Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pinocchio and His Maker, Gepetto

Below is a letter I received yesterday from Daniel Peloso.**  

 **Daniel and his wife, Viviana, and family are Argen-tineans and have served as missionaries sent out by our Argentine churches for over 20 years now.  They first served 3 years in Paraguay where they planted a successful church, then 6 years in Venezuela where they pastored a church and helped establish the National Assemblies of God Department of Missions.  Daniel also served for several years as Vice-Director of the National Department of Missions in his home country, promoting World Missions all over Argentina under the excellent leadership of Missionary Brad Walz.  Now for 4½ years they have been missionaries to Costa Rica, where he serves as National Director of World Missions there. 

From the first time he saw Felipe, Daniel says he wanted to become a ventriloquist.  He attended one of our Generation XXI events in the early nineties where I taught short courses on ventriloquism.  He made a cloth puppet and used him in Paraguay.  Years later Missionary Myrna Wilkins purchased two vent figures and gave one to him and the other to his son.  Today Daniel (with his little Pedrito) and his son, Kevin (with his little Samuelito), are both excellent ventriloquists.  He says to tell Felipe that he now has two grandsons!

Now read this letter that I just received from Daniel in Costa Rica yesterday:  You’ll love it.

Hermano Rafael: (Brother Ralph) 

Here is a story that you need to hear:

We were in our final months before leaving Argentina to serve as missionaries to Paraguay.  Our kids were small.  Dana, the oldest, was 5, Camila 3 y Kevin 1.  It was not easy for them.  They could not understand why we had to go live in another country.

One day we purchased them an illustrated book of the story of Pinocchio… how a carpenter, named Gepetto, made a puppet, called him Pinocchio and how he came to life.  They all loved it.  We must have read it to them 100 times and they enjoyed every moment… always asking us to read it to them again and again.    

Then one day you and Frances came to our church in Moron where Mois├ęs Barrientos was our pastor.  Before preaching you took out your little Felipe.  The impact was great on everyone young and old and my kids were fascinated.

After the service I took my 5 year old daughter, Dana, over to where you were standing and told her, “I want you to meet a friend.”  When you looked down at her, I asked her, “Do you know who this is?” 

She answered with no hesitation at all.  “Yes!  He’s Gepetto!”

Now Dana is 24 years old and will be graduating shortly with a degree in psychology.  She is my personal assistant in my office as Director of World Missions for the country of Costa Rica… and together we still all laugh as we remember that night when Felipe y “Gepetto” visited our church.   

We treasure these moments!


PS from me to all you young, single guys out there: Check out this photo of Daniel with his personal secretary, Dana, and then "Go eat your heart out!"


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Missionaries at Play

This past week I was privileged to join our wonderful Argentina missionary team in their yearly meeting.  All the families came from their distant locations to spend three precious days... together with our Area Directors Mike and Dodey Files.  

It was a double blessing as our good friends and former missionaries to Argentina, Paul and Betty Brannan, were visiting.  

Both Mike Files and Paul Brannan challenged us with stirring devotional messages.  And as missionary families, it was good to hear each other's heart-beat and share each other's burdens in prayer.

Saturday we all went to a tourist ranch and enjoyed a special day of fun and entertainment.  Felipe tried his horse riding skills.  In this shot he is saying, "Hey, Look at me! Look at me!"  

I tried my hand as a farmer on the tractor and didn't make the grade.  I'm going to have to go back to preachin'.

There was a feast with lots of delicious BBQ meat and a traditional guacho show with dancers and excellent musicians. 
The lady dancer came down from the platform while the music was going and... Who should she grab to dance with her?  You guessed it! Yours truly!  She soon found out, as a dancer I have two left feet... ha!

Even Felipe got in on the show by popular demand (of our mission-aries). There were tourists present from India, Europe and several other countries. Felipe, of course, did what he does best... sang about Jesus. 

Then we went out for the outdoor show with gauchos on horseback.

One of the most challenging gaucho games is called "La Corrida de Sortija" (The Race of the Wedding Ring).  A ring, the size of a wedding ring is hung loosely on a horizonal pole about ten feet high. The gauchos come at full gallop and with a pencil size device try to snag the ring and win a kiss on the cheek from the girl of his choice.  

They also did the "boleador" thing, showing us how to catch a rhea (Argentine ostrich, much smaller than the African ones.)  

At full speed they swing two of the three leather covered round stones in a circle over their head while holding one in their hand and then throw it.  If successful it wraps around the rhea's legs and ties it up.  In this case the rhea was a fake one just standing there... and he captured it perfectly.  It's got to be much harder I am sure when that bird is running at 40 mph.

In all it was a delightful, cool, sunny autumn day of fun and relaxation.  Thank you, Jesus!


Monday, May 26, 2014


It was exactly 49 years ago today (May 26, 1965) that Frances and I, along with our three little boys, Ronny 10, Timmy 8 and Mikey 6, arrived by ship at the port of Buenos Aires.  

We had ministered in more than 200 churches raising support for our future missionary endeavor.  And we were boosted by these 3 powerful little singers. Then we had spent a year studying Spanish in Costa Rica.
I remember standing way up there on the deck of the ship and looking down at Dick and Sharen Ellis and their 3 boys, Pansy Blossom and Ruth Couchman, and others who were waiting for us on the dock below.  

Back in those days we took slides of everything.  So I am sure I have a picture of that event among my several thousand other slides.

Missionary Pansy Blossom received us and drove us an hour across town to her home in Temperley which she shared with Missionary Ruth Couchman.   We were terrified as she dodged huge busses and trucks coming at us from all angles.  We stayed with them for a few weeks while the house they had rented for us was made ready. 

We soon learned how to walk the mile or so from Pansy and Ruth’s house to the River Platte Bible Institute.  However the streets in Temperley and the adjoining city of Lomas de Zamora where IBRP is located are very deceiving since there are many diagonals.  One day we walked over to the IBRP with our three boys.  

We were probably occupied in sharing in a class or something, when little Mikey decided he would walk back to Aunt Pansy’s house alone.  We knew nothing about this.  He took a wrong turn and ended up crying his heart out standing on a street corner in downtown Lomas de Zamora. 

A kind lady realized that he was lost and asked him where he lived.  All he knew was Pansy Blossom’s name.  This lady looked up Pansy’s number and address in the phone book and took him home. 

This story could have ended in major tragedy were it not for God’s miraculous care.  In those days it was almost impossible to place your name in a phone book.  You had to prove that you were the owner of the property and had to wait for up to 9 years to get a phone installed.  Of all our missionaries at that time, I think Pansy was the only one who was listed in the phone book.

Hey Mike, you could have ended up as Mikey Gonzalez, raised by some Argentine family!  

And we might still be looking for you.  And now, sitting here in Buenos Aires on May 26, 2014… that scary thought just plunged me into a shower of tears. What a cry-baby I am!  I even cry over things that never happened! Ha!

But God was kind to us and kept us together. 

Your loving Daddy,


Friday, May 23, 2014

The Portrait

The service was ended.  Felipe had done his thing, the kids and adults alike had been delighted.  I had finished my message and the time of prayer around the altar had ended.  People were greeting one another.  Someone pushed this little girl’s wheelchair to the front.  With a big smile she handed me a little folded paper.  I glanced at it, gave her a kiss on the cheek, thanked her and posed for this picture with her.

After I got back to my hotel I pulled the folded paper out of my pocket again and looked more closely at her work of art.  Suddenly I realized that this was a portrait of me holding Felipe in my right arm. 
I can clearly make out Felipe’s two eyes and his mouth in a big smile.  My face is not so detailed, but I do have two obvious feet.  Felipe has his two legs too.

A moment ago I called Pastor Esteban Morales to inquire about her.  Her name is Iriel.  Her brain was starved for oxygen at birth.  She speaks some and apparently has limited understanding.  But Jesus loves her just as much as He loves me or any of us and one day in His heaven she will walk and talk and probably sing in God’s choir. 

“Thank you, Darling Iriel, for this portrait of me and Felipe.  I shall cherish it.”

Grandpa Rafael

Monday, May 19, 2014

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Nothing is so much fun as blessing others!  God has set me up for this.  You can’t just make something like this happen.  It’s a God thing.  And I can’t imagine any retirement activity that could be both so entertaining and so fulfilling. 

At this moment I am back in the Buenos Aires area after driving exactly 4,000 miles in a huge circle, ministering a total of 58 times… in tiny fledgling churches, strong booming churches, rented halls, home meetings, kids events, plazas and city parks in eight provinces (like eight states) and in the Federal Capital City of Buenos Aires… and all this in 57 days… averaging one service per day!  Are we having fun yet?! 

And I am not finished yet with this “tour.”  I still have 30 days left to have fun.  I plan to arrive in Modesto June 19. 

Last Saturday was a pretty busy day. Pastor Mario Morana had invited me to teach a one day course to their “Jesus-Sharing-Team” of 80 people of all ages who minister in hospitals, schools, parks, businesses, homes on the street, etc… each one with their specific designation.  (Pastor Mario is one of the boys who received Christ along with his friends in the summer [Jan-Feb] of 1977 where we were preaching a 30 day crusade in a park.  After his graduation from Bible Institute we helped him plant his great Prince of Peace Church.)

So starting at 9:30 AM until noon (with a short break in the middle) I shared some inspirational thoughts with this dedicated team comprised of all ages from youth to seniors.  

Then the team walked about 15 blocks away to Parque Ledesma, a city park where in years past I have publically shared Christ many times.  

It was May 17, a sunny, but cool fall day.  Felipe always attracts a nice crowd that often remains to hear the message of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary to offer us unworthy sinners the free gift of salvation.  I love the gospel of Jesus, because it doesn’t just sound good... it works!  Lives are changed!  Often long-term addicts are set free, sick people are healed and somebody I never saw before starts a brand new life!  I hear about it ten years later!

After praying with the people someone had some happy music coming through the audio system.  I just happened to grab this darling “young” gal with the big smile and we enjoyed a short dance. Now all you sweet widows out there, don’t get worried. It was just a wild fling. I don’t even know her name. Ha.

That same Saturday night I had the privilege of preaching at the 8:30 PM youth service in Pastor Claudio Freidzon’s Rey de Reyes (King of Kings) Church.  As usual there was a long line on the sidewalk waiting for the earlier service to close so they could stream in. One can always sense the presence of the living Christ in their services. 

I challenged the youth with Jesus’ words that have powerfully affected my life: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains sterile.  But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” (John 12:24)  It was around 11 PM when hundreds of youth responded trying to find a place to kneel in prayer to plant the seed of their lives and claim the promise of “much fruit”.

At midnight I set my camera on a shelf and let you all catch me alone in my hotel room enjoying the delicious work of the night chef.

So now go out and share the love of Jesus with someone... and you will have some fun, too. 


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Little Hands

How can this old man maintain a busy schedule, traveling and preaching daily? 

Here is my secret: 

Many times at the close of a service the pastor will invite people to gather around, lay hands on me and pray for me quite like was often done in Bible times. 

Here in Villa Mercedes little hands join bigger ones to pray for me. I think the Lord listens to kid's prayers just as well as adults.

Last night in the city of Rawson, I asked the pastor to have just the children that wanted to do so to come up to lay hands on me to pray for me.  

Some of these kids really know how to pray.

In San Luis (right) everyone fervently joined in this prayer time.

Besides these special occasions, I have special friends scattered around the globe that faithfully pray for me every day. 

Now you know the Source of my strength.

Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)


Monday, May 5, 2014

Too Much!

What can a guy do when something wonderful happens every day?! I am getting dizzy trying to choose which ones to write about.  My last blog was on Saturday April 26. Today is Monday, May 5 and Since then I have driven 503 miles and preached 10 times in 8 different exciting places!  And I will drive to another one this evening and still another every day of this coming week. Every one of these events deserves a separate blog.

Just a couple of highlights:

The San Luis Central AG church was planted by Missionaries Dick and Cynthia Nicholson. I am praying with the kids. Then they left for classes and I ministered to a wonderfully responsive adult audience. The only space left on this Tuesday night was in sections of the balcony! Pastor and Mrs. Fernandez give equal importance to all age groups. This place is hopping with excitement!
Wednesday: April 30; Drive 200 miles to Mendoza Province and preach that night.  Have you ever heard of a "Kids Pijamarama"? It happened Wednesday night April 30 since May 1 was a holiday (no school). The Rivadavia AG church with innovative Pastor Omar Coronel hosted this event and had me preach for the kids and adults. What a blast! The place was filled with adults, youth and kids... and kids... and kids!  And did I mention kids?!

Hey folks, I do not consider myself a kids evangelist, but kids come for Felipe and Perfume and here's the big deal... they bring their parents and sometimes their neighbors!

May 1 and 2, Thursday and Friday were holidays here. Pastor Anselmo Morales arranged for me to drive up into the beautiful Andes Mountains to Cacheuta Hot Springs to preach for their Men's "Hide-Away" Retreat. There were 70 hungry men from five churches... hungry for some fresh bread from heaven. 

I have no words to describe their response at the altar of prayer. I am not into touching people to make them fall under the Spirit although it happens sometimes. But I am into encouraging men and women to voluntarily humble themselves and on their knees before the Lord God of heaven. These are powerful, hard-working men, crying their heart's out in total surrender to Jesus Christ. God touched us all and I ended up also on my knees. 

Heading up to the Andes Mountains retreat.



Sun. April 27 AM Villa Mercedes with Pastor Silvio Coronel
Sun. April 27 PM Villa Mercedez with Pastor Antonio Contreras
Mon. wash clothes and organize future services
Tues. Apr 29 San Luis City Central AG
Wed. Apr 30 Drive 200 miles to Mendoza Province: Rivadavia great church "Kids Pijamarama" sleep-over (May 1 is a Holiday)
May 1 and 2 Thurs.- Frid. Andes Mountains Cacheuta "Hide-Away" Men's Retreat.
May 3 Sat San Martin with Pastor Samuel Coronel 
May 4 Sun AM Guaymallen with Pastor Alberto Marin
May 4 Sun PM Villa Nueva with Pastor Esteban Morales
May 5 Mon Tonight San Martin with Pastor Horacio Costellino 
May 6 Tues Palmira Pastor Abel Coronel
May 7 Wed Start in San Juan Province

Have a great time!