Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian family and friends!
Last night we met in our home as a small group and read together and talked through Acts 12 where Peter was led out of prison in a miraculous act of God. We noticed together the difference between the story of Peter who gave all the glory and praise for his escape to God and the story that follows at the end of the chapter of Herod who did not praise God and was struck down. It was sobering in that while we desire to be thankful and give God the glory in our lives, there are times where we do not acknowledge Him or His gifts to us. We spent time sharing things that we were thankful for – giving God praise for those things in our lives. The miraculous. The necessary. The normal day to day things. Even for some, the mundane.
The items were written on sticky notes and this morning as I was reading them through again, I was reminded of the verse from Acts 17:28 “For in him we live and move and have our being.” Everything is from Him and through Him. And He, who knows our innermost being, desires us to be apart of His grand story.
It’s humbling. It’s awesome! And I am thankful.
And I’m thankful for cranberries for our chicken dinner and pumpkin pie. I’m thankful for simple celebrations and noisy, happy boys. I’m thankful for where I’ve come from and where I’m going. And for the unfailing love and presence of my heavenly Father.
We just returned from the annual pastor’s retreat for the CMA here in Venezuela. It began with an adventurous car ride to the retreat including a blockade and protest, torrential tropical rains, and getting our directions to the retreat location by asking about 7 different people from the pueblo at the base of the mountain where it was held. We were so thankful to travel with one of our local pastors and his leaders as he was our guide and fearless leader as we wound our way through this beautiful countryside! In other words, we would have been terribly lost without him!
The weekend together was rich. Our colleagues from the island led us through teaching of the word and through prayer and reflection times. We love spending time with them and being able to see them loving on and ministering to the leaders here. A father and son from Maracay along with Chris, led us in worship. The worship times were a highlight for us as the most Spirit-filled worship times we have had here in Venezuela. Perhaps, our hearts are beginning to catch up with the language…but there was definitely a special anointing and unity amongst all of us and we are so thankful to be able to share in this time.
While it is a “child-free” weekend, we were invited to bring our boys with us as we didn’t have anyone with whom they could stay in the city. In the end, there was another 4 year old boy and a baby. It was a hard weekend for our boys but it was good they were able to go. We also found it hard and tiring as our hearts and minds were in a lot of directions at once but I am SO thankful for the love that everyone extended to them. After the retreat was over, 3 of the pastors took Chris and the boys on an epic hike high above the camp where we had been staying. It was a highlight for the boys and those men have a special place in the boys’ hearts.
A highlight for us this year was the number of younger leaders that the lead pastors brought with them this year. It is exciting to see the development of these young men and women and to see their love and sacrifice and enthusiasm for Jesus.
There were pastors and leaders from about 10 of the 14 churches here in the country.
We are on a Sabbath journey. We began exploring and doing Sabbath about 6 years ago. I would have thought that by now we would have it all figured out but quite the contrary! This blog post is an experiment that proves I have a long way to go. Why? Well, because I am still trying to figure out what to do and what not do on the days we take as Sabbath. And because I haven’t figured it all out yet, these days can be quite difficult.
Angela suggested this morning that I write a blog post because when I started blogging about 7 or 8 years ago, it was a creative outlet for me. It was a joy. Now it has become a chore. Or at least when I think about it in terms of keeping our senders and supporters informed. I have found in my life that when something I enjoy doing becomes my work, the joy diminishes to the point of loathing. This happened with music years ago. And writing has followed a similar pattern. Not that anybody is keeping track but I haven’t posted on our blog yet this year! But maybe a change in perspective (on my part) can change a few things. Maybe writing can bring life and draw out creativity in me again. Time will tell.
But there is irony in this very day of Sabbath because my boss insisted I take today as a Sabbath day. In fact, he told me to take Thursday to Saturday as a Sabbath rest. So, I could go as far as to say that I have to Sabbath for work but I am hoping that Sabbath will grow into something really good rather than lose its allure like music and writing. I’m glad he told me to do this, though. He has learned a few things about resting and he knows that resting well is easily neglected by international workers and burnout takes many workers out of the field quickly and permanently.
It’s so easy to forget that Sabbath is not just a great suggestion but a command. Yup – a command! It’s one of the big 10! It’s up there with “do not murder” and “do not commit adultery” (Exodus 20). So, it goes without saying: it’s pretty important to the LORD that His people keep the Sabbath. If I think back 6 years to when Angela and I began to keep the Sabbath, I think guilt was a lot of the motivation. But that thankfully has changed for me. I have come to look forward to our Sabbath days. To long for them. And it was only a few months ago that I realized how much a gift the Sabbath can be for us. I read this verse: “Tell the people of Israel: ‘Be careful to keep my Sabbath day, for the Sabbath is a sign of the covenant between me and you from generation to generation. It is given so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” That’s from Exodus 31:13 – New Living Translation.
“It is given so may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” There is sooo much freedom in that statement! Why? Because sometimes I think that by working hard, doing “ministry”, doing my devotions, praying, building relationships with locals, being a better husband and father – that all those things make me holy. That all those things earn me something. But of course that is absurd! You and I both know that doing doing doing doesn’t get us any further into the Kingdom!
And God knew early on that man would forget that He does the work of making us holy that He gave us a whole day to remind us of that fact!
Another secret reason I keep myself from blogging and sending out regular newsletter is because as international workers representing the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, and as the LORD’s ambassadors here, I don’t see a lot of forward progress or “return for the investment” if you know what I am saying. A lot of resources have been been poured out to get our family here and to keep us here and with that comes a tremendous pressure to make sure there is something to show for that investment. We are church planters and we have yet to plant a church. I have not personally had a hand in anyone turning from the darkness and to the marvelous light.
This is usually where people chime in with feel good statements of: “it’s still early”; “it’s only your first term”; “your still learning the language”; “Caracas is a hard place”. And those things all may be true but what I am trying to communicate here is that I can sooo easily get caught up in the mind game of measuring my worth by results. And I call it a mind game because I know better. I know where my worth and value really comes from but I still play the game.
And that is why I need this Sabbath day – to remind me that it is the LORD that makes me holy. It’s not how many churches I plant or how many people I see come to Christ. Yes, that is a large part of why we are here but I believe the LORD has given me the Sabbath to re-orient myself and my perspectives and then go about doing what He sent me to do knowing that He is the one that brings me value and worth. That He is going to build His church. That He is going to go before. That His Spirit is already speaking and softening hearts. That our presence here in this city is about Him, not us and not about what we can or can’t do.
But not only does He give us the Sabbath to remind us who we are when we struggle to see our value and worth, He gives us the Sabbath to remind us that in the midst of busyness, ministry success, and when things are going well and we are “lookin good” from a ministry perspective, that it is the LORD who makes us holy. And I think my boss knows this too and is another reason why he insisted I take 3 days of Sabbath.
We just hosted a team from Heritage Alliance Church from Abbotsford BC. They were here almost two weeks and a lot of good happened in those two weeks. They served the boy’s school and their staff, they loved on kids and families at the english speaking church in the city, they loved on locals, they loved on us, they grew by leaps and bounds in their faith. Really, you could say it was a short term missions trip success! And as a team, we hosted well. Kelly had 4 girls stay with her and we had the 7 others in the group stay with us. We planned their time here. Angela made sure they were fed (no small feat). I made sure they had connections with ministry here and that they got from point A to point B, C and D safely. We have reason to be proud (and perhaps a bit tired). But again, I need the Sabbath to remind me that it is the LORD who makes us holy. Not hosting short term missions teams and having an impact on the people in the city. That it is the LORD who makes me holy and not all the pouring out of my team and myself to make ministry happen.
So today is about pressing into the Father. It’s about being with Him and hearing Him speak truth and love into me. It’s about healing, It’s about reorienting, reconciliation and rest. It’s about Him. And the cool thing is is that by resting and not working, by stopping and not striving, I am being made holy!
Our SUN region retreat otherwise known as field forum was held just outside Mexico City this year. We flew into Mexico City on Sunday and spent the day with our friends who are also international workers with the C&MA and a Canadian short term team they had with them. We ate some great tacos and caught a little glimpse into the culture as we walked the streets of the historic center of the city.
Monday to Friday went spent at the retreat in a quaint Mexican Mission converted hotel/conference centre. There we met other international workers in the latin america region along with a pastor/speaker from the US and member/heart/soul care people from Canada. It was a time of challenge, refreshing, worship, and togetherness – sharing stories, listening, praying….
The boys had an amazing time and enjoyed the freedom they had to run around with friends and be a bit farther away from us. A pastor couple from Brooks, Alberta came and led the kids in a VBS. The boys LOVED every minute. They preferred to eat at tables with other people and thoroughly enjoyed their visits with everyone – young and older and everyone in between. Because we were in a safe environment, the boys did have freedom…much more freedom than they normally have – for me, this was one of those hard things as I had to let go a bit of our tight reign. It is such a part of my natural instinct now to know where they are at all times and have them in our sights…so this was emotionally difficult and also emotionally healthy for me. It was also wonderful to see them being loved on by so many.
A word that one of pastors from Canada brought us was the picture of arms wide open, hearts exposed, and sometimes bleeding. It was a precious time of renewal and reflection, of freedom and connection. So thankful.
We all went to the dentist this week. It may seem strange but it has been a huge milestone in living here. It’s not that going to a dentist is scary thing – in fact there is quality dental care and we had a great experience with both our dentist (for adults) and for the boys. But even a couple of months ago, going to the dentist was a overwhelming task. Sometimes we are amazed at how far we have come in living here, truly living here…and other days we still feel we have so far to go.
Today I’m thankful for what going to the dentist means. Living here just a bit more deeply.
We have had the privilege of hosting Tim Higginbotham and Jim Hueving from Pacific Community Church in Surrey, BC for the past few days. They are here to explore ways we can partner together.
They are blogging their experience and it offers the perspective of two Canadians visiting the Hieberts in Venezuela. You usually receive our perspective of life here on the blog but check out their blog to step into their shoes and see Caracas through their eyes.
The boys finished their school year on Friday, June 7!!! As seems to be the norm, the last weeks of school were a blur, filled with many special events.
Last week, Chris and I along with our boys were in Maracay to be trainers for the Relationship Matters Course. The team of trainers were lead by Jeff and Susana from the US and Lannah from Spain. We were also joined by our Venezuela teammate, Kelly, our Mexico teammate, Norma, and our Canadian Regional Directors, Murray and Michelle. This was our first time as trainers for Leadership Matters short course on building biblical relationships, Relationship Matters (Relaciones Importan). We took the full length course in English in Costa Rica in November so we were looking foward to passing it along to the leaders and pastors here in Venezuela. We spent the first few days together being trained by the head trainers before the course began which was a real gift.
Personally, it was the most fun that Chris and I have had in Spanish! We were given opportunities to be stretched and grow! We shared our stories with the larger group and were also table trainers. We are thankful for what God did in us through those days. The boys did really well in spite of how busy we were and thoroughly enjoyed their time with Mikaela, who came with her parents (Murray and Michelle) to look after the boys.
We know that many of you have been praying for this week and we are so thankful for the many ways we saw God moving in the lives of pastors and leaders and through so many details as we spent those intense days together. This is not a normal teaching setting as the content and learning is done in a dynamic way so we were modeling and doing it alongside the participants during our days together. We were able to see them growing deeper in their relationships with one another even as they were “practising” the material. It was such a blessing to see God moving and using the course to meet a deep need in the leaders present.
The head trainer of the course translated some of the comments of the participants and here are just a few of those:
• “There isn’t a precious stone nor money that have more value than this course has for me…” -Gustavo, Pastor Venezuela
• “Excellent team, clear, profound and dynamic instructions; you helped me learn to teach in a different way…” – Gerardo, Pastor Venezuela
• “The best help has been to discover that using communication tools properly we can reach the whole world…” – Marcelo, President CMA Venezuela
We will no longer be posting our newsletters on our website. We need to be careful about the information we put out now that our roles in Caracas are more defined and as we move ahead with ministry plans.
If you would like to receive the newsletter that we published this past week, fill out the form here and we will send it too you.
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Thanks for following along with us. We always appreciate your prayers!
These last days have been so interesting to live through with the people around us. There have been constant speeches, heartfelt conversations, pot-banging (called a Cacerolazo), there have been fireworks, today there is salsa music playing, and in the midst of it all, lots of tension. While we find ourselves distracted (and rightly so) with all that is going on around us, we have also felt a deep peace as we have prayed on behalf of this country that we are growing to love more deeply. I think that in a strangely personal way, these days have entwined our hearts more closely with the people and country that we have really just begun to get to know.
When we were first asked to go to Venezuela, specifically Caracas, we said “ok!” as we didn’t feel a specific heart-pull to a certain “location” or “people.” We just knew that we were to pursue working internationally in obedience to something God had very clearly put in both of our hearts. So after that initial, “yes,” we began poking around the internet to find out all we could about this country and its capital city. We quickly learned that Venezuela is not very high on many people’s “must visit” list. But as we began to learn what we could about Venezuela and Caracas, two things began to happen: 1. God began growing a love for the people in our hearts and 2. we realized that we couldn’t let the internet shape our perspective and impressions of this country that we had never visited. What Google doesn’t tell you at first glance is that Venezuelans are passionate, warm, vibrant and loving people. Google doesn’t tell you is that this country is breath-takingly beautiful and as diverse as its people. What we did learn is the obvious and desperate need for a savior.
There is no question, it has been a difficult transition for us here in many ways but we are also still full of hope and are learning afresh every day to be faithful to the One who has brought us here. I had two people share with me this week the need to pray for kindness/love and loyalty amongst the believers. We need your prayers. So thank you for being faithful in praying for our family and the people of this country.