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Venezuela 35-Day

Time has passed so quickly for us while we are here that the students did not even realize today was our last full day of ministry.  There were collective groans to realize things were ending here in Venezuela so quickly.  Our ministry is not over, as it simply changes avenues when we return to the States.

This morning we worked with the First Baptist Church of Barquisimeto.  At the second site they had planned, we were in front of the Barquisimeto Courthouse and surrounded by their law schools.  As we approached this area, there were also some Chavistas there selling arrepas (one of their national foods) to raise money for the Chavez campaign.  They took it upon themselves to introduce the drama group from the United States.  Under an awning in front of the Chavistas was a man selling books about the laws of their land.  He was really irritated that we showed up and took away the attention from him.  He continued to yell at the lawyers as they exited the building to draw them over so he could complain about how we were “stealing his business,” but in turn, the lawyers simply stayed and watched the drama and more people were impacted for Christ.  Even in the midst of distractions, God still reigns.

Prior to lunch, we returned to one of main shopping streets of this city.  There were many people there, curious about this group who set up in the middle of everything.  A crowd gathered, and the team presented the drama.  A group of students went out to minister to three people.  By the time they finished sharing, their group had grown to twenty.  Out of those twenty, all but two said they wanted to receive Christ…and those other two were already believers!  Praise the Lord!

Our team had learned to praise Him when people come to know Him and to praise Him in the storm.  This afternoon at the last site we presented at, one of the students was sharing with a group of twenty-five, and it seemed as though they were understanding as she was sharing, but then when she asked if they wanted to receive Christ, all of them rejected Him.  This was a blow to that ministry group, and it broke their hearts to see so many blatantly reject Jesus.  As they grieved over these people and prayed for the softening of their hearts, for people to follow behind and water the seed that was planted, they recalled the song, “Praise You in the Storm.”

We are so proud of the growth that has occurred in them this summer!  Thank you for lending us your students to come share Christ in Venezuela.  Please continue to pray for the work that we have left behind, that the churches will be faithful to complete the task.  Please pray for the things that we have been called to do as we return home, that we will be faithful to those tasks as well.

Tomorrow we will have one more performance, at Iglesia Bautista de Luz y Vida.  This is the home church of three of our teammates.  They will be having a baptism service where they baptize a hundred or so people.  Immediately following, we will take a bus eight hours to Caracas in order to catch our flight Wednesday morning.  We are scheduled to arrive in Dallas on Wednesday evening.  We will update you again once we are back at Dallas Christian College to begin our debriefing time.  Thank you again for your prayers over this month; you have been part of our team serving here in Venezuela.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney

Today was our last day to attend church with our Venezuelan brothers and sisters.  Each group had a unique experience.  At one of the churches our groups were in this morning was one woman who was not able to stand on her own.  She required the assistance of a cane for each hand and appeared rather fragile.  They seated her at the stage, and she praised the Lord in a beautiful operatic voice.  In spite of all of her physical incapacities, the joy of the Lord was evident on her face.

Another church had the opportunity to see a couple different mime groups.  It was a precious sight to see children as young as four or five beginning to learn to give praise to the Lord in that way.  The youth also presented a mime as well, and the theme of it was loving people to Jesus and spending time investing in them and not just giving money to a problem and ignoring it.  It was a cool experience, particularly since they had already seen our drama, and then we got to see their form of worship as well.

Tomorrow is our last full day of ministry.  Please pray for us to be focused on Jesus and not distracted by any thoughts of travel or returning home.  Please pray for the students to internalize all the lessons God has taught them this summer, that those lessons will be solidified so they will walk it out as they return home.  Thank you so much for your prayers!  You have been just as much a part of this journey as we have.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney

Today was our next to last full day of drama ministry.  The churches in this particular city have been really amazing.  The church we worked with this morning is pastored by a man who attended Awe Star’s iGo conference this last November.  Several of our students remember attending his breakout session, and it was really incredible to see us reconnect on his side of the world.

One of the sites we had the opportunity to perform at was on a main street that looked like a picture out of New York.  A crowd surrounded our students on all sides as they performed the drama.  Afterwards, one team went out to minister.  They shared with one group of people, and many accepted Christ.  After those people left, another group surged forward, and our students were able to share again.  These people accepted Christ.  Once those left, another wave of people approached our students and asked why they were there.  Excitedly, they shared again with this group.  The students were amazed at how God continued to bring these people to them.  Thank you for praying for divine appointments!

We were in the Plaza Bolivar this morning, and people were scattered throughout the plaza enjoying a leisurely Saturday.  As we played music over the loudspeaker, people began to draw near, curious about this group dressed so oddly.  During the drama, the crowd continued to grow until about a hundred people were watching.  After the drama, one of our students was returning the microphone to the team directors, and he glanced up and noticed four men standing off to the side.  He headed for these men and started sharing the Gospel.  He focused on these men as he talked, not really noticing others crowding around him.  In the end, he realized that seventeen people responded to the Gospel.  This student was so excited as God had started with four but drew seventeen to Himself.

Thank you for praying for us on our journey.  Please pray for us tomorrow as the leaders will be preaching in the local churches.  Please pray that God will communicate His message across the language barriers that exist.  Please pray for continued unity and focus as we finish our time here.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney

In the morning, we had the opportunity to go to two markets.  Friday and Saturday are shopping days, so these places were rather busy.  The students were reminded of the teaching they received yesterday, as they had gotten a little dirty during these sites from all the dust that was around.  They gave a spit and got dirty for Jesus.  Not everyone at the market was interested, though, as there were several guys who were mocking during the presentation.  We know that there are different types of ground upon which the seed falls, and while some hearts are hard, others were soft and ready to receive the Gospel.

This was the case of one particular family.  They had watched the drama and waited patiently for our students to come talk to them.  With only four ministry teams, sometimes it takes time for us to talk to all the people who are at one site.  This family was the second group the team talked with at that site, and when our team spoke to them, they were ready to receive Jesus.

This afternoon, we headed to a plaza.  This drama was quite memorable, as the rain poured down during the drama.  Many students were happy, though, knowing that the people who stayed to watch were truly sincere about knowing Jesus.  One student in particular felt the Holy Spirit moving in her to speak with a group of four who stayed to watch them.  These people were very interested in the message we had to share.  They eagerly listened as the student spoke and were very excited about accepting Jesus.  Our students huddled over the new believers to block the rain so that they could fill out the response cards before the cards got all wet and could not be written on.  These new believers wanted to make sure the church had their information to follow up with them.

Our last drama was at a church in a smaller area just outside Barquisimeto.   As we drove to that church, we had an incredible time of worship on the bus.  It was awesome to praise the Lord, belting out the songs and lifting His name high in both English and Spanish.   Whenever we spend time lifting Him up, it always strengthens us and brings energy to continue His work.

Thank you so much for praying for us!  Please continue to pray for us as our time here is drawing to a close.  Please pray for continued focus, and please pray for the churches as they put in the energy and time to follow up with the people who have made decisions during these weeks.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney

This morning we loaded up in Acarigua and headed for Barquisimeto.  We entered the city on the west side and worked with a church in that area.  There are very many poor people in that area, and that is one of the reasons that church was started was to work with those people who have very little hope.  During ministry, one group was ministering with a family, and while the husband was less responsive, the wife and child seemed very sincere.  After the team shared, they were so thankful that they blessed that ministry team with little gifts, handmade pins in the shape of different instruments.

Today is the Venezuelan Independence Day.  Since it is a national holiday, everyone is off, and the parks were full.  We ministered in one park all afternoon, doing three different performances in different areas of the park.  In the first area we set up in, we were met by another evangelistic group.  They were very excited that people were here to share the good news of Jesus.  In fact, they rounded up a lot of people to see our performance, and that was the biggest crowd we worked with all day.

Tonight brought the opportunity for teaching.  The students were a bit intrigued when we told them to come down for teaching without their Bibles or notebooks.  They soon saw that they would need their hands, for we taught them that we must do the works of our Father.  One of the works that Jesus did while He was here was that He gave a spit.  When Jesus healed the blind man, He picked up some dirt, and spit in it to make a mudball; it was through this that He used the mud to heal the man’s eyes.  Sometimes serving Jesus requires us to get dirty.  We are uncomfortable, but we need to get uncomfortable for Christ.  Jesus gave us His blood, but He has called us to go through the mud, to get our hands dirty and love people to Himself.

Thank you for your prayers for our team.  Please pray for the students to really grasp this teaching and apply it to the rest of our ministry here and to continue to live it as they return home.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney

Today we are celebrating Independence Day by resting.  This morning, the team slept in, and then for lunch we had an American meal:  McDonald’s.  While we are enjoying entering into the Venezuelan culture, it is nice every once in a while to have a familiar taste.  After lunch, we spent some time just hanging out together at a park.

Yesterday was our last day of ministry here in Acarigua.  We had the opportunity to work with three different churches.  There were many churches in this area who expressed interest in working with us, but there was not enough time for each one to have their own day.

The first church we went to has been in existence for three years.  The pastor shared with us that it was a very challenging area to work in; the people just have harder hearts.  When we arrived at the church, our students went out in their ministry teams to the surrounding areas to invite people to come.  Many children showed up because school had been cancelled due to the hard rain that morning.  (Our team had heard of snow days before, but never has school been cancelled for rain days.)  Many of these children accepted Jesus as a result of being out of school and having the opportunity to come to the presentation.  What are the odds?

The last church we worked with was the Iglesia Bautista de Luz y Vida (Light and Life).  This church is the home of three of our teammates.  When our bus pulled up to the church, people had lined the sidewalks of both sides of the street waiting for our coming.  As we exited, cheers arose from the crowd.  We were ushered into the church, people having lined the aisles to greet us as we headed for the stage.  The pastor began the service with prayer, and everyone knelt to ask for the Lord’s blessing on the evening.  Only after the prayer did people take seats, and when we blinked, every chair was full in the church, which held about three hundred people.  It was an awesome time sharing with this church!  After we did the drama and spent time ministering, they had their young people come up and share some songs that they mimed, as well as worshipped together.  The pastor is so incredible and enthusiastic!  We will be returning to this church our final night in Venezuela for a baptism service, which we are very eager to have the opportunity to share with them in this celebration.

Tomorrow morning we will be leaving for Barquisimeto, which will be the last city that we stay in while we are here in Venezuela.  Please pray for us to continue to focus on the task at hand.  Please pray that we will have renewed energy tomorrow after our day of rest.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney

Buenas noches from Acarigua!  We are still in the state of Portuguesa, so our travel to this city was about an hour and a half.  On our way into the city, we stopped and worked with a church.  They are in the process of building a new structure, and once it is completed, it will house hundreds of people.  When we arrived to perform the drama here, the church was bringing in students by the truckload.  Literally.  There was standing room only in the beds of these trucks, as kids were packed in there like sardines.  It was awesome to see our students love on all these kids, and the church was very thankful for the ministry that occurred today.

After moving into our new hotel, we returned to ministry to work with another church.  The first site we were in was a high school.  One ministry team had been challenged all day, as every group they talked to was not interested in Jesus.  This team strove to encourage each other, reminding themselves that they are the messengers but Jesus is the message.

Another team was speaking with a large group of students composed mainly of guys.  These guys were rather indifferent to the Gospel, but there were a couple of girls standing nearby that drew the attention of the prayer person in the group.  This student began ministering to these girls and spent a while explaining things and answering their questions about Jesus.  At the end of their conversation, these girls chose to accept Christ.  We saw fifty-one people respond to the Gospel at this site.

A particularly exciting aspect of this afternoon was the opportunity to meet some of the families of our Venezuelan teammates.  After living with them and serving with them for several weeks, it seems like their families are part of our families now.

Please continue to pray for the ministry here, that tomorrow the students will be refreshed and ready to give their all to serve the Lord.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney

For our final day in Guanare, we broke into four groups to attend church with those who have partnered with us this week.  Each leader had the opportunity to share in their respective churches.  It is amazing how God works!  One of the pastors asked how we knew what to speak about because that message was exactly what the church needed to hear.  It is the same Spirit that works in all of us, no matter what language we speak.

This afternoon offered a time of rest and relaxation.  The students had some time to just hang out with each other and enjoy fellowship.  This evening we joined up with all of the churches again for their goodbye celebration.  As part of this fellowship, our students shared a couple songs with the church, our Venezuelan students shared a couple songs, and then the church worship team also shared some songs.  It was a great time of praising the Lord.  Afterwards, they blessed us with a wonderful dinner of pizza and tiramisu.

In the morning, we will be heading to Acarigua.  This is our next to last city that we will be ministering in here in Venezuela.  It is the hometown of three of our Venezuelan teammates.  We are excited to be able to see what their city and church looks like.

Thank you for praying for us during this time in Guanare.  There is a lot of work for these churches to follow up on, so please continue to pray for them as they disciple the new believers.  Please pray for a smooth transition to our next city and that God may multiply the number of people who come to know Him here.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney

Dear friends and family!!

Today was another incredible day of Jesus’ Ministry, as we were blessed to see shouts and tears of joy accompany salvation. In fact, today was special because we chose to elevate two students to leadership for the day. Their responsibilities included leading the team to and from drama sites, monitoring the collective morale, and ensuring the team’s safety. The leaders-for-a-day performed exceptionally well, exceeding all expectations. These two did an especially good job pouring into the students on our team. We are excited to see what God will do in these students’ lives as they continue to grow into young leaders.

This morning, one of our students had the opportunity to minister to a family with their young children in a plaza. She was able to explain the gospel story well, and soon the people were eager to accept Christ into their hearts. As she began to pray with the family, they all repeated the prayer of salvation; however, one little girl in particular was shouting at the top of her lungs each word of the prayer, ecstatic to invite her savior into her heart. This uplifting story was a blessing to our student because God was and is using her in incredible ways.

This afternoon, in yet another plaza, we were reminded of the quiet time from this morning which taught of the importance of encouraging the body of Christ. As one of our students ministered to an older gentleman, the man began to share his broken heart. In the past, the man had been let down and hurt by some members of his church. This heartache had caused him to doubt God’s design for the church and God himself. As the student shared her heart and encouraged him, his hardened heart melted; he began to regain trust in the Word and people of God. Because of our student’s obedience, God used us to show this man how the body of Christ loves and encourages each member.

Please pray for continued good health, sweet rest, and joyful spirits as we continue to do the works of Him who sent us.

Your Team Directors,

Karen and Craig

El Amor de Dios (The Love of God) is the church we worked with today.  They had a whole team of people who traveled with us to the different ministry sites.  The Venezuelans are so giving; they continually bless us.  It is a privilege to be here working with them.

Several of the sites we went to today were schools.  When we were at the second school, one of our ladies was ministering to a group of students.  As she was speaking, she was reflecting upon when she came to know Christ as a small child.  Her thoughts traveled back to how her mom was talking to her, and she asked a simple question, and as a result of that conversation, she came to Christ.  As she was sharing this morning with the students, one of them asked a simple question, and as a result, a group of children came to know Christ.  She was ecstatic sharing her story because it was as if her story was reproducing.

At the last site, one of our men had the opportunity to share with a couple different men who had seen the drama.  The first of these encounters was with a man on a bike.  As our student approached, the man was willing to converse, but he was not ready to surrender his life to Christ.  Thankful for the seed he had planted, our student moved on to share with another person, this time a police officer.  The police had blocked off the street for us, and this man was one who was guarding the perimeter so that cars were detoured.

As our student shared, the officer began to tell his story.  He used to go to church, but once he became a police officer, his entire life changed, and he quit going to church.  Life as an officer is difficult, and he had never gotten back into church.  He did not want to make a commitment at this time, but our students watched as the battle played out on his face.  It seemed as if he wanted to follow Jesus, but there was something holding him back.  With heavy hearts, they shared this story, moved to tears and prayer for this man.  In the end, though, they realized it was a great opportunity to have, and they continue to pray that someone else will follow along behind them to lead this man to Christ.

Please pray for our work tomorrow.  This is the last day of drama ministry we will have in Guanare.  Sunday we will be in churches, and on Monday we move to another city.  Please pray for fluidity for tomorrow as there are three different churches that we will be working with throughout the day.

Your Country Coordinators,

Kenny & Whitney