Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Spell, A Dream and A Mission

It was as if someone had cast a spell on me. I had read how Douglas MacArthur had said that he had been enchanted by the Philippines the moment his eyes beheld the majesty of Manila Bay. I was equally charmed by the Sprawling City framed by mesmerizing mountains and a spectacular sea! I fell in love with the place and the people – one person in particular – and merged my life path with them! The Philippines has since become an inseparable part of my ministry and life focus.

Luz and I have spent the entirety of our married life reaching out to the Philippines - sometimes in only in small ways, but always with an enormous desire to do our very best to contribute good things for the nation and people. For a season, we quietly pursued full-time missionary service there, but oddly didn’t meet the criteria of the ministry group with which we served at the time.

Undeterred in our desire to somehow serve in the Pearl of the Orient, we found other ways to devote our time, talent and resources to ministries that touched people lives. Our dreams and desires found a main point of focus in the ministry we now call Angelstone – a ministry we have dedicated to the premise that God loves people and is continually in the work of transforming lives for His glory and their benefit. It is our calling to share that great news through our actions and words, giving people true hope in situations that are desperate and sometimes border on impossible.

For the last almost 3 and a half years, we have been blessed to serve in a church that shares a commitment to missions and outreach. Because of the readiness and willingness of individuals in our church to be actively involved, and a tremendous team of ministry partners in the Philippines, we are now thrilled to be leading our first team mission outreach to ministries we have helped to start and build in the Philippines!

Our focused expedition will begin on March 23 and extend through April 3. During our time in the Philippines we will reach out to the extremely poor on a Manila Garbage Dump, then travel to the central Philippine island of Bohol to encourage couples who want their marriages to be sources of blessing and peace, offer health screening and basic medical assistance to those who have not been able to afford any kind of medical treatment, show the Jesus Film to groups who have never really heard an accurate account of Jesus’ life and ministry, sponsor a basketball camp and hold a multi-day session of Vacation Bible School!

The ministries in which we will take part are the fruit of years of sowing seeds of love and seeking to reach out to people who have not had the blessing of effectively connecting to a ministry. Our team is made up of a great mixture of demographics and personalities. We have crossed age barriers, racial barriers and all kinds of other barriers to put together our Dream Team! We are also backed by an equally diverse multitude of people who have given to our work, prayed for us in our work and showered us with love and encouragement as we have stepped forward to carry out our work for the glory of the Lord.

Stay tuned as we roll along on our journey, taking the time here and there to post what we are experiencing and to share how the work is impacting us and those we seek to serve. There is no doubt that we are dreamers, and we are delighted to have you along as we see our dreams to serve coming true! Until next time…

Sam J.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This Is Love

Love. For some, it is a sweet, romantic, yet mythological fragrance reserved for young, na├»ve fools who are too inexperienced to understand. For others, it is a nice concept embraced by soft people who haven’t been slapped in the face enough by life to know better. To those skeptics, no real man would ever waste his breath spewing “I love you” utterances like some infatuated teenager! Even if a man did give in to the urge in a moment of weakness, certainly, he wouldn’t do it publicly!
But then there’s my friend Chip Armstrong! He is a warrior poet who has served as an officer in the United States Army, demonstrating his mettle defending by the nation and “jumping from an aircraft while in flight” among other acts of courage. Chip is a skilled moderator who can draw out deep opinions from those who might otherwise remain silent. He is also an amazing communicator who can express tough truths to others who may happen to disagree with him on a specific issue without ever becoming condescending or combative. He is comfortable expressing tender emotions yet fearless in entering the fray of intellectual challenge and controversy.
Recently, Chip single-handedly took on the sacred cow of “stoic, non expressive manhood” and called all of us who consider ourselves to be real men to truly “Man Up” and to take the time say “I love you” to all of those we hold dear– including our most macho, tough guy buddies! His call to arms – the arms of love – elicited a massive response from some of the “toughest hombres this side of the Pecos”! The responses were affirming of the need to verbally express affection to friends and loved ones and shared joyful agreement that real manhood must include tender affirmation and loving expression.

As an “Amen” response to Chip, another Chip – Deacon Chip Jones – added an explanation of love that bears repeating:
“Love, my friends, isn't some touchy-feely, weak thing. Love is what makes a soldier dive on a grenade to save the men in his squad. Love is what sends a man rushing into a fight, hopelessly outgunned, to defend those to whom he's bound by blood or covenant. Love is what you see on a crucifix…”
In a just over a week, I will accompany 21 others on a mission to the Philippines. While there, our team will visit a garbage dump in Manila that serves as home for thousands of desperate people. We will spend time in the Central Philippines with orphans and conduct health screening and provide simple medical care to help a community that doesn’t have access to any health care – ever! We will encourage young families who are struggling in their marriages and assist local churches in touching their communities and addressing the needs that surround them with hugs, encouragement and prayer. In short, we will love them. The people who are accompanying me on this trip are paying a price that truly demonstrates their understanding of the richness of the word love. They are using vacation time, sacrificing crucial days away from work and spending time away from their families that others might see the love of Jesus who may not have ever seen it before, and so that those who are following Jesus might be encouraged along the Journey.
Deacon Jones’ words reflect the heart of our team and the theme passage of our trip found in 1John 4:10:

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Love is indeed clearly seen on the Cross: Christ giving His life, that others might enjoy freedom from sin and reap the blessing of eternal life. Jesus calls His people to “die daily” by doing the hard yet sweet acts that clearly show God’s love in a way that is clear, understandable and undeniable!
Thank you - Both Chips and all those who responded to Chip’s call - for “Manning Up” day after day and calling others to the tender warfare of selfless love expressed in tough physical and personal sacrifice as well as through tender and merciful words of comfort and joy. I will have you on my mind as I seek to live up to a special assignment in my manly calling of service over the next few weeks in the Philippines with 20 others who are “all in” for the glory of God and the blessing of others! Until next time…