July – August 2020

Dear Friends and Family,

3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?  4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  6And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  7For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  8All these are the beginning of sorrows…

—Matthew 24:3-8

What an interesting time we live in. I have never seen such a unity of end-times events in my life–pestilences such as locusts in Asia, exponentially more dangerous natural disasters (fires raging, hurricanes, tornados, forty-mile-wide land storms such as “Derecho” in Iowa, earthquakes in unusual places, volcanic eruptions) pandemics, wars and rumors of wars, many false Christs and prophets (just peruse YouTube), right turned to wrong and wrong turned to right, children against their parents, irresponsible parents, love waxing cold, etc. All these are converging at this point in history.

Just remember the words above, “be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” We do not know when Jesus is coming, so all I can say as I look forward to the “Blessed Hope” is, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” Until then, we will be busy about our Master’s business.

We will not let the circumstances of life around us discourage us. Persecution, already present in a large part of the world, is coming our way. This too must come to pass. Regardless, we have this promise from our Savior:

35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  36As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Romans 8:35-37

Ministry News

Not much has changed here since our last prayer letter regarding the restrictions on gatherings. There was some relief, but then the government clamped down again when the number of new cases of COVID-19 began to rise. They have imposed martial law restrictions again on Sundays, when no one can be out except with special permission. International travel continues to be restricted by the government, and public services are limited. Several pastors have died because of the pandemic. One, Luis Navarro, was only forty-two years old. He was a friend. Several members of our church have experienced losses of loved ones.

Preaching Online for the Deaf and Hearing

We continue to minister through social media for all our services, Sunday school meetings, and programs for teens and children. We also continue to distribute food to many in need. We are seeing souls saved despite all the restrictions. Pray for these new Christians as they grow.

No in-person meetings will be permitted this year. Schools will continue to teach online until next year as well. This is a horrible situation for students and especially for the Deaf and children with special needs. Our teachers continue to work hard to teach those who have access to the internet.

Family News

As you know from our last letter, several of us tested positive for COVID. Lisa was the hardest affected, with headaches, breathing issues, pain, and discomfort in her chest. The rest of us appear to have been asymptomatic if our tests were accurate, although I have my doubts about that. The blessing is that all of us are well now. Lisa is doing great, and none of us have any residual issues or side effects. The same goes for our son Joseph, who works with us here.

Joseph and Zulema are expecting their third child. Because theirs is a high-risk pregnancy, they have a C-section scheduled for September 8th. We are looking forward to their little addition to the family. Please pray for them that everything will go smoothly. Also be in prayer for Julianne, our daughter who lives in Florida, who is expecting her fifth child in late September or early October. When these two children are born, Lisa and I will have ten grandchildren. What a joy!

James and Ann and their two little ones are doing well. God was very gracious to them with His presence during this time of trials. A complicated pregnancy with extended hospitalization ended in little Jimmy’s premature birth, requiring him to be hospitalized for about two months. Some churches canceled as well due to COVID restrictions. Please pray for God to fill their schedule again and for God’s continued protection, provision, and guidance for their precious family on the deputation road.

Our Marine, Judson, was recently promoted. He is now a corporal, having just completed Embassy Security training, and is waiting for his first deployment overseas. Jared is doing great in the Air Force in Florida.

Prayers and Thanks

We have enjoyed hearing from many of you as you have written and called to inquire about our well-being and the well-being of the ministry here in Peru during these crazy months. Thank you to all of you who remember us in your prayers and who support us in our work.

Blessings,

Signature

Bro. Joe & Lisa
Joy, John, Joel, Jessica, and Jennifer

May – June 2020

Dear Friends and Family,

Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High. 3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. 4 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. 5 Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul. Psalms 56:2-6

These last two months have been incredibly challenging for all of us.  We have been under these very rigid restrictions that have finally loosened up a bit now in July.  We are looking forward to when we can meet in church again.

(Need to print this letter? Click here to download a PDF!)

As the Psalmist above declared his trust in the LORD, we also declare our trust in God.  Though our enemies may be different, the need to trust God in all things and at all times remains the same for the child of God.  God has NEVER failed us and never will.  This does not mean that the outcomes will be to our liking all the time.  Our goal and desire with our lives is to react in faith and trust so that God will be glorified in and through our lives and that others will see Christ in us- the Hope of Glory!

Ministry News

We are still under meeting restrictions.  We cannot open church up and it looks like we will not be able to do so for some time yet.  The government still has decided not to allow the schools to open again until next year.  Our teachers are teaching via video but that is not very optimal for our deaf students. We are praying for God’s leading in this area as we are seeing many changes that will greatly affect us. 

We continue to preach on-line.  We have conferences, services for Deaf and hearing on Sundays and Wednesdays.  We also have on-line programs for young people and children.  We continue to do all we can to be flexible and creative in these unusual times. 

Several of our church family have been affected with deaths related to COVID. We do all we can to comfort, but not being able to have funeral services is very limiting in this.  I have done funeral services on-line, but it is not the same. 

We have also continued to feed hundreds of people who have little or nothing on Thursdays for our church people and Fridays for the public.  We would like to thank all those who have given to help us buy the food.  We give them a tract and use a megaphone to preach to the people in line waiting for the food.  We will continue to do this as God provides.

We continue to be blessed by seeing souls saved and ones ready for baptism during these times as well.

We are all using masks in Efata.  Several health officials came to give anyone here who wants one a test to see if there are more people who are positive, and a total of seven people tested positive for the virus. Unfortunately, we will have to suspend the food program for a few weeks until this all works out.

Family News

Lisa tested positive for coronavirus almost two weeks ago. Fortunately, it was caught early, and Lisa is dealing with it well. She is taking various medications to help her with the virus.  She has a lot of headaches, a sore throat and tiredness. She has asthma, so she must be careful and is under a doctor’s supervision. A week or so later, I tested positive as did John and Joel. We are staying in the house to keep away from everybody except for me going to my office which is isolated as well. So far, I have not had any symptoms or issues, nor have most of the kids. John had what appeared to be a cold and cough, but it went away.  The rest of the kids are showing no issues whatsoever even though we are all in the house together. We were detected fairly early in stage one so, so far, so good, the Lord being gracious to us.

Joseph also tested positive, and he will have to be very careful as Zulema, his wife has been going through a difficult pregnancy. We do not want her to get the virus.

Our Thanks

Please continue to pray for our family and the ministry here in Peru.  You are our spiritual support and we love you for it.  Thank you for uniting with us in prayer and support during these uniquely challenging times.  We are praying for you as well.  We are keenly aware that you all are experiencing challenges as well and do not take for granted the incredible sacrifices that are being made by all of you to keep supporting your missionaries.

Blessings,

Signature

Bro. Joe & Lisa,
Joy, John, Joel, Jessica, and Jennifer

March – April 2020

Dear Friends and Family,

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? – Esther 4:14

These weeks have been unique for all of us around the world – a once in a lifetime event.  The blessing is that God truly is in control and I believe He has a plan for all of us during this time as he did for Esther in her time.

I want to say that you and I are here for “such a time as this.”  We are the ones that God has chosen to have the privilege of serving Him in these unique days.  It is not Paul’s time. It is not Peter’s time, It is not Roger Williams’ time. It is not Whitefield’s time. It is not Spurgeon’s time. It is not Bob Jones’ time. It is not Lester Roloff’s time.  It is not Lee Roberson’s time.  It not Richard Riley’s time.  IT IS OUR TIME.  It is for us to serve our God and do his will TODAY.  For tomorrow belongs to the Lord and our children.

We as God’s servants need to look forward to the opportunities that God is presenting us in our unique time, not looking back in nostalgia but looking forward in expectation as to how God will use us today.

What exciting times to be a Christian and see God work!!!

Ministry News

As you know, like many other missionaries around the world, we are in a state of emergency quarantine.  For us here in Peru, it is akin to martial law.  Our movement are very restricted under penalty of arrest and massive fines. Only one person in a family can go out during certain hours of the day to go to the store to buy food.  As an example, my son and missionary Joseph went to the store to buy food and a pair of shoes for his son JJ’s as his shoes were torn and worn.  They would not let him buy the shoes.

They have extended the quarantine to at least May 10th and they will probably extend it further.  There are some days were no one can go out at all.

There are some special permissions for those who are involved in providing food supplies for the elderly or others.  We have two of our pastors who have this special permission and thus they are allowed to go out in our vehicles to the food bank program and get donations which we then add to what we purchase for our church people and others who are needy and once or twice a week we are able to provide food for over 75 families on a weekly basis.  When we hear of a special case, we put together care bags of food and take it to families in need.  We are thankful for the sacrifices of some in the States who, in the midst of their own needs, like the Philippians, have abounded to ours by providing funds for us to purchase needed food for others.

Our school is shut down and we are doing virtual teaching to those who we can reach.  We are preaching online which is posted to our church’s Facebook page (Iglesia Bautista Efata).  We are also hosting weeklong virtual Bible Conferences for both the Deaf and hearing in the month of May.    We went virtual for our Bible College and also our Bible Institute, as well as a children’s program.

We have had as of now seven Deaf people saved through the virtual out reaches and some hearing.  One hearing lady was saved at our front door when Lisa was distributing food.

Several of the families of our deaf children have been greatly affected with family members struck with the virus.  One deaf young man, Eddie, lost his mother last year and recently lost his father to a medical condition. Because of the lockdown, he is all alone.  One of our Deaf pastors, Frank while talking with him via WhatsApp, was able to comfort him and inquire about his salvation as he was a student contemporary with Frank when they were younger here at Efata.  Eddie said he was not sure, and Pastor Frank was able to guide him to the Lord in Salvation. We rejoice that not only are we able to meet his physical needs by way of food, but we are able to meet his spiritual and emotional needs through the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Family News

Our family is safe and doing well.  We are thankful to the Lord for the safe birth of our eighth grandchild, James Raymond Kotvas who was born to James and Ann after a difficult pregnancy. They are doing well.  Please pray for our Daughter-in-law, Joseph’s wife Zulema. She is having an exceedingly difficult time with her pregnancy health wise.  This will be their third child.  Julianne is also expecting number five, so please continue to pray for her also. When these two are born, that will make 10 grandkids – What a blessed heritage!

At Efata, we have added a donkey and two goats to the Efata family here from a petting zoo that was closed due to the virus.  They add some spice to the complex.  John is enjoying his new “charges”. It is a great addition to all the birds, rabbits, dogs, ducks, chickens and fish that add some beauty and life to our complex.  The Deaf and staff children who live here LOVE to feed and watch them.  How many kids in America living in a big city can say they have all those animals to enjoy and learn about?  We are blessed.

Our Thanks

Thank you once again for everything you do for us in your prayers and support.  We do not take for granted that many of you are making sacrifices during these days to be able to maintain your support for the work of the Lord here in Peru.  We also are assured that those who have not been able, due to the financial hardships, are still lifting us up in prayer.  We love all of you!

Blessings,

March 2020 Update [Video]

TRANSCRIPT:

Greetings from Lima, Peru, South America. I’m Joe Kotvas. My wife Lisa and I are your missionaries here in Lima, Peru, South America.

 I want to give you an update on what’s going on with the coronavirus situation and how it is impacting our ministry. As you know we have a large ministry to the Deaf and the hearing here in Lima Peru and beyond. This country is in a shutdown, like many other countries. The shutdown here has been pretty abrupt and pretty strong. It’s been a martial law type of shutdown. There have been at the time of this recording 480 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 9 fatalities, and the president is looking at extending the martial law, this quarantine, until possibly the 12th of April; he will make that decision later on this afternoon.

The fact of the matter is, during this time nobody can go out and we cannot have church services; obviously we cannot go out on visitation or visit anybody. Only one person in the family can go out during the day to the stores or to the bank. If anyone goes beyond that they will be arrested. and thousands of people have been arrested. After 8 o’clock at night it’s a full curfew and you can’t go out. Nobody can go out. There is no public transportation and private vehicle are prohibited from being on the roadways during the entire time. Only select taxis can drive, and that’s going to a market and back or to a hospital and back.

We are obeying the laws and obeying what the mandates of the president are. And what we’re doing in response to that is, I’m not much of a social media person, but we’ve learned how to put our media live streaming on Facebook, so on Sunday morning we have a service for the Deaf and a service for the hearing and then on Wednesday for the Deaf and the hearing as well. The Deaf service is in Peruvian Sign Language, and of course the hearing service is in Spanish.

So, nobody in Efata Ministries has been affected directly with the coronavirus. We’re doing our best, even on the complex where multiple families live, maintaining social distancing and being careful so that nobody can contract the virus here in our complex.

Pray for us, and pray for this ministry and all the ministries of our Macedonia missionaries all around the world and other missionaries who are serving God and preaching the Gospel. There are many others who are in situations very similar to ours and some are even in more critical situations because they can’t even get to the bank to get their support out so that they can buy the needed supplies that they need.

We’re just asking churches, my supporting churches especially and the churches that support our missionaries: Please be faithful as best you can to continue supporting your missionaries. Though we cannot go out and knock on doors, we still have to live and we still have to provide novel means of getting the Gospel out. Not only are we doing that in a spiritual context of Facebooking and social media contacts, but we are also doing the social aspect of the ministry by providing much-needed food supplies to the Venezuelan refugees and others in our church who have no jobs or no way to generate any income to go out and buy those products. We’re providing flour, sugar, vegetables, rice, and various other things that we can to try to help our people in our churches and those who are without in this time of crisis.

We pray that you will continue partnering with us; we thank you for all that you have done. We’re thankful for our mission board, Macedonia, and I’m very thankful for our home church, Emmanuel Baptist Church in Fort Myers, Florida, for all the support and prayers that you’ve been sending our way, and for the financial support that you guys continue to send so that we can continue to be busy about the Master’s business. He’s in control. He’s got it all in hand. All we need to do is rest in him and fret not. So take Psalm 37 to heart, and know that God is in control as we move forward and serve him.

January – February 2020

Dear Friends and Family,

A Song of degrees. 1I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. 2My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

It has been an unbelievably busy summer for us here at Efata. We have had several camps and conferences as well as a great deal of work to get ready for the new school year. As the verse above teaches us, our help comes from God and we greatly depend on His guidance and care to keep moving forward in His ministry.

(Need to print this letter? Click here to download a PDF!)

Ministry News

During my annual visit to the VA doctor, I was able to visit a few of my supporting churches and give a report on the ministry. In addition, I was able to meet in person my new Pastor—Pastor Bob Ossewaarde—of my home church—Emmanuel Baptist Church in Fort Myers, FL. It was such a blessing to get to know him.

In February we had camps for the hearing and the Deaf. Both camps were outstanding with many saved and rededicated to the Lord. We are still seeing fruit from these camps.

Fires of Evangelism

We also hosted a Fires of Evangelism conference and a Youth Conference at the same time here at Efata. What a blessing that was. Over 150 people made professions out on visitation and in the conferences itself. At least 19 adults and 59 young people surrendered for full time Christian service. The youth conference was administered by the missionaries of Team Peru from First Baptist Church of Hammond. It is so nice to have a strong friendship and ministry environment with other missionaries of like faith. We averaged 600 people in the evening services with the largest service being 636 people. There were over 300 during the daytime sessions and at least 45 pastors came to the conference.

The day after the conferences I went to preach a Professional Christian Men’s retreat at camp for two days. It was a blessing to help these business and career minded servants with the Word of God and Biblical principles for their professional and career lives.

Regarding the tax situation with the municipality, we were able to finally get a meeting with the Asst. Mayor and the Fiscal staff regarding our tax situation. They seem to want to help us but there is an interdepartmental problem that is hindering a solution. We continue to work on this and will keep you informed. Thus, please continue to pray for this situation.

Our mission church in Tablada just celebrated its seventh anniversary. The place was full. I enjoyed preaching for them. Pray as they continue to look for a new larger place to meet. They are at full capacity.

We have so much coming up in the next few months, with Efata Baptist Church’s anniversary, the school’s 50th anniversary, and much more.

We have a great deal of work and infrastructure repairs to do. Please pray for God’s continued provision. One major project we were able to see done was the installation of a roof over our soccer court which you can see in the picture. This has been a desire and goal of mine for over 10 years. It will now allow us to continue to have conferences and eventually build a larger auditorium for services as the Lord provides. We fill up our current auditorium every Sunday which can hold about 300.

Our Bible institute and Bible College is scheduled to start up again at the end of March. We will have a few more students in the college and about the same in the hearing institute. We hope to have our Deaf Bible Institute going on as well.

As of Sunday night, Peru was declared to be in a state of emergency with curfew and quarantine. We are only allowed to leave the house to visit the grocery store, bank, pharmacy or hospital. Almost everything else is shut down. The borders are closed, as well as all airports and bus terminals. People have been ordered to stay inside for 15 days. Please pray for our deaf and hearing families as they seek to cope physically, emotionally and spiritually. Currently, 145 people have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, with no deaths. They are trying to reduce the spread of infection. All church services and all classes have been suspended.

Family News

While in the States I was able to visit James and Ann in Wisconsin. Ann was in the hospital for several weeks due to early labor at 25 weeks. Thank the Lord she and the baby are doing fine. Now at 34 weeks, the doctors attending her have all but said that it was a miracle that she has not prematurely delivered yet. They look forward to continuing deputation after the baby is born. As he focuses on his primary ministry, his family, he is helping as he can at his home church and preaching in meetings close by. Please continue to pray for them for health and provision.

All three of our married children are expecting, Joseph and Zulema (#3), Julianne and Frank (#5), and James and Ann (#2).

Jared and Judson are serving their country in their respective services. They are faithful to the Lord. Joy will be graduating soon and preparing for college. John, Joel, Jessica and Jennifer are getting back into their school routine. (As is Lisa!)

We are thankful for your faithful support. We covet your prayers for our family and ministry. We are praying for you as well.

Blessings,


October – December 2019

Dear Friends and Family,

Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!Psalms 107:21

As the year comes to a close, we have so much to be thankful for and rejoice in.  It has been an exceptional year in ministry.  I am often amazed at God’s working in lives and His wonderful care for us as His children.   I am so glad that He is in control.

(Need to print this letter? Click here to download a PDF!)

Ministry News

In October, we had a group from Liberty Baptist Church in Holly Ridge, NC come down on a missions trip, and they were such a great blessing.  There were some professional electricians in the group who were able to do some very important electrical work throughout the complex that we have wanted to do for several years.  They also helped with a new parking area and were just a tremendous encouragement to us all.

In November, we had our annual Bible conference. Jon Barr, President of Silent Word Ministries, and Allen Snare, one of the missionaries with Silent Word, were our guest speakers. The conference was a blessing especially to our deaf and interpreters through the preaching and workshops.  Several Deaf and hearing were saved, and our people were greatly encouraged.

A week later, we celebrated thanksgiving with our ministry family here at Efata.  This is not a Peruvian holiday, but it is an Efata holiday that is one of the most important times of the year; a time where we can give thanks to God for his manifold blessings on us and this ministry.

The very same night after our thanksgiving dinner, our pastoral staff and primary leaders traveled to the city of Arequipa where we were able to get away for a few days of planning and rest.  I was able to preach in two churches and in a family seminar as well.  Several of our other pastors were used in other churches in Arequipa.

Almost every Sunday these past months we have had people saved and baptized.  We have had several funerals for Deaf and hearing family and friends of our church members. We celebrated several weddings as well. This week we were able to lead to the Lord the husband of a new Christian lady in our church, and then on Christmas Eve a lady accepted Christ. Her family’s home was destroyed, and we have had the opportunity to minister to their physical needs as well as spiritually.  Through your generosity we were able to be a channel of blessing to them. She came and said to Lisa, “I really want to give my life to God now will you help me. I am ready now.”  This was a great answer to prayer. Please pray for the rest of Jimena’s family to come to Christ.

We are getting ready for our summer here, and we had two graduate our special high school program and six graduate from the elementary school. We need more teachers next year. Please pray for this need and for God to send us the students He would have us to reach.   

We thank those of you who sent gifts for Christmas to make it special for our deaf children and our family. One of the most incredible activities that we hosted this Christmas was a meal for the displaced Venezuelan families who live in our area.  We had over 300 show up and gave nice gifts to all the children who came.  We preached the Gospel to them and many prayed to trust Christ as Saviour.  Please pray for the follow-up.

Relating to our issues with the municipality regarding the tax situation, we have enlisted the service of a good Christian lawyer and he is helping us with this issue.  Pray for God’s provision to pay the lawyer and God’s intervention in this matter.  We are seeing some hints of light at the end of that very dark tunnel.

Family News

We thank the Lord for His protection and care for Joseph and James and their families as they travel to raise their mission support. Please continue to pray safety, strength, and provision for them, and for James’ wife Ann’s health in her pregnancy. She is due in April.  Jared and Judson are doing well in their respective branches of the military. Joy is working hard to finish school and preparing to go on to college.  The younger four are all well. 

Joseph, Julianne, James and their families, along with Jared and Judson, were able to spend Thanksgiving with Lisa’s mom in Jacksonville.  Joseph’s family, Jared, and Judson were able to spend Christmas with Julianne and Frank in South Florida.  All were able to visit with my father in Tampa during these days as well.  We were able to “Glide”, “Duo” and “Facetime”. J The video communication helps to mitigate the absence of the kids and grandkids here at home in Peru.

Blessings,