Monday, August 31, 2009

A common site among the Kuna Indians

I am one who seems to wear my feelings, not on my sleeve, but on my face.

I have never been able to hide the emotion I was experiencing. I suppose it's a good thing that in this day where poker has become so popular it's almost always on cable, that I don't play. When one looks at my face, they can generally tell what is going on beneath the surface.

I confess that I have never learned to try to conceal my emotions. Those who know me or have spent time around me, know that tears often come easily... so does joy.

When my children were growing up, I didn't always have to use words for correction. I could simply "look" at them, and change the playing field.

Deanna and others have often asked, "What?"

My reply has been, "Why are you asking me, what?"

The response is, "What does that 'look' mean?"

Everyone from family to co-workers have found themselves on the receiving end of my unintentional glances.

I am a processor. I have to think things through. This takes time. While I am doing so, it is not uncommon for me to watch what is happening around me. The result is that those in my line of sight, often feel more like they have been caught in the line of fire.

Just because I looked at you in that tone of voice, does not mean that I am angry, frustrated or disappointed in you. It usually just means I am processing, deeply... and haven't resolved the issue, yet.

Still, there are those who are particularly sensitive and responsive to my facial expressions. No amount of explanation seems to bring them peace. I am sorry for this. I mean no harm. If I knew how to process without my face expressing angst, I would do it. I need to be a better student of such things.

This summer, a young woman who was in leadership on my Peru team was particularly sensitive to my expressions. She learned quickly (and better than most) how to deal with them. She would play upon them, and regardless of the fact that I was seldom intending to reveal anything, she would fire off, a comical yet sarcastic, "what does that look mean, Brently?"

Not only do I emote too easily, but I also sense quickly the same thing in others.

This past weekend, I think I drove Deanna crazy asking her, "Are you okay?"

It's that time of year. We both know it. We don't try to hide it. It's far too easy to find ourselves in full blown retrospection or reflection.

Since he passed, I think I have only dreamed of him two times. I have shared each one here.

One morning last week, I had a third.

While out of the country, I awoke each morning before my alarm. While on vacation, I did the same.

Since being back at work, my body clock is apparently in need of repair. Suddenly, I don't wake up anymore.

The other morning, Deanna arose early. I noticed it, rolled over and went back to sleep. This is when the dream happened.

I stood atop a high, outdoor staircase, filled with people. My hands clung in this crowd, to my nephew and two nieces. The four of us spotted BJ on a landing below, and immediately began to make our way down to him.

The 'push' of people made this a slow, deliberate journey. It literally seemed to take forever! No one was in a hurry but me, it seemed. I could not wait to touch him, to hold him!

When we finally neared him, my sisters children got to embrace him first. They were thrilled to engage this young man they missed so dearly. Each one, in turn, reconnected with him, and received his full attention.

The wait was excruciating!

When my turn came, I caught his expression before I hugged him. Scrawled all over his face was disappointment. The general disdain he carried was not for this moment. It reflected into the recent past or near future, I could not tell which. I only knew that while his scent was permeating my olfactory senses and they were screaming with delight, my heart was heavy and burdened for whatever disappointment I had caused.

If this is how others feel upon receiving my glances, I clearly need to work on my poker face.

I awoke amid the despair I felt.

The thrill of being able to embrace my son with all of my five senses is not supposed to be reduced by such failures.

I cannot know what happened. It was a dream, after all.

I only know, that I am keeping my eyes affixed to Jesus. I do not want to disappoint. I only want to bring the one and only Son, glory!

That includes, working on my expressions.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Panamanian Policemen patrol the park

We appreciate those of you who commented about continuation. It has been a long and incredible journey and we have seen the Lord do absolutely amazing things. I never want to write for the sake of writing, but want to do so to bring glory to the Lord.
After a time of seeking the Lord, we have decided to continue to update here, but perhaps a bit less frequently.

I am excited about several upcoming opportunities. I have the privilege of marrying a young couple this weekend. I met the young woman on one of our mission trips. I guess I actually met her when I spoke at her sorority at Oklahoma State University. I got to know her and her incredible testimony on the mission field and since.

I am also praying through upcoming opportunities to speak everywhere from my home and local churches to some in Texas and Florida (along with Christian schools). I am excited to see what the Lord has in store. Deanna is speaking to a women's group on the 4th anniversary of BJ's home going! Please join us in praying that we will be obedient to what the Lord wants.

I know I have still not shared any stories for Peru this past summer. I hope to get there as it was an incredible summer, and we had a team that truly loved each other and Jesus, and made great strides is laying down their lives and serving Him.

I want to share about the policemen pictured above.

One morning in Panama, we arrived at the above Park and my partner and I unloaded with our interpreter to find a place to do ministry. Upon seeing the policemen, we felt compelled to seek their permission.

We do not always ask for permission. It is usually a situation of trying to be Spirit led. Sometimes they come and watch and others, they steer clear with little to no notice. Sometimes they shut us down.

We had been trying to teach this team about authority. They were a great team and seemed mature for their ages, but we noticed that they had apparently never been expected to follow through with issues of respecting authority.

We approached the policemen in this park feeling it was what the Lord wanted.

What we did not expect was the journey that resulted. Wanting to be of service, yet not having the authority to grant us permission, they escorted us from place to place in the neighborhood, trying to get us to the right people to get permission to do ministry.

We went from building to building visiting various "authorities," each of which said they did not have authority to grant us permission. Each in turn sent us on to another.

Not too long into this quest, I began to wonder if we had made the right decision. We were eating into precious ministry time. Perhaps we had misread what the Lord intended. This seemed to be turning into a waste of time. I remember turning to my partner and saying something like, "either we are fools, or the Lord has huge plans at this park."

We ultimately landed in the office of a government official. We sat in the crowded outer office waiting... wondering.

He emerged and headed out the front door. His assistance saw us and went after him. She returned with him and called our interpreter into a staging area to talk.

When they returned, they gave us a letter of permission to do ministry in the park.

To be truthful, it seemed like overkill. It did not matter. We headed to our bus where our students had been waiting and as we found out, praying, for nearly and hour and a half. We told them about the policemen and how they escorted us to each place trying to help. We told them we thought God had large plans for this site.

Enthusiastically, we unloaded, and headed out (with our letter) to do ministry!

The policemen strolled in a circular pattern around our group. During ministry, they arrested two men and hauled them off to jail. However, they remained close enough to see our story throughout most of it.

There were many people here who needed Jesus on this day. One particular woman was a drug addict who seemed to be on a bad trip. This resulted in her overreacting to every aspect of the drama. She even got up and mimicked what she saw, as it unfolded.

When the crucifixion scene came, she cried out loudly, "NO, no, no!" She hid her face and tears streamed. There was so much truth in her experience. This was more real to her than to most who view it. It was if she were actually there when Christ died, and reacted appropriately.

However, many pointed to her and laughed at her overreactions. We prayed for her.

At the conclusion, a team went and shared the Gospel with her, and led her into a relationship with Christ! She gave them a stuffed bear she had been carrying, among her meager possessions.

The young man on my team who portrayed Christ, came up and asked if anyone had spoken to the policemen. I told him I had asked another young man to do so, but he hadn't gotten to them, so sent this young man to share.

Both men gave their hearts to Christ! We rejoiced!

I gathered the team in and recast this whole experience in terms of authority. Reminding them that Scripture says, "All authority (good or bad) is God's," we discussed the fact that had we arrived, set up and began ministry, that it was very likely these two men would have shut us down, or at the least been unreceptive to the Gospel.

The fact that we felt led to seek their approval (as authorities in this park) and did so, kept us under God's umbrella of protection. The result was that we had permission to be there, we got to know these two men a bit and they respected our approach, and finally, their hearts were softened and moved to receive Christ! My God has all authority! When we remain under it, we have his protection, as he directs our paths.

The young man who had shared with them returned to me. He said, "when God told me to go to those two men, I was nervous, because I remembered the story about your son in Peru and the policemen he ministered to."

We rejoiced over all the Lord had done, and was doing, together!

Over the course of our time together, we would have to revisit the authority teaching again. Many parents, teachers and others in authority over these students had a loud bark, but no follow through. This team, though seeking after God's heart, had clearly learned that when the authority gave them instruction, they did have to follow it, as few ever inspected them after giving direction to them.

We were different, and required their follow through. It was a growing experience.

This is such an important teaching. Scripture reveals in many places that all authority belongs to God, and we are to submit to it.

Sometimes, He even provides powerful tools for teaching these truths, when we least expect it!


Monday, August 24, 2009

My beautiful bride!

I was quite surprised to go to this weekend and find that our domain name had expired. In the beginning, when we began here, friends set it all up for us, and the thought never occurred to me that it might come to an end.

For those who have found this, you either had it saved under the actual correct address (, or got here circumventing the normal means. Hopefully, I will have reacquired our domain name very soon, and the point will be moot.

Many times I have pondered letting this site go. Through the years, I have begun to write a bit less. Frequently, I have nothing to say, and yet feel the Lord gives me a word when I sit down to write.

God shows us periodically that He is still using this site to do ministry. I hear via email from people who are negotiating the perils in life, and we get to offer encouragement. We praise Him for this, and trust Him to reveal Himself to them.

If you are reading this, please pray we make the right decision at this point. It would be very easy to be... done. We want to do what is right, not what is easy.

I am thankful that we have a Savior that does not forget about us, or let us go. When we give ourselves to Him, it is forever. It doesn't just last four years, and then He forgets about us, and we have to re-purchase the right to use His name.

He drew us, before we could receive Him. When we said "yes" to Him, He opted to hold us for eternity.

We may fail and forget others. They may fail and forget us. Jesus never will. He is there with us, and cares deeply for each one of us. We need to make our faith action. We need to keep current, our pursuit of Him.

Even in the darkest of times, He is present. He is loving. He abides.

We need to do likewise, in Him!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Kuna Women who surrendered to Christ!

Going to bed early in the jungle brings about an unconsidered side affect. I have reached that age in life (though I never aspired to it) where I MUST get up at night to visit the restroom. In the jungle, because it gets dark so early, you add at least one extra seemingly, mandatory visit.

Things are not quite so easy in the jungle. If you ever watched Gilligan's Island, you know there are no bathrooms in the huts. As a matter of fact, if the government had not built a school in Icandi, there would be not bathrooms period.

Fortunately, there was a porcelain throne or two, but you had to hike to reach it. In the middle of a pitch black night, the last thing I wanted to do, was go hiking.

I heard a neighbor man get up in the middle of this same night, and he didn't go hiking... I wish he had. I became concerned about where it might be safe to step when I did.

When you go for walks at night, all of the dogs wake to announce your passing by. In a village of 500 people, do you know how many dogs there are? In the wee hours of the morning, I assure you it seems that there are more canines than people.

Anyway, we arose the next morning to a hot breakfast. It was such a huge blessing! A hot breakfast is prepared over an open fire. Open fires are made in the kitchen. The kitchen is in an adjacent hut to wherever your live. Each village family has at least two huts.

This seemed like overkill. The size of our huts were not like those you saw on Gilligan's Island. Upon our arrival, a family vacated their hut and lived in their kitchen. Every hut is approximately 100 ft. x 30 ft. There is no furniture, save an occasional tree stump, hewn into a stool.

The only purpose for the huts is for sleeping and for clothes storage. The clothes are stored in the rafters, and sleeping is in hammocks. So why do they need all this space? Literally, the huts are huge and empty.

Apparently, because groups of 23 missionaries are coming, on occasion, and they want to earn a little extra money by renting.

The same question can be asked in our country. Why do we have such huge homes, which are filled with extravagant excess?

We were very thankful that we were all together. We were very thankful for our home in Icandi.

The hot breakfast was amazing. Our cooks had even brewed me some "cowboy coffee." I guess I should call it "jungle coffee," as that is where it was prepared. The only people I've ever seen brew it the way they did, were cowboys in old movies.

Just a pan, grounds water and fire. No filter, no electricity required. Yes, it made drinking it a bit chewy, but I like mine that way. I was most thankful!

We headed off to the church service on this Friday morning, where we did not know what to expect. The building was brand new. The pastor was a seasoned preacher from other Kuna villages. The plan was that I would preach. The Spanish translator would take my English words, translate them to Spanish, and then the pastor would translate from Spanish to Kuna! Oh, and I was told to keep it to 15 to 20 minutes.

I jokingly told them I could not even read the scripture passages in that period of time, with that many translations. I wasn't far off.

I decided to story the Scripture as most of the Kuna's are not literate. They derive more from storytelling than hearing someone read to them.

I was concerned about keeping my audience through all of the translation. It turned out that the biggest issue with this was with my own team. Most had grown up in churches where a handful of people fall asleep during the message, regardless of the energy of the speaker or his topic.

Actually, they did really well.

The Kuna's stayed with me the whole time. As I stood to speak, I noticed a Kuna mother on the front row, breastfeeding her baby. In Latin America, the women are not shy about this. I was in Latin America. If there was a problem, it was mine, not hers. I adjusted, and did not look at her during the message.

My team and I were praying for God to move. At the end of my 30 to 40 minute message (including all translations), five women surrendered their lives to Christ (see pic above). We praised God for them! This was a huge deal!

In an animistic culture like this one, they are very leery of outsiders, and think little of their gods or ways of life. They believe in their traditions and ways of thinking about things.

God had moved and it was obvious.

During the message, for my final point, I had briefly touched on BJ a bit of his testimony. As translations were made, and the point settled in, the Kuna pastor became very broken, and had to stop for a few moments.

Then in turn, I broke, and so did my Spanish translator. The power of God moving through the testimony of a 15 year old will always be something that moves me.

I praise God for how He chose to move on this day. I am most thankful for how difficult living in the jungle was for us as a team. It caused us to rely upon our Savior even more.

We take so much for granted and we don't even realize it. We are blessed, and we need to pass on the blessing.

Stepping outside of our comfort zones is required. That is often where God moves.

It is why my son wrote, "Will you answer the call and get uncomfortable for Christ?"

Will you?


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Our team traveling by dugout, in the jungle of Panama.

After working in Panama City, Panama for several days, our team was scheduled to head into the jungle.

This trip was not the kind one would take in the states. Safety issues that would be expected, like life jackets and weight limits are foreign concepts.

All 18 of us plus our translator and a company of others inflating our number to 23, made the two hour bus journey to a bridge at the jungles edge.

After arriving their, we negotiated with the "captains" of two dugouts. These dugouts are single trees, hewn and "waterproofed" for use on this body of water.

As we climbed in, I was not at all certain we would arrive alive. I carried with me the notion that others before us had made the same journey, and lived to tell about it.

All of our gear was stowed in dugout 1. All of us filed into dugout two (see pic).
As we pushed off of shore, barely 6 inches of wood separated the body of water from entry into our "boat."

A bit nervous, we headed off for our hour or so journey deep into a remote Kuna Indian village called Icandi.

The trip was unbelievably beautiful! There was no doubt, we had left civilization. Had we still been in the states, the shoreline would have been developed, and homes would have lined this tropical paradise, where parrots flew freely.

Not here. There wasn't even electricity. When night fell, it was bedtime. And night would fall around 6:30 to 7:00pm.

We unloaded at the shore, being told not to step in the water. Later, we would see why. Their form of a sewer were shallow troughs dug from the village to the water's edge. One needed to step carefully.

We unloaded our gear. The journey from the boat to our "hut" was approximately an eight minute walk. We huffed and puffed all the way uphill. Our captains and their first mates, passed us carrying the heaviest of our gear, never breaking stride, or exhibiting accelerated breathing. It was a bit intimidating.

When we arrived at our hut, I was mindful of the fact that we had displaced a Kuna family. They had vacated their home for our group of 23. This hut had a dirt and rock floor, angled downhill, with no level places for our tents/mosquito nets. Those who would sleep on the floor, would become acquainted with the contours of this experience.

The temperatures soared but the humidity was higher. For the next three days, we would not shower, and would feel like human fly paper... whatever we touched would stick to us. At night, it cooled down to a polar 85 to 90 degrees.

I instructed our team on who was in charge of set-up, and we began to make this home. As I stood there contemplating how I was going to string up my hammock, I must have looked as helpless as I felt.

Any hint of the outdoorsman demeanor I fancy myself to carry, was dispelled as this simple task was taken over by a woman who had come with us... to cook.

Without a word, she took my hammock from me and began to string it up from post to post. It isn't easy to look like you know what you are doing when you have just yielded the significant task of establishing a comfortable place to sleep to someone you don't even really know.

Boy, am I glad I handed my bed over... she strung it up quickly and securely. Next I took out my mosquito net to hang over the hammock. We worked together on this, but we both knew who was really in charge... and I was thankful for her!

We sent the team out to prayer walk this small of village of around 500 people. They were accompanied by children wherever they went. The picture of the Kuna children touching my head, from a couple of days ago, came from this experience.

After returning with awesome stories and encounters, we had dinner.

The gathering dark descended quickly. Before we knew it, we had to pull out our headlamps or flashlights, just to make a trip to the bathroom before turning in.

A team of students who are used to staying up very late, or should I say very early (in the wee hours of morning), were caught off guard when asked to go to bed at the unbelievable hour of 7:30 pm!

All was dark and quiet. We had arrived, visited, had teaching, and attempted to embrace this culture. Going to bed at such an early hour was a test.

I was ready. My team struggled to relax from being so hyped up. Trying to sleep with rocks and such poking your every muscle was an experience few had anticipated.

They would make it through. Tomorrow promised a morning service where I had been asked to preach in the 5 week old church building. Would people come? This animistic culture with it's brightly colored women, naked children always underfoot, and a scarcity of visible men, turned over and over in my mind as I tried to drift off.

What was God going to do among us?

I could not wait to see!


Monday, August 17, 2009

A yummy fruit, whose name I forget! (it is called rambutan or mamón chino in Panama)

I think I am done traveling for a while. I returned from time with my family, and it was a blessing!

It has literally been all summer since I really shared and I find I don't even know where to begin. So much has happened.

Deanna and I had an incredible team in Peru this summer! They were such a blessing to us, to each other and to those in Peru.

Many on this team were called of the Lord partially as a result of having read, "I Would Die for You." With that knowledge comes a pressure that the enemy would like to use to beat us down.

Deanna and I are very normal people complete with flaws and all. Sometimes our fear is that those who read, are called, and then go, will have expectations that are unrealistic.

We want them to have an amazing experience in the Lord and we work to be submissive to His direction to assure that they can. However, our shortcomings are exposed over the course of time, and this is never flattering.

The enemy works hard against the fabric of a marriage on the mission field. Fortunately, we serve a God who knows this, and provides for our teams in spite of our failures...even when they on occasion play out in front of our new family.

I am so thankful that Deanna and I were together this summer. I don't want to lead teams without her if I can help it. She is too precious to me, and I am most thankful for her. The ten days I was in Panama, and then the week in Indy and Wisconsin apart from her, were enough. God called us to be one for a reason. Long seasons apart are not a routine part of that plan.

Today, I head back to the office for the first time since June something. I am rather looking forward to it! I miss the Awe Star family. I am blessed to be able to serve alongside some incredible people. The time away has helped refocus me to the directions I need to head.

I do promise to start telling stories from the field. Right now, they are like a logjam at the throat of a river. Pressure is building and they are ready to explode forth. I just need to let them release one at a time, lest things become confusing.

Spending the summer with 23 people in Peru and 18 in Panama, brings about many God glorifying events. We saw thousands come to faith in Him. The daunting task of trying to get them plugged in and discipled begins when we leave. In many respects, we have the easy part! That is a whole lot of people to try to connect. The logistics are in place to do so, but it will take time, energy and much prayer. Please join us in praying for the churches who try to assimilate these folks as well as the new believers. We don't want them to slip into the background of life, after having the most important experience they have ever had!

Thank you for your faithfulness to Him. You know, He cares for you!


Monday, August 10, 2009

my bed in the Kuna Indian village, Icandi, in the jungle (Panama)

This was an amazing summer. Deanna and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Peru, with our team of 23. We saw the Lord move in amazing ways, both in the people of Peru, and among our team.

The Lord was speaking to and working in the lives of our students. The enemy of course, was working overtime, as well.

I'm sure many of you followed the daily updates on, and saw the pictures and stories. What a privilege to be a part of what He is doing in South America!

We worked in one village we had been in last year, and saw God continue to draw those people to Him. Huamachuco, in the Andes mountains, is a pueblo that is coming to Christ! The people are hungry for the Truth, and responding to it.

This was the place last year that so many received Christ and began asking when a church was going to begin. Our contact, Pastor Tito, has continued to work this area, and is trying hard to establish a church there. We visited a site he had wanted to rent for the new believers to meet in. It would have cost the US equivalent of $60 a month, and was ample space. They could not afford it, and it was snatched up by someone else (for a different purpose).

We spent a lot of time in this area, and saw many surrender their lives to Jesus. Our students began to pray in earnest for God to move and bring about a church. By the time we were leaving, he had raised up a couple who had a large home who offered it to be used as the meeting place! We praise God for this. This was no small event!

The enemy had worked hard at distracting, and even trying to scare our students, in this village, as he does not want God to have dominion here. Our students persevered, and the Lord increased the work there.

Some or our students even began to work a theoretical budget to see if they could afford to pay for the rent, should it become necessary.

Having worked in many other lands, I can honestly say that God is doing a unique and special work in Peru. It truly is a land "ripe for harvest," and the workers are too few. This translates to large numbers of people responding to the Gospel message... much larger than any other country I have worked. Even the South American countries that border it, see far fewer people respond.

Working in Panama at the end of the summer gave me a special glimpse into how unique the work in Peru is. While we saw many come to Christ in our brief time in Panama, the responsiveness to the Gospel message as a whole is far warmer in the northern regions of Peru. An example is how quickly the crowd will disperse once they realize what they are seeing (through the drama). The people of Peru stay around and wait to discuss it with team members (we see a similar responsiveness in Mexico). Fewer people remain, and more seem to be "hard-hearted" outside of Peru.

This doesn't mean there shouldn't be workers frequenting other regions, quite the contrary. I simply wanted to point out that God is doing amazing things in Peru, and those who serve there get to see it first hand.

I spoke in a church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma yesterday morning. They are sending a team to work in Peru, this October. The enthusiasm for their upcoming journey is significant! Deanna and I were amazed at how the Lord poured out His Spirit in among this people. We saw a huge response to what He was doing at the end of the service.

Being in the center of God's will is the most peaceful place on earth to be. One does grow tired, but His strength and peace are always sufficient!


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Kuna Indian children in the jungle of Panama, touch their first hairy arms and bald head!

Brad, thank you so very much for an epic job of writing over the summer! His writings took us over the benchmark of a 1,000 different blog postings! I never would have believed it! God has continued to bless and pour Himself out onto the pages of this blog, through the obedient and humble heart of my favorite brother! You are amazing!!!

Well, we are home!

35 days with our Peru team, and 10 days with the Panama team, and now?... rest?

What an amazing Christ centered summer. We have seen lives changed among us, everyday. Between 3,000 and 4,000 surrendered their lives to Christ in Peru, and somewhere between another 500 to 1,000 did so in Panama! My God is unbelievable.

We celebrate the obedience of the teams, and the way God moved in and through them. Unity came, the power of God on display overwhelmed us at times, and the peace that surpasses all understanding is ours, upon reflection.

Deanna and I will lay low this week. She returns to school already on Friday! I am not too thrilled about that...neither is she, but we are both so thankful for her job and the lives of the children she gets to pour into!

I will be speaking at a church here in Oklahoma this weekend, and then will head to spend some time with my family next week. I won't be returning to the office until around Aug 17th.

My writings may be hit an miss between now and then, but I wanted to thank you for your prayer support over the course of this summer. We could feel the covering you prayed out and are most grateful for it!

I truly do not know where to begin as God did sooooo many things this summer. I am so thankful to serve a Creator who loves me so much and demonstrates that love by how He fills me. His timing is always perfect, even when I think He is moving to slow.

We are thankful to have had teams serving Him in Chile, Panama, Peru, South Asia, and Uganda this summer. All are back safely, and trying to work back into their lives and routines. There is nothing routine about the things God did.

Reentering our US culture is often the most difficult part of these experiences. Not that we are ungrateful for His provision here, but seeing the level of mediocrity and general lack of interest in the things of God in our own country is disheartening.

When you walk in His power and see Him move mightily, the last thing you want to do is engage in arenas where few people seem to care.

I am thankful for each of you, because you do care! Thank you for being a listening ear, and open hearts to receive from the Lord what He wants to reveal.

We are looking forward to rest. We are looking forward to hearing from you. We are thankful for Jesus and His compassion for the lost...and for His own!

Until later,