It has truly been an amazing week here in San Cristobal! I am sitting here in a little coffee shop that served this past week as a place of great communion with the saints and wishing we had a few more days with the dear brothers and sisters who are now on their way home.
We arrived here on Tuesday November first from Mexico city to have a conference at “Iglesia Biblia Bautista Emanuel” and to preach the gospel on the streets. Brother Randall and his daughter Samantha arrived late Tuesday night and the group from Louisiana (Brad Bunting, Charlie and Marissa Franklin, Craig and Tammy James, Robyn Smith, Cameron Durham, and Daniel Breithaupt) in the middle of the day on Wednesday. We attended the prayer meeting that evening at the church and literally while we were singing Pastor Miguel, the pastor of the church here in San Cristobal, ask if I would preach that night. I guess we should always be ready to give an account of the hope we have in us. I preached from Titus 2:11-12 and was unsure of how it was accepted. After church that night we went to preach at the town square hoping to encounter some of the day of the dead festival. After a couple of the guys preached a parade of people dressed and painted like the dead came to the square to celebrate. Mike Stockwell grabbed the microphone and Abimael to translate and started preaching. This was met with great opposition and they tried to cast a spell on Mike. A lot of people gathered to watch, three young men in particular were watching as the gospel was preached in the face of wickedness and Christ was shown as King. After Mike finished I approached the young men and asked what they thought, and they responded that they had come to participate in the festival of the dead, but that they had realized the foolishness of their way and that they were “on the wrong side”. The gospel was preached, Christ was honored and iniquity was shown stupid!
Thursday after breakfast we took the group to Chamula, one of the last few places in the western hemisphere where they still kill christians for their faith. The group got the chance to see the wickedness of ancestral worship, killing chickens and getting drunk in the church trying to cleanse themselves from evil. We started the conference that evening and we had a fairly good showing of the people from the church. The theme of the conference was “The Glory of God in The Gospel”. Brother Randall preached the first sermon and I followed. I felt that we preached what God had us preach and that the things that were preached may have been new to the people of the church. After the conference we returned to the town square to preach and had some good conversations. Some of the guys in the group preached their first open-air sermon which was very encouraging! I don’t think it will be there last.
On Friday after breakfast we headed back to the square to preach before the conference in the evening. Mike started us off and attracted a couple of Catholic priests by addressing idol worship. They left and came back with their leader to have a debate. Brother Randall and I began debating them on the issue of the origin of the church and on wether sacraments can save (I have to insert here that my wife, Ivonne, got really excited and gave great testimony of Christ). This drew a great crowd and we had the opportunity to bear witness of the evil of the catholic church and of the glorious gospel of Christ. Something of about 100 people gathered to hear and Christ was preached. Many made comments to us of their faith that they had placed in the catholic church and that they now saw the error of their way. Christ was truly exalted this day and a young man who was so affected by what he heard came to the conference that evening! I preached first that evening at the conference on the depravity of man and Bro. Craig followed preaching on the wrath of God. Once again I felt like these things were new to these people, but at the same time that they were absorbing them.
Saturday was a long day! We started at 7:00 a.m. having a prayer meeting at the church where Charlie gave a very exhorting devotional laying out the sovereignty of God and our service to Him. I think the people were encouraged and challenged! Then after breakfast we started the conference at 9:30 with a sermon from Bro. Brad on the purpose of the cross. Great way to start the day! Bro. Daniel preached a sermon this morning on the love of God that was edifying to everyone! Through out the whole day we heard good sermons and I was very pleased to see the people so attentive and eager to learn! Charlie lead a session for the students, then they broke them into two groups, guys and girls, and Samantha taught the girls on serving the Lord, and Charlie the guys on evangelism. We received good feedback from the students and it seemed that they retained what was taught. The group was tired and with good reason we had worked hard! The women on this trip were so faithful in handing out tracts and folding them so that we would be ready for the times of evangelism. After dinner we went back to the town square where Bro. Randall started us off and a man from the church, Enrique, translated as he preached to a large crowd! The town square is such a great place to preach! Bro. Mike preached for over an hour on the street, and some of the students from the church showed up to take part in evangelism. It was the right way to end the night.
Sunday morning Bro. Brad taught Sunday school and Bro. Randall preached the morning service both great messages! The place was packed! I was amazed at how many people came to the church. Things were taught that once again were so new to these people. There has not been much doctrine taught to them, and this just confirms the need for more conferences like the one we did. After the service the conference continued in the afternoon with more great preaching! The people were challenged so profoundly. Bro. Randall preached the last sermon of the conference on the sovereignty of God and it was the best sermon that I had heard him preach! I think the people were in shock but had no where to go from the truth that was taught! We, the group of pastors, were all wrestling with wether or not the people were understanding the things being taught, but after the conference the church came together and cooked us a great feast and purchased gifts for each one of us. It was very humbling! I think that some of them really struggled with things they heard, but they were so grateful for the opportunity to learn. This was one week that I will never forget!
I want to thank all of you who came! You were truly a blessing to our ministry and bore great testimony of the love of Christ! I also want to thank all of you who were so gracious to support this trip, wether by faithfully praying, by giving, or by allowing your pastor to partake in this trip. We were greatly encouraged here by the testimony that was shown from your churches there! We truly are grateful! Please continue to hold the rope as we are here still! The prayers of the saints for those who have gone into the well are so important! Also please pray for us as we are planning a trip for mid-January to take a few young men to mission churches from the church in San Cristobal to preach throughout a weekend. I was greatly reminded of this quote this past week:
"Oh, it is the least one can do, to interpose ourselves and all that is dear to us, betwixt Christ and the wrath of men, when he (as you hear) interposed himself betwixt you and the eternal wrath of God!"
Jonathan and Ivonne Murdock