Men's Conference on Pursuing Genuine Biblical Revival

May 5 & 6, 2017

Theme: "Capture Our Hearts Again!"

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Ray Ortlund
Pastor of Immanuel Church (Acts 29 plant in Nashville, TN)
President of Renewal Ministries
Regional Director of Acts 29 Network
Formerly Assoc. Prof. of OT & Semitic Languages @ Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL)
Council Member & regular blogger at The Gospel Coalition
Author of commentaries and many books including Isaiah: God Saves Sinners in the Preaching the Word Series Commentary Series, When God Comes to Church: A Biblical Model for Revival Today, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ in the 9 Marks Building Healthy Churches Series and most recently Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel.

Pre-Conference Workshop - 2 Sessions (Content to be released soon)

Special Guest Speaker: Dr. Tom Schreiner
James Buchanan Harrison Prof of New Testament Interpretation, Professor of Biblical Theology and Associate Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY)
Author of many commentaries and books including The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law, The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance; The King in His Beauty, and Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament Series.

Registration opens soon at

Hosted by:
Union Lake Baptist Church
8390 Commerce Road
Commerce, MI 48382

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Lord's Day in Paraiso

Roca Viva is in Paraiso (par ah EE so), a small town lined with homes and business that are just a few feet from the road and nearly on top of each other and with gated front courtyards. Roca Viva has a rollup garage door that open up to a ceramic tiled sitting area with a couch and couple of chairs. You then enter through a glass entry door (similar to the one we enter into at Berean) and find yourself in a that is not quite as big as the old sanctuary. The back corner isn't available for seating as there are two bathrooms that take up that space. In the corner opposite the bathrooms you find the pulpit, small projector & screen, and about as five or six foot wooden cross with spikes nailed into the place where the Savior's hands and feet would have been. So, if you can picture it...when you share from the pulpit you have to pan your eyes left and right as there are two distinct sitting areas due to the layout of the room. We were greeted warmly by the Ticos. Lots of handshakes, hugs and fake cheek kisses (that's what I call them).

The church filled up so that we stood in the back as The service began with Cam doing the opening along with a song. Then an older saint, Esther (reminded me so much of Alice Oke), praised God for his abundant blessings. Next up was Elias to share an emotional testimony of how his father always pointed him to Jesus...until one day he turned away from his sins and did just that. He took us through his journey of acting like a believer for a while, his tumultuous relationship with Shanna, his "plan" to fix his problems by going to church with her, and God's mercy in bringing him to into relationship with the Savior. It was a beautiful story told in an endearing and emotional way.

After some more singing, it was Joshua's turn to share his testimony. Now Joshua is a quiet, reserved man (or so I thought). He shared this globetrotting adventure of running after worldly success, taking him to the sands of Dubei "for the money." God had different plans. Joshua was ushered to the States and into relationship with his Redeemer. I wish you all could have seen this soft-spoken guy turn into a Spirit-filled preacher as he shared what God had done in his life, transforming him into a useful vessel. At one point during his testimony, the glass entry door that I mentioned above fell off of its hinge. Thankfully Dennis caught it as it would have injured a child walking through the entryway at the time. I later told Joshua I thought that the door blew off by the power of the Spirit that was working through him during his testimony.

I followed Joshua, which was a tough act to follow. I said as much to the congregation: "I thought I was supposed to preach this morning?!" What happened next was one of the most powerful events in my life. I had prepared to preach Ephesians 4:1-16. I love to preach. I love the study of the Word of God that precedes the preaching, engaging with the text, struggling with it to find the flow of the argument, figuring out how it fits in its context, searching for how the gospel is the interpretive key, etc. What has been a struggle for me, however, is that I am invariably too tied to my notes. I manuscript my sermons and then am afraid to leave the manuscript. Well, as I said, I had pages and pages of notes on these 16 verses. The Holy Spirit had a different idea. I began to preach and felt a freedom in preaching that I had never experienced up to that point. I never got beyond the first few verses. God moved me to expound upon humility, gentleness, patience, and burden bearing by defining these beautiful character qualities and pointing to Jesus Christ and how he super-abudantly displayed them...and that our holy living can only occur by trusting, believing and being changed by how he had already lived these traits out perfectly. For example, how could I treat others as different less than myself when Jesus left the glories of heaven and humiliated himself, lowering himself to be as one of his creatures so that he might be murdered...all so that he could buy back a worthless, sin-ridden enemy like me? I felt used of God to lift up Jesus so that all men might be drawn to him that morning. And let me be clear, none of the good that came from that sermon was from me. But it was so encouraging that I was able to use God's gift to me in a way I had never done before. It confirmed in me my desire to preach. Jeff Cady was such an encouragement to me afterwards as he got right up in my face and said, "You've been given the gift of passion. Use it wisely."

Later that day, I preached the same text to the start-up church which meets at the camp. Dennis Brose preceded me by sharing his salvation testimony again with an evangelistic emphasis. I love this guy and what was God was clearly doing in his life during the trip. Pray for this young church. I'm not sure how sustainable it is as it is made up of mostly teenagers. There appears to also be a need of discipleship and unity among the leadership of the church.

Pray that we made an eternal impact in Costa Rica.

In Christ,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fellowship in the Gospel...Part 3

Following a brief break, we were staring the final conference session in the face. We couldn't believe after all of the planning and thinking and praying and was nearly over. But not yet. God still had work to do. A few of us huddled around Brad to pray for his part in the final session. We also prayed for Chuck, who would precede him. It's amazing how prayer works. God indeed hears the cries of His saints. He wants us to rely on Him, cast our concerns on Him, and ask Him for help. We learned that lesson again on this trip. Many, many seasons of rich prayer. I've spoken before about a "culture of prayer," and that is what we developed on this trip. Someone was constantly encouraging the others to pray for someone or some activity. We prayed in airports, on shuttle buses, for Ticos who had big decisions to make, for men who were sharing testimonies or giving devotionals or teaching or preaching, over the Woolfords, for the Ticos by name, for our families, for each other, for deliverance from sin, for sanctification, for conversions, for God to take our feeble efforts to please Him and make them beautiful, powerful, and eternal. It's unbelieveable how connected you get to God when you talk to Him and how he does "far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20) (Thanks for reminding me of this verse, Chuck).

It was time to begin again. As Chuck approached the small, hollow, square platform and went behind the podium which was strange by our standards (reminded me more of a small changing table), I remembered asking Chuck weeks before to give a testimony about marriage. It would be related to our third and final teaching session on how God gives power through the gospel for us to transform the way we live. Brad would continue our teaching in Ephesians, so it seemed only appropriate to use Ephesians 5:25ff as a springboard for someone to speak on gospel conduct fleshed out within the marriage relationship. Who else would I ask? Chuck is the oldest member of our team and been married the longest. He's a grandfather many times over. I can only imagine the lessons God had taught him in his years with Jan. Who else would I ask to testify about how God gives a man power to live with his wife in a way that is worthy of his calling? So I watched and listened as Chuck began his testimony. He started the way I have seen him start so many times: with a joy-filled spirit and a love for making much of God. After some introductory remarks, he initially said that he was going to have Cameron stop interpreting as he was going to speak of an area of struggle and wanted to shield it from his Berean brothers. However, the Spirit of God directed him to be transparent with us as well. He spoke of his sin, of the truism that your sin will find you out, and of his gracious helpmate, his wife, and her respectful and loving confrontation that led to deliverance through Christ. Quite simply, the men were awestruck at God's mercy to Chuck. I was blown away and was praising God for His greatness and providence. I could not think of a better message to share about gospel conduct in our setting. Not to mention that it was an area that is all too common of a struggle in Costa Rican marriages. Of course, I had no advanced knowledge of what Chuck would specific lesson he would share. God be praised!

Blessings followed blessings. God helped Brad as he taught on the theology that undergirded Chuck's testimony. Brad taught on the fact that Christians win the spiritual war in which they are engaged in the same way they came to the Savior: through admitting their sin and impotence to God, repenting over trusting in their own strength, and asking God (and believing God) to empower them to live in a right manner because their Savior already did. Brad shared a testimony within his session to demonstrate this fact. He testified to the sanctifying help that God has gave him due to an accountability group that upon hearing of his struggles and failures directs him to the hope and power found in the resurrected Messiah. As I said, God hears the cries of his saints. This session was evidence of that fact. We came down to Costa Rica with a primary goal of unpacking gospel-centrality as a way of teaching, thinking and living to the end that the Ticos would be transformed by the power of that gospel. Only believers that strive after further transformation from above can be effective kingdom leaders men. Pray that the Costa Rican church and the families which make it up will be radically changed as a result.

Let me also say a word about the structure of the conference. We could not have accomplished what we accomplished without God working through Brad. I had some grandiose themes running through my head in the early days, but Brad suggested that we simplify it to (1) gospel essence, (2) gospel truths, and (3) gospel behavior (following the model of Mike Bullmore's teaching on the functional centrality of the gospel (get a free download of Bullmore's very short article or listen to his explanation of it here). This was just the right structure for three sessions and exactly the kind of teaching upon which the original Fellowship in the Gospel Conference was based in May of last year (check out those conference talks here).

We were able to give the Spanish-translated books that we brought to Mario (pastor of new church located at the camp), Max (hoping to take over as pastor of Roca Viva), two other pastors, and some key guys that show the kind of dedication necessary to become future leaders within the church (Randall, Gustavo, Leo, Roy, Afredo and Freddy). Those books were: Grudem's Systematic Theology (Abridged), Mahaney's Cross-Centered Life, and Harris' Sex Isn't the Problem, Lust Is. Thanks to Elias finding this, we also gave each of them a music CD by Sovereign Grace Music.

The rest of the day consisted of Gringo-Tico soccer & basketball at the camp, followed by a swim in the freezing cold, yet refreshing inground pool. Later I continued preparing my sermon out of Ephesians 4, while Elias and Joshua put the final touches on their testimonies they would share at Roca Viva the next morning. This very full day concluded with one of the best seasons of prayer I've ever had. I have come to love each of these men in a deeper way than I had before this trip.

In Christ,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Fellowship in the Gospel International...Part 2

I had the greatest time in the word. Everyone was asleep in our cabin: Mike, Dennis, Joshua, and even Max. He is the lawyer who weants to take the pastorate of Roca Viva, but finances is the prime hinderance. He's a very funny guy, called me "his lawyer" and "my colleague." Well all these guys were sleeping (it was approaching 2am), and I had Mike's little flashlight. I was re-reading (for the 100th time) Ephesians Chapter 1 and scribbling down new insights that the Spirit was showing me from the text. I couldn't get enough. God's plan before time for blessing his church with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ...I was enthralled by the sheer beauty and mercy of it. God's will and pleasure is to give us truth after truth that springs from the gospel: chosen to be holy, adoption as sons, gift of the's no wonder Paul can't go very far in his exposition of these great truths without erupting into praise. These are the truths that I taught on in Conference Session 2: Gospel Truths that Transform our Minds. I felt carried along and inspired of the Spirit as I taught. His word, His direction in the Word, and His strength to share it with these beloved Ticos. God be praised! A funny point during my teaching was when I was saying that Ephesians Chapter 1 is so rich with gospel truths that it is like a kaleidoscope of colors swirling around. Cam looks at me and exclaimed, "You're killin' me! Kaleidoscope?!" He, of course, was translating and hadn't had a reason to know how to say that word. Thankfully, one of the Ticos told him it was "kaleidoscopa" as my hand gestures added no help...only made me look ridiculous!

Prior to my teaching session, the Lord really did a tremendous work in preparing us for the session. Max began with teaching a devotional from 1 Timothy about the responsibility of men to be spiritual leaders in their homes and churches. This was followed by our own Mike Mumford who shared a moving testimony about how God changed him from a man who identified himself by his career and devoted himself to a man who refused to accept an invitation to come back to that job which was lost earlier this year. He testified of his love for Christ and the delight it is to serve him as a leader in his home and church. The men were very much engaged with Mike's talk. One man asked him how he would make it without a job. Another man encouraged him with God's promises. It was moving and powerful.

[At the airport in San Jose...more later]

Fellowship in the Gospel International...Day 1

The day began with a sightseeing trip to the volcano (Irazu), Cameron's idea to go down a very steep and narrow road because he'd never gone that way before (no problem...just an overheated car, a slipping clutch and no cell phone signal), a trip to the market in San Jose, and stopping to at a print shop to make copies for the conference. Once we returned to camp, it was full on conference preparation. Cameron and our guys were setting up chairs and sound equipment. Brad and I were spending last minute changes to our teaching notes. Much prayer was going on throughout the day...actually throughout the week. We really felt that prayer was the only way we were going to do something for God and His people here.

A word about Cameron. To a man, we love this brother. He is dedicated, driven, loving, and sold out for building God's church. They started out in Ecuador, but God closed that door due to the health difficulties of their twins. He, along with his sweet wife Kerry, prayed for a place to minister with an altitude and climate that would permit their children to live healthily. God showed them Costa Rica...and they obeyed the call. He's really a delight to work with. He's always helping people and going, going, going. But he also likes to have fun with people whether it's playing soccer or enjoying spiritual--and sometimes hilariously funny--conversations with people. He shared with me that he "feeds" off of being around people. He's a true church-planter (pray for attorney who Cam hopes will take over Roca Viva soon)...and a visionary when it comes to missions strategy. Many conversations proved this out. Pray for this dear brother and his family.

Day 1 of the conference began with over 40 total men in attendance. Mike kicked us off with the Conference Opening, followed by Jeff Cady powerful testimony of God granting him power to change from a harsh father to a gentle leader and daddy for his two girls. I believe this testimony was used in a mighty way. What's a wonderful providence is that I asked weeks ago if one of the men had a testimony specifically regarding leadership that they would like to share and Jeff responded almost immediately. So he had been thinking about this well in advance. And God was moving in Tiko brothers (who generally have families that are falling apart) to receive such a hope-filled message. I personally will never forget the silence and attentiveness of the men as Jeff described how he asked his girls to forgive him for sinning against them...and how God honored and empowered his desire to love them like Jesus loves us.

The first teaching session was done by Brad. He focused on the essence of the gospel in Ephesians Chapter 2. He explained that our goal in the three sessions would be to begin with the gospel, followed by truths that flow out of the gospel, and conclude with power from the gospel and gospel truths to transform behavior. It was a delight to hear this message that has radically changed and powerfully enabled the men of our be brought to these men. What an honor to be the vessels to deliver an extraordinary message of hope and joy to these dear men. We also had the honor of presenting the good news of Jesus and His work over and over again to Christians and non-Christians alike. God answered so many prayers on this opening day. Pray that the gospel will bear fruit in the church in Costa Rica.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thursday...Part 2

We went back to Alfredo's again for a dinner party. The Ticos wanted to barbeque for us. We had shishkebob and some kind of sausage. It was really funny to watch how many guys had advice for how to cook the food. The old adage "Too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth" thankfully wasn't realized. Ironically, Elias ended up cooking a lot of the food. In the same outdoor patio area, we moved the tables all the way back and set up chairs in rows as many more people came than we expected, approximatley 25 men from teenagers to old of which were unsaved.

Doug shared a stirring testimony of three traumatic experiences that he believes God used as a "wake up call" so that he would start getting serious about growing in his faith and being a leader in his home and church. He shared the unbelieveable details of how he fell out of a tree stand some 25 feet up in a tree, miraculously not landing on his head but rather on his hip...the best place to land for that kind of fall. The doctors told him he wouldn't walk for a long time. They would be proven wrong. Though seriously hurt, God healed him in such a profound way that he was back hunting in that same treestand only three weeks later. True to his nature, Doug really connected with the men that were present. The language barrier wasn't a barrier at all. He pointed the men to a number of Scripture passages about how faith was to be proven by action (James), that God doesn't want luke warm Christians (Revelations), and that men of God are willing to perform the greatest of sacrifices in service to their Redeemer even to the point of sacrificing their only son (Genesis).

Doug was followed by Randall's testimony. Randall shared his radical conversion. From a serial adulterer and drug addict to a man that was confronted by a God who loves sinners even when there is nothing lovely about them. This was an incredible event as he had invited many of the men who were there to come and hear his story for the first time. Men were challenged by the good news that no one is too sinful to be beyond the reach of the loving power of Jesus Christ.

I wish everyone could have seen the evangelism that took place that night. There were conversations about the cross in pockets throughout the back yard and patio. I had the extraordinary pleasure of being used by God to speak to Adrian, one of Randall's friends that hand come. Adrian is a 24-year old man who was really affected by Randall's testimony. He spoke very good English and so I was able to speak clearly to him without the aid of a translator. Adrian

thanked me for our coming as Paraiso was in need of much help. I told him it was he that needed help, that he was in grave danger as he was getting closer, day by day, to an appointment with God. God who is getting more and more angry at his sin. I was able to share with him for some 30 minutes about he gift that was available to him in the perfect Jesus Christ dying as a Substitute. I urged him in the strongest of terms that he was in a desparate state and did not want to endure God's wrath and did not have to, if he would repent of his sin and trust in the Savior. Here's the part that was incredible...he thanked me and said, "No one has ever told me this before." Though he didn't repent that night. He heard the gospel. Pray that the Holy Spirit will bring conviction and repentance. Pray that God will save this young man from the wrath to come.

In Christ,


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Visiting Los Angeles Catholic Church (Basilica)

On Thursday us and a handful of guys from Roca Viva went to check out downtown Cartago. We walked through different shops and markets. I think we saw a bakery on almost every corner, Yum! One particular place we visited was the Los Angeles Catholic Church (Basilica). We walked into a mass service that was in progress. I saw men, women, and small children walking into the church and sprinkling water on their heads, then walk right back out in a carousel fashion. I was thinking to myself... What did that do for them? How many times have they done this? Do they possibly come every day? How many others in Costa Rica (and around the world) put their hope in this "sprinkling of the water"? Thank you Jesus for being the living water, the One who comes to bring salvation to His people through His shed blood on the cross.

The next few things that I saw BROKE my heart for the people in this church. I started to see men and women get down on their knees and slowly scoot (almost walking from knee to knee) up towards the front of the church. Some of the men that were with me saw this before and told me this was their "penance" and that they were doing this to bring payment for their sins. My jaw about dropped! I wanted to stand up and shout "Jesus paid it all, you can't pay for it yourself... believe and trust."

Finally we saw a statue of the Black Madonna (this wasn't the pop singer) known as La Negrita, who supposedly had great healing powers. The sick come to her statue in hope of a miracle from La Negrita. According to folklore in Costa Rica, the statue was found by an indigenous girl in 1635. She brought it home several times, but it mysteriously reappeared at its original site. The rock where she found it is now kept in a backroom in the basilica and is revered as a sacred relic and object of inspiration. It is common for people to touch the rock in reverence. Flowing just near this statue were streams of water where people would either splash some on a hurting part of their body or they would bring empty containers to fill and take home. According to Cameron, almost two million people from around the world flood this church on August 2nd every year to worship the statue.

In Leviticus 26:1 we read "“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God."

Hope to post more later,

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday...Another Full and Awesome Day (Part 1)

Thursday morning we headed over to Cam's church. Roca Viva is a very beautiful setting in Paraiso (pair ah EE so). We arrived to workers repairing the garage-door style entrance to what is the sanctuary. The morning's goal was to canvass downtown Paraiso with tracts and invitations to the evangelistic marriage seminar they would soon be hosting. We sat in the sanctuary and listened to Cam's instructions on which parts of the town each group would cover. Gringos were paired with Ticos and off we went...except for Brad and I who went into the lower level and put some finishing touches on our conference teaching notes.

About an hour and a half later, we walked around the block to Alfredo's Pizzeria where we would have lunch. Alfredo's wife is an interior designer and has helped her husband transform their home into a beautiful restaurant. We walked through the English cottage style front, gated front year, up a gently curved walkway and into the romantically decorated interior where we were greeted by Alfredo, his wife Mara, and to our surprise Kade and Carliotos (who work for Alfredo) as well. We were led into the backyard that consists of two separate, semi-private open-air dining areas covered by elegantly draped canopies. Underneath our room were four or five tables covered in white table cloths in the shape of an "L."

We were seated and awaited the specially prepared pizzas that would come. While we waited, Mike Mumford gave what I believe was the first devotional he has given publicly. He shared a wonderful lesson of how the believer in Jesus has spiritual resources at his disposal in the form of God Himself living inside him and that we ought to ask for increased filling and guiding of that Great Comforter each day. The talk was laced with the powerful, saving message of Jesus Christ. It was both a challenge and encouragement to the believers and a plea to repent to the few unbelieving Ticos who shared the meal with us. I couldn't help but think of how far Mike has come as a leader since the watershed Together for the Gospel Conference in 2006.

Well, the pizzas finally came...and kept coming one after the other until we all nearly slipped into a food coma. These pies had thin & crispy crust with all manner of delicious toppings, and were nearly enhaled by the men. I think it was a 6-way tie for who had the most slices. Why in the world was I worried about the food I would eat! We washed them down with glasses of good old Coca Cola made with real cane sugar. We also were given some lime-looking fruit that was a kind of guava. The real name of this fruit remain under debate to this day. Our all-knowing host, Cameron, told us is was one thing, was quickly challenged by the native Ticos, and was given still a third name by Joshua, who we now know grew up on a farm in India and is apparently an expert in all things fruit. Anyways, it was terribly bitter even with the pinch of salt we put on it after we pulled it in half to eat. What we have come to appreciate as Cameron's almost helpful timing, now came as he confessed he doesn't eat them (as we all had contorted faces from having just done so!).

Many, many conversations were being had and friendships formed by this point. Chuck has been masterfully engaging with various Ticos. Thankfully many of them spoke enough English where the rest of us could also meaningfully engage with them. For the rest, we would grab Cam or Chuck or even Dennis and get to know these dear men. I am reminded of Paul's sentiments toward his new Thessalonian friends,

"So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our won selves, because you had become very dear to us." 1 Thess. 2:8.

These sweet men have indeed become dear to us. There is not a man on the team that has not developed a deep affection for these Ticos. What is amazing about our coming to Alfredo's for this gathering is that just days prior Cam was going to rescheduled the venue as Alfredo (a fishing enthusiast) had scheduled a fishing expedition with some friends. Thankfully the Spirit of God moved in Alfredo to sacrifice a trip he had been looking forward to. His sacrifice extended to driving the others to their fishing destination before returning to make ready his restaurant for our arrival. Praise God that changes the heart of men who don't have a natural desire to serve him.
I'm a little behind in the blogging. I'll catch you up soon. The conference began last night: Testimony from Jeff Cady and Conference Teaching Session #1 by Brad. This morning will be a testimony from Mike followed by Conference Teaching Session #2 by me. After a break, Chuck will give a testimony followed by Brad teaching Sessoin #3. Pray for the gospel to take root and bear fruit. More later.
In Christ,

Soccer at the Orphanage

After a long day with our Tico friends, we headed out to the local orphanage for a soccer tournament that Cam arranged with one of his men, Leonardo (who works at the orphanage). Most of our Tico friends came to the tournament. Among those who played were Randall, Roy and Luis. We wheeled in some 30 soccer balls and a number of small toys for the orphans. We were told that these items would have to be given to the administration the following day as there are so many children, that giving these things out to just a few of them (that were at the tourney) would cause jealousy and strife. Giving these items was similar to the Christian's sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ often times. We have this gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ to share and usually we do not see the receipt of that gift. That was a helpful reminder to me: that God is rescuing people all over the world, and Christians are not promised that they will ever see the fruits of their work for God.

You may know that one of our team members, Dennis Brose, was a professional soccer player. Dennis was the "draw" for the tourney. He suited up in a shirt a little to tight for him, stretched his 40-something-year-old legs, and wowed the audience for the 7 minutes he played before tearing a calf muscle, sidelining him for the remainder of the evening. Randall, being a physical therapist, quickly came and confirmed the injury.

What was so great was that Dennis' real contribution to the evening was sharing his testimony of how soccer inevitably was not the satisfaction and fulfillment that his soul longed for...but that Jesus Christ and His saving love was (Dennis is seated toward left of picture with back toward you). The audience was captivated. It was a powerful testimony to this crowd of mostly children and young adults who love the game of soccer. They heard a man that reached heights of success that they could only dream of, and then heard him say they were nothing compared to knowing Jesus.

The most difficult part for me was getting to know a few of the orphans and to hear of their stories. There was an 11 year old boy, Jose-Daniel. He was a sweet boy that warmed right up to Dennis and I. I believe he was the boy that has 11 brothers and sisters, 4 of which are in the orphanage with him. The other two that broke my heart were Tatiana (left)and Carrie (right). They looked to be about 13 or 14. I was told that they were going to be leaving the orphanage presumably to live on the streets. The reason? To escape the sexual abuse at the orphanage. I was absolutely broken-hearted. Pray that the Lord will extend mercy to these young ones, protect them, and save them.

For the team,


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sunny Costa Rica?

So Cameron promised us 80 degrees and sun. Not exactly! I think it was about 55 degrees (significantly warmer than the water) on Tuesday. We got up and ate breakfast and then met 9 Ticos for a day of getting to know each other. We put our suntan lotion on (actually we put Jeff Cady's suntan lotion on) and went off to whitewater rafting (class3). We had 4 rafts, each with a guide in the back. My raft had Joshua, Elias, Mike, and Dennis. We nearly lost Dennis once, nearly lost our whole crew once, and had to get unstuck from about 10 different big rocks. Raft #2: Doug, Jeff Cady, Chuck, Brad and Randall. Cameron was in one of the remaining two rafts with the rest of our new Tico friends (e.g., one was nick-named Osso or "bear"). Everyone got soaked from the rapids and from the rival raft splashing. But only one actually went in the drink...our own Jeff Cady! The good part was that he lasted about 5 minutes before he went overboard. Apparently, he tried to take Doug in with him...but his cat-like reflexes kept him from being drug in.

After lunch, we then went zip lining (also known as canopying). We rode up in a 1977 full-sized Chevy SUV which was about the same width as the very steep and dirt road. When we got out, we were told there was a short hike to get to the top. It was 20-25 minutes of walking up primitive steps. Everyone was winded and needing a nap by the top. Platform to platform we zipped, some 13 lines in all. The 1st was very short (to build your confidence no doubt). The 2nd was the scary one...for me especially. After that we mostly got the hang of it and had a mixture of fear of heights and exhileration. The views were spectacular and it was quite an experience looking down on San Jose. God was good. He protected 273 "runs" or "zips." He also gave courage to a few of us that are fairly afraid of of which got a Roca Viva t-shirt as an emblem of that courage.

What was more important was the connection we made with the Ticos. We subsidized their trip as they wouldn't have been able to go otherwise. We were able to have many conversations and just plain old fun with them. Cam told us is was very important that we made this connections with them so that we might be able to minister them. One of the guys, Randall, told Cam this was the best day of his life. Cam explained that the men here just do not have a strong level of commitment to and fellowship with each other. Our spending a day with them displayed for them how Christian men ought to relate to one another.

Pray that these inital relationships open up doors for gospel ministry. More later.

In Christ,


We Made It!

It's Thursday morning and we're finally connected to the internet. We've been bursting with a desire to report on our first day! We have seen and done a lot already. First of all, both legs of the flight went off without a hitch. We flew Detroit to Dallas-Fort Worth, three hour layover, then Dallas-Fort Worth to San Jose, Costa Rica. Praise God. The only difficulty (which is hardly worth mentioning in light of the extraordinary blessings we have already experienced) was the airline leaving my main suitcase in Dallas (which is now recovered!). Cameron & the van driver, an unsaved man named Randall 2 (so designated to distinguish him from Cam's church member Randall). We drove south out of San Jose, through Cartago, through Pariaso ("Paradise" where Roca Viva, Cam's church is located) into Orosi in south part of the Orosi Valley. We arrived at the Camp, El Jardin Sagrado ("Sacred Garden"), late Tuesday night. It’s a beautiful place. All of the ceramic-tiled, small buildings (barracks) are surrounded by beautiful, flowering trees, palm trees, and fruit trees. There's a beautiful smallish river running along the back border of the camp. Just beyond the water are beautiful round-topped, lush green mountains with misty clouds encircling their peaks.

I’m rooming with Joshua, Mike & Dennis. Doug's rooming with Jeff Cady which shares a bathroom with Brad and Elias. Chuck is rooming with Randall 2 which is a good thing because Randall speaks no English and Chuck has proven to be an invaluable translater (You were right, John, your Dad is more fluent than he lets on!). We're sleeping on bunk beds (everyone sleeping on the bottom thankfully...not sure the top would take the weight of most of us!). If you remember back in 1999 when the men went to Brazil, the showers were hard-wired with electricity at the showerhead (which is why they're called Widow-Makers). Same thing here. When we step out our barracks we take just a few steps to a covered porch connected to the kitchen where we all sit for breakfast with 4 picnic tables line up end-to-end. Breakfast on Wednesday was scrambled eggs, fresh pineapple, rice-beans, some kind of "zip" sauce (our name for it) and fresh orange juice. And in case you were wondering, Starbucks has nothing on the coffee here. Thank you for my many friends who have prayed for my "food anxiety." Despite the fact that my granola bars were in the lost suitcase, I've enjoyed the gracious refreshment that has been provided to us.

We have already seen in our men relationships developing and men stretching themselves as they share testimonies and devotionals from the Scriptures. Wednesday was a day of fun, connecting with men from Cameron's church and unsaved men that tagged along. To give you a taste of that joy so far:

I encouraged the men at breakfast yesterday to remember that our work here is based on a connection between 1 Timothy 6:16 (God alone having immortality and dwells in unapproachable light) and 2 Timothy 1:10 declaration that Jesus Christ abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. Our trip has meaning and power because of this great work that Jesus has done.

Yesterday at lunch, Chuck shared a wonderful devotional (vast majority of which was in Spanish) for the benefit of the 9 Ticos (nick-name for Costa Rican men...Ticas are gals) at a local restaurant. It was a beautiful message out of Psalm 103. One particularly beautiful point he shared was that God redeems our lives from the pit, from destruction. Not one of us was unmoved by his exposition of God's steadfast love toward his children.

This morning Doug shared a brief testimony which was a foretaste of a longer devotional he will share tonight. He spoke on Jeremiah 4 and how God formed Jeremiah in the womb, chose him, prepared him to bring God's Word to the people, and then sent him to do it. It was a great blessing to see this man's man get up after breakfast and share this text and how it spoke to him so powerfully because he, like Jeremiah, needs God to enable him to speak truth to a crowd.

As I'm typing this, Joshua is sitting next to me in Central America studying his Bible written in Telegu (an Indian language) and Chuck is walking by praising God in Spanish. If that isn't a picture of the mystery of Christ bringing all people groups together in Him, I don't know what is!I have to say, I love these guys more than I did when I left. Pray for us to be faithful and patient with each other in close quarters and with a changing schedule. God has been so faithful to help us up to this point and we expect more of the same. But please pray. You are a big part of this trip.

I have much more to report, but we are going to be leaving for Paraiso to canvass the town with flyers advertising an evangelistic family conference at Roca Viva ("the Living Rock") later this month. I'll give you a report on yesterdays events later, but for now just a cliffhanger:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fellowship in the Gospel International...2010 in Costa Rica

Back in last Summer, we heard from Cameron Woolford, our missionary to Costa Rica. You can check out his ministry here. Cameron asked if there was any way that our church could come and help him get a men's ministry off of the ground. You can imagine my excitement after having come down from the "high" of our first regional men's conference just a few months before. He testified that Costa Rican men are "spineless" and when converted they continue to be reluctant to lead. They are also plagued with sinful addictions to drugs, alcohol, and lust, as well as physical and sexual abuse being epidemic in their families.

After much prayer and planning, 9 men from Berean will be leaving Detroit Metro Airport this Tuesday, January 5th and returning on Monday, January 12th to do what we can to minister to the men of Costa Rica. We will be ministering in a number of settings with the men from Cameron's church (Roca Viva or "the Living Rock"). We will also be putting on a men's conference at an area campground on Friday night and Saturday. The men from a handful of local churches are supposed to attend. The men that will be there are likely to be spiritually immature mixed in with unsaved men. There will be three teaching sessions based out of Ephesians. Lesson 1: The Gospel Proper; Lesson 2: Gospel Truths of Inheritance & Transformational Hope; and Lesson 3: Living in Gospel Power.

Pray for our safety and ministry effectiveness. Pray for the hearts of those that are to come to the conference. Pray for the power of the gospel to overwhelm them and us.