We once received a call from a woman in a missions group asking if we had any mission project ideas. I wanted to respond with “just open your eyes and look around. They’re all around you.” But I tried to be nice, and gave the phone to wife Margie.
As a friend of ours said (when I conveyed the story to him), “that’s like sayin sicum to a rottweiler.”
I have discovered, no matter where you live, many people are aware of Christians and the kind of work we do. Also, it seems, in… most situations, they welcome us to serve the needs.
I visited a rest home today to explore the possibility of a group providing a service on a Sunday afternoon each month. The activities director was not only warm to the idea but seemed thrilled for us to do such. We begin the second Sunday in August at 3 pm. It was a very simple procedure; not nearly as difficult as I thought it might be.
A man asked me not long ago, “just how do you go about organizing a Christian motorcycle riders group?” One just simply gets the word out to local churches, publish it on facebook, set a time, ride and place to meet, and you’re off and running. No problem.
I have found there are many in churches that want to participate in some type of missions activity. However there are very few willing to organize such, mainly because they think it is beyond their ability to pull it together. That, I can tell you, conclusively and assuredly, is not the case.
If someone will pull together a plan for a project, announce it with a few of the details, people will show up to help. I guarantee it, I’ve seen it happen too many times.
YOU may be the catalyst of such a project in your church. It is so important we get out among lost people. Do you have any idea of how precious the information contained in you can be to an unchurched person.
So get brave, prayed up, put on your armor, and do it. One more thing, it’s habit forming; it gets in your blood. The more you do, the more you’ll want to do.
Oh yeah, if you can’t think of a project, just look around!
The first mission trip is the life changer for many. It certainly was for me. There are numerous examples of pastors, evangelist and missionaries that were motivated into the ministry because of a mission trip.
I am such an example. It took over twenty years for the calling to come to fruition, but it finally did.
My first mission trip was to Kenya in 1986. When I first arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, culture shock became a reality. This is not to say Africa is bad and America is good, things are just different. It was, in many ways, going back in time. Life was simpler, quieter and definitely slower. People did not get in a hurry for anything. There‘s no such thing as fast food, all food is slow food.
Our first experience in a village was Likoni. Likoni sits on the mainland, south of the city’s center, accessible from Mombasa only by ferry. It is mostly residential, with a population of 175,000 people. The Mijikenda Tribe is indigenous to the area and make up over half the population. Migrants from other parts of the country, and other ethnic groups, make up the second half.
The ferry connecting Mombasa Island to Likoni transfers over 200,000 people per day. We found both ports and also on the ferry to be excellent points in which to engage people. I remember one man asking me “How much is the cost of being a Christian?” The question took me by such surprise; I had to regain any semblance of sanity I may have had in order to tell him “Jesus had already paid it all.”
Our first day, Missionary Ralph Bethea, took us to Likoni. We must have looked like a really strange group to the residents. My guess is, they probably looked around for our space ship.
I most certainly do not want to sound like I am mocking or ridiculing the people. Things were just different from what we were used to. Quite the opposite actually; I found them to be a delightful, loving, sharing people. Also, I observed, many are very intelligent and well educated. I once had an interpreter that spoke five languages and was a mathematical genius.
Likoni Baptist Church was a building about 24’ x 36’. It was made of sticks with a roof made of palm tree leaves. The seats were rough cut lumber with no back. I wonder how many Americans would go to church under such conditions. The musicians slapped two pieces of wood together for rhythm.
The people welcomed us into the church family with open arms. Unlike so many American churches, we were made to feel a part of the community and services. Africans are hand shakers. They don’t have to be told to “extend a hand of fellowship.”
With all the other “new” experiences, the memory most intense in my mind, is of the children. None of them had shoes. Their toys were improvised. I saw boys rolling around old tires for playthings. One old flat soccer ball was in the village. It had a cut in it about 3” long. One child had a car someone had made him of sticks.
The children did not have school clothes, play clothes and other clothes. They only had one garment and wore it every day. Children old enough to be in school had school uniforms. We’ve seen school uniforms used in several third world countries. They had no shoes. On another trip to another region of Kenya; I met an older man with no toes. He had walked so many miles in the sandy soil, his toes had been worn away by the abrasion.
I remember thinking, I wish I could bring every American child here and let them experience this. Perhaps so many would not take our way of life for granted. Adults in America are also somewhat spoiled to our lifestyle and do not realize, many people in the world do not have the things we consider simple and readily available.
I still remember the expressions of shock on the faces of the others on the trip. None of us were prepared for this. For most of us, it was our first experience in such an environment.
I remember trying to go to sleep that night. I couldn’t get the children out of my mind. Now, after twenty-nine years the memories still linger.
Praise God! The Pope made the statement in Santa Cruz Bolivia, this week, “Unbridled capitalism is the dung of the devil.” We have been seeing the results of “out of control, unrestrained, capitalism, ever since TV began advertising sex like sody pop, 30 years ago.
A capitalistic democracy may be the best governmental system in the world. However, if left to the notions and morals (or lack of) by it’s purveyors, it will run astray. The results will be catastrophic.
Today we …see these entrepreneurs of immorality corrupting our society with pornography, drugs, and other societal problems that are degrading the quality of our people at an alarming rate.
America is quickly approaching the status of “third world.” As the morals of a people are in a state of decline, the levels of motivation, determination, incentive and a desire for betterment of the society are impaired. There is no” break even” state for a society. It is either in a state of improvement or decline.
America, in the interest of freedom, allows not only the immoral practices but in the name of freedom, allows those practicing these endeavors to influence our very impressionable people. Americans are being brainwashed by the capitalists and haven’t got a clue of their vulnerability.
The pope realizes as many of us do, that free enterprise must be controlled or we will end up with a world full of Sodom’s and people with the same sense of morality as Noah’s neighbors.
Karl Marx saw the short sightedness of free capitalism over 150 years ago. He predicted that, like previous socioeconomic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system: socialism.
Capitalism, by it’s very nature, leads to greed, selfishness, jealousy, materialism, and even hatred. Look at the present conflict between the liberals and conservatives in America. I have in my 68 years never witnessed hatred at the level as it now exist in the name of politics.
The Bible does not specifically teach a communal social structure, however, Acts 5, certainly implies such. Paul was certainly clear in 1 Tim 6: 10 when he wrote “the love of money is the root of all evil.”
So, Pope Francis, keep up the good work. However, the world won’t like the truth.
A cold night in the winter of ’85-’86, wife Margie was reading and said to me, “here is something you might be interested in.” So, I had to re-focus my brain to her and intentionally listen. The Caldwell-Lyon Association was organizing a mission trip to Kenya. At first I wasn’t particularly interested but later, something touched my inner self and said, go.
In January of 1986 I went to a meeting at the C/L Association building. I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive being around all those serious minded people. I went to church but didn’t take it very seriously. It seemed like a good thing to do since I had a nine year old son. Church was a much better way to raise a child than any of the alternatives. It was just common sense.
Before long I was signed up to go to Kenya for two weeks in July of 1986. What had I gotten myself into? Another mess, the story of my life; you know, the ones where you start wondering why you agreed to participate. The Director of Missions, Harold Greenfield called meetings once a month for orientation and get acquainted with the others. That turned out to be a fantastic idea, it was definitely best to know each other before the trip. Also the spiritual essence was invaluable.
At one of those meetings, Bro.Harold ask if anyone had any problems or issues they needed to discuss. I said, “I’ve got a problem, I just don’t feel like I’m good enough to do this.” An older preacher sitting next to me laid his hand on my shoulder and said, “I can assure you, none of us are.”
Before 1986 I was not a particularly spiritual person. I still wrestle with the supernatural. I approach the gospel even now from a perspective of logic and reason. Obviously there is a God, the God of the Bible. There is no other logical explanation for our existence. It is simply the most believable of the alternatives.
So, off we went to Kenya in July of 1986. I was one of the very few that had been out of the United States. That was only to Mexico and Canada, I’m not sure if those count. The first few days nearly killed me, having to be around all those men living in a world I wasn’t use to. Then I began to see things happen I could not logically explain.
I actually heard men pray from the heart, not just memorized rhetoric. I saw God working in a way I would have never thought possible. We ran out of printed material (in Swahili, the language in Kenya). We were told the press in Nairobi couldn’t ship more until the next week. We prayed hard for an answer. The next morning a truck load of tracts showed up at our hotel; we were back in business.
We were told of a village that practiced voodoo and witchcraft. We prayed for that village one night. The next morning we went to the village. Seventeen people accepted Christ and I gave the witch doctor a Bible printed in Swahili.
These are just two examples of answered prayer I witnessed in July of 1986. My life was changed forever. We saw over 5400 people pray to receive Jesus on that trip.
Prayer became a very important part of my life. I am still skeptical of the supernatural. However, I’ve seen too many things happen that just simply cannot be explained any other way.
One pastor said, “we can preach a lifetime in our churches at home, and never see this many salvations.”
Wow, this is real! I had “gotten saved,” and joined the church of my parents on Easter Sunday of 1955. Thirty years later, that became real. Before, I just hadn’t gotten the point. Had I, like so many others, been a victim of my peers and other acquaintances.
Mission trips change lives. One night standing on the beach of the Indian Ocean, I was talking with a young preacher named Tony. That day we had gone to a market to share Jesus. The missionary had an old Chevy Blazer with the top cut out. We had microphones, speakers and an interpreter. We called it, “Have Pulpit, Will Travel.” From the back of the truck we preached. That day was my turn to “preach,” something I’d never done before, so, I did. I found myself saying things to the crowd I didn’t even know I knew. Figure that one out.
That evening, Tony said to me, “Van, you did a pretty good job with that today. Have you ever thought you might be called to preach?” I replied, “that could never happen!” He ask “why?” I said, “I’ve only got one sermon.”
His answer to that statement, I will never forget! “There’s only one sermon.”
As the years went by, the more I realized how true that statement really was. Christ crucified and resurrected. That’s it. That’s the one. That’s the only one! Everyone deserves to hear that sermon.
Four years later we began services at a homeless mission. I’ve lost count of the mission trips and countries since then. My wife and I were commissioned missionaries in 2003. In November 2008 I answered the call as an evangelist.
Mission trips change lives. I remember sitting in a Bible study class with a friend going to Russia. I told the class, “take a good look at him; he won’t be the same when he comes back.” A few months later, he reminded me of what I’d said and verified that it was true.
Mission trips change lives. I’ve often wondered when I had an idea, if it was God’s idea or mine. So, I’ve adopted the philosophy, if an opportunity presents itself, I must at least assume the probability, God is in it. I know, my life has been dramatically changed because of mission trips and I’ve seen other’s lives changed as well.
Try it, if you are willing to take a chance of becoming a different person.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Sooner or later I’m sure someone is going to say to me, “I really expected you to be younger, taller and better looking.” They will question why someone with my attributes would write a blog with the title, “Real Men.”
Perhaps it would have been best had I done this 40 years ago. Considering there was no such word as “blog” then, blogging may have been a little difficult. The world had problems then, if “Real Men” had stood against, the world may not be in the shape it’s in today. Forty years ago there was discipline in schools, people voted for the candidate, not against the other one, and people attended church.
I have a sermon called “When Good Men do Nothing.” It is based on a quote by Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke. He said, “When good men do nothing, evil triumphs.” Good men have not been being real men for far too long. We have allowed evil to triumph.
Under the guise of free speech, the porn industry has flourished. Camouflaged as recreation the drug business is thriving. Disguised also as freedom, TV has advertised sex like soda pop. We humans cannot control ourselves. Order cannot result from chaos and right now, we are in chaos.
So, what is a real man? Size and arms of steel don’t make a real man. A real man accepts responsibility. He provides for his family and does his best to hold them together. He respects his wife and expects respect from her in return. Ephesians 5: 22 “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.” This is a two way street. No real man would ever physically or verbally abuse his wife or vice versa.
A real man rears up his children in the ways of the Church/Bible/teachings of God. Proverbs 22: 6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” I am a product of this scripture. When I got wild and crazy, God pulled me back. I am thankful beyond description; my parents raised me in a Christian environment and church.
A real man disciplines his children. If they are not disciplined by the father, the courts will discipline them later. Recent statistics show that one in every one hundred Americans is incarcerated. It’s the fault in many cases, of the fathers.
My dad was a real man. He taught me to work. He had me out on plumbing and electrical jobs from when I was about ten years old. That may be considered child abuse in today’s mucked up world. He taught me respect and consideration for others. He praised me when I did something right and corrected me when I did things wrong. He set an example for me that few fathers do. He was the best friend I ever had. If I could be one tenth the man he was, I would consider my life a success.
A real man respects authority. The law is the enemy of the criminal but the friend of the honest citizen. I’ll be the first to admit how I hate to see a blue light in my rear view mirror, but the police have the responsibility of enforcing the law.
A real man pays his debts. Included in this is to never over extend one’s self. Easy credit has ruined many people, and in turn destroyed families. My parents taught me, if you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it. Many people in America today want it all and want it now. It just doesn’t work that way. Before you can have, you have to do without. The appreciation of earthly possessions is greatly enhanced when one earns those things.
This list is just a beginning but I’m sure you get the point. If real men are iron in the blood, America is anemic. If men don’t step up and accept the responsibility of real men, current problems will only multiply.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “A people that value its privileges above it’s principles soon loses both.” January 20, 1953