Mission Accomplished, But Still Far From Home

6 Jan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of any war or battle, two words signify victory. Mission accomplished. These two words also represent an end to a conflict. When soldiers hear these words, they begin to anticipate leaving the war fields and returning home. For the war that they once poured their lives into has resulted in a defeat of the enemy and a victory for the good guys. But often times, mission accomplished doesnt signify a return home. Because the conflict is still far from over. You see, many times, a victory may be won in one area, but the battle is still far from over. Often times the Commanding Officer places solders in a certain region knowing that the war will not be won. But knowing that lives will be saved from the enemy.

And in any great war, its never about the soldiers. The soldiers never seek their own glory. Soldiers are the true definition of what a real man or woman is all about. Never selfish, and they perseverance until the very end. They are there to humbly carry out the task at hand given by their commander. If anyone is remembered in the annals of history when it comes to war, its the Commanders of the armies. They have the most responsiblity, because its up to them to lead. If the commander is one of good stock, then his leadership will result in carrying his men to victory, and eventually, a return home. But until the last gun shot, a soldiers duty is to follow their leader, regardless of where he may lead. Although home is indefinitely imprinted on the soldiers hearts, they never give up. They never stop following their commander until they see some semblance of a smile cross their commanders face, as he congratulates the troops on a permanent victory and says to them, “Well done soldier.”

As Christians, our lives are not much different than that of a soldier. We have a mission, and we are in a great war. As followers of Jesus Christ, its not about us. We dont seek our own glory, but the glory of our Commander. He has given all believers one set of marching orders. Some refer to them simply as The Great Commission. The command was given first to the eleven disciples back in the first century. Yes, his great army began with only eleven. But through the years, our numbers have grown to many.  The orders given were these…..

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20.

Everyone has been commissioned to take part in this epic battle. Sadly, many choose to side with the enemy or simply sit on the sidelines. But regardless the orders have never changed. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then you are a disciple. You see, when a solder enlists in the military, when it comes to matters of warfare, they dont have a choice of if they choose to fight the enemy or not. Once in the armed forces, that civilian becomes a true solder, and their whole lifestyle changes. No longer do they live for themselves, but now they answer to a higher calling.

For the true Christian, accepting Christ is the easy part. For the true Christian, their lifestyle changes. It becomes less about themselves and more about the mission at hand. And there are battles all around. There are people who are in need of a savior scattered about this earth. And in obedience, the true Christian will pour his or her very soul into the words of Christ.

Almost two years ago, my family and I felt strongly called to the mission field. Honestly I fought this calling. I didnt want to leave the United States. I didnt want to venture outside my comfort zone. But God has a way of making things clear. And through people placed in our lives, and through much prayer, it became painfully clear that I was being called to Central America.

The thing I valued most in my life was my comfort. The Bible would call this my idol, or what I was placing as more important than God in my life. I told myself I wasnt called to missions. But we are all called to missions, be it home in the US or abroad. Its just a matter of where God leads you. Reluctant as I was, I followed the orders of my commander. We sold all of the things that had given us comfort for so long in exchange for a one way plane ticket to the country of Panama. We never took a scouting trip there first to view the area. We just went on faith, and traveled to this foreign country sight unseen.

Flash forward six months into our journey in Panama. We were privileged to see God work wonders in the lives of the local indigenous tribes whom we ministered to, the Guaymi and Nobe Indians. In the six months we were there, we have enough stories of witnessing Gods glory to fill a large book! God didnt send us to Panama to change the whole world. He sent us to impact souls for his kingdom. And he sent us there to further our training as solders in Christ.

Six months later, the same man who was reluctant to leave the comforts of the United States has a new heart for reaching the nations. Where ever my commanding officer leads, I will lead my family….in military terms, my unit, to follow him.

We had planned on returning home for Christmas and then returning to Panama after the new year. But we received a change of plans. I was offered a job in Avon Park Florida to be the Associate Pastor/Youth Minister of First Baptist of Avon Park under the leadership of a very Godly man in Pastor Jon Beck. My wife and I were privileged to visit Avon Park and the members of the First Baptist Church this past weekend. And it became very apparent that our mission in Panama had been accomplished, and that a new mission had been assigned to the Parish family.

Its bitter sweet in a way. We fell in love with the country of Panama. Many people have wondered if its harder to serve God in a third world country. After living there for the past few months, I can honestly say it is much easier to serve God in a third world country. In the United States, we are so fortunate to have so much. And at times, it comes at the cost of our relationship with Christ.  Its easy to serve Christ when Christ is all you have. Its amazing how much more time you spend in the Bible when you dont have the temptation of television or a shopping mall to lure you away from time with God.

But after meeting Pastor Beck and the wonderful people of Avon Park, we see Gods hand all over this. It is so apparent that the congregation and Pastor of Avon Park is about the mission at hand. And we are privileged and honored to become a part of their unit. God used our time in Panama not only to minister to the Guaymi and Nobe people, but to further conform us unto his image. The Bible says that he who began a good work in you, will indeed finish it!

Three years ago when I truly gave my life to Christ, I prayed one thing….”Lead me where ever, and I will follow. I dont care how you use me….just please Lord…use me to glorify you.” I had a strong longing to have a career in ministry. To serve on the front lines of this great battle. And God has opened that door.

So in less than two weeks, our family will be relocating to Avon Park, Florida. And we couldnt be more excited about where God is leading. The war is far from over. And there are still so many who are in need of Christ. Again, we will follow where God leads. Its not about us, but the glorification of his wonderful name. Its about reaching the nations and proclaiming the gospel. Its what my family and I live for.

Our mission in Panama has been accomplished, but we are still far from reaching our Heavenly home. New orders have been given. Our commander is of the finest stock, and eternal victory is imminant. But we’re not home yet. We dont seek recognition, but only to see our Lord smile down on us and say, “Mission Accomplished! Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

See you on the battle field.

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:3-5.

“For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” Ephesians 6:12.

Forever Changed

22 Nov

Picture for just a moment your life. Our life as we know it. Picture in your mind just your average everyday routine. You wake up in the morning and roll out of bed, leaving your favorite soft pillow and warm blanket behind as you make your way to the bathroom. You turn on a hot shower to wake up and clean up for the day. After showering, you turn on the lights over your mirror to begin putting on your make up or for the men, shaving the stubble that grew overnight.

After dressing you make your way into the kitchen. You flip on the television just in time to hear Ken Cook or the weather man for your town forecast another rainy day. You gaze out the window to see the rain begin to pour flooding the ground. With the kids still asleep in their beds, you begin to make breakfast for the family. You push the bread down into the toaster and set the timer for three minutes so that it doesnt get too burnt. You walk over to your refrigerator and grab the cold milk and a few eggs to scramble on the stove for everyone.

With slaving over a hot stove and it being in the summer months, even with the rain, inside the house you begin to feel hot. You huff because you have to walk down the hall to turn on the cold air conditioning. The kids soon wake up and after eating breakfast to keep them calm while you clean the kitchen, you turn on their favorite Veggie Tales DVD as they watch in amazement.

After getting them ready, you crank the car and load everyone inside to drop them off at school. You turn the air conditioning on inside of the car. As usual, you pick them up after school and drive the kids home. They played outside in the rain today so their clothes are filthy. That just means more laundry to do. The kids change clothes and you throw their dirty clothes in the wash with a pouring of detergent and a push of a button. And after a nice home cooked meal, some time as a family in front of the television, and a nice hot bath, you conclude your stressful day and jump into your cozy temperpedic bed to recharge for another day.

This is our life. This is what we as Americans are used to. No matter how rich or poor we are, this is a close picture to our everyday lives. Certian things in our lives are just plainly needed to survive. We need air conditioning on a hot day. We need television to stay plugged into the world and to unwind. We must have a car to get around. Appliances like a washer, dryer, refrigerator, and a stove are impossible to live without. We dont ask for much. But some things we just have to have!

That was my way of thinking. Until I came to Panama. That was my way of thinking until I began visiting and ministering to the many Camarcas or Indian Villages in Panama. I had the privilege of visiting one in Toile, Panama this past weekend. It was a two hour drive into a very desolate part of the country. As we drove along, you could actually see signs of civilization disappear right before your eyes.

First buildings were seen no more outside. Then the power lines just stopped. As we kept driving the roads got worse and eventually turned to nothing more than rock and dirt. And finally, the roads got so bad we had to part on the side of the road to continue on foot into the wooded jungle area. As we walked, houses came into view. But they were not the kind of houses we were used to. In fact, the structures we would call sheds back in the United States were far better than these houses.

As we made our way to the Camarca in Toile, the homes simply amazed me. One home that we walked past was made of bamboo. There was no door and I could see inside. There was a small mat on the floor for a bed and the floor was dirt. There was no furniture. The man who lived in the home was elderly and he was outside putting mud on an area of the house that I assume was leaking. His house was worse than a dog house. But it was home to him. Its the only way of life he had ever known.

We entered through a patch of brush and trees. Hidden through the trees was an open area with five or six bamboo or wooden houses constructed. Again, the houses had no electricity, no running water, and dirt floors. I remember feeling sorry for the people and thought to myself that they must be miserable. That is until I met them. The Guaymi tribe is one of the most humble and nice type of people I have ever met. The children always have a smile on their faces and love to play. The women and men are hard working and so giving, even though they have nothing.

They have no appliances to make cooking and storing food convenient. What they eat, they grow or kill. Panama is very hot in climate. If they get hot, they jump in a creek or sit in the shade. Again, air conditioning is not an option. Most of the people dont have a bed. They sleep on the floors inside the houses on blankets and sometimes clothes. And as for the clothes, no Kenmore washer and dryers. There is a stream where they wash their clothes and then hang them in the village to dry.

As for a bathroom, it is usually a small area with four planks of wood or metal on either side with no roof and a bucket inside that they empty in the woods when it is full.  If they have to go to a store by chance which is miles away, they walk.  These people live in the most primitive of conditions. They literally have nothing in the material sense. But that doesnt spoil their happiness. And these people are more receptive to God than most Americans. We would ask the Guaymi people, “Su Tengo Jesus en tu Corrazone?” Which means “Do you have Jesus in your heart?” Or ,”Jesus para ti?”  Which is, “Jesus is for you.” And they would always smile and shake their heads in full agreement.

Their Kitchen

Many people have told me since we posted pictures of the Guaymi villages on Facebook that these people needed prayer and that they were going to pray for them. First let me say we all need prayer, each and every one of us. But after getting to know the Guaymi, I believe that we as civilized people need more prayer than the Guaymi.

Our hearts and minds have been so coddled by the material things of this world that we dont even realize it. Problems like getting a new toaster or replacing a worn out tv tend to be more of a concern to us than a world around us who doesnt know Christ. Instead of sharing the gospel, we share the latest gossip and recipes. In stead of shouting praise to Jesus, we shout praises to our favorite sports team. Instead of having a heart for the poor, we throw a pity party because we think we are poor.

Baby Bed is a Hanging Net

 

Mom Near Her Baby's Bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the grace of God, I have a solid roof over my head. I have a floor with tile or carpet. I have running water. I have electricity. I have a car. I may not be rolling in money, but Im not the poor. In the overall scheme of things, Im the rich. We’re the rich. In the bible so many verses speak on how difficult it is for a rich man to enter Heaven.

The bible is hard on the rich because those who are rich love their possessions more than God. And when I used to read these verses I would think of people who were filthy rich.

But if you have a roof over your head and a house with four walls….you’re the rich.

If you have running water and electricity……you’re the rich.

If you have a bed and pillow to lay your head on at night…..you are the rich.

The scary thing is, we are the blind rich who Christ speaks of when he says,

“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:23-24
 If you have a computer or phone which you are reading this blog on….you are the rich Chirst is talking about. I am the rich Christ is speaking of. And we begin to rely more on our appliances, our cars, our air conditioning, our material wealth when difficulties arise instead of relying on God.

Outside the Camarca

When our car breaks down we grow angry that we have to call a friend to pick us up to drive us five blocks to the store. Where as the poor such as the Guaymi have no car. They even walk in the rain at times to the store as they thank God for giving them life and the strength to walk to the store.
When the baby bed we wanted is not on sale yet we grow frustrated that we cant get what we want. And it has to be this baby bed we have in mind because it matches our walls….speaking from experience. The Guaymi have no walls to match a baby bed to. They thank God that they have a net they found on the side of the road that can be strung up for the baby to sleep in.
There is nothing wrong with having things such as running water, a car, and appliances. The problem arises when we begin to put our trust in these things and when we begin to view them as necessities rather than blessings. The Guaymi have so little but have such giving hearts. We as Americans have so much yet give so little.  I have so much yet give so little.
I hope these picture humble you as they have me. I hope a glimpse into the lives of the Guaymi in comparison to your own makes you think about your own relationship with Christ. We will post more pics and updates from our time spent with the Guaymi. In the coming weeks we will visit many different camarcas. Pray for those we encounter who dont know Christ to be open. And pray for lives to be transformed. I can tell you one life that has been altered is my own. I am forever changed for the better by knowing these beautiful people and I thank God for this wonderful experience.

Let The Healing Begin

12 Nov

Every day of our lives matters. We are never promised tomorrow nor do we know what the next second will bring our way. Unexpectedly, things can change in an instant. God put the world in motion and created man. But the circumstances and events of our lives are written by us. Such was the case this past Wednesday night.

I lead a Wednesday evening bible study in Boquete. God is blessing us with new faces each week and answering the pray I prayed that he use me as a tool to impact others in Panama for His Kingdom. One of the new faces this week was an elderly gentleman by the name of Barry. Immediately I was drawn to Barry’s outgoing personality and consistent smile. He greeted everyone as if he had known them for years. Have you ever met someone and could just see the light of Jesus in their eyes? That is the picture of Barry. You didnt have to hear him speak to know that he loved Jesus….you could see it in him!

We also had another new couple to the study. A Panamanian man and woman in their late fifties joined us that evening. Both of them spoke perfect English and loved on our boys through out the evening.

After the Bible study we all had dinner together and grilled good old American Hamburgers. It was such a joyous time laughing and talking with everyone. I sat with Barry for a bit and he showed me his bible and enlightened me on his study techniques for reading scripture. But Barry left early in the dinner. I told him how very nice it was to meet him and he said he would see us all next Wednesday evening.

About thrity minutes passed and I noticed the Panamanian couple rush out and leave after a phone call. Shortly after, someone informed me that a cousin of the woman had just been killed walking across the street by a passing car. Details were scarse at that time. Our time of fellowship quickly ended and Lacy and I returned home. Later that evening I got an email from my friend Pastor Enrique of Villa Bethel in Boquete.

Pastor Enrique was at the bible study that Wednesday evening. He wrote and told me that the man who was driving the car that had killed another man was Barry. My stomach dropped and I was shocked. It seems that the man who was killed was an elderly gentleman and was not looking where he was walking. And Barry was driving home on a night that was very dark. It was a complete accident. But Barry’s life is now impacted forever. How ironic it is that both Barry and family members of the man killed were present at the bible study earlier that evening.

A tragedy happened this Wednesday night. But out of that tragedy, an opportunity was born.

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20.

We don’t understand why bad things happen to good people. At least not unless we turn to God during those hard times. But regardless, the Bible assures us that God uses all events….good and bad….in the lives of those who are faithful to bring about fulfilling his purposes. Genesis tells us that things that the devil uses to harm us God uses. And what does he uses trials in our lives for? “…..to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” He uses our dark moments as a testament given to us so that it may be used to encourage other believers.

Who is the most encouragement in your life? Someone who cannot identify with you because nothing has ever gone wrong in their lives? Or the person you go to when the cards are stacked against you and they can relate? Someone that can tell you, “Ive been in dark times, I trusted God through the storm, and he brought me through in one piece.” Thats what Jesus does! He rescues us from our storms. Jesus never promised that our life would be easy. In fact, he promised we would go through trials and storms.

The apostle Paul was persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, and out cast from his friends. But through it all he was faithful to Christ. Paul says in 2 Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  2 Timothy 4:7.

2 Thessalonians 1:4 “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.”

We now have an opportunity to encourage that same kind of perseverance in the family of the man who was killed and in the life of Barry, both whom are members of Villa Bethel in Boquete. We have a responsiblity to one another as believers in Christ. When one member is hurt, we all work together in the healing. Thats what being a part of the body is all about.

Who in your life do you know that God is blessing you with an opportunity to take part in His healing of their lives? When hard times fall on us, its not that God has left us. Just as a fire forges to make strong iron, so the fires of our lives make us stronger in Jesus.

Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Please keep both families in your prayers. And dont let any opportunities to help someone heal pass you by. Persevere through Christ, and always rely on Him for strength in good times and in bad. God Bless.

Perserverance in Christ

20 Oct

‎”Never does the devil triumph so thoroughly, as when he persuades missionaries to keep back the story of the cross.”- Ryle

I was told before we began this journey into the life of a missionary that the closer we grow to Christ, the harder Satan will attack. You never know how true that is until you make your lifes mission all about sharing the gospel. I guess thats why Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:11 that we will be persecuted in this life. Jesus doesnt use the word “if” we are persecuted. He says “when.”   The life of a true follower of Christ is best described in one word….perserverance. Christianity is a life long journey that the weak need not apply for.

Yesterday Satan attacked in full force. I lead a Wednesday evening Bible study at Villa Bethel Church in Boquete. God has blessed this gathering of believers beyond belief. In our very first study we had fifteen people that attended. I was expecting maybe four. In the weeks that followed our numbers escalated to forty people. Each week new faces show up. There are some who have just started attending that have little to no exposure to the gospel. But they are hungry for truth. God is growing this group for His awesome glory, and I feel so blessed to be a part of it.

Our car broke down on us earlier yesterday in David (DAV-EED). As a result, we had to leave it there in town to be fixed. With no car, I was destined to rely on calling a taxi to get around until it was fixed.

I decided to walk down to the community center to call a taxi. As I looked out the window, it was starting to rain. I grabbed my umbrella and headed out the door. As I was walking, out of no where, my umbrella broke for no reason. I had two choices. I could walk the short distance back to my house, or I could walk the long walk to the community center in the rain to hail a cab. I began to walk in the rain. When I got to the community center I called the cab. I had a twenty minute wait until he arrived. I reached back to check my wallet to make sure I had enough cash on me and realized that I would be short. I had just enough for the trip but not enough to get home.

It wasnt looking good. In fact, it looked like Satan was stopping at nothing in order to make sure that the Bible study did not take place this night. As I sat at the community center watching the rain fall, an elderly gentleman walked in and greeted me. We struck up a conversation and I mentioned that I was waiting for a cab. My mind was made up that I was going to the bible study. I hadnt quite figured out how I would get home yet. I mentioned that the Bible study was in Boquete. The man then lit up and said, “Cancel your taxi, Im headed that way!”  His name was Mike. And this night, he was a blessing.

Mike drove me to the Bible study. I thanked him and told him I would catch a cab home. But Mike didnt want to leave. He stayed for the bible study. I was blessed this night with meeting a new friend in Mike. And I believe Mike was blessed by the fellowship of everyone else who attended. At the nights end, Mike said that he would start coming to join us on Wednesday nights. I have realized that my job is only to share the gospel. God will grow the study. God will lead people there.

Satan was at work early on yesterday to detour me from teaching this bible study. But I find it amazing that God used these roadblocks not only to get me to the bible study, but to bring Mike into our path. I needed to get to Boquete on this rainy Wednesday night. Perhaps what Mike needed on this rainy night was to fellowship with believers and to hear the gospel preached. Perhaps he needed an encounter with Jesus.

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday. I believe it is just two words that Christ would say to every believer. Those words are…..”Dont quit.” As disciples of Christ, we are to have discipline. The words “disciple” and “discipline” both contain the same root word. Because they both have the same mantra…..Dont quit.

Everything that matters in this life requires work……

Joining a gym is easy. Keeping the same  discipline to workout daily is tough.

Getting married is easy. Keeping that commitment for a life time is tough.

Making babies is easy. Raising them is tough.

And making a commitment to Jesus is simple. Following that commitment through to completion is tough.

Joining the army is easy. Going to war is tough. You get a cool uniform and get to make many new friends. Boot camp is exhilarating and fun…like summer camp for grown ups. Then one day war comes. What if the solider who recently joined looked at his Sergent and said, “Wait a minute…I love the new uniform and Im having a blast hanging out with the guys, but I didnt sign up for war.  I might get hurt!” The sergeant would reply, “When you signed up for the army, you signed up for war.”

The very same goes for the Christian life. When we commit to follow Christ, we sign up for war. We sign up to be rejected. We sign up to be an outcast from the world. We sign up for heartache. We sign up for disappointment. But again, anything that matters in this world requires committment. Jesus is worth it all and more. And through the hard times, He is always with us….we dont quit. We keep our eyes focused on the goal of the glory of God. We persevere to the very end. This is the life of a missionary, be it one in Panama or Atlanta Georgia. There is no part time Christian. The battle is real. And we are so privileged to be a part of eternity in the making!

Being Transformed

18 Sep

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(My New Amigo Benacio)

He doesnt speak a word of English. I speak “cave man” spanish. He comes from a culture of people who have had to work for everything they get in this life, because they have very little in the way of material things. I come from a culture where everything we have is taken for granted, because we have such an over abundance of “stuff”. We are as different as night and day. Its like we come from two different worlds. But I feel so blessed to be in this man’s presence every Saturday afternoon. His name is Benacio, and he is pastor to his people, the Guaymi indians, at the mission each weekend.

Each Saturday, a few other missionaries and myself will drive to different Guaymi villages to pick them up and drive them to the mission church for worship and a meal. I drove to one of the Guaymi villages in the Boquete mountains for pick up. No one in this village was attending the mission this Saturday, so I called a friend of mine, Harry, who was making a pick up of his own. I asked him if there were any others I need to pick up. Harry asked me if I would mind picking up Benacio and bringing him to the mission.

I drove over near Valle Escondito which is where Benacio was getting off of work. He met me at the normal meeting place, a food shack on the side of the road. I arrived a few minutes early, so I got out of the car and decided to wait by the stand. Not long after, I heard a voice from behind me yell, “Bueno!” I turned to see my friend Benacio walking towards me with a big grin on his face. We greeted one another and piled into my car.

At times when you are just getting to know someone, especially when its just the two of you riding in a car, there can be those awkward silent moments. But for two guys like myself and Benacio…two guys who speak different languages….you would have thought we were old high school buddies! Through what little Spanish I knew, and what little English he knew, combined with our own sign language, we talked about everything from our families, the differences in cultures, and God. Before we returned to the mission for worship, Benacio asked if we could go pick up some members of his family.

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We drove through some beautiful country side of Boquete and arrived at the house of one of his family members. We picked them up and then headed to the mission. When we arrived at the mission church, it was packed. And it is so touching to see how greatly loved and respected Benacio is amongst his people. When he speaks, they listen. When he prays, they become reverent. In a country that is predominantly Catholic, Benacio is strictly a follower of Jesus Christ. And when he preaches to his people, it is strictly from the Bible.

Watching him when he preaches really puts alot in perspective. At times in the United States, Christianity can lose focus of Christ because there is such an over abundance of things to distract us. Just look at the many televangelist that preach more prosperity, health and wealth than they do the gospel. At times the basic gospel of Christ can become diluted and watered down to an ear tickling sermon followed by the passing of the offering plate. Again…look at many popular television preachers. And when that offering plate is passed, we Americans at times will pass the plate without giving so much as a dime. I know I have been guilty of this before. Its not as if giving a few dollars is going to break us, its just that we have such a tight grip on our finances and our stuff!

But here in Panama…here amongst the Guaymi people…there is no prosperity gospel being preached…just Christ. This fact reminded me so much of my home church Burnt Hickory Baptist, such a God fearing church and blessing to my family. And the offering plate here in Panama is not a pretty golden bowl like the ones Im used to seeing back home. Their offering plate at the mission is an old shaving kit case. And the people, although they have so little, give freely. It reminded me of one of a story Jesus told in the Bible….

“And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” Mark 12:41-44.

I came to Panama under the impression that I would be the one helping to change lives for Christ. I thought I would be used by God so that hearts may be changed for his kingdom. But I never expected that I would be transformed as well. I am being changed, and the words of Christ are becoming more of a reality in each passing day. Its one thing to read about the events that happened in the bible. Its quite another to see them mirrored and played out in your own life.

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We dont have the comforts of home here. We dont have the material excess to fill our lives. But its amazing the things you can do without. And when we free ourselves of the entrapment of materialism, that leaves more room for Christ. And to sort of quote Madonna…”Im a material…boy!” Back home I loved to spend hours watching television and movies. And there is nothing wrong with that in moderation. But I recently realized how much more times I had spent zoned out in front of a sitcom than time spent daily with God.

Where we live, there is television, but it being in spanish makes watching difficult. And many of the material things I indulged in before are not here in Central America. So my bible has become a close companion. Ive learned some of the things I thought I could never live without are not essential. And the more clutter I eliminate from my life, the more room there is for Christ. Men like Benacio know this. And though our backgrounds are different, I am learning so much from him as I see Christ through him.

The people of Panama have been such a blessing to my life. I am learning what is truly important. Family, relationships, and most importantly, an intimate relationship with Jesus. Its all about Christ. And Im beginning to see him more clearly than ever. As always, thank everyone so much for the prayers. Pray for my new friend Benacio, that he may be a light unto Christ for his people. Prayers are so very appreciated. We love and miss you all. More to come from this great adventure…stay tuned!


The Guaymi School

9 Sep

20110909-070406.jpg“Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” My grandfather used to always quote this saying to me growing up. And thats just what Jesus attempted to do all through out the Bible. Jesus was a teacher, plain and simple. And we are all called to be like Christ. To mimic his actions and to serve others. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Just as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Its amazing the difference we can make in the lives of others if we are just willing to give of ourselves. To sacrifice our own selfish needs and wants for the sake of someone else in need.

This past Tuesday, Mr. Bobby Anderson, a good friend I have been privileged to serve with, and I visited a school for the Guaymi children just past one of their villages. Bobby teaches the children english and has extended the gracious invitation for us to come with him regularly and help. Upon entering the school, we walked into a small court yard where the children we playing at recess. The Indian children that attend this school range in age from four years old to ten.

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The school is free to the children because their families cannot afford to give them an education. Again, most of these children live with their families in houses built of nothing more than concrete blocks and a slab of metal lain across for a roof. the floors of their homes are dirt, and the door to enter their homes more often than not is just a hanging sheet. But these are some of the happiest kids you will ever meet.

Immediately, a group of four little boys ran up to and grabbed my hand to take me to the area they were playing. It was like I was a new toy. The boys couldnt have been more than five or six, and they were talking as fast as they could. I did my best to catch all they were saying through my limited grasp of the language.

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Soon recess was over and class was ready to begin. We took the children into this small room and sat down at this small table. There were approximately eight to ten children in our class, and Mr. Bobby began teaching them the basics of our language. Its amazing how quickly they catch on. As we left the school that afternoon, a little boy of about seven years of age called my name and ran over to me. With a big smile he said, “Good bye!” He was using the language he had just been taught to communicate with me. I squatted down and told him, “Muy Bien”, or very good in spanish. It really touched me.

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As for the event we want to put on in the town square of Boquete, my friend David gained clearance from the mayor who gave us the green light. We are attempting to put together a Christian concert since David is a musician, followed by some open air preaching. I will start meeting with David to plan and coordinate the event. The only thing is David is not saved, and has never played Christian music. It is my hope that through the planning of this event, David may come to know Christ.

The town is a melting pot for people that need to hear the gospel. From the local Indians all the way to some gringos who dont know the Lord. Many English speaking people we have met here are so in need of Christ. The new age movement is extremely big among the english speaking portion of the population. Our mission field for Christ is so much bigger than I once thought. Christ refers to the road to Heaven as a narrow one in Matthew and mentions a narrow door. He goes on to say that few will find this door due to the deception Satan has brought to this world. The work of Christians everywhere has only just begun. More to come. We miss you all and your prayers are so appreciated!

Enlace 91.1 FM Panamainian Radio; David, Panama

6 Sep

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This week has begun with a bang. I really cant explain how amazing it is to see God at work. The people brought into our lives whom have the same heart for reaching people for Christ is so inspiring. Its like seeing puzzle pieces from all different parts of the world come together to create Gods perfect plan for salvation. What an adventure it is to be following the will of our Heavenly father.

Yesterday afternoon Pastor Sanchez, Pastor Bob, and myself did our first radio show on Panama’s worship radio station, Enlace 91.1 FM. When I arrived at the station, I met with the DJ at the station Jose. Such a great guy to hang around. He got me up to speed on how the station is run, and shortly after turned the microphone over to me. I put on some of my favorite worship songs and introduced them over the airwaves.

At five PM we began our round table radio show discussion. We had a discussion between the three of us on the radio for a good 45 minutes. We each spoke of where we saw God leading, and had the opportunity to share our hearts with the listeners who were tuned in this afternoon.

After the show, we felt so good about what we could accomplish for Gods kingdom, we agreed to make this show a weekly segment. We are in the process of advertising for the show and preparing for the weeks to come. This is such a blessing to be able to reach the masses in Panama via the power of radio. Pray that Gods goodness will be known throughout this great nation of Panama.

The work in the Guaymi Villages continues as well. These people are so loving and receptive to the gospel. Its almost as if they are hungry for it. We will return to their community later this week and will be working to create a bible study for the Guaymi children with an interpreter. Lacy is also forming a childrens bible study at the new church we are attending.

Later this week I will be meeting with the Mayor of Boquete in regards to putting on a Christian concert at the town square with some local Panamanian musicians followed by some open air preaching. Pray that if this is Gods will, doors will be open so that more people may be exposed to the gospel.

Many things are in the works and Gods hand is apparent in each avenue we travel through. As always more updates to come. Pray that the name of Jesus Christ may be known in every nation!

Masterpiece of God

1 Sep

Trusting and putting total faith in Jesus is so tough. Especially when venturing into the unknown. I find myself wanting his perfect will to be made clear now.  To be made clear in my time. I want Gods picture for my families life to be revealed to me in thirty minutes or less. Much like a fast food restaurant. But God doesnt operate on our time. If he did, it would be our plan, not Gods.

It is easy to look at the picture God is painting and get frustrated because it looks at present more like a Picasso rather than the Mona Lisa. But we have to keep in mind that he has only just begun. The picture is far from finished, and therefore we are not able to see what is being created. However its not important that we know what God is painting. The important thing is that God knows. Our job is to trust him and rely on his timing.

We have prayed for God to use our family for his glory here in Panama. We have prayed that we walk in his perfect will. Into The Harvest was created not for the Parish family. Nothing accomplished through our ministry is by anything we have done. Any hearts that are changed are not due to any words or actions we have shown. Only God changes a persons heart through the super natural workings of the Holy Spirit. Only God can save, for if man could save it would neglect Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We are not the artist, God is.

God continues to mold our ministry in Central America. We visited a new church in Boquete Pastored by Enrique Sanchez. He is Panamanian but speaks fluent English and has an English and Spanish service on Sundays. After attending, I spent some time with Pastor Sanchez and shared with him Gods calling on our family. Pastor Sanchez has such a heart for Christ, and is the perfect example of someone who is walking in the light of Jesus.  We decided to meet over coffee and discuss ways we could combine Into The Harvest and his church and work together to make an impact for the Kingdom of God in Panama.

We were unable to meet on the day we had planned due to his mother falling and being admitted into the hospital. We did end up meeting at the hospital over bottled water and discussed things. Pastor Sanchez asked me to fill in for him preaching the English service this past Sunday where he could take care of his mother. I accepted.

As I took the pulpit at the church this past Sunday, I was a bundle of nerves as I stood in front of the congregation. A man who spoke no English brought me a microphone and I declined at first, because my voice carried in the room. But I was then told I needed to use the mic because the church broadcasts all the services over a local radio station. The lesson I was about to preach would not only be heard by the congregation, but by the towns of David and Boquete through the radio. My nerves multiplied.

But after the opening prayer, God eased my nerves, and the word was preached. Pastor Sanchez has a radio and television ministry in addition to his church. Lacy and I want to help Pastor Sanchez grow his church by outreaching into the community. By creating weekly Bible studies and activities. We are so excited to have met such a Godly man to not only help him grow his church, but to help us mature our ministry so both can be a more effective tool of outreach for Jesus Christ.  Pastor Sanchez is a blessing and another stroke of the brush in the painting God is creating through our lives.

At the church I met another older gentleman by the name of Bobby Anderson. We call him Mr. Bobby. Mr. Bobby jokingly calls himself, “The Ancient of Days.” But the reality is that he is a wealth of Biblical knowledge and Christ centered at his very core. I went with Mr. Bobby this past Tuesday to a local indigenous Guaymi Indian school where he teaches English to the kids. I sat in the classroom as the children filed in. And when class began, they were all so eager to learn English. And Ive never seen a more patient man in teaching than Mr. Bobby. I will begin going with Mr. Bobby regularly on Tuesdays to assist him with the children.

This Saturday we will be going to another indigenous community where many of the Indian children are said to be disabled in some way. We will go there to play with them, to share with them, and to love on them as Christ loves on us. I plan on bringing my sons as well to play with the children. This is one of the blessings of serving Christ to me…being able to see my children giving of themselves to others.

Many seeds that have been planted are beginning to sprout. And more is in the works for this ministry in the coming weeks for opportunities to radically reach others for Christ. This has been such an awesome journey, and God is working. This masterpiece of God is taking shape, and even if God only changes one life due to God calling us to Panama, it was well worth the move. More updates to come shortly.

The Blessings in a Week

22 Aug

Its amazing the changes that can happen in a week. Especially if God is in them. Each day seems to shed so much light on the direction the Lord would have this ministry take.  The people being placed in our path, and just the way we end up connecting is truly phenomenal. I have learned that God moves the most in life when he knows you are listening.

I took Lincoln, our three year old son, to the Guyami Indian community this week so that he could help with the children at the mission. When I arrived with Linc at the mission church, a friend of ours named Nancy was there playing games with a few of the Guyami children that were there.   Soon after arriving, I had to leave to go pick up the Benacio, the Indian pastor and bring him to the mission.

Benacio is part of the Guaymi tribe and missionaries have worked with him for five years and basically trained him up to be a pastor. He speaks no English, but is on fire for spreading the gospel to his people. I picked up Benacio and we began the drive back to the mission. He is in his late thirties, and just a great guy all around.

Neither of us spoke the others language, but I knew enough basic spanish to communicate. We talked about how long he had been a pastor, his children, my children, and our wives. In spite of the language barrier, we were able to share stories and relate as men to each other through sharing about our families. It was awesome.

When we arrived at the mission church, Lincoln and I sat down and the service began. Benacio stood before his people and began to preach. And even though I didnt understand the language he spoke, he passion told the story so clearly that Jesus Christ was being glorified through his words.

In the middle of the service, a little Guaymi girl, probably around five years old, came over to where Lincoln and I were sitting. She was enthralled with Lincoln, and it was apparent she wanted to play. I looked in the back of the church and there were about ten little Guaymi boys and girls watching the girl approach Lincoln, as if she had been put up to it. I let go of Lincoln and the little girl took his hand and led him to the back. The children loved Lincoln.

They picked him up, and hugged him, and shared their candy with him.  After the service, Lincoln played with the children for close to an hour. The little girls loved his blond hair and the boys were anxious to play with him. There was a little boy there who was from the United States there as well playing. He was about ten years old and spoke very fluent spanish. He had come to this country as a missionary with his parents five years ago, and had picked up the language beautifully. His name was Savior, and he was my translator to the kids for the evening.

When we left the mission that night, Lincoln didnt want to leave. A few kids followed him to our car, and before we left, Lincoln said “Adios” to the kids, and they smiled and waved to us. It was neat to see how they connected.

Friday of this past week I went to a coffee shop near Boquete. A Panamanian woman and her husband were sitting near me and we struck up a conversation. They spoke English. I began to tell them about my past working in radio and tv in the states and how God had led our family here to Panama to spread the gospel. Her name was Yari.

Yari immediately said, “You have to meet my brother! He is a pastor here and has a small radio and television station he uses to preach the gospel! In fact, he has the only religious television and radio media outlets in this area!” This was truly a God centered meeting. It was as I we were both watching a piece of his plan unfold right before our eyes.

I agreed to come to their church and meet Yari’s brother. This Sunday I attended their church. The service was an English service and her brother was a strong man of God with a great message. Afterwards we talked and he expressed how he wanted to have a spanish broadcast, which he would do, and he wanted an english broadcast. We are meeting at the end of this week to talk about the possibilities of him using me weekly to deliver a message in English on his radio station.  They are affiliated with The Trinity Broadcasting Network….TBN.

We are also meeting regarding a mid week bible study he wants Lacy and I to lead. God continues to open doors. The pastor told the congregation about us and has invited me to come to the church and preach this Sunday to the church. I cant wait to see what opportunities God has for the ministry and this awesome man of God. What an honor it is to be working with people such as these.

Tomorrow I will be meeting with a new friend I met at the church. He is a seventy year old former pastor, and he will be taking me to a different Indian community where he teaches them English and the gospel. We are learning so much through the people God continues to place in our lives. Thank you all for your continued prayers. Keep praying that many will be reached for the kingdom, and God will be glorified in this nation. As always, more updates to come!

The Guaymi Indians and The Rewards of Obediance

15 Aug

There is no such thing as happenstance or coincidence. Everything good thing that is placed in our path is God breathed. This weekend was the perfect example. And what a busy weekend it was. Friday afternoon I took Andy and Lincoln into the mountains to meet two new friends, Nicole and Ester and their children for a playdate. It was so refreshing to meet such sweet ladies who had children close to our boys ages. The kids had so much fun playing “ninjas” and we had a blast getting to know one another and comparing mommy stories!

Saturday afternoon Charlie traveled to Volcan Road to visit the Guaymi Indian mission. They are an indigenous group who live mainly in the mountain area of Boquete. Just a brief bit of history on them….

The Guaymi Indians were concentrated in the more remote regions of Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí, and Veraguas. Because their territory was divided by the Cordillera Central, the Guaymi resided in two sections that were climatically and ecologically distinct. On the Pacific side, small hamlets were scattered throughout the more remote regions of Chiriquí and Veraguas; on the Atlantic side, the people remained in riverine and coastal environments.  Present-day contact with this tribe was most intense in Veraguas, where the mestizo farmers were expanding into previously remote lands at a rapid rate. Guaymi in Bocas del Toro and Chiriquí were less affected. The entry of these outsiders effectively partitioned Guaymi lands. There was a rise in the proportion of tribal members bilingual in Spanish and Guaymi, substantial numbers of whom eventually abandoned Guaymi and disclaimed their Indian identity.

They are a peaceful people who seem to be very private and keep to themselves. Charlie and a friend of ours Harry went to their community to pick them up in a small SUV. The houses they were living in were very poor. Basically just cinderblock with a doorway that remained open, unable to close, and a flat slab of metal lying over the top to serve as a roof. They had no floors inside the houses that we saw, just dirt.

But they were dressed just beautifully. The women wear a traditional dress that is customary to their people. They are very oppressed in Panama. The indians are not allowed to have middle class jobs such as working at a department store or restaurant. They mainly work in agriculture and are paid extremely poorly for their hard word. Their private lives are no easier. Harry informed us that if a woman is raped within their tribe, she is given to the man who had violated her to have until he grew tired of her. Also abuse is very prevalent within their community. According to some of the missionaries, the Guaymi are very new to the Gospel of Christ. In fact, many of them still remain unreached.

     

When they arrived they realized that more of them had planned on attending the worship at the mission that night than expected. Sixteen in all…four adults, counting Charlie and Harry, two Guaymi women, and twelve children. Not wanting to put one of the ladies in the very back of the car crowded with children, Charlie gave up his front seat to her and literally folded up to fit in the truck with six of the children basically sitting in his lap! He said they had so much fun one the way to the mission. Even though they knew no English, Charlie knew enough Spanish to communicate with them.

When they arrived at the mission and unloaded, the indians filed into a small, open air church. They sat patiently, even the children, and a basic service was delivered on the Ten Commandments. After the service, they were fed a meal and then taken back to their communities. Charlie told me that while playing with the children after the service, he looked down at a five year old little boy and noticed someone had burned the top of his head with a car cigarette lighter. Again the abuse rate is one of their problems. So heartbreaking to see such sweet people endure such hardships. But you would never know it by their attitudes. Even when we see them around town, they are so sweet. The next time we visit the community we want to take our boys.

This Sunday we visited a new church that is meeting inside a home near Los Molinos.  My new friends Ester and Nicole are there. Charlie and I are excited about plugging in to this awesome group of believers and growing the ministry and this church for the glory of Christ. Each week brings so much more of Gods plan into light, and more amazing people into our paths. New friends, opportunities to share Christ, and experiencing His Great Commission…all the rewards of obedience. This journey into obedience in Christ has profited our family so much more than I could have ever imagined. More updates to come! Thank you Jesus!