Friday, September 30, 2011

"Beautiful People"

Where do I start? How filled with the joy of the Lord I am this morning!

Santa Rosa was not as I expected, but new places never are, I guess. I drove by the town early on purpose to check for a hotel. It is a tiny country town. I asked around and discovered that the nearest hotel was in San Martin about 25 miles further west. I did not call the pastor, because I knew they would have offered me their own bed and probably would sleep on the floor. I drove on to San Martin and settled in a humble, but clean, hotel room. I arrived at 6:30 PM at the church, although the service wasn’t scheduled until 8.

Here is what I wrote in my devotional journal this morning: Zechariah 9:16-17 “The LORD their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!”

"Beautiful people that sparkle like jewels?!" This morning, before reading the above scripture, I was recalling the meeting last night in a small country community in the middle of thousands of acres of vineyards.
The pretty little church, built entirely by the hands of their pastor, was filled to overflowing with people standing in the doorway. There were lots of youth, adolescents and children.

A whole Sunday School class of boys and girls about 10 to 14 years of age had all been rounded up by their teacher, a lady that was obviously giving herself to win them for Jesus. She brought the whole class up to me after church for special prayer. My eyes fixed upon a 10 year old boy who was grinning and making jokes, his eyes just sparkling with fun and wit. That kid is going to become a leader. I told him so. I encouraged him to lead many people though those pearly gates into heaven.
Then there was the elderly lady on the front row and the young couple with a tiny baby who asked me to bless them, and several pastors of other little country churches within up to 20 miles that gathered around and prayed for me and wanted me to come to their churches, too.

So this morning I reflected upon the whole scene with joy in my heart and I said to myself, “Beautiful people!” Minutes later my devotional reading through the Bible took me to Zechariah 9:16-17 as the Lord describes his people. “They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!”

I happened to be sitting where the sunlight touched my hands and I noticed one tiny golden sparkle on each hand. I have no idea where they could have come from and I am not trying to suggest that these two tiny sparkles were something miraculous or mysterious at all… probably just something I had brushed against. But strangely enough I found myself rejoicing in those two tiny sparkles as though they meant something special to me.

And I prayed, "Jesus, make me to sparkle like a tiny jewel in Your crown and may I bring glory and honor to You and to our Heavenly Father as I move about among these, Your “beautiful people!” (End devotional journal)

In the middle of my message last night, a neighbor lady who was visiting the church for the first time, rose from the front row to leave with her grandchild. She had been attentive, but the little child by her side had been pestering her to leave for some time. I had met her and spoken to her earlier. I stopped my message and stepped down off the platform. She extended her hand and was telling me she had to leave. I asked her quietly if she would like to open her heart to our wonderful, loving Lord Jesus. She responded positively. So I lead her in prayer and took a few minutes to pray with her. I felt I should not allow her to escape without having the opportunity of meeting my Jesus. Then I jumped back up on the platform and picked up right where I had left off. I believe God was at work in many hearts, young and old.

At midnight I joined with the pastor’s family around their table for empanadas and delicious home-made vegetable soup. It was just what I needed.

I suppose that some could look at these photos and say, “These people don’t look like anything special." I think maybe you have to look at them with the eyes of Jesus. He calls them “attractive and beautiful” and so do I.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Second Blessing

The church service had concluded almost an hour before. Most of the congregation had left. A humble little child came up to me and asked if he could see Felipe. His family had arrived after I had already finished with Felipe and was preaching.
So, for that little child I brought out Perfume and Felipe and soon a small crowd had gathered for a “second blessing.”

This often happens since many parents work very long hours then walk long distances to church. I wouldn’t want one little child to return home disappointed, so I always am ready for a second Felipe show. I think Jesus would have done that. Don’t you?


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sowing Seed in the Plaza

I left La Serranita midday on Friday. Destiny: Villa Merlo on the western side of the Cordoba mountains. The old gravel road that crossed the 3950 ft. high summit has now been paved and greatly improved. There are lots of switchback curves and endless beautiful scenery.
I thought I was never going to get to Villa Merlo since I kept stopping to take pictures high in the mountains. Villa Merlo is a tourist city well known for its steady micro-climate there on the lower slope of the mountains.

Pastor Angel Gras and his wife have purchased a lot and built the front section of their church building. Friday night I was surprised to find a good group of believers.

Pastor Gras’ daughter took lots of pictures during the service with her nice Nikon camera.

Maybe it is due to Felipe and the importance I give to little children, but a group of them came to me at the close of the service and asked me to pray for them individually. I take this very seriously and consider it an unusual privilege. In this day of moral decay, may God raise up a generation of holy young men and women destined to change their world for Jesus!

Saturday afternoon we ministered in the central plaza. Several men showed great interest in the Hawaiian guitar. One retired couple started dancing to my music.

Only God knows if these Gospel seeds planted there will take root and grow.

Petting Perfume brought great delight to this little girl.

And You can tell by Felipe's expression on his face that he loves to do this stuff.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fixed Attention

Today is Thursday so I get to rest. At breakfast, Brother Antonio, who runs this establishment, told me that there is a small public elementary school in this little town with only 23 kids of all ages… and he knows the principal… and “Would I be willing to do a little thing with Felipe and Perfume during their recess?” Why not? Felipe can sow seeds of the love of Jesus in places where preachers fear to tread. That’s coming up in a few minutes. On my day off I just do fun stuff like this.
(An hour later) Check out the fixed attention on those faces. They didn’t miss a thing! I gave the school principal a DVD of Felipe’s Bible stories. She seemed delighted. I have a feeling that the kids may get to see the whole thing in the classroom soon. Felipe just keeps “preaching… preaching… preaching…” in places even I can’t go.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rest under "The Arbor"

Every day is another adventure here in Argentina. Today is the day they greet you with, “Feliz Día de la Primavera” meaning “Happy First Day of Spring.” There will be big festivals and fireworks. It is a holiday and all the kids are out of school. I have just driven up into the foothills to a retreat hostel called “La Pergola” meaning “The Arbor.”
It is operated by one of our AG Argentine minister couples. They have it especially for ministers and wives that need a rest. I figured I needed a break after ministering ten times this past week.
A few moments after I arrived, Ernesto Villareal, the pastor of one of our AG churches in Carlos Paz, about a 45 minute drive from here, got the word that I was here and has asked me to preach there tonight. I am delighted to do it. I'll rest tomorrow.

Friday morning I will take a winding highway that climbs the Cordoba Sierras to the top (3950 feet alt) and descends on the western side of the range. There in a tourist town called Villa de Merlo, Pastor Angel Gras and his family are starting a new church. I will minister to their small group of new converts on Friday night and then we will do an open-air evangelistic outreach at 4 PM on Saturday in the plaza with Felipe and the Hawaiian guitar. Later Saturday night I’ll drive another two hours to Villa Mercedes to preach Sunday AM and then to the city of Justo Daract for the evening service.

Wish you were here. I know you would love this stuff.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Rough Life!

Sunday morning: Great service at the Catedral de Alabanza (Cathedral of Praise) in Cordoba with Pastors David and Hilda Ledesma!

My skunk, Perfume, doesn’t hold still for a picture.

My ancient accordion still sings.

At the close there was a good altar service with the whole church on its knees dedicating lives, young and old, to Christ anew.

The “girls” gather around for hugs and a picture.

Check out the house where I have been staying for the past two weeks (below)
and drool over my Sunday dessert: a stack of dipped ice cream with crunchy cookies between dips topped with whole almonds and bathed in hot chocolate sauce! It's this restaurant’s version of a “Charlot”. Then go weep for me as I “suffer” here in Argentina! Ha!


Saturday, September 17, 2011


Last night, Friday, I ministered at a local church Bible School in the CCC, Centro Cristiano of Cordoba. They do Bible classes for the kids and youth simultaneously with the adults. I had Perfume and Felipe come out for the whole group before they split up into classes. Then they allowed me to minister to the youth and adults together.

This church was planted by Don and Melba Exley clear back in 1977 and has become a great world missions church, not only the top missions supporting church in the nation, but also the greatest sender of missionaries from its own congregation! 18 families have been sent out into many countries from this one church! Their pastor and his wife, Juan and Lidia Masalyka are in Spain right now holding a spiritual retreat for Europe’s missionaries. Good job… Don and Melba… and congratulations to Juan and Lidia… all great servants of Jesus!
During my message I told the story of a baby girl named Mabel Murua who was miraculously healed of a large tumor on her neck when we were planting a church in San Juan years ago.
When I passed around a picture of her taken with Frances and me and her folks in 2007 (40 years old in the picture and still beautiful) along with another picture of many of her family members that came to the Lord as a result of the miracle, I noticed a lot of excitement among the people. They all started talking at once.

Someone ran out and brought in a young man that I immediately recognized, Luis Murua, Mabel’s nephew! I did not know that he now lives in this area and attends this church over 300 miles from where the miracle occurred. They yelled, “Surprise!” and here came Luis running into my arms.

Then he took the mike and testified how his grandparents (Mabel’s parents) and all eleven of his great uncles and aunts gave their lives to Christ through this miracle, some went into the ministry, others now are in heaven. I especially like these miracles that can be confirmed as genuine. Jesus is alive!
After their classes some of the kids returned to gather around me to pray for me.
Another day of superb blessings!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

500 Smiling Faces

Up at 5:10 AM: A shower, a time with Jesus and His Word. No time for breakfast.

7:20 AM: Arrived at William Morris Christian School in downtown Cordoba to set up my little sound system even though they told me that it wasn’t necessary, since they have their own system. In Argentina I’ve learned to have a backup when possible.

7:45 AM: Enjoyed the privilege of leading a brief devotional time with the dedicated teaching staff of this great Christian school.
8:00 AM: 500 children gathered, packed into the open patio. They sang a song as they raised the Argentine flag. As they were introducing me their sound system sputtered and quit. No problem; I invited them to my microphone, powered by my little Roland amp running on AA batteries. The sound was loud and clear.
500 faces lit up with delight as Perfume, the skunk, wiggled out of Felipe’s suitcase and showed her face. 500 smiling faces charged the atmosphere with laughter as Felipe did his thing with a Bible story and a conclusion. Then I got serious and prayed for them and the staff before they were dismissed to their classrooms.

8:45 AM: I was requested to do another devotional time for some “special teachers” that arrive later. Small group. Good time!

12:45 PM: Drove across town to the Mediterranean Bible Institute for lunch with the students and Missionary Steve Wallace, Bible School Director. Steve invited me to share with his first year Missions class. How inspiring to participate in the lives of future missionaries and ministers!

8:00 PM: Enjoyed event number 5 for the day, ministering at Iglesia Betel, pastored by Santiago and Lidia Zapata, dear friends since 1966. After church they took me out to dinner. We finished after midnight.

2:00 AM Thursday: Off to bed thinking on the goodness of our God. He rescued the meeting with 500 energetic kids by having my backup sound system ready to go. AND miracle of miracle, my voice held up well for all 5 events! Leave it to Jesus! He’ll come through for you!


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No Duds Here!

I never cease to be amazed at the quality of our missionary team here in Argentina. As I hang around these people more, I get more and more impressed. And certainly the Babcocks are up there near the top of the list. Their passion for the lost, their dedication to the youth, their heart of service to others… bat 1000… and the list goes on and on.

I was having a terrible time trying to get a cell phone that can be paid by the month here. I was having to buy terribly expensive minutes and always was running out. Kim invited me to ride on his plan like I was one of his sons. We went into their office together. After looking at us they weren’t too sure if I could pass for his son… ha… but they accepted the idea with no problem… except it still took him almost two weeks and many hours of his valuable time including two visits to the Movistar (cell phone) office to get my new plan activated. Both he and Shari are incredible people… and have what it takes to get the job done. And they are reproducing hundreds of their own kind in this fertile land!

I am now in Cordoba staying with Steve and Sonia Wallace… another incredible couple. He directs the Bible School here. I am so thrilled that Argentina gets the best of the best. Sonia is a good cook, too.

What do you call a firecracker when it fizzles? A dud? If so, we have no duds here! Praise God!

PS. The world needs to know. A lot of these dedicated people don’t blow their own horn much. So somebody’s got to do it for them… ha.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Clear the Tracks!

Cordoba… north central Argentina. I have been invited to stay in the lovely home of Missionaries Steve and Sonia Wallace, the directors of IBM, our Assemblies of God “Instituto Biblico Mediterreano.”
Check out my comfortable room. And Sonia is a good cook, too.
Via Skype last night I was able to talk to my son, Tim, his wife Cheryl and my grandkids, Michelle and Evan, while watching them on my computer screen, (see photo.) It was almost as good as a visit to their home. I may “camp out” here for another week or so while ministering in schools and churches in this area.
I came to this area primarily to speak for a youth camp. King’s Castle team leaders from several provinces are meeting for a spiritual retreat. These are mostly teenagers who lead groups of other teenagers in their churches. The “Castilleros”, as they are called here, are talented, leadership-oriented youth who are sold-out for Jesus.

The King’s Castle ministry is blessed in Argentina to be led by a very special missionary couple, Kim and Shari Babcock (photo). The services are packed with enthusiastic worship and thirsty hearts are wide open to drink in the messages from God’s word.

Last night, Friday, at the closing invitation, much time was spent in fervent prayer. Many were weeping as God was at work deep in their hearts. An hour later, while I was picking up my Hawaiian guitar and sound equipment, I noticed an unusually large puddle of tears where I had seen one teenage boy kneeling. There can be no doubt, sincerity was there.
I know I am looking into the faces of young men and women that soon will become powerful leaders in God’s service. Some of them already demonstrate qualities of leadership that astound me. One girl, Noetlia, now 19 years old, spearheaded and organized a powerful and very successful children’s event for her city officials with a response of over 5,000 kids when she was only 16!

Noelia is the girl on the left in this photo. Among many other results, the mayor and his wife were converted and now faithfully attend our AG church there!

(Sound effect... Wooo WOOOOoooo...train whistle) Clear the tracks! Here come the “Castilleros!”

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Fun Begins

What a joy to be “used of God!” Last Friday I awoke early in the morning and sensed immediately that I should reverse my decision to not accept the invitation of a lady pastor of a small church in Buenos Aires. I had already told her that I had turned down many invitations and was trying to reserve my voice this weekend by preaching only on Sunday morning. Now God seemed to be telling me to call her and tell her I would come Sunday night after all. She was delighted at my reversal.
It happened at that church last night at the close of my message. I had just begun to give the invitation. A young man, named Gustavo, who was there for the first time, picked up his back pack and stepped into the aisle. At first I thought he was going to escape out the back door. But, no, he almost ran to the front. He seemed so desperate for God in his life. I think I forgot that I had the accordion strapped on me as I tried to kneel down to help him pray to receive the Lord into his life. Afterward he hung onto me and would hardly let go. I just hope he hangs on to Jesus that firmly!
Then there was a powerful altar service where God was at work in many hearts, preparing men and women, youth and even little children for “heavenly adventures” just ahead.

We were "picking up the pieces" at the close when a group of little kids wanted to take their picture with me. I couldn’t turn that down!
The fun has just begun!