Sunday, February 23, 2014

Could You Come to Our Little Church?

(I prepared this message on December 5, 2013, but somehow failed to send it out.  So here it is:)

One of my greatest joys is responding to invitations of pastors of small, struggling churches in difficult areas. Since most of them can call a special service on a week night I am happy to fill my week nights wherever.  

Brother Torientino, at the keyboard here is trying to get something started on a corner in the Buenos Aires suburb of Garin.  

He has built this structure on rented property.  The owner has accepted the structure as part of the rent. 

About 20 feet from the church door is this unprotected 10 ft deep ditch in the middle of the street.  My only place to park was as close as I dared to the hole to leave room for large trucks to squeeze past my little car as they turned the corner.  Pastor’s little boy enjoyed throwing rocks and clods into this ditch that is being prepared for a drainage canal during heavy rainfall. Pastor Torientino says this area floods often.

This past Tuesday I was in a smaller town called Tristan Suarez about 40 miles away.  We held the service in the Pastor Dalbert’s front yard.  I had finished with Felipe and the children had left when someone took this picture.  

The adult group was small, but several were first timers so I took time to pray with them at the close of the service.  I felt that some were making their first steps toward the Lord Jesus.  

Then I enjoyed a delightful dinner with Pastor Dalbert, his wife and daughter.  My hope is that they were encouraged and blessed.  

On my way back to my temporary apartment at midnight I suddenly encountered both lanes of the freeway totally blocked with dozens, maybe hundreds of stopped trucks.  I did not know whether there was an accident or what, but noticed that the driver in front of me stopped to talk to one of the truck drivers standing around… and then squeaked between two trucks to the grass alongside the freeway. I followed.  The bank was tipped steeply, but we went ahead several hundred yards and managed to get off on a ramp.  From there we drove on side roads for a long ways and then had to turn back as that road was also blocked with a huge pile of junk.  I tried another one.  It was also blocked and this time there was a large bonfire burning with picketers blocking the only escape route.  So again I turned back, searched and found another road that went many miles out of my way.  At least it went somewhere!  And by now I was part of a train of cars and huge trucks trying to get somewhere… anywhere! 

On top of all this my GPS froze up and had to be restarted.  It did no good anyway since I was nowhere on any database map.  These “roads” were not roads that merited mention on the database.

Obviously the pickets were well organized and had deliberately blocked practically every possible exit from that area.  Now I was on a road that was not really a road.  Huge trucks were crossing a fragile narrow bridge with no railing… I followed.  Huge holes were everywhere.  So much dust filled the air one could see very little.  I passed one poor guy whose nice car had fallen into a huge ditch.  He was standing there holding his head in his hands.  It would take a tow truck or tractor to get him out, so I passed him by.  Within an hour of following this train of vehicles we all finally escaped back onto the freeway on the other side of the pickets!  

By 2 AM I was back in my apartment.  But I am sure that I was very fortunate, because as I was driving parallel to the freeway many of those miles, I could see the blocked freeway from several places in my extended “tour” and many cars were trapped between miles and miles of huge trucks and had no way to escape.  Those unfortunate ones were probably there all night!
The problem of pickets in Argentina is very serious.  They apparently have complaints and are trying to stop the entire country from functioning just to be heard.  They seem very proud of themselves if they make enough trouble to get TV or front-page coverage.  I am told that some unions or political organizations actually support full-time picketers that organize and do this regularly.  It is their “job”.  And they go about seeking which locations to block when trucks are trying to bring supplies into the city or at peak hours of traffic.  

It is so sad to see what seems to be, at least on the surface, a deliberate, organized attempt to stop the country’s forward progress.  I guess this is better than terrorism, since they at least are not killing each other… yet.

Enough negative talk.  It is not just Argentina.  It is a world that is rejecting God.  And while it squirms and twists and in its struggle to survive, God still reaches deep into hurting and broken hearts to bring many into His glorious gift of salvation. 



His Name Is Jesus

Who would stoop to dirty the finger of God
To write on the temple floor?
His name is Jesus!
Who would lift the burden of a life of sin,
Set her free to “Sin no more?”
His name is Jesus!

Who would take the weight of that ugly sin
And carry it to His cross?
His name is Jesus!
Who would let it drive nails into His hands
And count it not a loss.
His name is Jesus!

Who would bury that sin in the deepest sea
Out of even the sight of God?
His name is Jesus!
Who would set me free to begin again?
Only One!  The Son of God!

His name is Jesus!

By Ralph Hiatt (written Feb. 23, 2014)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It was Monday

It was last Monday morning.  I had just arrived at the Northern California-Nevada District Resource Center for our regular meeting of the District World Missions Team. This display of items from decades ago is set up in the room where our team meets.  I took one look at this roll-top desk and knew I just had to sit in this chair. See this typewriter? I used to hunt and peck on a keyboard just like this. I sat down. It felt right... so right, in fact, that I dashed out to my car and brought my camera in for this picture.  Some of you "more mature" friends will recognize the Christ's Ambassadors banner far away in the background and the Sunday School attendance board on the wall. That's the way you did it back then. And it worked, too! For a while.

I feel so honored to be a part of this team that exists to engage in strategic planning to extend the "World Missions outreach" supported by this great district. Steve Brown chairs the meeting. Superintendent Jim Braddy is at the head of the table. Debbie Heden, Women's Ministry Director is hidden behind her husband Jim (lower left). We were introduced to a new member, Steve White, Pastor of Auburn Cornerstone AG, (top left) a small church powerfully involved in world missions. I was meeting Student Ministries Director, Eddie De La Rosa, (next to Steve) for the first time. (My extended ministry overseas had kept me from meeting some key people.) Then there is the incredible Stan Wagner (middle left), well known Pastor Abe Daniels, Bruce Allen (bottom right) who is moving to Texas soon, and myself.  The positive vision-casting of this dedicated group gives me high hopes for the future... for touching every corner of this lost world with the love of Jesus! 

As I was driving home that afternoon. My route passed by Lodi and the cemetery where my wife, Frances was laid to rest. I stopped for a little while. I found the grave marker covered with a half inch of fresh rain water. As I stood looking down at the marker, engraved with my name and hers, I noticed that my own reflection was looking back at me. It reminded me that my time is short. My days are numbered. I have no time to waste. I must be about my Father's business. I stood there remembering the good times with my darling Frances. Then I went back to the privacy of my car, bent over the steering wheel and let the tears fall until there were no more. 

Before leaving the cemetery I visited the grave of our first grandchild, Sean Nathan, Tim and Cheryl's first, who went full term and yet never had the chance to see the light of day. Did you ever cry out "Why, God? Why?" Tim and Cheryl did and Frances and I did. But we are comforted to know that we will soon see a very handsome Sean Nathan over on the other side.

As some of us approach the day of our departure, heaven seems more and more attractive.  We have so many loved ones and friends waiting there! 

Jesus, YOU make the difference!