Friday, December 21, 2007

Feliz Navidad

Since we last checked in we have celebrated Thanksgiving and are close on the heals of Christmas time. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, has many holidays to celebrate, partly due to adding the U.S. holidays to their own traditions. Christmas traditions here are noteworthy and different. They will be fully celebrating Christmas at least until January 6th, “Three Kings Day”. Thus, the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. The celebration of the “Three Kings” rivals December 25th and children, we’re told, put hay under their beds for the King’s camels and receive gifts in exchange. Some towns have dressed “kings” riding through neighborhoods early in the morning and distributing gifts in the plazas.

You’ll also see among our pictures a manger scene and light displays with “Mayaguex, Cuidad de Dios” (Mayaguez, City of God). These are on and in CITY HALL. Coming from the states where “separation of church and state” has become an excuse for boycotting Christian expression, we are pretty amazed by this. Cabo Rojo, where we live, has a lit sign that says “Cabo Rojo, where Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords…” in Spanish along a main highway. As we evangelize, we know many are not in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but the premise that He is God or the Word of God is the Bible is rarely debated, the great need is a personal understanding of what a relationship with the Lord is, sound Biblical teaching on the character and nature of God. Julian was able to attend the “Gulf Coast Conference” in Florida and spend an encouraging time with Pastor Schaller from our Baltimore church, Pastor Moses Baldwin and Pastor Dan Foster, both of them went before us to the field of Puerto Rico. One member of our fellowship here in Western Puerto Rico, Cholo, was able to go with Julian (Pastor Moses did translation for him into Spanish). We also had two very encouraging visits from our church in Baltimore first from Brent Hillenga and then from Kim and P. Ed Murphy this month. Brent Hillenga traveled with Julian and Cholo back from Florida to PR. Julian and Brent were busy connecting with university students who are “white and ready to harvest”. They scheduled a “forum” meeting on campus starting in January when classes resume. Brent refreshed us and built us up. Although he was not here for a Sunday, we met with some of our fellowship on a Thursday where he shared and fellowshipped around the Word.
Kim and Ed Murphy arrived a few days after Brent left for Baltimore. We had a joy-filled time with them. The kids especially enjoyed their company; the children shared many stories from being on the island. Of course, we showed them around. They even got caught up in some landscaping projects with Julian, and we had some real divine appointments.

As we close out the year we would like to say thanks to all of you for your support, prayers and encouragement. It has definitely been a season of change moving to the Puerto Rico mission field; your companionship has been invaluable. From Puerto Rico we would also like to thank Pastor Miguel Soto (President of the Southern Baptist conference), his wife Carmen for allowing us to stay at their rental house in Aguadilla.

Even from Everlasting to Everlasting Thou Art God…

Psalms 90:2b

Our joy, praise and assurance come from the One who is the Alpha and the Omega—the Eternal One who became our Savior; from One who reigned on high, beholding all things, who came and dwelled among men; to One who now reigns as King forever.

There are two parts of the great house that have been prepared for us. In our generation we have the wonderful opportunity of connecting the two. Jesus’ humility and condescension are seen in His stable birth and His death, burial, resurrection and ascension to the Throne: powerful pictures well laid by the Church of old with lingering pictures of manger scenes and an empty tomb.

If the humility of Christ is the poured foundation, and His death, resurrection, ascension and kingship are the dome of this great building; we are left with the opportunity of seeing and experiencing His laying the rest of that building together. From birth to His present reign, we have a total Christ. If His humility is the feet of His incarnation made for the dusty and sin-soiled world He would walk in, and His head is for a true crown in His kingdom, where are His hands, His heart, His eyes, His ears, His mouth?

The skillful, art-filled and beautiful work of presenting a total Christ is our privilege. It is through the personal work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that we are able to connect the feet of Christ to His head. Apart from our availability, the Christ of the stable and the absent Savior of the tomb are speechless and silent.

There is a principle that we miss in presenting the incarnation/humble passage of Christ into the world and His passion, death—resurrection, His physical exit from the world:—only a few were there to be witnesses of these insightful events. They are the greatest historical events we have to retell and portray to a hurting, hedonistic, narcissistic world, yet our most fantastic evangelical responses will not come from the mass publication of these events but rather from personal confrontations with men and women, boys and girls everywhere. Jesus’ impact was always from personal rendezvous or from the pre-salvation work of others.

The broken heart, the speaking Christ, the Son of Man and the Son of God is pictured best in His announcement by the angels, by John the Baptist, then by God, Himself; Him to the Samarian woman at the well; to Saul of Tarsus on his way to murdering more Christians; to the disciples on the road to Emmaus; to Nicodemus. Each one was of the God who says, “Come let us reason together (Is. 1:18 )”. No silence there. In one of these people, you and I can see ourselves historically.

For all of us, if Christ is to be seen, to be heard; it is because we lift Him high. Let us touch the hem of His garments again to (re) commit that our ambassadorship will be an active one, not in mass, holiday-strapped advertisements; a soft, salvation-by-default Christianity, but personal. It will be from our lips others will hear, this is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased, hear Him (Matt. 3:17), and “…come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”(Jn. 4:29). Let us endeavor to take the static feet and head of religion and give the mind and heart, ears, eyes and words of a living Christ to others today, personally.

While we ponder deeply the passages of Christ for the work of our redemption; let us testify openly that the One who is from everlasting to everlasting, the One who said, “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn. 8:58); the One who said, “let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness”(Gen. 1:26); who was in the beginning with God and is God, is the Man, Christ and He reigns forever… Revelations 11:15.

From the Matthew family…Merry Christmas and a Christ-filled New Year!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Gentle Shepherd, Lead On ...

I drove down the hill towards the post office, thoroughly overtaken by the setting sun and thought to myself…this may be the last one I’ll see so distinctly here in the town of Aguadilla. I had not seen the waves this high nor this assembling of surfers before. I was not lulled; it is a broken world with so many hurting, not necessarily from rebellion, but from the body slams of religion, yet at the end of the day God is still speaking, still reaching out. We are anticipating that our move to Cabo Rojo will begin this week.

Each town has its distinction and the fading glory of a time gone by; some marked by great arches and edifices of architectural mastery. Among some of the ruins lay lives still attempting to know His name. Somewhere beyond the bruises of liberalism and the open wounds of the pounding mandates of legalism there is an untapped capacity to know Grace. There is more to Him than yesterday’s troubled, confusing experiences have told. Their patience is virtuous.

Seeing this, I can surely say, Isaiah 40:1-6 is not some historical/prophetical utterance of hope and deliverance for Jews of old going through captivity; every Word is profitable…today:

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye

Comfortably to Jerusalem (Puerto Rico), and cry unto her, that

her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for

she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the

Way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our


Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall

be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight and the

rough places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord

hath spoken it.

I could not imagine being here, in this work, without the message of God’s Grace; the Finished Work of Christ, knowing then that every lesson, every sermon has to reveal the Character and Nature of God. This is what sustains, this is what keeps us, this is what hails and beckons the unbeliever. The bulls of religion have broken enough; only two things could be done by the lives that are still available, either stone the bearers of harsh sayings or receive the restorative, reconciliatory Word of His love, mercy and payment of past debt. We are Greater Grace of Puerto Rico; gateway to the Caribbean!

It was cup overflowing to have Pastor Moses and his wife, Cindy of Clearwater, Florida here with us at the ending of October. With words of encouragement and thoughts for going forward with the work, we looked at a building to have our Church services, extension classes and other gatherings in. Suggestions for correcting issues at our soon-to-be rental house were given to the property owner too. What a time! There were twenty-five of us at Dr. Phil and Evelyn Ark’s home on Sunday (13 children and 12 adults). Pastor Moses, guitar in hand, strumming…we sang, heard the Word, and fellowshipped into the afternoon. Kathy, fruit from Pastor Dan Foster (now in Lake Worth, FL) and Pastor Love’s teen ministry, and her husband Carlos, dedicated their baby Isaac, also.

We are acutely aware of the God’s presence in the Work and know that we are being carried by the prayers, support and encouragement of the Body. With this Body-of-Christ testimony, it is no wonder that we have been asked to stay in Aguadilla by the pastor in whose guest home we stayed. They, the house and our neighborhood friends have been the faithful, providing hand of God for us too.

Many a sun will set and be seen from the innumerable shores here but greater and enduring is this: the Son is risen; high and lifted up here and His throne lasts forever. Thanks to each of you for making it Corporate, a Psalms 133 expression: Body of Christ.

Announcements/Events: Puerto Rico Winter Harvest,

Tentative Dates: December 12-15, 2007

Special Guest Pastor: TBA

Prayer Requests:

Team Members: Short & Long Term (senior Bible College students with practicum requirement also encouraged)

Church building/lease agreement; repair and set-up costs

Continued grace-filled evangelism

Home schooling of children/home school outreach

Monday, October 8, 2007

Go Ye Therefore ....

Having solved some technical problems with our photos, we thought to touch base with you and share a few snapshots. Last week was filled with some exciting times of evangelism on the "west coast". Some people said they were amazed that God finished the work so that we could rest in His love. A young high school man, admitting he had never really had a relationship with God, prayed to accept Jesus. We explained that heaven was as with his car, he might know about it, but he didn't have the right to enter unless the Owner gave him entrance through a relationship. Another man was brought to tears as he considered his unemployment situation and that the Lord was reaching out him in love even as he hadn't attended church for nearly 15 years. A young man with a heart for evangelism is considering Bible college extension classes and translated as another man prayed the sinner's prayer
..the fields are "white and ready for harvest ..."

Evangelism shots

Wow! that's a treehouse!

pretty dress

Cabo Rojo at night

let's dance

nice sized beetle (little Julian's hand)

Aliia's 9th birthday ... bunny named "Blackie"
the bilingual birthday party with neighborhood kids

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Where He Leads

A month has gone by since we came to Puerto Rico.

Before I can say anything about what we have encountered; I must first speak of what God has been doing in/with us. Before God fully opens our eyes to the field that is before us, He has been searching, pruning, purging, restoring and refreshing areas that so easily become mainstay in our hearts and minds. Any wonder He kept the children of Israel moving, seemingly disrupting their mindset to settle—and He calls us strangers and pilgrims, sojourners.

Sent out by the Body of Christ and now being here, I have taken some time to revisit the scriptures about our (the believer’s) calling and authority. These thoughts are not exhaustive, but consider this:

Matthew 27:50, 51 says, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the spirit. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom…” This may have been the last cadence, the crescendo in the life of Christ here on the earth but the renting of the temple veil represented the most incredible truth of our calling and authority. The Presence and place of God’s holiness was bare, for all to witness; what lay in mystery was now open for all to see. “…We are sanctified (set apart for a divine work, called) through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all; …for by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb. 10:10b, 14).

With this event God caused a wonderful reversal; for whereas only one, the high priest, once a year was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies now the Holy of Holies and the One within has come to us. In no way was the Holy and most Holy made common or was defiled by this event but that the common had been made holy, sanctified. Moses, take off your shoes, for the place where you stand is holy-- (Before the law was given.)We are included in the place of ministry as priests and kings of unto our God (Rev. 1:6) and have been imputed holiness. We then have a boldness (Heb. 10:19-22). What’s the difference: only under strict conditions and preparation, Esther, anyone for that matter, was allowed to go before the king—have his audience and they could have been sentenced to death for breaching these requirements (Old Testament) but we see the father running to the son and lauding him with love, bypassing all penitent and restitute requirements involved in coming back from the unclean, common things. (After the law was fulfilled.) So then holiness is not a work we can do or merit, it is what we has been ushered into our lives.

Oh that ours would be that when His presence billows in on us that we would sense the rushing in of His mercy, His love, His forgiveness, His acceptance; that we would speak as sojourners, as pilgrims that language that is from above and all would hear as the Spirit gives them ability (Acts 2:1-4). My need everyday is to reckon on His presence and be led of His Holy Spirit. He loves to make His glory known to the common people for they received Him gladly. Just as the Church from the Pentecost had commissioning power because He overshadowed them (Acts 1:8), so can we today…because He is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8; Mal. 3:6)

What separates by time and distance has no bearing upon what we have in the Spirit. Our oneness in the Spirit is, in fact, made clearer by conviction to prayer, and encouragement. I have always enjoyed the thoughts that pertain to covenant relationships. These are relationships that are sustained by unrelenting love…it is this love that will not let anyone go…(Jeremiah 31:3); it is enduring, unconditional, it is eternal, it is one that provokes and desires to make company with others (Hebrews 10:24,25), it edifies.


Some very miscellaneous photos, please pray for our technical needs, including a camera, thought our cellphone pictures could be brought up, but haven't succeeded with the recent ones, sorry ...

Cabo Rojo dominoes in the plaza--tradition!!

Greater Grace Baltimore "send off"/prayer time

14 regular luggage items, 7 carry-ons

the skateboard/inline park/obstacle course

we've caught 4 tarantulas in the carport!!

speak Spanish or English? neighborhood kids trying to communicate


Our first week and a half was full of settling-in details. We made trips across the island 3 days in a row to San Juan in order to obtain and register the mini-van we shipped. We are in a city called Aguadilla, 2 hours from San Juan and 45 minutes from Mayaguez. Although it has a country feel, it is near to an airport, University, and shopping centers. We also got our homeschool year started within a week in our new home. When in San Juan, we were able to connect with one young lady we met on earlier trips and tried to track down another. We had a Sunday fellowship/meeting time with several couples from the Mayaguez area who have been eagerly awaiting a Greater Grace fellowship … it was a sweet reunion.

As I unpacked kids’ clothes, I decided to take a break to write some thoughts down. Four of the kids had been occupying themselves for over an hour with a “lizard hunt” in the gated backyard. They claimed to have spotted “iguanas” in the fruit tree they were climbing. This house, our temporary place has been a sweet blessing. I myself had only been to the San Juan area in my previous trips. My heart had said “yes” to the Caribbean after trips to more underdeveloped islands where I maintained a love/hate relationship amongst sunburns, mosquitoes, no hot water … This side of the island has more the feel of the others, but gentler: roosters wake you before sunrise and continue squalking throughout the morning, construction next door begins the loudest projects at the break of daylight, cockroaches are capable of aviation, even tarantulas!!

We brought the kids to a nearby playground and I recalled that playing with Spanish-speaking kids was a good way to encourage language acquisition. The kids were very friendly, but switched to the English they know to accommodate our kids—oh well. We had a time of soul-winning with some college students who were headed for the skate “arena” and they were full of questions about the Bible and Christianity.

We spotted a lifeless-looking scraggly dog in our gated yard and I immediately wondered whether I should give it water just to prevent its expiration on our grounds. He’s blind, but finds himself in the gate after we sent him out with a broomstick, we discovered that the owner’s brother faithfully feeds him---oops!

Joking aside, we have adjusted and enjoyed this first place, yet we are diligently seeking a more permanent home in the Mayaguez area, near the small group/Bible study that Greater Grace has maintained contact with for years. There are several couples with whom we’ve had services and evangelism has met welcome responses and salvations. Julian frequents the University campus and they welcome the opportunity to speak English with him and discuss knowing God’s plan for their lives in the midst of their professional pursuits.

We thank you all for your prayers. Please do keep in touch as it is a great encouragement from this far distance.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Joy in the Journey!

Greetings again to all our “blog checkers” and welcome to those who may be checking in for the first time! We’re sorry that we missed the goal of submitting an update last month---it has been the busiest 2 months we can remember, so there is a lot to catch up on!

The second week of May, we went to Puerto Rico for another “harvest” and planning trip (thanks to Skip for watching our kids!!!). Our family yard-saled things, gave things away, took several trips to the dump and still barely fit into the moving truck (oops, still need some progress before crossing the ocean!). Believe it or not, we went to Vermont the day after we dropped boxes in the Baltimore house. Cindy’s grandmother had her 90th birthday celebration and almost all of the aunts, uncles, grandchildren and great-grandchildren came—so it was the type of event not to miss. We visited two affiliated churches in Enfield, CT and Lee, MA and rounded out the New England spree with a visit to cousins from my Dad’s side and visits to two of Julian’s cousins in CT!! Whew!!

We turned around, unpacked a couple boxes, made repairs on the house and it was time for our International Convention. Our welcome “home” to our Baltimore church was worth the work and it has seemed a sheer whirlwind of fellowship through the past month. Greater Grace World Outreach has an annual convention every June when hundreds of missionaries and international friends get together to fellowship around the Word of God. This year’s theme was “Thinking with God”. We heard over 80 messages during the week, many centered on the goal of allowing the Holy Spirit through the Word to give us His thoughts (Ps. 119:25). Having the cross in our life is when our conflict and lack meets with Christ’s Provision. We exchange our life for His, and in this we are more than conquerors—we win!! We win Christ when we can count it all joy, when we can walk through a “no-win” situation and win Christ, think according to God’s eternal perspective, and allow Him to work His life in us! Building ourselves up with God’s thoughts toward us will also lead us to “find him”. Jeremiah 29:11-14 says: “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, Thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord …..”

We had a food booth to raise funds for Puerto Rico missions. Many “San Juan Coolers”, Empanadas (spelling?), chicken and rice meals, etc. passed into the hands of Convention attendants with the help of several people who really worked during the week (Thanks to Misty, Shannon, Peggy, Nate, P. Gary, Lissette, Lissette’s mom, Millie, Olga and many others).

We are getting excited and ask for prayer to help us keep navigating through the many details of this big move. God has been so faithful in every detail! Pray we have the inspiration to attack the boxes in the basement and the peace about deciding what goes, stays, etc. Pray for our kids—they’ve been “troopers”. Pray for Pastor Gary and Lissette with whom we are teaming up. Pray for the up-and-coming homeschool year and God’s leading with books etc. Please pray for affordable, safe housing and the exact location in PR.

We are very encouraged that our friends and loved ones are checking this blog and allowing us to keep you informed. If you are viewing the blog and would like us to add you our update reminder list, please contact us at:

Also, if you would like us to mail you our new “prayer card” with a photo of the family, prayer needs, contact info and a map of Puerto Rico, please e-mail us your mailing address. This card is known to "decorate" many refrigerators!!

Much love!

The Matthews

The photos:
We were not very good photographers in PR this time, here are some highlights from the last 2 months.

After living with a creek behind the PA house for 2 years, we finally "got released" and went in with the adults and kids who came over for Memorial day (this was our first time)!! What a mess!! Getting back up the bank was a challenge!

Crayfish anyone? (We hope we didn't deplete the population)

Uugh! Many hands make light work? While some were wading in the creek, others were making a work day out of it to help us with much needed repairs etc. This is the wood-burning stove -- it weighs a TON! Thanks guys!

The difficult part about ministering and loving people is saying "goodbye" (though knowing we'll have eternity together). The family and others from Greater Grace in York have been visiting Pleasant Acres Nursing Home for more than 3 years. The lady pictured here, Phyllis, was one of the first we met. We visited many folks regularly with an encouraging thought from the Word, sometimes a song, and, of course, greetings from the kids. Thanks to the team members: Skip, Elizabeth, Cody, Sue, Pete & Liz.

Some basics on life in Puerto Rico:

1). Drive Prayerfully!! The only thing Cindy has experienced that compares is Boston, MA!! If you dare open your eyes while being driven, you may glimpse a nice sight like this.

2). Yes, there are pretty beaches in abundance. Now you know whom to come visit!! Us.

3). Beautiful architecture. There is a long standing tradition of Roman Catholicism. We sense that the "white" harvest in Puerto Rico is definitely affected by the people's God-consciousness and respect for the Bible ... many are longing to study the Bible in depth.

4). "Some stuff is really old in Puerto Rico." This is near the Fort in Old San Juan. Some parts date back to 1634.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Steelpan video -- just for fun

Just for is a taste of "down island" culture; a steelpan band practicing in St. Lucia. The picture is very dark, but you can hear their neat sound. These are made from oil drums. You could look in to learn a little history.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Reflections that fuel the Vision: "Go Ye..."

The Corporate expression, Acts 1:8 " shall be witnesses unto me..."

There is distinct work that God Himself does in each available heart which identifies the indwelling, active presence of the Holy Spirit; He thunders, emboldens, and impassions us for the lost, for the weary, for the wayward. By others it may not be heard and cannot be estimated but like Paul on the road to Damascus, we are catapulted into a need to know Him and to make Him known.

We are constantly thankful for the Word that comes from the pulpit; from a fellowshipping believer and from the divine provocations--when one can only refer to God's doing or allowing; but how much more we are confident when we are awaken and our ears have been opened by His voice (Isaiah 50:4, 5); then preacher, prophet or priest need not confirm but having been exercised in His gracious calling we say, "Speak Lord, for your servant hears" (I Sam. 3:10). That's every Christian's incredible privilege and ammunition against the confederacy of the air and the conspiracy of cosmic darkness. And we have more with the Corporate Body of Christ, the Church.

Jesus did not detach Peter's confession from the power and authority of the Church--they are never exclusive to one another (Matthew 16:13-19). Having been called to the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, this understanding is the greatest and the most foundational principle: my personal rhemas are never at conflict or contrary to the general and specific vision of the Church to which we are individually called, as led by the Word and the Holy Spirit...that is absolutely glorious to me. Then I have two witnesses, the inner man of the heart and the Body of Christ...prone to wander, this keeps us accountable and focused. That is the faith and overcoming victory we experience (I John 5:4) -- that's the believer's authority in the sending power of the Church. I love it!

Here are some pictures and our reflections on recent trips to Puerto Rico and St. Lucia, enjoy and continue to pray for the team...

This too is spiritual: it is an Acts 3:19b moment: a time of refreshing from the Lord...

I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the house of the Lord...

Lord did you say go into the highways? cause this is really high! Luke 14:23

"Its like this ma'am, you must be born again."

Some Photos of St. Lucia

Many of you know that Pastor Julian was born in St. Lucia. Following our time in Puerto Rico last year, we spend some time in St. Lucia. Our plan was to stay on the other end of the island, but when we arrived at night, a day later than the plan, everyone in the airport seemed to agree that driving a good distance on the windy, mountainous roads would not be advisable. We took a recommendation for a private guest house. When the owner came to pick us up, she routinely asked what had brought us to St. Lucia. When we told her that we were Christians who were seeking the Lord about coming to plant a Bible-based church, she exclaimed "Praise the Lord! I've been praying for the Lord to send someone to St. Lucia!" We had sweet fellowship into the evening with her and the next day she happily drove us around at her expense. She opened up her heart about her burden for the people of St. Lucia and the Caribbean. She was a blessing and a Divine provision for us during our visit.

City of Castries

a homemade scooter

precious girls in Castries

The day we visited this town in Denry, the was no water supply and people where carrying water up and down the mountain on their heads (in the upper 90s!)

fishing towns don't change much over the years

the market in Castries where local produce is sold

People were very responsive to evangelism. One particular evening, the three of us passed out 50 tracks, made 20 good contacts, there were 10 people who prayed the sinner's prayer and 2 hours later or so 5 of them came to a Bible study where Julian was invited to speak in a Methodist church in Castries. Julian shared the Finished work of Christ on the cross and the people listened intently and asked questions--even the pastor seemed to be touched by the pure grace message.

"Oceanview" homes in St. Lucia.

The Lord gave this beautiful double rainbow.