Meet Myra Velasquez

Meet Myra Velasquez! As a long term missionary in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, Myra is a tireless servant of the Gospel. She is a nurturer, thoughtful and kind. A woman of God, family, and prayer. Check out this excerpt from her testimony on Proverbs 3:5-6.

Attachment-1 (23)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Being on the mission field since 1999, my life has indeed been a journey. My family    and I have experienced countless extraordinary blessings as well as tremendous    difficulties and yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For those of us who are married, we know that marriage requires a lot of work.  I think it’s safe to say that it takes even more of an effort for those of us who are in full time ministry together, especially because we’re rarely apart. I can recall, what began as a passion in our hearts for the lost suddenly turned into a struggling marriage. We were no longer fighting as one but against each other. Then God in all His grace reminded me that He is our Helper and our Counselor. Sadly, we allowed ourselves to forget this powerful truth. During this time, He led me to Proverbs 3:5- 6. If I wanted my marriage to succeed, all I had to do was: Trust in the Lord with all my heart; Not lean on my own understanding; Submit all my ways to Him (prayer) and He would make my paths straight.

This seemed simple enough (yeah right) so I began to pray regularly. Was    it easy? No. Prayer requires humility and takes great effort, especially when you think you’re in the right. But when we look to Jesus, our greatest example, He was constant in prayer and always humble, therefore we should do the same. As we surrendered ourselves before the Lord in prayer, God began to reveal things in our hearts that needed to change. Our confidence was now in God and all His promises as we kept our eyes fixed on Him and not on our circumstances.

In all God’s sovereignty and grace, God delivered us and healed our marriage. Mando and I made a promise to one another when we got married: We wanted our marriage to be a glory unto the Father and that divorce was never an option. Today, with a grateful heart, I can proclaim to you that my husband and I are very much in love. Mando and I have recently celebrated 21 years of marriage    and all I can say is: “Blessed be the name of the Lord!”

Beloved sister, no matter what you’re facing today; no matter your circumstance; when all hope seems lost and you’re ready to give up, I urge you to not despair. Get on your face before God. Lay prostrate before the King of kings. Do not give up but rather give it up, by humbling yourself in surrender at the Throne of Grace. You will find mercy. Allow God to go before you and fight your battle and expect that He has His best in mind for you. Because he is the One who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Jesus, help me to turn my eyes away from all those things that hinder,

and gaze upon You, my Blessed Hope.

I want to trust You in every situation

and seek Your good ways above my own understanding.

Direct me, Father,

make my paths straight for Your glory.

Amen.

At His Feet: Meet Amber Barnard

Meet Amber Barnard! Amber and her family are missionaries in India with a passion for Bible translation. She is honest and real, a woman of prayer who loves her family and the people she encounters around the world with compassion and conviction.

Attachment-1 (16)

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15-17

This is a go to verse for me when I need to re-center my focus and gauge whether or not my priorities are in line. I, as with most of us, can honestly say that I put forth my best effort to do what is right and good.  I know I make mistakes, have patterns of sin that need correction, and have those awful days worse than the rest.  Many of us can say: I am not a drunkard, I do not gamble, I am not guilty of fornication or debauchery, yet still seek pleasure, satisfaction, and comfort in the things of this world.  The options are vast: upward mobility in a job, affection and attention of others, television, food, shopping, our own accomplishments, making  sure our kids are the smartest, fastest, most creative, etc., our body image, houses, cars, a booming ministry, nails, hair, social media, business endeavors, the list goes on.

It is so easy to love the world and seek our own desires and then ask God to “use us for his glory” in the midst of our busyness.   Then, we seek acceptance and approval from each other, rather than God and do things out of selfish ambition without realizing it.

I can easily get distracted and my love for the world becomes clear in times of distress.  I see friends get sick or physically ailed and can no longer do the things they love. Then they suddenly experience a loss of self-worth or disappointment in life.  When I was living in India, I sometimes found myself wanting that nice house and that nice car and all those fun activities for my kids to do and enjoy with their friends. When everything around me is different and dirty and I feel like I’m in a constant state of discomfort, my spirit crushes and a sense of hopelessness arises because things feel not as I think they should.  Then, I begin to realize that sometimes I do love the world and all its pleasurable activities and desire seemingly more than anything else to be comfortable, affluent, and satisfied. It’s all rubbish, though, when I compare it to what I could have in Christ.  All earthly things and pleasures are not innately evil; nevertheless, the excess in which we indulge can be at a great cost: I can begin to focus inwardly instead of upwardly and outwardly.  Thinking too much about myself, I neglect to focus on God and disregard the needs of the poor and oppressed. And I know I’m not the only one.

We must identify these feelings as they are: mere strivings, a pride of possessions, a love for the world rather than a love for God.  I rejoice when I see glimpses of God at work in my conversations and relationships and answers to prayer despite myself; yet I also mourn, for His overarching leadership in my life is hardly as it should be.  The habit of seeking what I think I need continuously pulls me in the wrong direction, repeatedly leading me in circles where I have to again remember that this world is literally passing away before my very eyes, while abiding in God will last forever.

Lord, let us encourage one another to live lives worthy of the calling of Jesus Christ, to build each other up in love and pray to discover the way to work together, as a body, that we might understand what it means to do the will of God. Amen.

Retreat Reflections: Kelby Bruno

Every year, we set aside an extraordinary amount of time to spend with God and one another. Many of us learn something or have an aha that we just don’t want to let go of. If you have something you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. The best way for us to stay connected to God is to remember what He has done. Today we get to hear from Kelby Bruno. Kelby is married to Chris and mom to Cade and Chase. Did you know she was a professional windsurfer and competed on the world tour with world class windsurfers? NBD as the kids say… she did that in the middle of becoming an awesome singer/songwriter. Next time you see her, be sure to give her some love.

Philippians 3:12-13

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The retreat was a great weekend of being reminded of the “trues” that we mostly know, but we forget! As I set out for the weekend, I had no idea (like most women’s retreats) what to expect. Every time I go to a retreat, God is up to something different! I had decided to go earlier this year,(although it took me twice as long to register), I knew that leading up to the retreat, things would start to get hectic. They always do! Kids get sick, the week seems overwhelming, anxiety sets in, just to name a few. You find yourself a day or two before questioning, “Should I really go?” Well, I do know a few things about that nasty little devil that tells us and discourages us from almost everything good in our life; so I did start to pray and stand on the fact that I had already decided to go. I had already agreed with God that He would speak to me on some level, and that fellowship with the body is always God’s heart.  Nevertheless, the battle was still there. As me and my roommates forged ahead in somewhat of a disheveled state, we did make it to the beautiful setting of the retreat and could then start to settle our hearts.

The great thing to find out is that we were not alone. Many women faced these similar feelings, setbacks and apprehensions.  As the retreat started and the women began to share through the teachings,  #1 we are not alone in our struggle.  So often you feel you are the only one that “doesn’t have it together”.  You seldom release yourself to the fact that it’s ok to not be “ all together” and that you can just come as you are. We need to let not only our self, but also others to do that too.  Fact #2, is that Jesus had already ordained us to be there. Individually, and as a group, His sovereign hand and mind had something to say to us personally. What did He say to you? What did He say to us?  What He said to me is that I needed to be reminded once again of His loving truths in my life.  I so often forget the important things that I believe through the ups and downs of life. His loving hand wanted to reach out and encourage me upward through the teaching of the Word, corporate worship and adoration, fellowship with women, friendships rekindled, on top of enjoying the moment of His creation and being “away” with Him.  It wasn’t just another lunch date or walk; it was a time that He was going to speak through all these things.  He needed to remind me that “little foxes” come to attack the fruitful vine He has planted in my heart and life. Yes! He has planted a fruitful vine in our life because we love Jesus!  That is just one thing He spoke.  He let me see the hearts of other women that spoke honestly and humbly and broken about their struggles, which in turn helped others to open up and receive the healing they needed.  He reminded us as a group that we all need healing in different areas, and that He has enough of Himself to heal all of us at the same time in different areas. It was marvelous! He reminded me that as we welcomed new people to our lives, He was also rekindling people that we have known for a while, but only in part. He was developing and forming new friendships.

By Sunday, we women felt full. We felt encouraged and loved. We felt that God had so undeniably met us where we were. Not that everything is done, but for this time and place the Lord was able to speak to us. It was a time to invite new things and be open for the “new” season that God has put us in. As I read and meditated on Philippians 3:12-13, it reminded me that I must do this. Forget what lies behind. Don’t look in the rearview mirror. Press on to what the Lord has ahead. Press on to what the Lord has in the here and now. Remind yourself of the trues that He has spoken to your heart. God Bless you.

Refelctions at His Feet: My I AM Story by Jessica Tucker

So, getting to retreat was a small miracle in itself.  Taylor had the flu for the entire week with relentless fevers, lots of moaning, crying, and whimpering- it was awful.  Then he had an ear infection that was making him miserable.  We took him to the pediatrician and that afternoon, on Wednesday, his eardrum ruptured.  It was hell.  I was so stressed and anxious and literally on the brink of a panic attack (which I’ve struggled with in the past).  Thursday my mom took my daughter so that I could tend to Taylor’s pus-seeping ear, and tend to calming my spirit.  One reason this was so particularly anxiety-producing for me is that I have a long history of ear infections myself starting around 18 months.  My own eardrum ruptured and I had 2 sets of tubes which let to a deadly fear of doctors and hospitals, not to mention a permanently perforated eardrum.  (This is a problem for anyone that likes to take normal baths, showers, or go swimming, snorkeling, water skiing, etc in any body of water.  My ear problems have defined the activities in my life in a serious way.)  So this particular event with Taylor sent me into worry tailspin that if he didn’t heal correctly he would be doomed to surgery (Which is what I could do to be “normal” again, but then there’s that problem about being deathly afraid of all things doctor or hospital related.) or a life of ear issues like me.

Throughout this previous week of hell worrying about and caring for Taylor, I had been praying for him. Once it was confirmed that he had a bad infection I started really praying that he would get better.  I couldn’t believe that God would hit my hottest hot button by allowing his eardrum to rupture.  If I faithfully prayed to Him, and prayed out loud with Taylor so that God would glorify Himself by healing Taylor and Taylor having the 1st hand opportunity to see and experience God’s healing power, and that STILL happened, how much hope can I have that He’s going to heal his ear correctly.  I realize this sounds so faithless and rude to God.  God please forgive my frustration. My fear.  My shut-down trust.  

Okay, so retreat.  Wednesday, Taylor slept through the night for the first time in 3 nights and Thursday my mom had Selah and I just had time with Taylor.  He really seemed to be improving, so I was hopeful that I could leave on Friday.  In the late afternoon Taylor’s fever came back as he fell asleep for a nap.  Thursday night Taylor FINALLY wanted to eat.  He seriously had only eaten like ½ day’s worth in the last 4 days. Friday morning his cotton ball was soaked with pus and liquid, but he was doing okay, and was sitting up and walking himself to potty and smiling again.  Praise God.  So Friday afternoon we loaded into Dylan’s truck and headed to Murrieta Hot Springs! Yay!! BUT I was still so worried.  I had to surrender control. I was worried how Taylor would do without my watchful eye reading his every movement.  I was worried that his antibiotic ear drops wouldn’t be administered correctly, or that he wouldn’t be encouraged to drink enough water, or get his vitamins, or that he would be allowed to consume sugar…

Friday night at retreat we stayed up until 1 am playing games. It was so fun! I gave myself permission to sleep in Saturday for a couple reasons.  1: I like sleep. 2: I hadn’t been sleeping while Taylor was sick because he would either wake me up with crying and whimpering about one of his many ailments (my poor baby…), or I would wake myself and check on him, feeling his body for fever or check his draining ear.

I slept until 9:55 am Saturday and it was glorious.  I figured I would check on Taylor and how things were going and start my quiet time early.  I missed breakfast and Session 2, if that wasn’t obvious.  It sounded like Taylor was ok, but Merrell was at work, so Merrell’s mom was at our house, and my dad actually was with Taylor for a couple hours while Taylor went to Opening Day for baseball.  I was so worried that this was a far too ambitious event for a kid that couldn’t walk himself to the bathroom 2 days ago…

I sent all my texts checking in with everyone and began my quiet time on the grass, sitting in the sun with a short prayer, and jumped into the book, Believe, that I’ve been reading with a Bible study group.  I had a revelation during this reading.  I had never understood the significance of the curtain being torn when Jesus died on the cross but I finally GOT IT.  That curtain separated the people from God in a lot of ways.  People couldn’t have direct access with God, and a LOT of people weren’t even able to have relationship with God even through the priest.  Jesus changed all that for when that curtain tore it made it possible for ALL of us to have direct access to God.  What a huge privilege!!!  Although I had heard this before, I just didn’t get it before.  I was so full of thankfulness and awe, and with eyes closed, I turned my face to the heaven (the sky), knowing with full confidence that I could pray right to my God and that He loved me and would hear whatever I had to say.  I said in prayer to God, “Please God, please heal Taylor’s ear”. Then it happened. That rare moment when you hear God speak to you.  Or think you do at least.  I heard/saw Him- it was odd, but cool! The response:

“I am”

Whoa.  So I pause, with my eyes still closed and pointed to the sky “God is that YOU?! Did you just answer me?!??!”   

“I am”  

“Oh my Goodness, God. You’re answering me!! ‘I am’ That’s amazing because that’s like your name, kind of, in the Bible! You say that!!”

“I am”

So cool.  I realized God and I were communicating.  I don’t have these moments often.  Very rarely, actually.  Like a handful of times in my life.  I mean I’ve seen God move through answered prayer and things like that, but not in this format.  It was exhilarating.  Then there’s always that little doubt- like did I make that up?  But in my heart I knew.  I knew the Great “I am” had just answered me that he was healing my Taylor, and that he really was talking to me!! Amazing.  So during session 4, when they were singing that song:  “Hallelujah, holy, holy, God Almighty, the great I AM! Who is worthy?, none beside Thee, God Almighty, the great I AM”.  I was just so touched.  Blown away, and in awe that God would commune with me!  Praise the Lord!

Reflections At His Feet: Laura Wallace

design(14)

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” ~ Luke 10:41-42

It is amazing to think how God can transform your heart in 48 hours.  

The weight of going to a women’s retreat is real. It’s intimidating and it’s scary for a person like me. You see, being a single and never-been-married working mom is atypical in the church. While my testimony of sharing how God walked me through my sin and brought me into motherhood with grace and mercy is impactful, it is still hard to share without a polarizing feeling, a sense of difference.

Needless to say, coming to a women’s retreat meant there was strong chance I had to explain “yes, I have a daughter and no I’ve never been married” at every mealtime when meeting new people. I worried about this because it created a vulnerability that makes me uncomfortable. And then there are the women that always come up to you with pity eyes and ask in a sweet way “How are you doing? Are you ok?” and my insecurity and pride get the best of me and I get angry and hardened.  A self inflicting wound that just wouldn’t go away.

So no, I didn’t want to go to the women’s retreat.

I felt like an outsider but not because of what someone had done or said to me but because my heart had created this armor of self-preservation based on my worry of acceptance and my insecurity of not fitting in.  Add the fact I wouldn’t be seeing familiar faces deepened this insecurity.

At each message and each worship service every time I heard “Martha, Martha,”  God was chiseling away at the bitterness and insecurity by saying “few things are needed-or indeed only one” and by Saturday I let go of it all.

Face to the floor, all out vulnerable, ugly cry style. 

In a domino effect fashion, I let go of the self-inflicted shame…. let go of feeling insecure…. let go of my bitterness.

I felt that weight become lightened the moment I allowed God to break the armor around my heart and it was good.  Had I not faced my fears of going to the retreat, I’d be still sitting in those old feelings tonight, unable to forge the relationships I made this weekend.

The weight Martha must of felt when Jesus called her to let go of “doing” must of felt good.  Yet it reminds me that being in God’s presence means to stop hiding in the kitchen and to get on your knees….ugly crying is totally ok….. in fact becoming unraveled at the feet of Jesus is when you realize you’ve missed on the blessings and fellowship that God WANTS you to enjoy. You may be different, heavy burdened, insecure, bitter but allowing yourself to become unraveled at HIS feet is like no other.

*****

We would love to share stories and testimony from our time together last weekend at retreat. Please share your insights, reflections, praises and prayers with us in the comments below.

RFKC Friday Update: The Goodbyes

It was time to say goodbye. We were outside in the blazing hot sun in the early afternoon. Any of the four other previous days, around the same time in the afternoon, the kids could easily be heard splashing and laughing in the pool, seen putting together Lego masterpieces, cheered on as they bounced basketballs, or watched doing a variety of other fun activities. But not so on this day. Today it is Friday and instead of all the fun activities in afternoon, we are waiting to load the kids on the bus.

While the luggage is put on the buses and everything else gets prepared before the kids’ leave, to pass the time, the kids and volunteers sign each other’s t-shirts. Also, the counselors get an opportunity to give their campers the specially made memory book filled with pictures and notes from the week.

Last year, I remember in particular, one graduating girl who was walking around with a poster board piece that she was asking everyone to sign. She asked me to sign and I gladly did. She was in tears and could hardly speak a word. It was so hard to look at her like that. This was her last year at camp. In fact, these were her last couple of moments at this very special place.

It is challenging to say goodbye after pouring out on these kids every last ounce of love we have (and all week long, God seemingly continues to fill us up with more of His love to pour out). Even in their cussing, kicking, running off, and hating, when God gives us His heart for them, somehow we love them in the messes. Not only does His love in us for the kids make it difficult to watch them leave, but also the fact that it is truly “goodbye.” We cannot promise to see them at camp next year, we cannot excitedly exclaim, “See you in heaven!”, and we cannot be certain we will ever see them again.

In these moments, the one thing we can take comfort in, is the knowledge that the Lord holds these precious children in His hands. He is their Savior, He is their Good Shepherd, and He is their hope. He will protect them and continue to direct their steps. So though we cannot make promises to the children about the future, the greatest thing is that we know the One who holds both the kids and their futures – and He is surely trustworthy.

Though this particular girl may never come back to camp again – though we do not know if any of these kids will ever come back to camp whether or not they are graduating this year – we submit them to the Lord. All we can do is ask Him to continue to lead them nearer to Himself!

Specific Prayer Requests:

  • As we say goodbye, please pray that God will comfort our hearts. Pray that though we may grieve and be broken, we do not grieve as those without hope because we know God holds the kids and their futures in His very hands.
  • For those of us riding on the bus ride back home with the kids, please pray that God will give us the words to say and will lead us in our interactions with the kids. Pray for God to give us strength and grace as we spend the last few moments with the kids.
  • As the kids re-adjust to “home life”, whatever that may be, pray they will be received back by their caregivers well.
  • Pray God will continue to speak to the campers even after they leave camp. Pray that He will soften their hearts and that they will turn to Him and seek a personal relationship with Him. Pray for their brokenness and past hurts to be healed in Jesus’ love.

RFKC Wednesday Update: Give Our All

It’s pretty humbling that some of the kids at camp have never celebrated their birthday before. So the fun event on Wednesday night at camp is a huge Birthday Party for everyone!

After the fun games are finished, the cupcakes are eaten, and it’s time to head back to the cabins, it could be the hardest night to put the campers to bed. They have just had a whole bunch of sugar, received a bunch of great gifts, and just do not want to sleep. And yet, what is also hovering over some of their minds is the fact that the next day, Thursday, is their last FULL day at camp.

Both the volunteers and kids experience a lot of emotions at camp. I think it is pretty accurate to say that Wednesday night/Thursday morning provides a turning point for everyone.

The kids start to realize they only have one full day left at camp. Many of these kids, because of what they have been through, are very resilient. Therefore, some of them may begin holding back and shut us out to protect themselves because they know we will say goodbye on Friday.

At this point, as counselors and staff, we are all faced with an important decision: we can either hold back ourselves because it is hurts to bid them farewell or we can choose to continue pouring out all for them despite the fact that it may be very painful to load them on the bus on Friday.

The first year I attended camp, I distinctly remember being challenged during our staff “chapel time” on Thursday to not check out emotionally, spiritually, physically, and mentally. We were encouraged to continue to be present to the kids at camp. If we refrain from giving our all, we will regret it later. Instead, we must continue to pour out every ounce of strength and energy, trusting that God will supply us with even more of His – and He so faithfully does.

The good news is that we, as camp volunteers, are not the kids’ savior. That may seem quite obvious, but I remember crying out to the Lord, “Why can’t we take them all home with us?!” But that’s not why we go to camp. Christ is their Savior. He is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep each by name. He has called these kids to camp and us His people to serve at camp. So, we can put on a smile (even through the tears and the brokenness of our hearts) as they leave so that they can know their Savior, Jesus, is the One who holds them in the very palm of His hands and He has a perfect plan for their future.

Specific Prayer Requests:

  • For the Birthday Party, please pray that through all the fun events and celebrating, the kids will know God has specially made them and He loves them so much.
  • Pray for those who help put the kids to bed on Wednesday night! Pray for God’s peace to be upon everyone.
  • Pray that even if the children start to hold back, they will continue to receive the truth, be receptive of God’s love, and experience what He has brought them to camp for. Pray the kids will focus on enjoying the present moment and not spend the time focusing on leaving camp.
  • Pray that each volunteer will continue to showcase the love of Jesus in our every action. Although it will hurt us to say goodbye, pray we will give our all and not hold back in an effort to avoid the pain. Pray for strength to not check out but rather to pour out all on them.
  • For the girl’s Tea Party tomorrow afternoon, please pray God reveals to them His tender love and care. Pray He will show them what a godly man is like through the men God has called to camp this week.