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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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Evidence of His Power

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 Monday, 30 November 2015
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Have you ever come to a point where you feel like you’ve reached the end of yourself? The end of your capacity to do, achieve, make right, feel good, or turn things around?

When you hear songs about being broken and empty so that you can be brought to a place where God is “your one and only desire”, do you relate to that because you’ve truly experienced brokenness or does it just stir you up because it's good music?

If I’m honest, I’d tell you that for many years, these words were on my lips as words of praise, but I didn’t truly know what it would feel like to come to the end of myself. To look at my oikos (those in my life, my sphere of ministry) and say, “God I have no idea what to do. I feel like I’m drowning here and every now and then an oar of life comes along and rather than lifting me up it smacks me on the back of the head. And what’s more is somewhere along the line I grew numb and stopped caring. I don’t doubt the truth of who you are or that you desire to work through me in your plan to expand your kingdom, but I’ve just got nothing.” And in that moment you either sink and give up or you begin to learn a new level of dependence on the Lord. You “come to him (because) he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God.” (Isaiah 30:18)

Our past two years have been spent developing relationships, living where God has placed us and reaching out (somewhat awkwardly at times) to just love people where He has put us. We have experienced a house fire our second day in our home and the fairly traumatic birth of our 3rd child.  We have been swindled, hit up for bribes by the police, Rebecca and the kids were in a hit-and-run auto accident, and our house burglarized—all in a period of 2 years. This truthfully felt like more than enough to handle. We could see God’s hand and we were learning to trust him at a deeper level, walking in a new level of humility and submission. And then this September rolled around and (as most of you already know) Bob, Rebecca’s Dad went to be with Jesus. There was no warning, no time to react or plan or really even say goodbye. And our world just stopped. None of us have ever walked through grief like this before. We still have no idea what we are doing or how to go forward.  To make matters worse, David’s dad was experiencing serious complications from a surgery and was being hospitalized the very day we learned that Bob had died. Even as we boarded our flight to San Antonio for Bob’s funeral, David’s dad’s situation became more serious and he would require 2 more surgeries over a period of 3 weeks. Ultimately, part of our family flew back to Paraguay early for fear that we would be saying goodbye to another Grandpa.

These details are not given so you can feel sorry for our situation or so you can look at it and think, “gee, I’m really glad that’s not us. I don’t think I could do that.” But I share this so I can tell you, we have had to land on our knees with a new level of crying out to God. Most days we are still walking through a kind of numbness. On almost every level of life and ministry Bob was a key part, often behind the scenes. I’ve found myself asking, “God, I can’t even get myself together, how in the world can I reach out to others?” In his goodness and mercy God has answered this beautifully in a way that really shows his power displayed more greatly through our weakness.

Shortly after returning to Paraguay from Bob’s funeral, I was at lunch with a friend. This is a friend whom our family has prayed for repeatedly and yet we have seen very little interest or receptiveness to spiritual things. During lunch, I shared how I was grateful that walking through loss and grief for the first time with our kids was happening with someone like Bob, who was a believer. Because of this I could tell Elizabeth and Lucas with confidence that Grandpa knew Jesus as his savior and was very definitely in heaven with the Lord. My friend then gently and with true child-like curiosity asked, “How do you really know that? I mean, what about other faiths? Or really good people? How do you explain that to the kids?” I then began to walk her through God’s plan of salvation starting from the beginning and sharing how unlike any other religion, God’s story is one of pursuit, of reaching down and suffering with/for his people, all so he could redeem them. No other religion offers that. I can’t even recall all of the specific words that I shared. As I later realized, there was scripture coming out of me that I didn’t even know was in there. And all the while the “feelings” part of me was truthfully still very numb with grief. I wasn’t looking for an opportunity to share or preach at my friend and I wasn’t worried about what words I used or if I would offend. I was numb.  But none of that mattered. That day God included me in what He was doing. I was able to be his light just by being willing to be there and letting him shine through.

My mistake is thinking that somehow God is relying on me to do or say something significant. I think that if I bake enough meals or reach out to enough people that it will be my love that softens their hearts. But all it took was that one lunch for me to realize, “nope it really isn’t about me.” God’s purposes will be accomplished. They will not be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

So I’ve stopped worrying so much about having a plan, checking off a list of who I shared with that day or had an impact on. Instead, I wake up each day, often dragging myself out of bed, with a new level of commitment to prayer, knowing I cannot make it through the day without him. Then I simply put myself before the throne saying, “God, you know my heart. I’m here. I’m an open vessel to be used by you for your glory. Take all your power and make it shine beautifully through my weakness.”

We are each claiming the truth of Isaiah 30:20-21 and 41:31, “Though the Lord gave [me] adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with [me] to teach [me]. [I] will see [my] teacher with [my] own eyes. [My very] own ears will hear him. Right behind [me] a voice will say, “This is the way you should go.”  [And because of this we know]  “those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

In Christ,

Rebecca

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Fishers of Men

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 Sunday, 05 April 2015
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"Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Matthew 4:19 (NIV)
 
"I spent forty minutes talking to her about the Bible," a resident named Dora* said to me last week about a conversation she had just had with another resident, "and she wouldn't change her mind or believe."
 
As Dora shared this story, with a hint of frustration in her voice, she didn't realize that her offhand comment was an answer to over two years of prayer.  Our desire in coming to Paraguay was to see the Lord raise up His disciples who would then go out and make other disciples.  With this objective in mind, over the past five weeks, David has been meeting weekly with a group of residents for discipleship and spiritual "boot camp" training.  Dora had only attended three of the sessions and had not been the most vocal participant, which left David wondering how much had been sinking in.  David had also been frustrated by trying to get the residents to actually apply what they were learning during the week, and frankly, if he had to pick someone, he would not have thought Dora would be the one who would witness to her colleagues.  So when she talked about reaching out to her colleagues and sharing about Jesus, it reminded David that he shouldn't presume to know whose heart God is working in and no matter how long someone has been a believer, the Holy Spirit can still breath new life resulting in a renewed passion for sharing Jesus with others.
 
When Jesus called the first disciples, he was pretty clear on what that meant.  In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, "Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  When we commit to following Jesus, through his power, He makes us into bearers of the good news and ambassadors for Him (2 Corinthians 5:20).  Jesus reiterates that principle in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and again in Acts 1:8.  So when Dora made the effort, despite a busy physician's schedule, being a single mother, and living in a culture where studying the Bible, listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit is not considered "normal", Jesus began working in her heart to give her both the desire and the ability to share the Good News of His salvation.

If what Jesus said is true in that when we follow Him He will make us fishers of men, why don't we see this sharing of the gospel more in our own lives and in the lives of others who claim to be His followers?  Perhaps we don't really understand what our primary purpose is when we decide to follow Jesus, as mentioned in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8.  Maybe, like Dora, we shared the gospel with someone, only to have them reject it, and we got discouraged and gave up, forgetting that people didn't believe Jesus himself when He spoke to them about God's kingdom (John 10:25).  Or maybe we've tried to usurp his role and forgotten that God only calls us to be obedient and share and not assume the burden of changing the other person's heart, which is the Holy Spirit's job (John 16:8-9).  Or maybe we don't know how to share the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15).  Sometimes, we may not be willing to pay the cost of following Jesus (Luke 14:25-33).  At other times we allow sin to entangle us and distract us (Hebrews 12:1) or we don't truly have God's heart and love for those that are lost (1 Timothy 2:3-4).  Whatever the reason may be, God doesn't condemn us as His children (Romans 8:1-2) when we fall short, but is waiting for us to turn to Him and claim His promise in Phillipians 4:13, that He will work in us to will and to act according to His good purpose and make us fishers of men.  

As we've mentioned before, just being overseas and wearing the job title of missionary does not give us an exempt pass from the difficulties of sharing the gospel or even our God-story. If anything the new language and cultural barriers make that even harder. This encounter with Dora was a reminder that we too need to push ourselves each day beyond what's comfortable. Go out on the street and meet the neighbor that you haven't even seen in the year and half that you've lived there.  Don't just wave at the elderly widow as you pass by, stop and talk to her.  Invite the interruptions to your day, and keep trying to make connections with the other parents at the kids' school, even if you feel like the odd-man-out. The reality is that in light of a faith that is worthless without the resurrection, what are we doing just walking through the motions of life? If we are not proclaiming the truth of our miraculous salvation and the love of a God that threw it all out there for us, then we are no better off than the guy who looks in the mirror and then walks away forgetting what he looks like (James 1:23-24). God is calling all of us to be a new generation that wakes up and responds to his call to go and make disciples.

Please continue to pray that God would raise up fishers of men in Paraguay.  Pray for us as we disciple those around us and ask the Lord to fill them with the Holy Spirit so that they would boldly proclaim the message of God's salvation through Christ Jesus.

In Him,
 
David, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Lucas & Isabel

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God's Love Story

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 Sunday, 30 November 2014
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What the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them--living and breathing God!  Romans 8: 4-6 (Message)
 
It might come as a surprise to you (I know it did to me), that the biggest individual obstacle keeping people from surrendering to Jesus here in Paraguay (much like in the U.S.) is the misconception that a relationship with Jesus is really just a set of rules, of “do’s and don’ts”. Or it’s the misunderstanding that faith is something inherited, much like green eyes or skin coloring.
 
So when we attempt to start spiritual conversations it’s often met with a head nod, but inward thoughts of “yep, got that. I know who God is.” Or in one case I overheard one well-meaning person say to another who was in tears as the Holy Spirit began stirring things up, “well don’t worry, there is no need for tears, its not like you’ve done anything that bad.”
 
At some point along the way, many people have accepted that God’s intent is to impose a list of "do’s" and "don'ts" that will somehow make us into better people, sort of like a year-round version of Santa Claus, keeping his list and checking it twice. And it has encouraged the idea that if you haven't really done anything "that bad," then you are probably in the good graces of God, with an eternal reservation in heaven. End of story.
 
The problem is, the real story is nothing like that. Our life here and the choices we make are all only part of Phase I of the great story God has been writing since the time of Adam and Eve. God is the great romancer of this story and each one of us is his beloved. So what does it look like to be romanced by God? In a dating relationship, I think of a guy wooing and pursuing a woman. I think of flowers, date nights, moonlit conversations lasting late into the evenings, colored with laughter and stories that communicate a shared knowledge of each others’ past, creating a deeper sense of knowing the other person and true intimacy.  I also think of time, spending lots of time together--getting to know each other and deepening the relationship. A deepening that comes through sharing hard times, fatigue, joys and hurts.  We usually DON'T picture a first date where one of the individuals hands the other a list of rules and explains that every week they will be evaluated on how well they did or didn’t do and that a second date will be determined by whether or not they managed to do enough of the things on the "good" list (although this does sound like a reality TV series). Nor do we think of relationships without the key component of time invested in the other person.
 
So, what does all this have to do with ministry in Paraguay?  God is about reconciling the world and everything in it to himself through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:20).  He is out to show the world that he pursues us as his beloved and wants a relationship with us, one based on love, not rules or a scoring system. And God calls us to walk out a life of love demonstrating it to others. We are the tangible presence of His love.

We can't be His love if we hibernate in our houses tied to our TVs, social media, and overstuffed schedules. We have to protect time and use it to invest in relationships. It's not a one-time visit, it takes patience, persistence, a willingness to love others even when they are not “loveable” and to show through both words and actions that our love, just like God’s, does not depend on performance. We have to show others by our actions that we love and value them as the precious creations they are in God's sight. To God the Father, each and every one of us was worth the sacrifice of Jesus. But people won't know or see that if we don't live outwardly. We must take that love outside our home, our church, our family.  For us here in Paraguay that's been hard (I'm not sure why I thought because we were responding to God's call on our hearts that it would be easy). We have had to be willing to let go of everything we thought we knew in order to learn from God a completely different, and at times painstakingly slow, way of sharing our lives with those around us. Not seeing immediate results isn't easy, but think of the time God patiently invests in us. It's worth it if by our lives lived in community here, we can show people God's great romance lived out.  Our prayer is that the words of truth we’ve been speaking from the beginning come alive by the power of the Holy Spirit as eyes are opened and hearts can truly see their need for Jesus.
 
As you go about engaging the world in the place God has you, please remember us and those that we are loving for Jesus in Paraguay in your prayers. Pray that God would open doors to building authentic relationships and that people would see in us the very same kind of brokenness and helplessness that they experience knowing Jesus is the only way. Ask God to fling open wide his gates that those around us would hunger for spiritual things and seek Jesus not a poor substitute. Continue to pray that we would be bold in the face of skepticism and unbelief. 
 
In Christ,
 
David, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Lucas & Isabel

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Finding Him in the Struggles

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, 17 June 2014
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Finding Him in the Struggles

When we get ready to send a ministry update, we usually like to share stories about all we see God doing and maybe even a funny story about our adaptation to a different culture. But as I was praying this time about what God would have us share about the past three months, images flooded my mind about all the trials and challenges we’ve faced and the just plain bad days. Then the immediate follow-up thought was…they don’t want to hear this Lord. They want to hear something that will uplift and encourage them. And God’s resounding answer was, “Share about the struggles. I’m in the difficulties too. Even when you can’t see it.”
 
Now it might be helpful to know I had been reading from Job 33:12-30 that morning and as God taught me from his word I can also say, nothing we have experienced even comes close to the suffering Job endured. But nonetheless God used this chapter to remind me of several things:

  • God always answers, even when we don’t recognize it.
  • God may choose to speak to us to keep us from heading in a certain direction.
  • God may speak to us through pain.
  • God might need to bring us to our knees in prayer so that we will sing his praises and give testimony about all he has done in us.
  • God is constantly pulling our souls back from destruction, so we will see and live in the light.

Over a period of just two days we were shocked to learn that someone close to us had been mugged and a neighborhood family suffered a home break-in that resulted in the loss of a loved one. Our first thoughts were, “God why did we come and bring our family here?” And then we heard that still small voice that reminded us that He had brought us here…it wasn’t by our choice. And when has God ever brought anyone anywhere without going with them? Does this mean that God promises us the road will be easy and that we will always walk in safety and never experience pain? Clearly not—just look at the life of Job. The question we ask God is not “will you be there?” To quote a book I finished recently,  “We know, deep down, that the Father loves us and will take care of us—but we want to settle for much less. We want the form of protection to be our way—according to our shortsighted desire to avoid pain—rather than his way. And he has the welfare of the whole universe in his plan. What our flesh feels—what our heart says to us when it’s breaking—is usually about the pain, rather than God’s plan for the human race.” (Craig Parshall in Custody of the State)
 
In the past three months, we’ve:

  • Shared our faith with people in our neighborhood yet not seen any response
  • Shared one-verse evangelism with the residents at the hospital, only to receive silence afterwards
  • Invested in relationships with ladies only to have them stop responding to our communication attempts
  • Looked to be part of a life group where we can learn what will work culturally here in Paraguay, only to be frustrated that nothing looks quite like the ideal of everyone (including kids) coming together and sharing a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, etc. (1 Cor 14:26)
  • Met new families and shared about Jesus only to learn that their interest in anything spiritual only extends as far as it would be of educational benefit to their children

So how do we wade through all of these things and not getting bogged down in discouragement? To be honest, some days we don’t. Some days are very hard and we fall way short of being filled with anything remotely looking like the joy that God gives us. But that is why God bothered to fill scripture with words that speak to the heart of the matter. You see, nothing we are experiencing is new. The trials and frustrations we face are not that different from what you face in your week. There is this common misconception that it takes a special breed of Christian to be called to missions or overseas ministry, but the reality is that we are just as broken as the rest of the sinners that God has redeemed. We struggle to see how to share our faith, worry about the futures of our children, try our best not to disappoint our spouses, and wage the battle with demanding schedules so full that we wonder where does God have time to fit into the picture, much less be the center of it. Yet despite the discouraging days, we will press on because we know that our struggle is common to those who say yes to Jesus and his promises to us all are worth holding onto. Let us all be encouraged by Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4 (The Message paraphrase)…
 
“Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves [or those around us]. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.”
 
“If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention”…”Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are his messengers, errand runners from Jesus”…”If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that”…
 
”So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”
 
Thank you for your faithful support, for coming along side us in prayer—continuing to stand in the gap for the people of Paraguay. Pray with us that God would bring about revival here and that there would be no place for evil to reside in the hearts of men, because they would be so full of His Holy Spirit.
 
God continues to open doors for new relationships and is making inroads as we meet people in the midst of their hurt and pain. Pray that the veil of deceit would be lifted and people would see and believe that Jesus truly is the only answer.

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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
in New and Updates

“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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Prayer Update - Medical License

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, 11 December 2012
in From our Hearts
A huge thank you to all of you who came to pray with us a few weeks ago and for those of you who encouraged us in prayer from a distance--even engaging your church bodies to pray along with us. 
 
We wanted to update you that David's medical papers have been accepted for review at the National University. According to what we've been told, it will now be a minimum of three months before we know more (this does not include the 2 month holiday they are currently on). 
 
We continue to pray and believe that the Lord will work all things for the good of those who love him according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). 
 
We are grateful for all of you taking this walk of faith with us. Many of you have asked us with bewilderment, "But why aren't they excited about an American doctor coming and wanting to help?" As I've reflected on this, the Lord has reminded me that everywhere his kingdom is expanding, there is an opposing force from the enemy working hard against that growth (1 Corinthians 16:9). I can't help but think of Newton's third law (okay, sorry it's the engineer in me) that says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. But here is the cool part--God tells us there is definitely an opposite reaction from the enemy, but rest assured it is not equal! (Hebrews 2:14)
 
As we prayed with you that morning, the lyrics from the worship song still hung in the air...our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other...For if our God is for us, then who can ever stop us and if our God is with us than what could stand against? (click here to hear it on YouTube)
 
So be encouraged and please continue to pray with us, putting on the armor of God--ready for the battle (Ephesians 6:12). We hold fast to the promise from John 14:27, that he has left us with a gift--peace of mind and heart. And the peace [he] give[s] [us] is a gift the world cannot give. So [we won't] be troubled or afraid.
 
For Him & by His Grace,
Rebecca
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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
in New and Updates

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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Going to the Ends of the Earth

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, 16 June 2012
in From our Hearts

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NIV)

As Rebecca and I have been meeting with individuals and families to share our hearts for ministry, one of the most rewarding things has been the surprising amount of people who have expressed some varation of, “as soon as you get to Paraguay and get established, we want to come visit and be a part of what God is doing there.”  Considering the fact that some of these people weren’t really sure where Paraguay was on a map before we met with them, it’s a real encouragement to see and hear how God is moving in the hearts of believers to join Him in what He is doing in Paraguay!

Jesus clearly commanded all of his followers to be his witnesses and take the gospel to their immediate neighborhood and spheres of influence (their Jerusalem), to geographic and cultural areas that are slightly outside believers’ ordinary comfort zone (their Judea and Samaria) and to places and situations completely beyond what believers feel they can do (their “ends of the earth”).  There is no limit to what this can look like, from walking down the street to develop relationships with your neighbors with the purpose of sharing Jesus’ salvation with them, to regularly working at a homeless shelter, to ministering to a different socioeconomic neighborhood in your community, to engaging people of other nationalities who live around you, to going on short-term mission trips to Mexico and overseas, or to choosing to live and become part of the culture in another nation for longer periods of time to be the light of Jesus in that part of the world.  The keys to this concept are that first, there is “no limit”, meaning that we should never limit what God can call us to do, and second, God commands us to continuously be his witnesses and share his salvation to the ends of the earth.  No “one and done”, or “checked that one off the list”, just like as parents, we don’t expect our children to obey us once and then never have to obey us again.

For most believers, this is a very scary concept.  But notice what Jesus says in Acts 1:8-He first promises us the power of the Holy Spirit and then He gives us the command to go.  This is great news!  God doesn't expect us to go to the ends of the earth, or even down the street in our neighborhood alone.  He promises us power from the Holy Spirit to accomplish his commands.  This doesn't mean that we won’t experience doubt or anxiety as we prepare to go.  What it does mean is that when we obey, He will be faithful to His promise to give us power via the Holy Spirit to do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

As you wait before the Lord and ask Him to show you how you should reach out to your Jerusalem, your Judea and Samaria, and to countries and situations well outside your comfort zone (your “the ends of the earth”), know that He promises you His presence and His power though the Holy Spirit when you obey Him.  Let’s be His light to the world!

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