Thursday, May 31, 2012

Read These Faces

This morning and again this afternoon (two separate groups of students) I was invited to minister in the chapel for Dring Christian School here in Formosa, Argentina. The Drings were a wonderful missionary family from England.  They gave their lives for this area and, among other worthy works, they established this private Christian school.

Here is a picture of aged Brother Dring with some students sometime in the last century.  Many of their first students are now in positions of authority and influence. 

What a joy to see the response at prayer time!  (Click on pictures to enlarge.)
Read the sincerity in these faces. One little girl knelt at the foot of the stairs to the platform. God is preparing His choice servants for His purposes.

Between these two chapel services I was taken to the local TV channel for an interview… with Felipe, of course.  As you can see we had a good time.

I still have one service to go tonight… my fourth event for the day.  It will be my last event in this province for this trip.  Tomorrow I start again in the province of Corrientes.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Answer is Yes!

Am I still having the time of my life?

Great stuff tonight in the little church in Clorinda (right across the river from Asunción, Paraguay). 

Check out this tiny child laying on hands to pray for a little boy.  The pastor's daughter, in pink also was laying hands on a little girl.  It happened while I was sitting on the floor blessing the circle of little kids and a photographer captured it.

God was doing some deep work in the lives of his people.  The evidence is often what happens after church… outside when I am trying to get into the car to leave.  People, including little kids, that come running to hug me and never seem to let go. 

Pastor Martin Martinez and his wife were still hugging and praying after most had left the altar area. 

A lawyer in his fifties and his first time to enter the church… captured me at my car.  I had noticed his black car stop just outside the open door as I began to preach.  He had come in, sat in back and listened to the whole message.  By his own spontaneous testimony God had obviously already done a powerful work in his heart.  I prayed with him… but I think he had already stepped inside the safe haven of God’s salvation.  He promised the pastor that he was going to keep coming. 

A girl in her early 20s came to me in the dark by the car.  I thought at first she just wanted to say good-bye.  But she wanted to talk with me.  She had been the caretaker for several years (along with her mother) of a 92 year old man who had recently passed away.  She was happy that he was beautifully saved through the testimony of her mother and her… but she carried a very heavy burden inside her… thinking that she did not treat this elderly man with the kindness that she should have.  He, like me was old and gray, “tall” and had blue eyes.  I reminded her of him and she was pouring out tears like a river as she tried to spill her heart out on me.  She was living under a cloud of guilt.  Not that God had not forgiven her, but she had been unable to forgive herself.  I believe her confession to me broke the weight of that dark part of her life.  I told her of the grace of a loving God that does not want her to be kept under a cloud of guilt, but to be set totally free. 

Young guys in their late teens hugged me so tight I thought I would break.

Pastor Martin Martinez and his lovely family deserve a picture in this blog.  What loving people!

The 75 minutes drive to reach the church had been filled with praying in the Spirit and seeking the Lord for His work to be done in the hearts of the people.  Then the return trip on that dark narrow highway was filled with praise to the Lord.  Once again He came through for me.  He made it more than worth the effort of that 150 mile round trip.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can I Kiss You?

Pastor and Mrs. Jorge Ledesma have a great church in Resistencia reaching about 11,000.  On Monday afternoon he invited some kids.  He was going to have me with Felipe in one the halls they use for kids, but it became totally packed and many waiting to get in.  So we decided to go out into the parking lot for church worker's.  We were moving cars out and placing chairs in when we discovered that the crowd had grown so much it wouldn't fit in the parking lot either.  So we finally resorted to the church sanctuary which seats several thousand.

What do you do with 500 kids and many of their parents?  You get out your skunk, named Perfume, and let her wiggle and squirm a little bit. 

Then you let Felipe climb out of his case and teach them something from the Word of God that they will never forget. 

After that you pump the old accordion and teach them a fun chorus with deep meaning. 

Then you draw them a picture... a big picture... and turn it upside down... and with this illustration you give them the Good News of God's wonderful love... and help them invite the Savior into their lives. 

After the final "Amen" you get swamped with little kids running up onto the high platform while ushers are trying to shoo them back down, which of course, is impossible. 

So you drop to your knees to receive their spontaneous hugs and kisses... 

...while dozens flock around clicking cell phone cameras saying, "Smile, you are on Facebook!" 

After it was all over and I had risen to my feet again... a charming tiny girl was standing beside me.  She looked up at me and said, "Can I kiss you?" 

That will bring a big man to his knees fast!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Whatever you do... Don't Go in There!

17 years had passed since Frances and I had ministered in Lucy Soza’s little church in a poverty neighborhood in Santa Fe.  I had to stop to inquire for directions.  My GPS took me to the general area, but now the streets were mostly unpaved and unnamed.  My GPS was as lost as I was.  I found a police station and stopped to inquire where the church was located. Two policemen came out to my car to help me.  I told them where I was going and they told me where the church was, but said something like this, “Whatever you do… don’t go into that area.  It is extremely dangerous.  Armed policemen don’t even go in there.”  I told them I was scheduled to minister later that night in the church there.  “Well, you are on your own.”  (They didn’t know about Gabriel, my guardian angel.)

I found a huge new church building where the little one had formerly been… and parked in front.  Pastor Lucy received me with great joy. 
I walked into a beautiful sanctuary prepared for over 800!  At least 500 showed up on a Monday night!  

I had Lucy hold Felipe’s suitcase.  (Lucy in the blue.)   That was the only participation she had in the whole service.  The youth led the worship, did the announcements, took the offering and presented the preacher.  She just sat and watched.  I am confident many of those young guys could have done the preaching, too.

This mob of kids would be in the grasp of the enemy of their soul, were it not for Lucy.

As I drove away around midnight I watched Lucy along with a lady friend walk down the muddy street out of the lighted area and into the darkness.  In my heart I said, “There goes one of God’s dare-devils.”  
And Gabriel turned and said to the devil, “Don’t you dare even think of touching her!”       

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The "Affectionate Ones"

Sunday morning, May 6, I ministered in a very “special” Assemblies of God church in the city of Rosario.  Pastor Gabriel Tarico and his wife have drawn into their group a large percentage of disabled people, mentally and otherwise… and in fact, they are building a housing facility for them to live in!

After I had agreed to minister there… I received an invitation to minister that same Sunday morning for a famous pastor, (not AG) with a congregation of thousands and his own TV program, and where I have ministered previously in the 90s.  The suggestion was that I cancel the small church and minister to thousands.  I turned him down.  I thought Jesus would probably choose the disabled. 

During the service Pastor Gabriel called up their choir of “Afectos” (my loose translation: “Affectionate Ones”) to sing for me.  You should see and hear them sing!  They clapped their hands with great enthusiasm and joyful expression.  Some were out of rhythm, some may have been off key by my standards… but right on by heaven's standards.   I could almost hear the angels singing and rejoicing with them.

The man is the dark jacket with hood is blind. He came to the Lord both deaf and blind and was healed of his deafness through prayer.  Before service started he played several tunes on a little pocket“flute”just for me. Why didn’t the Lord heal him of blindness while he was at it? Maybe the Lord needed a special, very happy blind man for His divine purposes.

Then the "Afectos" presented me with a gift. It is a beautiful little wooden box crafted with inlaid wood showing a world holding hands, made in their own carpenter’s and crafts shop in the back of the church. Inside it was filled with their home-made greeting cards of love for me! How would these dear ones have felt if I had canceled out on them at the last minute?
They tell me the pastor of this church was a professional soccer player in his earlier years.  They had three sons, two with mental deficiencies, one of which died young.  The other was miraculously and totally healed.

I am so thankful that all three of our sons were normal.  But my heart goes out to the parents of those that have to give special care to their children for many years because they never grow capable of caring for themselves. 

The service ended with hugs from everybody.  I'm talking about "Hugs" with a capital "H".  The kind that don't let go quickly. 

I confess that I am having a difficult time keeping up with my blogging these days.  Wonderful things are happening, but in such rapid succession I don't find time to blog them.  Last week I preached eleven times plus hundreds of miles of travel and am scheduled to minister 8 times this week.

Here's a hug for YOU!


Friday, May 4, 2012

Delightful Surprises

(Tonight I wrote the following to a dear pastor friend whose wife passed away with cancer shortly before Frances.  His dad taught me lessons on the Hawaiian guitar when I was 16 years old. And I bought his dad's guitar from him years ago.) 

Don’t ever feel like you have never accomplished much in the service of the King!  You have touched many lives with the love and care of Jesus… and that is never in vain.  If I was to dwell on all the sheep that have gone astray… turning away from their Lord after I had been instrumental in bringing them… I am sure I would become discouraged.  But the great majority are still faithfully on the journey.  And even in those cases where weaker ones have strayed away, I am praying that somehow they will come back to Jesus before it is too late.  One day you are going to be "delightfully surprised" by what the Lord has done with you and your dear wife's efforts.

A week ago Thursday I held a service in the city of Concordia.  I had never met Pastor Lanislao Casco before, but he told me that years ago he had been called to the ministry in a service when I preached in a distant city and even told me what I preached that day!  He also explained that his oldest daughter, 22, asked him if I played the Hawaiian guitar, because she remembers as a child that she gave her heart to Jesus in a service where a man played the Hawaiian guitar.  "Delightful surprises!"

(Please know that you can enlarge the pictures if you wish by clicking on them.)
The Cascos (shown above) are a precious and dedicated family that took a tiny handful in a discouraged church that had suffered a serious blow and must have had at least 150 present on a Thursday night!  (pictured on right)

By the way, I am still playing your dad’s old 8 string lap steel.  I don’t play it well, but nobody has ever seen one except mine… so I am the “king”… ha.  I am still selling that CD that I recorded with my son, Tim's, background many years ago.  I also sell DVDs of Felipe and between the two of them they usually cover my diesel fuel costs… about $5 (US dollars) to the gallon.  Gasoline is higher still. 

Last night I drove across the beautiful new bridge over the Parana River, and 100 miles round trip on narrow roads crowded with literally scores of slow, loaded trucks, one behind another... to be in a house church meeting.  A young pastor couple is meeting with the owners of a humble house on a dirt street in an attempt to start a church.  They only started two months ago... and need all the encouragment they can get.

There were 11 of us in all, six men and four women and the pastor’s little son.  We have no Assembly of God church in Victoria, this city of 40,000.   I was impressed with the sharp, good looking, young men. 
Many churches start with only women it seems.  I gave them the works… played my Hawaiian guitar (which they marveled over), sang some songs with my accordion, and had my skunk, Perfume, and Felipe do their thing.  We worshipped, preached and prayed together and talked of many things.  It was a great informal time in the Lord. 

Pastors Rolando (with the Jesus shirt) and Vanesa Olveido need our prayers as they
attempt to start this new Assemblies of God church.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

New Beginning!

The first time we bowed before God in repentance and humility He said, “New chapter, my son!  Rise and start a new life!”  It was a glorious moment for each of us.  Yet as we continue to walk His path, He occasionally repeats that glorious moment with a similar message… something like, “Step into a new chapter, my child.  I am not finished with you.  Today I am giving you a new beginning… a brand new start in your life.” 

Several years ago, as I was facing retirement, I spoke briefly at our district council.  I said with tears, “If I could only turn the clock back and be 25 years old, I know what I would do.  I would return to Argentina where the harvest is so great and there so much need for harvesters.”  My intention was to inspire youth to leave all temporal things and pour their lives into ministry in world missions.  But at Frances’ passing God spoke forcibly to my heart, “What makes you think you have to be 25 years old?  You have the same energy you had when you were 40.  Rise up from your pity-party and go for it.  It’s not over yet until you hear the angels singing!”  Within 30 days I was back in Argentina and nothing has been the same since. 

Here I am at 80 years old and just getting started!  The Creator of it all has given me an incredible “new beginning!”

Hey!  Maybe He has a "new beginning" waiting for you!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Missing you, Frances

I’m missing you today, Frances.  576 days have passed since you left my side for your new heavenly home.  I am greatly helped by the fact that the Lord has kept me so busy preaching almost every day and giving me the pleasure of seeing scores of men and women, children and youth surrender to the Savior’s love.

But today I paused in my heavy schedule to walk hand in hand with you beside the Paraná River.  
As I sat in this swing, I called for you to come sit by my side… and I told you that I love you still.  But I confess that I missed your soft touch and tender voice. 
Where are you, my Darling?  When will I see you again?  I am a bucket of tears.  What is it like there where there is no sunset, no night… and when “time” is no more?  If I knew your address I would send you an email.  Maybe you can read over my shoulder. 
I must go now to minister once again this evening.  I only wish you could be with me.  I have not forgotten your faithful love for me.