Sunday, June 12, 2016

English Language Ministry in Arkansas

I have an exciting announcement!  We are starting a new English Language Ministry in Fort Smith, AR.

Two years ago, Sharron Burcham, a member from our church, attended LEI's annual International Literacy Training Institute.  She has open doors to start conversational English classes in 2 different apartment complexes where there are many non-English speakers.  In April, she organized a workshop to train 4 people from our church (River Valley Community Church) that will team teach the two classes.

I had the privilege of training these wonderful volunteer teachers over the past 5 weeks on how to use our Using Every English curriculum.  It was arguably the most entertaining training I've ever done with lots of laughs.  A special thanks to Diana & Kevin Millican who fed us and hosted our teacher training workshop for the last 5 weeks.

Our church presented each teacher with certificates at a Sunday morning service on June 12th.  We appreciate your prayers for this team as we start our classes later this month.....may many lives be transformed by the hope that is only found in Christ.  

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Welcome to the world

We thank God Almighty, the maker of Heaven and earth, for creating another miracle: 
Rosemary Lee Lodes

"Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him."  
Psalm 127:3

"Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb." 
Psalm 139:13

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Urbana 2015

Since 1946, the Urbana missions conference has been challenging hundreds of thousands of college students to surrender their lives to God’s call to the nations.   After that first Urbana, the conference director wrote the following (a great synopsis that highlights the mission-mobilizing spirit of this event):

"We are praying that this convention might be just the beginning of a mighty missionary movement on the part of thousands of Christian students throughout North America. We hope that we may be an instrument in God's hands, not only as a home mission, preaching the Gospel to America’s college students, but also as a foreign missionary recruiting agency ... supplying a stream of trained missionary candidates, a pool of consecrated manpower for the evangelization of the world." (Stacey Woods)

Emily talking to a student at our booth.
So much planning goes into this conference that it's only done every three years.  This year, Emily and I had the privilege of representing Literacy and Evangelism Intl. at Urbana, along with some dear co-workers, the Orts.  We talked with hundreds of students and are currently following up with them; several have already expressed that they are interested in training and working with LEI.  Please join us in prayer that God would continue to stir up their passion for Christ and His assignment to make disciples of all nations.    

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


Missionary Interns from Go To Nations Timothy Internship Program
I had the privilege to continue our partnership with Go to Nations, a great mission-sending agency building God’s Kingdom all over the world.  I had a great time training the missionary interns for their bi-annual Timothy Internship Program in San Pedro Sula, an innovative hands on training covering a wide variety of missional outreach that I would recommend to anybody interested in missions and seeking what their specific niche might be.
Teaching literacy songs and popularizing the international water jug drum
The second training I did was actually in a church in Santa Cruz de Yohoa where I did a training about 7 years ago.  This church did literacy ministry for a while and several people learned to read their Bibles.  But the teachers I trained then either moved to a different city, or stopped going to that church.  When I got in touch with the Pastor last month, he was very excited about starting up the literacy ministry again with new teachers.  I told him to just get a small group of the most committed people.  
Finding Bible passages that show God's desire for all to read His word

Graciela teaching (she and her family were also kind to host me in their home during the workshop)

Practice teaching

In the end we had 4 amazing participants.  One of them, Oneyda, shared how her husband, and 6 out of her 10 siblings, were all illiterate, so she was going to start to teach them first.  Her husband isn’t a Christian and is reluctant to go to church but he IS interested in in learning how to read!  I’m looking forward to giving an update in early 2016 about the progress of these classes. 
Oneyda practice teaching the witness/discipleship part of the lesson

Saturday, October 24, 2015


After getting down at the Bus station in San Pedro, I headed toward the exit which is always bottlenecked by a buzzing hive of taxi drivers.  “Taxi! Taxi Señor! Taxi mai friiend! Taxi Miister!” are all the typical lines used to accost unsuspecting clients - especially foreigners who are used to fixed prices and can sometimes be convinced to pay twice the actual fare.  I made my way out of the exit with a tail a taxi drivers following behind, all offering different prices to go to the airport (the video above is from a different trip to Nicaragua but you get the point). After getting the fare nearly cut in half with one gentlemen, he escorted me to another taxi driver (business partner?) and told him the price we had agreed on.  This taxi driver, Juan José, was an older gentlemen who instantly won my heart with his huge smile.  He told me to hold on and ran to get a broken down cardboard box to put down in his uncarpeted trunk so that my suitcase wouldn’t get dirty : ) 

Let me pause here to give some context.  San Pedro Sula is the murder capital of the world.  Highly organized gangs called Maras wreak havoc all over the country and especially in San Pedro.  They practice satanic rituals and have no value for human life.  This is not new information to me but honestly (and ashamedly), it’s easy to get callused in Central America where gangs and delinquency seem to run rampant in all of the cities.  Those with resources live in gated neighborhoods and all chip in to hire armed security guards.  But from time to time, I run across somebody that snaps me back into reality and I’m filled with grief and compassion - the same kind I think Jesus felt when he looked out at the multitudes because they were like sheep without a shepherd.    

Juan Jose in his Carolla
Juan José and I first started talking about his 90s model Corolla and how reliable of a car it’s been.  Then he told me he was hoping to replace the windshield, which was badly cracked and spidering out in all directions.  “The Maras in my neighborhood did this to my car.  There are gang members all throughout our barrio.”  I asked him some more questions about how that has affected his neighborhood and his answers were shocking and horrifying.  All of the taxi drivers, general stores, bookstores, pharmacies, bakeries, and mechanic shops have to pay a weekly “war tax” to the Mara that controls that area.  All of these small business owners pay the tax because gang leaders have a known history of killing any owner who doesn’t readily agree to their extortion.  “I had one friend, Juan Jose shared, who owned a bread bakery and paid a big percentage of his profit each week to one of the Mara 18.  Then the Mara Salvatrucha came to extort more money.  He told them that he couldn't because he was already paying the other gang and wouldn’t be able to make any money if he paid them too.  So they shot and killed him.  He was a good man….very kind.”  The next part was what really broke my heart.  He continued, “The maras took my wife from me 6 years ago.  My wife was coming home from work at night when a gang member told her to hand over her new blackberry phone.  She didn’t want to give it up so he pulled out a gun and shot her.  Our youngest daughter was just 1.5 yrs. old then….she had to go and live with my oldest daughter who was just 17 at that time so that I could keep driving this taxi and provide for them.  Only God should have the power to give and take life.”

Juan Jose’s story is just one small glimpse into what’s happening on a global scale - believers are being beheaded in Iraq, churches and Christian homes are being burned in Nigeria, preachers are put in solitary confinement for more than a decade for preaching openly, whole families are being murdered in North Korea because somebody they knew crossed the border, and the list goes on.  The question then becomes do we CARE? Do we feel COMPASSION for these people as Jesus did when he looked out over Jerusalem and wept for the people that he longed to help.  Do we suffer with our persecuted brothers and sisters as if we ourselves were in their shoes? (Heb. 13:3)  I confess that I often don’t.  But I want to.  Maybe if we all remind each other and challenge each other, it will become more a part of our lives as believers who strive to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6).   

Last week, one of the Go to Nations missionaries, Nathan, reminded me that prayer is our most powerful and effective weapon.   Angus Buchan said, "There is power in prayer. When men work, they work. but when men pray, God works.”  In my human strength, I can’t go up against the highly organized gangs or corrupt regimes…..BUT GOD can.  Let’s prioritize prayer to see the maximum move of God.  As we swim against the current of indifference and our own pursuit of happiness, we will make room for God’s spirit to work and actually cause us to care more about others than ourselves and our stuff.  Thanks for praying for Honduras and all those who are suffering around the world. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Adventures in Guatemala

In the beginning of July, I had the privilege of traveling with my pastor, Phillip, and his family as a part of the ongoing outreach of our church - River Valley Community Church.  I was truly blessed by my time with the McClure family.  Seeing their working and ministering together as a team was encouraging, and got me excited about including our own children in our ministry, especially as they get older.  

We had a wonderful trip full of meaningful moments connecting with the LAMP team - our ministry partners in Guatemala.  We also lived through one of the most harrowing experiences in my 12 years of traveling overseas.  I'll tell the story through these pictures and captions.      

The adventure to Guatemala started when our flight from Houston to Guatemala City was cancelled, and we had to wait in line for hours to get rescheduled for the next day.  The line was moving so slowly, we parked it right there and played cards.  Because of all the United cancelations, I had to split up from the McClures and they gave us a new roundabout itinerary through half of Central America.  
The following day, I took off for Costa Rica and then Guatemala, arriving late in the evening.  The McClures, on the other hand, weren't so fortunate.  Their rescheduled flight from Houston got off without a hitch but after 45 minutes in the air, the pilot announced that they would be turning around and going back to Houston due to "mechanical problems".  

They were told to hurry to another gate only to find that plane to be several hours delayed as well.  By the time they reached El Salvador, they had missed their connecting flight and had to spend the night in a country not even on their original itinerary.  They finally reached Guatemala the following morning, but only to find that their luggage had not followed them there.  They filed a missing baggage report.  

So where were their bags? In Houston!  Still! 

I've got to hand it to the McClures.  They were in good spirits despite having worn the same clothes for three days in a row.  I'm happy to report that they are all a naturally good smelling family : )  

We were greeted warmly by our host family - LEI missionaries Yovany and Esmeralda Hernandez.  We jumped right into ministry and met with a group of university students, and shared songs and testimonies.  We also celebrated Esmeralda's birthday, which was a treat.  

Enjoying a great meal with the Hernandez family before heading to Comitancillo, where the rest of the LAMP team lives and works (about 7 hours north of the capital).
The McClures led a leadership/team building workshop with the LAMP team - Byron, his wife Miriam, Maria, Eliceo, and Carolina.  It was a fun and stretching experience for them and got rave reviews.    

learning about team unity - i.e. trying to balance (AND TRANSPORT) a basketball on a tiny metal ring suspended on 6 ropes

Pastor Phillip and his wife Theresa traveling Latin/Arkansas style (back of a pickup)

Byron and Miriam's precious daughter.

On our way to Eliceo's house.  These gals absolutely loved riding in the back of a truck. 

Enjoying some Mam worship songs as well as Eliceo's hospitality.

Singing Richard Smallwood's "Total Praise" . . . something I never imagined I'd be doing in the Central Highlands of Guatemala!

McClure family and Perez family

In Comitancillo, we stayed with Maria and her husband Pastor Samuel.   Here Maria is crossing the river by their house with her beautiful daughter Abigail. 

Learning how to fish without a rod! 

Andrew in the market in Comitancillo

We had the honor of worshipping God in Byron's church in Tuixacaja.  

Phillip preached the message on Spanish!

After the afternoon church service our driver, Jesús, from the capital came to take us from Comitancillo to a Latino missionary training base in La Mesilla. This is where the fun started.  

Jesús knew way to get to La Mesilla, but it was indirect and mostly all highway travel. One of the locals told him of another route that was faster and much more direct, but included some dirt roads through the mountains.  Jesús opted for this "shortcut."  

The only caveat was he didn't know the way, but was inspired by the saying, "preguntando, se llega a Roma" By asking, one gets to Rome.  So we went along stopping to ask for directions and confirmation every 20 min or so.  This worked well until it got later and everyone went to sleep, leaving the roads desolate.  

We kept coming to forks in the road and guessing/praying.  We got more and more lost and ended up on the equivalent of a small 4-wheeler trail through the mountains.  I knew it was bad when Jesús looked over and said, "can you get google maps on your phone there!"

Our 12-passenger Asian-style van was no match for the steep rocky uphills and downhills.  We were stalling out on the inclines and switchbacks so 6 of us got out of the van and started walking behind it.  On one of the curves, the road was so narrow that the rocks under the front right tire started to give way and the whole van started sliding toward the ditch.  

We yelled, "STOP!" and slapped the back window.  Phillip and I instinctively got down in the ditch and started pushing against the van while we yelled for everybody to get out and throw rocks into the ditch to build it up to the level of the road to keep the van from rolling into the ditch and from there down a steep 20ft. slope.  

We worked for over an hour to fill in the ditch with rocks before attempting to move again.  When we did, we realized that the van was totally stuck.  It took another hour to build up and also dig out parts of the road. 

Finally, with everybody pushing and Jesus at the wheel, we caught enough traction to break free and creep along the edge of the road with our hearts beating out of our chests.  The road ahead seemed equally treacherous as that one spot and most of us were terrified of getting back into the we walked behind the van for the next 90 minutes of steep downhills until we came to a river crossing....but there was only a footbridge!  By this point it was 2:30 am.  

We waded out into the river and it was over our knees which, in turn, meant over the tires of our low-to-the-ground van.  We knew that the van wouldn't be able to make it back up the steep hills we had just come down, and we didn't think it could cross the river without flooding the engine.  

So, without the option of going forwards or backwards, we did the only thing a sensible person would do and decided to sleep - the ladies in the van and the guys on the river bank.  I was exhausted and fell asleep almost instantly after hitting the ground.  

Phillip was about to lie down to sleep when he heard 3 shotgun shots and then the sound of pellets falling around him.  He came to wake me up and tell me that people were shooting at him, but I was in such a stuporous state that I told him it was probably just fireworks for somebody's birthday (in Guatemala, to celebrate someone's birthday, you wake him up in the middle of the night with the loudest fireworks you can find).  

Not satisfied with my unconcerned response, Phillip went to ask Jesús, "Did you hear those shots?!?" "Yes," he replied, "Are you afraid?." "Yes," Phillip answered.  "Then confess your fear to God and he'll give you peace to be able to rest,"  Jesús said.   

Poor Phillip hardly slept at all that night, and there were two more shots about an hour later.  Then, he saw 8 armed men walking across the foot bridge and heading toward us.  Armed with his flashlight and 2" pocket knife, he stood at the van waiting to confront them while the rest of us are still sleeping blissfully.  

They all shone their flashlights at each other. Phillip instantly realized they were police officers that were drawn on him, and he put his hands in the air.  Apparently, the locals there (the ones shooting presumably) called the police and told them that we were kidnappers and up to no good!  Phillip managed to convince them that we were from a church and on a mission, and had simply gotten lost in the middle of no where.  

Satisfied but not totally convinced, they holstered their weapons and proceeded to frisk us for guns and drugs and search all our belongings.  After finding nothing, they became quite pleasant actually and started to brainstorm how to get us out of there.  In the end, they loaded up our suitcases into their 4-wheel drive trucks and crossed the river with them while we crossed on the foot bridge.  

We were going to get a ride in their trucks to a bus station and leave Jesús to figure out a way to make the van walk on water.  But then a local man showed up and said that he used to cross that river with a small van and knew the exact place to cross. 

Jesús said, "I have faith that this man can get the van across to the other side of the river so let's pray."   As we crossed the foot bridge, we watched this guy turn the white van into a Japanese submarine and come out on the other side.  So after we got out of the steep hills and back on paved road, we all got back into the van and thanked the police for helping to rescue us.     

We finally made it to CECAM in La Mesilla to see our friend Emily and spend time with the missionary candidates there.   The McClures taught a course on "Making Disciples of your Children," and we also did a conversational English class.  It was an incredible time of fellowship and mutual encouragement.  

Well, all is well that ends well.  Here we are with our dear driver at the airport about to get on the plane from Guate to the US.  In the spirit of the rest of the trip, that flight was delayed by nearly 2 hours and we had to run through the Houston airport...we made it 2 minutes before they closed the gate.  A fitting end to our great Guatemalan journey. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

ILTI 2015

We just wrapped up our 2015 International Literacy Training Institute (ILTI).  It was a smaller group than normal, but we have seen that often investing in a just handful of people can yield more fruit than training large numbers of people.  The majority of the participants this year were Africans, which meant great times of singing and worship!  Please join us in praying for them as they return to their countries and mobilize people for literacy ministry.    

finishing up the "leading teacher training workshops" course

Teaching on why literacy is such an excellent vehicle for witness and discipleship
we had the privilege to team teach this year with Dr. James Kigamwa (far right)
praying before the noon-day meal

getting some blood pumping with african worship choruses

we got to share our testimony during chapel and then the group prayed over our family

Claire carrying on the Lodes baby tradition of eating everyone's name tag 


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