Sunday, October 01, 2017
Storms have punctuated our survival camp weekend. Though we have yet to feel the force of a hurricane, yesterday it rained a real beating on our band of campers, and this morning we awoke under a steady drizzle. In the afternoon, the slanting rays of the afternoon sun illuminate the woods for a few precious hours of reprieve, while storm clouds again brew on the horizon. I am resting in the shade next to the trail during a field exercise, waiting for the last group of students to arrive, when I notice a line of large red leaf-cutter ants moving rapidly over the spongy forest floor, green sails blazing.
The ants themselves define a highway I would have never seen, running along crisscrossed sticks and strips of bark, and crossing a deep rivulet on a span of two fallen leaves that overlap and curl into an almost-perfect tunnel. How do they know where to go? How do they find the road without a guide? They travel at high speeds, despite packing loads as large as themselves. They march with three times the leg as we do, and their ranks roll onward without a lag. In their mouths they hold their green banners waving at full mast.
I think God’s people should be more like the ants. Though we live in a world where the road to true happiness, peace, joy, and fulfillment seems virtually unmarked, how often might the path become evident to onlookers if we would all work together and move forward in harmony, even when under load? Of course, the road is well marked for those ants, although the chemical signals they follow are invisible to onlookers. The same is true of our road. God has given plenty of waymarks so that none need err from the path, but spiritual things are spiritually discerned. What a difference it would make for the world to see the otherwise invisible road clearly marked by the continual action of harmonious and helpful travelers!
Of course, the road is not an easy one. There are obstacles that must seem impossible, and the burdens are often larger than we are. Like the ants, however, we can have an unproportionate strength, supernatural power to run the road with large burdens as if they were light, for Christ has promised, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). We can have even more than three-times the leg for the road when the Spirit of God comes upon us (Jer 12:5, 1 Kings 18:45-46).
Also, like these harvester ants, we live in a lull between storms, amidst the gathering shadows of the ultimate nocturnal tempest that will soon devastate our world, and we must work together like good soldiers, work while it is day, no matter the odds. The opposition is coming, and will far exceed the natural, matter-of-course impediments.
Andean, the director’s little boy, begins to beat the advancing ants with a stick while chanting “and there was a great slaughter, a great slaughter!” But the ants are undeterred by the undertaker. Although there is some confusion in their ranks, and some abandon the path now strewn with the carcasses of their comrades, the remnant marches on. They have a harvest to take home! Like the ants, if we continue in the way we face a dreadful pounding. But let us remember that the giants we face are really only little boys with sticks when we think in terms of our omnipotent, conquering King. Raise the banner high! May our mouths be full of faith and hope, and may our legs move that message and make it come alive! There is a mission to fulfill. Soldiers, whether ants or Christians, must be missionaries.
Friday, September 22, 2017
“Show thy marvellous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust [in thee] from those that rise up [against them]. Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, From the wicked that oppress me, [from] my deadly enemies, [who] compass me about.” Psalms 17:7-9
This last week was a week of prayer for us here at MOVE, a missionary training school in north-central Belize. For us, it was already on the schedule, but for Mexico, Puerto Rico, Japan and others, it became a week of prayer through hurricanes and earthquakes.
Reports streamed in on my wife’s social media after the monster quake near Mexico City on Tuesday. Friends of friends in Mexico posted the losses.
“Where is the help? We are dying here!”
“Why isn’t ADRA here yet?” were some of the posts in comment threads on Lyli’s Facebook.
“ADRA is meeting with church officials to assess the situation” was one response.
Adventist youth from Montemorelos and Linda Vista were organizing their own relief efforts. People are trapped in the rubble and cannot wait for committees!
Almost simultaneously, hurricane Maria tore a swathe through the Caribbean and set her dreadful eye on Puerto Rico, just weeks after the pummeling by hurricane Irma. We still haven’t heard from our missionary friends on what is often called the Island of Enchantment. By the pictures coming in it looks more like the Island of En-flat-ment!
At home, my wife and I are recovering from a much smaller crisis, howbeit with plenty of “cry” of its own. We have an on-steroids version of conjunctivitis that started as a pink tropical storm in one eye. Soon it crossed the bridge of my nose and escalated into a tempestuous red hurricane, including fever and muscle cramps that rival the dengue I experienced in the Amazon flood plains of northeastern Bolivia. As the days pass, the virus has rampaged across campus, and I have suddenly found new levels of meaning in the expression “I want to see the whites of your eyes”—anybody’s!
Since we were quarantined, we missed the evening meetings, and Lyli and I held our own service in bed. The chosen book for the evening was Last Day Events. Lyli read, because my eyes were patched with charcoal-chia seed poultices.
“The enemy has worked, and he is working still. He is come down in great power, and the Spirit of God is being withdrawn from the earth. God has withdrawn His hand. We have only to look at Johnstown [Pennsylvania]. He did not prevent the devil from wiping that whole city out of existence. [ON MAY 31, 1889, AN ESTIMATED 2,200 PEOPLE LOST THEIR LIVES IN THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD WHEN A DAM BROKE AFTER MANY DAYS OF HEAVY RAINS.] And these very things will increase until the close of this earth's history” (25.2).
I thought of last February when the Oroville Dam in California suffered damages due to heavy rain, prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. On Friday officials in Puerto Rico announced that the structure of the Guajataca Dam is failing and scrambled to advise the nearly 70,000 people who are in danger, according to CBS news. With communications systems nearly wiped out, that may prove impossible. Lyli continued to read.
“The earth's crust will be rent by the outbursts of the elements concealed in the bowels of the earth. These elements, once broken loose, will sweep away the treasures of those who for years have been adding to their wealth by securing large possessions at starvation prices from those in their employ. And the religious world, too, is to be terribly shaken, for the end of all things is at hand. The time is now come when one moment we may be on solid earth, the next the earth may be heaving beneath our feet. Earthquakes will take place when least expected.
In fires, in floods, in earthquakes, in the fury of the great deep, in calamities by sea and by land, the warning is given that God's Spirit will not always strive with men” (Ibid, 26.1-2).
There is a clarion call sounding in nature. God is letting us know that the moments of mercy are running out. “Seek the Lord, while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7). There is a shaking coming to the church and to the world and the watchmen are asleep on the walls. Or maybe they just have pinkeye. The next paragraph burned much more than my swollen, itchy eyes.
“In the visions of the night a very impressive scene passed before me. I saw an immense ball of fire fall among some beautiful mansions, causing their instant destruction. I heard someone say: "We knew that the judgments of God were coming upon the earth, but we did not know that they would come so soon." Others, with agonized voices, said: "You knew! Why then did you not tell us? We did not know." On every side I heard similar words of reproach spoken.” (25.1).
The clamor we heard from the earthquake victims is but a faint preview of the bitter reproaches we will soon hear from entire neighborhoods, cities and even countries that have been left unwarned.
Arturo and Tania, two missionary friends of ours in Mexico arrived at the Benito Juárez international airport to pick up a new missionary volunteer, just hours after the earthquake. They saw the devastation, and stayed as volunteers in the relief brigades. (Arturo and Tania need help with supplies. You can contact them here. Their page is in Spanish, but they speak English too.)
Wow, I thought. What an opportunity! But then it struck me. Hasn’t God given us an even greater opportunity in these last days when he summoned us to join His ultimate relief squad for a preemptive rescue mission? With how much greater enthusiasm and intensity should we rush forth to do the work before millions are swept away, unwarned, unprepared?
This morning I looked up other references to the fearful remonstrance of the unwarned in the works of Ellen White, and I found this passage:
“In great distress I awoke. I went to sleep again, and I seemed to be in a large gathering. One of authority was addressing the company, before whom was spread out a map of the world. He said that the map pictured God's vineyard, which must be cultivated. As light from heaven shone upon anyone, that one was to reflect the light to others. Lights were to be kindled in many places, and from these lights still other lights were to be kindled” (9 Testimonies for the Church p. 28.2).
Convulsed with fever, I awoke in great distress myself several times this week. It’s impossible to sleep when your own wretched sickness shakes you up literally. I shook a cold tow… I mean, I took a cold shower. Then I paced the house between stretching exercises trying to relieve my cramping muscles.
Lord, give us fever as a church! Something to get us up from bed! Give us painful strokes if You must, that we may see our true condition, our great need. There is a whole map of work to be done. That map includes places like Syria, Iran and North Korea. In these times of distress, let us experience a great spiritual awakening! This is what it will look like:
“I saw jets of light shining from cities and villages, and from the high places and the low places of the earth. God's word was obeyed, and as a result there were memorials for Him in every city and village. His truth was proclaimed throughout the world” (Ibid, 28.4).
Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Here’s reality:
“Then this map was removed and another put in its place. On it light was shining from a few places only. The rest of the world was in darkness, with only a glimmer of light here and there. Our Instructor said: "This darkness is the result of men's following their own course. They have cherished hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil. They have made questioning and faultfinding and accusing the chief business of their lives. Their hearts are not right with God. They have hidden their light under a bushel" (Ibid, 29.1).
I spent a good deal of time with my eyes under not quite a bushel of charcoal this week. It is strange to have your eyes open and yet see nothing. Christ said the light of the body is the eye (Luke 11:34). Not because it produces light of it's own, but because it is the channel through which light enters our mind. If our eye focuses always on darkness, we become blind. Focus on Jesus, friends. The Testimony continues:
“If every soldier of Christ had done his duty, if every watchman on the walls of Zion had given the trumpet a certain sound, the world might ere this have heard the message of warning. But the work is years behind. While men have slept, Satan has stolen a march upon us” (29.2).
It's time to wake up! Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria and company are giving the trumpet a certain howling sound. Nature obeys her Maker, why will we not? (I don’t mean to say that God sends every storm. He often allows Satan to work destruction through nature. Even still, as the Master He is, God turns Satan’s fiercest assaults in such a way that they unwittingly work out His overarching purpose.) Our problem is a heart problem:
“When our own hearts are right with God, we shall feel an intense desire to do all we can in bringing the light of truth before those who have not heard it. In the great work of warning the world, God has committed to his people a sacred trust. ‘We are laborers together with God.’ ‘As thou hast sent me into the world,’ said Christ, speaking of his disciples, ‘even so have I also sent them into the world.’ In the formation of character, we are to represent the One who gave his life for the world, and if we are alert, we shall see, on the right hand and on the left, opportunities to speak words for the Master” (RH, August 15, 1907 par 12).
One of those opportunities in my life is the security guard at the bakery in town, a thin black man with piercing blue eyes.
“Why are you so happy?” he demanded the first time I went into the shop several months ago. I praise God he saw me happy, for that gave me the chance to tell him why!
“So you’re trying to eat healthy!” He remarked last time I went in a couple weeks ago and he saw me picking out the wholegrain bread. As Christians, we are a spectacle to the world, though to be fair, it is his job to observe the customers.
“How are things going at the mission?” he asked. I needed to run to catch the bus, but I paused to talk for several minutes. “You know, that’s nice you have a Bible school and all, but what else do you teach? People have to make a living man!”
I explained how the Bible gives practical life lessons on work and we teach mechanics, construction and health classes too.
“Well, I read the Bible sometimes, but I don’t need it. I have life experience.” He challenged.
“My life experience has been that I can’t trust human experience. I need something more solid, more reliable, something with more hope in it. The Bible is all of the above! In Proverbs it says, ‘there is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death!’ So we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one!” I countered with a smile. There is probably more I will yet need to say to Mr. Inquisitive. I pray to be attentive and faithful. The quote continues:
“If we neglect these opportunities, the time will come when there will be spoken to us by those we have not warned, words of reproach and bitterness: "You knew of these terrible judgments that were coming. We were associated together, but you did not tell us. Why did you not warn us, that we might have escaped?" May God help us that we may not have upon our garments, because of our neglect, the blood of souls!” (Ibid, par.13).
God help us or we all perish.
On the first of this month, after the carnage of hurricane Harvey, the president of the United States of America signed what the Washington Post called “a proclamation…making Sunday September 3 a national day of prayer.” This is but a portent of the fulfillment of Revelation 13. A few more disasters, another financial crisis — what will it take before the beast with lamb-like horns legislates Sunday as a national day of rest? These are the soberest of times.
According to the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement this year falls on Sabbath, the 30th of this month. We are living in the antitypical Day of Atonement, and all of God’s professed people are under review. When will my name come before the judgment bar of God? What if it came up at the end of this month? Shouldn’t I be living as if it would? If we do not follow our High Priest Jesus Christ in His work for this time, we will be cut off from His people. If we do not go forth as His ambassadors, we will go forth as His vomit (Rev 3:16).
As events in nature and the nations of the world trumpet the warning that God’s final judgments are at the door, I invite you to make these next days a special time of prayer, fasting, and heart-searching. Let us have a week of prayer for the victims suffering in disaster zones, but let us also pray for the billons of victims suffering in the disaster zone of this world. Let us not commit the sin of ceasing to intercede for our rebellious loved ones (1 Sam 15:23). Let us pray for ourselves, that God will eradicate our own rebellion and pride, and let us plead for that heavenly eyesalve, that God may “see the whites of our eyes,” and the white robe of Christ’s righteousness upon us.
I have come to have quite an appreciation for eye ointment this week. Someone brought us a little bottle of special antibiotic formula. I was amazed at the near instant relief. My blurry vision cleared! God has the perfect formula for His people today. It's no secret. Repent, and be converted! Let us cry, not tears for what we suffer, but for what we have made Him suffer, and for the souls who have been swept away without warning, without our best efforts to save them – often without any of our efforts at all. God knows, we are only human, yet He has not made us invalids! There is yet grace enough to dare and do. We are responsible for the duties at our doorstep and for the people next door. Let us shirk no longer. Good intentions are not good enough. Too many have already died at the end of even the best intentions. Let us fast and pray for true love, for a will to work.
There is a storm coming that will soon engulf the world. But there is a calm eye at the center of that storm. If you will keep the commandments of God “as the apple of your eye,” God will keep your soul as the apple of His (Prov 7:2, Deut 32:10, Zech 2:8,).
|Hurricane Irma early Wednesday passing over Barbuda. (University of Wisconsin, CIMSS) See: ftp://ftp.ssec.wisc.edu/|
Sunday, August 13, 2017
MiniMOVE in Bolivia.
Last July we helped Josue and Keren teach a two-week intensive course at our old school in Bolivia. I think it was Jeff who dubbed it mini-MOVE. When we arrived, all our ex-students came rushing out to give us the typical warm and dramatic welcome for returning teachers. The next day most of them left for their mid-year vacation along with most of the staff and school directors. Fifteen remained to take our classes. As the old hand in our group, I was chosen to deal with all the utility problems on campus, and I subsequently received a not-so-warm welcome from the water-system. I spent the first two days trouble-shooting and fixing leaks.
The rest of my participation included a week-long seminar on music, classes on missions and evangelism, oratory, and an attempt to teach the mechanic elective. As a mere dilettante, I tried to keep the class simple. We concentrated on small engine maintenance and repair, and found no shortage of fodder to practice on. Additionally I planned to change the engine and transmission oil in the Tundra, but the new oil cost $50 that we didn’t have. I left Josue a message on his phone, asking how much money was available for mechanics class, and Dax, the store owner overheard me and asked me how much oil I needed.
“Six quarts of each” I replied.
“Take it!” he said. “That will be my contribution.”
God took care of our needs at every turn!
During our outreach activity to a nearby village, I was worried about how my mechanics students would perform after a measly two weeks of instruction from a rookie posing as a mechanics teacher!
“Lord, please give us skill. Help us be able to help someone!” I prayed. Two villagers showed up with their failing generators. Praise God, my students were able to get both running in the exact amount of time we had! To me, that was a small miracle.
“When are you coming to our village?” a visiting spectator asked. Again I see the potential for mechanic evangelists.
Fifteen students graduated from our two-week intensive and committed to an additional month of volunteer missionary service upon finishing their school year. I believe they are planning a trip to the Amazon.
|Back row from left: Angel, Willians, Roberto, Brayan, Freddy, Hansel, David|
Front from left: Maria Quell, Sharon, Maria Jose, Esmeralda, Gabriela, Reiny, Rosa, Rosalia
Back in Mexico, Lyli and I spent 10 days with my in-laws and my nephew and nieces, Samuel, Ghiani, and Naomi. That was a mission project in itself! Lyli made them a daily schedule, and I took them jogging in the mornings and then helped them do chores and practice their instruments. On Sabbath we took them to play music to some shut-ins.
I’m an unsatisfactory missionary
July 28, 2017: Today we are back on MOVE campus. Everywhere I look says WORK. More work than a body can process. The Dodge has a blown rear tire. The Admiral needs insurance and license renewed, but not before a repair job for the backup-lights and brakes. My watermelon plants have disappeared, and the spinach vine is clinging to life, some of which is detrimental to its own existence. My yard is a loud green snarl that’s downright scary, although underneath the bluster is just a cry for a little TLC. Our resident iguana that lives in the driveway culvert, however, seems to be enjoying the thicker levels of nature that accrued in our absence.
I find it an excellent metaphor for our ferocious, sin-infested jungle of a world. The harvest is passing and everywhere I look I see untended fields and that despicable dragon lording over them with a smug smile of satisfaction for our negligence. The harvest is passing, precious fruit is lost daily.
The large Chinese population here in Belize is virtually untouched with the gospel. The Mennonite communities may have their religion, but many are unhappy and unsatisfied and long for the joy and hope that only comes with the pure, unadulterated truth. According to our district pastor, 40% of male youth in Belize are in prison.
I have this burning sensation slowly gaining ground in my soul. Oh Lord, teach us to love people as you. May this accumulating sense of urgency translate into ceaseless action in the field of duty. May we stop waiting for opportunities to press themselves upon us, and learn to make them appear, and see them everywhere.
Tonight at supper in the cafeteria, Julliette was all that Keila, Keren and the rest of the girls could talk about as they recounted one conversation after another that they each have had with her over the last four days. Juliette is a globetrotter from France, hitch-hiking her way through Belize. Somehow she met Keila somewhere on the road between here and Chetumal, they got to talking, and Keila brought her here where she stayed four days and absolutely devoured everything Biblical and spiritual. She wanted to know everything about everything: God, the Bible, the Sabbath, healthful cooking, and gardening.
In her own words, “I was tired of living the ‘normal’ life of go to school, work all week, dress up nice and go out to party with friends on the weekend and then do it all over again. It felt so pointless.” So she has been traveling, trying to find the meaning of life. Praise God, it seems like she found it here! She called her mom back in France: “Mom, I want to be a missionary!” she announced. Later she told Keila she wants to come back here and take the missionary training course.
How many more are there out there like Juliette, disgusted with the emptiness of the world, looking for something worthy of investing their short life in? Must we wait for them to show up on our door and beg to know the truth? Lord, please teach me to be a real missionary.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Lyli and I will still be on the move during the two-month hiatus between class sessions. We have been assigned to work on a curriculum for the Bolivia Industrial School. Also, we were recruited to help two of our classmates, Keren Ketz and Josue Lima with their summer project, which is to organize and execute a two-week miniMOVE missionary training event in Bolivia. A number of young people there have expressed interest in studying at MOVE, but it is difficult for Bolivians to obtain Belizean visas, so we are taking MOVE to them. Classes will be held on the Bolivia Industrial School campus from June 25 through July 7. I will be co-teaching the evangelism class as well as trying to teach the mechanics elective and giving a week-long seminar on music in the evenings.
The Lord provided exactly what we needed for travel expenses at exactly the right time, and we leave for Bolivia on the 19th from Mexico City. This weekend and next we are doing missions awareness meetings in Merida on the Yucatan peninsula and in Puebla. The latter has been planned since several weeks past, but the former was sprung on us this morning after we arrived here in Merida for other reasons. I think it was in answer to my prayer that God would use us for something useful during our stay here. So tomorrow we have the afternoon program for a multiple-church laymen’s evangelism Sabbath.
The week before last I had the opportunity to work on a construction project with Jeff and my classmates from mechanics class and we all got some more practice cutting and welding steel to fabricate framing beams for a second-story house. We took the base plates to get punched at a Mennonite machine shop in Shipyard, while Jeff had some other pieces bent with another Mennonite and then we took everything to a third Mennonite who does sandblasting. I discovered that Shipyard is one of two very sizable Mennonite communities within an hour’s drive of MOVE. I hope to learn more about the Mennonites over the next few months and find some ways to connect.
|Putting the pieces together. Our second-story construction project, Sarteneja|
|Uber, Leo and Josue. Uber points toward Chetumal across the bay|
|Leveling up the support beams|