Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends,

Four years ago, we celebrated Christmas in our home in Cincinnati. We had a little tree because we had packed our belongings for the mission to Peru. Now, four years later, we’re happy to have the chance to celebrate Christmas with our families and friends, again. We’re back in the states, hugging loved ones and raising our budget for another tour of duty in Peru. It’s been an incredible journey. I’ve attached a Christmas photo from four years ago and one from today. As you can see, the kids have grown—especially Colton! I believe that Lena and I have grown just as much on the inside. I can say with certainty that we’re grateful for what the Lord has done in us and through us in Peru. We feel honored to have the chance to serve Jesus on the mission field.

We have two important prayer requests:
1.     Healing for Lena’s father. He’s recovering from lung cancer and recently had surgery to remove a brain tumor. So far, he’s doing very well.
2.    God’s blessing in raising our budget to return to Peru. We hope to return this summer. Please pray for a full schedule of church services and for new financial partners.

We’re blessed by the many friends who’ve made it possible for us to go on the mission field and for those who’ve welcomed us now that we’re back in the states. May the Lord bless all of you richly this Christmas.

¡Feliz Navidad!
Bill, Lena, Hannah, Colton, Will and Abigail

Friday, November 19, 2010

Keeping My Cloak Tucked

I keep running up against a wall of reality here in Ohio during our year of itineration. It goes something like this: "Oh, what a nice something-or-other! I like that something-or-other! I would like to have it!--Oh, wait. No something-or-other for me. It won't fit in the 12 boxes going back to Peru, so there is no use having that." Hmmm.

Now, I want you all to know that I do NOT feel bad for myself for not amassing something-or-others. And I have already taken on so many somethings that there is no room for others. As a matter of fact, I view the need to live simply as a great blessing, because this is the way us believers need to live. We must hold loosely to the things of this earth, and I have great reminder that I am on a journey that will end with me leaving this earth the way I came into it--without something-or-others. Twelve boxes for six people is a good little preliminary preparation.

I have been reading in Exodus, where the Israelites were told, in anticipation of their flight from Egypt, to eat the sacrificial lamb or goat and the unleavened bread "with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand." (Exodus 12:11). In other words, they were to have their jogging suits on, their tennies tied, and be poised to leave at a moment's notice.

The problem is, my cloak keeps untucking. It is so easy to sit back and lose my awareness that the days are short here, that I am to be about getting back to Peru, and not focused on settling in here. But I am not the only one who needs to tuck their cloak. There is a growing awareness in the Body of Christ that these are serious days, when the fates of men are being sealed, and that our windows of opportunity to reach people for Christ are closing. The earth itself seems to be stirring in anticipation of the return of Christ.

Keeping my cloak tucked means that my greatest investment is in knowing Christ and doing the work of the Gospel. It means that I act like someone sending their treasures on ahead, not storing them all here. That my heart is to progress in the journey, not to settle into a lifestyle of comfort.

My prayer for all of us this holiday season is that our hearts be set on pilgrimage. When we do, we will look different from the rest. Hebrews 11 lists heroes of faith who "admitted they were strangers and aliens on this earth" (Hebrews 11:13). "They were longing for a better country-a heavenly one"(Hebrews 11:16). Lord help us to eat our Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas ham with our cloaks tucked. Fill our hearts with longing for the heavenly country that you have waiting for us. The best is yet to come!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Our Secret Weapon

This from Lena:

"So, how did you all land in Peru?"

This question is one that could launch us into a long recital of all the miraculous things that God did to get us to Peru. I never get bored of telling it, because every time I do, I feel the awesomeness--the undeniable way the Lord sent us there. The day-to-day of being a missionary can be a trying experience at times. You don't understand so many things, and as you are there longer, you start to see how YOU and not THEM will have to do the adjusting! It can be exhausting, although rewarding, even if your reward is simply that you know that you obeyed when the Lord told you to go.
There is something profound that happens when we tell our story-- I lose focus on the struggles we have faced, and in it's place, His face comes into view, and I know that He is with me. My own testimony encourages me, causes the lies of the devil to lose their power, and gives the glory to the Lord.
Revelations 12:11 says "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death." The sacrifice of Jesus for our sins paired with our testimony of what the Lord has done for us is our key to overcome the devil. The more I declare that God is good, the more that I pass on to others of how God has revealed Himself to me, the stronger and bigger threat I become.
Our testimony is so important. Bill and I have always tried to keep track of the miraculous things that God does for us, and tell these things, like we are looking through a picture album of our lives, noting all the important moments. I believe with all my heart that all of God's children have a testimony, and that some are beaten down because they keep forgetting all that He has done for them. Slowly, we can become weary because we have quieted our testimonies and have listened to "alternative translations" of the story that erase the miraculous.

We are blessed, because it is part of our job to tell the story. I pray that the Lord touch your heart and mind even now, reminding you of all that He has done for you, and that it will mean so much to you that you do not "love your lives so much as to shrink from death" because of how much it means. And if you never felt like you had a very special story of how the Lord rescued you, I pray that He would touch your mind and show you the true story of how you came to be His. Blessings!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Prayer Request for 33 trapped miners

Please pray for the 33 miners who are trapped underground in Chile. As I read the news about them, my heart is sad and fearful. The experts say that if they are successfully rescued, it is not humanly possible to do so for 3 months. They're telling the guys that they will hopefully be out by Christmas. It may not be humanly possible, but God is greater than a drill. Let's pray that God sends wise, gifted engineers to figure this out in a matter of days, rather than months.

From my perspective, this is looking like the gulf oil spill, where greedy corporations (the men are trapped in a gold mine) have created a mess that can't be fixed in a minute--and average working people are suffering. Unlike the oil spill, we have videos of these guys trapped underground, while their families hold a vigil 1/2 mile above them.

Here are the names of the 33 men:
Alex Vega Salazar, Ariel Ticona Yanez, Carlos Bugueno Alfaro, Calros Barrios Contreras, Carlos Mamani Solis, Claudio Acuna Cortes, Claudio Yanez Lagos, Daniel Herrera Campos, Dario Segovia Rojas, Edison Penaa Villarroel, Esteban Rojas Carrizo. Florencio Avalos Silva, Franklin Lobos Ramirez, Jimmy Sanchez Lagues, Jorge Galleguillos, Jose Ojeda Vidal, Jose Henriquez Gonzalez, Juan Illanes Palma, Juan Aguilar Gaete, Luis Alberto Urzua, Mario Gomez Heredia and Mario Seplveda Espina. Omar Orlando Reygada Rojas, Osman Isidro Araya Acuna, Pablo Amadeos Rojas Villacorta, Pedro Cortez, Raul Enriquez Bustos Ibanez, Renan Avalos Silva, Richard Villarroel Godoy, Samuel Avalos Acuna, Victor Segovia Rojas, Victor Zamora Bugueno, Yonny Barrios Rojas

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Blind See

This from Bill:

I believe in and have seen the gift of healing in operation. I also believe that God has given us doctors as a gift and that sometimes, God chooses to heal through his faithful servants who work in the medical profession. Therefore, we've had the incredible joy of praying for individuals and seeing them miraculously healed at the church altar. We've also had the joy of taking someone to the doctor who couldn't have otherwise gone. Cindy* is an example of both. She attends one of our schools in the Andes mountains. The pastor who oversees the school called and and told me that she was going blind, but that her conditon was treatable. The only problem, her family lives in extreme poverty and going to Lima for an operation would be impossible for them. The pastor asked if Latin America ChildCare could help. I said yes! With help from the Extreme Poverty Fund, LACC paid for Cindy to come to Lima for surgery and glasses. I saw Cindy after the surgery and she was incredibly happy. The picture above is her "before" shot. The one below is after the surgery, wearing her new glasses. She's not smiling in the picture below, because she's incredibly shy! But, when the camera wasn't on her, she was all smiles and was grateful for the gift of sight.

Thanks to all our LACC sponsors for your faithful giving. You've brough the gospel, hope and a better future to Cindy and her family.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Spirtual Gestation

This from Lena:

"Mom, I really want to go to South Africa."

I had noticed that most of Hannah's old friends from church were going on the trip, and I realized that she would feel lonely and a bit left out of things while they were gone, but I hadn't once considered her going. One of the moms, an old friend from church had broached the topic with me (of Hannah maybe going), and I brushed if off quickly and easily. After all, Hannah was only just coming from the mission field, we were exhausted from having only recently arrived in the States, and were struggling to make our old house living-ready, watching the earnings from having rented it disappear. So I went with my first instinct, and said a resounding "No!" Bill, always the less impulsive parent of the two of us, gave a more reason-centered answer. He said that she could go if she could raise the money. Almost as good as a no.

I softened (like I usually do) and told Hannah that she at least had to write to pastor Dele and find out what we would have to do to get her on that trip. She was scared, but I told her that this was good practice--that anything worth having in life requires a little fight from us. Little did I know that her letter would move the hearts of our pastoral staff and others to get behind her and put her on that flight with her friends. All of this happened in the space of a week and a half, from start to finish. At one point, we were even grappling with the possibility of putting her on a flight by herself, to catch up with the rest of the team in Johannesburg. Oh my.

My point? At some point in all of this process, I felt the control of it completely leave my hands. Hannah was praying, seeking God's will, fasting. And as I continued to "raise issues" with the process, explaining why it couldn't happen, or wouldn't be prudent, the Lord seemed to be turning to me and saying, "Thank you for your services. I greatly appreciate your input. Hannah's roots have now matured to the point that she and I can have private conversations that don't involve you. So, I'll take it from here."

We know that when a child turns 7, they start losing teeth. When they turn 16, they get a driver's license. But when does a child reach their full spiritual gestation period? When they start going to the Lord on their own, hearing His voice for themselves. At that point, even though I may be kept on as a "consultant," my full-time job as interpreter of God's will for their lives is over. And they might be 15 or 20, but when that happens, it is over. I was shocked, and yet I knew it was true. My baby girl was working out her own salvation.

So, here is my celebration of Hannah's spiritual independence. Like all those other benchmarks of growth, I will adjust to the changes it brings, but I know that this one is supremely important, and will guide all the rest of the decisions of her life far better than if I stayed that "contact person" for God. She went to South Africa, blessed a lot of orphans, and even received some words from the Lord for her life. It will be a pleasure to watch it unfold.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

On Coming Home

This from Lena:

The first thing almost all our friends ask us is, “How does it feel to be home?” In one sense, it is easy to answer. I cannot deny that on cold, dark Lima days (of which there are many), I often dream about Ohio summers, truly hot days that drive us to the neighborhood pool, being home with our family. It has been fabulous to be with all our old friends. We were quite established in our lives when we left to follow the Lord’s leading to Peru, and so there are many with whom we want to meet and catch up.

Still, there is a part of us that knows that we are going back, and there is a yellow caution light in our emotional wirings that lets us know that it is dangerous to care too much about WHICH new flooring to put down, how we decorate our old house, even warning us that connecting with all the things and people we love will make leaving home a lot like it was the first time we left….hard.

So, the house is looking good, and we are going about renewing our investment in it. The old girl was sorely in need of some repairs and maintenance, and we are doing all we can to get it done right. But it won’t get our hearts the way it did before. It is, after all, just a house. But about those friends and loved ones….

We just keep on loving them. With a number of my best girlfriends, I burst into tears when I first see them. It is like I was waiting until it was safe to release my feelings about needing to leave them in the first place, and this was the first time in four years that I could. And now things are complicated, because I have friends back in Lima who I am missing!

So how does it feel to be home?

Great! But home has started to morph into somewhere that doesn't exist in the earth, but does in my heart, where my dear friends and family both here and in Peru somehow meld together into one place, and I don't have to miss any of them. It is a place where I know I am called to work and love, and still can be with those I share so much history and have loved a long time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Work while it is day

Since being back in the states, we've been asked two questions: How does it feel to be home? And, are we going back? The answer to the first question is "Great!" Being home is fabulous--it is warm here, my mother is a great cook, and people all speak the same language. We're also enjoying how clean and green Ohio is. The transition has been somewhat difficult physically, but very rewarding emotionally. So many friends and family members have helped us, I don't know if I've ever felt so loved and supported. (Thanks everyone!)

So, if it's so great being home, are we planning to return to Peru? Absolutely! There is yet much work to be done. Our first term was very successful, in terms of accomplishing our ministry goals, and that gave us a rewarding sense of accomplishment. But it wasn't a complete sense of accomplishment. Rather, the first term now feels like it was a prelude to the real victories that are yet to come--especially now that we know much more of the language and culture. Some missionaries who feel like I do, feel constrained or hindered by the need to return to the states, but I feel very much the opposite. Rather than feeling like itineration has taken me from the work, I feel like it's part of the work. I'm eager to share about the miracles that God is doing and I'm eager for our friends and supporting churches to understand how valuable their partnership is. So, I feel blessed to be a part of the work and blessed to share the fruit of it with those who've sacrificed to make it possible. And, as much as I'm enjoying being home, I'm aware of the continuing harvest that awaits us in Peru. The Holy Spirit is transforming the lives of hundreds of families in Peru. I want to put my hand to the plow with Jesus and work while it is still day!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Prayer Requests

1.       Our AC/heat pump is dead.
2.       Our daughter (Hannah) is going on a missions trip to South Africa with the youth group from First Christian Assembly. The dates are July 18-30. We’d like to ask for prayer for Hannah, for protection, spiritual fruit, and financial support. She has not had much time to raise pledges for this trip, since she found out about it when we arrived in the states two weeks ago. Lena and I could use prayer, also, for calm nerves. Letting Hannah go on this trip is far more frightening than our trips in the jungle!
3.       Inspiration for me as I write chapter three of my doctoral project. I need big inspiration, fast!
4.       Favor in booking services for our itineration and the completion of our new budget.
5.       Friends for our four kids—Hannah (15), Colton (13), Will (7), and Abi (5). Also that they’re transition into public school (Kings) would go smoothly. May the Lord give them kind and considerate teachers.
6.       Wisdom regarding our auto situation and over all the financial decisions that we have to make to live here for a year. It’s difficult figuring out what justifies an expense.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's a snack cracker

I snapped this picture while driving through Lima. "Kraps" is a snack cracker. I think they were going for something that sounds like "crisp" or "crackle." Even though everyone in the marketing department studied English in High School, no one took a class in street lingo. So, the next time you're on your way to a party and someone says, "I brought the cheese." You can say, "Great, because I got the ..." Well, maybe you should just say, "...snack crackers."
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Home ... for a time

From Bill:

We returned to the U.S. two weeks ago. We're here to share the adventure of God's glorious calling with the individuals and churches that have partnered with us. The transition back has been good overall. The weather is very hot, near 100. Our A/C is out of commission. Nonetheless, I love the heat. I like taking a cold shower before going to bed and feeling the night air blown in by a window fan--it feels like camping!

We've moved back into our old home. We rented it to a family while we were gone. Before we left for Peru, I asked them how long they wanted to rent it and they said, "Until you get back." It is another demonstration of how God takes care of so many things. Coming back to our old house and the friends in the neighborhood has been a huge blessing. We're very grateful that we don't have to start over from scratch. Nonetheless, in our time away, the house has aged and so have my kids. This created the need to freshen things up considerably. When we left, Abi was sleeping in a crib in our room. At the age of 5, she's a bit big for that. We needed another bedroom. As such, We hired a contractor to convert the laundry room into a bedroom and to put a shower into the half bath. That work is still being completed. The unfinished part of that work and the fact that we have no furniture has left us a little bit in limbo, but each day we're closer to completion. There's something fulfilling about working on your house in the summer. I remember in our early years of marriage, I would take a week off in the summer to repair/paint the old house we lived in. It was always a fun time of teamwork for Lena and I. This project has brought back those memories.

It's been great seeing our families and enjoying summer. I inherited by father's old grill. It's a Weber gas model with a porcelain grate. It's been in storage for 4 years but still works great. We've grilled some mighty tasty burgers--at 10:00 PM. The time change and late sunsets have totally confused our bodies. In Peru, the sun sets before 6:00 pm (which is a sign that it's time to eat dinner). Here, the sun does not set until 9:30! Abi keeps protesting, "How can it be bed time ... it's still light out?!"

Do we love being home? Yes. Do we miss Peru? Yes. This aspect of the transition is like the time change and the late sunset. It confuses the emotions. It feels great to be back, but always with the knowledge and hope  that we're returning to Peru. We have a purpose that is greater than enjoying the beauty and warmth of hom. Ohio is far cleaner and more beautiful than Peru, but I can't hold it too tightly. I know that we are here to advance the calling the Lord has given us for Peru. Knowing that enables me to both enjoy my time here and also to carry the hope of what God is going to do in and through us when we return to the land of our calling.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feeding the Children

A good education can be lost due to the ill effects of malnutrition. That's why we're so grateful for the generous help of Fire Peru and Feed My Starving Children. Those ministries have enabled us to feed nearly 800 children daily. Here are some shots of the kids eating in one of our schools in the Amazon jungle.

I suggested that these two look like they were on a romantic date. The class laughed so hard I almost couldn't take the picture.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Preparing to say goodbye -- for a year

Normally, I post stuff here then put it on facebook. Today, it's the other way around. Earlier this week, I was in Iquitos--the largest city in the world that you cannot get to by car. It is in the Amazon jungle and can only be accessed by plane or boat. I was there to take pictures of cute kids, so that we can find sponsors for them when we return to the states for our year of re-connecting with churches and supporters. The year back home is obviously welcomed, but it comes at a cost. We'll be leaving behind the friendships we have here, to strengthen those we left behind 3 1/2 years ago. 

The streets are made of sand and mud.
Some experiences are harder to leave behind than others. One of those is my love for the jungle and the friends that I have there. I posted one of those experiences on facebook a couple of days ago: "I had a tear in my eye as I rode through muddy streets on the back of Jose's motorcycle. This would be my last day in the jungle town of Iquitos for at least a year. Close by, half-naked kids were playing marbles in the mud. It began to rain and I looked up to see black storm clouds hanging over the Amazon river. I thank God that I get to serve Him in Peru!"

The sewer ditch in front of one of our schools.
Yesterday, I spoke with one of the pastors I work with in the northern coastal region. Like all the pastors I work with, our friendship is deepened by the need to resolve difficult problems. Trying to build an evangelistic community of transformation in a context of poverty will either make or break a friendship. For the most part, we've made some great friendships. Yesterday, as I spoke with my friend about our return to the states, he understood that our departure was necessary for the ministry to continue, while at the same time lamenting our departure. The conversation ended and I was about to hang up, when he called out, "Bill!"


"Un abrazo. (A hug.)"

"Egualmente, Hermano! (Same to you, Brother!)"

A taxi-boat.

Motorcycles are the transport of choice in jungle towns. They are shipped in boxes and assembled on-site. This is a great picture for this blog entry, since it has motorcycles in Iquitos and also contains a shot of my friend Tim Wolf (whose last name is wild, like the jungle).

These houses are next to one of our schools and display how the children live.  

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Eber 1 - The lame will leap

Eber is a Latin America ChildCare (LACC) child who lives in the Amazon jungle. He had meningitis as a baby, with a dangerously high fever. Surprisingly, it is a disease I (Bill) also had and which, for a time, left me paralyzed. By grace, I had excellent medical care and recovered. Eber’s story is different. Eber’s family did not have the money for medicine; so, they applied a poultice of jungle plants. Eber survived, but the disease left him crippled. His bones grew, but his muscles did not. The result was that his leg bones were bent, his knee-caps were in the wrong place, knee joints faced inward, and his flat feet faced outward. It was impossible to straighten his legs. Rather than walk, he hopped. The doctors said that if he did not receive surgery, the stress on his knees and hips would destroy them.

Eber receives a Christmas gift from LACC.
The schools in Eber’s jungle town rejected him, telling his mother that they were incapable of mainstreaming a disabled child. That’s when Pastor Fernando stepped in. He directs the LACC school in Eber’s town. He accepted Eber and asked LACC to help. Eber now has a sponsor who pays $32 per month so that Eber can learn to read and write, be discipled in Christ and have the hope of a future. Pastor Fernando’s eyes well up when he tells the story of how the kids in the school accepted Eber and how they help him. Now LACC is helping Eber to walk. Through the “extreme poverty fund,” LACC is paying for Eber to receive surgery. That’s where we come in (i.e., Bill, Lena and fellow missionary, Phyllis Rose). We brought Eber to Lima to receive surgery. The doctor had to stretch his legs out with plaster casts in order to make his muscles long enough to be detached and reconnected in different places. The knee caps had to be removed and reattached. The leg bones needed to be cut and straightened. And, his feet required complete reconstruction.

His feet were deformed.
It also meant taking a crippled boy out of the jungle and flying him to Lima—a city of 9 million people.

The casts were used to stretch his muscles.

To be continued …

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thanks for Writing ...

The sponsorship program for Latin America ChildCare (LACC) invites sponsors to write their sponsored child. When a child gets a letter, we always ask them to write back. Some letters are perfunctory and some are unusually honest. This is my favorite for this year. It came from a 5th grader:

Dear Sponsor,

One day I fell from the mototaxi* and my mother screamed and my father told me that I broke a bone and I said, "No Daddy." And one day I cut my hair all by myself and my mom hit me for cutting my hair. And my dog died last Tuesday. My whole family cried.

Thanks for listening. I leave you with a big hug.

*Name changed. A mototaxi is a three wheeled motorcycle taxi.

For $32 per month, you can change the life of a child like Jay--providing him with the Gospel, a quality education and maybe even a real haircut!

A Tale of Two Histories

Willy, at age 7, is the budding Evangelist in the family. Recently, he was playing in the park and mentioned Jesus to his friend. The boy said, "Who is this Jesus guy you keep talking about?

Willy replied, "Don't you know Jesus? He's God. He made us and the world and everything!"

The boy responded, "God didn't make us. We came from monkeys and the big boom!"

Willy, never having heard of the big "boom," was as perplexed as his friend who had never heard of Jesus. Willy came home and told the rest of us, "That kid really needs to learn about Jesus, because he thinks we came from monkeys."

It's like Charles Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities," in which the city was the same, it was the perspective of the people that was different. In this case, you don't have two "cities;" but rather, two "histories." THE original history is Willy's, who has been brought up to believe in a loving God who protects him and wants what is good for him. The fruit of that is that Willy is a generally happy kid. Why be afraid when God is on your side? The other history is that of the other boy, who was brought up to believe in unexplainable physical processes that have the power to create or destroy--entirely without love or reason. As such, the other little boy has a surly and cantankerous outlook. The explanation for where we come from shows on the faces of each child.

I'm proud of Willy for sharing about Jesus and, even though he climbs like a monkey, he didn't come from one. Below is a letter Willy wrote to Jesus, back when he was just starting the first grade. It reads, "Dear Jesus, Thank you for coming into my heart. Love, Will." Ironically, he spelled "heart" as "hert." If you pronounce it "hurt," it would be just as true.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Willy and Abi at the Park

Lena, Bill and the two youngest Shraders (Willy and Abi) went out to the park on May 2nd. It was a holiday weekend, so we couldn't get into the big attraction (gigantic sailing ships in the harbor). Instead, we ended up at the park celebrating crowd control. In South America, crowd control is the kind of thing people celebrate! They had old police cars, water canons and a fiberglass statue of a soldier with a machine gun. As we were walking along, I turned to see Willy standing in front of the statue with his hands up. It was very funny and called for participation from Abi. Willy has a natural sense of humor that we all appreciate. Abi, for her part, has a natural beauty that we all appreciate. Below, please note Willy driving the water canon. In the picture of Lena and the kids, note that behind Lena is an armored vehicle for driving through an angry crowd. We drive through angry crowds everyday ... its called traffic.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 17, 2010

Overcoming the Spiritual Cynic Within

This from Lena:

I remember James Dobson, years back, talking about how it is good for couples to go back to the places where they first fell in love, and let these places stir up the memories of those first electric experiences between you and your mate, thus restoring those feelings of the first flush of passion. But what if we apply this same principle to our walk with the Lord? Same thing.

Recently, I have had the privilege of watching my oldest daughter fall passionately in love with her Savior. She has always been steeped in things of the Spirit through ministry life and her own decisions to jump into the presence of the Lord, but has begun to experience the pull of other things, and as a result has run right to the feet of Jesus. I am so proud of what I see in her, but as she seeks my counsel on things, I sometimes hear coming out of me a note of fear—that she will do something that will “offend the brethren” in her newfound zeal. As cautious pearls of wisdom fall from my mouth, I am caught remembering all the “overly zealous” stuff I did. And I did REALLY zealous stuff. Stuff I don’t want to even tell her about, for fear she will do the same! Crazy. And I am caught between the idea that wisdom keeps us out of unnecessary trouble, but passion is always throwing us into conflict-with the world, with those who are embarrassed or challenged (or both) by our passionate zeal, and even with ourselves, as we try to reason with ourselves why running into a room full of strangers with a bottle of Chanel No. 5 to pour on Jesus’ feet is a bad idea.

Why was it that we decided to take the safe way? Oh yeah. We got burned! Lots of people reject us. After all, a little flicker of light might manage to go unnoticed, and even give off a pleasing glow that attracts…but a raging fire is bound to get a response. Someone will run to put it out!! “No fires allowed!! Your fire offends me!” (Your fire convicts me!)

Why is it that the Lord chose passionate people as the leaders of his church? He chose Peter. He was clearly a hothead, but his first instincts were almost always those of absolute zeal. “You are the Son of God!” He knew it in his gut, and it was his first instinct to let it out. The Lord chose Paul, who was dying to go all the way for a cause, and the Lord chose him because He knew that once Paul knew the truth, he would not let the church veer from their course, no matter the personal cost to his own reputation. When the Galatians got off course with legalism, he wastes no time in correcting them. After the niceties of the normal greetings, his first words are, “Oh you foolish Galatians!” Passionate zeal. A centering desire that sometimes bypasses courtesy.

So, I am looking deep into the eyes of my teenager, and remembering the fires that gave me life. I am listening to Keith Green. I am remembering college students crammed into an old van, driving 24 hours to do beach witnessing in Fort Lauderdale. Witnessing to whomever the Spirit brought my way. Date nights with Jesus, letting him be the Great Pursuer of my life, and loosing the hope that there would be another…. I am stirring up my First Love.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Once you have kids

I remember when I was in college, one of my nephews (Justin) was four years old. I remember thinking that I would have rather died than to suffer his death. At the age of 21, I had my first taste of really understanding the kind of love that would make you want to give up your life for another. Unfortunately, sometimes the people who are the most willing to give up their lives are the ones left behind. They are the ones that do suffer the loss of their loved ones. My sister and brother-in-law (Terry and Bob) are in that category. Their son (Robby) died as a young adult. His death was the worst experience of my life. I was supposed to be a pall bearer, but couldn't compose myself to do so. I walked behind the coffin, sobbing. Hannah was a baby at the time. Once you have kids, you get a quick taste of the fear of death. Not the fear of your death; rather, the fear of the loss of your loved one.

I had a reminder of that yesterday. I was driving Colton to a friend's house when we both saw a horrible sight. There was a teenager lying in the middle of the street--face down. His skate-board was lying about five feet away. It was a hit and run. A cop and a lady were talking quietly near the body, but they were not addressing the body. I spoke to Colton, saying, "If he was just hurt, they'd be sitting next to him, telling him to hang on until the ambulance arrives."

Colton looked closely, noting, "I can't see him breathing."

Our hearts sank and we began to pray in earnest. If he was dead, then we prayed him back to life. If he was wounded, then we prayed for healing. As we drove away, we could hear the sirens of the ambulance coming.

The night before, we watched the TV detective show, Monk. (Lena bought me 8 episodes for Christmas.) Each episode begins with a murder. The rest of the show is a combination of mystery and comedy. We never mourn for the victim. The show is not about the victim. It's about how good your feel when the detective solves the crime. But when it's not a TV show, the reality is almost too painful to imagine. Empathy wells up like a flood and we have feelings of great remorse for the loved ones left behind. I thought about the young man's mother. She thought he was just outside playing. It began to tear me up. I prayed, on and off, for the rest of the night. I prayed for the boy, but after hours of worry, I also prayed for myself. I asked the Lord to reveal to me what happened. I told the Lord, "This is really upsetting me. What about his mom? I want relief Lord."

After many hours, it was time to go back to get Colton. I drove past the very spot and slowed down to look for any sign of what happened. There was a patch on the street that looked like blood. I looked ahead and saw a night guard sitting in front of a restaurant. I pulled over and asked about the boy, saying, "I drove by earlier and their was a boy lying in the street."

"Yea. It was a hit and run."

"Did the boy survive?"

The guard answered, "Yes." My heart leapt within me.

"But I drove by right after it happened and he looked dead."

"Yep. But when the ambulance arrived, he revived. They helped him up and he was able to climb into the ambulance on his own legs."

I could hardly believe it. Instantly, the feelings of oppression passed. I was able to breath.

Was it our prayers that revived the boy or would he have recovered just as well in the natural. That, we will never know. But I know that God heard me and I know that tonight, a mother has her son to hug one more time.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Tale of Two Bibles

In a fete of generosity, I purchased new Spanish-English Bibles for Hannah, Colton and myself. Shortly thereafter, I noticed Hannah carrying her old Bible. She explained that she had recently shared her faith with a girl and that she felt the Holy Spirit nudge her to give the girl her Bible. I was proud of Hannah for sharing her faith, but scolded her for giving away a new Bible. I said, “Hannah, that Bible was expensive and we have cheap Bibles at home that we buy to give away.”
A week later, I was in Iquitos with a medical team from the Timberline church. Some members of the team began to witness to a young man who was studying English. He said that he wanted to read the Bible, but that he couldn’t afford to buy one. He then said that what he really wanted was a Spanish-English Bible so he could read the Bible and improve his English. I, of course, had my Spanish-English Bible in my backpack. But, if I gave him my bilingual Bible, how would I explain it to Hannah? I decided to suck it up and take my lumps. I gave the guy my Bible. (In the picture, here, I’m showing him verses on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.) I saw Hannah a few minutes later and confessed quickly. She was very gracious. Later that week, I saw her having her quiet time. (She’s very faithful in her devotions.) I noticed she was reading a new Bible just like the one I had given her. I asked, “Where did that come from?” She smiled a wry smile and said, “Mom bought it for me.”

To see more pictures from the Timberline medical mission, visit

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Good Friday Reflection

The week before Resurrection Sunday is a big deal in Latin America. People here actually quit working and live a more peaceful existence--though many merely use it as an excuse to go to the beach and celebrate the end of summer. Yesterday was Good Friday (Holy Friday in Spanish). So, we joined with many other faithful believers for a day of serious church attendance. We went to church with two of our missionary collegues: Emily Sandoval and Phyllis Rose. They were scheduled to preach as two parts of a seven sermon, four hour, church marathon. The topic of the sermons was the last 7 statements of Jesus (see the list below). After we arrived, the pastor said that he didn’t have anyone to preach on “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mk 15:34)” He asked if I’d be willing to do it and I said yes. I sometimes give the kids 10 minutes to write a 5 minute sermon. That’s what it was like. I was grateful to get this text, since it was more passionate and obvious than some of the others. I addressed the sermon from two perspectives: theological and emotional. In honor of Holy Week, here is a devotional on Mark 15:34--"And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"

The first perspective (theological) is to simply answer the question, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” The answer is that sin separates. Sin destroys relationships and creates barriers where no barrier was ever meant to be. The husband who cheats on his wife, eventually forces everyone in the family to feel abandoned. An innocent wife goes unloved. Children go without their father’s affection and, worse, lose the image of a father they can trust. The whole family suffers a painful existence without affection and without protection. When people sin, it forces others in society to undertake the painful task of punishing even their friends. An honest cop cannot let his best friend off, if the latter is an alcoholic who kills people by driving drunk. The latter man’s sin has caused a separation among best friends. If the cop is a just man, he must arrest his best friend and bring him to judgment. He must do it, even if the sinner is his son. God had to forsake Jesus, because the latter was carrying all the sins of the world. Jesus was, at that moment, a murderer—carrying the weight of Cain’s murder of Abel. God, the Father, was the judge. An honest judge cannot let his son go free, if the young man had actually committed murder. And even if the father had always been there for the son in the past, when one goes to the gallows, one goes alone. The just Judge decrees the sentence that, according to the law, the young man must die. After he gives the decree, the Father watches the executioner take the young man away. It’s possible for parents to visit their son in prison, but when someone gets a death sentence, they go alone. Perhaps, as in this case, the young man looks back at the father and cries out, “You’ve always walked with me through the difficulties. As these men take me away, why do you not accompany me? (i.e. why have you forsaken me?)” The father, a just man who respects the law, turns away because he cannot bear to see it. Criminals, who are so vile that society deems they must be put to death, must face their punishment alone.

The second perspective, emotional, has to do with human experience. Jesus cried out these words to let me know that he knows what I have gone through. No one walks the walk of faith without experiencing a time in which it feels like God is not listening. For some, the feeling that God is not listening, that he has turned away and forsaken them, lasts for years. That’s the pain of the barren woman who longs for a child. That’s the pain of a couple whose child is terminally ill. God does indeed answer prayers and there are hundreds of stories of the barren woman who miraculously has a child and the parents of a sick child who miraculously recovers. Miracles do happen, but they don’t always happen. There are many great Christians who saw fabulous miracles, but who also suffered. Mother Theresa went for decades where she did not hear the voice of the Lord and she suffered horribly under this longing. Martin Luther led the reformation, but also suffered the death of his beloved daughter. I have prayed for friends to recover from cancer, only to suffer their loss. In those moments, if one is really honest, one’s emotional response is to accuse the Lord of wrong doing. In our pain we cry out to the Lord, “You left me alone when I really needed you!” It is to say, “My God, my God, at my hour of greatest need, why have you forsaken me?”Jesus knows what I’m going through. Jesus has experienced these feelings. We don’t need to feel ashamed of them. Even the Son of God has asked that question.

We have the advantage of historical perspective. We’ve read the whole story and know that, even though Jesus felt abandoned by the Father, God had a plan. Jesus knew the plan. Jesus knew that he would rise again, but the effects of sin had obscured his ability to see it. Sin separates and sin obscures. Sin, whether it is ours or someone else’s, leaves both innocent and guilty people in the dark. But we are not in the dark in this moment. We have the account written fully for us. We know that in that darkest moment, the curtain which sin had created, the curtain which separated God from us, was torn in two. We need to always keep in mind that even though today is Friday, Sunday’s coming--and we all know what we celebrate on Sunday.


The picture, above, is of the cross atop "San Cristobal" (Saint Christopher). It's a mini-mountain in Lima, from which one can overlook the city. On Good Friday, thousands of peruvians climb to the top of the mount in penance.

The 7 last statements of Jesus are:
1. Lk 23:34a Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
2. Lk 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
3. Jn 19:26-27 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
4. Mk 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
5. Jn 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
6. Lk 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice,“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
7. Jn 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

School supplies for Peru-frica

African Children's Ministry started with the mission of sending school supplies to children in Africa; but (thanks to divine providence) the founders are friends of ours! As such, the Latin America ChildCare kids of Peru have benefited from some great school supplies. That's significant, because I was recently told by a teacher that some of the kids don't come to school because their parents can't afford to buy them pencils and paper!

Big thanks go to my friends Sue, Michelle and all those who have donated to bless the kids of Perufrica!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Horoscopes and getting the "inside" scoop

This from Bill:

I was chatting with a friend, recently, about horoscopes and fortune tellers. I'd like to share some thoughts here. As most probably know, that sort of practice is offensive to God and strongly rebuked in the Bible (Lev. 20:6; Dt. 18:9-13). I know that a lot of Christians take it lightly or try to explain it away, saying that God made the stars so it’s like watching for what God has done. Nonetheless, since God said it was offensive, even if he made the stars, he knows best. I think the issue for the Lord is whether or not people are pursuing a personal relationship with Him or trying to have another source of “inside” information. Isaiah addresses this, since the Jews were seeking fortune tellers prior to the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem. Isaiah 8:19-22 says,
When people tell you, “Try out the fortunetellers. Consult the spiritualists. Why not tap into the spirit-world, get in touch with the dead?” Tell them, “No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.” People who try the other ways get nowhere—a dead end! Frustrated and famished, they try one thing after another. When nothing works out they get angry, cursing first this god and then that one, Looking this way and that, up, down, and sideways—and seeing nothing, A blank wall, an empty hole. They end up in the dark with nothing. (The Message)

The topic actually extends through chapter 9. The NIV, which is not as pithy as The Message, does a good job of one thing—the contrast between light and dark in the passage. (I put it below, emphasizing the light and dark statements.) The Lord is saying that He will light our path, while those who choose other sources of spiritual information will be walking in darkness. The beauty of this passage is that it is one of the famous messianic passages; that is, God is not just promising to light our path, He is promising to give us One who is light and will walk with us. It is a clear reference to Jesus, but also brings to mind the Holy Spirit who is called the “Paraclete,” which means “counselor” or “one who walks alongside.” For those who want a special blessing or the inside scoop on what they’re going to encounter today, the Holy Spirit is a direct connection. (That’s no-doubt why the gift of prophecy was so highly valued in the early church and is so necessary today.) Isaiah 47 and 48 deal with the same theme; i.e., people seeking secret information from fortune tellers and God promising that he will meet that need by giving the Holy Spirit (listed below).

So, I want to encourage and challenge my friends out there to skip the daily horoscope or online fortune teller and trust in the Lord. If you do, the Holy Spirit will show himself to you in a very special way.

Here are the verses I mentioned above:
Isai 8:19 (NIV) When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. 9:1 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-- 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

Isa. 47:13-14a – “All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. 14 Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame.

God picks up the theme a short while later in Isa. 48:16-17 –
Isai 48:16 (NIV) "Come near me and listen to this: "From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there." And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me, with his Spirit. 17 This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Essential Guide to Luck

This from Bill:
I put an update on facebook, recently, and wanted to comment on it.
Yesterday at the grocery store, I saw a book entitled “The Essential Guide to Luck.” I feel pretty lucky, I saved $10 by not buying it. I’m beginning to see the potential for a whole series:
·         How to plan for the unforeseeable.
·         Seeing the bright side of fatalism.
·         Denial—How to be unencumbered by Reality.
·         The Lottery—Investment strategies for the Hopeful.
·         How to Gain Weight without even Trying!
So, why did I find this funny? Because, for luck to truly be luck, it must be completely random. Therefore, one cannot write a guide about it. That’s why I suggested the sequel: “How to plan for the unforeseeable.” This made me think, because engineers try to predict the unforeseeable all the time. People who build toaster ovens must ask themselves, “What would happen if someone stuck their tongue in this thing?” Even though it seems obvious to most of us that that would be a bad idea, the engineers must ask the question. That led me to a famous quote by Louis Pasteur. I thought it was “Life favors the prepared mind.” But, that is an evolved (albeit astute) version of the quote. The real quote was “In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.” It has been shortened to: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Or, “Fortune favors the prepared mind.”
So, maybe one can write a guide to luck. Unfortunately, the “Guide to Luck” in the grocery store had a bunch of pagan symbols all over the cover. So, I don’t think that book was about preparing the mind. Nonetheless, I can still benefit from the wise insight of Louis Pasteur.

Two other great quotes from Louis Pasteur (the guy who taught us to pasturize milk):
"The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. I pray while I am engaged at my work in the laboratory. "
"Blessed is he who carries within himself a God, an ideal, and who obeys it: ideal of art, ideal of science, ideal of the gospel virtues, therein lie the springs of great thoughts and great actions; they all reflect light from the Infinite."