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!