Friday, August 31, 2007

Earthquake update

Here is information from AG Relief, the division of the Assemblies of God that assists relief efforts. This was written by my friend Rich Ferguson, missionary to Peru:

Greetings from Lima,

First of all we would like to thank you for your prayers and also for the overwhelming support Peru is receiving from the missionaries in our region.

I met with the Superintendent of Peru, Rodrigo Espinoza, and have the following information to share with you:

15 Assemblies of God churches were completely destroyed or damaged beyond repair in the affected zone.

9 Pastoral homes were completely destroyed.
Only 2 Assemblies of God members are confirmed dead.

According to the Peruvian TV, 70% of the city of Pisco is destroyed (population 110,000), 40% of the city of Ica is destroyed (population 260,000), 30% of Chincha is destroyed (population 160,000) and 30% of Canete is destroyed (population 160,000).
At this time the official death toll is 510, the injured are 1,150 and those left homeless are 80,000.

The desperate needs are water, non perishable food, blankets, warm clothes, tents, medicine (

pain relief and antibiotics), generators, batteries, flashlights.

Making the relief aid more difficult is that the Panamerican Highway that runs south of Lima is severely damaged as well. Many bridges have collapsed and there are multiple places where the road has been damaged. Several areas were also affected by landslides. A trip that normally takes 2 hours is taking longer than 8, and trucks have been looted on their way.

Please pray for strength and wisdom for those bringing aid. Pray for safety and miracles for those searching for the missing. Pray for peace that passes understanding and hope that only comes from knowing the Lord for the millions that are on their knees tonight.
For our brothers and sisters in the central coast of Peru,
Rich and Wanda Ferguson

An update from AGRelief can be found at

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Poverty is in more places than Peru

Today, this story came from the Associated Press:

By Associated Press
CLEVELAND -- Cleveland was ranked as the nation's fourth poorest big city Tuesday after spending two of the last three years at the top of the U.S. Census Bureau's list. Cleveland was behind Detroit, Buffalo, N.Y., and Cincinnati, which jumped from No. 8 on last year's list, according to data from the American Community Survey. The rankings reflect the number of people living below the poverty level in 2006. The survey indicates that 27 percent of Cleveland's population was below the poverty level last year, compared with 32.4 percent in 2005.

Cincinnati, which had 27.8 percent of its residents living in poverty in 2006, has seen increases in each of the last three years. The Ohio River city was No. 22 in 2004 with 19.6 percent and last year entered the top 10 with 25 percent living in poverty. Although Cincinnati ranked one spot ahead of Cleveland, when accounting for the margin of error, the estimates for the two cities were not significantly different.

The ranking includes all U.S. cities with 250,000 or more people.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Magnitude-8 earthquake hits Peru

As I write, the death toll of the magnitude-8 earthquake in Peru has surpassed 450. There are many more still covered in the southern cities of Ica and Pisco. Many have written asking if we’re safe. We’re very safe. We’re currently in San Jose, Costa Rica. We’ll be moving to Peru in January. As such, the earthquake has not affected us. We have friends in Peru, all of whom are also safe. Nonetheless, we ask that you pray for the many families who have been devastated by this. May God heal the sick and use this to reveal the love and power of Jesus.

This photo, as well as a slide show of the devastation, can be found on the NPR web site here:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Toucan Sam 2

Here's the still shot of my interview with Toucan Sam. See the video and story of our interview below.

My interview with Toucan Sam

I met Toucan Sam--the toucan from the Fruit Loops commercials. He's retired now, except for a few publicity shots and ribbon cutting ceremonies at strip malls. He lives in a retirement jungle here in Costa Rica, along with Tony the Tiger, the Twix Rabit and the Frog from Super Golden Suger Crips. Sam has been divorced and remarried 10 times. His current marriage appears to be rocky. I tried to interview him, but he kept arguing with his wife. Here's the footage from our time together.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

La Negrita

August 2 is a national holiday in Costa Rica. It's the day of the Costa Rican patron saint: La Negrita (the little black one). Each year, as many as a million people walk hundreds of miles to beg for the statue's blessing. Wednesday night, I went to the main street of town and watched as thousands walked by. When the crowds reach the front of the cathedral that houses the statue, the crawl on their knees before the statue. The story is interesting and is repeated in other parts of Latin America.

On August 2, 1635, a woman found a small, black stone carving of Mary holding the baby Jesus on top of another stone. She took it home and hid it in a basket. The next day she found a black carving of a snake in the same spot. She took it home and, when she went to put it in the basket with the statue of Mary, found the original statue missing. The next day she found the statue of Mary back on the rock. She took it home and found the statue of the snake missing. After this happened a few more times, it was concluded that Mary wanted a Cathedral built on the spot. So, the cathedral of "the Virgin of the Angels," was built and now houses the statue. There is a small stream nearby which is believed to have healing powers. In 1824, the Costa Rican government declared the statue to be the patron saint of Costa Rica.

It's important to note that the idol is in the center front of the church. The church, even though Catholic, does not revolve around the image or story of Jesus. The church revolves around the adoration of a small stone statue. When I ask Costa Ricans if the statue is Mary or what the meaning of the statue is, they don't know. Latin culture is far less interested in making things make sense than North American culture. They don't care that their patron saint was never actually a person, since Mary is not the patron saint. Rather, the little black statue "La Nagrita" is the patron saint.

The fact that over a million people endure difficulty to beg a stone statue for a blessing is evidence of spiritual hunger. It is continued evidence of the need to bring a message of power and hope to this hungry people.

What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty. 2Co 6:16-18

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thank you!

The picture here is of Pastor Buster Gilliam of Willow Bend Church in Clarksville, Tennessee. The kids in vacation Bible school raised $200 for missons in a contest between the boys and the girls. Pastor Buster promised that whichever team won could hit him in the face with a pie! As you can see, the boys won. Buster wrote, "I started to tell you that I 'took a bullet for you...' but in truth, it was only a cream pie!

The Spanish phrase "me cuesta" or "le cuesta" is used when something is difficult or costly. We have a similar idea when we say, "It's costly to serve the Lord." This phrase is on my mind today, because I'm aware of the sacrifice of others in order to enable us to serve the Lord as missionaries. Going to the mission field, leaving our family and friends, has been really costly. But it's also costly for those who are on our team paying the price financially and in prayer--taking a pie for us! I want to say thanks to all those who have made this possible.

As the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:18-19, your partnership with the Lord in this mission is "a fragrant j offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs k according to his glorious riches l in Christ Jesus."