72 Hours in the book of Acts
I remember the exact time and day it all happened. The day we began living 72 hours in the book of Acts
It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon, on Saturday, July 25, 1992. We were just leaving our home in Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, Mexico, when an immigration officer approached us. He began questioning us about our "so-called illegal activities" in Mexico. After several minutes, he informed us that we shouldn’t leave our home or go anywhere because he would be back that night to question us further. We immediately thought of the other missionaries in town and despite his threats drove to their homes to warn them, but he had already been there. Some time later, after returning home, we prayerfully awaited his second visit.
Then he began his second interrogation and that is when we realized that he came to stop our so-called “illegal activities.”
He spoke of the government’s concern about the deep, widespread movement of Americans influencing the religious beliefs of the people in Parras. Then, with a very stern face, he babbled on about a report he had stating that were in fact preaching the Bible. We skirted the accusation by asking who had said it. That is when he told us that he had a document affirming that there were 10,000 witnesses, although be refused to divulge any sources, he had the document in his hand and was sighting it as evidence against us.
With a seriousness that touched our spirits, he asked directly, “Have you ever stood before the church ‘Iglesia de la Gracia’ to pray, preach or speak in any way about God?” The question resounded in our ears as he awaited an answer. So many things ran through our minds while we quickly prayed for wisdom from God. He waited and watched us closely, looking for the truth in every expression and look. We answered, after what seemed an eternity, and said “Yes we have.” We could not deny it. We were guilty. As the words left our mouths, a peaceful courage came into our hearts.
He went on to inform us that because our activities were illegal, he would be taking our visas. He added that we had only 72 hours to leave the country. However, he went on to say that all we had to do was to leave the country, turn around, and then come back. He demanded our visas, which we were reluctant to turn over to him because it would leave us without proof of legal entry into the country. We had no other options at this point but to render our visas to him. We expressed our concern, so he agreed to provide us with a copy of the paperwork explaining the terms of our departure but informed us that we had to turn it in at the border upon exit.
The next day immigration arrived with all of our paperwork. As we waded through the legal jargon, all of which was in Spanish, we soon saw that our departure papers stated a “definitive leave.” That meant that we could never return! The immigration officer denied it, holding to his story that all we had to do was leave and come back. We hesitated to sign the papers because there were several errors. But he insisted, threatening that if we didn’t sign “there would be big problems, even imprisonment.” So we, not knowing what this meant for our future-especially in Mexico, reluctantly signed—all three of us, even our daughter had to sign. In doing so we were confessing to the charges of preaching the Gospel, giving away clothing, vitamins and shoes.
Technically, we had until Tuesday afternoon to be out of the country but bright and early Tuesday morning the ordeal began. We rose very early, tired and unsettled in our spirits. We skipped breakfast and did the necessary things preparing to leave. Little did we know the next few hours would be absolutely frightening, and hours that we would NEVER forget. That, in fact, the enemy had planned to take our lives.
There was a loud knock at the door…it was the immigration officers. They announced that they were there to escort us out of the country. As we stood in the doorway listening to them, we recalled a dream given to dear friend only days before. She recounted the dream to me the morning after she had it. It went something like this: uniformed men from immigration arrive at our door to take us to the border. They loaded us into the back of a red truck. She inquired why they were doing this, and they responded that there were following orders from Mexico City. She asks them, “You’re not really taking them to the border are you?” One of them answers, “No!” Terrified, she asks, “Then where are you taking them?” He smiles and informs her that he has orders to kill them. About that time the truck hits a hole in the road and out we jump. That is when she awoke.
Well, you can see how we could draw some frightening parallels. We had not connected the two events until they actually came to take us away-as in the dream. We knew in our spirits that danger was certainly presenting itself. Just the day before we learned that 14 people had been deported from the state of Chihuahua. There also were two other missionaries escorted by immigration to the border, and they hadn’t been seen since. As Larry occupied them at the door, I snuck back inside to place an urgent call to our pastor in Spring, Texas, asking for prayer. He was quick to remind us that we serve a God of miracles who would certainly be there for us. He added that angels camped all around us, and not to let fear enter in. I told him that it was a six hour drive, and that we would call him upon arriving at the border. Little did we know that the phone call would prove to be instrumental in saving our lives.
Later our pastor would tell us he began praying for us from the moment he received our call and did not stop until we called him from the border.
Anyway, we quickly threw our suitcases into our van, and told immigration that we were ready. The immigration officer told us that we were going to be allowed to take our van but that we would be locked in a caravan of vehicles…following the head vehicle, a RED TRUCK. He also informed us that we had to make a stop in Monterey. Knowing the dream, we became alarmed and asked why. We were wondering “Is that where they will kill us?” He answered, “To report.” We pushed for information but the reply was the same…”to report.” The trip through the mountains of Mexico was horrendous. The officer drove 70-80 miles per hour around hairpin turns and along steep cliffs. From time to time, he would sporadically stop for no apparent reason and walk around the vehicle with his gun. We don’t know if he wanted us to try to escape so that he could shoot us or if he merely was contemplating the right time and place. But each time we began to pray and back in Spring, our pastor was praying—that moved the hand of God on our behalf. God stayed the enemy and each time he returned to his truck without harming us. Just as he shut the mouth of the lion for Daniel, God stopped that man from carrying out his orders, signed by the president of Mexico....TO KILL US!
Finally, we arrived at the Department of Immigration where they led us to a holding area. And we waited, and waited and waited. Hours went by, and we kept waiting. We asked several times why we were being detained. They always answered the same, “Shut up, sit down and wait.” Finally, they moved us into an office where we were questioned by a very abrasive man. We requested an interpreter, but he replied harshly, “You are prisoners, and prisoners have no rights in my country.” He went on to say that whatever we didn’t understand he would “MAKE US” understand. He pulled out a very old law book and began to define our so-called “illegal activities.” We then were forced to sign a secondary paper that stated that we had not been forced to sign the first paper back in Parras. This paper also stated that our leave was “definitive,” but it also said that if we returned, we’d be subject to a penalty of a 10 year jail term. Now we could see the trap! They had wanted to coax us back into Mexico so that they would have a reason to put us into jail, and if that didn’t work, they would just kill us.
It was almost time for us to leave with the escort for the border. Left alone in the room with the immigration officer who had taken us away, we asked him why he had done this to us. He said that “his orders came from Mexico City,”—the exact words in the dream! From that point on a different officer accompanied us. That must have been the hole in the road my friend saw in her dream. God does provide a way of escape!
Twelve hours after leaving our home at 9:30 pm, we finally arrived at the border. We had to sign more papers, more confessions, and then we were fingerprinted. They took physical descriptions and posted them on the wall…we were wanted criminals! By this time my daughter was quite a bit shaken, but God in His mercy allowed a very nice man to take our fingerprints. He spoke gently to her and it seemed to make things better somehow. We were now fugitives in their eyes, criminals for preaching the gospel. As we crossed the border into the United States, I felt like kissing the ground. We found a hotel room, called our pastor, who at 11:00pm was still praying. We informed him that we had arrived safely and were in the States. We slept that night knowing that we were safe—safe in the palm of God’s mighty hand. Since that time, we have experienced God’s protection in so many ways. We know that we have a destiny, that God allowed us to live because He has a purpose for us in the earth. Our lives have been in jeopardy many times, we've been shot at, had stones thrown at us, and have been ambushed among many other things. Today, we are living and working for the Lord in Guatemala. Since the conception of this ministry we have had the privilege of winning literally thousands to Christ and starting numerous churches.
We can hardly believe that it has been so many years since we left for Parras de la Fuente, Coahuila, Mexico that Labor day weekend in 1987! Marla and I feel that it has been a privilege to serve the Lord in the countries that he has had us live in. We counted it a privilege to be charged with preaching the gospel in front of 10,000 witnesses in Mexico. We are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, it is the power of God unto salvation.
It is a privilege now, to be in Eastern Guatemala today, serving the Lord among the Chorti villages and carrying the gospel to the unreached. Many of you have been partners with us from the very beginning. We find it difficult to express our gratitude to all of you who stand with us every month. We deeply appreciate all of our partners, and you are a partner if you sacrifice your time to pray for us, or if you sacrifice your money to give, or if you've ever sacrificed yourself to come. So we say Partners, thank you for this many wonderful years of making a difference. For those that have known us since the beginning as well as those that have joined us along the way, we hope you will read this newsletter as a testimony of what we have done together. We invite you to take a look at what we've done together over the years. Sit back and enjoy some photos of what we have done TOGETHER.
A True Mexican Tale!
The Lord knows the beginning from the end, but we don't always know. We couldn't have imagined where we would be today on that labor day weekend in '87. Our world had just changed radically and we weren't sure of anything except that we were following Jesus--wherever he would lead us.
We arrived in Mexico, with no place to stay. The friends that helped us move our few remaining personal possessions sat with us in the streets of Parras until almost midnight that Friday. The man that we were meeting was not home yet and we didn't know where else to go or stay because we didn't know anyone else in the city, nor did we speak Spanish. "We played the guitar and sang songs worshiping the Lord as we waited on him to arrive home", our daughter recalled as we reminisced about our arrival in Parras.
The next day we went to the house that we had rented only to find that it had not been plumbed with running water nor did it have electricity as the owner had promised. So the hunt began for a house to rent...and in Parras that was a difficult chore! The only thing available after searching all weekend was a 500 year old house across from the market square. so we took it! It didn't have running water inside the house but it did have a bathroom out back. The 500 year old tile was black and the commode had no seat but we were sure that we could make it work, after all Jesus said go!
The Lord soon moved us from that house and provided us with one that actually had an indoor bathroom! We soon began showing the Jesus movie in our home and from there sprang Grace Church in Parras. We broke ground in October of '88. Construction began, but we didn't wait for it to be finished to start services!
God says "Honduras"
The Lord moved us to Honduras once we had been permanently removed from Mexico. There we felt God leading us to begin a Ministry Training School--Flames of Fire. We lived and worked for 5 years in Honduras, seeing over 5000 souls saved through the outreach efforts of the Ministry School. Many have gone out to begin churches in remote villages in the mountains and villages of Honduras. They continue to preach the un-compromised word to entire villages, and YOU helped that to happen!
Guatemala Where God has us Now!
In January 1998 the Lord moved us once more, this time to Guatemala. We are currently involved with medical teams, evangelistic outreaches, feeding programs and church planting. You can read all about what we are involved in on the Flames of Fire Ministry home page.