September 28, 2016
You are such an example to all of us young moms and someone I aspire to be like! You're not only my mom but one of my best friends! I am so grateful to God for you and your love for him! Mama, I couldn't ask for a better mom! Now that I have a little guy, I understand more how blessed I was to have you as my mom! Your tender care and sweet, gracious spirit was always there to comfort us...and reprove us when we needed it. ;-) Your joyful attitude made our home a happy one. You chose joy even when things were tough. Seeing the love between you and Daddy made us girls dream about our future princes who would one day sweep us off our feet! You made sure we knew we could call you anytime about anything (& you still do!) and would stay up super late lending a listening ear to anything that might be on our hearts. The longer I live the more blessed I realize I am to have you as my mom! Thank you mama for teaching us to love Jesus and serve others! I love you! Happy Birthday!
August 31st, I celebrated my spiritual birthday. What I mean by “spiritual birthday” derives from the book of John, chapter 3, in the Bible. We are all “born of the flesh” (v.6) into a world that is tainted by sin, so our physical bodies will eventually die, no matter how healthy we are. However, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (v.6), and spiritual birth is necessary to enter the kingdom of God. Because we are all naturally sinful, all of us were born spiritually dead, and spiritual birth is only made possible by the work of God, who took on humanity in Jesus Christ. Through His perfect life and subsequent sacrifice of Himself upon the cross, Jesus made reconciliation before God for the penalty that was due all humanity.
Each person who believes in Jesus for their salvation and makes Him the new Master (rather than self) of their life will be saved from their sin and be born spiritually. I grew up in a home that honored the one true God, the God of the Bible. Because of this, I realized as a young child that I was spiritually dead and that I desperately needed Jesus to save me. So, 18 years ago, as a fourth grader, I was born again, and my spiritual life began. I am far from perfect, but I seek to live out every area of my life in a way that would honor my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
The reason I am writing this is due in part to a particular practice of reflection that my parents encouraged me to engage in shortly after I became a Christian. Every year, on my spiritual birthday (i.e. August 31st for me), they encouraged me to reflect on and examine the past year of my life in order to identify ways that I was becoming more like Christ, but also to recognize areas of my life that I needed to be more diligent in striving to be Christ-like. I think this spiritual exercise is important for all Christians, though it may be in different forms and ought to be more often than once a year. Just as the ancient Israelites, brought out of bondage in Egypt, we Christians should always be quick to remember where God has brought us from and constant in setting our sights on Jesus, the one we are striving for.
After finishing our first term in Central America with a sprint, my family and I have made it back safe and sound to American soil after being gone 12 of the past 13 months. For the month of July and into August, I have had the privilege of working with an amazing group of people in leading our summer mission team in many aspects of ministry through 3 different countries.
Overall, the focus of our summer mission team is nothing new, but rather to practice the example given to us by the earliest Christian missionaries in the book of Acts. Whatever we did was ultimately for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that people may be freed from the bondage of sin in order to enjoy life eternal with their Creator and Lord. We faced many challenges, but sought comfort in knowing that it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we go and work (Acts 1:8). My prayer through the course of the month, as well as the charge I shared often with our team, was that we want to be discerning as to where God is working and then seek to be used by Him.
We began by having youth conferences to reach out to those in the rural areas, which are plagued by violence and political instability as well as socioeconomic challenges. These areas are truly hotspots for at-risk youth; youth who, if not shown the love of Christ, will only add to the dangerous cycle that surrounds them. Many young children especially boys get mixed up with the wrong influences, father children out of wedlock, and are then killed or arrested, leaving their children to face the same dismal reality of a fatherless home.
These youth conferences were used as focused times of teaching and discovery from the Bible of what it means to “Know God”. Different team members led each session over a two-day period. Between larger sessions, we had games and small group discussions. Some were distracted and uninterested, but still others hung on to every word spoken and asked thought provoking questions about their own lives and how God relates to them.
Our village and school outreach involved connecting with the people through drama presentations, Bible verse memorization exercises, teaching songs, personal life testimony, English lessons, and Gospel presentations from the Bible. One young man was particularly impacted by a skit portraying the bondage of sin as a chair in which someone gets stuck after being told not to touch. After the presentation the boy approached some team members and asked the question, “What sin was it that caused the person to become stuck in the chair?” These team members were then able to proceed to share the Gospel with the boy, who then believed and gave his life to Jesus Christ. This is just one example of how God is working in this area through the faithful service of our short-term mission teams from the U.S.
We were also able to further engage in humanitarian efforts to assist the people physically, including home construction, provision of basic needs such as groceries, and investment into the economic development that has already been initiated in an impoverished region suffering from lack of opportunity.
A big “thank you” again to each of our financial and prayer partners. We know that we have not because we ask not. And it is evident to us that many people have been interceding before the throne of God on our behalf, asking for safety and opportunity for God to be glorified through my family and our ministry. Please know also that we will be praying for each of you, and that we do take seriously the prayer needs that are made aware to us.
In the name of Jesus Christ,
The Dillards (Derick, Jill, & Israel)
Please continue to pray: