Monday, October 31, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

Tonight was a much bigger open air event than last night. This was put on by the “mother” church here… a church planted by Missionaries David and Carol Ellis along with a young Argentine Pastor, Alberto Ferrando, about 20 years ago. The mother church has now planted several other churches.
Three of these daughter churches are in needy areas and feed a full meal every day, except Sundays, to about 100 neighborhood children each. None of these churches receive help from the government. It is the Church in action with voluntary workers. I visited the kitchen where the ladies were stewing a huge pot of lentils that really smelled good. Kids of all ages were already seated at the table long before the food was ready. The mother church kitchen provides a hot lunch daily (except Sundays) to about 40 university students from the campus nearby. Chi-Alpha is alive and well in Argentina.
About once a month they choose one of their daughter churches to do an “outreach” event in an open plaza… using talent and medical specialists from the local church and the mother church. Today they took over the plaza all day.
They set up several special tents. Each one was attended by a specialist, dentists examining kids and adults and giving a new tooth-brush and paste to each with instructions on how to use them, a pediatrician checking babies, a gynecologist and his doctor wife for the women, someone giving free haircuts and more.
I think there were 16 medical people in all. Several of them were medical students from the university here. I don’t think they did a lot of treatments, but mostly consultations and health giving advice. In the meantime games were going on all day with the children.

At about 6 PM the kids’ program began… a couple of youth dressed as “magician and helper” pulled a string of colored cloth from an empty hat… and finally a stuffed rabbit. A clown act was well planned and really cute with a “wannabe clown” interrupting every circus act by sneaking on stage, trying to copy the act and getting scolded and pushed off,
a “terrifying” lion show with cute little kids dressed as lions and finally four women with identical expressionless face-masks and dressed as mannequins in a store window. This last one was designed more for adults (and there were lots of them there, too), and was very well done. A background voice spoke for them. When “the store closed” they took off the masks and came to life discussing what it might be like to be real people walking freely on the street. They knew their lines and mouthed the words very well. In all they put on a really good show.
Perfume and Felipe were hits as usual, delighting all ages. Then I preached to them about how Jesus treated an adulterous woman and how her religious accusers went slinking away in shame. I told about the “invisible miracle” that took place while Jesus lifted the burden of guilt and shame from her shoulders and took her guilt, her sin, her shame, her condemnation and her death upon Himself and gave her the free gift of a new life. Jesus was offering her a new beginning, a fresh start, which He calls being born again. That woman, trapped in shameful sin, represents each one of us. Then I gave the invitation. Many responded. I talked with a few of them afterward. Hugo is 48 years old, but I would have guessed his age as in his 60s. He has colon cancer and has been operated on many times. His wife is a pretty lady, but suffering from Lupus. Hugo obviously had never given a thought to spiritual things before and knew nothing… a round zero… about Jesus and the Bible. He told me that he was really touched by the story about that sinner lady and how Jesus gave her a new life. He and his wife are going to start their new life as of today.

Sometimes the best things happen after the lights have been turned off and the chairs taken up. God often leads me to somebody that is just standing around waiting for a chance to meet Jesus.

Check out the pickup that carries the chairs and equipment back to the church.
Mission accomplished! Buenas noches!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Back to Square One

Much of my life has been poured into what seem to be little insignificant open air meetings to help start new Assemblies of God churches.
I felt right at home last night as we gathered with Pastor Marcelo Villarreal’s dedicated “family-team” in front of their new little church building in Barrio La Bandera, La Rioja. We set up an open air service in an effort to win their neighbors to Jesus.

The Hawaiian guitar’s enchanting sound drifted across the landscape attracting the attention of interested youth.

As always, Perfume, the skunk and Felipe did their thing for the kids. Perfume was almost suffocated with love as hands reached out from all sides for the privilege of petting her.

Preaching Jesus came easy as these people sat in rapped attention.

At the altar call I picked up my old accordion and sang a translation of “There is Room at the Cross for You.” And they came, unashamed, maybe even eager… to meet Jesus at the foot of the cross.

In many places God has allowed me the privilege of returning to these locations after decades… to witness the incredible long-term fruit. What a Savior!

Early on while still in Bible School I made a feeble, flimsy, fumbling attempt to preach to the lost at “Victory Servicemen’s Center” in Longbeach, California. I knew I had failed miserably… and it was true. But that night 30 sailor boys knelt and wept through to salvation. That night changed my life… for suddenly I realized that even when the messenger’s delivery is a total failure, the “message” itself remains powerful to save.

I need your prayers as tonight I preach in another area in an open city park.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Unborn Baby Stops Bullet

After a great service at Pastor Hugo Perez’ church last Saturday night, his daughter, Eliana, and her husband, Maxi Barrios met me outside the church as I was leaving. They showed me a small scar on the right arm of their little son, Micaias, and told me the story of this unusual miracle.

Eliana was 7 months pregnant with Micaias. They had parked their little motorcycle in front of a place that sells fast food. Eliana stayed with the motorcycle while Maxi went in to purchase some sandwiches. Suddenly Eliana was approached by an armed robber who demanded the key to the motorcycle. She told him that her husband had the key. He shot her through the womb and was preparing to shoot her again when Maxi came up. Eliana was kneeling in blood in the street yelling at the robber. “My baby! My baby! You just killed my baby. Why do you want to kill me, too?” Maxi gave the robber the keys and he did not shoot again, but sped away on their motorcycle.

They rushed Eliana to the hospital and operated immediately. The baby was alive and only showed an injury in one arm. The doctors saw where the bullet had entered her womb, but were puzzled because they could not find where the bullet stopped or where it exited. They were shocked to discover the bullet lodged in baby Micaias’ tiny right arm. It did not break the bone or do serious muscle damage.

They claimed that if the baby had not stopped the bullet Eliana most likely would not have survived. Their story hit major news all over the country. On a television show Maxi and Eliana publically forgave the robber who shot her. Soon thereafter the repentant robber returned the motorcycle to the place where he had taken it. He was later apprehended and is now serving a 10 year sentence in prison.

Can an unborn baby’s arm stop a bullet? All over Argentina it was publicized as The Micaias Miracle.

Note: Pastor Hugo Perez tells me that 44 years ago he heard me playing the Hawaiian guitar in the city park where I preached every week and came close to see this strange instrument. He did not stay to hear me preach however. Years later he and his wife were invited by a neighbor to a home meeting. I happened to be visiting San Juan that day and preaching in that house. That night they both gave their hearts to the Lord. Several years later, with the approval of their pastor, Angel Vega (Pastor of the first Assemblies of God church which we helped to plant here in 1968) they started a church in another area of the city. Today it is one of 10 thriving Assemblies of God churches in San Juan.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Serious Puppy Love

Do I miss my sons, their wives and my grandkids? Yes! Oh so very much! Once in a while I get to see them via Skype. But do I miss loving and being loved? Not at all!
Look at me! I think Pastor Alberto Marin’s little girls have adopted me as their “grandpa”. I’ll be at their house for lunch again today. The littlest one will come running to grab my leg. They call her Sammy and she is as sweet as the morning breeze carrying the fragrance of jazmine blossoms.
There is one problem though. I have to love ‘em and leave ‘em. I may not see them again for years. If Jesus tarries and I’m still around they’ll come running to me as teenagers or adults with the same wonderful expressions of love. It happens again and again.

So, don’t feel sorry for me. Envy me!

PS. This was not a posed picture. It was happening so I handed my camera to someone to record the moment.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Awesome Stuff!

Meet Enrique Strohschein, National Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Argentina, a true man of God, and his wife Irma. The national conference was a thrilling event with great preaching, including his message the final night. He is famous for insisting that every one of us should spend “at least one hour in prayer daily.”
So many people had asked me about Felipe that he was allowed a spot that final night. Then our national superintendent ministered to about 2,000 of us with a powerful message backed up with many references to God’s Word… which is typical of his preaching.
The following Saturday night, October 8, I was privileged to minister in the city of San Martin where the old church is being remodeled. Both little children and adults enjoyed Perfume and Felipe. Later they were just as responsive to the ministry of the Word.
It was in this same building that in the year 1965 I witnessed an 18 year old girl, who knew no English, worship God in perfect English for nearly 30 minutes as she was being filled with the Holy Spirit baptism! Awesome stuff!

Sunday October 9, I ministered in the city of Rivadavia with Pastor Omar Coronel in their beautiful new sanctuary, dedicated only two days previous.

The pastor’s father, Ernesto Coronel, was there. For me it was a precious moment. This brother had received me into his home when we first arrived in Argentina. Only seconds before this picture was taken his son, Pastor Omar Coronel, had just remarked that the two of us on the front row reminded him of Belgrano y San Martin, which would be like George Washington and Abe Lincoln in the USA. It was a LOL (laugh-out-loud) moment.

What a great church! Youth up front in enthusiastic worship… and at the close of the message practically everyone on their knees offering something important to the Lord and receiving something better from Him. Oh, how I would like to see our USA churches get back to the “altar service” where life-changing things happen!


Monday, October 10, 2011

City Park Invasion

Last week a large group of Castlleros wearing red shirts (King’s Castle Kids) gathered in Mendoza at the foot of the great Andes Mountains for the Argentine Assemblies of God General Council.
On Thursday, October 6, they decided to invade the main plaza of the city of Mendoza. With their dramas, mime and interpretive dances they attracted quite a crowd.

They asked me to bring Felipe. As always, Perfume, the skunk came out first (almost invisible in my hands in this picture). Missionaries Shari and Kim Babcock serve as the national directors of “Castilleros.” Shari, who herself is an excellent ventriloquist, did the humble task of holding the suitcase for me.

Once again Felipe got to do what he likes best… sing and talk about Jesus in public places. Click on this picture to check out the smile of delight on his face. He sang his favorite chorus, “I have a Friend, His name is Jesus.” When he asked the public to say the Name of his Friend, the place literally exploded with that Name that is above every name, the Name of Jesus. Then he told one of his Bible stories.

Afterwards I took a few moments to tell the public about the wonderful Gospel of "New Beginnings.” Jesus offers to reset your odometer to zero! He calls it being "Born Again."