Thursday, May 26, 2011

Friends, Fun and Fish

San Antonio First Assembly is always an exciting experience for me. Pastor Wayne Clark had invited me to preach their May 22nd Mission Sunday and stay a few days to share in their staff retreat at Port Aransas on an island near Corpus Christi. The main emphasis on Sunday morning was their mid-year Faith Promise booster, but as I was closing my message I felt impressed to give a rather strange altar call. “If your heart is crying out, ’Lord, I don’t want to just be a spectator in missions. I want to be personally involved. Let me in! Jesus, Let me in!’ then come down here and get on your knees.” The response was sudden and serious! God was at work. Missionaries are being called into His service! Praise be to the Lord of the Harvest! Among those at the altar were the son and daughter of my dear friends, Kim and Shari Babcock, missionaries in Argentina. Becky and Jeremiah Babcock are each destined to do great things for the kingdom of God. (See photo of them with me and Pastor Clark.)

Also Sunday morning our lifetime friends, Erwin and Edna Bush and their son, Chuck came to Sunday School and church. (Photo, Edna in wheelchair) When we were kids Erwin was big and powerful and I was skinny and weak. He would grab me from behind and hug me so tight I thought he would break my ribs. Our pastor William Booth-Clibborn would take time an hour before Sunday night services to teach two young boys to pray. We would ride our bikes about 5 miles across the city of Portland, Oregon to kneel with him in the prayer room. Later, at our pastor’s suggestion, we would often ride our bikes out into isolated places in the woods to kneel and pray together. Pastor Clark invited the Bushes to join us at a nice restaurant after church. Then Sunday evening I accompanied Erwin, Edna and Chuck to an excellent Bible Study taught by their other son, Norrie, at Calvary Chapel in Universal City. What a blessing!

I’ve known Pastor Wayne Clark since he was a teenage PK in the Sacramento area. He and his wife, Judy, are always such a joy to be with! On Monday he hooked up his fishing boat and drove to Port Aransas. If you know Pastor Wayne Clark, you know he is not only an excellent “missionary-minded” pastor… he is also a great fisherman. He loves to fish. I think every time I have preached in his church he has taken me fishing. We caught lots of fish of all sizes and many different types. We had taken the Teen Challenge cook, Melvin, with us to prepare breakfast for the staff. Melvin had been a destitute alcoholic before coming to Jesus at Teen Challenge. Now he is a delightful brother. He was so appreciative of being included in this retreat and to be able to go fishing with us. And Melvin caught the biggest fish of all… a 35 inch Red fish! (photo) This afternoon I also had the fun of catching a very nice 26 inch Red fish. See photo.

Tomorrow I fly back to Modesto to be with my family for the Memorial Day weekend before leaving for Missions Week at Templo Hermoso in Tijuana, Mexico.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sitting here bawling and typing

I’m heading back to the USA this evening. This past weekend has been awesome!

I cannot resist the feeling that I will be back here in Argentina soon. The opportunity is almost overpowering if such a thing is possible. As I look out upon the vastness of this ripened harvest field I feel quite like a farmer that sees the golden grain blowing in the breeze over his hundreds of acres of land stretching to the distant horizon. He cannot rise early enough to get at it. He is anxious, eager to get moving. He knows it is bigger than he is and will require getting many others involved. He will have to raise up many harvesters or it will be lost. Sleeping, eating and goofing around seem to lose their appeal. The harvest is waiting! My God! The harvest is waiting! If it was just wheat that would be one thing. But we are talking about the harvest of eternal souls. Oh God, wake me early… give me guidance… Here am I… send me!

Tears flow as I write these words. Please forgive me for being so emotional. You would have to have lived what I have lived this past weekend to fully understand. I’m a mess. New invitations, some to huge mega churches here, keep coming in. Yet I am drawn to the distant places at the edge of nowhere. I suppose I could stay here in the capital city of Buenos Aires and never exhaust the flood of opportunities. Wherever I go I find myself challenging men and women, youth and children to get involved in the harvest. I have never before in my ministry seen so much weeping and wailing at the altar calls. God is up to something. And whatever it is… may it touch this nation and extend to distant parts of this staggering planet!

What am I doing… sitting here bawling and typing? I've got to pack my bags and get myself to the airport... ha.


Most touching moment

Our most touching moments usually can’t be captured in a photo. Tonight that moment came when I was stepping carefully through the huge crowd of kneeling people and quietly praying with many that were weeping as they dedicated their lives to the Lord. One little girl, probably less than two years old pushed ahead of me to get to her daddy who was kneeling in the crowd. He was bent low with tears running down his cheeks. The sweet little child bent down and looked up into her daddy’s face and then tenderly reached up with both hands to wipe away his tears. I can still feel the beauty of that tender moment.

Earlier in the same service I was praying for the kids after finishing with Felipe. I had my eyes closed and was just finishing my prayer when I felt little people all over me. They had climbed the platform steps to lean on me, touch me and sit close to me. (photo)

I don’t know how Felipe does it, but I often get swarmed with little hugging kids after Felipe does his thing. One big tall handsome man came to tell me that when he was 8 years old he came to Christ in a meeting where I was ministering with Felipe. Rewarding indeed!

Saturday I ministered in the city of San Miguel in a new church building with a unique architectural stadium design. (Photo)

Today, Sunday, in three more wonderful services … two AM services in San Telmo which we planted in 1982 and in Catedral de la Fe (Cathedral of Faith) Lanus, another grandchild church of the La Boca church. It is only 2 years old and already has over 400 faithfuls! About 25 first timers came forward for salvation and, as almost always, many of all ages knelt in dedication to their Master at the close.

This is my final service before leaving for California again. Today I felt like I was going out in a burst of glory… God’s glory! I saw at least 35 new people open their hearts to Christ in these three services.

I’ll see you soon, Lord willing, in the USA! Oh yes, thanks for praying, my voice is already strengthening and the cold symptoms disappearing. I never had to miss a beat! Praise God!


Preaching in San Miguel

New ones responding to altar call, San Telmo 2nd AM service

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tiny Feet

I must have been hit with a virus or something on Wednesday. Last night, Thursday, I could barely speak at Lujan, a church we helped to plant in 1989. I made it through, but with difficulty. Even Felipe did his thing. I was particularly touched by a mother and young son that prayed together.

(photo) After a blessed time of prayer I could hardly speak and that with a lot of pain in my severely swollen throat. The little kids gathered around to pray for me so I knelt down. There was something special about this hallowed moment. I looked down at the circle of tiny feet and felt their little hands on my shoulders and arms and even messing up my hair. Little kids can learn to pray. And the God I know listens to kids.

Their faith has not yet been seared by doubt. Their confidence in the living God has not yet been tainted by all the atheistic and agnostic influences that surround our 21st-century culture. They prayed … and they were not in a hurry. They didn’t stop till they were through. Then I was hugged to pieces by little arms.

Tonight I will be in Villa Urquiza at the Catedral de Vida (Cathedral of Life) with Pastors Gustavo and Graciela Calardo. Gustavo is another one of the boys that were saved while we were preaching in a city park in La Boca (Ghetto Church). He now has served as National Secretary of the Assemblies of God here for more almost two decades I think, while continuing to pastor this church.

My throat feels better, but my voice is pretty much not there. I’m not canceling any of my five remaining services this weekend. I’m counting on God answering the prayers of those little people with the tiny feet.

Pastors Walter and Rebecca Diaz and family


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Resurrection of a church

Guillermo and his wife, Marta, and family are members of the Pacheco church where I preached last night. They have accepted the challenge to resurrect a church that was closed years ago in a needy barrio in Gran Bourg. Gran Bourg is a huge area with many needy neighborhoods located about 20 miles from Pacheco. They collect nice used clothing and on Saturdays they distribute it to the children and serve hot chocolate and a light snack. A local bakery provides sweet rolls. Marta and their three kids dress as clowns, have games for the kids, then a time of singing, Bible teaching and a devotional. Already parents are coming with their kids and some have given their lives to Christ. This story of reaching out with food and clothing for the needy is being repeated over and again in many churches throughout the country. They don’t advertise what they are doing. They are not asking for help. It is a service to the Lord Jesus. I am confident that Guillermo and Marta will see this church “rise again”.

Hot dogs for hungry kids

Local bakery supplies sweetrolls

Marta, dressed as clown, serves the kids

Pastors' kids help out

Latin American Child Care Making a Difference

This has been a busy day. A pastor came to pick me up at 11 AM to minister to the middle school and high school kids in the Moreno Prince of Peace Christian school. Then at 12:30 PM the 1st through 7th grade kids filed into the same auditorium for a second service.

Finally at 2 PM they brought in 90 little kids from 3 years old through Kindergarten for my third service there with Felipe and Perfume. (Photos) The smallest children just love to touch Perfume, the skunk. This school was in disastrous condition and about to close in 2006 when I took Pastor Caleb Klinge from Novato and Pastor Steve Reyes from Sonoma and a group of their people to minister there. These churches came to their rescue with a burst of financial help. We also prevailed upon Latin American Child Care (LACC) to get involved. Now Missionaries Ed and Cecilia Dabello who represent LACC are here doing a great job in this needy neighborhood in the city of Moreno. There are about 450 kids in all grades. These lives will have hope because somebodyv… through LACC has invested in them.

Now it’s 2 AM and I am back in my borrowed apartment on the fourth floor under the huge water tank at the Martinez church. Tonight I had the joy of ministering in the Catedral Emanuel in the city of Pacheco with my dear friends Pastors Alberto y Ermelinda Aranda. They called a special service just for me this Wednesday night. The church was crammed to the doors with about 400 people! What a fiesta! Unbelievable musicians! A guitar player that is absolutely awesome! Fabulous harmony in the choir! Well over an hour of spontaneous worship! While the choir sang a beautiful rendition of “The Savior is Waiting to Enter Your Heart”, Pastor Alberto gave an invitation to the visitors to come for salvation before the sermon. The Holy Spirit was at work and 9 responded. (Photo)

After the sermon and an extended time of earnest prayer, an elderly brother, Alberto Dacosta, (photo) came to tell me that he was saved in the huge stadium services that I was directing way back in the 1980s with Jimmy Swaggart. Alberto has served God faithfully all these years along with hundreds of others, some of them in the ministry. Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18) and He has proved faithful to His word. Praise God!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

La Boca Ghetto Church

It’s 3 AM and I have arrived back at the prophet’s chamber. Tonight I had the joy of preaching again in the church we planted in the slums of Buenos Aires in 1973-74, Barrio La Boca. Pastor Jose Manuel Carlos and his lovely wife, Isabel, were very young when we turned this church over to them in 1976. They are now grandparents, but just as vibrant as ever. (Photo)

Great Tuesday night crowd! (Photo) Lots of kids! (Photo) Saturdays they have two youth meetings back to back. First, 70 teenagers meet in the late afternoon, then that evening about 70 college age and older youth meet for worship.

I met Walter and Cinthia after church. (photo) They are part of an outreach team that is ministering in a neighborhood where many young teenage kids smoke some strange new drug using a pipe. La Boca church was born in street evangelism and they haven’t lost their fervor. They are reaching out to their crowded world with the love of Jesus. Tonight I preached “the harvest is plenteous”… unlimited possibilities… a mission field at our door step! Pastor Jose Manuel Carlos tells me that so many youth have gone out of the church into ministry that he lost count after it past 87 several years ago!

I must hit the hay. I have three meetings to preach tomorrow; morning in Prince of Peace Christian school in Moreno, afternoon in the same building but a totally different crowd of kids and evening in the Catedral Emanuel in Pacheco. (See ad)


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Just for Missionaries

I could never… and still cannot just stand up and start talking without detailed preparation and sensing that I have a word from the Lord. Many times I spend long hours preparing and at the last moment I sense that this message which I worked so hard on is really for another time and place. Then the Master rescues me, taking me to some text or thought that better fits the situation. That’s what happened yesterday morning as I sat before our wonderful, dedicated missionary team here in Argentina. I had struggled several nights and long hours writing down ideas and organizing them… just for a 20 minute devotional. I had handwritten notes all ready. At the last minute I just couldn’t use them and had to take another text that kept invading my thoughts… actually several texts. The worst part is that now I don’t really have a written record of what I said. I always try to keep a record lest I repeat myself at some future date.

I’m trying to remember now as I write. Oh yes, I asked permission to lift a few words from the Bible out of their context. I normally would not do this, but felt the Lord would not be displeased. So I lifted from 2 Cor 5:14 just the words “For the love of Christ constraineth us…” (King James); “For Christ's love compels us…” (NIV) “Porque el amor de Cristo nos constriƱe…” (Reina Valera) I talked about our motivation. Jesus clarified the motivation behind the Father sending His Son with John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave…” Jesus was compelled into this world by His Father’s love… driven to lay aside His divine glory and the splendor of heaven to become a missionary to stinking, rebellious sinners. He hung out with them… bringing the criticism of the religious crowd down upon Him. “This guy likes to hang around sinners!” (Luke 15:2) They may have mouthed the ancient proverb, “You can tell a man by the company he keeps.” Why did he sit at the table with nasty sinners? He loved them. That’s why. He was driven, compelled, constrained by His Father’s love. My God! Where would I be if He had stayed behind polished pulpits?

What drove us from our comfortable homes in the USA? What caused us to take our little kids and break into another culture and language? Why are we here in Argentina? Are we driven, compelled, constrained by the love of Christ to hang out with sinners? Are we more comfortable to do Starbucks with our companion missionaries or our best friend? The risen Christ shows us the scars on His hands and feet and says to us, like He did to His disciples, “In the same way that my Father sent me, so send I you”. Paul adds, “Let this same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

Prayer: Jesus, shower your divine passion down upon us until we are compelled and constrained, driven by Your love into the depths of darkness to sit beside a lost sinner… not because we have to, but because we want to. Amen.

PS. Check out this unusual piece of art setting beside the road in the coastal city of Pinamar where we had our missionary meeting this past weekend. Bring it up close to see it better.
PPS.  I should be back in Modesto for a week or so on May 10.

Old man and kids

Meet Claudio Salazar and family. (Photo) Claudio worked full time for us for several years just after he got married. It was a time of extreme activity and heavy responsibility. This remarkable young man handled tens of thousands of dollars as we managed gospel TV programs reaching millions of people, the purchase of new church properties and church planting crusades. Claudio had no intentions of becoming a pastor himself, but years later planted a successful and growing church in Gran Bourg. He has invited me many times in the past. Finally last Wednesday night I was able to minister there and witness what God is doing with his life and that of his family.

Now here is an old man that doesn’t know that he is old. He can’t thank the Lord enough for the privilege of touching the lives of little kids, again and again. This time it was last Thursday morning at Martinez Christian school in Buenos Aires. (Photos)

Friday I was invited to preach at our largest and highly productive Bible Institute, IBRP (River Platte Bible Institute) near Buenos Aires. What a joy to minister to 270 dedicated students, ready to give their very lives to spread the love of Jesus to the world! (Photos below) After an extended time of prayer some were rising, IBRP Director Rocky Grams looked at the floor and then at me and commented, “I think we’ll need to mop up the tears again!”

Julie leaves for college

This weekend our South American Southern Cone Area Directors, David and Carol Ellis, honored me with the privilege of participating in their MF (Missionary Fellowship) business meeting in the coastal city of Pinamar. They even asked me to give the Saturday morning devotional. I was blessed to tears to be back among my precious missionary family of many old friends and several new ones. Our youngest MKs enjoyed getting acquainted with Perfume and Felipe.

Tears flowed freely as Julie Dabello, a 17-year-old beautiful blonde, was surrounded with prayer and hugged to pieces. She has graduated from high school here and is now leaving for college in the USA. These are among the most painful times for a missionary family as one of their children leaves the shelter of the nest to live and study often 8,000 miles away. Julie will need our continued prayers as she steps out of this loving missionary environment and into the cold, hard realities of the US college culture. Some of these missionaries live separated up to 1,000 miles from the other members of the team, but they are as closely knit as blood-related family.


Area Directors Dave and Carol Ellis