Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guatemala Follow-up

I had promised to write a follow-up report about the trip to Guatemala, so here’s another brief word about the experience. One of the things I was very encouraged about this time, beyond the 7 new churches that were represented, was the fact that several of the pastors and leaders had obviously been working on some of the things that Jim Hill and I shared with them at our initial meeting back in January. Jim has a great deal of expertise in leading people through strategic planning and had shared some steps with the pastors to help them do that with their congregations. One younger pastor came up to me and shared with me a printout of a 5 or 6 page document that he had been working on to apply the insights he had gained from Jim’s conference in January. Others also made comments that reflected they had been working through the concepts of what we shared last time. That kind of response really encourages me to know that the pastors and leaders are seeking to implement the teachings we’re sharing with them.

Another thing that strongly impresses me after 4 trips to Guatemala in the last 2 years is the gracious nature of Guatemalan Christians. I haven’t had extensive contact with the general population as such, so I’d be a bit premature to comment on whether that is also true of the people as a whole, but the believers with whom I’ve associated during these trips have all be extremely caring and loving people. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me as it has also been my experience in Argentina, Mexico, and other places where I’ve either lived for an extended period or been privileged to serve and minister. The Guatemalan Baptists in particular are doing some great things as a convention and have a real passion for living and sharing the gospel. If you’re looking for a place to become involved in some international missions work that isn’t half a world away, Guatemala is a great choice.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ministry is .....

Ministry is...

Giving when you feel like keeping
Praying for others when you need prayer
Feeding others when your soul is hungry
Hurting with others when your own hurt can't be spoken
Keeping your word when it is not convenient
Being faithful when your soul wants to run away

I suspect that each of us have found ourselves from time to time wishing to be on the receiving end of ministry instead of on the giving side. Our natural human tendency is to focus on those things that we desire and which we believe will bring joy and satisfaction to our lives. While that is our natural inclination, it is rarely the most Christ-like approach to living. Each of the contrasts spelled out in the description of ministry above depicts something God calls us to do despite what our own selfish hearts are whispering is most convenient for us.

Paul reminds us of Jesus’ words that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Our Lord was the supreme example of unselfishness as He emptied Himself of His divine privileges and status to become a man. He taught His disciples that the one who would be greatest in the Kingdom of God must be the servant of all, and He offered Himself as the best illustration of that principle, telling us that “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). May His example inspire and encourage us to faithfully minister to those He brings into our lives who need to know His touch through our hands, and to hear His voice through our mouths.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fellow Traveler's Post

I haven't had a chance to sit down yet and write a follow-up post about our trip to Guatemala this past week, but until I do, I thought you might enjoy the reflections of one of the guys who was a part of our team. By far the youngest of the 6 of us, JR is a youth minister in Columbia, MO. He has posted some of his thoughts and impressions about the trip on his Xanga site.

I think you'll enjoy reading his insights.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Safely Home

We arrived back in Missouri today, all feeling a bit exhausted from a whirlwind 5-day trip to Guatemala, but very grateful to God for the experience of serving Him there. I think I’ll probably write a couple of posts about our trip, but right now it feels like my body is running out of gas. We got up around 5:00 this morning and had a long day of travel with some delays in DFW due to weather and having to await the plane that would fly us up to Kansas City. Let me just say that the week was a tremendous blessing for each of us who went and those pastors and leaders who participated were very gracious in expressing their appreciation for the efforts of our team. There were 62 pastors and leaders present from a total of 25 churches scattered across 4 departments (we’d call them states) in western Guatemala. That figure represents an increase of 7 new churches that participated this time beyond those who were present for the initial training event back in January of this year. Each of the conference leaders was well prepared and did a very good job of relating his presentation to the needs that had been expressed to us previously. Thanks for all of those who prayed for us, and I appreciate Brian Kaylor’s mention of our trip and request for prayer on his blog.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Arrived safely in Guatemala

We had a great flight down today from Missouri and arrived here safely this evening. Several of us decided to check email and contact home using the computers here in the seminary´s library. The BGCM helped purchase both the computers and provided the internet service for two years for the seminary here in Guatemala City. The two guys who are a part of our team of 6 that I hadn´t previously met are both really nice. One is a youth minister at a church in Columbia, MO and the other is a layman from Imperial, MO. It looks like we´re going to have a great time together.

We leave at 7:00 in the morning for the 5 hour or so drive out to Quetzaltenango. We´d appreciate your prayers as we travel the winding, mountainous roads and kick off the training session after lunch tomorrow. I´m hoping the hotel there will have internet access. When we were last down in January, they were supposed to be getting it soon. We´ll see.

Blogger is interesting in Spanish. This is the first time I´ve seen the home page and log-in stuff written in Spanish.

A Joke to Pass Along

I heard this from a friend at church who shared it at our recent Adult VBS and wanted to pass it along. It's really funny.

A Montana rancher was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a cloud of dust towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leans out the window and asks the rancher, “If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?”

The rancher looks at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, “Sure, why not?”

The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell notebook computer, connect it to his Cingular Razr V3 cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high resolution photo.

The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany.

Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS SQL database through an ODBC-connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response.

Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150 page report on his hi-tech miniaturized HP Laserjet printer and finally turns to the rancher and says, “You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves.”

That’s right. Well I guess you can take one of my calves,” says the rancher.

He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.

Then the rancher says to the young man, “Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?” The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, “Okay, why not?”

You’re a congressman for the U.S. Government,” says the rancher.

“Wow! That’s correct,” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required,” answered the rancher. “You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show how much smarter than me you are; and you don’t know a thing about cows…. This is a herd of sheep…. Now give me back my dog.”

Friday, July 13, 2007

Great Article about the New Baptist Covenant

David Emmanuel Goatley, Executive-Secretary Treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, has written an outstanding article expressing his enthusiastic anticipation of next year's New Baptist Covenant gathering in Atlanta. The article can be found here at the Baptist Studies Bulletin for July, which is a monthly publication of The Center for Baptist Studies at Mercer University. If you don't receive this already by email, it's normally well worth the read.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Guatemala Bound Again

This coming week I'll be making my fourth trip to Guatemala in the past two years. The main purpose of the trip will be to conduct the second of a total of 6 projected training sessions with pastors and leaders living in 4 western states near the border with Mexico. We'll be meeting as we did this past January at a hotel on the outskirts of Quetzaltenango, Guatemala's second largest city. There are a total of 6 of us going on this trip--3 pastors, 2 laymen, and myself. We'll be leading in a series of seminars on themes that this same group identified back in January as areas in which they see the need for additional training. Some of the topics we'll be focusing on include the pastor and his devotional life; stewardship of time, talents, and resources; youth ministry; and the pastor dealing with conflict in the family, the church, and the community. Unlike last time when just two of us went and I shared the teaching load and handled translation duties for our convention's executive director, this time the other guys will be doing all of the teaching and my role will be that of translating their presentations. I've translated the outlines of those already so they could be included in a notebook that each seminar participant will be receiving.

I'm also excited that a layman from our church is going because a further purpose of this trip is to explore the possibilities of some church-to-church partnerships among the BGCM churches and their counterparts in Guatemala. I'm glad that Paul is going with me for that reason to sit down with some of the pastors and explore together some ministries where our church might be able to offer some assistance. We'll be gone from July 16-20 and so my blogging might be slim or even non-existent next week. I appreciate the prayers of any who happen to stumble upon this post and would be willing to pray for our group's efforts.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Good News in the Midst of Tragedy

I thought I’d pass along a great story that appeared in our association’s monthly newsletter. You can click on the link to see the PDF of the newsletter, but I’m also including the complete story below.

Gary Jones, pastor of the U-Church in Kansas City (, recently preached the funeral for 3-year old Robert Lee Jackson, who was shot and killed by a stray bullet while playing near his home. He met the mother and grandmother of the child two days after the shooting, and reached out to the family by volunteering his services and his church for the child’s funeral.

Rev. Jones explained, “I went to get a hair cut at a different barbershop; my barber was out of town. While waiting and speaking to a friend, a young woman came in to get her hair done. About two minutes later she got up and said, ‘I can’t do this,’ and the hair stylist asked her why. She said, ‘I just lost my son three days ago.’ I got up to go offer her prayer when she left out of the shop.”

“I asked where the funeral was going to be, to show support. She said at a funeral home, and that she didn’t know who was going to do the eulogy. I offered our church, and said I would do the eulogy if she wanted me too.”

“The family went into tears after I offered them the church for the funeral. They said it was an answer to prayers.”

As a result, Robert Lee’s mother, Santana Jackson, and his grandmother have become Christians and will be baptized at the church once they go through new members class.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Wonderful Weekend in South Texas

The trip home for the football reunion was wonderful. It turned out to be much more than just a reunion of the football teams on which I played. As a matter of fact, hardly anyone took the time to watch the DVD’s of the games that were playing on 4 different televisions. We mostly sat around a got caught up on old times. It was really a class reunion of multiple classes. They had tables set up for folks to group around according to the decade in which they graduated. The oldest grad was from 1937. There were 14 out of my 1971 graduating class of 54 present, as well as several from the year ahead and the year following our class that I knew very well.

I had a number of very interesting extended conversations with folks. One was with a guy who was one year behind me in school. He was a standout actor in high school, performing the lead role in a play that won 1st place in state in the University Interscholastic League competition. He went on to major in theater at Texas Tech and later attended Dallas Theological Seminary. I knew that much about him from conversations with others. What I learned from him was that he stayed on at DTS and has been teaching there for 25 years in the area of ministry through the performing arts. He frequently accompanies Chuck Swindoll on trips, cruises, etc. and shares dramatic monologues in conjunction with Swindoll’s teachings. Kind of interesting for a guy from a South Texas town of 2,000 people. His wife helps manage the finances for a Christian missionary group, Central American Mission (CAM), which has extensive work in Guatemala. We talked about ministry there in light of my multiple trips there in recent years.

I also enjoyed visiting with my former college roommate from my freshman year at UT-Austin. We were the only 2 from our school to head to UT that year so opted to room together. We had known each other forever, both attending FBC in George West. He stayed on in Austin after getting his civil engineering degree and worked for the city up until recently when he took early retirement. He still works a couple of days a week for them on a contract basis. One other guy is doing well as a vet, a couple are CPAs, but the large majority of the guys I spoke with are involved in some way in the oil and gas industry. That’s still pretty big business in South Texas.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to visit with my former high school English teacher who was also our youth Sunday School teacher when I was growing up. She asked if I’d be willing to preach if she could clear it with the pastor and to make a long story short, I ended up preaching on Sunday morning in the church I attended from first grade through high school graduation. That brought back lots of wonderful memories. Several of the people I knew then are still around and it was delightful to see them and visit after the service.

I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend some quality time with my mom on the trip down and back. Her younger sister still lives in George West so she went with me and it was really good to have some extended time to talk. All in all, it was an outstanding time of strolling down memory lane for a bit and getting caught up with folks whom I hadn’t seen in 30+ years.