Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Step Off and Let Jesus Handle the Rest

As someone who works in college ministry, I'm asked a lot of questions about faith. It's often questions of apologetics or doctrine or theology. This time, I received a question that I'd never received before in almost 20 years of campus ministry. "Why do you think I haven't become a Christian yet?" It's certainly something I've asked of others, even if just in my head. I think that's something we often ask when we see a person being so close to accepting salvation thru Christ, especially when they have been so close for so long.  It's a good question but one where there often isn't an easy answer.

I think becoming a Christian can a lot of times be like my first time jumping Baker’s Bridge. Here in Durango, jumping Baker's is a pastime. It's a right of passage. Depending on water levels, it's about a 35-40 foot tall bridge. A river passes between a granite canyon below.

The legality of jumping it is certainly questionable. The local paper has stated that it's illegal. Elsewhere, I've heard that jumping off of it is legal but getting out of the river after jumping is trespassing and therefore illegal. But then again, I've been up there while cops were there admiring the adventure taking place. No one was arrested or ticketed. We were just told to be safe. If it is illegal, maybe it's only illegal to protect against lawsuits. Legal or not, it's not uncommon to find a group of 20 or so young people hanging out on a summer afternoon jumping it or swinging off of it on a rope swing.

Early in my college days, I went with friends my first time and watched them all jump. I saw the fun and amazing time they all had. I had all the intention of jumping but the first time I stepped up to the edge, I just couldn't. I basically stood at the edge looking at the water for 45 minutes. Fear was holding me back. At times, I’d step away for just a moment trying to pump myself up. I’d then step back to the edge and freeze again. Thankfully, my friends were very encouraging and patient with me. Finally after that 45 minutes, I realized that I just had to jump. I wasn’t going to let fear rob me of something great. All I had to do was step off and let gravity do the rest.

With Christianity, there are a lot of fears that may enter a mind before making the jump. Many stand at the very edge looking down for what seems like forever. Some finally jump. Some never do. It seems fear is holding the back. The fear of what others will think. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of "If I do this, my life is going to have to change." In other countries, it may even be the fear of losing your life. There are many more fears that people have, I’m sure. If you are going to ask, "Why haven't I become a Christian yet?" Then I'm going to ask, "What are your fears?" I think in the end, you just have to take the plunge. You can’t let fear rob you of something great. We make it out sometimes to be so complicated. But it's not. All you have to do is step off and let Jesus do the rest.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Christian Challenge New Fall Update 2018

Greetings!  The beginning of the semester is here.  Well, actually, it's come and gone.  We're over a month and a half into the new semester, and we've met a lot of new students.

You might be wondering, "But what about Peru?"  Don't worry, Peru was great, and God did some pretty cool things!  But I'll have to update you on that in a later update because there is a lot to share...and I'm still working on putting a video together (which takes a long time for a closet perfectionist like myself) from pictures and videos taken on the trip.  I hope to get all that out to you in the next month or so.

Anyway, we hit the ground running after getting back from Peru.  I think we had three or four days of rest and recuperation before our Challenge schedule started back up.  After finishing up the mission trip on six hours of sleep in 72 hours, getting back into the swing of things for Challenge was challenging.  I felt like I was in a fog for about two weeks as I recovered.  The semester came quickly and I was just trying to get traction and keep up.

The freshmen moved in soon after we arrived back in Durango.  We were on campus as much as possible, day and night, making a big push to meet as many new students as possible.  Anything from setting up tables at student club fairs to slacklining to volleyball to Frisbee to throwing a big pizza party outside where we had around 200-250 students.  We were out there trying to meet freshmen and make new contacts.  They hung out for quite awhile, and we got to have a lot of good conversations with them.

During the first week, we also had a dinner for our student-officers.  It was great to see everyone and catch back up.  We were able to cast a vision for our officers as to what our expectations were for them and the ministry this year.

More events followed over the month.  We had a freshman dinner and an international dinner to connect with those students.  And of course, our first family dinner.

We hosted our traditional night hike up Smelter Mountain.  Though having a lot of students on a mountainside in the dark can be like herding cats, this year, it went really smoothly.  Nobody got lost which is always nice.  There were even some good spiritual conversations on the hike which opened the door for more to be had with those students after the hike.  The conversations continued when we hit up Denny's afterwards for a late dinner and milkshakes.

We went waterfall jumping this year again as well.  Despite the extremely cold water, everyone had a pretty awesome time.  There were some good spiritual conversations on the ride up there as well.

There was our trip to Silverton which was a big hit.  We had nine sign up for the trip beforehand.  Nearly thirty showed up for the actual trip.  That always is tricky making sure we have enough rides for everyone but we made it work.  We drove up to a mining ghost town just outside of Silverton.  During the drive, we discussed that a lot of people left their values behind going wild and crazy when they went to mining towns.  We talked about how college is similar and from a Christian perspective, how to protect yourself from that.

Once we arrived at the ghost town, everyone got to walk around and explore the houses and structures that are still standing from around 100-150 years ago.  Then we headed back into Silverton and got dinner together.  We had students we'd never met show up for that trip.  It was great getting to connect with new people.

This year, instead of our normal Ice Lakes trip that we've done in years past, we decided to move locations and do a camp and climb of Silver Mountain to mix things up.  It's a mountain I've been climbing since my college days.  We've done a lot of expeditions on it for ministry.  It's a super sketchy drive up the side of the mountain covering extremely narrow switchback after switchback.  The students walked the sketchier parts so that I didn't flip my Xterra with them in it.  Thankfully, I only got on three wheels three times during the drive up.  We drove up to almost treeline and set up camp there.

As day turned to night, we got the campfire going and cooked up some chili.  We followed that up with some s'mores roasted over the fire.  As the night went on, we hung out around the fire talking about anything from cultural differences between America and Japan, to life, to the Gospel.  We went to bed when the fire finally died out around 2 a.m.

After an early unscheduled wakeup call by a hunter driving his dirt bike into camp around 6 a.m., we cooked up some eggs and sausage, and had a short devotional about following Jesus and letting Him guide us.  Following that, we packed up camp and started our ascent of Deadwood Mountain and Silver Mountain.

Having a smaller group and great weather, we summited Deadwood, traversed the ridge, and then summited Silver quicker than any expedition in the past.  In the end, we made it down safely and had a great trip despite being pretty exhausted.

We followed up the Silver Mountain expedition with a retreat for Christian Challenge college ministries across the Western Slope of Colorado.  We had Mesa (Grand Junction) and Western (Gunnison) drive on down to Durango.  We hosted the retreat at Cross Bar X, a camp just outside of town.  In all, we had about 70 attend.  The Mesa group brought with them their worship band to play.  I got to join in and play bass guitar with them.  I hadn't played in ten years so it was a bit challenging getting back into the swing of things but it was a huge blessing to be able to join them.

We also brought in Josh's dad, Mike Story, to be the speaker for the weekend.  We covered topics like the importance of Jesus, the importance of discipleship, and the difference between discipline and legalism.  Our cooks for the weekend came from Mike Story's church and were able to share their testimonies throughout the weekend with the group as well.

It was a great time for our students where they really had an opportunity to grow.  We also had a bunch of our Japanese students check it out which sparked some great questions and conversations.  And of course, we had fun activities for the students too.

So far, our events have really opened the door to connect with new students.  Just recently, we had a bunch of new students we were able to take down to Albuquerque for Balloon Fiesta.  Being that it's one of the biggest hot air balloon festivals in the world, it's always a big selling point for our students, especially the Japanese.  It's amazing the good spiritual conversations that can be had when traveling in a car for hours.

All in all, it's been a pretty good semester so far but we've definitely felt a lot of spiritual attacks since being back.  Hopefully that means we're doing something right with the ministry.  We know that God's doing big things in the lives of our students and the enemy can't be happy.  So we expect attacks to come but still, it can be exhausting.  We need all the prayers we can get.  And that's a nice segue into the next paragraph.

Over the past years, there has been a lot of prayer covering our students and our staff.  God answers those prayers.  We know that you play a big part in that so keep praying.  I've challenged everyone in past newsletters to really be praying for the ministry and campus, to set at least 5-10 minutes a day aside to do that.  We have really seen fruit from that.  So please, keep praying.  God is moving thru your prayers!

Thank you for all the support and encouragement you give! We are super thankful for that!  As always, keep us, the ministry, and the FLC campus in your prayers! #Pray4FLC

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

If the Lord is leading you to give, please follow this link to our giving options:

Prayer Requests:
- Pray that God would continue to grow our student-leaders.  Last year, it was tough at times to find committed student-leaders that would reach out to our younger students.  Thankfully this year, many who weren't quite ready to step up last year have stepped up this year.  We pray that they would continue to step up and grow.

- Pray for our students that God would continue growing them and keeping them strong in their faith.  It seems like some of our students took some steps back this summer while they were away and that's carried on over into the school year.  We hope and pray that they'll get back on track and get serious about their faith again.

- With as many things as the ministry does, it's easy to take on way too much and get burnt-out.  Most of the time, it's all good things that lead us down that path.  Pray that we would find time for rest and that God would protect us from burnout.

- Being Christians, we are in a spiritual battle.  When you do ministry, you become a bigger target in that battle.  Keep praying for us and our team that God would protect us from any spiritual attacks.  Pray that God would give us the strength and encouragement to endure.  Also pray for everyone praying for our ministry because when you pray for the ministry, you become a bigger target as well.

- Over the years, our staff has had a lot of health issues that can really be a discouragement.  Pray that God would keep our staff safe and healthy.

- With the size of our staff, it's easy for personalities to bump into each other and rub each other the wrong way.  Keep praying for our team that it would continue to mesh well.

- For years, Challenge has done everything possible to preserve unity on campus between us and other ministries knowing that division opens the door for the enemy to attack and try to tear down what God is doing.  Please pray that the different ministries on campus would have unity, being team players, with the common goal reaching FLC with the Gospel.

- It's that time of the year when we start trying to figure out summer plans and if God is calling us to go.  We've been praying about where God might want us this coming summer.  Peru is probably not an option this point but an exploratory trip into the high Andes of Bolivia may be a new open door.  We'll see.  That's just one of many trips on the radar right now.  Please be praying that God would give us wisdom and discernment as we listen for His plans for us this summer.

- Pray that Rachel and I would not neglect the ministry that is our marriage.  We can be much more successful in our college ministry if our marriage is in a good place but it's easy to put that on the back burner when things get busy.

- Pray that God would open the door for us to partner with more churches and individuals.  With us moving closer to town, we've had students in our home a lot more.  From one-on-discipleship meetings to mission trip trainings to Bible studies to family dinners, our ministry costs have gone up quite a bit.  I know this is no secret but students can eat a lot and that can get pretty expensive.  We also have other costs like campus parking passes to pay for this time of the year.  Rachel and I trust God to provide for us and the ministry but we'd appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs would be met.  If you would like to give for the on-going ministry happening at Fort Lewis, please go to: Give Now.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Christian Challenge Mission Peru 2018 (Pre-Trip)!

It's finally here and boy, are we stoked!  August 3rd-16th, we'll be on mission in Peru!  Though we've had an extremely busy summer, our mission trip to Peru with Climbing for Christ has always been on our mind.  With all the training we've done for the trip, it's good to keep the mission on our mind to get us through the difficult workouts.  When you remember you're doing it for God, you can endure a lot more.  And you need that reminder when you're running up to eight miles every other day for training...because running is awful.

Before we jump into the trip, a little update on ministry and life.  One of our former Japanese students just recently got saved.  After Fort Lewis, she moved back to Japan and eventually moved back to the States to marry her boyfriend whom she met during her time in Durango.  Over the years, the ministry has been able to keep in touch with her and continue to pour into her.  A few weeks ago, she contacted us letting us know her decision.  It's amazing to see how God kept pursuing her after we were able to plant seeds so many years ago!  We're super excited!

Another highlight of our summer was getting to speak at The Church at Redstone, CO.  They're a church that supported Rachel's parents during their years as missionaries.  The church has since partnered with us.  They've been a huge blessing to us.  Not only is it always fun getting to share what God is doing at the Fort but it's also so encouraging to be around people excited for what God is doing.  It was a really refreshing time for us being up there.  It was something we really needed after selling our cabin.

That's right, we sold the cabin!  Not going to sugarcoat it.  It was a nerve-racking experience that took years off our life.  Seemed like it was hurdle after hurdle, all of which seemed like possible deal breakers.  It seemed like every time we thought we could take a deep breath, we were punched in the gut again.  It got to the point that when we saw a plume of smoke rising from the forest a little over a mile from the cabin less than a week before closing, all we could do was laugh.  Like seriously?  This is getting ridiculously absurd.  We've overcome everything else and now there is a forest fire moving our direction.

It was like Satan really didn't want us out of the cabin and moving into the new place.  But God had helped us clear every hurdle thus far, and we just had to trust that He was still moving.  Thankfully, the fire was contained quickly.  And then a couple days later, the 416 Fire blew up.  At over 50,000 acres, they say it won't be out until the snow flies this winter.  This fire was a little farther away from us though but still could have given the buyers cold feet.

In the end, we closed just around the date I was originally thinking we would when we put the cabin on the market.  With as much opposition as we came up against trying to sell the place, I think God is going to do some big things at the new place.

The new place has already been a big blessing.  We've been in a drought this past year making the well at the cabin dry and the rain capture system we installed at the cabin ineffective.  People were also having major issues hauling water due to wells going dry across the area and more people needing to haul upping the demand.  But with the move, we've had plenty of clean water thankfully.  God was providing.

Due to the fire, the authorities ended up closing down the national forest, meaning trails and roads were closed to the public.  That included our mission trip training area.  With the wind direction, even if it had been open, the smoke was blowing directly on the area we run.  At that point to try and run in that, you're probably doing more damage to your body than good.  Where was the only place that was open and free of smoke during our training hours?  Our new neighborhood's trails.  Come to find out, these trails were a much better workout with a lot more vertical gain than where we had trained while living at the cabin.  They'd prepare us for Peru much better.  God was again providing.

Looking back, we can definitely see God's hand directing our steps to get us to a place that would be perfect for us.  He knew what was coming before we did and was already working behind the scenes to prepare a path thru the drought, fire, and smoke.

This summer, we've also been able to have team meetings at our place now that we are much closer to town.  It's been really good spiritual prep for the trip.  Obviously, physical prep is really important too so we've been doing training hikes with our team once a week once the forest opened back up.  I think we're all pretty well prepared at this point.  That's good because we leave tomorrow.

This will be my fourth trip to Peru and Rachel's third.  During past trips, our team traveled to the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Huayhuash of the Andes.  This year, we will be focused exclusively on the Huayhuash.  It's a former stronghold of the communist terror group, the Shining Path, though they haven't been active in the area for years.

This is one of the areas we focused on my first trip.  We will return to areas we have been working in and push deeper into unreached areas of the mountain range.  There is still a lot of uncovered ground.  There's a lot of work to be done for the Gospel.

The people group we will be reaching are the Quechua people.  They live in many different areas of South America but ours specifically live and work high in the Andes Mountains at elevations of around 9,000-16,500 feet.

Religiously, there are many different beliefs amongst the people.  Some believe in Jesus.  Some worship animistic spirits.  Many worship both Jesus and the spirits.  Still, there are others who only know of a creator.  They know nothing about Him because no one has ever shared, and they've never seen a Bible.  They are so remote, that no one has ever told them about Jesus.

Despite the differences of beliefs, the common thing amongst almost all the people is that they don't have Bibles.  So like last three trips, our goal is to distribute as many Bibles as possible.  Though we will be ministering in some towns, a lot of the people we reach will be literally too far from any church to attend it and get fed spiritually with God's Truth.  They need Bibles in their hands to learn that Truth and protect themselves from being deceived.

Along with giving out as many Bibles as we can backpack in, we will be putting on church services, encouraging those who are already believers and seeking out divine appointments to share the Gospel with those who need to hear it.

During past trips, God brought divine appointment after divine appointment in our path.  It was amazing.  I've never seen soil so ready for the Gospel.  I truly can't wait to get back and see what God is going to do this year.  I can't wait to see how God has grown the seeds that were planted in years past.  We saw a lot of people come to Christ.

I'm also stoked for our team this year.

Jordan Rowley is back for another go.  Jordan works for C4C at their headquarters in Rochester, NY.  Another Rochester local, Jesse Fallesen, will also be on the trip.  He is the son of the president and founder of Climbing for Christ.  Jesse was on one of the first C4C trips to Peru.

Then, of course my beautiful wife, Rachel, will be going again this year.  It's always blessing when I get the chance to serve alongside my wife in the mission field.

This year, we also have three students, Lexi Hooper, Aurora "Duckie" Murga, and Ava Worm, joining us.  Lexi was on the trip with us last year but this will be Aurora and Ava's first time in Peru.

Rounding the team out will be Peruvians Jaime Jesus Servat and Edwin Milla.  Jaime is our local missionary on the ground there.  He is the one who returns to each area we visit to followup and disciple those God connects us with.  Edwin is a professional climber, missionary, and our guide for the trip.

Feel free to click on each underlined named for more info on the team member.

We'll be posting daily updates so if you are interested in keeping up on what God is doing, you can click here: Dispatches.

If you'd like to see what God has done on our past trips to Peru, get caught up on past trip reports.  It's truly amazing what God did and worth the read!  Click here: Peru 2014/Peru 2015/Peru 2017!

Thank you for all the support and encouragement you give! We are super thankful for that!  Check out our prayer requests below and keep us in your prayers!  #Pray4Peru #Pray4FLC

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

If the Lord is leading you to give, follow this link to our giving options:

Prayer Requests:

- Sleep is always a hard thing to come by on these trips yet it's extremely important.  Two trips ago, we lost power for twelve hours or so if I remember right the night before we were to fly out early in the morning.  I ended up having to pull an all-nighter due to that.  It wasn't a good way to start the trip and set me back for the rest of the trip health-wise.  I'd pull two more all-nighters before the trip was over.  That said, it's important the whole team gets good sleep so that we can be in good spirits and good health.  Pray we would have energy, be in good spirits, and get good sleep during the trip.

- Spiritual attacks on these trips are always something we need people to pray against.  On past trips, it always seemed like God would do something huge one day and the next day would follow with a big spiritual attack on the team.  In talking with other missionaries in Peru, it seems to be what happens in the country.  Not to be dramatic but it can be life and near death stuff as we've seen on past trips.  It can also just be illness or injury.  Keep praying for us and our team that God would protect us on this trip from any spiritual attacks.  Pray that God would give us the strength to endure whatever comes our way.  Also pray for everyone praying for our team because when you pray for our team, you're stepping into the battle as well.

- We fully expect God to change many lives on this trip.  Pray that He would open doors for the Gospel to be received and understood.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working on the hearts and minds of the people we are going to meet.

- On trips like this, there is always the chance of altitude sickness or a rolled ankle while hiking or food poisoning at some point in the trip.  Pray that God would keep our team safe and healthy from all those sorts of things.

- With us selling the cabin, we had to spend a lot of money we weren't expecting to fixing things just to get it to a point where it was sellable.  Though it was worth it for us and the ministry, that set us back a bit.  We also still need to pay off the plane tickets for the Peru trip.  We trust God to provide for the ministry we do but would appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs of the mission trip and the ministry we do on campus would be met.  If you would like to give toward the ministry or even the mission trip, there is still time.  Go to: Give Now.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Christian Challenge Peru/Campus Update 2018!

The Peru update is finally here!  (There is also a campus ministry update if you check out the prayer section below.)  It certainly was an amazing trip!

We were able to venture into the Cordillera Blanca with Climbing for Christ and minister to the people who live and work in the remotest regions of the high Andes Mountains.  God did so many amazing things!

I could talk or write about what He did for hours, and if you want to hear more after this update, I'd love to share more about those amazing things.  Let me know.  Until then, check out the video I put together on the trip: Mission Peru 2017!

So now that you're back from watching the video, I'll give you the stories behind the video.  I knew it was going to be a good trip when a young lady walked up to us in the airport and told us her and her family would be praying for our trip.  She had been visiting our church the day before and heard us share about the trip.  It was a nice encouragement to start the trip off with.

Rachel and I picked up our student, Lexi, in Miami.  Things went fairly smoothly for our American members of the team getting to Peru.  Our Canadians, Aaron and his son, Ronan, weren't as fortunate.  Their flight was delayed and then eventually cancelled.  They had to hop a later flight that had them flying thru the night.  They caught up with us just as we were loading up to head from Lima up into the highlands.

From there, things were back to smooth sailing, other than a detour or two due to a teachers' strike going on.  The teachers were blocking off the highways.  That just meant we got to take a more scenic route.

Once we arrived in Huaraz above 10,000 feet in elevation, it was time to acclimatize for the tough trek ahead of us.

Much of our team was coming from near sea-level.

The trek would be physically exhausting with long days on the trail backpacking up to almost 16,000 feet in elevation as we crossed many passes.

We would average probably around nine or ten miles a day.

But God sustained us...even as team members dealt with illness and altitude sickness along the way.

Despite the exhaustion and tough physical aspects of the trip, God moved and did huge things.  As we've found Him to do on these Peru trips, He used illness to steer our journey and line up divine appointments along the trail.  He put people in our path as we were hiking and brought them into our camp.

We would have never run into many of the people if it weren't for the illnesses our team members dealt with.  But God was working and even using that for His glory!

Goodness, there are so many stories I want to tell but I'll leave you with the highlights...and even that won't be short because there are so many highlights.

We saw God working right away.  After being on trail for around ten hours the first day, we invited a local family to have dinner with us.  It was a single mom, her very young child, and her mother.  The two adults were believers.

We also were able to invite our donkey drivers, Hilario and Gastulo, to dinner with us.  (While on trail, we use donkeys to haul much of our gear and food.)  Both donkey drivers weren't Christians.  Throughout the night, we were able to share the Gospel with them.  Even the two local women were witnessing to our donkey drivers.  By the end of the night, they had come to salvation and we were able to give them New Testaments!

Later on in the trip, our team's health started to break down, and people started getting sick.  With that, we decided it was best that the team drop in elevation and head to a village down the valley.  Those who were healthy would do ministry in the village while our other team members would recuperate.

On a day where we would see four people come to the Lord and twenty-one New Testaments given out, God was lining up divine appointments.  One of those appointments really stood out to me.

As we journeyed closer to the village, there was a young girl, named Elizabeth, who kept going out before us.  When we'd stop to talk to people, she would stop.  When we started moving, she'd start walking again.  She'd always keep her distance unless some animals started getting too close in which case she would chase them off.  Guess she was making sure they didn't disturb us as we shared the Gospel.

Eventually, we sat down and started sharing with a group of kids around her age.  Still she stood at a distance.  Now, part of our team thought we had already given her a New Testament.  Kids in that area dress very similar to each other and they are easy to mix up.  This girl did look like someone we had already talked with.  Despite that, I didn't want her to feel left out so I motioned her over.  Finally, she joined us...kind of.  She at least came within five feet.

The whole time despite being told we had already talked to her and given her a New Testament, I had a feeling that this wasn't the girl we had talked to.  My mind started drifting, I pondered, "How do I ask her if she has a New Testament?"  Tener is the verb.  How do I conjugate that?  Yo tengo la Biblia?  No, I think that's "Do I have a Bible?"  Clearly, those Spanish classes I took in high school and college weren't paying off very well.  Then out of nowhere, I just blurted out, "Tu Tienes la Biblia New Testamento?"  I was sort of taken back like "Where did that come from?"

My grammar probably wasn't perfect but it felt like a huge God thing...especially when she shook her head, "No."  And even more so when we gave her a New Testament.  She ran back to her safe distance, and immediately sat down and started reading it.  She had been following us that whole time because she wanted the Word of God.  She was thirsty to know more about God.  With how God worked to get her that New Testament, I feel like God's really going to use this girl one day.

Despite the fruit that we saw that day, the trip seemed a little slower in the numbers we were seeing compared to past trips.  At times, it was a little discouraging.

But God was showing me that it's not just about the number of people you reach.  Obviously, we want to reach everyone with the Gospel but that won't always produce fruit.  It's just as important in reaching the right ones, the ones He puts in front of you, the ones He opens the door for you to reach.

It only takes one person to change the eternal path of a village.  It only takes one to change a region.  It only takes one to reach a culture, to change a country.  If we reach the right person with the Gospel, it can change the world.  We just have to be obedient to wherever God guides us.  After our encounter with Elizabeth, I wondered if she was that one that God was going to eventually use to reach her people in the years to come.

After a good night's rest, our team was feeling better, and we were back on our original path.

At one point, we were on trail for two days without seeing another soul.

We've always been a ministry that goes to the ends of the earth.  We've never been about reaching the masses.  If you want that, you do go do mission work in cities.  We try and reach the remotest of the remote which takes us to very remote mountainous regions.  Sometimes, we end up too remote.  And that seemed to be the case.

Years before, our guides had passed thru the area, and people were living there.  In the years since, those folks moved out of the area.  We saw evidence that people had once lived in the valley but it seemed not a soul was living there anymore.  Needless to say, it was pretty discouraging.  I remember having a conversation with God saying, "What are we doing here?"  The creation we were trekking thru was beautiful but we weren't there to just hike.  Truthfully, I couldn't have cared less at that point about the beauty.  We were there to share Jesus with people.  And there were no people.

But then God spoke and gave me an answer to my question.  It wasn't a direct answer but it was an answer to remind me that He was in control.

Throughout the mission, we'd have devo times as a team.  Team member Jordan would prepare a devotional before the trip, planning out one for every day of our mission.  This day just happened to be on not believing the lies or discouragements that may enter your mind during the trip.  Things like, "Why am I here?"  That's literally a direct quote from the devo.

I had to chuckle a bit at how good God was and is to meet me right where I was at.  He gave me just what I needed when I needed it.  It was perfect timing.  I thought, "Okay God, I trust that you're working here even if I can't see it right now."

With no people seemingly living in the area, it gave us a chance to pour into our donkey drivers who had just gotten saved.  We invited them to dinner.  Being new believers, they had a lot of questions that we were able to answer for them.  It was a really encouraging time of fellowship and prayer for all involved.

The next morning, God started working before I even got up and out of the tent.  A woman showed up out of nowhere in our camp, and the few members of our team that were already up were able to give her a New Testament.

After breakfast, we pushed on.  A hundred or so yards down trail just around the first bend, we ran into another woman.  Her name was Ruth.  She was sitting alone just off the trail.  Apparently, the single mother was heading up valley where we had just been.  We had passed only one homestead dropping down.  It was quite a ways up there.  It seemed that she would be there by herself as her baby and the rest of her family was down in Lima.

We spent a lot of time with her trying to encourage her.  It can't be easy being alone and trying to survive up there.  We prayed over her and gave her a New Testament.  Upon receiving it, a big smile arose on her face.  She seemed very encouraged and so were we.  God had put her at the right place and time for us to cross paths with her.

After another hour of hiking down the trail, we came across another small homestead.  A woman and her son, Sonya and Fernando, were tending to their animals on a small plot of land.  We talked to them for quite a bit hearing their story.  Sadly, Sonya was another single mom left to raise her child and take care of their small farm by herself.

This tragically seems to be the story of a lot of women in the mountains of Peru.  The men, unwilling to be real fathers, often bolt after getting the women pregnant, disappearing and leaving a broken family in their wake.  The women are left to pick up the pieces.  It's heartbreaking.

We prayed for this resilient woman and her son as tears streamed down her face.  We reminded her that God had not forgotten her and did what we could to encourage her.  We gave Sonya and her son New Testaments and urged her to read it to him everyday.

After spending a good amount of time with this small family, we continued on.  Soon we'd be out of the high mountains, get a short rest, and be headed to the small village of Chalhua, a place C4C has been working in for years.

Upon our arrival, we saw children we had befriended during previous trips.  One of the girls, carrying a purse, ran up to Rachel and began digging thru the purse.  She quickly pulled out a picture.  It was a picture of Rachel hugging her and another girl taken when we visited the village two years ago.  This girl had been carrying it around in her purse ever since.

Soon, we were also able to connect with Alison.  We've been connected with Alison's family since the beginning.  We've basically watched Alison grow up.  She's now 16 or 17.  Seeing Rachel, Alison gave her a big hug and didn't leave her side for hours.

That night, our team put on a small church service in the church C4C had funded to be built for the community.

The next night, we also had a church service after walking around town all day inviting people and praying over them when they needed prayer.

This service was much better attended.

We had around forty to fifty people attend, including a ninety-seven year-old man who had been praying for years for a church building to be built for his village.

We also had an elderly woman attend, who when we originally met her years ago, she had to be carried to the church service because she couldn't walk.  She was prayed over and able to walk home.  This night, she was able to walk thru those church doors.

All in all, our time in Chalhua was really successful.

We reconnected with a lot of people we had met on past trips.

We were also able to insure that the church would keep it's doors open consistently.  Due to the health issues of Jaime, our local missionary, and his need to get treatment in Lima, the church was having trouble keeping its doors open on a consistent basis.  So this trip, we were able to line up a local pastor from a nearby village to help Jaime keep the doors of the church open.  It was exciting to see.

By the time we arrived back in the airport in Lima, it was clear how much God had blessed our team during our time in Peru.  It was a successful mission trip.  We had accomplished our purpose and our goals.

Our goals were simple:  To go where others haven't, to go where others can't, and to take the Gospel wherever the Lord leads us.  And this trip, that meant going to places even more remote than past trips.

That led to the trip looking a little different than ones in the past but it was still a fruitful trip filled with divine appointments, salvations, and people receiving the Word of God for the first time in their lives.  In all, we distributed nearly seventy New Testaments and saw many come to salvation.

With all God did, this trip wouldn't have been possible without you guys.  We want to thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given and continue to give! We are super thankful for that!  Check out our prayer requests below and keep us and Peru in your prayers!

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

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Prayer Requests

For Peru:

- Pray for protection over those that accepted Christ on our trip, and that God would grow them in their faith.

- This was an extremely tough trip physically.  We couldn't have done it without God providing us with the strength to complete it.  Praise God for the strength He gave us to fulfill what He was calling us to do in Peru.

- God changed many lives while we were down there.  Praise God for lives changed.  Also pray that He would continue to open doors for the Gospel to be received and understood as Jaime revisits the people we met and follows up with them.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working on the hearts and minds of the people we met.

- Praise God for getting our team home safely.

- Pray for our next trip to Peru this August.  After much prayer, we felt the Lord leading us back to Peru.  This time, we will be trekking into new areas of the Huayhuash up to almost 16,500 feet in elevation to reach the unreached mountain people there with the Gospel.  My first trip to Peru was in the Huayhuash and I've been itching to revisit the people we met ever since.  As it stands now, we'll be taking three students with us.  Keep them in your prayers that they would be prepared physically and spiritually for the trip.

Back Home:

- On the home front, Challenge has been good this semester though a little smaller with the student body numbers down greatly this year on campus.  Though numbers are down, we had just under thirty-five people for our latest retreat so praise God for that!

- We also just had our annual Easter Eve night snowshoeing service which brought new students in and students we haven't seen for awhile.  We praise God for the event's success!

- Though the semester has been going well, we have seen some apathy in our students.  Pray that God would stir them out of the slumber of apathy, getting them fired up about growing in their faith and helping others grow as well.

- We've done two Bible studies this semester.  Anna led a beginners' Bible study.  I'm going thru the Truth Project with students covering biblical worldview.  Both studies have been really fruitful so praise God for that!

- If you remember from the last newsletter, I've been meeting with a Japanese student named Y.  We've been going thru John.  After each meeting, I ask him if it believes what the Bible and Jesus claim.  He always says yes but has cultural hangups to becoming a Christian.  Pray that God would break Y free from those hangups.

- In taking with one of our Japanese students who accepted Christ last year, she filled us in on another student from last year.  That student didn't want much to do with Christianity during her time in Durango despite us planting seeds when God opened the door.  But that student is now going to a Bible study back in Japan and very close to accepting Christ!  Pray that the student would be able to take those final steps and find salvation in Jesus.

- We seem to have a lot of students that are very close right now to following Jesus.  Pray specifically for R, M, L, G, K, and V that they would come to Christ before the semester is over.

- Be praying for a couple of our other students for spiritual protection.  They became believers last semester and the enemy is definitely coming against them as he does with many new believers.  Pray that God would strengthen their faith.  One of them finally broke to the persecution coming from her family and has stated that she is no longer a Christian.  Obviously, we are pretty heartbroken about this.  Pray that God would bring her back to Him with the strength to withstand any and all persecution or pressure that will come.

- Over spring break, we had a team go down to Juarez, Mexico to help out at a school we've been connected with for years.  There, they helped build a wall to make the school a more secure for the students.  We praise God at how they grew and that He kept them safe on the trip!

- We've got another mission trip going out at the end of April.  Aleksandr and Anna will be taking students to Greece to work with refugees.  Pray that God would keep them safe and open doors for them to share the Gospel.

- We praise God for the solutions to almost all of the issues we've had with the cabin.  Our cat has solved the mouse issues.  Our water issues have been solved thru throwing a water tank in the back of my wife's truck.  And even the strong sewage smell we have had since buying the place has been fixed.  It came down to a condensation filter that should have been installed with our heater but wasn't and a faulty p-trap that was allowing the smell to enter the house.  It was a pricy fix but well worth it to have a house that doesn't smell like sewage.

- All that said, after a lot of prayer, we have decided to sell our cabin.  An opportunity has come up for us to move closer to campus into a house that is more ministry-friendly even when the snow flies.  Pray that our house would sell quickly for the amount we are asking for it...or more.

- Pray for family health.  My mom took a fall when her sandal got caught up on some sort of grate.  She broke her humorous and her patella.  I've also been battling hip issues.  The thought is that I have torn cartilage in my hip causing my muscles in the hip to lock up in order to stabilize the area.  Pray for quick healing for the both of us.

We live trusting God to provide financially for us and the ministry.  We would appreciate you praying that God would provide.  If you would like to give toward the ministry, go to: 
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