Monthly Archives: November 2011

Behind the Scenes with Giants

A few days ago I was travelling in a van with a bishop from Mombasa, a church leader from Cote d’Ivoire, a Christian Palestinian overseeing churches in Israel, a converted Muslim now church planter from Bangladesh, an Indian pastor from Tamil Nadu whose churches baptised 20,000 new converts last year, plus other leaders from Brazil and Mexico. The people in that car represented about 3 million Christians around the world.

 

What on earth do such giants talk about?  Food; family; language. There was a lot of laughter, tentative questions finding out a little about each other: in fact, the sort of inconsequential conversation that a diverse group might make anywhere in the world.   (How many children do you have? What do you like to eat?) These global leaders were drawn together by Bob Roberts, a Texan church planter from Dallas with a huge heart for mission, and it was a massive privilege to rub shoulders with them, and for Terry to preach to them and a number of gathered church planters from across the USA.

 

At first we were all a bit shy. Terry and I were definitely overawed. John Lanferman however, was relaxed and friendly, brilliantly breaking the ice. As the days went by, we got to know each other’s stories. Some live in danger of their lives; one had his house burned down; some had planted churches of tens of thousands; all had remarkable stories of how the love of Jesus had reached them and transformed their lives.  As they shared from the platform we heard moving testimonies, wise comments, and carefully worded opinions all delivered with humility and dignity. We were amazed by Dion Robert’s story of how his church has grown to 40,000 and his movement to 200,000; moved by Daniel’s search for truth in Vietnam; and not unsympathetic to Kenyan Joseph who refused to be confined to the required 20 mins preach and spoke superbly on prayer for 55mins!

 

Terry and I were especially honoured to have lunch with Eddy and his wife Rosa from  Indonesia. Eddy, embracing and utilizing all the Ephesians 4 ministries, has grown a massive cell church. Even more exciting, if possible, were the video clips he showed us on his iPad of a stadium in a city in the Amazon basin, Brazil, which he had recently visited, filled with 50,000 Christians singing and dancing….in fact a vast percentage of the population of the city! The culture has changed, crime and violence virtually disappeared.

 

Day by day as we travelled from the hotel to meetings, the car was filled with snatches of talk in Vietnamese, or French from Dion Robert, as well as English in various accents. There were lots of jokes and gentle teasing, appreciative comments on the contents of the meetings, and some lively discussion. I happened to be the only wife present, and often found myself bemused that I should be in such company! Yet although these men were truly giants in the kingdom of God, they were unassuming, modest, gentle and unpretentious. They were interesting, fun to be with and at times it was difficult to remember that in their own countries they represented thousands. Yet you could have passed any of them in a street and been unaware of their significance.

 

Now here we are, Terry and I, in Mexico, trying to process it all. Yesterday we joined a small Newfrontiers church here in Mazatlan, and Terry preached and prayed for the sick. We rubbed shoulders with ex drug addicts who have been saved and set free from their addictions. There was one guy who had been homeless and addicted, but who came to Christ and has since obtained a law degree!

 

One delightful man, who was leading worship, had been a well known surfer in his youth.  We asked him how he met Jesus. “When I was twenty-one,” he said, “I and my friend were returning from a perfect day on the beach. I was so happy, I thought, ‘there has to be a God’. My friend agreed, and we began to seek him. One day when I was praying, he met with me! My life was changed. That was thirty years ago.”  A simple but beautiful testimony!

 

Daily we thank God for enriching us not only with the fascinating and enjoyable wealth of diverse climate, scenery, food and culture that we have been experiencing: we are also deeply thankful that we have come close to some of God’s choice children, close enough to call them brothers and now dear friends. All have entered by the same narrow gate, by one sacrifice, offered by the same high priest who sympathises with our weaknesses, and ever lives to intercede for each one of us.

 

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Yellowstone State Park

I had left my bottle of water in the car overnight and in the morning it was a solid block of ice! Yes, it was cold, 21F, but the sky was clear blue, and frost sparkled on the trees. We drove into the west entrance to the park on a road that followed a bubbling river. Perched on a dead tree overhanging the water we saw a massive bald eagle, its white head slowly turning as it watched for fish. We watched it for a while through binoculars then drove on through the breathtakingly beautiful countryside.

I had no clear expectations of Yellowstone before we visited it and was completely amazed at the variety of terrain, its beauty and its unique features. There were wide grassy plains where we saw large herds of buffalo (also known as bison), grazing, and at one point we came across one right by the edge of the road. It didn’t seem at all perturbed by our presence but kept its massive head low and continued placidly chewing grass.

We also saw antelope and elk, some magnificent with many branched antlers. Of course, what we most hoped to see was a grizzly, or a black bear. Sadly these eluded us, but there was an education centre near the hotel where we were staying where six grizzly bears and a pack of wolves live in an enclosure. These impressive animals have been rescued having been in some way rendered unable to fend for themselves and are now providing the public with opportunities to observe them at close quarters.

We watched the wolves racing around their enclosure looking for food, and attacking bits of carcase with relish. The bears grabbed pumpkins and ripped them open, and one simply stood on his and squashed it!

Perhaps the most famous and strange feature in the park are the hundreds of hotsprings. The whole area is a massive volcanic caldera, and it is weird and fascinating to look across a beautiful landscape of rivers and mountains and see clouds of steam rising from springs and pools. The cold weather intensified the outpouring of steam, and clouds billowed up everywhere. Sometimes gushing hot water bubbled up, and sometimes steam just floated up from vents in the ground.

The most famous is Old Faithful. Apparently it used to be so predictable you could set your watch by it, but now it is not so consistent. We arrived just after it had erupted, so we hung around for the next one, which was expected to be in another hour and a half or so. It is a geyser which shoots into the air for several minutes, reaching heights of 60 to 80 feet. A large semi circle has been fenced off with a railing around which crowds gather to watch. As we were late in the season, not many people were touring the park. It was freezing, so we were grateful for a sheltered visitors’ centre where we could wait and view a well-put together exhibition explaining the geology of the area.

As the time drew nearer, we ventured out to watch, cameras at the ready. As luck would have it, it kept us waiting, but eventually, a spectacular plume of water shot into the air accompanied by a great pillar of steam and spray. It kept going for about 5 minutes before subsiding. It is a truly astonishing phenomenon.

We also walked by strange pools of boiling mud, the sulphurous air catching in our throats. Another very odd place which we went to on the second day was called Mammoth Hot Springs, where the mineral rich water has poured out over the terrain, calcifying and creating terraces of white rock. Some of the hot pools were vivid greens, blues and browns where algae and various microbes had built colonies in the water and on the rock. It was all a bit surreal and unlike any terrain I had ever seen.

But other parts of the vast park were of incredible beauty. We drove alongside Lake Yellowstone, with a range of snow capped mountains making a perfect backdrop for the vivid blue lake. As we wound upwards through forests of conifers, snow covered the ground and added to the beauty. We stopped to look down over the edge of a deep canyon, where the Yellowstone River cuts through the rock and pours over some spectacular falls.

We ran out of superlatives, just amazed at the magnificence and the variety. The journey back to Missoula in Montana was also stunning, and I felt as if I was in a movie, a western of course, as we drove through grassy prairie land, intersected with rivers, and always ranges of mountains on the horizon. Back in Missoula, the autumn trees have lost some of their lustre, and the leaves are falling fast. It was great to meet up with some of the saints and enjoy a hot chilli con carne!

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