Monday, January 31, 2011

Sargent Joe Friday

Years have past since the TV show Dragnet was a favorite choice in the nightly line-up. Many who read the title might have no clue as to the contents. But for those of you "baby boomers" out there who are in my same age range, when you read the name you could here the distinctive baritone voice say, "Just the facts, mam, that's all we need, just the facts."

I returned from Mexico safe and sound with no incidents, save for a fee at the airport on our luggage. Both Vicki and I were concerned the amount of coffee we were bringing in to the USA (not enough to open a java house but could be construed as intentions to distribute!) would be confiscated in customs. Thankfully, no problemo.

During our time in Chiapas, we ministered to over 500 children and adults in the San Cristobal area and surrounding villages. We also conducted a training of lay leaders on our last day to equip them in techniques for childrens' ministry. A good time was had by all, the Kingdom advanced and the Name above all names was glorified.

As I was unpacking and getting through mail, emails, and laundry, three breaking news story interrupted regular programming. Interesting news day indeed. Throughout the day, I kept an eye on the stories (a reported child abduction, a gunman entering a medical facility and a suspicious package found near the Superbowl stadium). I also heard the State Department has issued another warning for all Americans not to travel to Mexico due to the drug cartel violence.

These are the facts:

30,000 murders since the military offensive against the drug cartels began in 2006 (Six times as many deaths of our soldiers fighting a declared war in Iraq and Afghanistan)

15 decapitated bodies found in Acapulco the week before we arrived in Chiapas. 13 more bodies were found around the city

Nancy Davis, a missionary to Mexico was fatally shot in the head the day we left (January 26)

"For God so loved the WORLD HE GAVE His only begotten Son, that whosoever, believeth in Him shall have everlasting life." John 3:16

That is the truth. The Word of God declares "the Truth will set us free!"

Many people were disturbed (and prayerful I hope) when I "broke the news" of my mission to Mexico; knowing many of the "facts" indeed made me very prayerful as well. But knowing the "Truth," sent me on my way without reservations or fear.

Just a day after my return a devotional came across my "virtual" desk (through email). It was timely and affirming.

"When such situations hit us and we allow the facts to settle in our hearts, we end up feeling greatly troubled. But when we let the truths of God's Word settle them all, we will sense the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the truths that we are believing. He is the Spirit of truth. (John 16:13) He is not the Spirit of facts and does not bear witness to facts...

What is the difference between fact and truth? Facts change, but truth — God's Word — remains! When God's people choose to defy the facts and walk instead in His truths regarding their situations, the Holy Spirit in them will bear witness to the truths that they are believing...

The next time you are hit by disturbing facts, let God's Word settle the truth about your situation. And as the Holy Spirit bears witness to the truths that you are believing, the facts will change and you will receive your miracle!"

Here is the miracle I pray for, that the people we ministered to just south of our border will be protected by the love of the Father. That those same people will come to understand the freedom offered through salvation in Christ. My prayer is the hundreds of young children will grow into strong Christian men and women and be in positions of power to influence their nation and stop the terrorizing of innocent people across their land. I pray also for the Christian men and women who are working the fields. They do not face the same circumstances our brothers and sisters are facing in Africa, India and China, but they are facing overwhelming "facts" about their country's stability and the pervasive violence that seems random. And I pray that I will know better how to serve my Mexican neighbors, in circumtances that seem futile for even an American "intervention" into the situation. I know these are all facts too big for me to understand or affect, but it is not too big for my God.

That is the TRUTH!

Vaya con Dios

"If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in TRUTH." 1 John 3:17-18

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Monday, January 24, 2011


That's "PIONEER" to all you folks that didn't learn phonetics through Sylvan Learning system.

1. early arrival in new territory
2. the first one in any effort

It's safe to say I have qualified for both on many occasions. Here in Chiapas (just a hop skip and a jump from DFW) because of the large Hispanic population in Texas, I don't feel quite so foreign.

Vicki has accused me of holding out my language skills when I have filled out past East West application forms. You are supposed to divulge information and gifts that the team leader can find useful for advancing the Kingdom. Hard as I tried to convince her "I do not speak Spanish," she would just shake her head because when the locals speak to me after I have inquired, "donde esta el bano?" I keep looking at them like I know what they are saying.

My inability was confirmed and her theory banished the first day as I was showing the children my ever handy Coloring Book trick. I asked them to help me color and I started saying all the Spanish words for colors that popped into my head. "Rojo" (red), "Blanco" (white) and "Verde" (green). Then I said what I thought was the word for "orange." The interpreter turned around with a quizzical look and said, "You want them to color spiders?"

I don't speak Spanish!

But I am quite proficient when it comes to charades. Our hotel room doesn't have heat (it drops down to about 65•), but tonight we walked past the room next door and spied a space heater.

There we stood out in the cold night air feeling foolish for not asking the front desk sooner if space heaters were available. Vicki turned to me and said, "Well, why don't you go use those language skills and see if you can find out about that."


You don't even get what you need but those around you are entertained!

1. Ask if the person speaks English - if the answer is "poco" you might have a shot

2. Use a common word to start the conversation - FRIO (say this while rubbing your arms and shaking)

3. Start by using small English words like "room" and "heater" while motioning with your hands

4. When they answer with more than one word stop them immediately

5. When they start their own game of charades, making motions like
"Put your coat on if you're cold" understand you have failed to communicate

6. Use props - I walked over to the ashtray of the lobby and motioned using an English word by adding an "a" to the end "Machina" as well as the word for hot "caliente". I then rubbed my hands over the top like it held a roaring campfire. I also used non-verbal moans to indicate I was getting warm

Success at last. She said, "Oh ---- (the word for heater that I already forgot) and then she shook her head, "No." Success and failure all in the span of an Alex Tribec Jeopardy round.

"Pioneer" indeed! I think it is safe to say I am the first one to make such an effort to try and communicate "I am cold do you have a space heater?"

Over the last 5 days we have communicated the love of Christ to over 500 children and adults. We have seen professions of faith by several adults who were listening on the sidelines and spoke to the Pastors while we were busy with their children. We have seen the motions of the "Chicken Dance" lighten the load of children carrying children by allowing them to have carefree fun. Yes, the Spirit of the Living God has touched hearts without uttering a word.

Shivering, smiling but serving still

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Paying Attention

"Now get yourselves ready. I'm sending my Angel ahead of you to guard you in your travels, to lead you to the place that I've prepared. Pay close attention." Exodus 23:20 The Message

It wasn't the "crack of dawn" when we were ready to leave but very close to it. We had a long drive to the village of Aguacatenango and no idea what kind of drive it would be. It is safe to say I had a bit of anxiety working as we drove through the mountainous roads.

Yes, I pray, yes, I breathe deep, yes, I trust my times are in His hands and of course YES, I trust His Angel has gone before us. But somewhere between the prayer, breathing and trusting, and wishing I could hear those Angel's wings - sweat breaks out across my brow as I look down at the rocky precipice as our car hugs the unprotected shoulder to let others pass us by.

I confess, sometimes the places HE has prepared, don't look very prepared. Once we turned off the main road, the car had to creep down the craggy rutted and rocky path. We were definitely headed towards the "ends of the earth."

Due to our second day's experience of the hillside mob, we have since been prepared for any and all combinations of our program. We have games, music, crafts, stories, tricks and songs. Sometimes I feel like Bullwinkle saying, "Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat" and out pops the unexpected Rhino!

Somehow, it all works out. We connect with the children. They smile, laugh and eventually warm up to us. We share the love of Christ and we leave them with the love of Christ.

After our children's program, Sergio (our in-country leader) held a church service. They sang songs, stood and prayed and listened attentively while he shared the message. I had to confess to Vicki, the Angel may have prepared the place - but I wish he had used bug spray. My attention to the Spanish (I can pick up about every tenth word) was distracted by the swarms of unidentified creatures hovering around my wooden stool.

As much as I experience and "lean in" to here in the harvest fields, my senses still are jarred by the conditions. This small village has no running water, and electricity into the mud brick houses is achieved by running frayed wires from the interspersed poles. There are chickens with their chicks, dogs with mange, and children half naked with scabies and various other very noticeable skin afflictions.


The Angel of the Lord was here before and God prepared this place.
At the end of the service one of the older women approached Sergio and his wife Beth and said there was a man that was afraid to attend the service. He was in a house (in total darkness) towards the back of the village. He was inebriated and embarrassed. Sergio entered his house and sat and spoke with him of the Father's love, acceptance and forgiveness available to him. After some time - he did accept the free gift of salvation being offered. A light is now shining in the dark and reaching into a place in his heart where no "frayed wire" ever could.
Paying attention

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Can Call Me Gershom

No matter what country I find myself in, young and old have a hard time pronouncing my name. This includes the United States of America, and dates far back to childhood. It used to really disturb me. Now, at 51 I accept that it is what it is. But, it has served me well in ministry teaching the meaning and value in "names."

Just before I left for Mexico I began reading Exodus. Moses named his first born son Gershom. It means "I am a stranger and a sojourner in a strange land;" which is why I wish I knew the female version (should there be one) of the Hebrew name. (Perhaps Gershomee?)

I am frequently a "stranger (strange at the very least) and sojourner in some very strange (and unfamiliar) lands. And while there is much that we find familiar here (laughter, chicken dance shennaigans, and guacamole) there are many very different, unique and beautiful things about this culture.

In the three days we have been ministering in various neighborhoods of San Cristobal, we have seen over 400 children and adults. Tomorrow we set off to a village two hours away by car. We have no idea what to expect.

"Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages, so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." Mark 1:38

The words of Christ echo in our hearts. It is the same reason we came, to share the Good News in nearby (and some not so nearby)villages.

"After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him." Luke 8:1

The Dallas News today carried an article on how many mission trips to Mexico have been cancelled due to the border and drug cartel violence.

"Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack or harm you, because I have many people in this city." Acts 18:9-10

We are looking forward to meeting many of "His people."

Strange, sojourner smiling,
Smiling strange, sojourning

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Friday, January 21, 2011


Have you (women) ever opened a jewelry box only to discover the necklace you intended to wear had become tangled with other chains and items? There the treasured adornment was, knotted together and even perhaps beyond salvaging.
If I had to share a description of today it would probably be that. Among the crowd of over three hundred women and children there were beautiful faces, colorful skirts and woven shawls, all "tangled" together on a hillside in the city. And there in that crowd were significant numbers of hearts that felt they were beyond salvaging...

until they heard the message of the love of Christ.

I trust the promises of the Word. It does not return to the Father void, but accomplishes what He has purposed. I trust the promise if Christ be lifted up He will draw men (women and children) unto Himself. I trust that in the chaos of so many kids scrambling for beads, balloons and candy (of which we ran out of all) the Spirit was busy creating new life, new hope and precious redemption.

I have to trust it. There is no Plan B, just as there is only one Way, one Truth and one Life.

And there is another reason I have to trust His plan and process on days like today - I don't have much patience.

Whenever I found a tangled piece of jewelry, I generally just tossed it in the trash. Or if I really liked it or it was too valuable to toss, I would wait until one of my friends came over and I would sheepishly inquire if they would "do me a favor." I would hand the disaster over and they would patiently sit with a safety pin, or some other tool required for the task and untangle my mess.

I have been blessed with many friends who are detail oriented, have patience, and actually enjoying doing such things. They can actually even accomplish the unraveling process without using even one expletive! I suppose I used up the allotment when I opened the jewelry box.

I shared and thanked one of my friends recently for being "that kind" of friend. I know our God is the same way. Whatever treasure is before us, tangled mess or not, He is the kind of friend you can just hand the thing over to, and with great patience, mercy, grace and lovingkindness, He will sit right down with you and fix it.

He sat with us today.

He also did the Chicken Dance (again)!

Turning it over

"If we could see the floor of God's immediate presence, we would find it strewn with the "toys" of God's children who have said - this is broken, I can't play with it anymore, please give me another present, only one in a thousand sits down in the midst of it all and says - I will watch my Father mend this. God must not be treated as a hospital for our broken "toys," but as our Father." Oswald Chambers "Not Knowing Where"
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Thursday, January 20, 2011


"We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles." Oswald Chambers

We arrived without incident and much faster than our typical 28 hours of travel. I can say, the flight barely seemed to be in the air before we were landing in Mexico City! We did have to negotiate a new airport, along with airline and terminal change - but all in all it was hassle free (and Starbucks as a bonus)!

This morning we enjoyed fresh mountain grown coffee, along with toast, scrambled eggs and a small side of frijoles. We are 4,000 ft above sea level and the cool morning breeze made the hot brew a welcome refreshment. Vicki remarked on the peaceful air that prevails within the contrast of violence.

Although the atmosphere and culture here is relaxed, we are conscious of the "battle" we have been sent to fight. It is the Eternal one for the hearts and souls of men, women and children. Without the foundational hope of Christ, the children we encounter can easily grow into the drug lords of the future. The farmers of maize can be converted or coerced to cultivating a more lucrative produce of marijuana or cocoa to turn into cocaine.

We discussed the issues and shook our heads overwhelmed to think what we would do faced with such a problem. Go along - or die. Can the American government solve such a problem? Will a fence stretching from Texas to California cease the flood of drug trafficking that funds and fuels the violence? Can the Mexican government curb the corruption or provide enough law enforcement and officials to break the cartels? What can be done?

The news reports appeared in our minds like the "giants" in the land of Canaan. I had to turn to Vicki and say, "I feel like Joshua and Caleb." She didn't understand my point of reference since my whole conversation has been between my Blackberry and me. "You know, sent down into the land to scout it out for those who will come later. We can take it! Our God is on our side!"

She chuckled, "Yes He is and yes we can."

His battle is being fought here. Our part begins this afternoon with our first program. Pray for connection with the children and the local lay workers. Pray for hearts to hear the hope of Christ, sealed by His blood -bought and paid for.

Our schedule for the week is below. Please continue to pray for our stamina in the high altitude and our health against the unseen.

THUR  - San Cristobal       
FRI  - San Cristobal
  SAT  -  San Cristobal     
SUN -  Aguacatenango
MON  - Comitan       
TUE -  Linda Vista     

Via con Dios!
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Monday, January 17, 2011

An Other Land

I am finalizing my packing today. I try and leave one day free for the unexpected before I take off into the wild blue yonder. But the winter skies over Texas have been a dull gray lately; nothing blue about them, and I have aged-out of "wild." The "yonder" I am always ready for.

This morning I felt as though I was having a bout of S.A.D. (Seasonal Affected Disorder) caused by lack of sunshine. "Oh me, oh my, why can't the sun just shine." As I was pondering this dilemma, I realized the absolute hopelessness of those without the Son. Their dismay doesn't stem from clouds, but the spiritual darkness that imprisons them.

As I have told friends I am going to Mexico, this look comes across their faces. "You're kidding right? Don't you know how dangerous it is there?" Then, they stifle a laugh realizing what they just said, all while quickly correcting themselves by acknowledging most places I go are considered "dangerous."

It is a new year, and Chiapas, Mexico is a new territory the Father has opened the door for me to step through. I will be traveling with the Director of Orphan Minstry at East West International to prepare for future teams to serve there.

" us courage instead of fear, and faith instead of fright. He's the One who "every year you grow, you will find bigger." Prince Caspian Book 2 Chronicles of Narnia - C. S. Lewis

Over Christmas, I took a suitcase full of books for the orphanage in Ghana. I included The Chronicles of Narnia series as well as a companion book to help parents explain the "hidden" allegories for their children. As I was packing up and thumbing through the explanation volume, I thought, "Wow, I wish I would have had this explained to me when I read it." Needless to say when I returned I ordered a copy for myself.

It was refreshing to read some of the passages (above and below) with a fresh perspective. Every year my prayer is to see God in a bigger way in the places and people I experience. I pray to show and to share His story in a fresh light. I pray to ignite passion for the lost. I pray to set captives of deception free by the truth of salvation. I pray to give the sight of God's overwhelming love to those blinded by poverty of spirit. I pray to take the hand of those made lame by crippling circumstance and help them rise to praise the God who heals. I pray to grow in grace.

I pray.

"This is the very reason why you were brought to Narnia," Aslan says to the children, "that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there." Voyage of the Dawn Treader Book 3 Chronicles of Narnia - C. S. Lewis

I pray to know the Lion of Judah better in the land of Mexico.

Listening for the roar!

To participate financially with our outreach in Mexico, please visit our website:

MEXICO - Calendar of Events

Depart DFW for San Cristobal, Chiapas Mexico

Local Team Strategy Meeting

Children's Outreach - Rural Jungle areas

Team Training in child evangelism

Depart Mexico for DFW