Wednesday, December 31, 2014

We've moved!

Saying goodbye to our Alexandria townhouse
When God moves, He moves fast!  We decided to put our townhouse on the market this fall to reduce our monthly costs during this transition period.  It took every spare moment over the course of two months to radically downsize our stuff, list our house with a former missionary who is our realtor (Thanks Andrea!), and move a mile down the road into the basement of some church members (Thanks Kemptons!).

More than twenty friends gladly helped us sort, box, lift, and donate 16 years worth of worldly treasures.  We think it's no coincidence that a great Christian couple felt drawn to rent our home.  It turns out they are friends of one of Aaron's new pastor-friends and attend a church just up the road from us!  Although most of our remaining possessions are in storage, we already feel right at home in our new basement apartment where we will stay until training begins this summer.  We've discovered that we haven't missed all that "stuff" we had before the move.

Carrie teaching our diverse Sunday School at Franconia
Carrie began her 10th and likely final year with Arlington County Public Schools, this time teaching 5th grade special ed.  Her students keep her on toes and laughing.  Jackie loves her English and Spanish-Immersion teachers and is learning to read so quickly she is breezing through a tall stack of library books at an alarming pace.  We are so thankful God that allowed us to homeschool Jonathan last year and we see him growing in leaps and bounds.  After a year of intensive one on one phonics and reading training, he now effortlessly and gladly reaches for a book to read for enjoyment.  He attends 5th grade with a gifted teacher and feels very successful!

Since our last update, Aaron had the privilege of preaching at several churches including Grace Church of Alexandria, Oakland Baptist Church, Temple Hills Baptist Church, Shively Baptist Church, Good News Baptist Church, & Iglesia Biblica de la Gracia.  He attended a fantastic 3 day conference at the International Mission Board headquarters where we learned how we can continue to partner with the SBC stateside and when we are in Mexico.  Aaron's doctoral classes in preaching continue to deepen his love for proclaiming the gospel.  Recently Carrie spoke from her heart about what the Lord is teaching her during this transition season at the Ladies Christmas Tea.

This fall we have been blessed by twenty-three families and two churches who are now financial supporters for our gospel ministry!  At current, we have confirmed approximately 30% of our monthly financial needs.  We know about a dozen other individuals and three churches who have expressed interest in contributing as well.  Please join us in prayer for God's favor in developing relationships with additional churches and individuals who are considering partnering with us.  There is still time to help us meet our the HALFWAY mark before the year ends.  Can you help?

Learning to live without our stuff has been an excellent lesson in contentment.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Getting ready for change

Life for the Krafts has been a whirlwind ever since we officially announced our belief that God was calling our family to serve Him as missionaries in Mexico. Our home congregation, Franconia Baptist Church, our family and friends have been so supportive of our calling.  We are also incredibly grateful for faithful churches like Parkway Bible Church who have come along side us so that we can serve God in Mexico.

In July Carrie and I were blessed to lead a team of Christians from our church to serve in Puebla. For many of our team members this was the first time that they had been on a short-term trip or visited Mexico. We were blessed to spend several days working on  projects at Puebla Bible Seminary. We where there during the world cup which gave us the chance to watch Mexico beat Croatia with a group of students from the seminary. It was a happy chaos.

After finishing up our work at the school the team spent another day working at Casa Alto Refugio where we sowed the seeds of the Gospel in the young hearts of the children at this wonderful Christian orphanage ministry. It was such a blessing to see Elvis (grey shirt - PBS student) being a positive, Christian,  male role model for the boys at the orphanage. We hope and pray to see more of this kind of ministry in the years to come.

Just a few days after we got back home from Mexico our family flew to Dallas where we went through Camino Global's candidate orientation. Aaron worked for Camino Global (CAM International) while in school at Dallas Theological Seminary so orientation was a wonderful reunion with old friends and a great opportunity to refine our vision for Mexico. We feel very blessed to partner with this experienced mission agency!

Not long after training in Dallas the family was off again, first to the Midwest to talk with churches and individuals about becoming a part of our support team. This little adventure was a good opportunity to begin to lean into our faith. We traveled 2500 miles in 11 days to talk about our vision for ministry. It was a blessing to see people respond, not to us, but to what God is doing.

Camino recommended we go to Support Raising Solutions training which took us up to Schroon Lake NY to the Word of Life Bible Institute. There we met with more than 70 future missionaries preparing to leave the US and serve God around the world. Praise God we are already at about 35% of our monthly support and 15% of our outgoing expenses (plane tickets, vehicle in Mexico, language school, shipping, etc...).

Our plans, Lord willing, are to be at 75% of our monthly support by the end of the year and 100% by Mar 1, 2015. This will allow Aaron time to wind things down in his role as the pastor of Franconia Baptist so the family can go to pre-field training next July and head out to Mexico in August. Thank you so much for your prayers and support to this end.

We would love to talk with you about becoming a part of our support team. If we can do this please email us so we can set something up.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Reaffirming our call to Mexico

June 22-28 Carrie and I had the privilege of leading a team from Franconia Baptist's three language congregations (English, Korean, and Spanish) to serve in Puebla Mexico. Along the way God strengthened our call to be missionaries to Mexico.

Day 1 (Travel)
We hopped in some vehicles after a short commissioning service at the church and headed to Dulles airport. Due to mechanical difficulties, the youngest member of our team had to be rerouted through Mexico City. So some of us hoped a bus from Puebla to Mexico City to get him. We got back to Puebla at ~3:30 am.

Day 2-4 (Puebla Bible Seminary)
Thank you to everyone who helped fund raise the ministry expenses through the yardsale and the two FKBC car washes! We used God's resources for many different projects. The first thing we noticed was that the basketball/fĂștbol court (built by our 2011 mission team with 12 tons of concrete) is doing well! It gets almost daily use. To help out we repainted the goals, replaced the broken basketball hoops (stop hanging on the rims guys), and sanded down and repainted the metal benches surrounding the court. We were pleased to use some extra funds to repair more than a dozen broken windows around the campus and replace a broken microwave. 

Some of our team members spent several days on the roof applying sealant and repairing some very weathered overhangs. Others scraped the academic building before rolling on 20 gallons of exterior paint. We were able to leave 85 gallons for the seminary to finish the other buildings.

One day we took a break from painting and watched the Mexico/Croatia game with a bunch of PBS students. That was a treat! We then had an exciting "15" minute trip to eat at a fellow believer's restaurant when spontaneous parades and celebrations clogged the streets since Mexico beat Croatia! ¡Viva MĂ©xico!

Day 5 (Casa Alto Refugio)
Spending time at Casa Alto Refugio: We traveled to the outskirts of Puebla to a Christian orphanage. Part of our team replaced their broken lawn mower and weed whacker to hack through the knee-high grass. The director herself was so appreciative of our assistance, hoping the nagging mosquito population would be reduced. The rest of the team dusted and washed the inside of the two story building.

We sat down to a meal of 22 pizzas and 11 orders of Crazy Bread. The orphanage is set up as 4 small houses that open to an indoor common area. Each mother oversees as many as 17 children in her home. We split ourselves among the kitchen tables for a meal full of laughter, despite some language barriers. During the leisurely afternoon, the children chose from several activities. Many boys played soccer with our guys or Uno in the common area. One girls' dining room was turned into a busy spa, complete with all-natural oatmeal face masks and cooling cucumbers to rest their eyes. The girls proved to be quiet artistic! All the Franconia ladies left with some funky colors or glittery designed nails.

After some quiet time with books, coloring, and puzzles, everyone gathered together in the main hall. The soccer balls we brough were designed to illustrate the gospel with colorful patches. Kevin explained the Gospel using one of the soccer balls we had just been playing with. Jessica shared her testimony with the children, emphasizing faith instead of good works for Salvation. Aaron explained the road to salvation and invited the children to accept Christ.

Day 6 (Spiritual Needs of Mexico)
We spent our last day learning more about the religious and cultural history of Mexico. Expanding on what we learned on a visit to the Inca Pyramids earlier in the week, we saw first hand how few people in Mexico really understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The picture of this woman pleading is a modern day collection of indulgences to buy a loved one out of the flames of purgatory.

One little girl told us that Jesus was dead because she saw Him in His coffin.  The churches are ornate sometimes to the point of being gaudy.  The people's devotion is misplaced.  It breaks my heart to see people place their faith in prayer candles and indulgences and sometimes even false gods carved right into the church walls right next to the Trinity.

During our stay, our Spanish-speaking teammates were able to spend some quality time talking with the PBS students.  They often stayed up until well past midnight to talk theology and ministry. We were all very impressed with the potential they have to impact the lostness of Mexico for the glory of God.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Journey with us to Mexico

The day the vision was born
This April our family will celebrate Jonathan's tenth birthday. That day will always be special for us for a couple of reasons. The first is obvious. God blessed us with a son, no small thing. Jonathan was born Willian Ivan Hernandez Melgar in Amatitlan Guatemala and his little sister, Jackie, was born three years later in Mixco, Guatemala. With the adoption of our children came a heart for Latin America and a vision to one day serve the Lord in the Spanish-speaking world where they were born.

That brings us to the second reason Jonathan's birthday is special to us. Ten years ago over breakfast at the La Casa Grande hotel in Guatemala city a vision was born through our dear friend Bob Henriques who suggested that we quit our jobs, quickly learn Spanish, and move to Latin America so Aaron could teach the Bible and Carrie could use her incredible gifts as a teacher for our new family as well as other missionary families serving in Guatemala. How could all this happen? I thought. That will take at least ten years! And here we are, ten years later.

Preparing a sermon for Franconia Baptist
It blows our minds to think of everything God has done since Bob first issued that challenge. Aaron went back to school at Washington Bible College and eventually left his IT job with America Online. The family packed up and moved to Dallas, TX so Aaron could attend Dallas Theological Seminary. Providentially the same mission agency (Camino Global) that Bob Henriques is a part of needed a computer guy. So for the next three years while Aaron studied Greek, Hebrew, and theology we developed lifelong friendships with many Camino Global missionaries serving Christ throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Initially we thought God would send us to Latin America right after seminary but He clearly had other plans in store for us. As many of you know God instead sent us back to Virginia where Aaron has had the unbelievable privilege of being the pastor of Franconia Baptist Church for the last five and a half years. As we look back now we see God’s hand at work in our lives and in the life of this dear church. God has blessed us with so many new friends and strengthened the foundations of this historic congregation. He has cultivated a new family at Franconia to reach the lost and make disciples in Northern Virginia.

Looking back now it is obvious that God needed to teach us some valuable lessons. We thank Him for we have learned since arriving at Franconia, and for the many friends we have made, and for the humble privilege of seeing Him breathe new life into His people at Franconia.

Teaching a summer module class at PBS
In what is the hardest decision we have had to make in ministry, we now feel that God is calling us to move again. This time to Puebla, Mexico. Aaron has been asked to serve as a professor at Puebla Bible Seminary, teaching Greek and Hebrew, preaching, and whatever else may be needed. He is really looking forward to the opportunity to train future pastors and ministry leaders how to study the Bible, preach God's Word, and make disciples for Jesus Christ. This happens both in the classroom and over steaming mugs of Cafe de Olla (come visit us and find out what it is).

The seminary is strategically located an hour and a half southeast of Mexico City. Its students come from all over Mexico and various parts of Latin America. Some of them even come from remote villages that desperately need the Gospel taught in the Aztec languages that predate the arrival of Spanish in the sixteenth century. These indigenous languages are particular meaningful to us since Jackie was born in a Mayan region in Guatemala.

Carrie's own adoption into an amazing family gives her a special heart for children who have not experienced the love of their own family. Besides raising our children, welcoming U.S. mission teams, and serving fellow missionary families, she hopes to partner with others bringing God's compassionate love and message of hope to needy and orphaned children. Her 15 years of experience teaching socioeconomically disadvantaged children with learning and emotional disabilities will be an asset as she finds ways to serve in an orphan ministry.

Please pray for us. Your encouragement will be very helpful as we seek to take this leap of faith to serve the Lord in a part of the world where the Gospel is not nearly as well known as you might hope.

- Aaron & Carrie