Newsletter- January 2004
A new year has begun. We thank the Lord for what He has done this past year and look forward to what He will do in 2004. Here in Honduras three new missions were opened this last year. Agua Azul Sierra, Meambar, and Laguna Seca.
Right now Chuck has cottage meetings with three different families here in Siguatepeque. Two of these families came to camp this year. He is working in Agua Azul Sierra and Meambar while Antonio Orellana is working in Laguna Seca.
The three-day family camp of 2003 took place in December. The theme of the camp was “The purpose-driven life” and was taken from the book of the same name. The themes of the classes were: “Created to Please God”, “Created to be a Part of God’s Family”, “Created to be like Christ”, “Created to Serve God”, and “Created for a Mission”. Chuck decided to replace his class with a baptismal service on Sunday morning. So the “Created for a Mission” class was not taught. We averaged about 50 children and 50 adults for each of the 3 days. On the first day of camp we had 80 people, on Saturday we had 120, and on Sunday we had about 100 people. This past spring we finished a two-bedroom addition to use for camps and visitors from the States. We had 10 people sleeping in it and cooked all the meals in it and in our kitchen. Our house was used for classes and additional sleeping space.
An unmarried couple that Chuck has been working with for over 6 years decided to get married during the camp. What a joy to see them finally resolve that problem so that the wife, who Chuck carried in his arms to church when she was a baby, could once again participate in Communion. (The husband and their oldest boy have asked to be baptized and Chuck will start baptismal classes with them the first week in February.) Three people were baptized during the family camp in a beautiful Sunday morning service. There were four brethren and two sisters visiting from the States, Vi and Chema Manzanares, Aaron and Megan Rhodes, Jon Tandy, and Chris Grohe.
A look at home: America has been touched by war this past year. Men and women have sacrificed their time and lives in the Middle East. We do not have easy access to news where we live. Chuck’s brother Clint is in Iraq. Through an internet café we have kept in contact with him. Yet here at home we are faced with another war – the fight for men’s souls. Is it too hard for us to see the battle that we face? Are we too caught up in the physical world, things, business, meetings etc? Has your armor grown rusty with disuse? Do you feel defeated? TAKE HEART! Let us take up our cross and serve the Lord. We hope that the words of the following song minister to you as they have to us.
“There marches through the centuries, the martyrs of the cross, all those who chose to follow Christ, to suffer any loss.
And though their journey led them through the shadow lands of death, the song of their commitment they rehearsed with every breath.
Uncertain days now echo back that strong and urgent strain, to count the cost, take up the cross and join in the refrain……
I will serve the Lord, I will serve the Lord my God, and if God should choose and my life I lose, though my foe may slay me, I will serve the Lord.” -Steve Green.
Let us serve the Lord and He alone on this journey of life. He says “My yoke is heavy, but my burden is light.” The Lord loves you. His arms of mercy are around you. He needs you. How can you help Him today?
Yours in Christ,
Newsletter- March 2004
Dear Family and Friends,
I realize it has been a long time since we have communicated with some of you. We have finally spent the time and went into the Internet café in order to input our lost list of email addresses. We hope to send a note to each of you every month to let you know what is going on with us.
In December of 2003, we had a camp here in Siguatepeque. There were between 80 to 110 church members present from the various congregations here in Honduras. It was a good camp.
We would appreciate your prayers for the church here in Siguatepeque. It seems that we get new people coming and then something happens in their work and they have to move. We need a stable congregation. There are five families that attend all the time besides the boarding house students. Pray that God will help us find the men and women who He has and is preparing for the Siguatepeque Branch.
The month of January was a trial for us. Chuck was attacked by a drug addict. His little finger was torn off. Chuck had emergency surgery that saved his finger. We spent the first part of the year with legal actions and medical bills. The second week in January, Chuck came down with a medicine-induced hepatitis. The antibiotic he was taking was photo-toxic and the doctor forgot to tell him that he couldn’t work outside in the sun. He was working in the desert sun for two days in Talanga helping some friends design and install a dual-purpose septic system. When he came home he was very sick and was sick for at least a month. Thank the Lord he is now doing much better. He doesn’t tire as quickly and his liver seems to be functioning fine.
The month of February was spent in rest. It took most of the month for Chuck to recover from the hepatitis. The last week in February, he began visiting again the missions he had been working with prior to getting sick. He and Socorro Vasquez (the Honduran church president) and our oldest son Charles went to Meambar the first week in March. It went very well.
Chuck has been working in Meambar for about six months. He has been able to share the gospel and the Book of Mormon with the pastors of all four of the Evangelical churches there. Each of them has asked him to come back and share more. He has even been asked to preach twice in the Full Gospel church there. There seems to be an open door with these people. Please pray that the Lord will move them to accept Christ and His Word.
Charles, Elizabeth and Chuck are continuing to visit Agua Azul Sierra. While Charles and Chuck give baptismal classes to a group of about 6 adults, Elizabeth gives “Sunday school classes to a group of about 12 children. The family which has opened its home for the classes is very interested and will probably be baptized within the next year. Please pray for them. Their names are Arnulfo, Santos, Marta, and Sandra.
We are preparing for our biennial trip to the States. This means finding a guard or family to live in our house and take care of the animals during our absence. Having a person watch a house is required here because if you leave a house alone, it will be robbed. The drug addict that attacked Chuck will get out of jail in April. Most of the people here are afraid of the guy and are concerned about their safety and so are not willing to watch the house for us. For this reason we will have to have an armed guard stay at our home during our visit.
Our youngest son Joshua (6 years old) fell 15 feet and broke both of his wrists the second week in March. He is doing fine. It is kind of hard when you can’t feed yourself. He did not mind getting out of all his written schoolwork though. His casts come off April 7. We are planning to have the casts taken off in the States.
We will be driving from Honduras to the States because it would cost us a about 6500 dollars for our family to fly. Having 8 people in the family can be pretty expensive to fly, therefore, we choose to drive. We can drive to the States for about $1,300 one way.
The truck has to be repaired in order for it to make the trip. There are several things that need to be done on it. We have had it in the shop since March 1st, but there were some new repairs needed that we just found out about yesterday, so we will probably not be able to leave the last week in March like we wanted to. We will probably be leaving the first week in April instead. We have spent in truck repairs, what it would cost us to live here for an entire month, plus 4 months of pay for a guard, it gets expensive. Sometimes we almost feel like it isn`t worth the cost of the trip and the time spent away from the work, to go to the States, but yet we know that it is worth it. We look forward to seeing all of you. May God bless you.
Chuck and Regina Sperry
Newsletter- May 2004- Guatemala attack
We are very thankful to the Lord for our lives. I am writing from Xela in the highlands of Guatemala. There have been a number of different stories in the news media and multiple rumors about what happened to us here in Guatemala. I would like to try and clear up any rumors or misunderstandings about what happened. Those of you who are not part of the Restoration, we thank you so much for your prayers and support. I would ask you please to read all the way through this letter and ask the Lord about the parts concerning which you have questions. Thank you and may the Lord bless all of you as you read this letter.
Wed evening, Apr 14 we left Guatemala City at about 6pm with approximately an hour and a half of daylight left, heading towards Escuintla. One of the persons in the car was reading the map for me and misread it. We ended up in Chimaltenango instead of Escuintla. We still had daylight so we went down through Antigua to get to Escuintla, planning on stopping at Escuintla for the night. When we got to the highway near Escuintla there was no place to stay. We didn`t want to go into the town itself because it is very difficult if not impossible to get through the narrow streets with a Ford extended cab pickup and it is even worse when towing a small trailer. We continued driving, looking for a place to stay near the main highway. There was none. At about 8:30pm, still not having found a place to stay, we decided that we were going to stay at the next town no matter what we found. Sometime between then and 9:00pm, 3 cars, moving at high speed caught up with us. We were traveling at 65 miles an hour. Two of them passed us and then slowed down. One was a single cab red Toyota pickup, 1990-1995 probably 2-wheel drive the other was a white Honda Civic 4-door 1995-1999. I passed the red Toyota and then had to let a car coming from the other direction go by. When I tried to pass the white Honda, it would not let us pass. I floored the acclerator and was doing over 95 miles per hour. When we came close to the top of a hill, because I didn`t want to hit a car coming from the other direction, I pulled partially in behind the white car. When I did, the red Toyota pulled up beside us and a young man opened the passenger and began shooting. He made no motions for us to stop or anything. He just began shooting. I believe that he shot twice in the air and then began shooting at us. He was no more than 10 feet away when he opened up and then within less than a tenth of a second he was shooting from less than 18 inches away. I yelled, ``God protect us!´´ and immediately aimed the truck at his open door hoping to hit the door and crush him so he would stop shooting. Regina yelled, “God! Help us! Kids, get down!” (We had taught our children that if anyone ever started shooting at us that I would probably try to run him over with the truck and that the children should get down on the floorboard of the vehicle.)
Five bullets hit the windshield of the truck two of them ricocheted because he was using a 9 mm. Three of them went through the windshield exactly where my head was. I hit the red truck and continued to push at it with our truck. During these seconds at least seven bullets hit the driver´s door and went through the metal right where my body was. Three were stopped by the second metal skin inside the door. The other 4 went on through the door. Two of them went through the seat, a half an inch behind my back. The other one should have killed me. There were at least 2 or 3 that went through the driver`s window and one that went through the wing window on the driver`s side. At the same time that one of the men was shooting at us with a 9 mm, another one opened up with a .45 cal. One of the .45 cal. slugs that went through my window hit my wife Regina in the hand and one of the 9 mm slugs hit her in the elbow. The 9mm did a lot more damage it shattered her elbow and broke three of the bones in her arm. The .45 cal. should have killed her though. She had her hand right beside her head protecting her face from all of the flying glass when the .45 slug entered the fleshy part of her hand and miraculously stopped! There is no physical explanation for why it stopped. When the doctors removed it from her hand, it was not deformed at all, which means that it had not passed through anything prior to hitting her hand. One of the bullets that went through my seat hit our son Timothy in the leg and after entering the flesh a short ways, fell out. Our youngest son Joshua, 6 years old, was also hit in the back by one of the bullets that went through my seat. All the bullet did was make a large bruise on his back about the size of my hand. One of the bullets that came through my window went up and ricocheted off the metal trim going into the camper shell and hit my son Charles in the back. It didn`t even break the skin. He said that all he felt was a tingling sensation. Another bullet went through my window and hit me in the upper arm. It also just went in a short ways and fell out. A few small fragments of bullets or metal hit me in the side of the head and caused some bleeding, but nothing serious. (A couple of months after arriving in the States, I asked brother Zerr who is a doctor to remove the bullet fragments still under the skin on the side of my head. A couple of days later, I was eating breakfast. I felt something strange in my ear, I reached up and scratched and a small bullet fragment came out of my ear.) One bullet lodged in the passenger doorframe, one ricocheted off of my Timex watch face- it still works, and one ricocheted off the steering column.
Back to what happened...
I continued to hit the red truck with ours until it disappeared from the scene. Then I floored the accelerator and hit the white car as hard as I could. When we hit it, it was knocked off to the right side of the road and we left. I drove 5 km with the speedometer pegged until we saw a Shell gasoline station. I made a U-turn, taking out a tire repair sign and pulled in behind two semis. I got out of the truck all bloody and everyone kind of backed up. I asked for someone to call the police. There were no phones nor cell phones working there. While I was trying to get in touch with the police in some way, Charles and Elizabeth helped Regina get out of the car. They have been studying emergency preparedness for Scouts and so when Regina said that she was losing a lot of blood, I put a tourniquet around her upper arm and then let them take care of it while I was trying to find out where the nearest hospital was and get in touch with the police at the same time. Finally one of the truckers was able to get his cell phone to work and reported to the police what had happened. While he was talking with the police, the ``asaltantes`` stopped in front of the gas station, but because we were parked behind the semis they couldn´t get a clear shot at us. Also there were probably 2 or 3 guys with guns at the station though they weren´t visible. The Lord protected us again, by having the semis there. After about 20 min. the police showed up on a motorcycle. I asked them to escort us to the nearest hospital. They wanted to follow regs and wait for the firemen, but my wife was bleeding to death and I told them that I would not hold them responsible for whatever happened. We just needed to get her to a hospital so that they could get her stabilized. They would not listen. I finally said, ``Look, the firemen aren´t going to do anything more than what we have done. We have been trained in first aid.`` The police looked at me and at Regina and realized that it was true. So we took off for the hospital. When we got there they stabilized her and then sent all of us to the nearest hospital with x-ray equipment. We drove about an hour to get to the Hospital Nacion in Mazetenango. They treated us very, very well, but one has to understand that they just don´t have the money for all the necessary equipment. The police immediately put guards all through the hospital, in our rooms, around the truck etc. Wherever we went, there were at least one or two guards accompanying us. There have been a number of instances where the ``bad guys`` have sent in hit teams to kill someone in the hospital when they weren`t able to kill them the first time. The doctor removed the 45 cal. slug from Regina`s arm that night after having x-rays and then sewed her arm up. The next day he put on a half cast to help immobilize the broken bones in her arm. Timothy had his leg sewn up and the doctor sewed up my arm after seeing x-rays for both of our wounds to make sure that there were no bullets in them. All of us were up until 5am Thurs morning. I slept for an hour, then called the American Embassy in Guatemala City. They did an excellent job. They contacted the police in Mazetenango and requested that they extend us every courtesy, which they did. We were very pleased with the police response, considering their lack of equipment and money. Friday the police commissioner of Mazetenango asked me if I would be willing to go with them to the site of the attack and identify it for certain. We stopped by the gas station where we had stopped when we were escaping from our attackers. While we were there, one of the men that was there that night happened to be there and he was able to identify the owners of one of the vehicles of the asaltantes.
After four days, the hospital released Regina so that she and our younger children could fly back to the States. Neil Simmons and Kreg Levengood, ministers in the church flew down on Friday and arrived in Mazetenango Saturday morning. I had talked with the director of the hospital and the police commisioner and I felt that probably the safest way for my family and the men from the States to get back to Guatemala City so that they could fly out on Sunday would be for them to travel in an ambulance with a police escort. The American Embassy provided security for them at the hotel where they stayed in Guatemala City. We are very appreciative of all the help that the Embassy personnel gave us. A few hours after Neil and Kreg arrived in Mazetenango they left with Regina and all of our children except for our oldest, Charles who is helping me on the trip back to the States. At the same time that they left, Charles and I left with police escort to go to Xela in order to get the vehicle repaired.
On Charles´ and my trip to Xela, there was a car that followed us for almost 45 min until we got to the city. I told the police that I had noticed him following us for almost 45 min and that I was going to pull over to the side of the road when we got into the city and see if he would pass us. When I did, he pulled off in behind us also. The police were out of their cars with their guns drawn in a flash and were all over him. It turned out that he was a Guatemalan missionary going to a conference here in town and that he was supposed to be meeting someone right where we had stopped. All of his papers checked out and after they had gone through his entire car checking for weapons, they let him go. Poor guy.
The reason that we are in Xela getting the car fixed and not in some other town is because the president of our mission board, Dan Norman studied Spanish here about 3 years ago and has remained in contact with the owners of the Spanish school. When I called him Thurs. morning and told him what had happened, he immediately contacted the owners of the school Rolando Herrera and Nora de Herrera and asked them if they could help us find a shop that could repair the truck. They also made arrangements for places to stay for Neil and Kreg in Guatemala City when they flew in from the States. Dan has been after me for almost three years to stop by and visit them. Because I didn´t know them, didn´t know where they lived and would have had to drive about 3 hours out of our way through some fairly dangerous areas, we never came through Xela on our trips to visit the States. Well, the Lord has used this experience to bring the gospel to this brother and sister. The first day we were here, the police escorted us to their place and explained the situation to them. Afterwards, we began talking with them. They already knew about the different glories in heaven (eg. glory of the sun, moon, stars). They already believed that Christ went to preach to the spirits of those in hell that have not had an opportunity to hear the gospel in their earthly life. And, when we shared the belief in an open canon of Scripture, they accepted it overnight. When we talked to them about the Book of Mormon, they were a little hesitant, but that night Nora had a dream.
This is the dream...
``I was standing on a mountainside and I saw a group of people with chains on their legs being whipped and driven down a path going into an abyss. While I was watching them being driven by that man, I heard a voice at my side that said, `Come with me.` I turned and followed him. I did not see his face, but he was dressed in white. A short while later, I saw a beautiful green field of coffee plants. The man told me, `These plants will produce in 5 days.` We continued on up the straight path until we came to a tank of clear water with seeds in it. The man said, `These seeds are ready to sprout.` We continued on the path and then there was a thick cloud. We continued to walk on the path because we could see about a meter in front of us. Then I woke up.``
The Lord gave me this interpretation. The men in chains are people chained by the doctrines of men. They would not go into the abyss of their own accord, but would rather go up the straight path. Maybe they would go up the path a little slower than they should because of the chains, but they would go up the path. Because of the chains though, they can´t escape from Satan forcing them into the abyss unless they get the doctrines of men off of their feet. The path is the straight and narrow path that leads to eternal life. The field of coffee plants that would bear fruit in 5 days was them, Rolando and Nora- that they would accept the gospel within 5 days of us sharing it with them. The tank of seeds ready to sprout are people that are ready to accept the gospel. The cloud is the persecution which they will go through because of accepting the gospel, but that they would always be able to see far enough in front of them to be able to take another step. When they heard the interpretation they knew by the Spirit that it was true. Charles and I then shared Lehi`s vision in chapter 2 in the first book of Nephi in the Book of Mormon with them. When they heard it they accepted the divinity of the Book of Mormon. Rolando then asked us, ``What should we do?`` I told them they needed to be baptized. They said, ``We have already been baptized. Isn`t this baptism valid?´´ We explained to them about authority. I shared my testimony of how I was called to be a priest and later on to be an elder. They then realized that ministers must be called by God by revelation and must be ordained by other ministers who have also fulfilled the same requirements. Rolando then looked at us and said, ``We know that what you are saying is true. What more testimony do we need, than to look at your car?`` Wow! What a testimony to the way God can use something terrible and turn it into something which brings honor and glory to His Name!
We praise the Lord for His protection AND for letting this happen. It has opened up numerous other opportunities to share Jesus Christ and His Gospel with people. When the police, hospital staff, and reporters saw the truck, one of the first questions asked was, ``How many people died?`` Time after time it was said, ``Este pickop era para la muerte!`` (This pickup was for death.) There is no reason that we are alive, save for the mercy and protection of our Lord Jesus. . Over a quarter of our guards during the four days that we were in Mazetenango were Mormon. We were able to share the gospel with many of them. We ran out of tracts and we had to have Neil Simmons and Kreg Levengood bring some more with them. The Lord has been so good to us! Thank you for all of your prayers and your physical help too. We would ask you to please remember Regina in your prayers. I was talking with her this morning (Thurs. April 22) and the doctors are saying that she has multiple fractures in her elbow, but that all the bones look like they are in place. They told her that she needs to exercise her arm so that the bones in the elbow don`t fuse together, but she can`t because the muscle that moves her arm is connected to the broken part of her bone in her forearm and she can`t move that without causing greater damage. We know that the Lord holds us in the hollow of His hand and He will not permit ANYTHING to happen to us that will not be for our benefit and His honor. We thank Him for our lives! Praise His Glorious Name!
Que Dios les bendiga,
Newsletter- November 2004
We would like to thank you for your prayers during our return trip to Honduras. Many of you have asked how Regina is doing. The mobility of her left arm is slowly improving. We ask you to please continue to remember her.
After 17 days on the road, it was good to get back. We spent 2 weeks repairing and cleaning the house. As a family, we traveled to el Progreso and shared our experience in Guatemala with them. Shortly after this trip, Chuck became sick. We found out that he had an E. Coli. bacterial infection. Our family was invited to a new mission to share, but could not go due to Chuck’s illness.
Christina, our second oldest daughter has had stomach problems for some time. Several tests were done in the States, but nothing could be found. We had some tests done here in Siguatepeque and found out she has a helicobacterpylori bacterial infection. Both of these infections are due to the unsanitary conditions that exist in here in Latin America. Please pray for their complete recovery.
We enjoyed our trip down with Dave and Debbie Newman. We met them in Texas and traveled to Oaxaca together. We had a 3-day wait at the Mexican border, which proved to be interesting. The Mexican government took our stove and some personal clothing that we needed for the trip. On the climb to Oaxaca, the truck overheated several times. You go from sea level to 9,000 feet in about 4 hours. We finally made it to Oaxaca where we had the radiator repaired. That did not solve the problem though. Our stay there with Frank and Patty Frye was one of the highlights of our trip. We enjoyed being able to share with the people in Mitla and look forward to being able to do it again.
After staying three days in Oaxaca, we continued on to Guatemala. The truck overheated a number of times after we got to the Pacific Coast. When we arrived at Xela in Guatemala we had the thermostat taken out. That still didn’t solve the problem. Three days were spent in Xela visiting with Rolando and Nora Herrera and waiting on our promised police escort through Guatemala. We had some good talks with Rolando and Nora. Please pray for this family. Pray that they will have a desire to pick up the Scriptures and read them. Ask that the Holy Spirit will teach them. The church they attend does a lot of praying, but very little Scripture study.
After 3 days of waiting, we left Xela with a police escort. At the boundary of each political region, we had a different police escort from the region we were entering. When we passed the site of the attack, we gave thanks to the Lord for His mercy. The region past the area where we were attacked did not send any escort. From there, we were on our own. So much for promises of the Guatemalan police. We were content knowing that we had a Someone greater that was providing us with an escort though.
When we crossed the border into Honduras, we thanked the Lord that we were back. After 17 days of travel, we were home. It was good to see our brothers and sisters in Christ here again. They shared their concerns for us when they heard of the attack.
While we were gone, someone tried to break into our house. We had to replace a door. We had hired two guards, but they did not take their work very seriously. One of them worked during the day in town and left the house alone. This is a common problem here. Very few individuals or companies are trustworthy. We were very thankful that although the thieves broke the lock on the door and part of the doorframe, they were not able to break through the security lock that Chuck had added on the door. Four of our goats died. Some friends of ours told us that they figured that the guards were selling the goat, dog, and cat food. That is why they ran out of food. The guards also stole about 30 gallons of diesel fuel that we had in barrels for the vehicles. We were still glad to get back, though sometimes we wonder if our bi-ennial trip to the States is worth all the trouble.
The church in Honduras will be having a family camp the 17-19 of December. We are looking forward to the fellowship. Please pray for this camp. In the last 6 months, there have been 3 new missions opened and 3 men ordained to the priesthood. As the work here continues, we look forward to what the Lord will do with His people. May the Lord bless you. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Think about us when you are gathering with your families. Most of all pray for the work, as the Lord is moving among people all over the world to join His Army. (Eph. 6:13)
Your friends in Christ,
Chuck & Regina Sperry and family
Congregations: Boquita, Concepcion, Conchas, Horcones, Mogote, Ocoman, Ocote, Jardines, San Nicolas, Siguatepeque, Sta. Cruz, Taulabe
Missions: Camalote, Cana Veral, Choluteca, Meambar, Progreso, Villa Napoles, la Union.