Tag Archives: missionary

Impact

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I thought my impact was negligible in Elida’s life. Her mom was the spiritual force. I was the pastor, and the girl never talked to me even though I tried to deposit into her life some discipleship. One time when she was recovering from an operation, I visited her and offered to loan her a book to ease the boredom. She declined. She didn’t like to read.

Then I came back from Guatemala. And Elida became one of the many was-theres who coursed our school and heard innumerable Bible teachings.

Elida just had her baby shower. I hadn’t seen her for more than six years, so I dropped in. What I found out blew me away.

The baby boy will be named after me: David (it’s my middle name).

Apparently, I filled the role of a dad in her life, even though I had no clue at the time.

Truly, the Word says that none of labor for the Lord is in vain. Servant of God, you don’t know how many people you have touched and helped and are in the kingdom of God today because of your influence. Don’t be discouraged.

Pastor Miguel pastored the Door Christian Church in Guatemala and founded the Liceo Bilingue La Puerta school during that time.

Evicted!

colegio-cristiano-guatemalaA criminal pornographer hacked and hijacked my Guatemala CHRISTIAN school website for the Guatemalan ministry. He posted pictures of “girls next door waiting for you” and links to other sites where you can indulge all kinds of sin with pay-per-view (they do this to not pay their own hosting). The nightmare came at the worst possible time, right when moms are looking at new schools in Guatemala.

And evicting him was not easy. We deleted files, changed passwords and regenerated the original content. He came back. Thinking we were battling and invisible Trojan, we nuked the site and regenerated it.


He came back.

It was maddening. Thank God my friend (let’s just call him Yoda) discovered the posting number settings, which no one ever looks at or changes, were altered allowing the public to post on the site. Ugh! That was a sinister trick.

liceo-bilingue-la-puerta

After two months, I can confirm we are back to promoting God after a painful period of promoting Satan. Yes, I missed the best window of opportunity. But I have my clean bill-of-health from Google, and we’re back in business!

Please pray for new students in my old school in Guatemala. What a relief to have evicted the evil.

God hasn’t given up on you

IMG_1180(1)Pablo was a great youth in our Guatemalan church. He was working on telephone lines with his cousin. Above on the ladder was his cousin, below, Paul held the ladder steady.

Then the cousin dropped a hammer (pictured), and it fell on Pablo’s head.

Ouch!

God in His mercy spared Pablo’s life. God is not done with you yet, hijo. He has many things for you to do still in the Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta.

Don’t think that God has given up on you, that He is finished with you. He still is working in your life, and He still wants to use you.

Free from trauma

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I believe I’m 98% free from the the fear that seized me when I was assaulted at gun point by four armed men in Guatemala. That was six years ago.

Six. Years.

All they got was a few thousand dollars — and my checkbook (which made me think they would come back for a kidnapping). No, they stole something else. They stole my confidence.

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With one of the students in the Door Bilingual School we founded with the church.

On every subsequent visit to Guatemala, I was weighted by irrational fear. I wouldn’t go anywhere without a member of the church as a “body guard.” (I had planted the church during 16 years, so people we’re quite willing to serve.) I stayed inside. I tried to keep a low profile. I didn’t even want them to make flyers announcing the revivals with my picture on them. In my mind, the same criminals would get a flyer and swoop in for more money.

The thing that strikes about this is how really insignificant was my “trauma.” I wasn’t raped or beaten as a child. I didn’t suffer the scathing burn of emotional abuse from a parent. No. I was simply robbed.

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Here’s the junior high and high school after Bible class.

And yet it has taken me six years and God’s help to recover.

So who I am to judge people who have suffered true trauma and spend the rest of their lives floundering? In fact, I have a friend who suffered all three — sexual, physical and emotional abuse. He still struggles to overcome.

If you would have told me to simply shake it off, get over it, I would have been deeply hurt by your insensitivity and cut you out of my friends list. How much more so a person who has really suffered.

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A sixth grader in the Door Bilingual School.

It is my observation that people who have never suffered are generally insensitive.

There’s a inscrutable irony in this: God helped me out, but as many sufferers ask: Why did God allow the suffering in the first place?

I have friends who became atheists because as children, they experience a loss of innocence that never should have been perpetrated on a child. My friend has worked his way back to God, and God is helping him.

I hope God can help you too, because He was the major factor helping me. So I recommend Him. Maybe you can work your way back to Him?

Burned out or bored out (of your mind)

IMG_9853It seemed like I teetered on burn out for many years in Guatemala. I always asked God to take me home before I burned out. I think that’s what happened.

But now that I have been serving in the mother church for six years, I’m bored to tears. I’m aching to get out on the field and play (and not sit on the bench). Maybe you can relate:

Then I said, I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not hold my tongue. — Jeremiah 20:9

IMG_9875He who is called can’t escape the call. Any other life will only reap frustration and misery. Are you tired of ministry? Consider the alternative. Are you running from your calling? You’ll only be miserable.

My recent trip to Guatemala only confirms the urging in my heart.

Not once but kidnapped twice by jihadists

beatriceMuslim extremists allegedly kidnapped Beatrice Stockly, a missionary from Switzerland in Mali, for the second time in the last four years.

Stockly was snatched from her home near Timbuktu Jan. 8 by armed men in pickup trucks. Though no group has claimed responsibility, it is believed that the perpetrators are one of the militant Islamic groups that operate in the region.

In April 2012, Stockly was kidnapped from her home in Abaradjou, a district of Timbuktu frequented by armed jihadists. Neighboring Burkino Faso negotiated her release after 10 days. She returned to Switzerland for a while but ultimately felt called by God to return to Mali, despite the dangers.

“It’s Timbuktu or nothing,” she said to family, according to a report by the World Watch Monitor (WWM).

Stockly first moved to Timbuktu in 2000 when she worked for a Swiss church. More recently she has worked alone, unaffiliated with any church. WWM reported she led an austere life, selling flowers and handing out Christian literature. She focused mostly on women and children, talking to them and sharing about Jesus.

Christians have suffered persecution in the region from Islamists. In the last three months, two separate attacks have been staged against Christians. A brutal assault on a Christian radio station just before Christmas left 25 dead. A month earlier, 22 people were killed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako.

In 2012, extremists effectively banned the practice of any religion other than Islam. They desecrated and looted churches. Many Christians fled the region, but Stockly remained undaunted.

Now she has been kidnapped again.

“We are shocked to see what happened,” Dr. Mohamed-Ibrahim Yattara, President of the Baptist Church in Mali, told WWM, speaking about the spiraling violence and uncertainty. “We are trying to find out what happened, but for now we don’t have any explanation.”

In effort to bring security and peace to the region, the Mali government signed a peace treaty with the main Jihadist group, the Tuareg, in June 2015. But the accord appears to have been fruitless, WWM reported, noting that security forces and UN peacekeepers have been targeted.

Stockly’s abduction is believed to be the first against a foreigner since the kidnapping and killing of two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, in the northeastern town of Kidal in November 2013, WWM reported.

This article, originally published in God Reports here, was written by my journalism student, Anthony Gutierrez, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy.

Because I believe in giving thanks

Veterans DayThe freedoms I enjoy, the prosperity, the trappings of America — someone fought for those. They didn’t just drop out of the sky.

Somebody fought for those and gave them to me. Should I not say thanks?

We need to be grateful, not entitled snots. We should recognize and appreciate what soldiers have done for America — from the American Revolution onward. If you don’t think it important to appreciate the soldiers who made America great, try living in just about any other country in the world for a while (like I did: 16 years as a missionary in Guatemala). It will help you to appreciate the Home of Brave and the Land of the Free.

Soldiers: THANK YOU!

The meaning of the long hug

Iglesia Cristiana La Puerta | Guatemala zona 1

Joe and me at the Door Church in Zone 1 of Guatemala City.

Joe hasn’t been to church.

He was once a stellar disciple in our missionary church in Guatemala. His mom enrolled him in our school, and he got saved. He had a spectacular voice and led worship. But then I had to leave Guatemala. Joe went from a delivery job to a bank job and married his high school sweetheart. I guess he got busy and also maybe a little discouraged. To my great sadness, he stopped being a leader.

On my trip to Guatemala recently, I visited him with a bunch of church members. We wanted to show him he’s still super important. He still has a call of God on his life. He still is useful in the Lord’s service. As we left, he gave me a long hug.

I thank God for that hug. It was full of meaning. It wasn’t a short, customary thing. It communicated years of love and appreciation and maybe a little bit of hurt.

I hope Joe can find his way back to church. I love the dude. He’s like a son for me.

But I saw there was cake

chocolate cakeI wasn’t invited. I just popped in looking for an empty room to discuss future employment with a teacher.

But, hey, I saw there was cake — CHOCOLATE cake.

It was a surprise birthday party for one of the kids in the school. So I came in and sat down. They didn’t kick me out. And soon enough, they served me a slice of that yummy chocolate cake.

What fault do I have? I just hung around for a good thing. #PartyCrasherParExcellence

When you spy a good thing, it’s a good idea to hang around. Such is salvation. If you are able to discern (through the fog of confusion of lies in our current culture) the goodness of God, hang around. Go to church. Read the Bible. Pray.

They’ll be serving the cake SOON. At the marriage supper of the Lamb. This is another lesson I learned in the Guatemala church I started 20 years ago.

Goodbye, for now. Hello soon. (True friendship)

She left our school this year to move to the East Coast with her family. Goodbye.

She left our school this year to move to the East Coast with her family. Goodbye.

You never really say goodbye in Christianity.

One of the hardest things about ministry is when people leave because you love them.

But I’ve hung around long enough to see that Christian friends are true friends. I would venture to say that only Christian friends can be true friends. Because they offer a friendship that doesn’t die out through separation or adversity.

And yes, some friends we won’t see until Heaven.

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With my longtime friends, Aparicio and Max, at the church we founded 20 years ago. Only in Christ does friendship last.

But on my trip to Guatemala, I’ve been reunited with friends, guys who helped form the church 20 years ago when I was a missionary here. We were great friends, comrades in the war for souls. And we still are great friends.

A tsunami name Carli Lloyd, and an American missionary in Japan

Carli Lloyd's goal from half line

Carli Lloyd took a speculative shot that completed her World Cup-winning hat-trick.

In 2011, Japan suffered a tsunami. The flood of water killed 15,891.

Yesterday, Japan again suffered a tsunami. No one died. But a flood of goals killed their hopes to retain the women’s World Cup title.

The name of the tsunami was Carli Lloyd. In the space of 16 minutes, the attacking midfielder swept past the Japanese defense to make an eye-popping three goals.  Her last shot, a wild crazy kick from the half line that caught Japan’s goalie out of position, gets my vote for best of the tournament.

world cup goal in net | Carli Lloyd

While backtracking, the Japanese goalie stumbled and was unable to push the ball out of its course.

Japan fought back to get two goals for some respect, but they lost 2-5. In soccer, that’s about as lopsided as you’ll ever see. And thus, the U.S. avenged their fluke loss from the last final (which they lost to Japan four years ago).

All I can do is offer condolences to my missionary friend in Japan Jack Garrot, whom I admire greatly. I admire him greatly because he’s been a missionary basically forever (since 1981). I admire him greatly because, being an American, he rooted for Japan.

But I admire Jack Garrot more.

But I admire Jack Garrot more.

A powerful spiritual dynamic is unleashed when a missionary adopts his target country. When he so closely identifies with his target people, he is giving the gospel and he is learning from them whatever cultural elements are actually more closely aligned with the Bible than corresponding cultural elements in America. Unencumbered by ethnocentrism, he is freed to preach the pure gospel without any of off-putting cultural accoutrements. I don’t even know if my friend would agree with any of speculations; all I know is he told me he was rooting for Japan. And I love him for that.

One day I hope to meet him in person here on Earth.

Whom do I admire more, Carly Lloyd or Jack Garrot? The latter, obviously. I’m happy for the USWNT on their cup. But I’m sad for my friend’s loss.

I predict Carli Lloyd’s fame will now surpass Abby Wambach and Hope Solo here on Earth. But in Heaven, Jack Garrot’s is immortalized. Between being a heavenly hero and an earthly hero, what would you choose?

*I don’t own the rights on these pictures, and I’m not making any money on them.

The adventures continue

Mike Ashcraft to Guatemala

My brother at left is an engineer. He likes to smirk.

Pathos is my passion. Wherever there are humans involved in a titanic struggle to alleviate the evils of our world, that’s where I’m helping and writing. God has given me a gift for communication.

Now, I’m going to Guatemala, my old stomping ground. I raised up a school to help the poor in the Capital City. They pay only a fraction of costs. Recently, the government has cited an audit, and I need to hurry down to  take care of paperwork.

Of course, while I’m there, I’ll be bringing to this blog some of the great stories of struggle and triumph, of the humans spirit almost breaking under pressure, like I’ve always done.

Why am I telling you this beforehand? I need a little bit of help. Fund my trip to Guatemala. Whatever you can pitch in is greatly appreciated. I’m “scheduling” this post ahead of time because I don’t think I’ll have internet access. So far Carmen Lezeth Suarez has very graciously donated. I want to encourage you too to pitch in. Click the link to go directly to my campaign. Thank you! http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala

Fund me, please

Mike Ashcraft | Guatemala

I’m visiting my brother in Idaho Falls

Hey hey! to all my loyal followers. This blog has been a spot for inspiration, for gently challenging atheists, for encouraging Christians. I’ve brought you tales from all over the globe. I’ve incorporated my reporting for GodReports.com

As much cool stuff as I’ve done, I don’t get paid to blog. I also don’t get paid as a high school teacher at a small private Christian school. So I’m asking for a little bit of help to get to Guatemala, to the church my wife and I founded starting 20 years ago. I haven’t checked airfares yet, but it’ll probably be $750.

I’m asking you to support me http://www.gofundme.com/MikeToGuatemala. I totally understand if you don’t have any spare cash to help out (that’s the way I am! :D). But maybe some of you guys can help. I really appreciate it!

Thank you, vet

vetI lived under fear. When criminals got our checkbook, I was afraid they would kidnap. So I hid at a friend’s house with my family until new passports could be issued. When I got on the plane in Guatemala, the burden of fear left. I was heading to a safe place. America.

I didn’t fight to keep America free and safe. I just enjoyed the benefits. Thank you, veteran, for fighting for us all.

Privileged to have on staff a 20-year missionary

Christian school staff

With her brood on 50s day, Brenda Bowen, a missionary for 20 years in Africa.

With an art degree, she became a high-powered finance manager, then ditched it all to be a missionary’s wife in Africa for 20 years.

After so many unusual twists in her life, Brenda Bowen is now teaching 6th grade at the Lighthouse Church School.

Good thing she was a military brat. She got used to moving around.

Actually, it’s hard to describe Mrs. Bowen as a brat because she’s so loving, sweet and humble.

“Mrs. Bowen is really good at art, and she loooves to help kids,” said Ana D.,  her student. “She’s hip. She won’t yell at you. She’s very understanding. She knows when something is up, and she’ll do something positive about it. She’s a well-rounded teacher. She does tons of things. Just the other day we did clay.”

She never got her second degree in education because her father, a major in the Air Force, looked askance at perennial students. So with a bachelors degree from Southern Florida University, Mrs. Bowen landed a job with 1,000-employee Dun & Bradstreet’s Insurance. Read the rest of the story.

Hard lesson: to cast your burdens on Jesus

Liceo Bilingue La Puerta | Guatemala

So when will I ever learn?

I’ve been a Christian for so many years that I have to pull out a calculator. And I still can’t grasp the fundamentals. I’m a worrier, and my greatest fear (now) is that the church I left in Guatemala will collapse (because I am no longer there). This is ridiculous. It’s Christ’s church, not mine. He’s got this.

Any time some “bad” news gets to the U.S., the worrying kicks into high gear. Imagination goes to worst case scenarios. Just recently, the school I left behind had a “deficit.”

It turned out to be more of cash flow problem that one panicky leader reported to me — and so I guess I’m panicky too. But when I went to Guatemala, everything I saw and every person I talked to had only good things to report. That doesn’t mean there weren’t trials. It just means that my fears were unfounded.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you — 1 Pe. 5:7 NIV.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus — Phil. 4:7

Hospitality, not hostility

hospitality | Guatemala

With my wife and the pastor in Guatemala.

They eat beans and tortillas six days a week, and on Sunday — their only day of chicken — they would give me the best piece. I felt as guilty as a convict but knew that I couldn’t refuse their hospitality.

I learned hospitality in Guatemala. In the United States, I learned self-sufficiency, every man for himself, get ahead of the other, only invite to eat if they invite you back.

When you’re in a house with dirt floor and sheet metal roof, it’s time to learn something new when people so poor give so richly. In the Bible, it is a great honor to receive strangers/guests into your house and provide them protection. The guests get treated even better than children.

When was the last time you invited someone to eat who stands no chance of paying you back? When have you given love to the unloveable? When have given to the point of forgoing once-weekly chicken yourself?

I am in Guatemala, delighting in its incomparable hospitality with the brethren of the church I founded.

Friends, fun and revival

futbol guatemala

I got one assist. That’s kinda amazing because I’m 47 playing against teens.

I learned soccer while being a missionary when I was 35 years old, a late breakout into the sport. It’s not easy to outrun those kids but a lot of fun.

I’m visiting the church my wife and I founded in Guatemala. By playing soccer with the kids, I realize we have the seeds of revival. Even though not all these kids attend church, they come for soccer. They have a strong mental association with their school, a ministry of the church. When they get to a moment of desperation, they’ll know where to go to find God. They have a strong reference point of God.

colegio cristiano guatemalaSome of the kids come to church, which is extraordinary because kids don’t want to have anything to do with God, typically.

After playing for a couple of hours, I gave them all my testimony: raised in the suburbs of the San Fernando Valley in relative comfort but lonely and empty. Only Jesus filled my heart.

Nimby Christian

A Nimby (not in my back yard) is a protestor who doesn’t want (development, resource exploration, homosexuals and so on) near his home. If you want to open a nuclear power plant, he complains about radiation danger. If you want to set up a windfarm, he complains about losing his view. He wants to use energy and agrees that they produce it, just “not in my back yard.”

A while back, I shared how I was forced to leave 16 years on the mission field by criminals. Somebody commented: “Let the Guatemalans rot.”

Ouch.

Sadly, Christians often can’t be moved to impact the world until something negative happens close to home. Jesus calls us to go to the world and address its problems. Don’t wait for them to come to America.

When terrorists destroyed the New York Trade Center towers, America reacted in a negative way. Go kill the culprits, whoever they may be, wherever they may lurk.

What about going and preaching the gospel to these nations??? Jesus told us to GO. The reason why they brought us hate is became we didn’t bring them love (the love of Christ).

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.

This was my life | Adorable kids sing Guatemala’s national anthem


Four years ago, I was sent home from the mission field when criminals assaulted my family. Since kidnapping was likely subsequent to the assault, I realized God was sending me home. Today, I am supporting my mother church, the Lighthouse in Santa Monica.

From time to time, I visit the Guatemalan church and school. These are kids I labored 16 years for as a missionary. I hope their song warms your heart like it does mine.

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.

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.

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.

Being on Jesus’ Team

Guatemala missionary soccer

There’s me going for the ball on a corner kick.

We were losing miserably, but I wasn’t miserable. We were down 4-1 in the first half, which is the kind of score in soccer that usually makes you pray for the end of the match to hurry forward. It’s a humiliation, and I wasn’t humiliated.

In fact, I was downright buoyant! I knew we were going to come back and win. Why? Because I was on Mario’s team.

Iglesia cristiana La Puerta GuatemalaI learned soccer as a missionary at 35 years of age. Mario was a master. He plays dominant soccer. He never gives up. He fixes the problems by scolding the kids (or me). He always comes from behind. I can’t remember the time he lost.

Blogging more than jogging

In the second half, the other team wore out. We started clicking. At the end of the day, we won 8-5. I played horribly, as was to be expected from a guy who’s been blogging more than jogging. But who cares? My team won! Ha!

street preaching

After service, we went out on the streets to preach.

So too, when you’re on Jesus’ team, no matter what the score, you don’t worry. You don’t pray for the end of the match to come. You don’t panic. You don’t entertain the stupidity of changing sides. He’ll effect the come-back. He’ll make the adjustments to make the church work. Ha!

And if you play poorly, who cares? You win. Because you belong to the winning team.

The momentum

Christian school in GuatemalaA good chunk of my life went to the mission field — almost 16 years planting churches and a school in Guatemala. It’s been four years since I left, and now that I visit, I see miracles, miracles, miracles. Miracles continue.

These kids have an environment free from bullying, free from cutting, free from drugs, free from pornography, free from so many quicksand pits that are swallowing the lives of our youth.

To be sure, there have been failures. One kid who was expelled is now dead. Another just got out of jail. Another got pregnant out of wedlock. Not all the stories are success.

amazing testimonies

I love Henry. This is his beautiful daughter.

But there are undeniable testimonies of revolutionized lives. One kid unwittingly ran the errands of narcs. He had been kicked out of every school he enrolled prior. Today, he is an upstanding parent and put his girl in our school. Excuse me while tears well up. Jesus did this. I just let my life be used.

It took oodles of prayer and oodles of work, but it was all worth it. And the momentum continues. Miracles of salvation and healing continue. Pray for the Door Church in Guatemala.

Arrived and blessed in Guatemala

missionary Guatemala

Pastor Isaias came and prayed for a couple to have a child. They had been sterile for a decade. Here’s Salma, who came nine months later.

Shy like a schoolboy, I entered the Christian private school I founded in Guatemala. Would anyone remember me? I was prepared to be seen as a stranger. It had been over a year since I had visited.

Soon the kids crowded me, hugging me, reminding me that I am useful, that this is what I have chosen to live for (not money). Love is my reward.

We are scheduled to preach revival in the coming days, but today was a day of recovery from the red-eye flight. Too anxious to see friends family I had left here when criminals brusquely ended 16 years of missionary work, I rushed off to the school. I am amazed to see miracles in progress. The joy of the kids filled me with joy.

Thank you for praying for miracles in the coming days as we minister the love and power of Christ in this beleaguered Central American nation. Much love to all my friends on the blogosphere.

Work your way down in the organization

be humble

With Zach (at right)

Ha! The last three years have been the humility lab class for me. I went from being general pastor of four churches and principal and founder of a school to… nothing. Criminals forced us to flee the mission field and return to the home church.

cleaning ministry

With my aunt on the East Coast

At the home church, I longed to serve and I yearned to make a difference, to help stoke the fires of revival. But so many missteps of mine only stoked the fires of resentment. I was asked to give up ministry and look for a secular job. Ouch!

It seemed like every ministry position was already filled by someone who was more qualified than myself. I tried Sunday school. I tried teaching in the regular school. I tried publicity. I thought my experience could be a boon for the church.

After floundering for a couple years, I finally found a ministry where I was heartily welcomed, where I didn’t step on any toes, where I could satisfy my hearts longing to simply be useful. I don’t want to be important but to do important work.

It was not my first choice of ministry. It was cleaning.

serving

With my family at Niagara Falls

I kept secretly admiring the main cleaning guy, who unpaid got up early and stayed up late assuring that schoolkids and church members alike could enjoy spotless environs. Zach Scribner had a vision for  cleaning and saving the church money. I had zero vision for cleaning.

But I wanted to help where I could make an impact. Zach never got a day to rest in — until now. He is overjoyed to finally get a day off. And that makes me happy.

Chatting, a brother said, “Working your way up in an organization always works.” And that’s when it hit me: I haven’t worked my way up, I’ve worked my way down. Serendipitously, I fell into Mark 10:44: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. Aim not to be chief but to serve.

Kneeling before a toilet bowl, I reflected that I was doing it for my God. I thought of many who would despise such labor, some of whom also kneel before a toilet bowl, not to clean, but to throw up… for their god, alcohol.

In any other organization, expect to work your way up. In the church, look to work your way down.

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.

 

Easy to do the hard thing

180425528793435119_r7rcuiwL_fWhy is it so hard to do the easy thing?

Prayer is easy. But there are 57 kabillion distractions that seem more important.

The hard thing is to do your own effort. But we Americans are always gung-ho to roll up the sleeves.

I should know what I’m talking about. I spent more than a decade of missionary work majoring in my own effort. When that didn’t work too well, I “discovered” what I 222787512785962157_1az3FDYx_bknew all along: God answers prayer.

I started praying more, and the results were spectacular.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t become a couch potato Christian. I still worked: I taught, I preached, I evangelized, I visited the brethren. But I cut down somewhat the hectic schedule and dedicated a more significant portion of time to prayer. No longer was prayer perfunctory, get-thru-it-as-quickly-as-possible. It became the focal point of the day.

prayBlackladyBut you have to clear your schedule, remove distractions, and concentrate on God. That means you turn off your electric devices to be able to turn on your spiritual device! Ha!

Prayer is easy. God works for you. Yet it is hard to pick this option. It is easier for us to try to work ourselves when we want results. That’s our basic human nature. Thus prayer is hard because it’s counterintuitive. Every fiber in our being screams that we are wasting our time.

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.

Hasta la victoria, siempre

For decades, Che Guevara was the most maligned figure by the CIA. An Argentine instrumental in Castro’s Cuban revolution, Guevara stood for communism, the toppling of governments by “popular uprising,” even the overthrow of the USA. To be honest, his picture struck me with fear back in the day when I was a teenager. But the Cold War has gone, well, cold. A re-evaluation might be permitted without war-whipped paranoia.

“El Che” was an inspirational personage. Free from the weight of wanting materialistic comforts, he fought unreservedly. His slogan, in Spanish in the title, is translated: “Towards (unto) victory, always.” Not even death would deter him from trying for triumph.

You may not like his atheistic humanism, but you ought not to dismiss his life — such sacrifice, such fearlessness, such passion. Where’s the Christian nowadays who matches his commitment?

For Guevara, self-denial meant dying, executed by Rangers in Bolivia, where he had tried to spark revolution. For us, “sacrifice” means getting out of bed to go to prayer. It means turning off the TV to read the Bible. Are we willing to go to the most God-forsaken lands to bring a revolution of Christian truth?

Nowadays, the insignia of Guevara has become watered down, a harmless symbol for adolescent rebelliousness. He’s become as mild as Pancho Villa or Bob Marley. My hope would be that our Christianity would retain its edge and not go mild.

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.