We have been constantly laboring in this mission field for the last month. Too much has been happening to possibly write about it all, but I will share some highlights and testimonies. May God be glorified!
FELLOWSHIP WITH BRETHREN
There is a pastor from a small church in this area that we have come to be good friends with over the past month. This brother is really humble and truly seems to really love the Lord and desires to see people saved. His name is Otoniel. Here is a picture of brother John (left) me (middle) and Otoniel (right):
Brother Otoniel oversees a small church in this area. Even though he is a part of a large Pentecostal denomination, there is a world of difference between the churches here and the churches in the US of the same denomination. The corruption and apostasy of much of American Christianity hasn’t heavily saturated this area and defiled that which calls itself the church here, so there is still purity and simple devotion to Christ and love of the truth in a much greater measure (on average). We have been extremely blessed meeting fellow brethren in the Lord here who are so simple, some of which can’t even read, yet really love Jesus and glorify Him with their lives. We’ve been really encouraged and strengthened by their fellowship and hearing their amazing testimonies. (We may be uploading a video or two of some testimonies from some brethren here in the near future.) It’s encouraging to see that the Lord has reserved a remnant for Himself out of every place!
We’ve been able to visit various people in their homes and to preach the Gospel to them and go through the Scriptures proclaiming Christ. We have seen some people come under some wonderful conviction by the Spirit of God while visiting them and sharing with them the truth of the Cross and pray the Lord would make our labors fruitful.
There is a great need here for this type of ministry –visiting people in their homes and teaching them the Bible. It’s very time-consuming but seems to be perhaps the most effective way of establishing a solid Gospel witness to them and to build relationships with them and gain their trust. The state of many of the people in these villages is similar to the state in which the Evangelist Philip found the Ethiopian Eunuch, who wanted to know the Scriptures but couldn’t understand them and needed someone to teach him (see Acts. 8:30-31). So we have been doing this and are continually visiting people to teach them the Word of God.
We have also been talking with a women who wants to convert to Christianity and to her “husband” (they’re not really married) who is seeking the truth and counting the cost of following Christ. He is in a state of conviction and seems to have a real hunger to know more about Jesus. Neither one of them can read, so we are giving them CD’s of the Bible read on audio to listen to. We are praying that the Lord will grant even them, “repentance unto life”. Their responsiveness thus far has been the fruit of our Jesus Film ministry (read below).
WITNESSING TO THE MAFIA
The town that we are staying in is a stronghold for the Mexican mafia and drug cartel. Many of them are from this area. In fact, many of them are actually cousins of Lina. So a few weeks ago, as we were walking down the street, a gang of about 20 of them were gathered at a house, and saw us as we walked by. We were able to talk with them, and they recognized that they were family with Lina. They proceeded to call me names and racial slurs and to use profanity towards me, being a white boy and all, but we went over into the yard and talked with them. As they asked me if I drink beer, I told them that the Word of God says that no drunkard will inherit the Kingdom of God, and that God may have overlooked their ignorance in the past, but now commands them and all men everywhere to repent, because He’s appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through the Man who He has ordained, Christ Jesus! When I said this, they stopped their course jesting and immediately became dead silent and listened. We have visited one of these guys in his house since and had lunch with him, and plan on going back soon to share my testimony with him and to preach the Gospel. Oh, how glorious it would be for the Lord to save that man and make him a token of His grace!
PREACHING AT THE FIESTA
Every year, they have a Fiesta (large party like a festival) in our town. Nearly the whole town goes to it. Even many of those from this area who are in the US come back here for this time to visit their families and go to the fiestas. One day, I was praying that the Lord would open doors to preach the Gospel, and later that day, we got the idea of setting up a booth at the Fiesta to hand out tracts, Gospels of John and Bibles, and to preach to people from it. The Lord opened up the doors to do this immediately, and in fact, some of the mafia heard that we wanted a booth there to give out Bibles, and they said, “You just go and pick your spot, and we’ll take care of the rest”. So we were able to get a great spot to set up our booth right by the entrance where people come in and out from, and that for free! The Lord has even the hearts of the mafia in His hands and can turn them whatsoever way He wishes!
The Fiesta lasted for 9 days, and we were there almost every night. We were able to preach the Gospel to a number of people who came by our booth.
We had a large picture hanging in the back of the Second Coming of Christ in glory and of people screaming in terror at the sight of it –a pretty convicting picture for somebody that’s not right with God! Some people would walk by our booth, look at the picture, and freeze in fear with their eyes wide open! There was actually a fear that ran through the town we heard, and a rumor –people were saying: “It’s the last days! In the history of our town nobody has ever been at our FIESTAS to preach the Gospel!” We have been praying that the fear of God would grip the hearts of the people of this town and the power of the Holy Ghost would convict and convert them.
We were also able to preach to some of the vendors (workers) at the Fiesta, who travel from out of state from fiesta to fiesta to sell their goods. A few of them we had really good witnesses with, and they were very receptive and hungry for more. One man we preached to seemed to get really convicted, and when we finished speaking and asked if he had any questions, asked, “What’s the easiest way for me to get saved?” I showed him Romans 10:9-10 and explained what it means, and told him to get alone with God and confess his sins, repent, and call out to Jesus to save him, to put his faith in Christ and confess Christ as His Savior and to serve Him forever. A few nights later we talked to him again, and he has since been reading a Bible that someone else had, and we were able to give him his own Bible. He was very grateful and seemed very eager to read it and serve the Lord!
We were also able to preach to some of the band members from a music group that came to perform, and a couple of them were very receptive to the Gospel. One of them was tremendous –we all felt in our spirits, that this man is going to be a brother! Or so it seems. He just has the hand of the Lord all over him. We were able to give him and another member Bibles and they gratefully received them.
In all we handed out about 30 Bibles at the fiestas, all to people who sincerely wanted them and asked us for one and told us they would read them. Glory be to God!
PREACHING IN THE CHURCHES
There are a number of churches that we have come to discover in this area. I have been able to preach in them and teach the saints (and false converts) on some much needed truths and foundations and seek to strengthen the brethren.
I have been preaching in the church that brother Otoniel oversees on a regular basis now and it’s been a blessing. The Lord has been pleased to really pour out a blessing there and to give us a taste of His presence. We have seen the altar flooded with praying and crying souls, and are being broken and strengthened ourselves. My heart longs to see the Lord send a revival to his little church in this area. We thank the Lord for the blessed gift of His Spirit, for we can do nothing without Him.
Thanks be to God, I have also been able to share some messages with a few of different house church fellowships, to a youth group on a couple occasions, and even teach a class on Missions at a small Bible institute in the city (the class lasted for about 6 hours!). It turns out that the session I taught was the final session at the end of the year for the school, so it fit perfectly with taking what they learned and applying it. I was also able to answer questions they had about the “prosperity gospel”, “altar call salvation”, and more.
It’s been on my heart to emphasize some much-needed foundational truths, and share such messages dealing with the true meaning of the Cross, true and false conversion, the new birth, of what true salvation looks like, how genuine conversion takes place, striving to enter the narrow way, taking up the Cross, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and so on. The brethren are very receptive to the messages and appear to be very edified by them. Much of our ministry here has been to the brethren, as much as it has been to the lost. It’s unexpected, but the Lord has been pleased to use us to help edify His saints in the ministry of teaching. There is a great need here for solid, foundational, doctrinal teaching –for tearing down faulty foundations and laying down true ones. Oh, may God grant that His church in these last days may return to the Apostolic pattern, power and glory!
Since some people have satellite TV here (as is the case everywhere around the world no matter where you go it seems), some of that false “gospel” of greed has corrupted some churches in this area. I have been able to preach against this greedy prosperity heresy to some of the brethren here. Brother Otoniel even requested that I teach at a meeting on a Sunday about why the prosperity “gospel” is wrong, and so I was able to do that joyfully and earnestly contend for the faith. He, along with another brother in that fellowship that also preaches sometimes, have heard prosperity taught before, but neither one of the agreed with it as it didn’t sit right with their spirit. They were still uncertain though, so it met a great need for them to be able to go through the Scriptures on the subject and to expound of what the Lord taught concerning stewardship and money so that they may have a definite stance by the word of God.
There is a larger church in the city that has embraced this prosperity “gospel” and is teaching it. I had an appointment to preach there to the congregation last Sunday, but after praying, I had no peace about going, so cancelled the engagement. We are going to sit down with that pastor and talk to him personally about his error before we associate ourselves any further with him or preach there.
THE JESUS FILM MINISTRY
We were able to show the Jesus Film on two weekend nights in a row in the village we are staying in. This village has a population of about 500 people. And to our grand surprise, over 250 people showed up during the two nights! That’s half the people in our village! All the chairs were filled up both nights! On one night, a number of people even had to stand. These people were all able to watch this 2-hour video presentation of the Gospel of Luke. As soon as the Film was over, on both nights we stood up at the front and preached a short Gospel message to them, pleading with them to repent and be converted, to flee the wrath to come and to believe in Christ and be saved. We have already seen some fruit come from this event. Praise God!
We were not able to obtain any pictures of this event, since people in this village were making up lies about us, saying that we were going to film the whole event and take it to the US and sell it to get rich off of them. There are many outright lies of the Devil like this that float around in this town, out to oppose the Gospel. Men and women of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth, foaming up their own shame in slandering the work of God –may the Lord forgive them for their words against Him, and if He be willing, change their hearts and bless them with salvation. We didn’t take any pictures so as not to foster to this lie. So from now on, we’re going to be even more careful about what we take pictures of. If there is no tangible reproach or reason for people to blaspheme, they will make up reasons of their own, so we have to be extra-carefully beyond reproach.
We already have plans, if the Lord be willing, to show this Jesus Film in many of the surrounding villages as well, working with some surrounding churches and local pastors to reach their communities. This weekend we are staying for a few days with a pastor from a far town and preaching at some meetings in his church, and setting up the Film to reach his community.
1. One day, we attended a Pastor’s meeting where a number of the local pastors gather together to talk about current issues. It was here that we were able to meet a lot of them and to set up appointments to preach in their congregations. After the meeting, as we were talking with some of them, a women ran into the room in distress! She had tears in her eyes, and had a baby in her arms of about 2-3 years in age. About 30 minutes prior to this, the baby had taken a hold of a bottle of kitchen cleaner and drank it while the mother was in the shower. She got out of the shower to discover that he drank it. She decided to put him in the car and drive him to the meeting, hoping we would still be there to pray for him. When she brought him in, he was unconscious. We all prayed for him, and Lina and I laid hands on him in the name of Jesus. We both had a supernatural faith rise up within us, and we believed he would be healed. But, after we prayed, nothing happened. He was still unconscious. Everyone tried to wake him up. They kept saying his name loudly, shaking him (gently enough not to hurt him, but strong enough to wake any baby up), rocked him up and down, etc. trying to wake him up. Nothing worked. A pastor took his finger, lifted the baby’s eyelid to look at his eyes, and after doing so said, “you need to take him to the hospital immediately”. They were even holding his eyelids open and loudly saying his name trying to wake him, but not a response.
Then, Lina grabbed the child in her arms and whispered very softly, “wake up in the name of Jesus” and when she did, the baby jolted, like when somebody gets scared and jumps. When he jumped, his eyes opened for a split second, but then he immediately slumped back over and fell unconscious again. He was back out. Then, in a faith not my own, in the name of Jesus Christ, I laid hands on him and rebuked the poison and its effects and commanded it to be gone and for him to be healed, and Lina spoke “life” into the baby. Immediately, his eyes opened wide and he woke up perfectly well. He looked around at our faces, and got scared seeing strangers, and began crying! He was made whole by the power of the risen Christ! He didn’t fall back unconscious again, he didn’t throw up, and he even drank milk afterwards (he was still on milk as his food). We talked to the mother days later and she confirmed that the only harm done to the baby was that the outside of his skin was burnt a little under his chin where the liquid dripped when he drank it! Is not the same Christ who worked wonders on earth 2,000 the same Christ who reigns in the Heavens and through His people now? Is not His power the same? Does He not still have compassion for the suffering and dying?
2. On another occasion, I had preached at a house fellowship. After the meeting, there was a teenage girl who needed healing, but she was so shy that she went to her mother and asked her mother to ask us to pray for her. A couple of days prior, this girl had something rupture in her ear, and blood started coming out from it. She was in constant pain, had a constant headache ever since. Then, to make matters worse, a day later, a bug flew into her ear and they never got it out! So brother Otoniel and I anointed her with oil, and laying hands on her in the name of Jesus, prayed for healing. I felt a wave of what felt like heat pass between my hand and her head as we did. As soon as we finished praying, she was healed instantly. Her face was gripped with astonishment, she looked utterly amazed, and tears formed in her eyes. Lina asked her, “what is it?” and the girl said, “All the pain is completely gone!” Glory to the Lamb! It’s not our own power or holiness, but Jesus, and faith in His name, that made that girl whole! He’s still in the business of healing the afflicted to the glory of His name!
Oh, how we need the power of God! We need the real Holy Ghost in our midst to see God manifest His glory and demonstrate His compassion! My heart longs for a greater measure, a greater baptism of the Spirit, a greater endowment of power to preach and confirm the Word, a greater faith to make substance of things not seen! We fall so short of true childlike faith and we need a holy desperation to be closer to God and to see Him work in a real way in people’s lives that they may believe the Gospel, to believe in and trust the Living Christ and not a dead religion that has a form of godliness but no power! I’m not talking about following signs, I’m talking about following Christ and having signs follow us as a result, having the Holy Ghost make manifest the Word by faith for the glory of the Name! Where is the LORD God of Elijah?
SOME OBSTACLES AND TRIALS
There is a tangible warfare going on in the spiritual between us and these demonic strongholds of Catholicism, idolatry, pride, gossip, and greed that control this area. We are seeking to press through in prayer for a move of God, for the demolishing of these strongholds, for the salvation of souls, for the empowerment of the Body of Christ and for the desperately needed outpouring of the baptism of the Spirit. But there are some extremely stubborn spirits here that don’t want to be driven out, so we need heavenly re-enforcement by the power of God. Please pray against these strongholds here and for the release of the Spirit in this place.
Verbal persecution is also a constant obstacle here –not for us, for we count it a blessing, but for those who are seeking God, attending our meetings, and considering coming to Christ. Whenever a sinner in the town appears to be on the verge of conversion, all the others of the town begin to mock them and insult them and to tempt them. This is happening constantly, and it causes many people to be afraid to talk to us because they fear the shame and humiliation that all the town will give them for it. Because of this, we are having a hard time trying to reach some people. But, at the same time, this could be a blessing in disguise, since it means that there is a cost to pay when following Christ, and the people will count this cost before doing it. So in a way, it sort of filters out the chaff from the wheat, which is good. But the bad part is that some of what is filtered out won’t even listen to us on account of it and it hinders them from listening to the Gospel. So it goes both ways.
We are also battling with personal struggles of our own. All three of us have fallen sick since being here. One day, in the early afternoon, I fell extremely ill, weak, and unable to hardly move, with a sick stomach, a high fever, and pain all over. It was so bad for a moment I had thoughts of passing on to glory and had a wonderful time of fellowship with Christ as I meditated on the glorious thought of seeing His face for the first time! We still don’t know what caused this illness, and it only lasted for a couple days until I was able to function like normal and eat again. All three of us have also become sick with an infection, cold, sore throat and cough. Brother John has had an extremely trying time with asthma on top of this cold, and we’ve been praying for his healing. Lina has also been sick and keeps losing her voice, making it difficult to translate as we preach. Yet in all this, we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us!
There are also multitudes of bugs here, bugs of all sorts and kinds. There are wasps that fly in and out of our house every day, building nests. We kill them constantly but they keep coming. There are also a lot of bees that come in. There are also poisonous wasps, and poisonous bees that ooze venom from their stingers. There are tons of mosquitos, and we are getting bit constantly despite our best efforts to avoid them. We have probably had at least a hundred bites between the three of us (this is no exaggeration). There’s also these little critters they call “sancudos”, they’re a little bigger than a gnat, look almost identical, but when they land on you they bite and make you bleed. There’s even these strange insects that fly around at night, they look like beetles, and the people here call them, “female donkeys”. When they touch you or land on you, they release a chemical that burns you. I’ve been the victim of one so far, and it burned my neck and made a water blister from the burn. We’ve seen a tarantula here too, and a couple snakes. And pretty much every adult who has lived here all their lives testifies to having between 3-8 scorpion stings during their lives. So we pray and believe that the Lord would keep us safe and from getting ill from any of these bugs, especially the mosquitos and poisonous creatures. Praise God, we have authority to trample down snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19)!
We are so grateful for our brethren back in the States that are covering us in prayer and helping us with our physical needs as we continue to do this work in the name of our Sovereign Lord. We march onward, and may all the saints do the same, for the sake of the Name…
In CHRIST -Josef Urban