End of Life Decisions

Ruth and I recently took a weekend to experience the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, ( The Ark is in northern Kentucky and the Creation Museum is just north of Cincinnati, Ohio- about 40 miles apart. ).

We stayed in a rustic cabin which reminded us of our honeymoon just 53 years ago. The cabin owner directed us on Saturday night to a local restaurant where we enjoyed listening to a master of the Cherokee fiddle. On Sunday morning we went with the cabin owner to her Christian Church and enjoyed a Southern Gospel singing group called the ‘Northbound Train’. And to top it off we had breakfast with our good friends, Lloyd and Elaine Hoover, who just ‘happened’ to be visiting the area at the same time.

As we toured the Ark and the Museum on Saturday, Sunday and Monday,I had the following reflections:

The judgment of God and the mercy of God are right in your face, as you encounter the 500 feet long, full scale replica of Noah’s Ark in the hills of northern Kentucky. The Ark Encounter, constructed at a cost of over a 100 million dollars, and visited by over a million people in its first year of operation, 2016-2017, is not about a chlld’s fairy tale, rather it is a powerful presentation of the reality of God’s judgment which falls on a people who persistently reject His grace.

Recently I have been making ‘end of life’ decisions-judgments. This does not mean that I sense I’m about to die, but rather it means “no matter how long I live, I will never read this book again”; so I toss the book. “No matter how long I live I will never wear this coat again”, so I toss the coat.

God’s judgments are rather like my “end of life decisions.”

God said of the Amorites at the time of Abraham that their “iniquity is not yet full”. But hundreds of years later when Joshua was ready to enter the promised land, he was told to totally eliminate the Amorites ( Deuteronomy 7:2.. thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them).

It was as though God were saying, “No matter how much more time I give them; they will never accept my grace. Their sins will only increase! It’s time for my judgment to fall!”

And in the times of Noah, God said, I have given them many warnings over a long period of time. No matter how much more time I give them, their immorality and violence will only increase. and they will not repent. So God made an “end of life judgment” and destroyed all humankind,( except for Noah and seven others).

The Noah’s Ark Encounter is just one of the ways God is reminding this present generation that a Door of Deliverance from the coming Judgment is still open. And that Door is Jesus Christ who chose to die on the Cross so that all who enter a relationship with Him will not perish but live eternally.

The fact that we are still living and that God’s judgment has not yet fallen on us and on the earth, indicates that God has not yet made an “end of life decision” regarding us. He has not yet said, “There is no way they will ever respond to Me, so I will make an ‘end of life decision’ and close the door.” Rather He has delayed closing the door of the ark, for it is His will that all should come to repentance and live.

The Door of the Ark is still open! Awesome!

Blessed be the name of the Lord!


Horeb, my son-in-law, and Don Hess and I have been traveling in Paraguay from Asuncion up to Filadelfia and back, over the past week. We have been connecting and listening and laying the foundation for the start of the ALMA missionary training school in February 2019.

It is clear that God is doing amazing things in Paraguay, stirring peoples’ hearts for missions within the denominational churches and outside of denominational churches. We were humbled by the grace and passion and effectiveness of the missions initiatives here.

Yet there is a sense that the harvest is so great that God is engaging unlikely people, such as ourselves, to participate in the harvest, even at this 11th hour.

And the harvesters who are already fully engaged, have been gracious enough to welcome us, encourage us and even speak prophetic words over us. One well-known evangelist here in Paraguay said to us, “ You are coming at just the right time to start an intensive, missionary training program focused on reaching the unreached in the world with the Gospel”.

He added that there are numbers of people in Paraguay feeling the call to go into missions in the most difficult areas of the world. Our program, based on the model God showed us in East Africa, can contribute to the development of a steady stream, if not a flow of missionaries to the world, including to the Middle East.

All this causes me to reflect with gratitude upon Eloise and Richard Gwinn who for 30 years dreamed and planned to start a missionary training school. They built an amazing campus that could give residence for at least 100 students. Richard died six years ago, not having seen the fulfillment of his vision. But Eloise lives at the edge of the campus still believing, still praying that she will yet see the vision fulfilled.

Now she and we together have been joined together in heart to fulfill that vision.

Vaughn Martin, founder and director of the Ukunda mission will spend a month of prayer here Paraguay later this spring in preparation for starting the ALMA mission school based on the foundation laid by Richard and Eloise Gwinn

It takes an army to bring in the harvest. Pray that God will continue to raise up harvesters.

Thanksgiving Day

Yesterday, while praying with several brothers, I received a picture in my spirit of God bending down and playing chess with us. After carefully observing the board He turned to me and said, “It’s your move.”

My initial response was of dismay, “How could I ever survive a competition with God?”

Then I realized that God had set up the chess board in such a way that whenever I made a move, He would arrange the pieces so that in the end I would win! In other words, the game was stacked in my favor!

I was blown away! He wants us to succeed! He wants us be victorious! He wants this so fervently that he delights in the details of our lives (Psalm 37:23) and he eagerly arranges all the details for our ultimate victory!

This means that if at the moment I feel blocked in, there is a next move. And I take that next move in faith and in confidence that God loves us and “that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose for us.” (Romans 8:28).

Thanks be to God for His outrageous grace!

Out of Paraguay Shall My Servants be Called to Bless the Nations

We are now on our way home from our prayer trip to Paraguay. We are flying home via Lima, Peru, then San Salvador and then to Dulles by 9:30 pm having left at 5 am.

Vaughn presented the missionary training vision to groups of pastors and church leaders in Ascunsion; in Escobar the site of the proposed school; and in Filidelfia a center of the German Mennonite community. In addition Vaughn received a number of invitations to speak in churches in Ascunsion and in Filidelfia. (Horeb was affirmed as an interpreter).

The favor of the Lord was upon us. We spent time each day worshiping and asking Him for direction, for divine connections and for the discernment to know his strategy in putting together the plan.

God connected us with people in the Spanish community and in the German community, who not only were interested in the vision but who expressed the desire to support the vision and partner with us in its implementation.

There was also a positive response to the message of Vaughn’s new book, ‘Escaping Religion’ (Amazon). We were encouraged to have the book translated into German and Spanish.

We sensed a strong desire both in the Spanish and German communities for a deeper experience of the power and presence of God.

Paraguay has been a nation which has welcomed outsiders such as the German Mennonites in the 1930s. Now we sense that God is preparing His people in Paraguay to take the gospel to the nations. He is preparing to launch a powerful missions movement out of Paraguay.

We are humbled to play a small part in what God is doing in Paraguay. We plan to bring in teams from the States to have revival and renewal meetings over the next year. We believe that the missionary training and sending school will be birthed in a great revival.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

** The picture was taken in a Sunday morning service at a Mennonite Church in Filidelfia. The entire service was in German. There was shouting and clapping in the service but it was by the children’s choir singing in their German mother-tongue, “If you are happy and you know it clap your hands….and say Amen!…” Otherwise the service was sedate and reminded me of Mennonite Sunday services in my boyhood in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Grandpa 12

Reflections from a Hill in Paraguay

Many of us prayed that God would decrease the intensity of the stage 5 hurricane, Irma, and change her direction. God answered that prayer. Blessed be His name.

Meteorologists are now saying that the Bermuda High was the weather system which blocked the hurricane from venting it’s full fury on Florida.

This reminds me of a passage in the Gospel of John:
Jesus said, “Father, bring glory to your name.”
Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “I have already brought glory to my name, and I will do so again.”

When the crowd heard the voice, some thought it was thunder, while others declared an angel had spoken to him.

Then Jesus told them, “The voice was for your benefit, not mine.”‭‭John‬ ‭12:28-30‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The person of faith can distinguish between the voice of God and thunder. Unbelief blocks such perception.

The person of faith says, “I know it was the Most High God, not simply the Bermuda High, who stretched out His hand and decreased the intensity and changed the direction of the Hurricane in response to the prayers of His people. He may have used the Bermuda High, but the Bermuda High serves as He directs.

God has the power and love to change the intensity and direction of all the storms in our lives: be they health storms, financial storms, relationship storms. For nothing is impossible with God. Only believe and we shall receive.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Grandpa 11

The Harvest is Ready, but where are the Harvesters?

I am on a prayer trip (Sept. 6-19) to the beautiful country of Paraguay with my son Vaughn and my son-in-law Horeb Penya, married to my youngest daughter, Sonya.

We are listening to God for direction in starting a missionary training school in Paraguay similar to the one that Vaughn directs in East Africa.

God keeps speaking, “The harvest is ready, but where are the harvesters?”

God has connected us with some awesome Christian believers here in Paraguay who truly have a heart for the harvest and are joining us in prayer that “the Lord of the Harvest would send forth laborers into his harvest even from this proposed missionary training school.”

We are proposing to start the school in February 2019 on a beautiful campus near Asuncion, able to house over 100 students in residence. This campus was developed by Richard Gwinn (now deceased) and his wife Eloise now a minister in our New Testament Fellowship of Churches. Amazingly, our vision for a missionary training school is almost identical to that of the Gwinns. We plan to call the school by the name which they used, ALMA, America Latina Misiones Al-Mundo (Latin American Missions to the World)

In the pictures, Vaughn and Horeb are ministering to the youth at The Rock Church, an evangelical Mennonite Church in Ascunsion, pastored by a wonderful couple, Anton and Lolita Harder.

Not Just a Tree House

About three hours after the private funeral service for Liam on Friday, August 11, we had a dedication of the ‘Tree House’ at the home of Sonya and Horeb.

Horeb had dreamed and planned and worked at building this ‘tree house’ for months and months. Actually more like two years. At one point a neighbor upon seeing the original deck for the tree house, stated, “That is overkill. Your children will soon grow up and will not need the tree house. Why put so much into a tree house?” Even family and friends, although admiring the work, wondered why someone would put so much time and energy into a ‘tree house.’

But Horeb labored on. Never having built anything like this before, he studied, watched Youtube videos and consulted with his builder friend, Elvin Weaver. He made his own skylights, his own windows and doors. He insulated and drywalled and installed flooring and electrical outlets and even an air conditioner. Day in and day out when he had extra time he ‘built the tree house’. He cut no corners, he attended to every detail.

Finally the ‘tree house’ was finished. The table was in place; the lamp was turned on, the couch was lifted up the steps and placed along the wall. And the air conditioner was running.

And the invited guests crowded into the ‘tree house’ to celebrate and dedicate this special creation.

Horeb welcomed his guests with these words: “ This is not just a tree house. God gave me a vision to create a special place, a private place where my children can meet God. Almost every day I pray over my children and bless them. I say to them you are going to be a missionary; and you a worshiper and you a minister and you an evangelist. I proclaim life and blessing over them. I want each of my children to have their own personal encounter with God. And this room is for them to get away alone and meet God. And it is not only for them it is for other children as well.”

Then Horeb went on to say, “I am not attached to this room or this place. I have done what God asked me to do and should God ask me to leave here we would leave. I am committed to following Him wherever He leads.

Suddenly all of our eyes were opened. We saw that in fact this is not just a ‘tree house’; it is a holy place; it is a tent of meeting; it is a place where angels ascend and descend; it is the doorway to heaven.

And our eyes were opened to see Horeb in a new way, not as a hobbyist or a backyard builder but as a Noah who built an ark for the salvation of his house. We see Horeb with the heart of Jesus in going to prepare a place for those He loved. Horeb did not build this structure in response to a whim or even a dream; he built it in response to the deep heart-felt call of God.

And we worshiped, and shared communion together and prayed. Yes, we prayed. We prayed blessings on this space and on all the children and even grownups who would meet God here. And we prayed that God would raise up a generation of fathers, like Horeb, who would make assisting their children to meet God their highest priority.

For we know that unless one receives immediate access to the heavenly place as Liam did, we all need our encounter with Jesus here in preparation for the place He has prepared for us. And all our special places here, though significant and essential, are just “temporary tree houses” in comparison to the glorious, eternal place He has prepared for us. Blessed be His name!

One Day there will be No More Tears

Seven weeks ago my daughter Sonya and her husband Horeb received the worst possible news from a doctor following a sonogram: “This child has serious problems and there can be no good outcome to this pregnancy. ”

But we said with the words of the song, “Whose report do you believe? We believe the report of the Lord. His report says I am healed.” And we believed God for a miracle.

We proclaimed that nothing is impossible for God. We believed and proclaimed that “by His stripes we are healed.” We prayed and fasted. Our faith community prayed and fasted. Servants of God, who have seen many miracles, signs and wonders, prayed and believed with us. We were lifted into God’s presence by the unified prayers of agreement around us.

However, on Wednesday night, August 9, 2017, Sonya, six and one-half months pregnant, was delivered of a stillborn son and they named him Liam, which means strong-willed warrior.

Friday, August 11th, the immediate family gathered around a small open grave in an unmarked country cemetery, near our home. The father and mother sang and the two brothers and two sisters, ages 4-11, took turns shoveling ground over the tiny casket. And Ruth and I, the maternal grandparents, prayed and sang along and believed.

But what do we believe?

We believe that God is good and that His mercies are new every day. We believe that God heals; He resurrects; He does signs and wonders and miracles. We believe that nothing is impossible for God. We believe that He hears the prayers of his children. We believe that where two or three agree together in Jesus’ name they have what they ask.

But how can we believe all this in the face of unanswered prayer?

I remember John the Baptist pointing to Jesus, in the bright sunshine over the Jordan River, and loudly proclaiming, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is far greater than I for He existed long before me.”

And I remember John the Baptist in the dark prison cell pondering the question, “Is this Jesus reallly the son of God; is He really who I said He was?”

And Jesus sends a message back to John the Baptist saying, “Tell John that I am God, that I have come to set captives free, to heal the blind and the lame and to bring God’s kingdom to earth.”

And then Jesus adds, “Oh and by the way, tell John, ‘Blessed is he who is not offended in me’.” In other words “I am a miracle working God and I have called you to be miracle working people. Blessed is the person who does not get offended when in a given situation I take a different course than what you had anticipated or proclaimed. Just know I have a plan that will bring good out of this situation.”

“Do not give up. Do not become passive and say, ‘Well, I will not pray or expect anything, I will just pray, ‘Father, your will be done whatever it might be..’”

“No, No. His will is that you should actively participate in bringing heaven’s will and miracles to earth. He wants you to lay hands on sick people and to proclaim their healing in Jesus’ name. He wants you not just to believe “in Jesus” (that is for salvation). He wants you to believe ‘as Jesus did’ that you carry authority to address the sickness, disease, disorders and demons in the world.

God is a strategic God. He is making all things work together for good to those who love Him. Blessed is the one who keeps on proclaiming the goodness and power of God. Even though for the moment we may be in the dark about the immediate strategy of God, we are convinced that in the ultimate strategy we win, hands down.

Or think of it this way. If I am the number two in command in a large company, how do I best show honor to the number one in command?

When I am faced with difficulties and challenges do I say, “I cannot decide, I must wait to hear from the Big Boss?” Or do I make decisions and proclamations confident that I know the heart and the vision of the number one in command and that he has empowered me to act and speak in his name.

If in some given situation he moves at odds with what I have said, I do not get offended. I only assume that he has information which caused him in a given case to take a different direction than what I had proclaimed.

So in light of all this, I will honor God and his word by continuing to lay hands on sick people, and I will continue to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here and now and that miraculous signs will follow those who believe. Mark 16.

I will press in even more diligently to know Him whom I have believed and to know the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings. For I am convinced that nothing can separate from His love, not a stillborn child, not an apparently unanswered prayer. For His love is deeper, higher, wider and longer than anything I can imagine.

And I am proclaiming that Liam, which means strong-willed warrior, in his very short span on earth was used of God in a powerful way to increase faith in our lives. As a result of this experience, we will be more likely to believe God for the impossible.

One day we will see Liam in the glorious light of the Son of God and we will understand all and there will be no more tears or sighing. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

An Early-Morning Prayer Meeting

After several days at this hotel, a security staff came up to me and ask if I were a Christian. He said he had been observing us and thought that perhaps we were.

The word quickly spread. Later in the week one of the staff managers at this resort hotel asked me to come and speak to their early-morning prayer gathering.

These men meet for prayer daily at the very beginning of their shift, down by the beach. Although primarily Christian the group included a Moslem eager for prayer.

I was blessed to be with these men. The leader stated this was the first time a hotel guest had spoken to them.

Grandpa 6

Reflections on Benefits

I find it difficult to “upgrade” even when I have the money, knowing that the financial difference between “good enough” and “great” could help some one to “get by.”

Well, one of my traveling companions insisted that he would pay the difference for me to “upgrade” to an ideal tropical resort hotel with 5 star ratings. ( Actually because tourism is down here, due to threat of terrorism, the cost is only $75 a night and that includes an amazing breakfast and dinner smorgasbord, all on the shores of the Indian Ocean. The “good enough” hotel was $35 per night with complentary breakfast).

As I relax here between board and planning meetings at the Ukunda Mission School I have had time to reflect.

These are some of my reflections:

Every benefit I enjoy here In this resort I have because someone is working so that I might enjoy it. (Dozens of employees keep the grounds immaculate, safe and are ready to respond to every request)

Every spiritual benefit I enjoy here on earth was purchased by the work of Christ on the Cross. Thanks be to God for the great Benefactor who makes life a joy and also for the lesser benefactors who make this retreat a delight.

Grandpa 4

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