The Field is In Motion

When people ask me what is going on in the ministry of Simplicity these days, I often explain it like this:  The field is in motion, the guards are pulling, but the hole hasn’t opened up for me to run through just yet.

A few weeks ago I finished the series I had been doing on the book of Romans since earlier this year.  As I was bringing that series to a close it was very evident that it was time for Mike to take over the teaching ministry at 805 S. Staples.  For some time the Lord has been raising Mike up to be the pastor of that ministry location.  Even though people have my business card, they call upon Mike…he has truly become their pastor.

At the same time, Carol and I were supposed to be in Kenya in the early part of January to lead a series of pastors conferences.  This trip had been planned during my last visit to Kenya in May.  As we continued to draw closer to January something in my spirit was unsettled.  Carol and I began to pray for clear direction.  About 2 weeks ago she and I had been praying at the church and were leaving to go home.  As I was locking the door I heard very clearly in my spirit that Pastor Adams needed to lead those conferences.   In fact I became very aware that my time with him in May had been preparation for him to step in this role.   I asked the Lord to verify what I believed I was hearing through Carol.  A week later as we were praying once again, Carol looked up at me and said “we’re not supposed to go.  Adams is supposed to lead those conferences.”

So I find myself releasing two areas of my ministry to two very called and very capable men.  The Lord has begun preparing the soil for what I believe will be our next church plant on Padre Island.  We continue to find ourselves entering new and deepening relationships with a wide group of people in that area.   Additionally, the calls to return to India have increased and I believe I will be there once again in March or April.

So while the play has not fully developed, the ball is in my hand and I know that the time to run is not too far off.

I Want You Out of Town!

About a year ago we began ministering to a man that showed up one night in December.   He was very involved with us until May, when he had a setback with his SSI check and cursed God and began cursing us as well.

Over the summer he showed up again for a couple of weeks, before once again something set him off and he left cursing God and cursing us.

A few weeks ago he showed during our addiction recovery ministry on Thursday nights, this time with a new appearance and a new name.   He told the group leader that he was an Old Testament preacher and began to make comments mean to give the appearance that this was his first visit to our facility.  When Mike arrived and greeted him by his “true” name he became very agitated and once again left in an agitated state.

Last night Mike was leading when this man showed up again.  He stepped in and informed Mike, in some rather colorful language, that he had the Old Testament and we had the New Testament.   He decreed that we were a false church and he wanted us “out of town.”

The spiritual implications of this interaction are testimony to all that God is doing at 805 S. Staples.   I’m humbled when I think about the thousands of believers around the world who experiences these types of interactions and much more on a daily basis, because they carry the message of Christ with them.

What Makes it All Worthwhile

It has been a few months since I last updated the blog.  My personal story still continues to take shape and when the Lord gives me permission I will be filling in the blanks of 2010.

For now I would like to share with you a letter that was received by Mike and Kim a few weeks ago.  We met the man writing this letter when we were cooking out one Sunday afternoon in August.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dear Pastor Mike, and Sister Kim, and family,

Hello, to all of you. I pray that when this letter reaches your hands, yourselves blessed in the Lord. I pray you all find yourselves in good health and abundantly prosperous. As for me, I am doing fine, thanks to our heavenly Father up above. I am doing really well, Mike and Kim. I can see life through clear eyes for a change and that is something I haven’t been able to do for a long time (THANK YOU JESUS!).

It was really great to receive your letter. I got the letter you sent to the Beeville address on Monday. It was awesome to hear from you guys. I think you for the encouraging scriptures also. Jeremiah 29:11 is one of my favorite scriptures. It’s really good to know that even thought I have wasted so many years of my life, even taking in to consideration all the mistakes I have made, God still has plans for my life, and that is really amazing! You know, being out there on the streets, addicted and strung out, coming out of prison, not just once, but twice, you start to lose hope; you start to give up on yourself! And that’s what I did for a long time. Now God has restored my hope, He has broadened my horizons and I thank Him so much for that!

Mike, can you actually believe I am going to a Bible college over in Robstown on Tuesday and Thursday Nights! We take two vans over there, one for the men and one for the women. I take a class in Bible theology and I take a class on the Gospels. I am taking a course now on the book of Genesis. As a matter of fact, I have a test in that class tonight- LOL. So pray for me, please. The next time I write you I will let you know how I did, okay! I take a few other courses, too, but I just started, so I don’t know what they are exactly! Oh, I am taking a Spanish class, also, so I can mister and witness in Spanish! Which is good, cuz I know Spanish already. LOL. That way when I get sent out to the streets to witness and testify, I can speak to the Spanish speaking people also! I really have a strong desire to be used by God, Mike and Kim. I feel like I owe Him so much. HE SAVED ME. He picked me up off the streets of Corpus Christi and put me on a new path (THANK- YOU- JESUS) and I never want to go bck to my old way of life. I want to take His message of hope to the lost.

Thank you for all the prayers, Mike and Kim. Thank you for caring when no one else did. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart. You are both a blessing I will never forget. I pray for all of you everyday. Please continue praying for my daughters Ashley (10 yrs) and Vanessa (8 yrs). I sent them each a letter last week, so hopefully I will hear from them this week sometime. Please keep this in prayer, OK? I really miss them.

Hey, it’s Wednesday, September 22 , now and I have a praise report. Are you ready for this? Yesterday afternoon, about 6:00 pm, we had just finished prayer time and we were just going to start praise and worship. Well this home director was on the cell phone and he came up to me and gave me the phone and told me it was my daughters and they wanted to talk to me. Praise God! So I got to talk to them for about 15 minutes. It was so awesome to talk to my babies. My oldest daughter, Ashley, she’s in volleyball, and my youngest daughter, Vanessa, she’s a cheerleader. Theya re doing really good, so I am so thankful to God for what he is doing in their lives (THANK YOU JESUS) Thank you both for all your prayers and support. Will write again soon and I will send some pictures, ok.

Write back soon!!!

With lots of love,


PS. I took my first test in Bible college last night- will tell you my grade as soon as I get it.

Ezekiel 36: 26 “A new heart also I will give you and a new spirit will I put within you…” Thank you Jesus.

A BIRTHday Celebration to Remember

In my last post I told you about the opportunity the Lord had given us to throw a birthday party for a woman from the streets.  I want to tell you about the events of this glorious BIRTHday celebration.

When we arrived at the church we saw this woman approaching.  She was dressed nicer than we had ever seen her and she had cleaned up.   She was apprehensive as she approached, because she had not seen our children since she left our home last year.  As she entered the building she immediately began to cry and wail.    My children greeted her and gave her a hug, which caused her to cry even harder.   For the next half hour or so while we prepared her birthday decorations she laid out on a set of folding chairs and cried uncontrollably.

It was Mike’s turn to present the message of Jesus last night.  As he began sharing, Diane sat next to my wife and just wept as my wife held her.   She then began to cry out to God asking for His mercy, because she had destroyed her life.   She declared her fear of dying and being under the control of her street life any longer.

When Mike began to talk about our response to God’s offer of new life in Christ, she sat straight up and began to follow him with her eyes.   She cried out to Mike to come pray with her, to tell her what to do.   Mike instructed her to pray what was flowing from her heart.   I could see her struggling to speak and I felt prompted to speak against any spiritual force that was trying to prevent her from moving from death into life.  In a tear filled cry for help, she began to confess the choices of her life, naming things that were so painful and so personal.  She then declared her need for God’s grace and asked Him to take control of her life.

Almost immediately her countenance changed and her tears of pain became tears of joy.  She began to speak of the inrush she could feel deep within her and the enormous weight that had just lifted.  She then reached into her shirt and pulled out her cigarettes and lighter.   She acknowledged the battle would be difficult, but she also knew she needed to make her first change starting now.   With that, she handed those things to Mike and asked him to dispose of them.

When everyone had regained their composure, we sang happy birthday and celebrated her life and her NEW life together.

The journey ahead will be difficult for her as she has lived and worked on the street for over 10 years.   I believe this will be the first real opportunity for us to put the mission of Simplicity Solutions to the test, as we will need to help her keep her hands busy and her thoughts focused in a life giving direction.  We will also have the challenge of trying to find her housing that offers a drug and alcohol recovery program.   Discipleship for an individual in her condition has to be holistic, teaching not only the Christian life, but life skills in general.

Here is the other amazing thing about this whole experience.   When she walked back into my life on Wednesday, I was meeting with a Vineyard Pastor who leads ministry at an Assembly of God church.   He was able to provide clothing for her on the spot, because a woman had given him a stack of woman’s clothing the day before (of course the correct size).   The birthday cake, balloons and banner were provided by my friend’s Baptist church that had been challenged 2 weeks ago by an Army chaplain.  Of course we were the third piece, cultivating the relationship through our presence in a tough area.   This truly was a picture of the body of Christ at work.

Birthday Parties for Prostitutes

I met with one of my pastor friends yesterday and he shared with me that he had been haunted by the question a guest speaker had asked in his pulpit the week before.   The speaker told the story of a pastor who had encountered a group of prostitutes in a diner late one night.   One of the prostitutes was lamenting that the following day was her birthday, and that no one had ever celebrated her birthday before.  The pastor having overheard the conversation plans a birthday party for her and she is overwhelmed by the kindness shown.  After telling this story, the speaker in my friend’s church asked this question:  “Is this the type of church that would throw a birthday party for a prostitute?”

This morning I was meeting with another pastor at our church telling him about our ministry.   I told him about the woman from the streets my wife and I had taken in last year.  Not ten minutes later, guess who came walking through the door this same woman.   She had just been released from the hospital and is still on the streets.  She asked if she could give me a hug and when I hugged her she just held tightly to me and sobbed.

After we had prayed for her and began working on her immediate needs, she told me:  “Friday’s my birthday.”  She’ll turn 47 on Friday.  She told me that she had never had anyone to celebrate her birthday with her.   I knew immediately what needed to be done.  I called my friend and told him:  “I think God is asking your church to put up or shut up.”   I told him that we had a birthday party to plan for on Friday.

I find it so amazing how God works and stretches us.

If the gospel comes….

Since returning from Africa, we have been praying about the direction of our ministry here in Corpus Christi.   With our local population being transient, we have struggled to meet the ongoing expenses of the building rent and utilities.   Yet, in spite of the struggles, we also see the need for our presence.   In the past 9 months we have watched 3 churches in our area close their doors.   The crime, addictions and broken lives continue to go on seemingly unchecked.   What were we to do?

A friend of mine called me for lunch last week and we met.   I shared with him my uncertainty over the next step we were supposed to take and he responded with this story.   He had just come from a meeting with 2 other pastors, who were wanting to turn their focus on to our ministry neighborhood.   During this conversation, one of the pastors related a conversation he had undertaken with a relative who was a drug dealer in the area.   In this conversation, the pastor asked what it would take for the drug dealers to leave.   The relative responded with this answer:  “If the gospel comes we will leave.”  He went on to elaborate that in his lifetime, he had seen the gospel come into an area so forcefully that the drug trade could not continue.   When the pastor inquired if just by planting churches and doing ministry the drug dealing would leave…the man corrected him.   He restated:  “If the gospel comes we will leave.”  He went on to elaborate that he was not worried, because he had only witnessed such a happening twice in his life.

For the next 24 hours, I found myself haunted by those words.   Last Tuesday night as we were praying, I found the Lord giving me a vision and a renewed sense of purpose for the corner of Staples and Coleman.   The vision was simple, the gospel would be proclaimed and lived out at that location 7 days a week.   As others begin to join with us to carry this load, this proclamation will ultimately be done 3 times per day, 7 days per week.   The Lord also impressed upon me that this message was to be declared, even if no one was present.

This Sunday we began this new chapter in our journey.  My wife prayed as I preached to chairs and passers by.   Interestingly enough I had just finished reading God’s Smuggler, one of the stories told in that book was of a minister in Holland who was led to do a similar thing.   It was noted that even when no one was in the building, the message and invitation always seemed to be received and responded to by someone on the street.

A wild weekend

2 Flats on a Kenyan Highway

2 Flats on a Kenyan Highway

I am at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi waiting for tonight’s flight to Amsterdam.   It has been a wild weekend and I guess you could say this journey concluded with a bang.

On Saturday we went to Kakamega to celebrate the graduation of our largest class from the Redeemer Bible College certificate program.   The journey was slow going due to bad roads.  I should tell you that Kakamega is a district known for being a hotbed of witchcraft, so the rest of this will make more sense.  As we got to Kakamega the car began overheating and we learned that the cooling fan had shorted out.  We had to get a push and pop the clutch to keep going.   I developed a pounding headache that was compounded by heat and potholes.   I was unable to beat the headache even with Ibuprofen.   We finally made it to the graduation ceremony and wouldn’t you know it we didn’t have a certificate for one of our students.  Not just any student mind you, but the best student in the class.  To make matters worse this young lady had been overlooked when completing a previous program.   With some fancy footwork we’re able to smooth this crisis out.

We next went to the home of a local widow who wanted to host the students.  It was getting late and the  heavy afternoon rains were moving in, so it was suggested that we go ahead and leave.   As I was leaving the widow came out and complained about me leaving without having a meal.  Again fancy footwork was required.

So finally we were on the road.  The rains began pouring we navigated several deep puddles and seemed to be doing well.   Shortly after passing through Bongoma our driver struck a pothole and both passenger tires blew out simultaneously.   The car came to rest precariously hanging out in to traffic and it was now dusk.   Our driver and Pastor Adams began the journey on foot to Bongoma in search of  a tire repair shop, while Principal Ngaina, Mary, little Judah and I stayed with the vehicle.   As it continued to get dark I realized that our poorly lit car was likely to get hit, so I stood off to the side.  I’m glad I made that choice.   In the next 2 hours I watched a tractor trailer hit the same pothole and blow out a tire.   I watched another one hit the pothole and nearly enter the ditch with us.   I watched a third vehicle hit the pothole and also blow out a tire.

Of course the other danger was highway robbers.   Everyone who walked past would look at us and comment on how dangerous of a place this is.   I also determined that two men who stayed by to be “watchmen” were actually casing us.   Finally after 2 hours Pastor Adams and our driver returned with a cab.   They had been all over Bongoma and found no place to repair the tire until morning.  They had convinced the cab driver (with a lot of money I might add) to come out to the highway to retrieve us.  They also “rented” (for a lot of money again) a spare tire to get our vehicle back to Bongoma.   The taxi driver took us to a hotel that he said was the best in town.   As I was waiting on my dinner I noticed the prostitutes coming from upstairs and retrieving more customers (when I later told Mary I had seen this activity, she was horrified.  She had hoped I wouldn’t notice).   Needless to say we ended up at another hotel for the night and the cab driver returned with a friend at 3AM to retrieve his spare tire.

As morning broke the car was up and running again, but I noticed a large bulge in the wall of the driver’s side rear tire.   I was assured that we would drive slow to protect that tire.   We agreed we should pray before we left and off we went.   We stopped about an hour into the journey for tea with Mary’s sister.   We were scheduled to speak in my friend John’s church at 11AM.   We told him of our journey and he asked us to continue on.   We finally arrived at his church at 12:30 (when church is scheduled to end).  John’s church is one of the most energized “alive” churches I have been in.  The people received me well and through another service to hear me speak.   I was also intrigued to see a white woman attending the church.  I learned that she is a nurse from California on mission with Saddleback Church.   After the service we had lunch with John and his wife, although we were already supposed to be in Eldoret to meet with more Bible College students.

Finally around 4:30 we returned to Pastor Adams home.  I did a quick job of packing, sent my wife a Mother’s Day email and we were off to Eldoret.   When we arrived at Pastor Maheri’s home around 7:30PM everyone had already left.    She said they had used the afternoon to pray and worship.   Throughout the evening several guests dropped by and we had a great time talking about faith and our respective cultures.   Pastor Maheri also blessed me with a beautiful wall hanging to remind me to pray for Kenya.   In spite of all of the difficulties of the weekend, and really the trip for that matter, the journey ended on a high note.  Truly God saved the best for last.

I caught an early flight to Nairobi this morning and have about 11 hours until my flight to Amsterdam.  The news says the Iceland volcano is causing problems again, so we will see what the day holds.  After three weeks away I am ready to be back with my wife and children.

Update from Kenya

The past few days Pastor Adams and I have remained in Kitale. We have used our time to talk about his ministry, the needs of some of the pastors we have been working with and to record some promotional videos. We have also been planning two pastor’s conferences for January of 2011. We will be conducting one of the conferences in Nairobi and the other conference will be hosted by Rev. Peter Ngaina here in Kitale.

This has been a good time for me to be refreshed and prepared for weekend. Tomorrow we will be overseeing the graduation of our certificate class in Kakamega. This extension of Redeemer Bible College is one of our newest. It is also our largest graduating class with a total of 38 approved to receive their certificate. This is a testament to God’s sustaining power, as this extension went through some hardships when an instructor was caught stealing money from the students. The Lord allowed this issue to be resolved in a manner that kept the college in tact.

Sunday I will be speaking in the church of John Juma. John was my driver in Uganda last year. He is a very humble man and displays a true servant’s heart. It is truly an honor for me to speak in his church. In the afternoon, we will be traveling to Eldoret, where I will meet once again with Pastor Margaret Maheri and newest class of Redeemer Bible College. This class is made up of influential professionals from the Eldoret area, and it shows great promise for bringing greater opportunity for Redeemer Bible College.

I will be spending the night in Eldoret on Sunday, so that I can catch a 10AM flight to Nairobi on Monday. I will then be flying back to the US at around 10PM Sunday night.

We have also had a great answer to prayer. The driver we have had most of the journey has been very unscrupulous, charging more money than agreed and making increased demands. This caused our in country travel budget to be spent early on. We have been having to seek God’s provision for every new leg of the journey. God has mad provisions through the hands of his children on two continents. Even greater though is our getting to know a seminary student who drivers a car here in Kitale. Adams and I both felt led to inquire if he could drive us our remaining trips. Not only could he drive us, but he has agreed to do it for half the price of the man who had been driving us up to this point.