Sunday, June 24, 2012

Team Presentation to Calvary Church

It was a privilege to report on our Bolivia trip to Calvary Church in today's morning service. You can watch the report in this video. Bless the Lord!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Our Dear Friends

Grady and Sarah have been a huge blessing in all of our lives and especially on this trip. It is obvious that they have huge hearts for God because it can be seen in everything they do. We are so appreciative of the time and effort they spent planning this trip and their commitment as leaders. Throughout all of our adventures in Bolivia (the good and the not so good), they were constantly uplifting those around them with big smiles and good attitudes. They were willing to do whatever they could to encourage and love on the people of Bolivia. Even with a language barrier, it was easy to see them connect with everyone they met and the joy they brought to those around them. They were never overbearing or controlling like some leaders, but full of love with hearts that were so willing to serve others. We are so thankful to have such godly examples willing to answer the call to declare God's glory among the nations!

- Cassie

Grady and Sarah have demonstrated a clear example of Christ-centered, unified leadership during the past two and a half years of my life.  From understanding the highs and lows of their marriage and their responses to those highs and lows, to seeing them raise three beautiful children in the fear of the Lord, Grady and Sarah have illustrated a relationship and partnership founded upon Christ, focused on Christ and others, and highlighted by servanthood.  This was only exemplified throughout our recent mission trip to Bolivia during which they spent a week away from the comforts of home, the needs of the workplace, and the warm embrace of their children and spent a week seeking to grow in their own faith while also seeking to encourage others to fully embrace God.  For Grady and Sarah, Bolivia 2012 was not so much about seeing what they could gain for themselves as much as it was about seeing how they could spur others on to good works and growing deeper in the Word and their relationship with Christ.  Seeing Grady's intentionality in pointing the group to God's faithfulness and worthiness by highlighting answers to prayer, digging into the Word, and emphasizing praise reports (among many other encouragements) was an incredible blessing.  To have a leader so focused on Christ and intentional toward others was a major blessing!  The intentionality which which Grady facilitated each event and conversation blew my socks off and truly inspired me in my walk. Meanwhile, Sarah's heart for others shined during GO Bolivia 2012 perhaps more than ever before (which is a BIG statement).  To see her immediately come alongside Ana and wrap her arm around Ana was a lovely reflection of God our Comforter who comes alongside us in every high and low.  The same was true in each conversation we had one-on-one or in groups with her, as her desire to understand and focus on what's going on in our lives is remarkable.  For two people who have made a huge impact in my life and are continuing to leave an honoring legacy of Christ with their partnership, words are not enough to express my gratitude -- praise God for you!

- Sean

What can I say about the these two unique people that I am talking about today? The words awesome, fantastic and amazing come to mind, because that sure describes Grady and Sarah. Their leadership, encouragement, and quirkiness is something that only a few are able to express as well as them. These two have been great teachers for me in every aspect of my life and for that I am very grateful. So, thank you Grady and Sarah Peeler, for everything you have done on this Bolivia trip and what you continue to do throughout the years.

- Nick

Sarah, you are so good at building friendships and encouraging people. You ask great questions to learn about people, about culture, about God, and you remember the answers. Plus, you answer questions really well, even if I always asked my “How do you raise your kids?” questions that should have two hour answers after 11 p.m. :) Thanks for taking time to personally invest in each of us by asking questions, listening well, and sharing the wisdom and experience God has given you. Thanks for supporting Grady.

Grady, your leadership and support for each person on the team is so appreciated. You took time to get to know each of us, to remind us of truths from the Word, to support Dana, Pastor Alcidez, David and Anna, and others, not to mention all the pre-trip details, meetings, questions, vaccination information…. Thanks also for keeping the blog updated as a way to communicate back home, but also for us to remember what was happening while it was happening. Thanks for giving us an opportunity to go. My life has been changed.
Plus, I can't leave out that y'all are just so. much. fun. You both are full of humor and laughs. Muchas gracias!

- Suzanne

Grady and Sarah, it was awesome to serve alongside of both of you in Bolivia! I love how God brings people together—how He uses us to teach each other, to encourage each other, and to do His work through us. And I loved getting to know both of you better and seeing the incredible ways God is using you all in our lives!

Grady, I just want to say thanks for your servant leadership. You set aside time—from your job, from your kids, from all that you could have done on vacation—to invest in our lives. Then you modeled what it means to serve with humility—following the example of what we learned in Philippians 2 by looking to help us in our walks with the Lord and encouraging us to go deeper. Thank you for your example of walking with Him—I am so thankful for the brother that you are in Christ!!

And Sarah, thank you, thank you, thank you! I loved getting to talk with you, to hear your perspective as a mother and a friend, and to go through it all together. It was awesome to see your positive spirit even though you got almost no sleep some nights, to join in singing all the children’s songs on the truck, and just to chop trees, walk on balance beams, and serve the Lord together. You were such an encouragement to me!
We appreciate and love you guys, thanks for your examples of walking with and serving Him!!!

- David

Thanks for the encouragement and the growth of seeds Grady and Sarah.
How do you know you truly love the Nations without going to them?  How do you know you want to give your life for them if you haven’t seen them?  How do you know how to minister to them if you haven’t been there or been a part of the culture?  How do you realize God’s calling on your life if you have explored multiple options?
I can answer all of these questions only in light of the Gospel.  I know because I have a God who cares intimately for the hurts of people, he cares about their physical hurts, their emotional hurts, and their need for a Savior.  Since I was in middle school (long after I told my parents I didn’t think I would be a missionary overseas ever), I knew one day I wanted to go to the Nations and serve them as healing hands, ministering to those with cleft palate and craniofacial anomalies in the name of Jesus Christ. For then it was only for the short-term.  The seed for missions was planted.  
Originally, I thought that I was going to Bolivia to evangelize the nations and to tell them of this God they had no clue about.  Yet through the encouragement of Grady and Sarah, I realized that was not our whole goal.  We were to go and encourage missionaries, telling them what great works we could see the Lord doing through them, we were to serve the people we met, by washing dishes and making their loads lighter wherever possible, and when possible share the Gospel with words, through our testimonies, by telling them of our Jesus one-on-one and by praying with them.  Over the course of the trip, I began to realize how I would love to continually go overseas and if at all possible live in a country serving there for the long-term.  The seed for missions grew in Bolivia.
For me, a heart for the Nations had gradually been planted throughout the years.  Calvary Church gave me the opportunity to grow by going to the Nations while Grady and Sarah discipled us while we were there.  They were an amazing encouragement through the entire trip.  The ways that they seek to serve others, share the Gospel with those around us, love each other with supernatural love and be blessings to everyone they meet is truly beautiful!  I have seen character traits of the Father in them and by being their friends, I am forever blessed!
Thank you Grady and Sarah for having a heart that longs to see long-term missionaries go realizing their calling through short-term trips.   Thank you for taking care of this seedling, helping to water and grow her.   Thank you for the constant reminders that God was the star of this trip was not us but Jesus Christ and him alone.  Thank you for leaving your physical family at home for a week, not many people would leave their precious family at home with babysitters to go abroad with a group of 10 college students to serve with them in a foreign country.  Thank you for the reminders that just as we loved and served the Bolivians, we can love and serve Americans too.  They need the same Savior. Because you have Christ at the center of your lives, you encourage and push others to live lives for him as well.  When you meet the Father, I am sure he will say “Well done good and faithful servants!”
- Carolyn

Thank you Grady and Sarah!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Year of the LORD's Favor

God laid Isaiah 61 before me on the trip from Santa Cruz to San Ignacio on Day 2.  This chapter is refered to as "The Year of the LORD's Favor."  I found it to be an amazing passage of Scripture when I read it that day.  Yet, it has become so much more meaningful as we encountered both the physical and spiritual:

  • Poor,
  • Prisoners,
  • Mourners,
  • Places of devastations, and
  • Gardens of abundant fruit
as well as God's oaks of righteousness and their offspring while serving.  I pray this post may be an encouragement to all who read it, and perhaps especially the GO Bolivia 2012 team for which God's words here will ring out loud and clear. 

"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor...

...he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound...

 proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion --
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit...

...that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations...






...Their offspring shall be known among the nations,
and their descendents in the midst of the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge them,
that they are an offspring the LORD has blessed...

...For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations."  Isaiah 61:1-4, 9, 11


Setting an Example

"Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity."
1 Timothy 4:12

As you may have noticed if you've been following our blog, the GO Bolivia 2012 team was not exactly a team of seasoned veterans with decades of life experience (in fact, the majority of the team was only weened off the bottle and began walking and talking two decades ago).  The vast majority of team members are between the ages of 20-22 years old and are either still in school or are recent grads.  A handful will have the opportunity to vote for the President of the United States for the first time of their lives this November.  Yeah...we're young!

We're part of a rather confusing generation...our generation LOVES rallying behind causes.  Whether it's seeking world peace, helping storm victims, cleaning the environment, fixing world hunger, or attacking illiteracy, there is no shortage of causes you can see our generation promoting energetically.

We're also part of a generation that has almost everything at our fingertips.  We were raised with with Barney, Power Rangers, and Blue's Clues as everyday lingo, yet "Google," "Youtube," and "Amazon" were commonplace terms as early as middle and high school.  In ways we've been taught that we don't have to try too hard to find information or reach goals because technology can pick up the slack.  Don't get me wrong here, while it can instill "lazy" attitudes in some, it is utilized by the majority for amazing purposes.  

The level of global interconnectedness through the internet and social media is mind-blowing, and it has been fully embraced by our generation.  Like it our not, you can now be "friends" with 1,000 people and only see 20 of them over the course of a year.  Social media has certainly provided an incredible way to communicate, although our generation is slowly losing the ability to effectively and intentionally communication with others face-to-face.

We're also part of a generally dishonoring generation, and that is only getting worse.  It's no secret that our nation is on a gradual moral decline and has been for decades.  Certainly all generations are messy beyond belief (we are fallen in the depths of sin), but the Scriptures are being fulfilled decade by decade by people who are increasingly "lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power." (2 Tim. 3:2)  Also don't get me wrong when I say this...I am not pointing to any certain country, people group, or person...I was once very characteristic of these qualities and am by no means perfect in all of these ways.  However, I do think we all understand that people in general are continually meeting these qualities more clearly and outwardly.  It's ingrained in our is all around's often even praised.

Meanwhile, the American Church has not been unaffected by the gradual moral decline that is shaping the world and this nation.  We hear of our generation that we are leaving the Church at remarkable rates.  We hear of our generation that we have little desire to integrate with the older generation (our parents and grandparents) because of their old-fashioned ways or otherwise indifference.  We hear of our generation that we have a tough road ahead because of the lack of faithful servants who have the gifts needed to lead fellow believers but who often lack the desire to utilize those gifts.

Perhaps it is because of these observations and notions that GO Bolivia 2012 was an amazing and refreshing blessing...because our team did not meet the above-mentioned expectations.

Like our generation, we are ALL ABOUT rallying behind a cause.  But unlike our generation, the focus of our rallying cry does not solely concern people, social issues, and this life: the focus of our rallying cry is the Name and Renown of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior with serving people, meeting needs, and bettering life as methods by which we glorify God.  And the primary method by which we seek to accomplish these things (serving people, meeting needs and bettering life) is by pointing to the Servant (our service) who has become the Way (answer to the need) to unending joy and satisfaction for all eternity (which EVEN affects every area of this life).

It is from an overflow of our personal relationship with our Lord and Creator Jesus that we seek to relate with people, share God's love and light, and reflect God.

It is from an overflow of realizing that Jesus is the only One who is worthy of praise that we seek to make Him the center of our lives and others' lives.

It is from an overflow of joy in being loved by God, captivated by His truth, and Him shining light into the darkness of our lives that we seek to share God's love, light and truth with others.

It is from an overflow of experiencing God's goodness that we seek to do good for others.

We may be young.  We may be relatively inexperienced in life and missions.  And we may be part of a confusing generation.  

But we are first and foremost children of God, followers of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

If there was anything remotely praise-worthy, it was because of God.  We are only incapable servants led by a fully-capable God.  In everything, may there be thanksgiving and rejoicing and praise TO GOD!

GO Bolivia 2012 provided an amazing example of unity in the Body of Christ: people who authentically desired to make Christ known and who by the Spirit's indwelling displayed love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  As a result, it is my strong belief that we truly did set God-honoring and Christ-exalting examples in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.  

I pray that through the power of God we set this example to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. To those younger than us and those older than us. To our generation. To our families.  To our friends.  To the readers of this blog.  To the Bolivian missionaries and fellow servants.  To the people of Consuelo, San Ignacio and Santa Cruz.  To those we sat beside on the planes and buses.  To all those we came in contact with.  To all we never met but who will continue the work we left behind.  To Charlotte.  To America.  To Bolivia.  To the nations.  

"And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes."
Ezekiel 36:23

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Beautiful People

I've got a weak spot for dark eyes, dark hair, and dark skin. And heaven knows I love kids. So, if you happen to possess these qualities you're totally on my hit list of Love You and Want You. Some of the darling kids in Bolivia never knew what hit them when they were swarmed with tickles and lollipops and piggy back rides.
But, it wasn't just darling kids that received our attention and love. University students, village farmers, passionate pastors, prison inmates, and city folks were all curious to see and talk with el groupo de los Estados Unidos!
Sometimes quiet at first. Sometimes eager to press in close and talk. But every time hospitable, warm, and gracious. Dirt floors were swept clean to greet us. Rustic wooden chairs were offered when we arrived. Fresh, just-off-the-tree oranges were handed out. A handshake, a kiss, and a genuine "Hola, buenos dias!" every time.
It's always a privilege to participate in corporate worship. It's especially powerful and joyous to do so with people that live in ways entirely different from what we're accustomed to but who still know and love the one true God. It's a taste of heaven, really, because the colors and the sounds represent a beautiful variety that only God could create and bring together.
Village life is hard. But maybe some of the people living this way don't know that it's hard because they've never known anything different. Many of the people we met had never traveled beyond the small town a few miles from their village. Electricity and running water aren't necessary. Home life happens apart from Target, CVS, and Home Depot. Family members and friends pitch in to make things work: farming, building, and educating. There is a true sense of community because without it it's every one for himself.
Despite the wide spectrum of differences between their way of life and ours, there was an abundance of similarities, too. Most of the time, food was different, but  on more than one occasion we realized that french fries and grilled steak was a common place kind of meal.
And I was bent over laughing when several of the college students asked me to be their friend on Facebook. Wait, what? The only place you've ever known is your home in your city and yet you're globally connected to people via Facebook? And even if their phones and cameras are a few years behind ours, I was still impressed to see many with Blackberry's and digital cameras. People live without an organized highway system, good medical care, or honest law enforcement, but yet most of them think it's important to own a cell phone and communicate on Facebook. Not right, not wrong, just different.
Bolivian or American, Spanish or English, boy or girl. None of it matters because deep down we are all the same! We all like to play games, take silly pictures, eat yummy food, and play practical jokes. And that's why it's surprisingly easy to develop a special friendship with people who live a world apart from you and that you can't necessarily even talk to.
If you want to grab the attention of little girls and need a simple way to earn their favor so you can talk with them: nail polish! I casually sat down one afternoon with three small bottles of polish and within minutes I had the full focus of several little girls. Even in my broken Spanish I was able to affirm their beauty as girls created by God. And seriously, is there anything cuter than glittery fingers on dirty and muddy hands and toes? It's oxymoronish.
If you live under a grass thatched roof, attend church with no walls and plenty of spiders, eat the same thing from a community bowl for breakfast everyday, or attend college with hopes of making a better life for yourself and your country, it's doesn't matter. Those things are simple differences between you and I, but they are not separators between us.
They don't separate us because there is one God with one love for one purpose: to make His glory known by bringing each of us to Himself. Which brings me back to my earlier comment about enjoying the privilege to glimpse heaven through corporate worship and fellowship and service with people who care about kingdom building. That makes us brothers and sisters. And a family that seeks God together does powerful things together. 
My heart is full and my spirit is encouraged to have spent a week serving with Master Servers.