Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bravo for the Reunion!

Last night the Rio Bravo team, their wives, and one baby got together at the Longhorn Steakhouse with Ray and Tanya McDaniels. About a month ago, 27 men went to their mission in Mexico and helped construct an educational center for the deaf. The mission trip was successful from any angle you observed it. Last night, we all realized just how deeply God had forged the bond between us and this young couple.

The McDaniels are expecting their first baby after 13 years of marriage. They are delirious with excitement. We had the pleasure to bless them with a monetary gift to purchase Christmas presents for the deaf children at the school, and to give the parents-to-be a Dillard's gift card. They will be able to cross the border into McAllen, Texas and do some shopping for their little girl who is on the way.

During the evening, Ray shared a couple of hilarious adventures while doing missions in Mexico; the tapestry of God's work uses a lot of different fabric! We also talked about another trip south of the border next fall; I believe a room full of wives were thinking about joining the adventure! To all of us, it is very obvious that God's hand is all over His obscure workers in a an out-of-the-way place.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Two Pilgrims Eaten!

I went to work at my office for a few hours this morning; around noon I left for home. Sandy and I had made plans to go hiking at F.D.R. State Park. I got all our stuff into one small backpack: coffee pot, coffee and condiments, stove, hatchet, lighter, water, work gloves, leatherman, and two pilgrims. We planned to eat the pilgrims.

No! Not the kind with the funny hats and buckles on their shoes. I am talking about the kind made from Thankgiving leftovers. We started with seven grain bread and put mayonaise on both slices. Next we stacked ample slices of turkey on the bread and covered it with turkey stuffing (that's dressing if you live in the south). Finally, we put a generous layer of cranberry sauce right in the middle and made a sandwich (you put the cranberry sauce in the middle so your bread doesn't get soggy).

Once all our gear was packed and the pilgrims safely stored in zip-lock bags we hiked to Broken Tree campsite; the temperature was a perfect 56 degrees. Sandy gathered kindling and I cut up some bigger wood. We got a perfect fire going and cranked up the campstove (much easier to make coffee on). Comfortably seated on rough hewn logs, I poured coffee for both of us and gave thanks for the two pilgrims we were about to eat!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving at the End of the Day

This evening I called my mother and father in Maine. It is 20 degrees in Old Town and the ground is covered with a fresh coat of white winter paint!

Here in Georgia I sat in my sunny back yard reading -- wearing a pair of black sweat pants and a black T-shirt. I began to sweat and moved my chair into the shade.

Thanksgiving at the end of the day!

Thanksgiving Morning

I chose not to go hunting this morning. Instead, I did the unthinkable -- stayed in bed until 6:30! I got up and read My Utmost; Sandy came back to life just as I finished reading. We got our coffee and enjoyed watching the sun's first rays hit the top of the trees; slowly the sun drenched them in light from top to bottom.

Between us and the sunrise there were a number of large birds, either crows or buzzards, casting moving shadows into our back yard. At first, we thought it was the big hawk that enjoys our neighbor's bird feeders -- he considers those feeders his own personal fly-through. Hawks are solitary; it wasn't him.

In a little while we will begin to cut up the turnip and hubbard squash. The turkey will go into the oven and other preparations will begin. On the East coast, my other son and his new bride will make their way to New York. My parents, two sisters, and one brother will gather with their families in Maine. One of my brothers is on his way to Arkansas to give thanks with his wife's family. Josh, Meagan, Sandy, and I will share thanks around a table loaded with God's provisions. It's a beautiful Thanksgiving morning.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

In the Midst of Thanksgiving

Today I spent a lot of time at hospitals. One of our ladies had outpatient surgery on her shoulder; all is well.

One of our men fell from a ladder on Sunday, went immediately to the hospital and was told they could find no damage. When the pain got unbearable he went to Hughston hospital and found that his knee was broken; due to the break, blood circulation was cut off below the knee. He had to have emergency surgery that required plates and screws. If he had delayed any longer he would have faced amputation. We talked about hunting in Alabama in six weeks.

Our Sr. Adult Pastor's child fell from his bunk bed, hit his head on a toy chest, ruptured his eardrum, and fractured his skull. He is sedated and being evaluated; there is no cause to believe he will not mend.

I went to another floor at the same hospital and prayed with a 19 year old and his parents; I had never met them before today. Ty was going under the knife for exploratory surgery; it was presumed that he has cancer. Ty's surgery revealed that he is cancer free.

This morning I met with my pastoral staff and each of us took a few moments to express thanks to God; we have all experienced many blessings in 2005. My youngest staff member gave thanks for life. He has a medical condition that keeps him walking a tightrope; everyday is precious to him. Another gave thanks for the new 9 pound 14 ounce baby boy born less than two weeks ago. Our newest pastoral staff member is just incredibly grateful to join the team. Others thanked God for godly parents and the privilege of ministry. My thanks were for the glory of God that is so evident in the life of my wife and for the deepening faith of my children. All day long I have journeyed through many different circumstances -- all day long I have been in the midst of Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2005

All 4 One

Yesterday our church took the final offering for our "All 4 One" campaign. Early this year we agreed that we needed to buy two lots that surrounded our current property. We set a goal to raise 215 thousand dollars to purchase the property rather than mortgage it.

Over the last three years the ministry has grown and we have had to change from the traditional schedule of Sunday school followed by the Worship service. We have made the transition in steps; first, we added an early Worship service. This fall we changed the schedule once again, and went to two worship services with Sunday schools operating simultaneously. We have found the axiom to be true, "The greatest cause of stress is change!"

Last night we had a Thanksgiving Celebration Supper. We knew that we needed to raise 65 thousand with this last offering to reach the goal. After we listened to testimonies of thanks for God's goodness I announced the final total -- $215, 537. 36!

To God be the glory!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

This Really Happened!

I am not used to seeing the quantity of deer I have seen since moving to Georgia. Thursday night it got about as bizarre as it could get. I got to my tree stand at 4:20 p.m. I barely got seated and a 6 point buck came out at the opposite end of the field.

I scoped him for quite a while and watched him feed. He was totally unaware of my presence and not at all cautious. At 4:45 I heard a couple of cracks about 25 yards to my left; out stepped a monster buck with the biggest rack I have ever seen. I didn't panic. I put my scope on him and waited for him to stop. I figured that when he got to the field he would stop when he saw the 6 pointer at the other end. He didn't stop. I calmly thought, "No problem, it's a long way to the end of the field; he'll stop. He didn't. I couldn't believe it when he walked directly away from me into the field; all the while I had my scope on that giant rack that appeared to stick out 5 inches beyond his ears on each side. I know-I know! I should have grunted or whistled to stop him. I didn't.

For the next 45 minutes the 6 pointer fed and then drifted off into the brushy slope to my right. Then it happened! All of a sudden groups of does and bucks were all over the place. My head was spinning; there were 5 different bucks of varying sizes chasing does around the food plot and into the grown up field that surrounded me. I kept picking out a buck I wanted to shoot, but could not get him stop! It was very windy and these bucks were from 100-175 yards out; I started whistling and making grunting sounds, but they didn't hear me! Finally, the biggest one stopped at the far end of the field. I fired and missed; it was nearly 6 o'clock and the light wasn't good! The big buck ran off into a stand of pines; the other bucks just kept running does! Another buck stopped; just as I fired, he jumped toward a doe. I missed -- again! Keep in mind that I hunt with a lever action 308. I jacked another shell in and waited for him to stop -- he did. I fired and he dropped -- a nine pointer!

I'm not done yet. On Friday evening, I had a board meeting in Juniper, Georgia. I also had an invitation from Bob S. to hunt at his farm in the afternoon before the meeting. Bob's son Rob took me to a stand at about 2:15 p.m. At 2:55 a big doe came busting out of the very thick swale right beneath my tree stand -- and stopped -- right beneath my tree stand. Again, the wind was blowing and I knew that the doe would smell me at any moment. I stood up, leaned over the handmade rail of the stand, sighted down the barrel (couldn't use the scope) and shot down through the top of the deer. It ran 25 yards behind me and dropped.

At 4:55 I heard some more noise coming through the same hole in the swale the doe came through. Out came a 6 point buck! Thirty minutes later I began dragging my two deer up over the ridge to the dirt road!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Today's Forecast: Rain

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater . . ."

I have had several conversations lately with my hunting partner; we both have returned from sitting over our food plots and realized -- we need some rain. Last night, I talked to my Mom and Dad and they said they were getting mixed precipitation -- rain and snow. The rain in Maine is for the future, the rain in Georgia is for today.

This morning, Isaiah reminded me that God always sends precipitation with a purpose in mind, it sets up a cycle of providing seed for the future and bread for the present. Continuing on, Isaiah draws this analogy, "so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Today, I will lead a staff devotion, speak at our midweek service, and provide counsel for several others. The common thread of all these conversations will be the Word of God. I will keep Isaiah's analogy in mind and ask, "Is this precipitation of God's Word setting up a cycle for future seed or providing bread for the present?"

Monday, November 14, 2005

Stephen King and a Day in the Life of Christ's Church

"The danger is that in trying to please everyone, today's newscasters provide no coverage at all" --- Stephen King

Yes! That quote is from the Stephen King -- the "King" of horror. He is lamenting the way TV news has gone from reporting to seeking listeners. Today, I have continued my unending wrestling with a similar seduction. I often wish that people understood that our goal is not to get ratings and tickle ears. Some days, I wish that the adventure I write about is a little less about conflict and more about valiant rescues. It is hard to agree with people who would try to convince you that a manure pile smells like a rose. And then there are those who can make a rose smell like a manure pile.

"The danger is that in trying to please everyone, today's pastor provides no coverage at all." --- Bill Shorey

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hunting Report

Friday morning I saw a buck at 6:25 a.m. I could see that it had horns, but could not tell how many points. It didn't stay put long; when I brought my scope up to try and identify the brown blur about 75 yards away, it was looking right at me. He turned, walked into the woods, and I heard him circle away from me to my left. At 8: 25 another buck came out; he had 6 points. He fed a little, sniffed the air, and then went over to the tree line and left his mark. Fifteen minutes later there were 8 gobblers feeding in the dove field about 250 yards away. I enjoyed watching them and seeing the sun reflect off their shiny black feathers as they fed in and out of the shadows.

I returned to the same area but to a different stand that evening. I only saw one small deer.

At 6:25 a.m. Saturday morning, I saw two deer scamper across the opposite end of the field; I couldn't tell what gender they were. At 7:25 and 8:25 I saw a 4 pointer and then a 6 pointer. Funny how it happened, I saw the first one when I stood up to stretch. I could see parts of the field around the food plot I could not see when sitting. The 4 pointer was very small; its left front leg was lame. After he left, I got to thinking I ought to stand up again for a better view. This time I saw the 6 pointer in another part of the field. When I first saw him he was over 200 yards away; I thought I had something to take home. Eventually, he worked his way within 5o yards of my stand; I counted his points more than once. Maybe next year!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

No Such Thing . . .

The temperatures have dropped 10-15 degrees and the deer hunting will reach its peak over the next ten days! In the morning, I will be getting out of bed bright and early; I am going back to Pine Mountain!

Long before the sun rises, I will be enjoying pitch black woods, the night sounds, and views of the endless universe above me. Most of the morning I will try to blend in with the scenery high above the ground. A couple of books, Powerbars, and a thermos of coffee will be my only company.

More than likely, I will get several chances to take a deer. Last year I went out in the pouring rain and still managed to get a deer at 1 o'clock in the afternoon -- the first time I had ever stalked one. For me, there is no such thing as a bad day hunting.

Feedback from Rio Bravo

I received the following e-mail from our Rio Bravo missionaries. I had asked Ray and Tanya when they were going to be back in Georgia, we want to get them together with the team for some fun. Their reply contained a little more than a date and time . . .

Brother Bill,---(sorry about the "brother" It's just my upbringing)

Our plan is to be there from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until about Wednesday of the week after. We'd love to get together with everybody. Y'all come back anytime. We had a fantastic week. The maistros were upset with me because I didn't make it clear the morning that y'all left that you would not be coming back that afternoon. I had told them the day before when the kids were leaving---but they apparently didn't process it--that is why they didn't say their goodbyes. Anyway Flavio said he had even worked up a little speech--that has never happened before. Your team really had an effect on our workers. Thank you.

Ray and Tanya

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Journal, November 3 -- Rio Bravo

There are 27 deaf students at the Mission; their ages range from 5 to 26 years old. Some of them entered the school with no language skills. Some had a slight ability to hear, but most were completely deaf. All of them possessed a joyful and cheery disposition.

Every day at lunch, the deaf children picked one of us as a partner. They ate meals with us, but hungered most for the attention we gave them. This week, I had 4 teenaged young men that latched on to me. As soon as they finished their classes, they made a beeline for the construction site. Though they could not speak, they would let out shrieks to get my attention. After a couple of days, I was able to identify the shrieks and match them to each individual.

Part of the education at the Mission is to teach the students a vocational skill. I was amazed at how hard these young guys worked, how they anticipated the next step in any project, and the pride they took in their craft. All the men who worked with them would have hired them in a skinny minute. Life at the Mission is focused on purpose. Everything the young people are taught has a life skill in mind; they are being prepared to experience their maximun ability to sustain themselves in their silent world.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Journal, November 2 -- Rio Bravo

The Mission is inland from the Gulf approximately 30 miles; a steady breeze blows across a flat and nearly treeless landscape. Each evening I get great pleasure looking up into the clear black sky. Venus is unusually bright well before it gets dark. Mars, with its reddish glow is in distinct contrast to the millions of other stars.

The mornings are amusing, peaceful, and beautiful. A confused rooster crows all night long and is virtually quiet as the sun peaks over the horizon. The back-lighting of the emerging daylight constantly changes the profile of a line of trees that stand between me and the horizon. To my right, the windmill is picking up speed as thermal drafts race ahead of the glowing orange ball that is chasing them.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. Genesis 1: 3-4

Journal, October 29-November 3 -- Rio Bravo

The bunkhouse! Ahh, the bunkhouse! We all slept in one large open building on bunks. The building had no air-conditioning, but did have some of the largest free standing fans you have ever seen. They sounded like aircraft propellors turning.

One night in particular, I was awakened by threatening sounds. Startled and in that never-never land between alertness and sleep, I thought we were in the middle of a bombing raid! A combination of multiple snorers and the whirring of those giant fans nearly caused me to yell out, "Air raid -- In-coming!"

Journal, November 2 -- Rio Bravo

Each of the work teams worked under the supervision of a Mexican Maestro. A Maestro is our equivelent of a project supervisor. In Mexico, an OSHA team would explode from infraction overload! Mexican engineering and technology (or lack thereof) is very different than here in the States. Almost all work was accomplished with the use of raw human strength or fairly primitive levers and tools.

Mexico now has a new honorary Gringo Maestro. I will affectionately call him the "Loco Maestro," alias Jim Pass! Jim had never laid a block in his life, yet when the week was ended, he had kept a pace just slightly below the output of a professional mason. However, I am willing to bet that the Loco Maestro laid block with unprecedented aplomb . You had to be there to appreciate it.

Hearing Jim call for "blocko" and "cemente" in a southern accent was funnier than reading the comics. Seeing the trowel that looked like a butter knife in his monstrous hand "buttering" the blocks and setting them in place was not exactly artistic. Watching him walk on cat feet on very unstable staging, 12 feet off the ground, would never remind you of ballet!

Seeing his insuppressible good nature and ability to overcome lanquage and cultural barriers was a work of God.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Journal, November 1 -- Rio Bravo

Last night, Ray and Tonya took us into town. We ate at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Ken C. told me the meat was goat -- I thought it tasted more like dog.

When we got back, Ray and Tonya gave us an in-depth presentation of the mission at Rio Bravo. During the last part of his presentation Ray mentioned that one of the teachers, Laura, was from Big Spring, Texas. The minute he said that, I realized why I had the nagging feeling that I knew Laura. Four years ago, when I was traveling with Henry Blackaby Ministries, I led a conference in Big Spring. One afternoon, I was invited to speak to a deaf school; Laura was my interpreter!

When Ray was finished speaking, I introduced myself to Laura, again. She lit up and said, "Yes, I remember you. I even remember what you spoke about -- Anger! One of the men from our church heard the conversation and said, "Pastor, that's impressive -- I can't remember what you said three days ago!"

Journal, October 31 -- Rio Bravo

We completed our first day of work. Whenever we were working, someone was in the "Prayer Chair." Every half hour, two new workers were in cane-seat chairs under some mesquite trees, praying for the work. Amid the sound of hens clucking, dogs chasing each other, and nearby construction, we prayed. No worker, deaf child, or project was left uncovered. The "Prayer Chair" was the most important effort put forth.

During the day, Zach led a team that repaired the windmill that pumped the cistern full of water. Donnie and Carey C. wired and re-wired existing buildings. Bob and Ken dug and formed the footing for the giant flag pole. The rest of us laid block, built forms, cut re-bar, mixed cement and mortar, and twisted wire.

Cary J. led the devotion time tonight and the team put up little resistance against the Sandman -- it was time to go to bed!

Journal, October 30 -- Rio Bravo (p.m.)

We went to a mission church this morning. The local pastor forgot to turn his clock back, so the service was delayed. Some thought the service was just getting over, others thought it was just getting started! I am not really sure what was going on when we got there!

The church is located in a very poor section of Rio Bravo. The depth of poverty increased as we crossed physical boundaries. The first demographic began when we crossed the railroad tracks into the "wrong side." Each time our dusty old bus crossed an open sewage canal, the communities became poorer.

Part way through the service I was invited to address the congregation with the aid of an interpreter. I memorized a greeting and several sentences in Spanish, then I read to them from chapter 1 of Colossians,

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing precious fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God . . .

All that Paul prayed is possible -- no matter what side of the tracks you live on.

Journal, October 30 -- Rio Bravo

I just awakened from my first night in Mexico. I slept fairly well until 2 a.m., and then off and on until 4:30. I was surprised to see how many men were up and about; we all followed our noses to the coffee pot. Hardly a word is spoken. Every man is seated at the crude tables reading his Bible, journaling, or seemingly deep in thought.

I have just finished reading Oswald Chambers. A particular phrase has captured my thoughts, "To turn head faith into personal possession is a fight always, not sometimes." O.C concludes, "Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." Therein lies my struggle and every man I know, the whole man rightly related to Christ.

I will turn 50 in December . . . the battle has never ceased . . . parts of me are still adjusting to the Spirit of Christ in me.

Journal, October 29 -- Rio Bravo

Once again, Bill R. and I are seated next to each other on an airplane; the last time, we were on our way to Asia. This trip provides a sort of measurement. I have been thinking about all that has transpired and what our new mission holds in store . . .

The journey to Mexico feels very different than the one to Asia. Our mission and tactics are so different. In Asia, we traveled as evangelists, two-by-two, were somewhat covert, and never really safe. In Asia, staying away from authorities antagonistic toward the gospel was a big part of the mission. In Mexico, we will be a very visible construction team of 27, and nothing in the physical world poses a threat. In Asia we were in remote villages, and often the sum total of the kingdom of God among thousands. In Mexico, we will be among many local residents who have come to Christ.

Ironically, we will be ministering to the deaf and mute in Mexico -- in Asia, we had to deliver the gospel without words to a people who had never heard.

Gideon's Band -- Doing More With Less!

We pulled into the church parking lot shortly before midnight on November 4th; twenty-seven men returned from Rio Bravo, Mexico. The mission trip exceeded everyone's expectations; that says a lot, because our original goal was to take 100 men on mission. You may be thinking, "How could you have possibly exceeded expectations when you missed your work force goal by nearly 75 percent?" The answer, "Little is much when God is in it."

There have been scores of teams from around the country that have gone to Rio Bravo; the undertaking there is God-sized. Under construction is a two-story spartan block building of over 20 thousand square feet. Added to the task was a tremendous amount of maintenance on the existing buildings and equipment. Yet, for the first time in the history of the project, one of the lead Mexican foremen said to the resident missionary that the group from Morningside did the work of 100 men!

The amount of progress made is even more incredible and God glorifying when you consider that only 2 of the 27 men considered themselves tradesmen; the other 25 men dubbed themselves as "gophers." To a man, we all realized that God had truly "shown up." Only God could enable us to achieve that kind of success. To a man, we can't wait to get back to Rio Bravo!

Our organizational guy recognized that God put together a crew like Gideon's army. From a human perspective our "army" was undermanned and underqualified. From God's perspective we needed to be exposed to His ability to "Do more with less."