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

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

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: 
Give Now.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christian Challenge Christmas Update 2017!

Merry Christmas! The fall semester is now over. We met up with our last students just the other day, and we managed to squeeze in a much needed date hiking up to frozen Spud Lake afterwards.

Starting off, I just wanted to thank you for another year partnering with us at Fort Lewis College. We would not be here without you and are thankful that you are part of the team. And just a reminder, if you were wanting to do end of the year giving for tax purposes, there is still time.  You can do that here: Give Now.

Some highlights of the later part of this fall semester:

Over Thanksgiving Break, we sent a group down to Houston to help out with flood recovery. They were able to work on a family's house that lost almost everything in the flooding.

We also had some students decide to travel to Juarez to help out at a school run by missionaries our ministry has been partnering with for years.

You may remember a student named Tate. He was an atheist student who came to Christian Challenge at the beginning of 2017. The next contact we had with him was when he joined our Juarez, Mexico spring break mission trip. He’s always had a huge heart to serve the poorest of the poor, a fingerprint of God’s heart. After that trip, CC became his family. He started coming to everything. He always had really good questions and was curious about what we believed. I’m excited to share with you all that Tate gave his life to Christ! He was baptized in the cold river after he shared what Christ had done in his heart.

Having seen God working in Tate's life over the past year, it was great to see him come to Jesus and get baptized. We're excited to see where the Lord is going to take him and use him going forward.

Another highlight is a student we will call N. She is an exchange student from Japan here for just one year. She got connected to us from the very beginning and was interested in reading the Bible. Not even a month into the school year, she was wanting to believe in and follow Jesus but could not imagine having to tell her family and friends back home. Some time went by and she got to talk with Rikako, one of the Japanese from last year that became a believer and has gone back to Japan with a non-believing family. N has chosen to believe and follow Jesus! We rejoice with heaven!

Please be praying for her! As she was deciding to get baptized, she wanted to tell her family first and the response was not good. She began receiving hurtful messages from back home. How her grandpa did not want to see her ever again. How her family did not send her to America to become a Christian, etc. She chose to not be baptized yet and was distraught by her family's reaction. However, she still believes and wants to follow Jesus her whole life.

Please be praying for Tate and Nana! Also for L and Y, as they are very interested in Christ and asking good questions.

Thank you again for partnering with us to make it possible to be here! College students are at a stage in life where they are a lot more open to Christ, as they are away from home and figuring out for themselves what they believe. As always, it’s an honor to be able to be at Fort Lewis College and serve the Lord there.

We cannot thank each one of you enough for your constant prayers and financial giving!
If you feel led to give a one time donation before the end of the year, or want to join our monthly support team, please go to:

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel


Prayer Requests/Updates:
1. We picked up a cat from the shelter just after Thanksgiving. Snowie is 4.5 months old and loves hunting and cuddles. We hope this will solve the mouse problem in our cabin. She has heard the mice in the walls. She paws at them and causes them to scurry.

2. Praise: God provided a snow blower so when the snow flies this year, it will not take four hours to clear our driveway! God also provided a 150 gallon water tank so we can haul some of our own water when needed this winter season...which may be a lot with as dry as it's been.

3. We had a crew come out and check the sewage smell we were having in the house. Some measures were taken to see if that would work and I’m happy to report 90% of the time, all is well. It is only when the house and outside temperature hits a certain point that the smell returns. It's typically at night not long after the sun goes down. Our next step is trying to smoke out a possible leak in our venting system.

4. Thank you for joining us in prayer for the summer 2018 mission trip possibilities. After much prayer, we feel like God is calling us back to Peru. We were both accepted onto the mission trip, August 3rd-17th. We will be returning to the Huayhuash where Mike’s first trip was. On this trip, we’ve got one student so far, who came with us on last summer's trip, and a handful of others interested. We are just waiting to see how big the team can be.

5. Over Thanksgiving while some of our students were in Juarez at the school down there, tragedy struck one of the local families involved with the school. While the parents were away at work, someone entered their home, raped the girls of the family, and killed one of them. The girls were all students at the school. Please be praying for the family, the school, and our students as they deal with such a terrible tragedy.

6. We are taking students again to Life Impact, a conference in Colorado Springs, just after the new year. It always has great growth and impact on the students that go with us. Due to that, there is always a lot of spiritual warfare that surrounds the event before and after. Pray that God would protect us and our students from that.

7. Needs: Having our propane refilled ($600), funding for the Peru mission trip and/or American Airline frequent flyer miles to help get us there. We 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.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Christian Challenge Fall Semester Update 2017!

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 things are going well.  As always, it's been busy but thankfully this year, we've had a couple of church groups from Oklahoma come and help out with the ministry being done.  Over the last month and a half, we've definitely been seeing Jesus working on campus!

You might be wondering, "But what about Peru?"  Don't worry, Peru was great!  We all stayed safe, 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 taken on the trip.  I hope to get all that out to you in the next month or so.

Anyway, getting back from Peru was interesting.  We came back to a dead car battery and house issues.  As careful as we are, mice found their way back inside and were chewing things up again.

We also had a ton of rain when we were gone which is normally a good thing but it washed away a lot of the work we had done over the summer around the house...and flooded our cistern with contaminated, unusable water off the mountainside.  It was even too much to handle for our brand new filters we put in back in June.  So that was a bit of a bummer to come home to.  Instead of resting and recuperating, I got to dig a bunch of trenches so that we wouldn't have those issues again, Lord willing.  There's still a lot to fix but we're slowly making progress when we have the time and energy.

We had family in town as well when we got back.  It was certainly great to see everyone and hang out.  Before we knew it though, students were back in town and the semester was quickly approaching.

We started with three days of staff meetings.  The freshmen moved in just after those meetings.  After that, 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 the freshmen dorms, we were out there trying to meet freshmen and make new contacts.

This year, if I had to guess, we probably had more than 250 students show up at the pizza party.  (Those are pretty good numbers for school enrollment being significantly down again.)

They stuck around longer than in years past, and we got to have a lot of good conversations with them.

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

More events followed over the month.  We hosted our traditional night hike up Smelter Mountain.

We probably had nearly forty people on that.  Having that many students on a mountainside in the dark can be like herding cats.  In years past, it's given me a lot of gray hairs.

This year though, it was probably the smoothest the event has ever gone.

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.  One of those students is extremely close to accepting Christ so be praying for her.

We went waterfall jumping this year again as well.

We had around thirty-five people for that one.  That's the most I think we've ever had for waterfall jumping.

Everyone had a pretty awesome time.  There were some good spiritual conversations on the ride up there as well.

And thankfully, there were no face-plants this year unlike last year so that's always good.

There was our trip to Telluride which is always a hit with students.

We drove over Ophir Pass...

Did a short hike to a high alpine lake...

Rode the free gondola at the resort...

And had dinner down in the town of Telluride.  We had some students we had never met show up for that trip.  It was great getting to connect with new people on that trip.

We hiked up to Ice Lakes again this year as well.

Our numbers were a little smaller this year with three other campus groups running trips up there just before us.  It's become a popular place.

Despite having a smaller group than normal for the trip, it was still really awesome.  I shared a short devotional about if we wanted to go to Ice Lakes but had never been there, what was the best and worst way to find it?

The worst way would be to only wander and hope you eventually ended up there.  The best way would be to go with a guide who had already been or have a map drawn by someone who had already been.  I then tied that into wanting to go to heaven, Jesus would be our guide and the Bible would be our map.

We followed the Ice Lakes event up with a retreat for Christian Challenge college ministries across the Western Slope of Colorado.  Every year, there is a state retreat in Colorado Springs for Challenge but due to the distance, we have never been able to make it work.  This year instead of just doing our own thing, we invited all of the colleges on the Western Slope.  We had Mesa in Grand Junction and Western in Gunnison accept the invite. 

We hosted the retreat at Cross Bar X, a camp just outside of Durango.  We brought in Tyler Murphy to lead worship from Austin, TX and Nick Melazzo, a pastor from a Chinese church in LA, to share about the Kingdom of God.  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.

Speaking of the Japanese, it's another small year for them.  I think we have maybe ten of them this year.  We actually tend to connect better with them when their groups are small, it seems.  One of the girls is already super close to accepting Christ.  Be praying for her.  She's been involved with almost everything we do, even checking out some of the local churches with us.  We've been able to have her Skype with Rikako back in Japan.  She got saved last year and my wife, Rachel, discipled her.  It was awesome to see Rikako still so passionate about her faith and about sharing it with others.  She is still wanting to start up a Christian Challenge on her college campus in Japan after she graduates.  Rachel continues to meet with her thru Skype.

This year, I've really connected with two of the Japanese guys so far.  One of those guys, I had a two to three hour conversation with at the retreat.  We had planned a Q&A session during the worship service at the retreat.  We brought a lot of non-Christians to our retreat and didn't want to force them into a worship service that might scare them as that is feedback we'd been given from past students.  We thought those non-Christian students could go to the Q&A and ask questions about what the speaker had been talking about.  We figured that's where all of our Japanese students would go.

Well, all but one went.  I was pretty surprised.  As the worship leader started playing, our student started asking my wife about what different words in the song meant.  I pulled out my phone which has a translate app on it, and started translating and explaining the context of the songs.  We continued talking late into the night even after worship was over.  He had so many questions, and God was moving.  Every question seemed to open a door for the Gospel to be shared.  The guy leading worship told me afterwards that he was watching the whole thing and even called his brother later that night to tell him about how cool it was.  It was really exciting.  How do you go to sleep after God does something like that?

After the retreat, we had a couple of weeks where we didn't have any big events.  I ended up having surgery on my soft palate to correct a major snoring issue.  We thought it would be not too painful with a quick recovery.  I was thinking I'd be back on campus in three or four days.  Well, the surgery was scheduled for a Monday morning.  Unfortunately, the doctor kept making me gag as he was trying to work in the back of my throat.  So they drugged me up and tried it again that afternoon.  It wasn't enough.  That was not a good day.  Little did I know that it could be worse.  They rescheduled for Wednesday.

This time, they drugged me up enough to get past my gag reflex and finished the surgery.  I was down for around two weeks.  It was a long and torturous two weeks filled with struggling to swallow and breathe due to pain and being swollen.  It was also filled with pain killers not working, infection setting in, trips to the ER, and just being out of it mentally due to the pain and pain killers.  It was literally almost two weeks without being able to talk.  I had to use a whiteboard to communicate.  And after all of that, I still snore.

Rachel got sick pretty badly in the middle of it all.  We also found out that due to paperwork getting lost in the mail, we got dropped from our insurance.  Thankfully, that has since been resolved and we have insurance again.  Somewhere in there, the Vegas shooting happened and my dad lives in Vegas so there was the stress of waiting to make sure he and my step-mom were okay.  To top it off, Rachel's grandmother who she had been a caretaker for over the last two years had a seizure and ended up in the hospital.  Sadly, she passed away.  We can celebrate that she's with the Lord now, though.

So needless to say, it's been a rough few weeks with everything seemingly hitting at once.  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 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, maybe more fruit than we've ever seen.  I don't believe that's a coincidence.  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 bless us with awesome student-leaders.  We lost a lot of really solid leaders and core students last year to graduation and transferring.  With those students gone, we need some of our younger students to step up and carry the torch.

- 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 home 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, and pray that God would continue healing my throat after my surgery.

- As staffs grow, 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.

- As ministry staffs on campus grow and student numbers continue to decline, ministries on campus can rub each other the wrong way at times.  It's bound to happen on a smaller campus.  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 on a mission trip.  We've been praying about where God might want us this coming summer.  Obviously, there is always Peru.  It would be hard not to go back with all God is doing down there.  It's also a great mission trip we can take students on.  We have also been praying about going to Japan.  This would give us the opportunity to visit students like Rikako and Yuko, and encourage them in their faith.  It would also give us an opportunity to connect with local pastors and to scout out possible churches we could plug students into upon their return to Japan.  Lastly, there is a mountainous country in Asia on our radar where we haven't been before.  We'd be backpacking into the high mountains and reaching the people there.  We've been praying about that country for a couple of years now but each summer, the doors have been closed.  God may finally be opening the doors to do the trip safely.  Unfortunately, it's probably not a country we could take students to.  Obviously, we'll keep praying and listening for where God wants us.  It could be some country not even on our radar yet.  Please be praying that God would give us wisdom and discernment as we listen for His plans for us this summer.

- The mice are still an issue with our house (I can hear one chewing on things right now as I type) but things should calm down a bit as they settle into our walls for winter.  Pray that God would keep those pest problems under control.

- We thought we had our water issues figured out but unfortunately, that wasn't the case.  Sadly, we just don't have the square-footage to capture the water we need.  With that, we're going to have to put up gutters to make it work.  And to keep those gutters from being ripped off by 150 inches of snow a winter, we'll also have to put up heat cables.  Pray that this would be the final fix and solve our water issues so that we can have running water in the winter time.

- When we looked at our house before buying it, the windows were always open.  We thought it was to cool it off.  After moving in and keeping the windows closed, we noticed a fowl underlying smell.  We thought it was just sulfur escaping from the ground as much of the ground water in the area contains sulfur.  We learned to put up with it thinking there was nothing that could be done.  Then, as we were working on the water system, new water storage tanks were put in our crawl space under the house.  There, it was discovered that we had a raw sewage leak...which our original house inspector missed.  The guys working on the water system fixed the leak and put lime down to take care of the raw sewage.  Unfortunately over the years and years of leaking, it had soaked deep into the ground where the lime could do no good.  Any moisture that got into the ground under the crawl space made the smell much worse.  When we came home from Peru, our house smelled awful, and we could feel moisture seeping thru our floor.  It turned out that there weren't good seals on the new water tanks creating extremely high humidity under the house and a breeding ground for mold and fowl smells.  With it getting to the point where we couldn't even invite students over because of the smell, we had to call a professional in.  Supposedly, he thinks he can fix the problem completely by laying a plastic covering down.  I have my doubts especially with how our mice love to chew thru anything and everything.  Pray that this proposed option can solve our sewage issues completely by having the pro take care of it.

- 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.

- With Rachel not care-taking anymore, our funding is taking a hit.  We'll most likely have to hit the road to do some more support raising in the near future.  Pray that God would open the door for that with churches and individuals.  We've also have some big financial expenses, currently and also coming up, like campus parking passes, refilling our household propane tank, gutters/heat cables, a heavy-duty snowblower, and resolving the raw sewage issue.  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.

- With as fruitful as the ministry has been, I want to end this section on a high note.  We're so thankful for what God is doing on campus!  I fully expect a story or two of salvation in our next update.  Praise God for the fruit we are seeing at FLC and pray that He continues to bless the ministry and campus with that fruit.