Dear Praying Friends,
Thank you very much for your faithful partnership with us in the gospel. We thank the Lord for your consistent prayers and sacrificial giving. May he richly bless you for your faithfulness to him.
Disciple Making and Peru COVID-19: It's tempting, isn't it, to think that we can predict the future? Something seems to be steadily heading in one direction with nothing apparent that would stop it from continuing on that path. Our very life, though, which at times may seem to be so full of energy and strength, is "a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." We remember that nothing besides God is unchanging. God alone knows the future and is in complete control of everything. He uses passages like James 4:13-17 to align our plans, stewardship, work, and service with his sovereignty. Should we make wise plans, carefully steward the resources that God gives us, and zealously serve the Lord? Yes, and the way to do that is with a humble heart that acknowledges that the reality is "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."
James 4:13-17 (NIV)
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
May our faith be firmly fixed in the Lord's sovereign will over all things. Our church had been able to enjoy in-person church services and Bible studies for about three and a half months. That was a joyful change from the many months before that. The COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths had greatly diminished and remained that way for several months. The government restrictions had also diminished. We were glad to have the freedom to move about and make disciples in ways very similar to pre-COVID days. It seemed like things would continue in that direction. Then in a matter of a few days all of that changed. COVID cases started to go up again in many regions of Peru and the government restrictions increased. Our church has had to go back to teaching and preaching online. Despite all the changes, we rejoice to see people continue growing in the knowledge of the Lord and obedience to his word. I have been enjoying preaching through 1 John and Proverbs.
Though we are disappointed to be back under extreme restrictions, we do understand why for the present time some drastic measures have to be taken. The medical infrastructure throughout much of the country was not set to handle a heavy influx of hospital patients. Having a simultaneous rise in COVID cases and Dengue Fever cases here in Puerto Maldonado has been taxing on our small medical system. We thank the Lord that no one in our church has been hospitalized from COVID. Those that have had COVID at some point over the past year had relatively mild symptoms. We have heard, however, about many Christians throughout Peru that have passed away over the past few months. Many people are hurting. Let's keep praying for one another and encouraging one another with the word of God. May we consistently be pointing others to the Lord who is our strength and shield.
Opportunities to spend time with believers in person have been very limited recently, so we are trying to make good use of technology to continue making disciples. One thing I have really enjoyed doing more throughout this time is sending voice messages to fellow believers. I will record myself reading an extended portion of scripture and give some words of encouragement. I have found it a great way to share the gospel with unbelievers as well. Reading the word of God out loud with expression is a beautiful way to hear the Lord speak.
Most messaging apps have the built-in function for recording voice messages. For email I record a voice memo and then copy and paste it to the email. This ministry has been incredibly encouraging to me. From what I can tell by the responses I have gotten back is that it has been encouraging to others as well. Maybe this is something you would like to try!
Psalm 19:7–11 (NIV)
The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Cultivating an Appreciation for God's Creation: Opportunities to travel far and wide to take pictures continue to be limited, but God gives us plenty of things to marvel at in the places we frequent.
Psalm 104:27–30 (NIV)
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
Investing in the Next Generation of International Disciple Makers: The Lord has been so kind to work in our lives for many years. He used countless people during our years of preparation to guide us and prepare us for the ministry in which he has placed us. The investments that these Christians made in us continue to produce spiritual fruit for God's glory every day of our lives. We praise the Lord for his work and pray for his help to invest in those around us as well.
One such opportunity was recently presented to us. We were contacted about the possibility of hosting a Bob Jones University Cross-Cultural Service major for his summer internship. His desire is to be mentored by missionaries that are faithfully serving the Lord. Would you pray that God would do that tremendous work in us? In 2006 God allowed me to do an internship here in Peru. It was a fantastic time of learning and spiritual growth in my life as I saw God at work in those around me. The many new experiences also forced me to rely on the Lord's help. God used that trip to point me toward long-term service here in Peru.
If it is the Lord's will, the intern will arrive to Peru in about a month and spend about seven weeks with us here in Puerto Maldonado. Pray for him during this time. He is finishing up the school semester and has many details to work on for the trip.
If it is the Lord's will, we will help host a mission team from a church in Texas toward the end of July. For some of the team members this will be their first trip to Puerto Maldonado. They asked if I would make a video giving an overview of the ministries here and the work that the Lord is doing. I thought you might enjoy seeing the video. I had fun putting it together. It's always good to be reminded of what the Lord has done and prayerfully hope in him to see his work continue.
Please let us know how we can be praying for you. Have a wonderful day serving our Lord!
Jay & Kelly Cross
Alexia, Isabel, Esther, & Lilian
Dear Praying Friends,
Thank you very much for consistently holding us up in prayer. Though this year, I would imagine, has turned out much differently than any of us expected; I know that we can all be encouraged by what the Lord is doing in, through, and around us. We know, as King Nebuchadnezzar came to realize long ago, that our God is sovereign over the entire universe. May our faith be firmly placed in our sovereign God. May our every thought, word, and action be submitted to our great King.
Daniel 4:34–35 (NIV)
At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
Disciple Making 2020 & Peru COVID-19: We thank the Lord that for several months the COVID-19 cases and resulting deaths in Puerto Maldonado have been on a steady decline. Kelly, the girls, and I have not come down with COVID yet, but many people in our church did over the past few months. By God's grace, they recovered quickly and had relatively minor symptoms.
Since March, the COVID-19 restrictions have been very tight; but we thank the Lord that the church is now able to meet again in person after many months of exclusively teaching the Bible online. We have had in-person church services for the past five Sundays. We have had a very enjoyable time meeting with the church again to worship the Lord. God answered our prayers by having the government change the restriction that would prohibit children from being in attendance at church services.
We thank the Lord for preserving the church through this time. Throughout the months of lockdown, several people were wanting to be baptized. A couple weeks ago we enjoyed having a baptismal service at a small creek at the Christian camp property. A man and his wife were baptized. It was very encouraging to hear and see the believers give testimony of their faith in Jesus Christ their Savior. The fruit of the Spirit is evident in their lives. Praise the Lord! Lord willing, at least two others will be baptized soon.
Matthew 28:18–20 (NIV)
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Christmas in the jungle 2020: We praise the Lord for giving our church the opportunity to share God's love and kindness with others during this Christmas season. We were able to have two gospel, Christmas outreaches in Puerto Maldonado. The Lord also permitted us to have a third outreach in a small village that we visited last Christmas as well. It is about a 45 minute boat ride from Puerto Maldonado. This outreach was in partnership with another church in town which is pastored by our friend Buddy Fitzgerald. We praise the Lord for these opportunities to encourage the believers and plead with unbelievers to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ.
We had plans to visit villages like this one more frequently during 2020, but the lockdown prevented that. Would you pray with us that God would give us more frequent opportunities to visit villages throughout 2021 to proclaim the gospel and disciple the believers there? Many of these villages are in great need of clear, consistent Bible teaching.
Cultivating an appreciation for God's creation: We thank the Lord for allowing us to see and enjoy his creation here in Peru. The whole world is filled with different creatures that bring glory to the Lord their Maker. In 2021 let's take the time to notice them and praise the Lord for creating them.
Psalm 104:24 (NIV)
"How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures."
Family life in lockdown: We thank the Lord for helping us to steward our time and resources this year for his glory throughout the lockdown. As you all know, daily family life is not always smooth and peaceful; but God's grace has been evident as he helped us through this year. We thank the Lord that the lockdown restrictions recently changed, and children are permitted to go out more. This has allowed us to get out of the house as a family and spend some time with friends. We recently enjoyed a fun family day with some friends at a park with a nice creek to play in.
Kelly and I have enjoyed many Bible teaching opportunities over the past few months. Kelly has recently been teaching the ladies Bible study on Elizabeth (Luke 1) and Proverbs. I just recently finished teaching through the book of Job and have also enjoyed preaching in Jeremiah, 1 Timothy, the gospel according to Mark, and other themes throughout the year. We thank the Lord for helping us to manage our schedules to find adequate time to prepare for each of the opportunities we have to teach the Bible each week.
Job 42:1–6 (NIV)
Then Job replied to the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
We pray that as 2020 comes to a close and 2021 begins that your desire would be to worship and serve our King, the Lord Jesus Christ, in all things!
Jude 24–25 (NIV)
To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
Please let us know how we can be praying for you. Thank you for your prayers and financial support!
Jay & Kelly Cross
Alexia, Isabel, Esther, & Lilian
Dear Praying Friends,
We thank the Lord for daily opportunities to spend time with our girls and point them to the Lord. We thank him for his grace during these several months we've had to spend at home. Kelly is an excellent wife and mom! We praise God for the work he is doing in our family. Alexia recently made a profession of repentant faith in Jesus Christ! We praise the Lord for his power to save lost souls from sin! We know that "to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children . . . born of God." We pray that the Holy Spirit will mightily work and produce his fruit in us throughout our entire lives.
Disciple Making 2020 & Peru COVID-19: When I last wrote, Peru had just recently been placed on a national lockdown which the government began implementing in two-week segments. Initially it seemed that it would only last for a few weeks. Today, however, is the 111th day of lockdown here in Puerto Maldonado. On July 1 some regions of Peru were able to lift many of the lockdown measures. Puerto Maldonado is in one of the seven regions still under more strict measures until at least July 31. In Puerto Maldonado hospitalizations and deaths have recently increased which has put a strain on the limited infrastructure of the healthcare system. As of July 3, the hospitals in Puerto Maldonado have reported 135 COVID-19-related deaths (111 of those deaths occurred in the month of June). We pray that God will continue to use the church to spread the good news of Jesus Christ here in Puerto Maldonado through this time of fear, pain, suffering, and grief for so many.
Many people have not been able to work during the past few months, so we thank the Lord that some of them have been able to get back to work recently. We, however, are still not permitted to invite people to our homes or gather together in person for church meetings. How then have we been able to continue making disciples of Jesus Christ? While the circumstances of our lives or the laws of the country we live in might drastically change, the mission is always the same--to make disciples of Jesus Christ. We praise the Lord for the work he is doing during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Matthew 28:18–20 (NIV)
"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age'."
During these months, I imagine the "go" part of making disciples of all nations has felt different for most of us. Here in Puerto Maldonado, we have had to almost exclusively carry on the disciple-making ministry through technology. Our church has used this as an opportunity to have daily Bible studies using Zoom and Facebook Live. We have been incredibly encouraged to hear about Christians all over the world that have responded to the recent crises by sacrificially showing love to others and continuing to make disciples of Jesus through the wise use of technology.
God has used the extra time that people have had to listen to his word to draw them to himself and strengthen them to serve him. Just before the lockdown went into effect, several more families had begun attending church services. We praise the Lord that several from that group have recently professed their faith in Jesus Christ! We look forward to the time when the lockdown is lifted, so we can enjoy seeing those people follow the Lord in baptism.
We praise the Lord for using this time to remind our church of the importance of caring for the physical and spiritual needs of those around us. It has been especially encouraging to see new believers step into these important roles of service to the Lord. Several young men who are growing in the Lord have also stepped into teaching opportunities. Praise the Lord! Also, at several points God has provided resources to meet the needs of church members and provide some care for local, needy communities. This has opened the door to show and proclaim Christ's love and God's provision. God has been gracious to meet our physical and spiritual needs. May we always be eager to share what he has given us with those in need around us. May God's grace be at work in all of us as it was in Paul and others in Ephesus 2,000 years ago.
Acts 20:32–35 (NIV)
"Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'."
When will the church again be able to meet together in person? Based on what Peru's president, Martín Vizcarra, has recently announced, it appears that churches in Peru might not have the privilege of gathering together in person for the rest of this year. We pray that God would give our church wisdom, unity, and grace to respond appropriately to each changing circumstance for his glory. We pray that, sooner rather than later, the church would be able to officially gather together with appropriate health protocols in effect.
The lockdown restrictions have not permitted JR and I to do any work at the camp property. He was able to go to the property just the other day to check on things. The gravel road seems to be holding up well even with a lot of rain over the past few months. The wooden bridge over the creek at the start of the camp property, though, might need to be fixed in some places. He hopes to have a concrete, steel bridge built at some point in the future as the Lord provides.
We had asked you to pray that friends, family, and mission teams that had scheduled trips to Peru in May, June, July, and August would still be able to travel to Peru. Travel into and out of Peru has been extremely limited for the past few months and will likely be that way for at least another couple months. Therefore, all the trips either had to be postponed or canceled. We trust that God’s timing is perfect in those situations. Along those lines, would you please pray with us that God would allow us to travel to the USA in October for my older sister’s wedding? Right now Peru's borders are closed and flights out of the country are very limited and very expensive. We trust God’s timing is perfect and he will do what is best.
We never know when might be the last time to talk with someone. God has been bringing different people to mind over the past few months. People that I knew I would not have the opportunity to see in person for a good while. One of those people was Alfredo, our mechanic here in Peru. A couple weeks ago we got word that he had passed away. This was shocking and sad news. I began to think back on the gospel conversations that God had allowed me to have with him over the past three years. God had providentially had me visit his repair shop (frankly more times than I was looking for) when seemingly unfortunate and random things got broken on the truck. Like the time when a rock broke a back window when a neighbor was using his string trimmer nearby. Each of these visits, though, had been part of God's plan to allow a friendship to develop, so the gospel could be seen and heard. God also placed other Christian friends in his path like a missionary friend in town, Buddy Fitzgerald.
Though I never heard Alfredo give a clear confession of repentant faith in Christ, I know that God was working in and through the situation. Our responsibility is to be faithful ambassadors of Jesus Christ who plead with people to be reconciled to God through repentant faith in Jesus Christ the Savior. The night I heard he passed away, I looked back at the WhatsApp conversation that I had with him several weeks before. I had sent him an audio message. It had been an opportunity to thank him for the great work he had always done, to assure him of our prayers for his family during these difficult times, to offer to help them in any way we could, and to remind him of the gospel truth he had heard before. That was the last time I talked to Alfredo.
A couple days after he passed away, I noticed that his family had been on his WhatsApp account. The conversation with Alfredo has ended, but it continues with his family. God has been using his word to soothe the broken hearts of his wife and daughter. We never know when the last time will be that we will have to talk with someone. May God give us the grace to wisely use each opportunity and every word we speak or write to build people up and point them to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Pray for the gospel to spread to Alfredo's friends and family. Pray that I will soon be able to locate another reliable mechanic.
Continuing to cultivate an appreciation for God's creation: Opportunities to go out and take pictures around town have been limited, but God has brought some of his beautiful, interesting creatures to where we live; so we can enjoy them.
Revelation 4:11 (NIV)
11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
Happy 4th of July! Kelly and I thank the Lord for the privilege of growing up in the USA. Living abroad has only given us a greater appreciation for the way that God worked in our lives during our many years of preparation in the USA. So many of you had a tremendous impact on our lives. Thank you! May you enjoy a gratitude-filled day with friends and family wherever God has placed you.
We have been saddened to hear about the strife, pain, and suffering that is being experienced across the USA. We pray that these words from Philippians 2 would be true of all of us Christians around the world for God's glory: "Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.' Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life."
Thank you so much for your consistent prayers for us. Please let us know how we can be praying for you. May the Lord always find us faithfully serving him!
Jay & Kelly Cross
Alexia, Isabel, Esther, & Lilian
Ambassadors for Christ in Peru