The Disappearing Shed

It’s going away. The Chesholm Lane neighborhood is breathing a collective sigh of relief as the shed that has for the past two years stood decaying in our backyard is being torn down. It began as a dream. My teenage neighbors on either side of our home had always dreamed of building a giant fort. This fort was to be constructed entirely of wood that they collected while diving into the dumpsters at construction sights. Neither boy was allowed to build this fort on their own property. Their parents knew better. We didn’t. We said, “Sure, go ahead. Build the fort.” And, boy, did they. The fort was constructed as large as it could be without securing a building permit. It has a spot to hold a video projector, a screen to watch movies, and a carpeted loft. And, it was never sided. So, for two years our shed has been decaying. I never had the heart to tell the boys it needed to come down. I guess I always thought the fort would eventually fall down. It has withstood major storms, Minnesota winters, hail, snow, teenagers and it has stood strong. It has a very strong foundation.

Last night we began Operation Demolition. The entire roof of the structure was removed. It was so much fun to watch it come down. The fort will be a distant memory next week. But for now, shed a tear as my neighborhood eyesore goes away.

“I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Luke 6:47-49

Pizza, Pictures and God Talk

If you were a part of Project Colorado, Washington D.C., or OGES make sure that you make plans to attend Pizza, Pictures and God Talk following DIVE this Wednesday night. We’ll be talking about what God did on the trips this Wednesday night at DIVE and then meeting at Uno’s Pizza in Edina to talk about God, look at pictures, eat and hang out. See you there!

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day apporoaching.”

Hebrews 10:25

Kaila Fagerstrom to Share Faith Story

Kaila Fagerstrom, a senior at Eden Priaire High School and a member of our medical team on OGES will be sharing her faith story at all of the services of Wooddale Church this weekend. I hope you can make it to one of the services to hear how God used this trip to impact Kaila’s life. Be praying for Kaila as she prepares to share what God taught her.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

Romans 1:16

Changed Forever

Well, we’re back from Guatemala and El Salavdor, and the past two weeks have been life changing, but I want to share something exciting that happened yesterday. Our flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis had been delayed the night before, meaning that by the time I got home and started a load of laundry it was 4:00 a.m. After 2 1/2 hours of sleep, I was pumped to finally get to spend time with our students that were a part of Project Colorado. These are our students who are entering high school. Their trip left two weeks before OGES and came back the day we left. So, it’s been a full month since I’ve seen them. They were full of energy yesterday as ten:fifteen, our Senior High Sunday education hour began. The lesson I taught yesterday was the final lesson in our Summer Movie Series. Each year we take five blockbuster summer films and develop lessons about spiritual truth based upon the theme of the movie. Yesterday’s lesson was on The Fantastic Four – Changed Forever. The trailer from the movie talks about five people whose lives are changed forever. The tag line is one will be bad, four will be fantastic.

During the lesson, I asked our students to answer the following question: When were you changed forever? We talked about 2 Corinthians 5:17, and God’s desire to take us, wherever we are, and conform us to his image. At the end of the lesson, four students prayed to begin their journey with Jesus Christ! What an exciting way to begin a new chapter of ministry, with a new group of students. We saw hundreds of people come to know Christ in Guatemala, but my heart rejoiced as I watched those hands slip up in Minnesota. Please pray for these students as they begin their new journey of faith. They will surely be tested in the next few weeks. I pray that in twenty years they will be able to point to yesterday as the day that they were changed forever.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

His Love Endures Forever

Early in our OGES trip I read Psalm 136 to our students. I encouraged them to look for ways that God has shown that His love endures forever on this trip.

Here is my attempt.

When there is no sleep the night before the trip,
His love endures forever.

When the airplane rises and falls without fail,
His love endures forever.

When the luggage all arrives without a hitch,
His love endures forever.

When you see the smiling Guatemalan faces,
His love endures forever.

When you see the majesty of the Guatemalan mountains,
His love endures forever.

When the joyful sounds of singing reign throughout the bus,
His love endures forever.

When the skies above the rainforest open with thunderous praise,
His love endures forever.

When the majesty of waterfalls and natural pools become the playground of students,
His love endures forever.

When the buses pull into Campur,
His love endures forever.

When the bricks go up the mountainside,
His love endures forever.

When the patient sees her first doctor,
His love endures forever.

When the puppets make a child smile,
His love endures forever.

When your basketball competition is ten years younger,
His love endures forever.

When the arms are raised after mimes perform,
His love endures forever.

When the Holy Spirit works through a team,
His love endures forever.

When the muddy path is a source of laughter not injury,
His love endures forever.

When the tire blows and no one is injured,
His love endures forever.

When the medicine cannot cross the border,
His love endures forever.

When awakened each night and drawn to pray,
His love endures forver.

When God works through our imperfections,
His love endures forever.

When the volcanos rise above the clouds,
His love endures forever.

When the Lord takes care of even the dogs,
His love endures forever.

When the predicted illness does not come,
His love endures forever.

When the doctor becomes the actor,
His love endures forever.

When light is brought into the darkness,
His love endures forever.

When the interpreters bridge the cultural divide,
His love endures forever.

When students see God´s miracles,
His love endures forever.

When students cannot see His hand at work,
His love endures forever.

When drunk men find hope in a godly group,
His love endures forever.

When families without hope receive it anew,
His love endures forever.

When we see how much we´re blessed,
His love endures forever.

From the rising to the setting sun,
His love endures forever.

OGES Report Number Three – In Their Own Words

There are many special moments that take place on the Operation Guatemala/El Salvador trip. Not the least of which are our team times. These moments together allow us to process what God has done throughout the day, worship God, laugh, cry, and learn about each other. One of the best parts of this year’s team time has been what our Guatemalan and El Salvadorian friends have shared with us. Today, I thought I’d share some of their words with you.

Caleb has been an interpreter with us on our past few trips. He is a young man who God has used to bless our team in many ways. He is passionate about his relationship with Christ and about bridging the cultural divide between U.S. Citizens and Central Americans. During our team time last night, Caleb shared that he had been suffering from depression for about three months. Our team brought him new hope. He said that he had smiled for the first time in months and remembered what was truly important in life. He is excited about going back to Guatemala City with a renewed vision for reaching others.

Paola is a young El Salvadorian woman who has worked with our medical team in clinics. She has been stationed in our outtake deparment and prays with every patient leaving the clinic. The other day I heard that she had actually prayed with 18 patients to receive Christ. What an evangelist. Paola has challenged her fellow El Salvadorian’s to be involved in ministry. At our team time she said, “We are the one’s who should be doing what these American students have come to do.” She was encouraged by our team and what happened here. You know what? I think our kids were more encouraged by her than we were to her. She demonstrated what it means to take a risk with sharing Christ within your own culture. May we be as involved with ministry when we get back as we have been here.

Dr. Byron is our team physician. He has been with us since we landed at the airport in Guatemala City. I have been so impressed with the tender care that he has taken with each patient that he has seen. For most of the trip he was our only doctor, seeing hundreds of patients, and he did it with a quiet dignity and utmost respect for each patient. He speaks no English, but has tried his best to not let that hinder his involvement with the team. Highly educated, he gave up two weeks at his clinic to serve the Lord on the mission field of his own country. Sunday was an off day for the clinic, and Dr. Byron had a chance to join our basketball and mime team for their game. He was so moved by our mime. At team time last night Dr. Byron explained through an interpreter that he had been involved in a Christian theater company for a number of years as the director, but found that he had become too busy to stay involved. He explained that he left without ever feeling like it was the right thing to do. This trip has convicted him that he needs to go back and restart that ministry so that he can reach more for the Gospel.

Edy has been our OGES bus driver since 1991. He is a bundle of energy and laughter. CBS should make a new sitcom called “Everybody Loves Edy.” Edy spoke last night about an experience he had with Peter Boyer, Kevin Franske, and Jaime Lopez. In Campur this group of four trudged through the rainforest to a community that was 45 minutes away from civilazation. 35 homes were all that are in this community. We provided solar powered lighting to the church that services these neighborhood. Edy said that the group of four were invited to eat lunch at the home of one of the families. Upon entering the home, the poverty of the family was evident. All of their earthly possessions were hanging on a shelf. A few clothes, a Bible, and some cooking utensils were about all they had. And yet, this family cooked a very special meal that all Guatemalans know about. It was a meal reserved for the most special of occasions. Edy was reminded about the needs in his own country and challenged not to discriminate against the poor.

Those are powerful words. i wanted you to know what’s been happening from the perspective of our Guatemalan and El Salvadorian friends.

The team is in Lake Atitlan today and will be exploring the shopping district of Panajachel. Pray that they don’t lose focus.

“For I long to see you that I might impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong. That is that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”

Romans 1:11, 12

OGES Report Two

What an unbelievable three days of ministry we have had in Jutiapa, Guatemala. This is a community that has seen a rise in Satanism and the occult in the past several years. Two years ago, while doing ministry in this same area we had to leave 1/3 of our team behind because they had become sick. This year, God has been so good regarding our team health. Every day of ministry here involved seeing God´s hand directly involved in drawing people to Him.

One of the areas that amazed me the most was the medical clinic. It was here that over 350 patients were seen in two days. That is an extraordinary number. I found out yesterday that almost 20 people have prayed to receive Christ while seeing the doctor! How cool is that?

Our service team spent the past two days cutting wood for a camp so that they could build twenty bunk beds. By the time yesterday was through, the wood was all done being cut, and the first three bunk beds had been assembled.

Our Children´s team has been at a large number of schools, plus they volunteered to help out at the medical clinic yesterday, due to the large number of children that were waiting outside for hours at a time. By the way, if you read my last entry you know that our medicine didn´t get into El Salvador, so we had to send it to Jutiapa. Do you think God knew what He was doing? There is no way that we could have anticipated the large number of patients that we saw here. We saw as many here as Campur and Sonsonate combined, and needed that medicine right where God put it.

God also provided another doctor and his American wife to work with us an interpret for patients. That enabled us to see more patients and work more efficiently. God is good, all the time.

Our basketball and mime team had a tremendous ministry as well. Our mime team was even asked by schools that didn´t have basketball courts if they would come and perform, since the people had heard such wonderful reports of this American mime. Our team said, “Yes,” and more people were added to God´s family. The basketball team even let their old youth pastor play with them in their last game. My Guatemala stats? 24 points, 18 rebounds, 4 blocked shots, 3 steals, 5 assists, 5 technical fouls. Oh, by the way, we played fifth graders. Now, I know what Shaq feels like.

Our time in Jutiapa ended with a wonderful worship service that the women of the church put on for us. The doctor´s wife also happens to be an accomplished singer. Her first CD comes out soon. She sang songs in Spanish and English for us. The kids loved it. Then the church presented Wooddale Church with a beautiful leather scroll with writing thanking us for our ministry here. Once again, I feel like we should be most grateful.

There are so many more stories about our time here. God is good, and we´ll share them at length upon our return.

“But God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

John 3:17

OGES Report

It´s 7:12 a.m. on Monday, July 4. Happy Fourth of July everyone!

When I look back at the past week, the first thing I can say is, “Thank you Lord, for the incredible way that you have kept this team unified, focused, safe, and the way that You have worked through us.” I am so proud of the OGES team.

Our week began last Sunday. We had an opportunity to spend some times in the beautiful Sepuc Champey falls area. It is one of those wonders of God´s creation. Located in the heart of the Guatemalan rainforest, the falls are a beautiful place to hike and swim. We can´t wait to show you the pictures when we get back. From the falls it was off to Campur. Our students fell instantly in love with this community. It was our second year serving in Campur, and I was again asked by several of our students how the people of Campur can be so happy when they have so little. Our students were awed by the simplicity with which the people of Campur live their lives.

While in Campur our students had the opportunity to build two homes. We finished one of the homes, with the exception of the roof, which a builder will put on this week. The second home was completed to within a couple rows of bricks. It will also be completed this week. Our service team, mime team, and basketball teams worked on these homes. One home required carrying heavy bricks up a muddy mountain path for about twenty minutes. God protected our students, and on our last day, we were a particular blessing to the family by carrying every brick up the mountain. Our children´s team had an opportunity to minister in several schools alongside our friend, Luis Gilbert, and his team of clowns. Hundreds of students prayed to receive Jesus Christ as thier Savior. Each time we went to a school, the team was greeted with songs and joyous welcome applause from the students and staff in the small rural schools. What a sight! Our medical team saw almost 200 patients in Campur. They gave away much needed medication, and worked much longer than the time that we allotted for them, without ever complaining. We had over $100,000 of medication donated for this team, and it´s been put to good use! I preached and spoke at a leadership training seminar for a number of church leaders and pastors from across the rainforest.

Leaving Campur was tough. The kids wanted to stay longer, but little did we know what we had in store for us that morning. We knew we had a long drive plus a border stop to get to Sonsonate, El Salvador, so we left at 7:00 a.m. We had planned a short one hour stop in Coban, the nearest city to Campur for a piece we needed to repair one of our buses. One hour turned into three, and we knew that we´d be later than our anticipated 5:00 arrival time in Sonsonate. A few hours later, a tire on our second bus blew out. It was a back tire, and this has happened every year that we´ve been here for the past three years. The back of the bus has two large tires on each side in case of a blowout. It´s a safety measure that we´ve been grateful for more than once. After another hour delay we were off again. By this time we knew that our planned service at the church we were serving would have to be canceled. By the time we reached the El Salvador border, our students were hungry, tired, and unbelievably their spirits were high! They had prayed, rejoiced over God´s goodness, and sung songs. They could see God at work. The border stop took hours. In past years we have had no problem bringing our medication across the border. A change in Central American policy towards goods brought across a border meant a couple hours of negotiating that in the end meant that our medication that we had planned to bring into El Salvador would have to remain behind in Guatemala. We made a quick decision that we would have the medical clinics anyway. We purchased the minimum amount of medication in El Salvador the next morning for our clinic. An additional $350 investment allowed us to see 100 patients in two medical clinics and meet their needs. By the time that we arrived in El Salvador we had been travelling for 16 hours. We ate dinner at 11:00, put all of our women in a hotel, and our guys in a camp that God just happened to provide at the last minute.

Despite the early trials, our time of ministry in El Salvador was extraordinary. We completed our third year in a row of ministry to the people of Sonsonate. They have become like an extended family to me. Every time we leave, we leave behind tears and hugs. Our service team layed a concrete floor for a pastor. Our medical team saw those 100 patients, and on the first day of their clinic, when they were a bit discouraged about what had happened the night before, the medical team had the ultimate privilege to pray with one of their patients to receive Christ. The Children´s team remained extremely busy with school programs, again seeing hundreds of students pray to receive Christ. And, the basketball and mime team finally got to experience the rigorous schedule that they had trained for, with three to four games and performances a day. Students experienced home stays for the first time while they were in Sonosonate. It was a great experience for all of them. Some of them struggling with a language barrier, but finding that the common bond that exists in the body of Christ is greater than any natural language barrier. They quickly fell in love with their families. We ended our time in Sonsonate with an incredible sharing time with 100 El Salvadorians, Guatemalans, and Americans gathered for a time of praising God for what he had done. Steve Healy, our basketball coach, after being woken up with a dream in which he felt God was urging him to share his faith story with the team, spoke powerfully. Many students from both Central America and our team sought out Steve to talk to him about his faith story.

We arrived in Jutiapa, Guatemala two days ago. We had a church service on Saturday night, in which I preached, two students shared faith stories and our mime performed. Following the serivce the we ate a meal that was prepared for us by the women of the church. It was a traditional Guatemalan feast! They have shown us incredible love since our arrival. On Sunday moring we arrived at the church for an early breakfast. We then particpated in church services again, with me preaching, our children´s team performing, and a sweet time of sharing. Our children´s team also taught Sunday School. The afternoon was spent with the children´s team ministering in a nearby church. It is a young church, with a new building, ministering in one of the poorest sections of Jutiapa. There were at least 100 children present. Our medical team will be there today to minister to the same community. Our basketball and mime team performed in a local park for about 200 spectators. I love watching our El Salvadorian evangelist William Anzora as he preaches the Gospel. God speaks powerfully through him. We ended the night with our third church service in 24 hours. I preached again, and our mime team performed again. God moved in powerful ways.

Today we will have all five ministry teams in action. Our service team builds bunkbeds for a camp, mime and basketball have three games, children´s team has three schools, and medical has a busy clinic. I´ll be training church leaders on the “Characteristics of Spiritual Leaders.” Keep us in your prayers as you celebrate the Fourth. We love you and miss you! Keep praying for our team health too. God has answered that prayer in marvelous ways. Apart from a few rounds of the normal traveller´s stomach issues, this team has been very healthy.

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Philippians 1:3