Character

We are locked down in Honduras as I write. COVID cases have begun to double on a daily basis. The borders and airports are closed. No one can come in or go out. There’s a 6 month to 2-year jail sentence awaiting anyone who violates a curfew.  Hondurans in our little community are obedient and calm. They are familiar with crises.  Two older American friends in another part of the country are locked down too.  He is a retired architect and has had a series of strokes. His wife is left to cope with his rapidly deteriorating condition by herself. They don’t have COVID but COVID is placing his life in jeopardy.

Meanwhile there are about two hundred North Americans, most of whom are short term missionaries stranded here.  Several of them are demanding their rights and that the US State Dept does something to evacuate them.  We strongly encouraged people to postpone their trips weeks before COVID first reared its head.  Unfortunately confirmation bias reigned supreme. I guess their plans, ministry and mission were too important.  I can empathize. I remember thinking and feeling the same way as a short-term missionary myself. 

As Seth Barnes founder of Adventures and Missions, (AIM) an organization with whom we serve as World Race GAP Year Coaches, said in his blog Courage and Prudence

“We are now in a wartime footing in most of the country. Most of us have no idea how to live life there. The things that worked before no longer work. COVID-19 is changing everything.”

Several months ago, I gave a teaching based on the book

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy-What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. By William Straus and Neil Howe. I had no idea at the time how prophetic it was.

Howe and Strauss are Historians and social scientists who observed an Ecclesiastes 3 cycle in American history that shows a new era, a season or “Turning” every 20 -25 years. Four turns or seasons amount to a Saeculum or the length of a long lifetime. In simplest terms, the most recent “First Turning” 1945 -65 was the “High” and could be likened to a honeymoon period.  It was marked by the end of WWII and the birth to the American dream. Families were strengthened as were social institutions like schools, local governments and church. Individual roles both inside and outside the family were clearly defined.

The “Second Turning”, 1965-85, the “Awakening”, was a period of questioning all those things. It was a time of spiritual upheaval, when the old order came under attack. It was marked by things like the birth of ERA, the Vietnam war and the subsequent student lead peace movements, the Water Gate Trial and Impeachment of Richard Nixon. Basically, every social institution was challenged. 

The “Third Turning”, 1985-2005, the “Unraveling” was a time when the individual reigned supreme. Punk rock and rap glorified criminality and anti-social behavior, swinging, divorce and open homosexuality became normalized. And culminated with the HIV AIDS epidemic and the destruction of the twin towers in New York.  Post Modernism grew to become the dominant world view and continued corruption and government scandals fueled an already growing distrust of nearly all established authority and institutions.  

The “Fourth Turning” 2005 -25 is the “Crisis”. We are in the thick of it now.

As Straus and Howe wrote in 1996.

“The next Fourth Turning is due to begin shortly after the new millennium, midway through the Oh-Oh decade. Around the year 2005, a sudden spark will catalyze a Crisis mood. Remnants of the old social order will disintegrate. Political and economic trust will implode. Real hardship will beset the land, with severe distress that could involve questions of class, race, nation, and empire. . .The very survival of the nation will feel at stake. Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II.”

The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort — in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.”

Howe and Strauss predicted we Americans will be forced to make decisions that mirror the hardest ones made by our predecessors as

“great peril provokes a societal consensus, an ethic of personal sacrifice, and strong institutional order”.  “And it will require us to admit that our faith in linear progress has often amounted to a Faustian bargain with our children. Faust always ups the ante, and every bet is double or nothing. Through much of the Third Turning, we have managed to postpone the reckoning. But history warns that we can’t defer it beyond the next bend in time.”

There is always talk of the end of days whenever a major crisis hit. I don’t claim to be a prophet and I certainly don’t know for sure.  My own bias is to doubt it.  Even so, my wife Cathy made a keen observation the other day. The beginning of sorrows that Jesus spoke about in Mat 24:8-13 translates to “Birth Pangs”.  Birth pangs progressively increase in frequency and intensity until the water breaks and the baby is born.  If this is the beginning of sorrows it will usher in the millennial reign of Christ. Fourth Turns gradually come to an end and are followed by another High.  

In either case if we are to survive in a war time footing, we need to accurately discern the time. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for their lack of discernment in Mathew 16:1-4.

“Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Everything they needed to identify Jesus was already in the scriptures.  The problem was that Jesus did not match their interpretation and resulting expectations and Jesus remained hidden in plain view.

A lot of us have the same problem today.

Signs, wonders and spiritual gifts are all the rage these days.  Myriad charismatic leaders inspire people to follow in their footsteps.  Evangelists, prophets, those with gifts of healing and an angle on prosperity abound. Those with the most dramatic, feel good performances and the biggest followings on social media become heroes of the faith even if their teachings are scripturally unsound.  Jesus said,

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26 and “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” Mat 24:37 Noah preached repentance and righteousness 2 Pet 2:5 then built an ark in the middle of the desert. He was mocked and rejected as a result.  How much more are those who preach the same message in 2 Timothy 3 world rejected?  

Cathy just read some headlines as I write. 

“Vegas strip club offers drive through peep shows” in response to COVID and “Man beaten to death by mob for having Corona Virus.” 

You might be on fire for Jesus.  But a quick skim of the daily headlines should be all one needs to discern the times and the message that the world needs.

Discernment drives action

I’ve heard people quote and seen people post Psalm 91 so many times in the past few weeks that everyone including unbelievers should have it memorized by now. Problem is – many receive it as a magic incantation that allows them to fearlessly continue with their lives as if nothing was happening.

A cursory word study quickly reveals that dwelling in secret place of Psalm 91:1 upon which one’s protection is contingent, refers to both the secret place Jesus talked about in Mat 6:6 . It also means a literal “shelter, a hiding place.” 

By the way, has anyone stopped to consider that COVID could peak during Passover?

I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

If nothing else this situation is facing us with a very real question.  God or mammon?  

Many young people are assuming, they are invincible and choosing to party rather than comply with recommendations, warnings and ordinances.  We have young friends and relatives who seem utterly oblivious to the crisis at hand.

Spring Break 2020

The keys to surviving a crisis and thriving in the subsequent high lay in how we respond. There were people who jumped to their deaths from high-rises when the market crashed in 1929.  Those more prudent made fortunes. The most grievous error we can make is to fail to discern the time. We may assume a Fourth Turn crisis is the end and enter what AIM calls the “Q” (quit) zone. Or we could mistake the crisis for a First Turn high as so many spring breakers are doing now.

Good things come out of crisis. Rom 8:28

“Great peril provokes a societal consensus, an ethic of personal sacrifice, and strong institutional order.”   That means a return to First Turn values. People have been praying for and prophesying revival for decades.  Yet how soon we forget that revivals begin with radical repentance.  More often than not this repentance is preceded by an event that causes people to recognize their spiritual bankruptcy. An event like like the great San Francisco earthquake that preceded the Azuza Street revival in 1915.   Yes, Jesus healed and does heal people but His primary reason for coming was to be a propitiation for our sin. He came to rescue us from hell.  Miracles and healing look more spectacular to our disbelieving and entertainment hungry eyes. But they are secondary to dealing with our sin. John 1:22   As Ray Comfort says, “God comes to us with a subpoena in one hand and a pardon in the other.”  We love to tell people about the loving pardon while avoiding the subpoena all together. 

As the current COVID crisis grows, I have yet to hear anyone under the age of 85 preach a message of repentance.  There seems to be a correlation between this and the fact that those 80 and older were alive during the previous Fourth Turn.  Hope for a nation that has murdered over 61,000,000 babies’ since Roe v Wade, maligned the name of Jesus as a matter of public policy and rejected His substitutionary work on the cross isn’t going to be found in Psalm 91 without embracing 2 Chron 7:14 first.

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

My oldest surviving uncle Lester will be 90 in June.  He built his own sugar house and makes his own maple syrup in Ashfield Massachusetts because he needs something to do when it’s too cold to work. 

His wife Nancy is a retired biologist with a passion for conservation.

The last time I visited, Aunt Nancy had just chased a mother bear and her cubs away from her beehives on foot. At dinner Lester and I spoke about the last Fourth Turn. Uncle Lester is a retired Navy Vet. His brother fought at Normandy.  He doesn’t speak a lot but when he does it behooves people to find the parable. Uncle Lester grew up poor during the Great Depression but says he didn’t know it. He never complains and talked a lot about the value and power of gratitude and community during hard times.  Elders in places like Ashfield Mass still work hard and have a lot of character. They are our national treasures.

I recently saw a meme directed at chronic COVID complainers.

If our culture persists in a collective belief that our individual rights reign supreme, that we are somehow owed something and that it’s the government’s job to provide it for free at the expense of other people simply because they have more; then I can assure you that the authoritarian outcome or worse mentioned by Straus and Howe is almost certain.

Instead I found an example of the requisite attitude for success, especially for Christians during a Fourth Turn in Acts 14. During the Apostle Paul’s 1st missionary journey he and Baranabas were kicked out of Antioch. So they traveled 85 miles to preach the Gospel in Iconium. Unbelieving Jews stirred up dissension and tried to beat and stone him.  So, Paul and Barnabas moved on to Lystra and Derbe where taught and people were healed. Everyone thought they were Zeus and Hermes and started to worship them.  No sooner had they put an end to that craziness then the previous Jews who had followed them from Iconium showed up.  This time they were successful in stoning Paul.  They dragged what they thought was his dead body outside the city gate and left him there. The disciples gathered around him probably in mourning. But before they could do anything Paul jumped up brushed himself off and went back into the city where;  

“Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

This May we will have lived in Honduras for three years. We’ve been through our share of crises and we stocked up on beans and rice a few weeks ago in anticipation of what is happening now. The other day we gave some away to a neighbor in need. I’ve been racking my brain as to how we are going to feed people when the food runs out. What will we do if someone gets sick?  How will we care for people?  Last night some girls from the tiny Catholic church down the road delivered dinner to our door.  Being a full-time missionary is teaching me just how unimportant I am.  

I don’t know what is happening or is going to happen. If you read my previous blogs, my conclusions regarding COVID remain the same. 

Believe what we want “We still don’t know jack.”  

What I do know from both God’s Word and my own experience is that

Jesus did not come to give us our best life now. He came to redeem and transform us.

Everything will be shaken. Only what can’t be shaken will remain. Heb 12:26-28

Who we are and what we do “will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” Only that which is of God will survive. 1Cor 3:12-15

While our eternal hope is definitely in Jesus. Our ability to remain in that hope will be determined by our individual and collective character.  Character is produced by perseverance. Tribulation is its catalyst. Rom 5:3-7

Please keep us in prayer. Apart from divine intervention we are in big trouble if COVID gets a hold of us.

If you are receiving this it’s because we love you.

En El Nombre De Jesus!

“A Word on Fear”

Applying our God-given 2 Tim 1:7 sound mind in COVID-19 World.

So what do you know?  What have you heard?  You know about this COVID-19 thing… Apart from trusting God; in the natural we could be in a serious pickle if Corona comes to Honduras. I don’t know about you but I’ve never put much faith in mainstream media predominantly owned and controlled by six corporations. Its not I that have a problem with corporations per se. It’s just that the IRS classifies them as individual people. Individual people are biased.

In any case, my wife and I have done some digging amidst the myriad rants we see on social media.  

Specifically, we searched for credentialed sources like  Dr. James Robb former professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, and one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on corona-viruses.  He says,

“The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread in the US by mid to late March and April.” 

That seems balanced and realistic. He also provides some very logical steps for prevention in case you are interested. All my sources are hyperlinked so you can dive deeper if you like.

A more radical view is that of Professor Dr. Francis Boyle from the University of Illinois an author of the 1989 UN Bio-Weapons Treaty who claims he has the legal paper trail that proves that COVID-19 is a genetically engineered bio-weapon sold by UNC research labs to China who then tampered with it further before accidentally? releasing it.  

Another notable medical research scientist Dr. James Weiler  says he initially believed Covid 19 was created in a lab and has since changed his mind.

Perhaps the most prolific view published on social media is that of Dr. Drew, an addiction specialist best known for his role on the show “Celebrity Rehab”. He was livid about media propagated, click-bait driven, misinformation regarding COVID-19.  “Essentially the entire problem we are having is due to panic, not the virus,” he said.  

Dr. James Weiler says that regular MD’s and Public Health officials don’t have the background to understand the intricacies of viruses like COVID-19.

While the rest of the world is taking radical steps to test for and manage COVID-19 our CDC and NIH struggle to explain why at the time of this writing they can’t come up with an adequate number of test kits  They appear to be downplaying the problem.  Which might actually be adding to the panic instead of quelling it.

Then again the social unraveling that might take place in an overwhelmingly narcissistic and lawless society could be worse than the effects of the virus itself.

Investors are freaking out about markets and supply chains. Never the less toilet paper manufacturers are making a killing. People in my home state of Hawaii are buying toilet paper in bulk. That is Hawaii’s first reaction to almost any crisis.  That said, a run on toilet paper, might be an indication that someone is full of something other than the truth.

Just sayin…

But I digress.

Of course, politics is at the top of the narrative. Those who don’t like the current president blame Trump whose legacy is rooted in the economy, accusing him of putting the stock market before the lives of people.

Those who do like him are joining in on the apathy, “it’s all a hoax” argument.  Others not so sure its a hoax are concerned that Trump might be gambling his chances of re-election on Corona being nothing to worry about.

I for one, hope he is right.

That said, I’ve been telling people the Global economy is a giant bubble waiting to be pricked since 2007. The Fed has been kicking the proverbial can down the road with rate hikes and rate cuts since 2008. Recent rate cuts basically prove the previous stimulus didn’t work. It occurs to me that a pandemic makes for a perfect cover for an inevitable global economic crash.  

But what do i know that’s just my own conspiratorial speculation based on my own bias. 

The word “Bias” is key here.

Meanwhile, I see multiple well-intended brothers and sisters in Christ disseminating all kinds of varying numbers, theories and prognostications. Some not old enough to remember Y2K, compare it to Y2K. Others compare it to the Flu, SARs, and MERs.  Still others are fearlessly walking in faith.

I remember someone telling us in mission school that there are “two reasons for suffering and being persecuted in the body of Christ. One is for the sake of righteousness and one is for stupidity.”

It’s great to have great faith.

Sometimes denial masquerades as faith.

Anyway, if we put all this info into our proverbial brain blenders we are faced with one undeniable conclusion. 

We don’t know Jack!!

We don’t like not knowing Jack so we defer to our preferred logical fallacies. Confirmation bias is the biggest. If you want to know more about how this applies to markets and politics you can check out my blog Truth or Trump.

But here is a basic illustration based on an all too common conversation I had when I counseled middle school kids on drugs.

Me: Studies show that regular marijuana use reduces IQ scores an average of eight points.

Client: “Mr. I researched on the internet and found out you are WRONG! Marijuana makes you smarter!

Me: Really? Where did you read that?

Client: Motherjones.com

You get the idea. As the Simon and Garfunkel song says, “a man see’s what he wants to see and disregards the rest.”. The bottom line; everyone has a bias.  Refusing to admit it only makes us dumb, easy to manipulate and possibly dangerous.

Hardcore doomsayers are going to listen to Dr. Francis Boyle and say, “I knew it! Time to stock up on toilet paper, lock and load and dig in”

Uber optimists are going to listen to Dr. Drew and say, “Exactly! See? Nothing to worry about. Party on dudes!”

The next logic fallacy through which we filter our world view is the sister of confirmation bias otherwise known as the genetic fallacy. The genetic fallacy determines the accuracy and validity of information by its source alone. We see this everywhere. Conservatives who don’t believe anything on CNN because it comes from CNN and Liberals who reject everything from FOX because its on FOX. By the way, Adolf Hitler claimed to be a Christian therefore all Christians are Nazis. Right?

Which leads me to…

…the false equivalence fallacy that says if one part is the same then everything is the same. Everyone was freaked out by Y2K and but nothing happened. It only follows that everyone is freaked out about COVID now so nothing is going to happen. Granted the gross annual number of deaths from flu far exceed current deaths from COVID-19. The problem is that we’ve only just begun seeing COVID-19. As for SARs and MERs, the regular flu has an average annual mortality rate of 0.1% and as of Feb 18, 2020, “despite the lower case fatality rate, covid-19 has so far resulted in more deaths (1871) than SARS and MERS combined (1632)” The uber optimist argument doesn’t hold. If you watched Dr. James Weiler’s video posted on Feb 24 the Covid-19 mortality rate was at 2.0%. If 50% of the US population is exposed that means three million people could be dead in a year. On March 4th the WHO stated the mortality rate is now at 3.4% but it should drop. One thing is certain. All four are viruses. Things that apply to the Flu, SARS and MERS do not necessarily correlate with COVID-19. Chances are all the COVID- 19 numbers and information will have changed by time you read this. That’s ok. It’s not my main point.

Incidentally the False equivalency fallacy also drives things like climate change, the gun control narrative on the left and the anti-immigration argument on the right. The truth is, most legal gun owners are not criminals. Most Hispanic immigrants just want an opportunity to work hard and get paid in a day what they make in a month in places like Honduras. As for climate change; no real science is ever settled. That’s partly what makes it science. It’s also why we have so much conflicting info about COVID-19. Unfortunately thinking errors and drive society more than logic. Don’t blame the media. They are just saying what people will listen to.

Incidentally, Adolf Hitler was not a Christian.

Finally, we have the appeal to emotion fallacy.  Every advertiser and media outlet knows it’s a nifty tool, whereby people avoid, confuse or otherwise manipulate truth by manipulating the emotions of others. It’s what causes people to confuse feelings with thinking and gets them to buy things they don’t need and invest in sure things that are sure to fail.  Physiologically speaking, our higher functioning cerebral cortex where logical thinking and reason takes place is subordinated to the lower more primitive limbic brain, from which our emotions and physical desires pour forth.

Many refer to this as “Coming from the heart”.

Guilt, fear, and outrage are the most popular emotions to which people appeal.  

The bio-weapon narrative works great here.

There’s been some talk about ISIS creating the bio-weapon. Looks like the caliphate is more concerned than we are.

Does that mean its not a bio-weapon? Heck no!  COVID-19 could be one, all or none of the things I’ve mentioned.

What I know for sure is that I don’t know and neither do you.

Applying our God given sound mind means thinking critically and being honest about our biases, what we know for certain versus what we have been told. It means hearing and trying to see things from another person’s point of view. It means desiring the truth instead of wanting to win. It means clarifying our opinions as opposed to proven facts. It means being willing to be wrong and admitting it when we are. It means seeking the truth not what we want truth to be.

So here’s what I do know.

Approximately 150,000 people in the world die each day.

We are all going to die. At that point the Bible says we will all face judgment.  Heb 9:27  

That might be today or tomorrow. James 4:13-14

If you are a Christian

The bible says “love your neighbor as yourself.” Things might get bad as in really really bad. We haven’t faced this level of uncertainty regarding a virus since the Spanish Flu in 1918. We are committing some of the same thinking errors. That said, its not about you or the risk to you. As a Christian it’s about you looking out for others. You might be healthy and relatively unaffected by COVID-19. However, people who are older and or perhaps those with compromised immunity might be made safe or placed at risk by your actions. You might think it’s all hype and that the precautions are stupid. Do you really believe you have the right to make that determination when another person’s life might be the one at risk? Yeah those are hard words. I know.

The apostle Paul said dying is ultimately better than living.  Phil 1:21

Jesus said if you try to save your life you will lose it. Mat 16:25

I believe the words of Jesus. John 20:28-29

What do you really believe?

If you are not a Christian

You are not alone. The Bible says a lot of people think Christianity is dumb. 1 Cor 1:18

Yes I know. All Christians are hypocrites. That’s why we need Jesus.

People generally don’t recognize their need of a savior until the reality of their frailty and mortality sets in. Mark 2:17

Jesus said there is only one way and He is it. John 14:6

I realize people don’t like “one way” any more than kids like being told marijuana makes you stupid. It doesn’t matter. Marijuana still makes you stupid.

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance — that principle is contempt prior to investigation. – Herbert Spencer-

Now might be a good time to really question the eternal viability of your world view and seriously investigate the words and claims of Jesus in greater depth.

If you are a Christian

What are you doing to comfort, exhort, encourage and lead people to the Truth?

Granted we walk by faith and not by sight. Ultimately Christianity is a relationship. However, there is a reasoned response to every assertion that Christianity is silly or false or nothing more than blind faith in fairy tales. Do you have questions? Do you need help providing a logical reason for the 1 Peter 3:15-16 hope that is in you. Submit your questions and comments and subscribe to this blog.

As always, if you are receiving this its because we love you.

En el nombre de Jesus!

GRAY HOPE MISSIONARIES NEWSLETTER

Our New Neighborhood

If you haven’t heard yet Cathy and I left the City of Refuge and moved to Cerro Azul near our friends Josh and Paulet.  

They are more than friends. They are family to us.

Josh is the former mission’s director at the City of Refuge and the president of Hope in Time Ministries. We are coming alongside them to bring the voice of experience and elder-ship to the ministry as well as our usual media support.

If you haven’t seen our intro video to our tiny house rehab project then, by all means, click here.

We are still coaching our AIM GAP year mission squad and recently returned from Guatemala.

They are a pretty resilient and independent group of young adults with a passion for intimacy with God. They are headed to Ecuador as I write where they will have less direct oversight and more independence regarding ministry. We will be encouraging them to be scripturally sound in accordance with a 1 Peter 3:15 apologetic approach as they move forward.

Being in Guatemala again…  

allowed us to reconnect with good friends Kevin and Nicole in Santiago. They are like a young Heidi and Rolland Baker as I imagine them.  They’ve been through the proverbial wringer this year that included losing the house in which they were doing foster care for young unwed mothers.  But they are not giving up and are currently preparing to drive a truck and fifth wheel with their two children from Texas to Guatemala. They will live in the camper in Santiago while they build a home/mission base. Please keep them in prayer.  

Thanks to our friend Jason who is a missionary pilot…

…in Guatemala our return trip from Santiago to the airport in Guatemala City was quicker and a whole lot cheaper than the usual shuttle.  If you are planning a mission trip to Guatemala City you can contact us.  His base has an extremely affordable and comfortable missionary housing that is close to the airport.  

As might be expected, people are beginning to ask us why we left IMI. 

“OMG. Is there something wrong?”  “Is there something we should know?” “Is there a reason why we shouldn’t go to serve there?”  

Let me be clear.  We love Tom and Teresa. We are not done with the children at the City of Refuge. We have a perfect venue for youth retreats here and they are excited to visit. We’d be visiting more frequently to do church services and discipleship but we don’t have a vehicle to get there. As for anyone wondering…

You should “give”, “go” and “do” according to how God leads you. Period!  

That is what we are doing, and we are being led in a different direction.  If you’ve watched some of our personal outreach videos, then it should be clear that we’ve had a different philosophy regarding priority and method in missions.  That’s ok. No single ministry can do everything. The current direction that IMI is moving in does not match our passion, priority or our skillset.  

Moving on…

Hope in Time just received 501c3 status from the IRS.  You’ll be able to read more about our vision soon on the Hope in Time blog as we get the ball rolling. 

As stated in the video we are in the “forerunning” stages of our mission.  That means building relationships.  In missions school, we learned the importance of going “low and slow”. That’s hard for me and is Cathy’s passion. Low and slow means not riding in on our proverbial white horses to fix people and things and save the day.  Even the most cursory internet research will reveal how many grandiose activities carried out by “first worlders” in the name of good end up bringing more harm than help. We were taught to honor locals as modeled by Jesus when He honored the woman at the well in John 4 when He asked her for a drink before informing her that He was the living water. We are not Jesus and are coming in on equal footing, sometimes less than equal footing as brothers and sisters in need ourselves. The truth is right now we need them more than they need us. This will be the subject of the next Hope in Time blog.

Cathy is slowly mastering the art of making traditional Honduran beans and tortillas over a fire.

The very first order of business in forerunning is to find the man and or woman of peace.  These are the people that God puts in your path to help pave the way to building relationships within the community at large. One sure way to identify them is that they seemingly appear out of nowhere and are knowledgeable about the very things you need most.  

First ministry team meeting featuring Brian’s spaghetti

Karen was our first.  She speaks a fair amount of English and periodically shows up to give impromptu Spanish lessons. God blessed Cathy and I with many gifts. Languages is not one of them. Thank God for people like Karen. Her sister sells eggs and she’s also knowledgeable about local plants.  Here she is showing Cathy a natural Honduran sleep aide that comes from a tree outside our house. We don’t really need sleep aides here but its cool info and Karen was excited to show us what was growing just outside our door.

Cathy and I were exploring our new community during a three-hour hike when we ran into our second new friend Alfonso. It just so happens that Alfonso lived in the USA until he was deported 13 years ago.  He speaks fluent English and was excited to befriend some North Americans for the first time in years. Hondurans are extremely generous and relational. Alfonso usually stops in to see us a few times per week and brings Yucca or some other vegetables.

Alfonso tried to buy land in Santa Barbra Honduras after he was deported.  He paid a certain family for the land then they changed their mind.  One of the family members did not want to return his share of the money and tried to murder Alfonso with a machete instead.  His hand was cut off, he lost hearing in one ear and sight in one eye.  His nose and part of his mouth were almost cut off, his neck was slit and he very nearly died. But Alfonso is a miracle.

He is also resilient. Many people in his shoes would have just given up. But Alfonso recovered and started farming a different piece of land.  We visited his farm which is a forty-five-minute walk up a mountain from his house. He keeps the land cleared with a machete.  We are in pretty good shape but this walk alone is exhausting. Alfonso has planted hundreds of coffee trees and recently planted 1000 Yuca by himself. Alfonso loves the Lord and while he doesn’t have a church to attend, he is our new disciple and reads two pages in his bible every day. We are working to get him a prosthetic hand. Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen before January.  

Even so, God is a dot connector.

Alfonso used to care for horses and attend church in Ohio. 

As it turns out our good friend Matt Burris who used to pastor in our home church in Hawaii moved back to the mainland.  The people Alfonso used to work for are Matt’s current pastors.  

Seriously what are the odds?! 

We can’t wait to see what the Lord has in store.

Living off base means perfecting the art of shopping in the Sunday street market. It’s something like a farmer’s market in the USA. Another new friend Jenny is a master “marketeer” and even teaches Paulete a thing or two.

Living in the mountains in Honduras also means learning to roast your own coffee Honduran style. Jenny is Cathy’s roasting teacher. It’s safe enough here in Cerro Azul for Cathy to walk the three and a half miles to Jenny’s house by herself. That is not the case in the places we normally do ministry.

Jenny learned the recipe from her mom. The process begins with roasting rice.

Then coffee is added

Then sugar

Then cinnamon and pepper

Then the coffee is ground and bagged.

The whole process takes about four hours.

At this time we are pursuing God, coaching our Gap year racers online, building the website, and developing a scholarship program to help families who can’t afford to send their children to school.

Stay tuned for our upcoming devotional.

In about ten months. I’ve always wondered what my father and grandfather(s) thought about life and God etc.…  The older I get the more I wonder and seek out wisdom and wise counsel from elders. There are a couple who are still alive. While our children and grandchildren might still be in the “we don’t give a rip what you think” stage of life.  Given our experience, we suspect that will change as they mature and come face to face with the abject fragility and shortness of life on here earth. Tomorrow is not promised and we won’t always be here.  So just in case they ever get curious, Cathy and I are writing together.  It’s a fun side gig and we want to leave something behind.

Speaking of our DEVOTIONAL

A word on fear…

There is a lot of fear permeating society lately with the advent of things like the Novel Corona Virus. Non specific anxiety and depression are off the charts with our youth. Here is one of our recent devotional entries that seems relevant at this time. We hope it serves as a reminder and brings you peace.

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For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7

When crises come as they inevitably will and do, there are always two extremes; alarmism, and apathy. Alarmists go from crisis to crises and live perpetually in the “wars and rumors of wars” of Mathew 24.  Meanwhile those prone to apathy which in the eyes of the world often looks like optimism proclaim, “don’t be so negative!” “…relax, eat, drink, be merry.” Luke 12:19 

Neither apathy or alarmism is correct.

Tomorrow is never promised and all our lives are like a vapor. James 4:13-14

As Christians, it doesn’t matter if we live one more day or ten thousand. If we have laid down our lives and picked up our cross then our treasure is laid up in heaven Mat 6:19-21  We have been given a spirit of love and the assurance that allows us to keep God’s priorities and promises at the forefront of our minds. We have the power of Truth and His word. We have been given a sound mind that allows us to remain calm and at peace amidst tribulation – however that may appear. John 14:27.  It doesn’t matter if we are on a beach in paradise or under machine gunfire in some dark corner of the world. Our blessed assurance does not change.  His attendant peace shouldn’t either. At the end of the day, the only question that matters is, “am I in God’s will?” 

Being in God’s will means walking in Truth. It is being in an intimate relationship with Him via Holy Spirit every day. Jesus likened Holy Spirit to oil and believers as lamps. One thing is certain. If you haven’t put oil in your lamp today you’ll end up like the foolish virgins who freaked out in Mat 25:1-13 tomorrow. One thing is certain. All things eventually come to an end. Fear is a sure sign of an oil shortage.

Truth is the only ANTIDOTE.

It is also the only real source of Hope In Time.

Pun intended:-)

If you are receiving this newsletter its because we love you!

En el nombre de Jesus!

Truth or Trump?

I recently saw a headline that 43% of evangelicals think Donald Trump should be removed from office.  We know others who have declared him to be a modern-day Cirrus. I’ve had different opinions at different times but honestly,

I’ve never met the man. 

All I know is what I see, hear and read in the media.  

I write a blog for the Adventures in Missions GAP year squad that we coach called The Squirrel Pole.  A squirrel pole is a survival food trap that I learned about when I was a US Marine. 

Its based on the idea that everything in nature naturally takes the path of least resistance.  A squirrel is perfectly capable of running straight up a tree.  But place branch laden with wire nooses at an angle against the trunk and the stupid squirrel will hang itself every time.

Another squirrel poll upon which people hang themselves is the reliance on others to do their thinking for them.

I used to trade world currencies on the FOREX.

That’s when I learned the world is not the world I had learned about in school. It makes sense. The father of lies is the god of it.

As it turns out the average American’s world view is shaped by a media whose narrative is controlled by six corporations. That’s not just so called “fake news”. That’s all news.

The first thing I learned as a trader was, know your own biases, do your own analysis and emotion is the enemy of analysis. 

People are easily manipulated by what is commonly known as confirmation bias. Brokers leverage confirmation bias to take money away from nonprofessional traders who dream of getting rich quick.

They call these nonprofessionals “dumb money”.

This is how it works. The broker begins by “pumping” a stock or other financial instrument through internet and television. They tell everyone why “you’d better hurry before it’s too late because this one is a sure thing!” Dumb money is looking for a sure thing and hearing “it’s a sure thing” confirms what they want to hear. So, dumb money rushes in to buy before the price goes up. Of course, this drives the price up at warp speed. Dumber money tries to jump on the “moving train” and the price goes up faster until it hits a target predetermined by the broker who probably owns the biggest chunk.

When it hits the mark, the broker might short the stock or buy an “option” before closing his original position and collecting the profit. Of course, some of the dumb money sees the price action, panics and sells before they lose everything. That makes the price drop faster and more people jump off the “moving train” and sell to cover their losses. When the price gets low enough the original broker reverses his position and collects the profit from that trade too. This goes on all day every day that markets are open. What is important to understand is that media drama moves markets. While the public separates into tribes, fights with each other over what they believe is the correct moral side of what they think is the real issue; smart money is busy making money.

For example, gun control is always hot button issue pumped by the press. In June 2016 Barack Obama talked about a possible assault weapons ban. The media pumped a false pending executive order narrative. Guess what happened next? Gun lovers panicked. Assault weapons and ammunition sales went through the roof. Smart money made money again.

Confirmation bias makes lying easy. Confirmation bias makes us easy to manipulate.

World leaders have always used it to manipulate populations for their own gain.

Paul Joseph Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s Minister of propaganda said;

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Know your own confirmation biases.

Otherwise you’re sure to get played.

Why am I telling you all this in a missionary blog?

Adolf Hitler had motto.

“He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.”

There is a huge cultural and spiritual war in progress for the hearts and minds of the generation that many of us refer to as youth. Some of you are youth.

The winner gets to determine “Truth”

Deception is the Devil’s number one game.

And Your emotions are a primary tool in Hell’s efforts to manipulate and control you.

In Mat 22 people were trying to trap Jesus into making a political statement about taxation, politics, and Rome so they could kill him.  It was a total set up.  But Jesus wasn’t dumb. Cesar’s image was on the money. So He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s. 

 The question is; who’s image do you bear? 

If it’s God’s then shouldn’t you be rendering all of yourself onto Him?

I recently heard a preacher ask; “Why do we get so upset when we see the world acting like the world?”  That’s what the world does.  Even more; why are we so focused on changing the world by worldly means? 2 Tim 3 seems clear. Things are going to get worse before they get better. As Christians we are called to be in the world not of it. We are called to be Holy which means “set apart”.  We can argue politics all day.  But it doesn’t change anything. It only divides and divided kingdoms don’t stand.

By all means render onto Cesar what is Cesar’s and vote. Just be aware of your own confirmation bias and your own unreliable emotions.

That said, Jesus was clear.  He said “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me”. John 14:6  

Christians are ruining their witness everyday by getting angry over politics. Meanwhile PEOPLE ARE GOING TO HELL.

If you ask me we need to be telling people who Truth is and stop wasting our time fighting over who Trump is. 

At the end of the day we’re all dumb money when it comes to that.

Don’t be a Squirrel

On Horses and Donkeys

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Beware the whiles of the devil Eph 6:11

While short term mission trips are often characterized by “Mount of Transfiguration experiences”. They tend to be ripe with fresh revelation accompanied by a renewed sense of gratitude for everything they have back home.   Those involved in long term missions know the valley that Peter, James and John encountered in Mark 9:2-29.  That God is more concerned with our own character, than our projects can be a hard lesson to learn.

Chaos is a recurring motif in third world missions .

We were in crisis mode when we thought Honduras was about to break out into civil war and made contingency plans in the event we would have to protect and or evacuate 48 children in our care.  Soon after that passed, we had Honduran police storming our compound to take all of our files.  Why? Because a member of the body of Christ in the USA decided that IMI was too prosperous and therefore must be laundering money.  Of course IMI wasn’t and have since been cleared. The files have yet to be returned.  There are always rumors of warrants out for our arrests made worse by the fact that one of our staff  had already been the victim of one false arrest. If that weren’t bad enough corrupt government officials continue to try to confiscate the entire City of Refuge for thier own use.  We are striving to comply with every regulation.  Meanwhile legal paperwork almost always gets conveniently, lost immediately before an important deadline.  There are near constant albeit ridiculous allegations of child neglect.  One of my all-time favorites was when DINAF, the Honduran social services walked by our two soccer fields, two swimming pools, a volleyball and basketball court, wrestling room,  game room, art room and music room before sitting down to tell us that we lacked sufficient recreational facilities. They gave us a deadline to rectify this or we’d be shut down.  I asked them why they spent so much time and energy harassing us when there were children eating garbage at the dump. “Honduras is a poor country.” They said. “We don’t consider poverty to be a risk factor.”

Back in the states

Tom, our founder drives around the USA to preach 27 days out of every month. He is lucky if he sleeps four hours a night and eats granola bars because he doesn’t want to waste money on food.  The other 3 days a month he spends in Honduras meeting with workers and playing with the children to remind himself why he is killing himself.  Meanwhile Teresa spends months away from home in a 10 x 10 ft bedroom and working from 8am- 2m 7 days a week trying to hold things together at the City of Refuge.

 Americans love poignancy and we have plenty of joyous stories to tell.

That said you probably won’t hear about the havoc wrought by defiant short-term missionaries or our teen age girls who go home on vacation and return pregnant.  You don’t hear the horror of children forced by DINAF to return to their mother even though she showed them their father’s dead body after her boyfriend beheaded him. You don’t hear about sexually abused boys who become predators and have to be removed after we’ve sowed into them for a decade.

You probably won’t hear about seven-year-old who heard the devil tell him to light the baby’s dorm on fire.

We would have had 10 dead children if the mission director and I had arrived on scene three minutes later than we did.  You didn’t see the bucket brigade we formed  because the fire department couldn’t get there for another two hours.  These are just a few of the challenges we’ve faced.  But the Lord has a calling on each and every one of these children’s lives, some of whom would not be alive today if they weren’t with us.  Others would have no hope of going beyond the sixth grade. In fact there are always between 40 and 60 children whose futures are at stake.  God willing there will be hundreds more soon in Sierra Leone. There are 60 – 90 Honduran employees, some of whom would be risking their lives and those of their families to illegally cross the border if the City of Refuge were to shut down.  Life is almost always chaotic and the future uncertain.  We don’t know what will happen next only that it will. And most likely it will be crazier and harder than the last. Why do we continue?  The answer is simple.

We’d rather be IN the will of God and under machine gun fire than OUT of His will on a beach in paradise.

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Even so, that certain members of the body of Christ attack and defame the ministry under which we serve is heart breaking at times.

I know.  I know, I know…Jesus said a student is not above his teacher… Mat 10:23-25 But I’ll be honest.  Sometimes the temptation to harden our hearts and retaliate can be strong.  We do our best to be Christ like, but it still hurts when the people we’d most expect to love and at least pray for us do their utmost to undermine us.  What is it that causes people to be suspicious of any good yet rarely question a bad report?

Sometimes  the only difference between secularists and some Christians is that Christians devour their brethren in the name of God.

But what does the Bible day about all this?

Phil 4:8 effectively tells us to actively, seek the good not the bad.  For example, unlike today, it was common practice in early New Testament times to take any controversial statement and search the scriptures to prove it true rather than automatically attempt to build a case against it. Acts 17:11.    You’d think so called spirit filled Christians would be keen to embrace this approach instead of the modern-day addiction to outrage.  Too often, 2 Tim 3:1-9 language like “boasters, proud, unthankful, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, brutal, traitors, headstrong, haughty…” is more descriptive of their approach toward co-laborers in the kingdom.

Prov 18:21 says the power of life and death are in the tongue. Simply calling a brother a fool puts one in danger of Hell Fire Mat 5:21. Even so, Jesus forewarned us that there would be those who will deliver us up and even kill us in the name of serving God. John 16:2. Evangelicals commonly believe He was talking about radical Islam.

I think He was talking about us.

 

Perhaps one of the downsides to first world western financial and material prosperity is that it is all too easy to forget that “we” not “they” see as in a glass darkly.

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There are all kinds of wonderful projects being carried out in the name of God apart from the understanding “that all have become unclean and our best deeds are like filthy rags” Isaiah 64:6.  We are saved by grace through faith which is in itself a gift. That way no one can boast about what he or she has done. Eph 2:8-9 There is no valid comparison of one to another in the kingdom. Because not one of us can accomplish anything of ourselves. John 15:5 and God is no respecter of persons Acts 10:34-35.  And while the Lord does have assignments for us to complete, Eph 2:10.  Our greatest and most important witness to the world is our Love for one another. John 13:35

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Too often people in the first world prop themselves up on a proverbial pedestal and imagine themselves as saviors via their own prosperity. They subconsciously equate their prosperity with Godliness, discernment and wisdom. They commonly envision the “least of these” in the parable of the sheep and the goats Mat 25:31-46 as the suffering child in a third world dump or the homeless person on the streets. While there is some truth to this, the bible calls these people the greatest who will inherit the kingdom of God. Mat 5:3. Is it not the one with whom we are most prone to disagree and perhaps even despise the one who more accurately represents “the least of these” within the context of our own lives?

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In John Ch 4 Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well.  And while people often focus on her adultery and the forgiveness of Jesus, many miss the fact that the Samaritans (some of today’s Palestinians) and Jews were and still are vehemently opposed to one another.

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The well where they sat was Jacob’s well the ownership of which was claimed by both groups.  Ironically the first thing Jesus said to the incredulous Samaritan woman was “give me a drink” which she promptly did.

Not only did she give a drink to a Jew, one regarded as “the least of the these” by her people, but she gave the drink to Jesus Himself.

One thing is certain, Jesus’s ministry is the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 Do not involve yourself with those who slander and refuse to be reconciled. Have no part in ear tickling, extra biblical teachings they espouse. 2 Tim 4:3 It is crucial that we internalize that it is ONLY the death of Jesus on the cross and the blood He shed for our iniquities that makes us righteous.  It is His resurrection that gives us hope in a dying world.   What we say and do on earth is a measure of our gratitude for what He did, or it is a measure of our pride. In the end the grateful receive more to be grateful for.

The prideful almost always eat their own.

So, what does this have to do with horses and donkeys?

Well when a group of horses are attacked, they face each other and form a circle, then kick at the attacker on the outside.

 

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When donkeys fight, they form a circle, face the attacker then kick each other to death.

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You will know them by their fruit.

Don’t be a donkey.

 

Being a Missionary is…

So what’s it like; you know, this missionary thing?

Well, I’m only one guy, and while some might disagree, I’ll give you my somewhat limited view.

Being a missionary is hearing and following God’s call.  It is counting the cost and laying down in faith whatever is, for what God’s word says could and should be.   It is the willingness to be baptized by fire in ways you know could happen but maybe don’t believe ever will.  It is wrestling with choosing to trust in the words and ideas of man or God alone when the country you’re in appears to be descending into civil war.

It is asking yourself if you have what it takes to give your life for the sake of the gospel and the children in your care if that moment of truth ever arrives.

It is waking up at 4 am to worship God alone in your secret place or hitting the road at 3 to spend fourteen hours in the back of a pickup. It is laughing with Hondurans and making jokes about pain as you are deluged with inches of freezing cold rain.  It is confronting the worst poverty you’ve ever seen.  It is witnessing the best and worst in others.  It is exposing the same in yourself. It is witnessing God do genuine miracles and the fulfillment of “greater things than these shall you do.”  It is recoiling at those powered by pride, mesmerizing others with cheap grace and lies.

It is realizing that the “least of these” in Mat 25 might not be the starving child hungry for love as much as it is that charlatan you despise.

Being a missionary means seeing people joyfully come into the kingdom as they see their genuine need.  It means seeing people accept Jesus for the fiftieth time because they have learned that raising their hand is the PIN for two-legged, missionary ATMs.  It is bringing your deepest, best and most profound revelations, your testimony, your experience strength and hope to people in the midst of the most unbearable suffering you’ve ever seen.  It is confronting your inadequacies as you wonder if anything you do even matters.  It is speaking, teaching and praying to bring healing and hope.

It is the humbling recognition that you could never endure what they do and that perhaps God placed them on earth to bring healing to you.

Being a missionary is learning to stop for the one and maybe for the one who always stops for the one when you think you have more important things to do. It is accepting that different people have different giftings and not everyone believes that as much as you.  It is learning the meaning of James 1:4 and enduring the reality of the verses immediately before.  It is always seeking to honor others.

It is walking out the understanding that people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.

It is transcending culture and language to build relationships.  It is comforting a crying child and bringing a chair to an elderly man.  It is wrestling a group of little boys in the grass. It is cutting grass with a machete instead while wishing you had a lawnmower.  It is drawing pictures and playing ball.  It is dancing like a fool during worship to model not fearing the opinions of man.  It is running in circles with fifteen little girls, desperately hungry for a father’s love, all of them vying for your arm.  It is being laughed at because the word you thought was a woman’s name actually meant feces.  It is building intimacy and trust by laughing at yourself.  It is teaching and disciplining, hoping and believing the best as the children in your care continue to grow.  It is having absolutely nothing to say as you stand before 45 children and half as many adults eagerly waiting for you to teach.

It is watching God come through to weave His own message from the words and testimonies of five-year-olds.

It is pouring into your favorites kids even though you’re not supposed to have favorites.  It means counseling and confronting sin, setting boundaries and sometimes pleading that they repent. It is weeping alone when your favorites, those traumatized children you’ve sown into for years become a clear and present danger to the 43 children who remain.

It is the pain of returning them to the poverty-stricken circumstances from which they came a decade before.

It is charging into a burning building to save the lives of 5-7-year olds trapped inside.  It is vomiting out the smoke you’ve inhaled while fighting the fire because there is no fire department to call. It is seeing the grace of God in action and realizing that children would be dead had they remained trapped for just a few seconds more. It is being told by a 7-year-old boy say that the devil told him to set light his mattress on fire.  It is teaching him to only listen to the voice of God and hearing him innocently say “ok I will.”

It is suspending your fear of snakes and crushing the heads of poisonous snakes that threaten the children in their dorms.

It is walking out the truth that perfect love really does cast out all fear.

It is being loved and despised by people you’ve never met. It is being persecuted for righteousness sake. It is being envied, hated and scorned by visitors and outsiders who think they know better, could’ve done better, would’ve done better than you, but have never spent a day in anything that even mildly resembles your shoes.  It is admitting that neither have you spent a day in theirs.  It is struggling, at times, to remember that everyone has a story.

It is walking out the understanding that compassion never means compromising truth as you do your best to “love the least of these”.

It means being ready for anything at any time.  It is traveling five hours through the mountains to bring powdered milk to a seven-year-old with cerebral palsy. It is making sock puppets with indigenous children and helping perform a sock puppet show about nonviolence. It is transporting a woman who was brutally attacked with a machete to a hospital the very same day. It is watching her 17-year-old son choke back tears while elevating his mother’s legs as she bleeds to death in the back of our truck.  It means praying for a miracle, for divine healing. It means believing. It means not allowing your faith to be diminished when you learn that the woman just died.  It means visiting and comforting the family when you don’t know what to say.

It means experiencing the meaning of “we see as in a glass darkly.”

It is living without electricity and water and hot water for sure.  Sometimes there’s a bucket for a shower — other times just a cup. It is being sick with the same bug over and over again sometimes for weeks at a time until you finally become immune. It means accepting that if anything really serious happens, you’ll probably be dead. It means being present within the moment and that tomorrow will take care of itself.

Being a missionary is placing your full trust in God and knowing for certain that He can be trusted.

Being a missionary can feel lonely and futile at times.   It is writing newsletters and blogs you think no one will read. It is pouring your heart and soul into making videos you hope will touch hearts and compel others to join the harvest.  It is hearing “hey- I really love your voice. You could be on the radio.”  It is wondering why so many friends and family no longer seem to care and seem to resent you now that you’re gone.  It is the shock and amazement at how many people are paying attention, how many people care and come through right at the midnight hour.

Being a missionary means learning over and over again that God is true to his word.

 

Being a missionary is having gratitude for what you are served. It is appreciating a hamburger, pizza or ice cream like never before.  It is seeing that a lot if not most people in the body of Christ are simply repeating the lessons learned by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Being a missionary is a shortcut to the truth in chapter 12.

It is loving, praying, feeding, blessing, laughing, trusting, weeping, sometimes wanting to scream or do worse in your rage.  Being a missionary is the willingness to be broken because brokenness is the sand in which the Pearl of Great Price is polished and found.

Being a missionary means being a “little Christ”- a Christian.

 

 

Why Outreach?

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We could give you eighteen-hundred words that might take ten minutes to read.  But we figure it might be easier and perhaps more enjoyable to watch

“Our Heart 2- Why Outreach”

Enjoy and please subscribe if you think we’re worth following.

God bless,

Brian and Cathy

 

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Toy Story 3.5ish

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While I always hope that everyone reading this blog gets something, I usually have a specific audience in mind when I write.  It could be believers or unbelievers or even a specific family member or friend that is on my mind.  This post is dedicated to the 45 plus members of the Adventures in Missions World race GAP Year, Route 6, Squad V. An inspiring group of 17 – 21-year-old men and women from diverse backgrounds who have chosen to defer their first year of college in lieu of transforming and being transformed in the name of Jesus Christ. It just so happens that we have blessed with the opportunity to coach them during their journey to four countries over the course of 9 months.

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WORLD RACE GAP YEAR V SQUAD

WALL OF PRAYER IN OUR HONDURAN TINY HOUSE

One of my first memories as a child is watching the first astronauts land on the moon on my parents 16” Zenith black and white T.V.  suffice it to say that I was hooked from the start.  I used to put on a football helmet and sit for hours in the hall closet pretending to fly the lunar module.  Alas as so many have heard me say, I really wanted to be an astronaut.  But I sucked at math. So, I became a counselor instead.

 

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In Toy Story One we see Buzz, a toy astronaut with an identity complex.  Buzz does not know he is a toy.  As the story begins we see Buzz comparing himself to, and competing with, the other characters for Andy, the toy owners, love.  Buzz denies his obvious weakness, rationalizes and justifies his failures to the point of the absurd until one day he sees himself on a television commercial and is confronted with truth.  Never the less he seizes upon his powers of denial, pulls himself together and once again tries to fly only to fall with less style than ever and loses an arm.

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In the next scene we see a broken and dejected Buzz drinking Darjeeling tea with a bunch of headless dolls in Andy’s sisters’ room.  His friends try to rescue his shattered self-worth but to no avail.  Buzz must go through the fiery process of transformation and discovery of his true identity.  Fast forward tot eh conclusion, we see Buzz rallying a bunch of broken toys to overcome the wiles of the evil Sid and save the day. In the end He becomes a real super hero but within the context of brokenness and in partnership with those who had also be broken.

That said, I am Buzz Light Year – Space Ranger.

Cathy loves horses.  So much so that she used to pretend she was a horse when she was little.  Even now everything stops the moment Cathy comes near a horse. Horses are everywhere in Honduras so that happens a lot.  She could have married a rancher or a cowboy.  Lucky for me she chose a wanna be astronaut instead.

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Jessie the Cow Girl a.k.a. Cow girl Cathy does not come on the scene until after Buzz’s identity crisis in Toy Story 2.  She appears to be looking for love in all the wrong places and is a bit fearful and claustrophobic until she comes into her own.  She then shows herself to be the most courageous, kind, loyal and helpful to others.  Those are just a few of Cathy’s qualities.  By the end of Toy Story 3 Jessie appears to be developing the hots for Buzz.

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Here begins our story.  Toy Story 3.5ish and beyond.

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We will not attempt to tell the whole story here.  Adventures in Missions blogs tend to be short.  So, we’ll save that for the future book that so many have encouraged us to write.

 

We Just Might…

 

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Instead we thought we would simply bullet point some fruit of a few of the transformative lessons that we’ll call needless pain avoidance/soul – spirit hacks that we have learned along the way, specific points that we think might be of help to the members of our squad whom we have already grown to love.

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1. It is easy to confuse the living God with our perceptions of the living God.

2. It is even easier to confuse our identity with our perceptions of ourselves.

3. Ideas, diagnoses, personality profiles and tattoos are not identities. Neither are feelings.

4. Many people believe they are worshiping God and are worshiping themselves.

5. The voice of God will never contradict His word or His character.

6. Truth and love can not be separated.

7. Truth is absolute. Happiness is relative. Joy is eternal and rooted in truth.

8. Faith (Revelation Faith) is fuel to propel you on His way.

9. Compassion and codependency often look the same. The first is selfless. The latter is the epitome of selfishness.

10. The manifest presence of God is real. Its purpose is not for us to catch a buzz.

11. The mercy of God is frequently misinterpreted as judgment.

12. Judgment and discernment are not the same.

13. The love of God may manifest as a healing touch or a whip.

14. If you really want to grow, learn, and love; die to self and let Him resurrect you.

15. A problem can not be divorced from its root cause if a solution is to be found.

16. Selfishness and self-centeredness are the root of every interpersonal problem.

17. The easiest lie to tell is the one you tell yourself.

18. Suffering is required. Suffering has purpose.  Suffering should never be a goal.

19. To love and be loved is a basic, God given, human need. The problem lies in how we try to meet that need.

20. Nothing opens the door to deception as much as emotion.

21. Your future spouse is like a fruit ripening on a tree. Be patient.  If you attempt to pick it before it is ripe it will be bitter.

22. Sometimes our weaknesses, failures and short comings are what make us lovable.

23. If farts offend you; don’t get married.

24. Forgiveness is for, and the responsibility of, the forgiver. Only then can God heal the associated hurt.

25. We cannot give what we do not have ourselves. We cannot lead where we have not gone.

26. Books are good, but the word of God is distilled, pure truth.

27. Knowledge is not understanding. Understanding comes with time, failure and perseverance.  Wisdom comes from God as an expanded revelation of                 understanding.

28. Triumph and Disaster are imposters and “IF” by Rudyard Kipling is a good road map to maturity of the soul.

29. The top of the mountain is filled with open sky. There is a reason so many ultra-successful people commit suicide.

30. Many people spend their entire lives trying to relive and redo the Book of Ecclesiastes. You can take a short cut and skip ahead to chapter 12.

31. Salvation and sanctification are a process.

32. True identity is found in brokenness. False identity is a prerequisite.

33. People generally don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.

34. Integrity matters. Say what you mean, mean what you say, do as you say. Own your own failure to do so.

35. There is no such thing as failure only opportunities to learn and do better.

36. Every action has a reward and a cost.

37. “Fair” is a fantasy.

38. “Do the little things with radical love. The bigger things will come.”  -Heidi Baker-

39. Everyone is a leader to someone.

40. Approach determines response. If you don’t like the response, then change your approach.

41. Knowing your weakness is the best defense. You can not defend what you deny or don’t know.

42. Transparency and vulnerability are weapons. Your testimony is the nuclear option.

43. The primary purpose in any spiritual calling is for God to teach us and bring us into a deeper relationship with Himself.

44. “I struggle with comparison” can be a white washed term for jealousy, envy and covetousness. Repentance not hugs might be the better answer.

45. When scared unsure or nervous, jump into papa’s arms and allow Him to remind you who you are.

46. Forgiveness, revival and healing are preceded by repentance.

47. Men who don’t cry are wimpy or dead.

48. Obstacles and spiritual attacks are blessing markers.  The bigger the challenge the bigger the blessing on the other side.

49. “Truth is like a lion. It can defend itself.”

50. “If you don’t quit, you win!” -Heidi Baker”

I Am Josue

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I often think of Mrs. P, my first-grade teacher.  She was a sweet lady, at least as far as I could tell.  I don’t remember her saying very much, only kids running around yelling, tipping over desks and chairs and a girl named Kathy who  barked and bit kids on the leg during class.  It was a pretty wild scene.  One of our favorite games was to steal Mrs. P’s stapler that she tried so hard to hide and staple each other anywhere we could.  As for me, I liked science and sword fighting.  And I still have a pencil lead from a sword fight with Steven Adams stuck in my hand.  What I remember most is being filled with energy and craving contact.

I loved to hurl my body at things especially the floor. 

Beyond that, school was pretty boring. Reading was boring.  Math was boring.  Sitting at a desk among rows of other desks while Mrs. P talked and pointed on her overhead projector was boring.  My teachers thought I was impaired.  In fact, one day Mrs. E, my special ED reading teacher threw her book down in exasperation and exclaimed: “Brian, you are the stupidest boy I’ve ever seen!”  My mother was pretty angry about that.  I didn’t quite understand all the hoopla.  Reading was boring, and I couldn’t have cared less about Jane and her dumb dog Spot.   I never saw Mrs. E after that.

One day Mrs. P put her head down on her desk and started sobbing.  No one knew why.  So they took her away.  I never saw or heard from her again either.  I never gave any of this much thought until I was older.  Now that I am an adult and have  suffered my share of pain my heart hurts for them, and I wonder what was the cause of their pain?

My life as a six-year-old was in retrospect, a hyperactive mental fog.  Only I didn’t know I was in a fog.  I didn’t know that I was hyperactive either.  It just felt right to run around crashing into things and laughing until my belly hurt.

Getting in trouble for it wasn’t fun.

I just always seemed to forget what getting in trouble was like until I was in trouble.

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Even so, I did eventually learned to read on an eleventh grade level by the time I was nine, thanks that is to my mother and some books about the solar system. It turns out books about planets and stars were a lot more interesting than ones about Dick and Jane watching Spot run.

Josue is one of our special kids at the City of Refuge. He’s also one of our favorites. He is intensely friendly.

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Actually, Josue is intensely intense and sometimes inappropriate. He’s one of the inspirations for a recent “good touch-bad touch” class for the 4-8-year olds.
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Josue loves to laugh and connect his body to people and things in impactful ways and at high speeds.
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He will love you if you play with him.

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But beware, he’s very focused when he’s in impact mode and has been known to pee at the most inopportune times. I find It’s best just to smile when this happens and act as if it also happens to me. After all, urine is sterile, and a little soap takes it right out.

Shame can last a lifetime.

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If you’ve seen our videos, then you know that Josue’s mom was killed while attempting to immigrate to the United States.  That left his dad, Josue and his brother alone.  There’s no social safety net in Honduras,

and single parents are often faced with choosing between working to provide for their children or keeping them safe. 

 

So they come to us.

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Josue has some type of yet to be defined learning disability.

Or so they say.

What we know is that Josue is a worshipper

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He’s Cathy’s flagging partner on “Soaking” nights and other worship times.  And If Cathy is on her knees praying then Josue probably is too.
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He also loves to sing. He doesn’t always get the words right, but his heart is definitely in it.
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While Josue does prefer impact related types of interactions, calm tactile, kinesthetic activities can be magical too.
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We’ve found that there’s almost always a way to meet kids where they are and redirect their behavior based on their strengths instead of reacting to their negative behavior

in terms of how it makes us look or feel in the moment.

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This is what opens the door to relationship and trust.  Relationship with an adult who knows and loves God is often the key to a child’s future relationship with God.

There are several Honduran staff members who think that Josue does not belong here, that he’d be better served if he were in an orphanage with more kids like him.  I’m not sure if I buy that.  But then I’m not in charge, and it’s not my call.  Life in Honduras is hard.

It’s a place where suffering, not success is expected.  Honduran children become strong and resilient, or they don’t survive let alone thrive. 

My own approach is rooted in one of the most poignant lessons I learned as an adolescent substance abuse counselor.  That 60% of any change that takes place during treatment is the result of  relationship.  Nothing else we say or do matters apart from the connection that is established through relationship.  It’s a connection that frequently cannot be established with words alone.

More often than not what kids like Josue need is a good strong hug, one that squeezes them hard and doesn’t let go, one that says we aren’t going to give up on you

and you can not make us “unlove” you.

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Some people imagine missionaries as human fire hydrants pumping Bible verses into people who never heard the gospel.
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Others imagine missions as an endless activity.  The harder they are serving and the more they accomplish in the natural, the more spiritual they feel especially if the working hurts.  Still, others see it as formulaic as if we’re a syllabus based curriculum.  Granted there is a time and place for all of these things, and they do serve a purpose.  But long-term missions is different and more like regular life albeit under harsher physical conditions.
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For me the answer to the question; what does it take and what is it like to be a missionary lies with Josue.  I identify with Josue.  I can empathize with how he feels when he’s hurling himself on the ground, when he’s excited, when he’s causing trouble, when he’s in trouble.  I can see his heart and his love for God.  I can comprehend God’s love for Josue

and in that comprehension I can understand God’s love for me.

So often people arrive here with an honorable desire to serve those whom they see as worse off than themselves.  While this is often the case in the natural, Jesus exalted the poor, mother Teresa strived to identify herself with them, and the Sermon on the mount is pretty clear that the material world  is not the Kingdom.  Please don’t be mistaken. I’m not saying that living in a grass hut with a dirt floor and eating worms will bring you closer to God. That would mean that leaving people to suffer is the best way to help them.  That’s what Hindus and Buddhists believe.  What I’m saying is that God will bring a person closer to Himself through their identification with Him in the life, suffering, and joys of another.  Whom that person or group is is entirely up to Him.  Our job as missionaries is to know Him well enough to recognize His voice when he speaks through the life of a child here at the City of Refuge, an old man in the community, a single mother in the dump or the teenage girl next door who simply wants to stay in school. The definition and key to being a long-term missionary for me today is found in Josue.  Because at the end of the day,

I am Josue.

Great Expectations, Transitions, and Enantiodromia

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons learned in twelve years of running a transitional house for furloughed inmates and ten years as an adolescent substance abuse counselor in Hawaii. This is certainly due in part to my having encountered so many members of visiting mission teams who are considering doing something similar and have asked for advice. Perhaps a more significant reason is that despite my expectations that I would be doing something vastly different here in Honduras we are frequently called upon to help deal with some of the very same issues. At any rate here are two hard yet indispensable truths and one paradox that are vital to those experiencing a call to backyard missions like running a transitional home.
If you follow our blog you may have noticed that I am a fan of etymology. I love to drill down into the original meanings of certain words. Ironically it only took me twelve years to look up the word “transition” which is from the 15th-century Latin “transitionem” “a going across or over”. In my mind “going across or over” implies traversing some challenge or obstacle and not necessarily an immediate metamorphoses or change. It also suggests the idea of a bridge. Bridges get walked on, driven on, rained on, jumped on, sometimes urinated on… People don’t thank a bridge, stop to have a picnic on a bridge or set up sales, information booths or churches on a bridge. In fact, most people are only concerned with what lies on the other side. People typically only pay attention to bridges when they fail or appear to be at risk of failing.
Which brings me to the first hard truth that I’d like to impart.
Counselors, missionaries and transitional houses are bridges. Most of the positive change that you will see in people if you see any at all will likely happen after they leave you behind. This can be discouraging particularly if you are confused about your identity and relationship with God such that pride takes root in your soul. Our job is not to fix, change or save people. Our job is to be a bridge from certain destruction to some greater semblance of hope which for some might be yet another bridge. The principle also applies when helping orphans or counseling substance abuse clients. Many of us pay lip service to this truth only to suffer burn out due to unmet expectations and or we assume too much responsibility for long-term outcomes. We need to remind ourselves and each other that we are bridges that some will refuse to cross regardless of how much or how hard we pray. Others will never fully appreciate our efforts until years later when they look back and realize what was provided for them and that they could never have made it across without our help. However, the likely hood that we will be around to hear their gratitude is slim at best. Still, there are others who will jump, fall off or otherwise fail to make it to the other side. In this case, you can be sure that you will be blamed by someone and perhaps investigated or sued. Keep in mind that Jesus described Himself among other things as the Way. A student is not above his master or a servant above his Lord. What they did to him they will probably do to you.
Hard truth number two is that we plant seed, and we water seed in faith. Many seeds are “Storm Seeds”.
Our transitional home was in Hawaii, and we always had a garden of some sort. One year I planted squash which normally grows like a weed and for whatever reason, nothing would grow. So, I planted again, but still, nothing would grow. I had pretty much given up when a massive storm and days of torrential rains hit us. Everything was washed out. It was about a week later when I noticed a new squash plant growing about fifty feet from where I had planted it. Sometimes a big enough storm is required to make the seed you plant grow. I never questioned the seeds I planted in soil or in people after that. We plant seed and we water seed in faith. We do not make things change or grow. That is God’s job. The challenge is not to give up planting and watering when the fruit we desire fails to appear at the time of our choosing.
Enantiodromia is a term first coined by Heraclitus and often attributed to Carl Jung describing the tendency of things to change into their opposites. Sort of the way a pendulum swing exhausts its momentum in one direction and swings the other way. The distance it swings in one direction determines how far it goes in the other. While Jung seems to get most of the credit, I think it was Jesus who described it first. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” and “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. People in transition be they orphans or inmates are not the final versions of themselves. They are in a process of dying to themselves and their old way of life. This process can be extremely messy. Another problem is that people in transition have a unique way of making others want to quit helping them and sometimes even throw them over the side of the proverbial bridge. Never the less, as in the case of a pendulum swing, sometimes the change begins at the very peak of a person’s so-called badness.
Jake (not his real name) was one of many seemingly incorrigible inmates that the warden of our local jail sent to us through the years. Unsalvageable was the term he used. Jake was a shot caller in the Hawaii gang known as the USOs (pronounced ooso). He was a collector and a strong arm which means he’d probably killed people or at least came very close to it. He engaged in pornography production with young women and even impregnated one of my former Teen Care clients. The drugs he sold went to local kids and also probably contributed to some of my other clients who died. There was absolutely nothing good about Jake when he came to live with us. Not only did he do nothing to help anyone with anything ever but he also helped himself to everyone else’s possessions and food. The other inmates would never complain because they were terrified of him. Never the less Jake heard the gospel, watched our walk and listened to myriad apologetic lectures regarding the abundant, clean and sober, crime-free lifestyle. As expected Jake immediately began dealing drugs, was caught and returned to jail. The last conversation I’d had was via text and amounted to a string of profanity insulting my intelligence and manhood which I printed and sent to the warden who posted it in the prison for everyone to see. Sometimes love doesn’t look all that loving in this realm. But that’s a topic for a future blog should there be enough interest in this one. Even so, I wasn’t angry or being vindictive. It says in Proverbs that a rebuke from a friend is sweeter than kisses from an enemy. I was merely doing what I could to facilitate the process that I had come to understand so well. It wasn’t long before Jake ‘s nineteen-year-old son joined him in prison and they became cellmates. Ironically, Jake ‘s own father had been murdered in that very same prison. Then something happened. Jake’s pendulum swing reached its peak as he came face to face with the reality of who and what he had become.
It was several years later and right before we were due to leave for the Harvest School of Missions in Pemba Mozambique that the doorbell rang. “Cathy?” I heard as I came around the corner. “Who the heck is this?” I thought. “Oh my gosh its Jake ” I yelled! “Come on in!” I said greeting him like a celebrity. Long story short it soon became clear that Jake was completely transformed. He’d gotten born again in prison and become a worship leader. He was completely repentant, and all he wanted to do was to make amends for what he did in our home. He laughed as he explained how he used to tell people that “Brian is boring! Christianity is boring!” He took full responsibility for all the wrongs he ever did, lead us in worship and prayed the most anointed prayer we’d heard in a very long time. Naturally, we invited him to move back in, and he became a manager and the spiritual covering for the house the entire time we were in Africa.
We have other comparable stories to reflect upon even if they pale in number to those who have not made it – yet. Even so throughout the years, the one thing that kept us going was the absolute and undeniable understanding that good, bad, ugly, or beautiful, God had placed His desires in our hearts and called us to love the unlovable. There were times when I – we so wanted to quit and even prayed to God asking Him to release us. Many times, we would ask ourselves “what if all of this was just for one or two people? Would we still do it?” To which one of us would invariably reply “how much is one life worth?”

Now we are missionaries. We continue to feed the poor in the dump, save and raise children. We counsel and clothe, support and serve and strive to be a voice for the voiceless. These are things people honor most and love to hear about. Yet I was hit with the most profound revelation at breakfast the other day. I realized that my perception of the poor dump people I once pitied from my prior, presumptuously, prideful place of material superiority had changed. I realized that I have come to see them as equals, people who were no different and perhaps even superior in some ways to me. I can’t explain it or provide any rational or apologetic argument for it because it was a deeply spiritual experience. Perhaps I am getting closer to understanding Mother Teresa when she said, “we serve the poor knowing that they will rule over us.” And that she always saw Jesus in the eyes of the poor and dying. I know I have already written similar things. I guess we are still in the midst of another “crossing over”. Our expectations are greater than ever now. Enantiodromia.

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