Saturday, April 27, 2013

Dad On Guard! Love Always Protects!

Dad looked amazing!  When we approached him, he called out with joy, "Hey Man! Hey Luz! What a surprise!  You both look good!"  He was energized, present in mind and up beat in spirit - a sweet, sweet sight! After our greetings we conversed with the nursing staff and Dad sat behind us with other residents. One of his neighbors seemed unsettled.  He looked at me, began pointing and shaking his head as he authoritatively asserted, "You're not squared away! You hear Me! You're not squared aware!  This place isn't squared away!  $%#@^!! You're not squared away! @^#&%$! Get this place squared away!"  I smiled and kept speaking with the nursing staff. 

The neighbor grew more agitated. I began to hear Dad chiming in, "Cool your heels now." The neighbor persisted. "This place isn't %$^$#@! squared away! HE'S not squared away!"  Dad responded, "Let's be gentleman. Let's be gentlemen."  My conversation with the staff continued when I heard Dad say, "Well, he's a little bigger and stronger than me, but that's my boy and he IS squared away!" The neighbor responded "#$^%&! your boy!" Then I saw the nurses eyes grow big as she called out to the another staff member, "UH, OH!  MR. JACKSON'S ROLLING OVER THERE!"  Fortunately, the nurse was faster than Dad and intervened. Also fortunately for us, dementia has a way of overriding memory and before long, the neighbor had settled down and he and Dad were engaged in a pleasant, cordial and gentlemanly conversation!,

The entire episode was funny but it was also deeply moving for me.  Even with his movement governed, his presence of mind not always clear and other significant limitations, my dad still had my back! When he believed my well being was in question, he did all he could to protect me and those around me.  The threat wasn't real, but it was real to him and he was willing to step in to the best of his ability. I thank God for my dad's love - a love that helps me better understand the love of my Heavenly Father and a love that sets the standard for I must love those around me as well.  In that respect, let's stay "Squared Away!"  Until next time...


Friends Indeed!

The rain just kept coming.  It set the tone for my disposition.  It was just plain gloomy – fog, rain, and gray skies.  We were about to travel to North Carolina to move my father’s home into storage.  All along the ride – and for weeks beforehand – I had prayed, “Lord, I cannot do this. The house is a mess. It isn’t move ready. There are pieces of furniture that require several people, and there’s no way Luz and I can do it.  We’ve got a deadline.  We can’t do it.  But we have to do it. Lord, show us how and make a way for us.” Daily, for weeks I had prayed this prayer.  The task seemed overwhelming, if not just plain impossible.  As I prayed, I worried about what we faced though worry isn't an appropriate response to trouble for a Christian who trusts the Lord.  Worry was a constant companion as I just couldn't see a solution to the challenge we faced.  Nevertheless, duty called and we prepared.

When we arrived, the situation was as challenging as I remembered it; lots of stuff – none of it move ready.  The “stuff” not only included heavy furniture but volumes of paperwork that had not been sorted and several pockets of storage that had been exposed to the elements and ruined, yet still required sorting because of the importance of some of the contents.  I stared at the job and wondered, “How?”  God’s answer was straightforward.  “With the love and help of your friends.”

Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  The catch is, one cannot experience the truth of this verse until a time of critical need arises.  Just at the point I thought, “We’ll do what we can and leave behind what we must”, the friends and brothers kicked in.  Old friends, newer friends and those sent by dear friends who knew of our situation showed up to help us.  We had a jack of all trades to guide us, 8 paratroopers and an Airborne Chaplain to do heavy lifting. We had trusted lifelong friends who heard about our plight come alongside to sort through sensitive things and to give us support and speed in our sorting duties.  Other provided meals, ran errands and held watch as we had to run errands. I was amazed as our friends carried us through the tedious process of moving, sorting, storing, giving and discarding. They stood strong when we grew weak, and they carried on whenever we faltered.  When emotions overwhelmed, they persevered and gave us the strength we didn't ourselves possess. When I was convinced we couldn’t get everything done, these ‘angels’ refused to leave our sides and remained faithful in their help until the last item was moved and the last piece of debris was thrown out. The end result… our mission was accomplished, our minds were relived and our hearts are now at peace! 

Our situation was a strong reminder for me of the basic principle that God has created us to live in the context of relationships.  No matter how strong we may believe we are or how independently and self-sufficiently we may attempt to live our lives, all of us have been created to build friendships, treasure relationships and to journey shoulder to shoulder with others that we may enjoy mutual blessing, encouragement and support. However, one necessary and sometimes challenging piece to receiving the blessing of such help is to allow oneself to be humbled and to have the willingness to be vulnerable at one’s point of need. I had to practice what I preach in this regard and to allow my neediness to show. My self-exposure didn't so much show my weaknesses as much as it empowered those who love me to help.  By being open I was able to hear and feel the prayers on my behalf.  Because I was open I was able to accept the love shown to me.  Because I was open, I saw God’s glory in the helping hands that lifted us up when we didn't possess the strength to lift ourselves. 

I’m still in awe of the outpouring of love we received and the practical way in which it was manifested in our time of need.  Our friends simply refused to abandon us and literally walked us through a trial that had the potential to knock us down flat.  I want to call each of you to link your lives with others who can walk by your side through the trials and challenges of life and provide you with the opportunity to both give and receive love, support and encouragement.  As I spend the days recovering from our ordeal, I am glad that part of my days are also filled with times to reflect on the precious friends with whom I have been blessed and on the wonderful benefit I've received in seeing the fruit of our friendships come to such a sweet juncture.  I got by with a lot of help from my friends. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!  Until Next time…


All Clear!

All Clear!

All Clear!

All Clear!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

No Place Like Home

This weekend, I am faced with a task I had not fully considered until it became an unavoidable rendezvous with destiny - the removal and storage of my parents household goods and the closing of the last place my parents together called home.  With this action, many memories and reminders will be tucked away for some time and the brick and mortar that housed the last living memories of my mother will be out of reach for the rest of my life. 

As an Army Brat, having a place to call home is more precious than gold.  Home is a refuge - a retreat - a rallying point that stands as a personal fortress in the midst of a lifestyle that doesn't really allow geographic stability and security. Home is where my folks are...but what happens when the folks are no longer home? I hadn't really contemplated this fully until this weekend.  As an only child, I won't have the memories of my siblings to share as a source of encouragement and strengthening.  My father suffers from dementia and what he does remember is random and unpredictable.  There will be few chats around the hearth to celebrate the way we were.  Regarding family and home I find myself thinking, "What now?" 

As I reflect on the identity of my home, an old cadence comes to mind that really resonated with the deepest longings of my soul during the days I was compelled to sing it. It may have been meant as dark humor, but every note of it touched my heart and in reality, I sang it with gusto: "Airborne, Airborne, All the way! Airborne, Airborne, all the way! We like it here!  We love it here! We've finally found a home!  We like it here! We love it here! We've finally found a home! A home! A home! A home way from home! A home! A HOME! A HOME AWAY FROM HOME...HEY!" Yes, the Army has always been my soul's home, yet I answered a call that carried me far from my home and all for which I had prepared myself from childhood to my early adult life.  I have now spent most of my life as a wayfaring sojourner who is driven by a conviction to spread Good News to anyone that will listen and to help as many with my gifts, talents and abilities as I can.  A great calling to a meaningful existence, but home's not included!

Am I regretful of choosing a path foreign to my upbringing that on occasion causes me to contemplate the ambiguity of what home really means? Not at all.  In serving God, I have truly found a "Home away from Home" and I am bound for a Better Home than I have ever known.  In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus spells out the blessings of leaving behind one's earthbound home :  "“Truly I tell you, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life."  I have experienced this verse first hand as my path has crossed with others who have themselves left the familiar and comfortable to walk with God in the way of Faith. I have truly gained brothers, sisters and family as I encountered people whose love for God transcended their place of orgin, language,culture and nationality because of their primary identity as a child of God.

As I continue along my walk of faith, I find myself understanding the finite nature of life more clearly and longing for my celestial home that will never perish. Hebrews 11 says that Abraham waited for a city "whose builder and maker is God."  We are to likewise wait for that city as we display character consistent with our citizenship in it.  Our goals, aims, hopes and dreams should now be recalibrated to reflect our sanctified hope that as we suffer and hurt in our service, Jesus is preparing better things for us - if it were not so, He would have told us!

As I prepare for the challenging task of dismantling the memories of my home, I must sanctify my thinking.  I must take joy in remembering the wonderful home and community in which I was raised and that better things are ahead.  I must remember that a great multitude, including my mom, have walked in faith before me, showing me where my true citizenship lies and it is a privilege to follow in their footsteps.  I must choose to focus on the high and esteemed call I have as a citizen of my Home in Glory, not wade in the swamps of regret and disappointment. I must remember that I have not been left as an orphan, but rather been blessed with many brothers and sisters around the world to encourage, inspire and motivate me to continue to fight the good fight.

It may be true that my geographic reference points of home are fading away, yet the beacon of my true home and my extended family shine brighter every day.  For that reason I can say with sincerity, "I like it here. I love it here! I've finally found a home...because I realize that home is not confined to a zip code, nor family to blood relations, but it is found with the Lord and with all those he has placed in my life who walk with me here, there and everywhere! Truly, there's nobody like family and there's no place like home!  Many thanks to all of you who make this vision of home a daily reality in my life!  Until next time...


My Fondest Memory of Home

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Danger lurks, but opportunity knocks!

It is reported that Douglas MacArthur once said, “There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.” The uncertainties of life and the resulting lack of security often paralyze the faint of heart and render them useless. The daily risk of stepping out into the unknown can produce disabling fears which must be overcome by the knowledge that God is in control. The knowledge of God’s sovereign presence should comfort and liberate all people who love Him to enter the fray day after day to do His will by loving and serving with every all their strength and every available resource. This is more easily spoken than carried out.

As I consider my years in ministerial service, almost every meaningful act has cost me something. I have been hurt; physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have been disappointed, let down, abandoned, turned on and attacked. I have begun days seeing only great possibilities for making a difference just to see the end of those same days leaving me feeling hollow, beaten and cynical. Nevertheless, the call beckons me to get up, mount up and ride on as a new day dawns.
Jesus warned us that as sojourners in this world, we would definitely encounter tribulation. James informs us in the Scriptures that trials in life are a certainty. Nevertheless, we are encouraged to remember that Jesus has overcome the troubles of the world and that our trials mature and refine us in character and inner strength. For those reasons, we cannot let the fear of what could happen to us because of a lack of security prevent us from pursuing what good can be done by us in a day filled with unending opportunity. We must confront the dangers of the day courageously with loving action. We have a never-ending call to seize the day and do some good! We may go down, but we must make sure we go down swinging; fighting for what is beautiful, truthful and good. The call has been issued! Opportunity knocks! See you on the battlefield! Until next time...

Sam J.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Triumphs of a Man Called “House”- Unique Individuals Who created a Great Team!

After months of prayer, one of our team members had received news that a long-sought after job possibility was coming together. He was being made an offer that met the specifications he had articulated and the job would be ready for him. It was a mixed blessing. While we were happy for this answer to prayer, it was an answer that meant that he could not accompany us and we were going to be short one team member. Undaunted, Luz started recruiting like a whirlwind, seeking to gain another member to fill in the slot. Through a series of events that simply fell into place too quickly and orderly to be considered anything less than providential, Alex Ramos joined the team… and the fun began!

Alex joined a cast of characters that reflected diversity, balance and completeness in what one hopes a mission team will become. Our team comprised of children, teens, musicians, craftsmen, technicians, a real estate expert, teachers, medical professionals, missionaries, a preacher, a hairstylist, a counselor, a pension/benefits specialist and a cheerleading coach. The youth take the prize as our team MVP’s. Michael, Dylan and Joana threw themselves into the mission as if they were “on something”! In fact, they were: powered by the Holy Spirit, these three ministered with the energy of atomic reactors, winning friends and gaining fans wherever we went. Though embarking on their first missions trip, Dylan and Michael proved that when one comes spiritually prepared, there are no limits on the impact one can have on those you’ve come to help. Children chanted their names as they tirelessly gave of themselves without restraint, sharing God’s love with intensity, humility and consistency – a beautiful spectacle to behold – day and after day with no letting up!

We were blessed with several rookies of the year! Maria signed up at the very last minute and came on board with an attitude to serve, share and make friends. When we touched the ground, Maria began to engage the culture. Not intimidated by a new culture or linguistic limitations, Maria immediately visited homes in the most difficult settings, reached out and loved on children in severely impoverished environs with no thought of her personal well-being. When the time came for her to put her expertise to work, she blessed countless people by styling hair for hours on end without breaks, helping folks who were already beautiful on the inside to reflect a little more of that beauty on the outside as well! Jeremy also joined our team just under the wire and proved himself a game servant by engaging in home visits, where he was exposed to crushing needs up close and personally, meeting every situation with love and a smile. Even when asked to do unexpected smile, “no problem” was the normative response.

We were also blessed with veterans who set the example with unassuming humble service. Nancy took on the monumental tasks of organizing the VBS curriculum and children's activities. Under extremely challenging circumstances, she always engaged the children and kept us on track with fun and meaningful programs for the children to enjoy. Her use of the Bubble Machine to subdue overly energetic children is one for the books! She also never turned down a task where her help was solicited. An absolute angel of mercy! Bertzie and Rich were our senior representatives. Successful in business and in life, they joined the team and immediately began to encourage and support everyone else on the team! They raised funds for others, offered encouraging counsel for teammates, took on all sorts of behind the scenes tasks, and helped to support the team during times of tension and challenge. They were absolute models of a good attitude never once uttering complaints or being difficult with others.

The Taylor's were one of our family team representatives. Having a heart for engaging whole families on mission, the Taylor's: Pat, Teri, Naomi, Tabitha and Michael brought experience and compassion along with them as they served, forming friendships with the people they met and supporting the team by ministering wherever a need presented itself. Their family’s presence on the team communicated the power of God in transcending barriers and building unity to all those with whom we came in contact. Jennifer and Jarrett Janes came representing their family as mother and son. Having just learned of her pregnancy a short while before our departure, Jennifer ministered gamely, enduring some of the early changes and challenges that go along with the first trimester of pregnancy to encourage and support the team. Jarrett was a joy to watch as he participated in every aspect of the mission, including the basketball tournament where his courage and willingness to try something new won the respect of all who witnessed it!

Of course, I also came with my family. I was blessed to have all of my children participate in some aspect of the mission as well as my grandson and one son-in-law. Only one son-in-law could not break away to join us due to work commitments. My oldest daughter Coco reminisced of her early childhood as a missionary kid serving in smoky mountain. She spent time interacting with families and missionaries putting many of her counseling skills to use as she also introduced our grandson Jackson to his Filipino heritage. My son-in-law Mike was game and courageous. Bombarded by pestilences, animal bites and other trying experiences, Mike’s sense of humor and hands-on helpfulness never diminished. He came in smiling and departed smiling having made a huge difference on the team and to those he served. I have already mentioned Joana’s spectacular service, which also characterized our daughter Maris who stayed beyond our team’s time in the Philippines, having arrived with suitcases full of items ready for donation and a heart ready to help and minister. Her energy is not unlike her mother’s and she can always be counted on to willingly take on the hardest ministry with the most eager spirit! I’ve elsewhere mentioned my sister-in-law, Rose, whose assistance to Luz freed Luz to fully engage her gifts and as ministry opportunities presented themselves. Our niece Roliza was a fine missionary at large as was our Victoria. Ramon, Nene, Jon and Christian? Well, their work speaks for itself! What a blessing to witness my own family so engaged in serving the Lord!

Chris Simanek proved to be a Jack of All Trades – serving as a photographer, evangelist, helper and leader depending on the need of the moment. I had the blessing of traveling with Chris in India a few years back where his servant’s heart saved the day at a time of critical need. Chris spoke encouragement to many along the way and engaged the communities in which we ministered fully without reservations or hesitation! Then, there’s the man now known throughout Bohol as “HOUSE!” Alex Ramos' stature gives him the appearance of a giant in most settings in the Philippines. While showing the Jesus Film, Alex found his way in between the projector and the screen. Agitated with Alex’s obstruction of their view, some of the men in the village began to shout out “BALAY!” (Pronounced Bah-LIE!) or house in Cebuano. It is the equivalent of saying, “Hey man, sit down! You’re as big as a house!” Alex complied immediately, but was thrilled to have a new nickname as the men patted him on the back to reassure him that everything was cool. The man called “House” was a huge blessing to our team, playing music, offering encouragement and reassuring those he met of Jesus’ care and love – everything one would want from a “house”!

This was the team that God put together - unique individuals who came together to accomplish His purposes in this time and his way. Luz and I have been greatly encouraged by the examples these team members have set and were so fortunate to serve alongside them. From the challenges of our son-in-law Mike to the triumphs of the man called House, the Lord has overwhelmingly shown His grace and goodness to us in abundance. We can’t wait to see what He has in store for the future of this ministry! Until next time…

Sam J.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Big Brother Jhun – A Lifestyle of Putting Others First!

It seemed to take forever to get a response. Before the days of email, Facebook messaging and the wonderful variety of electronic communication we now enjoy, there was only “snail mail” which as the only correspondence of its kind at the time, was simply known as “the mail.” I had written a letter to Luz’s oldest brother, Jhun, asking for his blessing in marrying her, and it just took time for the process to run its course. Eventually, the letter did arrive. I was nervous and opened the letter with a significant level of apprehension. As I began to read the letter, the warm tone of the letter gave away the positive, encouraging finale which served as an answer to all I had been waiting for: “Brother Sam, welcome to the family!”

Kuya Felipe “Jhun” Bautista is a the top of my list of men I admire, respect and hold in the highest regard– “Kuya” (pronounced KOO-yah) is a term of respect used to address male family members and friends who are older or in a position of responsibility that calls for deference and respect; “Ate’ (pronounced AH-tay) is used for females. “Jhun” (pronounced JUNE) is short for Junior. Kuya Jhun’s adult life has been lived entirely for the benefit and blessing of others. I have never seen an individual so consistently put his own desires and dreams on hold so that those around him could pursue greatness for themselves. An aspiring architect at the time of his father’s death, Kuya Jhun assumed responsibility for a grief-stricken mother, a severely mentally handicapped brother, and a family that was in upheaval after the shock of successive family tragedies and set backs. As the family reeled, Kuya Jhun took the lead, encouraging his younger siblings to complete their educations, and to seek promising leads to employment and a better life abroad as he managed the day to day care of the family members back home. It couldn’t have been easy to watch the other family members thrive while he dutifully cared for those who remained behind – but he never complained.

Perhaps his most gracious moment came when his troubled sister Luz returned to the family after a few years of waywardness seeking his forgiveness. Initially skeptical, Kuya Jhun saw the undeniable evidence of a transformed woman before his very eyes and wondered who or what could have made such a difference? As Luz shared about her new walk with God and the changes Jesus had made in her life, Kuya Jhun knew he was looking for the same peace and joy in his own. He then and there committed his life to the Lord and found in his relationship with Jesus the peace and the power to continue to place the needs of others before his own. There is a saying among Christ followers that “If you take care of God’s business, He’ll take care of yours.” During one of her visits home from her service as a YWAM missionary, Luz brought a very beautiful, kind and single YWAM classmate named Rose home with her to spend the weekend. Rose observed Kuya Jhun’s love and dedication to the family just as he observed Rose's attentiveness to the family members who needed care. Before long, love was in the air and Luz had gained a Sister-in-law, our dear Rose, and Kuya Juhn had gained a loving and faithful soul mate for life.

As the years have marched on, Kuya Jhun and Manang Rose have continued to grow in love and grace. After Mom's passing, they continue to care for handicapped Brother Delio and they now have two beautiful children – our nephew Felipe and niece Roliza – who exhibit the same traits of gentleness, kindness and love of others their parents have modeled over the years. Kuya Jhun is a well respected figure in the community and is sought for wisdom and input in countless situations. He leads many community activities such as a the basketball league and is a go to person for church and community action. Manang Rose continues to serve the Lord and is Luz’s right hand in planning and executing the missions ministries in the Philippines in which we have been involved over the last few years. Her quiet wisdom and tireless service have made each trip a success and blessed all those who have had the privilege to get to know her. I cannot now imagine my own life without the blessing of their love, friendship and help.

It is critically important to note that this beautiful story didn't just happen.  It's not just a happy tale with a happy ending testifying that "nice" things happen to "good" people. It is the tale of a gracious God who calls faithful people to deliver incredible news to all the whole world. The testimony I have shared might have been painfully different had not two people answered the call of God to strike out into mission service. The obedient service of people like Robin Merrill and Elliot Henderson resulted in Luz’s exposure to the new and living way of following Jesus Christ. Loving discipleship by people like George and Tracy Rankin, Lynn Anisworth, Andrew Reid and Esther Sebalt were vital in shaping Luz's new life as well.  The changes in her life were just the beginning and led to changes that touched the lives of her whole family, beginning with her oldest brother and ending with every single immediate family member being changed by the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The faithful obedience of 2 people to God’s call on their lives and the others who contributed to Luz’s spiritual growth have born fruit that now is being harvested into the next generation. For this reason, we continue to share the message of hope, love and restoration that is found through Jesus Christ. It compels us to share at home. It propels us to share in distant locals as well. We have heard the joyful sound that Jesus Saves and we have seen the transformed lives that continue to witness to the truth of the Message and the Power of the Savior who sends us out to share. My Big Brother and his family are yet another testimony of this truth. For those of you who follow Christ, don’t give up on sharing the good news – it is the Power of God for salvation! For those of you who are looking on, reading and wondering, there is hope - Jesus Christ transforms lives for the glory of God.  When the message goes out, someone’s life will be touched!  It could be your own!  Until next time…

Sam J.

Kuya Jhun and Sam

Manang Rose and Niece Roliza

Manang Rose caring for a child at YWAM Balut Base

Kuya Jhun, Nephew Felipe, Luz and Sam

Give Me Remembrance!

The Badjao are a strong, proud, sea-faring people group who inhabit the southernmost regions of the Philippines, but as “sea-Gypsies” often migrate in search of better lives throughout the Philippine archipelago. During my recent mission to the Philippines I had the pleasure of interacting with a community of Badjao located on the island of Bohol. As we entered their village, my brother-in-law and Youth With A Mission base director, Ramon Bautista, showed me the conditions in which the people were living and characterized their daily struggle in one word: “survival”. “Brother Sam, these people are survivors. Their lives are hard. They are forgotten by most who meet them, and they do not have much to celebrate. They have no schools, nor the hope of an education, yet they keep fighting on. They need help and that’s why we’re here.” 

Our presence created quite a stir in the community and before long the scene was one of energetic and positive chaos. Children were everywhere, and it became clear that our initial plans were not adequate in ministering to the immense need before us. Several members of our team took quick action and began to engage the crowd on some basic levels by organizing games, playing with the children, conversing with adults and setting up an area to show a film on the life of Jesus. Luz, Ramon and I met with community leaders to map out how we could be of service on a more effective level for the long-term and what the community’s most critical needs were. As the evening wound down to a close and good-byes were exchanged, a girl named Teresa approached my daughter Joana and left her with this charge: “Give me remembrance!” The words gripped Joana’s heart. As she shared this encounter with me she passed the charge on to me: “Daddy, we can’t forget those we’ve met and what we’ve seen here today! We've got to give them remembrance”

In the 1981 movie Excalibur, Merlin the Magician instructs King Arthur after a great victory that it is critical to remember one’s life experiences and to learn from them. He warns: “It is the doom of men that they forget…” There is doom associated with forgetting. In the case of those of us called to minister in Jesus’ Name, others are doomed to suffer when we forget our calling and become self-absorbed. Yet, the power of remembering our call is so much more potent than the doom of forgetting.  Our remembering serves as a significant blessing to others and is a seed which bears much fruit as lives are impacted by our ministry and reaching out.  I considered this power as I reflected on my history with my brother-in-law Ramon.

I first met Ramon only a few days after Luz and I were married almost 25 years ago. He was on a path to destruction with a lifestyle and life habits that were sure to bring him to disaster and ruin. Providentially, Luz and I were able to intersect with Ramon and we began a long and sometimes painful journey seeking to help him and remembering that as those who were called to serve and love others we were his keepers. Even when it was tough, we refused to forget our calling. Years passed and God worked. Ramon eventually surrendered his life to the Lord and an amazing transformation took place! As he himself remembered what God had done for him, he became forever impassioned to pour into the lives of others.

When I stepped off the plane and into Ramon’s arms at the Bohol airport, it was one of the most emotionally charged moments I had ever experienced. It had been 18 years since we last saw each other face to face and everything had changed. Ramon was not only not in trouble, he was a spiritual leader sharing the Good News about Jesus with others and seeing their lives change as his had been. The man I saw was a completely new creation in Jesus! As we looked at each other, Ramon and I laughed, cried, hugged kissed and laughed some more. It was time to celebrate! The whole week, in fact, was a celebration of giving remembrance and rededicating myself to the call of God on my life and ministry. I came to see that I must constantly give remembrance to what God has done and what He is doing in my life. There are many practical ways I must engage this truth.

I must give remembrance to the people scavenging a desperate existence in the Manila Garbage dumps. I must give remembrance to the Badjao as they stubbornly pursue hope in the midst of a sometimes hopeless existence. I must give remembrance to all the children I saw who have so much potential but are hindered because they get lost in the sea of forgetfulness as those who encounter them and are touched, eventually forget them and go on to other concerns of life. I must give remembrance to the emerging young leaders I met who are unmatched in their dedication and devotion to the Lord – they just need a little help to fully engage what they are called to do. I must give remembrance to all of my God-given gifts and talents and to the duty I have to surrender my life daily to the One Who has called me and charged me with being my brothers’ keeper in my own back yard and in the friendships I enjoy around the world.

There is so much to report on what the Lord did on our trip – some of which will appear in postings and various other media in the days and weeks ahead. For now, I simply surmise the experience in saying I will give remembrance to my latest time of ministry in the Philippines and to the people to whom I have committed my life as a Brother, minister and friend. I call you all to do the same! Until next time…


Joana, Dylan and Badjao Children

Don't forget us: Children from Smoky Mountain

Sam with a crew fo Badjao Church Members

One of the Pastors at Vineyard Church, Sam and Ramon