Monday, June 29, 2009

A Powerful Story of Prayer

In February 2009, at the first planning meeting for our June mission trip to Honduras, I passed out cards with a picture of the families we would be ministering to and asked everyone that might be going to take cards for one or two families and pray for them daily until we arrived in Honduras. I promised that if they did so, they would enjoy a special blessing during their meeting in Honduras.

Antonio and Maria Suarez, and their son Christian, took three cards: one for each of them. In March we found out the Suarez’ would not be able to go, but they promised to continue praying for the families they had taken.

In early May, Maria told me she was sorry, but she had lost the cards for two of the families, but still had one family, Josue and Ritza Argueta, and their children Gloria and Jonathan, taped to her computer monitor. She had prayed for them daily and felt she had come to know the Argueta family through prayer. Maria told me that frequently when she was in a store, she would think of them and want to buy clothes for Ritza and her family. Maria gave me four bags of clothes: one for each member of the Argueta family. Keep in mind, she only had a picture of the Argueta’s with their names and ages of the children.

Maria confessed that she was sad that she might not get to meet this family personally, this side of heaven. Imagine her surprise when I told her that Sandy and I had invited Josue and Ritza to the US to help us celebrate our retirement, commissioning and ordination! Tears filled her eyes.

When I got home, I told Sandy the story and went upstairs while Sandy sorted the clothing. A few minutes later Sandy called to me: “Bill, you need to come see this.” Sandy said that every piece of clothing for Ritza was just the style, color, and material Ritza liked. Everything was perfect. Even the bag holding the clothes for Jonathan had a three-dimensional Winnie-the-Pooh character on it to match the Winnie-the-Pooh clothing set someone else had gotten for Jonathan!

Two weeks later, when Josue and Ritza arrived, we invited Antonio, Maria and Christian to share dinner with us. After dinner, Antonio and Maria presented Josue and Ritza with the clothes they had gotten them. After opening about three items, Ritza stopped, looked at Maria, and exclaimed: “How could you have known me so well to pick these clothes?” They broke into tears and hugs.

During the rest of Josue and Ritza’s visit, Antonio & Maria and Josue & Ritza shared lunches and outings and made an everlasting friendship, a relationship brought about through prayer!

We serve an awesome, tremendous God!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Moved Out!

About 97% of our stuff is now in storage - the rest needs to be sorted, packed, and put in storage or made ready for vacation. A BIG THANKS to Nikki, Mike, Roby and Kenneth who helped get all our furniture and boxes into the storage unit. 10 x 15 and chock full. A special thanks to Bob and Patty who came over for the second or third day to help pack, clean shelves, shampoo carpet, and whatever else we needed. A few days with Matt & Dani and then we're off to vacation in Ireland (Sandy's dream of many years) and our Holy Land tour in Israel.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Moving - Garage Sale --- DONE!

One milestone was having a final moving / garage sale. Haven't done the final tally yet, but the main mission was accomplished: get our stuff into someone else's hands instead of the dump! As a side benefit, we met quite a few interesting people!

Big thanks to Bob & Patty Schneider for coming over early (6:00 AM) to help get signs out and get setup. Thanks to Nikki Vohs for coming over to lend a hand, also. Many people commented that we had the best signage and organization of any garage sale they had seen. A lot of people didn't believe us when we said "NO OFFER REFUSED AFTER 12:30".

A day to rest and then everything either gets packed or trashed. Everything going into storage on Saturday, the 27th.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Night Update - June 12

Friday night… the HARD one… this is when we realize we have to say goodbye…

Today we visited the waterfalls about 25 minutes from our hotel. Our lessons last year told us not to rush so we took a picnic lunch of 47 pieces of chicken, 52 bags of chips, 2 packages of buns broken into rolls, and 4-5 bags of cookies. About half of our group braved the treacherous conditions of slippery rocks, missing guard rails, jumping into and swimming through rocky water all to reach the backside of the waterfall; and I mean this was a BIG waterfall. Needless to say, we all made it there and back, including some minor cliff jumping, safe-and-sound!

The rest of the afternoon was rest and socializing time. After dinner we took some family photos and enjoyed a “white man’s” bonfire… some big logs at the bottom of an 8-foot teepee of a firebase.

At the end of the evening, Gustavo Valladares, national director for Training Pastors International, gathered the Hope team and all of the pastors and their wives for a farewell talk. Gustavo and the rest of the pastors made it very clear that they are appreciative for all Hope does for them during this trip and throughout the year. Pedro Mena expressed it best when he told us that although he had been to two previous conferences, this was the first he had been to with his wife and one-year-old son Daniel. He said that having his own family enabled him to see the love the Hope team expresses through the caring for families. That is a love and relationship money simply can’t buy. Knowing that we are doing what God has led us to do in loving and caring for them so much places a burden on him to continue doing what God has called him to do. We all had a chance to express our love and feelings for the pastors, their wives and their children and the lessons and blessings they give us through their lives.

We have a 6:30 breakfast in the morning, followed by loading the vans, gassing up, and heading to the airport for our journey home. Thanks to all who have prayed for us and supported us financially; we hope you get the opportunity to experience God’s blessings as we have. Dios les bendiga!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Prayer Update - Thank You

Israel Rocha's wife, Telma, was unable to come to the conference this year as she had pneumonia and was hospitalized in their hometown of Jalapa, Nicaragua. Israel brought their four children, anyway, because they look forward to this conference and it is very important for them. Israel's sister stayed with Telma.

Israel told me this evening that his wife is getting better and is now at their home, with his sister continuing to look in on her. Israel asked me to thank everyone who had been praying for her... prayer works!

Thursday Night Update - June 11

Today was "Love Day" - and it is ending with our team watching all the children while the parents have a night to themselves! Movie night with 16 kids, aged 1 to 15 is quite an experience!

The day started with Eric and Sandra Reinbold showing the movie Fireproof to the pastors and their wives. After the movie, they had a discussion about the movie and gave them all copies to watch at home. Meantime, Bill & Sandy Stevener led the teens through a discussion on how God is in the business of providing husbands and wives for each other as partners, starting with Adam and Eve, working through the story of how Isaac came to know Rebekah, and finishing with a discussion of Paul's comments on marriage in Ephesians 5:21-31.

Jamie Graham and Charissa Feathers kept the younger children busy. Later, Gidget Graham and Emily Bain hosted a puppet show for the younger children while Jamie and Charissa led games with the teens.

After lunch we invited to wives to a clothing "sale" where we had laid out donated clothing for them to pick for immediate and extended family. At 4 this afternoon, Gidget hosted our version of the Not-So-Newlywed game. We all learned a little something about each other during that game!

After the game, we invited the parents to go freshen up before dinner because we had plans to entertain the children and take them to dinner in the bustling town of Pena Blanca. Most had hamburguesas, while some ventured out and tried the plato tipico, a typical Honduran meal. NOTE: Oscar, our translator extraordinaire, would not let us go to the restaurant until he had checked it out and gave them specific instructions how to feed us! He instructed them that we got no ice, no fresh lettuce, only steamed vegetables, and even where to go for the ice cream! This is one night the men and women look forward to, as they have very little time by themselves.

After returning from dinner, we kept the children occupied with the movie Aristocats.

What is it they say... Having a great time, wish you were here!

Thanks for your support and prayers, but please continue... we have 1 1/2 more days, plus travel home for us and the nationals.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wednesday Night Update - June 10

Wednesday night and all is NOT quiet! The men are watching a football game (soccer) with Honduras playing El Salvador and the women are having a "chat session". We don't have every tongue, tribe and nation, but we do have English, Spanish, United States, Honduras and Nicaragua... our own piece of heaven right here!

This morning we heard from three of the pastors from Training Pastors International (TPI). They explained how they started, how they grew, and some of the changes they have experienced. We also heard several more testimonies of how their teachings have impacted the lives of other pastors and their churches.

We continued teaching through The Fear of the Lord with the adults while the children played and had an astronomy lesson from Gidget Graham. After lunch, Janna King led a session for the kids (and adults) in building and flying balsa wood airplanes and kites. We had the perfect light breeze (thank you God!) and everyone had a great time. This afternoon Charissa Feathers and Emily Bain helped the fathers and sons make balloon sculptures (string, glue and glitter covering a balloon to be popped later) and the mothers and daughters make decorative flip-flops.

Six-year old Fredmann fell while playing and cut his chin pretty bad; he didn't realize it until he got up and saw all the blood. We were able to get him patched up pretty well and gave his parents instructions on how to tend to his wound once he gets home. Please pray for no infections to get into his cut.

That's all for now. Please continue to pray for us as we try to reflect God's glory and let His life flow from us. Amen!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday Night Update - June 9

Wow - where to start? Off to the right is a picture of our view this morning as we went to breakfast... horses having their breakfast!

Today was our first day of teaching the pastors and their wives about The Fear of the Lord. It went great! We discussed the difference between being afraid of things and a reverential awe-inspired fear of the Lord. They picked up on that right away and we spent a good amount of time discussing which comes first: Fear of the Lord or Love of the Lord. After our teaching, Josue Argueta and Juan Omar Lopez shared testimonies about how TPI is making a difference in many lives throughout Honduras and Nicaragua.

After lunch Jamie, Tyler and Dylan Graham led the men and boys through a Pinewood Derby race... from building the cars, to decorating them, to racing them down ramps they brought from the states... we had a photo finish (see photo on the left). At the same time, Sandra Reinbold, a professional hair stylist, gave lessons and demonstrations on how to cut hair. She provided the wives with a professional hair trimming system to take home. Charissa Feathers and Emily Bain provided pedicures and manicures for some of the women and girls, also. As if that weren't enough, Nikki Vohs provided massage instruction for the pastors and their wives.

After dinner we finished the evening with an exciting round of Pictionary. Although the Norte-Americanos held the lead for most of the game, the Centro-Americanos eeked out a close victory: 11-9. Their prize was a Slim Jim for each member of the team!

These men and their families are special. They are dedicated to serving God through teaching others how to be leaders and teachers. We are privileged to be able to share time with them and grateful for the opportunity God has given us.

Adapting - Honduran Style

We are having a great time... so much so we (almost) feel guilty that we are being blessed as representatives of Hope Baptist Church here in Honduras. On Monday we actually got warm showers (well, most of us).

Monday night was a test for new team members Eric and Sandra Reinbold. They were set to lead the evening activities, Family Feud, when all power went out! With no street lights, and no moon, it gets DARK here. Five or six people got out their cell phones, two people had flashlights, and we were able to play the five rounds of Family Feud we needed to determine the champion... once more, I'm not sure how it comes about, but Gustavo and his family were the champions.

Continue to pray for us... minimize mosquito bites, that the children stay well, and we continue to reflect God's glory as He would have it.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

In Honduras - All Accounted For

EVERYONE showed up early at the airport - Woo-Hoo! We got all the bags checked and everyone checked-in pretty quickly. After an overnight flight to New York, a 3 1/2 hour layover, another flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, we arrived.

After going through customs (we were behind the flight from Houston), we saw a sign welcoming GIDGET GRAHAM - all our vehicles were ready for us! So far, so good. We took the scenic route, but eventually found the store we were looking for to stock up on local supplies - bottled water, snacks, lotions, etc.

Another two hours found us at our hotel, Hotel Las Glorias, at Lake Yojoa, Honduras. Our adrenalin was running so we were able to unpack, explore a little, get some dinner, and enjoy COLD showers. We had a good night's rest (finally), and some even enjoyed the sound of rain on the tin roof!

After breakfast, we had a meeting, got a little more organized, got the Welcome Baskets ready for the incoming families (5 from Honduras, 2 from Nicaragua), and are now awaiting their arrival.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Josue Has Another Divine Appointment, In An Unlikely Place

On Josue and Ritza's last day in Las Vegas, we wanted to get some sandalitas for Jonathan and some hamburguesas for ourselves... naturally we went to the McDonald's inside the Wal-Mart!

Josue and I were chatting in my broken Spanish. A lady behind us introduced herself as being from Guatemala. She and Josue had a lengthy conversation, which I gave up trying to listen to after a few sentences. We sat down at the table and Josue told me the name of her hometown and that he had taught a series of classes for Training Pastors International in the same place three years ago!

After the lady got her food, she came over to our table and asked us what church we went to. We told her we went to Hope Baptist Church, gave her a card, and told her we were currently meeting at Silverado High School. If she walked out the front door of Wal-Mart and looked to the right, she should be able to see the school. We told her that was were we met on Saturday night and Sunday mornings. THEN she looked at Josue and Ritza and asked them, in Spanish, if it was a good church. Of course, they said, yes, it is.

After she left, Ritza looked at Josue and exclaimed una otra mujer (another woman)! God is at work all over the world!

Monday, June 1, 2009

God Unites TPI Honduran Pastor and Costa Rican Woman at Hope in Las Vegas

Josue and Ritza Argueta were visiting Hope this weekend and after each of our services, there were many people trying to speak with them - sometimes broken English and sometimes broken Spanish. After the 9:00 service, a lady walked by while Josue and someone else were struggling to find a word. Having passed by, she came back to them and told them the word they were looking for was: ________ (unimportant). Josue thanked her and she continued on.

After getting some eggs and pancakes from the courtyard (it was Celebration Weekend), Josue and Ritza were looking for a place to sit in the shade. The only seats they saw were next to the lady that had just helped Josue find the word he was looking for. They sat down and starting talking with her. She said she was from Costa Rica, had been raised Catholic, and didn't understand everything she heard in her church; she had come to Hope with some questions (this was her 4th visit). Josue said that scripture passages just started coming out of his mouth, from Hebrews and Romans in particular. He had his bible and showed her many of the passages she had asked about and he answered many of her questions. She told him that she believed God had put him on an airplane in Honduras to fly to Las Vegas so that he could answer her questions at Hope.

She then proceeded to tell Josue about some of the problems she was having and difficult issues she was facing. Josue assured her that someone from Hope would contact her soon.

Isn't it just like everything else we have seen and continue to see... appointments and relationships that only God could put together helping His people grow... and on Celebration Sunday, at that! It adds another dimension to the partnership between Hope and Training Pastors International... God bringing a Honduran pastor to help a lady from Costa Rica at a church in Las Vegas! Amen? Amen!