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Ministry News and Updates

Straining to See through the Muck and the Mire

Posted by David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz have moved from San Antonio, Texas to Paraguay to join the Lord in what He is already ...
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on Wednesday, 05 April 2017
in New and Updates

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will..-Romans 12:2 (NLT)

One of our heart’s desires when we came to Paraguay was to host a Life Group in our home that would be centered on inviting the Holy Spirit to teach us, taking time to worship the Lord, drawing new people into God’s kingdom and at the same time teaching those that have walked with him what it means to be a disciple-makers.
 
Being in a new culture meant taking time to visit other small groups and see what worked and where we could improve. It meant giving up on things like trying to force involving the kids when most groups here don’t meet until later in the evening making kids' involvement difficult. We began our Life Group a little over a year ago and except for two brief visits, it has been a life group of 3 (this includes David and I, so you do the math). There were times when we felt very discouraged about the size of our group and considered giving up or joining another group. We began to slack off from inviting our neighbors and we worked ourselves into a rut where it was easy to believe, “okay God, apparently this is all you have for us.” Don’t get me wrong, we saw some amazing growth in our one member and some sweet intimate times where we knew the presence of the Holy Spirit was among us, but it still felt like 3 was not much to write about. Not to mention our one member was not actively involved in a church and we were longing for her to experience life as part of a larger body.
 
After coming back from our trip to the U.S. refreshed in the newness of God’s love and call for the people of Paraguay we were committed to once again inviting people and praying for God to make our group a place of acceptance and outreach to the lost. Before we had time to move beyond prayer, a lady in our church approached me and told me they would like to visit our Life Group. That same week a woman I have been discipling who had just become a believer last summer, messaged me and told me she was committed to becoming more a part of the body of Christ this year with or without the support of her family and asked that we pray for her family. We looked to move the night of our Life Group to accommodate these new families but first checked with our one faithful member to be sure this would work for her. She excitedly agreed and said she could come direct from her job. Our first night we opened our doors and were surprised to find more than just a few people waiting to join us. By the second week we had filled every seat in our living room and the doorbell kept ringing, to the point I was thinking, “who could that possibly be? Everyone who knows about this group is already here!”
 
One day a few weeks ago, I drove into my driveway rushing to get lunch prepared and head off to pick up Isabel from school, when I spotted our sweet elderly widowed neighbor sitting out in front of her home. I felt like I should go and visit with her, but I knew it would cost me precious time. As I entered the house I decided, “fine God, have it your way, I’ll take the puppy outside to do his business and if afterward she is still there I’ll talk to her.” I turned the corner and there she was, all smiles. Turns out she was too busy to talk much but we exchanged a few words and I invited her to our study that night. Much to my surprise she said, “Sure, why not. Can you have David come by and walk me over?” She left our group that night not having said much during our time with the Lord, but was quick to tell us all she would see us next week and not to forget her. She has been coming now for close to a month and is seeing the power in prayer as others in the group pray for and over her.
 
The friend who is a new believer did come as did her husband. He agreed to alternate visiting life group and church with her maybe once a month--So far he has been doing both. His very first night at our group he told everyone he is not a believer but that he sees the difference this has made in his wife and he is searching and wants God to be real to him at more than just a head knowledge.
 
The second week of our study our faithful long time member shared the vision part of our time together, which sets the stage for why it is we come together and study, worship and pray. She shared Romans 12:2 that calls us all not to be conformed by the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. She then walked us through the picture God had given her of how we trudge though the world so much that it can’t help but stick to us, but when we come together in Life Group it’s a place where everything in the world can get stripped away and we can see the truth, the renewal, of what God has planned for each of us in his kingdom and as part of his body. It was so powerful that we honestly could have ended our time right there and all walked away praising the Lord. Both David and I were almost brought to tears as we saw how God has grown her over this year into a leader who speaks truth with such humility and power.
 
It would be easy for us to have thrown in the towel when it looked like Life Group wasn’t working out. That we were big fat failures and should apparently find a different day job. But God had something precious he has been doing during all this time. I’ve said before that if God moved me to Paraguay with the intent to reach just one person that it would be worthwhile. I’m seeing now how that looks in God’s economy and how he can then take that one and do more amazing things than we could ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:2)
 
As part of this call our family has answered in coming to Paraguay, each of you reading this is such an integral part. You walk with us through the valleys and pray with us when we can’t seem to see beyond the suffocating presence of this world that sticks to us. Thank you for continuing to partner alongside us. Take a look at the prayer updates in the left margin for current ways you can continue to pray. If you would like to receive more regular updates on ways you can pray, please send us an email and let us know you would like to be added to our Paraguay Prayer Warriors email and/or Facebook list.

 
In Christ,
 
David & Rebecca
Elizabeth, Lucas and Isabel

 

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Live Update

Posted by David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz have moved from San Antonio, Texas to Paraguay to join the Lord in what He is already ...
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on Tuesday, 07 February 2017
in New and Updates

Watch Our Live Update from
Sunday, January 8th, 2017


For those of you who were unable to attend our live update about what God is doing in Paraguay on Sunday, January 8th, 2017, you can watch the video by clicking here.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers.
               
In Christ,

David & Rebecca Ortiz

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Becoming Less of a Leader

Posted by David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz have moved from San Antonio, Texas to Paraguay to join the Lord in what He is already ...
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on Tuesday, 27 September 2016
in New and Updates

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.-John 3:30 (NLT)

As a former officer in the U.S. Air Force, a faculty member at a large university, and then a medical director in a local physician group in San Antonio, I have filled my head and put into practice multiple leadership maxims.  Some leadership principles were lofty, such as “managers do things right, leaders do the right thing”, “lead from the front”, “don’t ask anyone to do anything you don’t first do yourself” and some not-so-lofty ones, such as, “if you want something done right, do it yourself”.  So, naturally, I approached leading others to Christ and making disciple-makers with these same tried and true leadership techniques, but the results were usually well short of my expectations. Though I would never admit it out loud, I was disappointed and frustrated in myself and in those that I was discipling and, when it came right down to it, disappointed in God.  In my disappointment, I found myself trying “harder”, using more human wisdom, trying to do more (more in-depth and frequent Bible studies, presenting more “methods”, “techniques”, “programs”, most of them from Christian books and authors), but finding that seemingly nothing “worked” in producing spiritual fruit in those around me or in myself.
 
Then last year, during a CrossBridge Community Church mission trip to Paraguay, our team led a discipleship-training seminar at our local church here in Paraguay.  One of our team members, Bill Branstetter, challenged all of us to ask ourselves the question, “Am I leading in a way that is spreading the gospel unto the ends of the earth?”  When I asked myself that question, the answer was, “No, I'm not. But how do I do that?”  As I listened for God's answer, He began to show me that the problem wasn’t that I was using the wrong methods or techniques, but that I was trying to do too much in my own power, instead of letting Him do the work.  He made it clear that He wasn’t asking me to lead others with human wisdom, He was asking me to lead others to His feet (a very important distinction). 
 
In the story about Jesus healing a paralyzed man (Mark 2:1-17), the paralyzed man’s friends showed great faith by making a way despite the crowd standing between their friend and Jesus. They went so far as to dig a hole in the roof in order to bring their friend to the feet of Jesus. Then they disappear from the story, which becomes all about Jesus going to the root of the man’s problem and healing his heart (forgiving his sins) and then healing his physical condition.  The friends’ role was just to get the man to Jesus, who then did the rest.  And that's what I had been missing. What needed to change was that I needed to do “less” and make room for Jesus to move more and transform lives.  So, practically speaking, what did that look like for me?  In my discipling efforts and the weekly Bible study I have with residents at the hospital, I began to do less and let others be more involved. I mentioned including worship in our weekly meetings, but instead of offering to lead and play guitar (which I could do), I simply mentioned the idea and then said nothing.  Immediately, two residents jumped in and said, “Yes, we’ve felt the same thing! We have a guitar and would like to pick songs to sing”.  Since then, I haven't led worship once; the group doesn’t even know that I play guitar. The resident-led worship we have each week has given the Holy Spirit more room to move in our meetings, more than any amount of "quality leadership" on my part could have done.  I also stopped leading the study every week and asked others to lead (including those who are just now starting their walk with Jesus) and they have invariably stepped up.  Here are some of the other changes I’m happy to report since I began leading less:
 
-Two residents decided to begin prayer meetings once a week before work and have begun inviting their co-workers to join them. 
-Several residents have joined with nurses who also follow Jesus and go around the wards singing worship songs to patients, which is extremely meaningful to patients and their families in this culture where music plays a large role.
-One week when it was my turn to lead the study, I had a sudden conflict and elected to cancel the study, as I was modeling a new way to facilitate and wanted to make sure the group had a good example to follow (without realizing it, I was making it about ME again).  The next day, two residents from the study walked up to me and very respectfully said, “Doc, don’t cancel the weekly study again. We really feel that the Lord doesn’t want us to stop meeting.  We lose momentum when we do that.  We’re perfectly capable of running it when you’re gone, just let us take care of it next time you can’t come”.  I can’t remember ever being so happy to be chastised!
 
We praise and thank God that He is teaching us to lead less and to let Him be more.  We also encourage you to ask God, “In my workplace/family/neighborhood, where do I need to become less so that you can show yourself more?”
 
Thank you for continuing to partner with us in prayer and encouragement as we see the Kingdom of God spreading in Paraguay.
 
In Christ,
 
David & Rebecca

 

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Trials and Joy

Posted by David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz have moved from San Antonio, Texas to Paraguay to join the Lord in what He is already ...
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on Saturday, 13 July 2013
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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” James 1:2-4 (NIV)

The Lord is powerful and faithful!  He has definitely taught us that over the past few months as we near our time to depart for Paraguay.  He has also given us a new understanding of His word in James as to why we should be joyful “when we face trials of many kinds.”  Six months ago, we were facing the following trials as a family:

-David’s worsening back pain that would require surgery

-Preparing and Selling two homes (ours and Rebecca’s Dad’s)

-Selling two household’s worth of furniture and goods

-If both houses sold prior to our leaving, finding a place to stay until our departure

-Raising the remaining 25% of our support

-David unexpectedly assuming the role of interim program director at his job and trying to recruit a new resident class in the midst of profound changes at his hospital

-Finding the right plane tickets to travel in September that would maximize our allowed baggage

-The Paraguayan authorities requiring additional documentation before they would even consider David’s application for a medical license

We are happy to report that there is joy when passing through trials, not because of any efforts we make, but because if we keep our eyes on Jesus and do not focus on ourselves or our earthly circumstances, He keeps his promise found in Isaiah 43:2: 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

As we walked through the trials of the past few months, we learned that not only would God’s Holy Spirit and God’s Word sustain us, but also God’s people would be there to walk alongside us.  Through all of the above circumstances, whether it be members of our Life Group, friends, our church, neighbors, or just buyers we met through Craig’s List, the Lord continually provided people to buy, help, pray, encourage, commit to support us and in some cases, completely take burdens off of us.  We are overwhelmed with thankfulness. Because of God’s provisions through His Spirit, His Word and His people, we can now report:

-David’s back surgery went well, he has recovered and is almost back to 100%

-Both our home and Bob’s home sold in less than a week with no complications

-All of the household items and furniture we are not taking with us have been sold

-Friends from our Life Group have arranged for us to stay at their parents’ furnished home for the month August until we leave in September

-We have pledged commitments for 100% of our support

-David managed to successfully navigate the residency program through a difficult time of transition and his replacement as program director starts on July 15th. David will then hand over the reigns of the program and a great new class of residents

-We have purchased our plane tickets and will depart September 10th hopefully with 25 bags

-We were able to provide the requested documentation for the Paraguayan authorities.  These documents are now being translated and undergoing Paraguayan legal review.  Once that is completed, they will be submitted to the National University for their review. 

We don’t know how long it will take the National University to determine if they will grant David a Paraguayan medical license, but we are confident that the Lord will provide, through His Spirit, His Word and His people, just as He did in all of the other trying circumstances.

As for joy coming at the end of trials, in the midst of the most trying times, we were surprised to learn that Rebecca is pregnant!  This was definitely not in our plans, but the Lord’s plans are far above ours. She is due to deliver in January of 2014, by which time we will be in Paraguay.  Although she has struggled with morning sickness, the baby appears to be completely health. We thank God and praise Him for the wonderful blessing of another child!

Please pray:

-That God would work in the hearts of the Paraguayan people to bring freedom and revival in that nation and already be orchestrating relationships for us with people who are seeking the Lord

-The final details of the move, to include packing our suitcases and the airline allowing the extra bags

-That our family would stay focused on Jesus as we go through the move, culture shock, new  environments, language training and learning to love others in a completely different culture

-Grace in the eyes of the Paraguayan authorities as they review David’s medical license application

-That David would be granted a medical license without restrictions

-That God would stretch our funds and allow our current budget to accommodate a new baby

-Protection for Rebecca and the new baby and wisdom for our family as we try to plan for the cost of the delivery and find obstetrical care to deliver in a Paraguayan hospital

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In the Thick of it

Posted by David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz have moved from San Antonio, Texas to Paraguay to join the Lord in what He is already ...
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on Wednesday, 06 February 2013
in New and Updates

We are still awaiting word on David’s medical license. This past week the National University went on strike and we have been checking to be sure David’s papers are not “lost” in the process. Other ways you can partner with us in prayer:

*We list our house on March 1 and are asking God to bring the right buyer

*David is facing back surgery

*We still have about 25% of our monthly support budget to raise

*We have confirmed we will be leaving in September and are looking for tickets

It seems the closer we get to our departure the more the enemy looks for ways to distract and frustrate. He’s not particularly creative, but he’s persistent. The verse the Lord keeps using to encourage me is from 1 Peter 4:12—I love the way the Message phrases it—Friends, when life gets really difficult (you get thrust into a new job, the military sends you discharge papers, you suddenly can’t do normal tasks like tying your shoes, your child gets a fierce stomach virus & the garage door breaks while you are cleaning up the mess--trapping your car inside), don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

When I take my eyes off of my circumstances, emotions and the physical things and set my focus on higher things, I can see that God is refining me. I realize that just like I pray for my kids to have teachable hearts, God desires for me to remain in a place where he can mold me. When I do this I can “be confident, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6) So I can have God’s peace and regardless of the troubles I face, I can “take heart [because Jesus has] overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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A Call to Prayer this Sunday…

Posted by David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz have moved from San Antonio, Texas to Paraguay to join the Lord in what He is already ...
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on Saturday, 01 December 2012
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WHAT WE’RE ASKING: Come pray with us during the prayer time in the first service at CrossBridge this Sunday (December 2). We’ll be at the front left corner of the worship area praying over some very urgent needs for our ministry to Paraguay.  In the event that the sermon runs long and they don’t call for a time of prayer please meet us just after they start the last worship song.

WHAT’S THE BACKGROUND: God has filled us with a passion to see the Holy Spirit draw the hearts of the Paraguayan people into relationship with Him.  We’ve been called to minister to the great spiritual and physical needs through teaching and medical ministry. In order to practice medicine, David’s U.S. medical license has to be revalidated so that he can receive a Paraguayan medical license.  The most crucial step in this process is approval by the National University in Asunción.

We have shared with many of you that we recently received the discouraging news that another American physician there who submitted his medical license for validation at the National University was denied.

Just this week, we learned that the receiving office at the National University is setting up significant obstacles to accepting David’s papers for review. We are attempting to meet their demands and overcome those obstacles, but if we cannot, our application will also be denied.  We believed there might be other recourses for validating David’s degree, but learned this week that the National University is the only pathway for revalidation, and if unsuccessful, there is no way to appeal. 

OUR PRAYER: That God will soften hearts and that the National University will receive, review & approve David’s medical degree. Right now every earthly thing says this is impossible, the odds are stacked against it. But here’s the thing: nothing has changed spiritually—we still know with certainty God is calling us to move to Paraguay and we serve a God who is not bound by our ways and our thoughts…in fact he tells us his ways and his thoughts are higher then ours (Isaiah 55:9)

Even with this certainty, I’ve wrestled with God asking, “why does it have to be so hard?” And in His faithfulness he reminded me of how the Promised Land, filled with a great army of giants to fight, must have looked to the Israelites and how Joshua must have felt as he marched against Jericho with a plan that in human eyes was absurd.  My prayer has become, “Lord give me faith like you gave to Caleb & Joshua.” “Help me focus on the greatness of the God I serve and not on the seemingly insurmountable circumstances in front of me.”

In response to my prayer the Lord lovingly led me to these verses and I’ve included His sweet encouragement in parenthesis.

In Matthew 28:18 Jesus comes and tells the disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. (Rebecca, remember I have all authority—even over your circumstances). Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. (My call to you to go and make disciples in Paraguay has not changed & your going is not dependent on your circumstances). And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Sweet daughter, I don’t ask you to go alone. I promise, I’ll be right there with you).

Then in Acts 1:8  He reminds me…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. (Not only will I go with you, but I’ll give you my power so that…) you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…to the ends of the earth. “

(And if all that is not enough daughter, look at what I have planned for the future, here is what I’m going to reveal by my power & for my glory. It’s why I’ve put this desire in your heart for Paraguay…)

Romans 15:19-23 They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit…My ambition has always been to preach the Good Newswhere the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says, “Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” 

By His Power and In His Grace,

Rebecca

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Land of Contrasts

Posted by David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz
David and Rebecca Ortiz have moved from San Antonio, Texas to Paraguay to join the Lord in what He is already ...
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on Tuesday, 20 November 2012
in New and Updates

Land of Contrasts.  That’s amongst the many descriptions of Paraguay.  During my week-and-a-half there, while I taught at two Family Medicine residency programs, visited with family and friends, worked on getting my medical degree revalidated, met about future job opportunities with members of the local medical community and worked with a local church missionary team, I also saw and experienced some stark reminders as to how Paraguay earned that title.  Some of the contrasts that stood out in my mind:

-Driving in an air-conditioned sports utility vehicle on a smooth, six-lane, paved highway with stoplights that have a digital timer display to countdown how many seconds are left before the light turns green or red...and riding in the back of a pickup truck to a house Life Group meeting in an impoverished rural community, where the directions not only included the phrase “turn off the paved road”, but also “turn off the dirt road and follow the tire tracks in the grass clearing...”

-Seeing a brand-new Pediatric ward at a local hospital with staffing and equipment that would seem right in place at the most modern hospital in San Antonio...and visiting a public hospital a few miles away where patients lie on left-over army litter stretchers on the floor literally outside the regular wards because of lack of regular hospital beds, and only have the outer building awning to protect them from the elements.

-Seeing young people text and surf the internet on their iPhones in an air-conditioned mall while wearing designer clothes...and seeing a young homeless boy probably about eight years old in tattered clothing standing in a ditch by the road, staring off into space...because there was absolutely nothing else for him to do or hope for.

I also saw and felt the spiritual oppression in Paraguay like I hadn’t before and saw the huge need for the freedom that only Christ can give to people, people like:

...the couple with an “alternative” lifestyle sitting behind me on the plane ride there...

...the retired professional couple who have been married for decades and live in the same house but live life and sleep separately, because they’re powerless to heal the hurts in their marriage on their own and have quit trying...

...the single mother who feels angry and hopeless because she sees her adult son making the same mistakes she did in living a life of sin and who won’t listen to her warning pleas to change...

...the mother who has seen three different physicians who don’t seem to be able to give her an answer or relieve her daughter’s headaches despite undergoing multiple expensive medical tests and who is willing to do anything out of desperation to help her daughter, including turning to “home” remedies prescribed by the local witch doctor...

But as I was feeling discouraged and helpless in the face of the spiritual darkness I saw, the Lord graciously opened my eyes to see how He is at work to bring freedom and light to the Paraguayan people and nation...

...through the Christian business manager who after working his full time day job spends several evening hours during the week volunteering and traveling with a local missionary in both urban and rural areas to disciple and run several Life Groups in people’s homes...

...in the neighborhood Family Physician who this year decided to start an after-hours Bible study at her clinic for her patients, and saw two people who attended give their lives to Jesus last month...

...in the six teenagers from a poor, rural community, who, defying peer, cultural and family pressures, meet every week at a house Life Group to learn about the Bible...

...in the eight people, some of them teenage girls who have escaped abusive situations and now live in a foster home, who gave their lives to Jesus at a church service I attended Sunday night...

Out of our own strength, fulfilling Jesus’ commands given in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 is hopeless..which is exactly why in both passages Jesus also tells us that He has all authority in Heaven and on Earth, He will always be with us until the end and He will give us power through the Holy Spirit.  Our hope is not that we will break the chains of spiritual oppression in those around us, but that Jesus will.  All we have to do is obey Him in faith and allow Him to do his work through us.  

Isn’t God great?

Prayer Requests:

-That the Holy Spirit would start a true revival in Paraguay.

-David’s medical degree now goes to the National University for revalidation.  This is very likely the key step in this process.  Please pray for grace in the eyes of the reviewers and that they would revalidate the whole medical degree and not just portions of it (which would require David to repeat those parts of medical school).

-For wisdom in the timing of our move next year.

-For protection against spiritual attacks as we get closer to the move.

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