Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some Thoughts On Prayer

Someone has said, "Prayer is to the soul, what oxygen is to the body."

Do you agree?

We are great believers in the Great Commission. We recognize the importance of taking the Good News to every person and people group on the planet. The inspiration of the scriptures is a bedrock tenant of our faith. Orthodoxy in our theology is admirable. Ministry to others is vital to the work of the New Testament Church. But with all of our emphasis on orthodoxy, convention goals, local church ministries, and the Great Commission, I have to believe that many of us are guilty of the "Great Omission". I make reference to our often anemic prayer lives.

The Holy Spirit has convicted me of my own weakness in this vital Christian discipline.

I've read any number of books on the importance of prayer, the how of prayer, the why of prayer, and the power of prayer. I have practiced prayer since the "Now I lay me down to sleep" days of my youth. I have prayed publicly and privately. I have prayed in "King James English" and common conversational style. I have prayed standing, kneeling, and prostrate. Hands raised, head bowed, hands uplifted, hands folded, eyes open, eyes closed. I've prayed in times of joy, sorrow, pain, happiness, sadness, sickness, financial need and health. I've studied Jesus' instructions on prayer, and tried to follow suit. But I must confess that through all that, I still often feel that there is very little power in my prayer life.

I am convicted of this. I yearn for a closer walk with the Savior, a deeper communication with Him. I want to know the sweetness of His presence - all the time - not just sometimes. I want to exercise my privilege of prayer without emptiness, boredom, faithlessness, or weariness. I want every time of prayer to be intimate time with my Master. I want to confess my sin, praise His Wonderful name, give Him thanks for His provision, make intercession for others, and bring Him my deepest felt needs. I want to feel Grace pour down like water. I want to be broken before His Throne.

Over the past couple of years I have been challenged by fellow West Virginia Pastor Dan Biser, regarding my personal prayer life. Dan's dedication to this discipline, and the Holy Spirit's prompting me through God's Word has ignited a fire in me to want more. New Orleans' Joe McKeever's insights on prayer have also served to motivate me. The personal conviction has grown into a greater conviction for the importance of Prayer, not only in my life, but also in the lives of the church members I am called to shepherd.

A ceramic plaque hung on the living room wall in my boyhood home for many years. It's simple message read, "Prayer Changes Things". For most of my life I took that message to mean that our prayers in some way help God to see things our way. I have since learned that actually, prayer helps US see things from God's perspective. Prayer changes things all right. Prayer changes us!

In Acts chapter four we see persecution begin to come upon the church in Jerusalem. Peter and John have been threatened with jail and bodily harm for no other offense than their testimony of Christ. When released by the Sanhedrin, the Apostles sought out the other members of the fellowship. I find it interesting that in the face of mounting persecution they did not hire an attorney to represent them. They didn't carry signs and parade through the streets in protest. They didn't organize the Christian Defense Fund, nor did they write letters and opinion pieces demanding their rights.

They prayed.

And what a prayer it was. It came from the heart. They lifted their voices to God in one accord. There was unity and purpose in their prayer. They acknowledged their plight, and their inability to help themselves. They acknowledged the sovereignty and power of God. They "prayed the Word of God", quoting scripture back to the Father who spoke it. They prayed for boldness, for healing and for miracles - for Christ's sake and in the name of Jesus. They were simply broken before Him.

There is a simple, yet profound statement made in verse 31 which gives the outcome and results of their prayer:

"And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness."

Isn't that what we need and what we should want? A fresh encounter with God and a filling of His Spirit and a holy boldness in our witness. " When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled was shaken."

In my life, in your life, in our churches, isn't that exactly what we need to experience?

Let us pray until we see "a whole lot of shakin' goin' on"!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Let The People Vote!

The West Virginia Legislative session is quickly coming to a close, and two Delegates in the House are stonewalling a grass roots movement to define marriage in the Mountain State as a union between one man and one woman.

Legislation has been introduced to allow a proposed constitutional amendment to come before the voters of West Virginia which would prohibit so called "same sex marriage". (For details, click on http://www.wv4marriage.com/). While he says he does not support same sex marriage, Governor Joe Manchin has refused to lend his support to the proposed marriage amendment. The Governor and some others in the state legislature say that West Virginia already has a "Defense of Marriage Act" that defines marriage in the Mountain State.

This is true. However, other states with similar DOMA's have had their respective laws overturned by liberal activist judges. In fact, the federal DOMA is presently being tested in the court systems, and it is entirely possible that the DOMA could be declared "unconstitutional".

The only action that could insure this would not happen in West Virginia would be if the voters of the Mountain State passed an amendment to the state constitution, defining marriage once and for all. Being part of the state constitution would render it impossible to be deemed unconstitutional. Unfortunately the voters of West Virginia do not have the advantage that the citizens of California have when it comes to this type of referendum. In California, as I'm sure you are aware, a million and a half voters filed a petition to allow for a constitutional amendment to be put before the voters. Proposition 8, thought by many to have no chance of ratification, passed easily when put to the voters. Recent polls show that West Virginians would vote by nearly 90% to affirm the traditional view of marriage, if they were given the opportunity.

However, it looks as though that is not going to happen.

You see, West Virginia laws do not allow for a petition drive to call for a constitutional amendment. The action would have to start in the House of Delegates, and then be placed on the ballot for the voters to make that choice. Voters in 30 other states (including neighboring Kentucky and Ohio) have already passed similar constitutional amendments. The citizens of West Virginia are supportive of traditional marriage, and many are calling for the opportunity to have their voices heard. There are Delegates in the House (both Republican and Democrat) who support the measure, but two powerful committee chairwomen have blocked the bill from going to the full House floor for a vote. These two Delegates, from Kanawha and Monongalia Counties, are preventing the citizens of West Virginia from being able to voice their opinions in the voting booth.

As of March 20th more than 1,000 phone calls have been placed to Delegates Barbara Flesichauer and Carrie Webster, but the powerful Judiciary and Constitutional Committee chairwomen have continued to stonewall all attempts to allow the 1.8 million voters in West Virginia to have their say in the matter. Yesterday, two town meetings were held - one in Charleston, and the other in Morgantown, to give citizens a chance to voice their opinions to their elected representatives. The citizens showed up, the press was there, but Delegates Flesichauer and Webster didn't bother to come.

Delegate Webster, was quoted in the Charleston Gazette as saying the calls coming into her office were attempts at "manipulation". Since when is an elected representative above listening to the concerns of their constituents? When did contacting your representative become an attempt to manipulate? I always thought that was the very basis of our republican form of government.

This writer thinks it unconscionable that elected representatives of the people turn a deaf ear to their constituents on such an important matter. They are not asking the legislature to take this action - but simply allow the people to have their say. This is not a "religious" issue! This is a cultural matter. Traditional marriage between one man and one woman is a bedrock of western civilization. Judicial activists in Massachusetts and Connecticut have stepped in and have ruled same sex marriage legal in those states. The same thing happened in California, until the people rose up and said "NO!" by passing Proposition 8 and amending their state constitution. Today, the legislature of Vermont became the first in the United States to legislatively allow same sex marriage. One lawsuit filed against West Virginia's Defense of Marriage Act, could result in the end of traditional marriage in the Mountain State as well, plus cost the citizens millions in court costs defending our existing laws.

President Lincoln famously described our government as being "of the people, by the people and for the people". So it should be. Let the people decide. Let the people vote!

I encourage the voters in the districts represented by these two women to let their voices be heard! If they won't heed your phone calls and letters, then speak up in the press!

Letters to the editors of the Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail, and The Dominion Post in Morgantown may be submitted by email to the following addresses:


Send the letter today! Express your support for the right of West Virginia's voters to vote on the definition of marriage. And above all, pray that Almighty God will break the hard hearts of the two individuals who are refusing to allow the people to speak!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Don't Pay The Ransom - I've Escaped!

If I have any readers left, please accept my apologies for my week long absence from this site. I'll try to steer clear of excuses, but let you know where in the world I have been.

The last few weeks have been an absolute blurr in our family. I am always two weeks behind when we return from our Philippine trips, but this time, the "catch up" curve and usual jet lag were complicated by coming back to some serious health issues involving my mother and father. I'm sure that both of my brothers join me in feeling much like the man in a hamster wheel. It's been frustrating, but thank God we are still moving!

There were sermons to prepare (two new series for Sunday morning's and evenings), Upward Basketball and Cheerleading Celebration to pull off, sick folks to visit, calls to return, and a number of tasks at home to deal with after two weeks away. However, all of that had to be put into perspective and worked around one of the toughest family crises we have ever faced.

While still in the Philippines, I got word that Dad had been admitted to St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington, WV. The previous six weeks had seen Dad drastically loose the use of his legs. In a matter of weeks he had gone from getting around OK (although in quite a bit of pain) to walking with a cane, then a walker, and finally in a wheel chair. The regression was shocking to us. Dad had been scheduled to preach at Westmoreland Baptist on the first Sunday of my absence, and he had to be brought into the church in a wheel chair and preached in both Sunday services while seated in a chair.

MRI's had been done but Dad was delayed in being able to get into see Dr. Goetz, his primary care physician. When Bruce took him to see Dr. Goetz on March 27th, the good Doctor immediately admitted Dad into St. Mary's, and called in a neurosurgeon, Dr. Osborne. The diagnosis was spinal stenosis, and Dad was told that he would need surgery immediately to clean out five vertebrae, and then would face three to four weeks of Physical and Occupational Therapy. This in itself was worrisome to us, but a new concern arose, involving the care of our mother.

You see, Mom is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and, while still functional, she requires constant care and supervision. Dad had been her primary caregiver and now he would be unable to look after her. With our brother, Carl, living in Atlanta, and Linda, Sandi, Bruce and I all working, this would prove to be a real challenge, and one that needed immediate attention.

Carl came home to help for a few days leading up to Dad's surgery, but his responsibilities as Director of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta would not allow him to stay an extended period of time. His schedule required him to drive back home on the day of Dad's surgery (Tuesday), so he was there early that morning, walked with Dad as far as he could go, and then headed back for Atlanta, checking back with us regularly by cell phone while on the road. He flew back to Huntington over the weekend before having to return on Sunday. He had the ACC Basketball Tournament coming up and had to be back on the job.

My plane arrived at Tri State Airport at 9:00 AM that morning - about 30 minutes after Dad was taken to Pre Op. I made my way to St. Mary's and spent the rest of the day there with Bruce and Mom, awaiting word on the outcome of Dad's surgery.

I cannot say enough about how Bruce stepped up and took care of Mom and Dad while Carl and I were unable to be here. Bruce drives for Rush Trucking and makes a run to Morristown, TN and back each day. He normally leaves the Toyota plant in Buffalo, WV around midnight and gets back around noon or 1:00 PM the next day. It is a tough schedule. Bruce took a week of vacation to look after Mom until I could get back and share the responsibilities.

Dad's surgery was successful, and after a few days he was transferred to Health South Rehabilitation Hospital to learn to walk again. That Saturday he went through his evaluation at Health South and Sunday was a day of rest. He began his physical therapy on Monday but by Tuesday evening he was feeling really rough. It turns out that he had no bowel activity after his surgery. He had been released from one hospital and sent to another with that dangerous situation unresolved. He was unable to do his therapy Wednesday through Friday as his condition deteriorated. They treated him with various laxatives, etc, but still nothing was happening. His stomach became distended and nausea grew severe. By Friday evening he was mostly non responsive and on Saturday morning he was returned to St. Mary's.

His intestines were "frozen", and according to the doctor, this was not unusual in an older patient following major surgery. An NG tube was placed in Dad's stomach (through his nose) and for three days he was hallucinatory and totally out of it. His potassium and electrolytes were all out of whack and they were treating him with everything he needed. Bruce and I were frightened and wondered if we were going to lose him. All the while, Mom was confused and couldn't remember where Dad was and what was going on. Her simple routine was disrupted and she was out of her familiar surroundings. It has been heartbreaking to watch and listen to her, and we have simply tried to comfort her and assure her that Dad would be home soon.

Well, finally the intestines began to work and Dad turned the corner. Eventually he was able to take some clear liquids. His first bite of Jello was so good he said it "Tasted like T Bone steak!".

Finally, after 10 days back at St. Mary's Dad was transferred back to Health South yesterday afternoon. His spirits are on the rise, and we are cautiously optimistic that he will now be able to begin his rehab this morning.

There are still plenty of challenges - especially with Mom. She stays the night with us Sunday through Wednesday, and with Bruce Thursday through Saturday (which is his "week end"). We have been able to find a couple of ladies who have been willing to sit with her in her home during the day (about three days per week) and Bruce and I share her day care on the other days. We are not sure where we go from here, and what we will do down the road when Dad finally does come home, and they will need in home care. But we do know that our God knows exactly what awaits us, and we know that He is in control.

As tough as things have been - we know that it could be much worse - and we are thankful for the many blessings we have. We are also thankful for the prayers of so many of our friends, and for the Savior who has promised his abiding presence with us.

If I am a little slow on posting to the blog, just understand that I haven't been kidnapped. Just a little preoccupied!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Special Evening

Monday evening was a special evening of fun, food and fellowship at Westmoreland Baptist Church as we celebrated the second annual Upward Award Celebration, closing out the 2008-09 Basketball Season.

Sixty-Four Players and Cheerleaders gathered in our sanctuary to celebrate the end of the season, and receive their awards for participating in this ministry. The children were individually introduced in the spotlight in the darkened church, with loud music playing over the PA system. Coaches and other volunteers were recognized by WBC Upward Basketball Commissioner, Jim Bailey. Over 250 people were present, and enjoyed the work and Bible lesson from Christian magician and ventriloquist Keith Metheney. After the Award Ceremony, the kids and adults were treated to pizza, chips and soft drinks in our gymnasium.

Tonight's activities completed 100 days of prayer, in which 106 members of Westmoreland Baptist Church made a covenant to pray for this ministry. We believe the prayers were instrumental in a wonderful season for everyone involved. There were no injuries, no bad incidents, one of our cheerleaders accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and was baptized this past Sunday, and another new family has committed to worship at Westmoreland Baptist.

I can't say enough about the wonderful volunteers who provided and served the meal, coached the teams and cheer squads, set up the gym, officiated, kept the clock, gave half time devotionals, sold concessions, helped with registration and evaluations, prayed, and cleaned up after each game. With 106 people praying for 100 days, one would have expected to see god's blessing.

Upward Basketball and Cheerleading grew wonderfully over the past two seasons. A number of dedicated Christian volunteers are necessary to pull this off. We will soon begin meetings to begin planning for the 2009-10 season. After a 40% growth in the number of participants this year, we expect another great increase this coming year as well. Our hope is that God will use Upward Sports Ministry to lead many children and their families to faith in Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mission Trip Slide Show

Joey Spurgeon has prepared a brief slide show showing some scenes from our recent mission trip to the Philippines. God blessed us tremendously and we had a good time in the process.

Please click on the link below and enjoy!


By the way - I am not dead in three of the photos, even though it appears so. I was only exhausted!

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's A Family Thing

This weekend I had opportunity to spend some time with both of my younger brothers. The three of us are very different in many ways.

We were each born five years apart. I discovered America in 1950, Bruce came along in 1955, and Carl arrived in 1960. Each of us have two children. My sons were born in the 70's. Bruce's two sons were born in the 80's and Carl's twin daughters were born in the 90's. My older son is a pastor and the younger is a middle school teacher and coach. Bruce's sons are respectively a musician and a carpenter. Carl's twins are in high school.
Our lives have taken different career paths. Bruce is a truck driver, Carl is in stadium management, I serve in ministry as a pastor. Bruce is politically liberal. I am conservative. Carl is basically apolitical, but works for a commission that requires him to deal with all types of state and city politicians. Carl lives in Georgia, Bruce in West Virginia, and I reside in Kentucky. Our interests vary. Our personalities differ. We spend our (limited) spare time in different ways. You'll find Bruce laboring over his grill on weekends in the back yard. I'll write at every opportunity and get in a round of golf on rare occasions. Carl picks up his guitar and morphs into his alter ego, Dr. Strat.

With all our differences, there is one thing that unites us.


We are family, and it was a family crisis that brought us together this past week. Our Dad, who will be 82 in two months has always been like the Energizer Bunny. He just kept going and going and going - until a couple of months ago. Severe pain and weakness in his legs began to slow Dad down. Over a period of about six weeks we watched him go do depending on a cane to get around. Soon it was a walker, and then a wheel chair. MRI indicated that the problem was in his lower spine. An injection stopped the pain and brought Dad hope for a quick recovery - but the injection only masked the pain. The problem persisted and our unstoppable Dad - stopped.

Tomorrow will mark three weeks of hospitalization for Dad. First there was surgery at St. Mary's Medical Center to clean out the problem in the spinal canal in five of his vertebrae. Friday he was transferred to Health South Rehabilitation Hospital where he faces another three to four weeks of physical and occupational therapy to hopefully regain the use of his legs. The matter is complicated because our Mother suffers from Alzheimer's Disease and Dad is her primary caregiver. Obviously things have changed.

I was out of the country when Dad was hospitalized. Bruce took hold of the situation and was a tremendous help in getting Dad to his doctor's appointment and the hospital, and taking a week of his vacation time to care for Mom until we could all get together to make other arrangements. This set of circumstances is what brought us together this weekend.

In over thirty five years of ministry, I have witnessed families dealing with similar situations in light of the illness or death of their parents. Some have dealt positively with difficult circumstances, yet I have seen other families fight and fracture during times of crisis. I am so thankful that, with all our differences, Bruce, Carl and I are united in our resolve to care for Mom and Dad and to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal. There was a unity of spirit among us as we discussed possibilities and various scenarios.

Each of us have known that one day we would probably have to face some type of crises as our parents aged. This past week has been a wake up call for the three of us brothers. We are facing situations that many other families face each day. We're not looking forward to the uncertainty of the future, but I'm glad that we are Family, and that God's Grace is sufficient for this need as well as any other.

One thing is certain. Mom and Dad brought us up. We're not going to let them down!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shock and Disbelief

It was a cold morning in February four years ago when I first met Fred and Cindy Winters.

We were in Nashville for the winter meeting of the SBC Executive Committee. Fred and I were invited guests as newly elected Presidents of our respective State Conventions - Illinois and West Virginia. LifeWay Christian Resources sponsored a breakfast for the State Convention Presidents and their wives. Linda was not able to make the trip, so, like several of the other guys, I was there "stag". I was seated at the table with Fred and Cindy and with Steve Deighton (from the Kansas-Nebraska Convention) and his lovely wife. We were all "rookie" presidents and we all struck up a friendship that morning. Our hosts asked us to introduce ourselves and tell a little something about ourselves and our states and local churches, so we each took our turn.

I will never forget how Fred introduced his pretty red haired wife to the group. "Whatever you do, don't call her the first lady." he grinned. "A woman in our church calls her that, and she hates it!" Well, those of you who know me well, know that I can't pass up one like that. From that day on, whenever I saw Cindy or Fred I always inquired as to how the "first lady" was doing. We had a nice conversation that morning and I did a little good natured ribbing when I found out that Cindy was a big Cardinal fan. She was aghast that I could root for the Cincinnati Reds. At the convention in Greensboro she gave me a baseball card featuring Cardinal's slugger Albert Pujols and his Christian testimony. I still have that card.

I was in the midst of a course of chemotherapy at the time, and I shared my situation with the folks at the table. Before we left breakfast that morning, Fred said, "Let us pray with you", and those at our table and a neighboring table gathered around me and prayed for my recovery from what had been identified as incurable cancer. I will never forget the blessing that day of those brothers and their wives interceding to God on my behalf. Fred was a great guy and it was always a joy to be in his presence. I last saw him in Indianapolis this past summer. He gave me that grin, a firm handshake and the usual, "I see you're still kicking!" remark.

This afternoon I heard the news that earlier this morning, some lunatic walked down the aisle of Fred's First Baptist Church of Maryville, IL and fired four shots - killing my friend in front of his wife, two daughters, and 150 members of his congregation.

Shock and disbelief were the first emotions. How can things like this happen in the House of God? Well, it is symptomatic of the sin sick culture in which we live. We hear of these things happening more and more, and one wonders where it will end. News reports indicate that no one in the church seemed to know the gunman. A member of the church staff told reporters that no one had any idea of the motives of the killer. When his weapon misfired after the fourth shot, he began stabbing himself with a knife and wounded two church members who helped wrestle him to the floor.

We could go into a long rant about the evils of our society. I don't have it in me tonight to do that. All I can think of is the grief that Cindy and the girls must be going through tonight and for the deep sense of loss to the congregation of Maryville First Baptist Church. Fred is with the Lord. We can only pray for God's comfort for his family and his church family. We can pray that his life and ministry will have made a lasting impact in that suburban St. Louis community. We should also pray for the depraved individual whose actions have made Cindy a widow.

There are a number of unanswered questions about this terrible incident. Many of them may never be answered. Only God knows.

In the meantime, I will pray for Fred's family and cherish the memory of a friend and colleague who was a blessing to me during our relatively short friendship. I love you, brother, and will see you again soon.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Making A Difference?

You may have heard the story of the man who encountered a young boy while taking a walk along the seashore. The tide had brought in a huge number of starfish. Wave after wave deposited scores of the curiously shaped creatures on the beach as each wave crashed ashore and then receded. The starfish would die left high and dry upon the shore.

The man watched with interest as the young boy ran frantically from place to place on the beach, picking up individual starfish and heaving them back into the sea with all his might. This activity continued unabated as the boy threw the creatures back into the sea, saving them from certain death, while each wave brought more and more to the shore. The task was overwhelming, seemingly hopeless, yet the boy continued his mission with all his might.

Finally the man asked the boy, “What are you doing son?”

“I’m saving these starfish from death, sir”, the boy replied breathlessly.

“But it is a losing battle”, the man countered. “They are coming ashore faster than you can rescue them! The task is too great. Do you really think what you are doing is making a difference?”

The boy paused for a moment and looked at the starfish he held in his hand. “It makes a difference to THIS ONE!” he said, as he flung it back into the ocean.

Pretty powerful message…

We will be headed home later today after two long weeks of travel and mission work here in the Philippines. The four members of our team have taken time from their personal lives, jobs, and families to come to this island, half a world away from their comfortable homes. Each member has spent months raising the funds necessary to purchase plane tickets, pay for rooms, food and ground transportation while here.


Certainly not for the adventure nor for the novelty of the experience, and certainly not for a vacation. Each of us have done this before. It is simply a small effort on our part to be involved in the Great Commission work of God’s Church. It is an opportunity for us to be involved in the “uttermost part of the earth” portion of the mission. Each of us have had our eyes opened anew to the tremendous task that lies before the church. Each of us will be better “home missionaries” as a result of our experiences here.

Lots of money, time and effort have gone into this project. We shared the Gospel with hundreds of people, given away many Bibles and Gospel literature. As a result of the last two weeks work, fifty-seven precious people have come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

It begs the question, “What are 57 in light of the billions on earth who are perishing without Christ? Is that really making a difference?”

The answer is, of course, it makes a difference to these 57 individuals. An eternal difference!

Jesus underscores the importance of “one” in His teaching recorded in Luke 15, when He taught in parables about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. We thank God for 57 reasons for the Angels to rejoice these past few days. All of these new believers now have eternal life. All of them now have abundant life. All of them now have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Some have been delivered from dangerous lost lifestyles. Many have come from a religion of empty ritual and mystery into a personal relationship with their creator.

The mission is not over. Far from it. This particular effort is coming to a close, but the great task still lies before us. Our team will be leaving the Philippines today, but we will still be encountering people all the way home. Each of them have one common need. Each of them need Jesus.

The six and one half billion people on planet earth have that same eternal need. The beggars on the streets of Dumaguete City serve as a reminder to me of the truth that the mission of Christianity is simply the act of one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. As the Church, we have that treasure to share.

Thank you for helping us in this short term mission work.

Thank you for giving to your church to support vocational missionaries at home and around the globe.

Thank you for sharing the Gospel with those who need to hear the good news and for being personally involved in missions.

May we never grow weary in the work. May we never ease up. May we former beggars look for opportunities all around us to tell the other beggars where they can find bread.

It can make a difference. It can change the world.

One life at a time.

Sunday Mission Report - Final Day

Dumaguete City, Republic of the Philippines
Sunday Night, March 1, 2009
9:45 PM

The planned activities for our Philippine Mission trip have finally come to an end.

This morning we had a very emotional morning worship service at New Life Christian Church. Rick Gunnell played and sang “A Friend Never Says Goodbye”. I brought a message from Acts chapter 20, which tells of Paul’s last words with the Ephesian elders as he made his way back to Jerusalem. Feeling much like the apostle, when he said that they would see his face no more, I shared the same concerns with the Filipinos that Paul shared with the Ephesians.

Like I said, it was emotional.

Our team has been quite active since we have been here, and we owe a lot to Joey Spurgeon and Rick Gunnell for sharing such a large portion of the work load here. Old “Lolo’s” (grandfathers) like Thamer and I just do not have the energy these young guys have. I thank God that He put this team together for this particular time.

The Revival services were wonderful, starting on Wednesday evening and culminating with the church’s 9th Anniversary Service Celebration on Saturday night. Attendance on Wednesday night was 32 and it had grown to 135 by Saturday. Several decisions were made for Christ in the revival, joining those who responded to the Gospel in house to house evangelism efforts during the week. Total number of recorded conversions for the mission effort was 57, for which we praise God.

Immediately following the morning worship service, we were asked by Brother Tata (a newly baptized believer at the church) if we would visit with his cousin, Nestor, who is a cancer patient at Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital. If we thought the conditions at Silliman University Medical Center were poor, they were deplorable at the Provincial Hospital. It looks nice on the outside, but the conditions inside the hospital might be described as squalid. Patients were housed six to a room, and the first floor hallway of the main building was lined with patients in their beds. Nestor is suffering from lung cancer, and I could scarcely turn down the request from Tata to go pray with him. We were obliged to do that, but our eyes were rudely opened to the pitiful people and the bad conditions of the hospital. There are so many needs here, it is just overwhelming!

To me, this afternoon was one of the highlights of the entire trip. At 3:00 we met at the church for separate Bible Studies for the men, ladies, youth and children. I had the privilege to speak to 21 men on the subject, “Men As Agents Of Revival”. We had a great Bible study with Judge Joseph Elmaco serving as the interpreter. The Judge did a wonderful job of translating my teaching into the Cebuano dialect for those who did not speak English. After the “lesson” was over, Pastor Valdez asked the men if they had any doctrinal questions that I could answer. Talk about pressure! I had no idea what they might come up with, but it really wasn’t too bad. Most of the questions seemed to center around “Pentecostal doctrine” – which seems to be a hot topic of discussion here, as well as questions regarding the difference between the Baptist teachings and the dogma of the Roman Catholic church.

We had a great time of Bible study and prayer, as did the women’s group, and the children and youth breakouts, taught by Rick and Joey.

Tonight we treated the Valdez, Dales, and Zerna families, and Rowina Gantalao to dinner at the Santa Monica Beach Resort in Banilid. The setting was beautiful, the food was good, and the company was great. It was a nice way to finish out our planned activities. It is Sunday morning back home and we hope you all will have a wonderful Lord’s Day.

Tomorrow will be a time of packing, checking out of the hotel and saying goodbye (or “so long” as the song goes). We will not be rushed in doing so, since our flight to Manila is not scheduled to leave until 4:45 PM Monday. The really cool part of the trip back is that we will arrive in Los Angeles at 2:45 PM on Monday. That’s arriving in LA two hours BEFORE we left Dumaguete! I’m sure that’s the closest I’ll ever come to time travel…

I feel that this will probably be my last time here for short term mission work, but I do hope some of the younger guys from Huntington and New Orleans will continue the work. We will still be supportive financially as long as God will provide through our people, but I think the time has come for me to hand off the baton to a new generation.

This place and these people will always have a special place in my heart. Now, however, it is time to head back and help lead our people at Westmoreland Baptist Church in seeking to reach “our Jerusalem” with the Good News of Jesus.

More Photos From Sunday