Saturday, June 28, 2014

Help! I Need a Good Car Thief!

It was Father’s Day morning and I preached at Merlo Cathedral of Faith.  It is a relatively new church plant.  The sanctuary is L shaped so the photo shows only part of the congregation.  

Someone, who has a burden for the lost, had gone over near the train station to invite people who may have been living on the street and had brought three of them to the church service... including the lady in the wheel-chair.  

Before my preaching Pastor Eduardo Kaschewski gave a short, but clear salvation message especially for the new visitors and prayed with them.  I believe the lady in a wheel-chair and her two friends were among those that took their first steps toward the Lord.  

I drafted the pastor's wife to hold the suitcase for Perfume and Felipe.  As you can see she was relishing it.

Jesus loves little children.  Me too!

We enjoyed a blessed service with special emphasis on the family! 

At the final invitation I called for each father to bring their wife and children to the front for prayer.  What a beautiful sight!  

Then Pastor Eduardo led the congregation in a special prayer of blessing and protection for me.  The Argentine people are so thoughtful and loving!

At the close of the service so many people swarmed me for prayer, hugs, photos or just to talk… that I never got to greet the new people.  I looked for them, but they had already left when I finally broke free.  

When I drove away… I had only gone a few blocks when I passed them pushing the lady in the wheelchair down the street.  In one of my typical impulsive moves, I parked in front of them, left the car running and jumped out to run back and give them each a hug and the typical kiss on the cheek.  They showed great appreciation… 

But when I went back to my car I found that I was locked out.  The automatic anti-theft locks had set and all doors and all windows were tightly shut. 

I stood there stunned.  It was Sunday, Father’s Day, the first day that Argentina was playing in the World Soccer Cup.  Everyone would be glued to their TVs.  No Argentine lock-smith would come even if I knew one to call.  It’s winter time in Argentina, I had left my jacket inside the car and I was sweaty and cold from preaching.  Now what?  I used to have a second electronic key, but had lost it somewhere a year ago.  (Since then I have found it... Praise the Lord!)

A couple of brothers from the church happened to be walking that way and seeing my predicament went looking for help on foot.  They brought me two nice police women in a patrol car.  Obviously they were as helpless as I was.  Somebody called the pastor who called a mechanic who came with others.  Now here was my car, engine running, surrounded with men and women all trying to figure out how to break in.  I said to someone, “All we need is a good car thief!”  Now that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one.  Somebody got a coat hanger and tried to snag the push-button lock, but this push button is deliberately designed to resist this method.  No hope!  The police ladies apparently called for a backup and two patrolmen soon arrived on the scene.  Now there were two patrol cars, lights flashing… a growing crowd, neighbors looking on and even trying to help… but no solution. 

I was praying in a whisper, but inside I was yelling, “Help me Jesus!  This could take so long I might not be able to get to my afternoon service in another city!”  

Suddenly it dawned on me that because the switch was on and the engine running, the electric windows would work if we just had a way to push the button just inside the door.  So the guys worked the hanger wire down to where the window button was, but it was too flimsy to push it.  Then I noticed that a big police officer was unscrewing my antenna from the roof of my car.  He brought it around and with the help of about three men they worked the antenna through the upper rubber lining around the door while forcing the door out a little with their fingers at the same time.  After about 4 tries the policeman finally pushed the right button and rolled the window down!  Everybody celebrated with a shout.  And I yelled really loud… (down inside), “Thank you, Jesus!”  This policeman had found the perfect tool right on top of my car!  I asked him, “How did you think of this?”  He answered, “I have been a cop for a long time and I’ve learned all the tricks of the car thieves.”  I shook his hand and thanked him, but after he left I wished I had thought to put at least a 100 peso tip in his hand (about $10 US)… but it was too late.  

Well, I was wishing for a “good car thief”… and the Lord did me one notch better… a cop that knew all the car-thieves' tricks!


Saturday, June 21, 2014

From Argentina to California Just in Time for Birthdays

Today, June 21, is my grandson, Evan's 17th birthday!  Parents Tim and Cheryl, and Evan's sister, Michelle, invited me to share the day with them. Michelle is home for the summer after her first year at Azuza Pacific University.  She celebrates her 19th birthday next week.

Starting last year Tim and Cheryl have been hosting two Chinese boys who are attending Modesto Christian School.  Tyler is presently in China during the summer break, but John is still with them for a few more days.

At 9 AM we sat down to enjoy watching World Cup Soccer... Argentina vs Iran.  Argentina is famous for their forward, the feared Leonel Messi.  But repeatedly Argentina missed their shots and Iran did an incredible job of defending their goal and even a couple of times threatened to take the lead.  Finally in the last minutes Messi was able to score and we all shouted in relief for the Argentina's victory!  I could almost hear the Argentines shouting clear up here in California.

Then Evan wanted to show me John's latest acquisition, a high-end remote controlled car.  

We took it to a vacant parking lot. Both John and Evan can control it well. They claim that it can go from 0 to 70 mph in seconds on pavement... Powerful!  

On the raw dirt its wheels were throwing rocks up to 10 feet away.  

It's a man thing.  Everybody knows that men are into powerful stuff. 

From there we all went to the Texas Roadhouse for BBQ ribs... The waiters made Evan sit on a saddle while everybody sang Happy Birthday to him.

Now comes the big news:  Evan is invited to accompany John on his trip back to his home in China and to stay a whole month!  John's parents will take him to visit many of China's wonders including the Great Wall.  Evan and John leave next Wednesday.  It will be Evan's first time away from home for such a long period of time. 

Evan openly displays his love for his parents and his sister.  I have never before seen two siblings so close and loving!  

Mom, Dad, sister and grandpa will all miss Evan greatly... 

He will without doubt enjoy China's many wonders... 

but after a month in Asia, I have a feeling he will know: "There is no place like home!"

Grandpa Ralph

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Jim, My "Kid" in Spearfish, SD

Last night at 1:30 AM I received an unexpected email message from a 70 year old man whom I barely remember… but he tells me that he is my “kid” and I am “his pastor.”  Hey, that captured my attention!

The following are excerpts from his letter:

I'm Jim ____ , I lived in Colfax Ca. back in 59-61.  I was *Mom Perry's "adopted" kid.  I went in the Navy at 17.  I would visit Mom Perry over the years.  She has long passed on and I still miss her.  I can't remember if you knew Brian "Chick" as we called him, Mom's son, he passed away from Lou Garrick's disease 8 Yrs. ago.  I miss him tear ably.  I still talk to his wife and kids along with his sisters. 

I wanted to let you know that I never forgot you and the kind things you did for me.  I still remember the time when I was walking up by the ole bus depot in Colfax, and you stopped the car, full of kids, and ask'd me if I would like to go along with you to the bowling alley in Auburn.  I said that I didn't have any money to go.  You stated that was OK,... and I did go with you and the other kids, and had a wonderful time. 

The other time I remember, was, when for some reason, Wes Scantlan and I entered the Church and you were there.  I have to confess that back then, I didn't really know the meaningful love our Lord gives us.  But Wes knew and was saved right then and there. 

Over the years I had been to just about all the Christian churches and never really understood the love our Lord gives us..... Until yesterday, Father’s Day. 

Below is the E-mail I sent to Chick’s wife Delores, (De) late last night around mid night:

I went to church yesterday at the Assembly of God, here in Spearfish, SD.  They welcomed me.  I told them I was Pastor Hiatt's kid from Colfax, Ca. They didn't seem to know about him... I told them that he was still in South America doing the Lord’s work. 

The Past​or gave out a paperback book called "MAN ALIVE" by Patrick Morley... A very nice Father's day gift, I thought.  After church I stop'd at my favorite Mex. Restaurant on the way home, had my favorite meal​... Got ready to go... a wonderful lady from a Blue Star Family (Military)​... Had paid for my meal because I had on my Veterans Hat.  Never in my life has anyone done that. It was overwhelming for me.
Some very damp eye's came next… another Father's day gift! 

At 9:00 I started reading the book the Pastor had given out..."MAN ALIVE" as a Father's day gift. I had read up to pg. 61 to the "The Prayer of Renewal".  Then the Lord and I had a very long, tearful talk.  I could feel the presence of Chick and Mom Perry were there,​ along with Pastor Hiatt, from Colfax... "They brought me home"... literally.

Now, I knew what Wes Scantlan's tears meant... when I watched him being saved so many years ago in Colfax.  Another Father's Day Gift!  Last night I had the best rest I ever had. 

I can't ​remember what Church you belong to, but tell them to get this book for the men... Chick would have loved this book.  Rest assured, that I will be reading a​nd studying it. 

(End of email to De.)

As I write this e-mail to you, Pastor Hiatt, my eye's tear up as I remember you and your wonderful wife, from what I understand, she also passed on.  I just wanted to let you know this before we pass on.  I'm 70 now, my body's falling apart faster than the VA can fix it.  My mental capacity is failing me also.  That's another story…

I pray this e-mail reaches you intact. 

May our Lord be with you!  One of your Kids,

Jim _______

* (Mom Perry was a member of our Colfax Assembly of God.)

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Happy Father's Day

Let me share with you my letter sent to my three sons today... Father's Day:

Ron, Tim and Mike,

Thank you so much for your good wishes and expressions of love!  I love you and each of your respective wives and my wonderful grandkids... and am proud of each of you.  I would love to be with you all on this special day… but it wasn’t destined to be.

Instead I fully enjoyed a wonderful weekend with some of my spiritual children.  I am too old to beget new babies, but not too old to beget new spiritual children… and I have to tell you that some of the testimonies that these youth are bringing to me are exhilarating indeed! 

Marlene, 21 years old, wrote me her story today.  She was 17 and in high school when during the same month your Mom passed away, her grandfather died and then her grandmother weeks later.  She had been living a typical wild teen-age life, but their death threw her into despair.  On Friday, December 3, 2010 Dan Carnival, Pastor Osvaldo’s son, that you will remember had accompanied his Dad to Mom’s funeral in October of that same year, and who had befriended Marlene in high school, invited her to a leadership meeting where I was preaching that night. 

She now points back to that date for the beginning of a totally new life.  She gives the credit to Mom and to me.  Mom, of course, was already with Jesus.  She says that that night I told the story of Mom’s last days.  She says that if I had preached anything else probably nothing would have touched her.  But Mom’s story made the difference for Marlene… since she was still in deep depression from the loss of her beloved grandparents. Now with a brand new life, she plans to go on to seminary and prepare for mission work in a foreign country.  She is taking a trip to Haiti soon along with a ministry team.  That's Marlene.

Carla also wrote me today with an encouraging testimony.  She is from Chile.  Her parents are pastors and she is preparing for ministry in IBRP where I met her last year.  I had just completed preaching for a chapel service to the student body.  After a time prayer with the students, everyone else had left me to pick up my stuff and load it into my car. But Carla stayed to help me pick up my gear and offered to carry my accordion to the car.  I told her, “That thing is really heavy and the car is parked a long ways away. Here, carry something lighter.”  But she insisted.  At the car she told me how the Lord had touched her in the chapel service and she had a deep desire to serve me in some way.  Now a year later, I was hoping to see Carla again.  I was not disappointed.  She was the first to greet me... with a hug and this time I captured her picture.  She still was wanting to serve me hand and foot… any way she could.  That's Carla.

Here is Ana Lin, 26, who just received her degree as a medical doctor and is doing her residency in a hospital in Buenos Aires.  She heard me speak briefly as she stood among an estimated 90,000 youth last year in River Stadium.  She tells me that she burst into tears that day.  She later searched and found me on Facebook and by email she adopted me as her "father".  She discovered that I, in my many travels, often could not get a WIFI connection.  She purchased a portable USB port modem for me and insists on paying the bill to keep it going even though I begged her to let me pay it.  That's Ana.

Numerous young men have told me similar stories, but these three girls have written their stories to me… and are among many other youth, both men and women that continually bless me with their expressions of love and appreciation.  

Somehow, at this stage on my life, I do not feel threatened by accepting and expressing love for these youth.  I know… and they know that we have no interest other than to be a blessing to one another.   

So here I am far away from "home" having a happy Father’s Day.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Teddy-Bears, Bibles and Hugs

It happened last night.

He was a big, husky man of 35 years or more.  I wish I had thought to take his picture.  He looked tough.  He came to me before service with a hug, like many others.  But this hug was not for me, it was for my wife, Frances.  

He told me he had been a little boy, a pastor’s son.  You see, Frances always tried to bless PKs.  A brother in some church in California made it his ministry to supply her with a wide variety of soft, stuffed animals which she distributed to PKs as we traveled ministering throughout Argentina with our mobile home.  Now this big, rugged stranger hugged me and with teary eyes said, “I still have my Teddy bear!” 

Frances also kept a fresh supply of nice, new Bibles to give to PKs.  We were ministering in a little desert town down south in Patagonia.  I was with her when she asked a 9 year old PK if he owned a Bible.  He had been sitting at the drums practicing when we entered.  He was the official church drummer, and a good one, too.  His response was, “I really don’t have a Bible of my own.  I just get to use some old one that someone has left behind with pages torn or ripped out and the cover is torn off.  I never had my own Bible.”  Frances went out to our STL pickup truck and brought him in a nice new Bible.  He was delighted.  He was still sitting at the drums up front as people started coming in the church door.  Every time someone would come in he would call them by name, hold up his new Bible and yell, “Look, I have a new Bible, all my own!”

Teddy-bears, Bibles and hugs!  When people saw that Frances was quiet and reserved they would ask her what her ministry was.  She always answered, “I hold the suitcase for Ralph’s dummy, Felipe.”  True, Frances didn’t preach much, although whenever she did, she did a great job at it.  Hers was a ministry of love.  She loved me… even sometimes when I was a jerk… and kept me alive and sane.  She loved her sons and grandkids.  She loved little Argentine children… and she loved young PKs.

I wonder if she is going around giving away soft, fluffy teddy-bears in heaven.


Friday, June 6, 2014

35 Year Gap

This morning, Friday, June 6, I ministered in 3 back to back services in Martinez Family Christian Center's School. (Great church and school founded by Missionary Donald Exley).  

At 8:30 I had the 3 to 5 year olds. 

At 10 AM I had the 6 through 8 year old kids.

And at 11:40 AM the 9 through 11 year olds.  

I tried to adapt my message to each age group using three different presentations.  I admit I was challenged.  With about 60 kids in each of these age groups there are always a few that distract the others making it difficult for them to focus clearly on the message.

At the close, Debora, with the colorful dress, the lady pastor that serves as spiritual caretaker for the school, pulled me aside to tell me that she and her companion teacher, (seen here taking a picture) are over 40 years old now and were both saved under Frances and my ministry with Felipe in Missionette camps when they were about 8 years old.  

That represents about a 35 year gap between ministry effort and witnessing the results. Oh! But it is worth it! It would be worth it if only one of these beautiful children hugs my neck one day inside heaven’s gates.

Sometimes one thinks that due to distractions nobody is getting the message, then 35 years later you see that all our efforts were not in vain.  Debora, whose task is to facilitate each child’s growth spiritually and emotionally, told me that many of these children suffer severe trauma from broken and abusive homes. 


PS. I have about 3 hours of teaching "world missions" in an extension Bible School tomorrow morning to 90 students, plus a service tomorrow night, followed by Sunday AM in a relatively new church and PM in still another.  I request your prayer covering for this very active weekend.

Remember When...

Let me share with you this testimony that I just received via email. The baptismal photos include young Pastor Jose Manuel Carlos whom we had recently installed as the new pastor of La Boca church in late 1976.  Many young men and women in their mid and late teens were baptized that same day, May 1, 1977… results of 30 days of ministry in an open city park.  Some are now pastors of great mega-churches.  

Here is Graciela's encouraging email (Translated into English by my friend, Heidi Greissmann).

Dear Pastor Ralph:

Today, I remember you in a very special way, since 37 years ago you baptized me as a result of a very successful evangelistic crusade in the plaza Islas Malvinas in La Boca.  
Every year when the 1st of May comes around I remember my baptism (photo on right) and specially you, since I told you in the month of December when I saw you for the anniversary of the La Boca church, you always will be my pastor and you will always hold a very special place in my heart.  

What would have been my life if I had not heard you preach that summer night of 1977? 

Today, after these many years, I know that the LORD used you so that my mother and I came to the knowledge of Jesus our LORD and Savior. (Photo: Baptizing Graciela's mother) 

Thank you dear Pastor for giving us your love and for being an example with your life for all of us.  
At the present my husband and I attend the church in La Plata, in the church of Pastor Zucarelli.  I would love it if you could come some day and visit us!   

I attach  here a photo of my baptism. May the LORD keep blessing  you like He has done till now and much more. 
With all my love, 

Graciela Leguizamón.  

Note: I answered Graciela and requested this photo of her and her husband to include in this blog.  She included the above photo of her mother’s baptism, too.  Her mother is now with Christ.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

“Angie” the Cat

The most unlikely events can be used by God.  

Angie is a beautiful cat.  She belongs to Martha who lives across the street from Pastor Zara in the city of Henderson, Argentina.  

Pastor and Mrs Zara are well known and loved by practically everyone.  

Their beautiful church planted early in last century is said to be the second AG church ever founded in Argentina.  It was packed with 500 faithfuls last Sunday night and has obviously made a powerful impact on this small town. 

Here are the Zaras with their daughter. Mrs. Zara is a great cook.  I sat at their table today, enjoying a marvelous homemade lunch. 

At the table the conversation went to their neighbor, Martha, because for four days now, her beloved cat, Angie, had been stuck 35 feet high in a tree in Pastor Zara’s yard. Poor Martha had called and called to her for four days... even going out to try it in the middle of the night, but Angie the cat would not try to come down and seemed doomed to die up there.  

Pastor and Mrs. Zara had previously felt rejection so strongly by their neighbor, Martha, that they had given up on trying to make friends with her.  I encouraged them to try again because “Martha needs the Lord, too.”  And I even prayed to that effect.

Then, like a typical Hiatt, I decided to stick my nose in this “none of my business.”  We were still at the dinner table.  First I asked Pastor Zara if he would shut in their three dogs… one of which had apparently “treed” the cat in the first place.  Then with the pastor’s permission I crossed the street and knocked on Martha’s door, told her that the pastor’s dogs were locked inside and perhaps her cat, Angie, might respond to her calls and descend now.  She came over below the tree and pleaded with Angie, but obviously Angie was terrified and was not coming down.

Someone called the volunteer fire department and a fire truck with three fire men came to the rescue. (That is Martha's little flat-roofed house across the street.) But this is not a city with tall buildings, so they did not have a 40 foot ladder available to reach Angie.  By now the neighbors were standing around discussing the problem and a fireman was up in the tree cutting off dead limbs, but with absolutely no hope of approaching Angie who was swinging back and forth in the breeze in the extreme top.  All of us were offering our “wise counsel” to the frustrated firemen. 

Martha was terrified thinking that with all this rumpus her beloved cat might fall to her death.  She told me that an acquaintance had witnessed his cat fall to its death in a similar situation when firemen sprayed it with water.  

Now, in the middle of this stressful time, with a fireman in the tree and limbs crashing to the ground… I observed something and believed God was secretly at work.  Angie, the cat high in the tree, had brought the pastor, his wife and their daughter, (nicknamed... would you believe "Kittie"?) to discuss this situation together with Martha. Down inside I was smiling, because I was witnessing that icy communication barrier starting to melt before my eyes. And I'm praying that it was broken down… forever.

Finally the electric company brought out their truck with a 40 foot elevator.  A fireman in the box almost had Angie in his hands when she leaped to another section of the tree.    

After moving the truck with the elevator to a neighbor’s driveway and an hour or more of effort, Angie was finally within the reach of the fireman in the elevated box once again.  He reach out to retrieve her, but she leaped again and this time fell almost at my feet… landing like cat’s do, on all fours… and she ran away down the street like a streak... with Martha calling and running after her. 

Then I saw it happen from a block away.  A large black dog came out of nowhere and ran after the cat… Oh! Suddenly now there were two dogs!  The large black dog trapped Angie in someone’s yard, grabbed her in his jaws and carried her to the sidewalk where he set the dazed cat down… unhurt, almost at Martha’s feet.  She scooped her beloved Angie up into her arms and carried her home.

We all realized that without the inter-vention of that black dog, Angie would never have been seen again alive.  Many dogs run loose in the cities of Argentina and a loose cat without a tree doesn’t have a chance.  

How many big, black dogs do you know that might catch a fleeing cat in its powerful jaws and bring it near to its mistress and set it down uninjured?

Angie is resting safely inside her house tonight after drinking lots of warm milk and water.  

And I am naive enough to believe that God has used a cat named Angie to break down a communication barrier that will hopefully very soon result in the miraculous conversion of a neighbor named Martha.  Will you help me pray to that end?

At my request the Heroes posed for their picture.

Can you see that car coming with headlights on way down that street? That's where I saw the black dog chasing Angie, the cat.
Good days sometimes end with a beautiful sunset. This one did anyway.