Monday, September 24, 2012

A Church Where Sunday Nights Never Died

How many times do you get to go to three services on a single Sunday in the USA?  Yesterday I started with Pastor Lance Lowell at Neighborhood Church, Modesto, my home church. 

I enjoyed the 10AM service where our son, Tim, leads worship.  In this picture (taken a week earlier) Tim is leading and grandson, Evan (striped shirt) is part of the worship team...

...while granddaughter Michelle was playing the keyboard. 

It's a great church with expanding vision to reach its neighborhood for Jesus.

Then at 2 PM I was invited to minister at Calvary Temple, Modesto in their Spanish service with my friend, Pastor Lupe Sarmiento... who is shown helping me with Felipe's suitcase in this picture.  

Perfume has just come squirming out of the case. 

Are these kids enjoying Felipe or what?  Look at their faces.  I think Felipe does better in Spanish than English.  We also enjoyed a great time around the altar with the youth and adults.  God is preparing some of them for His service.
Now it was time to drive about an hour further south to Merced First Assembly of God Church for their great 6 PM Sunday service.  They have a 60 voice choir that will raise the roof with enthusiastic worship.  And the church fills up, even the balcony every Sunday night!  I asked Pastor Harvey Mitchell what his secret was. He says, "Start a full stage choir including youth and the elderly and have them sing every Sunday night. Parents and grandparents will come to hear and see their youth sing... plus the presence of the Lord inhabits His praise."     

In this shot kids enjoy the important ceremony of petting Perfume, the sweet skunk.
And again we saw a beautiful response at the altar with a time of extended prayer and deep dedication to our Lord Jesus. 

I think God is "up to something" at Merced First AG... the California church where Sunday nights never died.


Friday, September 21, 2012

The 80 Year Old Kid

I can't help it.  It's in my DNA.  I love kids and... mostly because of my little side-kick Felipe, God has given me the privilege to minister to them often both in Argentina and in the USA.  Their tender hearts are quick to choose the Jesus road... complete with a lifetime journey of glorious adventure... and with Jesus awaiting them at the finish line!

The past two Wednesday nights I was invited to minister to the kids in Sequoyah Community Church in Oakland with Pastor David Beiser and Children's Pastor, Shawana Myhre.  I chose the theme of "Jesus, the Light of the World."  My talented granddaughter Michelle (17) prepared a graphic design for our theme verse screen shown above. 

I made a flaming torch out of a flashlite and some colored paper and let them take turns carrying the torch as they marched around the room and sang the great chorus, "We will carry the torch.  We will lift high the flame.  We will walk through the darkness with the light of His name, till the glory of God is seen by the world.  We will carry the torch of the Lord."  (Click on picture to enlarge it and see the kid carrying the torch leading the march in the background)  

By my second trip to Oakland this past Wednesday, I had fallen in love with this enthusiastic band of torchbearers.  God is getting some of them ready for a future in ministry.  The boy holding the torch in this picture already declares that God has called him to preach!

Thursday of last week I also enjoyed ministering at Capital Christian Elementary School to the several hundred kids above

  Check out this great worship team.

Vice-Principle Wanda Hynson holds Felipe's case for me.  She has invited me numerous times over the past several years. 

In this final shot of me preaching to the school kids it looks like I am about to fly away... but not for a few days yet... Wednesday, October 3rd I fly back to Argentina, Lord willing... and the fun starts all over again.

Thank You, Jesus, for these privileges and for the vitality to enjoy them to the full! 


Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Pastor, My Friend

Meet my pastor!  Reverend Noble Ballew was our pastor when Frances and I were teenagers.  His son, Reverend Ron Ballew, who stands with him in this picture, has recently accepted the pastorate of the Hillmar Assembly of God Church along with his wife, Karol.  
As youth, Frances and I were so privileged to have this great man of God as our pastor.  He was only 24 years old then.  Now at 90 years old he is still a vibrant active Christian, and always has a word of encouragment on his lips.

You may click on the picture to enlarge it.

We met together yesterday, Wednesday morning at our monthly sectional minister's breakfast and enjoyed recalling our early days when old fashioned revival struck Southeast Assembly of God in the Lents District of Portland, Oregon.  Our youth leader, Ron Bunn, who later married Frances' sister Florence, requested permission to have Friday night youth prayer meetings right after our street meetings which we held on 92nd street in front of a liquor bar. 
Pastor Ballew not only gave his permission, but never missed a meeting himself and soon our youth prayer meetings were lasting until midnight and longer.  Our friends from other churches became curious and many of them attended and were subsiquently filled with the Holy Spirit.  Some nights I didn't leave the sanctuary until 4 AM to take a bus home.  It was there that at 17 years old, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and experienced for the first time the gift of a new language with which to praise my God.  This sovereign move of God resulted in a sudden explosion of new faces in our little church held in the old Grange Hall.  We were forced to buy property and build a nice new church with room for hundreds. 
Pastor Noble Ballew performed our wedding ceremony in 1951. We were the first couple to get married in our new sanctuary.  He must have tied a good knot because it lasted 58 1/2 years... until my Frances was carried into the arms of Jesus.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Dream

You have to know this short story to understand the impact of this dream on me.

It was about 1 AM, October 5, 2010 when my darling wife, Frances, passed away.  Nancy, Frances’ sister, had come to help me help me during the difficult final days.  She was like an angel from heaven for me.  That night when I heard Frances struggling to breathe I awakened Nancy and brought her into our bedroom.  Nancy entered singing.  I joined her and all heaven came down.  Frances was trying to speak, but her voice was so weak I could not understand her.  Nancy and I leaned over her face and asked her to repeat because we could not understand.  Finally just as she was about to depart from this world, we were able to understand her faint last words… “I love you!”  I was so emotionally involved at this moment that I think I failed to respond with an expression of my love for her.  It is not that we both had not reconfirmed our love for each other many times that last week.  It was just that I felt bad that I had not had the presence of mind to respond with an expression of my love for her just before she stepped off this planet.  I have felt badly about this each time I thought of it now for almost two years.  But this morning at 5 AM I had an unusual dream.

Even as I write this I get chills all over my body and tears come flowing.  I was in Argentina leading my brother, Mel, (recently deceased) through a small crowd of people.  Mel had stopped to talk to someone in the crowd.  I was surprised to see that he had found someone who spoke English.  Then he left them and started through the group of people toward me.  Then I saw her! 

My darling Frances was standing now there among those people, talking with them.  I yelled her name, but she didn’t seem to hear me and turned to walk away from them and away from me.  I called her again and ran through the small crowd of people toward her.  Standing alone now and away from the crowd, she heard me, stopped and turned around to face me.  I ran to her and, thinking she might not be real, I yelled, “Let me touch you!”  She held out both hands toward me and I took her hands and they were real.  I felt them!  And I pull her into my arms.  Her hair was beautiful, just like before the chemotherapy.  It brushed against my face.  Then the words burst from my heart.  I simply said, “I love you!”  She did not speak, but I felt her firmly in my arms!  Then in a moment as I held her she faded away… and my arms were left empty. 

I awoke, but my heart was not empty.  It was filled with the joy of holding my Frances once again in my arms.  My eyes, even before I was fully awake, were literally flooded with tears… tears of joy mingled with the sorrow for the distance between us.  And as I write this I can still feel that wonderful joy and that strange sadness… and, yes, the tears are still flowing. 

Yeah!  Tell me about it. I am a mess, but a joyful mess… because if only in a dream… this morning I saw my Frances again, held her in my arms and was able to tell her that I loved her.