Who am I?

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Monrovia, Liberia
I live in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa with my wife and youngest son. We are recently arrived in Liberia where we are serving as missionaries with Evangelical Church Missions working under the Liberia Evangelical Mission. For most of the last thirty years we have served under ECM in Bolivia, South America. We are the happy parents of four children and the proud grandparents of two grandchildren.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Come To The Banquet

The heavenly Zion Church recently held a Sunday morning banquet that was inspired by the parable in Matthew about the banquet. Each member of the church agreed that they would invite someone new to come with them the following Sunday. The church would prepare a banquet to serve the new guests following the morning service. I was quite pleased to see that on the morning of the banquet there were between 12 and 15 new people at church.Some of those were children but eight or nine were adults. The service began with music. And then there was some more music. What impressed me was that the words for several of the songs were projected on a screen so that everyone could join in singing. The singing was followed by a game/illustration about salvation. Included in the morning's activities were several videos presenting different aspects of salvation. Towards the end of the service the visitors were introduced by name and given the opportunity to receive Christ as savior.(There seems to have been some positive response to the invitation with at least one or two perhaps making a firm commitment to Christ.) The service was followed by a meal and fellowship time.

As I witnessed this whole thing I thought to myself that some of this would never fly in the US culture. Everything was done wrong if you were wanting to make visitors feels at home. They were all "invited" to sit on the front row. They were all "invited" to join in the game while everyone else watched. Following the videos the visitors were asked to respond to some very tough questions about what they had just seen. Then having to introduce themselves and say something would be enough to make any half-hearted visitor flee through the nearest exit. But the amazing thing is that no one bolted. They took all the abuse that the church could hurl at them.They stayed for dinner, accepted some prizes from the church (a tub of butter, a sack of rice, some other food item), visited with people and some of them were back yesterday.

Please pray for those who came and for those who returned. Pray that those who made a beginning with Christ will carry through and allow him to begin to mold and transform their lives. Pray for the church as it seeks to fully incorporate these invited folks, and others, into the local body of Christ.

Are you missing having pictures with the posts? I am. Sorry to say my camera is in the hospital and pronounced terminal. I have a new camera waiting for me in the States. I should be able to have it by sometime in October. So until then the blog will basically be pictureless.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Saturday Night Live

This last Saturday evening I had the opportunity to meet a new group of believers who gather together on Wednesday and Saturday evenings at the home of one of group. The home is located right on the edge of Los Pozos (The Wells) one of the largest market areas in Santa Cruz and includes, not only living quarters, but also two tiendas (small stores) where they sell musical instruments (from a quick glance it looked to be mostly drums!).

This group is not large. On Wednesdays there may be around 20 adults with a handfull of children. The Saturday night group consisted of eight or nine adults and three or four kids. I could not have been given a warmer reception. After being introduced to those who were there I was asked to share a few words of encouragement. I had not come prepared to "preach" becasue the pastor who invited me told me I didn't need to say anything except a few words. however from the context of the event I perceived that more than just a few words were expected and needed. so I shared a little bit from John 3 and how we are called to extend grace in the world and not condemnation. After my few words the people there expressed appreciation for my visit. Then I was asked to pray the closing prayer. I was surprised that I was the entire "program" for the evening.

This group, if I have the story correct, had its start from the circumstances surrounding a sick woman. One of her friends suggested that they call a pastor (Fimo Ramos) that she knew to come and pray for her. So they did. The sick woman was comforted by the prayer of the pastor and her friends appreciated the ministry to her. Even though the woman did not get recover (she died not too long after that) the friends asked the pastor if he could come and meet with them. So the new group was formed. There are eleven different families on the list with a total of some 44 names.

My hope for this group is that it can some day be organized into a functioning church. At the moment the pastor is going slowly, having a very deliberate discipleship focus to prepare leaders for when the time comes to formally organize. Would you please pray for this group of believers that they will sense the direction in which God is guiding them and for Pastor Fimo as he leads them.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Little Church in the City

Sunday I was able to attend the Casa de Oración (House of Prayer) church. You may remember that this is the church that was shut down for a time and had no pastor. In the last months Pastor Fimo Ramos has been "filling in". Somewhere in the past Fimo's heart has been touched by children and their needs. (He was the founding pastor of the God is Love church. His first service consisted of two or three children.) Later he had the desire to learn how to minister more effectively to children and so he took the courses offered on how to teach children offered by the Bolivian counterpart of Child Evangelism Fellowship. So when he agreed to become the temporary pastor at the House of Prayer church his first thought was to begin with the children of the neighborhood. That impulse has paid off. On Sundays there are now as many as 30 children who are attending the Sunday School. Yesterday the number of children was down a bit but the number of adults was up. In fact, there has not been an adult class because of lack of adults but yesterday it was announced that I would be teaching the adults. We had a good class with around ten students. And so God is moving again in the House of Prayer. Fimo would be the first to tell you that it is a direct answer to prayer. This year the district leaders have been meeting together for special prayer times and God is answering.

Pastor Fimo leading music.

This couple is helping to provide leadership for the church.

Yesterday before church began, Fimo asked to speak with me. He began to share his vision for expanded ministry at the church and wanted to know if the mission could help establish a centro de apoyo (help center) for the neighborhood children, much as we are working towards doing at the district headquarters facility. My immediate impulse was to say YES but I know better. First I would need to speak with my fellow missionaries, Bryan and Molly, who are heading up this program. (It is always best to sound hesitant at first and even a bit discouraging. Any kind of positive reacction can be taken as a firm commitment to provide whatever it is you are being asked to provide.) So I responded, but you will need to put windows in the holes in the wall. Also a gate in the fence to keep things locked up. And a bathroom. Kids will need a bathroom. As we talked I was inwardly smiling because I knew something that Fimo didn't. All these things would cost money and the church has no money. . . .

Maybe a month ago I received a phone call from an hermana. She said she was in town and wanted to see me. She had a bit of offering that her husband had sent for the district. Could I come that day and visit? (She and her husband immigrated to Spain several years ago to find work. She was back in Bolivia on a visit.) So at the appointed time I arrived at her home. After some visiting and meeting her son-in-law and granddaughter, she gave me an envelope with some cash inside. Again she assured me, (I suppose not to get my hopes too high) that it was not very much. And could it please be used to help the Casa de Oración church. (Her husband had been the original pastor of the church.) When I got to a place in private where I could open the envelope I counted out a little over $5000 US. Just a little bit, she had told me. Not very much, she had repeated.

So now there is money to help make the improvements needed at the church and maybe, just maybe (I still have not committed to the project) we can open that centro de apoyo. Will you please pray with me and with Bryan and Molly as we consider what might be able to be done. It will require helpers that we don't have and time that might already be committed elsewhere. But who knows? God has provided the funding. If he did that several weeks before the request who is to say that he might not already be preparing the needed helpers? It will be fun to wait and see what he does next.

For a couple of earlier posts on Casa de Oración you can go to the May 6,2011 postings.