Dear Pastor Mike,
Greetings! I'm so happy to be reporting to you about the the ministry in Middle East! Thank you so much for praying for us! God heard your prayers and He showed Himself strong! So strong and beautiful! Thank you, Lord! It was amazing and wonderful. BUT, it wasn't easy. There was never a dull moment!
The photo of the sheep and the shepherd was taken adjacent to the refugee camp where we held the medical clinic. I love this photo because it makes me think of a verse from the book of Matthew 9:35-38 . The words of Jesus: 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Please pray for the people living in these dwellings. This is only a a very small section of an enormous tent city. A significant number of the people are virtually paralyzed by trauma from war and terror. Lord we thank you that you tell us you are preparing an eternal home for those who put their faith in you! A wonderful place where we will be with you! A home of no more suffering and no more tears from the brokenness of this world.
The smile in her eyes really captured my heart. She and the other children loved the special attention they received from the team. Two team members were completely focused on the children with unique and creative games and stories and lots of fun, love and attention. God had a plan. The schools were on temporary lockdown due to an increase in covid cases only a couple of days before we arrived. The clinic areas were full of children who were blessed to learn about our Lord's love for them.
By now you are probably asking.... what happened? Why did you say it wasn't easy?
My co-leader and dear friend Steffoni wrote this devotion. I asked if I could share excerpts of it with you. Then I will share with you the many "BUT God" moments that happened after Steffoni shared this devotion.
-----------------------------------------------"As I laid awake thinking about the day and started going over all of the IF’s AND’s or BUT’s. I came to realize, there is Only 1 BUT! .....
Yes, team member Lauri fell and injured her ankle. BUT God made sure she was surrounded by the best team of nationals, doctors, nurses, friends and loved ones to support her through this crisis.
Yes, Lauri had to go to a sketchy govt hospital, BUT God used her to shine His light in that chaotic dark place. She remained calm, smiling, joking, singing about God’s goodness, and expressed much gratitude to the staff. It was evident that she was filled with the joy of the Lord
Yes, Lauri’s ankle is broken and will need surgery. BUT God has kept the swelling and the pain down allowing her to rest and to take the time needed to make informed and measured decisions about next steps.
Yes, many things need to fall into place for Lauri to get back home for surgery. BUT God, is in control, His fingerprints are all over this. Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked on them and said, “with man this is impossible, BUT WITH GOD all things are possible”
Yes, Lauri missed out on ministry that she was really looking forward to. BUT God, will redeem this for Lauri’s good and for HIS glory.
The phrase "BUT GOD" appears in the Bible over 30 times!
Psalms 73:26. “My flesh and my heart may fail, BUT God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”
BUT GOD is at the very heart of the Gospel message!
Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. BUT GOD demonstrates His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In Ephesian 2:3-5 we find the greatest BUT GOD of all:
“all of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace that you have been saved. "
Here is the part I filled in after Steffoni and Lauri departed so Lauri could return to have surgery on her ankle.
On the fifth day, before we went to the clinic, the team was getting their COVID test in order to fly home. The van broke down - actually just out of gas. The gas gage was broken. While waiting for the van to be up and running again we got a call from the manager of the Camp. We were not permitted to open the clinic on the 5th day. Someone who had come to the clinic the previous day went to the camp manager and lied to him saying we were requiring people to become Christians before we would help them. Of course that was not true. We helped and cared for everyone we could possibly help. More than 500 people in 4 days. There were a handful of people who needed surgery which was unfortunately not possible for us to do in a makeshift clinic without specialists in the field that was needed. We offered to pray for them. The camp manager said he was not against us. He said he was handling his responsibilities. He said he would not allow "religion" to harm those in the camp. He had lost many family members because of ISIS. This is a young man with huge responsibility for the people in this camp.
But, God...... Now, I'm glad I can ask you to pray for this young man.
BUT, God! God did amazing and beautiful things and touched lives with His care and compassion.
I had meetings with the psychotherapist at the camp, The person the phycologist on the team who had broken her ankle would have been with to help treat people who had terrible trauma from ISIS.
BUT, God...... they wanted someone from the team to spend time with them to see what they were doing to help people and to give feedback. I clearly explained I was not a psychologist and was only trained in Biblical Trauma Healing but was very willing to spend time with them. We talked and I learned all about what they were doing to help people. Then I sat in on 4 appointments she had with women in the camp who had trauma, lost loved, etc, etc. It was overwhelming. This dear counselor suffers from secondary Trauma hearing these stories every day from the women she counsels. She shed a good amount of tears as we visited. Hopefully God will keep that door open for more interaction there. ONLY God knows how they will allow us to help them with the healing only Jesus is able and wants to give them.
Then all but two team members on the team left to return home. The team was very happy and encouraged about all that God did in and through them.
A Physicians Assistant and her husband stayed an extra day because of flight issues. She tested positive for COVID. She was not sick and she had the vaccine and booster. Her husband tested negative. She was sure it was a false positive so she took the test again the next day and was negative but that delayed their flight a day. Not a huge problem, thank God! Then there were two more. Me and Linda. We stayed on for extra days. We were training three people for Trauma Healing who had just moved there from Columbia! The night we were scheduled to fly out at 4:20 a.m. a rocket from Iran militia targeted the airport, just a little more than a mile from the guest house where we were staying! Never a dull moment! We heard the loud boom! Naturally our flight was postponed. Thankfully the rocket hit only a cargo station and no one was hurt or killed.
I hope you are encouraged to know that God acted on behalf of all of us....and that includes you! I do what I do in ministry in partnership with you. Thank you! God showed Himself strong, for His Glory and His renown! ~Julia Schatz
Update and Prayer Requests: April 2021
Valerie and Nicasio Martinez
Translating God's Word with and for the people who speak Quiatoni Zapotec
Our biggest news this month is that Nicasio graduated from the PhD program Friday, April 23! Classes finished a year ago but due to covid restrictions, graduation kept being postponed. The ceremony was smaller and less formal than usual but it happened and Nicasio has his diploma! He said that the best thing about graduation was that it relit the fire for him to finish his thesis so that he can truly be done with the PhD program. Please pray for him as he works on it and also deals with the external hard drive that isn’t working and has on it the videos of the course he taught to the bilingual teachers for his thesis.
Nicasio and I have given final (we hope!) read-throughs of the book documenting the Quiatoni Zapotec numbers from one to one hundred. It’s almost ready for printing!
Nicasio has been continuing to revise the Book of Acts as we continue to study it during Zapotec church service. (Zapotec church service is still online only.) Interest is high as we work on Chapter 19 and discuss things like “Do people need to be rebaptized?” “Does God heal only through the use of special cloths?” “Who can pray for someone to be healed?” “Why is it that sometimes people don’t get healed, even after we pray for them?” It’s wonderful to see how feel the freedom and confidence to ask questions. Please continue to pray for these folks, especially for more understanding of God’s Word, which is what one lady asked as a prayer request for herself.
Nicasio is also going through the scripts for dubbing the Deditos videos. (More information about Deditos here: https://mailchi.mp/7d67344ed722/deditos-eng) He continues to teach (online) two people to read and write in Quiatoni Zapotec. (They speak it and want to be able to write it well.)
Please pray for unity within our (local) church since there is disagreement about how to deal with government covid restrictions. (We have heard of similar problems in other churches; if yours is one of them, we’d like to pray for yours, too.) Recently the pastor has started an inperson youth group, without saying anything to Nicasio about it, even though Nicasio continues to have online meetings with those of the church’s youth who want to meet with him. Today (April 25) the online group went on a bike ride as an outdoor activity where they can safely spend time together.
I spent the first two weeks of April in Mitla, doing an inventory of the Children’s Library. The library is self-serve (you check out your books, your return the cards to your books, you reshelve your books) so there’s lots of room for mistakes. Add to that the fact that I haven’t done an inventory for five years and that there are about 14,000 pieces in the library! I was very thankful for three friends helping me for many hours and an afternoon of four teens helping me.
Rusty thanks you all for your prayers and asks that you continue praying for him, specifically that his scans and bloodwork in early June will come back clear. He’s back to normal work and normal life. We thank you, too, for your prayers for him.
Mike, Tara and Royan hope to visit us this summer so they’ve gotten Royan’s passport! Royan is five months old and starting to eat solids. Tara says this is a real blessing since the formula he is on, due to colic and a milk protein intolerance, is quite expensive. Mike would like you to pray for him as he’s in the process of applying for a new job.
Thank you for standing with us and making God’s Word available to those who speak Quiatoni Zapotec! You are blessing many people!
love, Valerie and Nicasio
Thank you for your continued prayers for our son Rusty. Please continue to pray for him; specifically that the suspicious lymph node will not grow any larger. He will have another CT scan and bloodwork done in early June to check on it.
This past week Rusty went to IU Health (the world's center for testicular cancer) for second opinions with an oncologist and an urologist. A few days later he saw the oncologist that he was referred to by urologist/surgeon that operated on him on March 5. All three doctors concur that active surveillance is the way to go, meaning to keep an eye on it, have another CT scan and bloodwork done in two months to see what that suspicious lymph node is doing. (It is enlarged but still within "normal" range; it's not the node that they would expect to be affected by the testicular cancer, if it had spread.)
If it has grown (please pray that it won't!), they recommend surgery to remove it. If it hasn't grown or has shrunk, they recommend CT scans every four months for a while, then every six months, then every year. Even if there should be a relapse, the cure rate is still 99.5%!
Rusty says that he's still pretty peaceful about it. Thank you for praying for him and for us. We are thankful for you and how you've stood with us over the years. Thank you!