October 2016 Prayer Letter
Dear Pastors, Family & Praying Friends,
The last month has been packed full of God’s blessing on the ministry in Colombia. Read on to rejoice with us, as well as to be able to pray about several needs.
((Click here to download a printable PDF of this prayer letter))
Making It Official
In September, we took a big step as a body of believers in officially organizing and constituting our church. Over 60 saved & baptized adults signed a covenant of membership and legal documents as founding members. What an exciting day! Pray for us in the days ahead as we submit paperwork and travel to Bogotá to finalize the legal process. Having these documents allows us to open more facets of ministry, & assist missionaries who will need religious visas.
Passing The Torch
We were pleased to have my pastor, Charles Blackstock, with us for a week to celebrate the organizing of the church as well as preach several special services. He was a tremendous blessing to our people, to the men who are training for ministry, and especially my family. I wouldn’t be here today were it not for the years I spent under his mentorship!
Looking Around In Love
We love these people. We love the way God is working amongst them. Many of the men and women who have gone through the discipleship program are now reaching & teaching others, both within the church body and in the community. Continue to pray for this work, as well as a new meeting place as we are out of room! To move into a larger facility is going to cost quite a bit, but we have a BIG God! Pray if God would have you to support this ministry monthly as lives are being changed. It would be an investment into eternity.
Looking Back In Joy
Just over 10 years ago, in October of 2006, God allowed me, as a young, overconfident, single gringo to begin a Spanish ministry in Dawsonville, GA as an outreach of my church. I learned so much during those years. God was patient with me. My pastor was patient with me. Those first few families were patient with me. But through it all, a church was born and it is thriving today. The man who pastors now, Alfonso González, was my assistant for the last few years before we turned over the work to begin deputation, and is doing an excellent job! Many times I feel like a parent of grown children who are beginning their own families. That’s what ministry is all about. We trust to see the same thing many times over here in Colombia!
Looking Ahead In Hope
Our mission work in the north of our city is going fantastic. About 150 people meet with us on Saturdays in a park under trees & tarps with a “Sunday-School” type structure. We plan to find a building soon & establish a “full-service” church here as soon as God gives us the green light and one of our men is ready. Pray for this, as well as the finances to help them get started!
Also, each year we have a special event for Christmas. We give a gift to each child, teen, and adult who come to the program on Saturdays, a meal for everyone and a special presentation and Gospel message for the whole community. If you would like to sponsor one (or many!) of the 150 people, we’d love to give you the opportunity to do so! Just send a check to MWBM, PO Box 519, Braselton, GA 30517 and mark it “A Vance – Special Project”, or you can give online!
We Believe In Prayer
We couldn’t be here without your prayers! As you pray, please remember us in the following:
- The growth of our church — As well as finances to find a larger facility (we are packed out each week)!
- The training of the 16 men in the Bible Institute — Alfredo, David, Didian, Díver, Ernesto, Félix, Javier, Jhon Didier, Jhon Fredi, Juan Danilo, Julián, Kenneth, Leonardo, Libardo, Óscar, Óscar Mauricio…
- The advancement of our mission in the Café Madrid neighborhood — Especially the Christmas program in December and future plans to officially establish a church.
- Our family — Specifically our health and finances, and an upcoming trip I have in November to preach a pastors conference in Cuzco, Peru.
We love you & thank our God for each remembrance of you. Keep on keeping on for Jesus! He is worthy!!
Love In Christ,
The Vance Family
PS – Here are a few photos from recent days in the ministry here. Enjoy!
The Most Action-Packed Update, Ever!
September 1, 2014
Brace yourselves — This is perhaps the most exciting prayer letter we’ve ever written! The past two months have been packed with God’s grace and blessings. Here is a quick rundown summary.
The Iglesia Bíblica Bautista El Faro had its first official services on July 13th with around 40 in attendance. Several acknowledged their need for salvation, repenting and believing on Jesus that day! There have been new visitors every week and many families and individuals are plugging in with personal discipleship, helping around the church and bringing their friends. Pray especially for a few young men who have shown interest in going further. Christ is building his church!!
Just days before the inauguration of our church, a Colombian lady contacted me from the USA whose mother was back in her hometown of Bucaramanga visiting family, and suddenly passed away. Both the daughter and this woman had been recently saved and were attending a good church in Florida, and I was asked to perform her funeral. The wish of this woman was that her lost family members would hear the Gospel preached at her funeral. What God did was truly amazing. By our best counts, about 120 people showed up for the service at our church (which really only holds 80), and heard a clear presentation of Biblical salvation. Dozens of these decided to place their faith in Jesus alone for eternal life. It was amazing! What an honor to this lady who had just been saved one year before. God is good!
More Lives Changed
We have seen several receive Christ and become born again in the past month, including religious people, who realized that Jesus is the only way, He is enough and that works do not save; also Atheists, who understood that there is a God who created them, loves them and died for them; and even an ex-paramilitary hit-man, who found a new beginning and new life in Jesus. God’s power has no limits. He is mighty to save all who will believe.
A Productive Visit
Our pastor and several from our home church came to visit in July. They helped get out thousands of invites the weekend before the big church launch and were a tremendous help to get the building ready for all the people. God worked through them and in them. Please pray especially for two of the young men that desire to return here or another place as God leads to work as full-time missionaries. If you would like to bring a group to Colombia, please get in touch with us, or see our website with details about a trip for students and singles June 15-25, 2015. We would love to have you!
- Growth of the church numerically and spiritually
- Families and individuals who are in discipleship
- A new youth outreach starting this month in the poorest and most dangerous neighborhood of our city
- Additional monthly financial support. At this point we have many more plans but are only held back by lack of funds. Would you consider partnering with us, that fruit would abound to your account? No amount is too small!
- Aubrie and the new baby — they are healthy and in the 2nd trimester already!
We love you and pray that the abundant grace of Almighty God would fill you, bless you and enable you to continue laboring for his Worthy Name!
Aaron & Aubrie Vance and family
Thank you for all you do to make it possible for us to be here! How can we be praying for you?
¡Feliz Año Nuevo! ~ Colombia’s [crazy] New Year Traditions
Happy New Year from the Vances in Colombia! I thought I’d share a fun little post of some [interesting] Colombian traditions and New Year’s rituals.
Colombia has a load of these New Year superstitions, and most people pick a couple to practice each year (you couldn’t possibly do all of them… lol). It’s amazing how many more of these I’m finding out about as we go along.
1. Vuelta A La Manzana (Trip Around the Block)
At midnight, many Colombians will grab an empty suitcase take a fast lap with it around the block. They believe this will increase chances of taking a big trip in the upcoming year. PS – our suitcases won’t be getting out again any time soon; moving to Colombia was enough for now! 🙂
2. Las Uvas (The Grapes)
It’s crazy how much I’ve been asked if we have prepared our “New Year’s Grapes.” 🙂 Colombians will get 12 grapes and once the clock strikes midnight, they’ll start eating them one by one (at each strike of the clock), making a wish on each. BUT, they believe you have to eat all 12 grapes before 12:01 to make sure the wishes come true!
3. Calzón Amarillo (Yellow Underwear)
This ritual is supposed to bring good luck, especially with the lottery. If you really want to be lucky, you’re supposed to wear it inside-out and/or backwards!
4. Dinero En El Zapato (Money In The Shoe)
So, if you want to have a financially prosperous year, you need to stuff some bills in your shoe (then put it back on), or at least have some money in your pocket.
5. Las Lintejas (The Lentils)
Colombians put a few grains, particularly lentils, in their pocket to make sure they have enough food to put on the table for the year.
6. Subir La Escalera (Climb The Ladder)
If there’s no ladder available, a chair can be used, but this ritual takes the figurative saying literally, making sure one climbs the ladder of society and life during the year.
7. El Año Viejo (The Old Year)
Perhaps one of the most interesting, to me at least, is the Old Year doll. Many Colombians carry out this tradition each year, gathering a pair of clothes, stuffing it with paper, cardboard and even explosives, then setting it in the street and incinerating it at midnight. This represents the old year passing and a new year coming. Past mistakes, failures, sins, can be left behind, because it’s a new year. Now there is a new opportunity, another chance at life. The old has gone and the new has come.
When I think of the new year traditions, particularly the Old Year doll, I cannot help but to think of the difference Christ makes in one’s life when they receive him as their Savior. When a person is born again, it is just that… they are born again! They really are made new! They really are a new creature! They really do have a different approach to life, a different hope, a different (and BETTER) purpose… What a difference Christ makes! We pray many Colombians come to know this Christ, not just as a religious figure or good luck charm, but on a personal level. On a complete-repentance-and-trusting-faith level.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21
This list of 7 New Year’s rituals in Colombia is not near conclusive (I’ve heard of another 7 or 8 more traditions but I thought you’d get bored…lol), but I wanted to give you an idea of what we see here. Our wish for you, our friends and family, as you enter this new year, is that you would be full of God’s love, growing in his grace, and in the knowledge in his Word. We pray for health, prosperity, success, and open doors to serve our great God. We love you all!
Things That Are Different And Not The Same
Here’s a fun post for you. These are a few adjustments we’ve had to make here in Colombia having to do with daily life. This list is definitely not conclusive, but they are just some things we’ve found interesting and had to learn. 🙂
At The Store
- Fruit is dirt cheap. Just be sure to wash off the dirt.
- Eggs are not sold nor stored in the refrigerated section but on a room temperature shelf.
- Milk is not sold in jugs but in bags, also on the non-refrigerated shelf.
- Cheese is used everywhere, but any type of yellow cheese is rare and expensive, that is if you can find any! (aka “Goodbye, Cheddar”)
- Mountain Dew and Red Bull both are sometimes available, and are less than a dollar for what costs $2-4 in the States.
- “Ragu” pasta sauce is imported and costs about $6 per jar.
- Bottled carbonated water is as common as uncarbonated water.
- Today we saw a tin of cookies (the same brand Aubrie used to buy for her Grandpa for Christmas at the Dollar Tree) for about $9.50 US.
- We won’t be eating those cookies.
- Hot water heaters are available, but not common. When we asked a real estate agent about this, he asked if the local water was too cold for us. We mentioned that we enjoy a warm/hot shower if we can get it, he gave us a serious look and asked, “But won’t that make you sick?” 🙂
- Tile instead of carpet, bars on windows instead of screens, and open windows instead of air conditioning (The AC isn’t too much of a problem since it stays moderately warm).
- Many friendly Colombian neighbors love to play music loudly at night. Salsa, Reggaeton, Mariachi… oh yeah.
- Rent is a bit cheaper than the US, but buying a house or property is much more expensive!
- Traffic signals, lines, and signs are merely suggestions and often ignored.
- On a 3 lane road, many times there will be 4 small cars and a couple of motorcycles squeezed in between each car. True story.
- For a city of 2 million, I’ve only seen 1 small wreck in the week we’ve been here. Not sure how that’s possible as I’ve seen how people drive here. Lol…
- Seat belts are almost never used. Just hold on for your lives!
- Many people have multiple cell phones. In fact, there are over 49 million active cell phones and Colombia’s population is only 47 million.
- On many street corners there are people who carry 50-100 new-release movies with copies of the cover and a burned DVD in a plastic bag, selling them for 1-2 dollars each. Yes, pirated. Right next to the cops. They don’t sell many in stores. I wonder why…
- Public restrooms are between 25 cents and a dollar to use, toilet paper is rationed, and most public toilets do not have seats.
- People that are strangers will often stop what they’re doing for hours to help you. I find this unique and refreshing, even coming from the Southern US!
- As I mentioned in my last post, our little blonde haired girls are referred to as “Monitas” or, little monkeys. There aren’t many foreigners, even in our big city, so they get lots of attention!
- Colombians are very proud of their heritage and superiority in society (what people group isn’t?!). I had a taxi driver preach to me for 1/2 hour last night about how terrible each other Latin American county is, and how Colombia and its people, of course, is supreme in all things. I just smiled and said how much I liked Colombia. 😀 Inside I thought how great it would be if this man got the same passion for Christ and his glory… what a difference he could make!
Just because some people do certain things differently, doesn’t make them weird. Actually, it makes us weird, because we are prone to do things differently than them, in their own land. We try to have a student’s eye, watching and learning how people do things. We try to have a servant’s heart, helping and lifting up instead of expecting to be served. We try to have the Savior’s mind, who left it all, came to a different land, and gave his all for us so that we could be with Him.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Let us all have the eyes of a student, the heart of a servant and the mind of our Savior!
Feel free to share, comment, or add to any of this. God bless!