An Early Ending - PART I
Sometimes it's hard to understand why things happen the way they do but we know that ". . . all things work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28.) Many times over my years of ministry I've experienced times when I felt confident that I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. Doors opened that only He could open and I walked through them as He lead me - yet in the midst of it the same doors would suddenly slam shut and I would have to walk away - trusting God that He would one day reveal why I had to go through those things. Sometimes I would question if I somehow misunderstood His leading because one moment it was obvious that He was leading me into a situation only to end it. Since most of you who are reading this were around for some of these I will use: America's Keswick and Cure International as examples. In both situations most of us would agree that it was God's leading for me to work with both of those yet, almost as quickly as the door opened with a clear path - the door slammed shut leaving me no option but to go on my way and trust God to reveal His plan. Those both were very painful emotionally and in many other ways because I poured my mind, body, and spirit into all of them. GOD called me to so. I found myself faced with new challenges and needing to help all of you to somehow understand as well. Together we weathered those storms and GOD has continued to lead me and bless this ministry.
Things came together so easily and without any major struggles for this mission to Mexico. The majority of that was a direct result of your prayers. I believe the rest had to do with the enemy setting up the battle plan to take place in the mountains of Mexico. I knew there would be a spiritual battlefield on this trip and had no question that it would be at the camp where we were headed but, I never dreamed it would be so clever and that it would be so damaging emotionally to us.
First you must know that David and I both had wonderful, safe, uneventful trips to Mexico. He took a bus from Houston to Monterrey and I flew from Phila to Houston and then a commuter jet from Houston to Monterrey. The hotel where we stayed for two days to prepare for our mission was perfect. We ended up getting to know so many of the hotel staff. We spent Friday eve. getting to know each other better and preparing for the messages. Saturday we met with the Pastors and got to know them. We went into great detail with them about who David and I are and what I would be sharing. I also gave them my personal testimony about how I came to the Lord. It went very well and they were very enthusiastic about us being with them. They originally had me as the featured speaker for the camp (speaking 1 hour per day). Once they heard personally about what I was going to share with the camp they increased our time to speaking 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon and 1 hour in the evening. We were blessed. We felt so close to the pastors by the end of the meeting and visa versa.
Saturday we had the opportunity to meet a man named Oscar who was staying in the hotel with his wife and 15 year old daughter. We were in the pool when we began talking to Oscar. It was one of those divine appointment. Oscar told us he was a Christian and we had a long talk with him that really encouraged him. He invited us to have dinner with them. It was an awesome time of fellowship. Oscar spoke some english but for the most part David translated for us. Oscar told me he felt like he knew me all his life. I felt the same way. After dinner we went to the town square of Apodaca (the town near our hotel) and we went for a walk in the park. It was after 10 at night yet the park was filled with families enjoying the (very clean - well lit) park. Oscar not only treated us to a wonderful traditional / authentic Mexican dinner but also ice cream while at the park. As we walked Oscar put his arm around me and again told me how close he felt to me. It was mutual. We even talked about him bringing his family for a visit in Lancaster County. We ended our night by praying for Oscar's daughter (at his request). She was leaving the next day for a trip to Europe with a group of kids her age.
An Early Ending - Part II
Saturday night Davidand I talked about the blessings of the day. It was such a great beginning. Sunday a.m. we got up a little later than we planned thanks to me hitting the snooze alarm once to many times. We were going to get in the pool one last time before leaving the hotel but there was no time for that now. We headed down for a quick breakfast before packing to leave for Saltillo. Pastor Lucio said they would be picking us up at 9:00 a.m. He arrived early. (8:25) We weren't ready. It was already hot in Monterry as we loaded our bags into a van that looked like it might not make it to Saltillo. It was not air conditioned and didn't run very well. With the windows down I got the constant fumes from a leaky exhaust. I hadn't actually seen Monterry until now. The city is huge. It took almost an hour to get from our hotel to the other side of the city. As we drove toward Saltillo it got amazingly cooler. Much like the weather I am used to here in PA.
The church in Saltillo got us a room at Hotel Saltillo on a very busy city street. It was not a modern hotel but, we are on a mission trip not vacation. The Pastor showed us the room and told us we didn't have it take it. He told the clerk to prepare another room just in case we didn't want this one. We stayed in this room. It was small with two beds and faced the busy city street with buses, trucks and taxis. It was noisy. Since the room did not have air conditioning we had to keep the huge window open for air. It was cool in there with the window open but, we got the fumes from a huge truck parked in front of the hotel and unbelievable noise. Still we were happy with the room. It was clean and there were no crawling things!
We went to our first church and attended Sunday school and spoke during the morning service. I also sang a hymn in english which they all knew in Spanish. They enjoyed the song and the message. David did a wonderful job of translating. (I must take a moment to tell you what an amazing guy David is. I've never worked so closely with someone in ministry that made it so easy no matter what the circumstances. David has an amazing ability to make people totally at ease. I know that GOD hand picked David to be with me for many reasons).
After church the people greeted us warmly. From somewhere came a very cold bottle of water for me. I was grateful for that. Especially since I had just had a sip of semi-warm water from a bottle David brought with him from Monterrey. Now the pastor, his wife and brother were going to take us out to lunch. It was awesome. A mexican meal at a very nice restaurant. Our ride was comfortable as the pastor works for GM Mexico also and was driving a late model SUV with air. But they kept the windows down with the air on. A guy offered to wash the car while we were at the restaurant and the pastor agree but said "use water". (Often they just use a rag and wipe the car.)
When we came out the car looked beautiful. We went for a short walk to see the techincal college where the pastor went to school and the high school where his wife and brother attended. Then we went into another section of town to see a beautiful cathedral. (Picture at top of this page with David & I. ) We took pictures and then headed to the hotel for siesta. It was amazingly cool in our room. In spite of the noise I fell asleep. The air is much thinner in Saltillo so I got tired quickly. I woke to what sounded like a bus coming right through our room. It was a great alarm clock. It was time to get ready for church.
We went to Pastor Lucios church and sat in on the youth meeting. It was good. I got to speak briefly to them. I gave them the highlights of the message I would be sharing at church. Then we went to the evening service where we would speak. Pastor Lucio gave us a long introduction telling the people . . . . "we told you they were coming to Mexico - they did." "I told you on Sat. we were going to the hotel to meet them - we did". "I told you they would be here today - they are". The people were so happy. Then we spoke. I sang in english again and they new the hymn too so it went well. The message was received with joy. We had a nice time during the fellowship time after the service. When I asked Pastor Lucio about how the message was received he told me "very well". David and I were excited about how it all went. On the way back to the hotel the Pastor told us he would pick us up at 9:00 for breakfast at his house then leave for camp. The breakfast was aweome. (Be sure to ask me about it).
The drive to camp was beautiful. The further we went the cooler it got. I couldn't believe that it could be so hot in Monterrey and so cool here. The camp is just outside a small town in the mountains that reminded me so much of the little town where I lived in Honduras. The camp was not quite what I expected but nice. The buildings were simple and the bunks made from rough 2 x 4s. The mattresses a think sturdy foam with no cover. The pastor gave David and I first pick on rooms. They were all alike. We unpacked and settled in. We spent time talking with people and getting to know them better. The campers would arrive in late afternoon. After lunch I took a short siesta. When I got up we went to the meeting hall and I sang for the people setting up.
After meeting a few more pastors I was introduced to a man from the USA who was one of the guest speakers for the camp and in some way connected with the sponsor organization of the churches in Mexico. He was less than friendly with me and to the point. He didn't think David and I should have been invited to speak there because we are not from their denom-
ination. He then told me that if he was running this camp he would not permit us to speak and that he had told Pastor Lucio that. My heart sank. In a moment I realized what this meant for our mission. There would be no choice for us. We would have to leave. I told the man we would have to talk to the pastors and hear what they had to say before making any decision about what to do.
I met David who was now coming toward the meeting hall and told him we had a problem and that we needed to talk. We went back to our room where I explained. We cried, prayed and cried some more. This was a very emotional time for us because we had been so well received and embraced by the pastors and others. I knew the enemy would attack at the camp. There was some hope in me that maybe as we spoke to the pastors that they would also see this as a spiritual attack and that this could be turned around but, I knew in my heart that it wouldn't . Because we were not from their denomination we would not be able to stay nor speak. After a long tearful meeting with the pastors we decided we would leave. We confined ourselves to our room until we could be taken back to Monterrey. From Monday night about 10:00 until Tuesday around noon we stayed right there in our room. We didn't even eat. We did not want to be seen or heard, this would keep people from asking us or the pastors questions about this. We did not want anyone to focus on us or this problem. Just prior to leaving some of the pastors and brothers came to say goodbye. They were upset and felt we should have been able to speak. We did our best to encourage them and make sure they knew we were not mad at them and that we love and respect them. It was a good testimony to them.
It was best for us to leave and let them sort all this out among themselves. We might have been able to convince the pastors to overrule the man who said we should speak but, that would be contrary to to scripture. We must obey the authority placed over us and let God deal with them if they are wrong. We had been rejected as the messenagers of GOD and it was time to "shake the dust off our sandals and move on. It was hard. There were lots of tears. It was a long ride back to Monterrey. At the hotel our goodbyes were short but heartfelt. I was so sad for Pastor Lucio. He said he had never experienced anything as painful as this.
The people at the hotel were happy to see us again. We checked in and went directly to the airport to see about changing my flight. It wasn't a problem but required me to pay $100 penatly for changing. I would be leaving on Thurs a.m. That gave David and less than a day and a half to process all this and prepare to go our seperate ways. We spent the rest of the day doing just that. We also got to spend more time getting to know the employees of the hotel.
Wed. a.m. we got up and had breakfast and headed to downtown Monterrey to explore, take pictures and allow the dust to settle. We had some good discussion throughout the day. It was good for us to take time to enjoy Monterrey and give what had happened a rest. We got back to the hotel in the afternoon. We went for a swim and talked some more. I spent time talking with the hotel employees while David spent some time on the phone and preparing to leave the next morning. After dinner we began packing and preparing to leave. I taped an interview with David about his whole experience.
About 1:00 a.m. I told David I felt lead to go downstairs and talk with the night desk clerk. It was amazing the discussion I had with him. Be sure to ask me about it.
We got up early and went down to breakfast before sending David on his way. We arranged for a driver from the hotel to take David to the bus downtown. As they pulled away the reality of all that happened and the emotion came over me like a flood. In that moment I realized what a huge gift David was to me during this whole trip. If I had been alone (as I usually am) I think it would have been more than I could bare.
Now it was time for me to finish packing and head to the airport. After a tearful goodbye at the hotel I was ready to leave. It was a difficult emotional trip. My 5 hour layover in Houston was difficult. I was on the phone most of it trying to find someone who could pick me up in Phila and also get some encouragement. Conversations with Karen Singer, Pastor Snow and Jim Richey lifted my spirits. I had the opportunity to share the gospel with people on both flights. I arrived in Phila at a little after midnight and home about 2:a.m.
Great things have come out of this trip in spite of the fact that we didn't bet to speak at the camp. I was discouraged when I first got back. Thanks to many emails and phone calls and much prayer I've been able to see that GOD is saying: Mission Accomplished. Though it didn't go the way it was planned - none of this was a surpise to GOD and He used us in other ways in the lives of the people we came in contact with. I keep in mind always that the results are up to GOD - I just have to be willing to be used by Him and follow His lead. I feel we did just that and that many good things will come out of this trip.
- Shared Gospel on the plane
(from Phila to Houston & Houston to Monterrey I spoke with those I sat next to about our mission and the plan of salvation. I had great conversations with them.) I gave Swazi bracelets to the
flight crew and shared with them about the ministry of PEI.
- Established relationships with hotel employees
(shared our mission with them. Both - why we came to Mexico and about God's love for them) I gave Swazi Bracelets to many of the hotel staff and shared with them about the ministry of PEI
- Established relationships with the Mexican Pastors
(gained the confidence & respect of the Mexican Pastors during a meeting I invited them to at our hotel on Saturday. Shared my personal testimony with them and went into great detail about David and myself and also about the messages I would be giving at the camp)
- Established relationship with hotel guest & family
(listed above - Oscar and his wife and daughter)
- Preached in two churches in Saltillo
(well recieved in both churches. also shared with the youth of Bro. Lucio's church before the evening service. I sang in english at both churches. They knew the hymn in spanish so they knew the meaning and enjoyed the special music) The pastors told us the congregation enjoyed the messages very much.
- Established relationships with more pastors and church members
(at camp on Monday we had the opportunity to build closer relationship with church members and pastors) Problem arose because a visiting Pastor/Speaker told Bro. Lucio we shouldn't be permitted to speak at the camp because we were not members of their denomination and that we might preach something in conflict with their doctrine. (Details in Part II - come back again - you need to
hear what happened.)
- Deepened relationships with hotel staff
(Prior to coming home we stayed in the same hotel to debrief and recover for the disappointment of what took place at the camp.) (Details in Part II)
- Ministered to night mgr. at hotel
(Details in Part II)
- Shared Gospel on the plane
(Details in Part II)