Saturday, April 27, 2013

Surrogate Daddy

It is possible that my physically weakened state has something to do with the fact that I usually have only one real meal per day… and sometimes what is available in a restaurant at lunchtime is not that healthy.  (I continue to minister about 7 times a week.)  I buy lots of fresh fruit and eat apples, oranges and pears in the afternoon and late at night after church, but last night at midnight when I finally finished preaching, praying around the altar... followed by the wonderful “hugging-fest”, I once again, refused the generous offer of a midnight dinner by the pastor.  My system does not take well to after midnight dinners which are common here.  

The "hugging-fest" at the close of each service has recently evolved into a “picture taking fest”.  

Everybody hugs me tight and has somebody there with their cell-phone or iPod to take a picture “for Face” they say… meaning “for Facebook”.  And often they use their iPod to publish them on Facebook that very moment.

If anybody ever finds all the photos of me on “Facebook” with cute girls, young and old men, elderly widows and sweet little kids hugging me… I may get a call from the district office to see if I am still saved… ha.

Last night after most everyone had gone, a young man had been a long time awaiting his turn.  He hugged me with a lot of tears and did not let go for a long time.  

While tears still flowed he told me a story something like this.  His father was 56 years old when he was born.  His parents separated when he was young.  He had been raised by his father who was a Christian.  But he had been a rebellious and sinful youth and never showed any respect or appreciation to his father.  His father did everything for him and prayed constantly for him to receive Christ, but until his father died at 81 years old… (my current age) this young man continued in rebellion.  Now, after his father’s death, he had been wonderfully saved and God had changed his heart.  

All this time, while he was telling me this story, he had something clenched tightly in his hand.  He said with tears, “I never gave anything to my daddy to show my appreciation for all his expense and love for me.  I had a job, I could have helped him, but I was rebellious.”  Then he placed a crumpled bill in my hand and with sobs he said, “I can’t give this to my daddy now… so I have decided to give it to you.”  When he had left I found a crumpled bill in my pocket.  It was a 50 peso bill… worth about $7 US dollars… but probably a real sacrifice for him to give. 

"Surrogate Daddy"


Friday, April 19, 2013

"Fruta del Bosque" Dessert

If you are from Portland, Oregon this will make you drool.  If you are from anywhere far away from Portland it may make you pucker.  

Here in southern Argentina, in certain areas, there are wild berries much like those that flourish in the mountains around Mount Hood near Portland.  Some are similar species to our blueberries, huckleberries, gooseberries.  Here they are called "Fruta del Bosque."  (Forest Fruit)  They have names like calafate, arándanos, corintos rojos and grosellas.  

The Cascade Mountain Range of Northwestern Oregon is famous for its variety of wild berries, plus its wonderful cultivated blackberries, raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries, marionberries and strawberries... to name a few.  We high school kids had blue stained fingers (and lips) in the summer months since we earned our spending money harvesting in the many berry fields.  "Two in the box and one in the mouth!"

Now down here in southern Argentina, take some "arádanos, corintos rojos and grosellas" and mix them with some fresh frambuesas (raspberries) and maybe a few moras (blackberries) (no fair to add sugar) and toss in a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it is sure to put a smile on the face of a north-westerner... and maybe a pucker face on anybody else.  


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Just a Letter to a Friend

You don't need to bother to read this.  It was just a letter to a friend that covered today's activities and I finally decided to offer it to you, too.

I have not felt fatigue until today… and fortunately, for the first time since arriving here in Argentina, I have 3 nights in succession without a ministry appointment. 

Tuesday I ministered in Pastor Emilio Figueroa's church.  What a blessed time!  
My first visit here with him at the southern tip of South America was in 1966.  

They are meeting in the basement of their new church building which is under construction.

Last night, Wednesday, after a marvelous service in our other AG church in Rio Gallegos... a service that lasted until after 11 PM, plus 30 minutes of hugging time, Pastors Segundo and Graciela Gamin insisted that I follow them to their home for dinner.  Usually I excuse myself from these midnight dinners, but they had prepared something for me and they are such dear friends that I could not refuse.  But it was after 1 AM when I left there.  So I hurried to the hotel and retired at 2:15 AM. 

I awoke as usual sharply at 7:15 AM.  My body seems to refuse to “sleep-in” but really 5 hours is not enough for me… especially since I had over 250 miles to drive today.  I had a 10 AM appointment with Pastor Gamin who wanted to show me the new church he is building.  So I arose, did my usual push-ups, 124 of them and 64 stand-ups from a squat.  (I have been increasing one more each day and yesterday I was up to 123 and 63.)  Then showered and ate a good “self serve” hotel breakfast… (bowl of cereal with yogurt, orange juice, bowl of fresh fruit-salad, “lagrima” which is a couple of drops of coffee with hot milk, "media luna" croissant and small apple tart.)  Next returned to my room for my devotional time and checked out of the hotel at 10 AM.

Pastor Gamin was waiting to take me to see his new church building.  It is about 10 miles out of town near a new neighborhood where many new houses are going up.  Long ago they purchased an entire city block (100 meters by 100 meters) and are building a huge sanctuary to seat 2000 people!  He claims that the city is moving that way and hopes to have his first services there sometime near the end of next year.  They will also keep their present sanctuary in the heart of the city and continue to have services there as well.  I never cease to marvel at the incredible vision of these Argentinean pastors!

At the building site I embraced him and prayed a special blessing over him then immediately left heading north.  

After less than two hours of driving I was getting dangerously drowsy and having difficulty staying alert.  There are many herds of guanacos near the road and occasionally one will cross the road forcing you to slow down from 135 kph (80 mph) to a near stop.  

Every time I would stop to take a picture of the them or the ñandús (ostrich-like fowl, also known as rheas) they would run away.  

I fought off sleep until I reached Piedra Buena at 1:30 PM and stopped for lunch. 

While eating at a roadside restaurant a tow-truck pulled up with a what was left of a wrecked car.  He said that the driver had hit a truck.  The three occupants had apparently survived, but were in the hospital.  During a class to receive a drivers license in Buenos Aires they tell you that these are the third most dangerous highways for fatal accidents in the entire world.

From there I still had 130 kilometers (80 miles) to go to my hotel overlooking the bay here in San Julian.  I was fighting sleep again during the final 30 minutes and upon arrival here in the hotel in Puerto San Julian I  thanked the Lord again for his protection and took a full hour siesta.

I shot this from my hotel window.  It is a full-size mock-up of the Victoria, one of Magellan’s five ships that wintered in this bay in the year 1520.  Three ships attempted mutiny and their captains were executed here by Magellan.  


Monday, April 15, 2013

Huckleberry City

This weekend I am in El Calafate, a city named after the wild Huckleberry plant that fills these hills.  Unfortunately this plant is full of thorns that make picking the berries practically impossible.  Back in the nineties Frances and I parked our mobile home beside the old church building, while I designed and drew up plans for the much needed larger building (shown here).  We got the foundation and supporting columns up and then a wonderful team from Portland Christian Center, pastored then by Bill Wilson (my home church when I was little child) came and built the church in 9 days!

However, I had failed to take something into consideration when I made the original design.  The snow that accumulates on the roof over the entrance would slide right down in front of the main door and block the entrance.  So now after years of shoveling snow, the men of the church are building a nicely designed cover over the entrance.  Pastor Tony Villegas (left) stands with a newly converted brother who joyfully told me he was delivered from addiction to alcohol.  We refer to the building as a "church", but the real "Church" is represented by this happy brother with his dog by his side.  For he has now become a "temple" of the Holy Spirit!  Halleluyah!  (See 1 Cor. 6:19) 

The sanctuary was recently painted inside and out.  Check out that chartreuse color on the front of the church building. (above)  

This tourist city is full of bright happy colors.  Here are some businesses just around the corner from my hotel.   

I happened into some Sunday morning's Bible classes and got all excited when I saw all these kids.  So, you guessed it.  I ran to my hotel, a couple of blocks from the church and brought Felipe and Perfume. 

Our main Sunday service was greatly blessed by God.    Without doubt God is using this pastor, with his wife and family to make a difference in this city!  

El Calafate city is a great tourist center for one main reason. One of Argentina's most awesome glaciers is only an hour's drive away.  And you can walk quite close to it.  Not too close, though, for they claim that over 30 people have been killed by flying ice.  

This wall of ice is over 200 feet high and is in constant action as it slowly advances down the mountain.  Every ten minutes or less huge pieces of ice fall crashing into the lake.  Smaller pieces, maybe only five feet in diameter, sound like rifles firing when they hit the water.  The sound is accented by the wall of ice behind it.  

Larger pieces, some as tall as a ten story building, crash like thunder into the depths causing huge waves and then come back rolling over on the surface to show their deep blue ice compressed by hundreds of tons and untold years of pressure.  I stood there today and like the other tourists could hardly make myself leave... as we all were anticipating the next huge explosion. 

As I was leaving I offered to take a picture of a couple with an Argentine flag.  Then they offered to take my picture with their flag, too.  If you click on the picture and enlarge it, you can make out the tiny figures of tourist down below where I was taking pictures moments before.  People of all ages were hiking the many walkways... many with their sweethearts.  I had taken Frances there several times, but I missed holding her soft, warm hand today as I hiked for an hour or more.  


Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Road to El Chalten

Although it was 1:30 AM when I finally got to bed after last night's (Friday) beautiful service in the city of Gregores nestled in a fertile valley... I was up before dawn and traveling west toward the great Andes Mountains for a 3 PM Saturday service in the new little church in El Chalten.

As I climbed out of the fertile valley up to the desert the sun was rising in the east.  The sky was ablaze and reflecting in the river.  (Above photo)

I chased this rainbow for many miles on a sometimes extremely rough desert road.  Then the light rain made mud.  After four hours of this every screw in my little Peugeot car must have be jostled loose and there is still a layer of mud mixed with small gravel over two inches thick under the fenders.    

But I was thrilled to be on my way to El Chalten where I have wonderful memories. Frances and I held a kids camp here at the base of these incredible peaks in the nineties.  (Professional photo)

(Remember you can click on the pictures to enlarge.)

El Chalten is a pretty tourist village nestled at the base of these peaks.  I shot this picture today as I entered the town, but the stunning peaks were hidden in the clouds.

Now a new little Assemblies of God church is blossoming in a rented cabin under young Andrew Villegas (purple shirt) who graduated from River Platte Bible Institute two years ago. Note the US type AG symbol on the sign.  These were just the first people to arrive before service.  The place later was packed.  Wonderful prayer time!

Now check out a few shots of spontaneous "prayer-hugs" taken in other churches along the way.  I think we Californians need to get into this groove.

Mother with child... last at the altar.

A pastor and family who, like many, needed encouragement.

A pastor's wife grabs one her ladies and they pray for each other.

Even Felipe got in on this one.

A youth group rushes forward to hug and pray for me.

Now can you still wonder why I keep going back to Argentina?


Monday, April 8, 2013

Unforgetable Moment!

One of the wonderful privileges that the Lord Jesus has given me is to minister frequently to children.  I had two back to back kid’s events scheduled for last Saturday afternoon.  The first was at 2 PM in the city of Comodoro Rivadavia and the second at 4 PM in Rada Tilly, the beach resort city only 20 miles away.  Then I was to return to Comodoro Rivadavia to minister to the youth at their 9 PM service.  Three services in one afternoon and evening is a bit much, but opportunities like these to touch these young lives may come only once in a lifetime for these children and youth living deep in the Patagonian desert, so I jumped at the chance.

But I could never have guessed what was waiting for me.  I arrived at 1:30 and did the routine stuff… unloaded my accordion, Felipe’s case and my Bible and checked out the sound system.  The place was teaming with excited kids and children’s workers.  Pastor and Mrs. Primo told me that before I would minister, the children had a surprise for me.  I was made to sit in a chair in front of everyone.

Someone brought a basin of water.  

Two 10 or 12 year old boys knelt at my feet and removed my shoes and socks.  Some of the children rushed forward to sit on the floor at my feet. 

The pastor then proceeded to tell a story to the children:  In another city 1000 miles away, a man and his wife with a little friend called Felipe in a suitcase had come to his church when he was a child.  He said that his life had been affected by that day when they had brought the joy of Christ Jesus into the hearts of little children.  He said that same man of God that had helped to plant new churches in many cities in their country.  

As he spoke the two boys lowered my feet into warm water.  The pastor and his wife laid their hands on me and each led in an extended, beautiful prayer, while little hands never stopped tenderly massaging and washing my feet.  Tears came like a flood.  Soon I was sobbing my heart out and I think I saw tears pouring down the faces of those boys, too.  Even now as I type these words into my computer I am again in a helpless flood of tears.  

Father in heaven, were you watching?  I know You were.  Jesus, were You crying, too?  Were there angels, invisible to our eyes, in that room?  Do angels cry for joy?  I know two young boys and an old man that will never forget that moment and will treasure it throughout eternity.

Help!  The sky is falling!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

It's About TIME!

I quit buying TIME magazine years ago when they opted to honor a well known terrorist on their cover as “Man of the Year”.  I wrote them a letter that I never sent them, but probably should have.  I said in my letter that Jesus Christ deserved “Man of the Year”, but not evil people… and I remember ending with… that will not happen until “TIME shall be no more!”  I have never purchased a TIME magazine since then.

Well, I’ll go out and buy a TIME Magazine tomorrow if I can find one here in Comodoro Rivadavia, southern Argentina.  I understand that they have chosen for their cover story in this issue a Spanish speaking pastor of the largest Assemblies of God church in the USA, pastor Choco (nickname).

This web address tells a little more about him: 


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What is a "Prayer-Hug?"

A great Resurrection weekend! 

Saturday night:  At Sierra Grande, an iron ore mining town that seemed about to die when the mine shut down years ago.  Now resurrection is happening and the church is growing along with the city.  I taught their pastor in Bible school many years ago.

This elderly lady needed a "Prayer-Hug" and got one free of charge.

After getting to bed at 1 AM Saturday night (and too excited to sleep until at least 2:30) I set the alarm for 5:10 AM… jumped out of bed, took no time for my normal exercises, (Saturday morning I did 110 pushups and 55 stand ups from and squatting position.) showered and dressed and at precisely 6 AM headed 80 miles further south to the beautiful city of Puerto Madryn.  

It was totally dark when I started.  I watched the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean in a bright display of Easter colors.  I arrived at 7:20 in time to set up my instrument in the huge church that Pastor Horacio Balbi has recently completed.  We are talking BIG!  You could park a Boeing 747 in there!   I ministered at the 8:30 AM service to mostly elderly folk... some were young families, too.  The church fills up for the night service, they say, and I believe them.  

Pastor Horacio Balbi prays for this couple that is leaving for over a thousand miles away to minister to an indigenous tribe way up north in the area called the "Inpenetrable."

The Balbis offered me an early lunch which I enjoyed with them.  They are the greatest!  I then drove to the Instituto Biblico Patagonico campus in Gaiman, another 90 miles south... where I will stay for two days.  

I took a quick Sunday afternoon nap and drove 40 minutes to Trelew to set up for a 6 PM kids service… 120 kids filled with excitement at the thought of seeing Felipe.  I survived the pandemonium and was ready for the adult service at 7:30 and at midnight arrived back at my room at the IBP.  I had a “tea” between services, but did not eat dinner… which is okay… since these midnight dinners don't sit well on my digestive system. 

Really these pastors and their families are almost like family to me.  I have known Horacio and Julia Balbi since we arrived in Buenos Aires in 1965 before they were married.  Now they have 7 grand kids!  Also Pastors Ramon and Blanca Saucedo from 1965.  They had three beautiful daughters, all now married and all wives of pastors.  They are all just super, beautiful people.  And they pamper me to death!

I have celebrated the resurrection of Jesus by preaching three times to adult audiences and once to 120 kids.  And these hundreds of people seem to love me to pieces.  They crowd around me after every service waiting their turn to hug me and kiss me on each cheek.  Some weep tears,  both men and women, as they squeeze me tight and tell me of their love and appreciation.  

This morning one young lady had been waiting for her turn for a long time.  Now she was the only one left.  I noticed huge tears filling her eyes.  She grabbed me in a big hug and bawled her heart out and didn’t let me go for a while.  My face was soaked with her tears.  I have no idea what was behind that incident and I don’t need or want to know.  It is enough to know that God had deeply touched her and many others.

I hope I am not just an addict to all the attention and honor that is given me.  I am often embarrassed at the presentations the pastors make of me.  Yet I don’t think this is like the typical hero worship shown to movie stars and singers.  There is something much deeper within many of these Argentine people.  Some have sat under my ministry many times and some date their deep experiences with God to some of those past moments.