Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Confluence

I guess you could call it a bucket list experience, yes it definitely was! Being in Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympics and being able to watch Usain Bolt win his 3rd gold medal in three straight Olympics in the 100m final was absolutely electric! At the same time with less fan fare however, Justin Gatlin also became the first American in history to medal in the Olympic 100m final in three different Olympics. The 100m final at the Olympics is basically the Super Bowl of Track and Field. It was super cool and unusual to even be able to get tickets for this event and experience it in person.



The whole thing happened because several things came together in just the right way at the right time! Confluence is defined as 1. a flowing together of two or more streams, rivers or the like. 2. a coming together of people or things.  As cool as watching "the fastest man in the world" was in the temporary physical realm greater things were happening in the spiritual realm.
 
The main reason we were at the Rio Olympics was to distribute about 100,000 John and Romans and 20,000 gospel souvenir pins (mostly in Portuguese). Rio itself is more populated that New York City and there were well over 500,000 visitors that came from all around the globe. Most of the time our group of 40-50 spent long hours in tourist areas having gospel conversations and sharing the Word of God one on one (our translators were amazing to work with). Our primary source of transportation was the Metro (Subway) and each day we spent about 2 hours going in the morning and coming back in the evening. By the way did I mention we carried back packs full of these souvenir John and Romans all day long until we gave them out and then someone usually brought us more to carry! Talk about the burden of the word of the Lord :-)
 
One day as we were headed back I was completely exhausted and worn out. I said a little prayer and notified  God that "I can't talk to anymore people. I am so tired and I don't have any emotional or physical strength left. So, God, that's just the way it is". I guess I felt a little guilty that I wouldn't even consider sharing anymore but hey, I had done enough for God that day already!
 
We were 20 minutes into our ride back and the Metro was getting so crowded and uncomfortable that I just wanted to stand there with my eyes closed and ignore the smells and tune out the whole world. Then I saw a gentleman trying to get on the Metro and I knew immediately I had to help him, he was blind. I guess no one else noticed or knew what to do so I reached out to him and helped his hand reach the pole in the middle of the subway car so he would not fall. I could not speak Portuguese and I didn't feel like talking but I wanted to give him one of our souvenir gospel pins. I used the little Portuguese I knew and told him it was a gift. He gladly took it! I knew this would interest him because he could touch it and it had weight to it. Having 2 blind children myself I knew that the tactile part of it would interest him. The part that bothered me was that I could not find any of the translators that were usually with us and I knew that this man could not read the gospel that was on the card and neither could I since it was in Portuguese. Even if I had decided I wanted to talk now it really wouldn't do much good (I see the irony in that, as God chuckles a little at me). At that very moment we stopped at another metro stop. Several people got out but more people got on, ugh. It's always a mad rush when the metro doors open, you better be quick or you will miss your stop. A very kind Brazilian lady happened to make her way to where this gentleman and I were standing and after a moment I guess she could tell I was from the USA and started speaking in English to me. I shared with her what we were doing and gave her a gospel pin also. Somewhere during our conversation she noticed that the blind gentleman had a pin. Then something amazing happened. This young lady took the gospel card and began reading it out loud in Portuguese to this man. She read it loud enough that not only did he heard it but many on our right and left began to listen.



There was a "Holy Hush" that came over many of the commuters and it was obvious that the Spirit of God was working on hearts. The blind man (who I now knew was named Pedro) after hearing the message was grinning from ear to ear and the young lady had a tear streaming down her face. Pedro gave me several hugs and then we came abruptly to the next stop. The young lady said I have to go but before she did she explained that she worked as a teacher for the visually impaired and blind in Rio.  The very next stop after that Pedro got off the metro using his cane finding his way home. I probably will never see either of these two people again in my life and had never seen them before but God had a plan for that exact moment in time!
 
WOW! I love it when God has a plan and he brings it together. How can so many specific things happen and specific people come together in such an enormous city in a way that you can only say "God did that".  It was a little glimpse of infinite wisdom, power and glory of God.  God is always working bringing things together - He is The God of Confluence! I have found that when we are seeking to do God's will and we go wherever he leads that Confluence happens quite  often, especially at TheOBP.com and GoCityReach.com mission trips I have been on. Astronomical odds and unusual events seem to be the norm when we join God where he is working and in what he is doing. The God of Confluence is working everyday sometimes we just get so caught so comfortable with routine and habit that our eyes are just not open to it. Open our eyes Lord and help us to see what you are doing so that we will join you today!





 
 
"All this also comes from the LORD Almighty,
whose plan is wonderful,
whose wisdom is magnificent"
Isaiah 28:29 NIV

Monday, August 17, 2015

She Believes In Her

     Recently I saw newsreel footage from 1930 that had been put on YouTube that featured Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. It is a remarkable and historically significant piece. Anne is filmed sharing how she was able to teach her blind and deaf student to speak. I was moved to tears at the end when Helen said " I am not dumb".  Having two blind children I know that many times people assume my children are less intelligent or unable to learn because of their blindness. My children can sense this and it has a negative impact on them in a variety of ways. Assuming the ignorance of others is a growing and dishonorable practice among so many today, it is an unfortunate trait of a society that seems so often to base it's worth and significance on how much it knows and  showing someone else up.
     I asked my children to listen to the video. At the end of it my verbose offspring were both left entirely speechless and in awe. They both have had a fear of losing their hearing and being left in a condition like Helen Keller was. We have talked about the fact that if anything did happen to their hearing that like Helen Keller there are still ways to communicate and learn. They rely so heavily on their hearing that they can't imagine what it would be like to not have it but they are more aware of the reality that it could happen because they are already blind. I let the whole video sink in a little and then asked them, "What impacted you the most about what you just heard?"  It took a while but then Allison said, "Dad, I think what hit me the most was how much she believes in her."  I asked "How much Helen believes in Anne?" She said "No, how much Anne believed in Helen."

 
     Do you believe in people? The people that have impacted me the most are the ones who sacrificed for me and loved me and encouraged me (yes, even with their words). Those who saw my positive potential and communicated that to me. Those who believed that I could reach my goals and be better than I was made a difference. I'm not talking "expecting that they should" but rather "believing they will" those are two totally different things.  Teachers who believe in their students can especially have an enormous impact. Don't give up on people because of circumstances or situations, don't judge a book by its cover! That turning point may be just around the corner! My kids are blind but I believe in them and I know they will do greater things (whether similar or different) than I have ever done. Go give someone the gift of your belief in them. Bless them with your belief. People can sense whether you really think they are worth the time or not!  Jesus Christ our greatest example also believed in his students when he entrusted them with the spreading of the gospel and told his disciples they would do greater works also.

"But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak;..."
I Thessalonians 2:4 

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do..."  John 14:12

 

Monday, November 17, 2014

That Golden Sunshine

    
     Did you ever find yourself in a Sunday Morning Service singing a beautiful, Spirit filled, God honoring, Blessed gospel hymn? One of those hymns that your mamaw would play on a good ole high back piano and she did it for Jesus as she suffered through it with a smile! She wasn’t going to let her arthritis stop her! You remember singing that song when Uncle Joe or little Bubba who you had been praying for for so long came down the aisle and was gloriously saved by the blood of Jesus! For me, I get that feeling and remember back to when I was 7 or 8 years old in a rented school gym in Mississauga, Canada singing my heart out to “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder”. Is it just me or did the sun previously shine a little more golden, was the sky crisper and bluer and didn’t people seem to be more sincere in their singing? What happen? ........ Wake Up! You got older!

     Five to Ten years ago teenagers and college age students (And many older adults as well like myself) were singing the following songs and listening to them on Christian Radio. 1. How Great Is Our God, 2. Mighty To Save, 3. Our God Is Greater, 4. Blessed Be Your Name, 5. Here I Am To Worship, 6. Revelation Song, 7. Everlasting God, 8. Amazing Grace(My Chains Are Gone), 9. Jesus Messiah, 10. In Christ Alone, 11. Your Grace Is Enough, 12. Forever, 13. Open The Eyes Of My Heart, 14. Forever Reign, 15. How He Loves, 16. You Are My King(Amazing Love), 17. Holy Is The Lord, 18. From The Inside Out, 19. Hosanna, 20. Shout To The Lord, 21. Come Now Is The Time, 22. The Stand, 23. Hosanna(Praise Is Rising), 24. Lord I Lift Your Name On High, 25. Glory To God Forever, 26. How Great Thou Art.
 
 
 


     This is the CCLI top 26 most commonly used song list from 2012. This list was compiled by a survey sent out to 150,000 churches across North America. These are the songs that mean something to this generation. Ten years later (which is now) when they are having families, raising children and looking for churches to join they are going to look for churches that sing these songs. Why? Because that was the song being sung when they got saved at church camp! That was the song that was playing on the radio when they got the courage to share their faith with their best friend when they were driving down the highway. Tell me, wasn’t the sun shining a little more golden that day? Wasn’t the sky a little crisper and bluer and didn’t people seem to be more sincere back then? You may choose to not go to a church that doesn’t sing songs you like or prefer…..Hey, guess what? The next generation does the same thing! You’re the same!


     Some will object and say “But these new songs take out “The Blood””. Stop reading e-mails from people who make stuff up or repeat things because it supports their preference without checking it out! Apparently they never checked out the lyrics to “You Are My King” or “In Christ Alone” which has been banned by some denominations because it speaks of the wrath of God!

     Some will object and say “But these new songs say the same thing and repeat themselves over and over and over!” Really? Apparently you haven’t sung “Standing On The Promises” or “Blessed Be Your Name” out of the old hymn book lately. Maybe you need to be reminded of Psalm 136 and the inspired repetition of the words in that song.

     Some will object and say “I don’t like these new instruments and those drums”. Maybe you have forgotten that King David invented a new musical instrument in his day and commanded that it be used in worship! For those of you who don’t want drums in church is it not hypocrisy for you to sing songs to an mp3, CD or cassette in church that has drums in it?
 
     In conclusion, we wonder where all the 19-49’s have gone from our churches? Maybe it’s because many of them have chosen their likes, preferences and feelings just like many of us have! Obviously this isn't the only reason but one that is having a negative impact. When we point the finger we have three pointing back at us. Let us not be guilty of trying to enforce on others the song styles, the preference of what is in our church names and the translations we like as "The Commandments Of God" and somehow more spiritual than theirs!


 
 
Watch this video of my son Matthew getting his worship on! Enjoy!

Friday, May 16, 2014

All Things



After 30 hours of flying and who knows how many layover hours we finally arrived in Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia. Then we hopped on a single engine prop to Terpones and then another one to Bias where we landed for our second time on a grass air strip. Then it was time to get in a hand carved canoe and go down river! We are talking five hours in a river that had crocodiles, piranha and snakes in it.


Finally we arrived at Kumiolen in the heart of the Papuan Rainforest. Where we were exactly is a mystery because that river and village do not appear on any maps that I have found! The medical/ evangelistic team was greeted royally by the Yetfa people in that village! Our group, including the Reynolds (missionary family) were the first Westerners (white people) to ever be there. After a glorious welcome that I will never forget we needed a bath, we thought. We walked further than expected and took a bath in the dark; in a creek that was at the bottom of a 20 foot muddy/jungle embankment (we only had one little flash light for all of us). Once we finished our bath and climbed back up the miry clay it felt like we were dirtier than before even though we smelled a little bit like soap. We got back to our tents that we had brought with us and went to sleep on our somewhat inflated air mattresses. When one is sleeping in a Rainforest it becomes clear that sweating while you sleep is really par for the course. The sounds of the jungle are really amazing at night with all the exotic birds and critters and I did manage to sleep a little.


When the morning came I awoke suddenly to a sound that was very unsettling and it wasn't a cockatoo. I heard what sounded like a grown man yelling, moaning, groaning and laughing and then nonsense noises like “owiowiowiowioh”. At first we thought this man was crazy and out of his mind because he walked around the village completely naked and very dirty. He roamed around by himself and was often hit and ridiculed by the kids from the village. Later that day we were eating and because he was hanging around we surmised that he was hungry and wanted food. We ran some of the kids off that were mocking him and motioned to him to come into the hut where we were. We offered him food and he grunted, hit his head a few times and sat down. We decided we would love him and share with him even though he was very unruly and quite a sight to behold. He began to calm down and he ate.

watch video

As he sat there we tried to communicate with him but it was very difficult and he seemed to ignore us. Of course we thought it was the language barrier but even when Chase spoke Yetfa to him he seemed like he did not understand. After a while we figured out that this man was deaf and mute. Chase asked some of the older men and they told him that this man had been very very sick as an infant. The experience that we had with this man stayed in my mind and heart and I am sure in the minds and hearts of all that were in our group!

As I returned to the States a single question kept coming to my mind, “how is that man ever going to know the gospel?” I mean, he lives in a tribe in one of the remotest places on our planet. He has no Word of God, no written language and he himself cannot hear or speak! During the trip Chase spoke several Bible stories and the Gospel with the Yetfa in their own language for the very first time. What good is it going to do this man I wondered? How will this man be reached? God how are you going to do it? God I know you SEE this man! YOU ARE THE GOD WHO SEES (Genesis 16)! God I know you love this man but how will he be reached?

About 6 weeks later I was on facebook and I heard the following story from Eddie Williams a friend of mine who is a missionary to the Turkana in Kenya, Africa!

“I encountered another thing not covered in missions class. I preached today and led into the invitation. A few folks began to respond. Then an 15 year old girl comes crying (snot freely flowing...you know the type) and stands right in front of me. I asked how I could help her. She just stood there...bawling. I called pastor Emmanuel over to help. He told me the girl is an illiterate, deaf, mute. Great! She obviously has come for help...but how can I know what she needs me to do.
I remembered when I was in Bible college, I was taught that sometimes you have to become a fool for Jesus! I began a 20 minute game of charades with this girl, right in front of the entire church. Through gestures and grunts, I asked what is the problem. She points at herself and then down to the ground several times and cries harder. It took me a minute to figure this out. But THEN it hit me! She realizes (maybe for the first time) she is going to hell.
Conveying the concept of sin was made easy when her mama yelled out she likes to hit people. Once I was convinced this was why she was standing in front of me (and the entire church), I acted out the Gospel as best as I could. When I got to the resurrection, I asked if she wanted to pray. She nodded yes! She prayed and her entire countenance changed! Her tears stopped and were replaced with the biggest smile! The church broke into spontaneous shouts of joy, whistling, and applause (sorry for you if that kind of thing offends you).
How to share the gospel with an illiterate deaf mute? must of missed that class! But God still breaks through muted ears and silent mouths...IT WAS AWESOME!!!”

God is using so many awesome people and there are so many God things happening in our world today. In the trip to Kumiolen, Papua, Indonesia I saw God use so many people to accomplish His work! He used Translators, Nurses, EMT’s, Doctors, Mechanics, Pilots, Youth Pastors, Canoe Guides, College Students, Missionary Kids and many more.


Perhaps there is a teacher of the deaf, someone who knows how to sign or someone who is willing to learn! Maybe God is calling you to reach people like the Kumiolen deaf man and the Kenyan deaf girl! There is a huge need in missions among unreached people for this! Check out this article about such a ministry and see the need and the value of it! God is calling people to ALL THINGS!

“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be a partaker thereof with you” I Corinthians 9:22-23

“When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25-26





Monday, August 5, 2013

Priceless


I am one of the most blessed men that I have ever known.....seriously!! I have an absolutely amazing wife. I still can't believe she chose me out of all the guys in the world! She continuously teaches me new things and I have seen God do magnificent things through her. I want to brag on my wife a little :-) Recently, she became certified to teach students with visual impairments. I am so proud of her, she was a woman on a mission and she got it done. God worked in her life and led her to a certain purpose and she accepted it, embraced it and owns it! When she was first starting this endeavor she was applying to get into a program and wrote the following as part of the application process...I am using it with her permisson!

Nine years ago I was a fourth grade teacher. I loved my students….I had worked my way through school and LOVED my career. And then I found out I was expecting. Thrilled is probably an understatement to describe our long awaited babies coming! Our firstborn arrived in April and she was delightful. We were concerned about how her eyes bounced, but our pediatrician assured us that was “normal for some babies.” I would try to get her to track objects, lights, or even to convince myself she was looking at me as I fed her, but I wasn’t convinced. We had no reason to believe she couldn’t see, no family history to fear, but we were sure there was a problem. I finally convinced our Pediatrician to do a more thorough exam when Allison was 4 months old. She didn’t finish the exam and she left the room without a word. I worried that the doctor had gotten sick. Instead she was on the phone getting us worked in for an emergency appointment with an ophthalmologist. She never told us why we were going. The Ophthalmologist told us that afternoon that our daughter was cortically blind. He said that she was living in darkness, and that we needed to adjust our expectations accordingly.
That day changed our lives. We spent several months visiting different doctors searching for answers. We got in contact with ECI, and through them we met the Mansfield ISD Orientation & Mobility Specialist and the Teacher of the Visually Impaired. The support we received from our O & M was amazing. She was dependable, helpful and encouraging. There were weeks on end where she was the only person I spoke with that I thought had a clue about my life. They have worked with me to get my daughter where she is today- a third grader who was commended on her TAKS test.
I believe that as a VI Teacher I will be able to help my students and their families with the unique perspective I offer- of someone who has taught regular education as well as being a parent of a visually impaired student. I understand the classroom teacher’s perspective and I believe that this will benefit my students and their classroom teachers. I will be able to share the needs of my students to help them become independent learners as well. I also have a clearer idea than most of what the parents are thinking and need. I want to help other families by providing the kind of support and encouragement my family has received.
As a teacher I believe that all kids can learn and that it is my responsibility to see that learning takes place- even if I have to change my plans. Sometimes this meant delaying and re-teaching a concept. Some days this meant scrapping my plans and going back to basics that the students did not have, but needed to comprehend the concept. I played games, created songs, and used stickers instead of pencils. My goal was to help students love to learn and to create lifelong learners. With a blind child, I have learned that sometimes learning takes more conversation but the smile that occurs when they realize the solution is just as priceless.

Jill Smith

As I said earlier, I am soooo proud of my wife! Steve Jobs founder and CEO of Apple once said "You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something..." My wife and I trust in God and it gives me great joy to know that through all of our experiences in having 2 blind children she has embraced the guidance and the purposes of God in her life! To God Be The Glory by Jesus Christ :-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Blind Blaming The Blind

Not too long ago I was just standing in my living room doing absolutely nothing. I don't know what I was thinking and I don't know what caused me to remain in that one spot for more than a few seconds. As I stood there I was about to witness an event that forever will be burned into the deep recesses of my mind. All of a sudden in an instant both of my children began walking quickly (for my children it was effectively a run) from the two opposite ends of the house toward the living room. Directly in front of me I saw them collide hard enough that both of them fell backward to the ground. Usually I would have reacted but I just stood there like I was in a paralysis. I watched the events unfold with a little smirk now creeping onto my face. Immediately after hitting the ground both of my blind children began raising themselves up and in perfect unison while scowling in the direction of the other said "WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING!!!" They were about to really get into it when I busted out in laughter and reminded them that they are both blind! It was at that point that I saw both of them stop and give that perplexing "Oh, I Forgot About That" look. By now my wife was in the room and she was laughing about as hard as I was!
A well known older pastor that I greatly admire always says "To Blame is to B-lame". Jesus talked about the blind leading the blind and I believe there is an awful lot of that happening! In America today it seems that in the political realm we have a lot of "The Blind Blaming The Blind" going on. I think this is an appropriate time to write this post! The President of the United States "State of the Union" speech was just given to the country. When you look at things that are taking place in our country so many still seem to be thinking in a partisan paradigm where one party is wrong or mostly wrong and the other is right or mostly right. It is time that we stop being blind blamers of the blind! We are all to blame and sin is everywhere!
I actually like the statement "Be the change you want to see in others"! It is time that everyone takes personal responsibility and begins changing. America's problem is not Political it is Spiritual. Christians from both parties are guilty of not standing against abortion. We are guilty of not standing against a culture of debt, not standing against homosexual marriage, not standing against compromise in what we allow ourselves to be entertained by. We are guilty of not standing against greed, prejudice and oppression. We are guilty of not standing against perpetuating government reliance and not standing against the manifold lies materialism and secular humanism! The list of our wrongs goes on and on for all sides! May God grant all his children repentance and give us grace to trust His righteous ways and live by them!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Disability or Challenge?

This is a great question concerning blindness and if nothing else one which deserves and requires sincere contemplation and thought. I recently came across this great essay by Kenneth Jernigan called "Blindness- A Left Handed Dissertation." Maybe it will help you come to a conclusion on whether you think blindness is a disability or a challenge but either way you will definitely have a greater awareness. It will open your eyes and show you that without realizing it society can really make things difficult for people who are not "normal". On a side note, I am including a pic of Allison! So proud of her for accepting the CHALLENGE and riding the bus to school everyday on her own! Way to Go Sweetheart!