, we are family. However,” we continued, “you must understand that we can’t guarantee a comfortable or safe place to sleep. We don’t know how long it will take us to get there and if we run out of money again we may be stuck on route until God provides finances to continue. We cannot guarantee you’ll arrive before the school starts. We can be loud at times and, just to warn you, when it gets hot our dogs drool a lot.  That said, if you believe this is your transport to God’s calling and are willing to trust Him in that, we would love to have you.”

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This picture is a little blurry but you get the idea

And just like that our traveling family went from five members to six. Well, actually as soon as we left town she announced that she had a friend on route who also wanted to take the Bible school in Uruguay. So, by sunset our traveling family had reached seven members. At one point we were up to nine for a string of our journey, but I’ll save that story for another time. Our family keeps in contact with Evenly to this day and we consider her a dear friend.

Back to my previous thought, however, this Fall we will be received by YWAM Arua, Uganda where we have made a two-year commitment to serve at (but with the intention of remaining in Uganda much longer) . Their work in Arua and the West Nile region is amazing. The daily risks they face by ministering in troubled and war-torn areas reflects a healthy and profound faith. Their vision is to “be a bridge of God’s healing to the nations” and they focus primarily on Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and the Central African Republic (CAR). We are so excited to be joining them in all they do, and would encourage anyone reading this article to check them out. Below are links to help you do so.

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Click above to go to YWAM Arua’s webpage

ywam aruaClick above to go to YWAM Arua’s Facebook page

 

 

Above is an informational video about YWAM Arua that they made a few years ago.

As always, may God bountifully bless you and yours. Please keep us in your prayers as we move forward in preparations for Arua, Uganda. Thank you, and God bless.

A lovely detour

It is hard to believe that the year is almost over! 2016 has been an incredible year, full of laughter and tears, disappointments and victories, sorrows and joy. And God has met us every step of the way.

img_20161124_084400As some already know, our plans have changed slightly in that we have temporarily returned to the United States. We are so excited and blessed to have this opportunity before reestablishing ourselves and serving long-term in Uganda, Africa. During our months in the US we will be busy taking care of the many logistical details involved with getting to and established in Uganda and spearheading the Borderlands Restoration and Education Project.

We know that, among the many things we have done this past year, we have not appropriately prioritized our web updates. We take full responsibility for the neglect and beg your pardon.

This is what you can expect from this site over the next several months:

  • Regular postings
  • A sort of retracing of our steps- Since driving across the Mexican border to shipping around the Darien Gap to sharing love with street kids in Argentina and back to Michigan again: where we have been; what we have done; things we have learned.
  • Lots of pictures
  • Current updates
  • Whatever else might be of interest

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    digitalphotos.net_supakitmod

As far as why else we are in the States again:

  • Obtain long-term working or religious visas for Uganda
  • See to logistical and legal aspects of Love’s Training Ground
  • Fundraise and establish new partnerships

Tuesday morning Sal and I will be flying out of Detroit on route to Jacksonville Port in Florida. Our van will be there by tomorrow and we are on our way to pick it up. We are actually still short on the funds needed to retrieve it (for online giving click here) but we figure that after bringing us this far God wouldn’t have us abandon our vehicle at the port. Having to trust God to financially come through for us time and time again has been an adventure in and of itself and the stakes just seem to keep getting higher, but that is a story all its own and perhaps I’ll share it in another post someday.

Please pray safe travel for us. Sal and I are flying Spirit Airlines from Detroit to Atlanta and then taking an overnight bus into Jacksonville. Since our oldest, Mila, was born, we haven’t done any trip like this without the girls. Please pray peace for them during the time we are away (they’ll be with Grandma). And of course, pray for the financial miracle we are confident the Lord will provide so that we can retrieve our van. Sal already has a job in Michigan so we’ll bquill-and-letter_simon-howdene able to sustain ourselves, but port fees and such simply go beyond our typical expenses. We are excited to be turning the last page of another chapter as we set our eyes toward the thickening plot of God’s master script into which he has penned our lives.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and God bless and keep you and yours.christmas-trees_simon-howden

Cute Challenges to writing an update: or “From point A to point B”

As I write this, I am hiding in a corner at the YWAM base (our internet access location). Earlier I sat up to a table in the community area as I composed the first draft. Linda, a very cute girl around 9 years old skipped up to me. She is mute and was having trouble with the other kids because of her inability to articulate. No invitation needed she jumped up onto my lap. I showed her some pictures on my computer which completely fascinated her. She stayed by my side, jumping on and off my lap, wiggling like she had a scorpion in her dress and trying to buy games through the Play Store on my phone. In her excitement she pointed to a picture on my computer and started swiping her fingers across its touch screen. Somehow her actions combinedIMG_20160506_193739 with my keyboard typing completely erased my first draft.

At that moment I had a sort of internal struggle where I lept between “You’ve got to be kidding me!” and “This sweet little girl just needs a friend. What’s the big deal?” Poor Linda looked at me, mouth open attempting an “uh-oh” and waiting to see how I would react… Well, I’ve always been a softie when it comes to kids.

After about half an hour of play time showing Linda more pictures and how to play a math game on my phone, I figured I’d better get to rewriting the update. I tracked down Linda’s parents and then found another spot on the base with a decent wifi signal and began to write. Within 10 minutes a young Paraguayan missionary and friend who is in cross-cultural missions classes, approached me. “Heather” he said with his Guarani-thick Spanish accent. “I really need your help. In one hour I am presenting on the differences between North American and South American culture. You are the only North American on the base right now so can I please interview you?” Without waiting for a response he started asking all about my “cold northern culture,” as he called it. No matter what I said I just couldn’t convince him I wasn’t cold-blooded. “You are from the north after all,” he said. “That is why it is so hard for you here with us warm Latins while Sal (my Mexican-descended husband) gets along so well. I hear North Americans don’t like hugs.”

“But it’s not difficult for me here,” I responded. “I love Latin culture and I love hugs.”

“Maybe you just don’t realize that our ways are really hard on you or maybe your husband is just rubbing off on you.” Oh well, my friend is sure to discover one way or another that not all North Americans are “cold cultured.”I believe we are the first US family he has yet met.

Forty-five minutes later he wrapped up his interview and headed to class. I turned on my screen to write and another young Argentine missionary (whose hair I agreed to dread next week) sat down next to me. She just needed a “big sister” talk.

After listening a bit and encouraging her not to hide big decisions from her parents, I excused myself and sook out a seemingly quiet spot of ground outside where I didn’t think I’d be disturbed. I loved all the interaction, but I had work to do. The update was coming along well until a group of kids stampeded around a corner IMG_20160514_115203and pounced on me. It was a mix of missionaries’ kids and our restoration home students.  “Tia Heather!” they yelled. They were so rambunctious it was all I could do to stop them from stomping on my computer. Once I climbed out from underneath them I explained that I had some important work to do but could come back later to play. “OK,” they said disappointingly. I reopened by laptop, sat down and found myself in the middle of a half-dozen kid huddle… “Where is Mila and Talai and Dassah?”… “What does that button say?”… “What are you writing?”… “Will you teach us to lasso cattle”…So much for not liking hugs.

After a short tickle fight, I decided I had better take drastic measures or I would never complete the update. That brings us to now, with me hiding from a bunch of very cute distractions in a dark corner of the YWAM base quietly writing. With that introduction, let me invite you to read:

 The Update

or, “Where we are and where we are headed”

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We have been working in Argentina while attending the School of Rescue and Restoration through the University of the Nations from which we recently graduated. The school involved long days of up to 15 hours in the classroom and required us to put in many hours of hands-on work with children in the youth penitentiary, orphanages and homes and with the onsite restoration home or Casa Abierta. We worked directly with the kids and when possible their parents as well. We learned about: childhood sexual abuse, family restoration, human trafficking and extractions, restorative counseling, working with governments and much more. Now with our education paid off and our counseling certificates in hand we are headed for Uganda, Africa.

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courtesy “africa” at freedigitalphotos.net

To reach and become established in Uganda is the second step in a multi-phased plan to ultimately run a restorative home and private school for highly traumatized youth in Uganda Africa. The plan looks something like this:

  • Phase One: Study and prepare, get certified (completed)
  • Phase Two: Arrive and become established in Uganda, Africa-
    • Prepare van for drive from South Africa to Uganda
    • Ship van to South Africa
    • Fly to South Africa
    • Obtain Ugandan working visa
    • Drive to Uganda
    • Work alongside other ministry, learn culture/worldview/politics
  • Phase Three: Buying and Building Phase
  • Phase Four: Running the home and school
  • Phase Five: If the Lord wills, help others start and run their own restoration homes and schools for traumatized youth

 By the first week of August we will leave Corrientes and head for Buenos Aires, the port we will likely be shipping the van from and flying out of. The Buenos Aires metropolitan area is home to around 14.5 million inhabitants and we are grateful to have contacts in several areas of the city who will help us navigate the landscape and bureaucracy. There is a lot of footwork

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Courtesy “photoraidz” at freedigitalphotos.net

and paperwork involved in transporting 5 people, 2 dogs and 1 van across the Atlantic! We expect the process to take about a month or so. Other than that, we are waiting on funding and will be turning a lot of attention towards fundraising. If you are interested in helping us in this phase of the project, please see our “Support Page” or go to

http://paypal.me/salandheather.

 We are excited about the adventure ahead and the opportunity to anchor in some roots in Uganda. We have been in a sort of transitional chapter in our lives for almost seven months now and we are anxious to establish a home that we can “come home to.”

 A Note on Driving:

 Several people have already asked us  why, considering the risks, are we driving half-way across Africa. Usually the question is framed something like, “Are you crazy?!?” Truthfully, sometimes I think perhaps we are, a little. However, ultimately we feel that the benefits of overlanding far outweigh the risks. Here is our nutshell explanation:1212151441

  1. With our experience overlanding Central and South America, we feel confident in our competence to minimize the risk involved in this trip.
  2. This trip allows us to create valuable networking and contacts which will be immensely helpful toward starting a home and school. It also provides for us the opportunity to learn African culture before jumping into ministry with them.
  3. A vehicle is a must-have in Uganda one way or another. Without it there is no way to dependably transport our family. We have a dependable van that is invaluable to us. Our van (donated by Family Life Church) is large enough to fit our family and has proven it is up to rigorous driving.
  4. It is cheaper this way. A used, questionably dependable vehicle in Uganda costs around $17-20K. Our trip, including gas and traveling costs, plane tickets and shipping the van should cost significantly less than that.
  5. It is less complicated. As foreigners, obtaining a vehicle in Uganda is complicated.
  6. After much prayer, we feel this is God’s guiding.

 That said, it would be a lie to claim that we’re disappointed with how things are working out. As explorers and adventurists at heart, our whole family is very excited at the prospect of driving through Africa, seeing new places, meeting new people, learning completely foreign customs and everything else involved with such a journey.  We are exquisitely blessed that God has merged our dreams with His plans for our lives. We get to do what we love as we serve His Kingdom and help the “statistically hopeless” to have and follow their own dreams.

Isn’t our God simply amazing?