Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Delightful Video

Bruce and Angie Morris sent me a delightful video of a little girl reciting the 23rd Psalm. I have tried to upload it to this post, but I am getting an error message.
I know you'll love it, so just click on the link below and enjoy!

A Day In The Life Of The Pastor

A fellow pastor told me of an encounter he had with an angry church member over something rather inconsequential. Seems as though this guy had been through a bout with the flu, and was bent clear out of shape because the pastor had not been to see him while he was off from work for three days. "I don't know why you didn't come and see me" the angry church member said. "You preachers only work about three hours a week! I wish I had your job."

Most pastors I know (full time or bivocational) do the best they can to do all they can. It's not a job - it's a calling. Thankfully, most church members aren't quite as demanding as this fellow, but there is something telling about what he said in the heat of the moment. On the surface, it does look like a pretty cushy gig. All the pastor has to do is dress up nice and show up for a couple of hours Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night - thrill souls and bless hearts - then do it again next week. Sometimes people wonder, "Just what does the pastor do the rest of the time?" That's a valid question.

Sometimes the police department offers a "ride along" to individuals who are interested in what a day in the life of a cop is like. For those of you who are interested, I thought I'd offer you a ride along with the pastor on a typical day. Yesterday was fairly typical.

Up at 4:30. This is when I get my quiet time alone with God. Not serious sermon preparation, just the Bible reading and meditation and prayer time that I need each day. After that important time, I usually finish sending out the prayer request, church updates and daily devotional to about 250 folks. Some have told me they appreciate getting the devotional, and an old high school friend in Nashville tells me he forwards it on to 210 people on his mailing list every day. This is also the best time to post on my blog.

The fitness center, where I am a member, opens three days a week at 6:00 am (MWF). It doesn't open until 8:00 on the other days, so I try to get to the gym on the early days. Usually I'm in the office by 7:30 where I get my shower before the others come in and the phone starts ringing. This particular day I had to go to the bank and run some errands and pay a couple of bills. It's pay day, and preachers have to do that stuff you do on pay day too.

I make a quick call to Linda, to make sure she is up and at 'em and then the regular call to Dad before I go into the gym. Had a good hour workout. 30 minutes on the eliptical machine and then 30 more on the various nautilus weight machines. Two years ago I made a commitment to try to get in better physical shape. While I haven't lost much weight, I have been firming up more, and feel MUCH better to have that regular exercise. I won't get to go in early on Friday due to a church member scheduled to have surgery at 6:30. That happens sometimes, so I will have to try to hit the gym on my way home that day.

After the time at the gym and running my errands, it's off to St. Mary's hospital. Only one patient in one hospital to visit today, but this case is tough. I'll spend more time here today than the ususal hospital visit. The patient is having a procedure done and is awaiting the results of pathology reports from a biopsy done the previous day. This family is expecting bad news, and I need to stay a little longer than the normal visit. (The bad news did come later in the day)

On the way back to the church, a quick call to the association office to go over a planned event for April that I have been helping with. Also a stop by Stewarts on First Street for some hot dogs and diet Root Beer for lunch (health food!) I consume them in the car on my way back to Westmoreland. Two more phone calls to check on a couple of others who have been sick. (Cell phones sure are handy)

Back in the office, Sonia has a few messages for me, and there are a couple of emails to answer. She's working on the newsletter and I have to get her my article (this time I'm using something I wrote 8 years ago - "A Letter To My New Born Grandson") and I have to go over some other items with her before the newsletter is printed.

The church treasurer is there and needs to go over a few things with me. She is preparing for a finance committee meeting later that evening and want's to share some information with me.

A homebound church member calls the office (for the third time today) The first call was to ask Sonia why no one has called to check on her today. The second call was for Randy (our associate pastor), asking him for advice. This time the call is for me. I get the same call from the same person nearly every day. I listen, give some advice, and have prayer with her over the phone.

I close my office door and work for about 40 minutes, uninterrupted, on Sunday morning's message which is beginning to take shape. I already have Sunday evening's "Baptist Faith and Message" lesson done, but realize that since I am going up against the Super Bowl this Sunday evening, the crowd will be sparse. I guess we could have a Super Bowl Party and show the game on TV and preach at half time, but I just have never been able to bring myself to do that. I am interested in this particular Super Bowl matchup, but as usual, I will only get to see the second half after I get home from church. I can't tell you how long it has been since I have seen a complete Super Bowl game. Occupational hazard...

Randy needs to talk with me about the Sunday morning services, and about the upcoming Easter musical. Looks as though we're going to be doing a joint project with the choir from Altizer Baptist Church with one performance at WBC on Palm Sunday night, and another at Altizer on Easter Sunday night. That's great! It goes right along with the "Building Bridges" project that we are working on in our association.

I've got a few minutes now to get out the last letters containing the reports and photos of our January mission trip to the Philippines. We try to make sure everyone who has given financial support for the mission work gets an update with the final results. Also, now is a good time to send out a couple of birthday cards.

I get a call regarding a reference on one of our church members who is applying for a job and used my name as a reference. That reminds me - I am supposed to write letters of recommendation for two other members. One is due today - so I get on it right now. I'll need a little more information before I can write the other.

It's now 3:30. Sonia is gone for the day and Randy has Rainbow Kids Children's Choir practice. I'll be answering the phones for the rest of the afternoon, while I am going over and fine tuning tonight's message from my series on the Book of Romans.

During Rainbow Kids practice, I have opportunity to visit with three different parents, individually, for a few minutes. One has some family situations of some concern and we have prayer together for those needs. We're also looking for a Vacation Bible School Director and I am talking to one individual who is considering taking on that task, during this time. Finally I get a little break and go in and just enjoy listening to the kids sing for a few minutes. Randy does a great job with them!

Now is the time I can finish up on another task. Two more folks from Jay's church in New Orleans have sent the money to purchase plane tickets for the May mission trip to the Philippines. That brings our May team to a total of 8 members. I go online and purchase their tickets from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Manila to Dumaguete and back. Thankfully seats are still available and we are all on all of the same flights. This is a real blessing since it is a first time trip for all of them but Jay.

Randy and I will not be going home from work today. On Wednesday's we normally stay on through until church time. There really is not enough time, and with $3.15 per gallon for gas, it's just not worth it. One of our new members is the owner of Giovanni's and she has kindly given us a coupon for a free 16 inch pizza. We order the pizza. Randy goes to pick it up while I make a quick trip to the Post Office to drop off the rest of the mail that needs to go out today. On the way to the Post Office, I make a call back to the patient in the Hospital and get the bad news. The doctor had just left the room after confirming that the mass was malignant. He would be setting up a consultation for the patient at the Ohio State University Medical Center with specialists there.

Nothing we can do, but have prayer, which we do.

Quick dinner with Randy and his son (our pianist) Josh, and it's back to work. I've got just enough time to finish my power point slide presentation for tonight's Bible Study, and while answering a few more phone calls, finish up a letter to our church members which will go out as an insert in the newsletter tomorrow. Got it all done and make it into the sanctuary just as Randy is opening the service with a congregational song.

Service is over by 8:15. I spend some time saying good night to several members and then about 20 minutes talking over some important issues with two of my deacons. I make it back home about 9:15 PM when I see my wife for the first time today. We have a late snack together. I go through the mail, answer about a dozen emails, check out Baptist Press online, take my insulin shot, and hit the sack to watch the 11:00 news.

My cell phone rings one more time. It's Randy. He had left the evening service early to get to Altizer to take the Easter music to them for their choir practice. He called about 9:45 to let me know how that went, while he was on his way to CAMC Putnam General Hospital to visit his dad who was recovering from surgery. (associate pastors work long hours, too)

Now, none of this is written to complain. Far from it. This is what we do, and it is really a pretty typical day. Of course there were no weddings or funerals today. Those are also a regular part of our work. I try to keep a schedule, but emergencies often pop up. It's important to keep the attitude of "Semper Gumby" (always flexible) because we never know what the day is going to bring.

I love the vocation that God has called me to and I love the congregation where He has placed me for ministry. Sometimes it's tiring, but always fulfilling. Hope you have enjoyed the "ride along" today. All I ask is that the next time you hear someone say, "The preacher only works about three hours a week." maybe you can enlighten them a little.

(By the way - I am on call 24/7. The cell phone number is 304-412-0352. Don't hesitate to call if you need me, but if you call between 11:00 pm and 5:00 am - please make sure it is an emergency!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Our First Upward Games

In my previous post I wrote extensively about Westmoreland Baptist Church's Upward Basketball league's first games on Saturday. We had a great day. The kids had a wonderful time and the parents and fans seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience. I got scores of photos at the first games and thought I would share at least these three with you.
Upward games will take place at 10:00 and 11:00 am, each Saturday through March 15th. All members and friends are invited to come and enjoy the kids. We have a number of volunteers, but can always use more for working the concession window, setting up chairs, cleaning up afterward, and just visiting and mixing with the people who come to watch their children and grandchildren.
Upward is just another way we can impact the lives of children and their families with the love of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A New Ministry Begins at Westmoreland Baptist

Saturday, January 26th saw the inaugural events for the "Upward of Westmoreland Basketball and Cheerleading League". It wasn't the beginning of the Upward Sports ministry here - just the first games. What a great day it was! I have no doubt that the ministry is already a success.
Upward began in a Baptist Church in Spartanburg, SC over 20 years ago, and it has since spread across the country. I first became aware of Upward about 10 years ago when a United Methodist Church in Boyd County, KY sponsored a league. The league advertised that every child plays, every child learns, every child wins. Interesting stuff. A non competitive non threatening Christ centered sports ministry, directed toward younger children. The more I learned about Upward, the more interested in it I became.
First let me say that I am a great supporter of competitive youth sports activities. My kids played in youth sports leagues, and I was an active participant. I served as a coach and league officer in several baseball, basketball, and football programs in Ashland, KY - even after my own children had aged out of the programs. Most of us who have been involved in such programs will readily admit that there are upsides and downsides to each of them. The good generally outweighs the bad, in my opinion. I certainly don't advocate that competitive youth sports programs be disbanded. Absolutely not! But they are about competition and the emphasis is on winning. Upward is different. Upward is not meant to be in competition with other leagues. Upward is not "better" than other youth sports leagues. Upward is a Ministry of the local church.
My vision to do Upward sports here at Westmoreland began five years ago when I first arrived at the church and saw the beautiful gym facility. It was used frequently for dinners, parties, receptions, preschool play area, youth activities, AWANA, and practice site for some other community teams. But I thought it may not have been used to its maximum benefit for ministry. Upward would be a good fit, I thought. But with all the tasks a new pastor faces, and the challenges that lay before us, the Upward thoughts went on the back burner for a while. Along the way, I mentioned the concept to a few people, who showed some passing interest. Then came sanctuary remodeling, and my own two year health crisis, and the Upward concept continued to dwell in the background.
Last year, God began to open the doors to Upward Sports Ministry here at Westmoreland Baptist Church. Terry Perdue's son, Tim, who is pastor of First Baptist Church of Eddyville, KY shared what a success Upward had been at Eddyville. It rekindled the fire in my heart to do Upward here. Again, I began talking it up among some church leaders. Thamer Calhoun (one of our deacons) and his wife attended the funeral service of a friend in Findlay, OH. That service was in a church that did Upward Basketball. Thamer talked to some of the folks from the church and learned what they were doing in Upward, and he came home fired up. He walked into my office and asked if that was the sports ministry I had been talking about. When I acknowledged that it was, he said, "Preacher, we have got to do that here!"
In June, Thamer, Dino Dygert, and Jeff Lockhart attended a two day Upward Training session in Columbus, OH and the ball was rolling. These guys became the core group working with me to cast the vision of Upward in our church.Upward offers basketball, cheerleading, soccer and flag football. We felt led to offer Basketball (due to the availability of our gym facility) and spring Soccer (since most of the local soccer leagues are in the fall). To say we would have to operate on a shoestring budget is an understatement. This would be a faith ministry, and so far, the Lord has blessed us to be able to continue. It was decided that Dino would head up our Basketball and Cheerleading league and Jeff would direct the Soccer ministry. Immediately the core group began weekly meetings and recruiting other members of our congregation to fill key "commissioner" spots that Upward requires. Paul and Betty Clevenger agreed to serve as Prayer Commissioners. Dino's daughters, Ashley and Dina, volunteered to supervise the cheerleading ministry. Bob Moses agreed to recruit and schedule game officials, Thamer would find volunteers to man the concession window, and Randy Spurgeon would line up individuals to do the half time devotionals. It would be up to Dino and Jeff to recruit coaches for basketball and soccer.
Prayer is a key element in Upward sports ministries. Besides the regular prayer at practice and games, the training recommends that you begin a prayer ministry that would have one hundred people praying for one hundred days. I was somewhat doubtful that we would be able to recruit 100 prayer warriors, but thought that we might be able to get 50 or 60. Wrong! Paul and Betty signed up ten prayer captains, who in turn were each to recruit at least nine team members. Within a week we had 106 people who had volunteered to be involved in the Upward Prayer Ministry! The one hundred days of prayer began on December 9th, and, judging by the success of how everything came together for our first games yesterday, the prayer ministry is working well!
Although no one actually counted the people who attended, Jeff Lockhart and I estimated that between 150 and 200 fans (family and friends) came to watch the cheerleaders and players. The cheerleaders and players were introduced individually before each game, complete with loud music, smoke machine, and strobe lights. The kids loved it! You should have seen their faces. The gym was full of smiling parents, grandparents, and others who brought cameras and truly enjoyed watching the kids have a great time. The games were spirited and well played. Players were young and inexperienced. Their skill levels vary, but each team is selected to allow for a well balanced game. What the little guys may have lacked in skill, they made up for with effort and spirit.
Part of the weekly practice activity is a scripture memory verse, and each week the players and cheerleaders get a Bible lesson from their coach. The teams gathered at center court and held hands for the opening prayer, led by one of the referees. At halftime of each game, Joseph Spurgeon gave a brief devotional to the fans who were gathered in the gym. Jesus was lifted up, God was honored, the Gospel was shared with a couple of hundred people, and everyone had a great time. No booing. No technical fouls called. No behavior like that is allowed. Every child played. Every child learned. Every child won!
I believe that our league will grow. I believe that Soccer will also be a great success. Why? Because we are doing it as a ministry - to Magnify God - to Make Disciples - and to Minister to People. That's our focus at Westmoreland Baptist Church, and Upward fits it like a glove.
If you would like to know more about Upward, click on this link and explore their website. It's a wonderful ministry!

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Letter To My Newborn Grandson (written January 26, 2000)

There was a time when I would scoff at the bumper stickers which declared, "Let Me Tell You About My Grandchildren". "Those people need to get a life", I would say with a laugh. Well, that all changed for me eight years ago today on January 25, 2000. That was the day our first grandson discovered America. (he's the little guy in the old photo at left)

Linda and I have since been blessed with three more terrific grandsons. To say that our grandchildren are the light of our lives would be pretty accurate. We like this grandparent gig and it didn't take long to get into it at all.

Today is Quint's 8th birthday. Because he lives so far away we won't be able to be with him on his special day, but it does bring back many memories for us. In the wee hours of the morning after his birth, I sat down and wrote a letter to him. I knew it would be years before he could ever read it, but my heart was so full, I had to write my thoughts. "The Herald-Dispatch" printed the letter as a guest column and, from the many responses, it seemed to have touched a lot of hearts. Since today makes eight years since it's writing, I thought I would share it with you - "For What It's Worth".

A Letter To My Newborn Grandson
(Caudle Jerry Adkins V
was born January 25, 2000)

Dear Quint,
Happy birthday little fellow! You were born last night at 10:59PM. Your beautiful mother worked long and hard to bring you into this world and your daddy was right there with her the whole way. I cried when I saw how much they loved each other and how much they loved you (even though they didn't yet know who you were). You see, sadly, the laws of our country would have allowed you to have been destroyed before you were even born, but your Mom & Dad would never have considered that. She carried you inside her body for nine long months until you would be able to live on your own. She labored for 25 hours and gave up her own physical well being and comfort to give you life. Always love and respect them for that – but more so, do it because God's Word instructs you to do just that.

I never thought I could ever love any little boy as much as I did your daddy and his brother, Benji – but last night I found out that indeed I could. Your Mamaw and I fell in love with you at first sight. Not only were you beautiful to behold, but you also carried in your little person the combined heritage of all your Mommy and Daddy's combined families. Your represent our very best hopes and dreams.

You are an eternal creature, for in your little body dwells a never dying soul. One day – sometime down the road, God will begin to deal with your heart about loving and serving Him. I am praying today that when that day comes, you will meet God on His terms and ask His son, Jesus, to come into your heart. Your Mommy and Daddy will be talking to you plenty about Jesus. So will Mamaw and I – and your Great Grandparents will too! You listen closely and believe, and when the time comes, it will be very easy for you to trust God and allow Jesus to be your Savior and Lord.

Sleep well and gain lots of strength. You'll need it for what lies ahead of you. Who knows what the future holds for you? Tonight my imagination runs wild about you. What will you be like as you grow? What will you look like? How will your little voice sound when you say your first words, and what will those words be? With what types of talents and abilities has God blessed you? What great things might you accomplish for Him. Who will you marry? Will I be around to see you grow into adulthood and have a family of your own? I certainly pray that I do. You are so special. Among all the 6 billion people on earth there is no one else just like you. Not only does your whole family love you, but God loves you and Jesus died for you, and that makes you special.

This is an exciting time to be alive. My Papaw (the first Caudle) was born in the 19th century, in 1895 and he fought in World War I. He died in 1959. My Daddy (your great grandfather) was born in 1927 – the year Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs and Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic. He lived through the Great Depression, served in World War II, and as a member of the greatest generation, helped set the standard for all of us who followed. I was born in 1950 at the mid point of the 20th century, and have seen a lot of changes in this world and it's lifestyles. Your Daddy arrived in 1973 and now, 25 days into the new 21st century, here you are! At the dawn of this new millennium, your life begins.

Listen to your parents. Watch their lives. Learn from them and trust their Savior as your own. Live for Him and walk with Him. Follow Proverbs 3: 5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths." If you'll do that, you'll never, ever go wrong! Your Mamaw and I love you, little fellow – more than you can comprehend right now. I pray for God's richest blessings on you all the days of your life.

With All My Love,
Papaw Adkins

As a footnote: Quint did give his life to Jesus and was baptized by his father in New Orleans last Easter Sunday. Two of our four grandsons have already come to Christ, and I thank God that their parents are bringing them up in an environment where they can learn about God's Word, and be open to His Grace. We're praying that the two youngest will follow in that journey of faith when the time comes and the Holy Spirit begins to deal with their hearts.

By the way - does anyone know were I can get one of those bumper stickers?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Family Matters

I have seven first cousins on my mother's side of the family. Some live relatively close by and we see them from time to time. Three live in Texas, and we have not seen much of each other since my grandmother passed away in 1996. On the Adkins side of the family I only have three first cousins. My older cousin, Judy, lives nearby in Flatwoods, KY and our paths cross every now and then. We were together a lot as children, but have not had a lot of regular contact over the years.

My Dad's sister, Diane, moved away from Logan County, WV when I was just a little guy (maybe about 5 years old) and worked as a flight attendant on an airline in Texas. It was there she met and married Gene Presley, a rising young attorney for Gulf Oil, who lived in Houston. Later, Gene's career took him to Atlanta as a corporate attorney for Coca Cola. Our visits with "Sis" and Gene were infrequent, and they were not up this way very often. As a result, our contacts with our only other two cousins on the Adkins side of the family (David and Robert Presley) were few and far between.

The last time I saw David and Robert was when we visited their home in Atlanta in 1965. Their mother made a few trips up this way, and Dad went down to see her several times during her illness but we never managed to get both families together again. That's just the way it is when families are geographically challenged. My Aunt passed away the day after my 40th birthday in 1990, and Gene died about three years ago. Carl, my youngest brother, who lives in Atlanta was able to visit the funeral home the night of Gene's visitation and was able to visit briefly with David and Robert.

It has always seemed sad to me that we were not able to grow up together. Robert and David have always been good to stay in touch with Mom and Dad with Christmas cards, etc. but I have never been able to meet their daughters, nor have they ever seen our sons. It's kind of sad. A couple of years ago, I happened across websites for both of my cousins, and have been able to check in from time to time to see what's up with them.

Robert is a cinematographer and has done some really big time movies, and from the looks of David's website - he's done a little bit of everything! I thought I'd share those sites with any of you who might be interested. Just click and check it out:

Kind of interesting to learn more about some close relatives that I barely know.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Blast From The Past

Last night I was working on a couple of sermon outlines on my laptop, while Linda was using the main computer for her online college class. Benji called and mentioned that Fox Sports Network was replaying "an old Reds game". I tuned in to see why a baseball game was being replayed on a cold night in January, and was surprised to see that it was the final game of the 1990 National League Championship Series between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Now, Linda is not usually interested in televised baseball games that do not feature her sons or grandsons - not to mention a game that was played over 17 years ago! So, rather than interrupt the award winning offering of the Lifetime ("Television for Women") Network, I took my laptop and went up to the bedroom to let Jack Buck and Tim McCarver, of CBS Sports, provide some background noise and take me down memory lane while I worked on my upcoming series of lessons from Romans. I'm afraid I ended up doing a lot more reminiscing than exposition...

The details of that game and series (although I watched them at the time) had faded from my memory over the years. How the memories came rushing back! That series was played just eight days before my 40th birthday. My kids were in high school then. Life was very different than it is now. The opening round of the First Gulf War (Desert Storm) was still three months away. Bill Clinton was the Governor of Arkansas, and no one I knew had ever heard of Osama Bin Laden.

I heard names and watched players who had long ago retreated into the deep recesses of my memory. I had been a Cincinnati Reds fan from the age of ten. The glory days of the "Big Red Machine" of the 70's were long gone, and the Pete Rose gambling scandal had come and gone, and the Reds had basically settled into being "also rans" in the National League Western Division. Now, this 1990 edition of the Redlegs, under new manager, Lou Piniella, had won their division and faced the Pittsburgh Pirates (95-67) - led by Bobby Bonilla and a skinny young guy named Barry Bonds! The 2-1 win was nailed down for the Reds as Glenn Bragg made a leaping catch in right field, robbing Carmelo Martinez of a two run homer in the ninth inning. It was a great game.

The Reds won the playoffs 4 games to 2 over a really excellent Pittsburgh team, managed by Jim Leyland. Both teams were strong defensively and with potent offenses. Eric Davis roamed center field for the Reds. The late Joe Oliver did the catching duties. Paul O'Neill played right field before he donned the pin stripes and made the big money in the Big Apple. Ron Oester was the "old veteran" on the team and Barry Larkin was the hot shot young shortstop. Chris Sabo was the "Pete Rose throwback" who played third base. The big advantage the Reds had, however, was in a trio of relief pitchers known as "The Nasty Boys" - Randy Meyers, Norm Charlton, and Rob Dibble. These guys combined that season for 44 saves and 351 strikeouts. They were fearless, mean, and intimidating to anyone who dared dig in against them.

Charlton (who also started some games later in the season) was the winning pitcher in relief in game 6, in a game played before more than 56,000 fans at Riverfront Stadium. Meyers and Dibble shared the honor of series Most Valuable Player for the NLCS. The Nasty Boys went on to pitch 8 2/3 innings in the World Series, allowing no runs on six hits. Dibble got the win in game 2 and Meyers picked up the save in game 4 as the Reds swept the Oakland A's in four games.

That was the last great Reds team. 1990 was their last trip to the World Series, but every season, hope springs anew.

It was an unexpected and pleasant surprise to find the replay of that game. It brought back lots and lots of memories. It also served to remind me that there are only 26 days left until Spring Training begins, again!

Monday, January 21, 2008

"Dealing With The Jelly Of Life" by Joe McKeever

This morning I came across an article written by Joe McKeever back in June, 2005. Joe is the Director of Missions in the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, and a pastor to my son, Jay, who serves First Baptist Church of Westwego. This article was written about two months before Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and changed the lives of everyone there forever. It has a simple, but powerful message to all of us. My friend and DOM, Doug Virgin often says, "The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!" Joe's article elaborates on that same thought.

I love Joe's writing (and he's a great cartoonist too!) This article was just too good not to share with you all today. I hope it will mean something to you. Have a blessed day.

Joe McKeever"Your words have stood men on their feet." Job 4:4
June 23, 2005

Dealing With The Jelly Of Life

John Avant is new at our North American Mission Board, a vice-president with broad areas of responsibility, who for years has been pastoring the New Hope Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Georgia. In his book, "The Passion Promise," Brother John tells a story you need to hear.
During the Desert Storm war, Colonel William Post was charged with receiving the massive amounts of supplies for the ground forces. This included tons of food that arrived daily.
One day, the Pentagon sent Colonel Post a message inquiring about forty cases of grape jelly that were missing. Post dispatched an aide to find the missing jelly. A day or two later, he reported back that the jelly was nowhere to be found. Post sent that information on to the Pentagon and assumed that was the end of it. Wrong.

The higher ups in Washington kept badgering Post about the missing jelly. They would not be able to close the books on that month without locating those cases of jelly. It had to be found.
At this point, Col. Post sent this message to the Pentagon: "Sirs: you must decide. I can dispatch the entire army to find your missing jelly, or I can kick Saddam out of Kuwait. But not both." He's still waiting on a reply.

One of the legislators whispered to Avant what had happened. He said, "Bear in mind that you're speaking to a bunch of bureaucrats. They're still wondering where that grape jelly is!" He laughed and said, "As soon as you leave, someone will make a motion that we find that grape jelly!"

John Avant writes, "I have a jar of grape jelly sitting on my desk. It's great stuff, but I'll never eat it. It's there to remind me that there are countless things in this world that look good to me and may even be good. But they're just grape jelly! They are not worthy to be my passion or my master."

It's about priorities. What will be first and foremost in my life.
A Greek philosopher in olden times said, "A fox knows many things. But a hedgehog knows just one big thing." Those are the two primary types of doers and geniuses in the world. A fox--the master of many things--would be a Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson. The hedgehog with his "one big thing" would be an Albert Einstein or Billy Graham.

Now, if you are a Franklin or Jefferson, you might be able to do many things at once. But for most of us, we have to choose.
As the Apostle Paul put it, "This one thing I do." Read Philippians 3:7-14 for his full testimony.
A literature professor once remarked that Samuel Taylor Coleridge possessed the gifts of a Shakespeare. But when he died, all his writings combined filled one slim volume, in contrast to the massive works of the Bard of Avon. The reason Coleridge produced so few works, said the teacher, was "he was never able to say 'This one thing I do.'"
It's about choosing. Selecting the best and leaving behind everything else.

One of the most intriguing assignments anyone ever received was given by God to Jeremiah. "If you choose the precious and leave the worthless, you shall be my spokesman." (Jeremiah 15:19) Choosing the valuable and leaving everything else--that is the challenge of everyone who would try to make a difference in this world.

There's a lot to do with your time. You can watch television. Get yourself a satellite dish or subscribe to all the cable choices available and you will find something worth watching every hour of every day. That is, if watching television is what life is about for you.

There's a lot to do with your time. The library has multiplied thousands of novels and biographies to fill your every waking hour. Book clubs and book stores compete for your attention and your money with great books demanding to be read. If reading books is what it's all about for you.

There are stores to be shopped and catalogs to be perused. There are websites to be surfed and people to be googled. Crossword puzzles to be filled in and e-mail attachments to be forwarded. Houses to be vacuumed and dishes to be washed and laundry to be done. Beds made. Cars serviced. Work done. All of it good.

Mary and Martha were so excited. Jesus was coming to visit. Well, here, I'll let Eugene Peterson tell you the story.
"Martha welcomed Jesus and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them.
'Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.'

The Master said, 'Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it--it's the main course, and won't be taken from her.'" (Luke 10, The Message)
Lord, help us to choose the precious and leave the worthless, to choose the eternal and leave the temporary, to stay focused on the most important things in life, even if it means letting some good things slide.

And, Father--please help me to recognize jelly when I see it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Random Thoughts On Saturday Morning

Today is the primary election in South Carolina. Interesting in the fact that in the past 20 years, no one has won the Republican nomination for President, without winning the South Carolina primary. Latest polling data shows a virtual dead heat between John McCain and Mike Huckabee. McCain is strong in the coastal "low country" where there are many active and retired military families. Huckabee, a former SBC pastor and Governor of Arkansas, is polling very strong among Christian evangelicals in the Palmetto State.

Fred Thompson, who sat out Iowa and New Hampshire, has hit the campaign trail hard in South Carolina. He is gaining some ground, but, along with Mitt Romney, is still trailing McCain and Huckabee. One interesting event that happened several months ago in South Carolina (that has gone virtually unreported) is the endorsement of Romney (a Mormon) by Bob Jones III, Chancellor of the ultra fundamentalist Bob Jones University.

As the old saying goes, "Politics make strange bedfellows".


We got back from the Philippines just in time for the NFC and AFC championship games. The trash talking San Diego Chargers take on the unbeaten New England Patriots. That will be a good old good 'un. I've got to pull for the Patriots. After all, they have several former Marshall players on their roster - plus it would be a tremendous accomplishment to go to the Super Bowl undefeated.

There will be a Manning quarterbacking in the NFC Championship Game, but it won't be Peyton! His little brother, Eli, will lead the New York Giants to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. I kind of like both of these teams. Both teams go way back in the NFL with storied histories. The Ghost of Vince Lombardi looms over the "Frozen Tundra" where greats like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Ray Nitschke, and Reggie White played out their Hall of Fame careers. And who can forget the likes of Sam Huff, Y.A. Tittle, Lawrence Taylor, and Frank Gifford of Giant fame? Should be another great game. I can't help but pull for Packers QB, Brett Favre. Hard to imagine that this good old boy from the "Redneck Riviera" of the Mississippi Gulf Coast has become the "King of the Cold Weather". Kind of weird, huh? Many pundits had figured that last year would be Brett's last, but he has come back for one more record breaking season.

I'm hoping to see a New England vs. Green Bay Super Bowl. Who are your favorites?


While we were gone, I learned that Marshall University's Defensive Coordinator, Steve Dunlap, left to join the staff of the hated West Virginia Mountaineers. Normally I would be incensed to lose someone to WVU. However, considering that Marshall's defense allowed 34 points per game last year, maybe this is not such a bad blow to our program after all. Hopefully the Mountaineer's defense will be have similar results next season.


Huntington, WV Mayor, David Felinton recently underwent "lap band" surgery at Kings Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, KY. The Herald-Dispatch reports that Felinton has already lost nearly 30 pounds and has begun walking to work for more exercise and a more vigorous lifestyle. I'm no big fan of Mayor Felinton, but I applaud his efforts to get in better shape. Many of us know first hand how much easier it is to put the weight on than it is to take it off. The Mayor opted for the lap band procedure rather than the more invasive and more dangerous gastric bypass option. One question that has arisen in Huntington is, why did he opt to have the surgery at Kings Daughters in Ashland, rather than the two excellent hospitals in Huntington? Is that procedure offered at St. Mary's or Cabell Huntington? I don't know, but if it is, that makes for an interesting question.


The two local grandsons spent the night with us again last night. They usually do on Fridays. We'll take Will to his Upward Basketball game at First Baptist Church of Russell today at 11:00 AM. Will just celebrated his 7th birthday a couple of weeks ago. He plays for the "Ducks", a team of 1st and 2nd graders in Russell's Upward program. Being out of the country for the last two weeks, I have missed his first two games. They tell me he scored 18 points in the first game and 16 points last week. Could we have another little "Pistol Pete" (or in his case "Will the Thrill") on our hands? Please excuse the momentary delusions of a proud grandfather. Later in the day Benji wants to take the boys down to a local auto dealership, where local heroes, former Cy Young Award Winner, Brandon Webb; Major League Umpires Charlie Reliford and Greg Gibson; and the Dallas Cowboys' Arliss Beach will be greeting friends and signing autographs. We'll have cake and ice cream later in the day for Will's mom, Leigh Anne, who will be celebrating (?) her 32nd birthday today.


Speaking of grandsons and birthdays, next week marks the 8th birthday of our first grandson, Quint, who lives in New Orleans. His actual name is Caudle Jerry Adkins V, but we have always called him Quint (since he is a "fifth"). I'll never forget how proud we were to welcome that little guy into the world on January 25, 2000! We are proud of the young man he is becoming but we selfishly miss being able to be near him and his little brother. Our family has sure been through some real changes in these past eight years. One constant, however, is that God has not changed at all. He is Faithful, a wonderful comfort, and greatly to be praised.


Bundle up and have a great weekend. Get out to church Sunday. There is no better way to start off the week.

A Story You Must Read!

Tomorrow is "Sanctity of Human Life Sunday" across America. In the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of January 1973, abortion was legalized in America. Pro lifers everywhere will be calling attention to the millions of unborn Americans whose lives have been snuffed out in what should be the safest place on earth - their mother's womb.

I thought it would be nice to share a powerful "first person" story with you from someone who nearly missed being the victim of a terminated pregnancy. Ronnie Hill is a Baptist evangelist from Fort Worth, Texas. He was the product of the rape of his 17 year old mother. She was advised to have an abortion but decided she could not stop the beating heart of the life she was carrying.

This story is powerful enough that I am including it as a stuffer in our church bulletin tomrrow. For those of you who will not be at the church, or did not see it in SBC Life, I am including the link here for you to read it yourself. An added bonus to our students at WBC and around the churches of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists is that Ronnie Hill (the author and subject of the article) will be the key speaker at the State Youth Evangelism Conference set for next Friday and Saturday at Cross Lanes Baptist Church.

Check out the article by clicking on the following link, and feel free to pass it on to everyone you know.

Only God knows the full impact of what has been lost in the 35 years that Roe v. Wade has allowed wholesale infanticide in America.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sharing the Gospel

All of us are aware of the mandate given us by our Lord to share the Gospel with others. Each of us are called to be "evangelists". Now don't let that term scare you. True evangelism has nothing to do with funny hairstyles, private jets, and powder blue $800 suits. Evangelism simply refers to the action of telling others the Good News of Jesus Christ -

  • good news of Grace and forgiveness

  • good news of eternal life

  • good news of an opportunity for a personal - eternal - relationship with God

Jesus reminds us in Matthew 28: 18-20 (The Great Commission) that EVERYONE needs to hear that Good News. The command to "Go" really involves two concepts. There is the intentional "going" which involves a conscious effort on our part to go out of our way to bring the Good News to others. But there is also the implication that the Good News is to be shared with others "as we are going" about our daily activities. This is a very important concept. Whereas we may not all be able to "go" to distant places on structured mission trips, we all are "going into all the world" in our daily activities. Opportunities abound to share the good news with others.

One of my favorite narratives in the New Testament Book of Acts involves Paul the Apostle during a time he was in the great city of Athens, Greece. Paul was in the midst of his Second Missionary Journey (an intentional effort to affirm churches born of his first mission trip and to win others to Christ as well). His travels were temporarily suspended as he waited in Athens to be joined by two of his co workers, Silas and Timothy, whom he had left behind in a place called Berea. While Paul waited in Athens (Acts chapter 17) he basically did two things. First he found a local Jewish house of worship (the synagogue) and shared the Gospel with the worshippers there. This was standard operating procedure for Paul wherever he went for it was in the synagogues that he would always find folks (Jews and Gentile proselytes) who were seeking God, and who understood the concept of a coming Messiah. Paul always took that road first - using the "Old Testament" scriptures and his own testimony to reveal Jesus to them as the true Messiah. This would seem to be a natural place for an evangelist go and share. The hearts of those in the synagogues should already be fertile ground in which the Gospel could be sown.

The second thing that Dr. Luke tells us that Paul did was go into the marketplace and, "reasoned ... in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there." Very simply, Paul just went about his daily business, loafed around the marketplace, made contact with the local folks, and shared the good news with anyone and everyone who would listen. Think about it. If Paul came to your town today, where would he go? Most likely you might find him visiting with the "spit and whittle" gang sitting on the benches outside the courthouse. Or maybe you would find him at a table in McDonalds, next to the regulars having their coffee and sharing stories in the morning "liars club" that meets there every AM. Perhaps you'd see him at the local flea market, or in the mall. In other words, Paul would just be going about daily activities, and using the opportunity to make contact with the others who were there - offering small talk - and always bringing it back around to Jesus.

He had a motive. The Bible says "... his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols." (vs. 16) Paul recognized the lostness that surrounded him. He didn't just see the crowds. He saw the crowds as individuals. People who were looking for something in life but just weren't quite sure what. People who desperately needed a personal relationship with the Savior that he knew! Oh, that God would make us aware, today, of the lostness of the people around us!

Paul's stories of the resurrected Christ caught people's attention. In fact, his testimony regarding his relationship with Jesus ended up getting him invited to a place called the Areopagus (or Mars Hill) a special spot in town where ideas and philosophies were debated on a regular basis. Look at what he was asked when he arrived at the Aeropagus - "May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? "For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean." For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. (vs. 19-21). Doesn't that sound like folks we know today? People are always interested in telling or hearing "some new thing". They were then... they are now. So Paul accommodated the request.

It's not likely that Paul went into "preachy mode" with a special "holy" tone to his voice. There was no prelude. No choir prepared the congregation for receiving the Word. Paul simply used something very familiar to those in his audience. The people of Athens were into gods (with a small "g"). They were a religious and superstitious people who had invented gods for every manifestation of nature and every aspect of their lives. There were temples and altars everywhere dedicated to this god or that goddess. The ruins of many of those temples still stand in Athens today on an adjacent hill known as the Acropolis. Paul used the inscription on one of those altars as his starting point - "Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; "for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you..." (vs. 22-23)

Paul shared with them how a god whom they ignorantly worshipped could be known.

"This God made the world and everything in it. He is Lord of heaven and
earth, and he doesn’t live in temples built by human hands. He doesn’t need help
from anyone. He gives life, breath, and everything else to all people. From one
person God made all nations who live on earth, and he decided when and where
every nation would be.
God has done all this, so that we will look for
him and reach out and find him. He isn’t far from any of us, and he gives us
the power to live, to move, and to be who we are. "We are his children," just as
some of your poets have said.
Since we are God’s children, we must not think
that he is like an idol made out of gold or silver or stone. He isn’t like
anything that humans have thought up and made. In the past, God forgave
all this because people did not know what they were doing. But now he says that
everyone everywhere must turn to him. He has set a day when he will judge
the world’s people with fairness. And he has chosen the man Jesus to do the
judging for him. God has given proof of this to all of us by raising Jesus from
(vs. 24-31 CEV)

Paul used his knowledge of the Greek's culture and their own literature to bring the message of Jesus. That is the task before us today. We must identify the culture and meet people there before we can effectively share the Good News with them. The message must be relevant to others before they will receive it. For example, witnessing to skateboarders will definitely require a different approach than that used with a group of "Red Hat Ladies". The country club crowd needs to hear the same Gospel that the local Bikers group needs, but most certainly the approach would not be the same. The Body of Christ is made up of people from all cultures and with varying backgrounds and gifts. Some among us can reach people groups that others can't, but we can ALL reach someone if we will meet them where they are.

Well, what about the results? We learn a final lesson from this passage regarding sharing the Gospel. When we meet people where they are, relate to them, and share the message, one of three things will happen. Notice the three reactions that Paul got. "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, "We will hear you again on this matter." So Paul departed from among them. However, some men joined him and believed..." (vs 32-34). These are the very same three reactions to the Gospel message that we can expect today.

  • Some will laugh it off and think we're nuts

  • Some will be convicted enough to want to know more

  • Some will believe

The beauty of the whole thing is that God does not require us to produce a certain result. He only asks us to share the Good News with others. He will take care of the results. That's His job. If we do ours - He'll do His. Kind of takes the pressure off us doesn't it? Knowing this, our only responsibility is to "go and tell".

Who will you tell about Jesus today?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Back In The Good Old USA

Monday, January 14th, 2:45 PM (Pacific Time)
Los Angeles International Airport

It sure is good to be back on US soil again! We're still a long way from home (way out here on the "Left Coast"), but as I always say when we arrive back in LA - "I can get home from here!"
We have completed three legs of our Journey and changed planes and gone through security three times so far - Dumaguete to Manila - Manila to Hong Kong - Hong Kong to LA - and we have two more flights to go before we get back to the cold, snowy Tri-State.

Our flight from LA to Charlotte doesn't leave until 10:45 tonight (Pacific Time) so we have eight hours to wait here in Los Angeles - but that's OK. We are back in the most wonderful country on earth. Most of us do not think much about how blessed we are to live here in America, even with all of it's perceived problems, until we visit other countries. It really makes one thankful for who we are and what we have here. We are truly a nation blessed by Almighty God.

Our flights all went well. This is the only leg of the trip with a long layover. We had three hours between flights in Manila, but, as usual, it took EVERY minute of it to make the transfer from the Domestic Airport to the International Airport and get checked in for our flight to Hong Kong. It was in the final boarding stage when we arrived, breathlessly, at the gate. One glitch I happened to catch in Manila was an error in our checked baggage information. Thamer was the first guy to the check in window in Manila and he told the agent that we were going to Huntington, WV. For some reason, the guy must not have looked at the final coupon in our paper tickets, and I noticed on the claim checks that it listed the final destination as Charlotte! It was too late to do anything about it by the time I discovered the error, but fortunately we have to claim our baggage in Los Angeles, so rather than just put them through the automatic recheck area for forward bound passengers, we just took them on to the US Airways ticket counter and had them re-checked for Huntington. The man at the desk there confirmed my fears that as tagged, our bags would have stopped their journey in Charlotte instead of making it back to Tri State Airport with us. The long suffering Kim Blatt would have had to sort out the problem - but fortunately we caught it before that happened.

As I said earlier, the flights were all fine, but I experienced something I have never experienced in 37 years of air travel. I got sick on the plane. I wouldn't call it "air sickness" because it didn't seem to have anything to do with motion sickness. It seemed to have more to do with either the Whopper I had in Hong Kong, or a ham and cheese sandwich I ate somewhere over the Pacific. Mercifully I will spare you the details, but it is a good thing I was only three rows from one of the toilets. Had I not been able to get to the rest room, suffice it to say that it would have been a "three bagger".

Although tired, our team members are still relishing the wonderful success given our efforts by our Lord. We are deeply thankful to those who have helped us in any way. The two 24 hour prayer chains at Westmoreland Baptist and Locust Grove Baptist Church (and all other "prayer warriors" who were not on the 24 hour list) had a great impact on the outcome of this mission. I hope that we will have the same high level of support for the activities in May.

I want to thank Randall Robertson, Thamer Calhoun, and Darrell Clark for all that they have done to contribute to this effort. It is a blessing to be part of a team who cares about what we are trying to do. Above all, we would like to thank our families for their wonderful support and understanding in this ministry. Two weeks away from home is difficult for us, but we know there are family members who miss us and have to pick up some of our responsibilities while we're gone.

Finally to my "Sweet Baboo", thanks for being so supportive. I missed you very much and I'll see you tomorrow!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Final Report From Dumaguete

Pictured above are several images from today. Top left: Morning worship service at New Life Church. Top right: New Life Church Building. Bottom left: Church officials presented "certificates of appreciation" to each of our team members. Bottom right: Juliet Dales shows her tithing envelope. (Church members use the same envelope each week to record their offerings and the envelope is distributed to each of them on the next Sunday).
Sunday Afternoon, January 13, 2008
Dumaguete City, Philippines

This will most likely be my last report from the Philippines on this trip.

Everything is winding down now. This morning we went to the worship service at New Life Church. I brought the invocation, Darrell sang, Randall preached from Daniel 6, and Thamer did the offertory prayer. After lunch we went back to the church again at 2:30 for their “Bon Voyage” celebration. They had refreshments, people sang and shared testimonies, and played games. It was 6:00 PM when we left New Life Church and headed back to our rooms. All that remains to do now is to finish packing and get some sleep before leaving for the airport at 6:00 AM on Monday. Our flight is scheduled to leave for Manila at 8:15 AM on Monday – that’s 7:15 Sunday night back home (EST). Please pray for safe, uneventful travel home.

It has been an excellent mission trip. 187 adults have received Jesus as their Savior. A number of people have recommitted their lives to Christ, or have answered the call to Christian service. A few hundred children have also heard the Gospel and many of them seem to have responded in a positive manner. We are down to our last box of Bibles, which means that nearly 400 Cebuano Bibles have been distributed to new believers, and others. We have also given away 400 Bible coloring books and crayons for children.

We said our goodbyes to most of our friends tonight, although several of them will probably come to the airport in the morning to see us off. These are truly precious people. It’s not quite as sad for me leaving this time as I will probably be back again in May for the Mission activities, Seminar, and Evangelistic Crusade. We are all looking forward to getting back home to family and church, but we all dread the LONG plane rides and five different flights that still separate us from our loved ones.

The time changes are the toughest things we have to deal with. Coming this way, we lose a day. Going back, we get in to LA the same day we leave Manila. In fact, if the flights go as scheduled, we will leave Manila at 12:10 PM on Monday, and will arrive in Los Angeles at 12:30 PM on THE SAME DAY!

20 minutes…

I don’t know if I want to be on that plane, or just stand by and watch that bad boy take off!!!

Hopefully we will arrive at Tri-State Airport on Tuesday around 9:00 AM. It will be good to be back home again.Check Spelling

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Joseph and Juvy

One of the most gratifying things I have seen in my eight years of partnership with Pastor Doming Valdez is the spiritual growth of young Joseph Zerna. Joseph is the Pastor of the Mayaposi Baptist Church - a mission outreach of Doming's New Life Church.

When I first became aware of Joseph in February, 2000, he was a new convert. He and his pretty wife, Juvy had a toddler boy and a baby girl. They were some of the earliest members of the New Life Church. They had almost nothing as far as material things go, but were rich in love and grace. They have been mentored by Pastor and Mrs. Valdez to be faithful - and they are!

Joseph does not have a lot of formal education, but he is diligent in the study of the scriptures, and the Valdez' have discipled he and Juvy quite well. He makes his meager living by driving an "Easy Ride" on a regular route from Dumaguete to Amlan and back, picking up passengers for fare along the way. He doesn't own the little truck, but drives it for the owner of the business. It is not likely that Joseph earns more than six or seven dollars a week. He and Juvy, along with John Carlo and Rhea Mae live in a very humble little house in San Antonio, in the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the southern tip of the island of Cebu. The house might be 12x12 at the most. Cooking is done outdoors, and that's where the "comfort room" is located as well.

We have been blessed to be able to hire Joseph and his Easy Ride for our ground transportation each year for the past several mission trips. It is a good situation for everyone involved. The charter rate allow's his employer to make his profit and pay Joseph, and it allows Joseph to be with us and take part in the ministry work. Over the years we have seen great growth in Joseph in the Lord.

His command of the English language is very weak, therefore it is a little more difficult to converse with him. He seems to understand English a little better than he speaks it, but Juvy (who speaks more English helps him a lot). In these past few years we have seen Joseph go from new Christian, to Preacher Boy, to Mission Pastor. I have been thrilled to watch him in action on these last two visits. Although very softspoken and shy in our presence, when we see him working with his people at Mayaposi and in the hinterlands, he moves with confidence and leadership, and speaks in a strong and confident manner. I have no doubt in my mind that God's annointing is on Brother Joseph, and he has great things in store for him.

Juvy is a tremendous help to Joseph in his ministry in Mayaposi. Juvy works with the children in a teaching ministry and helps lead music in the services. She has also grown tremendously in her spiritual life and has taken on many new responsibilities. The trip from their home to Mayaposi takes nearly two hours one way. In the past, Joseph had to rent the Easy Ride himself to be able to make the trips to Mayaposi. This was very expensive for him and created a great burden financially. Last January we were blessed to be able to purchase a new Motorbike for Joseph's ministry transportation needs. It is really something to see Joseph, Juvy and the two kids traveling up the coast on that motorbike!

It is unlikely that Joseph will ever be able to attend the Baptist Seminary in Davao, Mindinao, but it would be wonderful if he could. That is why this Pastor/Church Leader Seminar, "Practical Helps for Effective Ministry" that we are doing here in May is so important to preachers like Joseph.

When you pray, please pray for Joseph and Juvy Zerna as they seek to serve the Lord, in this remote place, under difficult circumstances, with very limited finances.

Saturday Evening, January 12, 2008

Today was the final day of our week long evangelistic activities. As has been the case everywhere we have gone this week, our work in barangay Bagacay was fruitful. Seven adults made professions of faith in Jesus Christ, bringing the total for adult salvation decisions to 187. Besides the adults many children have also heard the Gospel message and responded to it. Only God knows how many of these are genuine conversion experiences. We will know when we all get to Heaven. Obviously the Lord has gone before us all this week, preparing hearts to hear His Word. I am so thankful for your prayers on our behalf, and for our Filipino hosts, whom we are here to help. Their assistance in translation has been of utmost importance.

Everywhere we have been this week, the new believers have been scheduled for regular Bible Studies under the leadership of Pastor and Mrs. Valdez and Pastor and Mrs. Zerna. We remained in Bagacay over an hour today so they could begin a Bible Study with each of the new believers. Each new Christian has been given a Cebuano dialect Bible, and they consider them a prized possession.

Tonight, after the last evangelism rally at Bagacay, we treated our Filipino team members to a special dinner at Santa Monica Beach Resort (where we formerly stayed on previous mission trips here). This is not a place where they would normally be able to go for dinner, so they were truly happy to be at this place, and we ALL ate well!

Pictured above is a poster on a telephone pole at Bagacay announcing the date and time of our scheduled service; our Filipino team members (sorry for the blurred quality; Randall Robertson, singing at Bagacay; and Rowena Gantalao (the young lady who's father was stabbed to death a few months ago). Many of you have prayed for Rowena (or "Weng" as she is known). She is doing well but her family is still having a difficult time after this tragedy.
The Filipino team members in the photo are Pastor Doming and wife, Villa and daughter Noemi Joy Valdez; Pastor Joseph and Wife, Juvy, Zerna and children, John Carlo and Rhea Mae; Dario and Juliet Dales and daughter, Darlene Joie; Giovannie Valdez; and Rowena Gantalao. These folks have been with us during most of the activities of the past week.
The friends of Beacon Ministries have helped to make it possible for us to come to this place and share the Gospel message. Thanks to your prayerful and financial support, at least 182 new people have been added to the Kingdom of God and we will enjoy their company in Heaven for eternity! Thank you so much for your help.
Our activities tomorrow (our last full day here) will be centered around the New Life Church and it's surrounding community. I will hope to update tomorrow night if possible.

Saturday Noon Report

We have just had lunch and are headed out to Bagacay Barangay for an afternoon outdoor worship service and evangelism rally. This morning has mostly been a time to rest up from the last two difficult days activities. We met with our hosts about 9:00 and we made a visit to the city market. Interesting place...

The rain has stopped and it is an absolutely beautiful day. I am attaching a couple of photos to verify that.

Hopefully will report in after our afternoon and evening activities.

By the way, Thamer just taught the cook in the hotel restaurant how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. He is an absolute cultural ambassador!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Update

It's 10:00 PM on Friday night in Dumaguete City. It is difficult to believe that we are down to our last two days of work before returning home on Monday.

Today Randall, Thamer and I went back on the long ride to Mayaposi for services there with young Pastor Joseph Zerna and his people. Darrell stayed behind here at the hotel. The little "easy ride" truck was not nearly as crowded as yesterday, bet we still had six of us in the back! The trip to Mayaposi is a gruelling two and a half hours, each way. Gruelling due to the fact that it is a rough twisting, winding road through the steep mountains, and the fact that the two little benches in the back of the "easy ride" are designed in proportion to little Filipino backsides (not big American ones!)

When we arrived at Mayaposi, they began setting up for the crusade at the village basketball court. Pastor Joseph wanted to get the service outside, where more neighbors would be more likely to come -rather than the church building. It looked like it might rain all the way there, but when Randall finished his first song, the rains came - and did they ever! Everyone scrambled to grab chairs, Bibles, and other stuff, and climbed the steep hill to the chrch building. We set up shop in there and, although soaked to the bone.

I brought a message on "Total Forgiveness", using the example of Joseph in the Old Testament. Suffice it to say that it was a message that needs to be heard by these folks as well as well as the rest of us.

Twenty two people responded to the invitation today, bringing our total number of first time decisions for Christ to 180!

The circumstances of the past two days have been difficult, but God has blessed us with fruit for our labors.

Tomorrow (Saturday) we will begin our last day of crusade activities. Sunday will be involved with the services at New Life Church, and Monday we head for the airport at 6:00 AM. Right now, however, I can hardly hold my eyes open. I have got to close for now and get to bed.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

28 New Believers in Mabinay

Thursday, January 10, 2008
Dumaguete City, The Philippines

Today 28 people became followers of Jesus Christ in a place called Mambaha, Mabinay.

It takes approximately 2 hours to drive to Mabinay (pronounced ma-BEE-nigh). You take the heavily traveled “National Highway” (a road roughly the equivalent of 16th Street Road in Huntington) north out of Dumaguete about 35-40 miles up the coast just past Bais City. At that point you turn left onto a secondary road, which winds its way 20 more miles up into the steep mountains. Mabinay is an area of what is called the “hinterlands” and the people are poor and uneducated – but very welcoming and gracious.

The National Highway carries heavy traffic north and south along the coast. There are many Jeepneys, Easy Rides, Pedicabs, and motorbikes, but the huge sugar cane trucks and busses that roar down the highway are kings of the road. Bais City is an important junction where traffic bound for the Negros Occidental capital city of Bacolod begin the arduous and dangerous journey across the mountains of Mabinay. All along the lowlands and in the highlands, it is harvest time for the sugar cane crop. The fields are full of workers chopping and bundling sugar cane, loading the bundles on large trucks and railroad cars. Recently chopped fields are set afire to clear the land for the next planting, and smoke hangs in a pall all over the area. It’s rough on the nostrils as well as the eyes.

We were packed like sardines in the back of Joseph’s Easy Ride for the long trip. Nine of us in the back, along with Joseph and Pastor Valdez who rode in the front seat made a total of 11 folks who were packed in there “up close and personal”. After arriving in Mayaposi, we also added the new bride and groom who Randall married on Sunday, and the bride’s mother and brother. The two ladies jammed in the back of the truck with us, and the two guys rode on the roof, for a total of 15 riders.

We stopped about 11:30 for lunch at a roadside restaurant (pictured above) just before we reached Mambaha. I had taken some bread and Slim Jim’s (supplied by Pat Gunnell) for a packed lunch, but I also enjoyed a fresh banana as well as a sweet, sticky rice snack wrapped tightly in banana leaves. From there we proceeded to the Mambaha Barangay Hall and public Basketball Court. We found no one there except some highway workers who were doing a digging project and manually hauling large rocks to a pile at the end of the basketball court. Confused, we backtracked to the Mayaposi Church where neighbors told us that most of the folks were gone to a neighboring barangay’s Sr. Santo Nino festival, and that most of them would not be back in the area until after 1:00. We went back to Mambaha, and set up our sound equipment.

The Mabaha/Mayaposi area is where young Joseph Zerna serves as mission pastor. He and his wife, Juvy, are doing a wonderful work there. The outdoor service began at 2:00 PM. Darrell sang a couple of songs, Randall brought a message, and I shared my testimony and a Gospel invitation and 28 adults responded to the call to repent and follow Christ! This brings us to a total number of first time decisions for Christ of 158. Praise God for another wonderful harvest. Joseph and Juvy will be very busy in working to disciple these new believers. These pastors are industrious and dead serious about the work they are doing here for the Lord. Please pray for them as they attempt to teach these new believers the important teaching of God’s Word.

Tomorrow’s schedule calls for us to leave for Mayaposi, Mabinay at noon (a late start for sure) for a service there at the church scheduled for 2:00 PM. We will need your prayers as each member of our team is still smarting and sore from today’s trip. We do not relish going though that ride again tomorrow !

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

More Good News

Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Dumaguete City, Philippines

Today was a mixed bag. Randall and I started at 4:45 this morning a fast paced two mile walk along the sea wall on Rizal Boulevard. There was a slight drizzle that turned into a real downpour after we returned to the hotel. After breakfast, the entire team left at 8:00 AM for Zamboanguita (henceforth referred to as “Zambo”) and Dauin, along the southern tip of Negros Island. In all my trips here in the past I have never experienced what we did today at Zambo.

There is a HUGE outdoor marketplace that takes place in Zambo every Wednesday. It stretches along the National Highway for a good distance and also from the highway to the coast. We estimate the crowd there to have been over 2,000 people, and if you looked up “mass confusion” in the dictionary, a picture of the Zambo market would have been there! One could buy anything from fish to furniture. Bolo machete’ type knives, hammers, clothing, pigs, chickens, cows and carabaos were being sold in this amazing place. Apo Island was visible from the shore, and people were cooking all manner of food to feed the crowd that filled the area. The noise level was unbelievable. Many of the vendors had bull horns or karaoke type machines calling out to the crowd. Music played so loudly you could barely hear yourself think.

Into this din, Pastor Valdez set up a preaching point. It was pretty much an exercise in futility. We could barely be heard, and basically, we were overwhelmed by the crowd. The only good that could come out of that experience was the fact that Thamer broke out the Cebuano Bibles and gave several to random individuals. We could have given away our entire stock of 400 in minutes!

Eventually we packed up and left Zambo for the town of Dauin, and the home of Miguelito Zerna (brother of Pastor Joseph Zerna). Things went much better there. We played music and drew a crowd, and shared the message of the Gospel. NINETEEN souls were added to the Kingdom of God today in Dauin. Much time was spent on scripture distribution and gathering of the usual follow up information. A weekly Bible Study was scheduled to begin on January 26th at the home of one of the ladies who had accepted Christ.

Upon our return from Dauin, the other three had lunch and a nap. I missed mine today, as I had to go back to Sibulan to get the Mayor’s approval of our rental of the Sibulan (outdoor) Auditorium (pictured above) for our evangelistic crusade in May. When I returned to Bethel Guest House, I signed the contract for the May 26-27 Pastor/Church Leader Seminar meeting rooms here at the hotel, and paid the required 50% deposit.

There are so many interesting, individual stories we could share, but time will not permit. Tomorrow we are headed for the remote mountains of Mabinay, where we understand that an outdoor service has been planned. We attended the mid week prayer service at the New Life Church tonight, and we are certainly ready for bed. Total number of recorded conversions for three days now stands at 130. We are thankful to be part of the exciting things that God is doing here in the Philippines.
Thank you for your continued prayers on our behalf. Until the next update -

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Another Fruitful Day!

A Amountain range runs from southwest to northeast on Negros Island, separating the two sides of the island into two separate provinces (Oriental on the east side - where we are- and Occidental on the western side of the mountains. The separation even affects the language. Here in Oriental, the natives speak Cebuano dialect while the residents of Occidental speak a dialect called Illongo. The mountain range is anchored on both ends by two large volcanoes - Mt. Canlaon in the north and Mt. Talinas here in the south.

Mt. Talinas looms over the southern end of Negros Island and dominates the skyline. It is visible from all over this end of the island and it's summit is often covered in clouds. Our team left early this morning (7:00 AM) for a village near the summit of Mt. Talinas.

Near the top of the mountain there is a huge power plant that provides all of the electrical power for the islands of Negros, Siquijor, Cebu, and Panay. The electricity is generated by geothermal energy from the volcano, itself. The road up the mountain is steep and rough - only a dirt road in some places. Guard rails are spotty and the view of the drop over the edge of the road is dizzying. The amazing thing is the sheer size of the power plant when one finally reaches the area near the summit. It is huge and is spread in several units over a large area. The smell of sulphur is very strong as gasses from beneath the earth are released in the generating activities.

Our destination was Phanhug, a remote barangay of the municipality of Valencia. The village is literally spread about the side of the mountain and when there, one feels as though he can almost touch the clouds, which hang just overhead. The Barangay Captian (an office equivilent to that of village mayor) is a very pleasant 33 year old lady who has just been elected to that positition. She had responded positively to the request of Pastor Valdez to have an open air meeting there, and we were welcomed with open arms by the Captain (who is in the orange shirt in the photo), and the Chief of Police (in the blue shirt and hat).

The temperature up there was probably in the low 70's - a good 15 degrees lower than here on the coast. The Filipino members of our team from New Life Church, wore sweaters or long sleeved shirts and complained about how cold it was. We four Americans were quite comfortable!

The service was held in the usual place with the typical beginning. We set up the karaoke machine like sound system on the stage of the barangay hall building which overlooks the basketball court. Most every village we have ever visited has a basketball court at the barangay headquarters, and it is the gathering place for public events. The loud music began to play and people come out of their homes to see what is going on. Darrell began to sing and the crowd of curious neighbors began to grow. Eventually, Pastor Valdez began to speak, in Cebuano, telling them (I think) who we are and what we were doing there. He encourages them to call for their neighbors and the crowd continues to swell as people continue to file into the basketball court area.

Each team member "works the crowd" greeting people with a smile, introducing ourselves and asking their names. Foreigners are plentiful in Dumaguete City, but we are quite a curiosity to most of the folks in the rural areas. This morning was Darrell's turn to bring the message. I also shared my testimony with those in attendance. The village school children and their five teachers joined the gathering as school was dismissed for the occasion. While the adults listened to the message, Pastor Joseph Zerna and wife, Juvy, shared the Gospel with many small children, and Juliet Dales shared the Gospel with the older children in a separate group. Each of the small children received a Bible story coloring book and crayons, and the older children were given a "comic book" type of book depicting the story of David and Goliath.

We keep no records about professions of faith among children, but when the invitation was given to turn from sin and accept Christ as Savior, SIXTY adults responded and prayed to receive Jesus! What a wonderful harvest of souls!

The next hour was spent with the Filipino members of our team counseling respondents, collecting decision cards for followup and Bible Study, and with each new believer receiving a Bible in the Cebuano dialect. Mrs. Valdez instructs them about the basics of how to use and study their Bibles. The prayer of Pastor Valdez is that a new church congregation might be planted in that remote area. A regular weekly preaching point has now been established, and we very likely witnessed the beginnings of a new church this morning.

In the afternoon, Randall and Darrell went to the area of Upper Batinguel for a Bible Study at the home of Mrs. Rose Villenueva. Randall did the Bible Study there and all of those who were in attendance were believers and members of the New Life Church. At the same time Mrs. Valdez, Joseph, Juvy, Thamer, and I traveled to Sibulan to attempt to reserve a large covered outdoor arena in the heart of that city, on the heavily traveled highway, for our Evangelistic Crusade when I return with the New Orleans team in May. If you think bureaucracy is bad back home, you should see the red tape in dealing with local government officials here! We were told by the administration office that we must submit a written request to the Mayor. We made two trips to the Mayor's office and finally got to leave the letter with his secretary on the second trip. He was not in, but we have been given an appointment with him for 3:00 PM tomorrow. We also visited a company that rents chairs (and other stuff) and were able to reserve three hundred chairs for each night of the May crusade.

Thank you for your prayers on our behalf. God has blessed us with a wonderfully fruitful day, and Thamer is feeling much better and was with us in our activities today, doing what he does best - mixing with the children and adults, and handing out copies of the Word of God.

Tomorrow's plans call for a morning trip to Dauin (where we were "shipwrecked" three years ago) and Zamboanguita on the southern end of the island. Please pray that the Mayor of Sibulan will make the 3:00 PM appointment and approve our request to use the Pavilion.