The French Resistance

french resistance fightersLast night I talked with a man who was a commander as a teenager of French resistance forces during World War II. Now in his 90’s, he was a young student when war broke out in 1939. It was fascinating to hear his stories of those times and how he ended up working in the French underground. At first, he would do things like clandestinely distribute underground newspapers which counteracted German propaganda, as well as those French who were collaborating with the invasion forces.

french women on bicyclesHe told of a blind man back then who would mostly be overlooked by the Germans who would carry about a large suitcase, often with radio equipment inside which the French resistance forces could use. There were women on bicycles who’d convey messages to bands of French freedom fighters who were on the constant move in the woods or fields. Those he worked with would focus on trying to help downed airmen from the Allied forces fighting the Germans, ones whose planes had been shot down over France. There was like an “underground railroad” to get the Allied pilots either to Spain or across the English Channel and back to Britain.

He said their specific goal was not to engage in combat with German forces but to make things difficult for them by blowing up bridges, planting bombs on roads and whatever it took to slow down and hinder the occupation. We laughed at one point when he smilingly said how that he’d been known as a terrorist back then and we talked about how it so often happens that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

But there was combat and lose of life. His older brother had been in the underground as well but was betrayed and ended up dying in a concentration camp in Germany. He told of times where he had to react instantly to save his life before someone shot him. This had come down to the reality of whether it would be his life or theirs.

French awardSomething he felt proud of is that the group of men he led had a relatively smaller loss of life than that experienced by many other similar groups. He mentioned that his own dad had somewhat miraculously survived as a combat soldier throughout the First World War when 1.2 million French soldiers were killed. He told me that at the end of the war, at the age of 20, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his service in freeing his nation from the occupiers.

I asked him what kept him motivated, what he drew his strength from during those times. It was clear that the main thing was what we would call nationalism. His ancestry has been part of the French aristocracy for many centuries and he felt there was no question of what he should do to defend his nation against the invaders of his youth.

I asked him if he ever saw anyone pray in those times and he said he hadn’t. The conversation turned briefly to “religion” and, as some of you know, that word has a very bad ring to it in France, arising in part from the French Revolution and the impact that formal religion was seen to have had on the nation and society.

I told him at the first that part of my reason for wanting to hear about his life was to try to find what I could learn from his experiences. I told him that I too considered myself, in a sense, a freedom fighter. Of course, as Paul said, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the tearing down of strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4) The warfare I have been engaged in all my adult life has been spiritual warfare but it has no less been warfare. We are to “fight the good fight of faith”, we are to “war a good warfare”, “as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (I Tim. 6:12, 1:18, II Tim. 2:3)

Elisha 1And certainly in these seemingly peaceful times, we need another “French Resistance” as well as a resistance in a good many other counties also. I’m reminded of the post I wrote about “They that be with us…” where Elijah and his young helper were surrounded by the armies of their enemies. Elisha 2But then Elijah prayed that the young man would see the heavenly forces surrounding them who were protecting them and were much greater than their present earthly enemies.

At this time, so many “post Christian” countries have repelled their former invaders and now enjoy relative stability and outward peace. But if there were to be an opening of the eyes of the young man now, it would be to see the flood of godless darkness that has seeped in like a poisonous gas under the door and now benights so thoroughly so much of Europe and even north America.

resistance fighters flatThe Bible says, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” (Isaiah 59:19) Well, the enemy of truth and love has and is continuing to come in with wave after wave of putrid lifelessness which is put forward as modern enlightenment. But so often it’s exactly like what Jesus said, “If the light that be in you be darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Mathew 6:23)

Turning pointsPlease pray that God will open the eyes of young men, like he did in the time of Elijah, to see things as God sees them and that “resistance fighters” as bold and brave as the one I spoke with tonight will be raised up to fight the good fight of faith and “hold forth the Word of life” (Philippians 2:16) for the lost and truthless nations of these times.

Normandy Landing

normandy landing

Today a friend and I drove to Arromanches on the Normandy coast of France to visit one of the main sites of the Allied landing in 1944 to liberate France and Europe from the Nazis. I don’t normally do much sightseeing; living people and eternal souls are more interesting to me than monuments and places of the past. But we ended up viewing a short film of clips at a World War II memorial there about the troops who’d come ashore just a few hundred meters from where we were watching the film.

I became quite emotional. There were so many close-ups of the soldiers and the people of those times some 72 years ago and it was so clear how very human they were, how the horrid events of those days had caught up and captured them all in a hideous grasp. After the movie clip was over, we went outside. And directly in front of us and below was the very panorama we’d seen so much of in the movie, the now quiet town of Arromanches where such a major event of World War II played out some 7 decades earlier.

For a while I could hardly talk. I thought about my life, how blessed it’s been in so many ways, how long I’ve lived already compared to so many of those very young men who died in the vicinity of where I was standing. I thought about the utter foolishness of the whole thing,me on normandy coast what a complete waste of so many millions of lives that World War II was, utterly pointless.

That war is at least one in which just about everybody agrees that the good guys won and the bad guys lost. Of course I’m not talking about the Germany or Japan of today. The people who perpetrated WW II are long gone and the peoples of those counties have turned and moved far away from the thinking of their forefathers who started that war.

But I thought of how each of us, either now or someday will have to answer, “What have I done with my life?” “Have I given anything or only taken?” French country laneAnd, in my walks down some of the country lanes here that I’ve taken in the last week, I was already thinking like that. Such an idyllic and beautiful place this is now but how very much bloodshed this area has seen over the centuries. I thought how blessed I am to have lived a life in which much of the world I’m from has not seen the toll of death in my lifetime that former generations saw.

atomic bomb drillWe were thinking we would. As a boy in school, we’d repeatedly have drills to prepare us for atomic war, crouching under our desks in elementary school to learn how to shield ourselves from atomic blasts and the heat that would come through the shattered windows of our school. In October of 1964, there was a weekend when it really did look like that would be it, full atomic war would break out because of the Cuban missile crisis. But God in His mercy kept that from happening.

So what have I done with my life? What have any of us done? No credit to myself, I can thankfully say that I’ve lived my adult life as a Christian missionary, endeavoring to bring the saving message of Jesus Christ to this often tattered and dazed world. I honestly can’t think of anything better I could have done. Politics isn’t going to save this world; commercialism certainly isn’t going to either. Or selfishness, culture or even science.

Jesus said, “Woe to the world because of offenses, for it must needs be that offences come. But woe to that man by whom the offence comes.” (Matthew 18:7) For those of us who know and love the Lord, we posses such truth and power to influence others for good. We can introduce others to the Man who “went about everywhere, doing good,” (Acts 10:38) Jesus of Nazareth. prince of peaceI’m convinced that the only real way to change the world is to change the heart of man, one person at a time. And that can only really happen with the power of God through Jesus, to change our darkened, war-filled heart to a heart of love, given by Him.

From where come wars and fightings among you? Do they not come from your lusts that war within you?” (James 4:1 & 2) In the end, the only way to prevent war is to have it overcome in our heart by the only One who can ultimately defeat the war that is in every heart. Who’s that One? Jesus Christ, “the Prince of peace”. (Isiah 9:6)

They that will not work…

Grandma Helen flatI’m having an amazing time in South Africa, there’s a lot to tell you. This post will mainly be about a story I heard of an 80 year old woman who is poor herself but ministers to the poor in one of the “townships” here, as they are called. I think another word that fits for these areas is “shanty towns”. But they can be very huge.

me and JosefFirst I’ll tell you who told me this. I have a friend here, Josef from Austria, who lives in Johannesburg. He has a similar calling to the friend I told you about who holds HIV seminars in schools here. But Josef and his wife often are “up country”, actually spending a lot of time in neighboring Malawi where he has quite a work going in having seminars with local pastors there on basic subjects of Biblical faith and shepherding the flock of God.

When Josef told me about an octogenarian woman he helps in Johannesburg, I was amazed at her faith. Also I was amazed at her vision to not just minister physically to the desperately poor around her, but also to minster to them spiritually as well, sometimes even with a little bit of “tough love.” Maybe it’s like Jesus was. He certainly was kind, giving and sympathetic, more than any man. But also when it was the time for it, the Lord could be pretty frank and candid with people who needed to hear perhaps surprising truth.

townshipGrandma Helen has been living in squatter camps for the last 20 years but she’s also faithfully shared what little she had with those there, as well as sharing her faith in God. Josef said that he and his wife began helping Grandma Helen when she lost the little support she had. They started giving her gospel literature to share as well as of course food they’d received from businesses who donated it.

Josef encouraged Grandma Helen to use Christian literature in her caring and ministering to people. Before she passes out the food parcels, she has a short Bible study and prayer with ones who come for help. After that she passes out the food parcels and the gospel pamphlets with them. She and Josef wanted to teach the people in her area more about the things of God and one idea that came up was to have them memorize Bible verses when they received the food parcel.

But they learned that it was difficult for the people there to memorize Scripture, as it often is for most. So to make it easier for them and to be sure they were taking in the Word, Grandma Helen had them write out the Scripture verse and give it to her before they received a food pack. And if they hadn’t done so, they could do it when they got the food pack. As I’ve written about elsewhere, there’s just something powerful about memorizing Scripture. “Lay up His Word in your heart”, the Bible says. (Job 22:22)

Josef told Grandma Helen about the verse that says, “They that will not work should not eat” (II Thessalonians 3:10) and that we owed it to the Lord and the people they were giving the food to to teach them the principles of God. So besides some of the most basic tenets of Biblical faith, Grandma Helen also shared with those that came for food that “They that will not work should not eat.”

But also she knew that in these camps it’s often very difficult to get or hold a job. Basically almost all of them there are unemployed or under employed. So Grandma Helen suggested they could offer their services to others in their community by doing chores, running errands, helping the elderly and those generally worse off than them.

Helen weeding flatAt one point she had a younger man come by who asked for food and she helped him. Then on another day he came by when she was in the garden and she asked him to help with weeding. He said he was too busy. So next time he came around for a food pack, she told him, “Sorry, they that will not work should not eat.”

I don’t know about you but I find this an amazing and encouraging story. Godly principles completely transcend borders, time, social strata and just everything. Jesus told us, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) But often also the Spirit of God calls us to some action, not only as a test but also as a lesson that our soul needs to grow in and be fed spiritually in. Sometimes these things can seem like “hard sayings” but it’s actually just God’s wise and life-giving love which is actually more needed that simple food. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) Or like wise Job said, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” (Job 23:12) It’s a lesson everyone needs.

And please do say a word of prayer for dear Grandma Helen. Josef and his wife help her, as they do very many, but sometimes she has to get around in her wheel chair. Also her grandson reads the Bible to her because her eyes are failing. But she continues to minister to these people. Makes you feel that most of us have it pretty good.

Working in an HIV Seminar in South Africa

me in Durban classI’ve been in Durban, South Africa for over a week and it’s been wonderful. I never saw this coming, never foresaw a time I’d be in this part of the world but it has gone really well. I know several people here from my times in Europe. One dear friend is Andras Namenyi, a Hungarian who actually was my translator when I shared classes with young Christians in Budapest back in the late ‘90’s.

Andras has been in this part of the world for years and the Lord has given him an amazing ministry. It’s by no means the only thing he does. But his main outreach is to visit schools here to do a presentation on the subject of HIV prevention which has to do with being informed, being wise and simple abstinence.

I was astounded and floored to hear the statistics about HIV in this country. In this province, KwaZulu-Natal, out of a population of 11 million, 40% of the people are HIV positive. Think about that. Those are numbers like the worst of the Black Plague that hit Europe in the 1300’s. But it utterly underlines the importance of what my friend is doing in these seminars in the schools here.

Durban school crowd sceneI was with Andras for a seminar earlier this week and I’ll include pictures I took there. We were addressing 8th graders in a “colored” part of Durban. [“Mark! That’s racist!”] I’ve had to adjust to the English language that’s spoken here being slightly different from the USA. When I was a kid in Texas, “colored” was the word used at the time for those we now in the US call “African-American”. But here “colored” basically means “mixed race”.

We first talked to the principal; the seminar had all been arranged beforehand. The kids filed into the room with the guidance of their teachers, not really knowing what to expect. Andras has addressed around 90,000 students over the last years with this ministry.

3 colored pitchersAs the presentation started, Andras in his opening was switching back and forth between English and Zulu, the main language spoken in this province. The kids were of course laughing and impressed that he was comfortable with them that way. But probably they were also curious about the props he had set up for the presentation. Several kids behind him had been given various colored balloons. And on the table in front of him were 3 pitchers with distinctly colored liquids. By the way, this was all done in English as the school is a fully English speaking school, even though many there have another language as their first.

Basically the idea was to highlight the consequences of risky behavior. He told me later that almost certainly there were kids in the audience who were already HIV positive. Andras held up the first pitcher with red liquid and said this represented risky behavior, out partying, drinking, drugs and of course promiscuous sex. Then he held up the pitcher with green liquid. This represented someone “on the fence”, not really totally living a risky life but someone who was near the edge of it. Then he held up the pitcher with yellow liquid, representing morals and a moral life with vision, goals and a purpose.

pouring pitchersAfter that he poured some of the yellow liquid into the green and red pitchers. The red turned to a murky brown almost immediately but the green liquid began to turn yellow, representing a changed and more moral life. As Andras continued to speak on this subject, the liquids continued to change from their original colors and soon the green pitcher changed to yellow liquid. Eventually even the red liquid turned yellow.

It was all a huge object lessons in the visual realm for these few hundred 13 and 14 year olds of how morals and self-restraint could change a life and in this case even save their own physical life. Of course I’m only giving you the highlights here of the 45 minute talk. At the end, Andras explained to them how much we all need the saving power of Jesus to come into our hearts and give us the strength we need to essentially resist sin, which is what this is in many ways really all about. He led the kids in a prayer to receive the Lord and they all prayed.

watching intentlyIt even worked out that I was able to address the kids for a few minutes, telling them about my life and how it was changed through Jesus and the truth and power of God. Afterwards we were able to pass out gospels of John in Zulu to the students; these are booklets I helped to have shipped to Andras here in Africa about 18 months ago.

me and AndrasIt was an astounding afternoon, being involved in something so important, life changing and even very much life saving. For me, this is all better than any worldly or earthly riches: being a part of something that’s reaching into young lives who are so often right on the precipice of good or bad, sin or salvation and even life or death. It was another moment to confirm just how thankful I am for a life of Christian discipleship. I hope this testimony is a blessing to you of how people in our times can be used of the Lord to impact this world for Him and to let their light shine before men.

 

“Neither have I desired the woeful day”

the woeful day flatThe prophet Jeremiah knew he would see the day when it was all going to happen. He wasn’t prophesying something for the centuries to come; he knew this was it. God was about to bring His powerful judgments on backslidden Israel. And Jeremiah suffered terribly for the message of judgment and doom he gave to the people of Israel. If anyone could have looked with glee at the day of God’s impending judgment and by-in-large destruction upon Israel, it was Jeremiah.

But did he? Jeremiah spoke in prayer to God, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” (Jeremiah 17:16) Jeremiah had the maturity and Godliness to not wish for and look forward to the horrific judgement that was about to fall upon his people by their God. And, frankly, it should be the same for those of us today. But I wonder if it is?

I’ve believed since I was in my 20’s that some kind of judgment would be coming from God, not only on my country but on the countries of the North and West which were founded in a strong Christianity but have progressively fallen away from that, for decades and even centuries. At times over the years I’ve looked forward to the judgments of God being poured out on some societies and nations whose cup of iniquity must be truly full by now.

But also, in living in many lands, as well as reading history, I’ve come to see that it’s a very sobering thing to actually be where the judgments of God, the horrors of war or natural disasters are being experienced at the moment. In the 1300’s, a time when there was a falling away from the Godliness of earlier centuries, the Black Plague struck Europe and 1/3 to 1/2 of the population died.

That might be hard to comprehend but 11 years ago I worked as an aid worker and trauma counselor in a city that had just experienced that. An Indonesian city of 450,000 had lost one third of its population in one hour of gigantic tsunami waves.

body bagsWhat was it like? Every day we’d see many teams of young men who’d been given plastic bags, boots and gloves. Their assignment was to go into the large buildings downtown that were on their list to bring out the dead. All day they stacked bags, with bodies inside, out on the street in front of the buildings all over the city.

dumping bodiesAt 5 PM large trucks came by and they threw the bags up into the trucks which took them out to a huge mass grave near the airport. That particular mass grave ended up holding 55,000 bags. There were many teams like this; they started again the next day and this went on for 3 weeks. That’s the kind of reality that can come with the horrors of war, the judgments of God or even natural disasters. I spent 5 weeks there during that time, working daily in refugee camps and I never could have made it without the mighty grace of God sustaining me for what was needed to be done.

So I now say, like Jeremiah, “Neither have I desired the woeful day.” But sadly, it does seem like some believers in God here look forward to some kind of showdown with the government of the United States. Or they look forward to the fall of America. They talk about taking a militant stand against the government like it was the will of God to participate in armed conflict and that this would be the high calling of God for them and other Christians. Some really look forward to this, they “desire the woeful day.”

citizenship-in-heavenThis deeply saddens me. And I’m not just going on hearsay; I’ve been in Christian gatherings where the details and specifics of this have been discussed. I did express my sentiments that what was being talked about does not reflect Biblical Christianity and that I strongly believe that approach to be anathema to the high calling of God.

gun & Bible pictureSome think that in taking up weapons against the United States government they are defending themselves against the very forces of the Antichrist spoken of in Revelation and Daniel. This is the pitiful result of a politicized twisting of Scriptures to fit a secular political agenda and it’s amazing that so many Christians have bought in to this. I too believe in a final Antichrist and a final endtime government that he will head. But I don’t believe the present government of the United States is the final fulfillment of what Daniel and Revelation speak of.

Our job, the job of fervent and dedicated Christians of these times is to stand up as some of God’s greatest witnesses, to explain to people everywhere what is happening and what is to come.behold these Christians flat It’s not our job to overthrow our government, any more that it was the job of Peter, James and John to try to overthrow either the Roman empire of their day or the hellish Pharisaical religious system that held the Jews in its power. It was love, truth, light, miracles and the acts and witness of heaven that overthrew both the religious system of the Jews and ultimately even the secular system of the Romans. “Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6)

If you’re being influenced to turn your attention and your hatred against our modern government and it’s failing political ploys, I sympathize with you. It’s pitiful how things are now. But our job is not to take up arms against the government or even to spend precious time fretting, fuming and hyperventilating about it all.

Our job is to give this tired old world the answer we know we have:stands at the door flat the Son of God and the judgments of God which will be poured out on this world, leading up to the worst time the world has ever known, just before the return of the Lord. If you have fallen prey to the haters, the “Christian militants” and to those who gleefully look forward to destructions to come, I suggest you powerfully pray and ask the Lord to cleanse your heart and to use you to His highest and best purpose. “Herein is my father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

I know God’s judgments will come on this world and nation, perhaps soon. But I don’t look forward to it. All the present conditions that so many hate in society today may someday be looked back on with longing for the relative stability of these times. The future soon to come may be unsolvable continuing chaos, leading to a hardcore martial law which will be embraced by multitudes in those times. Jeremiah prophesied of the deserved judgments of God that were imminent. But he didn’t desire the woeful day.

Turning Back

will you also flatThere is an incredible joy in becoming a Christian, I certainly experienced that and continue to experience it. But most of us know that there also can be some serious times of difficulty, challenges and even wrenching heartbreaks that come in our life along the road of faith. One of the heartbreaks that I’ve experienced a lot in recent years is seeing dear brethren in the Lord who’ve turned back from their convictions and life of faith they once held and are now no longer believers or who are overcome and defeated with “the affairs of this life.” (II Timothy 2:4)

It’s a bit of a delicate subject. Jesus said to the self-righteous religionists, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) So definitely the idea here isn’t to cast stones and condemn those who, for whatever reason, have “cast away their confidence” (Hebrews 10:35) in the Lord, His Word and the life we’ve been given.

Demas has forsaken flatBut it is heartbreaking. It’s even discouraging to have contact with ones who once were not just believers but soul winners, disciple-makers and missionaries at the ends of the earth who now question the basic tenets of the Bible and have sunk back into the morass of humanity and the mire of the multitude. Paul said in one place, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” (II Timothy 4:10) Or like it says in the Old Testament, “The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.” (Psalm 78:9)

It’s almost like being in one of those dreams where you see someone in mortal danger and you try to reach out to them or rescue them. But, in your dream, you can’t reach them or save them from their plight. I suppose it’s similar to what solders experience in the heat of war when a comrade falls at their side. Except this is not exactly the same because it may be closer to what the Bible says about being “wearied and faint in your mind.”  (Hebrews 12:3) Or even what happened with John the Baptist and Jesus.

are you he flatJohn the Baptist was the herald and forerunner of Jesus, preparing the way before Him. But something must have happened because he later sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you He that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3) It’s hard to read that any other way than that John had really fallen back from his faith in Jesus. So the Lord said to “go show John again those things which you see, the blind see, the lame walk, the dead are raised.” (Matthew 11:4 & 5) And then the clincher, “And blessed is he who is not offended in Me.” (Matthew 11:6)

Evidently something the Lord did or said must have offended John the Baptist. And in our times as well something can happen that offends us, something we never thought would happen.  “Surely the Lord wouldn’t let that happen!” But it did. And we are offended, stumbled and sometimes, if we don’t get back to standing on the Rock and trusting Him, it can take us all the way out of our realm of faith rewards in heaven-flattenedand land us in the outer darkness of unbelief. It happens to a lot of people, maybe you know some. That may be why the Lord said, “Hold fast to what you have that no man take your crown.” (Revelation 3:11)

Paul wrote a whole epistle which was around this theme, to the Galatians. “Oh foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” (Galatians 3:1) Some “false brethren” had come to the Galatians after Paul had left them and had sown major doubts and questions about the faith and freedom Paul told them they had in the Lord. Repeatedly in Galatians you can see Paul trying to restore these ones back to the foundation he’d laid for them which had been challenged and attacked by “brethren.”  “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19)

I dont believe flatIt’s an ongoing occupational hazard of being a disciple of the Lord to have ones you love and who stood with you on the battlefronts of the Lord to somehow later turn back from their faith and convictions and to even be used of the enemy at times to try to sow doubt in your mind that has entered theirs.

And I can hear some say, “Well, they just got tired or discouraged”. There’s a difference between that and turning back on the Lord. I know a lot of people in their 60’s who can’t carry the physical load they once did but who still are keeping the faith. Some are even witnessing in parks and on the streets, doing what they can, even when their bodies can’t do as much as they did before.

Prodical sonIs there a happy ending to this? I don’t know. We can hope and pray that some of these will be like the prodigal son and return to the Father’s house and their original calling. But perhaps for all of us, it’s good to remember the admonition, “Cast not away your confidence which has great recompense of reward.” (Hebrews 10:35) “Now the just shall live by faith, but if any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38)

We all need encouragement and the help and love from fellow brethren. It is a battle and the darkness deepens steeply in our times. My prayer and hope is that each person reading this will keep the faith and continue to be a helper of others in order that we continue to let our lights shine before men as we lift Him up and all will be drawn to the Lord.

Pickpockets

PickpocketsI was at the Kiev train station two weeks ago, taking an early morning train back to eastern Ukraine. I hadn’t slept much the night before and I was in a bit of a rush to get to my place on the train before it left the station. There were a lot of people on the platform and at times things got rather packed in the crowd.

Suddenly I felt someone lightly pinch my arm. I looked and a young girl started speaking to me in Russian. I smiled and apologized that I didn’t speak her language and that (I thought) was the end of that. But I did think it was a little strange that she pinched my arm that way. Why didn’t she just tap me on the shoulder if she had a question? Anyway, it doesn’t matter (I thought).

kiev trainI was able to get onto my train wagon and was trying to get to my assigned seat but there still was quiet a crush in the isle. Somehow, I don’t know why, I got a “check” in my spirit, when the crowd was really packed, to reach back to my pocket to protect my wallet.

And as I reached back, there was already a hand in my back pocket, trying to pull out my wallet.  The hand quickly was withdrawn and it all became clear to me at that moment that the young girl was part of a pick pocketing team. I remembered that I’d barely seen another young girl with her when my arm had been pinched a few minutes earlier. It all happened in an instant and I didn’t want to try to take the time to yell or catch the pickpockets. They are usually very clever about what they do and know how to melt away into a crowd very quickly.

But as the train pulled out of the station I had time for the significance of it all to dawn on me. The Lord somehow had given me the presence of mind and the nudge of His Spirit to reach back with my painful arm to check my wallet just as the moment when I was being robbed. It would have been a real big setback for me as there were not only funds there but cards and documents having to do with travel that would have been a nightmare to replace. The Lord had protected me again in a supernatural and miraculous way.

A few weeks ago I wrote about “The Unguarded Moment”, when in a brief time of dullness and a lack of prayerfulness, I seriously injured my arm at a grocery store parking lot nearly a year ago. But my time in Kiev two weeks ago was a “guarded moment”. The dear loving Lord saw fit to protect me against very professional thieves who very nearly accomplished a major strike on my life when I was far from my home and base.

guardian-angelsSometimes it’s just God’s grace and we are swept along by His heavenly providence and protection. “The angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him and delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)  “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4)

I’ve thought some about why the Lord so miraculously protected me there at the train station in Kiev but allowed the serious injury at the parking lot in Texas last year. And I don’t have a really full and definitive answer about it. But a year ago in the parking lot, I was just “running on autopilot”, not really in prayer or even thinking very much. But in Kiev, I was praying as things were a little tense overall and I’ve had other times where I’ve known how crowds like that can be the lurking places of thieves. I think even that girl pinching my arm like that did something to alert me that there might be some funny business going on.

So it’s another of “God’s Little Miracles” which I have written about a few times elsewhere. What else can we say but to be abundantly thankful for a supernatural, miracle-working God Who’s promised to be with us unto the end of the world. I think this is especially true when we are going forward for the Lord, even in foreign lands to share His love and truth to those in need. “They went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming His Word with signs following.” (Mark 16:20)

Virginia McMillion (1921-2016)

My dad, with my mom, on his 92nd birthday, November, 2013

Four days ago I moved back here to Texas to attend the funeral of my dear mother, Virginia McMillion. I was in Ukraine when I heard from relatives here that she had taken a sudden turn for the worse. I made it back to my base in Romania, closed it and was able to fly here the day before her funeral.

So both physically and emotionally it’s been one of the more trying weeks of my life. You may know that my dad passed away at the age of 92 in 2014. Here’s an article I wrote about him and his life, “Bonner McMillion“. The picture you see there is of my mom and dad at my dad’s 92nd birthday in November of 2013. While the blog post about my dad is mainly about him, a lot there is a reflection of how my mother was as well.

My mom was a very loving and kind matriarch of our family and she will be very much missed. While I was at ground zero of “the generation gap” as I grew up, in later years my relationship with my folks got better. They invited me to live with them in 2012 as my mom wasn’t able to take care of my dad who by then needed full time care. He passed away about 18 months after I moved into the house and I lived another 18 months with my mom, until August of last year when I moved to Romania.

It’s sometimes difficult to explain to others what someone has meant to you. In the matter of my parents and me, things are even more complicated by many layers of twisting and turnings in our lives, including some strong disagreements and differing views. But it’s been said that out of the twisting and suffering of the life of King David came forth the sweetness of the Psalms and that’s true in this case also.

The fact that I became a born again Christian and accepted the call of full time Christian service in my 20’s was very difficult for my parents to understand or accept. But tolerance and inclusion always played an integral part of their lives and they tried to be understanding. As the years went by, I myself became less adamant and blunt in expressing my faith while still retaining my beliefs and the path God set me on. By the time I was in my 60’s and my parents reached their 90’s, there was a much better relationship between us than there had been in earlier years.

There’s a lot I wish I could tell you about my parents and upbringing as I was very much prepared for a life of Christian service through my parents, even though they themselves were not overt Christian ministers themselves. It’s like the verses in James 2 where it is said, “I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) Without going off the very deep end on that subject, I’ll just say that my parents very often showed a sample of kindness, love, self-sacrifice and empathy that never wavered in their lives. It was through my parents that I learned to care about people and the greater world we live in. That’s why I wanted to be a politician when I was still growing up, thinking somehow that I could make a better world that way. God saw it all and called me to serve Him but the principle of service and living for others was already there from what I’d learned from my parents.

When I was 1, with my parents and grandparents. Kinder people and perhaps better times

When I was 1, with my parents and grandparents. Kinder people and perhaps better times

I had an interesting experience the morning of my mom’s funeral. I was very jet lagged and had not planned to speak at the funeral as I figured it would just have been too much for me. But, surprisingly, some ideas did come to me of things I could share about what kind of family I come from and what kind of families my mother and father come from.  A while back I wrote about some of this in the blog post “Texas People”. And I’ll try to write up what I shared at the funereal as two stories of my parent’s upbringing came to mind which helped to show the heritage they came from which they passed on to me and my sisters.

I’m very much in a recovery mode right now, both physically and emotionally. It’s a major end of an era in my life and the life of my family. I’m so thankful that I have the Lord to hold on to during this time and I’ve been reminded that I still have the things He has done and continues to do in my life. But rebasing back to the States has been necessary and that also is a rather big and surprising turn of events which I’m still digesting as I get my bearings in this new situation. And thanks to the many of you who’ve prayed for me and sent words of love and encouragement during this time. I aim to continue to do what He has led me to do. But this has been a pretty big event and I’m looking to Him to keep me going and on the right course in the weeks and months to come. God bless you, love to you all, Mark

Back again in Ukraine

Ukraine mapFor the last week I’ve been back visiting where I lived in 2008 and 2009, in eastern Ukraine. I guess it depends on what you are looking for. This isn’t Monaco or Hawaii. But for me, it is now (and was 6 years ago) a very nice place to be, among friends who hold the same views and beliefs as I do and who’ve dedicated their lives to serving the Lord.

But it can be a tough place to be in some ways and it’s a challenge for me to write this blog post and to keep it upbeat and cheerful. Because this place can be “not for the fainthearted”. It’s not a matter of violence or crime, the statistics on that are probably pretty low. And it’s not the simmering border war with Russian separatists that is still happening about 200 miles (@320 kilometers) to the east or the Russian takeover of Crimea 200 miles to the south. At one point these things did look like they would spill far into the country but it no longer really looks like that.

No, the overarching narrative here that affects nearly every life is the extreme deprivation, resulting from years of severe economic hardship, already prevalent before the worldwide crash of 2008. And I’m at a juncture here because the Bible teaches us, “Whatsoever things are true, righteous, pure and lovely, if there is any virtue or praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8) In brief, we should aim to stay positive. And at the same time, Solomon said, “Sorrow is better than laughter for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” (Eccles. 7:3)

So I’ll tell you the good news first. My friends here have continued to stay on the wall of Christian service during the 6 years since I left here. There are not a whole lot of them but they’ve worked tirelessly in this country, often focusing on what they can do in the vast numbers of orphanages and places for the mentally challenged. Someone has said, “A little bit of love can go a long, long way.” It sure needs to here and it does. Besides delivering physical aid to these places which just barely get by, a surprising ministry for my friends here has been what’s called clowning.

fixed-Dom Malutki 12“Clowning” might not sound like a great idea to some. You may think we have too many clowns around already when we look at the politicians and so many other sources of light, frivolous froth that seems so prevalent nowadays. But this is Ukraine, not the “rich-and-increased-with-goods” West. Here I find that the clowning my friends do in orphanages and detention homes is closer to being like what Solomon said about these things, “A merry heart does good like a medicine but a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

patch AdamsIf this still seems strange to you, perhaps you’ve heard of the movie starring Robin Williams, “Patch Adams”, about the true story of a famous doctor who used clowning to cheer up his patients and how much this helped them. That’s what my friends do here and it’s been both successful, as well as much appreciated by the authorities in these parts. Of course my friends are dedicated Christians and are doing all this to bring light, love and joy to a part of the world that really does need it very much, increasingly so.

horse wagonOK, that’s the good part; now let’s talk about the bad, ha! It’s the economics. And you could think, “Oh, Mark, at least it’s not violence, crime or diseases.” Hmm. Let me give you some statistics and you can see how this would work for you. You’re retired and draw a pension from your government? Millions here do and they receive… $45 a month. That’s $ 1.50 per day. An average wage in Guatemala is about twice that, I’m told. Are you going to buy medicine on $1.50 a day? No. You’re just barely going to avoid starvation if you somehow have some place you can grow some potatoes, have an apple tree and a few chickens you feed.

woman plowingYou’re a teacher in your prime, not retired? Let’s see. You’ll receive… about $55 a month. At 40 hours a week that would be about $.25 an hour for your efforts. Your tops in your field, medicine, and are #2 at a large city hospital? You’ll be getting less than $200 per month. So it’s all kind of indescribable. Almost like a sci-fi movie where all that you’ve taken for normal is deeply distorted so that things are surreal, Kafkaesque.

I could tell you much more but I won’t. It’s against this backdrop that my friends here work daily to try to bring hope, love, truth and a little happiness and joy amidst such grim deprivation. It moves me and affects me. Verses like “Unto whom much has been given, much shall be required” (Luke 12:48) and “They that be strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak” (Romans 15:1) have always under-girded my life as keystones of how I should respond to the gross darkness that is upon so much of our world. Being here has been a reminder of how much I and many of my friends have and how much we have to give (in so many ways) to help others.

 

News about Witnessing in Germany

German streetI received a thrilling testimony from a Christian sister around my age in Germany who’s been a faithful witness for many years. I’d like to share this with friends far and wide as it’s certainly not the kind of thing you’ll see on the evening news. But I really believe this is something that makes news in heaven.

This sister lives in a large industrial city in German which has very many Muslim refugees, as well as German citizens of Middle Eastern background. And on top of that, it’s one of the centers in Germany of the far right, anti-immigrant, nationalist movement. A few months ago I helped my friend to get a shipment of several hundred Gospels of Luke in Arabic which she would be able to use in the times she goes out witnessing in her city. Here’s part of a letter she wrote me yesterday.

passing litI was out witnessing after some time of not being able to go out much and at first it was such a battle; but that always happens. I’d copied some tracts to pass out and it had become late already. I was starting to get tired but was dissatisfied because I’d taken 10 Arabic Gospels of Luke with me, with the determination to give them out. But I was by that time just tired and wanting to go home.

I told myself, “OK, I’ll walk toward the train station and on the way pass out some more things.” I realized there where quite a few people also streaming toward the train station so I just asked Arabic-looking people if they spoke Arabic and offered them then the Gospels of Luke.

There were two families with little kids and each looked at me like they wanting to say, “Are you in your right senses? We are Muslims.”  sharing wordSo I told them that the Quran teaches we should read the “Injils”, the gospels about “Isa”, Jesus. They both reacted with an “Ohh”, realizing I might know more about the Quran than them, and took it, thanking me for it.

On the way I passed the big cinema and decided to see if there was an announcement about the new movie with Joseph Fiennes about the resurrection of Jesus. And there were 2 young girls sitting with Muslim head-scarfs on, around 15 or 16 years old.

I offered them Gospels of Luke too and at first they were a bit mixed up in surprise. Then the younger one started to get all excited and I heard the word “Injil” several times. Then the older one caught on and thanked me profusely, even kissing the booklet. That was my time to be startled.

Phew, what a great time I still had! One more guy took it because I said yes when he asked me if I’ve read the Quran. I have read only here and there a verse but that’s probably more than many Muslims ever have read, like most church people don’t read their Bible.

giving GoL flatIn all I was able to give out 8 Gospels of Luke in Arabic and a bunch of German and English tracts, thank you Jesus! I was all poured out when I arrived at the train station but very happy.

I am still praying for one or more Muslims to teach the Bible and who can help me better spread the Good News (my strength is so little for this great job) if you like to pray with me for this.

Much love, C.

Angela MerkelI don’t know about you but this just made my day. It’s exactly what I’ve written about in blog posts like “Merkel’s Call”, “Enemy at the Gate”, “They that be with us…” and several other similar posts about conditions presently in Germany and Europe. What this dear sister wrote about shows that it can be done. It would be great it if was some huge, mass movement that everyone can feel they are swept up in and feel a part of. But that may not happen. Meanwhile, it’s up to individuals to just share the love of God and the truth of God with the lost, like the people of faith have been doing since the days of the Early Church.

It may not seem like much. “What is this among so many?” (John 6:9) But it’s a start. And I know personally a number of other folks around Europe who are doing daily exactly what this dear sister in German wrote about.Go flatOne shall chase a thousand and two shall put ten thousand to flight.” (Joshua 23:10) May the Lord bless this dear German sister for her faithfulness to share God’s love and truth with the lost and may others catch the same vision and passion.