Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
This morning I read the devotional for today in My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers and it really spoke to me. I thought I would pass it along. If you would like to read the daily devotions online for free you can do so here.
And straightway He constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side. . . ." Mark 6:45-52
We are apt to imagine that if Jesus Christ constrains us, and we obey Him, He will lead us to great success. We must never put our dreams of success as God's purpose for us; His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not. The question of getting to a particular end is a mere incident. What we call the process, God calls the end.
What is my dream of God's purpose? His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay in the middle of the turmoil calm and unperplexed, that is the end of the purpose of God. God is not working towards a particular finish; His end is the process - that I see Him walking on the waves, no shore in sight, no success, no goal, just the absolute certainty that it is all right because I see Him walking on the sea. It is the process, not the end, which is glorifying to God.
God's training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. We have nothing to do with the afterwards of obedience; we get wrong when we think of the afterwards. What men call training and preparation, God calls the end.
God's end is to enable me to see that He can walk on the chaos of my life just now. If we have a further end in view, we do not pay sufficient attention to the immediate present: if we realize that obedience is the end, then each moment as it comes is precious.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
We are back in Virginia for the weekend where I am officiating the wedding of one of my former students and also attending the wedding of my cousin. In addition to seeing many friends at the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, today we had fun running around the old stomping grounds, running into, and surprising some old friends. We surprised our friend Diana, stopped by to see our old house and say hi to our neighbors Bobby, Francis, & Jeromy, and stopped by to see Claudia's best friend from 1st grade, Hayden. At the rehearsal dinner I looked around to see that [after the wedding tomorrow] four of the guys there are married and one has two kids. Does that make me a spiritual grandpa or something? Not sure, but I definitely felt old ... and proud!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
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This morning we had breakfast at 7 a.m. then headed off to Los Guidos where we helped out with their children’s program. They took care of singing and the message, so we just did our skits and dance, played games, made crafts, etc. At the end we threw about 100 balloons off the second floor and the kids went nuts! It was a really fun service! Afterward we did a lot of hanging around before and after lunch because we were supposed to have an afternoon service, but it got moved to 7 p.m. We decided to go ahead and do our souvenir shopping today and tomorrow we are going to go to a volcano and to some hot springs where we can swim. Should be fun! We spent about 2 hours at an area with lots of shops and the team had fun shopping. After that we hit up a Burger King for dinner on the road and drove to a rough, poor area for our final service. It was a tin shack in the side of a hill, and when we descended into it, it was very tiny. We figured they could seat perhaps 40 people. However, they told us that they would have about 200 kids at the service! Believe you me, there is no way that capacity would be allowed in the states, but ... that’s the beauty of other countries! lol! The service started off well. We were interacting with the kids who were hanging all over us and giving us high fives - there was a lot of excitement in the air! The team had made over 100 balloon animals and we were excited about giving them out at the end of the service. When the service started, it was so full that people were standing outside trying to get in. Crazy! After doing a skit, David & Tiffany led some upbeat songs and it was full-on audience participation! This was going to be fun! David then shared his testimony followed by a little game I had prepared to fit in with my lesson. The game went awesome! But, as soon as I started to preach, the crowd started losing control. I constantly had to stop and ask them to please be quiet. It was very hard to talk, so I was cutting stuff out and trying to get through the important parts simply and quickly when all of a sudden, two boys started having a fist fight right in front of me. The pastor’s wife grabbed one boy but the other one was still attacking him. Being the closest one I jumped in and grabbed the boy and pulled him away. He was kicking and clawing even at me, so I had to restrain him. I was waiting for one of the adults from the church to come and help, but they were all the way in the back so Adriana asked Giovanni (who was in the room behind the stage and hadn’t seen the commotion) to come and help. G took the boy from me and carried him out as the boy tried to bite him. At that point the entire place had erupted and Mike said we needed to stop and leave. I calmed everyone down assuring them that the boy was OK and I prayed. I was ready to just leave the ministry stuff with the church and leave because I knew that until we left the children would not disperse and I didn’t want a mob scene, but Mike and the local leaders got the kids organized and we filed them through and straight out of the church with either a balloon or a bracelet. When the kids had left I got word that Giovanni and two other full-grown men were still having to restrain the little boy because he was determined to hurt someone, and had in fact head-butted Ken in his flailing. When I went outside they were really praying for him and it was apparent that it was a demonic attack. After getting the team on the van, Mike said we needed to leave, so we turned the boy over to the pastor and some others and left. It was a somber ride home. This was supposed to be our climactic ministry time, and it seemed to have derailed. But that humbling experience was a powerful realization for us on a lot of levels, and our bus was filled with intense intercession and passionate weeping for a good portion of our ride back to camp. When we arrived we had a group meeting and a good chance to unpack the day, especially the situation we had just been through. It was a powerful experience for sure!
8:45 a.m. Just finished breakfast. All of the kids and Giovanni went down to the river with Lynette at 6 a.m. to go swimming. Over breakfast we were dying laughing as we listened to Giovanni recount his horrifying adventures of jumping off rocks, rope swinging, and crossing the river in the rapids, all while Lynette stood on the rock encouraging them and taking pictures. Or, as G describes it, watching them die as she worked on her suntan. lol! We are about to head out for our morning church service.
12:30 p.m. Just arrived back at camp and everyone is packing up and cleaning their rooms. We had a good service this morning, and it was nice to have Lynette along with us. She is super nice and it’s been nice for both parties to be together these past few days. For her it has been nice to have conversation. She’s all alone out here and speaks no Spanish. She carries her dictionary around to converse with the couple who oversee the property, and to get around at the store, etc. The church we went to was small, but very nice inside with a tile floor, tile ceiling, and even mounted fans (which we sat right under). The service had maybe 50 people there including kids. Apparently this was a special service as their normal service is Sunday nights. We did our stuff, Tiffany shared her testimony, and I preached a message from Hebrews 3. After the message we had a time of altar ministry during which we surrounded the pastor and his wife and the entire church and prayed for them. The Lord gave me a word for the pastor, and Ady also had a word for them. After the service we made balloons and bracelets with the kids, and gave them toys and candy. We also left a bunch of craft supplies and Bibles with the pastor. After lunch we will be loading up and heading back to San Jose.
So after leaving camp we decided it would be worthwhile to go on a riverboat tour about 20 minutes away before going home since it was only $5/person. We loaded onto the boat and the tour took about an hour. Along the ride we saw some beautiful birds. monkeys, poison dart frogs (which the guide caught and brought onto the boat for us to see), bats, a basilisk (lizard that runs on the water), an iguana, and a 4’ crocodile. Of course, our guide got us almost on top of it (literally within 2’ of it) but it would not move and everyone was asking if it was fake, so Giovanni decided to throw a craker at it. The first cracker missed and floated past it. The second cracker, however, hit it and with a flash and a big splash that got us wet it took off straight under our boat. You can only imagine the horrifying screams and the rocking boat followed by sheer laughter. It was hilarious!
8:15 a.m. Today is my sister Naomi’s birthday. Happy birthday Moinks! Last night we did indeed make it back to camp by 11:30 p.m. Peter and Terry had prepared a delicious meal of Mac & Cheese and North Carolina BBQ. Terry said Pete was the man! He also made strawberry cheese cake for dessert. After a quick 5-minute meeting and prayer everyone hit the rooms for bed. As showers were being taken we could hear monkeys and other jungle creatures in the trees behind us. During the night there was also an awesome rain storm which sounded so incredible as it poured down on our tin roofs! I slept like a baby opening my eyes to the bright, welcoming day only to discover it was 5 a.m. I went back to sleep until now. In a bit we are eating breakfast and then taking a hike in the rainforest. The plan is then a mirror of yesterday but at another church an hour away.
11:15 a.m. We just returned from a hike down into the edge of the rainforest here on the property. We had a good time and everyone - even the non-sweaters - are soaked with sweat. It’s great bonding! lol! On the hike I was trailing behind the group when I caught a glimpse of a long, black, sleek, fox-like animal with a long tail walking onto the bushes. I got my camera out and followed to see if I could see him again. Suddenly he ran out into a 10-foot clearing and I snapped a picture just catching all but his head. Mike, one of the nationals, said it was what is called a pizote. When I can get back to the internet I will look up some pics to confirm. Some of the girls wore flip flops for the walk which was quite muddy. While we were walking across a significant puddle, Tiffany lost one of her flip flops which was swallowed by the mud. Half of the team was in the muddy puddles up to our elbows trying to find it. Mike finally found it and Tiffany was quite happy! We really enjoyed seeing the ants who carry leaves for tens of yards in unity to put into their hills. They don’t actually eat the leaves, they eat the mold that forms on them. Also saw some really cool plants, one of which is carnivorous! It actually closes when something touches it which is how it catches the insects that land on it. We also saw a red dart frog which is poisonous, parakeets, butterflies, and Mike even jumped off a rock into the river. Some of the team want to swim, so if we have time we might take a group down. There are also vines that we can swing on, so we’ll see if we can get down there. Everyone is now rinsing off and in a half-hour we are heading off to our next ministry assignment in the town of Venecia.
9:30 p.m. We are on the bus heading back to camp. When we arrived at the church this afternoon we got straight to work painting. Within 2 1/2 hours we had painted the entire sanctuary. Today’s painting went the smoothest of our three paint jobs. The team is getting better and cleaner with each experience. We were all cleaned up and drinking coffee when I asked Mike to take us somewhere to kill some time as we had three hours with nothing to do before service. They drove us a mile or so to the town center. There was not much to do as it had rained, and most of the stores were along the lines of grocery stores or local supply stores, but it was fun to get out and we all grabbed some snack foods. When we came back to the church I gave a lesson on making balloon animals. OK, I really just showed them how to make dogs and swords, but ... After that we got changed and prayed for the service, especially for Giovanni who was to preach. After the church sang an opening song, they turned the service over to us. We did our dance “I Can Only Imagine”, Emily shared her testimony, Giovanni preached, we did “Everything”, and had altar ministry during which Ady sang a worship song. During the altar call two teens accepted Christ and others came forward for prayer. It seemed to be quite a struggle in the spirit when it came to decision time, but Giovanni did a good job. At one point he called all of the teenagers of the church forward and had our group surround them in prayer, and that’s definitely when the breakthrough came. Ady also spoke a word to them, and it was a really powerful time. After the service we gave away some Beanie Babies, balls, candy, made balloon animals, and played with the kids. It was a lot of fun, and it was tough to leave. Thank You Lord for a good day of ministry! John Long arrived at camp this afternoon and we are looking forward to seeing him within the hour and eating some of his delicious food for another late night dinner.
11:45 p.m. Finally into our room. When we arrived we were so happy to see John Long’s big white chef’s hat sticking up in the kitchen. He had an awesome chicken dinner waiting for us. Bobby & Kathryn were also with him as was our interpreter Cindy from El Salvador. After dinner we went around the table for a time of sharing. It was really great! Terry has just collected our team shirts to wash them because they are definitely smelling gamy with everyone sweating in the humidity. Tomorrow morning we have to get up at 6:30 a.m. so I’m hitting the sack.
6:45 a.m. Slept like a baby and woke up at 6 a.m. fully rested. Another awesome rain storm in the middle of the night! So strange to sleep so deeply, so long, and get up so early feeling so rested. Wondering if this is achievable at home.
10:30 p.m. Wow! What a full,hot, muggy, sweaty day! This morning Sarah shared a great devo over breakfast, and then we headed out for our first of three ministry locations for the day. The first stop was in El Progresso which was about an hour-and-a-half away. When we got within a mile of the church we knew we were in for a challenge. It had been raining a bit, and we faced two major hills that were nothing more than a few pebbles and a lot of red clay. Reminded me of driving down the clay hills to our camp in Georgia, but with much less developed roads. Our bus driver Danny was nervous about getting the bus stuck. The first hill he could make it down but was uncertain about making it back up, but he went for it. The second hill was another story. In Latin America I have noticed frequently that they have a very different philosophy when it comes to overcoming slippery hills. In the states we would try to build up speed on the decline to make it up the incline. Here they get all the way to the bottom; stop; then try to gun it only to get stuck. This is what happened to us. I tried to convince him that he needed to build up his speed, but he was nervous about losing control. Add to this that this bus is his livelihood and it is understandable why he did not want to risk it. He ended up backing his bus back up the hill, and we let Kent attempt the hill with his van. He made it by building up speed as suggested, so he headed up shuttling the team in two groups up to the church and Danny parked the bus at the top of the hill about a half-mile from the church.This was by far the poorest church in terms of a building our kids have ever seen. It was a wooden shack basically on stilts. The pastor proudly showed Bobby a pile of 50 bricks that the church members had paid for in hopes of one day building a brick church. Talk about a humbling perspective on a building campaign! It will take around 500 to do what they are hoping. Inside our team - all of them, not just me! - were sweating in the heat. The church members brought us all coconuts with straws in them so we could have something to drink and they were really great! Through the sweat we did the Banana Race, the Dr.'s Office skit which everyone got a good laugh out of, “I Can Only Imagine”, Lauren shared her testimony, I shifted from my original message to the story of David & Goliath when I discovered that the majority of the people there were small children, we did “Everything”, then we prayed for the people. When we finished our presentation the pastor, with a huge smile on his face, thanked us for coming all of the way out to be with them. We then did face painting, made balloon animals, distributed balls, toys, candy, and some clothes, played parachute games, then took a picture with all of the folks from the church.
We then drove back about 20 minutes and ministered at another church in La Colonia. The place was packed with over 200 people, mostly children and youth. We did almost the same routine as before less the Banana race, and with Justin giving his testimony and Giovanni preaching. Afterward I did some quizzing to decide who would get the 8 or so basketballs we had to give away, asking them questions from the service. We then did our best to spread the kids out by sending some outside to play Parachute, some up to the front for balloons, some to the back for face painting, and others to the side to make a faith bracelet. Try as we did to spread them out, we were still mobbed by the children who were pushing their way to us, pulling on our clothes, etc. I walked around giving away some small balls, toys, and candy. When we were sure that everyone had gotten at least something - most several things, we finally had to just pack up and go because the children would not go until we did. When we left we went up the street to a small store so everyone could get a drink and a snack. We then drove a few blocks to a park so the kids could play a bit. The entire area is banana fields for Dole and Chiquita, and is filled with government houses for all of the people who work the fields, mostly Nicaraguans. We found that we were only a half an hour from Nicaragua. There were some teens playing soccer, so our kids went out and ended up playing a game with them for about a half an hour. A few muddy clothes later we loaded up and drove to Los Lirios, our last ministry stop of the day.
When we arrived at the church, Andres, our local guide for the day, took Ady & I behind the pastor’s house and showed us so many incredible plants and trees. It was so tropical and incredible to see all of the fruits and such that we pay so much money for in the States. We ran the entire service doing “I Can Only Imagine”, Peter shared his testimony, then I preached a message from I Thessalonians 2. After the message we did “Everything”, then David & Tiffany sang “Rescue” and I gave an altar call. Perhaps 7 or 8 people came forward to receive Christ and we prayed for them, gave the Bibles and some literature, then I gave an invitation to come forward and almost the whole church came up for prayer. For over an hour there was intense prayer and worship happening which climaxed in celebratory singing and dancing. It was awesome! Then the pastor invited our team to the front, had the entire church come forward to thank us, and prayed over us. After a pic with the pastor and his family we loaded up and drove back to camp. Along the way Andres was pointing out the drug problems in the area, especially among teenagers. Cocaine is big here, and he pointed out drug houses, dealers, and lookouts as we drove. He also told us that there is a house of child prostitution in which 12-13 year old girls, and some boys, are in. They are given tiny bits of cocaine as payment for their services. So sad! As we drove through the streets, our team began to pray for these situations and for the churches in the area. When we got back to camp John and Lynette had dinner ready for us and we had a good time debriefing our day. It was truly humbling to experience the people and situations we did today.
This morning we were up, packed up, and eating breakfast by 7 a.m. We enjoyed a typical Costa Rican breakfast of rice and beans, ham, cheese, bread, juice and coffee. After breakfast we loaded the bus for our 2 hour ride to Pueblo Nuevo. our ministry base for the next four nights. Along the way we had the great ptivilege of driving through the Baraulio Carillo rainforest! Wow! Amazing! And it was raining for a good portion of our trip through. When we arrived we unloaded our gear into our dorm-style rooms at an Assemblies of God camp called La Cumbre. An American girl named Lynette from Arizona welcomed us and gave us a brief orientation. She told us that the showers do give hot water - well, not hot, but a warm, but that the water is heated in the shower head, so the less pressure used the warmer the water. Twenty yards behind our dorm is the beginning of the rainforest! She told us that at night we would hear the howler monkeys, that we would also hear geckos in our rooms that sing, that we would all be supplied with mosquito nets to cover our beds since there is no glass in the windows, just bars, that if we needed to watch our steps to ensure that we don’t startle or step on any snakes, and that there are leopards and panthers around so if we see them we should calmly get back to our dorms. Wow! Now this is missions! The best thing ever is to watch our resident tough guy Giovanni act like a school girl at the thought of seeing anything other than humans. This is going to be fun! Following our quick stop everyone on the team less Terry and Peter got back onto the bus and drove an hour to Santa Rita, our ministry location for the day. Terry and Peter stayed behind to cook dinner for our late night return. Adriana and Giovanni were both sweating and almost had bladder problems during the ride. The roads were narrow, bridges even narrower, winding up and down beautiful mountains, and, oh yeah, there were no real guard rails or any of those nice, false securities that we love. With lots of tractor trailers also using the roads to transport jungle foods like pineapples from the many pineapple fields we were driving through, it was quite an adventure! At the church we spent the day painting the entire inside of a church. They did a really great job! Another couple of very funny moments ... At one point Adriana set David up by asking him to inspect an outside wall for the prospects of painting it. As he was next to the wall Giovanni dumped a rain catch filled with water on an unsuspecting David! He got soaked, but Ady did as well. She was not far enough away to avoid the waterfall. Also, while cleaning the paint supplies with paint thinner, I noticed a bit of paint on the sidewalk outside the church, so I used some thinner to get it up. A few minutes later G was complaining that it was hot outside. It had rained and was wet outside, so he assumed the place he was sitting was just wet. Nope! You guessed it! It was paint thinner! A few minutes later he hopped up yelling that his butt was on fire! lol! Oh we laughed! No sooner had we finished than the power went out and it started pouring rain! It was near dusk, so we soon had to break out flashlights, and you know that singing and dancing in the rain was inevitable. We were worried about the prospects of a service, but with assurances that the rain and the lack of power would not keep the people away I asked the team to begin a time of focused prayer and I was mentally planning alternatives that did not require technology. No sooner had they started to pray than the power came back on. Within minutes tens of people showed up and we ended up having a terrific service with probably 150 people. We did our “Sin Chair” skit, I preached on living in Christ’s victory, Brendon shared his testimony, David and Tiffany sang “Rescue”, we had 30+ minutes of altar ministry, and Adriana sand a song. After we were done with our formal ministry, the pastor came forward to bless us and pray for us. He gave a word to Adriana and me about God opening doors around the world for us to minister. Earlier he had given Ady and I a verse, Isaiah 60:11. He then gave a word to Brendon about how God is going to use him to speak a powerful word to teenagers around the world. Wow! So awesomt! It is now 10:30 pm and we are driving back to camp. They were expecting us at 9 and it will be at least 11:30 pm by the time we get there. Welcome to missions!
Monday, July 6, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
11 p.m. The team is now settling down to bed. I just discovered that we have WiFi here at the barracks, so I thought I would get up another post. Tomorrow morning we are heading out to another location where we will be staying for the next four nights. Thanks to those of you who posted comments! I will pass them along to everyone tomorrow.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009
7:30 a.m. Yesterday we had a safe trip down and arrived more or less on time (as airline travel goes) along with all of our luggage! One interesting thing that happened on the plane deserves mention. The brief version ... a lady and I were talking on our flight from New York to Atlanta. She had just dropped her son off at West Point and was flying home. She asked about our team and in the conversation mentioned that she was a Christian. A bit later I was asking our kids if they were going to summer camp. Brendon said he wanted to go but didn’t have the money. Fast forward ... I got up and walked to the lavatory at the back of the plane. While waiting for it to become available the lady walked back to me. She extended her hand toward me and put something in my hand. She said that she was rummaging through her purse and found $200 that she thought she had lost, and felt the Lord instruct her to give it as an offering so Brendon could go to camp. She included a note written on a napkin listing the names of her children and asking our team to pray for them. It also said to use the money to help “the boy” go to camp, and requested that I not draw attention to her on the plane. I expressed my gratitude and assured her we would pray for her and her children. Later I informed Brendon that someone had paid for him to go to camp. He couldn’t believe it.
When we disembarked the plane in Atlanta we were greeted by Kent and Terry Denton, our LendaHand team leaders from Virginia. After hitting the restrooms and grabbing a quick bite to eat we were off to Costa Rica. Other than two screaming, obnoxious kids in the back row with a mother who had lost the reigns, the flight was uneventful. After landing, going through immigration, collecting our luggage, and going through customs with the tremendous blessing of an airport worker who basically walked us through after explaining that we were doing missions work, we were met by Bobby Hoyle, the founder of LendaHand. We loaded onto a bus and drove about 45 minutes to our accommodations for the first two nights - which, of course, was changed at 4 p.m. yesterday afternoon (it wouldn’t be a missions trip without surprises! - former military barracks! We were excited about the rugged sounding adventure only to be mysteriously disappointed when they were actually very nice and more like hotel rooms. lol! We enjoyed a fairly decent night sleep and were pleasantly awakened at 5 a.m. by some people playing soccer outside. Now we are off to do some painting, and tonight we are doing a church service.
1:30 p.m. After about a 45 minute drive we arrived in Los Guidos. We met up with the construction team from Virginia and together had breakfast of eggs, toast, bunuelos, and lichas - a fruit that looks like a blowfish. After removing the spiny outer shell inside you find a grape-like fruit. Everyone did well and actually enjoyed them. After breakfast we were to begin painting the children’s center, but unfortunately the supplies and paint had not arrived, so we found ourselves playing the waiting game. Brendon hooked the iPod up to the speakers and we enjoyed listening to some music. After quite a while the kids got on stage to run through their dance. Sure enough, the paint arrived. They got an oil-based paint (yuck!) and here they mix it with paint thinner. Unfortunately it did not mix well and was too watery, so it took us some experimenting to get the consistency right. When we finally did I gave a quick painting lesson and the team got working. They knocked out the main wall in no time, and we are hopeful that by our quitting time at 4:30 pm we will have the entire first floor done. After lunch the team will continue working while I run out to hopefully get some Wi-Fi at McDonald’s to get this post up.
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