Sunday, May 17, 2015

On Being A Lonely Missionary

Has God ever called you to do something for Him that had led you to a place where you felt alone?

I remember sitting in on a Missions class while I was in California, a few months before moving to Montana. Our instructor was pointing out the fact that God had done amazing and extraordinary things through Paul. I couldn't agree any more with him; Paul planted many churches, ministered to the body of Christ, loved on the body of Christ and the church in general loved him. God had even used Paul to write the majority of the New Testament and some would credit him as the guy who told Luke the story of Jesus, a story Luke would pen and distribute to his master Theophilus, a story that eventually landed into our hands today. No doubt God had done amazing things through Paul, but we see that even as God was using Paul, it appears that he had a war with loneliness which was far more evident at the end of his life. 

While Paul was in prison, he wrote to Timothy telling him to come quickly. Paul also went on to tell Timothy that Demas, Crescens, and Titus had left him, telling Timothy that only Luke had stayed with him. Imagine the guys/girls you served along side with for years, people you have grown to love all of a sudden leaving you. So much time was invested in building a strong friendship while serving together yet they drop the relationship and give up on you.

I was warned before coming to Montana years ago (and I am so glad), that I would have my wars with loneliness just as Paul did. That the friends I would have expected to keep in contact wouldn't, and when I return for a visit there would not be any welcome back banners waiting but very brief and quick hellos and goodbyes. This is one of the major things my instructor would underline and bold while teaching the class, The Missionary's Loneliness, using Paul as the example, he couldn't have been any more right.

What is important to keep in perspective is that loneliness is a feeling. Some feelings are good but some feelings are unhealthy and dangerous. Some feelings are traps in disguise set by the devil as he aims to pull you down and hold you back from what God would like to do through you.

I believe that although Paul felt lonely, he remained focused. Soon after he wrote this letter, Paul was escorted to the chopping block and put to death. I would have a hard time believing that he allowed himself to get killed because he was depressed and lonely, that he believed life wasn't worth it anymore because his friends left him. He remained focused and died for the best cause; standing firm in faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul was a missionary on steroids, and if God had called us out to a strange place to do our part in getting work done for Him, then like Paul we must remain focused. And when those times of loneliness come; the missing of your friends and family stuff, the thinking of the good ol' days back home.. we must stand firm and remember that God is good, and His plans always work out for the good to those who love Him.

So to be a lonely missionary is normal, it is not a sin, it's not crazy. Paul a man mightily used by God felt it. But God was always with him and would get him through it and keep him going. Paul did the work he was called to do because he leaned on Him. Us lonely missionaries could learn from that.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Two years in Billings

Today marks two years since we moved to Billings to help start the Fresh Life campus in our city. It’s been such an adventure and a huge honor to be a part of what God is doing here.

We have definitely had our ups and downs while here but thank God the hard times were never like a disease where they have affected us negatively in the long run. Instead they’ve been like wounds that have hurt at the time but then have left us with only scars with stories to tell about how God has turned beauty from ashes.

We started with a team of 9 and I am so stoked to say that as the church has grown, a little more than half the Fresh Life Billings campus are actively involved in serving and in community. It’s so cool to hear about what God has been doing in their lives because of the work done at Fresh Life whether they gave their lives to Jesus at our campus or have landed in our church home and flourished spiritually. The people that I have the honor of seeing throughout the week in my church are the best, and I for one feel beyond privileged that God put me together with these people to pass through life with. They have been like family to me and have drawn me so much closer to Jesus. And we just yesterday moved all of our stuff into what will become the permanent home of Fresh Life Billings!

It’s amazing to think that we really haven’t done much to cause the growth and impact at our campus. Really I can nail down 3 things I’ve noticed we have done that has caused for our church to ‘work’.

1)      We tremble before God’s word
2)      We are snakebirds: We’ve worked as hard as we could as God led, and trusted God would do something with the work we believe He led us to do
3)      Faithfulness: All we’ve ever done is show up

WEST HIGH 2011-2013





The Best is yet to come

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Heaven's still fuller..

Ministry; it's hard. To be completely honest, I've had my share of days where under the pressure of devoting my life to serving Jesus I've wanted to tap out. Now, before the shock of what you've just read starts to set in and completely change your opinion of me, hear me out.

I've been active in all things church for at least 6 years doing anything from teaching the bible, leading worship, cleaning toilets (literally) and have been a part of two church plants.

Over and over again I've faced situations that have made me want to quit, things that would beat up my heart so bad to the point where I feel there's not much left to give. Could be anything from not meeting the standards that people I have led placed on me, or being too broke to get by in a city God has called me to. The worse is when the people that are there during the victories, are nowhere to be found in the failures.

It's been tempting wanting to give in to failure and isolate. Jeremiah had similar moments too.

Talking about God got Jeremiah in trouble. It seems like at one point he had made the decision to not speak a word about God to anyone anymore. But then he writes in Jeremiah 20:9, "If I say I'll never mention the LORD or speak in His name, His word burns in my heart like a fire. It's like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can't do it!"

It's in those low moments where I've come close to making the decision to quit that my heart starts to burn, and the Holy Spirit reminds me that the small things that I do make a difference for all eternity for someone else. I start to look at the work that I have been a part of and the fruit that it bore and get reminded that I had a small part in ushering someone to Jesus. 

These circumstances that I face and the feelings of failure cannot, even if the enemy tried, alter someone's eternity. If I suffer because the devil is mad that I had something to do with someone giving their life to Jesus, that person will still go to heaven and will not be rerouted to hell, even if I'm living in a cardboard box in an alley or even if I lose a friend.

I've learned to say in all the hard times, especially when I recognized that the suffering is there because the devil is mad, that hell is still emptier and heaven is still fuller. On a bad day, that makes everything ok. And I quickly go from wanting to give up, to thinking like Jeremiah, with His word burning in my heart like fire with me being unable to hold it in... I just can't do it. 

In the end, I just start realizing how much of an honor it is to minister. I get reminded that the work of ministry is not a burden but a joy because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And if ever I get to a point again where I feel like I can't handle it, that's the perfect place to be, because then I get to run to Jesus and lean on Him when I'm falling apart. I get the rest I need, and the strength from Him to keep fighting this war for souls, making hell emptier and heaven fuller.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We almost quit Billings... almost

Our Pastor Levi Lusko constantly reminds us to set up stones of remembrance to remind us of what God has done in our lives. Monica and I had recently fallen under the worse of times in our lives, but God showed up. I wrote an email to an old friend back home in California, updating her on everything that has been going on, and I had decided to post it on the blog because I felt it was important to share our story with others. We almost quit the responsibilities in Billings over and over again in order to figure out how to put our lives back together, but we didn't quit, and we didn't end up putting our lives back together, but God did, He worked tons of miracles. Don't lose hope in hopeless situations, Jesus is there, I pray that you'll trust Him, and never give up on what He had called you to go through. Hope this blesses you:

Hey Vivian,

Just wanted to say hi and update you on what's been going on with Monica and I lately.

From the time that we returned to Billings from California back in November, our situation was ok for about a month but then things got worse. From the time that we had showed up in Montana I had been the only one working since it was hard for us both have jobs and share one car. If you remember, we were hit by a drunk driver last year in June which caused us to lose our car. We went to the hospital that day and we were treated for injuries, I was about 2 weeks away from gaining our health insurance so medical wouldn't cover our bills. The hospital billed us for our treatment, nearly $2000 worth of expenses. We took the driver to court and were granted restitution fees for the medical bills, but the judge only ordered him to pay $25 a month. The hospital wanted the money from us in full and we didn't have it, so they sent us to collections. So far the driver has only been paying $12.50 a month (half of what the judge ordered him to pay), and were still left with only one car.

It has been putting a strain on us, we eventually fell behind on more than half of our finances. Our phones were cut off because we couldn't pay for them, we couldn't pay our bills, we only had enough for rent and I could barely afford gas. We had a few days where our fridge was empty and did not eat that day, it's been hard and we've been seeking God through it all but it really looked like He wasn't around. We kept trusting that God would show up and provide but the longer we waited, the harder it got for us to accept what we were going through as God's will or God's plan for our lives.

Last Tuesday I was looking over everything we owed and 'gave up'. My gas tank was empty and I was scheduled to work that night, I had no idea how I was going to get to work. I told Monica that I could not figure out a way to get us out of our mess and that I don't know what to do. We were both broken and scared, but with the little hope we had left we had decided to bring our situation to God. He spoke to my heart and basically said to me, 'Am I not enough for you?' And I realized that one major lesson Jesus had been trying to teach us both is that if we were to lose all we had, He would have to be enough to satisfy us, He would have to be all we need and nothing more. We needed to be able to say like Job, 'Naked I came into this world, Naked I go out, Blessed be the name of the Lord.' And so we were blessed with that and accepted our circumstances, trusting Jesus.

Later that night, we heard a knock on the door, and nobody was there. We opened our door and found an envelope with gift cards to gas stations and food places. It had to have been $300 worth of stuff. We were blessed and thanking God for it. About an hour later, some new friends in town asked if they could stop by our place. They came over and had told us that they were fasting and praying about a month ago and that

God had told them to give us money. They didn't know our situation or understand why, but after praying for confirmation for a month, they came to understand that God was asking them to do this. They gave us a check for $4000 on the spot. It blew both Monica and I away. We were able to catch up on our finances with that money and cover the medical bills that we owed the Hospital. We were praising God for it but it didn't stop there.

Over the weekend a friend of ours let us know that he really wanted to meet with Monica and I and talk to us about something important. We met for coffee and the moment he sat down he basically said, 'I don't know how to tell you guys this, so I'm just going to come out and say it. I'm giving you my car.' So yeah, God also gave us a car, replacing the one we lost in the car accident last year.

So right now, we are pretty much just living in awe of God and excited about what He has done.

Monica and I are doing fine, blessed, and I just felt that I wanted to share this story with you. If you feel like anyone else ought to read this feel free to pass it along. We were so blessed by what God has done and we pray that what God has done in our lives could be an encouragement to others. God never forgets His kids.

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy email, but I just wanted to update you. Let me know how you're doing too!

God Bless!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012


It was about a week ago that I got the call at 6am. My dad had let me know that my grandpa had passed away earlier in the morning. I thanked my dad for letting me know and hung up the phone.

For the next 24 hours I pushed the news out of my head, avoiding grief and avoiding over thinking it all. I avoided talking to my family because I had fears.

As I was driving to work a day after hearing the news, I had some quiet time. I drove pass a Burger King and that did it for me. It reminded me of the last moments I spent with my Grandpa. My brother and I had driven from Downey, CA to Juarez, Mexico (across the boarder from El Paso, TX) to pick up my Grandpa from the airport and get him a visa.

When we picked him up, he walked out of the plane wearing the beige sobrero he loved to wear with his jeans and tucked in button up long sleeve shirt. He welcome us with open arms, he called me mijo.. i know he saw the look on our faces, he knew we were happy to see him, i could tell because he smiled back.

We asked him if he would like lunch, he said yes. We asked what he wanted to eat, he said he wanted a 'torta Americano', we had no idea what he was talking about. We took him to a Mexican restaurant and ordered him a torta (Mexican sandwich). We asked if that's what he wanted, he just shrugged. The next day as we were driving around town, we drive pass a Burger King, he pointed at the sign and yelled 'torta Americano!' Turns out he was talking about a hamburger the whole time. We ate at BK, and he practically inhaled the burger. I had a lot of fun with my Grandpa the next few weeks, but that memory always stood out in my mind and would be a story I would share constantly about him...

So as I drove passed the Burger King the day after getting the news of his passing, it stunned me, and I could no longer hide the feelings I had over the loss. I gripped the wheel tight and I was overwhelmed with anger. I wasn't mad at God, I wasn't mad at anyone, I was just mad.. and I sobbed.

I really loved my Grandpa, and in my mind for whatever reason I believed that he would always be around because he always was. I loved that he was interested in everything I was doing in church, I loved that he would hear me when I told him about Jesus and what it takes to get to heaven, I loved that he was always available to talk to even though I didn't make myself as available. I loved his grace and loved that his love was unconditional not only for me but for all of his kids and grand kids.

Anger overwhelmed me because I kept thinking about how wrong death is. And as a believer of God and the bible I couldn't help but think that it is not supposed to be this way. When God created this earth and everything in it, His vision and desire was for it to be eternal. What interfered with that plan was Genesis 3, when the devil tricked Eve into eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and Eve gave to Adam to eat. God told Adam not to eat of this tree, and so after God confronted Adam and Eve, God presented them with the consequences of their actions. Some of those are pain, suffering, and death. I couldn't help but think, if they had just listened to God, my grandpa would still be here, and not just here, but healthy and well.

I believe though that Jesus grieves with us. When His good friend Lazarus died, He wept with Lazarus sisters who had said to Jesus, 'If you were only here, He would still be alive'.

I love so much though, that Jesus recognizing that everyone will die because of sin, that He died for our sins so that we get another chance at eternal life, and this time in heaven. I pray that God brought everything I told my grandpa back to remembrance before he passed, so that he would have responded to what Jesus did for him, repented in his heart and gave his heart fully to Jesus. It's all it takes to get to heaven.

I believe and know that even though my heart is hurting over the loss, my mom, aunts, uncles, and Grandma are dealing with it a lot harder. I would like to ask all of you to pray for my family. And a huge thank you to everyone who has been there, especially my awesome church who never ceases to amaze me in the ways of 'being there' for me when life gets hard. You guys are such a blessing.

Monday, July 25, 2011

To anyone considering moving to Billings, MT

This past weekend, Pastor Levi had announced to our church the plans to launch the 4th Fresh Life Campus. The new campus will be planted in Billings, Montana, about 7 or 8 hours away from Kalispell.

The news was very exciting to our church who clapped and cheered, but then all went silent when Levi threw out a challenge to the church. Levi had shared with the church that there would be a need for people to uproot their lives in Kalispell, and move to Billings to start this church.

When Levi said this I began to wonder who felt the call at that moment, and who was terrified and discouraged about responding to the call. That thought has bugged me so much for the past two days that I decided to write to these people by way of blog, and would trust that God would have them come across this letter if He willed. But first, I wanted to point out the reason why I am so passionate about encouraging people who are beginning to sense God calling them to Billings, but at the same time feel like they may not be called and are totally confused.

It was a little over a year ago when I was living in Long Beach, California that I began to sense that my wife and I would be moving out to a different state. Throughout a series of circumstances, God had clearly revealed to us that we were to move to Kalispell, MT. (You could read these stories here: Pt.1, here: Pt.2, and here: Pt.3).

Although we sensed God calling us to Kalispell, over the course of a few weeks we presented Him with so many reasons why we could not move to Kalispell. And I wonder if right now, those God is calling to move to Billings have the same things on their mind.

1. "We Do Not Know Anyone": I only knew one guy that added me on Facebook after I had posted something on Fresh Life's page that he liked. I had never met him in person before moving to Kalispell, in fact, he was the very first person Monica and I met in Montana. But the fact that we had never personally met anyone in Kalispell or at Fresh Life (including the Pastors who had no idea who we were), really discouraged us both about moving here.
How Jesus Refuted that Concern: When I prayed and presented this concern to Jesus, He simply responded to me by saying, "You don't know them, but you know Me." In a nutshell, Jesus was saying that just as much as He was in the church I was involved in at the time, He was very much involved in the church in Kalispell, which meant that He was there. Jesus was saying that if we went to Kalispell, He would meet us there. Although we knew no one, we knew Him, and He had a lot of friends here, friends He introduced us to. He built solid relationships with the friends we ended up gaining here, and now, we know people because of Him. Are you worried about the fact that you know no one in Billings? Remember, you know Jesus, He knows people in Billings, and He'll meet you there.

2. "My Family Needs My Help": Both my mom and dad were unemployed when I sensed that God was calling Monica and I to move to Montana. They were collecting unemployment but I was so worried that their money would run out, they would struggle and eventually lose their house. I felt like I had to stay behind to help my parents with finances in order to keep a roof over their head. I felt like I had to take care of my aging mom and dad.
How Jesus Refuted that Concern: When I presented this concern to Jesus, He led me to the story in the Scriptures where He was calling a man to follow Him. The man responded with the excuse of wanting to bury his father before following Jesus. Now, anyone who had studied this Scripture knows that this man's father was not dead. Many people believe that either a) He wanted to take care of his dad until the day that he passed away, or b) he wanted his dad's inheritance in order to be financially stable enough to afford to follow Jesus without concerns. In a nutshell, this guy was only making excuses to put off following what Jesus was calling him to do, he did not want to go. Jesus was showing me that I was only presenting excuses and should follow His call. He also put a peace in my heart, helping me understand that He will take care of my parents in my absence. Do you have things tying you down? A house to sell? A lease bounding you? An aging parent to take care of? If you sense the call, Go! No excuses.

3. "I Don't Have Any Money": To be honest, this was the major one that was holding me back. At this point, Monica and I had been engaged for 1 year and a half. We had made many plans to get married after becoming engaged but they always fell through because of our lack of Money. I told Jesus that we were broke and I could not afford to support the both of us, nor afford our wedding, nor afford our move. There was just no money at all.
How Jesus Refuted that Concern: After serious burdens in our hearts and many signs pointing both Monica and I to Montana, we decided to, by faith, tell Jesus that we will move to Montana. When we again stated that we were poor, we told Jesus that we would trust that He would provide our funds. That very same weekend, we were given $7,000 by someone who had no idea what was brewing in our hearts or the plans we had. We were praising God and were so stinkin' excited. We tithed 10% of it, then divided the rest of it, planning how we would use it for the wedding, honeymoon, and the move. After tithing though, we ended up using all the money for the wedding and had none for our honeymoon or move, but we then continued to see God provide more and more as we would take steps of faith. We eventually had money for our wedding, our honeymoon, our drive up to Montana and our first month's rent. By the time we got to Montana, we had only Target gift cards from our wedding and a jar full of change, trusting that after seeing all that God had done, He would provide. And He has! We have never made a late payment on anything since moving here, we have never lacked food. So is the fact that you do not have money holding you back? Take the step of faith and see that He will provide, He totally will!

Anyway, I hope that if you sense the call to move to Billings, this would encourage you to jump right in and respond to the call. And I hope that this blog post would have you think about the various things concerning you and would also encourage you to present them to Jesus. I promise that if you are truly called to go, He will refute your concerns in love.

I will commit to praying for the Billings team, as I am so stinkin' excited about it. Keep your eyes on Jesus, ignore the waves and keep walking on water. If Called, ANSWER! Take the step of faith! You will never go wrong with His plan for your life!

Monday, May 30, 2011

How I Came to Christ

**I actually wrote this back in Sept. 2009 but figured it would be appropriate to post how I came to Christ on my blog**

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

It all started 6 years ago.. I was working a job at Baskin Robbins and I remember the day like it was yesterday. Reason being is that from that day forward my life would never be the same. I still remember the drink I took a few sips of that day, a Cappuccino Blast, and also that I was going to see my favorite band at the time at a show somewhere in Riverside.

About half way through my shift I started feeling very dizzy, and decided to cool off on my own in the Restroom. I practically collapsed as my heart started racing while my stomach knotted up and I gagged as the temperature of my body rose. I went home early that day only to be too sick to go to the show that night. Not knowing what was wrong with me, this continued, so much to a point where I dropped out of school and had lost my job.

Not knowing what was wrong, I began to visit different Dr.’s in the U.S. None of these doctors could diagnose me and were unable to treat me. I ended going to Mexico to get checked out there (affordable treatments: p) but they were also unable to figure out what was wrong with me.

I came back, and a few weeks later I had an episode so strong that I literally thought that I was going to die. I was out of it, not knowing what was going on. My mom had told me that she placed her hand on me and I had actually burned her because my body was so hot.

It was this night that the Lord came to me and reached out to me.. I responded and that night I felt an overwhelming peace from Him and He had instantly took away my fears and had healed me. He had actually also let me know exactly what was wrong with me and I had to actually tell the doctors myself that it was God who told me what was wrong. I’m sure they were amazed that God diagnosed me, since they couldn’t figure it out!

Although my Spirit was strong after this because of Him and what He had done , my body still had its reactions, and I was unable to leave my home for 3 months. For the first few years it was really hard trying to get back to normal, and to be honest physically I haven’t been anywhere near normal since before all this began.
Just two days ago I had another one of these episodes, right before I was getting ready to speak somewhere and all I could think about is how bad the timing was, I was really hurting. I found myself praying for God to take it away and yet nothing was happening. I was very desperate and I began to feel as if He wasn’t hearing my cries. He began to remind me that people were praying for me for the night, whether or not they knew something like this would happen. It had been so long since I had an episode, and again I couldn’t help but think of the bad timing.

I praise God that I was able to get through the message without anyone noticing what I was feeling, but my body has been going through it still for the past two days. What God keeps bringing back to memory as I ask Him to take this all away is the situation that Paul faced. Paul pleaded with God to take his thorn in the flesh away.. and what did God respond with? “My grace is sufficient for you..” and so like Paul, I’m faced with the challenge of sucking up my feelings and relying on God’s grace.

But why would God even allow His children to keep the thorn in the flesh? Why doesn’t He just take it away? Well.. According to the Scripture I provided above, we need to go through this for a reason. I think about the many people who face the same problem that I do, and how much comfort they would feel knowing that God had helped me through the problem when I felt hopeless, and that God can do the same for them as well. I guess this is part of what it would mean to be a living sacrifice.. willing to give up yourself in order to be of good use to our Maker.

A lot of what God will allow us to go through is not easy, but it is necessary, especially if we want Him to have His will done, on earth as it is in heaven. The hardest thing is to be that living sacrifice for the Lord. But if it means ministering to so many lost and hurting souls by giving them hope in Jesus Christ by sharing what He has done for us, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Here's an audio of me sharing my testimony while sharing a message: