Sunday, October 19, 2014

Comfort, Hope, Strength, Memories and the Reward

Francisco Buono just passed away two weeks ago.  He was a teenage boy in 1966 when I was preaching in this city of Cordoba, north central Argentina.  A teen-age girl had invited him to come hear the Hawaiian guitar.  Many years later he told me what I had preached that night.  He never forgot.  He gave his life to Christ the first time he had ever been in an evangelical church.  Francisco, we all called him Pancho, studied in Bible School and became an effective evangelist and communicator of the Word.  For years he travel extensively through several countries in evangelistic crusades and learned to preach in English while ministering throughout the USA.  He then went back to the neighborhood where he had grown up in this great city of Cordoba, Argentina and started a church.  His church grew strong and he started a Christian School.  In spite of a deadly disease, Pancho worked faithfully as a pastor and as the Superintendent of the central district of the Assemblies of God with hundreds of churches.  He never complained about his pain and although he knew that he was leaving soon, he was always up-beat and encouraging to others.  Now he is in heaven.  “Comforting!
His great church sent numerous young people out to start new churches in the barrios.  I visited one of those churches last night, Wednesday.  

It is not a large church, but by starting time, 8:30 PM, all the chairs were filled with people excited about Jesus. 

 After entertaining the children and adults with Perfume and Felipe, I preached the Word.

At the close, many responded kneeling, to dedicate themselves to fulfill God’s plan for their lives.  I prayed with the little kids who were saying “Yes” to God’s will.  Jesus was saying, “There is hope for the future!”
At 10:45 PM I was sitting in a chair on the front row bent forward in silent prayer, while many were still kneeling.  Then I felt little hands on my back and heard little voices praying for me. 

Pretty soon I was buried in a huddle of little pray-ers.  I opened my eyes for a moment and looked at the circle of little feet on the floor.   Little hands, little feet and little voices were bearing me up in their prayers.  God was listening.  I needed that!  

What darling kids!  “Strength for another day!”

I got back to my bed-room at the Cordoba Bible School after midnight and was in bed by 1:30 AM.  My alarm rang at 5:45 AM as I had an 8 AM schedule meeting with 500 eager school kids at William Morris Christian elementary school.  I ministered here in 2011 and they haven’t forgotten. 

This morning Felipe quoted a memory verse and sang, “There is Life, there is Life in Jesus.”  The children were orderly and very responsive. 

Then I did it all over again for 60 darling Kindergarten kids.   

When I arrived at the school earlier this morning one of the teachers came rushing to hug my neck.  She was a 5 year old deacon’s daughter back in 1967.  Frances and I slept overnight many times in her parent’s crowded tiny humble house with our three little boys and their four kids.  Over 45 years ago I taught her to say her only English words, “Eenee meenee miney moe.  Catch a monkey by his toe.  If he hollers let him go.  Eenee meenee miney moe.”  20 years later she quoted it to me perfectly.  This morning the chapel service was over and she whizzed by me to hurry to her classroom of kids.  I whispered in her ear as she passed, “Eenee meenee minie mo” and she giggled.  “Memories!”

Tonight I will minister to the students of the Cordoba Bible Institute known as the Instituto BĂ­blico Mediterraneo or IBM.  At our table at lunch two ministry students introduced themselves as from churches we had helped to plant, one from San Juan northern Argentina 370 miles to the west over against the Andes mountains… the other from Puerto Deseado 1,430 miles south on the Atlantic coast.  Both are really sharp students preparing to serve the Lord however He chooses.  “Rewarding!”  

Tomorrow I leave for ministry in Catamarca, 290 miles to the northwest.


Felipe in Public Schools

Miramar is a lovely vacation city on the southern Atlantic coast.  Frances and I have dear friends there, Pablo and Miriam Ruppel, who serve as pastors of the local Assemblies of God church.  This church has a history of involvement in the community.  They do yearly special events for some of the public schools with puppets, dances, drama and a wholesome Christian message.  They have blessed at least one of the grade schools located about 20 miles out in the country, by collecting large quantities of scholastic supplies and food items for the students.  Their active involvement has earned for them the trust of the leadership in these schools. 

So when the Ruppels heard that I was coming to their town for just Wednesday and until Thursday noon, they scheduled me to minister with Felipe in three of these schools. 

From the first to the last this was a exhilarating experience.  

Dario, a young man with a winning smile who is studying for a teaching degree and seems to know everybody in town, was assigned as my guide.   

Our first school gave us the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades.  They wanted to keep the group small enough to keep excellent order.  Dario helped me with everything, including holding Felipe’s case.  I let the front row pet Perfume and had Felipe sing and tell the story about blind Bartemeaus. 

The school kitchen was next to the room we were using.  I noticed the cooks peeking through the curtains to get a glimpse of Felipe. 

We sang “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  I had written on the chalkboard Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12   We read it aloud together then we said it again and again as I erased words.  In about 7 minutes the entire class was repeating this verse by memory with only a few scattered words still on the board.  Then I had volunteers say it perfectly all by themselves… and everyone applauded them. 

I talked to them about the two spiritual kingdoms: light and darkness.  And explained that since Jesus is the light of the world, if we follow Him, he promises to light up our lives.  I warned them about how we are surrounded by people who walk in darkness.  They will urge you to follow them by sneaking off somewhere to try drugs, smoking, sex and liquor.  The enemy of our souls wants to plunge us into darkness.  If we follow Jesus, He promises to give us the Light of Life.  And again we sang “I have decided to follow Jesus.”  I closed with a fervent prayer, asking God to convince every child there to truly follow Jesus. 
As the classes filed out, a group of kids closed in around Dario and me.   We shot their picture.

I had left a few isolated words from the memory verse on the blackboard.  I was busy receiving hugs when I noticed that one little girl was filling in the whole verse by memory. 

Then another girl begged to erase it all and write it all herself by memory.  She did it without missing a beat!   I repeated this basic message in each of the other two schools, adjusting to the age levels. 

Wednesday evening at church time we had a very heavy rain storm, but still a good group gathered. 

And what a service we had!  God just broke open the “alabaster box” and filled the place with His presence!  Oh!  How I love You, Jesus!  I had to walk in rain water two inches deep to get to my car and was soaked to the skin under the driving rain after loading my instruments and Felipe.

Thursday morning Dario and I did the final public school event out in the country. 

What a beautiful atmosphere in this little humble public school!  English is taught from 1st grade.   I told the teachers if I had kids I would send them to this school. 

That afternoon I drove one hour north along the stormy coast toward Mar del Plata to an area on the coast call Playa La Serena (The Serene Beach) to minister in a new little church in a humble neighborhood that night.  My dear friends, Juan Domingo and Teresa Romero, are planting a church here.  It was pouring rain again and the unpaved streets were deep mud.  My faithful little diesel car plunged into mud-holes that took me scooting sideways and every way, but we always came out on the other side. 

In 1977 the Romeros helped Frances and me start a church in a suburb of Buenos Aires with a group of drug addicts.  Since then they have held great evangelistic, healing crusades in many countries in the Americas (including the USA) and Europe.  Now here they are in a humble rural neighborhood starting a new church!  You gotta love this kind of people.  They have built a small hall and even though people had to come trudging through mud in pouring rain… the place was filled to capacity. 

It was very cold and there is no heat.  

Several pastors from other areas had brought their people, too.  Oh!  What a blessed service!  God is up to something good and he lets me in on bits and pieces of it. 

At midnight we sat by a crackling fire in a humble little house belonging to the next-door neighbors.  We talked over old memories and new plans with the pastors (Teresa in white and Juan Domingo on the right), as we enjoyed a home cooked meal of raviolis and meat.  I was back in my hotel at 2 AM.   Today, Friday, I drove the 6 hours back to the Buenos Aires area where I have six ministry events scheduled for this weekend (including Monday a holiday).

You have just witnessed two days of this week’s activities.  This weekend I have six wonderful events scheduled. 


Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Tiny Torch

At 8:30 AM this morning I ministered at the chapel of the Rey de Reyes Elementary School (K through 7th grades).  I was in heaven!   
Felipe told a Bible story about a man that lived in darkness until Jesus came by on the road where he was begging… and lighted up his life.  

These have to be among the sweetest and most attentive kids ever.  They sang “I Have  Decided to Follow Jesus” (in Spanish, of course) with gusto.  Then I helped them memorize my text John 8:12 “Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  

I told them several stories about light and darkness and then produced my “tiny torch” so they would not forget it.  I challenged them to make a clear cut decision to follow Jesus and they would have the Light of Life with them all through their future so that they will not stumble into bad decisions in this dark world.  God was there!  The atmosphere was literally charged with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I felt that many of them prayed sincerely for the Lord Jesus to “light up their life” forever. 

After the service some of the kids wanted to examine my little torch.  Some wanted to put their fingers in the flame to see if it was really hot

Then came the hugs… lots of hugs…

They were waiting in line to give me their hugs.  Welcome to Argentine love!  I was smothered in it!

From there I drove to the King’s Castle headquarters to enjoy a home cooked lunch with some of the Castle leadership.  Shari Babcock can cook up a healthy, delicious dinner for more than a dozen hungry youth in record time.  Record time?  Well, she may have slaved for hours.  How should I know?  I just sat down and the food appeared. Complete with cake! 

Some of these Castle Leaders had never seen Felipe… So Perfume and Felipe appeared for questions and answers.  Felipe’s answers require a lot of corrections, but we got through it.  I laughed more than anybody at his craziness.  I finally fought him into his case… and then came more serious questions and answers.  God is raising up these leaders that Kim and Shari Babcock are mentoring.  Then these, in turn, are raising up hundreds of teenagers all over Argentina, forming a literal army of dedicated young evangelists sharing one on one or preaching publically on the streets, in the parks, wherever.

Where are your teens today?