Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Nepal 7: Walking with Jesus

An adventure entails a breaking and stretching beyond the norm of your own physical limits and endurance.
Little did I know that my last week’s post about my upcoming Adventure/Breaking New Horizons trip for a week into the Nepali mountains to somewhere I’d never gone before would be so true.
Our morning ride from Kathmandu was more than merely interesting: descending the Trisuli River by bus jolted me out of the ordinary! Ours hurtled around mountain-clinging switchbacks, snaked its way along the whitewater, jockeyed with dump-trucks, fuel tankers and other transports for first place in some death-defying chase down the valley. Surprises confronted every turn, even if I couldn’t see them very clearly through the grimy windows from my wrong side of the bus for eyeing scenery on the river side. But maybe that wasn’t so bad after all: for what came into view were too many abandoned wreckages that hadn’t quite completed their races intact!
I was already tired from this 8-hour portion of the journey, but I sensed somehow that my day was merely beginning and I’d have a few more corners to turn.
My host here in Nepal: Prem, his wife Lalita, their little 3-year old daughter Priskilla and I were headed inot the country to teach a seminar on ‘Walking in the Spirit’ for a few days. He’d told me we’d be walking for a few hours, but as often in learning this discipline, I had misunderstood a few things about the natural walk and so I had to learn a few of its parallel spiritual applications. I supposed we were headed into a Himalayan-type alpine area with surrounding snow-covered peaks, perhaps even a few Nepalese yodelling in the background? So I’d packed accordingly, borrowed my son Michael’s backpack and sleeping bag (unfortunately my old aluminum-frame pack hadn’t made the transition into the 21st Century); even took my winter coat (but left it in Kathmandu when I realized we were heading south into mountains, not north as in the Everest direction!) After all, it is the end of November and they have snow like Canada, don’t they!?
But all my presumptions were challenged within the first 5 minutes of our getting off the bus. It had grown progressively warmer as we’d driven further south and I was very glad I’d cut the parka!
Prem’s friends met us: 2 men in shorts and 3 young women, all wearing flip-flops! Strange hiking gear? I figured. Prem had advised me to bring ‘waterboots’, whatever those were? I’d mistranslated this in my mind as ‘waterproofed hiking boots’, but would probably have done better with ‘hip-waders’! At the last moment, I’d fortunately stuffed a pair of washroom-duty rubber-plastic sandals into my backpack, so I at least had them to switch into when we came to the few creeks I supposed we’d need to cross.
One of the men, who proved to be the pastor, Bir, sympathetically looked at my overloaded backpack and hoisted it onto his shoulders. It was evident we were not just going for a stroll in the countryside! Prem hoisted their daughter up in a sling on his back; the others grabbed the rest of the packs and headed up the winding street. I followed, bringing up the rear, still in my hiking boots, confident I could just change boots for sandals when necessary.
However, my plans again changed just at the end of the street when our first crossing came into view. People were moving both ways across what was not just a babbling brook, but quite a wide river, up to their knees! Hadn’t quite figured on that!
‘But I can just put my boots back on again when I reach the other side, right?’ I pleaded, as I started to remove them.
Pastor Bir kind of shook his head and empathetically replied, ‘You’ll have to do it quite a few times!’
‘Oh really?’ I replied, somewhat subdued, and reached for the sandals, reprogramming my mind for what lay ahead.
I tied my boot’s laces together, flung them around my shoulder so they’d not get wet and headed into the river.
It wasn’t easy getting my footing on the rocks, especially with such gripless sandals, and midway through my first crossing, I got my foot caught between the rocks and was just about on my way down when… Pastor Bir grabbed my arm just in time! I caught my breath, and ‘Dunyavat!’ the only Nepalese word I know, spontaneously poured out my thankful appreciation!
He smiled and walked me arm-in-arm to the other side. I kicked the rocks out of my sandals and we continued after the others, who were already quite a ways ahead, making their way among the huge boulders that edged the river, even merrily skipping from rock to rock… with our backpacks on! Evidently, they were quite used to doing this!
I prayed, summoned all the Lord’s strength I could… and followed.
Our first crossings were the deepest, almost to the waist. I thought: they won’t be so deep as we get further upstream; less water up there, right? But then the crossings turned narrower and faster.
We approached a swinging bridge high above us. I wondered, ‘Are we hiking up there too?’ but thankfully we walked under it and not over.
After 1 ½ hours, Prem pointed to a mountaintop far off in the distance: ‘That’s our destination: we’re going there!’
I thought, ‘You’re kidding!’ but that’s where we ended up going.
I was growing tired, our light was growing darker.
By this time, I’d lost count of how many times we’d forded the river, back and forth, up-down, following trails among giant-sized boulders, which kept ending at the river’s edge, which meant another wade across the river!
I struggled through with only a few minor bangs, scrapes and owie’s.
A very humbling experience: I slipped a few times, but each time Pastor Bir was there to lift me up; even caught my sandal heading AWOL downriver in the wrong direction; not just once, but twice!
After each misstep, I tried to regather my concentration. Little time for sight-seeing, or picture-taking, although we were walking through some of the most amazing rock formations I’d ever seen! I got a few photos, but my camera strap became entangled so badly with my boot laces, it must have looked like I was in danger of strangling myself, so Pastor Bir mercifully took my boots and strapped them also onto my pack he was carrying.
Even more humbling was encountering women, also going upriver, backs loaded with baskets of rice, sticks, and even bricks, walking from rock to rock… and here I was, struggling just to just keep from falling in!
After another hour, we stopped for a rest. Prem advised me we had made our last river crossing, so I figured it was safe to finally change into my hiking boots. But I thought it strange to stop so close to the end of what I’d understood was a 3-hour hike. Why didn’t we just continue the last ½ hour and get it over with?
A few mobile screens helped shine some light into what was by now virtual darkness, and we started out again…this time straight up the mountain!
No moonlight; and I struggled hard to stay close enough to follow in the steps of the one right ahead of me. Someone graciously handed me a flashlight. I tried to shine it for my feet and those ahead of me, but some of our bus ride’s roadside wrecks flashed through my memory and I figured it might be for the best if I couldn’t see that much now either.
At times, the trail switch-backed seemingly straight up into God knows where?!
For my Nepalese friends, they’d done this walk hundreds of times.
But for me, this literally became a walk by faith. At one point, I could only make out a narrow isthmus before me headed into darkness. The cicadas’ chirping grew intense, like a screaming choir drawing me into thick blackness falling away into an unknown emptiness.
The way was clear: I had to walk a virtual tightrope, falling to either the left or right (which coincidentally was my illustrative diagram for my seminar) was not an option.
And then I saw him… Pastor Bir, just like Jesus, reaching out his hand to me, beckoning me to take that step.
All I had left was trust, so I did and we did!
A short ways further, we saw lights in distance. Electricity? Way out here? Those lights soon became houses, but they weren’t our destination, so we kept pressing on… till we finally arrived at Pastor Bir’s house: a sturdy teak home, perched high up on the mountainside like an eagle’s nest, all alight by solar power!
I turned my eyes even higher and there was a heaven filled with so many stars as I’d not seen in years!
I was exhausted and collapsed in a corner! But I'd made it! A rice and dall supper, carpet rolled out on the concrete floor, bags unpacked, and it didn’t take long before we all were asleep and amazingly: no one snored! Or at least, I never heard anyone!
My ‘Walking in the Spirit’ seminar became more a learning experience for the teacher. Four days later, I walked the return trip downriver in daylight with new revelation in my spirit. What had seemed straight up that dark night was indeed straight up in reality; what had also seemed straight down was indeed straight down.
And I counted exactly 33 river crossings: one for each year Jesus walked on this earth!
Too often we struggle in great difficulty when all we need do is trust, follow and walk.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nepal Pt 6: Shopping with Jesus

Yesterday I taught my class how disciples make disciples, using a little handbook: ‘Come Follow Me’ I’d written some years ago. I encouraged the students to be ready to not only preach the gospel to unbelievers, but then lead new believers into a real practical walk with Christ.
Later in the afternoon, Prem and I motor-biked into the heart of Kathmandu. He drove and I clung on to the back of the bike, through congested traffic and potholes! You never know what the day holds in unpredictable Kathmandu: things can change drastically just around the next bend in the road, both naturally and spiritually.
We got into Thamel, the Hippie-Heaven backpack centre of the city, changed dollars into Nepalese Rupees and walked about, looking for changes since I was last here 2 years ago. Not much: same tourist books, knick-knacks, ‘spiritual’ 3rd Eyes, and quirky oriental mystical methodologies parading professions of enlightenment (?).
We wandered among the shops with no special goal in mind, just enjoying being led by the sights and sounds. Soon we came across a shop with a box out front filled with cute children’s animal-shaped toques and a sign: 150 NR. That’s only about $1.50 each, pretty cheap I thought, so I stopped to look through them.
The shopkeeper came out; I asked how much they cost, hoping to get an even cheaper bargain.
Erica always considered bargaining un-Christian. She’d say, and it’s true, ‘That’s already cheap enough; don’t be so cheap, give the man his full asking price!’ But I’d insist on doing the guy-thing to get the cheapest price possible. But this guy didn’t budge. He pointed to the sign: it was a set price and I could either take it or leave it.
So I bought three.
He then invited me to look right in his shop, even found me a really nice woolen coat. Tempting! I tried it on, he gave me his asking price, I didn’t see a set price sign, so I countered and the game was on! Our bartering led us into conversation; that’s part of the fun, and he jokingly said my low offers were trying to ‘screw’ him.
I took exception. ‘What do you mean, ‘screw’ you? Where did you get that from?’ He said he’d heard it from some Americans. I told him his word implied pressure, deception, and even morally offensive behaviour!
‘No,’ I found myself saying, ‘I want to ‘bless’ you!’
‘Really,’ he responded?
Then I spied a pair of wildly coloured post-hippie pants, threw them into the bargaining process, made a further offer and … he suddenly agreed. Just like that we had a deal and both of us seemed satisfied!
He started to bag my purchases and asked where I was from and if I was doctor.
‘That’s a funny question,’ I thought. I sensed we'd been led here by the Spirit, a door was open, and I went for it.
‘Yeah, I’m from Canada, I’m a heart doctor, and I give out good news: Jesus gives people new hearts!’
‘How can he do that? he marvelled. His interest stirred, he continued: he had a Christian friend and a brother that had become a Christian, a preacher even! Our conversation turned more personal, we exchanged names and my new friend, ‘Beamish’, grew more and more interested in our ‘good news’.
I told him he was young and strong, but without Christ he still needed a new heart.
I then ‘guessed’ his age… correctly as 24 and he was quite impressed - word of knowledge?
He guessed mine as 54: I told him he was my friend forever!
Then I pulled out the little discipleship handbook I’d encouraged my students to be ready to use in the morning and showed him how Jesus was the Way, Truth and Life to restore us to Father God.
He asked if he could keep it, but I urged him to take it to his heart, not just put it in his pocket, and simply respond to the booklet’s message now.
‘How?’ he asked, and I read him the sample sinners’ prayer.
He asked what ‘sin’ was. ‘Anything that separates us from God,’ I explained.
He said he was Hindu, didn’t understand much about his own religion and what sense all its sacrifices served.
I told him Jesus made one sacrifice for all sin for all people for all time.
Then I pitched the real deal and asked him if he believed Jesus rose from the dead.
He said, ‘Yes,’ and when I showed him that’s all that God requires to be saved, he became very excited.
‘You’re a very humble man,’ he kept insisting. I kept pointing him to the only truly humble man: Jesus.
I then asked if anything was keeping him from receiving Christ as his Saviour right now rather than later.
He thought a moment and shook his head.
So in the next few minutes we prayed with him, he received Jesus and was born again! Prem and Beamish exchanged phone numbers and emails to stay in touch and help him walk his first baby-steps as a child of God.
It’s amazing what shopping with Jesus can lead to in Kathmandu these days: a bargain-to-blessing God-encounter, changed life and opportunity to bring the harvest in!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Nepal Part 5: Good News for junk dealers and sadhus!

Nepal: Part 5! 2years ago, about this same time of year, I got to visit Nepal for my 1st time.
My initial contacts with this formerly Hindu kingdom had been through Prem Pradhan and Sundar Thapa, (as I’ve previously recounted). But I had lost track of them in the intervening years and had not been able to re-establish contact. Prem had graduated to heaven and Sundar was busy with his ever-growing church duties and fending off death threats from Hindu extremists, so he’d had to constantly change his address and phone numbers.
However, during this time I had taught in a Victory Bible College in Thailand that trains students from all over Southern Asia and one of these, another Prem- Bahadur, had asked me to come and teach in his new Training Centre in Nepal. Together with his wife, Lalita, and a committed team of helpers, they were believing God to touch + transform their nation with the gospel and I felt the call to help. They had only a dozen students, but they’d come from all parts of Nepal to be taught for a few months and then return to their towns and villages to make a difference for Jesus!
I stayed pretty well right in Kathmandu for 2 weeks, taught New Testament Survey during morning sessions, and then PremB + I would venture out on his motorbike during the afternoons.
While teaching the Book of Acts, I had a revelation quite like never before. In a Hindu culture where the endless cycle of karma and reincarnation dominate, Christ’s Resurrection is a revolutionary message, just as it had been in the Early Church! This is not just a religious idea: it is an historically-documented event! It has indeed taken place, the world will never be the same and that includes Nepal! I saw more clearly than ever why the gospel was now making such inroads in this country that had closed its doors for centuries. These people were tired of religious cycles; they were hungry + thirsty for the Revelation of Jesus Christ!
We drove through Kathmandu’s streets: dusty, dirty even, with garbage lying all round , even in their supposedly sacred places. I thought: they talk of reincarnation, but don't even practise recycling!
Piles of plastic: bags, bottles, jugs… confusion everywhere!
In the market place right next to the Durbar temple-palace centre of the city, a shopkeeper tried to sell me an ugly Kali idol for …he said, only $7000!
I asked him, ‘Why would I want to bring such an ugly thing into my home? You should pay me $7000 to take it off your hands! It’s ugly and it’s sinful!’
He replied, ‘I am empowered by sin!’
I countered: ‘I know Someone who has power over all sin.’
He questioned, ‘Who?’ and I played my Ace: 'Jesus!'
He said he’d heard of Him: Jesus was a god too, just like Kali, the destroyer.
‘No way!' I objected, ‘My God overcame and destroyed the destroyer!’
I figured we were just continuing the bargaining process: sales + spiritual.
But just then, another vendor overheard us and piped in, ‘ Oh, Jesus… that’s Christians, right? I met some Christians once and they gave me a book…’
He then began rummaging through a big chest next to the ugly idol and sure enough, after getting right to the bottom, he eventually emerged with a little book: a Gideon New Testament in Nepalese!
While the other idol-seller muttered, Prem read out its message and showed the 2nd man how to receive Jesus in his heart and not just keep Him in a box (literally). He said he wanted to! Amazing!
Right next to the idol, the light shone forth! Shiva was struggling to dance, but the Holy Spirit was destroying the destroyer’s mesmerizing works!
We then rode another ½ hr to Pashupatinath, one of Shiva’s main temples, right at one of the sources of the Ganges (Holy) River. Holy 'sadhus' (just a repackaged brand of Saddhucees) seated in front of their holy 'stupas'. Ascetics putting on an outward show of denying flesh, poop on their foreheads and more poop in their hair, all the while staring and daring the gawking tourists to take their pictures so they could charge them money (so much for their having forsaken the world!)
But I'm not a tourist; I'm a traveler! so I avoided their stares and dares, and furtively snapped a couple shots anyways when they weren’t looking.
Further up the river, caves labelled ‘Meditation’ wafted forth a distinctly different marijuana odour… some meditation!
Still further, funeral pyres burned corpses right on the riverbank in the midst of all the garbage!
Death and life simultaneously mixed in this religious complex.
And monkeys… everywhere! 1000s of monkeys! And they weren’t very holy monkeys either: they were constantly fighting + attacking one another, while trying to steal our stuff… like every religious system.
Dusk fell and we were leaving the temple, but Prem felt to turn aside at the riverbank, to a real God-encounter!
A sadhu approached and asked if I wanted to take his picture.
No, I said. I didn't want to give him my money. We started to talk and the poor soul was truly lost. He was searching, but couldn't really say for what. I perceived that he was, quite evidently, one very stoned sadhu and I told him he wasn't going to find truth that way. I hadn't and, I assured him, neither would he. I gave him the brief version of my testimony; he understood English quite well, even when I told him the good news of the gospel!
But again, another bystander had been listening in on our conversation and suddenly intervened. He was young, sharply dressed, very Western-looking, and asked if I was from Canada? (my red maple leaf hoodie was a clue maybe?) and what was I doing in Nepal?
I gave him my new standard response: ‘I’m visiting friends and giving out good news.’
‘Oh!’ he added, ‘I’m into news too. Sports news; I’ve got my own show every night on Kathmandu TV. What kind of news do you have?’
I briefly told him the Good News of Jesus. We also talked about how sports can easily become an idol and then he apologetically introduced himself as Paras, with the same name as the notorious playboy 'Prince of Nepal',
but … he insisted, he was searching for true peace.
I told him he needed the peace and assurance of God's constant love in Jesus.
All the while the sadhu was now listening in to our conversation. Paras was asking all the right questions and finally the sadhu chimed in, ‘You can take my picture now… you and me…for nothing!
This led to photos with both Paras and our sadhu: the prince of the principality + the religious drugs-slave.
Paras walked us back to our motorbike and recounted how he’d once intervened to save some Christian missionaries from being stoned (a different kind of stoned!) for preaching Christ in front of a temple. He’s been struck by how they believed Jesus was so special!
'But every religion is truth, isn't it?' he asked.
Truth is, I'd prayed that morning we would find a genuine truth-seeker that day and here he was... at the centre of one of the most religious and confusing places I'd ever been too… searching!
Another 10 minutes: more questions, exchanged emails and we got to pray with this ‘prince of Nepal’ to come to know the real Prince of Peace! He laughed and said that would be good!
Then we headed home!
And now I’m going back again, searching for more God-seekers in a land that is ripe with harvest!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pt 4- Nepal: Prem Pradhan's Legacy

Here’s Pt 4 of Journey with Prem Pradhan, one of Nepal’s 1st apostles: spent many years in jail simply for being a Christian, but turned his jail cell into an apostolic center from which the Good News rang out freedom throughout his nation.
About 10 years ago, Prem went home to be with Jesus. He fought the good fight, ran his course and passed the baton to his Timothy, Sundar Thapa. Sundar also came to our church in Canada, stayed in our home for a week and spoke to the church of Abbotsford right in our present City Hall! He now leads a growing fellowship of over 1000 churches, a Bible Training Centre, schools and orphanages.
Nepal has gone through revolution: both political and spiritual. In 2001, one of the princes massacred 10 of his own royal family, including the king and queen, sending shock waves through a once invincible traditional ruling hierarchy. Today, those who once rebelled against the Hindu kingdom are in power: Maoist communists control a parliament trying to govern a bitterly divided nation. The traditional religions have lost much of their respect and control, but Christ’s Church has multiplied throughout the land. Where there were once no known Christians 60 years ago, now hundreds of thousands (some estimate up to 3 million = 10% of the Nepalese population!) follow Christ and fill the streets of Kathmandu in Jesus Marches, witnessing and proclaiming the gospel!
Sundar told me that the situation had so changed in his nation that instead of persecuting Christians, the new government had approached him, as one of the acknowledged Christian Evangelical leaders, to give his input on helping rewrite the constitution! A far cry from the prevailing sentiments of most Western governments! However, Hindu extremists continue to utter death threats against him, his family and the work of Christ.

Two years ago when I 1st visited Nepal, I met personally with Sundar and was able to see some of the fruit of Prem’s legacy first-hand. I was especially impressed by the orphanage: the children were so well cared for; they wore warm, clean clothes, looked healthy and even danced out a worship song for me. After 30 years, some of the original ‘orphans’ had now become its leaders. The torch had been passed down throughout the ranks. During these next weeks, I hope to reconnect with Sundar again.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Prem: Apostle of Nepal Pt 3

Here’s Pt 3 in my pre-Nepal journey: Life of Prem – 1 of Nepal’s 1st apostles.
He spent 10 out of 15 years (1960-1975) in prison just for being a Christian, but God was with him and prison-time became prison-ministry: he preached the gospel to a captive audience and many became believers, went home and started churches in their villages. I remember him eating with us in our home, it was like having the apostle Paul with us: his simple manner exuded the calm unmoveable authority of Jesus! I specifically recall the hush over our church when he related the following story.

Not everyone favoured Prem as their mayor, however; some became envious and conspired all the more against him. He found himself again in prison, under the watch of a very evil warden who hated him with a passion. He determined to do away with Prem and put him in an unimaginably horrible situation: a dungeon filled with prisoners’ dead bodies awaiting their families’ retrieval for cremation. No room to stand up or lie down, no food, no water, no light, but lots of lice! Chained hand and foot, in complete darkness with only the company of rats and disease-infested, rotting corpses! Imagine being in such a hell-hole! He survived only by what little moisture he could scrape from the dank walls and bread crumbs that other prisoners generously snuck through the cracks between the massive door and stone floor. Days passed, but Prem’s courage grew. When he closed his eyes, he could envision pages of his Nepali New Testament. That’s how he read and prayed.
One day the guard outside heard him praying out loud.
“Who are you talking to?” the guard asked.
“Jesus,” Prem replied.
“I’m on guard. No one gets by me! How’d he get in there?”
“Well, He’s here.”
The guard opened the door and shined in his light.’ “I don’t see Jesus,” he said.
“You won’t find Him that way,” Prem said. “Let me tell you how you can find Him.”
The guard squatted on the threshold and Prem led him to the Lord.
Weeks passed in this chamber and eventually Prem despaired for his life. He began to lose sight of how God would call him to preach to his nation, only to have it end in this dungeon of death. It seemed all hope was gone and both the natural and spiritual darkness were overwhelming him.
But just when Prem was at the end of his rope, suddenly a supernatural light appeared on the wall: a glowing Cross radiated Christ’s presence, power and life.
Prem heard His Saviour’s voice, “Don’t be afraid, Prem! Don’t lose hope! You will preach the gospel in your own nation, and beyond, to other nations around the world!”
Shortly thereafter, the warden opened the door, fully expecting to find only Prem’s collapsed, wasted corpse. However, to his complete amazement, Prem walked out of the darkness and stood before him: a testimony of perfect health!
“But… how can this be?” he stammered. “I threw you among all those rotting bodies, without food or water for all these days, and now, rather than dead, you look more alive than when I threw you in! How can this be?”
“Do you really want to know?” Prem coolly replied.
… what an opportunity to share the Good News and indeed he did travel to Canada, the US and other countries and shared what God was doing in his own nation and that became my connection to now go to Nepal myself.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Back to Nepal Pt 2:

I head out on my 1st overseas trip since Erica’s death this Saturday.
I need your prayers so I want to let you know how the kingdom of God has impacted Nepal just in this last generation. Erica knew the importance of prayer; Nepalese Christians value its vital role; please read + pray with me for this nation to answer God's call.
Here's Pt 2 of Prem Pradhan- apostle: 
One time during his many years in prison, Maoist political prisoners overcame the guards and ran for freedom. The gates were open, everyone was running and Prem found himself also running with them, caught up in the excitement. However, when he reached the gate, an invisible wall suddenly prevented him from running further.
He heard Holy Spirit say, “If you cross through that gate and run for your freedom, you will have to keep running all the way to India and you will never be able to return to your country. Then you will never be free to fulfill your destiny and my call on your life.”
Prem stopped immediately, transfixed at an invisible line, unable to move.
Other prisoners rushed past him, shouting, ‘Come! This is our chance!’
But Prem stood there.
Still others shouted, “Hurry, Prem! Don’t lose this opportunity. Be free! Don’t be a fool!”
Incredibly, he remained standing. All the others escaped and within a few minutes, army reinforcements arrived to restore order. All the prisoners were gone, except one: Prem. The soldiers stared at their lone prisoner, standing in the courtyard all by himself, freedom’s gate still open before him.
“Why are you still here?” they wondered in amazement. “Why didn’t you go with the others when you had your chance?”
Prem replied, “Do you really want to know?”
Little did they know what they were in for when they responded, “Yes, why?” and Prem proceeded to share Christ with them all. He had earned the right to share ‘the reason for the hope that was in him’ and now also reaped the harvest.
God eventually opened many doors for this man who would not just run through any.
He knew that when God opened a door, no man could shut it, but when man tries to open what God has shut, his efforts are in vain.
During different interludes between prison sentences, Prem returned to his home village, where he continued sharing his faith and love for Jesus. Problems plagued Nepal: sickness, poverty and ignorance were rife and the traditional Hindu-Buddhist religions were unable to bring healing, life or light. The Light of Christ shone in thick darkness, and many were touched, even without their full understanding.
His village Hindu + Buddhist leaders could not agree on their local government council; the two sides were always fighting. So rather than choose a leader from either camp whom neither could trust, they asked Prem the Christian to serve as their mayor! They knew they could trust Prem. God has an ironic sense of humour: an illegal Christian became mayor of a Hindu/Buddhist town! God’s favour shone through Prem and he served in this capacity for many years, also founding orphanages and schools to care for his people. Even the King of Nepal heard of his humanitarian and educational work and presented him with a special Social Service Medal of Honour!
Let your light so shine!

Back to Nepal: A Nation in the Revolution of the Revelation of Jesus!

This Saturday I leave for my 1st overseas Mission since Erica disappeared. I miss her not traveling with me, but she has now joined the ranks of that great cloud of witnesses and I’m sure she’s organizing prayer meetings in heaven right now, interceding for Christ’s kingdom to advance throughout the world. And that includes where I’m headed: Nepal. I was there 2 years ago and on my return, I’ll be teaching in a Training Centre for a week and then trekking into the Himalayas to visit some of the young pastor’s church plants. Please pray for me on this journey into these highest mountains in the world, where God is writing some of His greatest overcoming stories!
Here’s part of how Christ’s gospel is transforming this nation:

True apostles with such vision are rare these days.
But we had such a man stay with us in our home about 20 years ago: a true apostle, not an ego-tripping, looking-for-position-to-validate-his-identity-wannabe. Prem Pradhan was the real thing and having him in our church and home felt like having the Apostle Paul right with us. Prem came from Nepal, a strictly Hindu-Buddhist kingdom tucked in the Himalaya Mountains between India and China. A generation ago, Nepal had no known Christians. Prem served in the Indian army during WWII with the British Air Force and was shot down and wounded. He walked with a noticeable limp from that injury for the rest of his life. In early 1950’s northern India, Prem, about 30 years old, heard a disciple of Bakht Singh proclaim, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment.” (Heb 9:27)
It was a strange message for his Hindu understanding and he wondered how he could avoid that judgment. He asked the street preacher, who then challenged him to read the New Testament
– 6 times! Prem did. During his reading, he gave his life to Jesus and God called him to go back to his country and preach the gospel that had saved him. Like Moses, Prem at first objected.
“I am a cripple,” he argued, “how can I walk up and down mountains?
And I don’t know all the different languages to reach all those isolated villages!
I can’t hike and I can’t speak. Call someone else.” But God would not relent.

One more problem: in Nepal at that time, it was illegal to not only preach, but merely to be a Christian! An automatic 1-year prison sentence if a person changed religions, especially if they became Christian. For the more extreme: 3 years in jail for preaching, 6 if you were caught baptizing converts! Sure enough, after he returned to his country, it only took a short time and Prem was in trouble with the authorities. A paralyzed woman was healed when Prem prayed for her and the miracle so stirred the town that many turned to Christ, even the local Buddhist lama! Prem wrote and invited the local authorities to the new believers’ open baptism. “Jesus suffered openly for us,” he taught, “so we must be willing to suffer openly for Him.”

The enraged authorities arrested the believers and threw Prem in jail.
But they murdered the lama.

Prem languished in a dungeon of death. No ventilation in summer, no heat in winter. Sanitation facilities were non-existent, biting insects everywhere! Rehabilitation was not the goal of Nepalese jails. Prisoners were given bare survival rations of only one cup of rice per day to cook over their own little fires. Without help from relatives, many soon died.
He had done no harm; he was there just for who he was!
Prem was discouraged. “Lord, you saved me with a purpose: to preach the gospel to my nation. How can I do this when I’m stuck here in this filthy prison?” He first saw only filthy prisoners, but as he looked around, he noted that many were from outside his local area. He saw that the Lord had brought his mountain mission field to him! One by one, he started to minister to them naturally and spiritually, showing Christ’s love in this inside-the-prison Training Centre and one by one, he led them to Jesus. Eventually, on their release, they returned to their homes filled with Christ, shared their new faith and love with their families and friends, and started churches in their villages. God’s plan for evangelizing Nepal was different from what Prem had first envisioned: prison ministry with a twist! Soon churches began to spring up over the entire nation, more quickly and effectively than Prem could have ever done in his own way!
Then Satan’s persecution tactics changed. The prison warden grew very angry with Prem.
“Prem,” he said, “you must stop sharing your faith. After all, that’s why you’re here in prison! You must obey me!”
Prem responded like the early apostles: “I must first obey God in my life, in prison or out.”
The warden gave up in frustration and moved Prem to another prison. Prem saw the hand of God in this too: he had already finished evangelizing this prison; he was now ready for a new field to sow more gospel seed in other needy hearts!
Between 1960 and 1975, Prem spent 10 years in 14 different prisons!
Once his sentence was 20,000 days – 54 years! and his release came only when Western friends intervened and paid a ransom of 1 rupee per day, equivalent to $2000.

The only charge they could find against Prem was being a Christian. I wonder: if you were arrested for being a Christian, would the authorities find enough evidence to convict you?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Truth is not an idea, theory or opinion. Truth is a Person and His Name is Jesus

40 years and a generation has passed since ‘I’ve given up the pursuit of knowledge and found the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ!’ This sudden turn in my journey made all the difference. Without it, I would not have gone to Bible School, met and married Erica, together raised 3 kids, pastored, or helped STC eagles get their wings.
And more: 3 grandchildren! and then, the last year’s events: Erica’s disappearance, discovery and dealing with their aftermath.
How well have I dealt with these? How far along in this stage of my journey have I come?
Sometimes my heart cries out like the proverbial kids in the back seat: ‘Are we there yet?’
I don’t know how much progress I’ve made. I have nothing to compare with and I don’t think there’s a measuring stick. Can you measure grief in miles or pounds, let alone days?
But this fall I did know one thing: I needed to get back to my Kootenay roots where this all began.
So my friend and I took a few days and drove back into the mountains, to relive memories and perhaps discover new ones?
And this gem, hidden in BC’s south-eastern corner, up against the Rockies, opened up in all its splendour! The autumn sun shone warm and strong throughout our trip as we retraced familiar routes: the Slocan Valley Circle, our former mail delivery along Kootenay Lake (Canada Post actually paid us to travel daily along what has to be one of earth’s most beautiful drives!) and revisited our old $30 per month Blewett house with the million-dollar view of the valley below.
Not much had changed. True, my log sauna house’s roof had caved in, so it’s potential as a ‘fixer-upper’ was pretty well finished. But it seemed like the same people still frequented the same places on Baker Street; some hotels and pubs had changed their names, but The Savoy was still there: the scene of my one and only bartending stint, where I got hired and fired all in the same morning just because the redneck owner ‘don’t want your kind here!’
Memories reawakened on Nelson’s streets: There’s the corner I stood all one day, giving away the rest of the litter so I could keep one for myself: Musk, a ½ wolf, coyote, and Shepherd pup. Quite the mix!
Or that’s where I painfully sold my prized collection of LPs to get some cash, but also joyfully gave away my greatest treasure: personally autographed Roy Orbison albums to someone who said he was a true fan. My cabin didn’t have electricity, so what good was my record player any longer?
That same ‘laid-back’ peaceful atmosphere I’d cherished from many years ago still remained on the city. We could almost tangibly touch it as we looked out from the park’s central viewpoint over its homes and beyond to the distant Kokanee peaks. Those vistas seemed locked in time. Little appeared changed. Life here seemed comfortably secure in its sameness.
But I have changed. I am no longer the same. Winds have blown through and torn at my branches and it was good to rediscover that a tree’s roots survive even when its branches have been wrenched away.
But I could only stay those few days; I had to head back home.
I had hoped I might meet an old friend who’d be driving back to the Coast and want some company… but that didn’t materialize.
And then I considered the bus… but 12 hours and $100 weren’t that appealing.
I even thought of trying that cheap, reliable way of travel: hitch-hiking… but who would pick up this old guy with a suitcase?
That’s when my friend suggested RideShare. Being technologically challenged, I wasn’t even aware of this modern, glorified community hitch-hiking service, but I checked the web-site: possibility became probability and then reality when my RideShare drove up on Monday morning in not too bad a car and we started off back to Abbotsford.
Steve introduced himself: a DJ who worked the concert circuit so well he only had to work 2 or 3 days a month! I gave him the agreed $50 and climbed into the empty front seat. Steve said we still had to pick up a few other passengers – turned out he crammed 3 more into the back seat: an Aussie snow-boarder, a Montreal forest fire-fighter, plus a senorita from Barcelona. Quite the international mix! I did the math: 4 X $50 = $200! and figured out Steve was perhaps more a transportation entrepreneur than DJ artist? Not bad pay for a day’s drive, eh?
It was just like going back 40 years in time: here I was riding through the mountains in the sunshine with a bunch of young, ecology-minded back-packing long-hairs, sharing their stories with rock music blaring. The only one who seemed out of place was me, the token (not tokin’) old guy with the touristy suitcase.
How things had changed! How I had changed! How had I changed?
For one thing, I now know prayer changes things. So I prayed. And God did His thing.
A couple hours into our trip, the conversation shifted to sharing their journeys’ encounters and favourite exotic places. The Aussie told us about his adventures in Cambodia and after he’d finished, I piped up my agreement, ‘Yeah, I’ve been there too; it was great!’
Then the Quebecker recounted his travels across North Africa and, I again chimed in, ‘I found that there too!’
Then I complimented our Spanish friend on how beautiful her city was: especially its Gaudi architectural fantasies and she was so pleased she blushed with humble pride.
Steve’s curiosity got the better of him and he blurted out, ‘How’d you get to all those places?’ What do you do to get to travel to all those lands?’
‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘I became a believer here in Nelson 40 years ago and ever since I’ve been giving out good news. At last count, I’ve been to about 67 nations!’
‘Really?’ he responded with a mix of amazement and incredulity. ‘Yeah, I’m into spirituality too…’ and he then related a virtual magical metaphysical mystery tour of Bhagavad Gita, yoga, meditation and experiential relativism. I’d been there before, so I let him talk until I figured he was pretty well out of ideas.
And then I felt the Holy Spirit tug.
‘So I see you’re a truth-seeker,’ I threw out the bait.
‘For sure!’ he concurred.
‘So would you mind if I share something?’ (always best to ask permission first… creates openness)
‘Please’, he agreed.
‘Well, I am too. And in my journey I’ve discovered something really essential:
Truth is not an idea, not a theory or opinion. Truth is a Person and His Name is Jesus – the Way, the Truth and the Life!’
An immediate silence fell and filled the car. I waited for truth to sink in.
Steve swallowed hard and I saw the light come on!
‘I’ve never seen it that way before!’ he exclaimed, as if the revelation was suddenly his own.
Then he lowered his voice and confided, ‘You know, ever since ‘The Passion’ came out, I have to watch it at least once a year.’
‘Really? Once a year!’ I replied, astonished at his confession. ‘Do you know why?’
‘No, just got to!’
‘I know why!’ I offered, not even sure why or how I could be so bold to presume.
But then the answer came,
‘The Holy Spirit’s drawing you and you want to know the meaning of life’s mystery in your search.’
‘You really think so?’ Steve questioned.
‘I know so; it’s His job!’
And from that point, the entire journey changed.
Steve no longer spoke from his head, but his heart overflowed through his mouth with question after question while the other 3 sat captive to our conversation in the back seat. 4 hours passed like moments and soon we arrived home. Steve even dropped me off right at my door and thanked me for coming!
I was left marvelling at what God had just done!
It was quite evident I had not been just along for the ride.
I had been privileged to hear the heart of this generation open up, partake in its spiritual quest, and witness God once again at work: calling the hungry and thirsty to life.
And I again awoke to a fuller revelation: I’m not just a spectator in this journey, but His passenger and messenger of His Good News, amazed at how adeptly He can shine His light in the midst of darkness and confusion to reveal His incomparable love.
Makes me want to sign up for another RideShare and see what He’ll do next!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

One Year Ago Today

Today marks 1 year since Erica went missing and my life changed in a moment!  
I’ve wondered: How can I best mark this time?

1) With a greater appreciation of God’s faithfulness:
I am so very thankful that we finally had closure concerning her whereabouts.
We had 88 days to endure: each day one day more than I thought I could yesterday.
Many times I felt Him ‘bearing me up on His eagle’s wings’, and I am so thankful for His Presence walking me through the pain. Truly ‘Thy rod and staff comfort(ed)  me’ and have brought me through to this day.
Our Father has given us signs following, dreams confirming, and testimonies witnessing to His glory in turning what the enemy meant for evil to good.
I know Erica loved Jesus and so she is now in heaven, at peace, rejoicing with the angels and countless others in that great cloud of witnesses, worshiping around the throne of the King of kings.
She is partaking in Christ’s Resurrection glory.
Our faith reveals she has finished her race and the torch is now passed to this generation.
Some families have not been so fortunate: they still seek some sign of their missing loved ones.
Please continue to pray for these who still seek answers to these mysterious disappearances.

 2) With still mixed emotions: 
A life journey takes twists and turns along the way and sometimes there just aren’t words to describe what’s perceived or truly going on.
I am sorry you haven’t heard much from me during these last months: words have felt insufficient.
During those 88 days when she was missing, I often posted my thoughts and feelings. In the midst of all the confusion, when everything seemed to make no sense, I sought God-sense to clarify the non-sense.
I had to literally put my emotions down in words, sort them through, sift out the negatives and hold fast the truth.
It was virtually therapeutic for my sanity and well-being.
I tried to rein in my emotions, align them with God’s Spirit + Word, mount up with both wings.
How else could I keep on going?
Even when I didn’t feel like it, I felt I needed to be simultaneously honest, transparent and faithful to God and those of  you with us.
David provided my role model here: his psalms gave me faith and guidelines of trust and God’s abiding Presence, even in the darkest times. He wrote most of his psalms in times of crises: whether chased by enemies or betrayed by ‘friends’, and I related to him and drew strength from his new songs. The words were already in the Bible and  the Holy Spirit gave me His melody, so I found His songs here in my heart, on my lips, washing, sustaining, infusing me with life when all hope seemed gone and me empty.
 ‘Deep calls unto deep at the noise of  Your waterfalls;  All your waves and billows have gone over me.
   The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime,
   And in the night His song shall be with me –
   A prayer to the God of my life.
   Why are you cast down, O my soul?
   And why are you disquieted within me?
    Hope in God;
    For I shall yet praise Him,
    The help of my countenance and my God.’  Ps 42: 8, 11

I felt compelled to share these times with you, even though it was confusing, painful, and traumatic.
We had no choice: we’d all been drawn into this vortex together, caught up in this maelstrom, this search and then loss, and we had to keep walking through the waters.
With Erica’s discovery and funeral, I truly cherished your many prayers notes of encouragement and acts of love and kindness.
Thank you!
Some of you even took time to be in my company when I wasn’t very good company to be in.
You showed me your care and love, sat on my couch as I wept and didn’t say a word. You just felt my pain and helped carry me through those darkest times when I felt alone, abandoned, with little hope left.
You did not abandon me, but came alongside and have walked with me through this wilderness.
The Body of Christ is truly a healing body!

 3) With a thankful heart:
Am I through yet? Hard to tell; I haven’t found a scale to clearly measure this yet.  
How do you know when you’re healed?  I guess when it doesn’t hurt anymore… and that’s still in process.
But through the grace of God and your love and encouragement,  my family and I have come through many waters so far, been lifted up when we felt our faith failing, and look upward and forward to  the One who continues to be here for us: Jesus, our Way, Truth and Life.

Thank You!

Monday, September 1, 2014

It was 40 years ago today

Labour Day 40 years ago this once-young hippie wannabe truth-seeker came to the end of his hope, rope + himself + found a new way, truth and life. Been tested again and again, especially enduring these last 11 months, but He is faithful. If you're a seeker, please join me to revisit that day a long generation ago, but still fresh as today:
Labour Day fell on September 2 in 1974. It dawned sunny + bright in the Kootenays; days were still hot like summer, but a hint of autumn harvest-time was already in the air and God was really working. This was no day of rest for Him, His Spirit was working -- overtime!
Early that afternoon I drove out to Harmony Gates, a commune in the Slocan where my friend Grizzle lived, and found her in the garden, pulling up brussel sprouts. I'd attended a Divine Light Mission (DLM) ashram meeting the evening before and I needed to know more about this ‘knowledge’ that the Guru Maharji, the purported 'Perfect Master' was offering to whomever he chose to give it. I hoped that perhaps this was that illusory first brick I'd been searching for in my quest for a foundation of my tower of truth.
She hesitated at first, but I pressed her and finally she relented and told me her story:
A couple years before, in California, one of her friends had wanted to become an initiate with the DLM – a ‘premie’. Not wanting to go alone, he had asked her to come her, so she'd accompanied him.
In a morning session, one of the mahatmas presented DLM’s basic teachings and gave out free admission tickets to a further evening initiation session. However, there were only a limited number and he arbitrarily gave to some while overlooking others. At one point, he looked at Grizzle and asked her who she was and why she was there. She told him she was a born-again Christian and was only there for her friend. He then actually reached over other outstretched hands pleading for the few remaining tickets and handed the last two to Grizzle and her friend!
When those with tickets returned in the evening, the same mahatma asked if anyone had questions.
Grizzle spoke up: ‘What will happen to me when I die?’
She kind of apologized for his response while recounting her story. ‘I don’t know what everybody else saw or heard, but he cupped his hand over the side of his face, looked right at me, gave a twisted smile and laughed diabolically, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m going straight to hell!’
Immediately a few of the attendees excused themselves from further involvement in the meeting. Perhaps they had ears to hear + eyes to see?
Grizzle and her friend remained. The mahatma then proceeded by outlining DLM’s 3 steps:
1st: he instructed each of the premies-to-be to hold their eyes shut and press their fingers firmly against their eyelids, pressing them so tightly they could see nothing, no light at all, so everything in their vision was so dark that suddenly they would see the 'Divine Light', a supernatural spiritual light which would enlighten their heart + mind. As he led them, he also circulated among them and questioned their experiences: the light, their enthusiasm and response to the energy they received! When he felt satisfied with their progress, he continued to the
2nd: now he told his audience to hold their ears shut, as they'd done with their eyes; so shut they could hear nothing, no sound at all, so everything in their hearing was so silent that suddenly they would hear the 'Celestial Music',
a supernatural heavenly sound that would fill them with pure spirit. He again followed this step by mingling among them, further noting their experiences. When he came to Grizzle, the sensations she described amazed him, but she didn’t tell him she was already familiar with Hindu techniques and was simply telling him what he wanted to hear.
Then the final step:
3rd: the revelation of the mantra. In other Hindu teachings, Grizzle said the mantra had been the generic name of God: OM; but this time, DLM had merely reversed the order of the letters to: MO!
So here were these precious human souls being led astray as dumb sheep by some charismatic figure and charlatan system, obeying what they neither knew nor understood. But with these 3 steps, he assured them they now had the ‘perfect knowledge’ and would proceed to ever greater enlightenment as they pursued this path.
Grizzle ended her story: the truth came on and my light and hope went out!
My hope had been exposed as a massive sham, a religious fraud, a hoax, a deception! I saw it clearly; she didn’t have to tell me anymore. I felt like one of her uprooted brussel sprouts and there I hung in mid-air, just like them: suspended, upside down, rootless, with no ground for any more questions.
She let me dangle there for a while. I don’t know how long, but it felt like an eternity. And then I felt something else well up inside me: disappointment, confusion, anger!
Not normal emotional anger; I was silently raging, furious at this masquerade unmasked, myself for being so gullible and, because I had to take it out on somebody, Grizzle:
‘How dare she destroy my last desperate gasp for truth? You knew I needed this knowledge and now you’ve debunked it for the sham it is. You heartless creature! How could you do this to me?’
Waves of frustration crashed against my ego.
Mercifully, Grizzle finally broke the awful silence of the moment, ‘Come with me. I’ve got something for you!’ and she headed towards her simple A-frame cabin a short distance away.
I didn’t have much fight left in me, so I obediently followed, not even considering what that cabin might hold.
We entered.
Her furnishings were quite bare. Another woman from the farm was there, but without any introductions, Grizzle just pointed me to the centre of the room: a lone table with nothing on it except a Bible. Closed.
‘Pick it up and read,’ she directed, calmly.
'Where should I start?' I replied, emptily.
But my real feelings absolutely churned and seethed inside me. My anger was primed to boil over and all manner of sarcastic comments were writhing and readying themselves to attack from within my embittered soul.
‘In the beginning,’ she countered.
That did it! ‘In the beginning?’ my inner voice protested. ‘I know all about ‘In the beginning’. I’m at the crisis-point of my life and you’re directing me to Sunday-School stories I know from way back in my past that have nothing to do with what I need now!’
I heard my own soul cry out, inaudible to both Grizzle and her friend. I kicked and wrestled, but finally yielded.
‘Oh, why not?’ I whimpered and started to read out loud.
And I read… through the first pages of Genesis 1 + 2. I read of creation: heaven, earth, animals, Adam + Eve, convinced I knew it all from before.
Until I came to Genesis 2:9 –
‘And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.
The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’
Suddenly 2 things stood out remarkably that maybe I didn’t know?
1st: there were 2 trees in the garden. One was the tree of life which was in the garden's centre; and the other?
2nd: the tree of ‘knowledge’.
That word again!? What I'd hoped would be the missing brick in my tower now hit me like a ton of bricks…
right between my eyes! I can’t remember all my thought process at that point, but I suddenly became aware of something new and different here, not what I’d expected: that second tree, the one I was seeking, hadn't it been the source of all man's problems, indeed the world’s?
Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t know everything? Maybe I needed to read on.
And so I did. I read on into Chapter 3.
I’m going to paraphrase this next part, because from my hippie perspective, this is how it spoke to me:
The serpent shows up at this point and even I knew that was the devil, the bad guy. He gets Eve off alone and says,
‘Hey Eve! Nice digs you got here! Man, this is beautiful! You must have everything you need!’
‘Oh yes,’ she responds, ‘Everything! Isn’t life wonderful!’
The serpent slithers + twists her words from an exclamation to a question, and seizes on,
‘Everything? Isn’t there one thing you’re missing? C'mon, there must be one thing, something you can’t do?'
‘Well, there is one thing...’ and she turns her attention from the centre tree to the other. ‘but just one thing:
God says if we eat or touch that tree over there, we’ll die!’
‘Really?’ the snake drools as she takes the bait.
‘Die? What’s ‘die’? Nobody’s ever died before; what do you mean ‘die’?
Don’t you know the real reason He doesn’t want you to eat from that tree? He knows that if you do, you’ll be just
like him; you’ll be a god yourself + then you won’t need him to tell you what you can or cannot do anymore.
I mean, c’mon Eve: look at that tree over there,’ he turned and distracted her focus from life to knowledge,
‘It looks so good. Really, can anything that looks so good be bad for you?'
And then he sealed the deal with the hippie cliché: ‘Ah, if it feels good, do it!’
I read her response: Genesis 3:6
‘So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.’
And then I stopped.
Suddenly I had no breath to read any further. Any attempts to read on for further knowledge were frustrated.
Visions of uprooted brussel sprouts filled my mind again.
I read this verse and I died.
It was like I somehow saw that I’d been eating from that tree all my life and its fruit was death and its root was death and I was dead also. Another awkward eternity of silence followed.
And then something totally inexplicable began to happen. It was as if some unknown hand wielding a giant corkscrew began drilling through the soles of my feet, draining my life away. Emptiness and numbness followed and I struggled to maintain my balance. I leaned against that lonely table, which now seemed to be the only thing holding me up in this life.
I tried to speak, but no words came; both my mouth and mind were empty.
I braced myself to maintain my composure, but I really had none left.
I stood there... emptying. Time seemed endless as I hung between two worlds.
With no more capacity for anger, I felt suspended in an unfamiliar realm.
Life passed in a moment; events that had taken years now transpired in a mere breath.
Finally, I gathered enough strength and excused myself. For what I didn’t know, but I made an excuse:
I needed to go and tell another couple of Grizzle’s friends that I would house-sit their goat farm for the next week. So I somehow managed to gather my thoughts, thanked the women for their time and without acknowledging what was really happening inside, I walked out unsteadily, got in my car and drove 3 miles down the road to the neighbour’s farm.
All the while my inside was draining away!
I got to the farm, but no one was home. The house was empty; so were the barns. But I saw a pathway opposite the house heading up a hill through some trees. I knew it led to another neighbour’s farm and wondered if maybe they were visiting next door and I could find them there.
Never having gone that way before, I thought, ‘Why not?’ so I started uphill through the forest.
My life was still draining and it was cooler in the shade.
I remember thinking, ‘When will this stop? This is weirder than any drug I’ve ever experienced before! What is happening to me?’
And so my life continued to drain away until…
I came to the edge of the woods. It opened up to a meadow, a good-sized hayfield and exactly when I stepped out of the shadows and into the open, the emptying gave way to a wave of sunlight and power like I’d never known.
It hit me like a tsunami, rushed through me from head to toe, then reversed itself from my toes and exploded through me in a crescendo of life! Like someone set off a whole fireworks display at one moment in me!
Like a bolt of electricity it ran through me, picked me up and propelled me out into the field. The hayfield became my dance floor and I was running, jumping, doing somersaults and cartwheels like a kid, shouting at the top of my lungs, singing and babbling with funny, incomprehensible words spilling out of my mouth!
No one had told me about tongues before, but I guess that’s what it was: unknown tongues were overflowing like rivers of living water from within me! What had been dry + empty only moments before was now full + more!
If anyone had seen me rolling around out there, I’m sure they would have thought I'd finally lost it: too much acid or one too many tokes. I even tried to stop and pinch myself to come back to reality, but life prevailed over reason, and I dismissed that action. This joy was better than anything I’d ever experienced before, so why stop and go back to the old misery?
However, after another eternity, somehow I was experiencing timelessness in one day on both sides of the equation, I finally got it together enough to walk back down to my friends’ farm. They still weren’t home, but it dawned on me where they were: today was a holiday, the hippie community in the valley was opening a new community centre at Vallican, so everyone would be at the big party!
I got in my car and drove: 30 miles in 45 minutes and all that time, the flood waters inside me kept rising and spilling over the banks of my soul. But these songs were not earthly; the language was heavenly and I was revelling in the overflow! I was so full I felt I was absolutely bursting! 45 minutes of something singing unknown words through me! Something was happening in me, but I really didn’t have a clue?
Until I got to Vallican and saw the friends I was looking for.
But I saw another person first: my traveling buddy, Bob. He should have been 30 miles away in the other direction, but there he was: the very one with whom I'd shared so much of my personal journey for truth thus far: through school, drugs, booze, backpacking and whatever, and now here he was in front of me and I heard a voice inside me say, ‘Go tell him what’s happened!’
Again my self protested, ‘But I don’t know what’s happened and I have no idea what to tell him!’
But simple obedience won out and in a moment I found myself standing before him. Without any premeditation, both my arms went up in the air spontaneously and these words gushed out:
‘Bob, Bob! I’ve given up the pursuit of knowledge and I’ve found the love of our Lord Jesus Christ!’
He looked at me, amazed! In all my previous wildest discoveries, I’d never come up with something like this before.
He heard my words and said, ‘What?’
But I heard my words and said, ‘That’s it!’
And just like that I sat him down in the field, right in the confusing midst of 3 loud hippie bands playing, and preached Christ to him.
I really had no idea what I was saying; but life bypassed my mind and words flowed from my heart like a torrent, a river that could not and would not be stopped.
We had both been made for this moment and truth prevailed.
I talked for what must have been a whole hour. I think he had questions in between, but nothing could stop the flow of what I now knew to be God’s Word + Spirit in me. I had both wings and I was flying and nothing could hold back the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Somehow I knew now that truth was not a thesis, doctrine, or intellectual explanation of reality.
Truth is a Person, the very relationship and life-giving intimacy between Jesus Christ and our Father God which He’s given us in His New Covenant. This Truth was happening and this Truth became real to me at that moment.
Bob didn’t get saved that day. But he really didn’t have a chance: within a couple years, he too gave his heart to Jesus and is now a missionary in Guatemala.
I didn’t want to go to sleep that night. What if I woke up the next morning and this experience proved to just be another illusory feeling and was gone?
But I did get to sleep and when I awoke, that same joy was there, has always been and will always be.
God doesn’t change.
That was 40 years ago and Jesus’ Truth shines brighter each and every new day!

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Just can’t not tell you about an amazing  resolution to a very distressing problem yesterday! 
The family who was just vacating a campsite we were moving into mistakenly locked the keys inside their van, so they couldn't leave.
Not really a big problem, right?
However, the plot thickened: they had no 2nd set of keys, we were 30 miles from any garage/tow truck help, no cell phone service in this remote area to even call anyone anyways, windows were closed tight on a hot summer day,  2 dogs inside. But the clincher: the couple’s baby was tightly strapped in his car-seat - also inside!
When my friend + I arrived on the scene, they had exhausted virtually every means they could think of: their vehicle was new, made secure against any illegal entry and  it had successfully withstood their every attack.
We joined forces with them, but it stood, a formidable fortress against our every strategy to breach its security. We hammered on the doors, tried forcing wires through cracks between windows and doors… but no cracks! 
The husband/father finally ran off to find a Park Ranger or anyone able to help, while we two stayed with the wife/mom. Through it all, the one dog sat calmly in the back seat beside the little boy, but two strangers suddenly poking around his castle for vulnerable invasion points really provoked the other doggie. ‘Poochie’s protection instincts kicked into full onslaught mode and he aggressively reacted to our every effort. Snarling, jumping almost maniacally up against the passenger door window, pressing his face and drooling mouth right against ours on the same window pane we were desperately trying to break through. Everything in him worked to repel us Aliens! The more we tried, the fiercer he grew. He was only terrier-sized, but the closer we pressed against the glass, the bigger his bark, growl and bared teeth appeared. He was determined: we were not invading his space!
And then the baby started crying! We wondered how long he and the dogs could last in such a tight, enclosed space with no fresh air on such a hot day?  Mom tried to reassure her baby, but all the shouting and barking only heightened the tension!
Then Mom had an idea: why not use this problem ‘Poochie’ to hopefully bring about the solution? He was jumping up and down against the window, just inches away from the lock switch, so our strategy became: get Poochie so worked up that his repeated jumping would land his angry paw just one time on that inside switch, click the lock and open the door!
We put our plan into action. Mom, who was South African, tried to coax him toward the switch, urging him on in Afrikaans while simultaneously trying to calm her baby.  My friend + I egged him on in English.
We didn’t know how much time we had; breaking a window appeared more and more a necessary possibility?
But Poochie’s every leap up came down short; only the intensity of  his anger grew closer as I could feel the heat of his breath increase through the window! We kept up our attack; our desperation heightened.
What would happen?
Somehow I felt this was going to end well: the Lord was fixing to do something + He did!
We split up our attack. My friend diverted Poochie’s attention to the driver’s side of the van and this proved to be a welcome distraction. He followed him over, barking all the while. But the change threw him off balance just enough so that he tripped on the steering wheel + stumbled + fell …
right onto the panel’s switch!
I heard a ‘Click!’, cried out an automatic  ‘Yes!’, pulled on the door handle before he could undo what he just did. And it opened!
Mom was ecstatic! She reached in, grabbed Poochie up in her arms so he wouldn’t chew my friend to pieces, all while reaching for her little boy and holding him close at the same time. She had been the one who’d inadvertently locked the keys inside in the first place. Relief and thanksgiving simultaneously so overwhelmed her, she started thanking Poochie + us in Afrikaans!
Only a brief few minutes, but an experience for a lifetime.
I don’t think Poochie realized all that he had  done for his family that day. His left paw didn’t know what his right paw was doing. But it was led by the Spirit and that was enough to open the once-locked door.
I left, thanking Father and searching further for the dad. He needed to know all this too had been worked together for good.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Looking Back to Look Forward

This is the 1st photo I know in which Erica + I are together: probably the Fall of 1977, my 1st year in Pacific Bible College, less than 2 years before our wedding. Can you find us? 
Hint: she always had a tough time keeping her eyes open for photos + I sported a mustache back in those days.
Funny thing is: we’re on opposite sides in the photo, but would be married in really quite a short time! 
Life’s full of surprises, isn’t it?
Today would be our 35th Anniversary. 35 years together, 3 children, now 3 grandchildren, many years of ministry:  pastoring, teaching, being Mom + Dad to more than we can tally. Much fruit…  more fruit… fruit that not only remains, but by God’s grace continues to bear more fruit! 
Thank you Lord for the good You bring through faith + love. Little did I know that girl on the other side of the picture would so soon be my sweetheart, bride, my wife to share so many years and memories that yet lay ahead! Thank you, Dear! What a privilege to share those years together!  I miss you; you are ever in my heart!
Thank you, family + friends, for your continued prayers, love and support for me + our family. 

We look back 
to look forward 
for more that leads further 
into all eternity!
This is the 1st photo I know in which Erica + I are together: probably the Fall of 1977, my 1st year in Pacific Bible College, less than 2 years before our wedding. Can you find us?
Hint: she always had a tough time keeping her eyes open for photos + I sported a mustache back in those days.
Funny thing is: we’re on opposite sides in the photo, but would be married in really quite a short time!
Life’s full of surprises, isn’t it?
Today would be our 35th Anniversary. 35 years together, 3 children, now 3 grandchildren, many years of ministry:  pastoring, teaching, being Mom + Dad to more than we can tally. Much fruit…  more fruit… fruit that not only remains, but by God’s grace continues to bear more fruit!
Thank you Lord for the good You bring through faith + love. Little did I know that girl on the other side of the picture would so soon be my sweetheart, bride, my wife to share so many years and memories that yet lay ahead! Thank you, Dear! What a privilege to share those years together!  I miss you; you are ever in my heart!
Thank you, family + friends, for your continued prayers, love and support for me + our family.
We look back
to look forward
for more that leads further
into all eternity!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Once I was lost, but now I'm found!

Sometime a long time ago, Joni Mitchell sang, ‘You don’t know what you got till it’s gone!’
and I’ve just experienced another depth of this truth.
This morning I ‘lost’ Erica’s wedding rings.
The rings that sealed our ‘I do’s’ 35 years ago this July 7th.
The rings that embodied God’s never-ending love and faithfulness to us and we covenanted to one another that day.
The rings the police gave me on New Year’s morning, the day they’d found her.
Her most important tangible, physical memories left to me.
And now I had lost them!
Before I left on the Teen Challenge Missions trip through northern BC a couple weeks ago, I’d made double sure I put them in a really safe place, where no potential thief could steal them, like had happened to her jewelry when our house was broken into last year. In fact, this evidently had been such a safe place that even I couldn’t find them!
And try as hard as I might, I could not remember where this ‘safe place’ was.
I looked everywhere. My favourite hiding spots: shelves, drawers, closets, behind books, wherever, whatever?
And that’s when I lost it. How could I be so responsible to protect something that I’d lose it?
Waves of emotion, loss and tears crashed over me and I felt the weight of their crushing impact!
My search grew desperate, frantic: upstairs, downstairs, kitchen, even behind the hot water heater! Who’d ever think of looking there, let alone hiding something there? Even time got lost in what must have been at least a half hour swirl of intermittent loss, panic, and ‘Not again!’ hopelessness.
And when I had exhausted virtually every possible ‘hiding place’ I could think of , like where would no one, including me, think of looking for these priceless objects?
… the phone rang.
The phone was the last thing I wanted to deal with. I was in no shape to answer, ‘Oh, I’m fine!’ and talk about the weather. I checked the Call Display and didn’t recognize the number at all. But something nudged me to answer, so I did. An unfamiliar, business-like voice proceeded to tell me I had a text message and informed me I had to press ‘1’ if I wanted to receive it. Those who know me know I do not text, and my landline doesn’t generally offer that service anyways, but I figured,
‘Why not? Maybe I’ve won a Caribbean cruise or the lottery? Nothing else means too much right now.’
So I pressed ‘1’ and the same business-like voice sounded out this message:
‘Henry, just wanted you to know I love you and am praying for you right now.’
And that was it. That was all. I stopped. I took the message in.
And suddenly a light came on and I saw a place? a space?
… and I raced to where I saw… the box I was looking for, with Erica’s rings secure inside!
Joy and a fresh appreciation of finding Luke 15’s lost sheep, lost coin and lost son all flooded and washed over me at once. God had just phoned me at my crisis point, reached me through some sensitive, kind but anonymous member of this supernatural body of Christ called His Church, and spoken faith, hope and love into me at my necessary moment. Enough so the light could shine through, reveal what had been lost, and restore peace to my soul.
Definitely a supernatural start to my day!
Thank you to whoever texted me: your prayers work!
Thank you, Lord of all rings: You answer prayer!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Greatest Revolutionary of All Time!

Christ is Risen!
2000 years later, this simple message is revolutionizing our entire world! This is not merely an idea, a nice religious thought we try to believe.
Christ’s Resurrection is a historical fact, rooted in reality, fully witnessed in Scripture, the foundation of our faith.
 Rom 10:9-10 affirms that when we believe in our hearts God raised Christ from the dead + confess this with our mouth, we saved/healed/restored/ made whole! Countless lives have been changed by this truth!
The Early Church preached Christ’s Resurrection to religious + skeptical audiences alike. Their lives embodied this message and humanistic philosophies could not withstand their evident demonstration of truth in action! They overcame by the blood of The Lamb who had overcome death and their lives and deaths bore witness!
While teaching in Nepal + India, I saw afresh how truly radical the Resurrection message is! Hindu + Buddhist culture know only reincarnation: endless cycles of karma + hopeless bondage, but Jesus broke the box of all human limitations. Not only was His preaching life-changing, but His final act marks Him as the greatest revolutionary of all time: He overcame sin + death!
The Resurrection message has a deepened significance for our family this year. We believe one day we will meet our Erica again and even share together this resurrection to life of all who believe and receive this good news! She is not dead, but has gone ahead of us to be with Jesus and her works follow her.
 Indeed, ever since her funeral, we are seeing abundant fruit of Erica’s life and answered prayer. People, things, situations she prayed into for many years (and I can testify: Erica prayed) are now coming to pass!
Our God is a Redeeming God and what the enemy meant for evil, Our Father is now turning for good + His glory.
Thank You again for your continuing prayers, encouragement and care for our family!
And we pray His Resurrection faith, hope, joy and love both rise up and increase, not only during this Easter season, but throughout your lives. May you be full to overflowing with His blessing!
Christ is Risen Indeed!