Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"...we know that all things work together for good..."

This past Sunday morning we left for church or I should say churches. (I preach at two churches each Sunday.) We were only about five minutes down the road when my tire went flat and a horrible noise started coming from the back end! I turned around, went back to the house, changed clothes, and began to work on the vehicle. It was only 8:30am and it was already very hot! I discovered three of the four bushings went out on the rear equalizer/stabilizer bar! (How that happened all at once is beyond me.) I would not be able to use my Land Cruiser.

All was not lost, though, as I still have my old white truck. I only use the truck for short distances because the tires are completely bald, and I only have one spare. (One needs two or three spares here because of the condition of the road.) Also, the white truck needed fuel if I was going to take it all the way to Kudukudu for church. I managed to find some diesel in a container I have, and it did have enough to get me to the village and back. Even though the distance worried me with the tires, I decided to go ahead and use the white truck since the Lord did provide us with enough fuel. I took another shower and then we prayed and asked the Lord to watch over us, especially our tire situation. Keep in mind if we end up with two flats, which is common, we are stuck! There is no AAA to call or Goodyear store to go to.

By the time we got on the road, it was already too late for me to preach at the first church in Sohun. They would still have preaching, though, as a man I have been training in the Bible college is doing the work of pastor at that church. I knew I would be very late for the work in Kudkudu, but I was confident I could make it before any one started leaving. I still pastor this work, as I do not have a man ready to be pastor there yet. The trip was going fine until about 3 or 4 miles from the church. We heard a big BOOM, and I knew a tire just went out! (I have attached a picture of the tire.) Since we were just a few miles from the church, I changed the tire and then as we left, the truck started experiencing some fuel problems. Thankfully, it did not die. It was probably some bad fuel from my container. At that time, a man came out from the bush down to the road, and he was headed to the river to wash. This was Steven. About four years earlier, he came to church for about three or four Sundays, but he had not come back to church since then. When he saw me, and noticed I was in the white truck, he decided jump in the back and go to church instead of the river. We made it to church without any further delay, and no one had left yet! We had three visitors, including Steven. We had a very good service. I am preaching through Matthew and I was starting the Sermon on the Mount. I preached from the first 12 verses from Matthew 5 on how to truly be a blessed man. I showed how the verses are like steps which lead to salvation and then steps of what comes after salvation. After the preaching, three people asked for prayer concerning salvation. One of those three, then put his hand up to signify he wanted me to talk with him about salvation. That man was Steven! I took him aside and explained the gospel to him, and he put his faith in Jesus Christ for salvation! Steven left his house that morning to go to the river to get his body cleaned. Instead, the Lord took over and he went to church and received the “washing of regeneration”; his sins washed away!

Afterwards, we talked about all that God had done so he could hear the gospel that day! I told him all the trouble I had in getting to church: from tire problems, bushing problems, having to switch vehicles, etc… The fact was, without all of those hold-ups, I would not have been there on the road the moment he came out from the bush to go the river. Also, had I not been in my white truck he would not have stopped me and said he now wants to go to church with me. All that “trouble” I had was just the Lord putting things together because He loved this man and wanted him to hear the gospel! How true the verse is “…all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.”!!!

By the way, I made it all the way back home with no problems, even though I only had one good tire, three completely bald tires, and no spare on a very rough road! Amen!!!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Working All The Bugs Out

Having a church service in the jungle leads to interesting things happening. Our church is only about 40 yards from the ocean and we have no walls. Now, by this I do not mean we have no doctrinal “walls”, we most certainly do as does any true church of our Lord. I mean we literally have no walls! While preaching a few years ago, several dolphins came up to the shore and stayed there listening. I think they thought I was a great preacher! I have had a crab crawl up on me, and I have swallowed many bugs while preaching. I am just trying to be more like John the Baptist. :) I have even had to remove rhinoceros beetles from my girl’s hair during services! Those things are mean and big!

This last Sunday we had another incident. I was leading singing, and things were pretty normal, including my pathetic singing voice. Mariann was sitting in the front pew with the girls. All of the sudden, Mariann threw her song book backwards, hitting a lady four pews behind her! No kidding! (Thank goodness it was not a visitor!) She then stood up quickly and started heading to the back of the church. I thought my wife just went charismatic or perhaps she could no longer stand my great singing voice. She then returned to her seat telling me she was fine.

After finishing the song, I asked what happened. A grasshopper had jumped onto her song book scaring her, and caused her to throw the book! It was all she could do not to scream. Now this type of grasshopper is not like the ones in the States. I used to catch grasshoppers in my hand all the time as a boy. This type of grasshopper you don’t go near! It bites, and it hurts! When I first saw one, I did not even know what it was. It was large and looked mean. I was told it was a grasshopper and told to stay away from it because of its bite. I do not think it is poisonous; I believe it just hurts. So when a critter like this jumps in your song book during church it is not easy to remain all pious and church-like. Sometimes you just have to throw your song book without regard to who it will hit! Once we worked all the bugs out we continued with our service!

For the next song we sang, "When I see the bug, I will throw the book over you." :)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Doritos Story!

When my family and I first arrived on the mission field in 2003 life was much more difficult than we thought it would be. We were well aware, when we arrived on the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea, our life would become very challenging. My wife and I both came here for a survey trip. (As a side note, this survey trip was not to determine if this is where God wanted us, as is too often the case today, but to get acquainted with where God had called us to.) During the survey trip we recognized many of the challenges we would face, but it is something different when you arrive in a place like this and you do not have a return ticket in your pocket!

When we arrived we found ourselves without electricity, water, and in a culture vastly different then what we were accustomed to. We thought we would have 12 hours of power each day, as it was during our survey trip, but that changed by the time we arrived on the field. The place we made arrangements to live in had a water tank (our source of water is rain water), but we were not told it leaked, and was completely empty. We did not even know where there was a river for us to get water and wash. Needless to say, we all experienced culture shock! After a few weeks I did purchase a generator, and the owner of the place where we were staying purchased a small water tank, so we had running water in the house.

After four months, we were still figuring out how to survive in this environment. We had the help from a small mission work I was working with, and those people really looked after us and helped us. By March, we had our first of what would be many run-ins with Malaria. I was the first to get it, and it was very severe. I thought I was dying. We battled rats in the house and had confrontations with them nightly. (I have many rat stories!) I was not getting anything accomplished with language study or ministry-wise. I was just trying to get by. Then one day my entire perception changed, all because of a bag of Doritos!

About six months into our time here I went to our small trade store to pick up a few things. This store would be smaller than the convenience stores in the U.S. and not a quarter of the selection. We can get basic things there though, for which we are thankful. I just walked in, and as I passed by an aisle I noticed something. I quickly went down the aisle, and behold there was one small bag of Doritos! (As many of my friends and family know, Doritos are my favorite snack food.) I was shocked, stunned, surprised, and thrilled. There is nothing in this store from the States, and I mean nothing! I bought the bag and quickly walked back to our house, and Mariann was sitting outside. I hid the Doritos behind my back so she could not see them. I approached her and asked, “What is my favorite snack? She replied, “Doritos!” I then threw the bag on the table in front of her. (Our kitchen and dining room were outside at this time.) She was shocked as well. We both stood there amazed at this bag of Doritos! I was thrilled. I did not even want to eat it. I then returned to the store to talk with the owner of the trade store, who by this time was my friend. I asked if he had more of these, and he said yes. He told me he had one case of Doritos that came in. One case! I bought the whole case!
The trade store owner did not “order” a case of Doritos; they just came in with his other food items. The trade store has never again carried Doritos, but I knew exactly why that one case of Doritos arrived. Why? Because I knew when I saw the lone bag of Doritos on the shelf, it was the Lord telling me, “I know right where you are. I am here.” There is not a doubt in mind those Doritos were there for me and my family. The bag of Doritos did not change my circumstances one bit, but it did change my view of my circumstances. I learned how to have joy in the midst of hard times.

Oh how we need to heed the lesson of keeping our eyes on God and not on circumstances! It truly does change everything, even if nothing changes!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Fathers Day Present.

From time to time I would like to write about different occasions where God answered my prayers. I will start with one my favorites in May/June of 1993. I was still in the Air Force stationed at Holloman AFB. I was very active in the ministry at Berean Independent Baptist Church. About one month before Fathers day, I was looking through my closet, and noticed I did not own a single suit. I had mix matches of jackets and trousers, mostly thrift shop items. As I stood there I asked the Lord for a suit, and then asked that I have it by Fathers Day in June. I was not demanding of the Lord, as if he owed me anything, but asked as a child would humbly ask his Dad.

I arrived for visitation /soul winning at church on Tuesday night, 5 days before Fathers day, and still no suit. As I pulled in, our song leader, Earl Faulkner, pulled in beside me. He said he had something for me and he went to the back of his car to get it. He pulled out a suit! I was thrilled and could hardly believe it. There was still a problem though: This suit used to belong to him, and we were not nearly the same size. I weighed 140 pounds fully clothed, at least 20 pounds lighter than Earl Faulkner, and I was shorter. The next day I took the suit to a tailor to have it fitted to me. The tailor called that Saturday and said the suit was ready. It was now the day before Fathers Day, and the suit was ready! However, there was still one more problem. The tailor said the price was $50, for all the work she did, and she did have a lot of work! I did not have $50 to give her, so I could not go and pick up the suit. Of course, the Lord already knew I did not have the money and He was already working.

Later on that day the mail arrived, and I had a card from my Mother in Ohio. I opened the card up and there was a $50 bill inside! I stood there amazed at all the Lord did from a simple prayer made while I was looking at my closet. Needless to say I quickly went to the tailor and picked up my suit, which I wore to church the next day, Fathers Day!

That Fathers Day was a special one for me; not because of me being a father, but because of my Father in Heaven, who always shows such grace and mercy. How true is the saying from the book of Matthew, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A New Year!

A new year is now here! New Year is a time when many set as a time to start afresh, to begin anew, a time to make resolutions on improving ourselves. Many people will set out this New Year seeking change for their life, but the fact is most will fail, while few will succeed. I wonder how many times I have been asked or have heard people ask, "Can I change?" When I hear this question, often what comes to mind are the words of Jesus Christ, "The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak." Let's face it, in and of ourselves, it is hard to change. All of us, at one time or another has struggled with attempting to change.

The key to real change lies in God and not in our own strength. All the power to change is there: The power to turn a drunkard into a deacon; the power to turn a prostitute into pious person; the power to turn a struggling person to a rock. The problem lies not in God unwilling to supply the power we need, but in our willingness to humble and submit ourselves before Him. The fact is, the biggest item we need to change about ourselves is not our weight, or bad habits, but our selfishness, and lack of desire to lose our life for Christ. In our desire and submission to Him we find the power to truly change. May we say as the Apostle Paul did, "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain."