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

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

The Renaissance Festival: The follow-up

Please allow me to open with this disclaimer: this post may seem unrelated to this website and the mission field. However, it’s important to remember that mission work is carried out by people and families who have many of the same needs as any other, ie: spending quality time together. One of the primary purposes of this blog is to paint an accurate picture of our lives as a missions family. That said, I hope you enjoy this post.

I will admit that when Sal first recommended we attend a Renaissance festival, I was a bit skeptical. I remembered this kid from high school who would go to Renaissance festivals and reenact in them. I thought that made him very weird.

Apparently I married a weirdo. But, in the end I agreed. Oh my goodness, what fun! It was really neat to see how my girls chose personas that reflected their own personalities. Mila, compassionate and brave, was my bold and noble dame/knight, Talai, humble and devoted, was my just Ranger often hidden in the shadows and Hadassah, passionate and daring, was my Nordic Viking (perhaps more after the style of Leif Eriksson).

And yes, Sal went as a monk and evangelized several times that day. He is such a great example of how being a Christian is who we are and not something we simply believe in or do. In perfect medieval monk persona, he shared the Gospel with fellow monks, knights, elves and tavern maids. It was pretty wild to witness! I was convicted to remember that in truly any situation, the Gospel applies and can be preached.

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Lord help me, I married an Evangelist

Our whole family is intrigued with history.  So as to do something fun and largely unique to the western world, we decided to go to the Michigan Renaissance Festival this coming weekend. In addition to our typical homeschool curriculum, we’ve added classes on the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Knighthood. We’ve also been working on costumes, because an opportunity to learn history through interactive immersion is a homeschooling mom’s dream.

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As I hurried to put some costumes patterns together (and begged my mom, a seamstress, for help), Sal kept changing his mind on what persona he wanted to go as and so put off giving me a solid costume idea. It wasn’t until I threatened to send him in a potato sack that he finally gave me something to work with.  Yesterday morning he told me, “I want to go as a Renaissance-era Missionary.”Monk-800px

My first though was, “Jeepers, can’t you just put aside saving the world for one day and have some fun?” Visions of our typical joint shopping trips began filling my mind. Whenever Sal accompanies me grocery shopping I have to plan for it to take three times as long in order to anticipate the theological discussions with strangers which seem to have made their way onto my shopping list.

But immediately following I was convicted of how wrong-headed this train of thought was. Firstly it implied that we can’t have fun and share the love of God simultaneously. Anyone who has worked in children’s ministry could debunk that idea in a heartbeat.  And worse yet, I was guilty of seeing being a missionary as an occupation; as something we do and not as an identity; who we are. Truthfully it is the very identity of the Christian believer which should compel him or her to be ever vigilant, seeking the spiritually deceived and oppressed and shedding the light of truth in their lives.

Therefore, I would argue that it is every Christian’s duty to be mission-minded. Anything less and one risks living in violation of the Great Commission and Jesus’ very last words:

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.”

~Matthew 28: 18-20 (NKJV)

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I’m not saying that every Christian should start packing their suitcase, but I do believe that a faithfully lived life is one lived within the constant tension, or awareness, that we’ve been called to “Go.” Some will be called to take the Gospel to foreign lands and all should be open to that if God so directs them. Most, however, will be called to “go” to their workplaces, their schools, their families, their neighborhoods and all their spheres of influence. Not every Christian is called to be an Evangelist, but we’re all called to evangelize. Not all are called to be Pastors, but we’re all responsible to bear witness to Christ and edify His body, the church. Not every Christian is called to witness in nations, cultures and tongues unfamiliar to their own, but we’re all called to love and to do good to all men and to preach the Gospel wherever we go. As Christians we should be mindful of the needs of the people around us and actively help relieve those needs while sharing the Good News. The Lord has truly brought the world to our doorstep here in the United States. As hatred and division intensify in our nation, we should be the firsts to reach across cultural and ethic lines extending hands of friendship and brotherhood.

joust knightThere is no “life as usual” in biblical Christianity. Every day we awaken with breath in our lungs is a blank page in the adventure novel that God is writing with our lives. Do we let Him take the pen or do we struggle to control the ink and smudge the page in vain attempts with an eraser? Do we see ourselves as protagonists in an epic love adventure, filled with danger and evil now, but ultimately with a happy ending? Routine can be, and often is, a very good thing in life, but if our lives are mundane we have probably become our own authors. Submission to Christ as Lord and God the Father as supreme Author are the keys to meaning, significance and adventure.

The church of America is being awakened to function in her identity.  The disciple James said that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). I know it has become cliché, but it really is time to stop doing church and to be the Church, and that applies not only to Sunday morning, but to every day of our lives. We see the acceleration of negative change all around us. Will we, as the bride of Christ, rise to the occasion and meet new challenges and trials with love and compassion in our eyes and in our hearts? Will we be missionary-minded?

Thus this Saturday, with my daughters dressed as a Ranger, Viking and Dame and my11947825_10206654063942842_8571285058587944600_o.jpg Evangelist/Apologist husband  dressed as a medieval Friar, we’ll take the Gospel as undercover missionaries back in time and forward in relevance. Do you have eyes to see the adventure God is weaving into your own story? Can we feed the sick, father the orphan, lead the lost, pray for the hurting, heal the sick, comfort the mourning, die to ourselves and preach the Gospel to every creature, every day? In these days, the world cannot afford apathy from the bride of Christ. received_10211148165972584.jpeg

Thoughts on the cost

Last week the girls and I were doing our morning prayers and intercession when Talai prayed, “Dear heavenly Father, when we go to Uganda, please protect me, and please help me to endure if I become an orphan. No matter what, help me never to deny You, but always follow You faithfully.”

Hadassah prayed a similar prayer ending with “Jesus please help me to follow you no matter what and if I have to go to an orphanage, let it be one where they treat the children nicely.”

Whoa! Right? What kind of nine-year-old or six-year-old prays that in complete johnny-automatic-girl-praying-800pxsincerity? So came my moment to respond and I sat silent for a while contemplating what to say. Should I assure them that God would not allow Sal or I to die or that they would never be orphans? As a mother wanting to quench their fears that was my temptation, but I couldn’t honestly give them any assurances and I would not have them disillusioned with God because I put false promises in His mouth that He did not keep. How would you respond?

 

I fear some will misunderstand what I am about to say. I love my children more than life, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. I have sacrificed a career, much of my education and more to stay at home and spend time with them, watch them grow and give them an exquisite education. This was completely contrary to my plans before becoming a mother, but I count it all a joy now and would not have it any other way. However, my love for them is ashes compared to the extravagant love their heavenly Father has for them. For this reason, the best and most loving thing I can do for them is to be obedient to God and trust Him with their lives.

That said, please be gracious as you read my response if I do not communicate as clearly as I should.

Firstly in response, I hugged all three of my precious darlings because even though Mila did not voice such fears I’m sure she wrestles with her own. I told them that God has a plan for each of our lives, for theirs and my own. If we are walking in His will nothing and no one can kill us until we have completed God’s intended plan. Just as God protected David while King Saul hunted him through the wilderness and how He protected Jesus when those of His own town tried to throw Him off of a cliff, so too will God protect us while we still have His orders to carry out on earth, orders that probably include being around to raise them.

However, that didn’t mean that God would not allow them to be orphaned. I told them that I did not think that Sal or I’s deaths were a part of God’s plan any time soon. God has promised much to us that we have yet to see manifested and given us much instruction that we’ve yet to accomplish. But we all need to be ready to give everything, even our lives for God’s Kingdom if it so requires. However, the Bible teaches that the angels who watch over children are ever before the face of God, and I assured the girls that, no matter what, God would watch over and protect them. I also told them they shouldn’t ever end up in an orphanage because they would live with family or friends should anything ever happen to Sal and I. And finally I encouraged and fortified them to never forsake Jesus for any reason. As long as we hold fast to Christ, we will see each other again.

reverse silloutte crossI know this response may sound radical to the Westerner, including many Western Christians. However, I recently heard Michael Ramsden speak on this topic and he said something that merits repeating; As Western Christians, we live in a time that is unique. The peace and prosperity that the Western church enjoys is peculiar not only historically, but also globally in our present world. The normality for Christians, that which has been typical since the day Jesus died, is a life of suffering and/or persecution, but even so, a life of joy and peace, of generosity and beauty.

Hebrews 11 gives us a goose-bump raising account of our Christian legacy:

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword;whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.” (v. 32-35a)

How much would we love to see these kinds of miracles in our churches and in our lives? How many of us have inquired of God why these things tarry? Perhaps the key can be found in the very next words:

“There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (v.35b-38)

This part of our Christian legacy continues today as many endure such conditions for the sake of Christ. If you don’t believe that, you should go on a mission trip.

I see a lot of the Western world’s desire for comfort and security within the heart of the Western church and even within my own heart. Yet how much of the security that we enjoy is an illusion? One has only to turn on the television to hear of wars and rumors of wars, of division and schemings. Ramsden also said that the type of persecution that we see in places like the 10/40 window is “only ever one generation away.” I truly believe that.

But even were peace not so fragile, what would I be should I not follow the call of God on my life? No one wants to be Jonah. No one wants to believe themselves a coward, and that is definitely not how God created us to be. But how do we overcome fear when called to a place where the odds are stacked dangerously against us?knightingoldenarmor-2400px

The beautiful simplicity of the trust and faith my daughters have in their heavenly Father was deeply convicting for me. It was unbridled by the the reins of doubt and burdens of past experience that so many of us grown-ups haul around with us. It is no wonder that Jesus taught that we must become as children to enter the Kingdom of God!

I recently had a pastor ask me bluntly, “So what is the cost (of following God’s call)?” It was difficult for me to give an answer. Anything Sal or I have “given up” thus far seems quite unimportant and superficial and hardly meriting the title “cost.” Anything that may arise in the future remains hypothetical. So I suppose the costs we’re counting as we say “yes” to God are largely control, security and pride. To be willing to be utterly out-of-control of of our situation even when physical danger may be present, to be willing to face danger head-on without the security of a safety net and pride in that we may not always have the answers or solutions, and of course to look like complete fools in the eyes of the world.

Yet by God’s grace, we shall say “yes,” agreeing to whatever costs and willing to trust Him with everything. Hopefully we may in some way prove ourselves worthy of our amazing daughters who could school us on graciously surrendering to God’s will and perhaps take one step closer to being worthy dwelling places of Christ Jesus.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article, and may God bountifully bless you and yours.