Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Young Radiant Faces

My eyes have been on the young during these recent months and I have had the privilege to minister to many of them in many locations these past months.  Three cities this past weekend... City of Miramar, City of Mar del Plata and at a great Youth Congress of the Cathedral of Faith, Buenos Aires.
They are beautiful children, dedicated teenagers, youth seeking God's best for their lives.  They are just at the beginning stages of life, many are making life-changing decisions. 
I am at the other extreme, closing out the final chapters of my ministry.  Yet God has seen fit to allow me to reach out to these young lives with the challenge to serve Jesus.  I must decrease and they must increase.  They hold the keys to the advance of the work of God in Argentina and around the world.
<--- Friday night at Miramar Assembly of God.
Saturday night Youth Service at Mar del Plata First Assembly of God founded by Missionaries Norm and Mary Ann Campbell in the 1970s. --->
Sunday night at Buenos Aires "Cathedral of Faith Youth Congress" we had over 2000 excited youth from this one church which we helped to plant in 1984 and which is now discipling over 30,000 believers and many daughter churches.
I have been greatly encouraged by the level of dedication to Christ that these youth demonstrate.  They are quick to come kneel before King Jesus and place their all on the altar of sacrifice. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pushups... (an open note to my friend, Sam.)

Thanks, Sam, for the tip.  I did the 13 question test* (see internet address below) and discovered that I am going to live 102 years!  Oh dear me!  I say, “Okay, Lord, but only if you give me the energy, ability, voice and the invitations to preach several times per week until you take me home!”  

Sam, I learned a great secret from tall skinny 80+ year old Evangelist Hal Herman while he was preaching a church-planting crusade for me in Argentina… along with his much younger, beautiful wife who was a concert violinist.  It was really his wife that told me his secret.  She said that he did 80 push-ups alongside the bed every morning upon rising! 

For many years I have been trying to get out and do a brisk walk early in the morning… usually two miles when I am in California.  But about a year ago I decided to try to strengthen my upper body muscles.  Instead of trying to do pushups off the dirty floor (since I live from hotel to hotel) I decided to do them off the bed.  I place my feet stretched behind me with only my toes touching the floor and push up off the bed.  This is much easier to do than to push up off the floor, because you are not totally horizontal and thus lifting less of your body weight… depending upon the height of the bed. (Try it.)  I started with 15 pushups, went to 24, then to 34… many times to 50 or 60 and on occasions have gone up to 80… and one time recently to 115.  Yesterday I did 45, today only 34.  I always stop when my heart tells me to. When I was in California I was doing 34 before my 2 mile fast walk and 34 more after my walk just before my shower and 34 again before retiring at night… to arrive at 100+ per day. 

Advantages: I can do this almost anywhere.  It does not require joining a gym plan and paying money.  It does not require losing time driving to the gym.  It does not require buying some clumsy, expensive workout machine to clutter your living room.  But it successfully does get me breathing deeply (hyperventilating).  It pushes my heart-beat up to somewhere near 100 and makes my whole body perspire.  Since I have a history of heart problems, I asked my doctor several times about the wisdom of this.  His answer seems non-committal.  He said, “Well, that gets easier to do with practice, doesn’t it?” Duhh!  So?  Anyway my biceps have expanded noticeably. 

Now when I look in the mirror I see this young, powerful body with bulging muscles flexing all over the place.  Then I put on my glasses and see some scrawny old man that must have just dropped in to visit without knocking.  But the old man feels better about himself now… ha.

Ralph (sprinting into his final 22 years on this planet)

*(for the 13 question test to discover how long you will live... go to http://media.nmfn.com/tnetwork/lifespan/

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Monte Hermoso" "Mount Beautiful"

Monte Hermoso is a hilly town on the Atlantic seacoast about 300 miles south of Buenos Aires.  Like many others, Pastors Juan Carlos and Claudia Gomez have been our special friends for many years.  I gave them four days, Sunday through Thursday, since, beside the "mother church" which they founded, they have also started works in several surrounding areas.  Pastor Gomez really squeezed this lemon (me) dry!  Nine events in four days, plus two interviews, an FM radio station and later in this TV station that uses the calm Atlantic ocean lapping at the beach as a live backdrop.  Above Felipe is announcing, "I always wanted to be a TV star."

We enjoyed a blessed morning service in the church in the city of Coronel Dorrego and then at 4 PM we were setting up everything for a meeting in the park near the "mother church" in Monte Hermoso.  4 year old Jonatan was asking questions about everything. 

A curious doggy is very cautiously checking out a wiggly Perfume.

As usual, little faces were all aglow when Felipe showed up.

 The camera caught the "Happy-Sad" face in a very unhappy moment as I was explaining the "Bad News" that one needs to understand in order to appreciate the "Good News."

(Click on pictures to enlarge.)

Moments later the camera snapped right when the face was in the process of being inverted.

This little girl that I chose as my helper was a first-time visitor at this event.  Many of the other children are regulars at the church Bible classes.

A group of adult onlookers seemed to enjoy the "show" as much as the kids.

We did 5 PM afternoon kids events plus an 8 PM adult service in different locations every night except Monday this week.

Today, Friday, I have just driven about 250 miles and arrived at Miramar, another seacoast tourist town where I will be ministering tonight.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Astonishment and Disappointment

Today I suffered both astonishment and disappointment in a single day.  Guatraché, where I am staying in a little hotel, has a large colony of German Mennonites nearby.  One can see them walking on the streets all dressed exactly alike.  The men and boys in long sleeved checkered shirts and bib-overalls and the girls and ladies in long dresses, bonnets and hair parted in the middle and pulled back inside a black scarf which hides under the bonnet until they remove it to eat.
Several Mennonite families like this were eating in the restaurant where I was having lunch.  Maybe it was because I have distant ancestors that were German Mennonites, but I could not resist going over to their table to speak with them.  Two couples and a baby were at this table.  I asked them if they were of German descent.  The young man replied, “We speak German.”  Obviously he spoke Spanish, too, but I actually think he didn’t know what “German descent” meant.  He asked me where I was from.  I told him I was from California in the United States of America.  He asked me, “Is that far from here?”  As I tried to explain it to him, I realized... here was a sharp young father (on right) that did not know where North America was and had absolutely no concept of distance.  I was astonished beyond comprehension!  I requested, and they gave me their permission to take the above picture at the table, but they did not look up.
Later I was told that these Mennonites do not allow their children to go to school and do not home-school them either.  And that the Argentine government had to give them status like a separate nation since Argentine kids are required to go to school. 

Then this afternoon I was scheduled to do a kids event in a public school in the little country town of Darregueira about 20 miles away.  All had been previously arranged by the local AG pastor who is starting a new church there.  We were promised freedom as long as we did not promote a certain religion.  We arrived with Felipe and my little amplifier.  But now a different lady principal came out to meet us.  The “morning principal lady” that the pastor dealt with had seen my video and loved it and given her permission, but now we were dealing with the “afternoon principal lady”.  She was very wary and said we could do our event only if we did not mention the name of Jesus.  She said there might be a “Jehovah Witness” or atheist’s child there that could report her.  I told her that Felipe has only one name that he sings about and tells stories about… and that is “Jesus.”  I tried to imagine myself working out a dialog with Felipe without mentioning Jesus… impossible!  And without purpose!  So we walked away disappointed. 

But the pastor had prepared flyers to hand to the kids as they left school and many of them showed up at the church along with their parents.  It was a super challenge that night to control them since they were a rowdy bunch and unaccustomed to be in church, but I managed to make it though with the help of the Lord.  I think some of the parents who were lined up against the back wall were hearing the message of the gospel for the first time. 

This little barefoot lady saw Felipe and immediately it was "love at first sight."  She ran to the front and reached up. 
I stooped down and she gave him a hug and didn't let go.  I think she wanted to keep him!

We witnessed no great break-through, but perhaps, just perhaps... a seed was planted.

As often happens, after church the kids begged for another showing of Perfume and Felipe.  I am a soft-touch and can't resist little charming kids.

They swarmed me to pet Perfume.  She was suffocated with loving hands.

I will be preaching in the southern part of Buenos Aires province on Thanksgiving Day since I am ministering daily.  I am hundreds of miles from the other missionaries in Buenos Aires so I won’t be able to attend their wonderful Thanksgiving Day feast.  I will greatly miss the fellowship.  But don't feel sorry for me. I am right where I want to be!



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Surprise Kids Festival

Tonight, Wednesday, November 14, I ministered in Guatraché, a small town in the province of La Pampa.  I have to always be ready for surprises.  Monday I ministered twice in Doblas… first at the grade school and then at the church.  Then last night in the city of Machachin.  Tonight in Guatraché I was surprised to find the church decorated with balloons inside and out.  Without me being advised they had announced a “Festival para Niños” at 8 PM an hour before the 9 PM church service.  Now I am advised that tomorrow afternoon I also have a school event before the church service.
Although the church leaders had never seen me, they had seen videos of me with Felipe on Facebook and gave out printed invitations in the public school and even had the school teachers announce this “festival” to their classes.  We had 35 kids and parents come… almost all of whom had never been in the church.  I gave them the whole shebang: Hawaiian guitar, Perfume and Felipe. 

Then with the accordion I taught them the chorus, "I have decided to follow Jesus."  

The happy and sad face represented the "Good and Bad News": forming the short illustrated message. 

Both kids and parents joined me in the prayer to invite Christ into their lives at the close. 

At the final “Amen” I gave a “Libro de Vida” (Book of Life for kids) to each one. 

After most of them left we started the main service with a small group of adults.  One lady and her little girl, there for the first time, stayed through it all… and both knelt at the altar at the time of prayer.  Some of the people were sobbing heavily as often happens.  God sometimes does deep stuff at an altar of prayer.
So, including the kids events (that actually require much more effort than preaching to adults) that makes 9 preaching events in the past 5 days and I have two more tomorrow.

What an awesome privilege the Lord has given me to minister to the little people as well as the big people!  Every one of them is a precious jewel, worth dying for.   
Speaking of dying for something... Today I received these photos that I had requested from the Horacio and Mabel Zara, pastors in Henderson.  They stand by the tomb of Missionary Frederick Clements, buried here at only 46 years of age.

Jesus said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains sterile, but if it dies it brings forth much fruit.” (John 12:24)  Missionary Clements planted his life here in a small town.  He gave it all.  (Click on photo to enlarge.)
Now the Henderson church has produced at least 54 ministers and minister’s wives!  And through just one of those pastors, Jose Manuel Carlos in La Boca, another 87 more whose combined churches surpass 75,000 members! 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Budding Missionary Hugs a Fading Missionary

My friend, Sam, wrote me an encouraging word.  I answered:

The truth is that I can only be one influence in the lives of these kids.  They have parents that probably will be their greatest influence… then their teachers that have them for many hours.  I come and go and can only plant a seed in many cases.  But seeds planted may someday sprout up into a great tree. 
I make it a point to call the children, youth and adults to their knees in prayer when the Holy Spirit is moving at the close of the message.  At the altar last night I prayed, as I usually do, with people who were kneeling all around.  When I got to some of the many children on their knees I found their little bodies trembling with sobs.  God is up to something.  Who knows?  He may be calling a missionary or a great evangelist to His divine service.

Often, when the meeting is over and people are asking me to play something again on the Hawaiian guitar, little kids are waiting in line to give me a hug.  This little darling gave me a hug and let me know that, already at a previous missionary service, God had called her to be a missionary.
The old song says, "It will be worth it all when we see Jesus!"


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Public Schools in La Pampa, Argentina

Occasionally I am invited to minister with total freedom in the public grade schools.  I always jump at the chance since the influence of atheist Madelyn Murray has not yet destroyed the freedom of religion in Argentina.  Here I am in the small city of Doblas, province of La Pampa in the southern central part of Argentina.  This particular school goes up through 6th grade. 

I had barely walked into the gym which doubles as auditorium when I witnessed something that I could not photograph, but deeply impressed me.  Some teachers were standing around and several times I saw a little child come running and throw himself or herself into the arms of one of their teachers.  These kids obviously loved their teachers and their school.

The word had spread that a ventriloquist was coming to town.  I was setting up my little mike system when a bell rang and within moments this gang of fifth and sixth grades swarmed me with questions and were wanting to take pictures with me.  They were so polite and friendly that they won my heart in an instant.

Then their teachers brought out the younger ones, lined them and had them all sit neatly on the floor.  One of the teachers chose a few kids to be able to pet Perfume the skunk.  There were about 80 kids, far too many to get to all of them with Perfume.

Felipe told the story of the Good Samaritan.  He got it all mixed up, but I straightened him out.  Then I taught them the chorus: "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" and gave them the Good News and Bad News by drawing a little face that changes from a smile to a frown by simply inverting the picture. 

Good news: We are all the work of a loving Creator God.  He loves us so much he has prepared a place for us in His heaven to be with Him forever. 

But "Bad News":  A beautiful angel, Lucifer, created by God, became proud and rose in rebellion against God taking many angels with him in his rebellion.  God cast them out of heaven and prepared a place for them to spend eternity, a terrible place called hell.  I explained that Jesus tells us that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, not for us. But that Satan is soooo bad that he doesn't want to go to hell alone.  He wants to take you with him.  He lies to us and promises us his trinkets to lure us to follow him. 

But "Good News": God loved us soooo much He sent His only Son Jesus to give His life for our sins and now He calls us to follow Him to His heaven.  Then they sang it again: I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.  
I was recently donated several hundred copies of the Book of Life for kids and the teachers helped me give one to every child.

I was highly impressed with the quiet and order... and their loud responses to questions.  Some of the older kids displayed quick wit.  We laughed a lot. 

That night some of the school kids showed up in the delightful brand new AG church building designed and built by Pastor Adolf Campos and the men of their church. 

I have been very positively impressed with the influence that our AG pastors have earned in their local cities as they are blessing their city officials and neighborhoods with helps of all kinds... instead of asking politicians for hand-outs.  Congratulations Pastors Adolf and Natalia Campos!


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gaucho Country, Fertile Soil

I am traveling, changing hotels almost daily and preaching an average of 7 times a week… actually 11 times in the past 8 days.  At this moment I am in the southern part of Buenos Aires province visiting churches in many cities and little country towns.  This is truly “gaucho-land”... “cowboy country.”   Huge production of cereals and beef cattle come from this fertile area.

Check out my hotel reception desk in 25 de Mayo.  Our very first Assemblies of God church in Argentina was founded in 1917 by Missionary Alice Wood who arrived here in 1910 and spent 50 years serving faithfully without a furlough.  “She founded the church and Sunday School in a town called 25 de Mayo where she faithfully ministered to both the rich and the poor. Her work touched the lives of doctors, lawyers, bankers, storekeepers and field workers. Her efforts in Argentina helped lay the foundation for the revival that continues to transfigure this nation today.” (

Alice Wood gave it all!  When aged and sickly she was taken to the USA and passed away a year later. 
Today Matilde Díaz, the widow of Pastor Diaz, who followed Alice Wood, continues to pastor this church with the help of her son.  They gathered a lovely group of the faithful to hear me minister on Monday night October 29.  Seated on the floor, future servants of God beam with big smiles as they watch Felipe.  (Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

Tuesday and Wednesday I preached in churches in the city of Pehuajo, then... 

Thursday afternoon in the open air in Azul with a group of delightful children where Sister Marta meets with them in a field weekly to give them Jesus.  Some come from disastrous homes of abuse and hopelessness.  Marta is making an eternal difference in these lives.  Picture title: "Precious Spectator".

That same evening I preached in a powerful church in Olavarria with Pastor Jorge Bardey, who has an international ministry.
Our AG church in nearby Bolivar was also established and built around 1917.  Pastor Daniel Perez gathered several churches and ministers from other denominations for my Friday service complete with a dinner following the service for all the ministers and wives.

Someone told me years ago that missionary Alice Wood had prophesied that the AG church in Henderson would produce many ministers.  The last count I heard was 54 ministers and wives… and that from a little country church!  Talk about fertile soil! Jose Manuel Carlos, our pastor in La Boca church was saved as a young tango singer here.  Now 89 youth from his church in La Boca pastor over 70,000!  And today the little town of Henderson has grown to 10,000.  Now hear this: More than 1,100, that's over 10% of the city’s population, faithfully attend this church today!  Picture: At the close of the message a new crop of children, youth and adults in Henderson promise God their "everything" as I pump my old accordion.
Henderson Pastors Horacio and Mabel Zara accompanied me through their beautiful new sanctuary and Bible student facility including radio and TV instalations. You can see the satelite dish and radio antenna tower in background.

Missionary and former pastor Frederick Clements from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada is buried here in Henderson.   I recognize that we, here in Argentina, stand on the shoulders of some of God’s greatest servants!