Dear Friends and Family,
As I look back at the events of this past year, I am struck by the number of people who excelled at being faithful. What I mean by that is, in a year when so many people suffered so very much, people continued to communicate, to pray, to read (and preach) the Word, and to minister to one another in the name of Christ.
We have received emails from people, encouraging us in our losses, who were themselves suffering from heartbreak. We have received emails and facebook messages suggesting resources for our ministry while the people sending them were in the middle of their own struggles. People. Broken people. Hurting people. Redeemed saints letting the light of Jesus shine. So as you read through this missive about our year, give yourself a hug from us for everything you have been through in yours, and thank you for your faithfulness.
We had two threads weaving through the year pretty regularly. On the side of our challenges and griefs, we lost so very many dear friends and family members that I actually lost count by October or so. Please continue to be in prayer for all of us, for health for Vanesa, Zoe and I, and for consolation and the peace that passes understanding for all of us who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Please also continue praying for a new health insurance carrier for us, and for Vanesa's iron levels to increase.
On the side of praises and joys, we were able to finally move into the house towards the end of 2021. The gas pipe saga lasted from July until early November, and, once that work was out of the way, we were able to start gradually moving into the house. We are still using folding furniture in the living and dining rooms, but we are all enjoying our mold free home! Zoe in particular has enjoyed having enough space to have multiple friends over at the same time, something we could not do well with the old place.
This ministry has been the least affected by the whole series of quarantines and travel restrictions we have undergone during the year. We continued to transmit regularly, and the pre-recorded programs actually expanded our reach a little, since some churches who had people who wanted to listen to the program live but had schedule conflicts were able to listen to my original recordings! There is a significant difference in quality between what I do and what the sound team at ZOE Radio FM 102.7 does, but it was a blessing to have the option. The Scripture Interpreting Scripture series addressed a significant need in the community, and I look forward to using the methodology with future programs. My one regret is that the changing COVID protocols made it impossible for me to work with the Discipleship group for some of these programs, but there was enough interest on the part of the group for us to pursue the idea of a collaboration along similar lines when conditions allow. Please be in prayer for our continued reach and ability to follow up with people who call in to the program.
We continued to disciple people virtually during most of the year, with a few notable one-on-one exceptions, usually for marital counseling issues. The big focus during the year has been on helping people minister to folks who are scared and grieving. We continued to keep in touch with those men who left the group due to struggles with drugs and alcohol, and I am happy to report that CE is back with his family, back in church, and living drug free. He is the only one of the men with addiction issues who has made a significant change, however, so please be in prayer for all of the men in our group (and in the church and the community) who struggle with addiction.
Please say a special prayer for all of the wives, daughters and nieces who suffered abuse at the hands of the male(s) in their lives. This is a horribly common problem here, and has been even worse since the start of the quarantines. The legal structure is now offering some new avenues for halting abuse, but in practice the procedure is slow and in many cases ineffective, leaving the women who try and change their situation more vulnerable than before. Actual change in the situation usually requires third parties to accompany the abused individual to the police station to make the complaint, and to be present at least some of the times (and in unpredictable ways) during exchanges with the ex. Vanesa is especially gifted in this ministry, and we praise the Lord for what He has been able to do through her work, and ask you to pray with us that there will be more people willing to serve in this way.
Eyes On Jesus Congregation
This has been a terribly difficult year for the church. The deaths and the grief, added to the lack of personal contact, pushed many to decide to isolate themselves in a very small bubble, usually immediate family. We have been able to continue to minister to people with the Word, providing not only virtual services but additional devotionals and grief and marital counseling. It has not been easy by any means, and people often start to seek help, only to abandon the effort and then return weeks later, so contact with many of the people who hurt the most is often spotty, and requires a great deal of prayer and patience. We also had to deal regularly with logistical issues, which platform to use for the services, power outages, and memory overloads in member cell phones and laptops due to the number of platforms and identities that they had running in order to live life virtually (as an example, Vanesa and I managed 5 different apps, split between our two phones, in order to accomodate all of the different ways the high school teachers communicated with Zoe and the university with Vanesa. Add to that the increased traffic on existing message apps, and phones filled up quickly).
The good news is, simply, that the Gospel is alive in Varela. We continued to network with people via these apps, provide food to those who needed it (more than one church member took food to those facing shortages, for example), and preach the Word. Arturo led us in worship, and we even had a few "guest appearances" from some of you musicians in the wider Church who shared songs of praise with us in Spanish. And, as I mentioned in my earlier emails, we were able to reach, sometimes several times, a number of family members and friends of the church body who would not have attended worship at our building, but listened to the service live in their homes.
In short, 2021 was about being faithful for us, as well. Sometimes it required us to be creative in our method of presenting the gospel (preaching and living). Sometimes it simply meant being present at the funeral. It always meant, and means, pointing people to Jesus Christ as the author and finisher of our faith.
One final comment about furlough. As you all may have surmised from my earlier comments about Vanesa's health, we are not going to be able to travel to the USA in January. We hope to have approval from all of the necessary sources, especially medical, for a trip in July or August, and we will keep you all updated as circumstances allow. We are deeply saddened that we are not able to be with you all during this time, and we wish you all the very best that God has to offer during 2022.
Thank you all for your support and your example of faithfulness in this ministry we share!
Envoy Christian Mission
Florencio Varela, Argentina