Friday, December 23, 2011

Felíz Navidad 2011!

Thank you so much to all who were praying for the annual outreach event that was held a couple of weeks ago! We could feel your prayers and the presence of God among us that day!

Preparations for the event began a few days before as the kitchen crew met in a home to chop, slice and stir.  Another volunteer put together 200 gift bags for children that included a tract and the Gospel of John (provided by a generous offering from one of our own members!), among other goodies. The youth got together many times to practice the black-light mime (see video below), and everyone was involved in some way or another. To keep the budget low, we asked for donations from the church attenders. Their response was so generous that at one point we had to tell them - thank you, but we don't need any more!
Assembling the craft
The day of the event we gathered early at the church to start setting up and assembling the craft. We were blessed by several volunteers from EBC (our mother church) and many of our own members  - all ready to serve wherever needed.  Noon came, the doors were opened, and Spanish speakers from the community started coming! We started off with directing the kids to game stations where they could win prizes, followed by Christmas songs lead by our worship leader and band. Next the youth performed their mime, the Christmas story was narrated to the children, and Jose got up to share the gospel message. The second half of the event included the craft, a delicious lunch, and two brilliant piñatas with all the bat-swinging, candy-flying madness that a piñata brings! We gave away 102 gift bags to children, and counted around 80 adults. Please pray for each of those homes, as we trust that seeds were planted and we ask God to water those seeds that they might grow!
Making the craft

Piñata Excitement!

Candy madness!

Some of the kitchen crew

Samuelito asks, "Where's the party?!"
Since the event we have had a few visiting families to the Sunday church services. We pray that they find a welcoming, family environment where they might come to know Christ as their Saviour and a place to call their church home.

While this outreach event did take up much of our time and efforts, other ministry activities have continued strong! Three different Life Groups have been meeting consistently in homes, and those groups have seen growth and strength in relationships with Christ. Recently a husband and wife accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour in one of those groups and are now a part of our church family. The women have been meeting for Bible study for a couple of months now, with about 12 women coming each week. Sunday School classes have been growing strong. And as always, as the culture thrives on personal relationships and fellowship together, there have been many home gatherings where relationships are strengthened and the family feeling grows strong within the group. We still have an average of around 80 people on Sundays.

On a personal note, we as a family have been so filled to overflowing with blessings from this beloved family of believers. They have been nothing but loving and generous to us as they invite us to their homes and allow us into their lives. At a recent Life Group Christmas party, our children were given a generous Christmas gift on behalf of the whole group - it brought tears to my eyes as it touched my heart beyond expression. Our prayer is that God might use us to bless them in return, and that as a family we might encourage them as we seek the Lord together.

We hope that your Christmas stays centered around the celebration of the birth of Christ, and that each of you are able to soak in precious family time!

Felíz Navidad and Happy New Year from our family to yours!
Merry Christmas from the Alvarez Family!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Please Pray!

A week from today is our fourth annual children's Christmas party - an outreach event where we give a free meal, children's games and crafts, piñatas, and the gospel. We ask specifically this week for your prayers in the following areas:

  • a clear presentation of the gospel and souls won for Christ
  • unity and strength for all of our Spanish ministry members as some serve food, others sing, others perform in a special black-light drama, and much more!
  • that this week many invitations would be handed out and more publicity given for the event
  • final preparations in food, crafts, goodie bags, etc.
  • and finally, please pray that the people will COME!
The event will be held at Evergreen Bible Church this next Saturday, December 10 at noon. Thank you so much for holding us up in prayer!

A more detailed ministry update coming soon! We can't wait to share with you what the Lord will do at next week's outreach.

--And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Romans 10:14b-15a, 17

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summing up Summer!

Thank you so much to everyone who has been praying for the Spanish ministry at Evergreen Bible Church. We have felt your prayers and have sure needed them too!
Playing volleyball

Grilling burgers in the park
Summer was so much fun, with multiple park outings and plenty of family gatherings. We love being part of a culture that thrives on personal relationships and time spent together! I think everybody could use a little more of that, don't you think? The potlucks and park days gave many opportunities to get to know one another better and to encourage and lift each other up.

Kadalin having fun on the swings
As mentioned last time, the Spanish ministry outgrew the upstairs youth room. We've been having an average of 70 or more in attendance each week, and those last weeks upstairs were literally standing room only! With this came the growing pains of having to move our worship time from the nice and comfortable 11 a.m. in the cozy upstairs room to the challenging hour of 1:30 p.m. in the main sanctuary. We've been meeting at this new time and place for three weeks now, and praise the Lord, so far it's going great! Though sadly we had to say goodbye to some who moved away during the summer, we have yet to lose a family due to the schedule change. Spanish Sunday School has also been going strong with more than 20 children each week. So far we have been able to rotate teachers, but we realize this is only a temporary solution. We would like to be able to have two classes in order to separate the children by age group, and we are praying about how we can achieve that in the near future.

At the end of July, right before our move to a new time, we had the amazing opportunity to share with Evergreen Bible in the first-ever EBC bilingual service. All of the Spanish ministry members mixed with the EBC attenders to enjoy one combined service. Spanish and English worship songs were belted out with tongue-twisting gusto, led by our pastor and by Spanish ministry's worship leader. It was beautiful. Here is a short video clip that slightly captures how fun it was:

Jose was given the opportunity to preach, and I (Ruth) translated. It was quite a stretch for us, believe it or not, as we hadn't experienced a situation like that since before we were married! Jose, a very gifted teacher, shared about the faith of Rahab as mentioned in Hebrews 11, and we trust that others were blessed despite a few glitches in translation and lack of rehearsal. If you'd like to hear it, you can find it here on Evergreen Bible's page.

Little Derek having a blast at Family Camp

In August a few of the Spanish service members attended Evergreen's annual Family Camp. We had hoped for a stronger response, but it was simply too difficult for everyone to get time off work and to find enough funds to go along.  The time we did share with those who went to the camp was a true blessing and completely worth it.

Family Camp
Now we're saddling up and getting ready to ride the oncoming wave of fall and the return to school schedules. I (Ruth) won't be working for a while, as far as we know, so I plan to dedicate more time and efforts to the Spanish ministry in whatever way I am able. Jose will start teaching Spanish at the private Chrisitan high school for a fifth year, and will continue the night job as always. He looks forward to ministering to the many new faces at church in Spanish ministry and will continue preaching, discipling, and everything else that a pastor is so good at doing!

How to pray for us:
* pray that the needs will be met of all the new and dear ones who have joined us this year in Spanish ministry...each of them needs individual time, attention, and encouragement in their walk with the Lord
* pray for Jose, that God might see fit, after five years, to give some relief from a strenuous work schedule, and to allow him to dedicate the time so desperately needed to Spanish ministry
* pray as we all adjust to the new worship service time and location
* please pray for our family, that God would be the center of our marriage and our home.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

June 2011 Update

Pardon the delay in an update! It's been a busy few months and we are eager to tell you all that's been going on here in the Pacific Northwest with our ministry and family....

Not long after we sent out our last update in February, Jose received the inevitable news that his mother had passed on to be with her Savior. Jose was able to fly out the very same day that he received the news, and was there in time for the last funeral service and the burial. He spent two more days with his family, including a very meaningful conversation with some of his brothers and his father. Praise the Lord for that opportunity! God also provided every penny of the $2000 or so that was needed to spend on airfare and funeral expenses...we are so humbled and grateful! Thanks so much to those dear brothers and sisters that God used to bless us in that way.Jose with his mother last August, before her health took a turn for the worse...

When it rains it pours...

It just so happened that the same week of this great loss to the family was also moving week for us. The apartment was half-packed, and the new house was in the middle of a few important pre-move projects that were to be completed that week. Our time was up - we had to move that very weekend. All it took was a feeble S.O.S. email to our pastors and suddenly our family was descended upon by many loving hands. Boxes were packed, a moving truck was rented, the new house was painted, cleaned, even some yard work done, and meals provided...all in Jose's absence. My throat still gets choked up and tears still come to my eyes each time I think of it. Indeed, when it pours...but with showers of blessing! Thank you so much to all those who poured blessings on us that week - wow.

Since the move we have been so thankful for every moment in our new home. On those rare sunny days, the children tumble outside, soaking up the pleasures of running barefoot in the grass (albeit soggy) and collecting roly-poly bugs in the dirt. What a joy it is to have the use of a garage, a yard, curbside trash service...the list goes on and on. Not to mention extending the blessing of our home to our beloved family of Spanish speakers. Several times we have experienced the joy of hosting dinners, times of meaningful fellowship, and even a couple late-night conversations with some who are struggling.
Some of the women now attending the group...
Thanks to God's gracious hand at work, the ministry with Spanish speakers has been growing by leaps and bounds. We now have over 40 adults in regular attendance on Sundays, more than 20 children attending EBC Sunday School classes in English, and a consistent group for Friday Bible study. And what a joy, what a blessing - many who have come bring willing hands and a servant's heart. Jose is no longer leading worship on his own with our sweet helper Jenna - they have been joined by a bonafide worship team, complete with a band, singers, and a committed worship leader! Our new worship leader, Abi, is a graduate of a Bible seminary in Guatemala, and we are excited about his participation and assistance in the ministry. Jose and Trevor, the leader of the Spanish Ministry leadership team, have begun a men's discipleship group, which will be meeting once or twice a month to pray together. Please pray for this group, that God would raise up godly leaders in these men, who will in turn bring up more disciples for Christ. We are so enjoying getting to know these precious people that God has brought to this group, and we pray daily for wisdom in pointing them to be more like Christ.
Easter breakfast potluck...
Our gorgeous babies in their Easter Sunday best...

Our new Guatemalan worship leader and his family...Monthly fellowship dinners have been moved to the church due to the size of the group. The last two dinners, almost every member has come - enjoying an evening of food and fun. Friendships are being formed between families as we sit and talk with each other, and as we play silly games that make us laugh so hard our sides hurt. When a new baby was born, many provided meals for the little family. When one new member was hospitalized and subjected to sudden surgery, others in the group rallied around her to take care of her needs. What a beautiful thing to witness and be part of! We praise the Lord for the care and the unity so far in this group...please pray for continued unity and growth.

Now summer is coming (slowly but surely!) and as we anticipate (please, Lord?!) some sunny days, we will be picking back up the Sunday outings to the park. Our purpose is to cultivate and encourage the family of believers, and draw in other Spanish speakers that may be at the park that day. We are facing some big changes as we grow - beginning June 19th, we will be teaching our own Sunday School in Spanish for school-age children! Please pray as we prepare teachers, choose curriculum, and lead these little kiddos to be more like Christ. We are also looking at the probability of moving our Sunday worship meeting time to 1 p.m., as we will soon be outgrowing the upstairs youth room that we have been using and will need to move to the sanctuary. This adjustment may be challenging, and we ask your prayers as we talk and plan!

Rebekah and Isabella on Awana graduation night...Rebekah finished all 3 books in Sparks and Isabella has one more to go!

This month brings with it Jose's final trip to Salem to teach Bible classes, as well as the last soccer games that he will ref (at least for this season!). And of course the last weeks of school for this year (hallelujah!). Please pray for our family as we struggle for lack of time together - pray that we will be able to recuperate from the past few months of added stress and look to Christ to figure out how to balance work, ministry, and family. We haven't figured it out yet, so if you have any ideas, please pass them on!

Our financial situation remains unchanged - Jose still has his two main sources of employment (for which we are truly thankful, especially given this economy) and Ruth continues to work part time. One of Jose's places of employment has even been struggling to pay their employees - we pray that God will build them up and bring in more sources of income for that institution. You may refer to the charts in February's post to see where we are at as a family. Meanwhile, the offerings that are provided through N.I.C.E. enable us the freedom to give to the Spanish ministry in various ways - and what a joy that is! Recently Jose purchased an upgrade to his Logos software program in order to pull from even more resources for studying, teaching, and discipling...thank you so much to those who are giving! Please pray for the remaining amount that would enable Jose to work part-time instead of over-time.
God bless each of you as you serve Him where you are!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February Update!!

With hearts full of praise and thankfulness….!

December: We enjoyed a wonderful time of fellowship as we celebrated Christmas with a special potluck dinner. On Saturday the 18th we held our third annual community outreach event – the Children’s Spanish Christmas Party. We are thrilled to share with you that we had around 90 children with their families attend – about 130 people in all! What a successful, exciting day that was – as we served them a meal, guided a craft, a piñata, and most importantly, shared the gospel with them. Each family went home with a gospel tract and a children’s Bible story book. May God plant those seeds and make them grow! We were also so humbled and grateful for the outpouring of support from the EBC church body. Since the event, we have had one new family join us (pictured at right) and we have over ten new contact numbers and addresses. Praise the Lord! And thank you for praying for Ramon and family - God has provided for them in many ways! It is so exciting to see that family grow.

January: Jose was blessed beyond measure to be able to return to Honduras (using airline miles) and attend his childhood church’s 75th anniversary (photo: receiving a special recognition on behalf of his mother). He also enjoyed the reunion with his family, and spent some valuable time with his mother, who is in the hospital (see photo on the lower left). Back in Vancouver, another monthly fellowship dinner was held where members were blessed in getting to know one another better. We now have around 20 weekly attenders in our Sunday service, with many of those attending the weekly Life Group that Jose teaches. Jose also began a weekly guitar class, to enrich those in the group and also to hopefully provide some future musicians for our Sunday morning services.

Family News: After exactly one year of attempting to purchase a house, God has opened the door (pardon the pun!) and is allowing us the blessing of our own home! We signed the accepted offer on New Year’s Eve, and next week we’ll be signing the loan and title documents, receiving the new keys a day or two after! Praise the Lord! We can’t wait to host Spanish Life Group and summer barbeques in the backyard – what a blessing. It is our prayer that God direct us as we strive to become wise stewards of His gifts. (Email us if you'd like the new address!)

Prayer: Shortly after we sent out our last update to you, Jose was warned that his night job may face some layoffs. So far we haven’t heard anything more, and we ask that you pray with us that God would provide according to His will. We have been so thankful and greatly blessed these past four years for these solid employments! We also want to share with you the strain that Jose’s current schedule is causing on his heart’s desire and the true need for time in the ministry. We’re including some charts to illustrate what that looks like as far as time and income. (The figures are rough approximations, and don’t include things like sleep, doctor’s appointments, etc. Job #1 is the Spanish teacher job at Vancouver Christian and Job #2 is the night janitorial job.)

As we begin a new year and plan out Spanish Ministry at Evergreen Bible for 2011, we face the fact that many goals will have to remain unmet due to these circumstances. Visitation in this culture is vital, and we would love to be able to visit these dear ones in their homes. Also, a midweek church meeting such as a praise and worship service would be of great blessing and benefit, along with inviting families to our home for dinners and one-on-one time. Would you please pray with us that God would move hearts and provide so that we might dedicate the time truly needed in order to help this ministry flourish? And would you pray to seek the Lord’s guiding if He might even use you to make that happen? We are around $1,000/month short of what we would need in order to eliminate just one job and jump into ministry full-time. Thank you for your prayers! We are confident that we are where God wants us, and that He has already given us more than what we need…we are truly grateful. Many thanks to those of you who are already praying for us and those who are faithfully giving towards our ministry here in Vancouver!

May God bless you richly as you serve Him where you are, in your every day life!