20 Year Anniversary Today

Twenty years ago today Deanna and I were married. We left for our honeymoon the same day. When we got back from Mexico we went to our pastors and said, “OK. Now we are ready to become missionaries”. Our pastors wisely said, “Slow down a bit. You just got married. Take a year now to get to know each other.” It was the best year of our lives. And each year since then has been better than the year before.

Here is a photo of our wedding day, our wedding invite and our special “20th” dinner.

For more photos click here.

Pure joy?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  James 1:2 Has this verse ever made sense to you?

Looking back, I can see where times of trouble and conflict have resulted in great joy. I remember one time I was traveling back to the Far North. I lived for three years at the Eagle Plains Hotel 20 miles from the Arctic Circle, located along the Dempster Highway. The last 250 miles was a stretch of gravel and shale road, which wound through a wilderness region of mountains, whitewater, bush and tundra. There are no houses here, only two highway camps, and the hotel, all the way to the Northwest Territories. 

I left Dawson City in my moss-green, half-ton pickup truck, glad to be going home. I had two spare tires as there was very little traffic on this road. My truck had unusual wheels, with only 5 lug nuts for 16 inch tires. Beyond where I lived the highway crossed two large rivers, one of which is a mile wide. In the summer vehicles cross with a barge. Now, in the Fall Season, there was too much ice for the barges. It usually takes about a month for the river surface to freeze to about six feet thick so the traffic can drive over the ice bridge.

About 20 miles into the last leg of my journey home I got a flat tire. I was not worried as I had the best Michelans money could buy. An hour later I got a second flat tire. Now I was starting to pray, but I still had four good tires, and only about 120 miles to go. With the Ogilvie River roaring by on one side of the road, and the Ogilvie Mountains rising straight up on the other side of the road, I got my third flat tire. Oh, oh. A flood of emotions and thoughts raced through my mind. I had been listening to some preaching tapes on my cassette player. I decided to pray seriously. “God, I know that You can provide help if You want. You can do this in five hours, or five days. Because time is of no consequence to You, and because I really want to go home, please send me help in the next five minutes.” I had a timer in the truck. I set it on the dash for five minutes. Then I started to worship God. I clearly remember hearing a vivid thought, “What if nothing happens?” I looked at the stop watch. Four and a half minutes. I just kept praising God and walking around the truck. Within those 30 seconds an orange pick-up truck came roaring around the corner. They also had very rare, 5 hole 16 inch tires. And they had a spare. And they were going to the hotel where I lived. It turned out that someone in helicopter had reported a herd of Dahl up on the Richardson Mountains just north of us, and these guys were going to count them. It was a government wildlife preservation project.

This happened another time when I was travelling on the Top of the World Highway, driving West from Dawson City towards Chicken, Alaska. That road is so remote there was no one at the Border. I crossed from the Yukon into Alaska without talking to anyone. In some places the road drops away on both sides as you wind along mountain tops. Suddenly my truck died. Dead. Nothing on the motor. I started praying seriously again. The first guy that drove up was a gold miner. He had a friend who had a truck like mine. It was some quirkly electrical thing. You remove this black plastic box, untape this, there you are broken wire, tape it all back up…the motor fired up. It was specialized knowledge, exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. No charge. “I’m sure you would do the same for me.”

Rejoicing in Suffering:
  1. Why do we do this? 
  • Suffering bring things that are hidden in our hearts to the surface. 
  • Sometimes these are things we have never dealt with. 
  • Sometimes these are things that have crept in over a period of prosperity.
  • Suffering is like a medical or a dental check-up. No one looks forward to it. But it is very important to our long-term health. We can verify what is going on. 
    • If all is well, OK. 
    • If disgusting and unholy attitudes show up, this is the time to confess them and to get healing.
  • Suffering is not fun or enjoyable. Neither should it be feared. God Himself is our doctor. He still does miracles. Somethings he delivers us from instantly. Other times we need to confess our sins, and to work out our salvation. The instructions are individual.
  • For this reason we rejoice: We have a loving God who does not leave us to figure things out for ourselves, and to get along as best we can.
  • How do we rejoice in suffering?
    • What we do not do:
      • Deny that we are suffering and hurting
      • Have a pity party and draw attention to ourselves
      • Give up
      • Get angry at God
    • We we do:
      • We search our hearts to see if there is any sin to confess.
      • We sing songs of praise, in spite of our difficulty. This is a sacrifice of praise.
      • We look forward to our complete deliverance
      • We confess our faith in God’s care along the way
      • We cry and reach out to God for deliverance
        • The neighbour needs bread
        • The widow needs justice
        • The blind man wants to see
        • The woman with the issue of blood needs healing
      • We hang in there, trusting that Jesus is carrying us when we can go no further
      • We look for water in the desert. We look for manna. We expect our shoes will not wear out in the desert. We anticipate entering the promised land, with God fighting in front of us, and us being obedient to him.
  • Rewards for suffering well.
    • Suffering changes us. It is like a crucible. 
    • If we suffer well, we will come out as vessels of honor for God.
    • If we suffer well, we increase our capacity to enjoy God’s rich blessings in our life.
    • If we suffer well, we become the kind of people other people want to be around.
    • If we suffer well, God’s blessings won’t destroy us.
    • We learn to understand God’s provision in all circumstances.
    • We learn our life here is about us walking and talking with God, and God walking and talking with us.
  • …And God wants to bless us. He does not want to destroy us. 
  • Adriana’s Story

    Adriana is the lead singer on the worship team at our church. When I first came to Marabá and Ross’s truck blew an engine. I hired a motorbike taxi to drive me around for about two weeks. After we moved to Marabá I wanted to look up the motorcycle driver, and introduce my family. I forgot where he lived, so I stopped at a corner fruit store. They ran in and told a young girl watching TV to jump in our car and show us where her cousin lived. After she jumped in our car and realized we were foreigners she was terrified. She later told us she did not understand our Portuguese, spoken with an accent. She was convinced we were talking about her. Somehow she showed us where her cousin lived. Later she started coming to our church. Adriana does not know her dad. Hear her story.

    Is the World Getting Better or Worse?

    “The emperor Julian, seeking to revive paganism in the fourth century, professed admiration for the way in which Christians looked after their poor, their widows and orphans, and their sick and dying. However paradoxical it seems, people who believed most strongly in the next world did the most to improve the situation of people living in this one.”

     I am re-reading one of my favorite books, “What’s So Great About Christianity?”, by Dinesh D’Souza. Here is a quote from page 67.

    Our Church is Registered in Marabá

    This is a praise report! After multiple meetings, two trips to the notary public, three trips to the receiver general’s offices, and once to get our accountant’s council, we have registered our first church in the Marabá Region. After three more trips to the bank, to learn all that is needed to open a bank account for an organization, we almost have a bank account number for our church.

    The Mission has been registered since we moved to Marabá. This is our “start-up” organization from which we will Plant Churches and Train Leaders. Forming local congregations, boards and leadership teams are part of planing a National Church Planting Movement here in Brazil. 
    And we praise the Lord to have passed this mile marker.

    Prayer Requests

    We are so thankful for all who are praying for us and with us. Thank-you.
    Here are some important things we are asking the Lord about now.
    1. We are praying for Deanna’s “clean bill of health.” She has been doing medical tests.
    2. Annika still struggles with difficult headaches. We are asking God for complete healing.
    3. We need more financial support. It has been slowly dwindling, even as results and responsibilities have been increasing.
      1. Personal monthly compensation. We have fallen behind over the years, as costs and responsibilities increase. With our support, we take some out each month for our living costs, the rest goes to invest in this pioneer outreach. That’s how it works.
      2. Travel tickets home for furlough are at an all-time high (approximately $10,000.00).
      3. We work with very poor people. They are unable to contribute much in the weekly church offerings. One day this will be a prosperous church, as the churches in Altamira are starting to become. For now, we help a lot. It’s kind of like throwing gasoline on green firewood. Once it gets going, it burns really hot. But it takes a lot of gasoline to get it going.
        1. Our electricity bill at the church/mission is about $1,000 per month.
        2. We pay Ivanildo and Monica over $1,000 a month to support their family, by the time we factor in the taxes and other legal stuff. We also help them in other ways.
        3. We pay another laborer over $500 a month to help with maintenance.
        4. Note: Eventually the church will pick up these costs. But we are not even close to being there yet.
        5. Note: These are some of our monthly commitments, not including vehicle costs, office, telephone and other expenses. Our internet cost $400/mo., for .6 mps. These do not count any building or construction or leadership training expenses.
    • Large church events always cost us several thousand dollars per event, as we invest in these youth. Even though everyone has to pay to sign up, and we help them raise their money, it always falls way short. Our long-term plan is for the church to pick up these short-falls, as it starts to prosper.
    • Our new church building is almost at “lock-up”. We are out of money, and praying for another $20-40,000, to really make it functional for Ivanildo and Monica when we are home on furlough.
    • We are praying for more “scholarship” type money, to invest in our young leaders, to go to conferences in Altamira and places beyond Marabá, to raise their hopes, faith and vision.
    Please pray for strength for me (Rick). God has always been faithful. I have no sense that He is now short.

    "Big Talk" memories from Bible School

    “Some people want to live this life within the sound of the church bells. I want to camp out a yard from the gates of hell.”

    Somebody famous said this. Maybe it was C.T. Studd. Maybe it was Hudson Taylor. I cannot remember. But I do remember us Bible School students, in Dallas, Texas, saying “me too.”

    I remember the discontent of warming a church chair every Sunday. Surely there were other people who could do this. Did God not have another job for me? Even when I was teaching the rowdiest class in the church Sunday School I wanted to do more.

    This reminds of when I was a teen-ager, looking for adventure. I ended up climbing mountains and canoeing whitewater in the Northern Yukon, and seeing wild polar bears from my bunkhouse window in the Northwest Territories. But after a few years as a missionary in the Xingu, I remember telling the Lord, “Enough already. Please. Just some boring, routine days.” This was after three of our boats sunk in a wild tropical storm.

    Now, I remember my bragging in Bible School, more than 20 years ago, “I want to live within a yard from the gates of hell.” Is this why the Lord saved a place for us to work in the most dangerous neighbourhood in Marabá?

    Here is quote from Deanna’s Facebook a few days ago:

    Day 2 of Cristoval with 45 youth. Lots of food, games, worship but the absolutely best are the testimonies. “My step dad beat my mom and I frequently. I want to forgive him.” Another said “I wanted to be a professional soccer player but God has a bigger purpose for my life!” AND another “I am not sure I’d still be alive if I hadn’t come to this church!”

    Swamp Racing

    Who would have thought God would give us four daughters who love racing in an Amazon swamp?
    (Here is a photo of Emma getting stung by something under the water which left a two-inch welt. This is the same swamp where I saw an anaconda eating a hawk about eight feet away from me. When the neighbour cleaned out his swamp he killed 53 anacondas.)

    Swamp Race Photo Album

    We have 45 youth here for a three-day sleepover event. Three times a day there are services. There is a lot of repentance, asking forgiveness and the sense of God’s presence as the youth ministered to one another. Ivanildo planned an obstacle race which includes teams racing through the swamp, crawling through the mud under some barriers, going through some deeper water on two cables. The winning team was the one who helped each other all get through together first.

    Then the youth prepare for another ministry time, more food, more racing around and singing in the middle of the night. (No playing the drums tonight!)

    Cristovál is a Youth Retreat here. While much of the country celebrates excessive sinful lifestyles, some churches in Brazil use the holiday to seek God and celebrate life.

    We thank the Lord for His abundant life, for calling us to Marabá, and for young pastors. Ivanildo and Monica are running this whole event. We are support staff. Very  cool.