Blessings to Come

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Redondo Beach, California

Over the last couple of years, the Lord has been preparing Kathryn and I for something that we did not see coming. I have served all 26 years in which I have been a pastor in the great state of Texas, my home. We have been at Holy Cross in Arlington for over 15 years. In the last two years we went through Call process after Call process many times with many churches from coast to coast, outside of the state of Texas. All of these were a surprise as I have never sought to leave Texas.

In November I received a Call to California (Yes, the place that so many folks are leaving because of cost of living, crime, wildfires, homelessness, and poor governance. All of which are on the increase.) Still, when God says go, you must go.

One of my favorite brief devotions of all time is in the compilation of morning and evening daily devotions by C.H. Spurgeon. Specifically, the evening devotion for February 25th, addresses Jonah 1:3 “But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord” [ESV]. The devotion considers the consequences of Jonah’s disobedience in shirking his responsibilities of serving the Lord as well as his self-centeredness in trying to flee from the presence of God Himself. The very name of God, Immanuel, reminds us that God is with us. We cannot continue to “kick against the goads” Acts 26:14b [ESV] and seek to go our own way and at least metaphorically run from God. We need to yield ourselves to God and remember that “God is with us,” Immanuel.

Our Holy Cross church family is in a great place. We have wonderful leaders, skilled musicians, a growing number of members (even in the midst of Covid 2020) and we are blessed in many ways by God.

In meeting the congregation of Immanuel, Redondo Beach the verses come to mind from the Gospel of Matthew 9: 35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” [ESV].

While the people of Immanuel RB are not harassed and helpless, they are in fact very talented and dedicated, I still saw them as sheep without a shepherd. They have been without a pastor for several years. Though small in number, having once been a large congregation, they have great potential to become one again. Micah 5:2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” [ESV]. They need a full-time pastor to pivot around and tie all their gifts together and bless their community and themselves. California is also no Tarshish, any more than any other place fits the example of being Tarshish as well. It is a beautiful land filled with many good children of God.

So, God said this is where I want you to be. And the result is that Kathryn and I are going to be moving to Redondo Beach, California and joining the family of Immanuel Lutheran Church. We are filled with sorrow in leaving our family of 15 years at Holy Cross, we love the folks here so much and feel that love in return. But we are also excited about joining together with the wonderful people of Immanuel in Redondo Beach and being a part of the work of the Lord there. God will bless all of us. He is “with us”. Holy Cross, Immanuel, and Kathryn and I will all see the work of the Lord in and through us as long as we seek to continually, faithfully answer His Call to us. God has done great things and there are great things ahead.

That famous Christmas quote seems most appropriate here, “God bless us everyone.” And we know that He will.

Bill

Congratulations or Condolences (God is still in control!)

Le Maschere (Comedy and Tragedy, Theater) - Florence Inferno

Your candidates won or your candidates lost. From a spiritual perspective I may like or dislike some policies that have taken place or will take place. But, from that same spiritual perspective I see that God is still in control today.

Many folks had their politics driving their emotions over the last few months and this is understandable considering the massive influx of political ads and information that has been placed on our brains. Still, now is a time to let go of that and be magnanimous in your dealings with others no matter your perception of their views. Stop taking things personally that were never meant that way. Stop hearing every counter argument that someone made against your ideals as them being against you.

Yes, what you have in most cases is a “perception” of others’ views. We typically latch on to one or two ideas about people and then draw a narrative to fit our own personal prejudices. More often than not it is not other’s prejudices that are the problem, it is the person who is projecting their labeling on another and drawing conclusions from their personal ideas of how those things add up.

Are there people who are racist? Yes, without a doubt. But, just because people of every race can be racist, does not mean that all people are racist. Just because men are men does not make them all misogynistic, but there are men who are misogynists. There is agism and classism and there are all kinds of discrimination, but the fact that it exists does not make all those from opposing groups liable (in the non-legal sense).

Not every issue involving people who are black and white is about race. Not every issue involving politics can be summed up in a Democrat vs. Republican stance. Not every action against someone who happens to be gay is an act of homophobia. The list goes on. People are sinful and will always act in sinful ways. But, that is often where we need to leave it, and not ascribe and impose all of the various personal prejudices we want to see in others.

Now, back to the idea of today, a new day and tomorrow new yet again. Remember, God is in control and particularly in His church. Whomever you voted for and whoever won or lost, in a spiritual people we treat each other in spiritual ways. As God has treated us with the forgiveness of sin, love and compassion, so we should treat each other. In the church we will do no less.

100 years ago, 50 years ago, 10 years ago, a year ago, 6 months ago, we knew the church as a place of love, acceptance and forgiveness. No one was looking at your voter ID card to check your party affiliation. Oh, there have been a multitude of problems in the church as well over time, but God has continued to be God.

On Sunday God’s people will come to church. Do you know how they voted? In some cases, yes absolutely, as they have not hidden anything. But do you know all the issues that drive that person? To think we do is to proclaim ourselves a fool. We may know a reason or two behind where people stand on issues, we may know an issue or two that drive people, but beyond that to continue to draw conclusions is to draw that narrative that fits our own prejudices.

In the church we will welcome all God’s people. In the church we will still seek to reach all people with the Gospel of Christ. In the church we will follow the example in how God has treated us with forgiveness, love and compassion. If that is the kind of Christian charity that drives you, then I look forward to worshipping along with you, in a physical sense (for those in my home church) or in a expanded spiritual sense (with Christians around the world). If you still can’t get past your own prejudices in judging others, then I ask you to please stop looking in a mirror and start looking at the cross. God is still in control.

Amen,

Pastor Bill Lowrey

Dealing with Politics and Race (Back to the Basics)

If I were to vote on a presidential candidate based on their past, I would say toss them both out and start again. They have both been immoral, downright creepy and borderline, if not way over line, focused on self. They both continue to play the role we sadly have come to expect of politicians and are lying continually about things and even in what they say about each other.

But when it comes to judging others, if people were to choose to listen to me as a pastor based on my past, many would turn away and find me unworthy to serve as a minister. Hopefully, they would see however that I am a forgiven child of God, as are they, and that I continually seek to change my ways to be more in line with God’s will.

Are we following God? Are we being the children of God that He has called us to be? Are we forgiving and compassionate toward those of differing mindsets? Are we still sinners? Let’s go back to the basics of how we are to relate to others in this world.

Matthew 7:1“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Are you posting online, saying, or even thinking for that matter evil upon those candidates that you don’t support? Are you passing along the rumors and gossip? If so and you don’t see yourself as a hypocrite in your actions, then you just showed yourself as a hypocrite in your response. Oh, how we abhor the idea of someone calling us a hypocrite, but those are God’s words not mine. Take it up with Him. Politics is not the only place this is an issue, also the back and forth regarding racial tensions has become horrible and is no longer productive in many cases.

Do you remember, God has said that we should treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves? If not, here is a refresher…

Matthew 7:12 “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” And again, Luke 6:31 “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

Have you been a part of the name calling and finger pointing, the meme sharing, the attacks on someone that is not your favored candidate? What does the Bible say?

Matthew 5:22 “Whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.


“Fool” is pretty light compared to some of the things I’ve heard and read that people say and post about politicians they don’t like or even people who support politicians they do not like. How liable to Hell are you? You will be held accountable for your actions. Do you need to get that cooler of Ice Water, “to go”?

How should we be treating others in these days of divisive politics and racial tensions? Let’s go back to the basics again.

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Also 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

As I’ve said before I say again, speak about the positive things concerning your beliefs, ideals, political candidates or whatever. You make a better argument when you point to the positive things you support and why, rather than when you come across as bitter, mean-spirited and spiteful towards others. Grow up in your faith! And step up as a Christian! That is, if the Spirit of God is within you.

I remember back in a previous congregation I served many years ago where we had a school with students up to 8th grade. I taught the religion (day school confirmation) classes for the 8th grade class. One day there was a child who was acting horrible and saying horrible things to other students. He was wearing a cross necklace and I had him come forward and took him to the hall. I told him to remove the cross and give it to me. After some more of his name calling, now directed at me, reluctantly he removed the necklace and handed it to me. I told him, if he is going to behave like he was, I didn’t want him to wear the cross and make others think that is how Christians behave. I said, when he was ready to apologize to me and the entire class, I would give it back to him. It was about a week later when he humbly approached me and said he was sorry. I told him he now needed to say that to the classroom, which he willingly did. They in unison forgave him aloud. I joyfully took the cross out to the drawer and hung it on his neck. He was showing what it was to be Christian, to live being forgiven and as a fellow child of God.

I’m certain there are many who would not approve of the method I chose to teach him, but I would not change my approach if it were to have happened still today. If you call yourself His child, if you claim to be a Christian, if you wear a cross or religious t-shirt, don’t advertise a faith that you are not living.

With all this, you can also be certain that there is no need to call me out on the mat for this note and not living it faithfully myself. As the old though goes, when you point a finger at someone you are pointing 3 back at yourself. Or as I learned in writing sermons that whatever I say to people in a sermon, I have to have said first to myself.

1 Timothy 1:15 “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

Live the life you claim in calling yourself Christian. Ask for forgiveness and as is said in John 8:11 “go and sin no more.”

Chief of Sinners,

Pastor Bill

My Covid Clamor

It breaks my heart when I see people posting places online (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on) places they are going and things they are doing these days, but they are not coming to church.

“But it’s not safe” (as if all these other places are), “I’m not comfortable around so many folks” (unless it is in some other activity than joining in worship) …

Since when are all these other places and activities safer than coming together with the Body of Christ in worship? At the church we are using the government approved sprays and wipes that kill the Covid 19 virus. Between each time of worship, activity, meeting, Bible study, anything we disinfect everything. We are wearing the masks. We are social distancing.

Plus, this is where we worship the God of all who alone holds us, our lives, our health in His hands. But, He doesn’t rate high enough on our list to merit the attention we give to other things people are doing during these days. It’s of more value to go and have some worldly fun than it is to seek joy together with the Christian family in signing God’s praise.

There are certainly a great number of people who are not going out at all or only minimally for medical reasons or groceries or the like. These folk need to stay home and feel safe and loved and be careful about their health.

But there are many more who seem to think that all these worldly places are worth the risk of exposure, but church is just not a safe place or a place they are comfortable to attend.

I think about the parable of the Prodigal Son. The Father stands at the gate waiting for his son to return from using his free will to live in the world instead of turning to Christ and the family.

I grieve for them, I weep for them, I ache for them, I pray for them. And then I grieve, weep, ache and pray a little more.

If you made it this far, thanks for listening to my rant.

He who has ears…

Pastor Bill

“The Indian Weather Rock”

“The Indian Weather Rock” (Luke 12:49-56)

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming.’ And so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

So far our text:

This is the tried and true weather predictor of the Old West. Used by early pioneers as they learned from the native Indians. You placed this outside your cabin or even your wagon, if travelling, and looked at this special rock to know what the weather was going to be like. You would simply go outside and look at the rock.

As the wise and mystical Indian prediction saying went:

If Top Of Rock Dry No Rain
If Top Of Rock Wet It’s Rainy
If Top Of Rock Hot It’s Warm
If Top Of Rock White It’s Snowing
If Rock Under Water Start Swimming
You’re In A Flood

There are signs that stocks may rise or fall… some folks buy and sell accordingly.   Signs of the seasons changing. The mesquite tree in Texas is the last to leaf out in Spring. When it is leafing out – that means winter is over, no more freezes to worry about.

There are signs that it may rain… rain lilies appear in the yard or bar-ditch, the Texas sage bush starts to bloom.

There are signs for this, signs for that. There are signs that a couple is falling in love…. There are signs when people fall out of love. We can interpret the signs of the times. When Wal-Mart starts selling candy corn (which they have by the way. I got some on Friday and brought it to the Friday night Lock-In. It’s all gone already) you know Fall and Halloween are near. When you start hearing the song “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!” at Hobby Lobby, you know that Christmas is near. (Although they already have Christmas Trees up for sale.)

Have any of you ever read the Farmer’s Almanac? They are actually a wise guide to knowing when to plant things because of the different zones and times of the year. However, they are not so good at making their predictions for the weather, which they do for a year in advance. Although, the local weather people aren’t really any better. Hey kids, just an idea if you don’t already know what to do with your life when you get older, become a Meteorologist. The are right half the time and wrong half the time and still get paid in full. So, you get a salary for making predictions that can be completely wrong and still get paid.

But people do not follow the signs that say pay attention to the here and now. The sign is, that now is the time to examine our lives and say are we really for God and following Him.

This passage really makes us uncomfortable from beginning to end. Jesus tells us He’s come to bring division, not peace. But the division is between the things that we hold to on earth which we make more important than God. Then we are told, you can seemingly read the signs around you about the worldly things, but you have not held to what is truly important.  Look at the empty Cross before us, it is one of the greatest signs we have. It shows us that Jesus, who lived, died and rose again for the forgiveness of our sin is very much alive and here for us now.

Have you ever looked at the other folks, perhaps the younger generation, perhaps the older generation, perhaps a parent of a child and thought “They just don’t have a clue!” That’s sort of what God is saying here to us. Do the signs indicate that you should follow the Lord with ALL your life? If you answer no, we need to set up a time to talk. If you answer yes… How does it feel to be called a hypocrite? Or more so, how does it feel to be called a hypocrite by God? Because that is what He does in the text. We aren’t living the way we say we should be living.

God is pointing out how comfortable we have become with the world. It’s almost like we like the life in Egypt, the brick making, the slavery, the pain and death, the Pharaoh ruling our daily lives. God wants more for us. He wants life and salvation. He wants forgiveness and a future. He wants us to pay attention to the signs that matter, the cross before us. Look at the skies and know that dark clouds mean rain is coming. In a Texas Summer, when the south wind blows, it will be hot and smoky. Then in winter and the North wind blows, we’ll have a blue Norther, cover the plants. We trust the weather, more than we trust the Lord. He tells us what’s best for our lives. He leads us to fellowship and Christian living and we don’t seem to get that these things are critically important.

Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher, and sort of theologian, from the 1800’s said, “From the very beginning, the purpose of Christianity was to change the world.” That is 100% accurate, Jesus came and changed everything. He ushered the New Covenant. Jesus didn’t come to make peace, and He certainly didn’t come to be ignored, or to be preached about once a week and forgotten about the other 6 and a half days. Jesus came to divide us from the world and help us to come to Him. So, in the week ahead you’ll have the opportunity to talk to people. What will you talk more about? About the weather? Or about Jesus? Which will be more important?

Amen.

Pastor Bill Lowrey

“What Kind of Kids Eat Armour Hot Dogs?”

One of the “Armour” meat processing plants was in the Ft. Worth Stockyards for almost 70 years. Go there and a memorial POI marker briefly tells of their existence and a few curbs still bear their name in paint. The company was popular for many items other than meats, all made from slaughterhouse beef byproducts; soap, glue, fertilizer, drugs, buttons, hairbrushes and even Oleomargarine©.

Armour started playing a radio commercial in the late 60’s and then made into a TV commercial a few years later. Do you remember the lyrics?

Hot dogs, Armour hot dogs, what kind of kids eat Armour Hot Dogs?

Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who climb on rocks, tough kids, sissy kids,

even kids with chicken pox love hot dogs, Armour Hot Dogs. The dogs kids love to bite!

Well, they certainly couldn’t air this commercial nowadays. We are so easily offended, but we don’t seem to care as much about offending others. We are riding a wave of political correctness. I hear cries for tolerance, and then the same people shout down and condemn folks who have views different from theirs.

We are hypersensitive to every new trendy plight. You can’t tell jokes because you’ll be labeled a bigot, homophobic, a racist, sexist, etc… The squeaky wheel continues to get the grease. Hurting someone’s feelings is equated to bullying (note: we should never intentionally seek to hurt someone in any way). Ask most people over 50 what real bullying is from the days of their youth. So few of the population (disclaimer: no actual study has been made, because studies are tainted by the questions, questioners, demographics and many other methods within which they are made or compiled) would have ever cared enough to get riled up unless these human fuses started screaming out their supposed heartaches which is too often for attention to themselves more than the newly arisen cause. People look to ‘take’ offense at things. There are a few Hollywood folk and politicians who have a chronic case of taking offense at every opportunity.

We can’t solve these problems because people won’t talk to each other anymore, at least not and maintain a civil conversation. They text, email, tweet, Instagram and do anything as long as they don’t have to speak face to face. The only time the word compromise is used is when one means you should change your way of thinking to be like mine.

People believe that being politically correct actually means that they are correct. Jesus didn’t practice political correctness. He was called to be “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (1 Pt. 2:8) He called it as it was when He dealt with ideologies, faith, culture, politics, actions, etc… Jesus calls us to be salt and light. We are to speak the truth in love, (Eph. 4:14-15). A Christians we should neither conform nor yield to culture, laws, philosophies, or anything that is in opposition to God’s Word. 

Political correctness is not the answer to making our world a better place. Jesus is the answer that is still needed, holding to His truths, Biblical truths. Hold on to God’s Word, where truth is found. Our words and interactions with others should be kind and genuine. But, politically correct? No, our standard is Scripture (1 Tim. 3:15 & 2 Tim. 3:16). Being politically correct will not endear us to God and it is killing churches. It changes doctrines and hearts. Make your goal to please God, not mankind. Love and follow God who calms the seas, not the back and forth waves of the world’s ideologies.

“They will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

So, it’s the world or the Word. It’s time to choose one or the other.

Sunday Morning

As a young child on Sunday mornings I used to get up and watch a television program called “The Children’s Hour,” a local DFW program. Sunday mornings the host would read the Sunday comics, show some cartoons, have a guest from a zoo or museum showing something and then the highlight for me, the claymation show about a boy and his talking dog “Davey and Goliath.”

The “Davey and Goliath” program was really the only reason I watched the show, (and probably the only reason I’d be allowed to watch TV before church.) There were lessons on all kinds of issues that were day to day problems, issues and yes, sins. Prejudice, lying, cheating, friendship, helping others, and the list goes on as to the many lessons that were addressed. The coolest thing for me (if referencing the program were not enough to date me, using the term ‘cool’ certainly does) was that at the end of the program a large picture of Luther’s Rose was shown for a good 15 seconds and a note that the program was a production of the Lutheran Church.

As a child then and just like kids today, if it was on television, it was important. Thus, for the Lutheran church reference and our most recognizable symbol, Luther’s Rose, to be on television meant that as a Lutheran I was a part of something important. Here I was, now ready to go to church, a church that had just been recognized by the “TV people” (not to be confused with the ones so-called in the movie “Poltergeist”.) I was a part of something significant, something meaningful, something important. The Children’s Hour host, Bill Kelly would even end the program with a statement along the line of “well, we have time for one more cartoon before it’s time to go to church.”

Over the years my attention to “Davey and Goliath” waned. The program was moved to Saturdays, were it conflicted with action style kid’s programing and 30 minute cartoons. A long time after I quit watching it, it was also eventually canceled. But, by that time, my draw to the church had changed. I was no longer drawn because of the notoriety given to the church by the television, but by the focus of the church on Jesus.

A TV program on a major network inviting kids to get a Christian message and encouraging them to go to church seems unimaginable in this day. In fact, television has gone the opposite direction with its anti-Christian bias. Most every program has a couple living in what is deemed an alternate lifestyle. The use of God’s name is reserved mainly for humor. The devil is portrayed as someone who is not so bad and may even be glorified. While there are several programs even now about God, they are farcical at best, and blasphemous in reality.

So, what manner has the Holy Spirit devised to combat the world and the ongoing daily attack that is audibly and visibly before us? That would be the same thing today as it has been throughout history, the Church. While so many Christians fill their daily lives with the heretical flood of entertainment that comes through their televisions, a small percentage of them come to church, purge their sins, join in the fellowship of the family of believers and worship the Savior.

Don’t de-emphasize God and His Church in your life. It’s like a bride ignoring her groom when we leave the church out of our life. We permit culture to attack our faith and don’t put up any struggle. Fight back (that good fight of faith) and join the family in praising Christ. It’s the most important event you could be a part of every week. There is nothing more God pleasing you could do with your morning.

Pastor Bill

Life Out of Control?

This letter you are reading was/is being, written while Kathryn and I travel to Colorado. As we neared our first 400 miles, we made our first stop for gas and to switch drivers. So, while Kathryn takes the wheel, I type on a bumpy road somewhere in Kansas. So far, we have seen no less than 6 accidents where people lost control on the wet roads (It’s been raining heavily since we entered Oklahoma). Some of the vehicles managed to get their cars so far off the road, we couldn’t even figure out how they got there.

With a New Year, I was drawn to think about how many people are dealing with a like reference in life. What I mean is, as we both look around and perhaps even a quick glance in the mirror, we see that for some people, their lives have spun or are spinning out of control. Some have gotten to that point because of contact with another vehicle (person). Some have ended up where they are because of hitting a barrier and rebounding out of control. Others we going to fast and just not paying attention to some of the dangers around them. And for even a few we look and say, how could they have possibly gotten where they are from here of where they were.

Holidays and especially the major Holy days that are centered on love and family life with God and each other can become a burden on some and a dread for others. I urge you to work to keep your life in control. If you feel like you’re losing traction, slow down and perhaps even give someone else the wheel for a while. Let others in the Body of Christ be a support for you.

Several Bible verses come to mind for those dealing with their loss of control in life. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” So many people around us have traveled down the same roads we are on now. Some successfully and some who have spun-out in the past and learned from their experiences. They can help us just as we would certainly be willing to help them.

Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” While some may want to take this verse and use it to suggest a manipulation of what an individual can do and believe that God will back them. We should read it as an understanding that if we properly place God first in our lives, He’s the one who really takes the wheel for us. Like the hymn, “Jesus Savior Pilot Me”, we don’t want God in the passenger or co-pilot seat. Let Him have control and trust He’ll get you where you need to be.

Finally, 1 Peter 5:6-8, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The devil is looking for ways to help us lose control. He wants us to veer off the road and feel that we have nowhere else to go. You know that’s not true. Jesus said He is with us always. He also gave us each other to support and hold on to when we’re in times of trouble or the road is difficult. Don’t lose control in the New Year, Hand the keys for your life to Jesus and take comfort that He and your sisters and brothers in Christ are there for you.

Pastor Bill

Belize 2018 (2nd Letter)

While walking in the village and running errands for the team, I met a young boy named David. He wasn’t at the school where the other children were gathering. In fact, he was walking the opposite direction from there. I stopped him and encouraged him to go and join in on the fun, the crafts. coloring, bible stories, the football (soccer) game…He couldn’t do that. He was heading to the bus stop. As we visited, I shared my name, ‘Mr. Bill’ with him. His eyes lit up as he said, “Mr. Bill is the man’s name that I work for.” “Really? You work for someone? What do you do?” I asked. David told me he raked and whatever else he says.

The job of raking is very important in Belize in the areas where there is beach sand, such as along the peninsula where our team goes. It’s believed that raking the sand (daily) helps control the sand flea (jigger) population. The thought is that raking reveals some of the eggs to the sun and kills them. So, David has an important task for his employer. What’s hard of course to accept is that an 8 year old, has to work. Yes, “has to” work. His pay is needed for his family. This trip was during their summer break from school and I do not know if he attends school or just goes to work year round. While elementary school is considered compulsory in Belize, there are many who do not attend, and for a multitude of reasons.

We cannot relieve most of the physical struggles the peoples of Belize face. But, we can continue to go there and seek to bless them and support them as we are able. The Belize Mission Society (BMS) monetarily sponsors several students that they may attend school. Once there, they also sponsor the feeding program that provides (at current about 50-60) kids with a hot lunch at St. Alphonsus in Seine Bight, and breakfast program that feeds 20+ kids each day. We go as missionaries of various congregations, but under the auspices of the BMS.

God has called congregations from around the states to come together to serve. We go there to find ways we can continue to give help in physical and spiritual ways. As we go to bless them, we return more blessed for having been there. It is certainly a two way gift from God.

Back in Belize City I met Simeon, a security guard who is from Punta Gorda (the opposite end of the country). He left there to find gainful employment and too escape a bad lifestyle, even ganginvolvement. He is trying hard to be a good person, reading the Bible and is learning about the Christian faith. He struggles but is open about those struggles and his desire to be the child of God that God desires. He asked for continued prayers and specifically that he would be able to avoid temptations and being drawn back into old ways trough pressure from his brother and others. We spoke for a long time and prayed together before having to stop because his supervisor came and did not approve of our visiting.

These are only two stories of new connections I made. There are dozens more by the many members of our team on this trip alone. While not everyone can go to Belize, everyone can be a part of this ministry through your financial support and more importantly your prayers. As the saying goes, “We cannot all cross the seas, but we can all see the Cross.”

Holy Cross – Belize Missions 2018

There is so much more to share than I can write within the confines of a single brief blog. So, I am going to make a series of posts, but begin with this simple overview for now.

16 folks from Holy Cross were joined by 16 more people from two other congregations, Zion in Walburg, TX and St. Paul Lutheran in Napoleon, OH. Last year we were notified by the airlines that out flight had been cancelled only 3 hours before we were scheduled to take off. We had no problems flying out this time but there were other struggles the devil came up with instead. We had two folks who had to leave early do to some health issues, and another who had to stay inside for a couple of days because of other health struggles. We had planned to paint classrooms at the school, but the school doors were locked and no teachers or keys were to be found. The devil seems to work overtime wherever Christians gather together to focus on blessing others.

As always, God prevails. And those of us who went to be a blessing discover all over again, that in many cases we are the ones who are blessed. When we place ourselves in the Lord’s hands and let go so that God may truly use us, He not only shows His glory, but allows us to be a part of His good works (Eph. 2:10).

Half of our group each day went to the village of Riversdale. Riversdale is located just north of the peninsula. So, they had a 10 minute drive north each morning from where we were staying. Once there, they held a VBS for the local children. This is the first time a VBS has ever been held in this village according to those who lived there. This ministry also opened up an opportunity for one of our missionaries to make more contacts with the local folk who expressed a desire to have regular worship times there.

The rest of the team went down to Seine Bight (our home community), which was a 10 minute drive south on the peninsula. There we held men’ and women’s Bible studies, children’s ministry each day and also worked on painting the cafeteria and the preschool at the school. We did some bathroom repairs at the school too. Then, we repaired a sink and installed a shower and wheelchair ramp in a home as well. All in all it was a very good trip.

The devil was defeated throughout our week there, we overcame obstacle after obstacle, work was accomplished, old relationships were revitalized and new friendships were made. By grace, we were a blessing to our sisters and brothers in Belize and they were a huge blessing to each of us.

(What follows is changed from my original post. As happens far too frequently in the U.S. happens the same in other countries as well. An early report said Antwone, having been found hanging, was being called a murder. That story has been changed. I had not read anything past those initial reports but have been made aware of a followup story.) 

Sadly, there was a tragedy following our time there. After the team had returned to the states a young boy only 7 … *** was found dead in what is being investigated as a suicide.*** This child had been a part of our Belize Mission Society ministries in the past, even participating in VBS in Seine Bight this year. This reminds that even after years of ministry in Seine Bight, the devil still has a strong foothold in the community, just as he has all over the world. God is not done with us there. We are not done going there. Next year, I pray for a larger number of folks to join us and help continue to bring the life saving Gospel to Belize. Until then, just keep praying.

Pastor Bill