Project Description

MOVE, (Missionary Outreach Volunteer Evangelism) is a volunteer-staffed, faith-based missionary training school located near Orange Walk, Belize. MOVE exists to inspire, equip and mobilize missionaries to serve in difficult places around the world. The stories I share on this site are experiences I've had while working with MOVE students and in evangelism with the local churches.

Monday, December 03, 2018

“Nothing we can do” but God can do Anything!

“Daniel… accident!” were the only two words I understood from the choked-up voice of sister Mirtha when Lyli answered her call on speaker phone early Monday morning. 
Oh Lord, I sure hope he’s not gone. I thought, fearing the worst as Lyli stepped out of the house to get better reception. 
            “Daniel is in custody at the police station in Orange Walk. He hit a cyclist this morning  on his way home to pick up Mirtha and the girls for school.” Lyli informed when she came back inside.
            “What! Oh no! Was the cyclist killed? Is brother Daniel in jail? Does Mirtha need us to take the girls? Does she need a ride to the police station?” my questions tumbled out. 
            “The cyclist is unconscious in the hospital. It doesn’t look good. Mirtha is already at the station, but I told her we would come as soon as possible.” 
            Soon we were bouncing toward town over the potholes accompanied by clouds of dust. When we parked across the street from the precinct, I spotted brother Daniel’s Suzuki Grand Vitara. The windshield on the driver’s side was mashed into a sunken bowl of broken glass. White fracture lines extended like a spider’s web from the center of impact which was about the size of a human head. 
            Lord have mercy! 
            “The bike must have been knocked out from under the rider and he ended up on the hood. By the looks of it his head hit the windshield, and if he is like 98% of cyclists around here, he wasn’t wearing a helmet!” I shuddered as I reconstructed the scene in my imagination. 
Windshield of Daniel's car after the accident
            We found the distraught sister Mirtha waiting outside the station doors with her brother-in-law. We learned that Daniel might be kept in custody up to 48 hours, and that it would depend on the cyclist’s condition as well as the results of their inspection of the vehicle whether he would face prosecution.
            “He has in his favor that he stayed at the scene and tried to help the victim” one official told us. “Has anyone from your family gone to see the cyclist yet? I recommend that you do” the official continued. 
            Daniel’s brother and sister decided to go right away. I offered to drive them. At the hospital we spoke to the cyclist’s son. His father, 70-year-old Rafael, was in the emergency room in a coma. The family needed to transfer him to the hospital in Belize City, but at the moment there was no ambulance driver available. There wasn’t much we could do, but I asked the family if I could pray with them, and they agreed. But what to say? I prayed God would guide my words. 
            “Lord, I ask that if it can bring glory to Your name that You will raise up Mr. Rafael and that everyone will see that you are real, and that you are the same as the God recorded in the miracles of Your Holy Word. Be with the family, give them comfort and strength and help them to trust in You no matter what.” 
After the prayer, Jesús, Daniel’s brother needed to go, so I offered to drive him back to the station where he had left his motorcycle. As we left, his sister called after us:
“Pray for Jesús too. He really needs it.” 
Jesús hung his head as we continued to walk toward the truck.
“I’ve been really bad,” he confessed. “Just the other day I was telling my wife I want to change, I don’t want to keep on like this. I should go to jail, not Dan! Dan doesn’t deserve this! He is a good guy, always helping people, always strong in his faith. I saw him before he went into the station, he was so calm.” Jesús was near tears. 
“Praise God for the faith your brother has. It is a gift from God, just like your desire to change and leave behind every wicked thing. God is giving you another chance to choose Him today and He wants to give you the same peace and faith your brother has.”
I suddenly remembered the one other conversation I had had with Jesús months ago at a potluck, one of maybe two times he has come to our church over the last two years. He had told me a long bitter story of slights and wrongs he had suffered from pastor’s and church members. I felt impressed to say something else.
“God longs for you to surrender all your pain and bitterness for past wrongs and fill you with the peace of forgiveness. Let’s pray for it right now, will you pray with me?” 
“Please.” Jesús nodded. The Spirit of God moved powerfully during that prayer, and I realized that perhaps this would be part of the good that God would bring out of this tragedy. (Later I learned that Jesús had been so discouraged that he was contemplating suicide shortly before his brother’s accident. Please pray that God will save him and his family.) 
            While I was speaking to Jesús, Daniel was released by the police.
            “How did the accident happen?” everyone asked him. 
“The bicycle crossed the road right in front of me. There was no way to avoid him. I braked and hit the horn right away, but he was too close.” 
As soon as Daniel was released, he wanted to go the hospital. Some of us weren’t so sure it was the best idea, but I could see that brother Dan felt terrible about the accident and felt he had to do this. At the hospital, the family was suspicious at first, but eventually accepted his help, just in time to transfer Mr. Rafael to the hospital in Belize City. 
After several days of care, Mr. Rafael remained in a coma. 
            “There’s nothing more we can do” the doctors admitted. 
            Meanwhile, the whole church came together in earnest prayer on behalf of Rafael and his family as well as brother Daniel. I prayed specifically that God would send an Adventist brother nearby to visit and pray with Rafael and his family, and that God would raise him up in such a way that it would be clear that it was God’s work, so He would receive all the honor and glory.
On Friday the seventh, brother Daniel sent us the message.
“Brothers, thanks for all of your prayers for Mr. Rafael. God has heard our prayers. Mr. Rafael has come out of his coma and he is recuperating!”
Later I learned that God had even answered my prayer that someone would visit the family at the hospital in Belize City. I had imagined that some brother living in Belize City would visit the hospital, but it was our very own members, the Bochub family who were passing through and stopped to visit and pray with the family right around the time that Mr. Rafael awoke from his coma. To God be the glory! 

P.S. Please pray that the insurance company will respond soon and cover the medical bills for Mr. Rafael. Yesterday Mr. Rafael told Daniel that God kept him alive for a reason. Pray that he and his family will soon discover what the reason is. Daniel plans to visit him again with some of the church brethren and have a worship service to praise God for his goodness and mercy. Pray that this contact will be for the eternal salvation of this precious family. 
Daniel and Mirtha 
Daniel and Mirtha's daughters



Friday, November 30, 2018

Diagnosing Mechanical Sins

This month’s mission trip amazed me with our busiest mechanic’s clinic ever. During the last two days of our week in San Pedro Colombia, as many as ten of us worked simultaneously on different machines. We saw nearly 100 items in three and a half days, including bicycles, blenders, drills, skill saws, weed eaters, chainsaws, lawn mowers, and a generator. One student who formerly worked in the computer industry even fixed a couple laptops! 
Unlike our experience here a year ago, almost immediately after setting up shop, broken equipment began to flood in from every direction. Many villagers brought three and even four items each, sometimes making multiple trips over steep hilly roads pushing wheelbarrows or riding bicycles laden with their ailing equipment. I half-jokingly commented that there were likely more broken machines in the village than people! I only hope that they will soon seek our Master Soul Mechanic for themselves with the same intensity and dedication that they sought us on behalf of their tools! 
“How long are you all staying?” One villager asked. 
            “Just until Sunday.”
“Can’t you all stay here a little longer, please?”  
“Like how much longer?” I asked, out of curiosity.
“At least a year!”
             I’m sure a year would go by quick and at the same time feel like three and a half centuries. 

            Some fixes were simple. Yessi discovered that the liquid in the tank of one broken-down weedeater was kerosene, not gasoline. She purged the tank, added the correct fuel, and soon had the machine purring “like a brand-new used one.” Other machines were more difficult. I found myself working on an old skill saw that defied my best efforts, and chewed up inordinate amounts of time with no apparent progress. 
How does God put up with us?The thought suddenly flashed into my mind just as I was ready to condemn both the tool and myself as unworthy of the mechanical realm. 
It’s incredible! Unlike me with this saw, God knows exactly why we are broken and He knows just what to do to fix us. If He is stymied, it is by our proud, uncooperative, stubborn, unbelieving hearts! That’s got to be frustrating! How does He keep working with us when we seem like an inordinate waste of time? 
A fresh glimpse of Calvary grasped my imagination. 
But of course! Considering the exorbitant price He already paid, how could He give up on us now and let His blood be spent for naught? No wonder He continues to tinker: a touch here, an adjustment there, as He prays for a response, for some token of spiritual life in our zombie-like souls! 
The thought gave me courage to keep working. Eventually, however, I had to lay that saw aside and go on to the next item. We were on a timeframe, and the waitlist of sick equipment was getting longer by the minute. Unfortunately, my next assignment, a Homelite weed eater, wasn’t any easier. 
What is wrong with this thing?Imuttered and fumed like a sick engine myself. Well, one of us has to do it!I justified myself. Three score and seven pulls later, mine is the only murmur!Why won’t this thing run?
Have you ever found yourself asking that question in your spiritual life? 
In small motor mechanics, there are three basic systems to check: spark, fuel and compression. Similarly, all spiritual malfunctions fall under three basic categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Sounds simple right?  
            The problem is, those three categories include a heap of specifics. To complicate matters, in long-neglected machines there are often multiple faults in multiple areas. More often than not, one failure has led to another. The mud dauber nest and cockroach hotel we uncovered in a couple machines, though problematic, were likely not the original causes of engine failure if you know what I mean. With so many things gone wrong, diagnosis can get overwhelming, let alone repair! Now doesn’t that sound familiar? 
The good news is, there are manuals and experts to help in time of need. I remember one chainsaw that came back to life after we applied our discovery from the manual that the setting for its fuel/air mixture-adjustment needle was a turn and a half more than the standard setting on most brands! What’s the air-fuel mixture in your soul today? Have you read far and deep enough in God’s Word to discover your needed adjustments?  
Interestingly, as in the soul, finding the cause of decease is more frustrating the more perfect the machine appears! We received one bright-red Shindaiwa chainsaw in pristine condition. Next to the surrounding hunks of junk, it glowed like the inside of a shopping mall at Christmastime. Jonathan’s initial inspection revealed  that the issue resided in the spark and ignition system, but the sparkplug, wire and coil were as pretty as the rest of the machine and all tested good.  So Jonathan called on Jeff, our resident expert, who got the machine to start, though it coughed, sputtered and popped like a medley of fireless noise crackers before sundown on the fourth of July. In the end, changing the sparkplug fixed the problem. How many parts of your life test out good according to your auto evaluation? You should ask the Master Mechanic. You may be in for a surprise! Praise God, there are remedies that heal even the uttermost brokenness.
            The man who lived across the street from us told me he heard two guys walking by his house bubbling with praises about how they had received their tools back from the dead. One resident admitted to us that his machine had been parked for three years! Others, like the owner of one weed eater I worked on, claimed he had used the machine just a few weeks previous! Notwithstanding, I had to use penetrating oil to free the rust-frozen spring tabs on the pull start so they could once again engage with the flywheel. Thank God for the oil. 
            Oh, and there is one more mechanical sin that is a real killer: timing. Mechanical arrhythmias. I have learned that many times a lawn mower won’t start because when the blade hit a rock or a tree root and bent or broke the aluminum keyway on the driveshaft, the magneto no longer lines up correctly with the magnets on the flywheel, and so the spark comes at the wrong time. Sometimes its bad enough that the machine won’t even start. Just how important is timing anyway? It’s a good idea to check your spiritual timing. Are you observing time the way God designed? 

TIME AND JUDGMENT (11-20-2018)

We are in the last week of the three-month phase of the MOVE program. The missions fair, health class outreach, survival camp weekend, student presentations, week-of-prayer, and education outreach and student-led mission trip are all in the books, and it is time for the final evaluations.
Class number 10, or Class X, as they have dubbed themselves, has enjoyed the multiple meanings available with their particular Roman numeral: names like “The generation extraordinaire,” and “the X factor generation!”
The number ten in scripture is associated with law and judgment, so it is ironic that this class, although they also have many good qualities, have been probably the most lackadaisical and relaxed group I have seen here so far. Generation laX may be a more fitting moniker for them. It has cost many of them some hard knocks to begin to see their deficiencies. In many ways they remind me of myself  and my own mediocre, Laodicean condition! 
            Lately I have been studying the pre-advent investigative judgment. What a solemn reality it is, especially in the context of current developments in the world church and the world at large! What a deep need is mine to scrutinize my life and leave no stone unturned, to die to self and put things right with God. These are golden moments to seek the Lord with a whole heart, and to invest everything in developing the image of Christ in the soul. Like a polaroid, it might take some vigorous shaking. We have way too much to unlearn, and so much more to learn, and so little time. 
Interestingly, time is profoundly connected to judgment in the Bible (Ecl 3:17, 8:5, Acts 17:31, 1 Peter 4:17, Rev 14:7). The Sabbath, as we know, is the only commandment that signals time. It is also the day that Jesus spent in the tomb when He bore the penalty of God’s judgment against sin. Thus the Sabbath serves to remind us of our need to die to self and sin, while it simultaneously illustrates the reality of both liberation and restoration, the essential experience that we need in this judgment hour (see Rom 6:5-8, Gal 2:20, Deut 5:12-15, Ex 31:13, Eze 20:12). 
But the Sabbath is even more than this: it will eventually become the visible  litmus test, the great line that will divide between those who choose to worship the Creator God and receive His seal, and those who choose to worship the Beast and his image and receive the mark of his authority.  May we be ready, and may we be faithful! 

P.S. During the Thanksgiving supper last Friday night, the students presented us with a wooden tablet they had carved the letters Gen. X along with all their names. The abbreviation made me think of Genesis chapter ten, the table of the nations, which I found very fitting, not only because this group of students represents six different countries, but also because it prefigures the work they will do among many nations, by the grace of God. Below is the list of their commissions for the next six months to a year in eight different projects across five different countries. 

n  Jose Carlos: Amazon project, Leticia, Colombia
n  Loreiny and Natalia: Healthy Living Center, Popayan, Colombia
n  Diego: orphanage in the Congo, Africa
n  John, Gerson and German: Reach International orphanage and school, Honduras, C.A. 
n  Sebastian, Azarel and Jan Pool: Peru Projects, church planting and pioneer evangelism in the Amazon region of northern Peru
n  Anthony, Damaris and Abi: Bolivia Industrial School in northeastern Bolivia.
n  Talitha: Shilo, Healthly Living Center, Medellin, Colombia

n  Benjamin: Maintenance Project, doing vehicle and equipment maintenance at mission projects across Bolivia. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

An address to live by

             “What’s your address?” can be a tricky question to answer as a missionary. The correct response can depend on the time of year, or on who’s asking and for what reason. There are at least six or seven addresses I use frequently, depending on the occasion, and not one of them is really my own. At least it helps when I remember that my permanent address is in the New Jerusalem, even if I don’t know the street number yet! For now, I must be content to be a nomad. 
As of today, we are camping again! Please keep us in prayer as we begin the student-led mission trip in San Pedro Columbia, a Mayan village in the mountains of southern Belize. We will be here until next Sunday doing evangelistic meetings, visitation, health expos and mechanics clinics.
 Honestly though, I have it pretty posh for a missionary, with a house and a comfortable bed to go back to: nothing like Jesus who often spent the night in a garden, or in the bottom of a boat, and even said the foxes and birds had more permanent dwellings than he did! (Matthew 8:20)
 My heart goes out to all those who lost their homes in the recent and current fires, or who find themselves homeless for whatever reason. May the rest of us be willing to learn to be more generous and hospitable! We may not only entertain angels, we may entertain Christ himself!
Our campsite for the week behind the health clinic in San Pedro Columbia

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Survival School

Generation 10 embarks on their Survival Camp weekend excursion

One weekend.
Pack thirteen items or less.
Follow a map to your campsite.
Find your food, (which is hidden in the woods ahead of time, so it is at least more  palatable and plentiful then real forage fare) 
Build your shelter.
Start your fire.
Cook your food. 
If you want filtered water, make your own charcoal filter! 

These are the basic rules for the traditional Practical Skills Class survival camp here at MOVE. For every missing homework assignment in class, each student will be missing one of their thirteen allowed items. Some of the less-than industrious have had to scrape by with only six of seven! 
I don’t know about you, but the present global horizon makes me feel a real personal need for some intense spiritual survival school right about now! I find myself wondering how many useful and perhaps essential items I will lack in the coming time of trial due to my prior spiritual sloth and negligence in God’s school. It reminds me of a sobering statement I read recently:

The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger, -- a faith that will not faint, though severely tried. Those who now exercise but little faith are in the greatest danger of falling under the power of satanic delusions and the decree to compel conscience. And even if they endure the test, they will be plunged into deeper distress and anguish in the time of trouble, because they have not made it a habit to trust in God. The lessons of faith which they have neglected, they will be forced to learn under a terrible pressure of discouragement.”   {YI, July 12, 1904 par. 7}  

There is no time to lose. God has precious, though difficult, lessons of faith for us to learn today that will prepare us for what is coming. But we must be willing to endure hardness as good soldiers.  

Then who of us have entered the service to expect the conveniences of life, to be off duty when we please, laying aside the soldier's armor and putting on the civilians' dress, sleeping at the post of duty, and so exposing the cause of God to reproach? The ease-loving ones will not practice self-denial and patient endurance; and when men are wanted to make mighty strokes for God, these are not ready to answer, "Here am I; send me." Hard and trying work has to be done, but blessed are those who are ready to do it when their names are called. God will not reward men and women in the next world for seeking to be comfortable in this. We are now on the battle field. There is no time for resting, no time for ease, no time for selfish indulgence. After gaining one advantage, you must do battle again; you must go on conquering and to conquer, gathering fresh strength for fresh struggles. Every victory gained gives an increase of courage, faith, and determination. Through divine strength you will prove more than a match for your enemies. {ST, September 7, 1891 par. 6} 

Lord, may we accept with gratitude today’s trials, knowing that in Your mercy and wisdom you are preparing us to survive tomorrow’s crises. Help us to trust You more and not shirk from our duty no matter how difficult! 

In the hunter’s zone
Before leaving the bush on Sunday morning, the students must complete a series of exercises as a team. Several of them are designated as blind, mute and lame, just to make things more interesting. My job this time was to scout a location on the creek and explain and supervise the students’ river-crossing challenge in which they must get the whole team across without touching the water.
 I walked some old tire tracks until I came to the creek, and then followed it upstream, looking for wide spots that would make for a more interesting crossing. Suddenly, the jungle in front of me erupted with beating wings as half-a-dozen vultures took flight. I consoled myself that they were probably as startled as I was. A brief search for the corpse yielded no results, so I continued a little further up the creek until I found the perfect crossing place at a wide bend in the stream. 
As I crouched on the uprooted end of a fallen log, waiting for the students to arrive, I heard the distant baying of hounds. Someone is out hunting today in our neck of the woods.Not good! 
I thought of all the stories I’d heard of people shot by hunters whose emotions exceeded their vision. At least the students are all together, and their last activity was the obstacle course right on the power line access road, so they should be pretty safe.  
Several minutes passed. The baying intensified, and seemed to be coming in my direction. Could the dogs be tracking me? Will they know the difference between my smell and the smell of a forest critter? I probably smell like an animal, since I haven’t had a bath since the day before yesterday!
The barking was getting very close now, and then I heard the singing blade of a machete slashing through the brush. I’m not even wearing hunter’s orange! I could be in real danger!
One of the hounds appeared abruptly, loping along quickly, nose to the ground. He passed me by and paid me no mind, but the hunter would surely be along at any moment, and I didn't’ want to be mistaken for anything not human! Should I make noise? Hide? Run? No, definitely not run
And then, there he was, the man with the machete.
“Shaw! I’m sure glad it’s you!” I called out in relief as I recognized the "hunter" was one of the other  staff members. 
“The dog came by and I thought he might lead me to you.” Shaw laughed. 
“Did you see the hunters?” 
“Yes, they are out under the power lines. They aren't coming this way. They just wait until the dogs flush the game out of the woods.” 
I was happy to hear it. 
The students soon arrived and completed their activity and we hiked back to campus without incident. 
Can you imagine what it will feel like to be a fugitive, hunted by dogs and armed men? Such a day could arrive sooner than you think. But even today we live in the hunter’s zone. The great hunter, the same Spirit that inspired Nimrod, is out to bag your soul. Don’t you go anywhere without Christ, you hear? Promise me that! 

P.S.  I want to thank all of you who have remembered Luciano and his family in your prayers. Luciano attended the evangelistic meetings the week before last, although he is still not coming to church regularly. It's good to see him smiling again. He says the Lord has answered our prayers and he landed a job with the sugar company. He doesn’t start for another couple weeks though. Please help me pray that if there are Sabbath conflicts he will be faithful. I have already encouraged him in this direction, but I know the fear of being without work again will be a strong temptation for him to compromise.

P.P.S. To all of you who have been affected by the devastating Camp Fire or other fires in California, we are praying for you earnestly, not only that God will supply your every need and sustain you in this trial, but also that you will come through it as finer gold, closer to God, and stronger to face whatever may be next. Our heart goes out to each one of you! 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A serpent at my door


            We were finally home after a long but wonderful Sabbath full of activities. I was fumbling for my keys under our tenuous porch light as Lyli stood by swatting mosquitoes. When I lifted my head my eyes caught a thin form of banded red, black and yellow resting in the shadow of the oregano plant right next to the door. 
            “Hold still, there’s a snake.” I told Lyli quietly. 
            “Where?”
            “Right there!” I pointed. “Red on black, you’re okay Jack. Red on yellow can kill a fellow!” I repeated the old rhyme to myself while I took a closer look. “Yep, he’s poisonous. A real choral!”
            I let Lyli quickly slip through the door, and then grabbed my machete. I struck, and the serpent struck back, further confirming my suspicion that he wasn’t a false choral. Thankfully my three-foot machete was longer than he was, and I dispatched him in short order.
            “How did you see that?” Lyli asked me, surprised at her normally unobservant husband. 
            “I don’t know. By God’s grace I suppose!”
            In the penumbra of these last days, may God grant us the grace to see the serpent at our door. We cannot let down our guard for a minute, especially not after a period of arduous labor for the Lord. Especially not when we think we’ve already made it to safety. 
            I was reminded of a passage from the book of Amos about a people who claim to be watching for the “day of the Lord” but are full of sin and transgressions. 

“Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end [is] it for you? the day of the LORD [is] darkness, and not light.  
As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (5:18-19)  

What a solemn warning for all who anxiously await Christ's advent but think it is impossible to be freed from evil because they trust experience over the word of God. I read about that pitfall this morning too, in Testimonies for the church volume three chapter six: Adam got us into this whole mess precisely because he trusted Eve’s experience over the Word of God! Let’s not make the same mistake today, or we will be bitten by the serpent at the door.  It's time to upgrade our porch lights folks.
The serpent carcass

Thursday, September 13, 2018

AUGUST SNAPSHOTS

Dear friends and family, 
I hope and pray this letter finds you well and full of joy and peace and the transforming grace of our Mighty Lord and precious Savior, Jesus Christ. 
The following events took place from August 8 to 24, during the time that we spent at the Caribou Adventist Fellowship, the Northern Maine Camp meeting, and in transit to and from the same. 
It is difficult to develop a complete picture with text: words are only effective when they manage to capture and transmit action while painting enough of the setting to provide context. I pray that the following stories will savor of the joy and blessings that come through service for our heavenly King and country. 
  
“I want to experience God’s love” Wed. morning, Aug 15.
When he slides into one of the pine benches of the youth chapel during our first meeting, everything about him spells trouble. His whole bench is soon astir, and I am quite certain he is the chief instigator. When he sees me looking his way he feigns seriousness, but the mirth gurgles out the moment he thinks I’m not looking. So when it is time for the prayer activity, I approach him and the buddy next to him and ask if we can pray together. They agree somewhat sheepishly. His name is Giovanni, but he goes by Gio “Yeah, you know, like Geography” he shrugs. His parents are from Haiti, and he hasn’t lost a wit of the bombastic Caribbean enthusiasm. His friend’s name is David. The prayer is called the Teaspoon prayer: T for “Thank you,” S for “Sorry,” and P for “please”. David is a cello player and he’s thankful for music. Gio is thankful for life. We keep our “sorry” section personal, but when we share our petitions, Gio surprises me.
            “I want to experience God’s love this week” he says. “I feel like I’ve never actually seen it. I mean, I know my parents love me, but they don’t really know how to show it right” he says. “I want God to show me His love is real.” 
            The prayers that follow are heartfelt, and I know God will do something special for Gio this weekend. I pray that he won’t miss it while joking around with his friends. 

Jeff shares mission stories in the youth meeting at Northern Maine Campmeeting held at Baptist Park, Mapleton, ME
Thunder and hail for the love of God. Wed. afternoon Aug 15. 
“You’re going to do my wood? Who’s idea was this?” Mr. Ted exclaims with a gruff grandpa voice, but his eyes sparkle with joy, and his laughter lines are tickled pinker than usual. This is one of three community service project outings with the youth for our first day of camp meeting. The idea is that camp meetings should be evangelistic in nature, not just a big church family reunion. The other idea is that the youth don’t need to be entertained to enjoy themselves. 
On our way to stack Mr. Ted’s supply of wood for the winter I am alone with the unconsecrated clique. Somehow all the well-behaved children and their parents in our service group ended up in the other van with Dean. I’m not sure why these kids picked my van. Maybe they take me for a pushover. The thought rather disturbs me, but not as much as the vain and worldly tenor of their conversation. They rave about music and movies and who is dating who. I try to change the subject, and ask them questions about their local churches. Only Danica responds. 
“Our church is boring” she complains. “There’s nothing for the youth.”
I try to encourage her and her friends to start something themselves, and give them a few ideas. It seems the whole group is listening, but the only feedback they offer is an uncomfortable and palpable silence. Danica at least answers and says that the transportation is their main problem.
“None of us can drive yet, and our parents don’t want to be hauling us around all the time.”
“Maybe it depends on what it’s for?” I venture. “Have you asked them?” I glance in the mirror. She has an incredulous little smile that seems to say “yeah right!” so I don’t push the matter further, and the group resumes their drivel. I just pray. Suddenly one interesting comment catches my attention: 
“Hey, we’re missing Gio!” Hadassah exclaims. 
“Yeah, I wish he were here with us!” David chimes in. 
Thank-you Lord that he’s not with us! I rejoice inwardly. Now he’ll have a better chance of not missing what You want to show him this week, just like I prayed this morning! But what about these kids? How can I help them catch a different vision of life? My prayers continue. 
Meanwhile, a bank of thick clouds blackens the horizon ahead of us. Moments later, the tempest is all around us. Lightening connects earth and heaven, and the thunder is louder than all the kids combined. Their previous conversations are abandoned before the fury of the elements. One bolt discharges in the field directly to our left. 
“Wow! Did you see that?” Nathan exclaims. “I’ve never seen lightening that close!” The thick torrent of rain begins to turn to hail, and we are forced to stop on the side of the road and wait for the squall to blow over. 
“Why don’t we have a prayer?” I suggest. There are no objections, so I pour out my heart to God. I feel like He has given me this opportunity and I better make it count. I ask for safety, and also that the rain will stop so we can get Mr. Ted’s wood in. Inwardly I ask God to show these kids that He is real. A few minutes later, the worst of the storm has passed, and we drive on. The rain continues however until we park in Mr. Ted’s driveway. The kids don’t want to get out of the van. No one is dressed for rain. I decide to go have a look at the woodpile. By the time I’ve cased out our job, the rain has stopped! 
We form a human chain and pass the wood from the woodpile to the basement staircase where we slide it down a makeshift board ramp down to the team of waiting stackers, who happen to be the unconsecrated clique. They have no breath to spare for vain conversation as they hurry to pick up a few wedges while dodging the incoming firewood, but they seem to be enjoying the work in spite of themselves. When they get behind, I climb down into the basement and catch the incoming wood and pass it on for them to stack. 
“Can we do this again tomorrow?” one of them asks while on the drive back to camp. That’s about the only tangible evidence I get of any positive impact on the unconsecrated clique, as the rest of their conversation reverts to vain banter. I can only trust that today’s events are fixed in their memories, and that God will make them sprout into some real longing for something better.  

Community Service Surveys and Unsung Heroes. Thurs. Aug 16. 
Today Jeff decides to take the unconsecrated clique to stack some more wood. In keeping with our chosen theme “Forgotten Heroes,” Keren, Lyli and Fawna lead a group to take gift packages to the unsung heroes of the community: the hospital janitors, the country road crew, the librarians, and the city police. The gift packages contain a copy of Steps to Christ, a piece of chocolate cake that Fawna made, and an invitation to a Friday night dinner at the Caribou Adventist church next week. 
My team is going to knock on doors and take a community survey to find people interested in cooking schools, gardening, prophecy, and marriage seminars, and personal Bible studies. This time my group has a lot more interest in spiritual things! We make some neat contacts.  
“Thanks so much for doing this with us! This is the first time we’ve ever had activities for the youth, this has been awesome! Can you come again next year?” Exclaims Jasmine  an energetic tomboyish girl with red-hair and freckles on our ride back to the campground. 
“I’m going to make sure Mr. John and the other organizers know how much we’ve enjoyed the youth program! Last year we asked them to plan something for the youth next time and they really listened!” 
            At the next youth meeting the kids share their experiences. 
“I went into an office that I thought was part of the police station and gave the lady the gift package and started to thank her for all that she does.” One of the youth relates.
“‘What exactly do you think I do anyway?’ the lady asked me. ‘I guess I don’t really know!’ I had to admit. And she says, ‘I collect people’s taxes!’ I guess tax collectors are still hated by a lot of people the same way Zacchaeus was, so she was so surprised and happy for the gift. I hope she will receive Jesus too, just like Zacchaeus!” 

Ten miles of river evangelism? Fri. Aug 17.
River evangelism may sound like the Amazon, not northern Maine, but don’t over-trust your instincts, especially when it comes to perceiving the power of God to turn hearts toward Him. Bible meetings and mission work aren’t the only ways to help the youth fall in love with Jesus. The right wilderness experience can do a lot for the soul.  
That said, a canoe and kayak trip with almost 40 young people ages 10-20 sounded pretty crazy to me. It was definitely not my idea, and I was nervous about it from the get-go. It doesn’t help that I am not an experienced canoeist myself, and I don’t know the rivers around here. Thankfully, the church brethren have pitched in and picked out a stretch on the Aroostook River, and even hired a river guide to accompany us. All I have to do is manage the sign-up sheet, load the paddles and life jackets that the camp loaned us, drive one of the vans to the launching point, and help keep track of everyone on the river. Simple right? 
            At the launch point over 20 kayaks and canoes line the beach. A short chubby chap needs someone to go in a canoe with him. His name is Noah, and he is ten years old. 
 “Am I your new friend now? You’re my friend” Noah asserts without waiting for my answer as we launch the canoe. 
“Guess what? My dad just got a Chevy truck. Guess what year it is?”
“I don’t know… a 2012?” I take a stab.
“No. Newer!”
“2015?”
“No!”
“2017?”
“No!”
“No? No way, not a 2018?”
“Yes!” Noah is ecstatic. 
I soon discover that Noah’s words flow better than the river does, as he doesn’t stop talking even when I have to get out of the canoe several times to drag it through the shallow spots. 
“Do you like macaroni and cheese? I love macaroni and cheese. Oh, and pizza! Pizza is soooo good! Is pizza your favorite food?”  Noah finally exhausts his list of favorite foods, and I decide his passion for cuisine is matched only by his sedentary ways, as he has yet to make use of his paddle. 
 “That lady in the other canoe is my grandma,” he points out an elderly woman in the canoe just ahead of us. “She is the one who brought me to camp. My older brother didn’t want to come. He thinks he’s too cool.”
I learn that Noah’s parent’s are divorced, and his grandma is the only connection he has to the church. 
“You are a nice guy! And you’re a calm kind of guy. Not like my dad. He gets mad a lot.” Noah’s sudden comment takes me by surprise, and any temptation I had to be annoyed with the little fellow melts away. Who knows what this kid has been through? He’s just looking for some love. This is a chance for Noah to see the difference that Jesus makes in our lives, and I sure don’t want to blow it!
“Well, you can thank God for that!” I answer aloud. “He’s the only One who can make people nice.”
“Hey, what’s your name?” Noah calls out to the nearest canoe for the third time. He has the vocal stamina of a good preacher. 
“I’m Miguel” comes the answer. “What’s your name?”
“Noah.”
“Oh, you should know something about boats then!” the Bible worker from Connecticut responds with a grin.
Yeah, but only boats without oars! I want to shout back, but think better of it, even though Noah has yet to make more than six consecutive strokes with his paddle despite my attempts to engage his efforts. 
            After a long time we reach a bridge, and stop to rest and let the kids swim. The guide tells us we are at the halfway point. Honestly, I would have been okay if it were the end of our journey. I pull out a bag of pretzels from my backpack and share them with Noah while we wait.
            “Hey, these are good!” He enthuses. I get the idea he just plain likes to eat. 
When the last straggling canoe arrives, we continue downriver. It is getting late and there is still a long ways to go. 
“How much farther is it?” Noah asks for the third time in as many minutes, not long after leaving the bridge. 
“I don’t know, probably another 4 and a half miles.”
“I think it’s another two miles!” he declares hopefully. “Do those guys know how far it is?” He points at the canoe ahead of us.
“I don’t think they know any more than we do.” 
“Hey guys! Guys! How far is it ‘til we get there?” He shouts anyway. 
“Guys!”
“If you would paddle as much as you talk we’d get there a lot sooner!” I venture. 
“Okay.” He sighs resignedly, and rows for about 10 seconds.
“Am I helping?” he pauses and turns.
“Yes! Don’t stop! You are helping a lot!” I try to encourage him. But the positive reinforcement only gets me another four or five strokes before he drops the paddle. 
“I’m getting hungry!” He announces.  
“I don’t have any more food with me, but if you help paddle we will get back sooner,” I try to motivate him again. It’s good for five more seconds of paddling.  
“It’s getting cold” he notes.
“If you paddle more it will help you warm up!” I encourage. It’s nice that paddling is a good solution for all of Noah’s problems so far! Unfortunately he just doesn’t have the endurance or attention span to stick with it. 
I am pretty tired myself, and the seat is getting more uncomfortable all the time. I decide to stand and paddle like a native, but first I give careful instructions to Noah to sit still and not make any rash movements. He is happy to oblige as to him that means no paddling. My oar is pretty long, and serves to push off the shallow bottom at times. I take off my life jacket and give it to Noah to sit on. Finally we see another bridge in the distance and the end is in sight! Thank God!  
Afterward I wish I had taken advantage of the long voyage to talk to Noah more about Jesus. As it was, he did most of the talking while I paddled. But I know God can impress a lot on a young heart over ten miles of river winding through the woods of northern Maine.  

Waiting to fly home. Wed. Aug 22. 

The plan was to finish fixing the plane Sunday night and Monday and fly home Tuesday. But removing the boot from the leading edge on the left wing took longer than we hoped. The boot was damaged by lightening while captain Sutton navigated around a storm cell on his flight north from Colombia last July. Initially, the only damage seemed to be a tiny hole toward the top of the rubber boot. But after the first leg of this trip north, and after tanking the plane for our flight to Maine, Jeff noticed that the wing was leaking fuel. Turns out the lightening hole was more than skin deep, allowing jet fuel to run out of the tank into the boot, which wrinkled up like a prune. So the plane stayed parked at the hangar in Collegedale, and we drove the 46-hour round trip to northern Maine, arriving back in Tennessee on Sunday the 19th. Jeff had ordered the new boot and other needed parts, 
   On Wednesday we are actually on the runway ready to take off, when one of the flight instruments starts acting up. When Jeff had checked it in the hangar, it worked like a charm. I suppose it is still working like a charm when I think about it, because charms are treacherous things. They seem like they work, but when it comes right down to it, they really don’t.
So it’s back to the hangar, to get this charming business sorted out. That evening we decide to leave the plane packed and take out only the essentials to spend one more night in Collegedale. Lyli and I sleep on top of the bed so as not to soil the clean sheets that she had washed that morning. She had already cleaned the bathroom too, so we take care not to foul it up too much. The next morning we wake up ready to go. Will today be the day? 
It occurs to me that this waiting for departure in the mission plane is a lot like waiting for the Second Coming. Despite unexpected delays, one must live with everything cleaned and in order; ready to go whenever the Captain gives the word. 
Oh, and the time passes a lot faster when I help the pilot with his work. It’s much more than just staying busy or passing the time. It’s about doing something meaningful to hasten our departure. When I work alongside the pilot my understanding of our true situation and actual proximity to take-off improves dramatically. But while the work is beneficial and enjoyable, it cannot be accomplished without personal sacrifice. There are plenty of new sights and experiences to be had in the Chattanooga area (read, this present world), but the importance of our mission trumps all personal convenience and pleasure. We need to get home, folks. 
Are you working with your Pilot and Captain, Jesus Christ today? 

Jeff glues the new boot onto the left wing leading edge


The day we thought we were going to take-off :)

Singing Higher
            
            It is preparation day, bright and clear, and we are finally airborne and bound for Belize. Off the coast of Alabama, over the Gulf of Mexico we watch the sky and sea meld into a bottomless blue. Only an occasional ship signals there is something more under us than the pure heavens. Our friend Keren seems happy to be flying home, as she sings cheerily to herself, her voice just audible above the drone of the twin engines. 
            “I think I can sing higher up here!” she suddenly remarks. At 28,000 feet, how could it be any other way?I smile at the irony.  
May the song of our lives pitch a little higher today. By God’s grace may the tone of our characters rise a note closer to our home with Him beyond the blue. 

Postscript:
Currently we are two weeks deep into our second 3 month session for 2018. We have seventeen students this time. I already told you how Sebastian got here, but some time I hope to share some more of their stories with you. I know God has brought them here for a special purpose, and it is amazing to hear their testimonies of how God has been at work in their lives and brought them to the point of deciding to dedicate their lives to his service.