Posted 12 November 2019

For Phil and Sandy Jones …

2018 was shaping up to be a year of seeing wonderful expectations fulfilled and God’s plans for their ministry in RenovArte Café progressed and realised. They felt God’s great commissioning over their lives in Querétaro, Mexico to faithfully and energetically add fruit to the eternal harvest for God’s kingdom.

The words of Matthew 28:16-20 had Phil and Sandy biting at the bit with big plans. In this passage, Jesus says to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Cheeky last photo of Sandy and Phil poking their tongues out before Sandy's surgery
Cheeky last photo before surgery

But before the year was yet a month old, Sandy experienced pain behind her jaw and found a lump under her tongue. A week or two later, after doctor visits and several tests, Sandy received the unexpected diagnosis of cancer.

That day, Phil and Sandy poured out their hearts to God. They acknowledged the gravity of the news, but they also felt assured that the God they’d trusted before the diagnosis was the same God who loved them now.

They believed in God’s plan …

for their lives and ministry. They decided they’d walk this trial, no matter what burdens it brought, with their heavenly Father.

Phil says, “I’ve always had goals in mind I want to achieve and ministry I’ve set out to accomplish, but I’ve also always wanted to be a good husband and father. To do both has been a tussle, but one that I think I mostly managed to balance. Then, with Sandy’s illness, I started to feel worried we could no longer fulfil the duties of our ministry or follow through intentionally with things we knew God had so clearly placed in our hearts.”

Praise God that he showed Phil and Sandy purpose in their trial. Pray for them as they continue to share God's love with those they come alongside.

As Sandy endured surgery to remove a significant portion of her tongue, followed by rounds of chemo- and radiotherapy, Phil felt pressure build. He tried his best to balance the burdens of attending appointments and caring for his family with the ongoing demands of the café.

Sandy didn’t know if she’d ever be able to talk again. She suffered increasingly with the side effects of treatment. Blisters in her mouth and throat made it impossible to eat. Painful sores on her neck made it difficult to merely rest without discomfort. Eventually, she could no longer tolerate even a sip of liquid.

Phil watched Sandy deteriorate …

unable to eat or drink. She sank alarmingly low under the suffocating weight of her illness. He remembers the awful night when Sandy looked into his eyes and whispered that she couldn’t do it anymore.

“As a husband, I felt powerless. I sat next to Sandy, but there was no more medicine I could bring to her, no more treatment to fix anything. I had nothing within myself to help her get better. Our only hope was to cry out to God. The only thing we could do was pray.

“Lord,” Sandy prayed, “I trust you. You’ve given me tools to use of medicine and treatment, but I need you to do the rest.”

Romi, Sandy, Phil and Josh
Romi, Sandy, Phil and Josh

God reminded Phil and Sandy of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians in which Paul describes the suffering he endured when on his third missionary journey into the province of Asia. “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope …” (1 Corinthians 1:8-10). These words held infinitely more meaning now for Phil and Sandy. They earnestly prayed God would help them endure.

The shop front of RenoArte Cafe

The next morning …

Sandy woke with energy she hadn’t felt since treatment started. She got herself out of bed and managed to drink half a glass of water. She made breakfast for everyone and accompanied Phil on an outing to get supplies for the café. This small resemblance of ordinary family life was a blessing beyond measure for Phil, Sandy, Romi and Josh; perfectly orchestrated by God when they needed it most.

There were many more difficult days to bear and painful conversations to have. What if God chose to take Sandy from them through this illness? But it was now a journey in which the family saw Matthew 28:18 come to life. Jesus says, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. Now, Phil and Sandy know more what it truly means to live and rely on it.

Phil’s time ministering to customers in RenovArte Café was limited, but in waiting rooms, he and Sandy shared God’s comfort with others journeying the diagnosis of cancer for their loved ones. They’d once seen Sandy’s illness as an obstruction hindering their ability to lead well. But their Christian community witnessed the couple’s faith-filled hope in God, despite their uncertainty, and learned more about the depth to which they, too, could trust their lives to him.

Pray that those who visit RenovArte Cafe will experience the love of Jesus through its staff and programmes

Non-Christian friends saw the tangible ways God was present in the family’s life. Their desire to live with the same hope gave them confidence to be vulnerable about their own struggles. God has given Phil and Sandy opportunities to walk alongside friends through marriage difficulties, health problems and family issues.

Phil and Sandy humbly and joyfully reflect Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

Praise God for Sandy's recovery after surgery and pray for God's healing upon other ongoing health issues

“Sometimes,” says Phil, “we can be a bit like a lake. Comfort flows into our lives from God like a life-giving, restoring river, but we store it up and don’t let it flow on. Now God was showing us how to be refreshed and sustained by his comfort, but also to let the river keep flowing over us and on from us. Our encounter with Christ is what invites others into a life with Christ most effectively.”

Phil and Sandy understand RenovArte Café’s eternal objective with greater clarity than they did before Sandy’s diagnosis. Although its purpose as a disciple-making initiative and a haven in which to share Christ was already wonderfully established, now the café’s intention to offer “A cup of hope in the name of Jesus” has an even deeper connection to Phil and Sandy’s desire to live as disciples themselves.

They now see that life and ministry in the café is not about what they do. Instead, they recognise that their great commission is a natural extension of their new identity connected to Jesus, saved by his grace. They desire to follow Jesus by stepping out of the boat like Peter did; to walk on water faithfully in Jesus’ strength and not their own. The fruit they produce as disciples, through the café or otherwise, is all for the Father’s glory.

To learn more about Phil and Sandy Jones or to partner with them financially or in prayer, visit www.iteams.org.aujonesps

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