Hope Dealers in South Dakota

This summer we received an invitation to visit the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. We were invited by a pastor who lived there and we’re excited to go. We traveled almost 2000 miles to get there, and as we crossed the border to the reservation we realized how far away this was from what we call home!

The Rose Bud Sioux Nation in South Dakota is a nation of 25.000 people living on 2800 square miles of land. The land is vast, the summers are dry and the winters are cold. It is not unusual for South Dakota to have severe hot, dry spells in the summer with the temperature climbing above 100 °F and winters going low to -30 °F with an average snowfall of 41 inches.

We stayed in a small town called “Mission” and found out that this was a mission, even more than expected. The church there was small. The first night we were only a few people, the pastor, the leader of the school, the worship leader and his wife, plus a family with nine kids! Even though the meetings had been advertised on the radio nobody from outside showed up! We realized that God had to give us a new strategy to reach the people, so we decided to make a bill payment. If Jesus came to announce good news for the poor, what would be more fulfilling that paying peoples bills?

Next day we went out with flyers and visited every corner of town, as many trailer homes as we could reach, every apartment, every street. As we knocked on the doors, the kids would answer. Many places we did not see the adults. Most people were friendly, and when we invited them for the bill pay they were very surprised. They had never heard of anything like this, and they all had bills that needed to be paid. One family had been without electricity for five months!

As we walked around and talked to people we could feel the hopelessness. So much poverty, misery, drug and alcohol abuse, unemployment … there were only a few grocery stores in town, only one bank, a Family Dollar with next to nothing on the shelves and more than 100 miles to the nearest Walmart. I was thinking of the family in church with the nine kids. How do you raise your kids and provide for your family with little substances in such a desolate place?

We were “hope dealers”, dealing hope to the hopeless. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, so in this case, hope had to come before faith! We were speaking hope, declaring hope, singing songs of hope: “Let hope arise, let hope remain, the dawn is breaking, it’s a new day!”, expecting God to change the atmosphere.

Many people came for the bill pay, they brought their bills and entered the drawing. The first two nights we gave away 2 x 500 dollars, and Sunday morning we gave away 1.000 dollars. The money was donated by people in our home church and people that we met on the road, it was awesome to see how it all came together!

First night five people were saved. The pastor was crying. For the past 40 years he had never seen five people saved at the same time, he said. The following days more people got saved. I think we counted 21 in total. We saw how hope was restored in peoples lives, maybe they came for the bill pay but they stayed for Jesus. They did not hurry to get back home, those that came the first night came back, and some of them also brought friends and family along.

When we left with our team after service Sunday, we wanted to pack them all up in the car and take them back home to Orlando, but obviously, that can’t happen! We believe God has another plan. Jesus says, who should I send, who will go? I trust God will call and send people to fulfill the mission out there, he is the author and the finisher of our faith, and we believe that He who started the work will be faithful to complete it, not only in our lives but also in the life of the people we ministered to.

We left a piece of our hearts there, and we pray that we will be able to be back. Help us share the vision. Some of you have supported this trip financially, and we trust that God will call more people to support. Pray for Mission, pray for the reservation, pray for the Native Americans. Let hope arise!

You can watch the video from the reservation here: hope dealers in the reservation

Celebrating Our Three Prodigal Sons

28082082_10214711779566339_504718714_oThis week on Valentine’s day we had a very special celebration at our church in Orlando. There were roses in vases, chocolate covered strawberries and some kind of non-alcoholic champagne at the table, but the party was not for Valentine, it was for our family and the homecoming of our three prodigal sons who finally have decided to surrender their lives to the Lord.

It has been a long and winding road, a detour down the darkest alleys where no parents want to see their children go. We have spent nights awake in prayer, reminding God of his promises, that “Me and my house will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24.15), and that “all my children will be taught by the Lord (Isaiah 54.13). There have been days where the battle has been so intense, where I had no tears left and my heart was broken into pieces, and there have been lonely nights where I have cried out in the laundry room and in my closet where I thought nobody could hear me except for God.

Our oldest son in Las Vegas was the first to surrender. He is 25 and used to be an atheist, on drugs and alcohol, doing magic in the street. At one point he got involved with a witch and that brought him to his knees. He was delivered from witchcraft and substance abuse, was baptized and blessed with new business opportunities. He got away from the street, started his own social media company and is now traveling the world doing social media and food trading. The past year he has visited 17 countries and seen things that most of us will never experience in a lifetime. The change in his life started the chain reaction, that eventually changed the life of his brothers. They finally came to the conclusion that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him!

Seeing this as parents it the greatest you can ever experience. I had to take an extra look in January when our youngest son who has been an agnostic attended our communion service. The same day he told us that he had decided to follow Jesus, and the following week he started interceeding for the other brother who had been suffering from depression over the past two years. This young man had been running away from home, taking drugs to calm the pain in his heart. God answered the prayers within a week and now we received a text message that the depression was gone!

We were like dreaming when it finally happened. We were hoping against hope, but now our hopes were fulfilled, so we called our boys together for three days and send out the invitation to the party at the church. We wanted to share our joy, we wanted to give Jesus glory, and we wanted to make a declaration in front of spiritual powers and principalities, that we as a family have decided to follow Jesus together. Sitting with the three sons, talking, sharing and praying together, was epic. We knew we were writing history and we went out  to do ministry, just to proclaim the good news, that our sons had been dead but now they are alive!

Never give up. Keep praying and keep believing, even when there is no hope in the natural, there is still hope in the spiritual. Do like Abraham, our Father of faith. Hold on to the promises, hold on to his faithfulness. He who is faithful will never fail. Remind Hime of his Word and know that his Word will not return void. Like the Father was out there waiting for his prodigal son to come home, he is still there waiting. I believe there is a lot of prodigal sons coming home this year. If He can do it for our family, He can do it for yours. Our children are like arrows in the quiver, ready to be sent against their destiny. As God is sending them towards the target, I know they can never fail.

Genesis 50.20. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

 

 

The Good, The Bad And The Evil

The other day I went with my wife Karen on the back of the motorcycle down to our church downtown Orlando and when we hit “OBT”, Orange Blossom Trail, I asked her “Why in the whole world she had chosen to follow me all the way to the US spending her best years serving the homeless people, some of them drunk and drugged, lazy, lying and stealing our stuff.

Since we have been married 29 years I already knew the answer. “Because God called us to do it”, she said as we pulled up in the parking lot to feed the poor which we have done consistently since we first came to Orlando in 2011.

I realize that many people my age have their 401Ks and are ready to retire. We have no pension, it was already spent in the visa process. We have no savings and we don’t own a house. But we have something much more powerful. We have a strong vision and we have a purpose which makes us feel rich every day.

A lot of men and women from the street had found their way to our Community Cafe. Most of them I recognized and some of them were new. One of them was a crack head, he was roaming around as if he was looking for something, and as I went into the main building to do some work together with the administrator, he followed me in, picked up a circular saw that belonged to the church and ran out!

Instinctively I and the administrator followed him through the traffic across the street. He was fast and I was not, so I turned around to get the motorcycle and came right after with a pistol in my pocket. The hunt ended less than 300 yards from our church, right in front of a house with a bunch of guys sitting outside. They did not look friendly. The oldest one with the most tattoos came and asked what I wanted so I explained to him that I was a pastor from the church on the other side of the street.

The man with the tattoos looked at me and made it perfectly clear that he was not familiar with our church or any kind of church. A lady next to him asked me if we were Methodists or Baptists. We are “Wild-ists” I explained. “I don’t know what that is!”, she said. “We are the ones that worship with their hands up and shout Hallelujah”, I said. Then she turned to her friend. “That is the kind of church you would like to go to, you get “high” there!”, she said.

Now the guy that stole our circular saw came running behind the fence into the house. “There he is!” I shouted and took out the phone from my pocket to call the police. I guess they knew where I was, they told me to wait and NOT go into the house!

The man with the tattoos was looking at my motorcycle. I asked if he would like a ride. Next thing, he jumped up behind and we raced down the street. When the police finally showed up, we a pulled up next to the police cars in front of our church, I the pastor, with an over tattooed man on the back.  This was his first introduction to the church so hopefully, he will be back!

When I came down the next day the guy that stole the circular saw was there again. He came out from 7-Eleven and I jumped right up on the side curb on my big bike so that he could not escape. As I looked him in the eyes, he started begging me for forgiveness with big tears in his eyes. Sorry pastor, I should not have stolen from the church but the drug dealer put a gun to my head and told me to get 60 dollars within an hour!”

I want Jesus to be the new “high” in the street. Life on OBT is different from where I come from. But I love every second of it. We have a great church, full of extraordinary people. I will say we are about 75 members including rats and roaches. Recently we have lost several members, including a younger fellow that fell into the sink. We are not afraid of losing members, the only thing we care about is doing the will of God – and the number of rats in our traps!

Matthew 22;8-10. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the crossroads and invite to the banquet as many as you can find’.  So the servants went out into the streets and gathered everyone they could find, both evil and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.