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.