Who am I?

My photo
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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gordon, Where are you?

Ever have one of those days when it seems like you blew it without even trying? Yesterday was one of those for me. It was Sunday. Not just any Sunday. But a special Sunday for the Santa Cruz district of the church because we were dedicating the new district headquarters building. (I should add a disclaimer here. Even though we dedicated it, it is not done. Just the first part is finished.) It was a big event. On Saturday afternoon there was to be a pick up five man soccer tournament. Then on Sunday would be the actual dedication service.

The three sided "tingaldo" serves as the large meeting area.

Sunday morning was a nice clear sunny day. Good weather for an inauguration. I received a phone call (not unexpected) asking if I would go to the airport and pick up the president of the national women´s organization that was coming for the junta. So, after preparing breakfast, I went to the airport only to discover that the flight had arrived early and I should have been there a half an hour sooner than I was. After reconfirming their tickets (it turned out to be two hermanas, not just one) to return home that evening we headed to the district headquarters.

I knew we would be late due to the hour of their flight. But I figured that would be OK because I had no responsibilities for the day except to be there and, towards the end. to hand out Bible institute grade cards.. We arrived as the music was getting into full swing so it seemed we had not missed much. I kept waiting for the dedication ceremony to be announced at any time but nothing was said.

After much music it was time for the Scripture reading. The young lady who was to read came and tapped me on the shoulder and asked what she should read. Wasn't I the speaker? No. I wasn´t the programed speaker. She had better go and ask the president. Soon she was back He told me you are the speaker this morning. Something was wrong here. I quickly went and asked  him. I´m preaching?! Yes. Don´t you remember, I told you on Friday. Well he probably did tell me but I didn´t hear him. OK. What to do. Ten minutes until time to preach. Nothing prepared. Big event. Lord, HELP! I had in my Bible the sermon that I had used the last time I was in La Paz. For whatever reason I had not taken it out so I decided that would need to become the message of the morning.
So that is what I did. I thank the Lord for his help in preaching that morning.

This pretty little girl being dedicated by pastor Fimo is the daughter of Jhonny, one of our other pastors.

Now that was over and I could relax again, but what about the dedication? When would it be? Nothing was said. I was called up front to give out grade cards for the institute from last year. (We had 33 students who had completed at least one class.) I was prepared to do that and had the grade cards in hand. Then it was some other items. A baby dedication was in there somewhere. Two offerings (one for the district and one to help an hermano that fell off of a roof while working), special music and announcements. There was also a "cake offering". (I don't remember ever seeing this before. There were about eight cakes that would be served at the end. Inserted into the cakes were ribbons. On the end of each ribbon was an amount of money. You were invited, if you wished, to pull out a ribbon and then give the amount of money indicated as a special offering to help with the new headquarters. Wouldn't you know it, my ribbon had the highest amount!) A closing prayer was finally given, dinner announced and pictures were taken of each church represented in the junta. I must have missed the dedication prayer, I decided.

Following lunch I was visiting with one of the pastors who said to me, My name was not on the program but I was called up to the platform four times. First, because you weren't here, I has to dedicate the building. . .  . WHAT? I was supposed to dedicate the building as well? The president was standing there as well. I told you. Don't you remember? NOOOOOOOOOOO. So I really missed it that day. Feeling both embarrassed and amused at the same time, I eventually put my tail between my legs and slunk home.

I suppose there is a lesson in all this, but I really am not sure what. I am sure that the president did indeed tell me all this. I am also sure that when he did I did not catch what he was saying. I would have remembered something like that. Oh well, the hermanos are very forgiving. Maybe next time both they and I will make sure the message reaches my brain.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Three cheers for legalism! and other stuff

I know that legalism gets a bum rap. Nobody wants to be legalistic. But I have decided that what the church in both Bolivia and the US needs, perhaps, is a good dose of legalism. Let me try to explain. We have so individualized Christianity that we don't want anyone or anything telling us what to do. Also we decide what is right for us and how to apply (or not apply) our faith. So, I can be in bed on Saturday night with my girl friend and in church singing and praising God on Sunday morning and see no problem there. My bride can be pregnant at the wedding but no big deal. No shame, no concern. After all I choose what and how my faith gets applied. So I can merrily go my way living in fornication, cheating on my taxes, being deceptive in my business practices and still have a good conscience on Sunday because my faith doesn't have to impact how I live. We have turned ourselves into virtual atheists, or worse yet, we simply have made God irrelevant to our lives. At least the legalistic person understands that God and faith ought to impact how I live. It should make a difference in my business, my taxes, my relationships with neighbors and so on. While I am not pushing here for a return to the days of giant checklists when we determined a person's spirituality by how many things he didn't do, I am calling for a return to recognizing that faith and God are relevant to how I live, whether in Bolivia or the States.

An exciting event is taking place here in Santa Cruz. Our tutoring center (Centro Integral de Apoyo Estudiantil "Nueva Esperanza" -New Hope Tutoring Center) is now in full swing. The first week there were between 50 and 75 kids each day. The theory is that it is a safe place where kids can come and be loved and receive help with their homework. Also each day's program includes a devotional time to learn abut Jesus. Bryan and Molly Canny, along with their volunteer staff of church people (I have even got involved), are heading up this very important ministry. Please pray for them to have wisdom in meeting the challenges that this type of program brings. Also pray that the children will not only get better grades but also get better acquainted with Jesus.

Molly looking over the schedule or something.

Registering students on the first day.  Oscar, a teacher, has given invaluable help.

Bryan, in charge of games and other things, gives instructions.

Niki recently took a trip to Orlando to attend the National Institute for Learning Development conference. There she attended workshops and training sessions to keep up to date on her educational therapy skills. The trip was fine until the plane had a major breakdown in La Paz as it was taxiing to return to Santa Cruz. But that is another story. She did make it home but not in time for Mark's 15th birthday party. We had to move that back a day. But she is home and happily applying her new found information to her students.