14 Jan

A New Year

January 2017 Prayer Letter

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Joseph and Zulema Kotvas, Missionaries to the Deaf in Peru, South America

It’s a new year – time to reflect on what has gone before and look to the future for what God has in store.  Zulema and I are so thankful for all the Lord’s blessings throughout 2016 and for what he is doing today.

Our Family

My Beautiful Family

Our Beautiful Family

2016

Joseph James was born December 18, 2015, and we’ve watched him blossom throughout the past year.  He began walking shortly before his first birthday.
He is saying more and more words, using a mixed vocabulary of English, Spanish, and Sign Language!

There’s nobody cuter.  Even at his young age, he’s showing a fiercely independent spirit. We’ve got our work cut out for us!

2017

Lord willing, within two months I will receive my Peruvian citizenship and passport!  As a dual citizen, I will be able to come and go as needed inside and outside of Peru.

Please pray that the process will go smoothly.  Once my papers are done, I will also be able to vote and contribute to Peruvian politics. Next project: Zulema’s US citizenship!

Efata Christian School

Some of my 5th Grade Class

Some of my 5th Grade Class

2016

Last year I taught six deaf students in the fifth grade. It was a unique group, several had learning disabilities or recurring health issues, and two of the others were new to Efata, with a great deal of catching up to do.

The class did well, but they will need some more work before moving on to sixth grade. I will have them again this year. Two of my students made professions of faith and were baptized last year.

2017

This school year will begin in March.  Lord willing, I will have my students from last year, along with four more coming up from fourth grade.  I’m excited to try some new methods for teaching language; I want my students to be successful.

Pray for salvations and for spiritual growth. Also, please pray that the Lord will send us more teachers and provide for their salaries.

Efata Baptist Church

Lives changed at our Bible Conference

Lives changed at our Bible Conference

2016

2016 was a good year of for our church, with several challenging missions and Bible conferences. We held separate deaf and hearing Bible conferences, and the deaf Bible conference with Lee Johnson and Ray Bradley had a great impact on our people.

Our attendance has held steady and many souls have been saved and baptized.  We’re looking forward to what God will do this year!

2017

Our first major activities this year are the deaf camp and youth camp. Deaf camp begins January 31! We haven’t held a deaf camp for years, and we’re praying that this one will encourage, strengthen and challenge our people to serve him.

The theme for camp this year is “Clean Hands and Pure Hearts.” We want our people to grasp the importance of personal sanctification.

The El Agustino Mission

The El Agustino Mission Work

The El Agustino Mission Work

2016

Our ministry in El Agustino has been a great encouragement to me this year, with six professions of faith and three decisions to get right with the Lord.

The attendance every Thursday runs between 25-30 deaf people, and a few of them have begun coming to Sunday services at Efata as well. It’s a joy to see these people grow spiritually and learn God’s Word, many for the first time.

2017

This year we hope to continue to reach out to the deaf in the El Agustino and surrounding area, and also disciple and grow those who have been saved.

Several have been baptized, but others are not ready to take that step. Pray that I would have wisdom as I teach and counsel, and that the people would continue to respond to God’s Word. It is God’s Word that will make a difference in their lives.

Thank you for your prayers and faithful support! God bless.

Joseph, Zulema & JJ, Your missionaries to the Deaf in Peru, South America

joseph@reachandteach.org | (904) 335-8563
1819 Hill Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33901

10 Jun

Back in Touch!

The Mission in El Agustino

Dear friends,

Thank you for reading this letter, and for praying for our family.  There is nothing more important to our success than prayers of the saints.  I truly believe I would not still be on the mission field today if it were not for your prayers.

Joseph James Kotvas

Joseph James Kotvas

I want to take a moment in this letter to reconnect with you and apologize for the lack of communication. We haven’t sent out any prayer letters since before our son, Joseph James was born in December! And that’s just not right.

There’s been a lot going on, between being a new parent, preparing and starting the new school year at Efata School for the Deaf, and working in ministry at Efata Baptist Church as well as leading a mission service for the deaf in El Agustino, another area of the city.  I’ve been busy, and we’ve seen much fruit.

Still, You deserve to hear from us more often, and from now on, you will.  I’ll be printing and mailing prayer letters bi-monthly, and sending out email updates weekly.

For now, here are a few praises and prayer requests I’d like to share.

The Mission in El Agustino

The Mission in El Agustino

1. The ministry in El Agustino is growing! We’ve had a constant flow of visitors, and several professions of faith. This week we had 34 in attendance – the most we’ve ever had attend a regular meeting.
2. Our son JJ is five and a half months old, and he’s so much fun. I have to say, I think he’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’m biased, but still… 🙂
3. Our Christian School for the Deaf celebrated its 46th anniversary this past week.  Kids and teachers had a blast celebrating with games and contests.  Vernon Miller, the deaf man who founded this ministry in 1970, is rightly remembered as a hero of the faith by the Christian deaf in Peru.
4. We’re starting our yearly missions conference here at Efata next week. Pray that our Deaf and hearing will respond to God’s call to give and go.

Write us back!  It’s an encouragement and a blessing.

God bless,

Joseph and Zulema Kotvas
Missionaries to the Deaf and Hearing in Peru, South America

15 Oct

The Lord´s Work

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Dear friends,

As always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued prayers and support. The intervening months since my last report have taught me many things, the chief of which is that the Lord’s work in my ministry necessarily follows the Lord’s work in my heart. And He’s sure been working! God has me right where God wants me, and I believe that from the depths of my being. Hearing and deaf souls are being saved, and I am growing as a pastor and as a leader.

Ministry Plant in El AgustinoWe launched a new deaf ministry in El Agustino, around 45 minutes from Efata. It´s been a great challenge. Some of those attending have zero biblical knowledge, and others went to church years ago at another location and are just now opening up to the gospel. So far, three Deaf souls have been saved in that ministry. Please pray for the new Christians to grow spiritually and for more souls to be saved.

Joseph & Zulema Kotvas - Expecting!We are preparing a Peruvian Sign Language dictionary. Christians, and the Baptists in particular, have always held the study of language in high esteem. Missionaries throughout history have dedicated long hours to the development of dictionaries and Bible translations. A comprehensive dictionary of Peruvian Sign Language will help the deaf understand what they read, and help those who are trying to reach deaf children and adults communicate more effectively.

We are looking forward to a blessing! Baby Joseph James Kotvas is due to be born in December. Zulema and I are ecstatic! My house is slowly being overtaken by baby clothes and accessories, and we are preparing for parenthood. For the first few months, pregnancy hit Zulema hard. She was practically bedridden for weeks on end! Thankfully the worst of that is behind us now, and we are looking forward to having him in arms.

Please continue to pray for our family and our ministry. God hears your prayers!

God bless,
Joseph and Zulema Kotvas
Missionaries to the Deaf and Hearing in Peru, South America

16 Apr

Serving Expectantly

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Dear friends and family,

Thank you so much for your prayers and support this year. We couldn’t do this ministry without you.

Married CoupleZulema and I were married on January 3 of this year. We’re thankful for God’s precious gift of marriage and family! Our honeymoon was spent in Ecuador and the Galapagos islands. I had the opportunity to visit several different churches in Guayaquil and Porto Viejo, preaching and sharing my testimony.

Everywhere we went, it was refreshing to meet Christians who treated us as brothers and sisters. Many thanks to Pastors Simon Rodriguez, Jonathan Ramirez and Michael Lanchang and their wives and congregations.  An exception was the beautiful Galapagos Islands themselves; there is no Baptist church there. Pray for Ecuadorian Pastor Franco Loyola; his ministry intends to start one this year with the Lord’s help.

VBSBack in Lima in February, I had the opportunity to coordinate a vacation Bible School during four days across two locations. By the end of the week I was able to lead fifteen children to the Lord. Thanks to Mrs. Lily and the young people from Grace Baptist Church in Chiclayo for a wonderful Creationist program.

Towards the end of February, a group from Efata traveled to Chiclayo for the annual Fires of Evangelism conference. Zulema and I traveled with the young people and coordinated interpreting for the Deaf. After one service, I was thrilled to lead one man to the Lord. A grandmother in our church had prayed for years for her son to be saved. Her prayers were answered that evening.

School started in March, and I’ve been teaching three hours a day in the fifth grade classroom with eleven students. They’re a challenging bunch, but I enjoy teaching these deaf children and teens the Bible, science and math every day. One fifteen-year-old student in the class transferred in this year with limited Sign Language. Pray for him to understand the Gospel.

El AugustinoI’m praying about an opportunity to start a new bible study in El Augustino, an area of Lima almost an hour and a half away from Efata. There are so many Deaf there, and no good ministry reaching them. Last week, I spoke with José, a Deaf young man there who had no idea who Adam or Eve were, or what the word “sin” meant. Pray that I can find a good church there with interest in allowing us to use their facilities.

I’ve saved my most personally exciting news for last. This December, a new little Kotvas will be joining our missionary team! Zulema and I are overjoyed to be expecting.

I know some of the churches I visited last year were waiting for me to get established on the field before beginning regular monthly support. If you haven’t already, I would ask that you prayerfully consider financially supporting our family as we serve the Lord here. Again, thank you for your prayers and your support. May God richly bless!

Joseph and Zulema Kotvas
Missionaries to the Deaf and Hearing in Peru, South America

 

29 Dec

Wedding Bells in Peru – Ministry Update

I write this letter from Peru, South America, finally back on the field here, in the ministry God has given me and with the love of my life.

This year has been such a great joy and blessing to me. I have been able to preach in churches across America, presenting the real and pressing need for world evangelism among the Deaf. Thank you so much, each and every one of you who has helped me along the way.

Since I arrived in Peru, I have had multiple opportunities to preach and minister. Several weeks ago, I led a fifteen-year-old deaf boy to the Lord. Paul has been attending our school for a year and a half now, and as his understanding has opened, the Lord has done a work in his heart. There’s nothing like introducing a soul to the Savior!

Joseph & Zulema KotvasIt has been quite the ordeal getting all the paperwork in order for my wedding with Zulema. For a week or so, we even thought we might have to postpone the wedding due to paperwork. Praise God everything worked out! Our civil wedding ceremony and vows, required by law here in Peru, were performed on December 26th. This means Zulema and I are now legally married.

Our church wedding will be as scheduled at 2pm this Saturday, January 3. We invite you to join us online http://www.Efata.org/live on our special day.

There is so much to do here in ministry! When we get back from the honeymoon in January, I will be on the job, serving as pastor for the Deaf at Efata Baptist Church and teaching in the Christian School. I will be working to see our people grow and invest in those who show potential to serve in future ministry.

Please pray for our wedding plans, pray for the ministry here, and pray that God will guide and bless each step of the way.

To the churches which have contacted me with promises of support, thank you so much, from both Zulema and myself. With God’s help, your support enables us to serve and minister here. Thank you for partnering with us to reach the Deaf of Peru.

We do not yet have full support, but are trusting in the Lord to provide for our needs. He’s cared for us all this year, above and beyond what we could ever ask, and we know he will continue to provide.

Have a wonderful New Year holiday, and may God richly bless each and every one of you!

Joseph & Zulema Kotvas,
Reaching the Deaf in Lima, Peru

20 Sep

Projects and Progress – Ministry Update

ReachTheDeaf.com, Debtor to Grace & The Big Box Project

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God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!

That’s the truth, and I’m thankful for His goodness. I pray His blessings on you and yours, and I trust you are following His leading along life’s way.

The Bible says, “I being in the way, the Lord led me.” I’m certainly “in the way” now, traveling from church to church and raising support to head back to Peru on December first. On the way, I’ve been working on a number of projects, and I’d like to share them with you.

ReachTheDeaf.comReachTheDeaf.com – Community Site for Deaf Ministry Leaders

My heart and my ministry focus is the Deaf – ensuring that God’s love is real in the experience and Lives of deaf people around the world. I want to encourage and help those who are pursuing this vision. I love the people in the trenches of Deaf ministry, be they Deaf or hearing themselves.

To this end, my good friend and pastor for the Deaf Cody Holland has collaborated with me to develop and publish a website specifically for ministry leaders. Every week we are publishing articles, quotes, interviews and resources that can be used in practical ministry with the Deaf.

This is exciting! Do you care about reaching the Deaf? Well then why don’t you come on by and join the conversation? It’s happening on ReachTheDeaf.com

CD spread - Debtor to GraceDebtor to Grace – Album  Release

I’ve played the piano since forever, and the joy of sharing truth through music never gets old. Music gives voice to the inner man, communicating joy and sorrow, tears and triumph. This year I recorded a piano solo album celebrating the wonderful Grace of God, and I’m thrilled to share it with you today.

The album Debtor to Grace is now available for purchase on my website, but I’d like to give you one of the tracks for free right now as a personal thank you for your support and encouragement. Your prayers and financial support have, with the Lord’s help, brought me this far, and I appreciate each one of you. You can download the mp3 now at ReachAndTeach.org/thanks

The Big Box ProjectThe Big Box Project

Speaking of prayer and financial support, the Big Box Project is still underway, and going strong! The folks in Jacksonville who have been organizing this project have put forth a herculean effort collecting donations, packing, coordinating shipping logistics, and generally being an amazing blessing.

It’s gonna be a big box! In a few weeks, the itemized list of donations, ranging from thousands of dollars of school supplies to audio and office equipment, church pews, and clothing and uniforms for the children, will be on its way to the customs officials in Peru. We hope to get everything delivered in the next three months or so.

Just a little more than two months to go!

Thank you all so much for your prayers and support. It means a great deal. Before long I’ll be back in Peru, serving the Lord at Efata together with Zulema. I’m looking forward to that day!

Blessings,

Joseph S. Kotvas, your missionary to Peru, South America

20 Jun

June Ministry Update

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HIGHLIGHTS: God is good (all the time)! I’m engaged, and we’re progressing step by step toward raising the support we will need on the mission field. It’s wonderful to minister, see souls saved, and challenge people to serve the Lord.

Dear Friends,

EngagedFirst of all, I have some wonderful news! On Monday evening, the beautiful Zulema Ramirez promised me her hand in marriage! We are excited and looking forward to serving the Lord together in Peru. Our wedding will take place this coming January.

So far I’ve raised around 20-25% of the monthly support we will need when I return to Peru this December. Many thanks to Emmanuel Baptist Church and New Testament Baptist Church in Fort Myers, FL for accepting us into their missionary families last month. Please pray with me that over the next six months we will reach our goal. Lord willing, some of the churches I have already visited will choose to take us on for monthly support. I will continue to visit new churches through the end of the year.

It’s been great to watch God provide. Each time I have had a specific need, God has anticipated and blessed. This applies to needs both great and small. I like to think about the time I found a shoelace just before one of mine broke. Recently my car insurance came due, and that week I received an unexpected love offering which more than covered the bill. God is good!

Last week was Vacation Bible School at Emmanuel Baptist in Florida, and I enjoyed teaching the fifth and sixth grade students. It was a joy to lead several middle schoolers to the Lord. Emmanuel did a great job planning and executing the VBS. It’s great to see church members pitching in and serving together.

I so enjoyed being in Peru on Father’s Day and preaching the afternoon service at our church. My dad is a wonderful father and pastor, and it’s a privilege to be working with him.

This week is our missions conference here at Efata, and we’ve enjoyed some great teaching and preaching thus far. I am speaking at our international banquet on Saturday. Just like churches in the US, Peruvian churches are responsible to reach our world for Christ. This year’s conference theme is, appropriately enough, “Engaged.”  That’s right! Engaged to pray, engaged to prepare, engaged to give and engaged to go. On that note, I hope each and every one of you is also fully and truly engaged.

Sincerely,
Joseph S. Kotvas, your missionary to Peru, South America

Was this update a blessing to you? Want an invitation to the wedding? Respond below! I appreciate your comments.

11 Mar

March Ministry Update

Joseph S Kotvas & Isaías Hernandez

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HIGHLIGHTS: God is working. He’s continually working in my life, and He is working to save souls. As I travel the deputation trail, He is also working to provide for my needs. I can’t thank Him enough for His presence & power.

Dear friends & fellow believers,

I’m so thankful to share with you some highlights from the past several months on the deputation trail. Since my last prayer letter in January, I have had the awesome opportunity to visit a number of wonderful churches and ministries, preach, and present the vision God has given me for reaching the deaf and hearing in Peru, South America. I’ve traveled thousands of miles, and I’ve grown much along the way.

God is good (all the time!), and He has graciously provided for my needs thus far. I am so thankful for the gifts many of you have given to keep me on the road. I know God will bless your faithfulness.

I write this letter from South Florida, having just come from frigid Menominee Falls, WI, where I just spent a week at the Falls Baptist Church “Victory Conference.” What a powerful time of preaching! Just like any Christian, missionaries and pastors need to be challenged from the Word of God, and I was so thankful for the opportunity to be renewed in my spirit.

Let me share some key challenges from the work of God in my heart during this conference:

  • Remember that Christ is all. Abiding in Christ means trusting him for both direction & provision.
  • The friendship & fellowship I share with my Lord is so sweet! How could I allow that relationship to stagnate or weaken, even for a moment?
  • God still does awesome miracles in & through his servants. Hearing fresh reports from missionaries is a thrill beyond description, and provokes tears of joy.

Joseph S Kotvas & Isaías Hernandez

My heart is full as I write this letter, for I’ve had the joy of seeing God’s saving power up close and personal just last week! On Saturday visitation, I went out with my brother James and another Bible college student, and with Francisco Torres, the leader of the Spanish ministry there. We were able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with Isaías Hernández, an immigrant from Mexico.

Mr. Hernandez gladly received the Gospel, and called upon the Lord for his salvation! He is now burdened for his wife and family. I rejoiced to see him attend the Sunday morning service as I preached on unity and love in the church.

Beloved, we serve a great God and Savior. He is just as much at work today as He was 2000 years ago in the early church. The question is, are we surrendered to his work through us?

Sincerely,
Joseph S. Kotvas, your missionary to Peru, South America

Was this update a blessing to you? Care to share a testimony of God’s saving grace? Respond below!

17 Jan

January Ministry Update

HIGHLIGHTS: I’m starting deputation, beginning a courtship relationship, and generally excited for what God is doing and will do through me to fulfill HIS vision to reach this world. If you want to help me make a difference in Peru, give me a call!

It’s a new year, and God sure has a lot in store for us in 2014. Remember, we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to his purpose.  Trust Him with me to do great things through us this year.

Zulema Ramirez

Zulema Ramirez

As I begin deputation, I’m excited to do so with the friendship and encouragement of a lovely young lady named Zulema Ramirez! Zulema is a Peruvian girl who is actively serving and reaching others in our church and studying in our Bible college, and she has a strong Christian testimony. I’ve known Zulema for many years, and over the past few months I’ve been waiting and praying …patiently… for the pieces to fall in place so I could begin this courtship relationship with her. The time has finally come, and it’s neat to reflect on how the Lord is guiding our steps.

For the past year and a half, I’ve been working in Peru as a student missionary, preaching, teaching and serving in Efata Baptist Church. Now it’s time for me to raise the support I’ll need to return to the field on a more permanent basis. I’m in the US now, and I’m actively scheduling meetings with churches. I would love to share the vision God has laid on my heart with your church, so if you’d like me to come by your church, don’t hesitate to email me or call me at (904) 335-8563. I look forward to getting back to the field as soon as possible.

Julianne & Frank

Julianne & Frank

For January and part of February, my entire family is in the states preparing for my sister Julianne’s wedding on February 7th. She is the first of my siblings to be married, and I’m excited for her! Please pray for her and her fiancé, Frank Miller of Southwest Florida. On the 9th, my family flies back to Peru, and I will head north for several weeks.

While I’m here in the States, I have a number of ministry opportunities I’m excited about. I’m excited about preaching and sharing my testimony in local churches, and I’ve enjoyed participating in revival services at Emmanuel Baptist in Fort Myers, visiting and filling in on the piano. There’s been some great preaching this week. May my heart ever remain sensitive to the work of the Spirit of God in my heart under the preaching of His Word!

Kevin Flores

Kevin Flores

Another opportunity has been on my heart for a while. Last year as I taught sixth grade at our school in Lima, the scarcity of solid Biblical teaching for the deaf in the provinces of Peru really came home to me. Kevin, one of my brightest students, was baptized last year, and he has been learning and growing. Toward the end of the year, we realized that due to financial constraints he would probably remain with his family in the city of Ayacucho. While Kevin was in our school, he could attend Efata Baptist Church and be fed spiritually. However, back in Ayacucho, there is currently no church preaching spiritual truth in his language. It’s difficult to see a young Christian go home, knowing that there is NO spiritual support for him there.

Lord willing, one day a local church will preach the gospel to the deaf in Ayacucho. However, the internet gives me a platform so I can preach the Gospel and encourage Peruvian deaf Christians right now! I’m getting ready to record Bible teaching in Peruvian Sign Language and publish the videos online. Pray that God will guide and enable. “How shall they hear without a preacher?”

Know that I am praying for you, and I thank you for your prayers for me. God bless!

Sincerely,
Missionary Joseph S. Kotvas