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A widow living by a brook in Paraguay daily looked out over a picturesque 30-acre campus. She and her departed husband Richard Gwinn had built this campus as a missionary training center and called it A.L.M.A. (America Latina Misiones Al-Mundo; translated as Latin American Missions to the World)

Richard and Eloise Gwinn had initially opened the doors of ALMA in a rented facility in 1987 as a two-year missionary training center. It was soon after the first group of students graduated in 1988, that the Gwinn couple saw the necessity to purchase property and build an adequate facility in an area conducive to learning and outreach.

They purchased and developed the present property near Escobar, constructing ten attractive brick buildings on the land in preparation for what the Lord had put in their hearts: to train missionaries to reach the people of the Middle Eastern nations.

And the widow grieved that her husband died seven years ago, before the training center could be implemented on its current location.

And daily she prayed that God would fulfill His purposes for this campus, which she and her husband had left America by faith to establish, over 37 years ago.

And God in heaven heard the prayers of this widow.

In another part of the world, an American, Vaughn Martin, pastoring a church in Belgium with his wife, followed the call of God to found an intensive nine-month missionary training school in East Africa, a school now characterized by students who spend hours in prayer discerning the voice of God and who boldly by faith reach out into communities unreached by the Gospel.

In the first year of the school, hundreds from non-Christian backgrounds came to the Lord. Five bases directed by newly trained missionaries of the school were established along the coast of the Indian Ocean from Somalia down to Tanzania.

In 2018 a second missionary training school was started in Tanzania. This developing network of schools is now known as Overcomers Mission Schools (OMS).

But one day as this American and his Kenyan leadership team were praying about the expansion of the ministry, the Lord began to speak to them about “Latin America.”

The Lord said, “ I am starting a powerful missionary movement out of South America to impact the nations and in particular the Middle East. I want you to prepare to become a part of what I plan to do out of Paraguay.”

Even though they had more than enough to do in expanding the mission in East Africa, when God spoke they knew they needed to obey. The Kenyan director of the school, Katana Baya, immediately began studying Spanish because God told him he would be moving with his family to direct the school in Paraguay.

Over the next four years Vaughn and co-workers from the United States made numerous trips to Paraguay. They prayed for divine connections with people who would share in the implementation of the vision.

Miraculously God added to the team both from the Spanish community and from the German Mennonite community. God used a brother-in-law of the widow, Mel Weaver, a pastor in Pennsylvania, to connect the team to Eloise and the campus at Escobar.

The team met Eloise and shared what God was showing them. They saw in Eloise one who had faithfully stewarded over the years, the vision God had given to her and her now departed husband. They came into agreement with her that they shared a very similar vision and that the missionary training center would continue to be called ALMA (A.L.M.A) the name she and her husband had chosen in 1986.

In early March 2020, the school began with two Hispanic and two German students. Other students who were planning to come were prevented from doing so because of the lockdown of nations and travel by COVID 19 concerns.

These four students, along with a husband-wife teacher couple (Anthony and Cindy Holland); a translator; a videographer (Robert Gomez); an administrator (Cynthia Gomez); and the Kenyan director (Katana Baya) began classes.

(Vaughn Martin who was recruiting students for ALMA, was stranded in Brazil, unable to cross the border back into Paraguay.)

It now appears that had there been more students, the government would have closed the school for exceeding the limit of ten in a meeting.

God is pouring out His Spirit on this small beginning. The campus which had been very quiet, has burst alive with shouts of joy and celebration and proclamation. Daily and all-night prayer meetings are transforming the lives of all who dwell on the campus.

The teacher couple, Anthony and Cindy Holland, have taught and grounded the students in basic theology in a way that enables the students to teach others what they have just learned. The students have become passionate about learning the ways of the Spirit. Their own lives are being healed and transformed. They are being united into a strong community of faith.

In spite of the lockdown, the students are finding ways to share the Gospel in their daily contacts. A beautician accepted the Lord. A phone call provided the opportunity to share faith. And the lockdown could not prevent dreams and visions from heaven to awaken the students and faculty by night and day.

The widow, Eloise Gwinn, rejoices that God is answering her prayers. She said if her departed husband, Richard, were here he would rejoice with her in what God is doing in the training of the students.

Truly the Lord heard the prayer of the widow by the brook in Escobar by bringing resources from around the globe in answer to her prayers.

The ALMA missionary training center, now a part of Overcomers Mission Schools, is on God’s radar. And the prayers offered from this place are recorded in Heaven.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!


Fred Garber a much loved pastor in the Elizabethtown, PA area died on March 20, 2020 at the age of 71. Fred, along with his wife Linda, had pastored the Bossler Mennonite Church. Fred had developed a chronic lung condition years ago. He was told by a physician that he had five years to live. Fred did not believe this prognosis and so he told no one about it outside the family. By God’s grace, he lived for over 20 years beyond the time he was given that word from the doctor.

Pastor Doug Lamb, leader of the Etown Ministerium, informed the area pastors of Fred’s passing. In response to Doug’s email, many area pastors responded to Doug with their favorite memories and high regard for Fred.

Doug, himself, commented: “Fred led the prayer time at 6 am every Saturday at Cornerstone Youth Center for the last eleven years. Fred was never discouraged by low attendance in that prayer meeting. He persisted faithful in prayer. He was humble and down to earth. I will never be able to measure up to his depth and his determination to know the Lord and to love others.

Nelson Bechtold, Bishop in the Elizabethtown District of the Mennonite Church where Fred served, stated, “ Fred was my friend and confidant. Having started in ministry about the same time, we valued the honest conversations we could have about the joys and challenges of ministry. I will miss him.”

One pastor recalled the story of how Fred had volunteered to read in a local public school kindergarten. The little boy to whom he was assigned was very shy and crawled under the table. Fred got down on the floor and talked to the child and they became friends. Then Fred, lying on the floor under the table, read to the child.

The pastor observed, “May we all be inspired by Fred to learn to crawl under the table, or whatever it takes, to show love to those who are hurting.”

Wayne Lawton, pastor of Cedar Hill Community Church, and a friend of Fred, woke up from a grieving dream about Fred with the inspiration that someone should write an article for the local Etown newspaper about Fred and include comments that the area pastors had made.

Wayne contacted several persons about writing the article but no one volunteered.

So when there was no one who responded, Wayne wrote a loving article about Fred and the comments that were shared. The article was published in the Elizabethtown Advocate. And it was later also picked up and published in the Faith and Values section of the Lancaster Newspapers.

These articles were a timely and meaningful way of remembering and grieving a departed friend rather than needing to wait “till a later date to celebrate the life of the departed” as many obituaries are now needing to announce.

Wayne stated that a funeral or memorial service is a very therapeutic and comforting event and helps to bring some degree of closure. Sharing this outpouring of sympathy from area pastors of various denominations and networks was an encouraging answer to a prayer Fred often prayed, “that there would be unity in the body of Christ.”

But there was one more thing Wayne wanted to see happen. He asked in a letter to me:

Could someone draw a picture of Pastor Fred getting down under the table with that young student?

Wayne observed that Fred’s act was such a beautiful example of what Jesus did in coming down from heaven to meet us where we are.

I am not that artist. But in response to the request of my friend, Wayne, I make the following request:

If you or a child you know is inspired by this mental picture of a pastor under a table reading to a child, draw a picture and send a photo of the picture to me via personal Messenger. I will share the photos with Wayne and possibly one of Fred’s family members and we will post the best on Facebook.

And Wayne will have his dream fulfilled that many will remember and be inspired by the life of Pastor Fred Garber.

Grandpa 59

What Must I Do to be Saved

I was honored to attend the 94th birthday celebration for Luke Weaver Sr. yesterday.

Luke Sr.’s son, Luke Jr, gave the following story:

Luke said his father followed the call of God to leave the farm and evangelize on the streets of Harrisburg.

On occasion Luke Sr would instruct his 10 year old son to walk down the opposite side of the street from which he, the father, was planning to walk. He further instructed his young son that when he reached a certain place on the street where there were a lot of people gathered, he was to cry out in a loud voice, “What must I do to be saved?”

When the young boy obediently followed his father’s direction and cried out loudly, “What must I do to be saved?”, the father, Luke Sr., would respond in a loud voice from across the street, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved!”

And thus the father and son teamed up to evangelize on the streets of Harrisburg.

The Holy Spirit anointed Luke Sr. this humble man of God, to raise up and mentor a generation of men and women who learned to follow the Spirit in publicly proclaiming the Gospel in the marketplace.

Truly Luke Sr was an apostle of our Lord Jesus.
* In the picture Luke raises his hands and sings “Revive Us Again!“


Monday night Ruth and I joined with our Ethiopian Orthodox friends in Washington D.C. to celebrate Christmas (January 7th in the Julian calendar). The service began at 6 PM Christmas eve and lasted until 3 AM on Tuesday morning the 7th. We did not understand the Amharic language but we understood the joy and devotion of these 2,000 to 3,000 people, old and young, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, who spent the night in worship ceremonies that have been relatively unchanged over the past 1500 years.

Each person was dressed in a white shawl (Netela), covering the heads for the women and draping the shoulders for the men. Men and women sat separately, men on the left and women on the right facing the altar. Everyone was given a rope candle and at one point In the service, the crowd moved in joyful procession around the sanctuary. A choir sang and danced. Priests and deacons led in chanted prayers and hymns and recitation of scripture and in processions. The priests filled the air with incense.

To the initiated, every movement and expression had great significance. At one point I was given a long rod. Was it a prayer rod? Or did they think I was old and needed something to lean on during the long hours of standing?

I strove to understand but as the time wore on, I realized that in spite of being in the company of worshippers for the better part of a night, “I was seeing but not perceiving; I was hearing but not understanding. “

Then I recalled the experience of Philip (Acts 8:26-40) in which an Ethiopian leader asked Philip to explain the Scripture to him.

In a reversal of this passage I found myself going to Ethiopians and saying, “How shall I understand unless someone explains it to me?”


Teachers and administrators from the Overcomers Mission Schools, founded by Vaughn Martin, presented to over 150 pastors and leaders in Asuncion,Paraguay on Saturday, July 20, 2019.

Vaughn gave the biblical basis for an understanding of the Final Harvest at the end of the age. Katana Baya, Director of the Ukunda Missions School in Kenya, co-led the worship with Daniel Amstutz. Katana pleased the participants with his fluent use of Spanish, which he has studied entirely on his own over the past three years assisted by DuoLingo. John Harris from North Carolina ministered prophetically in the Conference.

Eloise Gwin shared with the conference how she and her husband Richard had followed the call of God to develop a missionary training school called ALMA. They purchased a 30 acre plot and over the past 30 years ago built a beautiful campus with 10 buildings which includes classrooms, a large meeting hall and buildings sufficient to hold over 50 people in residence.

Richard went to be with the Lord six years ago. Now Overcomers Mission Schools is planning with Eloise to start a school on that campus, embracing the same spiritual vision as the Gwins.

I had come to Paraguay, especially to participate in the two days of prayer which preceded the conference. We met for prayer at Escobar, the site of ALMA, the new missionary training school which we are planning to open in 2020. We see the founding of the school as a major spiritual enterprise which requires intensive prayer and intercession at every level of development and planning.

The pastors and leaders conference was designed for us to introduce ourselves and the ALMA school. We also presented our conviction that God is raising up a powerful mission movement to the nations out of Latin America, especially out of Paraguay. England had its time of sending missionaries; Germany had its time; the United States its time and now we sense that God is saying, “It is time for Latin America and especially Paraguay to send missionaries to the nations.”

God moved powerfully in the conference. Participants responded with tears of joy in committing themselves to become a part of this move of God in raising up and sending missionaries out of Paraguay.

My Prayer for Venezuela

“I pray, Dear Heavenly Father, that ‘May Day! May Day! May Day!’ will become ‘May Day’ in Venezuela today!”

‘Help Me!’ ( ‘Ayúdame!’ in Spanish); ( ‘M’aider’ in French).

‘M’aider’ when pronounced in French sounds like “May Day” in English.

“May Day! May Day! May Day!” was chosen in 1923 as easily recognized voice procedure words to signal a life threatening emergency in the air or at sea. Used initially by French and British pilots, it is now an internationally recognized distress call. It has nothing to do with the first of May.

May Day is a public holiday usually celebrated on 1 May. It is an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. Dances, singing, and cake are usually part of the festivities.

Testimonials from Mount Clare Christian School

Tears came to my eyes as I read these testimonials from Mount Clare, an inner-city Christian school associated with Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church, Baltimore. Seven of my grandchildren have gone to this school. My daughter Gwen is the principal and my daughter Marita and her husband Todd are the pastors of the church. So we have a lot of thoughts and prayers surrounding this sacred space in the inner-city.

Paraguay (Part 2)


Of all the places in the world, why would Don Hess and I choose to go on a prayer trip to Paraguay?

Paraguay a country of 6 million people, about the size of California, land-locked by Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia has welcomed immigrants from all over the world.

From our standpoint as persons of Mennonite descent, we were interested to learn that Paraguay now has about 50,000 people who are Mennonite or of Mennonite ancestry. Many of these Mennonites are German speaking. They are from German ancestors who had been invited by Catherine the Great to Russia in the late 1700’s to develop the Ukraine. They prospered greatly there for 100 years. Then following World Wars I and II, unwanted by Russia or Germany or anyone else, they found a safe haven, some in Canada, but more in Paraguay, in the undeveloped western Chaco region of Paraguay, known as the Green Hell.

This was a time of great suffering for these Russian Mennonite settlers as they struggled to eke out an existence from this inhospitable land.

Mennonites in the United States reached out to help their “Mennonite brethren.”

Don Hess in doing some family research discovered that his Grandfather Hess had been touched by God to respond to these Russian Mennonites in the process of settling in Paraguay and had contributed a sizable amount of money to their needs.

Today 70 years later these Russian Mennonites are now prospering greatly. This “green hell” is now producing food for the nations. They ship the very best quality beef to Israel and other countries. And they have schools and hospitals and industries and businesses of all types and some have risen to positions of power and influence in the land of Paraguay.

Their churches are large. On Sunday morning we attended a service in a beautiful church building in Filadelfia with 1000 German Mennonites in attendance. We met on Monday with leaders in the Mennonite Brethren Church. We learned of their hearts for mission and their active and effective mission programs throughout the country as well as their interest in doing missions in other countries.

The question still remains: Why would Don Hess and I go on a prayer trip to Paraguay?

The answer will need to wait for another post.

Paraguay (Part 1)


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.

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