Don't tell people how to do things, help them discover what to do and let them surprise you with their results (George S. Patton)
Mario and Iris Morales started the House of Hope - Proyectos de Esperanza in 2005 in the beautiful and diverse country of Bolivia in order to offer an integral mission cooperation to the Bolivian Baptist Union and the Baptist Seminary of Cochabamba.
Up until July 28, 2010 when Iris went to be with the Lord after a long battle with cancer, they work together to equip future leaders by enabling young people to discover God’s will for their lives and ministry as well as for local churches and society.
Now Mario defines the scope of his ministry as a new journey: “to equip, nurture and empower leaders in the church in order to do it´s Mission” He feels that through his own experiences of having a deep commitment to the Lord and obtaining an education, he can continue preparing future leaders in Bolivia to impact the world.
A MISSIONARY JOURNEY WITH CANCER
THE LORD JESUSCHRIST IS MY HOPE: “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps life moving, you lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees hope in every difficulty.” (Winston Churchill) It may be easier to give up to life and to my ministry now that I have cancer but I know that the one who has called me will also sustain me even as I fight it. I am strong I continue my ministry because He is walking with me! (Joshua 1:9)
DIAGNOSIS: In June 2007 I was diagnosed with Hürthle cell carcinoma of the thyroid. The average age-adjusted annual incidence for thyroid cancer is less than 40 cases per 1 million people. Among thyroid neoplasms, Hürthle cell carcinomas account for about 3-10% of these cancers.
ACTION TAKEN: Due to the need for treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston Texas, we have made arrangements with our Bolivian Partners and BIM to continue with our missionary ministry even as we stay both in USA and in Bolivia.
During this time of tribulation a great awakening is taking place among Bolivian leaders who we train at the House of Hope, when they discovered that if ministry was to continue it was up to them to take charge and apply their leadership skills as they were instructed.
The results are amazing, 100% of the people that we invested in as missionaries are now doing ministry and working alongside of us even as we go back and forth to USA for treatments. These are the ministries we continue to work with at the House of Hope in partnership with the Bolivian Baptist Union.
In the last fifteen months MD Anderson Doctors identified CA metastasis in my brain and lungs. The approach to deal with this aggressive invasion was to use gamma knife brain surgery at the end of 2009 and a great dose of staying positive and focus in the promises of The Lord as well as continue our ministry without giving up. The results were very encouraging during the interventions they destroyed 99% of the brain tumors. On the other hand they started me with chemotherapy to fight lung cancer with the drug sorafenib.
As a multitargeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor, the investigators postulate that sorafenib might have value in the treatment of differentiated thyroid cancer. In vitro studies showed decreased radioiodine uptake after treatment with sorafenib.
In early March 2010, the last visit to MD Anderson, exams showed that all brain tumors were gone. However that the long tumors were not responding well and that a dose increase was necessary to fight them.
An upcoming visit to MD Anderson CA center will take place in June 2010 and we shall keep you informed of the results. In the mean time we ask your prayers and support as we continue our mission journey with cancer.
SERVANT OF GOD - FRIEND OF ALL OCT. 5, 1961 - JULY 28, 2010
VALLEY FORGE, PA ( 7/29/10)
—It is with a heavy heart that International Ministries announces the passing of beloved missionary Rosa Iris Morales on Wednesday, July 28, 2010. Iris courageously battled cancer since 2007 and died peacefully surrounded by family and friends in MD Anderson hospital in Houston Texas. Iris will be deeply missed by her husband, Mario, and their two sons, Seth Benjamin, age 17, and Mario Joshua, age 22, as well as by IM missionaries, IM staff and her friends and colleagues in Bolivia.
A native of El Salvador, Iris came to the U.S. in high school to escape the political instability of her home country. She met Mario a few years later and they married in 1985. She said, “As I go back in my memory through the years we have worked in South California, I realize that I have already been a local missionary.” Iris spent several years teaching and was recognized as “Teacher of the Year” in 1998 by the Parent Institute for Quality Education in California. A colleague noted Iris’ sense of humor – an important quality when working with children.
Iris and Mario were commissioned as American Baptist International Ministries missionaries to Bolivia in 1999. They served God at the Baptist Seminary of Cochabamba where Iris taught classes in Psychology. Together, Mario and Iris trained future Bolivian leaders by enabling these young believers to discover God’s will for their lives and ministry, as well as for the churches and society of Bolivia.
The House of Hope is a multi-faceted ministry in Cochabamba that serves the needs of women, children, pastors and families. It was especially near and dear to Iris with programs that help women find jobs, a school of music and art, a food ministry and a carpentry shop ministry. The House of Hope reaches up into the Andean Mountain to the Quechua communities, and down into the urban areas. Medical teams bring medical and dental services, soy milk and medications, baby baths, vacation Bible schools and even some adult education programs. It was Iris’ great joy to visit this program every time she went back to Bolivia, and celebrate with them when children accepted the Lord as their personal savior.
Iris is remembered by American Baptist Women for her outstanding presentation at the national women’s conference in 2003. She shared about a new ministry in the prisons of Cochabamba. In that culture, when women were sentenced to prison, their young children went with them. Iris was involved in a ministry of outreach to these children that provided weekly baths and clean clothing, toys and stories, some schooling and hot meals. The passion in Iris’ voice and her photos, helped many women realize that being a missionary is something all of us can do. Iris urged each one to do whatever she could to be the hands and feet of God in her own community.
In 2006, the Xtreme team went to Bolivia. During this trip, Iris discovered a growing lump in her throat. Despite the fear and discomfort, Iris helped the group through several challenges, including lost luggage for five days, a burglary, and a bankrupt airline, until Mario joined them. Iris and the Xtreme team washed babies in a garbage dump, participated in the ministry outreach to children of women in prison, and shined shoes with the street children. Through Iris' ministries and passion for social justice, the Xtreme team was able to see, feel, and be the hands and feet of Jesus in Bolivia.
When the family discovered Iris had cancer of the thyroid in 2007, they made the difficult decision to return to the United States for treatment in Texas. One of the side effects of the radiation, was that Iris’s voice became very soft and raspy. She was no longer able to enjoy one of her favorite activities – singing. The whole Morales family had been involved in worship and music at their church in Bolivia. Iris' favorite hymn was "Great is Thy Faithfulness.” On special occasions she would play the guitar or lead a children’s choir.
By the spring of 2008, the doctors discovered spots on Iris’ lungs and operated to remove several new tumors in her neck and brain. Iris was optimistic and in good spirits as she reflected God’s presence in their lives. In August of 2008 while undergoing cancer treatment here in the states, Iris and Mario took on the added role of Missionaries on Special Assignment as Recruitment Associates. In this role, Iris, along with Mario, ministered to missionary candidates in the discernment process to help candidates identify their call to cross-cultural ministry.
One of Iris’ dreams, was that her family be united in the Christian faith. Mario Jr., pastors a church in Orange County, Ca, the same church that his father pastored before becoming a missionary. Mario Jr. will begin studying at Fuller Seminary in August. His younger brother Benjamin, will begin his university studies this fall in Arizona.
Area Director, Rev. Dr. Jose Norat-Rodriguez, flew to Houston on July 21 to be with the family. He reported that, “Facing this cruel illness, her testimony of faith has been powerful and effective. Her mother, sister and brother-in-law arrived at the hospital and this emotional meeting was peaceful, and filled with the certainty that God always welcomes us into His presence in life or in death." Throughout her final days, Mario lovingly referred to his wife as “my Queen.” There are two scriptures that have been particularly meaningful to Iris:
"I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
Executive Director for International Ministries, Rev. Dr. Reid Trulson said, “Iris indeed exhibited remarkable strength and courage in what she called her 'journey with cancer.' She continued to faithfully and passionately fulfill the ministry to which Christ Jesus had called her. Hers was a confident demonstration that cancer had not overcome God's love and the Spirit's peace. She has finished the course with power and grace. We thank God for the ways that she touched our lives and praise God for the fullness of joy that now is hers.”
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.