Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
"You must be crazy to go there!"
I've heard that before when I've told people where I was going to work for the Lord. That's OK. If Jesus is sending us there, we'd be crazy not to go. If we're going to be crazy either way, we're content to be crazy for Jesus, if that's what the world would like to think.
So here we are, your crazy missionaries!
What was the river Jordan like? Jesus, the pure Son of God, might have chosen to be baptized in the purest of waters, but He didn't. He chose the river.
Let me tell you the stories of Daisy, Robert, Michael, Rosa, and Aldo.
Daisy grew up an Adventist, but felt that she was too restricted. She left the church as a young lady and went her way becoming a lawyer, and for a time, living in Utah. After a terrible car crash, she began to think, and to change her life. She came to Suchitoto to work for God in the prisons. Hearing that we were coming, she decided it was time to come back home and she came to our meetings. She asked for baptism, but wanted it to be more, so she came down to the river.
Robert is Daisy's husband. He doesn't speak as much English as Daisy, so I don't know all of his story, but I know that she has had an impact on him by his love for the Lord. Even though he was burning with fever from a mosquito borne illness and headed to the hospital, he didn't want to go until he had come down to the river.
Michael is Daisy's nephew. He speaks only a bit more English than I speak Spanish, but he too is a product of love. He grew up without much in the way of this worlds goods, needing to go to work before finishing school and only reaching the 6th grade. Daisy and Robert have adopted him, and now he has joyfully thrown himself into helping us at the clinic and avidly drinking in the evening meetings. He couldn't wait to come down to the river.
Rosa and her husband worked in a restaurant that serves pupusas. (I hope I spelled that right. I think my Spanish spelling is probably as bad as my Spanish pronunciation!) Daisy and her family came into the restaurant frequently, and Rosa watched them. She noticed that they were different, that there was something about them. Finally, curiosity got the best of her and she asked what it was that made them different. She heard about Jesus, the Seventh-day Adventists, about our clinic and our meetings. She decided to see it for herself. She and her husband came to the clinic and a few nights of the meetings. After those few nights, the restaurant owner heard that they were coming to the Adventist meetings, and both Rosa and her husband were fired on the spot. They kept coming to the meetings anyway. Rosa's husband was baptized on the last night of the meetings, but Rosa wanted more. She came down to the river.
Before I tell you Aldo's story, I have to confess a habit I have. When I meet someone new who loves the Lord, I ask them about their story. Have you always followed God? Have you always been an Adventist? Aldo had come from the Avon Park church, and I knew he would have a good story. Was I right!
He confided, "I'm not an Adventist, but I've been around the church for a long time, and I wanted to come on this trip and help people."
"What's stopping you from being baptized and joining the church?" I asked.
"Nothing," he answered, "I've just never done it."
"Now's the time then," I assured him.
"Yes. . . Yes, I think it is," he concluded.
And so, on Sabbath afternoon, thousands of miles from Avon Park, Florida, one of our own missionaries came down to the river.
If these stories are not exciting enough, and wonderful enough to tell you about the awesome God that we serve, let me tell you my own personal highlight of this trip. As Daisy's cheeks were already wet with tears of joy before plunging beneath that cleansing flood. As Robert would not go to the hospital before he had come to the Lord. As Michael came with a wide grin pasted on his face. As Rosa stood for her faith though it cost her a job. And as Aldo came in his own quiet way. I got to share in each of those stories when I came down to the river.
You see, there is very little in the life of a pastor (or anyone else for that matter) that is more wonderful than seeing someone come to the Lord. To know that someone has begun a new life in Christ, and I somehow have been privileged to act a part in the symbol of that new life getting started is something I live for. How thrilling is that?
Take in the scene with me. We were on a mission trip from Lakeland, Florida all the way to Suchitoto, El Salvador. How did we get there? So many people have worked so hard, and so long to get us there. So many sacrifices. So much prayer on the part of so many and so much blessing on God's part.
And here we were. All of our planned activities were a huge success. So many helped in the clinics. So many kids blessed. So many made decisions, with more to come. We had baptized over 70 so far during the week! Now it was our last Sabbath there.
The moment sank in for me as I came down to the river. Here was the culmination of it all. Here was the capstone for me of our mission trip, I got to personally baptize five souls in a muddy river in far away El Salvador. It doesn't get any better than that. I can only humbly breathe, "Worthy, worthy is the Lamb." God has done so much.
What an amazing trip we had!
Two of the big things that made this mission trip a success were the medical/dental clinic and the VBS.
Each day 80 or more people came for medical consultation with local doctors who donated their time and expertise. Many of the patients could not afford to see a doctor for any reason. If they had some illness, they would often go to the pharmacy directly and hope by describing their symptoms that the pharmacist would recommend something to them. In hopes of getting what they needed, they began waiting outside of the school where our clinic was held. It opened at 9 am, but they began arriving at 6. What an opportunity for them to come and see real doctors who would prescribe medications that we had brought--or at least the first couple of days worth of patients could do that. Unfortunately, our supplies were vastly unable to meet the need. Even so, several hundred people got help that they would not have gotten had not others been willing to give and bless.
Local dentists brought in their own equipment and were able to fill teeth right there. Sometimes though, the patients had not had any care and teeth simply had to be pulled. All of them were instructed on proper oral care and were given toothbrushes and taught how to use them. What a blessing to all that we could see, perhaps close to 200, who had been living with pain and poor dental health.
When we were finished, all the doctors and dentists asked us, "Please come back!"
The children's program, although held near the back of the school, could be heard all around the entire campus. Those kids were having fun! It was held twice a day, with different programs each time, once during the morning clinic and once during the evening meetings. Leilani and Robert sang songs in Spanish with motions. Gilbert, from the Indiana church involved the kids in stories that taught about Daniel and his friends, Jonah and the whale, Esther, etc. Then came the part the kids pushed and shoved for, in spite of us trying to hold them back--the crafts. They made crowns and rainbows, bookmarks and fish keychains. At the end, they each got a bag, ones that Cindy and her team had made, with a stuffed animal, pencils, markers, and a coloring book that reinforced the Christ centered messages. There were also health talks and each child got a toothbrush, maybe their first ever. Adding up each day's total participants, we had about 1,300 kids!
Like Jesus, we touched people where they were, met their needs, and won their confidence, as well as having bid them follow Him (see MH 143). And the Lord blessed mightily!
Monday, November 9, 2015
We're back, but we're not done!
I wanted to get a quick note out to let you know what's happening. We didn't have internet for the last couple of days that we were in El Salvador, so I couldn't post everything that was happening. Over the next couple of days I'll publish the God-honoring things that happened toward the end in the clinics, the evangelistic meetings, baptisms, and more.
Unfortunately, I've had to take a bit of a detour from the rest of the group, and I haven't made it back to Florida yet. I'm a bit busy with what's going on, so please be patient with me. Things will happen here. So. . . .
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Yesterday, I asked Pastor Cruz, the local coordinator for this emphasis in Suchitoto, when I could go visiting with him.
"Right now!" he enthusiastically replied.
On the way, we met a young lady of about 15 or 16 who, along with her family, has been studying with the Bible workers. She is having a hard time making the decision to put Christ first in her life.
We went on to her house and met her sister and cousin. They too had some questions, but we spent some time showing them texts about the Sabbath and God's plan for our diet. We asked for a decision, and they made the right one!
We had expected them to be baptized the next day but they said, "No, we want to be baptized tonight!"
Wow, God is really moving in people's lives!
Nearly across the street was the home of a lady in her early 70's who lives alone. We had to wait a bit for her to get there because she was out--inviting others to our evening meetings. Just a short time ago the Bible workers had come to her home and begun studies with her and her ill husband. Soon his family came and took him to a hospital, but not in Suchitoto, and even his wife didn't know where he was. She looked everywhere.
"I'm about to die," he said when she finally found him, "but I want to be baptized before I go."
She comforted him, "Don't worry. God understands, and like the thief on the cross, you are baptized in your heart."
With that peaceful assurance, he fell asleep in her arms.
Already she is working for the Lord, helping those close to her find their place with Him. As we talked with her, she made the decision for baptism as well.
The young girl we first talked to was present for the baptism of her sister, her cousin, and the older lady. We urged her to take her stand, but still she is not ready. Please pray for her.
On this outing we visited with some people who are not simply believing, but demonstrating the amazing work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Praise the Lord! You can see their pictures here.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
I wanted to give you a statistical window into what's happening here.
Number of Bible workers doing pre-work: 5
Number of baptisms before we arrived: 24
Missionaries from the US: 32
Days for this trip (October 30 -- November 8): 10
Estimated average adult attendance at the evangelistic meetings each night: 550
Estimated average number of adults coming forward to accept Jesus each night: 30
Number of baptisms during the meetings (through Wednesday evening): 32
Estimated average number of children in the children's program each night: 85
Average number of patients at the dental and medical clinic each day: 140
Local doctors and dentist volunteers so far: 18
Approximate daytime VBS (school break right now) attendance, first day: 200
Number of meetings (they're held outside) rained out (A real miracle!): 0
God is doing wonderful things!
Now that our time here is half over, let me take you back to our departure from Florida.
The bus that would take us to the airport pulled into the church parking area, and we began to load large luggage and boxes of supplies into the compartment at the back of it. We finished last minute details, stowed our carry-on bags above our seats, and headed off with some concern because, with so much stuff, and on an international flight, we wanted to be at the airport two hours ahead, but we had less than an hour to get there. Concern deepened when we ran into construction and had to detour around our exit.
We didn't waste much time grabbing our carry-on bags and piling out of the bus. Some stayed by the stuff on the sidewalk while the rest of us swung around the back of the bus for the rest of the luggage. We found the bus driver frantically trying keys in the compartment door lock with no luck. I tried myself, also to no avail. I ran back inside the bus, just to be sure there wasn't a way into the compartment from the inside. No joy. The driver was making an emergency call to his company. We were already short on time, what would we do if we couldn't get our supplies?
I sent up a silent, on-the-run prayer, asking the Lord to help us. It occurred to me that something might have shifted in there, putting pressure on the door and not allowing it to open. When I got back to the compartment, I grabbed the compartment door handle, pushed and turned. As I rebounded from the push, the door opened! The Lord had blessed!
The best part of the story though, is that the driver soon after said that I had saved him, but I had the opportunity to explain to him how it was not me--it was God who stepped in to rescue us all. A curious look crossed his face as he thought about it.
Rushing in to baggage check-in, we came to our second miracle. The agents checking our bags in were able to put some of the boxes in as regular checked luggage. What we thought would be about $300 worth of overage fees turned out to be only $90. Praise the Lord!
The agent helping Patty and I asked if we were part of a group, and what we were doing. I had the opportunity to say that we were part of the Seventh-day Adventist church and that this was a mission trip. Again, a curious look came over someone as we talked about Whose business we were on.
After baggage check-in our group gathered to head up to security. Just then the agent who had helped us with checked luggage came up to me. She quickly related that she had lost a son, brutally beaten to death. She then had relived it seven times as the case wound through the court system to find those responsible.
She said, "You're not my religion, but you believe in God. Would you pray for me?" We clasped hands and prayed. Please continue to remember this lady in prayer.
As we flew the many miles to El Salvador, I thanked God for His blessings almost before our trip had hardly started. Another thought then occurred to me. We didn't even have to leave Florida for our mission work to begin.
You may never get to go to far away places to help someone, but perhaps, as you too become missionary minded, you won't have to.
Monday, November 2, 2015
Yaw Acheampong, our pharmacist, needed more stickers for the medicine boxes and bottles. I took a sample of what was needed, grabbed one of our Bible workers, and headed out to the "library store."
Waiting for the lady to get the stickers, I noticed that there were some of the flyers from our meetings sitting on the counter. I pointed them out to the Bible worker, Michael, and the lady helping us said something to him in Spanish. She returned with our stickers and a booklet that turned out to be a Bible study guide. She is already taking studies!
She must have asked the Bible worker a question because she came back again with a Bible. I stood watching as Michael turned to Acts 19 and gave an impromptu Bible study right there in her shop!
As we left the shop Michael said something to me and then made a motion like someone being baptized. I think I'll be seeing this lady again in a baptistry!
We are in a battle. When God moves forward (see my last post), the devil comes to oppose it.
As many of you probably know, Janette McDonald had planned to come, but in the last week came down with bronchitis. By the time we should leave, she was feeling some better, but concluded with her doctor that it was better not to risk it. (You are missed, Janette!) Please pray that the Lord will continue to intervene for her.
Saturday night after the meeting, the coordinator, Pastor Cruz, was among the last to leave. On his way home a drunk driver didn't stop at an intersection. The resulting crash was enough to deploy Pastor Cruz's airbags. But God overruled and he has come through with only a hurt knee, a few bumps, and a headache. God is good, and he was back helping out today.
Last evening, there were post-halloween parties in many places.
Still, the Lord is moving forward, and we are following Him. "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not," 2 Corinthians 4:1.
And God has blessed! When our evangelist made a call for people to give their hearts to the Lord, we counted opposite of Abraham, "Oh, Lord, if there be 10. . . O, Lord, might we see 15. . . Lord would You give just five more?" In the end the Lord moved 27 souls to come forward for Christ!
Check out the picture (sorry it's so dark) to see these precious souls. God is good!
Sunday, November 1, 2015
We serve a God who is on the move! Saturday night's meeting was amazing.
When we arrived, people were pouring into the school yard where the meetings are being held on the playground area. Bus load after bus load arrived. Some eager people even arrived crammed into the back of a dump truck! And still they kept coming.
We had 82 children for the VBS program, divided between two classrooms. One room did crafts while the other did songs and games. But even though we took up two rooms, kids were almost sitting on top of each other. But how excited they were to be there! They had so much fun putting together the craft and singing songs about Jesus.
The adult program had seats covering almost the whole playground, but it wasn't enough. About 550-600 found seats, but the other 150 stood just beyond the back row. Wow! Combined with the children we had a total somewhere north of 800. The evangelist preached with all his heart, and two people the Bible workers had been working with were baptized in the little pool you can see in the picture.
Many, even among our group of missionaries, were so touched by the scene, asking how we can help this happen back home. Didn't I say God was on the move? He is on the move, even among those who came to help. Good things are happening!
Saturday, October 31, 2015
What would church be like so far away?
God is good and we found ourselves among the worldwide Adventist family. We were greeted by many handshakes and hugs, and we knew we were not away--we were at home!
Worship started with Sabbath School, studying the same lesson everyone studies around the world. For the church service, the pastor spoke from Colossians 3:1-3, " If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
This was a very timely message for those just baptized last week, because they have made a break with the world and are seeking "those things which are above." But if we will hear it afresh, it is a message that will help us all grow. The picture is of some of these new converts receiving their own personal copies of the word of God. "Amen!" sounded through the congregation.
But the surprise was to find that three of those baptized here in Suchitoto were ones that Jorge had been praying for a long time--family members! Our God is an awesome God!
Happy Sabbath! God is good!
I will tell you all about our accommodations and such day by day, but let me get to some of the more exciting stuff.
Right now, as I write this post, we are listening to the radio--the Adventist radio, playing wonderful gospel music. Every so often they have information about the meetings that we will be having night by night. People are listening!
Our first meal here in El Salvador was started in the courtyard with coconut water, but not out of a bottle. It was from coconuts with the tops cut off right before us. Then, up on the balcony overlooking the lake, we had wonderful pupusas with some delicious red sauce and some curtido, a kind of cabbage salad.
One of the ladies that was helping with our dinner was Eunice. She had been contacted by one of our Bible workers and was baptized just last Sabbath! God is truly at work.
I tried to get a post out last night, but our internet was spotty. If I can recover that post I will publish it in arrears.
We have been so blessed getting here, and we are looking forward to all that the Lord will do.