“Fight the good fight.” (I Tim. 6:12) No one likes getting punches thrown at them, but the enemies of Jesus and His Church are throwing them all the time. Getting hit hurts. But in the spiritual fight of faith, we deliver our own blows as the Spirit of God operates through us by His grace. This past year our ministry has felt like a fight. Here is a blow-by-blow description.
You might know them as tire spikes — the kind criminals use to evade capture. Barb and I went out for an early morning run this past winter and found a large box of them strewn across the road, remnants of the gun battle down our street the night before. “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers” (II Cor. 1:8), but last December through February was intense. Security concerns here in our state and our town had everyone on edge. Thankfully, the inauguration in March of a new military base outside the city limits seemed to help. However, the state as a whole continues to experience high levels of violence, and numbers of small ranch towns outside Jerez have almost emptied as people leave for our small city to escape threats. We continue to be mindful of our own personal “red-lines,” but in God’s mercy, “thus far the LORD has helped us.” (I Sam. 7:12)
A couple of incidents left us feeling like we had the wind knocked out of us. First, we lost our meeting place. The person in charge of paying the church rent in our several months-long absence took the money despite the accountability precautions we had in place. We worked through that situation with God’s help, but then the landlord accused them of stealing two months' rent money again at the beginning of this year. The owner had had enough and asked us to leave. A month later, in a separate incident, an angry family explosion resulted in the loss of two people from our church. They were two of three I had hoped would become leaders.
Key(board) punches back.
We found a new little place to meet on the main avenue nearby, and the acoustics are tremendous! Barb’s keyboard and the congregation’s voices carry outside and down the street. Several neighbors have commented on how much they like the music. We pray that in this new, small place where we worship God, He might give us peace. (Haggai 2:8)
Sunday school in the new church location
More return punches.
First, we were able to keep meeting separately with the two people we lost. The Spirit of God is calming their hearts and helping them. Next, a young man deported back to Jerez stopped by the church. He lives a block away, and English is his primary language. Adjusting to life in Mexico has been challenging for him, and he requested a devotional book. Also, the family of a man paralyzed in a motorcycle accident four years ago asked us to pray for him. My visits with him have been precious.
“In all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37) Thanks so much for fighting with us through your prayers.
-Missionaries Todd and Barb Schierkolk
Jerez, Zacatecas, Mexico