Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Word and Connection

I was reading in the Open Door daily devotions yesterday morning and fell on the story of Peter in the city of Joppa. This experience opened Peter up to the possibility that there were more people that Jesus wanted to reach than just those he had envisioned in his small but visionary mind. You can read the whole story in Acts 11:1-18.

Remember, this is Peter, one of the inside guys Jesus entrusted the future of the whole church to. Peter had many other encounters in the journey that continued to shape who He thought God was and how He thought God works.

We have the same thing happen to us. We meet someone in the grocery store and end up being fast friends just because we shared something about bread or cheese. We have a dream and the next day live out what we saw the night before. We avoid a certain route out of a hunch, only to read that a terrible accident happened and we were spared. Those things really do happen,

God uses all kinds of avenues to get our attention if we will recognize Him in the middle of the experience. Look at Peter again in verses 11-15 where three men came to visit him. It says that “The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them.” Peter was already tuned into the Spirit’s frequency; he recognized the voice of God amidst what seemed to be an interruption of his day. In reality, it was the very pathway that God used to make an interruption an opportunity for Peter and this group from Joppa.

We often get stuck in our routines. We allow the everyday stuff to crowd out what God wants to show us in the midst of that “same old, same old.” Peter reasoned in verse 17 that “God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” That gift is not an “it,” it’s a “who.”

He is the Holy Spirit who we often see as the backseat driver in the relationship we have with the triune God. He is in reality, the closest we will ever get to God this side of heaven. The Holy Spirit enables us to be empowered to trust when we hear or sense something we are supposed to do. He confirms in our spirit the right way to relate to others and when we need to forgive or be forgiven. He gives us new insights as we read the Bible and brings those verses to mind at just the right time, kind of like Peter in verse 16. Even Peter needed to recall what was said (and is now recorded for us) to move forward in his journey with the living Christ.

Make no mistake, God has a word for you…it starts by reading His Word, the Bible, so that you can recognize it is God speaking to you, not a grand idea of your own concoction. Pick a translation; use a couple different ones to get the full breadth of a passage. I enjoy TNIV, The Message and New Living Translations. Dive in to devotions today. Get connected, and take the next step on your Holy Spirit led journey!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Called to amazing love

I can't get them out of my mind...Ivo, Mariales, Jeni, Irvin, Evelyne, Ruby, Jose, Eddy, Claudia...and so many others. They are in my thoughts all of the time. I just looked at the hundreds of photos that were taken of these sweet friends and the things that we did together in El Salvador.

It seems surreal, and yet it seems as real as the computer I type on now. They live across the ocean, but they are as close as Facebook and my memory. They live such simple lives, unhampered by the gadgets and stuff that often weighs me (and some of you) down. They are on fire for God, some in countries that are not their native land, yet they serve and give out of love for the same God I serve, that you serve.

We are called to love people, to extend our boundaries to encompass another culture, another neighborhood, another family, another person. To love them with the love that is so far beyond ourselves that we would be fools to think it wasn't anything less that Christ that makes it all possible.

That kind of love gives us wild ideas like leaving family for a week to go to a country so different from the one where we live. That kind of love asks us to stop for a man with a flat tire to help him fix it and then bless him with money to feed his humgry child. That kind of love puts muscle and grit behind a sledge hammer to renovate rooms so that expansion can take place for more kids to come to know Jesus.

That kind of love is the kind of love I want to demonstrate...not to get noticed, or to make a new friend, or to feed my need for approval. Oh no, I want my love to be an offering to the only God who deserves praise from this fault-filled sinner saved by His amazing grace. That grace is what feeds my love for others, it sustains me when I need to keep loving. Maybe that's why it's called amazing love, amazing grace.

Monday, June 28, 2010


It has been exciting to share so many stories with you about the El Salvador trip. Each of the 17 teammates of mine has a plethora of stories to share of lives changes, tasks finished, much accomplished.

We slogged through the mud to see how much of the home our teammates were working on is completed. We were greeted by a mother whose 8 month old daughter rode on her hip. This girl is one of the reasons Pastor Ivo selected this loving family to benefit from our work. At 8 months, she is only 11 pounds. She has an infection inside that contributes to her lack of stature. But she is absolutely gorgeous--curly dark hair, chocolate brown eyes and olive skin. We all wanted to take her home with us!

With a pick axe in hand, her brother who was 6 or 7, dug out the mucky ground where the foundation eventually was laid. The guys marveled at this little worker and his ability to split a brach in two with a machete. No nintendo for him; oh no, he's gone on to much greater things.

Though we have left El Salvador, we are doing the same...going on to much greater things. Don't be surprised if you hear about them in Life Groups, in the hallways of our campus, in a letter or two from those you may have supported by prayer or monetetarily. We sense God's hand on us to serve out of the overflow that He has provided for us. We have enough resources to continue the work that has begun in El Salvador as well as the work we are doing here.

We have discovered the secret of the Body of Christ: together, with prayer and the gifts and abilites God has given us, we achieve more. We can TEAM up and make great strides for the Lord right here in our region. This includes the upcoming Family Fair hosted at four sites in Elyria on August 14th to help children go back to school equipped to the virtual "barnraising" that will happen throughout the summer. There are lots of places for each of us to jump in and be involved.

Will you continue to pray that our transition back to our routines and obligations will be good. We don't want to miss a beat, but we want to be right where God can use us the most. I think it was Mother Theresa who said that small things done with great love change the world. We have experienced that first hand. We hope that you will join us here in Elyria as we change our world for Christ.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A History Lesson

Today we enjoyed a bit of history with our translators and hosts here in El Salvador. After putting in a full week of work, we headed off to Chalchuapa to visit the Mayan Pyramid. It was eerie to stand at the top of altars built for human sacrifices high above the ground. Thinking of the loss of life large enough for blood to fill the stone basins staggered our minds. It is almost incomprehensible.

After touring the museum rich in artifacts and information, it was off to San Salvador to shop in the local shops for some El Salvadorian treasures. If it wasn´t for help with translation, I am sure I would have still been trying to make a purchase. So much to choose from, so little time!

Tomorrow we will see the house we helped build, but not quite finish. The men from the church here, GCLA, will complete what we started. It is a partnership that will result in great results. That house will give a family from Pastor Ivo´s church a new start, a place to make their own family history.

Every day the father of two dug out earth, moved boulders and bags of cement (100 pounds in each bag on each shoulder), cut steel and painted with a group of men and women from team. They all laughed at Pastor Dan´s goofy straw hat, and used muscles they didn´t know they had. But what a sense of accomplishment! So many miracles have occured throughout this trip, all for God´s glory!!

Tonight our hosts have prepared a farewell dinner as we share one more evening with them. We will miss these friends who have served us and who we have served alongside all week. They are humble people who work so hard, who give so much, who ask so little for themselves. They embody Christ in the many ways they show their love, so selfless.

So today´s word is history, historia. Not only have created personal history in a country most of us had never visited, but we have been a part of history in this church. What intersections have happened here between the team, Pastor Ivo and his staff and helpers, the local people we shared life with have been significant. So significant that our lives have been changed.

We indeed have not only been a part of history, but also a part of His Story,
La historia de dios, written on the hearts of all of us. We can´t thank you enough for your prayers and continued support!! Adios, amigos. We´ll see you en ustados unidos soon. Dios te bendiga! (God bless you!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Calor....need I say more?

Calor. That is definitely the word for today. When our clothes stick to us, sweat is dripping off our brows, we consume more water than a herd of camels, and you don´t even have to move to get warm, it is calor...HOT! "Eso es caliente" is what my new friends tell me to write as I sit here with them at the computers.

It has been a productive day at the church. We saw a total of 180 patients over the last three days. Our nurses and the doctor worked well together for 14 hours and were pleased with the results. Pastor Ivo brought the vision of the medical clinic and he has ministered to these people in a practical way with our help. We have literally been the hands and feet of Jesus. It´s incredible to be used in this way. People will be healed of illnesses, have deformities corrected and spirits lifted.

It was very hot in the midst of this work, but the warmth we felt in our hearts as we gave love in the form of amoxicillin, tylenol, bandaids, toothpaste, wound care, physical therapy, blood pressure checks, weigh-ins (to name a few) was worth it. Oh yes, did I tell you there was also free water and food, stickers for the children, lollipops and candy, coloring book sessions and drawing captured by lots of photos. The children just love having their picture taken and seeing it on the digital display. Their eyes speak volumes of love; it just captures your heart.

Jesus is our Healer, and today, we helped. We can give water in His name, loving people who have so much in common with us though they live what seems like a world away. It will be hard to leave this place. We have already had to say good bye to one of our translators...not easy. The tears were calor, hot on our cheeks. But we know we will see them again...if not here, in eternity.

So, our official work is almost over and tomorrow we will visit the site of the home we are building with the new owner. It will shield him from hot, but it will not keep every hardship out of his life. I wonder if this trip was not so much about buildling a home as much as building up 17 "gringo" Americano hearts.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Body of Christ

Nora said a profound statement as we sat in her mother´s living area in San Salvador today. It was this: ¨"Christians need to spend more time building each other up and not dividing the Body of Christ, the church."

We met Nora on the plane from Houston to El Salvador. She was returning to her home to visit with her mom who is dying of cancer. Karen, a member of our team, sat next to her on that flight and conversed about many things. She took the family phone number down and gave it to Pastor Ivo here at GCLA.

In a matter of days, the meeting we went to took place. We were so blessed to hear that Gladys, Nora´s mom, had 8 children. Each of them knew Jesus personally. A few of them are serving in ministry as pastors and missionaries. She beamed, though in some pain as she shared this with us. Nora graciously extended hospitality to us by serving fresh coconuts with straws coming out the top (by the way, coconut milk is very good and good for you!) We were humbled and enthralled by this encounter. (See my facebook page for a picture of this wonderful lady and her daughters.)

She sat in the 100 plus year old home, surrounded by very few extras, (essentials is what we call them in the US, like tv and gadgets.) She has lived through earthquake that destroyed even the massive pillars of the house she grew up in. But her spiritual house is strong, it´s solid. She shared that the tumor in her neck was not operable, but she still had her family and her Lord to see her through.

Such simple profound faith. She knew that the Body of Christ had connected us that day. We got to pray and hear our prayers in her language. WE got to build up a sister. She knows where she will spend eternity; she knows the same Jesus we do. She is the Body of Christ here in El Salvador, but she is also our sister in Christ. We will see her again, for when you are in the Body of Christ, adios is only temporary.

Oh, I didn´t want to forget...the word for today: vivir, which means live. So. go out and live like you are part of the body and make a difference in someone´s life and living.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Medicine for the Heart

Today, Tuesday, we opened the doors at 10 in the morning to a mass of people waiting to receive medical care. In preparation for this big day, yesterday 5 people on the medical team went out into a nearby community and distributed a ticket to any person who needed medical care.

The plan was to create stations to accomodate the volume of people and the various medical assessment tools they performed. Intake was at one station, height and weight at another, blood pressure, pulse and medical condition at the last. Some of the patients were able to be helped without seeing a doctor. Others waited to see a local certified physician onsite. By 2:30 all of the 45 patients had been assisted.

This was the first time that GCLA church had done a medical outreach and it was received well. We hope to see over 150 patients in three days. Pastor Ivo has a vision to reach the poorest of La Libertad with the love of Jesus in practical ways. Medical help offers that. Add the compassion of 17 gringos here to help and you have love and service that honors the Lord.

Not only were the physical needs met, but we prayed and talked to many about Christ. One young lady was prayed over for healing due to witnessing an uncle´s suicide that plagues her with anxiety attacks. We believe God will set her free from this trauma. She was in church on Sunday, and only accepted the Lord 3 months ago. Please pray for Anna and the other patients we will see in the next two days. God is moving!!!

The medicine that was given out will certainly the people who received it. However, the real medicine of the heart may be the love that is received not by word (since many of us do not know the language well enough to speak it) but by actions and service. Today´s word for the day is actually two similar words: dar, to give; and ayudar, to help. As we catch the eye of a child and give them a smile, a pat on the back, a coloring book, we are giving them love. The ironic thing about it is that we receive what we are And that, my friends, is good medicine for the heart.