This month was a roller coaster ride, beginning with the news of the passing of Sister Blanca, a member of the church in Victoria.  We made arrangements and left to Mexico early to drive straight to the funeral. On our way there, members of the cartel stopped us and demanded we pay the "toll."  When Jose told them he is a minister and that we were on our way to a funeral, THEY SPED AWAY without even so much as a word.  About a mile up the road, they pulled over, so we thought they meant for us to pull over also, but they waved us on saying, "Go ahead! go ahead!"  Hallelujah!  The Lord continues to be a shield about us as He promises in His Word.

The service did not seem like a funeral.  There was a tone of peace, joy, and gratitude prevalent throughout the service due to the believers in the family.  And, in the same way that all services end in the church in Victoria, the funeral ended with a joyful, grateful applause which started among the family members who attend our church, with most of the others present joining them.

After the burial, we spoke with the sister of an in-law and her husband whom we'd met years ago, and found them doing great.  The husband has been delivered from alcoholism and now serves in a church with his wife and family.  They are still standing in faith for the extended family to come into the Kingdom.  As more good news,  Jorge, a member of the congregation in Victoria who had just lost his mother one week earlier, was among those present.  He appeared at peace and was able to testify that he led someone to the Lord after the passing of his mother.

Our holiday celebrations began the first weekend in December with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the village of Voz.  Though they are a small congregation, they no longer rely on outside support for their parties.  For some time now, they pitch in for the meals and their offerings pay for the goodie bags for all in attendance.  As they mature, we continue to pray that more members will step up and function in the gifts that the Lord has given them.  In the meantime, we are also praying for help from within and from Victoria to minister more effectively to the children so that they grow into the ministry.

During preparations for Victoria's second annual young adult conference, they  were able to make 3 T.V. appearances on secular channels to promote the conference, something previously unheard of.  (We expect that all the publicity and blanketing the city with fliers will be of benefit to bring people to church in Victoria even long after the event is over.)  Despite a constant cold rain and a championship soccer game held at the same time as the conference, there was a turn-out of almost 300.  Willy, Bobby, and Joshua joined us and were a great blessing in ministering in music along with the praise and worship team from Victoria and Isai from Voz.   The fellowship between the guys from Edinburg and the others before, during, and after the meeting was also quite special.

Jeanette had time to chat with some in attendance and heard some moving testimonies.  A young nurse and single mom named Lupita told of how her life has been forever changed, thanks to Sister Rafa who helped her get a job, opened her home to her-a perfect stranger, and led her to Christ.   We never knew.  Later Jeanette spoke with Rafa to thank her for being light.

Another testimony came from Vivi who was amazed at the Christian influence she noted at her daughter's ballet recital.  There was Christian music and even scriptures read.  Sandra, the director of the fine arts department where the recital took place, walked up to the conversation and confirmed that the best dance teachers she has are Christians.  We rejoiced together in observing that the active born-again Christians seem to be out-numbering the marginal Catholics. 

Last month we were asked to pray for someone who'd been kidnapped, and within a week, we got word of their release.  At the same time, a sister asked that we pray for 3 children who'd been kidnapped.  Within days, they too had been released.

While we don't have a final count of the salvations from the conference, we were able to see several hands raised to accept Christ.  Then, during prayer at the altar, many prayed with our leaders to receive Christ or to be delivered from sickness, bondages and burdens.   Also, by the Spirit, there were several who received a special word of knowledge or wisdom, including one for a 6-yr-old girl who was responsible for bringing her mother to church.  We know that many lives were changed that day.

The day after the conference,  it was Victoria's turn to celebrate Christmas together with a special service, brunch, and fellowship.   We were glad to see that many who had attended the conference returned the following day for service.  The drama team that had performed under the direction of Sandra at the conference repeated their human video.  It was quite moving as it illustrated the love of Jesus and how He sets captives free.  Several in the team had actually experienced first-hand that deliverance just months ago, so the emotion expressed was truly moving.  Then the children had their small program.  Much to our delight, it went off without a hitch, unlike the rehearsals.  We were also blessed to know that the same program will be adapted for the children in the village of Mariposas y Maguiras when Rosi and Mario have the special program there for them.   We were also able to share the plentiful food left over from the brunch with family members of the enfermed at a hospital.

Christmas celebrations continued the following week with the leaders in Victoria.  We broke bread at Eric and Lucero's cozy home and enjoyed nice fellowship.

The next day, Jose and Jeanette were accompanied by Carlos, Vivi, and their daughter Sofia, to attend Mante's Christmas service.  The fellowship during the drive there is always a blessing.  They have so much to share about what God is doing.  Vivi expressed a desire to write children's lessons for children's church so that they could be custom-made to meet the needs of the ministry.  Finding the appropriate materials in Spanish at an accessible price has been very difficult.  It is so good to see what is in her heart.  It seems like the mantel for the children's ministry is being passed from Jeanette to Vivi.  The specifics should be determined within the first month of the New Year.

Before the service, Sister Araceli took them to see the recently purchased land where the church will soon hold services.  There is a large cement block building without a roof on the double lot--perfect for the first stage of growth to seat about 150.   Between some members who put up their own money, plus the funds from the congregation and a portion Salomon loaned to cover the rest, the land is paid for.  Now, they will pay back Salomon's loan and begin to work on the building to get it ready.  We hope to inaugurate it next year.  

The service and fellowship was nice.  There was a special time of ministry in which families were restored and asked for forgiveness.  God's healing and provision were also manifested.  A couple who used to attend services there, but now are members of another church, arrived.  The wife gingerly walked past the people to ask for prayer.  She had just had an emergency C-section just the day before.  She asked for prayer for the premature baby and that God would provide the much needed medication to help with the lung development.  In the congregation there is a pediatrician, a nurse, and a social worker of a hospital.  The three jumped into action and tried every connection to find the scarce medication.  No one in Mante was willing to share the vials, so they called Sister Rafa, a nurse in Victoria, to help with the search.  By the next day, they had the medication.  They also made arrangements to transfer the baby for better care in Victoria.  As an update, a couple of weeks later, the baby was said to be off the ventilator and able to take a few ounces of maternal milk.  Hallelujah!  The victory really occurred when the mother stepped forward for prayer.  At first, her face -and her husband's- was full of desperate anguish.  But within minutes of prayer, she was at peace and had received the confidence that God would provide.

We spent the night in Mante and returned to Victoria for service the next day during which we gave thanks to God for the 45th wedding anniversary of Rodolfo and Lupita, a couple that has been with us from almost the beginning, with some off-and-on time from her.  He stayed faithful, and she came around.  Now they seem very stable in the faith and are a great example for their family.  The mini-ceremony we held was sweet, and truly directed by the Holy Spirit, as nothing was fore planned, yet flowed beautifully.

While at the service, Lucero asked for prayer for the special plans that her GDA had for the next day.  Instead of having a gift exchange, they agreed to each buy a gift for a lost friend and write her a note about the true and best Gift, and invite her to the meeting where the friends would receive the gifts.  We came into agreement that the Holy Spirit would touch many lives through the special Christmas celebration.  Later we learned that it was a huge success.  What a great idea!

From there, we headed to Rio Bravo's celebration.  Within the city, there were two large signs.  One said, "Rio Bravo is Blessed by God."  The other said, "Rio Bravo: From Heaven to You: The Lord bless you and keep you."   Amazingly, a banner hanging from a balcony in Mante said, "Jesus Christ is the Lord of Mante."  More evidence that the Body of Christ is growing and becoming bolder.  And what they say by faith, they shall have!

The special Christmas program in Rio Bravo was indeed special.  The youth prepared and held the entire program.  We were thrilled by their enthusiasm and participation, even of some young men who have recently come into the faith and have left an ugly, dark world.  We have great expectations for the youth there who seem to take great joy in serving in every aspect of the ministry.  It was also a joy to have Pastor Max with us.  The entire evening was a delight!

What a wonderful way to conclude our visits into Mexico.  However, despite our absence, the ministry's activities continue in ferver with the many co-laborers, including Carlos who held service Christmas morning in Victoria with some 80 people in attendance and Omar and Miranda returning for a Christmas party with Rio Bravo's youth, to name a few.  We are so grateful for all the colaborers and all God does and will do in 2012 through them.   We'll be sure to keep you informed.

Happy New Year!

Jose, Jeanette, and the Missions Team



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