Saturday, January 21, 2006

Greetings from Puerto Rico!

My recent trip through Light Ministries with our team of 22 members proved very productive. Puerto Rico is an exciting and lively place. Though final legislative decisions are approved by the United States, it operates as an independent nation. Our team was blessed to be able to learn about the culture, participate in many of the customs, provide physical man-power to meet needs, and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with many. We saw about 20 people personally testify to receive Christ as their Savior. Our ministry was great in that it involved evangelism, discipleship, encouragement, and physical labor. We performed concerts, primed and painted a new church facility, tore down drop ceilings and walls, performed dramas in public parks, cleaned schools, conducted school chapels, led worship in church services, held youth rallies, fed the homeless, and much, much more. I want to begin by saying thank you to so many of you who provided support through prayer while we were gone. There were a lot of things going on and we needed it! Thank you for your partnership in ministry.

I enjoyed this trip, but it was different for me in many ways. I, along with Tom Nylander, Director for Light Ministries, co-led the trip to San Juan which included a trip to Ponce, a beautiful city about an hour-and-a-half away. I would say that probably the biggest difference for me personally on this trip was the fact that Puerto Rico, in many ways, was just like being at home. We had all the modern conveniences that we have here in the states: cell phones, tvs, computers, etc. (which was not always a bad thing...especially when we needed to communicate with others back in Virginia). However, on a few more primitive trips that I have been on, it has been nice to NOT have those things. It was nice not to hear the phone ring, not to be bombarded with emails, etc. It was a lot easier for those things to not be distractions because they were not available. It caused one to be disciplined and focus continually on why you were there.

The Land and a bit of the Culture:
Puerto Rico is an incredible land with some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen!

As I stated earlier, one thing you experience on all mission trips is the culture. The Puerto Ricans we served with through Christian Community Church were incredibly warm, friendly, and inviting. Overall, Puerto Rican culture is very laid-back. Times and programs are not as important as people and relationships. We were there on January 6th, which is the day they celebrate 3 Kings Day. It is traditionally more of their "Christmas Day" when gifts are given and they celebrate the 3 Wise Men coming to visit the new born Christ. On that night we participated in a tradition called Parranda (a tradition that I am sure will not catch on in America). You get a band of people together and go "caroling" in the wee hours of the morning...only by "caroling", I mean screaming and beating on drums with the goal of waking them up, them inviting you in, and them feeding everyone. It was fun...just a bit tiring as we went around from 11pm-5am.

Everyone lined up waiting for Parranda's joyful music to begin!
Can you imagine feeding all those people at 2 in the morning?

Ministry through Schools and Churches:

We had a great ministry in the churches and schools we were in. In the churches we held several Youth Services, were involved leading worship in main church services, and also had the opportunity to encourage the churches through preaching. We held 14 services and ministered in two different schools and in 4 different churches. It was such a blessing to worship with other Christians and experience two different cultures worshipping the same God.

Ministering to 7-12th Graders at Wesleyan Academy, a private Christian school (above)
Kids going crazy at a Youth Rally (below)

It was so great to have the opportunity to be an encouargement to many pastors of different churches. Everytime I go overseas and have the opportunity to meet different pastors I'm always humbled by their commitment to Christ as I hear their own stories and testimonies. I praise the Lord for those who have been so faithful for so long and only pray that my life can be characterized as "faithful" as well.

Ministry through Drama:

One unique opportunity for ministry was provided through drama. We ministered through drama almost every day. We did three different dramas: Redeemer, Chains, and King of Hearts. The drama I was in was called Redeemer and focused on creation, man's choice to sin, and God's redeeming love. Below are pictures of one time we did the dramas. This time was on 3 King's Day. On 3 King's Day all parents take their children to the Governor's Mansion where he hands out gifts. There were an estimated 75,000 people that were in this area on January 6th. What better place to set up and do some dramas? However, there were other events to compete with such as side-shows, contests, and marching bands. One band actually marched right through our Chains drama while they were doing it. But nonetheless, as you can see below, people still stayed around to hear the message of Christ afterwards.

Redeemer Drama (above)
Explaining the message behind the drama afterwards (below)

Our Host Church:
Christian Community Church was our host church for the 2 weeks we were in Puerto Rico. CCC is an active, incredible non-denominational church. God has blessed their ministry and they continue to grow and reach out to Guaynabo and the surrounding areas. They currently have 4 services on Sundays and are in the middle of a building project. It was very rewarding to not only serve with them on Sundays and Wednesdays, but to also be able to help by meeting physcial needs such as priming and painting in the completed basement of their new facility.

The Light Singers:
It was a great privilege to be able to travel overseas with the team I travel with every weekend. These guys and ladies work really hard to spread the Gospel across the country and around the world as well as work to open the eyes of others to people God loves everywhere. On the last day we went to check out the scenic view of El Murro. El Murro served as the watchtower and was the entrance port to the island. It was the place on many battles and many graves. It provided much scenic beauty and even a good backdrop for some photos for Light's new CD that should be coming out this Spring.

Final Thanks:
Thanks again for all your love and your continued support! Please continue to pray for the people of San Juan, Guaynabo, and Ponce. Pray that God will continue to use the words, songs, and dramas that were presented to continually teach them more about Himself and draw them closer to Him.