Bonjou zanmi m!
Hello my friend!
Since my last update much has happened. I have spent more time in Fond des Negres and have been able to get to know some of the kids in our area. It seems nearly impossible for me to walk anywhere outside of my house without at least one child by my side. The children are so eager to give and receive love; they have so much joy. Full Story »
NEW BRAUNFELS – Gloria Mata needed help. Medical bills from her daughter’s illness stacked up, and the single mother realized she no longer had enough money to put food on the table for her family of six. Full Story »
Joseph Parker, pastor of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, in Austin, received a heart transplant on Jan. 23, 2013, following more than ten years of heart issues. Two weeks ago, he was able to meet the family of the donor who saved his life. He shared his story with the Executive Board during their meeting on Monday, Feb. 24.
One of the nurses asked when the doctor came into my room, “Where was the heart from?” The surgeon said, “Not far, I just need to go get it.” The only thing I knew was that there had been some vehicular accident that lead to the death of my donor.
So I received that new heart and went through cardiac rehab and was out of the pulpit from November until May 2013. I went back to the church, then back to the pulpit the first Sunday in May. A month or two after that, I received a letter from the mother of my donor who then revealed to me his first name, described the accident, told me about his family, told me something about him, his name was William Darrell Jones from Luling, Texas. I actually didn’t get the whole name until more recently.
He had been a coach at the Luling High School. He was a UT fan, well liked and had two daughters that survived him, a mother, a sister who was a firefighter, a younger brother who was a coach and science teacher, as was he. I could tell from other things she said in the letter that she wanted some contact with me. It was not until the first part of January that I responded. I wrote a letter, actually typed up a letter and told her basically what I am telling you, I wanted her to know how I got to where I was. I gave my first name, which is all we could do. I told her my background, who I was. I told her what I had been able to experience since then, that is my first grandchild, 61st birthday, 21st year pastor. Those were things I could not have had experienced, if I had not received Darrell’s heart.
When I took the letter to the transplant center, which was the goal between, I found a Christmas card that was waiting for me from the family. And it was in that Christmas card that some other notes were written and they had given me all the names of the people.
In my previous letter I said to her, I was open to meeting them. I called two weeks ago. We had been provided each other’s phone numbers and names. She was walking/jogging. I told her this was Joseph Parker the recipient of your son’s heart. So we talked and we cried, we had a good conversation. In the midst of that she said, “I guess I need to let the cat out of the bag.” And I said, “What do you mean?”
She said, “We were planning to come and surprise you the first Sunday in February. But we found out when we called your staff that you weren’t preaching. Then the next Sunday it was too cold then third Sunday we couldn’t make it. We are planning to come and worship with you on the 23rd.”
I told her she was welcome to come. I would look forward to seeing her and hugging her.
And so she came, her name is Carolyn Frank Reed, from Luling. Her daughter came, Toni Jones, Austin firefighter, the young man who gave his eulogy came, and my social worker that has been with me since before the surgery came.
I changed my order of service yesterday because I knew if I said anything to them before I preached then I wouldn’t be preaching. So I moved our visitation of guests to the back and started off saying to the congregation that I had special guests here today. I had already told my congregation the Sunday before to expect them. So people were there, curiosity seekers were there. About 40-50 of our children and teenagers asked to be brought over from their church setting to experience it.
They had seen me cry many times, but they probably wanted to see me cry again.
They came in, gave them a special place to sit and I preached my sermon. We just finished a 21-day fast. I preached on, “Now See God work”.
I finished the sermon and at the end, I spoke about God being amazing. That then led me to leave the pulpit and go down and embrace her. And we cried. The whole church cried. I said to them, this is my first time laying eyes on her; I had never seen them before. The church gathered and formed a greeting line. They told them how grateful they were for being willing to donate his heart to me. Three other people received organs from his body as well. He was not a donor. His family made the decision to give his organs after his death.
So we were standing around talking, I had to catch a plane to come here yesterday, while we were talking, we were hugging and embracing. She wanted to lean her head on my chest and then she said, “I’m leaning my head on your chest because I want to hear Darrell’s heart.”
I said to her something I wrote in my letter. “People have been somewhat amazed at my recovery. The strength of Darrell’s heart has become the strength of my life.” We were crying and talking.
Then she brought me photographs of Darrell, a copy of his funeral; she wanted me to see him interacting with his daughters, pictures of him over the years with his brother and sister. His brother, I was told was not able to handle this gathering, so he didn’t come.
Then his sister looked at me and said, “Could I ask you a strange question?” And I said sure. Then she said, “Can I touch your heart?”
I said not only can you touch it; you can put your ear on it. So she came and cried again and she looked up at me and said, “While you were preaching all I could think about was Darrell’s heart is living in him.”
Then I said to the mother after it dawned on me last week, that part of you is now in me, you and I are connected forever.
While we were talking she said that she was grateful a preacher had gotten Darrell’s heart; she was a member of Central Baptist Church in Luling. She had some how found a photo of me and was carrying around the photo of me to people
I’m trying to be calm because the doctors now have told me my life was only supposed to last a few weeks. And that’s why they had to get me a heart because my blood type is O, my height/body size was difficult to match. So that put me at the top of the list. Although Darrell was 5’11; I’m 6’3. At the time I was 250, I am 230 now, I had to have his heart.
And I will say this last thing, I was talking with his mother about how I was scheduled for a VAD surgery (Ventricular Assistance Device) mechanical that would fit outside, but because of my heart condition, I was going to have to have two placed on me. My surgeon came in and the doctor said to me, “your heart has quieted.”
This was about two days before the surgery. He said, “We have decided not to give you that surgery, we are going to hold off, but if your defibrillator acts up then we will immediately take you.“
I was talking to her because she wanted to know some background on some things.
I said to her, then describe the day I was told about having a heart and she said, “God knew. He held you up from having the VAD surgery because He knew Darrell was coming for you.”
I stood there in amazement, listening to a woman who obviously is a woman of faith who was able to see this and say to me, “Because, if it had been Darrell, I would have wanted someone else to give their son’s heart up for him.”
I’m here tonight, just grateful. It was a tough day but it was a good day.
And my church now knows that miracles don’t just happen in the Bible.
Click here to listen to Joseph Parker’s testimony.
SAN ANTONIO – Arina Popovici is the first immigrant to be assisted by the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) to obtain legal permanent residency within the United States. She never dreamed that she would have this opportunity in her lifetime, but with the help of the ISAAC Project, her dreams are finally coming true.
Seven years ago, Arina Popovici came to the United States from Italy as an international student. While her student visa expired, she did not want to go back to Italy because her family was already here. After residing in the US. for a couple of years, Arina married and was soon pregnant with her first child.
What started out as a loving relationship turned into a constant battle of mental and physical abuse. Along with having to care for and nurture her daughter, she also had to handle and work through her marriage that was falling apart. Arina left her husband and began to file for divorce, but the price of achieving that was more costly than she could afford, so she turned to ISAAC for help.
“I wish I could find and speak to women who are in the situation like I have been. I was lucky that I had my brother here, but there are people who have no one in this country,” said Arina. “ISAAC can help!”
The ISAAC Project works with the dire need for quality immigration counseling and services. Many immigrants have fallen victim to ‘notarios’ and immigration consultants who capitalize on their lack of familiarity with the legal system.
Located in San Antonio, ISAAC is a collaborative ministry of Texas Baptists and Baptist University of the Americas that seeks to encourage and train churches in order to offer legal service ministries to their immigrant communities. They offer 40-hour Institutes on Basic Immigration Law every year in order to provide the training needed for those who wish to serve this way.
Six months passed by and Arina saved enough money to file for divorce. “It was a hard battle,” said Arina. “It takes a lot of support and patience to go through all of this, but my main motivation was always my daughter.”
While her case was pending, Arina received a Pell Grant and went back to school. After it was approved she went straight to Jesus Romero, ISAAC program coordinator, knowing he would know exactly what to do to help her.
“He pays attention to the details and works in timely manner,” Arina said. “He helped me right away.”
At ISAAC, they are intentional about providing an atmosphere of hospitality, care and a good listening attitude. They provide immigration information from a Christian perspective. Whether it is through personal visits, sermons, website information, newsletters, or social media, the staff at ISAAC helps on all platforms, issues, and topics.
“We don’t just fill out immigration forms,” said Romero. “We care about people who need legal help with an immigration process, we listen to their stories, we explore ways for them to get legal relief for their particular situations, and we legally represent them before the Department of Homeland Security in seeking legal immigration status.”
ISAAC has helped two Texas Baptist groups become recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in the past year and a half. These groups have aided immigrants to become citizens, processed paperwork for visas, and, in some cases, even helped undocumented aliens to remain legally in the United States.
Juan Rangel, of Piedras Negras Coahuila Mexico, is another immigrant that has received help from ISAAC and is now waiting to take the oath to become an a citizen.
Juan came to the United States as a young boy to work as a farm laborer. At age 21, Juan found a home in Austin, Texas, where he married his wife. It was there that he first applied for citizenship in 1997, but he was denied.
Months went by, and Brother Leonel Flores was preaching at the church Juan and his wife attended, Emanual Baptist Church of Bastrop, Texas. After the service, Juan received a text message from Brother Flores inviting him to an immigration seminar at a church in Oak Hill, Texas.
“I had to work that day so I was not able to attend the seminar, but a few weeks later I texted him and asked for information about the seminar and how I could get in touch with the ISAAC program,” said Juan. “It was that moment where my life would change forever.”
“Praise be my Lord for putting me on the right path to citizenship with the help of the ISAAC program,” said Rangel. “With the help and knowledge of Brother Jesus Romero and his staff, I passed my interview and I am now waiting to take the oath. I am very grateful for the help received from the ISAAC program!”
For more information on the ISAAC program, visit http://www.isaacproject.org/.
When I was 12-years-old, I felt called to ministry. While the specifics of my calling were unclear, I knew I was supposed to spend my life engaged in some type of vocational ministry or mission work. Despite the lack of clarity in my calling, I was able to easily identify and explain my life’s purpose to others because of what the church referred to as: the call to special service.
But somewhere along the way many (or if we’re being completely honest, most) of us have stopped heeding the special service call. For some unknown reason, we believe people are simply going to hear and discern their calling for themselves – and nothing need to be on our part – or worse, we have stopped believe that people are called to vocational ministry or mission work.
This blog is titled “You are the Missionary,” because I believe all people are called to be on mission in their community, and to minister in their church context. Everyone is called to mission and ministry; however, there are some of us that will be called by God to a special type of service: the type of service that sends you across the ocean to serve an unreached people group, or that moves your heart to work in the inner-cities of Texas or our nation on a full-time basis.
Perhaps, God is moving in your heart to be a missional pastor or staff member of a church that will help people get on the mission of God for their lives. Leaders of local churches must begin in some way to issue this special call once again. This is vital, especially in regards to helping young people explore what it is God may be leading them to, just in the same way Eli helped Samuel.
For more information about Texas Baptists Initiative entitled Calling Out the Called please contact Jane Wilson at email@example.com.
GARLAND – On January 14th, Nayely Vallejo received a call, the call she had been waiting for for a long time. “Congratulations” is all she heard and she knew that all her praying and putting her faith in God paid off. The call she received was recognition that she had been one of four selected to serve as a National Acteens Panelist, and the only one selected from Texas.
“I began to cry happy tears,” said Nayely.
With the start of her senior year, she could feel that God was going to do great things in her life. Following that one call, good news keep coming: she never could have imagined that it all started with gaining the courage to send off her application.
“The recognition as National Acteen Panelist of the Women’s Missionary Union is an exciting spotlight for Nayely,” said Mary Lou Sinclair, Nayely’s Sunday School teacher. “We are very happy for her.”
The National Acteens Panel is a group of young women interested in missions and impacting their world for Christ. The young women selected as national panelists have exhibited a strong commitment to Christ and to missions through their Acteens programs, leadership responsibilities in their church and community and dedication to their academic studies.
“I never thought that I would be able to call myself a National Acteen,” said Nayely, “I give all the glory to God and praise Him for all the things He has done, is doing and will do through me.”
Growing up in a family of believers, Nayely Vallejo and her family have been members of Freeman Heights Baptist Church in Garland, Texas, for 12 years. While attending church as a young girl, Nayely was always active in their children and youth departments. She was faithful in her attendance of the Sunday Bible study, and was heavily involved in the Children’s Choir for six years.
“She had many solos and even leads in our musicals and even participated in all of our videos produced for Visual Story Bible Ministries, Inc,” said Sinclair.
Nayely was also an active member of the Girls in Action (GAs) organization for five years until she was promoted into the Acteens organization.
“I was not able to join Acteens until I was in middle school but the moment I was finally of age, I was crazy excited,” said Nayely.
As an Acteen, Nayely was selected to be a Teen Staffer at Mt. Lebanon Baptist Encampment in Cedar Hill, Texas, twice a year.
“She is loved and respected by the younger girls that she works with, as well as her peers that she works along side of,” said Sinclair.
Nayely is a member of the Acteens Bell Choir group and has been involved in a local ministry at the Plaza of Richardson Rehabilitation Center. She has been recognized as an outstanding volunteer in the Recreation and Outreach Ministry (ROC), which is an active ministry at Freeman Heights.
“We go out and help our community and to me, that is the absolute best part of it all,” said Nayely.
Being a part of Acteens, Nayely has been able to meet and befriend so many people. She has worked with refugees at a lock-in, gone to the countryside of Tyler to pet and ride horses, visited the Dewberry plantation house, and built stronger bonds with the younger girls in her church who look up to her as a role model. Nayely was also given the privilege to go to a Blume Acteens Convention held in Disney World.
“There is nothing I can find more rewarding than being an Acteen,” said Nayely, “Acteens has given me so many adventures and opportunities that I could never get anywhere else!”
Besides being heavily involved at Freeman Heights, Nayely is also involved in North Garland High School. Along with being an excellent student, she takes part in her school choir and is a member of NG Strong (North Garland Students That Receive Or Need God).
“I love being able to serve others,” said Nayely, “It makes me flood with joy knowing that I am not doing things for myself but for other people.”
Nayely’s journey to achieve her amazing honor was an emotional ride. When she was first asked to do the application, she was hesitant and pushed it to the side. Around November 2013, she began the application process. She started asking her Sunday school teachers and NG Strong sponsors for recommendation letters and got to work on her application and essays.
“One of the topics for the essays asked how I came to Christ – my testimony. That essay was the hardest to write,” said Nayely, “It meant I had to look back to my past and remember how broken and lost I was.”
While writing her essays, though it brought tears to her eyes, she said she did not hold back. She told them everything and hoped that they would read it and truly understand who she was.
For weeks, her family and friends prayed that she would be noticed and that if it was God’s will for her to be chosen, then it would happen.
“I thought all hope was lost for me and that there was nothing I could do, but God told me not to give up, so I didn’t,” Nayley said.
Her perseverance paid off and now she has the privilege of sharing her story in churches across Texas as a 2014 National Acteens Panelist. She will also be representing Texas in Baltimore, Maryland, June 9-10, at the National WMU Annual Meeting and Missions Celebration, as well as being a guest writer for the Acteens Magazine, TheMag.