Thursday, March 31, 2011

Little Mischief

Yes, tomorrow morning I fly south, from the semi-tropical north back into the colder Patagonia. Actually it is autumn here and not very cold yet in the area where I will be. My flight time was changed. It leaves at noon instead of 10 AM… better for me… and with less layover in Buenos Aires. I still should arrive in Neuquen at 7:40 PM in time for the 8 PM service in the city of Plottier.

The Province of Misiones has been a pleasant experience each of the many times I have been here and this was no exception. Every service has been filled with God’s presence. Tonight was very different from the other services. This is a church that was started by “Castelleros” (King’s Castle Youth). Instead of having the service in their small church hall, they acquired the neighborhood “Polideportiva”. (see photo) and 85 people from this humble neighborhood gathered to see the strange old man from the USA with his little gaucho. This was strictly an evangelistic effort by the young enthusiastic Castillero pastor Sergio Miranda and his team. There were many first timers hearing the Gospel message and a large group came forward at the altar call. One was an alcoholic man named Román. I think he really wants to have his chains broken. I know that our faithful God is doing His part. May Román do his part! The church people know where he lives and will follow up on him. I stayed for an hour or so to pray with everyone that had a need, sicknesses, out of work, kids in the hospital (two cases… one was a 3 week old baby girl), husbands bound by alcohol, homes in disarray, etc. One young girl about 16 years old did not want to discuss her problem, but wept so hard that I felt sure that she is either being sexually abused or perhaps pregnant not by choice. So many precious lives struggling there in the darkness! I preached Jesus who said, “I am the Light of the World, he that follows Me will no longer walk in darkness”, (John 8:12) It is interesting to me that this verse immediately follows the story of the adulterous woman who escaped a shameful death and stepped out of her darkness of condemnation into the glorious light of Christ’s freedom and His real love. The religious leaders that dragged her into the temple to trap Jesus in His words did her the best favor of her life. They took her to the only One that could give her a fresh start in life.

A mother had her baby girl in her arms when she came for prayer. The baby reached out her little arms wanting to come to me. So I couldn’t refuse. She was so cute that I asked someone to take our picture. While the guy with the camera was taking aim, little mischief decided to borrow my glasses. (see photo)


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fisher of Men

My voice continues to be unusually strong for all its use after preaching six times on the weekend and every night before and since. And my zip still hasn’t zapped yet. There is only one explanation. God is answering your prayers. Thanks for joining the team.

I just got in from another great service in the city of Alem. Many years ago I preached several crusades there and in the surrounding cities. I painted a picture each night in pastel chalks on special art paper to illustrate the message and to serve as a prize for the person who brought the most new people the following night. I did this all over Argentina, but here in several cities in the Province of Misiones the competition was always tense. Tonight an elderly sister was in the service who had won one of my pictures as a prize for bringing the most new people one night in one of those evangelistic crusades many years ago. She brought the picture with her! It was a representation of Jesus on the shore of the sea of Galilee calling his first disciples. She reminded us that she had brought 54 new people that night and her son was there to confirm it! THIS LADY was a real fisher of men! (See photo of her with me and her son). I remember that night. A brother had brought 40 and had lost it to the lady with 54! I painted another identical picture during the next day and publically presented it to him. It just wasn’t right not to reward him after that effort. I would often have around 100 first timers there every night. Somebody would bring 15, another 20, and others lesser amounts and somebody would win the picture. It was a lot of work carrying around the easel and equipment, but the bottom line is that many people heard the wonderful good news of Jesus for the first time and I think a conservative estimate would be about 75% responded to the altar call. I expect to see a bunch of them in heaven.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spiritual Hold-up

I finished my ministry at the youth leaders camp this morning. They are “Castilleros” (King’s Castle Kids… a growing powerful AG youth movement now in many countries.) 72 fabulous dedicated youth, mostly teenagers! (See photo)

The time is now 2 AM and I’m back home in the hotel. I thought I was going to preach one service tonight at the mother church, but it was two, back to back. The adolescent youth… up to 19 yrs of age comprised the first group at 8 PM and then at 10 PM the youth group 19 and above. I guess none of these come on Sunday in order to leave room for others in their three back to back Sunday services 4 PM, 6 PM and 8 PM. So far my voice is miraculously holding up… three preaching services today and again three tomorrow. Then one every night this coming week. My voice may be reaching its limit. My strength is great. To me it is invigorating to preach. If I ever feel sick or exhausted I just get up and preach and never feel sick or weak again until after it is all over… ha. Go figure! Anyway, please keep “holding me up” in prayer.

Speaking of “holding me up”… at the youth leaders camp today I heard this testimony. This Christian “Castillero” kid was walking home late one night last week. He was approached by a bigger kid pointing a gun at him and demanding everything he had. He handed over his cell phone and was fishing around in his pockets for money. The big kid with the gun was very nervous and kept telling him to hurry up and to take off the back pack… “I want everything!” So this kid started to tell him… “Hey, Jesus loves you, man. He really can make a change in your life. He did it for me and he can do it for you, too.” And he kept talking about Jesus and his love. As he handed him his back pack… he offered to help him pray the sinner’s prayer to start a new life with Jesus. The robber now had everything this kid owned in his hands but was obviously jarred by what this Christian kid was saying. Finally he tucked his gun in his belt, handed the kid back all his stuff and agreed to join in praying the sinners prayer which he did right there on the street. After praying, the “would be robber” gave this Christian kid his address so that he can take along some friends and visit him this week.

So keep “holding me up”, but IN PRAYER… please, ha.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Night Watchman Will Let Her Out

As I look back, I see that God was preparing me for this time of ministry in a unique way. You may remember that Frances and I lived in a large fifth wheel mobile home the last 6 ∏ years of our ministry here. In response to our Argentine leadership we dedicated ourselves to the remote corners of this huge land, taking our rig anywhere and everywhere we heard of a need. When someone would tell us of a young Bible School graduate that was trying to start a work off somewhere near the edge of the earth, the Lord would often speak to our hearts and without hesitation we would hook up again and make our way, sometimes nearly 1,000 miles to join in the effort. We helped them find a building to rent, contacted Argentine pastors of established churches that we had earlier helped to plant… to cover the rent for the first year and to donate musical instruments and sound equipment. Then we stayed there for weeks or months helping to move some walls, painting, fixing it up, painting a sign, printing flyers and then preaching their first campaign to win souls.

In other cases we visited pastors and families in remote little towns. Some had never had a visiting preacher. They had raised up a church without outside help. God was their only source. Nobody had ever come by to check on them and tell them what a great job they were doing. Frances dedicated herself to the PKs, giving out fluffy, stuffed animals supplied by one of our churches. When she discovered that the only Bibles some of these PKs could have were the old broken up ones with pages missing that had been left on a church bench, she got Bibles from “Light For The Lost” or somewhere and made sure that every PK had his or her own new Bible. One 9 year old PK drummer, sat at his drums before church practicing and every time someone would come in the front door he would stop and raise his new Bible in the air and proclaim, “Look! I’ve got my very own Bible!” Always we would invite the pastor and family into our luxurious mobile home. They could not believe the way their feet would sink down into the plush carpet. The kids would all want to sit on it. We would serve them a good meal at our table and, well… just try to bless them. Many of these choice servants of God would beg us for a date when we could return. In those final years we knew it could never happen and we wept with them when we left them.

Neuquen Wednesday kids and adults ready for Felipe (photo, left)

But NOW… yes now that the Lord has thrust this 79 year old retired preacher/missionary into a brand new chapter of his life… God is saying to me, “Take your little Felipe and go back there to visit these saints and their kids.” I am now over 6,000 miles into this wild adventure (counting last November and December) all of it in a borrowed car. You cannot imagine the reception I have been getting. Beautiful young people in their late teens and early twenties rush up to hug me till it hurts. They remind me of the stories that Felipe told when they were little kids sitting on the floor. Some still have their stuffed animals. Many are going on to Bible School. Some have already taken over the church that their father previously pastored.

Can you imagine what it is like to literally have hundreds of dear friends almost begging you to come to minister? Love flows like a river. At the prayer time, youth and adults are seen kneeling all over the floor pouring their melting souls out as living sacrifices. I’m sure some are being called into ministry. Last night, Wednesday, well over one hundred people were on their faces down front, some for over an hour. Finally, closing in on midnight, the pastor was trying to close the church. The lights were turned off. Everyone had left except one young lady that was still sobbing her heart out at the altar. I commented to the pastor about her. He said, “Oh, she’s okay. The night watchman will let her out.”

I have been carrying a promo display for the Patagonian Bible Institute directed by Missionaries Martin and Charlotte Jacobson and Eddie and Diana Echevarria (what a team!). Almost all the large stack of registration forms have been picked up by interested youth! Only God knows where He is taking this.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

This Ole House

I found this huge, abandoned house fifty miles from nowhere on Tierra del Fuego island.  It reminded me of the song from the past that I think Stuart Hamlin used to sing, “This Ole House.”

This ole house once knew his children
This ole house once knew a wife
This ole house was home and comfort
As we fought the storms of life
This old house once rang with laughter
This old house heard many shouts
Now she trembles in the darkness
When the lightnin' walks about

(Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer)
(Ain't a-gonna need this house no more)
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't a-got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend no windowpane
Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
She's a-gettin' ready to meet the saints

There are more verses… lots more… look it up on the net; “This ole house lyrics.”


Preserve That Mop!

[Please be sure to read the preceding blog, "Mopping up the Tears," March 21, 2011, before reading this one.]

I have a dear friend that wrote me back today with the above title: “Preserve that mop!” She commented: “How many preachers can say that somebody had to wipe up the tears with a mop?” I giggled myself silly! I have no idea why the lady in yesterday’s picture was so anxious to mop up the tears. Maybe she thought someone could slip and fall or something. Whatever the reason, she didn’t wait till this brother stopped praying. Also on the other side of the platform one of the pastor’s daughters was still praying and had been sobbing her heart out for the better part of an hour I think. I shot her picture, too, and was taking this fellow’s picture when I accidentally caught the mop in action.

Why do I ask people who are used to standing for prayer to come kneel to pray? I think there is something to be said for kneeling. Here in Argentina many people often gather around the front and wait, hoping that the wonderful “man of God” will come and knock them down with his great power. Down inside me I think this could be a carry-over from the Roman Catholic priest who was the only one supposed to be able to really touch God and had to sprinkle you with his holy water or something… whereas our Heavenly Father pleads with us to come boldly into his presence through the rent veil. Anyway this has become a custom, so much so that if people are standing in prayer at the close of a service and I approach one to lay a hand on them and pray, almost invariably an usher comes running from out of nowhere to stand behind and catch that person if he or she should fall. I know that God has knocked a few of us proud saints unexpectedly to the floor to whap some of our pride out of us, but I don’t feel comfortable when it becomes a custom and people are disappointed when they are not “slain in the Spirit”. Is that term even in the Bible anywhere? And I am not nearly as powerful as some of God’s better men who knock ‘em down on all sides. Of course then come their followers that, if they don’t fall, give them a little help with a not-so-gentle shove. In short, my secret is to try to take us all back to our knees. I understand that many of the elderly people’s knees don’t cooperate anymore and I let them stand or sit… ha. But I am encouraging these people to get down front and not wait for someone to come and knock ‘em down… but to voluntarily get down low and do business with God!

In these most recent services I have noticed quite loud moaning and noisy weeping by both men and women. And why do I give importance to weeping? Perhaps it is because weeping is normally a reaction to something that is happening inside one’s heart. One does not normally say, “Okay, I’m going to go down there and make myself weep.” Quite to the contrary. Especially for us men it is thought of as a sign of weakness. Well, when we get down there and really pray, His power sometimes overcomes ours. Our lofty prayers become lost in the tight grip of His love. Words lose their meaning and like that sinner lady that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, we are overcome with the presence of our Master. I say, “If God is pushing those tears out from the inside, then let them fall!” Who cares about the mascara mess and the puddle on the floor? God is doing His deep work in the secret corners of the heart.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Mopping up the Tears

I’m having far too much fun for a man my age! God just blessed me with another wonderful weekend. Friday night I ministered in Neuquen in the last of the many churches planted in la Patagonia by the late Brother Pedro Sepulveda. His daughter, Maria, and her husband, Raul Bahamonde, now serve as pastors there. Like always after a blessed service we shared a home cooked meal and ministry stories late into the morning hours. Saturday I drove the 113 miles each way to and from the city of Zapala where I ministered to a packed church with Pastor Nestor and his wife, Veronica, a delightful young couple. Again we enjoyed eating together and talking into the night. I arrived back at my temporary apartment at 2 AM. 9:30 Sunday morning I was at Pastor Rufino Vera’s church in the city of Cipolletti. It is a large movie theater now purchased and transformed into a church sanctuary. At the altar call I asked the people to come and kneel to pray. The whole congregation responded in a long time of fervent prayer. Finally everyone had either returned to their seats or to the vestibule except this one fellow. Puddles of tears were obvious on the wooden floor. I just happened to accidentally catch this rare shot of a dear sister mopping up the tears while some were still falling.

Last night, Sunday, I drove the 28 miles each way to General Roca to a beautiful large new church building built by Pastor Mario Porcel and his congregation. God was there and once again many stayed in His presence on their knees for an extended period. After enjoying Argentine empanadas around midnight… now full of food and good fellowship, I made my way back to my apartment around 1:30 AM. This morning at 10 AM I found over 40 pastors and wives had showed up at the Cipolletti church for a specially called pastors meeting. See photo. I was given the pulpit to challenge them with a word from the Lord. Some of these pastors had driven or ridden a bus for over 100 miles at great sacrifice! God gave me some good stuff with ideas that I borrowed from General Supt. Dr. George Wood’s message at last year’s district council in Sacramento. “When the Spirit Speaks” (Thanks Brother Wood!) Once again the wooden floor was sprinkled with tears of sincere seeking saints.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I continue ministry in Villa Regina and in the large church here in Neuquen, planted by Missionary Steve Hill. Then I fly to Posadas in the extreme north of Argentina for a week of meetings… six meetings scheduled for this coming weekend, plus every night next week! What a privilege to be a retired missionary, held in the hollow of the Master’s hand! I just counted 29 preaching services since arriving in Argentina February 5… plus driving 4,428 miles on what may be some of the planet’s most challenging roads in Argentina’s deep south… la Patagonia. Incredible scenery!

It’s really true… I’m having far too much fun for a man my age!


[More about this in the next blog, "Preserve That Mop!" March 22, 2011.]

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Finger of God

Unfortunately I cannot avoid witnessing all the terrifying current events. The news is everywhere. One cannot help but suffer for those who are suffering so. Now the shortage of food and water combined with the danger of radiation contamination makes us all realize how fragile our civilization really is. Our ancestors worked their hands to the bone just to survive. This generation has had it so easy (I among them), but now we are reminded that in one sweeping moment we can be placed back at square one… in a place where we can survive only with great effort.

It is interesting that one of the signs of the last days that Jesus emphasized was “earthquakes in diverse places.” So quickly we have had devastating earthquakes and tsunamis in rapid succession — Indonesia, Haiti, Chile and now Japan. And another sign was “wars and rumors of wars.” I can remember when many world leaders were announcing that we were now going to have a better world with united nations and peace for all. They couldn’t have been further from the truth. Jesus is certainly standing at the door awaiting his Father’s word. Maybe the Father is saying, “Just a few more days… a few more so that others may be conquered by My love and grace… so that my house may be filled!” Although He may come at any time, I feel impressed to encourage youth to work for Jesus now and prepare for full time ministry should there be a future. Again last night the altar was crowded to capacity with youth and adults on their faces in total surrender. As you know I am 79 years old and if He can give me a brand new fresh start, how much more these that are younger! Opportunity unlimited… ripened harvest! I requested that the power-filled youth group gather around and pray for me when I was in Comodoro. How can I miss-fire with this powerful backing! (see photo)

I had a beautiful trip from Bariloche to Neuquén today, about 5 hours of good highways and astoundingly scenery. In my attached photo you’ll see the rock formation called “The Finger of God” in the distance (see photo).

I purposely did not schedule a service tonight. Tomorrow I start in this new area in a church in Neuquén, then in a city somewhere not too far away, at least one service daily and two on Sunday. Monday I am to minister to about 80 ministers and wives. I will be here a week. The young Pastor Eliseo Ferreira received me royally and has placed me in a luxurious 9th floor apartment with all the wonderful gadgets… microwave, refrigerator, TV, computer and printer (although I carry my own computer and printer), beautiful view of the city… total comfort. I told him it was way too much, but he says it is the place that they always rent for their special speakers. Then tonight they took me out and stuffed me full of food. I feel like I won’t need to eat for a week… ha.


Bariloche Dedication Service

Monday, March 14, 2011

High Patagonian Desert

Yesterday, Sunday, I ministered in Ingeniero Jacobacci. Great service! Deep time of dedication. Lots of youth. They have a huge building in a tiny town. It was a railroad town in it’s day. This is where the famous Patagonian Express narrow gauge steam train “La Trochita” did its run for many years… Ingeniero Jacobacci to and from El Bolson. Years ago a Chilean Pastor Sepulveda crossed the Andes to Argentina and carried his family on this steam train to this desert town of Ingeniero Jacobacci to plant the first evangelical church here and of course the first Pentecostal one. At my first visit here in 1993, old brother Sepulveda’s son was pastor and they had nearly 1,000 in their church in a town of 6,000! They began building an incredible building for such a little hick town. While the building was still unfinished in the mid nineties a heavy snowfall caused the roof to collapse. No one was inside. They rebuilt it stronger and it is beautiful. (See photo above) This whole huge area is high desert around 2500 feet above sea level.

Going back a little, Friday night enroute to Los Menucos from El Bolson I stayed in a hotel in Ingeniero Jacobacci (zero stars… not even worth a half moon…ha)… but I slept well. Nine hours was too much driving on these teeth chattering gravel roads… so I split it in two. On Saturday morning when I was just leaving town heading east to Los Menucos I could hardly believe my eyes. I slammed on the brakes, parked quickly and ran over for a closer look. There was the famous “Trochita” steam engine all fixed up, blowing steam, belching smoke and towing a string of ancient cars. (See photo)
The last time I saw it, it was like a piece of junk all in pieces. Now they were getting it all ready for a run the next day. All I knew was that this train had been retired many years ago. I watched them disconnect the cars and park it in the engine barn… and I followed it in. The men who were operating it let me take pictures and invited me up into the cabin where the fire pit was red hot and steam blowing out all over the place. They told me they now do a tourist run of 15 kilometers each way every Sunday afternoon. The ancient train passenger cars have a pot belly wood stove where on the long runs years ago you could keep warm and heat up water for your maté… if you’d bring you own firewood which is scarce in these parts.

I arrived in Los Menucos about four hours later on Saturday. You couldn’t distinguish the color of the car since it was covered with dust. Inside the trunk the dust was thick. I had to get a wet rag and wash off my suitcase and everything else that was in the trunk. We had a good service in the civic auditorium Saturday night. The new church chapel was too small since the young pastor had announced my coming on the radio. They are a sharp couple, Walter and Lorena Colinier. His mother is the daughter of the old brother Sepulveda that set in motion the work in this desert area. Walter’s father is also pastor of another AG church in Bariloche.

Sunday I drove back to Ingeniero Jacobacci… amid clouds of dirt and dust. Enjoyed another blessed service Sunday afternoon! Today I joggled my way five hours to Bariloche. Much of the time I had to creep along at 10 to 15 mph as the washboard effect shook the car so badly. It seemed almost heavenly to hit real genuine pavement again at 3 PM this afternoon. I am now in a nice hotel in Bariloche and have two nights to rest. I am to preach in one of our AG churches here on Wednesday. It was started in the nineties by Missionaries Steve Hill and Marc Triplett. Brother Colonier, father of Walter would have had me preach in his church, too, but they are enlarging their building, replacing the huge roof supporting beams this week and can’t have services until next Sunday. I hate to miss that one. He has a great church where I have ministered many times.

Well I did it again. TMO (Too much information) ha.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Baby... Church

Hi! I'm back again!

Frances always did "oohs" and "aahs" over every new little baby. I always did "oohs" and "aahs" over every baby church. Last Saturday Tony and Lidia Villegas, pastors of the El Calafate "Christian Sanctuary AG Church" accompanied me going north 130 miles along the base of the Andes Mountain range to visit their newest baby church in the little mountain village of El Chaltén. Along the way huge glaciers, awesome mountain peaks and blue lakes were in view. As we approached the town of El Chaltén Tony asked me to stop just before descending into town. "We always stop here overlooking the village and pray for new victories before every service," he explained. (See photo with Tony and Lidia at “prayer point”) At 3 PM about 40 beautiful people met with us in a borrowed school room. They seemed as hungry for God as newborn babies that wake everybody up in the middle of the night. It's easy to preach to people like that. Three were there for the first time and all three took their first steps toward their Savior. Praise God!

(Photo left) A little baby's face literally glowed with excitement when he reached out to touch my little skunk puppet, Perfume.

(Photo left) I loaned my Bible to some little girls in the front row and helped them find the text. They were so absorbed in it that they didn't even notice when I took their picture.

The town of El Chaltén lies at the base of the most astounding mountain peaks I have ever seen. Last Saturday after the 3 PM service we drove the 130 miles back to the mother church in El Calafate just in time for the Saturday night service. I love it when I get to preach three times on a weekend plus almost every night of the week.

Clear back in 1996 Frances and I accompanied about 120 kids from the mother church "Christian Sanctuary AG" and preached their kids camp at the base of this glorious El Chaltén mountain peak. Unforgettable! We also designed the El Calafate church building and joined a wonderful team from Portland Christian Center who built it in just 9 days!
(See photos of church exterior and interior.) Since then the church has grown so rapidly that they had to knock out the back wall and extend the sanctuary 30 additional feet! Sunday night was missions night. Here is a church near the southern tip of South America deeply involved in sending Argentinean missionaries to many lands.

Their church is only 50 miles from the world famous Perito Moreno Glacier. Congratulations Pastors Tony and Lidia! You are building the Kingdom in your city, plus now in distant El Chaltén, while at the same time reaching out to the nations of the world. Way to go!

Ralph Hiatt