Paraguay (Part 3)

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As most of you know, who follow my posts, the Ukunda Missionary Training School in Kenya, founded by my son Vaughn and his team has now entered its fourth year of classes. God’s blessing has been on this school in great measure. Pastors in other countries have now asked Vaughn to consider starting a similar school in their countries. Plans are presently being made by Vaughn and team to start schools in the Congo and in Tanzania within the next two years.

In the midst of this planning we learned of a facility in Paraguay which was developed to house a missionary training school. However the brother, who constructed the buildings, died before he was able to fully implement his training program. We at first, upon learning of the potential availability of this facility, had no interest in pursuing this situation in light of our other commitments .

However in prayer, God revealed to Vaughn and his team that He wanted them to start a missionary training program, considering the possibly of using this site, and utilizing the model they had developed in Kenya. He further instructed them to work with churches in Paraguay in developing a missions movement that would work with the missionaries trained in this program. The vision is to train missionaries from all over the region, Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia in cross cultural missions and to send them out into the region and then into the uttermost parts of the world.

One might ask, “Does it make sense for you to start a missionary training school in Paraguay at this time?” When God speaks, you do not say, “Well, if makes sense and I can find a way, I will do it.” Rather you say, “God, if you say so, I will do it with my whole heart confident that you are ‘pro’ the vision and will ‘pro’vide what is needed to fulfill the vision.” In other words, by faith I must allow the word received in prayer to shape the reality of what I do, rather than allowing my sense of reality to define, limit, and shape what God said to me in prayer.

So with the prayerful confidence that God would go before us and prepare people who would respond to the vision, Don and I set off for this week in Paraguay. We were simply seeking to connect with people who would be open to hearing about the vision and who would consider sending students to the school. I knew no one in Paraguay except Eloise Gwinn the widow of Richard Gwinn the founder of the training school in Escobar, Paraguay. We had been given the names of several church leaders whom we were to meet in the Filadelfia area of the Chaco. Apart from that we were totally dependent on God-ordained encounters.

And God has ordained “heart connections’. Within minutes we have seen total strangers become friends who are open to the vision. Sometimes our approach would be as simple as saying to a stranger at a store or at our motel, “Do you speak English?” In the ensuing conversation, following an affirmative response, we would discover that they shared our Christian faith. In several cases they would then invite us to their homes for extended conversations. Finally after hours of sharing, sometimes with tears, we would exchange contact information promising to stay in touch.

Today we had a two hour conversation with a pastor in Asuncion who a number of years ago started a ministry to provide sex education lectures for public schools throughout Paraguay and other countries. They and their team have spoken from a Christian perspective to hundreds of thousands of students. This pastor and his wife are open to us sending teams to share the vision with them and other Christin leaders. They also had suggestions of persons whom they thought would be ready and even eager for training such as we are offering.

As Don and I now prepare to fly out of Asuncion at 2 am Wednesday to arrive at Dulles at 2:30 pm, our hearts are filled with joy and thankfulness to God for the God-ordained connections throughout the trip. We consider each connection a gift to be treasured. This trip further convinces us that God is in this work and will unfold each step before us as we take steps of faith to obey Him.

Paraguay (Part 1)

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Don Hess and I are on a prayer trip to Paraguay. We know that it is a spiritual harvest time and we are exploring possibilities for partnering with Christians in Paraguay for this great harvest. Today we are in Filadelfia in the Chaco where a Luis Palau Crusade was just completing.

This morning at breakfast we had time to talk with Evangelist Palau now age 82. (Sometimes referred to as a second Billy Graham.)

I was surprised to learn that Palau’s headquarters are in Oregon. (Palau is originally from Argentina but wife is from Oregon).

Palau plans to be in Pennsylvania this coming year at a mushroom festival. Don who has major business connections with the mushroom industry will connect with Palau again when he is in our area.

Yellowstone (Part 3)

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Reflections From Our Recent Trip to the Yellowstone

It strained my ability to be present to “this moment”when I observed my three grandsons Josiah, Justus and Jobe, ages 17, almost 13 and 10 respectively, watching a YouTube video on Minecraft one evening after a day in Yellowstone.

We were in a beautiful house in the Jackson Hole area of Wyoming, a perfect setting after a perfect day. Why would anyone want to bring Minecraft into this setting?

I admit I knew little about Minecraft and I had absolutely no interest in learning more about it. From the little I did know, I would have been happy to have had my grandsons all abandon the game and commit themselves to Bible study or something positive like that.

The next morning in our time of reflection and anticipation I brought up the topic of Minecraft.

Forcing myself to be interested and to keep my opinions to myself, I asked each of my grandsons to describe the game and to tell what appealed to them about the game.

Apparently Minecraft is like a digital 3-D sandbox in which you have certain basic tools which you can later enhance in type and effectiveness in order to create your own world with buildings and even cities, while maintaining your health and protecting yourself against enemies.

The game can be played alone or you can play with friends you know or with new friends you meet on the internet who are into the game. The game is ongoing as is construction in a sandbox. You can create your world day after day as long as someone does not destroy your creation.

Josiah gave an example from the game of being dropped into a wilderness setting and having 12 minutes to develop a protective shelter, find food and arrange for a light source to disperse the demons of the night.

The game was developed by a Swede known on line as “Notch”. The game has been wildly successful with 40 million players. Two years ago Microsoft bought the intellectual rights to the game for over 2 billion dollars.

My grandsons found differing parts of the game appealing; for Jobe it was being able to construct things; for Justus it was constructing and also learning from others on YouTube how various game issues had been addressed; for Josiah it was strategy and competing with others playing the game on line.

Seeing my grandsons’ intense interest and preoccupation with the game I proceeded to learn what spiritual values there might be to this game. Sure enough, one blogger believed “Notch” to be a Christian who had developed a game based on a world of conflict between darkness and light, between good and evil, which would predispose millions of gamers to understand the basic Christian message and even receive it. I rejoiced.

But then this same blogger expressed concern that a new game developer was now in charge and that occult themes were creeping into the game. I grieved.

Another blogger, a Christian mother, wrote that when she looked in on what her sons were doing in the game she found them being unkind to one another in the game. She concluded that the best thing was for parents to get into the game and play it with their children.

“Oh, great,” I thought, “Does this mean I need to start playing Minecraft in order to have a meaningful relationship with my grandchildren?”

“I refuse. I am not interested. I am too busy. I have more important things to do.”

But then I remembered that God took the time to become incarnate in my world because of His great love for us.

Well, I do love my grandchildren, so I will enter their world. I will learn about Minecraft and discuss their experiences and values. I will come along side them, especially should they ask me.

I will applaud them in playing their own game even as God does not control us but gives us the freedom to play our own game, though he gives us counsel and power to play it in a way which honors Him.

Maybe that is what a grandparent is: an observer, a sometimes participant, the story teller and the bridge between the generations. And the one who carries the wellbeing of both generations deep within his heart and prayers.

Yellowstone (Part 2)

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Perspectives

I saw a log; they saw a canoe. I saw a picturesque setting for contemplation; they saw a place for grand adventure. I saw risk of danger of the log falling on someone’s head ; they saw possibility of challenge and excitement.

I chose to make their reality mine.

The maturing of a grandfather.

Yellowstone (Part One)

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It was in January that my grandson, Josiah, age 16, said, “I would like to go to Yellowstone National Park.”

I responded, “If you read four books that I recommend and give me a report on them, I will take you.”

Before the end of the conversation his father Chauncey and my other son-in-law, Todd and his two sons, Justus, age 13 and Jobe, age 10 had all indicated their interest in reading the books and going to Yellowstone.

(The four books were: “Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness”, and “Everything You Wanted to Know About God But Were Afraid to Ask”, both by Eric Metaxas and “The Insanity of God” by Nik Ripken, and the biblical book of “Daniel”. )

So this past Friday morning we flew out of Baltimore for Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I said to Josiah as the six of us were driving through Lamar Valley just yesterday, “What was it that made you say that you wanted to go to Yellowstone?

He responded, “This!”

I pondered his answer for a moment and then realized it was both simple and profound.

“This” is what we had planned for, anticipated and now were experiencing: the bears, the bison, the elk, the moose, the antelope, the big horn sheep and the fox pouncing on his prey. “This” was observing in awe the Old Faithful Geyser, the new lake created by the Madison River Canyon Earthquake of 1959, the thermal springs and swimming in sub freezing temperatures in the warm Gardener River fed by the Boiling River. “This”was hiking for seven miles and swimming in an isolated water pool in the Lamar River.

And “This” was the “present” as opposed to the past and the future.

I will admit that at times I struggled to be present. My mind kept going to the future, to things I must do; expectations I must meet. My wife, knowing the pressures I was facing had encouraged me to be present and not to detach.

But this morning at breakfast in a little mountain cafe, surrounded by mountains partly obscured by the newly falling snow, I sat with the five people I love very much and we shared about how we maintain faith in the midst of trials.

Josiah had started the conversation but we all joined in. Tears flowed as faith stories were shared.

Then I realized that “This” is it. “This” is being truly present to one another and sensing that God is present with us in that moment; And that God is placing His benediction on the present moment- “‘This’ is the day of the Lord’s favor. “

Molly’s Trip to India

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My good friends, Don and Kathy Hess, have a 21 year old daughter, Molly, who because of a severe disability has never been able to walk or talk. However, when certain music is played, especially the song “My Redeemer Lives” by Nicole C. Mullen, a well known contemporary Christian musician, Molly shows pleasure with a smile and certain inarticulate sounds.

Early in Molly’s 18th year, God appeared to Don in a dream inviting Don to fill out a blank check for his heart’s desire. When Don awoke he filled out a check writing on it “For Molly’s Healing.”

Don still carries that check in his wallet till this day.

For Molly’s 18th birthday Don arranged for Nicole C. Mullen to come to Elizabethtown College Fine Arts Center for a concert attended by well over 500 people. It was truly a miracle that Nicole was able to come for that birthday celebration.

Now for Molly’s 21st birthday Don has arranged for Nicole C. Mullen to do a concert in Delhi, India, along with “Live Jam” a contemporary Christian band, well known in India. In addition Don has taken a team with him to minister in some of the churches of PTL-India, a large network of Christian churches directed by P. C. Alexander. PTL-India is a part of Kingdom Life Network of which New Testament Fellowship is a part.

Just two days ago Kathy and Molly and Molly’s nurse and brother Joe left for India to join Don and his team.

On Saturday evening (Saturday morning our time) Don will wheel Molly onto a stage before a large crowd of people. The stage will be shared by Nicole C. Mullen and Live Jam. They will sing and Molly will speak her message, though her voice will not be heard.

What is the message that Molly speaks to the world through this stage in India?

In a prayer meeting with Don and others before Don left for India, I felt the Holy Spirit revealed the message of Molly’s life. The circumstances of Molly’s life have placed her in an unimaginably constricted space. She can not walk or talk or blink her eyes to communicate.

In this very constricted space Molly does something truly amazing. She worships. In response to the music of Nicole C. Mullens she smiles and expresses her joy to the best of her ability. And Molly worships.

All of us have experienced constrictions and limitations in our lives, some life-long and some for a season. We have had financial limitations, relationship limitations, chronic health problems, limitations in the work place and so forth.

What do I do when I experience a chronic or an unexpected limitation in some area of my life? Historically, I have tended to Work harder or to Worry more.

But Molly teaches me that I have another option. I can Worship. When life presses in upon me, depriving me of space I once had or of space I felt entitled to, I can worship.

I can worship the Redeemer that Molly worships. I can worship Jesus Christ the Lord of the universe, who for our sakes was unimaginably constricted to become a servant of mankind and to die on a cross with no place to move, but only the voice to worship as He died, saying, “Father into thy hands I commit my spirit. “

So that is the message of Molly’s life. “In a constricted space I worship Jesus, my Living Redeemer.”

Oh, and there is one more part to this message.

Don, Molly’s earthly father, who loves his daughter beyond words, will push her wheel chair onto that stage in a stadium in India, positioning Molly so that the world may hear her message.

In a similar manner the Heavenly Father, who loves us beyond words,is positioning us so that the message God has worked out in us in the midst of our limitations may be heard by a broken world.

And this broken world, overwhelmed with worry and fruitless work, is desperately in need of this message of Hope; the message that no matter how much life has constricted us we can choose to worship the Redeemer who Has come and Will come to Save us.

Someday He will return to receive His children onto Himself. And Molly will get a new body. And Don will cash His check. And those who have learned to Worship Him here will worship Him forever in the unrestricted spaces of Heaven. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!!!

Brussels Tragedy

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We praise God that our lives were forever impacted by Belgium when our son Vaughn married his lovely wife, Ilona, a native of Belgium, 20 years ago. They have raised their three daughters, Elisa, Ruby and Julie, to walk in faith in a very secular setting.

Today we are grateful that Vaughn’s family is safe but we grieve for the lives affected by the violence this morning in Brussels, a beautiful city often considered the capital of Europe. And we grieve for the impact this violence will have on the nation and all of Europe.

We pray that God will give great wisdom to Belgian leaders so that they will lead the nations in finding a life-giving way to respond to this devastating crisis.

“Pray … for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.”

1 Timothy 2:2-4 NLT

India (Part 8)

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Alex arranged for Marita and me to conduct today’s seminar attired in garments traditional for Kerala. Here I am attired in the dhoti, a rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the waist at least twice and knotted at the waist(ours had velcro). It feels cool but you have to develop the knack and lack of inhibition involved in lifting your ‘skirt’ to facilitate your ease of walking.

Our seminar today was in a church of the Indian Pentecostal Church of God, the largest indigenous Pentecostal denomination in India. The language was Malayalam. Several of Alex’s relatives are ministers in this denomination. We were warmly received.

We left at 8:30 pm after the Wednesday evening service to travel approximately 2.5 hours over mountain roads to the Kochin airport for our 4:20 am departure for home on the Etihad airline.

We had a very productive trip. Thanks be to God. Marita and I are both eager to get home following this two week trip. (Marita and Todd’s 20th anniversary was the 16th)

 

India (Part 7)

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There are daily newspaper reports of attacks on churches across India. When the church complains there is often a ‘false charge’ filed against the pastor accusing him of “forced conversions” Consequently the church can expect little justice.

India has been known by the international community as a multicultural democracy. However the present administration by its silence appears to lend support to those who would desire to change India to a fully Hindu nation which would among other things ban the use of beef and restrict people to the religion of their ancestors,i. e. Hindu.

India (Part 6)

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Flew yesterday 1,500 miles from Delhi to southern India to city of Coimbatore.

Participated in a combined worship service of PTL India churches in the area. Language is not Hindi but Tamil.

I am always surprised how many people can be crowded into a small space if everyone sits on the floor-in this case over 300 passionate worshippers for a 3 hour service.

In these settings I ask myself, “What do I have to give to these wonderful believers, refined by the fires of persecution. Who am I that I should presume to have a message for them?”

Then I recall that I was not called to be a great preacher or a great expert. I was called in weakness to humbly serve my brothers and sisters with the word given to me, trusting Him to make it “strong” in the life of the believer.

A pastor came to me this morning and told me that because of intense persecution against his church he has found it difficult to keep moving forward. But this morning the Lord spoke to him and he now sees a way forward in spite of the persecution. We praised the Lord together and I assured him I and others would be in prayer for him.

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