Tag Archives: Christianity

Heavenly cheesecake

heavenlycheesecakeIt’s ironic that the Book about Heaven says scarcely anything about it. One meager chapter is about Heaven. From there, a smattering of verses. That is all. More than anything, the Book about Heaven is more about Earth than anything else. How to live on Earth in order to get to Heaven.

But what is Heaven like? The Bible says precious little. Your guess is as good as mine. Or maybe mine is better than yours. My guess is Cheesecake Factory cheesecake comes close to the delicacies we’ll enjoy there.

HeavenlywaveThere are those who try to make Heaven on Earth. Well, I don’t think we should treat this planet like a disposable rag. But there is a Heaven beyond the Heaven you experience here.

I’ve heard repeatedly theologians affirm there are no dogs in Heaven. After scouring the Bible for years, I can deny this categorically. Theologians might be the people who least understand Heaven of all of us. If you love dogs, I’m sure they’ll be there.

HeavenlycarThe funny thing about my Ford Escort (year? sometime after the invention of the printing press) is that I take it to a mechanic here in Santa Monica where only Porsches, Ferraris and BMWs go. Among all these exotic toys, my humble Flintstone vehicle.

No matter. In Heaven, I’ll have a cool car or two. Why not?

So what’s your version of Heaven? Because all except sin, Heaven will be all and much more than our wildest imaginations.

Cash out — at 30 silver coins

moneymoneymoneyI call it the money mantra. We are continually being reminded that money makes you happy. And more money makes you happier. And so, lack of money is just plain old misery. It gets said so often that it’s widely believed.

Just look at all the fancy homes in Santa Monica or Beverly Hills. Inside there is divorce, unfaithfulness, drug addiction, alcoholism, arguing. They must be happy.

greedJudas decided that he had gamed Jesus long enough and that it was time to cash out on his confidence. The Saducees wanted Jesus dead. Judas had access. He could lead them to arrest Him. And they paid him handsomely for this little piece of intelligence. He must have been happy.

But then something happened that doesn’t fit into the money mantra. Judas hung himself. Well, let’s forget that because money makes people happy.

Or maybe there are things in life worth more than money.

Africa medical mission report #3

Africa medical missionBANJUL, THE GAMBIA — From beginning to end, the animals drove Lighthouse Medical Missions personnel… er, batty.

Bats were the culprits behind the recent lethal Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa. It scared us.

Pigs were to blame for our return flight delay Saturday, getting sucked into the right jet engine. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the flash from the wing. I heard an explosion like a tire blowout. It conjured images of the plane trundling off the edge of the runway and catching fire.

Welcome to standard operating procedure for Lighthouse Medical Missions. Since its inception in 1998, medical practitioners have attended to 50,000 patients. Well, that statistic is not correct anymore. This past week we saw another 1,400 — in spite of Ebola fears working in our minds.

Christians in Africa

I got to pray for Muslims and Christians alike after they saw medical practitioners

Actually, the virulent hemorrhagic fever caused by Ebola prompted two-thirds of our team to take of the unusual step of evacuating on April 3.

The epidemic started when somebody ate a natural incubator of the virus: bats. Eating “bushmeat” is not on my bucket list, but to somebody in Guinea Bissau it must have seemed a delicacy, and that’s how the deadliest virus known to man roared onto the human scene, health officials said.

I stayed with 16 team members who decided to weather out their fears and stick with the original travel itinerary. I was just starting to breathe easy as the Brussels Airline jetliner was picking up speed on the runway. Then came the pop and a thud. Then the pilot slammed on the brakes.

medical team in the Gambia

The Lighthouse medical mission team in the Gambia 2014

“That was scary,” said mission leader, Dr. Robert Hamilton. It was an extraordinary admission for him because I have never known the Santa Monica pediatrician to be afraid of anything. It was Dr. Hamilton who persuaded us to stay in The Gambia.

And he was right. We didn’t get sick from Ebola.

And we were safe on the runway.

This was my first African medical mission with the Lighthouse group. As I interviewed veterans of these trips, I pondered the healthy dose of adventure and misadventure, the knack for getting into unheard-of predicaments, only to escape unscathed, as if cheating death.

Where is the borderline separating “dedicated” from “crazy?”

On The Gambia River.

On The Gambia River.

Then I remembered Marco Polo. He made a years-long journey back from China to solicit capable missionaries to evangelize the Chinese, according to his book. After a year, only two dared to accompany Marco Polo, his dad and his uncle. But at the first rumor of war, the pair fled to Rome, leaving Marco Polo and his family to return alone. I realized we must continue to manage risk. After all, this IS Africa.

Prior to the trip, I had steeled my nerves for the worst gore medicine witnesses. On previous missions, doctors had attended to machete-chopped victims of civil war and even performed a mastectomy with only some lidocane injections. Like Joseph Conrad, I was prepared to say, “The horror! The horror!”

As it turned out, the cases were tame. In The Gambia, where half of the 45-member team worked, we saw mostly pain, fungus, malaria and worms. The other half-team traveled 100 miles by bus to Guinea Bissau and didn’t hardly treat anything worse.

One thing emerged to me as an eye witness. Lighthouse Medical Missions has an impact way beyond the temporary relief of 30 Motrin pills. By coordinating with local pastors, they essentially maintain field workers year-round who teach such principles as hygiene and household budgeting.

Because the pastors are Africans, they work at a fraction of what it would cost to maintain an American. They learn from U.S doctors and pastors and transmit it longterm to the local population.

On Sunday morning at the Lighthouse Church in Banjul, Pastor Alusine Kpewa was teaching on financial savings, a lesson virtually ignored by the poor of developing countries.

“I do not want the child of God to live all your life in debt,” said Kpewa (pronounced Peh-wah).

People can escape the syndrome of the eternally extended beggar’s hand.

As a fruit of twice yearly Lighthouse Medical Mission, there are over a 100 churches, concentrated in West Africa. They are ramping up operations. They have dug wells and founded schools.

So whether it’s bats or pigs harrying us, we must continue to take to Africa the love of God manifested in a practical way.

If you would like to participate with finances or volunteering, check out the webpage www.lighthousemedicalmissions.com . The ministry is a part of the Lighthouse Church and the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Virtually anyone can come on an Africa medical mission, but come prayed up.

This time it was bats and pigs. Next time, it will be something else.

This report first appeared on the santamonica.patch.com

Africa medical mission report 1

BANJUL, THE GAMBIA — From Southern Italy to California to West Africa, Dr. Kevin White’s participation on the Lighthouse Medical Mission is as improbable as it is unusual.

Africa medical missions

Dr. Kevin White in Africa medical mission.

On March 31, Dr. White, a cardiologist and two nurse practitioners attended to 300 patients here, kicking off a clinic that is likely to grow in numbers and seriousness of cases as the week progresses.

A pediatrician from Ventura, Dr. White was a chef carousing in Naples in 1985 when he woke up on a park bench to see an Anglican Church. Surprised to see such a thing in the land of Catholicism and wanting to hear some English, he stumbled in — to find his life totally change through Jesus.

Now instead of serving alcohol, he wanted to serve humanity, so he studied dietetics on the American East Coast, then medicine. When he diagnosed an old missionary from Africa with malaria, the patient told Dr. White that God wanted him in Africa.

So Dr. White set up practice in Southern California with the exclusive purpose of raising money to fund his twice-yearly forays into the Dark Continent. He leads teams from his church. Now, two-thirds of his family is in The Gambia with him — as is two-thirds of his office.

beautiful African children

That’s me with the kids. I fell in love with the kids!

“This is the week I go broke,” quipped Dr. White, who left only one doctor behind manning his office. He now is attending three times as many patients as his busiest day is America — 100 patients a day. The need is critical, and West Africans don’t have access or finances for quality medical attention.

On Monday, there were patients with pain, a snake bite, and a keloid. Though the Lighthouse Medical Missions coordinates logistics with local churches, all are welcome to the free clinics. Gambia’s huge majority is Muslim.

I came to observe and report on their activities. I’m impressed with the level of compassion in every team member’s heart. After a breakneck pace for eight hours, the nurses, high school students, nursing students, a retiree and others were still smiling.

On these trips, medical practitioners are a premium, but no one is useless. At the first hour, I was packing pills. Later I was praying for patients and then sweeping up. It seems not too many of our patients and a few of our volunteers didn’t understand the concept of a trash can.

I’m no stranger to the Third World. I was a missionary in Guatemala for 16 years. But even I had trouble plugging in the fan that didn’t have a plug; it was just two wires that were stuck into the outlet.

malaria pills

Don’t forget to take your malaria pills. (I kept forgetting.)

Try as I might, I couldn’t get them to stick, and the fan kept shutting off.That’s when Dr. White surprised me giving me the tip: Stuff two plastic ear speculas in with the wires to wedge them in. It worked, and doctor and patients enjoyed the breeze.

Yeah, he’s been to 17 Africa week-long trips since he started in 2004. But I was a missionary full time for 16 years in a developing nation. How does he know more than me?

I guess Dr. White’s a certified intrepid medical missionary.

If you would like to help pay for volunteers or medicines, or fund a water project, your tax deductible donation can be made at www.lighthousemedicalmissions.com

NOTE: This article originally appeared on the SantaMonica.Patch.com on April 1.

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You can’t stumble…

pray on knees

God gives us

arkofcovenantIn the Ark of the Covenant, there were the law tablets, Aaron’s rod, and a jar of manna. These symbolize:

  • law: God’s guidance
  • rod: God’s favor
  • jar: God’s provision

arkWhat else could we want/need from God? The Ark of the Covenant (not Noah’s ark) represented the presence of God with His people. Now, His presence is with His people, especially in His church.

And that’s we go to church for. That’s what we get from God by seeking Him:

  1. guidance
  2. favor
  3. provision.

 

Comparisons are the worst: Part 2 on self-esteem

Discov ering self esteem

Unperceived by parents, teachers, friends, aptitude tests, my giftings were perfect for what God designed me for. I’m posing with kids in the Guatemala Christian school, Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

My gifting was not appreciated by anyone in high school. I wasn’t that smart, wasn’t athletic, wasn’t socially adept. What was I? I was overly sensitive. In high school being overly sensitive is not a good thing because you’re no good at the interchange of crass teasing that especially goes on among boys.

I actually thought I lacked a special trait.

Then I discovered my call: to pastor, to be a missionary. And being very sensitive (to God and to others) was a premium. But when I was a kid and took aptitude tests designed to surface giftings, nothing registered.

colegio GuatemalaComparisons are the worst because God made you absolutely unique. This uniqueness is reflected in your fingerprints, in your DNA, in your emotional makeup, in your interests and passions. It flouts comparison. To compare yourself to others is to ignore your God-given talents.

There is only one you on te planet. God made you special to do something nobody else will do. Only you can get the job done. It’s pointless to desire somebody else’s job. ?God didn’t design you for that.

It’s an insult to God to wish to be someone different, to have their beauty, their intellect or their wit. If you are young, take it easy on yourself. Don’t criticize yourself harshly. Wait and see what comes of your life. Strive to do well in everything but don’t panic if others do better in you in many areas. Because in one area, you’re going to blow them away. That’s where you’re a winner.

How to overcome low self-esteem

self esteem lessons

By rigorously defending the key, we forced abler opponents to take outside shots, where they weren’t as strong.

No critic was severer of me than me.

Virtually friendless in high school, I lacked confidence and avoided the risks that would lead me to success. But through the years, I have fundamentally changed (though not totally). Here’s how:

becoming a winner

Zach was the beast on the court. I did what I could to help win.

1. Discover your unique giftings. Eventually I discovered that I did have strengths and gifts, though these were not appreciated by anyone or registered by any test designed to show strengths. This is a Biblical truth: God has NOT made person void of some talent.

Just like parts of a car, you can’t do without even one of them. The car will break down. Each part is critical to proper functioning. Through the years, I saw that I was no exception to this rule. I was valuable and realized God made me with special giftings for my special calling.

Critics may focus your deficiencies. They are blind to your abilities. Too much attention paid to other people can deflate your self-esteem.

loser winner2. Turn around the toxic environment wisely, as best you can. It’s downright discouraging being surrounded by people who drag you down. What can you do? Appeal to your family members to look at positives more than negatives.

I turned around the nay-saying non-family by repeating back to them what they were saying to me. When someone criticized me, I criticized me in the same way. And they were horrorized to hear my self-criticism. It was as if I raised up a mirror to their faces, and they saw how ugly it was what they were doing. They stopped.

3. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Accept yourself for who you are. If people don’t like the fact that I’m sensitive, that’s fine. I’m not going to pretend to be something different. If they don’t like it, then I’ll look for friend elsewhere. Find friends who appreciate you for what you are.

These lessons of life came to the surface with my recent participation in a basketball tournament at the school where I teach. Basketball is not my game, so I tried to get out of it. But my friend, Zach, really wanted me — because he’s a true friend, not because he wanted to win.

Would you believe we wound up winning the tournament. I didn’t believe I had talents for basketball but I used what I had, and Zach did the rest. I’m learning to be less of a self-critic.

Really? Marijuana?

Christian Fellowship Ministries

This is obviously not Tom. Dozens of youth are challenged yearly to go the way of God, not the way of perdition, each year.

At the time, I had no idea that Tom* smoked pot. He just seemed like the sweetest kid. He fervently loved God. He even sponsored a friend to go to camp. At Q300, such “fruit” showed genuineness.

I had no idea of the tempest swirling in his background. The only sign of trouble was that quickly a room-renter in his house complained of being robbed. The amount? Q300.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta teaches youth to avoid alcohol, drugs, domestic violence, crime and other ways people look for happiness. We’re not official a reform school, but we have a decent reforming record.

It seemed clear to me who stole it because the amounts were precise. What was weird was that the money was not used for self.

Not long after, I fled organized criminals in Guatemala after almost 16 years of missionary work. I tried to eke out a life in the States and find meaningful ministry. After being away for four years, I visited the church and school we had pioneered with my wife.

Tom tracked me down to thank me. He gave me his testimony. He had been smoking weed when he came to our school, and God had challenged him to come out of a lot of confusion. I didn’t ask about the Q300 though. I forgot.

He had heard I was back in Guatemala, and he personally came to thank me. Praise God for what preaching the gospel can do. Next time you sponsor someone to camp, Tom, it has be your own money.

* Name changed.

When God moves…

… it makes all the difference.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta banda

With Chinese flags at the front to add some color to the martial gallantry of the drums, trumpets and glaxon bells.

I prayed for years for a bus for the ministry in Guatemala, and finally got one. But it kept breaking down and was more costly than it was worth.

On the other hand, I never tried to form a marching band, even though I liked the idea and said, “Amen!” to the people who suggested it for our school. I basically said, “Whenever God wants to give us a band, He’ll do it.”

banda escolar GuatemalaAnd He did. He brought in a person who wasn’t even saved to teach all the kids to play. Out of candy sales, He raised up money to buy all the instruments. I’m amazed to this day how this miracle happened.

For years now, the marching band has been instrumental (excuse the pun) for outreaches. We march down streets playing and hand out of flyers. Instead of knocking on doors, the people come out to see and hear.

Guatemalan students

After the band marched, the smallest members enjoy a juice from the tiendita next door the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta in Guatemala.

Now that I have been out of Guatemala, the band continues to be a powerful tool. What I wanted and tried so hard to get (the bus), flopped. What I didn’t even try to get (the band) succeeded wildly beyond my imagination.

Look to God and wait. Stop straining to do what you think. Just believe. He will act upon His will.