Monthly Archives: September 2015

US Justice Department persecutes Christian attorney who helps Iraqi immigrants

DeKelaita

By Chad Dou

He helped Christian Assyrians obtain legal status in the U.S., but now a Chicago lawyer is being charged by the Justice Department with falsifying information on asylum applications.

Robert DeKelaita, 52, says he’s eager to stand trial and dismiss the “absurd” charges, and the 1,000 or so immigrants he has helped are rallying behind him. Some go so far as to accuse the current administration of being hostile toward Christians while being friendly to Muslims.

“I am very much looking forward to getting my trial on, and I believe I will be vindicated and people will see that the DOJ is not acting properly,” said DeKelaita, who immigrated from Iraq with his family when he was 11 years old.

Because he escaped religious persecution himself, it was natural for DeKelaita to help fellow believers from the Middle East. But now his efforts have drawn the ire of the Justice Department, which charged him with doctoring asylum applications of 12 clients.

For Mimi Odicho of Chicago, such allegations against the lawyer who helped her are an outrage. “My sister and her three young children are among the Assyrian hostages in Syria. We don’t even know if they’re still alive,” she told WorldNetDaily (WND). “Instead of trying to help save them – save these innocent people – the U.S. government is trying to take down a man who has been our people’s only hope for years.

“Robert is our hero,” Odicho said. “He represented me in my asylum claim when I didn’t have any way to pay him except with a ‘thanks.’ I am forever indebted to him. He was a light at the end of a very long and horrid immigration tunnel for me and for many others.”

While DeKelaita has hit roadblocks helping Christian immigrants, Muslim refugees from the Syrian civil war represent the largest portion of a U.S. resettlement program that House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, has called a “jihadist pipeline” into America. Some estimate that 95% of new legalized immigrants to the U.S. are Muslim.

In September of 2014, DeKelaita and his translator were arrested when federal agents raided his office in Chicago. The pair were indicted for allegedly charging fees to submit false information and for coaching immigrants how to lie to the Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The indictment accuses DeKelaita of writing or creating “false asylum statements detailing non-existent accounts of purported religious persecution, including fictitious accounts of rape and murder, and attached these statements to the [CIS] Form I-589 he submitted on behalf of his clients,” CNS News reported.

After pleading not guilty in federal court to the charges, the pair were released on their own recognizance. For each count, he faces up to 10 years of imprisonment and $250,000 in fines.

Christians in the region between Iraq and Syrian have suffered increased persecution with the advent of the Islamic State. Men are executed while women and girls are forced into sex slavery. Hundreds of thousands have fled and are refugees.

A video about the indictment argues that federal authorities extracted false confessions out of previous DeKelaita clients by intimidating them during hours-long interrogations in which they didn’t inform them of their rights.

As the trial date approached, many of those testimonies were dropped as unreliable, and the trial was postponed from May to April of next year in an attempt to get better evidence, the video explains.

Bishop Mar Gewargis Younan of the Ancient Church of the East, now presiding in the Chicago area, said the Assyrian Christains will give unflagging support to DeKelaita.

“His entire career has been aimed at giving back – to the church, to his heritage, to his people,” Mar Gewargis said to WND. “I can say with confidence that every parishioner in our church has either themselves been represented by Mr. DeKelaita, or has a relative that was represented by him. When the charges were filed, the community was in outrage and disbelief – and rightfully so.

“There is not a single Assyrian family anywhere in Iraq or Syria that has not been directly impacted by religious persecution,” he added. “The manner in which Mr. DeKelaita’s case has been approached seemingly moves to challenge this true. We are proud of Mr. DeKelaita’s achievements and will continue to support him.”

Editor’s Note: Chad completed this article as an assignment (I’m the teacher) for an English class at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Originally, it was published on GodReports.com but then it was taken down. Here it is in its entirety.

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Holdout helper | Why she didn’t go on medical missions for so long, and why she’ll be on more

medical missions | Africa and elsewhere

Andrea at far left, took to the clinic like a duck to water

For 22 times, her boss and mom pressed Andrea Campos to go on a Lighthouse Medical Mission – and she always declined.

“I just didn’t have a passion for Africa,” the Santa Monica native said.

After almost two decades of them wheedling her, Andrea, 37, finally relented. She is now in Guatemala, translating and writing prescriptions on 10-hour shifts with no breaks and only a half hour lunch.

But, if she was the holdout in a family of big LMM volunteers, this week she has plunged into the labor-intensive clinic with a vengeance.

Some volunteers are awkward, squeamish around blood, befuddled by Latin jargon, duty-dodgers who wanted the applause, not real work. Not Andrea. She’s totally in her element, holding her own like a pro.

“This is definitely NOT my last mission,” Andrea said. “You just see the hope in their eyes of getting better. I’m seeing people with their eyes fill up with tears.”

On its third day of clinic in Guatemala, Lighthouse Medical Missions attended to 125 patients in Villa Nueva, a small municipality on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Today is expected to be the busiest day.

Andrea has worked as a receptionist on and off since 1998 for Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who will pleasantly pester patients and friends to help the medical missions he founded and leads.

Not only has Andrea put her medical familiarity to good use in Guatemala, she’s also taken over much of the administration. She’s re-organizing hotel and food for the volunteers with her keen business acumen. From age six, she’s been money-shrewd when she lived in Puerto Vallarta and charged school mates to use her eraser because it was “from America.” Read more about participating in Christian medical missions.

But was it smart to bring her special needs girl on medical mission?

Medical Missions | Lighthouse | Central AmericaNow Dal Basile knows for sure that it wasn’t foolhardiness to bring her special needs daughter on a medical mission to Guatemala.

Originally she worried that Michelle Villasenor, whose academic level is second grade, might could get lost in a crowd and never be found again. Dal has performed as a nurse on almost 30 medical missions, mostly to Africa, and taking Michelle was never even contemplated.

But Lighthouse Medical Missions leader Dr. Bob Hamilton prodded Dal to bring Michelle on this trip, fairly near, to Guatemala. Not too quickly, Dal acquiesced. Would the Santa Monica mom regret the decision forever?

On Tuesday any vestige of doubt about the wisdom of bringing Michelle was quashed.

That’s because Abigail Esteban appeared with heart palpitations provoked by anxiety over her own special needs daughter, a case of developmental delay fairly similar to Michelle’s.

“She broke down crying,” Dal said. “I told her I know what it’s like to have a special needs daughter, and I know that God can work in your daughter’s life. I told her, ‘God chose you because you’re a gifted person.’ I went and brought Michelle. And Michelle prayed for the woman. Michelle perked up. She relates to special needs people. She bonds.” Continue reading.

A whirlwind nurse keeps Lighthouse Medical Mission spinning

Lighthouse Medical Missions | GuatemalaAt the center of Lighthouse Medical Mission is a whirlwind named Alison Hagoski who performs triage, dispatches minor cases, tames the maelstrom and keeps the clinic cranking out patients efficiently.

The registered nurse doesn’t count how missions she’s been on. She counts the ones she’s missed: three of the 30 or so in almost two decades.

On Tuesday, Alison whipped through the pell-mell barking orders and sending patients to doctors or to pharmacy. The Guatemala clinic attended to 190 patients, about 50 of which she handled personally.

She’s an old school nurse who keeps her shift in order. She ministers with Christian love and a smile but with a firmness that lets you know who’s the boss. “What is this man doing here? He was here yesterday.” (Faced with poverty, more than one patient tries to get free medicine twice).

“This person needs to leave the clinic. She’s already received her meds.” “You’re blood pressure is fine. You’re medicine is working. Do you want some more medicines?” “You need to lose 10 pounds. No sodas. No rice. No bread. No tortillas.”

Her translator hustles to keep up with her in the school patio-turned-clinic. She interjects words in Spanish, with her thick New Zealander accent, sometimes correctly, sometimes erring. The words tumble out, even in French or Swahili or any random language of the nine countries she’s be to in Africa.

It is evident she enjoys working with people. She calls everyone, even grown men, “Doll” or ”Darling.”

Alison is 58 years but she works at a frenzied pace of someone much younger. Retired from UCLA, she practices privately rehab and nurse training. She lives with her husband, a cabinet maker, and youngest son in in a comfortable surfer’s house in Santa Monica. Read the rest of the article.

Medical Mission Impossible

Dr. Bob Hamilton on the medical mission in Guatemala of Sept. 2015.

Dr. Bob Hamilton on the medical mission in Guatemala of Sept. 2015.

Forget about Tom Cruise. The new star of Mission Impossible is Ludving Navarro.

The pastor coaxed a medicine shipment through Guatemalan Customs – a week-long process of frustrating and tedious paperwork that led to a heart-attack arrival at the church at 8:00 p.m. Sunday – literally just in time Monday morning clinic.

“We always have a challenge getting our medications out of Customs,” said team leader Dr. Bob Hamilton, a Santa Monica pediatrician who founded Lighthouse Medical Missions. “We literally got the medications the night before our clinic. We thank God for His perfect timing. It was last minute.”

Read the rest of the article about medical missions.

A developmentally disabled angel on a medical clinic

Lighthouse Medical Missions | Guatemala

Michelle in front, and Dr. Bob behind. Her sisters Christy (left) and Andrea (right) with their mom, Dal (far right).

Michelle Villasenor for 17 years has packed the meds but never been able to go on a medical mission with Lighthouse. That’s because she’s developmentally delayed. Her academic level is 2nd grade and her language skills are low.

Her mom, Dal Basile, has been one of the biggest supporters of Dr. Bob Hamilton’s medical missions. She works as a vocational nurse on the clinics, most of which have gone to Africa. And she does something incredibly important: she painstakingly packs millions of pills, hygiene kits, dolls, and other gifts to be handed out free of charge at the clinics.

Taking her daughter, who could get lost or suffer a migraine, has been simply out of the question — until now.

The trip to my church in Guatemala is closer to Santa Monica. It’s not as intense as Africa.

So to the delight of the other 18 team members, Michelle is here. She’s smiling and teasing her friends. Her mom calls her an angel, and I agree. Tomorrow we open doors and take care of patients. I thank God that my little friend will be helping.

A fallen hero raises other heroes

This is my son. Thank you for praying for him.

This is my son. Thank you for praying for him.

Yes, Lighthouse slumped to its third loss in the football season Friday against Ribet Academy (42-44), but if you looked below the surface, something more important was going on, something victorious. God was at work, and the 11 kids who took to the field left it with their heads held high.

Heroes were christened.

Senior Rob Ashcraft (yes, that’s my son) was taken out of the game on the first kickoff. Without their strong all-terrain player (he plays fullback, running back and wide receiver on offense, right end on defense), the team needed somebody to step up and fill the void.

Always camera shy, Alex before the game.

Always camera shy, Alex before the game.

And that’s what happened. A125-pound sophomore Alex Cervantes emerged as more than the timid team member who only played because he was pressured into it. In his heart, Alex is a basketball player. When it comes to football, he was pretty much scared of the big thrashers.

But on Sept. 11 against Ribet, Alex came up with a couple of touchdowns, a number of receptions, a key interception and a tackle of a bigger after whom he kept scrambling and would not let go.

“I feel like sometimes I’m not very helpful, that I’m small,” Alex said. “But yesterday I felt like I was helpful. I felt like I was part of the team.

Part of the team may be an understatement. Among the 60 Lighthouse fans in the bleachers, many were shouting out his name for his gridiron heroics. “I felt good about myself,” Alex confided.

texIf the truth be told, the Pacoima native has suffered something of an inferiority complex and wondered if he could ever fit into the private school from upscale Santa Monica. In one game, Alex shot up from “outsider” to hero status.

This is more than everybody’s-a-winner gibberish. Of course, the Saints long to win games. But if we look at other factors, it’s hard not to see how God is doing what He wants to do. And if the ultimate goal of Lighthouse is to bring souls to Christ, we have to conclude that we are winning. Find out more how Lighthouse is rescuing at-risk youth with studies and sports.

Don’t be greedy teaching others to not be greedy

pardoners tale canterbury

Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale is a genius of irony. The Pardoner tells of three drunks who go off to kill Death, a hilarious over-personification. An old man tells them they’ll find him resting under some trees up the road around the corner. When they get there, they find eight bags of gold and immediately forget their original purpose. Instead, they propose to cart the gold off at night. In the meantime, one goes in to town to get bread and win. The others stay and watch the loot.

But then one suggests they kill the third, thus dividing the treasure between two instead of three. For his part, the guy getting win buys poison to kill his buddies and get all the gold for himself. When he comes back, they kill him. Then they drink the wine — and die.

There’s plenty of irony in this story but the ultimate irony is the fact that it’s told by a Pardoner, a guy who goes around selling “indulgences.” What better way to get people to give him money than by urging them not to be greedy with a hard-hitting story. In telling others to not be greedy, the Pardoner shows his greed.

I caught myself being cynical

cynicismWhoa! Where did THAT come from?

I’ve always wanted to be an example of optimism. But recently, I showed cynicism instead.

Old people tend to be grumpy because they have hit so many bumps in the road. Simply by the sum of years, they’ve had more opportunities to scrape up with imperfect people. (I was trying to be friendly with the sample server at Costco, but the cantankerous oldster retorted rudely and shoved my hand away when I went for a sample.)

I don’t want to grow bitter, despite the accumulation of hurts suffered in my life. In spite of the disillusions, the disappointments, the betrayals.

There’s a lady in our church in Utah who’s husband cheated on her and left her. She’s as joyful as can be. I want to be like here.

God, restore youthfulness to be heart. Give me faith in others. Help me splurge forgiveness everywhere I go. Rid me of cynicism!

Forgiveness: it’s beautiful

forgiveIf it is hard to forgive, if it is necessary, we must also understand that it is beautiful.

It is a release of pain, thus a relief from pain. In theory, it is strange that we would retain pain. In theory, we want immediate relief, whether it’s a headache or a heartache. But such is the human condition that we hold onto the grudge, we remember the wrong suffered — even more, we sickly savor the memory.

I’m not pointing fingers. I myself struggle.

Think of that moment when you were speeding and a cop car lights up and blows its sirens behind you. Instantly, you sweat and start to pull over. But no, the cop goes on and pulls over somebody else. You feel joyful relief.

Forgiveness is even better than that.

Christianity is portrayed as condemning (sometimes we are to blame for this). In fact, we ought to be portrayed as forgivers, albeit imperfect forgivers.

Image source: google

Forgiveness: it’s difficult

ForgivenessThe most difficult thing on the face of the Earth is not proving string theory. It is not harnessing fusion energy. It is not finding a cure for cancer.

It is forgiveness.

Jesus cried out, in the midst of unimaginable pain on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I tend to think the knew very well what they were doing.

Stephen was being pelted unto death with stones. He did the same. “Don’t take this sin into account against them,” he prayed as he was being struck.

Can I forgive? Can you?

Christianity is not based on works. It is based on forgiveness. We are forgiven of our sins only for the asking.

Jesus asks us to forgive as best as we can those who have wronged us, and he does so most emphatically.

I think that all the rigmarole that blasts around the internet about how bad Christianity is misses its central tenet. Why is nobody talking about forgiveness? It is the most beautiful thing in the world. It is also the most difficult.

It is necessary. If you are going to have any semblance of human relations with people, you are going to need to master forgiveness.

Image source: Google

They deliberately threw themselves back into the battle

King arthurKing Arthur and his knights had earned their freedom after 15 years of service to Rome, in the movie. But a massive army of Saxons was at Hadrian’s wall to take over the island, so Arthur realized he couldn’t make use of his new freedom. And his knights, weary of danger, wanted to leave but reluctantly decided to stay with their leader and fight.

King-Arthur-Christianity is too easy here in America. We busy ourselves seeking prosperity and insisting that its all about us feeling happy.

In Indonesia, you take your life in your hands by becoming a Christian. In Egypt, it is a crime to evangelize. You will be thrown in jail for talking to a Muslim about Christ.

king-arthur-movieHow can we ignore the plight of our brothers around the world and adhere to a soft Christianity that doesn’t require much of any adherence at all?

Want vs. need

wants needsOne good thing about God is that He gives us what we need, not what we want. As human beings, we are destruction-bent. It’s part of our sinful condition that humanists vehemently denied but is being shown more and more in the news (look at the proliferation of massacres in our secular society).

Our generation is one that can’t distinguish want from need. Want is a right. Want is good, justified, unassailable. How dare you question my desires?

As Christians, we sometimes miss God’s best because we interpose our desires. It’s such our pursuit of wants that we miss needs. We pursue blessing more than the Blessor, the creation over the Creator. We miss destiny for dinero.

God just smiles. We pepper him with petitions, and He gently, patiently demurs. Thank God that He does. We would kill ourselves.

Original image source: Google.

When the world is in crisis, God is about to move.

world crisis | prayWhen the upheavals are great, when wars abound, when plague multiply, when evil is rampant, when good is called bad and bad is called good, don’t run off with your guns to hide in the wilderness.

Pray.

The greatest revivals have been born out of the most trying times.

He was our student last year from Taiwan

study in America from TaiwanBy Elvin Chen, a Lighthouse Christian Academy student from Taiwan in 2014-15

My school in Taiwan was 3,000 students – all boys, so when I came to Lighthouse Christian Academy with only 45 students, a co-ed school, I was surprised. As a Taiwanese who wanted to study in the America, I never imagined I would wind up at  a high school that was so tiny.

When I met my host family, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, Pastor Zach is so strong. His muscles are so big. I will need to be careful and not make him mad or he will beat me up.”

Actually, Zach Scribner is extremely nice. I never had problem with him. He was also a teacher at the Lighthouse high school – and he was the coach of the football team (hence, the muscles).

elvin-yosemite-1024x682As he was my host father, it wasn’t easy to get out of football. At first I thought football would be fun to try, even though I had never seen a football before.

After the first practice, however, I thought, “I’m done with that. I must quit in order to survive. I will never do this.”

But quitting wasn’t that easy. Pastor Zach was my host father – I couldn’t let him down. And the team didn’t have enough players without me. The guys needed me. These were my new American friends, and I couldn’t let them down either.

Read the whole story: 中国留学生

Tex’s Team | This is the school where I teach and my son studies

Santa Monica Christian high school | footballThen Tex got mad.

In the first half of Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s loss to The Rock Academy of Point Loma on Sept. 4, Tex Hagoski played well.

In the second half, Tex played like Attila the Hun. He scored the Saints’ only touchdown and converted, smashing and spinning his way mercilessly through four defenders to fall across the End Zone line.

The Saints were simply outgunned. For 10 years, the Warriors were in the much more taxing 11-man league. But they voluntarily descended to 8-man football this year, and the they brought with them overwhelming experience. The Saints lost 8-42 on the San Diego gridiron.

Tex’s runs and tackles were a Lighthouse signature. By coaches’ estimates, he carried the ball for 170 yards, made 10 solo tackles and joined five group tackles. It was his reception on a gun sprint pass that brought respectability to the Saints’ loss. Read the rest of the article: Santa Monica private school.

This ice-breaker is a gut-buster | Santa Monica Christian High School


This is how we welcomed students today to the family of Lighthouse Christian Academy, a small Westside college prep with a strong Biblical base.

This sort of thing is not my specialty. The donut-eating race was promoted by the student council, of which my son is a part. It seems like the new kids really felt welcomed. Now it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get into studies. As always, I’m teaching English literature and Spanish. I’ll keep y’all up to date, and I thank you for your prayers for our school.