Hello from the Hoogeveen’s,
Moving here to Puerto Rico as missionaries has been tough. Maybe not in the way most people think, nonetheless it has been tough. Prior to moving here, and getting down and dirty when it comes to mission work I had a vision of a missionary; I mean how can I not. There are TV commercials with a gentle looking man with a grey beard and a soft, humble voice, holding starving children asking for our help. We see movie stars doing the same thing. There are mission organizations all over the world posting pictures of starving children, no clean water, thatch roof homes and no modern technology. The images of dry dirty land and sewer plagued slop pits fill our minds when we hear the word missionary. The image of the mission field is practically forced upon us. Now, do not misunderstand me, all this and more is truth and needs the help from the Christian Church. We are not to neglect those in these conditions. Africa, Haiti, China and many other places need Jesus and they need missionaries. However, God has not called us to those places. He has called us to the Caribbean. A visual paradise where just in the town we live in seeing Maserati’s, Porches and Ferraris are becoming normal to see. The land here is beautiful. 300 miles of public beach area, palm trees, sun and tropical breeze. Those starving here are starving by choice. The reality is, there is very little need in the Caribbean in comparison to most areas where missionaries go. As you can imagine, we have had people question our motive, question the reason we are here. People have even questioned if we are here because of God. This has been hard. There has been days where I feel guilty for being here. Then God tells me, “I sent you so stop feeling guilty.” That takes the guilt away for a while but when the next comment is made it comes right back. Which got me thinking…Why is it that people don’t understand why we are here? What is the draw to those “other” mission fields? I don’t hear people telling those I know who go to Africa and Haiti the things we hear? Actually, we see so much financial support to those who go there. We are so thankful for that and for them, but we have to wonder, why is it so hard to get people to support what we do here? Then the Lord did something while we were meeting with Julian. He opened my eyes and my heart to the issue. The thing is giving material things and building physical things are relatively simple and there is a visible finished product or the feeling of doing good. But is that what missions is all about? What about the broken, the lost, the Christ-less nations of the wealthy? What about the beauty and the splendor God has created? Do these areas not need Jesus? Are these areas not spiritually bankrupt? Does God’s Word not say that money is the root of all kinds of evil? Does God’s Word not say that it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven? Why then is it so hard to go to the places where the rich are? Why then is it so difficult to see people living where the monetarily wealthy but spiritually bankrupt live, for the sake of the gospel?
I was challenged to read Matthew 25:35-40. I was challenged to read and ask God what this says about the wealthy. Now as most of you know, this is seemingly not a verse about wealthy people who live on an island and drive Ferraris. However, The Lord gave me something I wish to share with you. As I was reading this scripture the Holy Spirit spoke to me and this is what He said.
“For when I was feasting and indulging on lobster and New York Strip, I was still hungry and your people have not come. When I was drinking the oldest wine and water so refined I was still thirsty and your people have not come. All people know me and respect me, yet I am a stranger and your people have not come. I wear Versace and Dior and yet I am naked, yet your people have not come. I drink $50 grass shakes every morning and visit the health spa daily, and yet I am sick and dying, yet your people have not come. My house is a fortress and I live my life in paradise, yet I am lonely and desire visitors and yet your people do not come.
How then can my people answer, Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and cloth you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
Yet it is true that the Lord will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
If we who have been called to the Caribbean do not answer this call who will? If because of beauty and riches we neglect this call, who will rescue the spiritually bankrupt of the Caribbean? Who will come to be persecuted, spit on, rejected, mocked, and laughed at? Who? If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
The Lord has started to open doors we once only dreamed of. As many of you know our first year here came with a lot of ups and downs, zigs and zags. We were trying to find our place here on the island. The first 8 months was especially hard as we were all full of spit and vinegar ready to minister the entire island. We did all kinds of stuff from food handouts to the homeless, working with Hogar En Hacor (the girls home), and joining the leadership team at The Center Church Puerto Rico, among countless other things. All of which the Lord had us involved with for a short season for a specific purpose. We do however feel that we have made an impact in these areas and will continue to serve at The Center Church as our home church here and will continue to be connected with Four Hearts, which is the ministry that first came along side Hogar En- Hacor. Our role with Four Hearts however will be more defined and directed at what we have been called here to do, which is discipleship.
Our first year here was chapter one of our story; chapter one being about relationships. The Lord knew that in order for us to be effective we needed relationships. We now know people, people know us and we have at least some sort of influence on the island now. People know we know people and know we will be here for a while. This has led us into the beginning of chapter two; Chapter two being Strategy. Ironically this has now led us to more, deeper relationships. We recently were introduced to Julian and Cindy by Julio and Stacy. Julio and Stacy are missionaries here in Cabo Rojo. Julian and Cindy are missionaries here in Mayaguez. Julian pastors Union Church which is where Julio and Stacy attend and minster at. Julian also does mission work in Haiti. Jacob and myself sat down with Julian two weeks ago and the Lord led us to partnering together to minister throughout the entire Caribbean. This has been a prayer Jennifer and I have been praying as it is something we felt the Lord telling us shortly after we arrived to Puerto Rico. Julian and Cindy have been on the island for 8 years and have seen a lot. Julian also grew up in the Virgin Islands and knows a ton about the spiritual makeup of the Caribbean. We have talked several times a week since then as we start to stratigize our next step. We knew, and shared this with several people when we moved to Puerto Rico, that PR was just a stepping stone to what God has in store for the ministry he has prepared for us.
Since our stepping down from leadership at CCPR, our personal discipleship ministry has hit hyper-drive. We are using the Three Thirds House Church Format from Pastor Briton at Moran Park. Checkout www.thehousechurch.org which we will continue to implement here in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the Caribbean as the Lord leads. Our good friend Danny, who is preparing to be a missionary at Grand Valley University, has been learning from me how to use the same format also. We have regular Skype meetings as I disciple him through the process. Danny too is seeing amazing results. The house church the Lord led us to start is seeing supernatural spiritual growth. Jacob was baptized two weeks ago and since then has shared with me that he feels the Lord calling him into missions. He has already started to share the gospel with his neighbors and is getting ready to launch a house church that we will be assisting with. Maricelle is being baptized on the 26th of this month as well. Richard has been sharing the gospel at work and is seeing amazing personal growth too. I just finished up Rooted with the leadership at CCPR, they will now be opening up Rooted to the entire church! Rooted is a discipleship program that the Lord led Jennifer and I to bring to Pastor Efren at CCPR. We had gone through and led a group through Rooted at Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, Michigan. We are excited to see how the Lord uses Rooted at Pastor Efren’s Church. As far as our personal involvement with Rooted here, we are stepping out and letting Efren lead his church in the manner God has called him to lead it.
As we move into this next phase we ask that you partner with us in prayer as we look towards God for the next steps. Thank you for all of your support.