Friday, December 28, 2012

Nice Family Stuff

Christmas has been my favorite time of the year every since I was a little child.  It was always a time of singing, a time of giving and receiving wonderful gifts, a time together with the family and always a time to thank God for His greatest Gift of all... His Son, Jesus.  The Apostle Paul wrote, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2 Cor 9:15

The sad song says, "I'll be home for Christmas... if only in my dreams."  But mine is a dream come true.  I have been able to return to California and Oregon to be with my family even when I have spent the greatest part of the years 2011 and 2012 in Argentina.

It couldn't get much better than this: Grandson Evan sang a medley of fun Christmas tunes with a group of ten teenage guys mostly from Modesto Christian School.

Michelle sang and played the keyboard while her dad, Tim, directed the worship team on Christmas eve.  

I got somebody to shoot this of me with my only two, very special grandkids on Christmas eve.

Then on Christmas Day we enjoyed exchanging gifts along with Cheryl's family.  And I got my part of the bunch in front of the tree for the family picture seen at the top of this blog.

Yesterday, Thursday, the 27th we drove to San Francisco for a fun afternoon and evening with my son, Ron and his wife, Elisabet.  

We enjoyed going through the Cable Car Museum and walking Pier 39 and finally a great Christmas/Birthday Dinner at the Fog Harbor Restaurant on the pier.  

Tim's birthday is December 30, mine December 31 and Elisabet's is in January.

Michelle (17) and Evan (15) are the best of friends.  I have never seen siblings enjoy each other so much as these two! 

Lord willing I will be able to see our other son, Mike, and his wife Mary in a few days at our New Year's celebration.  I expect to go north about 800 miles the first part of the year to be with other family members.  I should be able to see my sisters, Carol (widowed) 90 years old as of December 24 and healthy... and Joanne (83) and her husband, Don... plus a lot of nieces and nephews and cousins.

Have a wonderful 2013!  Plan to make it count for eternity!  


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Tug of Love

Yes, I'm back in California for Christmas.  I have nice neighbors that watch over my home for me when I am gone.

Sometimes they say, “Wow, Argentina must be a beautiful place because you keep going back!”  

Then I tell them, “Yes, there are astoundingly beautiful places in Argentina, but I do not return to enjoy nature’s beauty.  

I return for the Argentine people.  I love them… hundreds of them, thousands of them… and they know how to express their intense love for me.  Elderly people... young families... 

...children whose eyes light up when they reach out to touch Perfume (my skunk puppet) or when they see my side-kick, Felipe... 

... youth that remember when they first saw Felipe as a little child and crowd in to see him again… 

... and children, especially the little wide eyed children that sometimes run up and wrap their arms around my legs while I stand talking to someone in a crowd after church.  

But I guess it is the witnessing of a life that has just found a new beginning in Jesus that tugs most strongly at my heart… 

... pulling me back in my retirement years to the land of God’s call upon my life.

In Argentina they ask me when I will be back with them again.  I tell them maybe March 2013.  We'll see.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

It was a Holy Landslide!

All good things must eventually come to an end they say... that is, except for heaven, of course.  And that should be coming up soon... but right now I'm returning to the USA for Christmastime with the family.

My final weekend was Friday through Sunday, December 7-9 with four services scheduled.  Friday night I was with Pastor Guillermo Prein.  I dropped briefly into a staff meeting before the church service.  

Then I set up my Hawaiian Guitar on the platform while the many back-to-back cell groups were meeting as they do regularly one hour before service.  Although it may be hard to distinguish, these are circles of small groups, each led by a "lay pastor," a man, woman or youth, that is responsible for the spiritual well being and growth of that group.  It sounds like a "chinese laundry" in there!  One group is praying, another singing "happy birthday" and another worshiping or reading scripture.

Totally aside from these "pastoral" groups there are hundreds of "GO" groups meeting all over the city.  "GO" stands for "Grupos de OraciĆ³n" ("Prayer Groups").  Several years ago when I inquired about a total count of those signed up and regularly meeting in these groups, the number exceeded 30,000 and was growing.  

Chairs are rearranged as the main services are held in the same L shaped building which we helped them to purchase in 1982.  Only one section of the congregation can be seen in this photo.  It was a joy to minister there once again.

Saturday night I ministered with Martin and Analia Scalfoni, a young couple that are planting a new church in Barrio Luro, another neighborhood of Buenos Aires.   

Little girls love to touch Perfume, but sometimes are hesitant.

Sunday morning it was Beccar, a suburb of Buenos Aires.  Ricardo and Patricia Fontanet, long time friends are pastoring here.  

They pack 'em in like sardines.  You can't put a foot down without stepping on someone.

Sunday night, what a blessing!  I received an invitation to minister in the Los Olivos church, where my son Ron's wife, Elisabet, is from and where I had not been invited to minister for 35 years, ever since they withdrew from the Assemblies of God and formed their own tightly closed organization.  

Pastor Jorge Roman agreed to hold Felipe's suitcase for me.  

During the message and at the altar time God blessed greatly.  

It was a "holy landslide!"

After church many old friends came crowding around, saying "Do you remember me?"  Everyone remembers me because I preached there many times years ago, but I have to confess that I only remembered a dozen or so of them. 

I just checked where, when and what I have preached during 2012.  My records show me which Bible story my little side-kick dummy did for the kids, what chorus I taught the church or school and what I preached about to the adults on each occasion.  Of the 183 times I ministered during this year only 24 of those cases are within the USA!  Plus I have driven 12,531 recorded ministry related miles, most of them on some of the most dangerous roads in the world (so they say) in Argentina and flown over 35,000 ministry miles.  

Oh yes… and I’ve been tightly hugged and kissed on each cheek by 14,245 elderly ladies, young ladies, cute teenage girls, kids and yes, (you’d have to see it to believe it) men of all ages.  It’s just a way of life in Argentina.  My count might be off a few thousand on the hugs and kisses, since they are not really recorded in my database.  It is a wild estimate, but it’s got to be close… ha. 

It’s great to be retired!  If the Lord let’s me live till this New Year’s Eve (my birthday), I’ll be 81 years on this spinning planet… and feel like I’m just getting started.  


Thursday, December 6, 2012

What? Grandpa Braggin' Again?!

Last night, Wednesday, I was invited to minister to the cell leaders of a granddaughter church in the city of San Justo. 

Background: The mother church is the "ghetto church" which the Lord helped us to plant in La Boca in 1973-76.  Out of that church have come many daughter churches.  I lost count long ago. 

Now many of these daughter churches, such as the "Catedral de Fe" (Cathedral of Faith) in Buenos Aires with Pastor Osvaldo Carnival, have come to maturity and are birthing daughter churches... let's call them "granddaughter churches!"  Pastor Osvaldo told me that in recent years the Lord is telling him that his church is "mega enough" (my term, not his) having surpassed 30,000 believers and God is directing him to release pastors and plant daughter churches.  Since then they have been birthing at least one new church per year and they name them all "Catedral de Fe."

San Justo's "Catedral de Fe", with Pastors Gustavo y Susana Rossi, is only about five years old.  Already they have miraculously acquired their own building and are growing rapidly.  This Wednesday night they were commissioning a new group of cell leaders.  In this photo the new ones are lined up on the platform.  Pastor Gustavo is laying on his hands.  His wife, Susana, at far right with microphone is leading in prayer.  The most elderly of this group is 83 years old, (brother under pastor's hand). The youngest is 16.  Their discipleship cells average about 10 people and meet in restaurants, businesses, homes, parks, anywhere and everywhere. 
Now take a look at this what appears to be a "congregation".----> This isn't the congregation.  These are just the cell leaders and their families!

Am I braggin'?  You bet I am!  I'm braggin' on Jesus that can take our fragile, fumbling efforts in a low income area of the city and produce fruit that continues to bear more new fruit generation after generation!  To God be the glory. Great things He has done!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Grandpa's Braggin' Again.

Every grandpa brags about his grandkids... so here I go again. 

Just before I left Modesto to return to Argentina a couple of months and exactly 61 preaching engagements ago, my 15 year old grandson, Evan, was trying to convince me if he could get a gasoline powered weed-eater motor... he had figured out a way to make it power his bicycle.  He is always loaded with wild ideas so I listened and said, "Maybe."  Now his dad just sent me this message and video.

About 3 months ago or so Evan mentioned to me that he wanted to get a little gas powered weed-eater motor, modify it, and mount it on his bike.  I thought it sounded a bit tricky, and we really don't have that many proper tools for that kind of stuff.  But he kept insisting, so one Saturday we went looking at garage sales and found this perfectly good Homelite 30cc gas powered weed-eater for only $20.   It was in such great shape that I almost hated to see it destroyed, especially since I really had my doubts about the possibility of any success in this endeavor.  But Evan started tearing into it, chopping off this and that and mounting a steel peg to the drive shaft.  Then he took some shelving rails that I had in the garage and hadn't used.  He cut and bent and drilled them to make a motor mount that would hold the engine over the rear wheel.  Unfortunately, we forgot to make sure we knew which direction the motor spun before disassembling it, so he mounted it on the wrong side of the bike.  We couldn't figure out why it wouldn't start.  So after a number of tries, we decided to push the bike backwards and then lift the rear-end and, sure enough, it fired-up just fine and spun the rear-wheel full-speed backwards.  It didn't take him long to modify the motor mount and put the engine on the other side.  And off he went! 

Please Check out the 2 1/2 minute video... just click on and enjoy. (You might have to copy and paste the URL in your browser.)

Proud Grandpa Ralph