Hey friends! There has been much going on lately in the Vance family household. God has been good (what’s new there?!) and we’ve been enjoying each minute. This post is simply to get you all up to speed on some amazing recent events… (I alliterated it for my preacher friends, so bear with me).
The past week was both exciting and exhausting as I was privileged to teach a 14 hour modular class at the Our Generation Training Center on Evangelism & Leader Training in Catholic Cultures. God really blessed as we went through the Master Plan of World Evangelism and some of The Gospel According to Rome. I’d definitely recommend both of these books if you are serious about both learning how Jesus trained leaders to reach the world, and how to deliver the Gospel to those that are close yet still depend on works.
My family and I will leave Monday morning to spend a week with teens and college students from around the country at the OG Student Leadership Camp. I was at the very first camp that was held 9 years ago just before I spent 6 months in Peru preparing for the mission field. The camp helped me tremendously as I was able to get around missionaries that were getting the job done in reaching people and training men. It was encouraging to see how God was using other young men, and now I’m able to return on the other side of that equation. Please pray that God works in the lives of the many teens and singles that will be there. God has a plan for each of them. Pray that some are saved, some are called, and all would be surrendered to God’s will for their life!
This Sunday our little Anabel turns 1-year-old! It’s crazy how time flys by. It seems like just last week that we brought her home from the delivery room. It seems like just yesterday she was starting treatment for her tumor (which is doing fantastic, by the way), and it seems like a few minutes ago she was an infant. Now she’s trying to talk, walk (she’s getting close!) and she’s growing up into a little lady. Wow… We joy in the fact that God has entrusted our children to us, and we take very seriously our responsibility to shepherd their hearts and guide them through their childhood years toward knowledge of, and commitment to, Christ.
In our last prayer letter I mentioned that as of right now, it looks like we’ll be moving to Colombia in November. Well, that is becoming more of a reality each day! Our support continues to steadily rise (at 79% now!), and our setup fund needs are being met, little by little. We just received the girl’s passports this week and will be getting our religious visa for Colombia very soon. Here’s the challenge: Would you pray that everything goes smoothly in these last few months? There’s much to do, still some money to raise and lots of traveling to do on deputation between now and then. Secondly, would you pray that God would send more people to Colombia? The need is great. The laborers are few! If we were to plant a church for every 50,000 people, we would need at least 940 churches throughout the country! Maybe God would have you to come and help us.
We love y’all and would love to hear how things are going in your lives. What can we pray for you about? Keep your eyes on Jesus… He’s coming soon, we must be busy in the work he has left us to do. God bless!
“¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa!”
I tuned in yesterday afternoon in time to hear multitudes of Catholics from all over the world chanting in expectation of their new leader. Flags were waving all over the Vatican. The cry of the crowd was a cry of enthusiasm, expectation and energy as the new pope was to be revealed.
Then, as the curtains were pulled back, it was announced that the pope was none other than Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name Pope Francis. Indeed, this man is the first Latin American to ever be chosen as Catholicism’s Papal leader.
He is a simple man, choosing to be as much among the people as possible, live a simple life, help the poor and deny many of life’s dainties for the “greater good.”
He led the people in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, then a prayer to Mary.
You could see expressions of hope on the faces of all who listened.
…But is there hope in the pope?
I need to be careful here, because my intention is not to carelessly offend those that hold to the catholic teachings. But could I be so bold as to say, Catholicism, at its core teaching, is leading over a billion people to hell.
Why is that?
Don’t Catholics believe in God? Don’t they believe in the Bible? Don’t they believe that Jesus died on the cross?
Yes, they believe all of these truths.
But what is different between biblical Christianity and catholic teaching? Simply put, it’s a matter of do vs. done.
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.”
Their teachings go on to express that there are 7 sacraments of the church, and in keeping these sacraments you will have favor with God and earn salvation.
But ask any catholic if they know where they will spend eternity and they always reply, “I don’t know” or “you can’t know” or “I won’t know until after I die.”
Why is that? Because salvation is depending on what they do. They are initiated into the church as a baby when they are baptized, they go through confirmation as a child or young adult, and they take the communion. They confess their sins to the priest, pray to Mary, pray to the saints and other idols, and help the poor, but it comes down to one question: What is their salvation depending on? DO or DONE!?
Friend, there is no hope in the pope. He is just a man. He may be a nice man, but he is a man who is leading people down a religious road straight to an eternity that is separated from God.
Salvation is only by grace through faith. It is either grace or it is works. It cannot be both. Jesus already bought our salvation, and offers it as a gift to all who will believe on him. Why are you trying so hard to earn it?
If you have never been biblically saved, if you are still trying to work your way to God, if you don’t know for sure if you’re eternity will be Heaven or Hell, I challenge you to do one thing. Repent.
Repent of your sin and your faith in works or religion. Then believe on Jesus. Run to Jesus. Throw out any other hope that you have and cling to the cross where Jesus paid for your sins. He says he will forgive you. He will accept you. He will make you his child and an heir to all promises. He promises to give you life. Don’t wait any longer.
The Bible says in John 5:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
You have God’s word on it. He never breaks his promises. Don’t wait any longer. Believe on Jesus.
Christian, maybe you agree with all that I’ve written here. Would you pray with me for the billions around the world that are deceived by religion? Would you pray with me that God would raise up more laborers to take the GOOD NEWS to them, that Jesus paid it all? Would you pray that God would open their eyes, that they would know the truth, and this truth would make them free?
What a day!
We saw much of the city today, but honestly we have hardly scratched the surface. We walked around several important neighborhoods, saw huge plazas and big museums, and we were able to go up to Cerro Monserrate, a Catholic church on top of the mountain by the city. We’re finding that the Colombians are very good at their Teleféricos (cable cars) as this is the third one we’ve ridden so far.
Here’s a few things we’ve learned while here in Bogotá, many of which can also be applied to many other cities around the world:
1. People are Religious
This country is over 90% Roman Catholic, and it shows in many parts of their society. The Hotel we stayed at in Bucaramanga even had a chapel and held mass everyday for those traveling through. Catholics aren’t the only ones here, though. There are reports of Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness, Taoists, Ba’hai, Atheists, several Evangelical denominations and others that claim this as their home. Everybody has religion. It’s that way in the entire world. So, what makes us different? Why would we want to come here when people already have something to believe? Read on…
2. Religion is Empty.
One person defined religion as “Man’s attempt to get to God.” But that’s just it… we can’t get to God. That’s why he came to us. Nearly every religion, including most of those found in this country, are based on works. My good deeds. You know, the scale system. Everything good I ever did is weighed against everything bad I ever did. Whichever is greater determines my eternal fate. If I were sincerely judged on that scale, I’d lose. There’s no doubt. I was talking to one of our taxi drivers about this today as I was explaining the Gospel. He seemed so intrigued that we could actually be saved in spite of who we are. It’s the beauty of God’s salvation. But religion…. religion is empty. It leaves you wanting. That’s because it can only give so much hope. What we need is a relationship. When Jesus Christ becomes not only a figure of our church but our Savior and Lord, that’s when we have hope of life. That’s when things become different. That’s what sets us apart. It’s not what I do, it’s what He has done!
3. People are Searching.
You remember all those religions I listed off just a second ago? You know why those places are filling up? It’s because people want something else. They want hope. The dead faith of their fathers has left them wanting, and they are willing to look elsewhere for the truth that’s missing. Unfortunately, what they find many times, and even what they take a risk on and sometimes change their entire life for, is just another lie. That’s why we need to get the truth in their hands. The harvest is ripe. People are searching!
4. Christ’s Church is Growing.
In spite of all the lies in this place, in spite of all the deception, in spite of all the false prophets, and in spite of the need that still exists, God’s is building his work here. There are quite a few good churches that we’ve found in this city. We hope to visit two of them tomorrow. Be praying though, that God would send more laborers here. Would you pray about coming?
I’ll leave you a few more photos before going to bed. We only have a couple of days left before heading back to Georgia. Pray that God would help us redeem the time. Love you all….
“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
Today we went to a new work that was recently started by Missionary Rick Washburn, Comunidad Bautista Amistad En Cristo (Friendship in Christ Baptist Community) and another church that was started years ago, Iglesia Fundamental Bautista Vida en Cristo (Life In Christ Fundamental Baptist Church). The first church is around 1 year old and meets in a rented house on the outskirts of Medellín. It was packed in there. Pray that God gives guidance to find a new building soon.
Praise God for an opportunity to preach his word and for one precious soul that was saved this morning! After preaching on the Power Of The Truth, 13 year old Santiago (the second from the left in the picture below–the one with his eyes closed) decided to place his trust in Jesus Christ. This was his second Sunday coming to the church. Pray that God would work in his life and allow him to grow and to be a witness to his family and friends.
After church and a delicious lunch we decided to go to El Cerro Nutibara. This is a small mountain in the very middle of Medellín, Colombia where you can look out and see the entire city on all sides. At the top they also have a small replica town of the “old days” (Pueblito Paisa) and a few shops. Here’s a picture of Aubrie and I at one of the viewpoints of the city. Sorry about the squinting–the sun was in our eyes just a bit. 🙂
So, today was our last full day in Medellín. What a needy city. I believe that God has great plans to glorify himself in this place, but we definitely need more laborers. Would you consider coming here?
Tomorrow afternoon we’ll be flying out to the city of Bucaramanga. This is a smaller city than Medellín, but I haven’t been able to find any likeminded churches there. Pray that God directs us as we endeavor to discover and fulfill his will.
Here are a few more pictures for your viewing enjoyment…