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