Tag Archives: Guatemala

We felt your prayers pushing us forward

prayer powerFour guys from LA, young guys, rebels who have turned to God, went to Guatemala believing they could possibly be used. What happened at the Door Church in Guatemala was extraordinary: people were healed, faith was restored, forgiveness came back between brethren.

And I’m happy. That was the church God used me to raise up. I was troubled by some negative trends happening there now in my absence. God used Arti Cedillo, a former Satanist, to preach. Pastor Steven Fernandez, a former street thug, was their guide and body guard. Junior Cervantez, a former graffiti artist, and Johnny Huerta, a former partier, went along for the fun of it and wound up making a great spiritual impact also.

Junior was skate-boarding the the marijuana-smokers who frequent the church’s street in front. Johnny bought McDonald’s for all the kids one night, a treat so rare because of poverty it’s usually reserved for only for a kid’s birthday.

Arti said when he got back: We felt your prayers literally pushing us forward. And that’s how I was reminded of the power of prayer.

Generation outbreak

Arty Cedillo, Johnny Herta, Steven Fernandez and Junior Cervantes

The L.A. guys, around 25 years old: Arty Cedillo, Johnny Herta, Steven Fernandez and Junior Cervantes

Four young men realized revival in my (old) church in Guatemala.  People were healed. People got excited about Jesus. People were restored. Revival services brought what they don’t always bring: revival.

As I sat listening, I realized God was with these guys. God delighted in them. The report they gave impacted my congregation in Santa Monica, the Lighthouse Church. But to me, it transcended. This was a watershed. The new generation of young disciples was breaking out. No longer would they wait for the older generation to lead. They would bring God themselves.

May the younger generation arise and take the reigns of His church!

Our band in the newspaper

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

The copy of Nuestro Diario Sept. 16 page 4 featuring the band of the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta.

The Guatemalan school my family and I started got into the newspaper today for its courage marching through drenching rain. Their courage, sacrifice and service to Christ is an example to us First World Christians who find all the reasons to NOT soldier through. And they make me proud. I see that 16 years of labor on the mission field was not in vain but left hardcore disciples.

The Liceo Bilingue La Puerta‘s marching band competed and won a spot in the national Independence Day parade (Sept. 15 for Guatemala). And they marched on despite rain that got them wet to the bones.

The miracle band


We didn’t have money to buy instruments. But God raised up finances through the sale of candies (!). We didn’t have know-how to teach the kids to play them. But God sent us a trained band leader, who free-of-charge offered his service.

I stood in awe of what God did. The instruments came out of nothing. This man, patiently and expertly, taught each kid and then the group to coordinate. We got into the Guatemalan Independence Day parade and on national television with the message of Christ that first year, and we’ve been there ever since.

This video, which was taken of a practice run, is a bit rough around the edges. But I can’t help but feel warmed with joy to see what God does. I can still praise God. When He does something, our best efforts pale by comparison. The Liceo Bilingue La Puerta continues to glorify God.

One of the last things I did in Guatemala…

It was the fountain, seen in the background as this young girl explains why she likes the Liceo Bilingüe La Puerta, the school I founded and worked for 14 years. Whew! What a labor of love!

As I think back now, it is almost hard to remember the blood, sweat and tears invested into this place. The fountain is symbolic, a splash of beauty and tranquility to crown more than a decade of untiring work.

The beauty heals. To see children still being ministered to, to see the school functioning as a safe place, to see kids be raised up in God’s gold standard, is rewarding.

Even if you don’t understand Spanish, I invite you to watch this video, in which the girl, unprompted, unscripted, shares naturally what flows from her heart.

Just passing by turned into a miracle


“You know we just can´t pass by without stopping in to say Hi.

It is considered the height of rudeness in Guatemala to not dutifully greet EVERYONE. No being too busy.

So Dianna went in to see Surama, and I waited. Apparently the Holy Spirit took over. She asked Surama if she had spoken in her heavenly language lately. The question provoked panic which brought repentance. Surama, who had lived years as a deadened Christian, came alive with a vibrancy with which she is still serving Jesus. She works at the school I started.

When you serve Christ 24-7, you never know when God will use you. Now God is using Surama.

New and old followers of Christ


It has been four years since I was missionary in Guatemala. As the years pass, there are old dear friends still in the work — and they warm my heart. Then too, there are new friends, also a joy. The video is of Andrea, who shyly explained what she liked about the school, el Liceo Bilingue La Puerta, that I left working in Guatemala. I’m proud of her.

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.

Great time in Guatemala

Thank you for your prayers.

Mike in GuatemalaMore than 40 people were healed miraculously. Pastor Charlie Forman has an anointing for praying for the sick. A lady with stage-4 pancreatic cancer got up and went to her daughter’s wedding. A lady with a walker doesn’t need her walker. One leg grew out 3 inches. A 75-year-old with back pain got down on the floor and did three pushups to check if he was in fact healed.

Iglesia cristiana La PuertaPeople got saved in almost every service. Youths came! The discouraged were encouraged.

We played soccer and enjoyed the best of Guatemala cuisine (beans and rice with Jesus Christ forever! oh, and they gave me some tasty cinnamon buns.).

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

The Liceo Biliungue La Puerta school is doing well too!

The best thing was just the sense I got that 16 years of labor were not in vain. There are people who thank me for changing the direction of their lives. People are still getting saved.

It makes me want to keep going for Jesus.

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.

Extraordinary joy

the work of God in Guatemala

Elder, at right. A big 13-year-old (for Guatemalans).

Christopher Hitchens couldn’t get by without alcohol. He said it helped him cope with boring people. I guess pretty much everybody in his life was boring. He was too intelligent. Why is heroized?

I find exquisite joy in saving souls. I have no need for chemical-induced happiness. Elder is the latest.

When I went to Guatemala, he pretty much came to every service, outreach and discipleship. This is new for him.

CFM

I was impressed with how simply kind he was.

Typically, the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta yielded one soul for year. By some measure, that’s pretty slim harvest, a gargantuan amount of work for just one soul out of a school of 150 kids. But if you consider that the one soul each year stays through all the years, it’s not bad. It’s not easy to save souls, even in Guatemala.

But now things seem to be picking up. Elder wasn’t the only one. There were three or four kids coming into the fold.

Before my atheist friends rankle, keep in mind that he who comes to church gets out of drugs, alcoholism, wife-beating, marital unfaithfulness, and — frequently — poverty as well.

It is exquisite joy to see all that. The Bible says that all the angels in Heaven have a party — for just one soul. Me too.

Useless, then priceless

Tio TinoTino was one of those drunks who you stepped over, who slept in his urine on the streets in Guatemala. You expected him to wake up dead after a cuttingly cold night. You tried not to think about it.

Ismael talked to him about Jesus and offered him a place to sleep. Tino got saved.

As a missionary, I had a soft spot in my heart for Tino. We let him sleep at the church as a guard. We gave him food. I let him play worship on his guitar in service, a throwback type Christian music. He became Tio Tino — Uncle Tino — for everybody.

drunk GuatemalaOn this trip to Guatemala, I was astonished at just how far the transformation has gone. Now, Tino leads outreach everyday, which his only honkytonk guitar, just off the edge of the Central Plaza. Everybody joined him on Sunday to street-preach.

He’s back on the streets, no longer homeless in a stupor, like Joshua establishing dominion, reaching out to others who are in the condition he left behind.

The lost one

saved

Not one of the lost ones in the church in Guatemala.

At 11 years of age, a former student told his little brother and sister to not move while he hung himself in front of them. The tykes obeyed.

What angst or demon would a boy to such unthinkable horrors as rival the Holocaust? I cannot comprehend. It tears me up inside. What could we have done to avoid this?

We don’t win every battle. We lose some badly. Amid the exultings of success stories lurk the blackest stains of those who chose not to listen to the word of God, who opted for worldliness instead of godliness.

Guatemalan kid

The Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta works to save kids from the lostness of the world. Happiness results. This is what moves me.

I’m sorry, but I can’t get excited about a celeb’s fashion faux paux. When you have lived ravages, it’s impossible to dwell on the frivolous.

It galls to hear atheists revile Christians as a great evil. I assure you: It was not a Christian that drove that kid to twisted thoughts, emotions and actions. It was something sinister. It was something we Christians fight against.

Christian Fellowship Ministries

Resting after a soccer game, these youth are part of the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta Christian school in Guatemala.

Can you be moved to act? Christianity needs Christians who are not side-tracked by selfish desires, who take up the weight of prayer, who take the Good News of hope to the streets.

We lost one. Near you, there’s one who’s on the verge of being lost. Only you are within reach to help, if you will let yourself be moved.

Legacy

El Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

Students in 2014 in the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta, the school my wife and I founded with so much work. Good people joined and helped us.

I’ve known churches that dive kamikaze when the pastor leaves, so naturally I was anxious. But it’s been four years since I sought refuge in the United States from criminal threat. And the church my wife and I started 20 years ago is thriving. So too the school.

It feels like I died. (At just about anybody’s funeral, all the good things are remembered. When somebody dies, you see what his impact was.)

The Door Bilingual School in GuatemalaNow that I’m visiting Guatemala again, I’m seeing people who I reached out to 20 years ago. They express profound appreciation.

“I don’t know who he is, but I’m going to go give him a hug,” one schoolkid said. The kids thronged me. My eyes misted… Even those who never knew me appreciate the years of toil to establish a work of God.

colegio cristiano Guatemala

He’s Mikey, but I call him “Einstein Hair.” I love that little guy.

People are still getting saved. The school continues to be a safe harbor. The disciples continue to labor to extend God’s kingdom.

For the first time in my life, I can see a legacy. And I ask myself: What will my legacy be in the United States?

Partnerships

Saved gang member

Mario and Alex at the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta today.

When it was his turn to kill in a dark alley, Mario demurred and concocted some excuse. Still, he was a hardcore gang leader.

Meanwhile, Alex got his kicks throwing curve balls that baffled batters in the big leagues of Guatemala. With his young Nicaraguan partner, together they were forming a life with not much direction.

On separate days, both got radically saved by Jesus Christ. They processed through discipleship and became leaders of the Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta. They worked tirelessly, giving their all, everyday. Mario still teaches art in our school. Alex still is assistant pastor and coordinator for the school.

Missionary school Guatemala

With the big smile, teacher Banner with 5th and 6th graders. His life too was touched by God. He too has become a key partner in the ministry.

If you want to achieve great things, you’ll need to partner up with other, similarly-minded human beings. Partnership, in the world, maybe conjures the ideas of corporation profits. On the team, it speaks to supporters who help the stars win.

But in the kingdom it means much more: exponential impact and sweet friendship.

Now that I was forced to abandon Guatemala, they carry on the work. I left, Jesus did not.

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta

The lighting was bad, the smile good. My joy is to see kids in a safe harbor school growing up free from pressures to “grow up” too quickly. There is an innocence on these kids.

Partnership in the gospel is one of the greatest blessings in life. Don’t believe the myth of Rambo, one man single-handedly decimating entire armies. With God, it doesn’t work that way. God describes the church as the symbiosis of differently-gifted individuals who benefit each other and achieve vastly more together than any would alone.

I’m off to Guatemala. Please pray for revival and miracles!

photo(9)

At the Lighthouse, even such hardened rivals as UCLA-USC love each other and live in harmony.

We are heading to Guatemala and expect to see miracles in the healing crusade. So please put your mustard seed faith into a prayer for the Door Church in Guatemala and your servant.

Much love, Mike

Mimi’s miracles

Mimi, always so vibrant and full of life, at left, with her mother and older sister.

Mimi, always so vibrant and full of life, at left, with her mother and older sister.

Because Mimi was born with two spinal cords, her parents came from the countryside to Guatemala City for successive surgeries. First doctors saved her life. Then they helped her to walk. Eventually she gained control of her bladder. She would have been identical twins but the zygote only partially split.

Pastor Ludving leads the church and school heroically, at great personal sacrifice.

Pastor Ludving leads the church and school heroically, at great personal sacrifice.

Ludving and Nelly wound up attending my church. Ludving was about to buy some alcohol to drown sorrows when he heard the praise music and came in. He didn’t get saved. He had already accepted Jesus. The worship exhilarated and lifted him out of despair. They came to the church.

The Door Church in Guatemala City

The Door Church in Guatemala City

When he decided to do something, Ludving never did it half-way. Right decision after right decision led the couple to hosting, then pastoring, a pioneer church. When thugs chased me off, the Holy Spirit pointed to him as the man to take over.

Pastor Ludving with Mario Artiga

Pastor Ludving with Mario Artiga

To my way of thinking, Mimi should be gloriously and completely healed by now. She is not. On Thursday, she is submitting to her umpteenth surgery, this time to correct kidney failure (she has four kidneys, but only one completely developed and only one works). Urine backflow from her bladder is poisoning her one good kidney.

Faith is not always a snap-of-the-fingers miracle. Faith is grinding out the healing over the long haul. I like the instantaneous variety. But not everything is quick like a fire-cracker. Mimi’s miracles have drawn out inexorably for 16 years, her age. The battle is raging dragging on, and the faithful keep mustering faith.

Ludving and Nelly

Ludving and Nelly

It’s pointless to ask why. Blaming God like an atheist solves nothing (although I suppose he feels high and mightily justified in his bitterness). That’s not what we want. We want final and complete healing for this precious girl.

Mimi is a spunky girl. Despondency affects her parents, her sister, me — but not her. Thanks for helping us pray for her. Let me know how I can help you pray for your needs.

 

I left my heart in Guatemala

Guatemala church

Irene, born at the same time as my son Hosea, got baptized.

Can a missionary ever return? Can he integrate into professional life after he has tasted the glories of God’s kingdom in the foreign field? Nothing is as wonderful in life as living the adventure.

I rejoice at having handed off the baton to a zealous young pastor, Steven Fernandez. I poured out almost 16 years of my life into Guatemala. Now it’s Pastor Steven’s turn to be a hero and do heroics. He is injecting the spirit of fun in the church, and it is growing again! It is becoming a dominion-establishing church.

guatemala missionIt is my joy to support him with prayer and with finances and with everything I can. He is on the front lines. I wish I could be on the frontlines, but for now, God has me here on the supply line, praying, teaching, learning new things, supporting the work.

If you have even the faintest notion that you should go, GO! If you are called to be a support for those who have gone, then PRAY and DON’T HOLD BACK ANY SUPPORT you can give.

Into my kids

Rarely do the authorities catch kidnappers.

Rarely do the authorities catch kidnappers.

Maybe I’ve gone vicarious. I’m really into my kids.

I’m into their soccer. I take them to practices ceaselessly. I film them make goals. Since I teach at my daughter’s high school, I try to have lunch with her. Almost everything is for them. They’re my #1.

A friend didn't like the extreme violence of the movie about Jesus' sacrifice. But I wondered WHAT did she think happened?

A friend didn’t like the extreme violence of the movie about Jesus’ sacrifice. But I wondered WHAT did she think happened?

Which is why I’m thunderstruck at what God did. He sent His Son to die for my sin.

Into My Kids 3

Trained in Guatemala, Robert has done well in America with soccer!

I sort of had the opportunity to do something similar. At the end of almost 16 years of ministry in Guatemala, we had a kidnapping threat. I hightailed it and headed for America.

Maybe, if I wouldn’t have had kids, I would have just thumbed my nose at the threats and continued to minister, trusting in God (recklessly?). But because the threat breached the unbreachable, the holiest sanctum of my life, my children, it was intolerable.

Into My Kids 2

Hosea, amid his teammates

God handed His only Son over to the horrible Roman kidnappers. Sometimes the Guatemalan kidnappers cut off a finger or tortured their victims to hurry up ransom payments. While that is frightening and nightmarish, it’s silly nonsense compared to the disfiguring whippings and bloody beatings which they subjected God’s Son to.

As I think about this right now, I’m NOT inspired to praise Him. I feel throttled, numbed by the shock of it. When I get over this, I’ll praise Him.

Into My Kids

At left, Rebekah is with her friends, Gia and Jackie

I guess if you’ve never had a kidnapping threat, it’s easy to make light of what God did. Maybe it’s easy to trample under foot His sacrifice. It’s not easy as a human being to be understanding of you as you mock God, hate Him and blame Him for God-knows-what reason. Maybe you need to go through something like this to understand what He did. He did it for you — and despite you not taking it into account in the slightest, He still L-O-V-E-S you. So I’m doing my best to love you too. Most Christians try to reflect His perfect love, and most Christians fall short. I hope you can understand: Only His love lacks in no area.

from WhoWillYouServe.blogspot

from WhoWillYouServe.blogspot

Having kids has definitely deepened my understanding of God.  But what has really helped is my being unwilling to give up my kids to danger to be able to reach lost people. I love my kids too much to sacrifice them for others.

God loved you too much to hold back His Son.

If it’s going to be, it is up to…

20120215-075618… God.

Having lived 16 years in the Third World, I decry poverty mentality that blames “destiny” and takes no action to improve oneself. Thank God I learned the Protestant work ethic from childhood: through study, hard work, turquoise-turbulence-bruarfoss-fludir-icelandcreativity, one can achieve any dream. Third Worlders see themselves as powerless to get ahead; as a result, they just goof off and be lazy.

BUT, I have witnessed the short comings of a strong work ethic. Too often, too much hard work is not rewarded with results: it’s a lot of spinning wheels. I labored intensely as a missionary, and the church did NOT grow. After more than a decade of killing myself believing in the do-it-48730235-068d-4b0e-8daa-8e9e3ea245c1yourself mentality and seeing an essentially stagnant church, I tried prayer.

Things exploded. When man moves, it’s never as good as when God moves. I am NOT denouncing work. I am just tempering it. 141863456983057170_n4YYSVdB_bThere’s a balance. If you’re tired of tiring yourself out without seeing results, try entering more God into the equation. He may be waiting for you.

If it’s going to be, it is up to me God.

Space invaders

turquoise-turbulence-bruarfoss-fludir-icelandA smirky non-Christian remarked that praying for money seemed at odds with the gospels. If you’re only greedy, I tend to agree. But when you are desperately trying to make rent for your church building, it’s spot on.

After being chased off by hostile Philistines, Isaac and crew find a place Rehoboth, which means “spacious place.” (Gen. 26:22)

wide_open_2_900If you’re having troubles, keep moving forward because God is going to bring you to a spacious place. After months (or years) of struggling to make ends meet, God promises to bring you to a spaciousness in your monthly budget. Hallelujah! Victory over the bills!

186266134558462105_VS4BPBFJ_cIn Guatemala, we worked 15 hour days during Easter Week hawking food to the crowds in the “processions,” marches which escort Catholic statues through the streets. At the end of ardor, we would count up to $300, just a fraction of our mortgage.

Do your best, and God will provide the rest,  I taught. So we labored. And we prayed. And month after month, God miraculously brought in the mortgage money.

Maybe you can relate to Isaac. Look for your Rehoboth. Long and pray for spaciousness.

True joy

Shoes for Guatemalans

Shoes for Guatemalans

To my young mind, there was no doubt about it. Christmas was all about getting — as much as I could. A funny thing happened, that toy that looked like so much fun on the commercial… well , you know…

Helping One Voice divide up fruits and vegetables into bags for their Christmas baskets.

Helping One Voice divide up fruits and vegetables into bags for their Christmas baskets.

Something happened in the intervening years. I discovered the joy of giving. Disneyland was fun because it was fun to see my kids have fun. I gave even my life to the mission field — 16 years in Guatemala.

I just sent down a bunch of shoes. Poverty is such that shoes are among the hardest thing to come by for the natives (who work in our school and get paid a pittance because it is semi-self-supporting). My daughter is expert at firing through size, sex and price so that it didn’t become an hours-long ordeal.

My daughter played in the Scrooge drama put on by the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica

My daughter played in the Scrooge drama put on by the Lighthouse Church in Santa Monica

Giving is more satisfying that getting. Try it this year. Instead of begrudging the lack of Christmas presents, volunteer at a food distribution center. We helped One Voice in Santa Monica prepare food baskets.

Jenny, at right, with my daughter. She's so shy that she doesn't smile in front of the camera.

Jenny, at right, with my daughter. She’s so shy that she doesn’t smile in front of the camera.

I just got off the phone with Pastor Ludving in Guatemala. His daughter, Jenny, has some problem with her eyes, but he stopped treating it with the doctor because of lack of money. All donations in December and January through my Donate option (PayPal) will go to her.

Punk-turned-pastor Steven Ferandez took over my church in Guatemala

Diane, Steve, with Stetson and Faith

By Hanna Jones, LCA sophomore

SANTA MONICA – Actually, it was a moment of great personal pride when police officers handcuffed and arrested Steven Fernandez out of his University High School classroom. All his classmates would fear him even more. At 15 years of age, he was a full-fledged thug.

Pastor George Neos who made such an impact in Pastor Steven’s life. He’s with his wife, Bethany, and son.

After getting out of juvenile hall on counts of armed robbery and vandalism, he had a hard time finding a school to enroll. His grandfather, a born-again Christian, was given responsibility for Steven by the court and enrolled him at Lighthouse Christian Academy, a ministry of the Lighthouse Church.

He hated it.

Bristling at just about any authority, Steven hated then-principal George Neos. Seething with street rage but lacking street smarts, he threatened the principal. A hulking 280-pound behemoth from Dartmouth University’s national winning football team, Neos just chuckled.

Once, Fernandez jumped on Neos’ back and grappled his neck in a chokehold. But Neos just whisked him off his back and slammed his body against the wall. (Such non-standard academic occurrences have not been seen since at LCA.)

Eventually, Neos’s tough love broke through. At the same time as being a principal, Neos was a pioneer pastor and invited Steven to his church. He even let the repentant street hoodlum stay overnight in his house. Steven became a Christian and began to turn his life around.

Diane and Steve were announced in June at the Tucson Door Christian Center Bible conference

Out of high school, he married a Bible study leader and headed up the Lighthouse Church’s Thrift Store, an evangelism disguised as retail. He learned to smile.

Now, with two children – Faith and Stetson, he has taken the plunge into ministry. Ordained a pastor in June 2012, Steven is now assisting in the Guatemalan church pioneered for 16 years by Lighthouse son, Mike Ashcraft, who now teaches at LCA. Guatemalan Pastor Ludving Navarro needed some help since his wife is due for a hernia operation in coming weeks.

“The challenges just keep getting bigger,” Steven said. “But I never forget where I came from and how I very likely would have died, had not God intervened. Moving forward is easier when you remember where you came from.”

_________

This article first appeared on LCA’s website: http://www.thelighthousechristianacademy.com

 

Combine faith with faithfulness

Students today in the Door Bilingual School

Despite my lack of faith, God has used me. When I dared to become a missionary in Guatemala, my measly faith could foresee no more than 25 people attending church. But God raised up a thriving church that planted churches. A vibrant Christian school was also raised up.

Then gunmen forced me to leave the country. After these robbers stole our money and our information, I realized they would be back for kidnapping. After 16 years, God moved us back to the States. I am currently teaching in a Christian school, praying and blogging — teaching others the secrets of ministry I learned in so many years “in the trenches.”

What’s the secret? God will use you. He’ll make your ministry grow — if you’ll just keep plodding on. I think I’m a plodder. I’m not an overnight sensation. Combine faith with faithfulness, and you get a potent mix! It has been enough to raise up a powerful work in Guatemala.

The great satisfaction of my life is to visit and see smiling kids still serving Jesus.

Squatters and invaders

The Guatemalan poor have no land, so they gather a mob and all move in at once onto unoccupied land. These squatters are called “invaders,” and their removal from private property frequently leads to blood-shedding. They cling desperately to a place they wish to call home without having any right to be there.

This is a Biblical comparison, not a political commentary. Demons are invaders. They have no right, but they simply move in, through sin, and occupy the human heart and mind. They must be opposed and evicted with force. They cling desperately to the spot they have laid claim to.

When you pray, it is no grandmotherly knitting. It is doing violence to the kingdom of Hell. It is demanding they obey the rightful law of God, forcing them to submit to God’s superiority. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. – Matt. 11:12 KJV.

Amazing Granada

Granada at night

Granada is the most enchanting place. The Alhambra citadel complex with vast gardens and huge medieval structures graces this Southern city in Spain. It was here that I first met Europe. It was here also that God taught me about prayer.

As a penny-pinching missionary, I never thought I

Part of the Alhambra complex

could visit the Old Continent. By preaching for Bro. Gregorio Ponce, I got housing, transportation, and tour for free. There I saw Carlos V’s palace, a circular structure with an amazing echo when you’re in the exact middle.

There I learned once again how to pray. You see, I was worried. For some reason, I feared that

Part of the Alhambra complex

while I was cavorting in Spain, my church back in Guatemala would go to pot. So I prayed like crazy. When I got back to my church, it was better than ever. Not only had it not crumbled from within, it had blossomed in my absence.

So I didn’t need to be there in person because God was there in person. His Holy Spirit was tending the sheep in my absence. All I did was pray. Prayer is amazing stuff. You can accomplish much more with prayer than you can with your own strength.

Carlos V’s palace

I cherish the memories of Granada — the beauty of the city AND the beauty of prayer.

Christian volcanoes

“Let’s get off this volcano! She doesn’t want us here!” said our guide.

I hadn’t worried about the golf-ball-sized rocks that came skudding down the cone, hiccupped from the top of the cone. We had hiked up Pacaya Volcano, one of the few active spewers among the 36 volcanoes in Guatemala. We could feel the warmth of months-old lava flow underneath our feet, its crust just hardened into rock. We could peer in the cracks at the welding red glow of lava. This was all part of the attraction of Pacaya.

But our guide didn’t see the falling projectiles as uneventful. We hurried down the red rock, over the black sand path, and then through the jungle path, to safety. Months earlier, a news crew, wanting to capture gripping footage, died.

Pacaya Volcano

Christians are volcanoes. Explosive power lies within. Some are dormant. They need to be awakened by faith. Others are rumbling, energized by faith, ready to explode with some miracle (of healing, finances, salvation, deliverance, whatever). Some are waking up (in prayer), others are dying down (they don’t pray anymore).

Some people underestimate the power within a volcano. The devil doesn’t. That’s why he works overtime to make us dormant.

Nine out of 10 and the Big Dream

Pastor Mike Hagoski, his son, my son and daughter, in front of the Big Dream. The building’s length is greater than its width.

Here’s the difference that prayer makes: When I first went to work as a missionary in Guatemala, I worked HARD. But nine out of 10 things went wrong; only one went right. I assumed this was the norm for a pioneer work.

After years of toiling thus, God changed the make-up of my day. He got me praying more — more time, greater intensity. I was frustrated with spinning my wheels. I realized that working so much was yielding so little. So I kind of gave up on my workings and asked God to work instead.

The result? Nine out of 10 things worked, only one went wrong.

Then I got my Big Dream — to buy a large church building that also housed the school. That never would have happened under the old scheme of me working — even if I labored intensely for a couple more decades. No, this came about suddenly, powerfully — you could say, effortlessly. Why? Because more effort now went into prayer, less into wearing myself out with human activity.

Don’t get me wrong now. I’m not talking about lazy pastor sipping soda in a hammock. I’m by nature a workaholic, and there was always plenty of work for me to do. I am saying that I wasn’t skimping prayer in favor of a needless workload. Prayer became my priority, not just an accessory to ministry.

So, do you want nine out of 10 successes or failures? Do you want your Big Dream? Then let your knees hit the ground and pray.

Just a test

Some kids at the Guatemalan church today

He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. — John 6:6 NIV

Lack is only a test. We need to learn to get an A.

Multitudes are coming, and Jesus casually asks Phillip how they’re going to feed them. Phillip failed the test. He said eight months wages wouldn’t buy enough food. Phillip saw the lack with human eyes — not with eyes of faith.

How do you see your need? You pass the test when you see your need with eyes of faith. Thousands were fed as Jesus multiplied food miraculously. Don’t despair with your circumstances. Jesus can multiply whatever you need. As missionaries in Guatemala, we scraped by month to month. We always had just what we needed. Don’t doubt God. Your crisis is just a test. You need to pass the test. You will keep receiving tests until you learn to pass it.

Nothing in the world

I just got back from my old stomping grounds. I translated for my pastor in the Guatemala church. I saw the school, where scores of kids piled up around me to give me group hugs. The kids smiled and cried out: “Pastor Mike! Pastor Mike!” They wouldn’t let me go and almost knocked me down as they clung to me. It filled my heart with intoxicating emotion, love and happiness.

Nothing in the world compares to that. You can have your razor-blade Ferrari, your Italian suit, your smart phone. I will choose those kids. And I never regret the “sacrifice” of giving 16 years to ministry in poverty. I never regret living with less, eating mostly beans and rice for a lack of money to get something better. The riches of ministry are the greatest riches.

Jesus was also God’s son, a prince. Yet he had no place to lay his head, no house. When you choose to minister, it doesn’t have to be a vow of poverty, but you are definitely defining what your greatest treasure is. It’s God — and it’s helping His people. And the emotional rewards outweigh financial ones every time.

This blog is dedicated to helping you be inspired to prayer for finances so your ministry can increase. God is great and will carry forward His work. It is a great work for Him to have wholly the heart of his minister. Praise Him.

The worst year

We spent almost 16 years in Guatemala as missionaries. There were good and hard times. But it´s easy to remember the hardest year. It was the year I scrimped on prayer. No coincidence at all: I prayed less, and God moved less.

Somehow, I decided that I would help the kids with their homework during morning prayer. Bad decision.

What was once an hour of prayer because a few minutes. I thought I was doing a good thing helping my wife help the kids with their homework. But my priorities were wrong. I should have found ANOTHER time to help my kids without cutting down on prayer.

At the year´s end, things looked bleak. In hindsight, I scanned the shambles and assessed the problem: prayerlessness.

In later years, I wound up adding to my prayer times. Those were bumper crop years.

So are things not going well for you? Maybe you´re overworking —  to little or no avail. Keep in mind that when God works, things work. I know He works all the time, but it sure seems like He works MORE for us when we are praying. You might shoot me down in the realm of theology, but no one can shoot me down in the realm of practice.