Sunday, April 27, 2008

He kissed me--Croc guy - Part 2

The guy with the Croc obsession is back. This is the guy who, when he sees my crocs, yells, "What beautiful shoes!" and then tries to slip his foot into them while I'm wearing them. I ran into him in the business district of town. I was waiting to cross the street and he was standing next to me. The intersection is huge, with five streets intersecting and hundreds of cars and busses. When I saw him, I immediately looked down to see what shoes I was wearing. They were tennis shoes that he couldn't slip into. He was wearing slip on loafers that he'd cut off in the back, to make them like clogs (or Crocs). I'd been thinking about him since our last encounter. He walks miles upon miles, aimlessly, every day. He is a small, thin man with prematurely gray hair and the voice of a child. He is mentally challenged, innocent and possibly gay. I tried to think of what Jesus would do with a mentally challenged guy who kept trying to put on His sandals and I concluded that Jesus would not be afraid of him or treat him with indifference. So, I greeted him. His name is Renato and our conversation went like this:

I said, “Hi.”

He said, “Ohhhhhh, what beautiful glasses!”

“What's your name?”


“My name is Bill. It's nice to meet you.”

It was clear that he had no idea who I was, or that he'd tried to climb into my shoes twice before. I extended my hand to shake his hand. He grabbed my hand and shook it eagerly, saying, “Thank you! Thank you! It’s nice to meet you too.” Then he kissed my hand and, before I knew what was happening, he kissed my cheek. I spoke to him firmly, as though I were speaking to a child and said, “No kisses, Renato!”

I tried to ask him where he lived, because I've seen him all over town. But, at my level of Spanish, I make a lot of mistakes. So, rather than ask “where” he lived, I asked “how.” I laughed inwardly, because I really was asking within, "How do you survive?"

He answered, “With my Mother and brothers.”

I asked, “So, do you just walk on the street all day long, every day?”


Then he looked at me and said, “You’re face is so beautiful…you look like Jesus!”

The street light changed and we began to cross the street. I said, “Thanks. Jesus and I have a really close relationship and I like looking like him on the outside, but I’m more interested in looking like Jesus in my soul.”

He stared at me, like a person trying to see through a window and said, “The Spirit of God is all over you!”

I said, “Yes, Renato, I’m filled with the Holy Spirit. Do you have a relationship with Jesus?”

He replied, “Oh yes! I take Jesus in every day” and made the motions of a person taking communion. He was wearing a blue, plastic rosary like a necklace.

He said, “Where are you from?”

I replied, “The United States.”

He said, “The Papá (the pope) is there!”

“Yes,” I said, “he was, though I think he’s back in Italy now.”

At this point, we were standing in the middle of the cross walk, where he had stopped. We were in that space on the street between two opposing directions. It was clear that Renato had to go in another direction. I said, “I want to pray for you. May I?”

He said, “Oh yes!”

I had no idea what to pray for. I wondered, “Is he just mentally challenged or are demonic forces at work in his life?” I decided it was too soon, too public, and too in-the-middle-of-the-street to cast demons out of him. So, I prayed for God’s blessing in his life and for total healing of his body, mind and soul in the name of Jesus.

He was extremely grateful. He shook my hand and kissed it two or three times. He tried to kiss my cheek, but I held him back and said, “No kisses, Renato! No kisses!”

Then he asked, “Can I kiss your feet?”

I held him back and said, “No kisses!”

After that, he stepped into a river of people flowing down the side walk and I don’t know where he went. I do know that God loves him and (mentally challenged or not) God has a plan for his life. When I see him again, I will try to continue the conversation.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Amazon River & Jungle Part 2

April 14 & 15 found Lena and I in Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian part of the Amazon Jungle. We visited two Latin America ChildCare schools there. I wrote about the first (Luz Del Saber) in a previous blog entry (below). The second school (Victoria de Jesus) is the larger of the two and is partially submerged 3 months out of the year. Lena and I enjoyed a canoe tour of the first floor classrooms, given by Pastor Jose. I've put together a collection of some of our photos, which you can see by clicking:

Please keep the pastors and teachers of these schools in prayer. The city is rife with prostitution, drugs and unemployment. It is a area in great need of the gospel. It is also a place in which it is a huge blessing to be a missionary. Thanks to all who have kept us in prayer!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Feeling un-invited & longing for heaven

Chris Chowdhury is a friend of mine and has written an incredibly insightful entry in his blog ( Regarding a seminary counselling course, Chris wrote the following:

One concept we consistently arrived at in the course was the unshakable lie. This a lie we hear at some point in our life and then spend the rest of our life believing about ourselves unless we find truth in Christ. Everyone has a lie…
“You are ugly.”
“You are a failure.”
“It is all your fault.”
“You are stuck.”
“God will not forgive you.”
“You cannot change.”
“No one really wants to hear what you think.”

The class helped me identify (more like re-identify) the lie I keep falling for… “You are not invited.” Yeah, no matter what someone tells me or what I see in the Word of God, my default outlook is that I am not ever going to be invited to the table. What does this mean? To be invited is to be valued and to be valued is to have purpose - purpose from God. The lie someone once told me and I’ve apparently failed to relinquish says I am of no value to anyone else and they would be better off if I didn’t show up to dinner. It says I am worthless. But it’s a lie.

Follow the link above to see how Chris uses the word of God to combat this lie. I found his writing insightful, because I've had the same feelings before--especially in our shift from Chi Alpha to World Missions. In XA, I was a District Rep. I had a title and people knew my name. I could also speak the language. Here, people can't even pronounce my name and I struggle to speak. Speaking a huge part of preaching and a part of a pastor's identity. When you don't speak well, people are hesitant to invite you to preach. So, I often share the feeling of not being wanted at the table.

I think that part of this feeling in all of us is the enemy trying to make God’s kids feel like outsiders. But, I think also that another part is a God given longing for home. We are meant to be with the Lord. Mankind was created to be walking in the garden with God in a personal way. I think our feeling of “un-invitedness” is part of our souls hankering for home. When you don't feel invited to the party, and you're stuck watching the other kids have fun, you long for a friend to show up. That's why, in the last two sentences of the Bible, the Apostle John writes for all of us when he says, "Come Lord Jesus."

School on the Amazon: La Luz del Saber

April 14-15, 2008 found us in Iquitos, Peru. Iquitos is a large city on the Amazon River. The only way to get there is via plane or boat. Latin America Childcare sponsors students in two schools in Iquitos. These pictures are of the "Luz del Saber" school, which is situated next to an open sewer. As you can see, there is extreme poverty. This is a community in which the presence of the gospel makes a huge difference.

Click on the title, above, to see the slide show in a larger format. You can go from there to our main gallery of photos.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ciabatta Bread actually is better - Part 2

Below (in the entry entitled "Ciabatta Bread actually is better") you can read about my conversation with a guy who said that all religions are the same and that all missionaries are just salesmen trying to convince you that their product is better. The joke below displays effectively the notion that sometimes the guys who's trying to sell you something is telling the truth:

Reverend Ole was the pastor of the local Norwegian Lutheran Church, and Pastor Sven was the minister of the Swedish Covenant Church across the road.

I saw them yesterday standing by the road, pounding a sign into the ground, that reads:'Da End iss Near! Turn Yourself Aroundt Now! Before It's Too Late!'

As a car sped past them, the driver leaned out his window and yelled, 'Leave us alone, you religious nuts!'

From the curve we heard screeching tires and a big splash...

Rev. Ole turns to Pastor Sven and asks, 'Do ya tink maybe da sign should yust say 'Bridge Out'?

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Grand Opening

Last week, Lena and I participated in the grand opening of a new A/G school in Peru. The pastor has applied for Latin America ChildCare help, but we're not yet able to do so, given the projects that have already been approved. Nonetheless, we've really enjoyed becoming friends with the Pastor and preaching at the church. Pastor Dionisia is a single woman, who has been pastoring this church for over 20 years. She is in the largest community of poor people in all of South America. It is San Juan de Lurigancho and has a population of more that 1 million. Many of them do not have water. When I first saw the community, it reminded me of pictures of Israel. As such, I was shocked to see that the church is named Palestina (Palestine) Assembly. Palestine is a great name, since it signifies a people in struggle who desperately need peace and salvation from Messiah.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Birthday of a different sort

On April 8, 1980, I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I remember it well. I was in a dorm room at the University of Cincinnati. It was a life changing experience that so impacted me, I have made it an emphasis of ministry ever since. I thank God for 28 years of the empowering presence of the Spirit of God.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ciabatta Bread actually is better

There is a park near our house that I really love. It's called the "Malecon," which is a type of boardwalk. In this case, the boards are a nicely poured concrete sidewalk. I go there sometimes to roller-blade with Colton or to pray. It’s a really great spot for sunsets. One morning, I was there doing my devotions (prayer, Bible reading and journaling). I started talking to an older man who said that there was no difference between Christians, Muslims and Jews. He went on to say that missionaries are like bread salesmen who are hawking the same product. He said, "There are three different bread salesmen on the street and they each have the same bread, but each of them is saying that his bread is better." He went on to say, "All of the bread is the same!" He was, of course, talking about different religions.

I said that I could see his point, but that I had one question for him: “What if one bread really is better than the others?” I went on to say that, sometimes, one bread really is better. In that instance, the salesman isn’t trying to convince you of something that isn’t true. Rather, he’s just a guy who is stating a fact that may be in your best interest.

When I asked that, he suddenly had no interest in sharing his philosophy of missions with me. He immediately excused himself and walked away quickly.

I would like to state for the record that Islam, Judaism and Christianity are not the same piece
bread. To have a personal relationship with Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and to be filled with the power of His Holy Spirit, it way better than all the other breads combined!
One last tidbit: In Peru, we eat a lot of Ciabatta bread. It is an Italian bread that is sometimes called “slipper bread,” because of its shape. It is really delicious. Ciabatta bread is better. If you see three guys selling bread, buy from the one who is selling Jesus as Messiah...or, the one selling Ciabatta bread.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Reflecting on Experience

We've been working hard and loving the challenge here in Peru. So, in lieu of a fuller blog entry, I leave my blog-reading buddies with two things I love: a picture of my kids (in a park near our house) and an unrelated quote:

"We really don't learn anything from our experience. We only learn from reflecting on our experience."
Robert Sinclair