Friday, May 28, 2010

hiking Colorado...

The summer is upon us and many schools have let out. This is the time of year so many look forward to! Deanna has begun to enjoy the break.

We are busy in our offices trying to get everything ready for the summer trips. There is always so much to do.

This summer will be very different. The team Deanna and I intended to lead to South Asia, had to be canceled for a variety of reasons. Having already raised up the leadership for the other trips, I will be home this summer, working from my office. I will lead a team to Panama in late July, for 10 days.

Honestly, I am looking forward to the rest. I don't know what is in store for sure, but look forward to time with Deanna.

Just before our our leadership training then student training begins, we are heading to visit family for a few days. We are both looking forward to this! We'll be away from the computer for a week or so.

My daughter Lauren, recently got engaged and will be married November 19th of this year. We are very excited for her! She will celebrate another birthday apart from us, as she will be in Peru for it this year. I honestly cannot remember the last birthday of hers that we actually got to be with her.

Take some time to love on your family over the coming days. Summers tend to see everyone scatter in different directions. This is a great holiday to spend time together around the grill, enjoying the warm/hot weather spring weather!

I pray you have a safe and blessed holiday weekend!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My friend Justin, who gave his life in India, while serving as a missionary. He would do it again. So would BJ. How many of us understand how dire the need is to Go (even across the street) and to serve, and to die daily?

I received a couple of letters through the mail, recently. This is a bit unusual as most correspondence today, comes via the internet. These were from a couple of young ladies in California.

They were both interested in missions. One had just read our book and was reaching out, based on it's impact on her life. Both attend a Christian Academy for troubled teen girls.

The one young lady had actually written us two letters. One introducing herself, and the other introducing her friend/roommate, who is headed to Costa Rica soon.

In her hand written letter (becoming a lost form of communication) she indicated the difficulty of her upbringing in Florida. She spoke of foster care and other difficulties of life which contributed to her landing in the "academy."

After becoming familiar with her story, I did as I often do. I began to search for her on Facebook.

My initial search for her unusual name resulted in a "suggestion" from facebook to try a different name.

Since her correspondence included her middle name, I tried one more time, with the middle name included.

The result of that search shocked me!

The only result it produced (which is very unusual) took me to a website in Florida. I imagine her most unusual name was the primary reason for how few possibilities were retrieved.

I visited the website to find that she was listed as a "Missing Child!"

The date she had gone missing was nearly 18 years ago. She had indicated to me in her letter that she was about to turn 18. She (if it is in fact her) had gone missing as a baby!

I sat in stunned silence for many moments.

Next I began to share the story with co-workers. They all suggested I do what I could to make contact with the agency listing her as missing. This was my plan, but I wanted to be sure I was making the right move.

Visions of abusive parents rolled through my mind, and I did not want to put her back in harms way.

With this small amount of information, I made contact.

I have no idea if her case is still active. I have no idea if this will yield any result, positive or negative. I only know she once was lost... reported missing!

How many people today that we encounter daily, are lost? Perhaps no social service agency has reported them missing. Perhaps there is no paper trail.

Regardless, they have a Father who longs for them to be restored to Him.

Some of them are waiting for me to become active in the process of leading them down this road to restoration.

Am I sitting in unproductive silence? Am I apathetic? Am I quick to produce my "to do list" as an excuse to not help them out?

Just as her parents may be looking for her, my Father is looking for these.

Reconnecting the lost with those who love them is what my life is to be about.

I cannot lose focus.

Justin didn't. BJ didn't. I cannot.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

after Whitney's Pinning...

A few months ago, a project began that was being completed by a television production company out of Dallas, on behalf of a current, famous Christian author and preacher.

We were contacted by the producer of this project, requesting permission to use BJ's life in the work. It was to include interviews and video of his life, reflecting the impact still being made, though he has gone home. Excited, we enlisted many who knew BJ to be a part of it. Many from around the USA and Peru were interviewed. Video and pictures were provided. I went to Dallas and did an on camera interview.

Most of this took place in the last three or four months. I had not heard from the producer in a while, so I sent her a message asking how it was progressing.

She responded with, "I will call you this afternoon."

She did.

She proceeded to tell me that the team working on this had decided not to include BJ's story. She indicated she had fought consistently, and aggressively to keep it in. God had changed her life through reading the book and interviewing those close to him.

She had held off on contacting us as she had remained hopeful that she would prevail. She did not.

The team decided that BJ's story was "too different" from the others they were profiling. The others are apparently fund raisers and humanitarians. BJ's life "overshadowed" all the others, they felt.

On some level I can understand this.

Honestly, I felt like I had been punched in the stomach when she told me. Things like this tend to be very close to the heart, and have major emotional ties.

The producer consistently pleaded for the opportunity to hold onto the pieces they'd prepared on him for potential future use. She also stated more than once, her desire to produce the story on her "own time and her own dime," if that is what it took.

In a culture where my son continues to be held up as an "exception" rather than a "rule" for Christian living, the point has been emphatically made.

Few live like he did. Few try to. Few want to.

When his story is too radical to be utilized because of the implied "extreme" nature of his walk, it is evident few of us allow our hearts to be transformed by Scripture and/or relationship with Christ.

The bottom line is that this does not matter. We have never been in charge of what God was doing with his life or his story. We still aren't. We want Jesus to be glorified and not BJ. It's what he wanted as well. It's how it should be.

That he will not be included, does not reduce who he was, how he lived, or his impact on the world. It simply reveals that most of us fall woefully short of living daily, radical faith.

I pray that one day, it would not be so in my own life.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Whitney is a now college graduate and a Nurse!!! She is also a Pastor's wife, a worship leader, and an inspiration to many!!! We are so proud of her! We spent the last several days with she and her husband, and Deanna got to "pin" her in the nursing ceremony!!! (in the pics... Jared, Deanna, Whitney and me)

I know we are not the only state affected, but tornado's have been shredding Oklahoma! We left Tulsa for Denton, Texas, where Whitney lives, on Wednesday afternoon of last week.

Thunderstorms blew into Texas after our arrival, and I knew severe weather was forecast for Tulsa.

We were on our way to Whitney's pinning ceremony, when I received a call from a friend. He said, "a tornado ripped the roof from the school across the street from your house last night... but we checked your house, and it is fine!"

I was so thankful that our house had been spared, but found myself wondering throughout the weekend what the back side of our lot looked like. It was reported that power lines were down as well as stockade fences and much more.

I was rather anxious to see our property.

Our trip home was an eventful one. Fifty minutes before arriving in Oklahoma City (which we pass through on our way to Tulsa), I heard news reports of a hail storm. These often precede tornado's. We were headed right for it!

I began to pray for wisdom as to whether or not we should pull off the road and let it pass, take a different route back, or forge ahead.

They broke into the radio program and said the interstate we were on had become a parking lot and that the ground looked like a snow storm had just blown through... completely covered with hail!

Damage reports of broken windows on cars and homes were being conveyed.

We drew closer.

As I neared the highway I considered cutting off on to avoid this, they began to report that this highway was now the corridor of the hail storm. We continued on our original course.

We were on the back side of this storm and could see the hail falling out our window. It was fierce to behold. Many stopped to hide under overpasses or take photos, as the area we were in was hail-free.

We traveled through Oklahoma City not fifteen minutes after the reports of an interstate parking lot, to find them passable, the hail mostly melted and no more traffic than normal! Praise the Lord!!!

Once through here, the storm was south of us, so we did not have to fight it any further.

We arrived home last evening, just before dark. Our lawn was littered with limbs and leaves.

I have found no damage!!! Even our wind chimes were still hanging and offering their melodies.

I have some clean up to do, but what a blessing!

I went home at lunch and saw the path of the tornado as the houses just to the east of ours and to the north of the school, all had blue tarps on their roofs. Disaster relief crews were cleaning up the school.

The school is a Turkish owned and operated school, called, Discovery. It is home to many Muslim children, and others.

This tornado ravaged school was chronicled in the paper by photos and an article.

We are most thankful for our home being spared. We are equally thankful for the Lord's provision and protection on our trip home.

We are praying for the administration, teachers and students of the Turkish school.

We are so proud of Whitney! Her degree was delayed by a year, because of her brother's journey and other obstacles that befell her. She is finished! We are so thankful and proud of her!!!


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Doors of North Africa...

I spent yesterday afternoon outside of a courtroom with a dear friend and his wife.

A year ago, they adopted a precious baby girl. They walked the mother through her pregnancy, and took care of her expenses. She gave birth to her third child from a third father. My friends cut the cord.

This adorable daughter was born and they began their life with her. She had many health problems in her first year, that if the circumstances had been different, probably would have claimed her life.

She has become part of the family, with siblings 7 and 11.

In the course of the pregnancy, the birth mother claimed not to know who the father was. She signed over all parental rights.

As the adoption progressed, the court ordered a paternity test. This brought about the discovery of the biological father. He was incarcerated.

His family wants the baby girl. I cannot blame them as I could not live easily knowing I had a child or grandchild with whom I had no relationship.

He appeared in court bound by the shackles of imprisonment. His spiritual jail seemed to supersede the physical one. He did not want his mother to see him this way. He had no choice. She looked very broken.

My friend anxiously glanced in his direction.

Once court began, as the adoptive parents, they were not allowed in the courtroom. We prayed continuously... for many hours.

The birth mom arrived pregnant with child number four, from a fourth father. The story she told my friends she would share in court had changed.

Her plan to side with the adoptive parents shifted as her incarcerated lover offered relationship. She was desperate for relationship. She bit. The bite would leave an indelible mark on the hearts of my friends.

Her testimony would now seek to point out that she and this man had intended all along to be "family."

The fact that she perjured herself, and that his testimony contradicted hers and that he portrayed her as a stripper, held promise for my friends.

Apart from Christ, promise, as it turns out, is sometimes a liar.

What was truly best for this child was less important than law. So many factors I will not include, weighed into this, at least from a logical perspective.

I do not doubt that the birth family will love this baby girl. I do not doubt that the adoptive family will love her. However, the uncertainty of her future has exponentially increased.

Socio-economic issues aside, she is to be returned to those who do not believe, have no real foundation in Truth, and seek love in the cloak of lust.

Lust is not a fabric with the strength to nurture the children of our culture.

My friends have their "daughter" for a few more days. They are in mourning. How does one mourn for a lost child, that they cannot recover, one they did everything right to keep and to bless and to seek to raise, one who is alive, but not them?

They can pray. They can try to establish further relationship. They can seek to have input on some level. None will replace the ache in their hearts of this being their daughter. The pain is searing.

Still, full of the love, they reached out and hugged the birth family, offered their love and support... they were Christ to them! Then had to retreat into the collapse of brokenness.

Did they save her life? Probably. Did they love her? Unconditionally. Do they still? without question!

How does one heal?

Taking one breath at a time, drenched in tears of prayer, and bathed in broken hearts crying out in needful chorus. He is the Healer.

For this precious one and many like her to truly have hope for the future, we each need to be spilling Jesus into the lives of those we meet everyday... even those who make us uncomfortable by their outer adornments and psychological bondage.


Friday, May 07, 2010

Turkeys at Shiran Camp, outside of Trujillo, Peru

Being out in His creation brings a soothing calm to my soul. It de-stresses me. I have written about this on many occasions.

This past week, I got out several times. Deanna even went with me once. She loves the outdoors as well, but since returning from Peru last summer, has been dealing with a recurring foot issue that has kept her indoors.

She has been to six different doctors, had two ablations, heard a host of others chime in with amateur diagnosis, and is still suffering with a nerve affliction. She has had an amazing attitude. Recently we found shoes which have allowed her to workout with a lower level of pain/discomfort. It has not been easy.

She wanted to venture out with me, as we scouted a friends land for turkey hunting.

I know, I know. Many don't want to hear that.

Anyway, she was able to enjoy the outdoors in a way she had not for quite some time. We hiked mainly level trails/roads, to keep the stress to her foot to a minimum. We found some decent places to set up, and even saw one Tom strutting his stuff!

I received permission to bow hunt this property, only this past Sunday. Turkey season ended this past Thursday. I did not have much time.

I managed to get out on three occasions this week. I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Deer hunting is usually done from a tree stand, 10 to 20 feet aloft. Turkey hunting is usually done on the ground. One takes up residence at the base of a tree (usually one that is wider than you are... if you can find one) sporting camouflage, hoping the turkey thinks you are a bush.

I sat for hours over these three days. I had so much time to fellowship with my Savior and enjoy watching birds and other wildlife! Many will be thankful that I did not see one turkey when I had my bow in my hand.

My foam decoy spun back and forth in the Oklahoma wind... attracting nothing. My amateurish turkey calling brought about many replies from nearby Toms' but none came forth.

As the season closed on Thursday and I waited till the last moments of daylight, then packed my truck to leave. I made a final loop through the property, hoping for a last second chance. I saw nothing.

I waited as the electronic gate slowly opened, thinking about my afternoon. I was so thankful for the opportunity to be out! I loved the time, and felt stress free as I headed home.

I had no sooner passed the gate of my friends property, and turned the corner in the adjacent neighborhood when I saw them. FIVE STRUTTING TOMS!

They taunted me from the safety of a homeowner's yard.

I had to laugh! I tried calling my wife, but she did't pick up.

I thought about the time I had invested and the lack of harvest. I was not sorry! I had a blessed time with my Savior, had enjoyed His creation, and left with as sense of irony.

Sometimes the joy in pursuing a goal, isn't found in reaching it. It's found in the journey... sometimes, where you least expect it.

I am thankful for how He provides, and how closely related my joy is to His heart.

What a Savior!


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Deanna, me, Afshin and Meredith Ziafat

By now you are aware of Afshin's role in BJ's testimony. If you aren't, pick up a copy of "I Would Die for You" and you can read about it.

As couples, we finally met a little under a year ago. I have written of the friendship that has ensued, and the blessing they are to us!

Tonight, they are in town for him to speak at a local church. We have the privilege of hosting them in our home, for their brief visit. We are so excited to hear of the the things the Lord is doing in their lives! We also will enjoy some time together, which does not come near often enough.

The Lord continues to open doors for them. To see them walk through these with fear and trembling, knowing each to be a God sized task, is inspiring! This is what it looks like to be humble before God, and to be used mightily by Him.

Similarly, a reader of our book, recently started a fan page on facebook, for "I Would Die for You." She is the daughter of a pastor and is opening her own life for the Lord to use. We have never met.

It has been amazing to see what she was inspired to begin, experience exponential growth in a short period of time.

The other night, as Deanna and I were looking over it for the first time, we were reviewing the members. We were amazed to see one James Caviezel, listed among them. That is the same James Caviezel who portrayed Jesus in the "Passion of the Christ!"

I admit I have been full of skepticism as to whether or not it is actually him. Regardless, to see his face/page attached to this is encouraging!

The current picture on his facebook is taken directly from the "Passion" movie and moves me!

One of his "friends" has painted a picture of Christ, inspired by the movie. In it, He is laying on his back with shredded flesh, one eye swollen shut, and He is looking at you with the other.

I have deep penetrating chills!

That He did this for me, is inconceivable! As I say that, I am reminded of the line from the "Princess Bride," where the Spaniard says, "I do not think that means, what you think it means!" to "inconceivable" being used over and over.

This is the appropriate use of that word!

That He would undergo such abuse, that I might have Salvation, is unjust. That I would choose to do anything with my life other than bring Him glory, is also unjust... and inconceivable!

Afshin, BJ and James have each made huge sacrifices that point others to Christ!!!

What am I doing?

Are my public displays and my private moments, congruent?

I must seek to be sure they are. He is worth the cost!!!