Articles 2

2017—A Plan of Action

Gideon Yutzy
Hutchinson, KS

In and of itself, making New Year’s resolutions is not a bad thing. What Henry David Thoreau wrote in the 1840’s is still true today: “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”
Paraphrased, Thoreau was saying people can change and nothing under the sun is more awesome than that. At the dawn of 2017, a year unimaginably far into the future for Mr. Thoreau, I could not agree more.
New Year’s is indeed an appropriate time to think of personal change. Many of us prefer the traditional New Year’s resolutions. This year I
will keep better track of my keys. This year I will floss. This year I will catch up on my resolutions from 2016. (And 2015. And 2014…)
But what would happen if, instead of only listing things we resolve to do, we would also focus on becoming a certain kind of people? More specifically, what if we would resolve to become people of action? People who seek out new knowledge and understanding. People who avoid the tired script of the rat race.
Passivity plagues far too many people from our time—perhaps more than at any other time in history. Before you marathon runners dispute that statement, I remind us all that passiveness shows up in many personality types. Here are just a few.
Three groups of passive people
The victims. While Esther and I were living in Poland, Wiesiek, the Naturalist came down from Gdansk one weekend for a visit. At the time I was feeling a great deal of self-pity and injustice because of some relational difficulties. I decided to ask our friend for counsel.
If you’ve ever met Wiesiek the Naturalist, you know he cares for people. I had learned this, and that’s why I was unburdening myself to him. Yet when I finished, he was silent for a while. When he finally did speak, it was only this one maddening phrase:
 “Don’t be a victim, Gideon.”
Wiesiek the Naturalist, a man in tune with the very plants. A man whose country is familiar with suffering and where people have the right, if anyone does, to a victim mentality. (The historian Norman Davies once described Poland, which is situated squarely between the superpowers of Germany and Russia, as “God’s playground.”) I could take it from Wiesiek the Naturalist: I was being a victim.
Once his words sank in, once my immobilizing victim-mentality was identified and exorcised, I felt ready to take action over my problems.
The lemmings. Here I do not refer to squat rodents with short tails that follow each other off cliffs in the Arctic tundra. I refer instead to squat human beings with short attention spans who spend their waking hours taking in various forms of media.
Entertainment bombards us. No, it oppresses us. It numbs us. Granted, it can be harmless; it usually doesn’t include blood baths in a Roman colosseum. Nor would it be accurate to say that today’s entertainment is devoid of creativity or that all of its producers lack talent. In fact, in too many cases, that is precisely the problem: The makers of entertainment use creativity (substandard though it may be) but the masses of consumers do not.
Perhaps the greatest sin in today’s gluttonous intake of entertainment is not that we violate Psalm 101:3—I will set no wicked thing before my eyes—but that we violate Genesis 1:28, where God tells us to co-create with Him.
If we expect to live actively, we must free ourselves of entertainment-ism. In the spirit of Genesis 1:28, we must learn skills, seek out new knowledge, and, in general, rediscover the enthrallment of using our God-given abilities to create. Lemmings will never be active, creative people.
The perfectionists. Finally, some people tend to take action only when they think it possible to do so perfectly, which is never. They have ideas for creating things and engaging in life, yet the timing and feasibility are never quite right. The end of such people is identical to that of the lemmings: they pass through life without contributing.
Passive People Anonymous
What then is to be our strategy for becoming more active people in 2017? The answer is hardly to make Energizer Bunny-style resolution lists such as going to the gym three evenings per week or becoming fluent in Hungarian. Rather we should pray that the North American church would experience a renaissance in practicing St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15.16, ESV).
A major cause of passiveness is forgetting the importance of persistence. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell proposes that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery (perfectionists shouldn’t be allowed to read it). His emphasis on persistence aligns with many scriptural writings, such as Jude 1:12 which instructs us to build ourselves up in the faith. For Christ’s beautiful nature to become our second nature, we must practice, not for 10,000 hours but for the rest of our lives. Practicing Christian virtues over carnal vices does not come automatically. “Character is formed by a thousand little choices,” says N.T. Wright.
N.T. Wright holds up the now-famous Captain Chesley Sullenberger as an example. When Sullenberger landed a commercial airliner on the Hudson River in 2009, he was able to do so only because he had maximized his years as a pilot to learn and grow. On that chilly January day, 154 passengers and crew were thankful that their pilot had not, in any point of his career, become passive. Here is what Captain Sullenberger said about the incident: “One way of looking at this might be that for 42 years [more than 20,000 hours of flying and gliding instructing] I’ve been making small regular deposits in this bank of experience: education and training.” Practicing the 10,000 hour rule allowed him to make a colossal emergency withdrawal.
The other major cause of passiveness is failing to get started. In a recent talk, a writer named Josh Kaufman responded to the 10,000.hour rule. He points out that, while Gladwell was onto something, some people’s downfall is that they never start. What is needed for them is the 20-hour rule: the amount of time needed for most people to learn the basics of a skill. For Kingdom Citizens, Kaufman’s rule holds great promise. Consider this short list of what we could accomplish in 20 hours:

- Memorize the Sermon on the Mount.
- Learn a unique skill such as unicycling or stargazing (non-Hollywood ones) which will help us connect with more people, including people who don’t know Christ.
- Read a formative book.
- Spend an hour and a half alone each month journaling and listing potential areas of trials and temptations, thereby gaining an edge with an early offensive position.

Zig Ziglar, one of the least passive people of our times, had a saying: “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” Whether our problem is getting started or sticking it out, we ought to consider Ziglar’s words.
A caveat—being active does not equal constant activity
There are times in life when it best to pause and take stock. Sometimes we may feel as though our noble desire for action has us thrashing wildly and spinning our wheels. Then is the time for healthy introspection. After making occasional adjustments, we should always gird up our loins and re-enter the fray.
Finally, 2017 should be a year for setting attainable, measurable goals as we continue serving our Lord in His Kingdom. But let us also use this year to become people of character— to become more like the Perfect Man, Jesus Christ.
As we follow Jesus, lemming-like behavior is for once entirely appropriate. The ancient Greek poets, although unlikely theologians, were right on target when they spoke of God as the One “in whom we live and move and have our being.” If we allow God to saturate our lives in this way, passivity will quickly become a receding memory. A life of inaction will be replaced with a life of using each moment to lay up treasures in Heaven. This most wondrous of metamorphoses can be ours if we resolve to abide in Him.
And that would be a New Year’s resolution worth keeping.

Are Foreign Missions Scriptural?

Floyd Stoltzfus
Belize City, Belize

This article appeared in the Calvary Messenger (though slightly changed) some years ago.  I submit it again because the gospel is the heart of the Christmas story. Simeon made mention of this when he prayed, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:  For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people” (Luke 2:29–31 -FS).
Foreign missions were in the plan of God before the foundation of the world. The church, to be a true church, must be deeply committed to the cause of world missions. But notice, the starting place is “at Jerusalem.” To be intelligently, prayerfully, and perseveringly committed to the missionary task of the church, some basic truths must be settled in our hearts.
These truths we discover in Luke 24:45-48: “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.”
We find Luke’s careful analysis of the Great Commission to be rich with force and impact. It should cause our hearts to burn with God’s fire of love for a lost world. Five points are prescribed here that lay the solid foundation for the Biblical missionary task of the church.

The Senses Opened
Jesus is alive again! He opens the understanding of the blinded disciples concerning the Old Testament Scriptures about Himself. To be truly dedicated to the cause of missions we must have a vision by the Lord. Proverbs 29:18 is applicable to the cause of missions: “Where there is no vision the people perish…”
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened…” (Eph. 1:18).
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten our minds to the Scriptures concerning God’s marvelous plan of redemption for lost humanity.

The Settled Word
Jesus refers to the written word— the Old Testament Scriptures: “Thus it is written…” We see an embryo of God’s interest in world missions with Abraham: “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee (Gen. 12:1). The Great Commission of Jesus Christ hinges on this verse. In fact to Abram it was a commission. “Get thee out:” out of his country; away from his kindred; away from his father’s house. To leave home country is a sensitive, emotional issue. It is a basic principle in God’s plan for missions. Paul builds on this premise for salvation to the Gentiles: “That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:14). John describes the glorious fulfillment of the promise to Abraham “and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” in Revelation 5:9b, “for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred [tribe],and tongue, and people, and nation.” See also Revelation
7:9. Is the Gospel unique? Is Jesus Christ the only way of salvation? Is God’s Word the final revelation? To be truly fitted for the cause of missions we must be settled and fully persuaded on these cardinal points of Scripture.

The Salvation Message
Can you sense how thrilled the disciples must have been when Jesus opened their minds by “all the scriptures the things concerning himself ”? As they journeyed close to the village Cleopas and his friend persuaded this stranger to tarry with them because it was nearly dark. When Jesus sat down to eat He blessed the bread, broke it and gave to them. “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Luke 24:31, 32).
To be truly burdened for the cause of missions the gospel message must burn within our hearts. The gospel is a unique message of suffering and glory. Jesus did not die a merely martyr’s death. He died to give His life’s blood for the sins of lost humanity. A preacher once said during an ordination service, “We as ministers of the Gospel ought to make some reference to the saving power of Christ in every message that is preached.”
Matthew beautifully culminates his sacred writing by giving us the Great Commission in a four-aspect packet: go…teach…baptize… teach again…” For any missionary enterprise to be truly scriptural we must be faithful in “teaching them to observe all things.” This is a great task! One man cannot do it alone. Some will sow and plant the seed with tears. Others must water and nurture those tender plants with unselfish love. But God will give the increase. To Him belongs all the glory!

The Scope of Missions
Jesus said, “It is written…that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations…” Paul’s overflow of love for Christ and the Gospel was rooted in his study from the Old Testament. He ever kept Christ’s personal commission to preach the gospel to “the regions beyond” aflame. “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name…Yea, so have I striven to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: but it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand” (Rom. 15:9, 20, 21).

The Starting Place
Jesus said, “…beginning at Jerusalem.” Most of us need not travel very far from our homes to see individuals suffering from broken families, countenances reflecting emptiness, bitterness and heartache, multitudes with crying needs for someone to love them because of loneliness, depression, or sickness. Some are yearning for a true friend to simply tell them how to have their load of guilt and sin lifted by Jesus Christ.
For foreign missions to truly be scriptural we must begin at home. Be faithful in planting and watering the garden God has assigned for you— perhaps at home. Mission work may be performed by any true Christian at any place at any time.


Are You Overestimating Your Abilities?

Caleb Crider
Strasburg, VA

How good are you at what you do? Research tells us that we likely aren’t the best judge of our own abilities. Just because we think we are competent doesn’t mean we are. In fact, people who aren’t good at what they do may be more likely to brag about their abilities.
David Dunning and Justin Kruger wrote a paper in 1999 titled, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead
to Inflated Self-Assessments.” They concluded that incompetent people often don’t know they are incompetent, and that they overestimate their abilities. You and I may not be good at what we do—and we may not even know it!
You’ve probably seen people fall into the trap of overestimating their skill, knowledge, or abilities. I’ve caught myself pontificating on a topic when suddenly I realize the person I am talking to knows much more about the subject than I do. The advice of the Agur applies well: “If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth” (Proverbs 30:32).
In his book The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman calls this “excessive self-regard tendency.” Another label would be simply pride, and pride is something that makes it hard for us to get along with others. Another wise saying from Proverbs: “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips (Proverbs 27:2).
What does this have to do with getting along well with our coworkers?
People dislike those who are ignorant of their own ignorance.
It’s okay to admit you don’t know much about something, or to acknowledge you can’t do something well. It’s not okay to act like you are an expert when you really are only a beginner.
People dislike boasters, impostors, and people who are overly cocky. Confidence in your calling or talents can be helpful as long as you are humble enough to know and acknowledge your weaknesses. Pursue excellence in your work quietly and humbly.
True humility is a real relationship builder. A humble person cares about others and doesn’t see the need to put himself front and center—even if he really is better than the other person. Though we may have more knowledge or experience than a coworker, do we really need to proclaim that fact?
How do you know if you are competent? Do your best, and learn from others. See if your estimation of your skills lines up with your coworker’s evaluation of you. They are likely the better judge.
[Originally published on www.  Even though this article was written for business situations, it also speaks to school and church situations. Ed.]

Adoption—Falsely So Called

Paul L. Miller
Partridge, KS

In July, we were privileged to publish an excellent article, by Davy Mast, entitled “Adoption and Orphan Care.” Bro. Davy went through the Scriptures and showed how the need for orphan care is an age-old one. He showed how adoption brings much better possibilities to the orphaned child than that of being shifted from one foster home to another or of growing up in an orphanage.
Davy’s article actually made me wonder whether Martha and I had many years ago dismissed the idea of adoption too easily by thinking that our quiver with six children was too full for adoption. But now, at past 80 years of age, it is too late for us and we shall not spend time in wistful thought about our earlier dismissal of that possibility.
Our friends, Wolfgang (M. D.) and Lori Miggiani, were told after they had adopted two children (and had three children born to them), that they didn’t qualify for additional adoptions. But God had laid a burden on their hearts for orphans, so they went to another adoption agency and another country, where they found three more arrows for their quiver. May God bless them for that selfless decision!   
We are told that adoption has become quite pricy. Only last week I became aware of a plan whereby a potential mother’s aching empty arms can possibly find a cheaper way of providing a baby when natural conception and birth fail to materialize. It is called artificial implantation of an embryo not their own.
In my youth in the 1940’s and 50’s, I had a keen interest in dairying. After I took up school teaching and no longer milked cows, many things changed for me. But during those years, many things also changed in the dairy industry. Production soared. Men devised ways whereby superior animals could produce many offspring through means that are quite innovative. I found it amazing, but thought of it as fitting the charge God gave to Adam and Eve when He made man and woman in His image. God said, “...let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26).  
God, however, has a different code of ethics for humans than He has for His lesser creatures, which are not made in His image. God does not ask that bovines make a lifelong commitment of fidelity before they mate and bear offspring. We Homo Sapiens, as biology calls us, occupy a different, more responsible place in God’s creation. We must carefully weigh all our choices. Our choices are not so easily defined and dismissed as are those of the animals of the field, the forest and the farmyard.
The implantation of an embryo not the parents’ own seems to me to cross the bounds of recognition that God is rightly in control of family increase. Adoption, after all, is usually not undertaken merely to increase family size. It is ideally an act of mercy to give opportunity which otherwise would not exist for the child of misfortune. Artificial implantation of an embryo is different from mercifully adopting an orphan. Artificial implantation raises seed for the adoptive parents’ sake, quite unlike providing opportunity for the helpless who suffered the loss of his/her parents through no fault of their own.
Is not mercy on those already born in a different category from having a married couple decide on this opportunity as a means of selling fertilized embryos for profit?
Is it not also a different matter from having a man scatter his seed outside the sanctity of his marriage commitment? Does it not degrade a woman who is expected to allow her ova to be fertilized by a man other than her husband? While all of these scenarios are understandably dismissed as unimportant by the moral breakdown of our times, I fail to see these options as providing an acceptable adoption.
Before submitting this article for publication, I consulted with those who oversee my work, the Calvary Publications Board. They gave their blessing to it.
To the readers, I ask, Does the innovation of producing superior cattle fulfill the ethical requirements of filling a human quiver? Am I off base in thinking that this method of obtaining a family is fundamentally different from adopting a child who does not have a family he/she belongs to?
I invite your response.
Let us walk humbly with God the Father, our Creator. Let us follow Jesus Christ, the One who purchased our salvation with His own precious blood. Let us heed the Holy Spirit, our Guide through life. We receive direction and strength as we give careful heed to God’s will revealed in His Word.

Making Big Decisions

Chris Miller
Sugarcreek, OH

You’re not as insightful as you think, and yet you make lots of them, hundreds every day, millions over a lifetime--you make decisions. They come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s the big ones, the lumpy ones, the ones that give us heartburn, that are the most fascinating to consider. How do you make big decisions? Important decisions are made when crucial influences drive us toward a tipping point.
Jared didn’t want to teach. As he looked forward to his high school graduation, he dreamed of all the fascinating things he would do and become in the ensuing years. Every day when Jared walked the school grounds, a flock of adoring younger students mobbed him, jockeying for position to get attention from Jared.
In conversations with a motherly teacher’s aide, Jared realized the life-changing truth that whatever his future held, it would include working with children. The other teachers around school would tell him, “Jared, you’re going to be a teacher someday.” He would shudder because he knew it was true.
One day three of his best friends said, “Jared, you should come help out at Kid’s Club.” So he went. Every Thursday, he made the forty-five minute trip to Canton where he played with, taught, and prayed for children from the rough side of town. His heart was touched.
Jared became a teacher. For three years, he played with, taught, and prayed for children in a different setting—a Mennonite school. At the same time, his heart reached toward the children he knew from Kid’s Club, so he moved to Canton to the rough side of town. Every morning, he drives south to the green rolling meadows of Sugarcreek and every evening he commutes north back to poverty, gang violence, and cracked sidewalks.
Crucial influences push and pull us toward major decisions. Some influences crash, boom, and shake our windows. Others quietly blow us bit by bit like a warm breeze slowly moving a Saharan sand dune. Crucial influences come in the shape of ideas. After being seeded inside our heads, these ideas sprout in our lives, and we are changed forever. Where do these crucial influences come from?
Crucial influences always flow from people. (I am writing from the perspective of a Christian. It is a given that we are seeking God’s direction at all times.) People have conversations, make speeches, write books, record songs, and most importantly, do things. Every idea that arcs across your mind is either borrowed from someone else or is massively influenced by someone else. Facebook currently has 1.6 billion active users. Donald Trump was mentioned 5.9 million times on Google News since April 2015. Seventy-nine percent of Pinterest-using Millennials say they use the site to “teach them how to do things.”
Look around you. Why have you made the decisions you have made today? Why are you wearing that shirt? Why did you eat that cereal? Why did you listen to that music? Why do you drive that car? Why did you thumb through this magazine? After examining your motives, you will discover that all the little decisions that make up a day in your life are shaped by the people that surround you (literally and figuratively). You have picked up your cues from the crucial influencers around you.
When Ben was twelve, his horse bucked him off its back. Ben got back on because this unbroken horse was just another challenge to vanquish. Ben loves horses. He loves the great outdoors.
Ben’s high school teacher attended the Institute for Global Opportunities (IGo) for several months. His teacher excitedly described his experiences traveling abroad. Later, the teacher invited acquaintances from a different Asian mission to speak at Ben’s high school. They spoke about God’s present movements in Asia and presented opportunities for young people to spread Christ’s gospel to people who have never seen a Bible or heard the name “Jesus.”  These missionaries related story after story of prayer, smuggling, and hiking.
“I can serve Christ by praying, smuggling Bibles, and hiking?”
Ben is saving his money. The missionaries said it is expensive to do this, but Ben’s class figured out it doesn’t cost more than buying a nice car. Ben graduates in two years. He is eagerly waiting to blaze the Asian trails for Christ.
An ancient king once led his army on a daring conquest. Needing to cross a body of water, his army began constructing bridges. As the bridges neared completion, a powerful storm rose up and smashed the bridges to bits. What did the ancient king do? He beheaded each of his chief engineers. Not only that, he also had the body of water flogged with 400 lashes. That would teach it.
How did he think his decisions would solve his problems? I don’t know. I’m sure the answer is complex. However, I am sure that this ancient king didn’t wake up that morning and say, “Today I will make decisions that are exceedingly crazy.” No, to him his actions were perfectly reasonable.
How could he possibly have seen his actions this way? The ancient king’s decisions that day were not made in a vacuum. Those decisions were part of a long string of choices he had made over his lifetime.  The influences he had accrued up to that point made his actions seem rational.
We are like that ancient king in that we are always on our way toward a tipping point. A tipping point is “the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.” We are driven toward tipping points in two ways. Either crucial influences insert ideas into our lives until we “tip” or our circumstances require us to make a decision.
Major tipping points in our lives are questions like, “Where will I attend church? Who will I marry? What career path should I follow? Should I buy a house?” We tend to see these major tipping points as one-time decisions. We fail to see that we’ve been heading toward these tipping points for all our lives. The books and magazines we read, the blog posts we browse, the music we listen to, and the conversations we have are always pushing and pulling us toward our next tipping points.
When is your next tipping point? Will you be ready for it? Our lives are each a drop in the massive ocean of humanity. A conversation here, a text message there, a well-placed smile, a wink in the right direction, maybe a Calvary Messenger article - these influences create ripples that create waves that create floods that push and pull us and our fellow humans toward tipping points that change the world.
If I close my eyes, I can see the beautiful blue earth spinning just outside my spacecraft window. I have wanted to be an astronaut since my parents took me to the Kennedy Space Center many years ago. One day, my high school teacher caught my elbow as I returned an encyclopedia to the shelf, “You should come back here to teach school in a few years.” I was floored! An earth-bound job? I had never thought of that.
After high school, I floated through various jobs. One day my dad said, “Chris, have you ever heard of Faith Builders?” I had not. “They train teachers there.” Interesting.
At a wedding, I ran into a friend of a friend who was then attending Faith Builders. “What’s it like?” I asked. He filled me in on the in’s and out’s.
That winter, I attended Calvary Bible School. I was chosen to help plan a chapel. One of our ideas was to get all the students who had received speeding tickets in the past year to come to the front to share a life goal. During chapel, I announced this activity from behind the pulpit and then realized two things: 1) I had gotten a speeding ticket in the past year. 2) I didn’t have a life goal to share. When it was my turn, I said, “I would like to attend Faith Builders.” After that, I decided I should probably follow through with that goal.
After graduating, I did just what my high school teacher said. I returned to the school I had attended for twelve years and became a teacher. That was six years ago. Space will have to wait.

A Ministry of Inclusive Hospitality

Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas
Colombia, South America

A Scripture: “Now this was the sin of Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16: 49 NIV).
A story: A refugee complained bitterly to God because they had not let him into a church and God responded: “Don’t feel bad. They don’t let Me in either.”
Using this biblical passage and short story as reference points, I write this simple note from my own personal testimony to contrast these texts.
Colombia, where I currently live, is a country with an internal war for the last 60 years and has the last internal armed conflict remaining in the Western Hemisphere. With more than five million internally displaced people, it has the second largest rate of internally displaced people in the world, according to the United Nations, plus another million external refugees in other countries. Twenty-five thousand violent deaths occur each year, thousands of persons disappear or are kidnapped, and the Colombian government recognizes more than six million refugees in general.
If there were oil or any other economic interest of the multinationals in our conflict, this impressive social scenario would have appeared in the mainstream news in the U. S., Canada, and Europe. The Anabaptist churches of the North would have heard about it.
Threats and uncertainty
After living for many years in Bogota, in 1986, my wife, our children and I moved to a small town called San Jacinto, in the northern part of the country in the Caribbean region.  
There we acquired a farm, house, agricultural machinery and vehicles, and with my law practice, agriculture and journalism. We supported the social and grassroots work of the peasants in the region.
Due to my work with the campesinos (local peasant farmers), I was accused of being an ideologue of the guerrilla movement. The local police commander, and later a paramilitary group called “Death to Kidnappers” (referring to the guerillas), began to persecute me and threaten me on a regular basis.
In March 1988, the Colombian National Army and the police joined forces to raid our home. The death threats increased. Our friends avoided us. Living there became unbearable. Because of the death threats, we found ourselves forced to move to the nearby city of Cartagena, losing everything we had acquired with our labor.
There in Cartagena, we received hospitality from one of my uncles, who opened his home to us. In his patio, with support from the Mennonite church, we built a dwelling to reside in while the storm passed.
But the situation of a displaced person, whether displaced internally or internationally, is quite difficult. You are leaving behind your territory, friends, family members, job, belongings, culture, contacts and good name. Additionally, you enter an unknown territory, which is threatening and inhospitable; a world full of prejudice and stigmas.  
From being considered an upright person, suddenly, you are suspected of terrorism and criminality which creates great fear among your neighbors. You enter into an environment of fear, not only due to your displacement, but because all the people surrounding you—your friends, relatives, and churches—all fear that they may be mistaken for or pointed out as the enemy and declared “military objectives,” threatened and hurt.
The fear impregnated in others is what most affects the person who is displaced as it paralyzes those people and hinders hospitality and solidarity. Many church people want to be hospitable, but they have families, small children, debts, and mortgages, and are afraid of endangering their lives and threatening the stability of those who depend on them. They say that if they were alone, they would give their lives to help, but in these conditions, it would be irresponsible of them and unfair to their children.
In July, 1989, we arrived once again in Bogota, beaten down, but not defeated, a displaced and threatened couple with four children. We arrived in a city affected by terrorism, full of the living dead begging at every intersection, boys and girls abandoned in the streets, the threat of crime, surrounded by areas of racist and discriminatory poverty.
The central government had used the excuse of war to suppress most civil liberties and ordered raids and arbitrary detentions each day in the city and in the country. Distrust and fear reigned in the city. The ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu said, “War is the art of deceit,” to which American politician Hiram Johnson famously added, “where truth is the first victim.” This makes it difficult to believe in someone and even to believe in God.
Shelter and welcome
However, today my family and I are alive thanks to the decisive action by a group of people belonging to the Teusaquillo (Bogota) Mennonite Church, headed by pastor Peter Stucky. Although they had young children and people under their responsibility, they overcame fear of stigmatization and of being declared supporters of the guerrillas, and organized themselves to offer inclusive hospitality that sheltered us and gave us enough energy to awaken our power of resilience and to recover.
It is when we practice these acts of hospitality that the damnation of Sodom is broken and the beautiful phrase of Jesus becomes reality; “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, ...Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it for me” (From Matthew 25: 35-40 NRSV).
But it did not end there with the assistance to one family who were members of the church. The concept of inclusive hospitality expanded. No one was excluded and there was always a place for the stranger, the traveler and those who suffer. Inclusive hospitality opened the doors of the church and created an entire ecclesiastical ministry to support hundreds of displaced people who arrived fleeing their lands after losing their belongings and their hope. “The refugee [or displaced person] is the living messenger of misfortune, bringing with him the image, smell and taste of the tragedy of war, genocide, slaughter, and abandonment of their home because of violence.” (Javier Jurado, member of the Arjal Association, and initiative of philosophy students).
For many years, this ministry of the Teusaquillo Mennonite Church has functioned in Bogota. Hundreds of people have been assisted and comforted. From there, dozens of displaced people have been sponsored by the Canadian Mennonite church and today enjoy a new and tranquil life in that country. This ministry also expanded to the city of Quito, Ecuador, which receives hundreds of Colombians who flee the country seeking refuge.
It involves great risk to create, initiate, and maintain a ministry such as this, open to any person regardless of where they come from, what they believe, what political ideology they have, whether their persecutors are guerrillas or paramilitaries. Sometimes, members of the congregation stop attending. However, we are convinced of the coherence between the mandate of Jesus and the right of asylum. The community is strengthened and new leaders emerge open to hospitality.
It is gratifying to be a historic, Anabaptist peace church where no refugees will protest to God for being denied entry, and like Job we can say, “I have never turned away a stranger but have opened my doors to everyone” Job 31:32, NLT).
[Ricardo Esquivia Ballestas is a member of the Colombian Mennonite Church, with more than 45 years of experience in peacebuilding from a community and ecclesial base. He directs Sembrandopaz (Planting Seeds of Hope) and works with returned communities in the Colombian Caribbean. This was first published in Courier/Correo/Courrier, the magazine of Mennonite World Conference, April, 2016. Used by permission.] 

Where Have All the Pioneers Gone?

Gideon Yutzy
Hutchinson, KS

It is possible to have a fulfilling career working in an RV factory. It is possible to live happily in a comfortable home with a backyard and an attached two-car garage. And it is possible to experience joy by devoting the prime of one’s life to paying for a property, working from 8 to 5, and raising children.
But are we all supposed to do that?
Let me be clear: One could do much worse than devoting the prime of one’s life to raising a family. Procreation—it’s one of the fundamental responsibilities the Creator assigned to our race. My question is not whether raising a family in an established, safe community is an honorable vocation. My question is whether it should be our uncontested default. My question is whether we couldn’t, at least occasionally, raise families in other contexts.
Exactly half a century ago, William McGrath, who was serving at Faith Mission Home in Virginia, wrote this: “The Amish and Mennonite people have had to move many times during their history because of persecution or to find new land for farming or better places to witness for their Lord. One cannot find any perfect place in this old world, but there are many reasons why it is not best to just live all huddled together in over-crowded communities when there are so many other places which need a simple, plain Christian witness.”
Though he always made amends, William McGrath committed his share of mistakes during his illustrious life. Why hold him up as an example?
Because, like a soldier in the trenches, William faced more pitfalls than people who stay in their musty enclaves. Consider what Aristotle said: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” Make no mistake, even front line soldiers have access to abundant resources that can keep them from falling. Pioneers are not given license to sin. But could it be that they are more likely to do so than people who float downstream? And are those floating downstream especially antagonistic toward those who flounder while swimming upstream?
For all his shortcomings, William McGrath never shrank from obstacles. He was a visionary leader whose death last August could have marked the end of the pioneer era. It could have—I hope it didn’t. I hope you will carry on his baton. I hope I will. I hope we all will continue pondering what it means to live well, what it means to uproot ourselves from our enclaves.
Throughout his life, William McGrath played a major role in starting communities in Costa Rica, Ireland, and Virginia (Faith Mission Home). Most likely, our resumes won’t look like his when we die. But that won’t matter. It will only matter that we kept our dreams alive. And if you think that sounds vacuous and New Age, remember that every person who ever made a contribution to our world started by having a dream.
Give the grave only bones, wrote Jon Acuff in his poem, The End. Only bones, nothing more. Only our bones, because we will have invested, used, and spent everything else in the Kingdom of the Heavens.
All people, with the possible exception of hermits, have two things in common. They have a sphere of interaction and they impact the people there. Based on these two things, profile and impact, we can further divide all people in to four general categories.
First, there are low-profile, low-impact people; video-game addicts are the classic example of this group. Second, there are high-profile, high-impact people; from recent times, specific examples include Dallas Willard and N.T. Wright. Third, some people are high-profile but low-impact (not to mention any names, but think politicians in general). And last but not least, some people are low-profile but high-impact, such as caretakers of handicapped people.
Whether we have a low profile or—God forbid—a high one, we are all unified by one desire: to belong in a high-impact category. But how?—that is the question.
First, we must pray. Prayer involves listening—to God and to the challenges of our times. In praying we should ask one question with regularity: What are the core issues we face today? Prayer also includes meditation. By taking the words of other high-impact people, by both ruminating on them and practicing them, we ourselves can also make an impact.
Second, to reiterate an earlier point, we must have dreams. To stop dreaming about fresh ways of living in God’s universe is to slap Him in the face. And even if our dreams should be quashed a thousand times, we must always rise, like Phoenix from the ashes, and embrace new ones.
Third, we must not abandon our dreams once we are living them. Ironically, the experiencing of dreams can have a certain mundaneness about it, an ache that one does not foresee. But consider plants. The most crucial period of growth happens when they stay in one place. Later, the Husbandman can transplant His botanical prizes to serve even greater purposes elsewhere. But only when He sees the plants are up to it.
And now for the ending caveat: Being a pioneer will not always mean having a high profile. Nor does it always mean uprooting oneself to live abroad. Observing what takes place in a one-mile radius from home often teaches us more than does travelling the world. In fact, many effective pioneers never venture far from the area where they were born.
“You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” These words are from a popular children’s book written by Dr. Seuss. They portray reality, but only partially so; once we have pointed ourselves in a noble direction, we must also walk the path before us.
May God’s wisdom direct us to a good path and may His stamina help us walk to its fulfilling end.

Accepting Jesus

Aaron Lapp
Kinzers, PA

Splitting hairs is for preachers or writers. Anything a bit controversial is soon said by some people to be splitting hairs. Splitting hairs carries the idea of being a matter of no concern for thinking people—when the facts should simply be taken to be facts. We realize that concepts given without forethought usually aren’t worthy of serious afterthought.
The Sunday morning sermon comes through with the benefits of accepting Christ. The Sunday School teacher also emphasizes everyone’s need to accept Jesus. The evangelist has it straight from the Bible, putting out the call to accept Jesus Christ as Savior. This is often declared to be of primary importance.
What do we mean when we declare the Gospel’s invitation to all people everywhere to be saved by accepting the Lord Jesus? Can we assume that those who hear it for the first time or even for the fourth time surely are clear as to what is meant by the invitation? Accepting Christ is said to be the means of being assured of heaven. It is the answer to our fears, our experiences of defeat, or our persistent struggle against sin.
A form of the word “believe” is used more often in the Gospel of John than in any other New Testament book. Jesus used it many times in His teaching.
The crisis element in Jesus’ preaching (and consequently then the Apostles later) was on whether or not people would believe on Christ. We appreciate the apostles’ frequent use of believing on the name of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the book of Acts. It is spiritually uplifting, even exciting, to see how freely and how often they mention the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “And his name through faith in his name, hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (Acts. 316).
Between Acts 2:21 and Acts 9:29, Jesus’ name is specified 20 times! All four Gospel writers record Jesus’ use of His own name. Jesus spoke about Himself, giving instructions how to exercise our sonship, saying we shall do “in his name” for seven straight times in John 14:13 to John 16: 23! We could use the name of Jesus Christ more often—myself included.
We started out with noting that the emphasis by our Lord and the Apostles was largely a proposition to believe on Jesus Christ the Lord.
It can also be discovered that the words “receive” and “received” with the root receive are akin to accept or accepting. There are several verses that indicate the possibility of receiving Christ Jesus as Savior. But the word “receive” as a root word most often has its use limited largely to receiving the Holy Spirit, or receiving our inheritance, or receiving each other as brothers in Christ, or receiving some benefit from God.
But it came as a surprise to me that the word accept as a root word along with derivatives does not have one verse saying that we can or should accept Jesus as our Savior. In most cases, it is God accepting us in Christ and not, as we affirm by standard preaching and teaching, having us accept Christ as our Savior.
We may, sure enough, be clear in our minds when we thus invite the saints and sinners to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We know what we mean, and how it is supposed to come about. However, there likely have been persons in our audience who had no idea what we have in mind when we speak in such terms. Unsaved people could assume that since they aren’t rejecting Jesus they then must have accepted Him quite long ago.
Could it be that we have borrowed the “easy believism” from non-Anabaptists who themselves have for a long time called on people “to come forward and accept Jesus as their Savior”? Big meetings report how many people were “saved,” ranging from hundreds to thousands, who have accepted Christ. This is not to conclude that none of those are truly saved from sin and have qualified for Jesus’ invitation to be born again and bear new fruit.
No. Our point is that “accepting Jesus” may be more falling in line with popular movements than it is with New Testament emphasis. New Testament emphasis is about believing on Jesus concerning His death and resurrection, that He is Lord. Jesus Himself has stated clearly the timeless call to believing Him and His words as synonymous. Our Lord also linked believing on Him with doing what He commands. It is integrally connected with Lordship.
John writes that “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him. To them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:11, 12). Not receiving Jesus meant rejecting Him, whereas the receiving intended by the writer was to receive with the intent to follow through with life change and standard discipleship.
Maybe it is more or less what we have in mind when we speak of accepting Jesus. Modern Christianity makes broad use of the term and beyond that, whatever you do with it is largely up to the individual. One’s options after “accepting Jesus” can depend on who your pastor is, or what church you happen to be attending, or what occurs in the mind of the individual who says he accepts Christ.
Some churches do not have membership. The pastor in one church where we visited, said, “If you are here most Sundays, then you should consider this as your church and do your part in helping us meet the church’s budget.” Oh, bother! Some people may say to themselves, “I thought If I accept Jesus then I can do as I please about whatever.”
“Accepting Jesus” can be largely about me. I do it when I want to do so, how it suits me, without being put upon by others. Whereas believing in Jesus becomes more of His proposition for our personal life, linking us to the Lord Jesus and at the same time joining us to others who believe in Him for salvation.
The Bottom Line is that a renewed biblical use of believing in God is to likewise believe on His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible has it that God accepts us in Christ. As we have believed God, so we also are called on to believe in Jesus for salvation. He then accepts us. The Bible puts it where it clearly belongs, without splitting hairs.

Idolatry: Making Sense of an Outmoded Sin

Cory Anderson
Millersburg, Ohio

In the West, idols of stone, wood, and metal are obsolete. Yet their protégé lives. But what are they? What do they look like? Where is idol worship today?
The oft-repeated, contemporary definition of idolatry is anything that comes between God and a person, or, something revered, worshiped, or adored other than God. So, in accord, people warn against or confess idolizing vehicles, houses, businesses, and gadgets—basically, anything. The definition is so broad and abstract that it is of little use. That is dangerous if idolatry is indeed a narrowly defined, specific sin that is being overlooked.
Idolatry today is misrepresented because we see the stone, wood, and metal idols of old as nothing more than objects created from earth’s elements. Consequently, we figure that today’s idols must also be something—anything—tangible. What is missing from modern-day reinterpretations of idolatry is that idols are human depictions (or creatures with human-like attributes). They are “images.”
Idols and images represent human likenesses, that is, idols are actually a mirror of what a culture views as the perfect self. Idols are therefore a reminder and focal point of the ideals for which worshippers should strive to achieve perfection. For example, war gods are commonly worshipped in belligerent cultures (e.g. Thor in ancient Scandinavia, Mars in ancient Rome), while goddesses of love and fertility—“mother goddesses” as they are aggregately known—are common among cultures promoting free relations. These gods represent human views of perfection; Thor and Mars are bold and strong, beyond human comparison, while mother goddesses are matchlessly beautiful.
From whence do idols come? Idols come into existence as a culture’s aspirations for self-improvement deviate from the Lord’s ideals for men. When idolaters call upon their gods, what they are doing is mustering all efforts to realize their god’s standard of perfection, which they believe will provide deliverance. But the god’s standard of perfection is only a human standard. The Lord made man in His image. Man’s state today is fallen from that perfected image. Christ exemplifies the restored perfection of man. Men commit idolatry when they swap out Christ for images of human-derived perfection. Put another way, idolatry is a recasting of God’s perfected image of man into a manmade mold.
In today’s culture, many depictions of manmade perfection exist. The most pervasive is “the celebrity”: gladiators, musicians, actors, politicians, technology innovators, and models, to name a few. And yet, while celebrities themselves worship Western ideals, they are not themselves the idol, not the image. Today’s idol worshippers do not bow before flesh-and-blood humans, but rather what ideals of perfection are depicted in the image (the idol). Models, singers, gladiators, and politicians come and go, but the image remains. What is worshipped, what is emulated, is the perfected humanness depicted in the image. After several evening visits in person with a celebrity, the average fan will likely tire of them, even becoming annoyed (many celebrities can’t stand themselves!). In person, they are just not what they seem to be in the images. But spruced up, smiling, and looking good for the cameras, celebrity idols stand before millions of viewers who sop up ideals of perfected humanness.
Similarly, religions today with statues do not worship the physical statutes themselves—which can be swapped out when needed—but rather the perfected ideals they present. Hindus bow down to statues, but they are adamant that they are not worshipping the physical statue. The Buddhists, who meditate in temples with Buddha statues, concur: they are not worshipping the statues. The worshippers of Bel, Dagon, Diana, and Ashtoreth likely differed little on this point. And yet, these images—like the images of celebrities—are idols because they depict manmade paths to human perfection. Worship of these alternatives, as represented in images, is idolatry.
Although worship of manmade perfection is the ultimate offense of idolatry, the image is a necessity. Images validate ideals of perfection. While yesteryear’s images were statues, today’s appear on screens and paper. Western society has not advanced to the point where portraying ideal human states through images is obsolete. Rather, the medium of imagery has changed, from stone statues to photographs and moving pictures.
The ability for humans to create images has surged exponentially. Analog and now digital technology has inundated the globe with idols. Not only are today’s people bombarded with image after image of human perfection—on highway signs and posters, on screens, and in magazines and papers—humans can now drown themselves in self-manufactured images with new consumer technologies. The far-reaching consequence of the digital camera is that it overcame the limits inherent to film cameras and video recorders: 24 shots per roll, two hours of footage per VHS tape, and film developers who see (and censure) photos. The far-reaching consequence of the cell phone camera is that an image can be sent to anyone, setting images instantly before others’ eyes. No wonder image nudity is reaching unfathomable levels, if anyone can now create and disseminate pictures that have transfixing power over the human psyche.
Just as mere mortals could never attain the perfection of idols past, so are today’s images depicting humans in unrealistic conditions. For example, when one’s picture is being taken, he makes a pose. A pose is a self-portrayal of an ideal state—a moment—that is unattainable beyond that moment, if even then. When the camera snaps, the model wants to radiate perfection to make the image attractive.
Camera setting options, lighting tricks, and computerized editing further enhances the unrealistic perfection of images. Even celebrities are incapable of attaining the ideals of their own mediated image. Graphic designers frequently use Photoshop to alter the photographs of models because the models cannot measure up. Add to this the addictive, mind-transfixing nature of glowing digital images flickering at 100 images a second and you have a more commanding idol image than ever before. These modern images—just as lifeless as an artist’s completed stone idol—are all the more godlike because of how realistically they are portrayed. In spite of this realism, the viewer is still blocked from interrelating with these images, intensifying the longing for achieving its perfection since its flaws are unknown.
Each culture has its own idols of perfection. America has its fair share; many are characteristic of the independents, the loners, the mavericks, the “cool” and rebellious, and, above all else, the self-made man, whose determination brought fortune-and-fame, from rags to riches, who now has the means to live life for fun and pleasure. The idealized American is young, a hero who heads out West to be his own man, hitting the highway alone, or trying his chances in Hollywood or New York City. The maverick is celebrated because he belongs to nobody. He has his own code of conduct and law, not bound by rules and regulations, a disregarder of convention, especially gender conventions, like the cowgirl. With this idol profile, is it any wonder Americans so thoroughly enjoy making images of themselves? The “selfie” (an impromptu picture of oneself), as well as photos of “me and my friends,” “me and my family,” or “me and my pet,” epitomize the idolatry of self-worship, matching America’s self-determination ideal to a tee.
Idolatry involves more than an image indicative of a perfect human state; it also includes paraphernalia and worship activities. In ancient idol worship, followers were said to have followed “the cult of [god].” Today, movies, celebrities, teams, and such are said to have “cult followings.” The actual worship of an ancient or modern god is not much different (though we believe we are more civilized). Followers emulate an idol’s look, temperament, talk, and mannerisms. They surround themselves with the paraphernalia of idol worship: special garments, special foods and diets, chants, romance, incenses, and, of course, multiple replicas of the image. Idolatry involves behaviors and symbols of loyalty.
Thus, when one says he worships a vehicle, house, business, or gadget, what he has identified are worship behaviors and paraphernalia associated with a cult, tools to achieve the image’s perfection. To forsake idolatry, one must indeed lay aside the worship, as it underpins cult activity, but one must also reject the images and the perfected state of humanity they represent to be free.
In summary, idolatry is not the worship of inanimate objects; idolatry is to set before our eyes, fixate upon, and strive toward images that depict an ideal state of human existence at the expense of the perfection of Christ. The similarities between idol worship today and of times past include the worship of the perfected human state, the need for an image to depict this state, and the use of idol-specific behaviors and paraphernalia in worship. The main difference is that modern man’s capacity to fashion images alternative to Christ’s perfection has multiplied and enhanced: print images are pervasive; digital screen images are endless.
In conclusion, idolatry is not the only sin we face, but it does make the difference between a path toward or away from God. No wonder it is the subject of the first two of the Ten Commandments, as well as untold admonishments from the Bible. What is alarming is that the availability of idols and their worship has intensified, has become so common that it has become difficult to recognize idolatry for what it is. With the proliferation of images of America’s idols today—both pictures and motion pictures—plain Anabaptist churches have the day-to-day challenge of routing this unwelcome invasion. Idolatry is a predictable outcome for the one who is a consumer in today’s image-producing industry, which anymore is difficult to escape, let alone choose to reject. Victory comes by (1) curtailing our consumption and production of people pictures and videos, especially the digital, screen-based ones, (2) withdrawing from the cult behaviors of America’s idols, and (3) strengthening the church as it guides members into the pure image of Christ.

God is Still on the Throne!

Nat Yoder
Santiago, Costa Rica

Some time ago the brethren in Santiago, Costa Rica, acted on a vision to distribute 101 Favorite Bible Stories in schools in southern Costa Rica. Christian Aid Ministries donated the books and Mt. Zion Literature facilitated the shipping to Costa Rica. This article is reprinted from the December, 2015, MZL Newsletter, by permission.

Let me start by telling everyone I have a new respect for Jesus feeding the five thousand. When 125 cartons of 101 Favorite Bible Stories arrived on two pallets, it didn’t look like a big deal. But loading over 500 books at a time into your car and going from classroom to classroom giving little speeches and personally handing books to 5,000 children is a lot of work.
We began by dividing the youth girls of our church into two groups which alternated each week. Leaving our place at 7 A.M., we could pass out around 600 books per day. At first everything went smoothly. I would tell the guard at the school gate what we were doing, and he would take us to the school director’s office.
On our second week of distribution we met the first school director who wouldn’t let us in without a permit from the regional school director (her superior). I was pretty sure this was an excuse. The director claimed she could lose her job by letting us in without a permit, and she wasn’t about to have that happen.      
On our third week we met another director who would not let us in. He was adamant that what we were doing was illegal and that we would get into trouble for it. I felt a little troubled, but at the same time I couldn’t understand why a dozen or more schools had already allowed us in if it is that serious.
I have a good friend who is a district director, so I decided to consult him about our “illegal book distribution.” He responded, “Yes, Nat, what you are doing isn’t right. You really need a special permit from the regional director.”
A month passed. Phone calls yielded no permit. Every now and then I would remember those stacks of books in the warehouse and my stomach would ball up at the thought of not getting anywhere. Two months of precious time passed. I remember crying out a couple of times, “God, what is Costa Rica coming to that we have so much difficulty even giving your Word away?”
I decided to try a different contact. Through a friend of a friend I found out about another director at a larger school who was willing to help me. Olivier agreed to arrange a meeting with the regional director. The regional director told us he could not give us a written permit, but neither would he deny us the privilege of visiting individual schools. If the school director gave us permission, he would respect their decision.
Thank You, Jesus! While it wasn’t the permit we were hoping for, at least we could continue our operation!
We had started distribution in our local communities, but since Olivier was anxious for us to visit his school, I decided to deliver to his school next. We visited his school on a Friday before a midterm vacation for all public schools in Costa Rica. It took a couple of hours to distribute the books to everybody in his school since there were over 200 children.
When we were ready to leave, I returned to Olivier’s office to thank him again. As I shook hands and wished him a happy school vacation, he asked if I had a minute for him. He pulled out a chair for me and said, “You wished me a happy vacation but I am not happy. I don’t know what I am going to do. I am expecting my wife to divorce me any day, and I would like to talk to you about it.” Since we needed to get to another school, I arranged to meet him at a coffee shop the next day.
The next morning, we met at 7 o’clock and talked until after noon. The poor man cried and shared his terrible problems with anger. He was fearful he might kill himself, or someone else in an angry moment.
I said, “Olivier, what I am about to say is intense and to the point, but it’s what I sense God laying on my heart. The type of anger you are describing is often a symptom of a deeper problem that stems from a heart of iniquity. Are you free from immorality?”
There was a very quiet moment and I was not sure what would happen next. Either a dam was going to break, or he was going to clam up and deny. Then he began shaking and the tears began to flow. “Nat,” he said, “I am a big time failure. I have been bound by immorality for as long as I can remember.”
He continued, “I don’t know why I am sharing this. In the last few months I have considered asking for a meeting with some pastors in town, but I never did. For some reason I sensed they are living just like me! I felt like they had nothing to offer me!”
By then I was crying too as I began to understand that God had ordained the delays and difficulties we had been through to get the books distributed. God had arranged the circumstances and the timing to the perfect day and hour for me to meet with Olivier.
After that meeting with Olivier, the distribution went like a breeze. Several large schools contacted me to ask us to come to their school next. Several schools were excited to the point of wanting to serve us lunch! It appears doors are opening up to distribute 101’s to all the public schools in southern Costa Rica.  
As for Olivier, I have mentored him for several months. He has repented from his immoral life and has cut ties with lascivious groups. He is taking responsibility in his home and school. He now understands that he is the spiritual covering and protection of his family and the school. He used to spend hours during the night calming his four-year-old daughter from her bad dreams, but now he reads a chapter to her each evening from 101 Favorite Bible Stories. She brings the book to him at bedtime and says, “Daddy, every night that you read from this little book, I don’t have to worry about having nightmares!”
Friends, God is still on the throne!