Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Life-Changing Moment (Part 5)

Mexican Military manning the border crossingCrossing the border into a foreign country can be a life-changing moment because you never know what to expect. It can be an anxious moment, wondering if your passport and luggage are in order—or it can be routine. You never know.  I have learned not to sweat it—just do what you’re told with a smile and answer the questions with a simple yes or no. Border guards and immigration officers don’t get paid for long conversations so they are usually not very talkative. Plus soldiers dressed in camo fatigues with big guns and even bigger ammo clips really don’t have to say much anyway—they just point! I think you understand what I’m talking about.

So how can crossing a foreign border be life-changing you might wonder? Let me try and explain. We traveled to Mexico with a guy who goes at least once a month. We were to present our passports and ask for a seven day tourist visa.  He coached us on what to do if this or that happened. He has seen anything and everything happen so I was determined to do exactly what he suggested. The seven day visa was free and the other option was $25. We were prepared for either, but hoped for the free option. After a prayer together we went inside, stood in line, presented our documentation, and all six of us received the free travel visa. As you stand in line and talk with an official who is not impressed with who you are or where you come from, you quickly realize you truly are in God’s hands. Add to this the obvious language barrier and it can become a rather unsettling moment. Your comfort zone disappears rather abruptly and your faith either grows or fear grabs hold.

Once the visa was in hand, your vehicle is directed to an inspection point where soldiers in full battle fatigues (not policemen) point and bark specific commands. These guys have no level of toleration—you either do what you’re told or else. I understand why as they are in a life and death war with the drug cartels for their country. Again the language barrier makes it a bit uncomfortable, but after a pass around the van with a drug dog and the mirrors we were on our way to a wonderful week of ministry in Mexico.

After you go through this little exercise, you realize you are not in Kansas anymore Toto. In fact the cold hard reality that you are no longer in the United States of America settles in. You are now a foreigner in a strange land where customs, language, and laws are all different from what you have always known. That has a tendency to shake up your world a bit—to be life-changing to say the least. Who you are, where you come from, and what you have accomplished in life up until that moment really makes little difference to the people you meet. They don’t know you, and what they do know about where you come from has been carefully filtered through government propaganda and the perverted Americanized television sitcoms beamed in by satellite. It seems they, like us, have a hard time believing that their government and the television would ever lie

It would do every American good to cross a foreign border at least once. Uncertainty and anxiety have a way of getting rid of arrogance and we, as Americans, an arrogant people. Humility is not one of our stronger points as a nation, but when you are not in your nation—humility, a gentle voice, and patience will take you far. In fact those three traits, plus a current passport will get you into almost every foreign country on the planet. Plus—and best of all—those same four things will get you back into the good ole U.S. of A.

Those simple things can be life-changing at a border crossing. Or if you prefer—you can be arrogant, loud, and impatient and thus enjoy the personal attention you will certainly get with a full body search, an interrogation session, possible luggage confiscation, and that $25 visa.

A Life-Changing Moment (Part 4)

Village School Playground

Some life-changing moments grab hold and won’t let go. They affect you deep within and their memories seem to haunt you like a bad dream. That moment demands that you do something, but what has yet to be determined. Let me share one and perhaps it will seize your heart as it has mine.

One afternoon, we took a ride out into the countryside east of Parras to see some of the villages. The scenery changed very little on the trip out, with the landscape dotted by mesquite and cactus framed by the jagged peaks of the Sierra Madras. Twenty miles out, we turned off the main road and pulled into one of these villages.

Every village of any size has a small one or two room school with a playground. There is usually a soccer field of some description and the houses are made of adobe brick with most left unpainted. This particular village had been the recipient of some of their tax money at work. A new bridge had been constructed by the state and a half block of black top paving installed on either side. To me, this seemed a little out of place since the road leading to and away from the bridge was dirt, but oh well, the politician who secured this was pleased.

That’s when I saw something that still gnaws at my heart whenever I think about it. On the south

The Ruins of Ebenezar Baptist Church

side of the village was a building without a roof, doors, or windows. It was in ruins—seemingly abandoned, while its white washed walls were slowly deteriorating under the hot Mexican sun. What I was looking at were the remains of the Templo Bautista Eben-Ezer (the Ebenezar Baptist Church). It reminded me of a bombed-out building you might see in Iraq or Baghdad.

Every scene has a story and this one is heart-breaking. At one time there was no Protestant evangelical church in the village. The only church there had a policy of taking rather than giving, and these people had nothing to give. One of the churches in Parras took this village as a mission field and established a fledgling body that began to grow. In time, they moved into this building owned by two men, one was a believer and the other was not. The church began to impact the village and Satan began to lose the hold he exercised through witchcraft, drugs, and alcoholism. Things were changing.

In time, the job of one of the building’s owners took him away and he (the believer) sold his half to the unbeliever. A few weeks later, the new owner evicted this body of believers, tore the tin roof off, removed the doors and windows and sold them for scrap. Today the shell of a church building bakes in the sun as a reminder that our enemy is real and he is busy guarding what he considers his. Today this village is once again filled with drugs, alcoholism, abuse, and witchcraft and the local church that remains still takes and takes and takes, while offering nothing in return.

My heart was broken as I stood and imagined what could have been. This village was being

Adobe Village House

transformed. Lifestyles were changing. Bondage was being broken. Generational poverty and ignorance were being eradicated. Was and were (past tense) are the key words right now. The building is now empty and that body of believers is gone—but God is still waiting on someone who will take a stand against the enemy, love these people, and proclaim God’s glory. As I stared God began to stir within me a “what if.” What if a body of believers in America were to invest themselves in this little village twenty miles east of Parras, Mexico? What if indeed!

I’m not sure what will happen or what I can do, but God will show me. This scene out in the mesquite and cactus is an ongoing life-changing moment for me. It continues and who knows what its outcome may be. Who knows? God does and he’s looking for some life-changers!

A Life-Changing Moment (Part 3)

Vacation Bible School

From my viewpoint, Vacation Bible School has always seemed like organized chaos. It’s like skating on ice that’s barely frozen. You know you’re headed for disaster but you just don’t know when. I love it, but it stresses me out with all the variables, intangibles, and fickleness of the children. And yet, if the truth be known, more kids have probably come to Christ through Vacation Bible School than any other form of evangelism. It really works and kids around the world love it.

Our mission team assisted First Baptist Parras in a mission VBS at a house in a community located on the northern end of town. This meant three of the five classrooms were outside—outside where there were all kinds of things going on—all kinds of distractions. Those distractions and interruptions were all possible opportunities for the enemy to steal the attention of a child and thus rob them of their moment of salvation—or so I thought. That week was a life-changing moment for me as I witnessed God’s power in the midst of what seemed like utter confusion.

Let me give you a taste of the chaos as I witnessed it. The VBS was literally steps off a dirt street

Deluge

that suddenly became a main thoroughfare every afternoon. The tan colored dust blew continually, and then one afternoon it came a monsoon—with muddy water running like a river right through the middle of the VBS. The teachers and the kids didn’t miss a beat—it didn’t seem to bother them at all.

One afternoon a dump truck stopped at the end of the house and began to back up. The backup alarm began to beep, and it beeped, and it beeped, and it kept on beeping. All of a sudden the dump bed began to raise and a load of rocks came tumbling off not ten feet away from a table filled with VBS kids. The noise of the avalanche ended as a cloud of that perpetual dust erupted and then settled over everything. The teachers and the kids didn’t miss a beat—it didn’t seem to bother them.

The Infamous “Ice Cream Man”

But, the biggest interruption of the week happened every afternoon at the exact same moment. You could set your watch by him—with him  being the “Ice Cream Man from Hell” as I know affectionately refer to him. Each evening he would show up with his ice cream cart and park it about 5 feet from the edge of the little kids’ table. And then…he would ring his infernal little bell every so often. It was one of those moments where I wished I knew just a few words in Spanish. But, the teachers and the kids didn’t miss a beat—it didn’t seem to bother them at all.

The things I saw as interruptions were nothing more than moments in life for these people. They were there for one purpose and that was to show the kids the love of Jesus Christ. In the dust, the mud, the beeping, and the bell ringing, God showed up. What seemed like chaos and confusion to me was nothing more than another opportunity for him to demonstrate the power of the Gospel and its ability to change lives. Eight kids and two adults met Jesus alongside that dusty road busy with movements of everyday life.

God reminded me that he could work in any situation where his people are faithful to proclaim and demonstrate his love. He is not limited to moments of silence and quiet introspection. He’s God! The interruptions of the enemy may disrupt us, but they never disrupt God. I’ve come away from this experience with a deeper appreciation for God’s power and love. He is the order in chaos—clarity in confusion—the life that changes the moment—the unlimited One erasing our own self-imposed limits. He’s God.

He is God, and I am not. Therefore, there really is no such thing as a disruption, an interruption, or chaos that can challenge the presence and the power of God. Once you come to grips with that my friend, you encounter a life-changing moment!