Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Knife (or Tears in the Airport)

My dad died on June 21, 2006. The last time we had a good conversation was on June 18. It was Father’s day. Lena, the kids and I were driving to a church service in western Kentucky. We had our pop-up camper in tow and were planning on camping for a couple of days after the service. I had a great conversation with my dad, on the cell phone while driving to the service. We talked about camping and other things. He had been so sick that it was rare to have a good conversation with him. When it was over, I had tears in my eyes. I remember telling Lena that if it was the last conversation I had with him, that I was very grateful to have had it. One of the things I told him was that I had his Father’s day gift and that I would give it to him when I got back into town. He had asked me to get him a new pocket knife. He had arthritis and couldn’t close his old pocket knife. So, I went to Dick’s Sporting goods in Mason, Ohio, and (with the help of a great sales agent) tried every knife they had. The salesman and I both decided on a very cool Gerber knife. The locking mechanism was the smoothest we tried and very easy to close. I told my dad that we’d be back on Tuesday night and that I would come over on Wednesday morning to celebrate Father’s day. That Wednesday morning, I was awakened by an early phone call. My father had died.

I’ve carried that knife in my pocket nearly every day since. Even though my father never saw it, in my heart it was his knife. Whenever someone saw it, I told them the story. I travel a lot and have lost my share of knives in the airport. A few times I nearly lost “the knife” to airport security. Usually, I remember in time to stick it in my checked luggage. Today was not that day. I walked up to the X-Ray machine, reached into my pocket and felt the knife. My heart sank. I said a quick prayer, stuck it in my book bag and put the bag into the X-Ray machine. As the bag came out, I watched the security guard grab it. I knew he would have a hard time finding what he was looking for, so I opened the bag for him. He pulled out the knife, opened it, and held it over the acrylic disposal box. He looked at me for permission. I said, “OK,” and watched him drop it into the box. I grabbed my bag, walked about 5 steps from the counter and burst into tears.

I was surprised by how difficult it was. My emotions welled up within me—irrational and unholy. I felt like the Lord was stripping me, taking from me all that I have held onto. My father died just before we left for the mission field; so, emotionally, the loss of my father is intertwined with the other relationships and things we left behind. As the security guard dropped the knife into the box, I wanted to yell at him, as though he were the Lord, saying, “What do you want?! Do you want me to arrive at the temple completely naked?” (In my mind, the guard would have responded, “No sir—just the knife.”) It wouldn’t be bad if we did arrive at God’s house with nothing to hold onto but God himself. In one sense, we all walk through the Pearly Gates that way. In my head, I know that the knife was easily replaceable. But, the loss of it brought back all those emotions of loss.

The good news is that I’m probably not the first guy to cry after walking through security.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This from Lena:

Merry Christmas, friends! We have been very busy these last few weeks, bringing Christmas presents to the kids of our Piedad schools. It is our pleasure to purchase a gift for each child in our project schools, regardless of if they are enrolled in our program or have a sponsor. Birthday gifts only arrive for a few, but Christmas brings a little for all! The shot above was taken today in one of our Lima schools. As you can see, they were pretty happy to greet us!

All the children receive the gifts with great joy, but on experience in particular impressed me deeply, on our visit to a partner school in Trujillo. Our school in Trujillo was founded years ago by missionaries who wanted to reach the poorest of that coastal city. A large percentage of these children's parents cannot read. I am always impressed, because the teachers in this school have them writing quite fluently for this age. What a great way to take ground!

Anyway, as we were handing out the gifts, and they were all going back to their classrooms with their gifts, I noticed that many of the children had not opened their gifts yet. I encouraged them to open them, but they showed none of the zealous tearing and ripping that we see in the States. I was curious as I watched one little girl carefully pick the paper apart, looking as if she didn't even want to mess the paper.

I asked one of the teachers to interpret what I was seeing. She said that they don't want to ruin it--that the paper was special, too, and they wanted to keep it nice. Many of these children live in houseing that is something rather makeshift (some of woven leaves, something like a tent), and probably won't recieve anything for Christmas. This was it! Later I watched as a teacher kindly helped one of the girls tease her new bead set back into the paper.

As we needed the kids to know what they were getting so that they could write a note to their sponsor, we settled on a system. One gift would be carefully unwrapped, all the children could see it, and then write their thank-you note.

I am so thankful to be a part of this. I remember growing up, sometimes in hard times,and worrying about how I would feel if I didn't get anything for Christmas. That never happened--we always were blessed with generous family. But I remember that worry, and I really remember the people who made sure I got something! Still do!

For those of you who gave to help make this happen, thank you so much. You made an impression on some kids who could really use a little gift now and then! And thanks for making us part of what you do for the Lord. This is a great way to spend a life!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

To All Our Chi Alpha Friends!

Wright State group, led by a very smiley Steve Brannan with some helping friends from the kids' school.

This from Lena:
Last night, the last of our little midnight visitors (all but one seems to have mostly passed through that 4-7 year-old phase of waking up with a lot of nightmares) popped into our bed for a little late-night comfort, thus making me sleep a little lighter than normal. It is really out of the ordinary for me to remember an actual dream, as I only remember nightmares that wake me up. But I remembered this one!

Now, those of you who are not Chi Alpha folks will have to bear with me on this one, but I promise that it has a wider application. I dreamed that me and my family were waking up in our apartment building, and there was a SALT conference going on downstairs, as the first floor appeared to have transformed into a conference hall. I was talking to Dale Crall, who as always had encouraging words. Colton was still asleep upstairs, and Bevan Haynes, who has been great about following up with Colton, was calling up to our apartment, "Wake up, Colton Shrader!!" There were faces of people we love everywhere, and they had come to us! I felt like I always do at a SALT conference, eager for things to begin, to greet all my dear, dear friends who made it so hard for us to leave, and with great expectation about what the Lord was going to speak to us!

I started thinking about all the support we have recieved from our Chi Alpha friends. I cannot tell you how incredible it has been to know that you all are behind us. We had a really hard time leaving Chi Alpha because we are in love (still!) with all of you. We have recieved teams from Wright State, Ohio State,and Wilmington College this last year. We saw incredible fruit with each group, with a total of about 150 people recieving Christ! But we also received dear friends, who reminded us over and over again that we are loved and wanted, not forgotten. Each goodbye was surprisingly emotional and overwhelming, but we have learned that the harder the goodbye, the more that relationship means to you.

The dream was undoubtedly about all the support we have recieved from all of you. We love you more than words can say. Many of you know that we have passed through some incredibly difficult challenges this past year. We want you to know that we seem to be resolving our situation here, and are incredibly thankful for all your prayers (especially Dale and the SIU group who we know have gone to war on their knees for us!).
Chi Alpha has taught me from the beginning how good it is when brothers live together in harmony. Even through difficult times, we have known an incredible level of trust and love. You mean the world to us! Thanks!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Land of the Living

From Lena:

Recently, our family had a rousing discussion of the phrase, "land of the living" as used in the psalms of David. Was he speaking about the here and now land, or heaven?
I believe that David had prophetic insight into the nature of God. Life is at the core of God's identity, and whether we are speaking of life here on this earth, or life eternal, God is at the heart of it, doing His work, making things live and breathe.

It reminded me of an experience we had recently when we began to work with Feed My Starving Children, in the hopes of seeing feeding programs started in our Piedad schools. It is an incredible program that provides much-needed vitamin enriched food for children in neighborhoods just like the ones where most of our schools are located. At the beginning, one of our schools had difficulties because the kids rejected the food for it's flavor. Without gussying it up, it tastes like.....vitamins!! One of our directors was deeply disturbed over the situation, as she knew that the nutrients provided by the food were desperately needed, and she was tired of seeing the children come to school listless and having difficulties concentrating for their nutritional lack.

She went to her knees, and that night, had SPIRITUAL WARFARE DREAMS over the issue.
She awoke, a recipe in mind, and the rest is history. The kids are now eating well, have better color, and ARE GROWING.

I found myself thinking, why in the world would the Enemy want these kids to be malnourished? How does that help him? The truth is, he is the Enemy of the God of the Living. He is a life thief, God is the life-giver. When children have the right food, they can think clearly, absorb the truth of the Word, and understand it. When they are malnourished, they walk around in a cloud, just surviving. If their brains don't receive the appropriate nourishment, there are thoughts they will never think...dreams they won't dream. Promoting LIFE--by nourishing little brains that otherwise will not achieve their potential--is an act of taking territory for the Land of the Living.

I was recently in Iquitos, in the school where this took place. The kids couldn't wait for lunch, and they very happily made every last drop of that vitamin-enriched food disappear(as well as with a healthy dose of the garlic, chicken broth, and onion combo that they love so much here). They recited Bible verses for me--some were so moving, I wish I had recorded them! Good nourishment helps them to not just put the words in their heads, but to think about them and live them. The God of Life has taken some territory for the Land of the Living! How exciting to be a witness of it.

Click the link to see pictures of our feeding program in Iquitos: http://picasaweb.google.com/BillandLenaPics/FeedingInIquitos#

Monday, October 26, 2009

A disturbing dream

From Bill: I'm reposting this, having had problems previously.

Last month I had a very disturbing dream which I’ve not been able to forget. I dreamt that I was in a room in a high-rise building. There were other people in the room with me. My journal (a steno notebook) was pulled out of my hand by an invisible force—as though it had been jerked up by a hook and line. It hit me in the chin, shot up to the ceiling, then out the window. I and the other people in the room (friends) ran to the window to watch as the journal fall. We were very high in the building, allowing the journal fall a long way. I cried out to the Lord, “It’s my journal!” By that, I meant that I didn’t want to lose all of the insights and memories that I had written there, along with the part God was taking from me. (I obviously thought, in the dream, that it was the Lord who ripped it from my hands. The fact that I was hit in the chin makes me wonder if he wasn’t scolding me for something inappropriate that I was saying.) I and my friends watched as a gushing wind caught the falling notebook, blowing it up and down. Pages were torn from it by the wind and blown back into my hands. I had received back the meaningful reflections. The rest was lost. Then I awoke.

I think the dream was from the Lord. The interpretation that follows is mine. I’m not sure that I’ve got it right. I think the journal represents the heart, that I had put stuff in my heart that was displeasing to God. I think that I had written something against another; i.e., dissing someone in my journal (and therefore in my heart). God ripped the journal from me and separated my proper reflections from those that were sinful. God is in the business of blowing on our hearts, just as the wind separates the wheat from the chaff. The dream was violent. I’d put something in the journal that was knowingly wrong and I was, I think, sharing it with my friends. I think I was deriding someone. God then pulled the journal from my hands and it hit me in the chin. I could have let go of the journal and not been hurt, but I was clutching on tight. It’s better if we never write these things in our hearts. But once we have, we still have the choice to give them over freely. If we do not, God will wrench them from us. Some hold on with a tight grip and end up getting hurt—fighting God. It’s better to let Him take it. In the dream, I think it was a negative perception or grudge I was holding against another. Perhaps it was unforgiveness, hate, pride, or jealousy.

1Ch 28:9b says, “the LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.” Also, in Rev. 2:23b, Jesus says, “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” Finally, in Luke 3:16-17, John the Baptist gives a brief job description of the Messiah, telling the crowd, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

In the Luke passage, above, the word fire is a reference to judgment and purification—just like what happened to the pages of my journal. I’ve asked the Lord to reveal to me that which I must repent of. If it’s a choice of being wheat or chaff, I’m going with the wheat. Also, if I’m harboring hatred or malice in my heart, I want it out. It will only suck you dry. Pray for me to pass through this purification. I must confess that the dream was very disturbing and bothered me for days. In early Pentecostal churches, there was a place down front were people went to repent of their sins. It was called the mourner’s bench. It looks like I have an appointment there. If anyone wants, I’d be happy to have some friends go to the mourner’s bench with me.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Buying Christmas gifts in Lima

Buying Christmas gifts for 1500 poor kids is both fun and hard work. To accomplish our task within our budget, we went to the "bowels of Lima!" (It's important to say this like a dramatic movie announcer.) The "bowels of Lima!" is the dark underbelly of the city's merchandising district. My helpers were Phyllis Rose, a missionary who works with us in the Latin America ChildCare office, and Katrina Frazee, one of our Chi Alpha Alumni who is also a U.S. Missionary working in the National Offices of Chi Alpha. Katrina was down for a week scouting out new places for Chi Alpha students to "give a year and pray about a lifetime!" During her week with us, she visted the jungle and "the bowels of Lima!" Here, Katrina and Phyllis are following our helper cart gifts back to our Speed the Light van. The traffic was heavy, so the guy just ran in the street with the cars. You can see a video of it on our YouTube bar at the right.

You never know what you are going to find in the "bowels of Lima!" Below, are two photos of something that everyone needs: A rotating, lighted pop/beer can, with the image of the last supper. This is to remind us all that Jesus refreshes a weary soul.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Over the mountains with Mike 2

Mike Files and I went to Huancayo, to check out a school for LACC. Huancayo is at 10,800 feet--twice the altitude of Denver. The families of these children earn about $100/month.

To see the complete collection of photos from this trip, please check out the link for "Bill and Lena Pics" (at right) or follow this link:

The school day always begins by lining up, singing a song and saying a prayer.

The bathrooms are ... rustic. Below, the kids line up their writing/art supplies on the window sill.

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Over the Mountains with Mike

My friend, Mike Files, is South American Director of LACC (Latin America ChildCare). He and I traveled over the Andes Mountains, at 15,000 feet, to visit Huancayo, Peru. Here's a shot of Mike near the top of our journey.

This is a shot of a train coming out of a mountain tunnel.

Below is a shot of me. I'm standing with my legs far apart, because we were dizzy. At this altitude, the air is thin and your legs get wobbly. Your body adjusts, but when you first get out of the car, it feels like your legs are made out of rubber.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What I Love About My Country...

This from Lena:
Periodically, in our ministry, the sponsored children write a note on a given theme to their sponsors, letting them know a little something about who they are, and what their lives are like. It is my special job—which I really love—to translate these little slices of Peruvian school children’s thoughts, hopes, and dreams. I laugh at their honesty, cheer them on in their dreams and hopes for the future….Frequently I am touched by their fervent loyalty to their family--their desires to make a future for their children and provide for their parents.
This time around, they were assigned to write about what they love about their country. Many of them talked of the great diversity of climates here in Peru (the only country with coastal dessert, mountain, and rainforest), their undying pride in Peruvian cuisine (Peruvians are certain that their food is the best in the world—and they may be right!), Machu Picchu, and the Amazon River. Some spoke of the struggle here-how Peru has fought to make progress, and how they long to be a part of that. More than anything, they spoke of how they were simply born here, and their parents were born here, and how that makes it home. The intensity of how they spoke of Peru fascinated me—as though there could be no better place in the world—isn’t that obvious? Pretty similar to my own feelings about the US—if I am honest about it and what goes on in my own heart. I love Peru, and I love God more, but there is a little American flag waver deep down inside me, and she just never goes away.
It made me think about what home is to me. There is something about the place you grew up in—some sort of programming that sticks with you, and the sights and the smells are something you long for the rest of your life. Rich Mullins, in the song, “Here in America,” says, “Nobody tells you, when you get born here, how much you’re going to love it….” It isn’t always so dramatic, what you feel when you miss home. Usually it is something you live with if you are far away, but every now and then, there is a pang, and you know you are not home, and for a little bit, you just really feel the longing for a snowy fir tree, or a green, green rolling hill, or silly things like a rest stop on the highway or a Dr. Pepper.
Why I love my country... Snow. Thunderstorms. Pine trees and brooks and tons of green. Water you can drink from the tap. Memorial Day parades with my dad. Garage sales on Saturday mornings, and my brother-in-law walking in while we are still not quite “presentable.” Ice cream. Stupid pop culture jokes. Soccer games that give us an excuse to sit on lawn chairs with a cup of coffee and talk to the other parents. Picking blueberries in late June. My mom and dad and sisters are there!!!!!!!!! So many good friends….The idea that a person should be given medical care, whether or not they can pay, because they are human beings! (That one is precious!) The general attitude that even if someone has lowly beginnings—and sometimes even because of it—that they deserve a shot at success.
These are just a few things I love about my country, but maybe there is no better reason than the one our sponsored kids gave—that I was born there! And I definitely never knew--"when I got born there"-- how much I would love it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quality untrusted by animals

On my last trip to Iquitos, in the Amazon jungle, I forgot to bring the charging cord for my cell phone. (I'd like to interrupt this blog entry to say that the idea of using your cell phone in the jungle is pretty funny right from the start. When I was itinerating through Pennsylvania, my cell phone frequently had no coverage; but in the heart of the Amazon Rain Forest, I get perfect coverage and have even called my mom in the states. The conversation begins like this, "If the call cuts off, its because I'm in the jungle and the monkeys like to steal cell phones.") On this occasion, I was going to be in Iquitos for a week and I was worried about my battery going dead. I have very strong LENA needs and have to check in for some romantic chit-chat with my wife on a regular basis. As such, I stopped at an out-door market to find a replacement charger for my cell phone. They guy found a suitable charger right away and gave me very helpful advice. He said, "Don't leave it plugged in for more than an hour or it'll explode." That made me worry a little bit, but I felt much better when I got back to the hotel room and read the box. It said, "Quality Trusted by People." That worked for me, because I'm a person. It's also good to know that I don't have to worry about the monkeys trying to steal my new charger. Apparently, monkeys don't trust that brand.
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Resistance to "foreign" water

A friend of mine is in Haiti. He asked if it's possible to build up a resistence to bacteria and parasites in unclean water and food. I all this the "foreign water fallacy." People often think that your body is used to the water in your area, but not in other areas. The truth is that your body prefers clean water. I've read much on this subject, since we deal with it every day. The basic answer is that humans do not build up resistance to e.coli or parasites. I'm guessing that the fallacy has been enabled by anecdotal evidence of friends getting sick on trips (which is definitely correlative) and the idea that we build up resistance to viruses. The truth is that people in 3rd world countries do not build up a resistance to unclean drinking water; rather, they have parasites. Here in Peru, many Peruvians also believe this fallacy and assume that Americans just have weak digestive systems. The truth is, they shouldn't be eating or drinking unclean things either--but they're unwilling to change their hygiene habits. For example, they may know that they have to get their drinking water from a clean source. Unfortunately, they don't use a clean bucket to store it in. Another common practice is boiling the water they use to make fruit drinks, then leaving it on the counter all day. The water was safe when they made the drink, but millions of bacteria grow during the hot afternoon. (This is also 100% true for southern sweet tea sitting on a kitchen counter in Georgia.) The good news for us is that God has designed us to survive, in spite of the aliens trying to live off of us. That being said, God also gave us doctors. So, I'm continuing to take my parasite and salmonella medicine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crazy White Lady Up Front, Trying to Speak Spanish

Last month, Bill was in the jungle when I got a phone call from the head of Women’s Ministries for the Assemblies of God of Peru. She was asking me to come speak at an event—clearly there had been some scheduling conflict, and the national superintendent had recommended me. I was in total shock. No Bill. Two days to pull it together. Obviously an important event. How many times have I preached in a church on my own? (not counting the very forgiving crowd of Chi Alpha students)—that would be never. Lots and lots of Bible studies. A few retreats. A number of ministry workshops--never a conference as a general session speaker on my own. I wasn’t even clear what sort of event it was! I had heard something about a prayer event, and thought maybe there would be about a hundred or 150 ladies there.
When I arrived-- nervous but spiritually suited up—there were about 500 women there. Full-fledged women's conference, complete with fancy pink tulle draped across the front. I made myself comfortable and started to change my cozy speaking plans to large group in my mind. I enjoyed the speaker so much, and I was so new at this stuff, that I forgot entirely to check in with the leaders, and they put the next lady on because they thought I was late!!
Well, I think I did fine. It was quite the rush—both emotionally and time-wise--but I made it. When I got to the podium, it was incredible to look out on the sea of Peruvian women—and know that God had called me to reach them—and see how God plopped me in front of them to speak. And I think He did it on purpose while Bill was gone, to show me that He is sufficient. And I had a blast!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yea, Parasites!

From Bill:

This is a follow up to the "Secretions" post. I took the medicine and had some minor relief for two days, then the secretions returned. A friend called and asked, "What kind of secretions are you talking about?"

I said, "You know ... like mucous."

"You mean, like, from your nose?"

"Yea. Like from my nose, ... only not from my nose."

I started to be afraid. I had ulcerative colitis 25 years ago. I was miraculously healed in 1988. The symptoms I have been experiencing lately were exactly the same. I knew that parasites mimic the colitis symptoms, but in the back of my head there was a nagging fear.

I went to the doctor. He pushed on my belly in three places. Two of them hurt. I pointed to the two spots where it hurt and asked, "What's here?"

He said, "Your large intestine."

"Why does it hurt?"

"It's inflamed."

I was worried. He said to me, "Here's the address to a lab that specializes in jungle ailments. You'll need to drop off some specimens. When you get the results back, bring them to me."

"The specimens?"

"The results."

So, I delivered three "specimens" at the lab. It's important to deliver your "specimen" while it's still hot. Parasites like a warm and moist environment. It was funny thinking about getting robbed on the bus, on the way to the lab. The robber would say, "Empty your pockets!"

I'd say, "You don't want what's in my pocket."

"Quit stalling, buddy!"

"Well, OK, but be careful, because it's still hot."

I had to deliver my specimens to a very pretty, young lab technician. She was professional and didn't try to make chit-chat, when I handed her a warm cup in a plastic bag. I had to do it three times over a 5 day period. (One of my specimens arrived on Sunday afternoon, when the lab was closed.)

The good news? I don't have colitis; rather, salmonella and parasites! This may be one of the only times in history someone honestly said, "Thank God its parasites!"

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


From Bill:

It all started a month ago, when we returned from the jungle. It was just a little upset stomach and diarrhea -- I was sure that it would be over in a few days. Most of the symptoms disappeared, but then a new symptom came to light. It was a symptom that you don't talk about in public. That's why it was a difficult scene, when I found myself in a packed pharmacy, with a line of clients on my right, a line on my left and people behind me. The 3 girls behind the counter, along with the female pharmacist looked up when I said the word: "Parasites."

Girl behind the counter: "So, what are your symptoms?"

Bill (with everyone in the store staring at me and listening in): "I have ... secretions."


"Yes ... secretions." (Oh, please don't ask where! Oh, please don't ask where!)

The Pharmacists looks up from her desk in the back and shouts out: "How long have you had them?"

"About a month. We were in the jungle. It started then.

"Other symptoms?"

"Yea, an upset stomach. But it's mostly ... you know."

"Sure, so is it a lot or just a little? When do you get these..."



I said, "They're constant, but they're most voluminous in the mornings."

The pharmacist then convenes with the girls behind the counter and they all communicate telepathically. With out speaking, they begin nodding their heads in approval. The people in the lines begin to discuss my symptoms. The people in the line behind me, take a small step back. The girl in charge of my line says, "How many people in your family?"

"Six--two adults, two teens and two little ones."

"You know that all of you have to be treated?"

"Yes." (Parasites are highly contagious.)

So, I went home and said, "Here Hannah, you have to take this medicine tonight."

"Medicine? Why?"

"Uh ... well ... secretions."

Forgiveness Pressed Down and Flowing Over

A note from Lena:

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:35-6)

Give, [of your forgiveness!] and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)

What does it mean to love your enemies? First of all, I think that anyone with whom you have had difficulties, and have been tempted to carry bitterness in your heart against, qualifies as your enemy. If you have ever grumbled in your heart against that person, they qualify. Your husband, your child, your boss, your pastor, your kids' friend's mom, the grumpy waiter at your favorite coffee shop. It doesn't matter. Anyone against whom we are tempted to raise up our hand of wrath is someone who qualifies for the deluxe treatment of love!
And what are we supposed to do with them? I am going to say this just like Jesus does. Lend them money, and don't expect them to give it back. (When was the last time you did that?) Let him take a swat at you. You're bigger than that. They talk about you behind your back? Hmm. Rough. Talk about how good they are at what they do. Give honest and sincere affirmation (OUCH!!), especially when they might never know you did it. (Check my sources--Luke 6:27-42).

Why do we have to do this? Whoa! You already forgot! Don't you remember? What did you do to make yourself worthy of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross? OK, your dimples are really cute, but you didn't DO anything. Nothing. And there was plenty to accuse you of, even if you were three when you received Christ. I was ungrateful! I was wicked!

This is the reason: WE GOT THE SAME TREATMENT FROM JESUS. He poured out his grace on us when we were still in the dark. We were the wicked and ungrateful one.
And He poured out rich blessings. We hit the grace jackpot, and he asks us to live out this same grace so that we can be like Him. Living in this sort of love is our testimony! Let me show you what my God did for me. I didn't deserve it, but He poured out his forgiveness on me. That is why I can do the same for you. Only a person who understands exactly how much in need they were of God's grace when He intervened is able to live that sort of grace. (He who has been forgiven much loves much.)Some people can live alcohol-free, no problem. Others have an incredibly disciplined prayer life that makes others stand in awe. But it is just plain impossible to love like this without having experienced that sort of love first. May God be with us as we stand in those moments in which we choose our reactions. May we, in those moments, remember what He did for us, and may that testimony transform our most difficult relationships.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Do You Like to Walk?

Last night,we packed up the whole family to go and minister in a church plant somewhere in San Juan de Lurigancho--a huge community within Lima of some of the poorest people of the city. We arranged to meet the young pastor at a grocery store,and would go on with him from there.
He approached the car, all smiles, a truly engaging young man. I was already thinking that the evening would be a blessing. As he piled in the car with the rest of our clan, he asked us, "Do you like to walk?" I thought that was supposed to be a joke, as he is quite jovial, and likes to surprise people. I laughed!
Then we started the steep drive up the hill, and he began to talk of the little church plant that he started a few months ago. The church was meeting in a house (I immediately smiled inwardly. I love the warmth and intimacy of church in a house). We would park the car where a friend of his would watch it, and then hike up the hill the rest of the way with instruments and little kids.
I started laughing as we trekked the rest of the way up the hill, super-thankful that I had not worn heels. I would have gone rolling down the hill, or given up and gone barefoot.
We had a ball. The people were young, lively, and fun. They were packed into a little sitting area about the size of an American bedroom, in unfinished brick. Some came from other little mountain tops, which means they had to really hike it, arriving breathless--a group of maybe 30 people. The kids were wearing their best clothes, and looked great. Hannah gave it all she had musically, even though her voice was suffering from Lima smog. Their new sound system was hooked up and ready to go, and we blasted the neighbors a little Good News! Bill preached up a storm with an evangelical message on the Prodigal Son. And then 9 folks prayed to recieve Christ.
The call was so moving, I think a few were getting saved all over again, but that is just fine with me. It was a lovely night, and the presence of God was there. They gave us a bowl of soup with some interesting looking animal organs in it, and sent us on our way.
We got home with some very tired kids. This morning, everyone was a little slow out the gate, I had to spend about 40 minutes looking for various uniform parts, and the price of the night before was evident. But what fun it was last night, and what a privelege to bring the Good News to such precious people. I loved it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Salvations & Salud

We've recently returned from Iquitos, where we hosted a medical mission team at our Latin America ChildCare school. (Salud, the word used in the title, is Spanish for health.) The team was from Timberline Church in Fort Collins, Colorado (http://www.timberlinechurch.net). They were 30 hard working people with purpose. In Iquitos, on the Amazon river, among the poorest of the poor, hundreds of people received medical treatment and over 100 received salvation! It was an incredible experience--especially following the 100 salvations we saw with our last missions team just a few weeks ago. God is moving in Peru!

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

That is what we saw this week! It was the realization of our dreams for ministry in Peru. We are grateful to God and our friends. Hallelujah!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

An Update with some prayer requests

I hope that the Lord is giving all of our friends a great 4th of July! It is an odd paradox, in bleak and chilly climate of a Lima winter, to imagine our friends in the states enjoying a sunny and hot celebration.

First, as you may have read here previously, we had a missions team down last week. Over 100 kids and adults gave their lives to the Lord. It was very powerful and fruitful. My kids worked really hard to pull it off. Hannah and Colton worked just as hard as the adults. I’m very proud of them. You can see pics and videos Picasa photo album. Just click the link to "Bill and Lena Pics."

Second, we have a medical team of 30 persons arriving tomorrow night, to do a mission at one of our schools in Iquitos, in the Amazon Jungle. We have another team arriving in 3 weeks to do evangelism in Iquitos. So, the ministry is going forth with great success.

Unfortunately, of the 7 people who are in my apartment/office everyday, 5 of us have the flu. And this is no small flue. We’ve had high fevers and are having a tough time shaking it off. Last night, my son Willy had a 103.2 fever. It was his 5th day with a fever in the last week. Abi's fever was 101.9. Many of the members of the evangelism team that came down, now have the flu, also. Other news on the health front: I have two disks in my neck that are fighting for the same space. They're pushing cartilage out and it's pressing on my spinal cord. As a result, I’ve got electrical signals running down my arms. There's only one way to put it: It’s a real pain in the neck!

Please rejoice with us in the salvations we've already seen and in the ones we're going to see. Also, please pray with us for healing and strength, so that the ministry may continue unhindered.

May the Lord bless you all!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wright State XA + Belding Family = Evangelism!

We just wrapped up a week of intensive evangelism throughout Lima. The Wright State XA team came down, along with Brad and Patti Belding and their daughters. We saw over 100 kids and adults give their lives to the Lord. The Beldings specialize in illusions and balloons. The Wright State team added music and muscle. Together, it turned out to be a powerful combination. The opening night, we went witnessing in a famous city park. One of our Peruvian friends came with us. She witnessed to a lady who was suicidal. The lady and her children all gave their lives to the Lord! That was just the first night. I'll be writing more entries about the trip, but for starters, I'd like to leave you this link to our picasaweb photo journal. There you will find pictures and video.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

God's Gold

The mood on the bus turned slightly somber yesterday afternoon as we pulled up in front of the church where we would be ministering. The members of our Wright State XA/Belding family team started sorting through their things, storing cameras and other flashy items that weren't wise to carry in this area. We had spent the morning in one of our LACC schools, where the people struggle to feed their families, but somehow manage to get along and eek out existence. There, it is more desperate. On the very edges of Lima, there are mountains of dirt where nothing grows. It is almost like a prophecy over the people who live there. Life is lived on the edge. Food for tomorrow is a maybe.

We were quite the show. About 2o gringos walking the streets, inviting people to the service in the evening. Broken Spanish and awkward attempts at communication could not hide the earnestness with which our team extended their invitations. They so wanted to share their faith. I am always touched when our teams come, and the desire to reach into the lives of the people and give them Jesus is just so intense. That communicates.

As the starting time approached, people began to filter in. A few kids who were hungry asked for food, and the pastor gave them some little sandwiches. We started, and the kids WENT NUTS over Patty's "illusions." They loved it. As the testimories came, there were thoughtful expressions on the faces of the adults present. You could see them thinking. If God can rescue her from the pain of a broken family, maybe He can do the same for me. Maybe I don't have to be so angry all of the time, either. Rescued from drugs. Wow. Maybe He could do that for me.

Different stories, but just people. I think they were surprised how much our stories are just like theirs. One of the members of the team felt impressed to share what was on her heart-- that it was from the Lord. She said that she felt that God wanted them to know that they were treasures. That they mattered to the Lord, and that there were people there that really wanted gold, but that they were the gold to God.

Different lives, but just as loved by God. What a privelege to come to share this Good News with them.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Kid You Just Can't Stop Quoting

I have to say that our son, Will, is a riot. He is sunshine in our day. When he eats, he does it with gusto. Of all my children, he is the one who says, “Mom, that was GREAT!” He lives with all of his heart, and inspires us all in the family to have a little bit more fun. And we quote him a lot because HE IS JUST SO FUNNY.This is one of the latest conversations I had with Will in the car with one of his friends:

Will, to his friend: My mom is SO beautiful! She would, like, win 2nd place in the most beautiful mom contest!

Me, unable to resist: Oh, honey, that is so sweet that you would say that. But I have to ask, Who would win first?

Will, pensive: Well, I don’t know.......... but you for sure would win 2nd!

Man, do I love my boy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The point of the Good Samaritan

Years ago, a XA student asked me about the point of the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). The story ends with Jesus saying, “Go and do likewise.” The student asked, “Go and do what?” I said, “Be the Good Samaritan – have compassion on people who don’t like you.”

The student said that the story was answering the question of who is my neighbor, not about being a good person. Therefore, what are we supposed to do?

I was really confused by the conversation. It was one of those times when Bill (the wise and intelligent Bible scholar) was completely stumped by something in the Bible that should have been obvious. The student was right. The passage was not about being a good person or about having compassion on bigots. There are other passages that teach those things. So what is Jesus telling us to go and do?

I preached on this subject this past week. I was asked by Colton’s teacher to speak at a camp meeting for kids. The topic was clicks – exclusive groups that lord over others in a hierarchy of prideful put-downs. (Most clicks in grade school are really just one loud mouthed bully and his or her posse of weak willed kids who lack the guts to tell him to shut up!) I was happy to take on the topic, because it makes my prophetic spirit rise up in anger. I was the 2nd most unpopular kid in grade school. My sole friend was the most unpopular kid. As such, we were the excluded victims of many cruel kids and their popularity clicks. The time when clicks become really obvious is gym class or recess, when it was time to pick your team-mates for baseball or volleyball. I and my sole friend (the most unpopular kid in school), were both good athletes. I was one of the best baseball players in my grade. But when it came time to pick teams, we were the last kids left. Why? Because the team captains were more concerned with popularity than they were with winning the game. Once the game began, I’d start scoring points. My team was glad to win, but when the game was over, they all ditched me like a stinky diaper. They preferred image over substance. What’s really amazing is that the unpopular kids in school wanted to be associated with the popular ones—even though the latter were not nice people.

That was exactly what was going on in the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were half-breeds. The Samaritans were the remnants of the Northern kingdom of Israel. Over centuries of occupation and forced dispersion, they had intermarried with pagans. As such, they had a little bit of the real faith mixed in with pagan concepts. They were like a lot of people in the United States and Peru, who have a Judeo-Christian vocabulary, mixed in with Eastern mysticism, humanism and witchcraft. To the Jews who really took their faith seriously (the Evangelicals of the day), the Samaritans were a despised minority. When Jesus tells the story, it is assumed that they bloody victim was a Jew. As such, it was horribly discourteous and offensive for the Priest and Levite (religious leaders who should have shown exemplary compassion) to leave the guy in the street. Then Jesus does the unthinkable by bringing into the story a Samaritan. Nobody would ever want a Samaritan to touch them. It would be unthinkable. Yet, the Samaritan is the one who “took pity” on the Jew and “bandaged his wounds.” (Lk 10:33-34)

Jesus painted a stark picture. The people that his listeners would have normally applauded (because of their public influence and authority), turned out to be the bad guys. The Priest and Levite were members of the exclusive group that lorded over the Samaritans in a hierarchy of prideful put-downs. Then the Samaritan shows up and does something that was truly remarkable. He was compassionate, generous, loving – exemplary.

This whole story begins with a question. An expert in the Jewish law was trying to justify himself by taking on Jesus in front of a big crowd. He had just listed the two most important commandments in the Bible—to love God will all your guts and to love your neighbor as yourself. Verse 10:29 says, “But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” That question is the key to the whole passage. Who am I supposed to love in the same way that I love myself? You usually would think that your neighbor would be the people in your close proximity. But what if they’re people that are religiously or culturally offensive? The question then becomes, are they willing to have a relationship with you? Are they willing to show you compassion, even though they know that you don't agree with their lifestyle? Years ago, we lived next to a lesbian couple. It would have been easy to diss them, except that they were so helpful. I remember one morning when they helped dig our car out of the snow, so we could go to church. They were really nice about it. They knew I was from a religious perspective that did not agree with their morality choices. The overlooked it and helped eagerly. There may have been evangelicals on the street that morning. I’ll never know, since they didn’t come out and help. (They may have already left for church.) The point is that it would be crazy for me to withhold love (which is not the same as moral approval) from people who were reaching out to me, while I pursued relationship with people who were religiously similar, but were playing some kind of better-than-thou game of moral superiority. The “expert in the law” wanted to be justified because he wasn’t hanging out with the wrong people. Ironically, he was!

So, when Jesus says to love your neighbor, he basically means to see the people in your life not by their power or popularity, but rather by their willingness to be your neighbor. He especially wants you to do this with the people that you would otherwise overlook.

There are some obvious lessons/applications here:

1. Don’t be a jerk.

2. Beware of justifying yourself – especially when it has to do with the purity of your associations.

3. Open the doors of your click to include geeky kids who are unpopular, but who can hit a home run.

Some final thoughts:

1) God loves people who are morally bankrupt and lead corrupt lives. He selflessly lavishes them with love, while saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!” Love and kindness do not mean that we compromise the holiness of God or that we approve of other people’s life choices.

2) When I preached this message on another occasion, I included two verses: James 3:9, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” And, 1 Cor 12:21-26, specifically verse 21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” It is imperative to recognize that all people (even the ones who are public sinners or self righteous jerks) are made in the image of God and continue to reflect a part of His glory. To value these individuals and to value their gifts (the skills they bring to the game) is to be like Jesus.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lima in Winter

Please see the picture in the blog post, below, to get an idea of what it looks like in Lima this time of year. We are in Winter and I'm freezing. On June 8, the Chicago Tribune posted an article on Lima. Here's what they said:

"The best time to go is the Peruvian summer, December to May, when it's usually 80 degrees and somewhat sunny. Lima's winters are pretty depressing: The overcast skies and weak drizzle are unrelenting, and the humidity makes the 50-degree chill sink into your bones."

You would think that 50 degrees sounds pretty good, when the folks at home are accustomed to below freezing. The picture changes dramatically, when you don't have heat in your home. Some of our friends don't even have hot water. I want to officially thank God for our water heater and hot showers!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Camping with Colton's Class

I was out of town for four days this past week. I served as a chaperon and worship team member on a field trip for Colton's school. It was an educational camping trip for the 4th, 5th and 6th graders, located at a christian beach camp about 2 hours south of Lima. I volunteered to go with the class because we don't have a Royal Rangers program in Peru. As such, I miss the camping oportunites I used to have with Colton in the states. The trip was fun and gave me a chance to see the kids in Colton's school interacting with one another. I also got to see how the teachers interact with the kids. It opened my eyes to the value of a Christian school. The first night, around the camp fire, I helped to lead worship and preached a message on valuing the gifts that God has put in others (based on 1 Cor. 12:21 & the story of the Good Samaritan). Many of the kids were open during worship and enjoyed the experience. Many were closed and did their best to ward off the presence of God. I was impressed by the teachers, who took their roles seriously--teaching the kids spiritual principles as well as reading, writing and arithmetic.
(One of the competitions was to build the largest sandcastle. The picture at right is of one of the teams and their Aztec temple. The grey skies and dreary weather is a picture of what winter is like in Lima, Peru.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy Shavuot!

I received a greeting card today, from a friend of mine in Israel. The card read: "May the joy and blessings of this feast of Shavuot be yours! This High Holy Day celebrates the gift of the Torah, given by God to His people, as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of the barley harvest. Truly it is a precious time in the Land of Israel."

Celebrating the day God gave His word is a great idea. God's word (both the Jewish scriptures and the New Testament) have changed the world. When Elizabeth Elliot went to the Guarani people in the jungles of Equator, after they had killed her husband, the Guarani woman that Elizabeth had been discipling spoke to her people. She said that God has written a letter on bark telling the people his will. She said that God does not want them to kill one another. The Guarani Indians responded in complete surprise, since no one had ever told them that before! When I heard that, I thought that we take so much for granted in western society. We fail to acknowledge the power of the Torah in the development of our own culture. The Guarani Indians killed Jim Elliot because they had no moral guideline telling them not to murder. One of their tribe members lied about the missionaries to cover up his own sin of adultery. That’s three of the 10 commandments. If it were only the 10 commandments, that would be immeasurably significant, but it obviously goes far deeper than that when we consider God's teachings on love and social justice. God's word has formed us.

In Latin America, we are confronted with a society in which God's word has not had as strong an effect. The Conquistadors told the Indians that they were Christians, then they robbed them, raped them, murdered and enslaved them. It sent a mixed message. Add to that a society of illiteracy, where no one could read the Bible even if they wanted to, and you get a culture in which people use a lot of religious sounding words without an understanding of the biblical message. That is why our ministry, Latin America ChildCare, is so significant. We're teaching the people how to read. More than that, we're also teaching them the Word of God. Because of this, many of the kids are getting saved. But, even when they don't get saved, there is a huge benefit to society. The Word of God is like yeast--just a little bit of it will eventually work its way through the whole batch of dough.

So, I agree with my friend and want to take this opportunity to say, “May the joy and blessings of this feast of Shavuot be yours!”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Celebrating with friends

For Resurrection Sunday (I hate the name Easter), one of the ways we celebrated was by enjoying an afternoon meal and a walk to the park with friends. I took some pictures with my phone and thought I'd share a few with you. The picture at the top is of Colton and his friend, Ladd Erickson. They're standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The picture immediately above is of my friend, Jens Erickson. He's grilling what turned out to be a fabulous salmon. The picture below is of my lovely bride, who's laughter is a huge source of strength for me.

After the afternoon meal, we walked to the park. Abi is doing some kind of pose, below. Willy is flying a kite with Jens. I love the shot of Willy, because every new activity is an adventure for him. His joy is also infectious.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

What's in your Chicken?

When you buy a chicken in the states, you never know what's really inside. Did they inject it with growth hormones? Was the processing plant sanitary? We'll that's not a problem at the local market here! Just in case you were longing to relive your high-school biology class and dissect a frog or something a little larger, here's a shot of the local chicken retailer near our apartment. As you can see, Willy is a chicken connoisseur.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Laughter, Language and Culture shock

Last night I preached at the anniversary celebration of a church in Lima. The Pastor asked me to preach on the family. I opened with a funny story about a wedding in which the Pastor accidentally reads John 4:17-18, "You've had five husbands and the man you are currently with is not your husband." I got no laugh from the congregation. In fact, I got no response at all. I told them that it was a joke and that it failed miserably. Usually, people laugh at that. This crowd just stared at me. Then, I told them the joke, "Why did the chicken cross the road? ... To get to the other side." They burst into uproarious laughter.

You can know the language, but that's not the same thing as understanding the culture. The concept of what is funny is cultural. In Costa Rica, the people do not find fart jokes funny. When we go to the movies, the Peruvians laugh at things that Americans don't think is funny. One thing we have noticed is that they like slapstick humor--people falling down, etc. So, for my next sermon, I'm going to have to fall off the pulpit and get hit in the face with a pie. This falls under the category of doing whatever it takes to preach the Gospel.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Why we're here

Recently, I saw a proverb spray-painted on a crumbling brick wall. It read: Literacy is social justice. It struck me to the core. Millions of people in Peru are oppressed, because they can't read or write. They can't find a job, because they can't read the classifieds in the newspaper. They can't sign a lease to rent an apartment. They can't even read the prices of food in the grocery store. Consequently, everyday, people take advantage of them. They are without hope.

That's why we're here. The love of Christ compels us.

Peru has the worst education in all of Latin America. Our ministry (Latin America ChildCare) is a sponsorship ministry. Willing sponsors help poor children to go to a quality, Christian school, where they get a good education and hear the Gospel. Those two (education and salvation) change the future of a family forever.

The on-line journal Living in Peru reports,
“According to a report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) … out of 131 countries ranked in the world, Peru was in last place in the quality of its elementary school education and in 130th place in the areas of math and science.”(1) The World Bank reports that the predominant issue of education in Peru is one of quality verses quantity. According to Daniel Cotlear of the World Bank, Peru increased access to education “by lowering the standards, so that what you ended up with was very high levels of coverage, but very poor quality.”(2)

[1]“Peru Ranked Last in the World in Quality of Education,” Living in Peru Web site. Available from http://www.livinginperu.com/news-5061-education-peru-ranked-last-world-quality-education, Accessed 8 November 2007.

[2]“Finding Quality Education in Peru,” The World Bank Latin America & Caribbean Web site. Available from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/COUNTRIES/LACEXT/0,,contentMDK:20983999~menuPK:258569~pagePK:2865106~piPK:2865128~theSitePK:258554,00.html, Accessed 28 September 2008.