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A while ago, I visited William’s family and watched while he was thinning leather to make a pair of sandals for his son.
Few men know how to make the sandals that the people wear here. Many buy sandals for $15 US a pair. When there are many feet to shod, like William’s 11 kids, that adds up to a lot of money! Sandals only last about 6 months until the leather is so beat up that the sandals are worthless. Since the peoples’ main income is from the sale of crops, money gets pretty tight between harvests.
Except for planting their crops, there is no work in the mountains. Sometimes, during bean harvest and mango harvest at the coast, the mountain people flock to the lowlands to work the fields. While they are there, they buy new shoes, some cloth to make new clothes, a new pot or two and corn and beans. Our village has two little stores that carry staples and the ubiquitous Coca-Cola, cookies, chips, and candy, but at double the price from stores in town.
Most of the women are wonderful artists. Their clothes are a testimony to their love of color and intricate detail. When women gather, they look at the flowers on each other’s skirts and exchange patterns and ideas. They also are creative in making beaded jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. They embroider cloths to keep their hot-off-the-skillet tortillas warm. They painstakingly embroider colorful bags that take months to finish. They weave beautiful bags on simple looms.
About two years ago, we began buying some of the people’s handicrafts as people needed money. They were able to get more materials to make more items, and so we bought more. We found a store on the coast that was interested in selling the Nahuatl crafts to North American tourists and we became middle-men. It gives us pleasure to help the people in providing another source of income. We regularly see women sell a handful of bracelets that they made over time, then head straight to the store to buy oil ($4.00 US a quart), sugar, flour, coffee, blankets, or sandals. Our closest neighbor, a widow with five kids still at home told us, “Thank you for providing another way for us to get money. If you didn’t buy the things I make, my kids and I wouldn’t have any food. Now I can work to buy clothes and shoes for my kids and have food to eat.”
We’ve created a site online to introduce the artists who regularly sell bags, bracelets, and other handcrafted items. Check out www.facebook.com/LasMorasDesigns.
If you would like to give your church, women’s ministry, or Sunday School a chance to help support the Nahuatl people, we would love to send you $50, $100, $150, or $250 worth of jewelry or bags or whatever you specify for people to buy. Your purchases would bring vital help to the people of Las Moras and the surrounding areas. You can contact us on Facebook for more information.
We have been waiting to send an update out when we had more news regarding the insurance for our truck that recently burned up but we haven’t heard anything lately. No news is good news, I suppose! The paperwork has all been completed and it is in the hands of the insurance company now.
Continue to pray with us that we will receive the full insurance value and for wisdom as we look for a new form of transportation.
Thank you for praying for Phil during his trip to Senegal last month. He had a really great time there connecting with folks and being involved in the various ministry workshops. (The picture above is of him teaching during one of the workshops.)
This month is an important one for Callie. She will be undergoing a series of tests during the week of March 17-21st to see how she is faring in 7th grade as well as to assess what progress she has made in her learning therapy over this past year. She isn’t nervous about the tests and is glad that she will be able to take them in a low-stress environment with her learning therapist whom she is very comfortable with.
Please pray for good results and also for wisdom for Dr. Cawthon as she assesses Callie. It is our hope and prayer (Callie’s included!) that she will be do well enough to get into Rift Valley Academy this upcoming school year.
God has provided a wonderful get-away for Phil and I this month as well. Friends called and asked us to join them on an all-expense paid vacation in the British Virgin Islands for a week!! We are looking forward to this time to enjoy fellowship with great friends and some needed relaxation!
Phil leaves in a few short weeks for another trip to Mozambique to work on translating the book of Ephesians. He will be gone a little less than a month. He is really looking forward to spending time with the believers and working through this incredible and helpful book of the Bible.
Pray for Phil that He will have a safe and productive trip. Continue to pray for the believers in the village that their hunger for learning will continue and that will grow in the knowledge of our Lord!
Also, appreciate your prayers for our partners, Francois and Nadia Hattingh. They just returned to the village after a month-long absence. They had wanted to return in our truck but obviously that didn’t work out!! Instead they fixed up theirs and made the long trek back home. Pray for strength and grace for them as they bear the load of the ministry!
Thank you for upholding us all in your prayers and for your ongoing part in our lives and in the work among with Mwinika people.
…Venezuela… In the beautiful tropical nation where I (Steve) grew up, average citizens have turned out in large numbers to protest food shortages, rising crime and discontent with their leaders. Some of them have been met with violence. The situation is very precarious for our Christian brothers and sisters there, including national and expatriate church planters. Please pray for them.
…Colombia… I’ve been asked to go to fly south in May to interpret for a four-day meeting of the regional Church Development Team and six days of Regional Leadership meetings. It’s been awhile since I’ve done much simultaneous interpreting, so I’d appreciate your prayers for God’s enabling. We’re talking about ten straight days of English coming into my ears while Spanish flows out of my mouth.
In the meanwhile, I’m working on the Spanish version of a 100-page manual on field leader formation. This will be one of the principal themes of the gathering, so my present work is really good preparation on the subject matter and gives me the opportunity to come up with appropriate Spanish terminology.
…Florida… Our Spanish Language Resources team’s annual meetings are scheduled for the third week of April at our mission home offices in Sanford. I am planning by faith to attend, although right now we don’t have the air fare for the trip. We would very much appreciate your prayers for God’s provision for that need.
…El Paso... Eida continues to study and develop her skills as a tutor for (primarily) young people with dyslexia. In the meanwhile, God has generously provided short-term employment for her, serving as a caregiver for our neighbor’s aging mother who is undergoing medical treatment.
Thank you for continuing to pray for our daughter-in-law Lenn. Sadly, we’re not seeing any improvement. She’s been experiencing pain and weakness in both arms (to the point of struggling at times to even open a chip bag clip), pain and tenderness in her upper back and in her lower neck, and she’s also been suffering severe chest pains. Heart problems and acid reflux have been ruled out. A very strict diet without gluten and many other foods seems to help somewhat. We’re hoping this may be a clue as to the cause of her suffering over the last couple of years.
Finally, we are VERY GRATEFUL to you who make up our donor team, and have given for a lot of years; some even increased your giving last year. Unfortunately, we are still falling significantly short of our recommended support level, so when you pray for us, would you please ask the Lord to bring new partners to our support team? As you probably know, raising support is one of the least enjoyable tasks for a missionary, so we’d ask you to pray that we would be sensitive to what God would have us do.
Wherever you are, whether in the cold north or the less cold south of this continent or overseas, we pray that the Lord will care for you and abundantly meet your needs and make you as much of a blessing to others as you have been to us.
Serving our Lord in partnership with you,
Steve & Eida Irwin
NTM Spanish Language Resources
This morning a friend told someone else from church, “Pour cold water on your heart.” Why? What was the meaning? What was she supposed to do?
Also, just now someone told me that I was a “person” and that I “acted like a person.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Did I leave feeling very encouraged or very discouraged by what she said? What do you think?
Some of you liked my last question, so here are another two for you. Again, the answers will be posted in a few days.
This week we bought tickets to return to the states this summer! We will arrive in Portland August 1st. We couldn’t be more excited and yet…
A few days after purchasing the tickets Ethan was on skype with his Grandma and he said that he didn’t know whether to be excited to be in Portland or sad to leave her here in Africa. As he was saying this I was watching his face and I could see his little brain processing. Since the day we stepped off the plane over two years ago he has looked forward to when he was 7 and we would return to America. However somehow over these past two years he has changed and slowly adapted. I could tell at this moment he was realizing that it was not going to be as easy to leave as he had thought. He was excited to see friends and family and relive memories, but he knew that he was used to and comfortable with life here.
Joel experienced some of the same emotions upon arrival in England. After being here so long you forget how different life is between the two worlds and that crossing between them takes adjustment. It was weird to him to be in a land of so many choices, that ran so efficiently. He came back reminded that we will have to make an effort to adapt back to America and that it is an important effort to make.
My experience was actually at our mission when I stood in front of the microwave and couldn’t figure out which button started it. I really sat there for 5 minutes as I looked at all the pictures and none of them made sense to me. My mind immediately said, “Oh no, this is a bad sign!”
It is still crazy to me to think how this happened. How did we change so much in such a short time? How did a life that was so foreign become so familiar? How did things that were so familiar become so foreign? It was so gradual that we didn’t really notice it, but now it is screaming at us. We are so much the same and so different. We are living between two worlds and yet not in either. We are excited to take our first jump between worlds and also nervous. Will we be “those weird missionaries” or will we adapt? Will we embrace the changes that took place while we were gone, or struggle to accept them? Only time will tell…only time will tell.
Joel’s Time in England
Last Thursday we loaded up a 20ft container and sent it on its way to the LA port where it will depart in a few days for the long trek to Papua New Guinea. The day after that we scrubbed, dusted, vacuumed, and said goodbye to the sweet little apartment the Lord provided for us here in California. This was now our 13th move in the past 7.5 years and it was also the hardest. When Brent and I drove out of the complex last Friday the tears started and didn’t really end until our 25 minute drive to his mom’s house was over. Then the next day we returned (apparently we gave the wrong key back to the office) and the tears formed again. That second batch probably had something to do with Kimi in the back seat saying “I wanna go to Kimi’s room” as we drove by our recently vacated home.
We’ve said “hello” and we’ve said “goodbye” to several homes over the past few years but I think this one is a bit different because although we’ve just left a home, it will still be several months before we can enter another and it will be halfway across the world. I’ve also noticed that I’ve had more trouble leaving the places where we’ve brought a new child home in the course of our stay there. Beau came home to an apartment in Tustin, CA; Kimi came home to student housing in Roach, MO; and Luke was taken home to this last apartment here in RSM, CA. As I’ve left these particular homes, I’ve had a period of mourning as I leave the places where my babies first slept, first smiled, first laughed, and first became aware of the world around them. And each time I leave these homes, I pray that the Lord preserves these blessed memories even though I will no longer be in the places they were made.
Pray with us as we begin this long goodbye. There are still a few months before we leave but the packing up of our home began our countdown and brought with it a flood of emotion that at times is tough to swallow.
This is the time of year when our village is almost empty of men every day. They are of out the village preparing land for rice and corn fields. Please PRAY for the right weather at planting time and following planting time and for a good harvest.
In our last update we asked you to pray for two Manubu’ Bible teachers (Pulding and Anu are the two) who planned to visit two villages to see if there are people there who would be interested in listening to the evangelistic phase of the teaching. They have actually visited three Manubu’ villages. Anu has relatives in all of those villages and relatives are usually the key to people listening.
In the first village they talked with Martin who is head of the village and who a few years ago started listening to Anu teach the evangelistic phase here in our village, but moved before it was finished. He said he would like to listen again and will invite others to listen with him. Please PRAY for the Lord to open their hearts to want to listen.
In the second village they spoke with a group of women. The men were all away from the village preparing rice and corn fields. The women said that they would talk with their husbands about listening. That village has at least one good-works-for -eternal-salvation church in it. In fact, it is the one that has been doing an outreach here in our village. So, please PRAY also for the Manubu’ in this second village – that the Lord would also open their hearts to want to listen.
At the third village they couldn’t spend much time because it was only a couple of hours before dark and the headlight on the motorcycle they were driving doesn’t work. But, Anu was able to talk with some of his relatives there. Please also PRAY for this third village.
On the way home they weren’t able to stop again at villages one and two because they met a motorcycle carrying Anu’s younger of two daughters (Ilin) going to a hospital in the lowlands. She had given birth to her second child a few days before with no problem. But, a few days later she started shaking and vomiting and had diarrhea which are all symptoms of malaria. Pulding and Anu turned around and followed them to the hospital. Ilin was dead on arrival. She was a lovely Christian girl in her early twenties. A quiet girl with a good testimony. She was one of our proofreaders of scripture and Bible lessons. It was like losing a granddaughter. Please PRAY for her family, especially her husband, Boy.
The test strips that Gene needs to self monitor his blood coagulation have not yet become available. So he is just taking the dose of warfarin that he has been taking for the last year or so and trusting the Lord that his coagulation rate will stay within limits. Please PRAY that the test strips will soon become available.
Gene has also been very sick with the worse cold he can remember along with what is apparently a yeast overgrowth as well as TMJ. He is on the mend and feeling much better, but probably still has weeks of restricted diet (mainly meat and certain vegetables and no sugar or bread) because of the yeast. Vegetables are hard to come by for us. PRAY that this yeast overgrowth or whatever it is will be conquered.
Please also PRAY for Dani, he is recording the lowland dialect version of our NT translation. It is too noisy in his village for him to record there and out in the jungle the birds are so noisy that they tend at times to overpower his reading. He trying to figure out where and how to record to avoid the noisy birds!
We can’t express how much we appreciate your part in what God is doing here through your prayers.
Writing updates has not been near the top of my priority list lately, but that doesn’t help you all know what is going on here and how you can pray. So let me try to catch you up just a little. In the meantime, we have appreciated a number of emails that have come in from several of you who are continuing to think of us and pray for us…thank you so much. We truly believe that the prayer from God’s children a world away is making an impact here.
After the new year, there seemed to be a renewed hunger among the believers here for His Word and to be a part of His Church. Here’s how:
* A small group of believer who had been meeting regularly but separately from the main group because of the social persecution associated with being a part of the church, have taken a step of faith. They started walking the “mile of shame” enduring stares, insults, and snickers to come fellowship with other believers and to learn more of the truth. * Several of the women began to make coming to the weekly study they were doing on Joseph a priority. They took some big steps in understanding the method of studying His Word and drawing application for their personal lives. * The men began meeting several days a week on their own accord for hours at a time to continue to develop lessons for the church from our corporate study of the book of 1 Corinthians.
Toward the end of January, I had the opportunity to help lead 3 workshops in 2 countries in Africa, Senegal and Guinea. The workshops on “Curriculum Development” were designed to equip missionaries to become more effective Bible lesson writers and to equip them to disciple those they are working with to be able to study God’s Word, write lessons, and teach others. The Patpatar believers were excited for this opportunity I was given and sent me with plenty of suggestions and words of wisdom to pass on to the missionaries in Africa.
On my way to Africa, I dropped my family off in Australia where our coworker, Madonna, was getting all of her post cancer check ups and helping out with a situation in her family. On my return, I was able to spend a few days with them there before all of us made our way back to Patpatar. The dry, dusty, cloudless skies of Africa were in stark contrast to what met us in Papua New Guinea. Black clouds, heavy rains, and big winds made for a difficult boat trip back to the village and we had to extend our typical under 3 hour trip to 19 hours by ducking into the safety of an island half way across and spending the night there.
The last few weeks, since being back there has been little relief from the rain and to make things even darker, we have mourned the loss of two elderly Patpatar from our village who left this world without the hope of Christ for eternity. Because of flooded roads and trails, sickness, and funerals the attendance we experienced at the start of the year has not been the same. Yet, there are beams of sunlight shining through the proverbial darkness. During our time of absence, some took on the role to teach the church and the other groups with more passion; and since my return they have continued to lead most of the studies and our Sunday gathering. Also, in a nearby hamlet that has been disinterested and at times oppositional, there is a sudden surprising interest among them to hear “God’s Talk” and plans are being made to teach there.
Coming up, we have one more trip “out of the village” planned. In a few weeks we will be headed over to the other big island for our annual missionary conference where we get together for a few days for refreshment, fellowship, and to hear good teaching. Right after that I will be attending some long overdue field consultant meetings for all of us who are involved in helping and consulting missionaries in other villages and tribes in the areas of language learning, literacy, translation, and church planting. In April, Madonna will be involved in a translation check to get most of the book of Genesis that has been translated into Paptatar checked and ready for printing. That same month, we plan on starting a brand new literacy class here that has been designed for the “more educated” individuals who have gone to school and have some level of literacy in the national or trade language, but have not yet been taught to read their own language of Patpatar.
So much more…so many stories…such a privilege to be here and a part of what God is doing…through the sunshine and the rain.
Fact – The Patpatar word for rain is “bata” pronounced the way my friends back home who say “butter” without the “r”. If they were to see the way I was sliding around in the mud, I am sure they would be amused at the aural coincidence. If they only knew how the word for “large puddle” was pronounced, they would know exactly what I said when I fell in it!
[cid:22108EED-4B87-41D0-AA50-4D80C2AF70CD] Some of the guys in Patpatar working on a lesson for 1 Corinthians.
[cid:746430AE-4260-42AB-BBE9-4B3AF36D47C2] Passing a speeding African taxi in a field of termite mounds.