Thursday, July 28, 2005

July 2005

I’ve been back in Tepic for three weeks now, and life has been non-stop since Timmy, Jacob, Kiki and I landed in Puerto Vallarta. Jacob and Kiki have returned to the States, and Timmy is helping at a youth camp outside of Guadalajara where 15 of our Tepic young people are learning to walk closer to our Savior. He will be leaving for the States as soon as they return to Tepic. Not one day has passed since I’ve been here that I haven’t thought of how important our team of friends and family is in making this work in Mexico the success that God has allowed it to be.

During my first week back, we had non-stop visitors from the Tepic church welcoming us back home with gifts of our favorite treats like brownies and flan and many beautiful flowers. We had a constant stream of Huichol pastors arriving on the front porch. I guess the smoke signals made their way to the various villages, and they took off hiking down the slopes of the Sierra Madre to the Mellberg’s half-way house. They all seemed so happy, and between sobs and smiles, each of them had to tell his story of how the works are going in their respective villages.

Tree Planting

Pastor Martín organized a group of young people, and not so young, to make a trip out to the new Picachos village (Huichol) to encourage the brothers and sisters there. He and Timmy got their heads together and came up with the bright idea that we could transport a bunch of fruit and shade trees to the village and plant them while we were there. Their new village is so barren, shadeless, hot, and depressing. The rainy season is just getting under way, and the timing is perfect. So Timmy took some funds from Kirt’s Memorial gifts and rounded up the young people that could go with him to go from nursery to nursery selecting trees that would be appropriate for the village. Martín, in typical Kirt fashion, contacted the government organization for “reforestation” and got them to donate a bunch more. With three truckloads of people, 90 trees, and digging and planting tools, we headed to the village. When we got to the dam, we loaded the trees and ourselves into two boats and took the 40 minute trip upriver. There was a whole band of Huichol brothers, sisters and kids waiting for us when we arrived at the landing, and we looked like an army of fire ants hiking to the village, all of us with trees in each hand. I wonder if fire ants ever ask themselves in the middle of their seemingly endless hike what they were thinking when they tackle their task of transporting supplies for the winter?

Church Planting

We were so impressed when we arrived in the village to see that they have worked very hard to get their foundation in for their new church building. It will be 1/3 bigger than the building in their old village. So far they have hauled 35 100lb. sacks of cement from Tepic, to the dam, up the river, and on their backs to the village…and we were thinking twice about our measly trees? They have gone to an area nearby to dig the sand for mixing in the mortar, and that also has been transported on their backs and some by burro, in large gunny sacks. They are determined to have a beautiful new church in the center of their village. They have made plans to hike up to the old village and bring down the large metal doors, windows and roofing material, also on their backs, to install in this church. We are having another metal door and two large windows made to match, since this building will be bigger than the first. We brought enough macaroni salad, beans, sandwiches and tortas along to share with the whole village, and they made us delicious hand-flapped tortillas. It was a long day, but never to be forgotten. Church planting was one of Kirt’s passions, but he knew that could only happen by obeying God’s command to make and multiply disciples. The churches are a natural outgrowth of fulfilling that mandate, and we can all do that.

The Tepic church has been full to the brim on Sundays, and there are several new believers since I left for Phoenix in April. Three people, Manuel, Zobeida and Elsa received Christ this past Sunday. The people are still reeling from our great loss; however, we are all learning not to cry because Kirt is gone, but to smile because he was here.

Plans to start moving on the long and tedious process of turning in Kirt’s immigration papers and revising my non-immigrant resident FM3 status from being “Kirt’s property” to my own at the office of immigration, got preempted when Marcelino and Rosenda showed up from the village of Codorniz, the most remote village of all with which we have worked. Rosenda’s shoulder, arm and hand are in severe pain one moment, and then numb the next. Some of the non-believers of their village have tried to convince her that someone has put a curse on her; and the nature of Huichol women, in particular, as well as roots in traditional beliefs makes her very susceptible to believing everything she is told. Marcelino is the co-pastor along with Porfirio in their village church. Please pray with me that this oppression will not be an obstacle in Marcelino’s service and the growth in the church at Codorniz. Pastor Manuel from Picachos also showed up to pick up his church power plant that Noe tuned up for him and some supplies for the next phase of the church building. I talked him into accompanying Marcelino to the General Hospital; since thankfully, Manuel has learned the ropes of getting Huichols in past the social workers.

There were 17 men in men’s prayer meeting on Wednesday morning. I thought it was ironic that nobody sat in “Kirt’s” chair at the table even though they needed the extra space. When Pastor José Lopez from Salvador Allende showed up a little late, I escorted him to that chair. Wow! You could have heard the proverbial “pin drop.” Hopefully that will get the brothers past the “Shekinah Glory” syndrome that prevails.

As Kirt always concluded our prayer updates, “We are forever grateful for your love and care that allows us to be here sharing God’s love.” Thanks again for your sensitivity and supportiveness of not only the work here in Tepic, but also for me, personally.

Love,

Debbie

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

Click here to see all the pictures from the trip to Zapote de Picachos

Friday, July 15, 2005

Román

Acts 16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. Acts 16:9 (KJV)

“Are you a missionary?” “Yes…?” “Are you a ‘Baptist’ missionary?” “Yes…?” “Then YOU are the man I’ve been waiting for.” Acts 16:9 (Mellberg)

In 1979, a little over a year after Kirt and I arrived in Tepic, Kirt was in the town plaza passing out tracts, making friends, and inviting random curiosity seekers to the Sunday evening Bible study we held in our home. From the corner of his eye he noticed, a short, dark, spunky old man, dressed in his brightly-embroidered “karate-like” muslin costume begin to approach him. Román’s first words to Kirt were not those of introductory protocol that is common in the Mexican culture, but: “Are you a missionary?” “Yes…?” “Are you a ‘baptist’ missionary?” “Yes…?” “Then YOU are the man I’ve been looking for for all these years.”

Román went on to explain that many years before, just after Kirt was born, a Bible translator, had come to live in his family's village and had started the process of translation of the New Testament into the Huichol language. When the task was done years later, the translator and his family were leaving for another assignment. His parting words were, “Román, you have heard God’s Word and have accepted the forgiveness of your sins that He promises to all who will call upon His name. You are now His child. We have helped you reduce your language and God’s Word to writing; we have helped you get it printed and provided you with copies; we have taught you to read it. Now, you must study it, memorize it, live it, and share it. I will pray with you that God will send someone to help you reach the rest of your tribe with its truth.”

...many years later…

Early, the following Sunday morning, we traveled to Román’s village, Atonalisco, to meet with the handful of family members that Román had rounded up to “come and hear God’s Word.” That was the beginning of our participation in a great effort and harvest among the Huichol people.

In 1982, old Román was dying. His son, Filiberto, called on the telephone from a neighboring village with the sad news and to express that Román was calling for Kirt. When Kirt arrived in the village of Atonalisco, Román’s emaciated and spent old body was reclining on an old cowhide under one of the massive, flowering mango trees at the church compound. It was an emotional moment charged with the stomach-turning feeling that our friend was leaving us. In his gruff and to-the-point voice, Román said, “Missionary, don’t cry for me. I’m certain that I am leaving, and I will miss you, but don’t cry for me. Cry for my people.” Román ordered Kirt to lift him to his feet. He set his face toward the mountains of the Sierra Madre range that surround the village of Atonalisco, and he lifted his withered, old arm to point out a dozen villages. He said, “In that direction is the village of Codorniz; and there’s Santa Barbara; and Rancho el Molino; and Zapote de Picachos and La Quemada,” and on he continued to name more. He declared, “That’s where my people live.” Then, with the words that never left Kirt’s heart, Román proclaimed, “I leave in your charge, my people.”

Thursday, July 07, 2005

This first prayer update was a challenge, not for the content, but because Kirt always jotted out the rough draft, and I only critiqued (my favorite activity) and polished. All I could think of was the image of him sitting at his desk with his yellow pad in hand, and his eyes glancing up toward the ceiling as he chewed on the back of his pen and waited for the right words to say. I don't need to tell you, things are sure not the same. That was a day for adding quite a few new ingredients to my brew of Tear Soup.

Timmy, our youngest, graduates with 2 associate’s degrees from Mesa Community College, and Jeremy, our second son, graduates next week from ASU. I had planned to return to Tepic right after that. However, two of our kids are taking the 1st session of summer school which finishes up the last week of June. All of the kids and their spouses want to return to Tepic with me, and they have convinced me to wait until then. I still have megaloads of details to iron out, several of which are due to Kirt being an American citizen who died "abroad." Also, I have agreed to be the "resident missionary" for DVBS at Scottsdale Baptist Church this June. So, I feel that all of these details are an indication that God's timing for my return is for the first week in July.

My crazy son-in-law, Jacob, and Kiki, our daughter, invited me to "live" with them whenever I want, in fact, they insisted. My parents had a room all prepared for me, too; and Ben and his wife, Karley, and Jeremy, and Jessica have invited me to stay with them. I opted for Jacob and Kiki's house because it is most central to all, and I have enjoyed immensely, the time I've been able to spend with all of them. I don't think any of them had a clue that I would be returning "alone" to Tepic, and frankly, 2 months ago, neither did I. God sure has some interesting plans for us. I'm sure glad I didn't know in advance; I don't think I could have gone through with it!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

May/June 2005
(Printer-Friendly Version, click here)

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33) At Kirt’s memorial service, Pastor McKeown affirmed, “We have all lost a dear friend and a great fellow servant of Jesus Christ. In unison, we have asked the question of each other and of God, “Why?” Yet we have asked in faith, nothing wavering…The truth remains that our brother, Kirt, used every moment in serving Christ…We now have the opportunity to act in pure love and motive to continue those things close to Kirt and Debbie’s heart.” In response to Pastor McKeown’s appeal, the outpouring of love and support for our family has been tremendous, and we thank you. One example of that sacrificial love and support is that of a very good friend of Tim’s, who is also a university student with a full-time job and assorted ministries at his church. He gave time he really couldn’t afford to capture Kirt’s memorial service on video and configure it, complete with the Power Point presentations, in DVD format. If you would like a copy of the DVD for reviewing the irreplaceable words and expressions that flowed at Kirt’s memorial service on April 9, 2005, please send your mailing address to debbiemellberg@gmail.com

No Reserves, No Retreats, No Regrets

When William Borden, millionaire heir to the Borden Dairy estate, finished high school in the early 1900s, his parents gave him a trip around the world for his graduation gift. During his travels he was convinced that he wanted to prepare to invest his life in the mission field. In spite of opposition to his decision from his family, peers and professors, he penned in the back of his Bible, “No Reserves.” William’s purpose and determination continued during his years at Yale University, and after finishing his program of study, he was offered various high-paying jobs. Nevertheless, he had his sights firmly fixed on his target and passion. He recorded two more words in his Bible journal, “No Retreats.” After graduating from Yale, William went to graduate school at Princeton Seminary. When he had finished his studies there, he sailed off toward his goal of reaching the people of China. En route, William stopped over in Egypt to learn to communicate in Arabic. During his first month in Cairo, he came down with spinal meningitis from which he died. He gave away his wealth, his prestige and himself, but he never wavered from his passion nor lost sight of his goal. His final journal entry reads, “No Regrets.”

William Borden’s story reminds me of Kirt’s interaction with Paco in the hospital, three days before Kirt went to Heaven. I had left the hospital on Sunday afternoon to go home to unpack our vehicle and send out the Urgent Prayer Request regarding his first heart attack, while Paco stayed in the hospital room with Kirt. As they were talking, Paco shared with Kirt the irony that God, in His sovereignty, chose to bring Kirt, a “despised gringo,” into his life to lead him to Christ. He related how God had worked a miracle in his life to bring him from darkness to light, to mend his broken family, to heal his wife’s chronic illness, to help them in raising their children to young adults who serve others and seek to glorify Him, and to convert Kirt, his “worst enemy,” into his “best friend.” Kirt beamed his inimitable smile as he looked into his friend’s eyes and said, “Paco, none of us knows what tomorrow will bring, but whatever God has planned, I want you to know that there is nothing I would change. I have done what God called me to do; I have experienced the joy of walking with Him; and I have no regrets.” “No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.”

I will be returning to Mexico, accompanied by my children and their spouses, the first week of July. When they go back to the States for school and work, I will stay behind in Mexico to continue where we left off. Obviously, I will not be able to perform all the tasks Kirt and I did together, but I have many ministries of my own there, and I am prepared to work along with the current Mexican and Huichol leadership through encouragement, motivation, and obtaining and administrating resources made available to us. Please pray that we will be able to run the race effectively and in unity, that we will be able to withstand the fiery darts that Satan surely has aimed at us, and that God will continue to give us the grace and strength to stand firmly.

As Kirt always concluded our prayer updates, “We are forever grateful for your love and care that allows us to be here sharing God’s love.”


Friday, July 01, 2005

Debbie Mellberg - missionary bio - July 2005



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Debbie Mellberg
Tepic, Nayarit MEXICO
debbiemellberg@gmail.com


Kirt and Debbie were both born in Arizona and
graduated from Southwestern Baptist College in Phoenix, AZ; Kirt with a B.A. in Bible, and Debbie with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After graduation, they served a two-year internship in their home church in Phoenix, the Alice Avenue Baptist Church (now North Village Baptist Church). They attended a language school in Querétaro, Mexico, in 1976, and then after deputation, they began working in Tepic, Nayarit, 1,000 miles south of the border on the west coast of Mexico.

Together, they invested 28 years in Nayarit and have worked with nationals in establishing a number of distinct churches. Each church and every group or culture of people with whom they have been privileged to work has been unique. The small village works have been known for their warm, "country" hospitality. The primitive Huichol Indian works are intriguing for their radical change to Christ from the worship of over 150 Huichol gods. In Tepic they have been working with city people, who in the past may have never darkened the door of an evangelical Christian church. The Iglesia Bíblica Bautista de Tepic now has an average of 150 in attendance, a discipleship program, an Awana Club, and an active high school-college group. The Lord opened up a greater ministry than they ever dreamed possible with the most loving and caring body of believers in Mexico.

Kirt and Debbie have four children, Ben, Jeremy, Charity, and Tim, who were educated through high school at home by Debbie. All four have been a great asset in the task of sharing the love of Jesus with those who have never heard. This is a very difficult time for Debbie and the family as Kirt went to heaven on March 23 this year. Their hearts are heavy with the great loss, but they refuse to be discouraged or afraid. They are continuing to seek God’s wisdom and guidance, and they are focusing on His abundant blessings. Debbie is relying on God’s strength, wisdom as she continues to serve in Mexico.