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.”

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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

“FIGuring Things Out”

A couple years back I mentioned in a sermon that I was very disappointed that the Fig trees I planted were not producing as I felt they should. Did I plant them in the wrong area? Was the soil that poor? Were they not getting enough water? Well, that has changed now. They are thriving (or at least were until the extreme heat hit the area). I have had some great harvests from one of my fig trees almost every other day. I do argue with the squirrels and birds. The fake rubber snakes I placed out helped, I think for a while, but now nobody is fooled by them anymore.

I have always loved figs. Fig cookies, fig preserves and years ago I even had a unique fig flavored vodka from Germany that was rather good. The fig tree is the third tree mentioned in the Bible when Adam and Eve made their clothes from fig leaves. Between the word “Figs” and ‘Fig Tree” they make an appearance in around 70 verses in Scripture. In all those verses there are good things spoken of as well as words of admonition and even curses made.

I recall from Luke 13:6-9 [Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So, he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”]

The Law from this passage would help us saying, don’t take up soil (life) and waste the nutrients (blessings, gifts, talents) that God presents to you. “Produce fruit in keeping with the repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The Gospel from this passage would remind us that God gives us second chances and as we know, a lot more than just a second chance. He gives us time to mature and produce as He has planted us.

God is certainly more generous with us than we are with others. If someone disappoints us in some way we might be swift to correct or condemn them. How often do we give them the opportunity to amend or self-correct their situation? Some folks are certainly better at this than others, still we all have our breaking point.

Thankfully God does not. He is there to forgive over and over again. The Lord God has us “FIG”ured out. He has taken time to allow us to grow and mature. We may get a little scraggly, or from one season to the next fail to produce as expected, but God still puts up with us. At least for now. There is a day coming when we’re are told “Every knee will bow.” Many fig tree branches have a good deal of “bend” in them. But they also have their breaking point. Better to give ourselves fully to God now. Better to honor Him with our lives today than wait for the day of judgment and wonder if we have produced as God desired us to do.

You’ve already been planted and nurtured for years. Get out there and bear fruit! Go! Be the child of God that you were called to be. Flourish under the SONshine. Live for the Lord. Don’t wait another season to start doing what God made you to do. Bear fruit!

Pastor Bill

Legal or Illegal?

Those words have very distinct meanings. In the United States (as it likely is in any other country) we have a multitude of laws that some people are in favor of and some people dislike. Over time laws change and change again. The result is the same, some people like the changed law and some people do not like the changed law.

The application of, or outcome of, a certain law is sometimes decided by nine people in the highest court in our country. Most often, they cast their vote in accordance with their political ideology. This is always controversial recognizing that there is an inherent bias always at work. So it is with most laws. The bias that exists within every person is not altered by our vocation.

One of the greatest challenges our country is facing today is the application, and/or enforcement, of laws. A great problem exists when we try to insert or use God’s Word to support our perspective on a national/secular law. The reason this becomes problematic is that one can use the Bible to support or condemn pretty much anything they want. There are already distinct laws in the Bible. You can find 10 really good ones in the Old Testament (Ex. 20 and Deut. 5). After that, Jesus introduces a couple of summations of those 10 laws reducing them to two. And of course, people want to use those laws to support their bias concerning civil laws.

While there is a statement that reads, “We the People…” concerning our government, there is a more important statement that reads we are the Body of Christ (the church); Rom 15:5, Col. 2:19, 3:15. How that is exercised is the next place where we continue to find disagreement. We will always have disagreements on the laws of the land, but that cannot be allowed to cause division in the Body and the Law of the Lord. Where God’s bias must always be honored.

I am greatly disheartened by “Christians” who condemn other Christians because of their political perspective. I’ve read where a person called those who view things differently sinful and even ‘evil.’ To which I respond that they just became the evil they condemn. It is not given to us to judge the motives and heart of another. Actions that disagree with our ideology most often (granted not always) are simply that, not acts of evil. Once we judge another child of God we have forgotten the log that is in our own eye (Mt. 7:1-5.) See also Js 1:23-24.

Civil laws come and go. From the past; prohibition, health care, voting rights, social security, the draft, and so on. From the present; legalizing marijuana, private enterprise and rights of service, gun ownership, health care (still), trade with other nations.

I may not agree with your ideas regarding the Country’s laws. But, what I really want to know is, are you a child of Christ? Have you been Baptized? Do you know Jesus as the only way to heaven (Jn. 14:6 “no one comes to the Father, except through me”)? Will you work with me to get the Good News out into the world? God’s Laws will not cause a division between us. The Gospel will unite us! Look at me as a forgiven child of God, I pledge to do the same to you. “But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Pastor Bill

SERVICE or SERVE US?

Do you have a “service mentality,” or a “serve us mentality”? While the dichotomy is simple to understand, because of our sinful nature, living the Christian lifestyle and being a true servant is hard to do. Still, we are called to serve, not to be served.

There are some genuinely generous people, truly gifted in hospitality, in giving, in serving others. Sadly, and perhaps somewhat cynically, more of what I see in people is that they have a desire to be served more than to serve others.

When this “serve us mentality” infects the minds of the individuals, it also infects the church which is made up of these people. It’s the same principle we deal with in people saying they come to church to “be fed”. It’s rather obvious that people get out of things from that which they put in (kind of like a church potluck). If a church member comes with a bitter attitude, more than likely they will leave with bitterness multiplied in their heart. If someone comes lacking the desire to forgive another they will be prone to leave not only feeling the same, but possibly having even less forgiveness in their heart as they see and hear that others are being called forgiven who have done far worse things (at least in their minds).

People most often see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear. They take with them only what fits their personally molded mentality. It infiltrates every aspect of people’s spiritual life. Some people put $20 a month in the offerings and expect the church to maintain a certain standard of appearance, comfort and certainly service to them in times of need. They scoot in and out of church hardly saying a word to anyone and then claim the church is unfriendly and unwelcoming.

Praise God that there are many in the church who do love the Lord and it’s genuinely observed because they show it in their love and respect for other children of God. Matthew 13 speaks about how Jesus was rejected in his own hometown and that there were no miracles performed there because of their lack of faith. It’s sorrowful that they missed out on the blessings of Jesus because they were too focused on themselves, on being served rather than serving.

There’s a series of commercials that have played over and over for years from a credit card company asking “What’s in Your Wallet?” The direction they want you thinking is that if you have their card, you’ll have all you need. We could ask in the church, “What’s in Your Heart?” and understand that question may reveal you have all you need, or it may show an ugliness that is in need of repentance and being left at the foot of the Cross.

If the church is to be right and healthy, then we as her members need to be right and healthy. If the church is to be faithful, then we as God’s individual people need to be faithful and faith filled. If the church is to be a place of “service” to others, the we need to rid ourselves of the “serve us” mentality and instead return to the Lord and the example He is in His service to us. Are you faithfully coming to the weekly family reunion or missing out to serve yourself? What are you bringing to the Sunday family gathering? It’ll be reflective of what you take home.

“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” ~ 1 Corinthians 9:19

Don’t be in it for yourself, that you might be served. Live for the opportunity to be of service for others.

Pastor Bill

Seasons Change, Do You?

YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS!

Easter marks the beginning of a new season in the church year. The Gospel readings shift to both post-resurrection stories about Jesus, and also His care for us as the Good Shepherd, the nourishing Vine, and the Christ who offers prayers on our behalf.

IT’S TIME TO/FOR SPRING

As there is a shift in the readings and focus of worship in new Easter season, there is a shift in the season around us as we say farewell to Winter and welcome Spring (or as we see it in Texas, just a brief walk up to Summer). With those changes, perhaps now would be a good time to consider changes of our own. Better than the old hat idea of New Year’s resolutions, how about looking for a new level of faithfulness to the Lord. How about asking the Spirit to Spring up within us and energize us anew for service in God’s Name? What if everyone of us looked to make a truly new and positive impact on behalf of Christ, remembering as we do not just at Easter, but always, that His death and resurrection are the reason we have life, hope and our very being? Some things to Consider might be…

  • A renewed faithful participation in Bible Study, both for the knowledge and for the fellowship with the family of believers.
  • Pledging to invite someone to church at least once a month. (Whether they come or not, we need to be active in asking people.)
  • Finding one new ministry to get involved with at church. We can look for new ways to use our talents and bless the congregation as well as our own spirits.
  • Tithe, or make a commitment to increase your offerings, by even 1% more of your income. The church is how we are both nourished and how we reach out to others in caring for them in so many ways. We have to fund the ministry to both the Body of Christ in each place as well as planning for the future.
  • Read the Bible regularly, every day. If you already do this, then increase the amount of time you spend in the Scriptures by another 5 or 10 minutes each day.
  • Pray, pray, pray. Every church, always has several folks you know from the family that need prayers. Most publish lists of those folks. You can also make your own daily list of folks that need prayer. (As a pastor, I am always appreciative of prayers that I remain faithful and serve well.)

Don’t let the weather be the only thing that “Springs” around you. Spring into action in your faith as well.

Pastor Bill

Christians Who Conceal and Carry

I know everyone already has a strong opinion on this one way or the other. I also realize that nothing I write will likely change a single person’s opinion or actions. But, I ask you to read this with as open a mind as you possibly can. And please, try not to draw a conclusion or evaluate this epistle sentence by sentence until you have read the entire document.

On my part I can honestly say, that I have grown to have a great concern over many of those who choose to conceal and carry. That may come as a surprise to some, but most people will understand my perspective, even if they don’t share it. However, I also have a greater concern over those who choose not to carry at all. which may sound like a conflict, but I do not believe that is the case.

In this day and age it is clear to me that if ever there was a time for people to be bold enough to carry it is now. I do realize that there are some who cannot be trusted. But, it is all the more important that because there are some who will do the wrong thing, that we need to have good and godly people who will carry and do the right thing. Christians need to have a firm understanding that this is really a responsibility, not just a right

Will we give our country over to people who lead us astray from what is our God given and God ordained right? Over the years that’s what has happened. We have allowed ourselves to be shamed because of other people actions and beliefs. This has led to a point where we are no longer given much of a say. Fingers are pointed and blame is ascribed before anything takes place, even though folks are behaving peaceably. Will we surrender to those who say that what we stand for has no place in society any longer? Will we be judged by the actions of a few? Why should we be attacked so readily when we only want to help others?

Through ages past, people were once bolder. More people knew that they had a right to speak out and speak up for what is right. This is a matter of life and death and if we are truly concerned about protecting the lives of those around us, those we know, those we love, and yes, even those that may just cross our paths, the time to rise up and take a stand is now. There are too many lives at stake if we do not make a conscious choice to carry. I carry! I have one in the glove box of my pickup, several at home and even quite a few in my office. I even encourage people at church to bring theirs with them so they can get some practice in, using them.

Do you carry your Bible? Is it where you can use it at a moment’s notice? Is it there for you to pull out in time of need for your sake or for the sake of another? Some Christians have their Bibles with them but conceal them so others may never know they exist or carry them around at all. Other Christians don’t bother to carry them at all. This Word save lives! How can we say we are committed Christians if we don’t carry Bibles and regularly use them for our protection and the protection and salvation of others.

I carry, I want you to carry too. Take a stand not to let the world around continue to tell us to sit down. Carry, read and show it freely and frequently to others. Use it and remind people that you do so because you care about them. Don’t conceal it, openly show it and openly share it.

Pastor Bill