Grace For the Hard Seasons of Life by Joel McGee
Here in Nauta, where we are 4° south of the equator, there are only two seasons: the "not so rainy season" and the "much heavier rainy season." Both are hot and humid. And because the seasons are so similar, it’s a challenge for me to distinguish between the different times of the year. December feels much the same as July, and, as a result, I’m caught off guard when I see the stores filling up with Christmas decorations and fake Christmas trees or when I see the random guy dressed as Santa Claus wandering the streets.
In spite of this, the seasons still come and go. It seems hard to believe, but October first marked the end of our fifth year living full-time in Nauta, Peru. I want to say that this has been the best season of our lives, but that certainly wouldn't be true. I'm not even confident I could say that it has come anywhere close to being our best season. In truth, these have been the hardest fought five years of our lives. We’ve had some bad, hard days…like the day we realized the house we had bought was termite eaten and too dangerous to live in, and that it needed to be torn down and rebuilt…or the day Amy broke her little toe (at a 90° angle to her foot! Ouch!)…or the day I sunk our boat at the port. I could go on and on with stories of these "bad" days. Of course, we have certainly had good days, also, but I will hold firm to the fact that in the beginning years there certainly were more bad days than good. And it’s only by God’s grace that we’ve managed to hang on.
A few months back, a good friend, encourager, and mentor made his annual trip to visit us in Nauta. We were discussing the ministry and our family and all we had been through during our five years here. This friend has a way of saying some simple, but profound things, words that usually resonate deeply with me. During our conversation, he said, "You know, Joel, there is never growth without pain."
When going through difficulties, a person’s heart can become hard. But for me, difficulties have had the opposite result. I have grown spiritually through these hard times. God has shown me grace, so much grace, during this season of my life. And the pain has softened my heart in areas that used to be hard.
I find it ironic that we expect God to give us grace time and time again, but we rarely, if ever, extend this same amount of grace to our brothers or sisters. We all have our bad days, even our bad seasons. And we each need grace and strength to endure, grace from God and from each other. So today, let’s pray about how we might be able to give grace to someone. That grace is so needed!
Ministry Update from Joel McGee
I continue to work on, and develop, my "technical" training program with the focus on three different areas: 1-mechanical repair, 2-welding and metal fabrication, and 3- carpentry/house construction, and home electrical. I am currently doing mechanical repair training with one part-time student, as well as with Carmen. We are in the process of building a motorcar that will be used for racing the local race track. This is a great "hands-on" learning experience and a way to bring God's love into an area that is extremely dark spiritually.
When Amy, Carmen, and I last returned to Nauta from the US, we brought with us 13 recurve and 2 compound archery bows, as well as arrows and targets. We are hoping to bring an archery program into the local schools as a means of teaching those skills and of sharing the love of God. We’re also in the process of training some of the youth at our church to teach others and to use archery as an outreach. So far, Amy and I have been invited to teach archery to kids at two camps during their summer break.
|Joel instructing a young woman|
Amy has partnered with Laura, another missionary who lives here in Nauta, to help teach English to students enrolled in the tourism program at the local community college. Once a week, they also have a class to help the local Peruvian English teachers polish up their English.
Besides continuing to be extremely involved in the local church here in Nauta, Carmen trains in Judo 3 times a week. She has also joined a co-op of other homeschooled missionary kids. They meet in Iquitos each Tuesday, and as students must have a parent attend with them, Amy usually goes. It’s a long day for them, as they have to leave Nauta no later than 6 AM to make it to class by 8 AM.
|Carmen with her co-op|
HOW WE'RE PARTNERING:
We continue to partner, side by side, with many different ministries working here in the jungle.
Laura had a grand vision of delivering one hour of water two times/day to the neighborhood where she lives but, for various reasons, had some difficulties achieving it. I was able to use some of my resources to do a bit of “re-design” work. I enjoy working on these types of projects, especially when the bulk of the work has already been done. With a few tweaks here and there, we were able to help her reach her goal. A huge thank you to God, and to Laura, because the benefits that clean water is bringing to this neighborhood are enormous.
We continue to work alongside the cofraternity of pastors in the river communities. We recently attended the second anniversary of the Monte de Sinai church, which is the new church that Abram has started in Santa Rita. It is so encouraging to watch him grow this church and love the people in his community. He has such a big, open heart for sharing the love of God in the villages. The cofraternity has several outreach events planned for the coming year. Francisco, as president, continues to try to organize the members, which is a slow process in this culture. He is trying to encourage inactive members to either become more active or else separate from the group.
|At the anniversary celebration in Santa Rita|
|Abram walking a bride up the aisle at the|
This year we partnered with Pastor William and his sports outreach ministry. In particular, we invested in his quite successful, and growing, Judo training program, which I believe is an excellent opportunity for the youth here in Nauta. Pastor William belongs to a Judo club from Lima and has always had the desire to hold competitions here in Nauta, where he’s been training youth in Judo for many years. He has not been able to do this, though, because he has never had a regulation size dojo with regulation size mats. This past year JungleMaster was able to help him purchase the mats and renovate the current dojo to make this a possibility.
|Judo lessons in session|
|Using Judo as an outreach|
Please pray for the two upcoming archery camps.
Pray that the kids who attend the camps will experience the joy of Christ.
Please pray for Amy and Laura as they teach an upcoming month-long intensive English course in February.
Pray, also, for the students who will be attending that class.
Please pray for protection and guidance for Francisco and Abram, the leaders of the cofraternity.
Please pray for encouragement for Joel and Amy as they serve God in the jungle.
Please pray that God will bring people alongside them who have the desire to join them in the work.