Thursday, December 26, 2013

Going out with a Bang!

December 14, 2013.  The governor of Buenos Aires was invited to give a greeting.  He seemed shocked to see River Platte stadium, the largest in the country, filled with an estimated 90,000 very excited Assemblies of God youth... with no drugs, no alcohol to alter their senses... and very excited about Jesus Christ who had given them LIFE with a capital "L"!

Reverend Dante Gebel began years ago filling Argentina's stadiums with his youth rallies dedicated to blunt, direct preaching. He promoted total dedication to God, sexual abstinence until marriage, purity, honesty, 'no' to drugs and alcohol and... in a word, true Christianity!

More recently Dante with his lovely wife Liliana have moved their family to Anaheim, California where they have started and now serve as pastors of FavorDay Church, a Spanish speaking church of thousands that has outgrown buildings and meets in stadiums and convention centers. (Click here to see when they invited me with my little Felipe in August 2012 to FavorDay Church:

On December 14, 2013 they came back to Argentina to celebrate the 20th year of their "Superclassico Rallies."  It would be the 2nd time they have filled this same stadium with mostly teenagers.  

Dante asked me to be with him in this big December stadium rally.  I had no idea what he was up to, but agreed to postpone my return trip to the USA for a week.  He had chosen several people to specially honor.  Liliana told how my wife, Frances, who served as national leader of Missionettes had been a great blessing to her as a little child in camps.  She also said that it was in a service where I was preaching that God touched her life and she dedicated herself totally to the Lord.  I was overwhelmed with the honors they showed me and only wished that Frances could have been there by my side.  

Then Dante preached a powerful message about what it means to take up our cross and follow Christ.  He mentioned the scripture that I already have inscribed on my tombstone, John 12:24 "Except a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die it remains sterile, but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit."  He challenged the youth to a sacrifice of total dedication to God and His service. It was thrilling to see the reaction of these thousands of youth as they sought the Lord with all their hearts. All the thousands on the playing field had no seats. There was no room for chairs. They stood, tightly crammed together, for over four hours!

That was Saturday night, December 14. 

Then Sunday the 15th a small church in a low income community had invited me to preach. As always I arrive early to set up my Hawaiian guitar, check sound, etc.  As people come in I have the habit of going back to their seats to greet them. 

A lady introduced me to a middle aged couple. They were her neighbors and were apparently inside an evangelical church for the first time.  

They may have come to see a ventriloquist. I always let Felipe do his thing before I preach. 
In this shot the congre-gation was praying with me before my message. 

Wherever there are "Castle Kids" (teenage city park and street evangelists in red shirts) they almost always fill the front rows!  This makes preaching much more fun!

One can feel such liberty to minister when the congre-gation is virtually snatching the very words from your mouth and applying it to their lives.

As I was concluding my message I noticed that tears were flowing down the faces of many, including that new couple that I had met earlier.  I did not point them out.  I just asked people to seek a place to kneel and pray to meet with God.  The altar area was filled with people on their knees. When I looked for this couple, my heart fell.  I assumed that they had left since I could not see them.  Then I noticed the top of their heads.  They were kneeling on the floor in front of their seats.  I found my way through the crowd and slipped in to kneel behind them. Both were sobbing, pouring out their hearts to God. They needed no urging. They were ready as I offered to help them reach assurance of eternal salvation. This was my final ministry opportunity before leaving Argentina Monday, December 16.

It is true... I was blessed greatly by the honor of being able to speak briefly to 90,000 youth, but there was something about kneeling with that contrite couple and leading them into eternal salvation that topped it all off!  Again I was filled with joy as I boarded United flight 818 for SFO via Houston... and yes, you guessed it, I left my heart in Argentina.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Giving Others a Boost

I was shocked on Saturday to find this little church feeding about 90 children and adults when I arrived. Tables were everywhere on this borrowed school campus!  Young people were literally running back and forth to serve hungry neighbors in this needy area called Manuel Alberti.  

They do this at least once a week.  I asked where they get all the food.  The pastor answered, “Miracles!  Every week!” 

After lunch we did an hour of Children’s church, then after a 30 minute break, a full 1 ½ hour service for the “adults”… but it would be hard to miss the fact that most of the “adults” were youth!  

Check out this exciting serving-team surrounding Pastors Alicia y Mario Fleita!  

And now behold!  They change colors and become musicians for the "adult" service!  These teenagers are not from wealthy homes.  Many of their parents are not converted yet.  But they tell me they are already supporting missionaries!   

Giving others a boost!  That’s what I do.  That’s my job description.  But today I wondered, “Who’s boosting who?”


Monday, December 9, 2013

40 Years = 100+ Pastors and Wives!

La Boca.  Frances and I started our first service December 4, 1973 in an open parking lot on a dingy street in the heart of a ghetto area of downtown Buenos Aires.  

They call it “La Boca”, meaning “The Mouth” named for the mouth of its polluted river.  Here Tim Hiatt plays his trumpet, Ron Hiatt, his guitar and Sergio Scataglini (now a well known international evangelist) plays his accordion alongside the river in La Boca in one of our many "lightning street-meetings."  

16 year old Elisabet, Ron's Argentine girlfriend and future wife, sings with Tim and Ron on another street corner meeting.

In those days the narrow main street was lined with "cantinas" restau-rants, much like night clubs (today most are closed).  A few Bible School students became our faithful team and we went at it with all our hearts, preaching on the streets, praying, visiting families and loving on needy people. 
After 9 months, 209 services on that open parking lot and well over 900 “lightning street-meetings,” God gave us the largest and best cantina building in La Boca, right alongside the parking lot where we had been meeting.  

I say, “God gave it to us”, but I must confess that hundreds of our generous team of supporters helped with the down-payment.  And then 6 months later when I had exhausted all my known resources and still lacked $8,500 for a balloon payment due in a few days.  It was either pay or lose the building and down-payment!  Our fellow missionaries in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia and Brazil in a single retreat prayer-meeting raised the $8,500 I needed in 10 minutes.  With tears I say, “Thank you, team!”  Some of you are now in heaven.

December 1, 2013 the La Boca Church celebrated their 40th anniver-sary. The fact is they celebrated all the month of November, night after night inviting many of the pastors that had been sent out from this church to return to minister.  They invited me to preach the final Sunday night, December 1.  The building overflowed.  Upstairs another crowd was watching on closed circuit video.  I visited the kids in another hall and did a Felipe thing for them.  

At least 30 ministers and wives were present and were each honored with a red rose. Pastor's wife, Isabel (left) and Pastor Jose Manuel, (right) are giving out the roses This results from a vision that a one of the young pastors had many years ago of a rose plant with many roses. As each one was clipped off and stuck in the ground somewhere else, each blossomed into another rose plant to repeat the same process.  

This history of the church is now printed in a book in Spanish called "Rosas del Rosal"... "Roses from the Rose Plant." I wrote several of the chapters and younger pastors that went out to blossom elsewhere, wrote others.     

By actual count over 100 pastors and wives have now been launched from La Boca into the world’s harvest fields.  Several of them now pastor mega-churches of tens of thousands.  Conservatively I feel we can say that at least 100,000 people worship at the feet of Jesus as a result of the daughter ministries and granddaughter ministries from this ghetto church!

That night I was honored far above my merits.  The real secret is not Ralph Hiatt.  The real secret is Pastor Jose Manuel Carlos with whom we left this work in 1976.  He has been more successful than any other servant of God that I know in mentoring young ministers.  He has achieved what I call "The Elijah/Elisha Transfer” by placing his same spirit of joy, his vision, prayer ethic and his passion for the lost into the hearts of young men and women.  Like photo-copies of their pastor, they have gone on to Bible School and graduated to take the world by storm!   To God be the glory!

Yesterday morning I preached for the final day of a family camp held just for the volunteer leadership serving at La Boca church.  I could not help myself.  I preached again from John 12:24 and told how God had promised me much fruit if I would only plant the seed of my life in the soil of Argentina and let it die there.  All heaven came down on us.  Seeds were being planted deep, watered by many tears and left there to die.  I finally had to leave the altar service at 1:30 PM in order to drive to my evening service commitment… but I left almost the whole group still on their faces, pouring out their souls… dedicating their all to Jesus one more time.  

The wonderful process begins again!  God is up to something!


Friday, November 29, 2013

The Barnabas Home

Whenever I read the book of Acts, I like brother Barnabas.  They tell me his name means “Son of Consolation” and that’s the kind of a guy he was.  I like him for at least three reasons:

1.       He believed in the true conversion of Saul of Tarsus’ before the apostles did.  They were afraid of this guy who had been wreaking havoc in the newly born Church of Jesus Christ.  Now he was claiming to be converted, but who could know if it wasn’t a trap?  Barnabas stood up for him and risked his future on it. 

2.       Until the two began their first missionary journey… it was always “Barnabas and Saul”. But Barnabas humbly surrendered his position of leadership. There-after it was always “Paul and Barnabas”.  Paul’s name now always came first.
3.       Years later when the Apostle Paul would not consider giving a "drop-out" a second chance, Barnabas stood up for John Mark and refused to deny this kid a new opportunity to prove his worthiness.  Again Barnabas risked his future on a novice.

For this and other reasons the name is “The Barnabas Home” (BernabĂ© in Spanish).  It is one of our AG rehab centers attached to Teen Challenge here in Argentina.  It was started years ago by Missionaries Don and Melba Exley.

Last Sunday two boys graduated from the 18 month program.  They stood in Exley’s great church and with deep emotion testified to their new life in Jesus Christ.  The congregation wept, followed by cheers, whistles and applause.  

On Monday I was invited to minister to the group at the Barnabas Home.  Here live some boys and men that had lost all hope, but are now making a new start in the arms of Jesus. 
I taught them a chorus about the love of God that took Jesus to the cross for them… and for me.  And I told them some stories about the power of God’s love, now working in us… power to penetrate and break through the hard crust of hatred and despair that often covers the unbeliever.  At the close, they were all down on their knees seeking God with all their hearts, some sobbing heavily.

I was about to leave when somebody suggested that they pray for me… and somebody else suggested that they make it a combined “prayer-hug”.  So I got squished by a “nine-guy-hug” complete with fervent prayer!  (Nine, because one had the camera.)  

And let me tell you that I left stronger than I had come!

Oh God, make me to be a Barnabas!


See PS below:

PS. Last night, Tuesday Nov. 26, I preached to this full sanctuary at New Life Church in Merlo, a work that Frances and I, along with Argentine evangelist Juan Domingo Romero, started in 1977 with one girl that had been saved out of drugs and her friends, 12 hopeless addicts.  We had no Teen Challenge program yet in those days. But this developed into a 20 month every night tent meeting (except Mondays). Jose Pichuir, an ex-alcoholic became their pastor. 

Jose is now with Jesus and his very capable widow, Irma, who was mentored by Missionaries Dick and Sharen Ellis, continues in his place. Her son, Esteban, standing between us is preparing for ministry in River Platte Bible Institute. 

Many of those present last night shared that they were saved under the tent and introduced me to their adult children and grandchildren who now serve Jesus!  

Thank you Lord! Generations for Jesus!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

They Give it All

It has been happening for years all over the country of Argentina and I suspect in many other countries around the world.  Nobody takes much notice of them.  They are Christian families that dedicate their lives to reaching out to the needy with the love of Christ.

Joel and Lily Diaz are one couple among the many.  Joel is principal of Menoyo Christian School nestled in what was at one time an economically depressed area.  Antonio Menoyo, a wonderful generous brother, along with his family, invested in a full square block to build this top class kindergarten, elementary and high school to transform the youth of this area. 

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of ministering to these students, just as I have many times in years past. Kinder-kids will never forget petting a skunk named Perfume.  

We had four separate ministry sessions with different age groups. 

Each of at least 20 students sat at computers in this high school classroom. 

Sharp looking seniors gathered around me to tell me how they remem-bered me with Felipe coming to the school when they were small.  Soon they will be university students, then launched into their careers as Christian young men and women.

But Joel and Lily, along with their two charming children, are not satisfied to be dedicating their lives only to the school. They have launched a ministry to kids in another needy area about 20 miles away. 

Children are hearing the message of Christ's love and lives are being changed. 

Their love for these little ones has brought some of their parents to the Lord, too.  The setting is simple.  A little building now serves as their sanctuary.  The children and adults sit on simple flat wooden benches.  Bible classes for different age groups meet inside another shelter further back on the lot and some in the open air.  Every child is given hot chocolate or tea and something to eat.  Joy overflows as they sing during worship time. In the above picture my nephew Dan Hiatt and his lovely wife Nancy are greeting the congregation, each with a young translator.  Dan and Nancy fell in love with these people. They have now returned to Seattle after five weeks sharing in my adventures.  
Additional treats are given to each one as they leave the premises.  All this was meant to be just a hand reaching out with the love of Jesus to touch another needy area, but almost unintentionally a new little church is being birthed and Joel and Lily are finding themselves in the position of caring for the flock. 

This story can be repeated all over this country in little villages and in the slums of great cities.  Nobody is publishing statistics giving credit to these dedicated workers.  Nobody comes by to pat them on the back and tell them what a great job they are doing.  It is just a part of their lives.  They have been propelled into ministry by the love of Jesus.  Nobody else cares… nobody except my Jesus. 

In my devotions today I read Jesus’ words: "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'  "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'  (Matt 25:37-40)

I have a new girlfriend.  Her name is Melisa.  She is as sweet as honey.  When I ate dinner with the Diaz family last week, Melisa clung to me and was almost in tears when I had to leave around midnight.  

Melisa, her handsome brother, Nehemias, their cousin Justina and a host of other little children will never forget Felipe, Perfume and an old man that came along with the package.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sold for a Cooking Pot

Where do I start?  And when I get started, where do I stop? So much is happening that it is totally impossible to write about it all.  Today, November 16, is the 31st day that I have been hosting my nephew, Dan Hiatt and his wife, Nancy.  How grateful I am for this privilege of sharing my life with these dedicated servants of God... and allowing them to participate in this ministry.

Recently I have had no internet access to publish a blog.  Right now I am in a restaurant hoping to be able to publish this for you.  At the writing of my last blog “The Wall” we were in northern Argentina in a suburb of the city of Posadas.  That was Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013.  I'll just take up where I left off:

Sunday, Oct 27, we took a little “taxi-boat” 30 minutes out on choppy waters to minister on ApipĂ© Island on the border of Paraguay. 


The congre-gation is accus-tomed to worshiping with just the sound of Pastor Vilma’s drum.  I added some notes and chords on the accordion. 

There Felipe goes again… flirting with the little girls!  

And you can see by their faces that they love it!

Dan’s sermon was well received by the beautiful little church.

Everyone walks to and from church on the island.  There are very few vehicles.  If you are planning to go several miles, you may choose to go on horseback.

Dan’s wife, Nancy is served lunch.  Sister Vilma pre-pared us a healthy meal with lots of fresh roasted meat and vegetables.  She is a nurse and has donated her time to the island clinic many years here, touching countless lives with the love of Jesus.  Trained as a surgeon’s aid, she has actually had to apply anesthesia and do minor emergency surgery.  Her minister husband passed away 3 years ago.  

Vilma has to be one of the sweetest, most cheerful ladies you could ever meet.  Her story is touching.  When she was 9 years old she was taken from her home in Paraguay by a “god-mother,” taken out of her country and sold to an Argentinean family in exchange for a cooking pot.  How’s that for building self-esteem!  She never saw her mother again for over 30 years! 

As we leave to carry our gear about a half mile to the port, Sister Vilma waves good-bye.  She will be retiring soon and a church on the mainland will be taking charge.  We may meet her next time in heaven.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Wall

My first reaction when I saw these 3 or 4 year old barefoot boys playing on this 4 foot high wall in the city park was: "Those kids could fall and break their heads on the cement below!"  The next thing I saw was them sliding down the light pole and effortlessly shimmying back up again. 

We were setting up for the Castle Kids' regular plaza meeting in a neigh-borhood near the city of Posadas and kids were coming running from all directions. The wall soon became the place to be.

I set up my Hawaiian guitar and let its strange sounds fill the neighbor-hood attracting curious looks. The Castle Kids did some interpretive dancing including some impressive break-dancing.  

Soon the wall was reaching capacity and adults were standing around.  I took out my accordion and taught them a chorus... and almost everybody joined in the fun.

I drew my "reversible face" and gave them the Bad News (Rom 3:23) that is necessary to be able to appreciate the Good News (John 3:16)

Kids workers joined the kids as they prayed with some below the wall.

Pastor Sergio was only a teenage leader of the Castle Kids outreach team when their efforts in this neighbor-hood blossomed into a church.  My nephew Dan Hiatt and his wife Nancy stand in front of the church still without a roof where we held our service that Saturday night.  We prayed for the Lord to stop the rain storm and He did that just for us... to do the kids thing in the plaza and a roofless church service under the stars.

Nancy does not speak Spanish and these girls speak little or no English, but some great communi-cation is going on here.

Check out this new congre-gation... the result of a bunch of teen age Castle Kids doing some serious evangelism.

This stroke victim has been touched by the Lord and is now able to walk. Everybody wants to pet Perfume the skunk.

Pastor Sergio stands with Nancy, Dan and me for a picture. They should have the roof on the church soon... and he will be married in a few months to a lovely girl who he met in Bible School and who lives far away in Buenos Aires. 

I confess that stories like this bless my socks off!