Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Have Come That You May Have Life and Have it More Abundantly…

I recently spoke with a young man who has a business; for many days I could not reach him. When I did get to him, he confessed that he had been wrapped up in taking an emergency inventory because he had to clear his suspicion that more goods were going out of the business than was being accounted for and his sales were not showing any upward fluctuation in sales. He was sufficiently occupied with this goal that he missed several times of fellowship. His diligence was commendable but the displacement of his priorities by it needed reproof and he received it well. As we look at the publications coming to us as Christians, it is clear that we are all being bandwagon-ed to take some type of inventory or assessment to know what gifts we possess, whether we are using them well and are we benefiting personally by them. Many are distracted and enamored by the self-life and have missed the fellowship that is found being occupied with the Lord in His Church; out of balance we go looking at and for the gift(s) rather than the Giver…looking at “the blessing” and building tabernacles to them, rather than those whom the Lord is giving and are waiting to be blessed by it.
most of the visiting group from Baltimore

Evangelism and the work of the ministry can become another gift that can displace the deeper work that is or should be going on… How many times I have been excited at the prospects of a salvation or disappointed that someone did not get saved (the external assurances), when the Lord in fact would have me see/understand that His entire work through evangelism and ministry is to capture my heart, to deal with areas still imprisoned by self. That today His victory, beautiful as it always is when someone accepts Him as Savior, cannot be minimized when He does ground work of cleansing and purging and making my vessel fit for worship in that given hour I am living in… How many times I moved swiftly to another door, being diligent to present the Gospel, when the Lord was knocking on a door to another area of my heart and was kept out…

I am so thankful that Positional Truths never allow for experiential condemnation but rather, that well again, my eyes may see that His Mercy and Goodness have followed, no, pursued me. Its been great to be here in Puerto Rico because it takes a place like this one, available and tender to the tune of the Gospel, to have me see that God is still about the work of capturing one…and that many times is the one that bears my full name, He is seeking after me. It is not my job to take inventory of God’s goods and services, of the number of laborers that are in His field or the tools/gifts that He provides for my eyes and heart to realize that, “It Is Finished,” but rather glory that I can say fill me today Lord, lead me today, quite me today to hear your voice…

Pastor Scibelli, Pastor Cooper, their wives, Linda and Nikki, Pastor Moises Baldwin, Joe Lavoie, his wife Christine and the group with Latascha Brown brought the dew of Hermon of which the mountains of Zion boasts…it was a time of refreshing and deep pondering. Time did not stop for us only that the Lord gave each one of us a divine ability to abide, hearing the Word preached, reaching students at the university, encouraging students and families at the Christian school and soul-winning. Well laid are messages by Pastor Scibelli such as “God’s motivation is love, His foundation is Mercy and His operation is Grace,” “Having a new heart with a new spirit” and “Doing what we could with what we have.” For every message and to everyone we say, “Thank You.”

This month has been very eventful. We have been holding services in a rented hall (actually a little restaurant) for about six weeks now (before that we were in someone's home and this didn’t allow the liberty to say “come one and all”). Nearly every week we have had between 5 and 7 first time visitors since we started using a public place. Several weeks ago sixteen people came from our Baltimore City church, including Pastor Scibbelli, our Director of Missions and his wife. They were such an encouragement!! We had a rigorous schedule for them and some of them only visited the beach for about an hour all week. We held several campus "forums" at Universidad de Puerto Rico. The attendance was not large, but several students were very touched and moved by the time we had with them. One girl even broke into tears because she had just prayed to God to send her fellowship. We had a concert (singers from Baltimore) at the Christian school where Julian is doing the chapel services. We invited the kids' families (some of them already attend our church) and the attendance was about 90 people! The next evening we held a dinner service at the restaurant where we hold services and about 40 people came (most of our regular church members made it).

Puerto Rico is a precious mission field. People almost always stop to speak with us about Christ and every week there is at least one first-time profession for Christ. We are praying for more laborers to join us. So many times Julian is on his own and there are ample visits and follow-ups to make. Continue to pray for the language issue. We are putting more effort into study, but it's a long haul. We joke that in some of our brief attempts to communicate at someone's door that we think we used our entire Spanish vocabulary right then:) Though many times when we are door-knocking, we find that, although they themselves may be unaware, probably 80% of the people in a neighborhood are fluent in English. The real clincher has been attempting Sunday school and nursery with Spanish-only kids (we don't have other adults who are up to covering this yet, so I do most of it with the help of Abigail)! One Sunday Julian preached in English-only because all the adults knew English.

Pastor Scibbelli relaxing with some of the kids

Please pray for activities for the kids. God has been faithful. The Christian school has asked that we assist with a 6th-8th grade Friday "club" (which will be especially good for Abby) and they have offered to let her join their art class on Wednesdays. We did, however, decide that even as Abby qualified for the swim team, we wouldn't be able to swing it (even more so because of the rigorous schedule and one vehicle--island-wide competitions, practice 5 days a week for 2hours!!--almost all year long!!). She has taken it well, she says that we have to understand why we are here (for the Gospel!). The homeschool group has also been doing a lot of neat things together and there is always a kid for each of them to hook up with at the events. Julian has started bringing the 3 oldest swimming at the community pool to "keep in shape" (6:40am).

Latasha (from Baltimore) and Isaac (from Puerto Rico)

Joe LaVoie and Christine

Julian, Jr. and the bunny

some of our girls with a friend's daughter

We are believing that we will be able to visit the states in June for Convention and for the kids and I to visit my parents in Vermont who have increasing health challenges. (Psalm 145:5-8, 2 Cor. 2:14-15)
our young lady, Abigail

some singers from Baltimore

We are now looking to visits by Pastor Duke and a group from Greater Grace Church of York County, PA in early April, Pastor McFarlane of Clearwater, Florida and another group from Baltimore with Pastor Cooper in late April. Our international convention is in late June and we also hope for a summer harvest here in the southwestern end of the island.


As we reflect on the life of Bob (Sterling) Toomey and the close of his earthly assignment, our family here sends our appreciation and thanks to the Toomey families who have blessed us with their encouragement and love during our team life/time in York County, Pennsylvania. Faithful was each one who stood in the gap for God’s answer for the ministry there. To Nettie, Bob’s wife, we say the other half will be spoken of by the Lord, Himself, of what great a work He did in Bob’s life and each of you who prayed, waited and watched. With great love…the Matthew Family.