Many Things Are Happening!
Throughout the year, we made numerous attempts at completing and sending out this newsletter. Finally, we have been able to get it done and we must begin by apologizing to our supporters for the delay in this report. We have no excuse, only an explanation that we have been very busy in many good things, for which we are thankful. However, this does not excuse our delay and we hope that you will forgive us for this.
Many things have taken place thus far in 2014 that it made it one of the quickest and busiest years we have had. Some of those things have been joyous, while others have brought sorrow. Yet, in all these things we thank God for allowing us to serve Him, and we thank you for your prayers, your moral and financial support, and for your interest in the work in Guatemala. We will give some highlights of some of those first events and happenings and hope to follow up soon with more newsletters with more details. We hope you enjoy it!
Our Loss, Heaven’s Gain
On the last day of January, we bid farewell to our Mom, Cynthia Jones. She was Hi’s mother that Byron also considered his mom. Sister Cynthia was 88 years old when her body finally became weary and her soul rested from her labors after being in a nursing home for a few years in her hometown of Lexington, Tennessee. She leaves behind six of her eight children and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
There is so much that we could say about Mom, but let us try to summarize her life in few words. Mom was a very special lady in many ways. She raised eight children pretty much on her own, often using her amazing cooking ability to work to make ends meet. She was also very industrious in many other areas, which allowed her to provide for her children. Her cooking was so notable that at one time she was voted best cook in Lexington.
Her most important trait was that she was a faithful Christian who had vision, courage and concern for her children’s spiritual welfare. Her love for the Lord was also evident in her love of singing. She had a beautiful alto voice that resounded clearly and loudly.
Byron remembers meeting her for the first time in 1989 and it did not take more than that first visit before Mom considered him as her own. Later, while Byron lived in Tennessee for a short period, he would often come “home” where Mom would always provide kind hospitality and would prepare him great meals.
It was because Mom was not able to travel in her last few years that Byron and Snezana chose Lexington as the place for their wedding, hoping she would be able to get out for a day to honor them with her presence. Sadly, Mom did not get to see this event.
Mom’s passing on January 31 brought great sorrow to many people who loved her, but we are confident it brought her and the angels in heaven great joy as they celebrated her homecoming. Her funeral was held on Saturday, February 8, at the building of the Broad Street Church of Christ, and her body was laid to rest at the Lexington cemetery.
We are very grateful to all of you who sent cards, memorial funds, flowers and condolences to the family. Please continue to pray for the family as we feel her absence. What encourages us is that though her passing was our loss, we are confident it was heaven’s gain.
A Wedding and a New Team Member
Most of you are aware that this year brought with it a new team member—Snezana Benitez— formerly Snezana Lepki. She and Byron were married in Lexington, Tenn., on February 22 at the Broad Street Church of Christ. They returned to Guatemala from their honeymoon on March 7th and stayed with Hawatthia for a while until their apartment was ready.
The wedding was very well attended and there were people there literally from all over the world. Snezana’s immediate family was not able to travel from Bosnia to be at the wedding, but she had her uncle there, Novak Krndija, who gave her away, and other family members from Canada. She also had her “adopted” parents there—Evelyn Baxley from Arkansas, and Walter and Cindy Hreczuch from Canada. When all was said and done, there were people from various states, from Canada, Italy, Guatemala, and China!
We are so grateful to God for those who made the wedding such a beautiful event. Gail Carver, Hawatthia’s sister, did a superb job at preparing the food for the rehearsal dinner, for the wedding reception and for the dinner following the wedding. It was not only delicious and abundant, but also prepared with great love! We thank Amie Jones, Hawatthia’s sister-in-law, for the decorations. The color scheme was just right and all the setup was elegant. We also thank the rest of the family members and friends who helped these ladies. Also, special thanks go to William Carothers for his creative photography and videos skills. The photos are available online.
First set of pictures:
Second set of pictures:
Byron and Snezana now are adjusting to their new place, still with a few boxes here and there that they have yet to empty. God was gracious in providing a place just four houses away from where Byron and Hawatthia used to live (and where Hawatthia still lives). Now, it takes Byron about 50 steps to get to work at the Bible Institute!☺Right now, Snezana is dedicating her time to being a housewife and to learning Spanish.
The Church at Linda Vista
Things at Linda Vista are going well. This year, the leaders of the church, Anibal Ramirez and Maclovio Calderon, chose the theme, “A Church with Purpose,” and the sermons and Bible classes have been based on this main theme. Currently, Anibal is teaching a series of studies on the church on Wednesday night with this theme in mind.
We have seen several baptisms this year. We sent an earlier report describing seven of them, so we will not mention them here. However, since then, there has been another baptism, Sandra Garcia.
Sandra, her husband, Cristobal, and their three children came to Linda Vista on Sunday, June 15, with the intended purpose of her getting baptized. The leaders took her aside and talked with her and studied with her to make sure she understood the Gospel and the commitment she was making. Afterward, they came out and took her confession. She and Maclovio proceeded to change into the baptismal garments, but while they were changing, the men assisting to prepare the baptistery discovered that there was no water in the baptistery! It was completely empty. This came as a shock because a week or two before the baptistery had been cleaned and filled. So, there is obviously a major leak or the stopper is not working.
Sandra and her family were not able to stay because Cristobal received a phone call from his work that called them away. They promised to return the next
Sunday. Thankfully, on Sunday, June 22, they were back, the baptistery was ready, and Sandra was baptized! Thank God for his mercy upon her and us.
Many Speaking Engagements
Many years ago we used to get quite a few invitations to speak at various places, but these almost completely stopped after we began to be attacked and falsely accused of many unkind and untrue things. Many brethren disassociated with us to avoid problems with the primary one responsible for the reports, and others actually believed his slanderous rumors.
This year, even though the brother continuous to attack us publicly and even has urged many not to invite us or have fellowship with us, we are seeing things change drastically. We have been invited to various places to preach God’s word.
In February, Hawatthia had the privilege of speaking at a youth event in Samayac. Hi and Mario Mendez, an elder of one of the churches in Chicacao, were the speakers. Hi’s topic was “How a Young Person Ought to Conduct Himself in the World.” There were about 300 in attendance!
In April, we both were invited to speak at a special event hosted by the church of Christ in San Antonio, Villa Nueva. It was an evangelistic effort during which they sought to reach their non- Christian friends with the Gospel. The topics were; “Where Will You Spend Your Eternity?” and “Are You Ready for Eternity?” They reported that about 75 visitors were present, along with the two churches, San Antonio and Linda Vista.
In May, Byron spoke at a youth event in Zone 3 of Quetzaltenango at “La Linea” Church of Christ. There were four invited speakers on that occasion: Alfonso Sapon, Cipriano Godinez, Mario Mendez, and Byron. Each had a 15-minute time- frame to deal with their topic and then the teens had an one hour open forum to question the speakers on any of the subjects. The overall theme was “Modern Doctrines Affecting Our Youth.” About 350 attended this event!
In June, Hawatthia was invited to speak at the youth event in La Esperanza. There he spoke on the topic of being lights in the world. About 300 attended this event! The next day, on Sunday, Byron was invited to preach the sermon for the church in La Esperanza.
On June 17, Byron was able to speak in Colomba Costacuca. He was initially invited to preach a “thanksgiving service” for Manuel Ramirez, who was turning 50. Manuel is one of the leaders there. Afterward, Manuel asked if Byron could also bring a special study for the church, so he gave a lesson on a study of last things. The service was encouraging and the small building was packed!
And, on August 31, the church in Chicacao, where Mario Mendez (mentioned earlier) serves, invited Hi to speak for a joint service they were having. The topic was “My Contribution for the Growth of the Local Church.” Because of a speaking engagement in South Carolina, Hi was unable to make it, so Byron went in his place. There were about 400 people in attendance.
If God wills, we are also scheduled to give a seminar in Quetzaltenango and return to Colomba for a special seminar on Matthew 24 before we leave for our end-of-year travels. Please keep these possible engagements in your prayers, as well as us as we humbly present God’s word.
There are various other events that have taken place. We will send out a separate newsletter to give more details about them. For example, on July 10- 19, we had 15 people come to Guatemala on a short-term mission effort. This team was made up of various Christians from different congregations in different states. In addition, there were two World English Institute (WEI) teams that came to work with us again this year. The first team arrived on July 19, stayed two weeks and then departed on the day the second WEI team arrived for a two- week stay. This makes it the sixth year we are hosting WEI teams. Finally, there was a team from the Linder Road congregation in Meridian, Idaho, that arrived on July 31st. They did an excellent work and we are excited to it with you.
In addition to these visitors, we also had our first Future Preachers’ Camp August 29-31. Since this is related to ITL, we will give more details about it in the ITL report. There, we will also report on the work taking place in San Cristobal, Alta Verapaz.
Finally, we will be sending out a report on the floods that affected the Balkans. Especially, we will report on the funds collected and disbursed to help the Ivic Family in Bosnia. We are very grateful to those who contributed for this urgent need.
As we close, we solicit your prayers for all the individuals and events mentioned in this newsletter. Please also pray for the following requests:
• For our health
• For Byron and Snezana’s marriage
• For the churches in San Cristobal and Coban in the department of Alta Verapaz
• For the spiritual and numerical growth of the Linda Vista church
• For God to continue to use us in this part of the world.
May God grant you the peace that passes all understanding!
Byron E. Benitez
To see the report with pictures, please click here.