Monday, January 28, 2013

Meet my 90 year old pastor, Noble Ballew

Rev. Noble Ballew is my pastor.  He helped Frances and me navigate through those challenging teen years.  He encouraged us to pray.  He was always with us at our Friday night “youth prayer meetings.”  No one really led those services.  He would sit on the floor with us and sing while Brother Dougherty played the piano, then we would pray for a while as the music continued.  We might pause and someone would read a scripture or share a testimony.  We started out with one hour services, but God showed up and I can remember taking the bus home at 4 AM! 

That is where God baptized me and many others in the Holy Spirit.  A little group of teenagers caught on fire and the church began to explode in growth.  Pastor Noble Ballew was in his twenties, young and vibrant.  We all loved him and his wife, Mary, (who passed away years ago).  We could tell he loved us, too.  Several of us ended up in full time ministry.  He performed our wedding when Frances was 18 and I was 19.

That was long ago, but Noble Ballew is still my pastor.  Recently his son, Rev. Ron Ballew, began serving as pastor in the nearby community of Hillmar.  Friday I discovered that Noble had recently moved into a nice “Senior Living” facility in Turlock.  That same day I visited him and we enjoyed lunch together.  (In fact, that is where I met “Honey”.  See Friday’s blog below.)

Sunday morning 10:30: I happened to be ministering in Hughson Full Gospel Assembly with Pastor Ernie Spears, which is only about 5 miles from Turlock.  I arranged for a cab to bring my pastor to come hear me preach.  He was there bright and early.  

That morning I told the story of a pastor that encouraged his youth to pray and stayed with them praying until heaven came down.  Then I had him stand and greet the congregation.  It was an emotional moment for me… and for him, too.  He is 90 years old and still filled with the joy of the Lord.  You can’t get him to say a negative word about anything or anybody even if you try.  

Rev. Noble Ballew is still my pastor.  He prays for me.  He calls to see how I’m doing.  He never stopped actively showing the love of Jesus. 

We enjoyed a beautiful service, wonderful singing and worship.  The kids and adults seemed delighted with Perfume and Felipe.  And after the ministry of the Word, God gave us a moving conclusion at the altar of prayer.  

I enjoyed a nice lunch with Pastors Ernie and Norma Spears, then I hurried over to the city of Delhi at 2:15 PM to minister with Pastor Javier Alfaro at his exciting Spanish speaking church.  There it all happened again, but this time in Spanish.  What fun!  This life could become addictive!  It probably already has!

It’s great to be alive.  March 5, 2013 I return to Argentina, Lord willing.  I am praying that the Lord God will re-ignite His burning passion for the lost within my soul… to take me back to my beginnings when that holy passion drove me to bridge cultural and language barriers to reach out to the lost… and may this passion within me prove contagious as I continue to minister both here and in Argentina!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Honey, I think I just saved your life!"

She was small and weak and apparently out of gas.  This sounds pretty dramatic until I tell you she was just a honey bee sitting on the windshield of my car when I left the city of Turlock.  I decided to call her "Honey."  Poor helpless creature!  Honey hung on for dear life motionless with the wind in her face as I drove home, about 15 miles.  

I began thinking about a Moody Bible Institute scientific film about honey bees, a film that I used to show in the schools in Argentina.  It told how sometimes honey bees can run out of fuel and thus cannot fly.  The film says that if you give them some sugar water sometimes they can revive and lift off for home.  

So since, after I got home, she was still on my windshield and not moving, I decided to try it.  I mixed up a few drops of water with some sugar crystals and placed it on a sticky-pad-paper and attached it to my windshield so that the drop of sweet stuff was right under her nose... that is, if bees have a nose and I'm sure they must have... and a good one too... to detect the frangrance of blossoms from long distances.  Immediately she placed her tongue in it and started to drink.  Soon she was walking around a little bit and even climbed up on the paper and started cleaning up around the edges.  

Since she was now standing on the note paper I gently picked it up and carried her into my backyard and slid her off onto the petals of my sweet, "smiling winter rose."  She seemed delighted and climbed all around on the rose dipping her long tongue into sweet nectar.  I shot a couple of pictures of "Honey" and soon tired of watching her eat and went inside, but 5 minutes later I went out to find her gone.  And I imagined hearing her buzz away singing, "I'll fly away, Oh Glory!  I'll fly away!"  

It must be at least 10 miles, if one flies in a "bee-line," back to Turlock.  Let's hope she made it home safely.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sending You a Winter Rose

Yes, I am sending you a rose.  It may look large, but it is really quite tiny.  It is especially for you sweet widow ladies that pamper me with warm hugs and even a delicious apple pie!  

The corsage I gave to Frances on our very first date, when she was sweet sixteen and I was seventeen, was made of three tiny yellow roses similar to this one.  And yellow roses became her favorite flower for life.  Our backyard has three different kinds of yellow rose plants.  We have had a very hard winter.  My fish pond has been frozen over during a whole week.  But at 7 AM before breakfast this morning I looked out in the back yard and this gorgeous specimen of God's delicate art smiled and said, "Good morning!"  So I grabbed my camera and captured its smile.  Sorry I can't include the perfume.  Ralph

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Great Weekend of Fun

Saturday night, Jan 19: Ministry for Salinas, California Sanctuary Fellowship AG... Spanish Church      What a blessing!

Sunday morning, Jan 20: Ministry for Salinas Sanctuary Fellowship AG in English "Missions Emphasis."  No pictures, but I believe God was as work in many lives.

•Holiday Monday, Jan 21: Fun with Tim and Evan with Evan’s Honda trail bike

Now a few pictures:

Evan prepares for take off.

Now you see him... now you don't!
That tiny speck on the distant hill over there is Evan on his Honda.

"Grandpa, You want to try it?"  

I thought you'd never ask!  

Now Tim explains first, second, third and fourth gears.  

And that over there is the brake.  Nice to know!

Off I go... at "death-defying" speed!  I had not yet tried to use the brakes so I had to dodge some four-wheelers coming at me.  Actually I think I scared them into scattering in every direction... ha.

Truth is I never took it out of low gear... ha... and my "death-defying" speed was probably 20 mph. 

Now here I come up the hill and safely coast to a stop by the car.  

Mission accomplished!  I survived! 

Tuesday morning: Jan 22 Ministry at Salinas Sanctuary AG Christian School

I drove the 115 miles back to Salinas for their Christian school's early Tuesday morning chapel service.  School Director and interim pastor, Jim Wallace, who is helping me with Felipe in this photo, has been a close friend for years. 

I let the pre-schoolers pet Perfume, the Skunk.  It is so much fun to watch their faces when they reach out to touch her and she lifts her head quickly to try to kiss their hand!  I always warn them ahead of time that "she hardly ever bites."

I taught the students the chorus:
"We will carry the torch. We will lift high the flame.  We will march through the darkness with the light of His name... until the glory of God is seen by the world.  We will carry the torch of the Lord!  And, of course, I took along my "flaming" torch.
What a privilege it is, as a "retired" missionary with the Assemblies of God, to carry "Jesus, the Light of the World" into places of spiritual darkness in Latin America!  

May the Lord call many of the 125 beautiful children in this school to carry the torch, lighting up their world with the love and presence of Jesus!  This fifth grade class came to thank me and wanted me with them in their picture.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Family and Friends in Oregon and Washington

This trip was a great blessing to me.  It could not have been better!  

I drove my car to Oregon and Washington.  I arrive Monday afternoon at Boring, Oregon and enjoyed being with Frances’ sister, Nancy Askew and her husband, Arlan at their “farm.”  They always make room for me and make me feel at home.  

Tuesday I was delighted to be with my widowed brother in law Ed Solomon (not pictured) and my two remaining sisters, Joanne 83 years old (left) and Carol who is 90 (right) and many of their offspring and other relatives at our New Year’s celebration at Joanne’s grandson, Jonathan’s home in Gresham.  

Of course Perfume, the skunk, and Felipe showed up for all the little kids.  

And I was given many nice gifts including enough chocolate and other candies to last me a life-time, I think.  

Then Wednesday I enjoyed an afternoon with my friend, Heidi Griessmann, driving up the famous Columbia gorge for lunch.  

The many white frozen waterfalls were a sight to see.  And I got to see a great bald eagle flying over the river where we ate lunch at Cascade Locks.  I especially loved playing her piano at her new home in Troutdale.  “Tickling the ivories,” as we used to refer to playing the piano, has always been a restful and quieting time for me.  

Thursday morning I drove to McMinnville and met with my dear friends, Duane and Dorothy Driver.  We ate dinner at the great space museum of the “Spruce Goose” where the huge wooden plane built and flown by Howard Hughes is displayed.  Duane may be offered the job as chaplain for that large enterprise.  

From there I visited my sister and husband, Joanne and Don Stradley on their “llama farm” near Yamhill and had dinner with them.  Joanne cooked up some delicious dumplings... 

while Don and I went down the hill to the barn to feed their four llamas and break the ice for their water.

Friday I was off to Seattle, Washington.  My time in Washington was a blessing from start to finish.  I first stopped to visit our son, Mike, at his work in Seattle.  He showed me once again all around the large “carpet and drape cleaning and restoring” business which he manages and introduced me to many of the employees that obviously are pleased to work under his care.  The last time I asked, he had over 50 people serving under him.  He is certainly a gentleman in the full meaning of the word.  I have always been impressed with how kindly he treats people… even those that he briefly meets… especially those that have “Down’s Syndrome” or other deficiencies.  

Mike called his wife, Mary, to meet us for noon dinner at a restaurant.  However their dog, Ziggy, was acting strangely as though he were ill.  She was going to leave him and come anyway, but I insisted that we take him to the vet so that they would not be worrying about him while we were trying to have dinner.  So we drove to Mike and Mary’s house to take Ziggy to the vet.  There was no doubt about it… he could hardly stand on his feet and was acting sick.  Look at that sad face!

However when Mike placed on a leash to go see the vet, Ziggy perked up instantly and seemed just fine.  He was just like a little kid who hears the word “doctor” and gets well instantly… ha!  So after waiting for a “dog doctor” at the vet for about 20 minutes and since all symptoms had totally disappeared, we left without paying a dime and took him home again.  I enjoyed a nice afternoon dinner out together with Mike and Mary.  

That same night I drove to Kenmore to see my brother Mel’s widow, Ruth Alice.  I caught two of her sons, David and Ben, and my niece Heidi, plus my great niece and her fiancĂ©… all were visiting her and we had a great time playing the grand piano, talking and eating a home cooked meal.  Ruth Alice is 86 and moves slowly, but she stokes the wood stove and shuffles about with a walker doing everything that needs to be done… and is always pleasant.  I should mention that her son, Ben, lives nearby and helps her keep up her garden and is in general a big help to her.  At her insistence I stayed there that night, Friday.  

Saturday I drove to Gig Harbor to visit my nephew Steve Hiatt and his wife, Carol in their beautiful mansion overlooking the Puget Sound.  They are delightful Christians.  We must have talked for hours.  They served me a whole Dungeness crab on my plate for lunch… delicious!  

From there I drove to Silverdale to stay in a hotel Saturday night.  I found a large, beautiful basket of fruit and sweets in my room waiting for me… left there by Pastors Conrad and Clair Lampan (left).  

That was Saturday evening and I was invited to have dinner at their parsonage.  They have two delightful children, Ester who is 7 years old and Elijah who is 3.  I enjoyed fellowship with them and playing with the kids.  Then I went over to the church and set up and my Hawaiian guitar to be ready for the Sunday service.  

On Sunday morning I was left for a little while to pray in Pastor Conrad’s study.  I was surprised to see a nicely framed photo of my wife, Frances, hanging on his study wall by the Argentine flag.  Conrad is from Argentina and when he was a teenager he lived with us for a time in Buenos Aires.  It was during a rather difficult time in his life and Frances and I always treated him just like our own sons.  

Both our son, Mike, and my nephew, Steve, showed up for the Sunday morning service.  The people in the Silverdale Assembly of God church all felt they knew me already since Pastor Conrad had spoken many times of me during their 3 years as pastors there.  Perfume and Felipe did their thing, of course, and I played my instrument and ministered. There was a blessed time around the altar at the close… and after all was said and done… out rolled a cart with a big, beautiful birthday cake with my name on it!  What a send off!  I am invited back to do a whole week of meetings sometime in the future should the Lord desire.  I left Silverdale, Washington Sunday at 3:30 PM after having lunch with the pastor Conrad Lampan and family. 

Sunday night I stopped in a motel in Salem, Oregon.  The final leg of my trip on Monday was a special blessing.  I stopped in Grants Pass to lunch and fuel up and started for the Siskiyou mountains around 1 PM.  The sky was overcast, but the roads were clear of ice and snow over the Siskiyou Mountain pass.  I stopped to sleep 30 minutes in a rest area north of Redding, then hit the road again.  

I was listening to a beautiful Gaither CD (Christmas gift from I forgot who) and the sun was setting.  That sunset was literally an ever-changing display of God’s incredible artwork for more than an hour!  I sang “How Great Thou Art” and other hymns along with the Gaither gang.  I praised God in English and Spanish and in a heavenly language.  I was literally flooded with God’s presence in my car as I drove!  Time seemed to fly and I arrived at home Monday at 8:45 PM… exactly 840 miles south of my departure from Silverdale, Washington the afternoon before. 

My only regret is that my nephew Dan Hiatt, who just received his masters degree from Northwest University, and his wife Nancy who live near Seattle were vacationing in Canada, so I missed them this time around.

My goodness!  I have rambled all over all over the northwest with this story.  

The final word is “God is so good!  All the time!”