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.

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.

Africa Itinerary

Here is the itinerary for Africa:

Friday, Apr 16

~ 1p, Depart CC

Saturday, Apr 17

~ 7:25p (11:25a our time) Arrive in Nairobi, Kenya

Sunday, Apr 18

~Minister at David’s church, (Nairobi)

Monday, Apr 19-

~ Travel to Eldoret and have lunch with Redeemer Bible College students at Eldoret Technical Institute. One of the students wants you to dedicate her grandchild during that meal. The media will be present to take coverage and you will have time to share our vision on media on SAYARE RTV Eldoret.

Tuesday, Apr 20

~ Travel to Mt Elgon but stop at Kamukunywa at Pastor Peter Wasai who recently joined our network, then to Chebich where we will have our lunch and ordain Pastor Peter Wasai and Pastor Dan as we also receive them into the fellowship. After lunch, we will travel to Mt. Eglon.

Wed-Fri, Apr 21-23

~ Minster in Mt. Eglon, pastor’s conference in the daytime and preach publically in the evenings

Saturday, Apr 24

~ Redeemer Bible College Graduation, Kakamega (Mtunga town)

~ 10p-12a (2p-4p our time)- live youth show at Sayare (radio) (in Eldoret)

Sunday, Apr 25-

~ 12a-4a (Sat 4p-8p our time)- ministering and praying for peoples’ needs (radio)

~ 4a-5a (Sat 8p-9p our time)- Live Morning Devotion (radio)

~ Sunday service (10a-12p, 2a-4a our time)- at Pastor Adams’ church for service, will include a small graduation ceremony (1-2p, 5-6a our time) for Redeemer Bible College (in Kitale)

Monday, Apr 26

~ Travel to Mbale, Uganda via Malaba border

~ 11a-5p (3a-9a)- two sessions ministering to pastors and church leaders hosted by Bishop Patrick (Impact Ministries)

~ Sleep in Kapchorwa

Tuesday, Apr 27

~ 10a-11a (2a-3a our time)- Meet with students on Kapchorwa campus

~ Travel to conference venue in Chewower, arrive at 2p (6a our time)

~ Have lunch there, meet pastors as they arrive

Tues-Fri, Apr 27-30

~ Conference at church in Chewower

Saturday, May 1

~ Redeemer Bible College Graduation in Bukwo 10a-1p (2a-5a our time)

~ Travel to Kitale

Sunday, May 2

~ Sunday service at Driver John’s church (their chauffer for the two weeks) from 10a-12p (2a-4a our time)

~ have lunch and travel back to Nairobi

Monday, May 3

~ 10:20p (2:10a our time) Depart Nairobi, Kenya

Tuesday, May 4

~ 6:30 pm Arrive in CC

Please be in prayer for our students in Kapchorwa, Uganda as we learned of the death of one of their classmates this morning.

A testimony that just keeps getting better.

Ugandan man coming to faith in Christ

Ugandan man coming to faith in Christ

During my time in Uganda, this past May, I had the privilege of preaching in the PCM Church in Kapchesoy.

One afternoon as I had finished preaching and was sitting down, the whole church erupted in celebration.  I learned that they were celebrating, because a man (pictured) who was the village drunkard and troublemaker was giving his life to Christ.

In the days that followed, I learned his story.  He was cooking beer a mile and half from the church.  He had been drinking all day and was already drunk.  As he explained he heard a voice telling him that he needed to run as fast as he could to the church and give his life to Jesus.     He had arrived, just as I sat down and he went forward and gave his life to Jesus.

The next day, his closest friend was at the front of the church giving his life to Jesus, because of what he had witnessed the day before.  Now if that was the story, that would be absolutely amazing in itself, but it gets even better.   I received this update from Pastor Adams today:

The lord is still working great things and fire as never ceased!
The man you prayed for him during the conference in Kapchesoy church who came smelling alcohol is still firm. The lord has used him to win 12 other drunkards to Christ and many are coming to get saved because of his salvation.
We have enrolled him in our Bible College and taking certificate. I was with him and told me to send you his personal greetings.

He has a hunger and passion to reaching the lost. He told me he will resign soon from teaching to start preaching the Gospel but I told him first he should seek the lord before taking any step.

One transformed life, transforming the lives of others.  The power of God is truly amazing to watch.

Pressing On

Uncertainty…that is a good word to describe my thoughts these days.  I am certain of a few things:

  • the ministry of Simplicity
  • my role in the body of Christ

My point of clarity is in my call, most everything else seems up in the air.

As we finish out the month of June, we have only been able to pay a few household bills and are past due on the rest.  We are $25 short of having the rent on our church space paid for.   The businesses are only producing a few dollars here and there.  I have been trying to find work, but not finding anything other than commission only positions that seem to want to nibble.

I have a unique situation, basic manual labor jobs won’t hire me because I’m overqualified or don’t have experience with that particular manual labor.   White collar jobs think I’ve been away from the corporate world too long.   I find myself unsure of what my steps should be.

God’s timing is interesting.  As I was writing this I was called by a staffing company to come in for an interview tomorrow morning.

Yesterday was another kingdom encounter on South Staples.   As we were getting ready to leave after the morning service, I heard someone shouting from across the street.  A woman came over and asked if we could help her with groceries until her disability check arrived later this week.   I could smell the alcohol on her breath, so I told her we would take her to the store and pick up a few staples if she would like.   She agreed and off to the store we went.

I spoke to her about the alcohol on her breath and expressed my concern that it was 11AM.  I asked her to be honest with me about her situation.   I learned that she had just moved back to Corpus from Austin, and that she was originally from New York.    She has been exposed to church and actually knows she needs to be in fellowship somewhere.  Her mother is in frail health back in New York, but her relationship with her father is strained and it prevents her from going to see her mother.   Her brother just finished a 15 year prison sentence, but came out a changed man after encountering Jesus in prison.

When we were done, we took her home…across the street from the church.   We have been praying for a person of peace in the neighborhood, and in this woman we found the greatest receptivity to the touch of God that we have encountered since starting Simplicity.  It is my hope that she will be our first person of peace in this troubled neighborhood.

Living Water and Old Friends

Since getting back from Africa, I have been a little negligent on my blogging.   These last few weeks have been a bit of regrouping time for me, and I am slowly getting my thoughts untangled.

A few weeks ago, we began setting a large cooler of ice water and styrofoam cups outside on our parking lot every Sunday as we meet.  The cooler has a sign that says “Cold water compliments of Jesus Christ.”   As we’ve watched people these last few weeks, we’ve begun to see a greater significance of in the offering of water.   The water has come to represent the livng water that Christ offers each of us.  Some in our ministry neighborhood gladly receive the water, while others stand and stare at the cooler…an inner battle as to whether or not they will draw from it.  Today, I watched as women spent nearly 2 minutes walking back and forth in front of the cooler with a war raging deep within her…would she take a drink or wouldn’t she?   As we battle for the souls of men and women, we realize that this cooler represents the greater truth of our ministry…using a simple cup of water to introduce the thirsty to the living water that leaves them permanently satisfied.

Today was also a joy for me, as we went to McAllen this afternoon to meet up with some old friends who were in the region on a mission trip.   We have known Mark and Shannon for about 11 or so years now.   They were in a Sunday School class that I taught in Dodge City, Kansas prior to surrendering to the ministry.   I could see God’s hand on Mark even then, and I told his wife that he would be in the ministry before it was all over.   Little did I know I would beat him there.   It has been fun watching him grow in the Lord.  We celebrated his first pastorate and his ordination.  I now find myself spurring him on in his quest to be all that God has created him to be.   I’m thankful that the relationships in the kingdom are not bound by time and distance.

This past Thursday as we were having our Organic Group, we saw the woman who we had taken in off the streets walking past the church.   She stopped and began to cross the street towards us, but suddenly stopped and turned the other way.   I believe God allowed her to experience something in those few days with us, that is unlike anything she has ever experienced; however, the battle for her soul continues to rage.   I know that in due time, God will push back the darkness that blinds her, I hope that day is sooner than later.

Testimonies from Kenya and Uganda

These are some of the testimonies that have come in since my arrival back in the US.

From Kitale, Kenya:

Greetings in Jesus name.Hope these email finds you well in the lord there.Thanks very much for coming to Africa.Thanks for speaking to my life prophetically.Today i have been given a lot of Testimonies after i announced yesterday in the church that i have heard the voice of God and he has given me the direction in the ministry that the lord has called me to do.The ministry of worship that he has put on my life.Many of the people have testified on how these ministry of worship has affected their lives and they are wondering how the lord is doing through these worship.We have met with those three pastors today during lunch time,we prayed together and also we prayed for your journey.Apostle Stephen reminded me to tell you that we shall be organizing together pastors and leaders conference here in Kitale town on August.Our target is to have 1000 pastors to come for the conference.I will give you the schedule of august when i finish working together.i have read the book that you gave me and i have come a cross some powerful messages,experience is a good teacher and i have discovered that it is true.I will be sharing with you testimonies as we communicate.Have a safe journey with powerful meditations.

Also from Kitale, Kenya –

We were honored to have you minister in our church during your mission trip to Africa.The lord is continuing to do incredible things in our church.We are seeing great move of God in our church members and church leaders.

From a denominational leader in Uganda –

Greetings in jesus name.Thanks for your message sent to me

Truly you have helped opur people especially in such trainings of bible shool.

I do really see the need to work as a team so as to accomplish what God has planned to do through us.

Please Sir,your input is very essential in such a nation for the welfare of the gospel to go forward.

There are many fields to team up together and allow God to be lifted through us.

Testimonies from Kenya and Uganda –

Thank you for your worm love. We bless the lord for your previous trip to East Africa.We ware tremendously blessed with your ministry. Mary my wife was completely healed from her back pain up to now, she doesn’t complain of any pain like she used to be. She does her regular work without any problem at all. We bless our God for what He did through you in Africa. The lord came before you to prepare the hearts that is why there was open reception of your apostolic teaching and receiving of the revelation of the mystery as referred to Ephesians 3;4-6 We saw the lord doing awesome work in Africa through you as many saints, pastors and church leaders received the grace of revelation and understanding.
Many had a transforming experience in both their lives and ministry as radical as the new birth.
In every meeting you ministered, the people received your teaching and received the lord as he came with conviction, releasing impartation of grace and through confirming signs and wonders.

The man you prayed for him in Uganda testified that the power of God did touch him when he heard your voice through the microphone from a two kilometer distance where he was drinking local brew (alcohol) Something within him told him to leave drinking and run to the church, he run so fast that people though he was mad. He found you had just stopped preaching and came strait to the pulpit and gave his life to Jesus.
This was the power of God. Hell had a blackout in Uganda. Demons and devils trembled as God of Glory moved in these darkest sites of the world. God is begging to raise an army who will match forward in His grace, putting hell in mess and establishing His kingdom in these days. Hallelujah!!

I have received several testimonies of healing, breakthroughs, deliverance, salvation and many incredible things that the lord did across Kenya and Uganda.

I want to share with you one from the pastor in Uganda and I will send to you many soon.

Pastor Stephen-Bukwo PCM church-Uganda
I had never experience the power of the Holy Spirit in my life until the servant of God Rev Carl Willis laid his hands on me and anointed my head with oil. For the first time the power of God touched me. I felt like fire burning from my toes to the head. My body shook terribly and there was an inner peace.
Also for my church we had never witness such a move of God, for the first time the Holy Spirit entered our church in power. He was awesome to see Him deliver a lady who was possessed with evil spirit. Such a thing had never happened in my church.

I saw everybody running in front with desperation of meeting with Jesus. The whole church was prayed for. The last two Sunday, the lord has blessed us tremendously and He has raised different ministries that we never had in our church. We acknowledge that we were so religious and we had never given the Holy Spirit a room. We are now enjoying the atmosphere of the Holy Spirit. We bless the lord for sending you to us. Indeed it was the Macedonia call of Paul.

More testimonies from Uganda –

The lord is still healing and delivering.there is this lady who attended our our meeting and invited us for a diner.Whose son got saved,the one came running to recieve jesus Christ.She had been abundoned by her husband for 30 years.The family you prayed with them at night whose daughter has been cribbled.

She shared with me that her husband came back to her.She is not only happy for her husband but also for the salvation of her son.

people are so happy for what the lord did.

There is this lady also from kenya who had growth in her stomatch.She had gone to many hospitals seeking for medical solutions but it never beared any fruit.She took your word by faith.

She got healed.She is now eating the foods she was told not test or eat.She has resummed to her work.She is a primary teacher.And many Rev that pen can not write.

Services, Graduation, etc…

The following links are from the services and conferences I led during my time in Kenya and Uganda.

May 8th evening in Kitale

May 9th evening in Kitale

May 10th morning in Kitale

Youth & Leader’s conferences May 10th afternoon

Kitale Pastor’s Conference May 11th

May 12th & 13th services in Kapchesoy, Uganda

May 14th in Kapchesoy, Uganda

May 16th first graduating class of Redeemer Bible College in Bukwo District, Uganda

On a Lighter Note

I’ve been home from Africa now for 5 days.   As I take time to reflect and put pictures together, I also find myself chuckling over the things that make Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda unique.   Here is my list of favorites:

  • Public nose picking is totally acceptable.   Two friends can enjoy a pick and a conversation together.
  • Muzungu fascination – children would run out to the road and all work would stop, simply because a white man was near
  • Muzungu prices – my hotel in Kitale cost $300 Shillings per day extra, simply because I was a Muzungu.  The zoo in Nairobi cost me $19 US more than anyone else in the group
  • African time – always at least 2 hours past the stated beginning or ending time
  • Food for honored guests – the honored guest always gets the chicken’s gizzard
  • Greetings – bad greetings will cost you friendships and business clients.   All business will be put on hold until every guest has had a chance to bring greetings to the audience.
  • Ugandan handshakes – plan to hold hands for at least 1-2 minutes and renew your grip 2-3 times during that period