Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our Sabbath has Arrived!

It is about 10pm and I am racing toward the airport which is about 10 hours away. Crazy thing is we need to be there in 8 hours to drop off some volunteers to catch their flights home to the US. I am experiencing a real test of my faith; faith in the driver to get us there in one piece.

So I have a lot in which to catch you all up. First of all, the Love Extreme Mega Event has happened and was a smashing success with over 10,000 people in attendance. More importantly, there were over 1000 decisions for Christ. Even better than that, we are now running our discipleship program which ties those new Christians into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Christ. The ball is rolling for sure.

The Love Extreme projects have been fantastic. They started on the 11th of June and are finishing tomorrow as we send the last of volunteers back to their churches in the US to share their experiences with their churches, friends, and families. In all, we have ministered to thousands over the course of this project which spans 6 locations throughout the country of Peru. With over 300 volunteers working on any number of types of projects, we have been able to lay a groundwork for our 40/40 missionaries to plant churches. I am not doing it enough justice to say that it was a great project. Our team put in huge amounts of time, God laid his hand of blessing on us, and the harvest was plentiful.

The first part of the project for our family was Arequipa Love Extreme 1. We had a group of 80 volunteers working on a number of impact projects including medical clinics, promotion for our mega event, school assemblies, construction of the Alto Libertad Church, drama presentations, visits to some local boys and girls homes, kids festivals, and many other exciting things. I was amazed at how much stuff we could put on the calendar. It was a fun filled project that lead up to the mega event.

While that was taking place, there was another project taking place in Puerto Maldonado as well as Cusco. In all, there were about 130 volunteers during the first phase of the project preparing the soil for a harvest of new church plants in the various areas in which we work. Each project location was filled with a number of activities that were designed to draw people into our fold of community. One notable thing was our soccer tournament in Puerto. There were 19 teams competing to take the grand prize: a sizeable chunk of cash (especially for the area). The tourney was topped off by having Felix Vargas share his testimony. He is a world class speaker with a testimony of Drugs, violence, crime, and who knows what else. Good guy stuff! The tournament was a smashing success, and many came to know Jesus as a result.

On the 17th, the airline industry in Peru got a shot in the arm. We filled the flights to Arequipa and brought all of our volunteers back to Arequipa for the big event. In addition, the Love Extreme 2 group arrived from the US and joined the Love Extreme 1 group in Arequipa. There were a lot of people in our presence. It was a bit hectic, but we made it.

We started by orientating those about the big event on the 19th. We prepped the group spiritually through prayer and worship. We knew that Satan was going to heat up his attacks. In all, we packed out one of our local churches with our volunteers singing and praising. It was a fantastic and well needed time before our mega event.

Our other preparation for the event involved promotion. We had a team of over 300 people to plaster posters and flyers all over the city. In all, we hung 15,000 posters, and handed out over 96,000 flyers throughout the city. In addition to that, we had billboards all over the city, banners above the main streets, radio and TV broadcasts, press conferences, and a lot of word of mouth. Rico, our event mascot was out in full force running around on the public transportation system freaking people out. We had a total of 20 Rico costumes (a life size guinea pig) with volunteers and helpers bouncing from one bus to another handing out flyers and putting up posters. It was a promotion storm. God blessed it and kept all safe.

The big day consisted of an early morning prayer time with the entire group of volunteers and our consolidation/discipleship team. It was a special time of preparation for what was to be an event of change for the city of Arequipa. We prayed, encouraged, and prepped our group for the biggest event like this that Arequipa has ever seen.

At 9:30, the gates opened. The line had about 2000 people anxiously waiting to enter. This was a miracle as Peruvians are not typically punctual. As the gates opened and the people flooded in, they just kept on coming. It was a blessing for me to see the hoards of people. We immediately ran out of space at our women’s conference and the men’s conference as well. We scrambled and made more seating available. What a blessing to run out of space! Standing room only to hear the message of salvation!

The day went smooth. From my perspective, it was hectic. However, as the day progressed and I was able to see how things were rolling, God gave me a sense of peace, knowing that we got the job done. God was in control all along and the event went off without a problem. The concerts were fantastic; the Kids Pavilion was full of little ones with paint all over their faces, balloons in their hands, and grins from ear to ear. The food area was busy and supplied the necessary nourishment for the crowds as well. We served a ton of guinea pigs, not sure how many yet, but it was a lot. The medical clinic treated hundreds of patients and our evangelism team was working all through the day and night to stay on top of the new converts. God was there in that place! I have never been a part of something so moving. What a privilege to participate.

Nick Vujicic was a smashing hit! He arrived with not much time to spare, had a little time to meet our staff and prepare for his presentation, then on stage he went. He brought down the house! He reached into the hearts of the locals and brought to them a message of hope that can only come from Jesus. Nicks comedic but deeply real sense of joy showered the crowd with a spirit of transformation. Hundreds came to Christ in those moments. The new converts were asked to follow a large flag that was paraded to our consolidation center where we were able to gather info and start the discipleship process. In all, there were over a thousand new decisions for Christ. God was present at Love Extreme!

The night continued with a couple of other events. We had Yuri Ortuno and his entourage of folks give a concert. Yuri was a popular secular artist that has recently become a Christian and is now using his gifts to spread Christ’s word. He drew a large crowd as well. It was a fantastic cultural experience filled with a message of hope.

After Yuri, the young crowd came alive. We had three local bands come and turn up the volume and energized the crowd of youth or those that are youthful in mind. They played for another couple of hours to wind down a fantastic day of celebration of Christ’s peace and joy.

The day after the event, we had a celebration day to recap the previous day’s event. It was a good time of sharing with the volunteers that we had not had much chance to get to know. We had a chance to come together and worship in the AM and then share in a chicken barbecue for lunch. It was a nice wind down (not really) from such an exhausting day.

Then the heat turned up once again as the second phase of the project started on the night after the barbecue. The second phase of Love Extreme project consisted of 5 groups going into our church plant cities around the country of Peru; Iquitos, Pucallpa, Puno, Arequipa, and our group in Cusco. That night we took a group of over 130 people to Cusco. The rest flew out the next morning to their respective project cities. It was a busy night and early morning for our team as we scattered throughout Peru.

I still have not received all the reports of each city, but the ones I have are really positive. Each group had a full schedule of impact work planned. I am anxious to find out how everything went down. I will find out in the next few days.

As for our group in Cusco, we took a group of about 135 people to Cusco. Some immediately went to Machu Pichu as our number was up and down the whole time we were there. In all, we ran 4 medical clinics, reached hundreds of kids through community celebrations and kid’s festivals, assisted a local women’s shelter with a day of pampering with our female volunteers as well as reached out to the local prison with a well received visit to the women’s ward. In addition, we bathed the city and our future church plant sites in prayer as our 40/40 missionaries will be starting their church planting work there in October.

Our part in Cusco was a wonderful experience. We had a mixed group of volunteers from all over the US. We had a chance to get to know some awesome people. Our times in Cusco were filled with a number of problems such as busses not showing up, numbers of schedule changes, a strike which halted all transportation, and any number of other obstacles. We managed to get through them all and have a great project. The bus ride back to Arequipa was uneventful after the bus finally showed up three hours late to pick us up. The driver was able to make up some time at the expense of a large number of carsick passengers. All is good now!

We are back home now in Arequipa. All the volunteers are on their way back to their homes in the US. It has been an exhausting 6 months of project season, but the Lord has kept us in tact. On Saturday, we are having a retreat. It is designed to allow us all to relax and do nothing else except work. Our Sabbath has arrived!

The Englund family has a lot of things to share with you. We are seeking God’s direction in our lives and we have some additional news to share with you. Keep an eye out for our future posts and emails. Keep us in your prayers as God has some amazing things in store for our family in the near future. God bless you all and I look forward to sharing more with you in the coming days.

In case you may be wondering why you have not received much from us in the past month, well, my hard drive crashed on my laptop, which had all of your contact info (Who backs up?). We have been working 16+ hour days for the past month and have not had time to rebuild all the contact info. I am getting close to finishing with it. So for now, I am posting this to the Blog, which also posts to Facebook. I will send out to those I have on the backed up list, but I am sorry for those that I had recently added and cannot find. I will do my best to get it updated and accurate. If you have anybody that would like to be added to our support and prayer updates, just respond to this email.

With love and appreciation for all of your prayers,

The Englund Family