Thanksgiving was so good this year. Our party doubled from last year to about 60 people. We set up tables and chairs under tents on the patio, and had the most beautiful weather. I shared the Thanksgiving story and everyone took turns saying what they were thankful for. Everyone took a bit of this and a bit of that and filled their plates with tastes of each food. In the end, everyone was full and we still had turkey left over from our 20 lb. bird. It was a great time.
My desire for MLV, is that it be be a place where people not only learn a trade and skills, but especially that they encounter Jesus. I pray that everyone who walks through our doors will experience his love in their life.
Julio came to MLV last year. He and his girlfriend signed up for classes together, she for sewing and he for welding and mechanics. My first impression of Julio, he seemed stand-offish, not willing to be a part of the group. He thought he would just slip in, take class and slip out. Thankfully he did not run away from my intents to break down his walls. He slowly let me in.
Over time, I could tell that Julio was listening in bible studies and see the Holy Spirit talked to him. One evening, after classes, Julio had stuck around to help me fix a problem with my motorcycle, and we got to talking. He opened up about his life and told me his journey. I reminded him of God’s promises and his truth, and he laughed. He said it all sounded good and he wanted God, but he was not ready.
At the beginning of this year, Julio started to get excruciating pain in his back. He tried to live with it, taking more and more pain killers to get though the day, but his work only aggravated the situation. Lifting sacks and materials all day was killing him. He finally went to a doctor and after a few tests was told his back had two herniated discs and he would need surgery. As soon as Julio’s boss found out, he was fired. I noticed that around this time he and his girlfriend were coming to class together less and less and not talking about one another. It turned out that they had also broken up. Julio seemed to be hitting a wall everywhere he turned. He was looking for a new job, but with his back problems, and did not know what to get.
“Julio, you know we can pray for your back so your problem goes away?” I offered one day, so he could be pain free, but Julio refused. He said he wasn’t ready. “Really?” I asked. “You would rather live with your pain than pray?” He nodded and I said, “Ok. When you get tired of your pain and are ready to pray, you let me know.” A few weeks passed and I asked him the same thing and got the same answer. After a few months, He told me his back was still hurting, but he had gotten a new job driving a truck. He was going to start the following week and was worried about how his back would respond.
Unbeknownst to Julio, another student in MLV was also having back problems. My English student, Wendy, loves mangos and in mango season last year she climbed a tree to get them and fell from one of the upper branches. She hit the ground so hard she passed out. Family members rushed her to the hospital and she was there for a few days. She missed a few weeks of class and when she came back she came with pain. First semester, she would come to class stiffly. She would sit in her desk with great care so as not to make the wrong move and flare her pain up. “Wendy, let me pray for your back,” I would say. “Ok, teacher,” she would reply. Every time I prayed, she would say it was better. The pain would diminish, but once she went back home the pain would come back. We repeated the cycle several times.
Then my friend Bill Tidsbury from Canada, happened to stop by the ministry. I asked him if he would like to share in the bible study and he was delighted to. As the students finished up their break and cleaned up to go back to class, the thought of Wendy popped in my mind. I grabbed Bill, “I got a student with a bad back and I think you should pray for her at the end.” Bill was more than compliant.
After sharing an analogy of the Holy Spirit being like a SIM chip in a cell phone, he called Wendy up. Wendy sat in front of the class in a plastic chair. Bill got down on his knees to see her feet, and grabbed them. Holding them out, he saw that she was uneven. One foot seemed longer than the other. He said, “Ok, Wendy just relax and receive what God wants to give you. In the name of Jesus we command this left leg to come back out and line up with the other foot. As Bill spoke the words, the quarter inch difference between Wendy’s feet leveled out. When I was just thinking, it could be that Wendy shifted her weight when I wasn’t watching to make it level, Wendy opened her eyes with a huge smile on her face and said, “ Yeah! I’m healed.” She jumped out of the chair before Bill even finished and said,” I felt a surge of electricity run through my body and the pain is gone! I’m healed.” She was so happy and she returned to her seat. The following week, Wendy told the class that she was definitely better. The sharp pain that had been killing her was gone.
The following Sunday, Julio appeared. He was sitting alone in the cafeteria when I walked in with my students. I saw him and something clicked in my heart. I thought, “Oh man, I need Wendy to tell Julio about her back. I asked Wendy to give her testimony to him and she went right over with a big smile and started to describe everything as it had happened. At the end, I asked Julio, “So are you ready for us to pray for you?” And to my surprise he said yes. That afternoon, after the bible study, Julio came up for prayer and Wendy prayed for him. “Sit in the chair,” she told him, and had him sit in the same chair she sat in. She asked him to lift his feet and she checked their balance, just like Bill did with her. Then, we prayed. Afterwards, I asked Julio if he had felt anything. “Nothing Brian. I felt nothing.”
“That’s ok,” I said. “You’ll feel better later.” I prayed that God would help him feel better and not let the opportunity pass by. The following week, I waited for Julio to call, but nothing. The next Sunday I finally asked him about his back. “Oh, I meant to call you and was meaning to tell you today,” he said. “My back was much better. I worked all week and it hasn’t hurt me.” I started to laugh and give thanks to God and he said, but it wasn’t a 100%. I asked if he wanted us to pray again and he said yes. Wendy came and prayed for him. In the afternoon, Julio expressed another wish. “Brian, I want to go to the party on Dec. 2, but I have this new job and you know how it is, they are never going to give me permission.”
“You can pray for it, Julio.”
“It is impossible. I’ve only been there two weeks.”
“Ah, but God is the God of the impossible. That’s what he loves. So, God,” I started praying,” I thank you for how you have shown Julio that you are real and that you love him these last few weeks and you hear his heart. You know that he wants to go to the party on Dec. 2 and you know he needs permission to go. So I pray for favor between him and his bosses. If you want him at the party, I pray that you will take him there. Let him know that you love him. Amen.”
Last Thursday, I got a text message from Julio: “Brian, how are you? So, my boss called me today and said I can take next Saturday off and I didn’t even tell him about the party yet…”
“Ha! I told you, Do you believe? God loves you and he listens.”
“I guess he does love me.”
I am so thankful to God for how he shows us his love. I am thankful that he has been showing Julio. My mom’s bible study has been praying for Julio for the last few months and God has honored their prayers.
I ask that you pray with me that MLV will continue to grow as a place where people encounter God, in the real, everyday normal. We don’t need any pretext or setup, just a willingness to seek his face at any moment and see him shine.
Our construction of the new sewing class is finally making headway and the classroom is finally taking shape. After about 20 days of rain, the sun broke through and we got a week of welding in. Tomorrow the Gaithersburg team comes to help us get ready for the end-of-semester party. If you are not following us on Facebook, Like our Cocal Gracias page ( https://web.facebook.com/Cocal-Gracias-128009003962872/) and you can get update photos as activities are happening. Rina and I are preparing for a visit to the states and will be sharing in a few churches, Sunday schools, and house groups. If you would like us to come and share with your group or church about Cocal Gracias and the work God is doing, contact us.
God bless all of you,