Spoiler Alert

It’s safe to say that the majority of people who read this blog enjoy Christian music and speakers.  For myself, Christian music is practically the only music to circulate through my radio.  These musicians become a source of inspiration and encouragement in our daily lives, not only through their songs, but also by their lives.

I know we all remember that “celebrity” musicians and speakers are only human; no greater than ourselves.  God has given us talents and giftings equal to these celebrities; yet we consider them above us because they have devoted their lives in allowing God to use their talents and giftings to a greater degree, reaching millions of people that we could never reach.  We often believe that their lives are righteous, because they sing of complete devotion and sacrifice. To see them devote time to a huge missions explosion, such as Bahamafest, we assume they minister with pure motivations.

Working behind the scenes of Bahamafest and Cruise with a Cause, I have seen a different side to many of these celebrities.  In the last 2 years of my involvement, I know stories that would make you cringe and your heart sink with disappointment.  People who preach servanthood and humility on stage demand superstardom treatment on the sidelines:  transportation only in luxury cars, specific foods and drinks that have to be imported in or monitored to the exact degree, room accommodations that cost more than many people’s one month salary, and outrageous stipends are common mandates – even on “mission” trips.

What happened to the servanthood attitude?  Where did humility go? and love?

If it was my choice, I would to tell them to kiss my fat butt and fly themselves back to their mansions and yachts…we don’t need their music or their sermons to reach the people of this nation.  Let’s find the ones who truly love God and his people, and are willing to give up their name brand waters in order to reach others with the Gospel message.  It’s time to stop playing Christian and start being real, completely devoted to God and his people.

Now, before I start getting all kinds of emails or comments, let me end by saying that not all of the artists and speakers are as I described above.  Many of them participate with truly pure hearts and love.  They are not seeking stature or fame…they only want God to be glorified.  A good example is Sonicflood. Last year, there were some setbacks that resulted in decreased school performance time.  Many artists were furious that weren’t given enough time to play all their music set or to promote their music.  Sonicflood, however, said no problem and just hung out with the kids, joyfully and full of love. We need more artists like them.

My weekend

First of all, a correction…Just on this tiny island, there are over 4,000 churches!  You would believe it too if you were here;  There are churches on every block. 

The last few days have had their ups & downs. 

Saturday started with very early morning prayer at the site of the Bahamafest.  As I walked the track and prayed, the Lord reminded me of Joshua and Jericho.  When the walls fell, the enemies of the Lord were destroyed and the city rebuilt.  So many of us, definitely myself included, have spiritual walls that we’be built up – walls that hinder us from drawing closer to the Lord and hearing His voice.  It’s time that we break down those walls so that healing can begin, so that renewal can come in our lives. 

The rest of Saturday we took off to do some shopping and sightseeing.  Dow and Cindee had returned to the house earlier than the rest of us.  When we came into the door about an hour later, they were sitting on the couch with a local Bahamian.  There was bad news…

In the 4 hours we were gone, someone had broken into the house and robbed us.  Out of 4 laptops sitting in the living room, they only took 2.  Mine being one of them.  Everything else they took belonged only to Dow & Cindee:  their laptop, cell phones, camera, and $200 or so.  Compared to what they lost, my laptop was nothing. I really didn’t have anything in there that I needed; mainly Im upset that I’ve lost thousands of photos from places like China, Bahamas, Ukraine…things I can’t replace.  Luckily, I have some of those photos online, but not all of them.  But Dow and Cindee lost all their business documents as well as over 400 business contacts stored only in their phone.  However upsetting as it all is, we’re remembering that these things are just things. 

I’ve been praying for the person who stole these things.  It’s obvious that this person is desperate for cash, maybe to support a drug habit or maybe to support his family.  I don’t know the situation, but God does. 

On Sunday we attended an event that would never happen in the States.  The Prime Minister and many high Government officials attended a government event held  at a local church.  Separation of church and state does not exist here.   To kick off a Public Service Worker’s Appreciation Week, the church hosted the government event in which politics was mixed with Christian sermons.  It was cool to hear one of the Government officials pray for God to guide the leaders of this country and help them lead the people of this nation into God’s kingdom.

The land of the free is truly the Bahamas.

Pictures and People

A slideshow of pictures is now available for viewing: either by clicking HERE or by clicking on “Ukraine Feb. 2008″ in the left column under “photos”. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. We’d love to respond to any questions you have.

To clarify who all is in the pictures (in order of appearance):

  • Steve and Cristine Keever (and daughter Autumn) – missionaries with YWAM serving in Budapest. We worked with Cristine in 2001 at COI’s Mission Training School. They graciously opened up their home for three nights as we were traveling to and from Ukraine. Hospitality and Kindness at it’s best!
  • Dow and Cindee Warner – Founders of Sons of Salvation, our Directors/Mentors, and Friends. They have been traveling for about 8 weeks now and are still going strong. They were our Teachers at the Mission training school in 2001 and came to see the calling on our lives. For the past 8 years they have been challenging us to return to the mission field. They are some of the biggest encouragers in our lives and are very special.
  • Lori Enskaya (and daughter Abigail) – The story of how Lori and I became friends is a very cool God connection. (I’ll write that story in another post soon). Lori completely spent her week helping us, showing us around town, ordering our meals, and assisting us in finding our apartment. She also generously allowed us to hang out at her home during some down times. Her husband Oleg worked during the daytime, but we thank Him, too, for giving up his evenings with His wife so that she could be with us. Lori, Thank you for all that you have done.
  • Jim and Laurie Sliz – new friends from New York who love the Ukraine and hope to minister there one day. This was the first time we met Jim and Laurie; they came along to get to know Dow & Cindee, us, and to see if SOS is a good fit for them. Their hearts are completely opened to serving in Ukraine, even leaving behind their 5 children and their families. It was a pleasure getting to know them and seeing their passion – hopefully one day we will have the pleasure of working alongside them.
  • Pastor Greg -He is Jim and Laurie’s pastor. Their church is fairly new (I think about 4 years old), and He prays that His church, however small they are, will have a big heart for mission work. By seeing firsthand the needs in Ukraine, he can now take all he’s experienced back to his congregation and develop a plan of action to participate in mission work. It always excites me to see a pastor passionate about missions.
  • Andrej – A Ukrainian friend that Josh and I met on our first trip to Ukraine in 2000. We have sporadically kept in touch over the years and reconnected again last week. He is a great man of God, leads the worship at his church, and is involved in outreach. Besides all that, he works as a lawyer, including adoptions (locally and internationally). He’s a great friend and we’re excited to be back in contact.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get pictures of everyone else that we cam e in contact with, such as our translator, other missionaries, and ministers. But, we will definitely get them once we move there.

Mexico Trip

Imagine, for a moment, a small 2 room shack; each room only measures 10′ x 10′. One room serves as kitchen, dining room, and family room; the other a bedroom, complete with only a full size bed and mats on the ground. There is no electricity or indoor plumbing. There is no carpet, linoleum, or wood flooring – only packed dirt. Clean water is kept in large cistern outside the house, which is refilled when they can afford it. There are no radios, TVs, computers.

oh yeah, and there are nine people living in this house.

This is the situation i found in Reynosa; the home of a local pastor. Yet, the family smiled, laughed, and showed true hospitality. They have so much less than we do here in America, yet they truly seemed to have more gratitude and contentment. They live a life where they depend 100% on the Lord to provide their basic needs.

They did not ask for help, yet we felt led to bless Pastor Victor and his family. We saw the cramped living conditions and wanted to give them extra room. The result: a simple one-room wooden house with a loft. They’re inexpensive (only about $2500), quick (3-days to build), and simple (nothing extravagant), but they are a huge blessing to families who currently live in makeshift homes built by random pieces of scrap wood, metal, and tarps.

Unfortunately, we were not able to get started on Tuesday, so I was only there for the first 2 days of construction and, thus, not able to see the final product. However, I was able to stay through most of it except the final touches of trimwork and the loft.

Eventually, Pastor Victor and his family are going to move their current home piece-by-piece and rebuild it behind the one we made because they “want the prettier house to be seen”. Amazing… what we in America would find to be inadequate, they find to be a perfect gift from God.

I have made a slide presentation of pictures from the trip. Other than Pastor Victor’s house, you will also see other houses from the same “colonia” – a colony. Usually these colonies settle on a piece of land and begin building on it, eventually creating a colonia. This colonia is right near the U.S./Mexico border; probably started from migrants who came north to try and get into America. You will also see pictures of our building process. As soon as one of my fellow missionaries sends me a picture of the completed house I will post it here for your. You can view the slideshow by clicking on “Mexico 2008″ under the heading “Photos” on the left side of our blog; or you can click HERE.

Thank you for all your prayers while I was on this trip. Many of you, i’m sure, were aware that there was gunfighting and riots in Reynosa the week I was there. At first we weren’t sure if it would hinder our ministry, but by God’s grace, we were okay and unaffected.

Last minute trip

The directors of our mission organization asked Josh and I to join them this week in Mexico for some ministry.  Unfortunately Josh has to work and can’t get away.  However, my ministry job at the Friendship House has been 100% supportive of our mission work and has allowed me a few days off to go.

This is a very last minute trip (finalized today, Sunday).  I will be leaving tomorrow Jan. 7 at 3:30 and will return late Thursday night.

One of our SOS missionary’s ministry is to build homes in poverty-ridden areas for families who have practically nothing, especially a stable shelter to call home.  So, starting Tuesday, I’ll be donning on my work gloves, wielding a hammer, and constructing a house!  All the while, showing and sharing the Love of Christ.

I will try to post updates while I’m there.  If not, I will definitely post once I come back.

Please pray for:

  • safe travels (in the states, through the Mexico border, and in Reynosa)
  • safety at the job site
  • a chance to share Christ!

Thank you for all your prayers and support.

Back from the Bamboo Curtain…

As many of you know, I just returned from China where we were preparing for an upcoming mission trip during the Olympics. First of all, let me say thank you to all of you supporting our mission’s endeavors and for all the prayer for our work.

We accomplished a lot of our goals and now have a better understanding of the culture having actually been there. Please pardon the vagueness and for the lack of details as I describe some of the things we will be doing. I don’t want to reveal who we will be working with or where for the security of those already in the fight for China’s salvation.

China is very aware of the Christian’s attempts to spread the gospel and they’re quite intolerant. It is illegal to proclaim the gospel publicly in China, but if someone asks you about your faith you may share it with them.

We will be working with the Chinese in practicing their conversational English. One way we do this is talking about our culture and some of the holidays that we celebrate. Having a conversation in English with a Chinese person about the real meaning of Christmas, is one subtle approach to evangelizing this country. Also, by comparing a traditional Chinese wedding vs. a traditional Christian wedding is another. You can read more about evangelizing through English Here.

During our trip we made arrangements that will provide the kind of atmosphere where we will be able to do just that. We will also be doing some public outreach that we pray will open up the doors to sharing Christ. There is the possibility that those who go on this trip will actually get to stay in the homes of the Chinese people we will be ministering to.

Aside from all the preparations being made on this trip, I got to see just about all the amazing sites Beijing has to offer. This is truly a beautiful city. Amidst the huge buildings and flourishing businesses are the landmarks that define this country. There are temples all over the city and tons of sites to see.

Here is the list of places I saw: The Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, the Capital Museum, Tiananmen Square, and the Olympic Village and all the Olympic Facilities being built. Not to mention the Beijing Opera and a Kung Fu and Acrobat show.

I know… I know…it doesn’t sound like mission work but it really was all for the cause. We are going to be leading some groups in August and there will be some site seeing involved, so we needed to determine what the best ones to see were. This is a hard decision because they were all amazing.

If you are interested in going please contact us soon. We need to know how many people are going so we can facilitate everybody. Please let us know before the end of the year.

For photos from Beijing, click Here.

 

English Camp

Next August, one of our outreach ministries in China will be 4 days hosting and leading an English Camp.  Josh has had several meetings this week with the Principals and administrators of a couple of schools that will be participating in these camps.  We have found that in all the countries we’ve been to, administrators quickly welcome missionaries into their schools, seeing it as an incredible opportunity for their students to practice their English language skills and to learn about another culture.

Someone asked me today, “what exactly is an English Camp?”

Basically, it’s 3 -4 days of thorough English language lessons and conversational activities.    On a typical day you would see:

  • Students and missionaries intermingling in conversation, building friendships
  • A missionary gives a speech or presentation about an American Holiday, Custom, cities, etc.
  • Games and activities that teach vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar.
  • One-on-one question/answer sessions between the students and missionaries.

Even though the focus is the English language, it is also an incredibly effective avenue to speak about our faith in God and our relationship with our Savior.  For example:

While in the Czech Republic, we were invited to the local high school’s English class.  After a short presentation on Thanksgiving, we sat down one-on-one with the students to let them practice conversation.  As I talked with a 16-year old girl about our families, I was praying that God would open up a chance to talk about God.  I noticed that she was wearing a cross necklace, so I told her I liked her necklace and asked if it had a special meaning for her.  Viola!  The door flew right open…she explained that it didn’t, she bought it because she thought it was pretty; a mere fashion statement.  I proceeded to explain that it had special meaning for me.  She asked why.  I told her about Jesus’ crucifixion and shared the entire Gospel message.  She continued to ask questions about my faith.  That night at a special presentation of the Jesus movie, she gave her life to the Lord.

God can move in any circumstance…even in an English lesson.

Josh headed to China

Josh left this morning for Beijing, China at 11:30. He has a 24 hour layover in Chicago where he will meet up with another SOS missionary, and then together head to China . His final destination time will be about 4:00 pm on Saturday.

As I hear from him, I will be posting updates on His trip, so keep checking back here daily to see what’s going on.  If you would like to know why He is going  check out the previous blog that he wrote by clicking HERE.

Please pray for safe travels…it’s a long 14 hour flight.  Also pray that there is no problems as they go through customs.

On another similar note, there has been rumors circulating that China has banned the Bible from the 2008 Olympics. Apparently, that is untrue. I found a FOX news article posted today that explains the misunderstanding. You can read about it HERE.

Going to China

On November 8, I will be flying to Chicago to meet up with my fellow SOS missionary, Jerauld. We will be flying to Beijing, China, on November 9. We will return on the 16th to Chicago, and I will return to Dallas on the 17th.

The purpose of our trip is to make preparations for our 2008 Olympic Missionary Tour. We will be scouting out the sleeping arrangements, housing, and finding different places for them to do outreach and ministry.

This will be my first time going to make preparations for a short term mission trip. It will be an awesome opportunity and learning experience as we are preparing to lead short term trips in the Ukraine.

Just in case you didn’t know, China is a communist country. They don’t allow Christianity to be practiced in the majority of the country. Bible smuggling is illegal and there is great persecution for believers.

During the 2008 Olympics, China will be opening it’s doors to all the nations of the world and therefor is subject to all sorts of spiritual infiltration. We are seizing this opportunity to go to China and share the hope of Jesus Christ. Not only will there be opportunities to minister to the Chinese people, but also to all of the people of the world that will be there for the Olympics. If Christ is preached to all of the nations during this event imagine the possibilities. Picture in your mind for a moment converted believers going back to their countries and sharing the GOOD NEWS.

If your interested in being a part of this event there is a place for you. Please contact me if you are interested.

Please pray for our safe travels and success in finding the right places to do evangelism.

Headed to Mission

Tomorrow we leave for Mission, Texas to meet up with Dow and Cindee Warner, our SOS directors. We’re excited to get to see them; Josh hasn’t seen them since they “parented” us while in the Czech Republic in 2001. Mostly, we’ll be planning and working on our move to Ukraine. After this weekend, we should have everything we need to send out our first newsletter/portfolio and will begin the fundraising journey.

If you’d like to receive our newsletter, we’d love to send it to you! If you’ve not signed up with us yet, go to the “Contact Us” page and drop us and email with your info.

PLease pray for our safe travels this Labor Day weekend. We leave Friday morning around 5 a.m. and will be on the road for approx. 10 hours! Yikes!

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