Monday, February 5, 2018

Prayer Letter Feb 2018

                                                                                                                                       February 2018

Dear praying friends:

The last couple of months have been full of blessings for our church, and for our family. We have started 2018 with much gratitude, as we reflect on God´s strength to keep us here in Santa Ana for the last ten years. Right now, we are in the midst of a transition that will have a great impact on the future of Iglesia Bautista Central.

Ever since the church started in 2008, we have been praying for land. However, when the church began, buying land was not the priority. We wanted to be used of God to produce a faithful group of believers, who were going to depend on God for their needs. Over the last three years, we have been able to save some money towards this project. A good portion of this money has come from the tithes and offerings of the church members.  

The building that we have been renting over the last six years has been a great blessing. However, we realized that if we moved to a less expensive, and less comfortable, location, we could save enough money to buy an ideal plot of land sometime in 2019. After much prayer, I presented the proposal to the church, and they were excited with the idea of having their own place by next year.  God led us to this decision, without knowing where we would have services in the meantime. By His Grace, He placed in the heart of one of the church members to let us use part of his home (which has lots of space) to have our services.

It is exciting to see how God pieces things together. The church is very close to being self-sustaining. There is a good group that gives faithfully to the Lord’s work. Once we start building, it looks like several of the men have lots of experience in construction work. Also, the church is close to being self-governing. We are praying about ordaining one of our Bible institute graduates (Mauricio Escobar) as a pastor, later this year. If the Lord permits, and these things fall into place, from this stable church we can start planting other stable churches. All of this is miraculous, when we consider that we work in a city that is not yet “white for the harvest.”

The house where we will be having our services is only about two miles away from the previous location. It is located in an area that we have heavily canvassed since the church started. Please pray for the people of this neighborhood (San Miguelito), that the Lord would allow us to see fruit that remains. Please also pray for wisdom for all of the church´s soul-winners and disciplers.

Our children have caught the excitement of these changes at the church. Rosa, 13, has been very involved in brainstorming ideas for how to make the church transition a smooth one. She is creative, and often helps us think “outside the box” in how to accomplish our goals. While Caleb does not like change, we feel we´ve explained things well to him.  Joshua has only ever known this particular church building we have been renting.  We are trying to involve them in this process so they can see how God takes care of his children who are trusting in Him. We pray this will be a time frame that they always remember, as one that God guided us through.

The Cernas

                                                                                                                                                     December 2017
Dear praying friends:
As always, we are thankful for the opportunity to end another year. The Lord has showered us with many blessings both in our family, and at our church. If God permits, we are excited about the things that He has in store for us in 2018.
First of all, we would like to thank God for Parkview Baptist Church of Palm Coast, FL. This church has been supporting us for over 13 years. A group of ten members of the church spent six days fellowshipping, serving, and being a great blessing to us. They painted the front of the church building, as well as the sanctuary. They also had special activities for the servants, ladies and men of our church. We are always thankful for all of our supporting churches. It is also a great blessing when one of those churches decides to send a group to see what the mission field is like.
It is amazing to see how God keeps opening doors for us to present the Gospel, or share our testimony with people. Raul Bolaños is a businessman who I met in line at a bank, just recently. I handed him a tract, and briefly presented the Gospel to him. God used this to establish a connection with him, and meet with him a few days later. I found out that He is a devout Catholic. He asked me how I make a living, and I explained to him Matthew 6:25-34. I told him that whenever we have a need, we do not mention it to others, neither do we borrow money, or ask someone for it. Also, I told him that since I am seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness, He always supplies our needs. Obviously, this way of living is completely foreign to false religion. Please pray that Raul would continue to be interested in hearing God’s Word, and that the Holy Spirit would lead him to faith in Christ.
By God’s Grace, we have been seeing more visitors to our church services. It is always a blessing to see people, we have invited, attending a church service. However, it is an even greater blessing to see members of the church (that we have discipled) bringing their friends and neighbors to church. Although, we go door-knocking (as a church) once a week, there are some members who ask me for tracts, and go out witnessing on their own. Please pray that the Lord would continue to cultivate this burden for others in our church’s heart.  
We ended the school year in November, with special graduation ceremonies for Rosa and Joshua. Graduation from sixth grade is a milestone because the students move up to the next level of education at school. We participated in many festivities to celebrate Rosa´s graduating with honors. Also, Joshua completed preparatory, the grade between kindergarten and first grade. This also is a milestone and is greatly celebrated. Joshua is excited to be moving up to first grade in January. Caleb, too, finished with honors and next year will begin third grade. Thank you for your prayers for our children. We ask you to continue praying for us as we guide them.
 Yours in Christ,
The Cernas

                                                                                                                                      October 2017

Dear praying friends:

With a heart of thankfulness, we give you a brief report of what the Lord has done lately. God has been faithful in motivating many of the church members to action. This has been evident in our soul-winning visitation, and the celebration of the 9th anniversary of Iglesia Bautista Central (Central Baptist Church).

Last weekend, we celebrated yet another anniversary at the church. Probably, what blessed us the most was that the church members did most of the preparation for this event. Some of the ladies prepared a delicious meal, some of the men participated in the church service, and the guest preacher gave us a challenge about taking time to meditate on God’s Word (from Luke 10:38-42).

Since the beginning of the church, one of my goals has been to preach every book of the Bible, verse by verse. By God’s grace, I have already completed 36 books, and am currently preaching: Ezra, Exodus and Psalms. The blessings that have resulted from this endeavor have been incalculable. Among these blessings is that we are seeing God develop a group of stable believers who are properly motivated to serve the Lord. Also, preaching through the Bible keeps us from focusing on some of God’s principles at the expense of others.

One of my biggest burdens (through preaching) has been to motivate believers to action out of grace and gratitude. So many times, it becomes easy to pressure believers out of guilt because we don’t need to rely on God with this approach, and because (in the short-term) this approach seems to produce more visible results. However, in the long-term, it does not contribute to a healthy church. As I’ve preached the Bible (over the past 9 years), it has been with a spirit of patience, and dependence on God. So, when we see many of the church members showing up for soul-winning/visitation, we know that it is God’s grace working in their lives.

Please pray for our soul-winning visitation Saturdays. It has been our goal to knock on all of the doors of the neighborhoods near the church at least three times this year. Pray that God will continue to open doors not only to witness to people, but to follow-up on those that have made professions of faith. Just recently, a lady named Sonia received Christ as her Savior. Also, a lady named Patricia rededicated her life to Christ.

Along with the church anniversary, we celebrated Caleb´s ninth birthday.  We enjoy telling Caleb the story of the church´s first service. We thought maybe Caleb and the church would have the same birthday, but he waited until the next day. It is always good to remember how events unfolded nine years ago.  Our children are all doing well, and continue to have the best year we have ever had health-wise. We are grateful for the health we all have enjoyed, and don’t take it for granted after having had some struggles in past years. Thank you for your prayers and support.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Yours in Christ,

 The Cernas

                                                          August 2017
Dear praying friends:
Although the last couple of months have been as busy as always, it is good to sit down and reflect on how the Lord has worked. We thank God for raising another group of dedicated men who are studying in the Bible Institute.  Also, the Lord has been faithful in using Christine to teach the ladies of the church.
As another quarter of Bible Institute begins, José, Israel, and Rolando continue to faithfully study God’s Word. Most of the men who have studied in the Bible Institute have come from modest backgrounds, with minimal formal education. Although this has presented quite a challenge for me, we have come to realize that those with more modest backgrounds are more likely to depend on God. After all, 1 Corinthians 1:27 does say: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise...” In fact, the graduate of the Bible institute that God is using most has 1 Corinthians 1:27 as his life verse.
Pray for us, as we learn to balance the academic with development of character and dependence on God. Up until recently, the Bible institute students have been more intimidated with the academic than with the development of character. This has led them to a greater dependence on God. With Israel (construction worker) and Rolando (shoe cobbler), this is certainly the case. With José (a civil engineer) it is different. Since he has an intellectual background, the concept of depending on God is more foreign to him. We thank God that He can bring men from different backgrounds to the same church, and teach them to depend on God all the same. Please pray for these three men, as they will be preaching in church in the near future.  
Christine recently started the second Ladies Bible Study of the year.  She was talking to one of the ladies about writing curriculum for the study, sharing that it is good to challenge yourself to do something hard. This helps us to depend more on God. The lady took that challenge personally, deciding to do a verse by verse study in her children´s Sunday School class (without leaving out the harder passages).  Pray for Dora as she studies her Bible more thoroughly.  
Our children have been very healthy, and are excited to be close to the end of the Salvadoran school year. They will be done in October, and they are counting down the days until their long “summer” break.  Rosa continues to serve in the nursery, and helps with the children´s ministry. Rosa recently played piano for the first time at church. We are looking forward to her playing more often as she improves.  Caleb is beginning to read the Bible on his own. He has developed a love for reading, and we believe he will develop a love for reading his Bible.  Joshua is still trying to get a good handle on Spanish. Being the youngest, it is harder for him to speak and be as involved with friends as his two older siblings.  We are confident, that with time, he will follow their example.  Thank you for praying for our kids.                                   
                                                                                                                                              Yours in Christ,
                                                                                                                                                             Steve Cerna

                                          June 2017
Dear praying friends:
Just over the last couple of months, we have experienced a great many blessings from God.  He has given us growth both in the amount of members of the church, as in the maturity level of our core members. The doors are definitely being opened for us to serve Him in even greater ways.
Please pray for Raul (71) and Isabel (60). This married couple is being discipled on Wednesday mornings. Raul’s background includes having been a drunkard for many years, and Isabel was a devout catholic before receiving Christ as her Savior. They are very excited about learning more of God’s Word, and eventually serving at the church.
It is also a great blessing to see how God is working with our teen group. Miguel has been coming (with his mother and three brothers) to church for about six years now. This is the family where the father was shot and killed about seven years ago. Miguel has been studying the discipleship lessons with me on Saturdays. Even though his two older brothers aren’t faithful, we have decided to invest in his life. His mom is very impressed with the amount of Bible verses he has memorized lately. Please pray that God’s Word would grab a hold of his life, and that he would have a passion to do God’s Will.
Carlos is another teenager who is basically growing up without a father. He has been faithfully coming to church since we began the teen Sunday school class. His sister and brother-in-law have been faithful members of the church for years, and are now taking him under their wing, helping him grow in God’s Word. I get even more excited when I see those that we’ve discipled, doing the same things for others. By God’s grace, this is becoming more common at our church.
Our daughter Rosa has also been a part of the teen class since it began in January. We are thankful with the way God has been working in her heart. Not only has she been faithfully serving the Lord in the church nursery but, she also has been acquiring a greater burden for others. Over the past several months, Rosa has been taking piano classes from a young lady (Marielos) who has been a member of the Mormon cult. A little while ago, Rosa added her to her prayer list. We are thankful to say that Marielos has stopped going to the cult, and is now going to a Christian church. Please pray for Marielos, that she would receive Christ as her Savior.
Caleb and Joshua are also doing well.  Joshua has learned to read very well in Spanish. We are still working on reading in English, which is a little trickier. Caleb continues to do well in his classes also.  As always, we ask for you to pray for us as we raise our three children. As all of you that are parents know, it can be quite a challenge at times.  Thank you for praying.
                                                                                                                                                             Yours in Christ,
                                                                                                                                                             The Cernas

Dear Praying Friends,                                                                                                        April 2017

It is always an honor to share with you many of the things God has done, here in El Salvador, over the past two months. The Lord is opening up doors of opportunity for us to take the Gospel further. Now, more than ever, we covet your prayers, in order to make wise decisions that will make a great impact for years to come. 

One of our greatest goals, as a church, has been to train men for full-time Christian service. A graduate of our Bible Institute, Mauricio Escobar, has shared with us a desire to serve the Lord full-time. Over the past three years, Mauricio and his wife Dora have been able to support themselves with a small business. At the same time they have been taking care of their children, and serving substantially at the church.  As a result of this, we pray that the Lord would allow us to start a bakery at the church.  That way, Mauricio can work only 40 hours per week, support his family, and have plenty of time to keep developing in ministry. Also, Steve can spend more time mentoring him before he is ordained for the ministry. While in many of the Christian families, one or both of the parents are enslaved to their jobs (thus not serving the Lord as He wants), Mauricio and Dora have shown a great desire to do the will of God.

Starting a bakery would also open the door for us to start a Bible College eventually. This way, the students can work flexible hours to support themselves, and prepare for the ministry. The most important resource to start a Bible College is the people who will be running it. In addition to Steve, we pray that God raises up, through the ministry, three faithful men over the next five years. It is our desire to be able to minister to dozens or even hundreds of young men and women that God has called to the ministry. The results of the last 10 years of ministry here in El Salvador have opened the door for us to plan to serve in this way.

By God’s grace, the church keeps marching along in evangelism. Over the last two months, we have had the privilege of personally sharing the gospel with about 400 people, in addition to the great many tracts that have been passed out. Please pray for a young man named William Rivas, who Steve led to Christ while door-knocking near the church. Although there is great joy when someone makes a profession of faith, we understand that the work does not end there. We need to continue to depend on the Lord for follow-up and discipleship.    

Thank you for always keeping our children in your prayers. While we have had normal ups-and-downs over the past few months, overall things are going well. They just finished the first period of the school year, and performed well. Caleb ended with A honor roll, and Rosa with B honor roll. Joshua turned five the beginning of April and we had a fun day celebrating as a family. He says a big thank you to those who sent him birthday cards. Our littlest is no longer a baby, but a big school boy!  Please continue to pray for us as we raise them. We daily seek God´s guidance for their lives. Thank you for your faithful prayers, encouraging emails, and support. We could not be here without you all behind us.

 Your missionaries in El Salvador,

                                                                         February 2017

Dear praying friends:

Over the past couple of months, we have seen the Lord work in many marvelous ways. The doors are being opened in evangelism, new ministries in the church, and a greater consciousness of our responsibility in worldwide missions.

About a few weeks ago, I had an interesting experience with regard to soul-winning. Typically, when one goes to the bank in this country, the expectation is that the wait will be for at least one hour. Whenever I go to the bank, I use it as an opportunity to hand out tracts, and share the gospel with people. This particular day, as soon as I entered the bank, I approached a man who did not look busy, and proceeded to witness to him. After finishing, I proceeded to another man who did not look busy, and started witnessing to him. About a minute into my witness to him, a security guard comes to me, and tells me that I am not supposed to hand out tracts in the bank. So I politely told him that I would not hand out any more tracts in the bank, and proceeded finishing my witness to this second man. After this, I thought to myself: “since I don’t need tracts to witness to people, and it is not illegal to talk to them, I will go witness to someone else.” So I proceeded to witness to another man who did not seem busy. Another security guard comes to me, asking me why I was at the bank. So I showed him my deposit slip. Once that security guard left, I finished witnessing to this third man. About 15 minutes had gone by since I entered the bank, and I proceeded to witness to another man (there were dozens of people at the bank that day). As I started witnessing to this man, a security guard comes to me and says, “follow me.” He takes me directly to the teller and asks her to take care of my deposit. I end up spending 20 minutes in the bank, when I normally have to wait for an hour! The sad part is that people are becoming more increasingly threatened by the Gospel, even if it is presented in a discrete and polite way. Please pray that we can continue having boldness in sharing God’s Word.

Also, please pray for our annual mission’s conference in a couple of weeks. The church (Tabernáculo Bautista), where we worked our first two years in the country, is getting ready to send its first foreign missionary. We are honored that this missionary (Jorge Arias) will preach at our conference. Brother Jorge is scheduled to go to Nicaragua around the end of February. It is exciting to see a Salvadoran who is being sent by a Salvadoran church. We pray that one day, the Lord would give us the privilege of sending missionaries from our church in Santa Ana.

Since the year started, we have made some changes in the schedule of our church. We now have a Sunday school hour on Sunday mornings. During this hour, the church divides itself into four different groups (adults, teenagers, children, and infants). We are thankful that there is a man (Mauricio) in our church who has been trained to minister to the adults. We are praying about ordaining him to the ministry in the near future, and having a Sunday school class will give him an opportunity to hone his teaching skills. As God raises up more faithful laborers like Mauricio and his wife, the church can divide itself into more groups, and it will allow us to be more effective in reaching others. As always, we thank you so much for your faithful prayers and support.                                           The Cernas