Nope. Can’t Do It. Impossible.

Acts 3:11-4:20 is such an inspiring passage of Scripture. Acts 4:20 sums up, for me, what I hope is the resounding testimony from my lips until the day I die.

 “We are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

“Unable.” Incapable. Powerless and helpless against the life-giving gospel message flowing from my mouth. Stone me. Shoot me. Hang me. Crucify me. I am “unable” to stop speaking about what I’ve seen and heard. Christian, how magnificent is the work you have seen God do in your life?! Is it not overwhelming?! Does it not capture your soul and overflow from the depths of your heart?!

Evangelism starts here. It begins as the overflow of a redeemed soul… unable to stop speaking about the grace that wrought life from a stone-cold corpse of a man. Incapable of muting the praises of Almighty God that flow from the lips of a sinner saved by grace. Powerless against the outward flow of an inward change that reached down into the pits of Hell and scandalously snatched my unworthy soul from its condemning grip.

Stop speaking about Jesus? Stop sharing what He’s done for me? Stop proclaiming the good news of salvation for all who would call on His name and come to Him in repentance and faith?

Nope. Can’t do it. Impossible.

 

Grace and Peace,

Tony

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Open Letter to All Christians

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We are on the same team. Members of the same family, bought by the same blood, servants of the same Master, filled by the same Spirit, members of the same body, charged with the same commission, and messengers of the same gospel. Let us unite with all humility around the truth that man’s sin is the problem and Jesus Christ is the answer. And let us surrender ourselves whole-heartedly to the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all peoples. May our unity, by its very nature, proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. And by it, may our world see the gracious hand of a loving God extended with salvation in His grips – passionately pursuing the lost that they would receive this salvation as a gift… repenting from their sin, and turning to Jesus for life that is real. 

Same team.

“May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe that You have sent Me.” – John 17:21.

Grace and Peace,

Tony

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Haiti Diary Saturday Night

Our last day in Haiti was a long, productive day… But it comes bittersweet. We are all excited to see our families tomorrow night back in the states, but realize that we are leaving behind a new family here in Haiti as well.

Today we all travelled up the mountain to the city of Lone. 25 Haitians and Americans piled on top of suitcases full of school supplies, and boxes full of groceries in a somewhat flat-bed 4-wheel drive truck for over an hour drive each way. About 225 children showed up today in the “middle of nowhere” to hear about Jesus Christ, eat what was probably the best two meals they have had in a very long time, learn new games, sing great songs, and make some wonderful crafts. The children were very well behaved, and were a blessing to work with. While talking with some of the locals today we discovered something interesting about their family situations. In this rural area, there are very few (if any) fathers involved in the children’s lives. By the time a young woman knows she is pregnant, she has usually been sexually active with 5-10 different partners, and there is no way to tell who the father is. It is not at all uncommon here for young teenage girls to have 3 or 4 children. The children in this area are most obviously desperate for the love and affection that you and I take for granted every day of our lives.

While most of the team was working in Lone, several of us hiked about an hour away across the mountain to an area only accessible on foot. In this small rural city of St. Phare, there is an orphanage with abut 15-25 children, whose living conditions are less than sub-par. Most of the children themselves were at our camp in Lone, but we met the pastor’s daughter who showed us around the facilities. We were happy to leave with her 34 crocheted and knitted dolls for the children as well as a love gift of $100 USD to use for the children. Special thanks to our brothers and sisters of New Chapel Hill Baptist Church in West Monroe, LA for making this possible. I know the orphan children were overjoyed when they saw that we had made the hike to their home and left gifts for them to enjoy. While we were hiking we went a little further and met with a pastor in another town across the mountain. He is also the schoolmaster (as most pastors in rural areas are) in his town. His classes have an 80/1 student-teacher ratio. And 60/100 of his students passed the state exam last week! He is a wonderful man of God with a heart for his people. After we got back to the camp location, Pastor Kenny and my Dad were privileged to travel to a home close by and share the gospel with a woman there. She understood the message, and Pastor Kenny says he believes se made the decision to follow Christ today. The Pastor of Lone said that he had been working on her for 3 years! What a joy to be used of God in such a special way!

When we leave here tomorrow, we will carry in our hearts the relationships we have built with so many. Ruth Lindor and her team, Guillaume, Alexson, Veniel and his staff at the Wall’s Guest House, and of course, our brothers and sisters from Pastor Kenny’s church… and so many more!!! I am so proud of Pastor Kenny and count it a true honor to consider him not only a brother in Christ, but a friend like no other. Our plane leaves from Port au Prince at 9:55 am tomorrow, and we hope to be back in Lovelady by 8 or 8:30 pm (Central Time). I cannot imagine a better group of people to have worked with this week. They have left it all behind to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness… And to share with Haiti the love that God has placed in their hearts for The Lord Jesus Christ. So… Very… Blessed.

Grace and peace,
Tony

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Haiti Diary Friday Night

With heavy hearts, we ended our time at Petion ville today. Over 215 children showed up, 23 pastors, and about 20-30 church leaders. Leaving behind those children and new friends was so incredibly difficult. All of our hearts break at the thought. At the end of the day we handed out school supplies, sang all together, and presented each of the church leaders, pastors, and volunteers with certificates. Words cannot come close to expressing the mixed feelings of joy and sadness… Accomplishment of what we came to do, but still so much left to be done. The children loved to play with our hair, hug on us, and kiss us on the cheek. They were so much fun, and very respectful. Our volunteers, organized by Ruth Lindor (a friend and ministry partner down here… also their college professor in education) were absolutely top-notch. They taught with skill and passion, served without reservation, and counted it an honor to partner with us in ministry. One of our translators was telling me this morning that he lives in the mountains outside of Petion ville. Each morning he walked 30 minutes down the hill, took a motorcycle taxi another 30 minutes into the city, and caught a bus ride for an hour… Just to help us, without pay. He said it was an honor to come and give his talents and his energy for the kingdom of God… “Just like you guys are doing, Pastor.”

We gave all the pastors resources on the Doctrine of Salvation, and a commentary on Romans and Galatians… Thanks to our brothers and sisters at First Baptist Church of Crockett, TX for that great privilege. The pastors were overwhelmingly grateful. We were also able to leave 3 sets of DVD training (in Creole – 9 hrs of instruction each) over these same materials with 3 great pastors in key cities: Kenscoff, Petion ville, and Leogan. These pastors will hold training seminars of their own over the next 3 months using these materials. The pastors were very attentive and seemed to really begin to grasp the concept of preparing for expositional sermons… And they absolutely ate up the suggestions for delivery and flow. Practical training on being faithful to God’s word while preaching is something they are all very hungry for. I gave one my shirt, all of them my contact info, and would have given them my shoes and pants if I didn’t need them tomorrow. Their hearts are so big, and their love for The Lord… contagious. One pastor told me today that he had helped with similar things several times in different areas across Haiti but never has he seen a staff (our people) with such great character (his own words). He went on and on about how the people of this team modeled humility, love, and teamwork like no other group he had ever seen.

I spoke with another pastor today who traveled 6 hours – on foot… WALKED – to preach at a church last Sunday. (And FYI – they do not get paid for preaching or pastoring at all here in Haiti). But this great man of God counted it such an honor to deliver God’s word. I pray for more of his passion and commitment in my own ministry context.

The national tv station (only one in Haiti) came and interviewed us today in Petion ville. So Monday morning, they will be broadcasting what this team has done for Christ the past week. Honored that our Lord will receive glory nationwide for His great work throughout this team.

The question all of us got more than any other today was, “When are you all coming back?” Soon, I hope. But we are not done yet. Tomorrow will be a very long day up the mountain in Lone. Petion ville is more urban (if you can call it that) and Lone is far away in a very rural area. We have to cram 4 days of our original VBS plan into 6 hours there tomorrow. Our team has been working hard at this for days. We originally planned to take it easy Saturday and go see some various orphanages, and churches in the area… but God changed our plans and this team is dedicated to working with every ounce of energy for the kingdom of God. They really get it. What an honor to serve with them. We are praying for God to show up in a mighty way tomorrow. Please pray with us!

Grace and Peace,
Tony

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Haiti Diary Thursday Night

Today was a wonderful day in our mission. Unsure what to expect in attendance today – because we had to cancel yesterday for the storm – God really showed up. Again, we had over 120 children in Petion ville… and 12 church leaders, and 10 pastors came, even though they were unsure if we would be there. Everyone in attendance today was there for the right reason. They were hungry for the Word of God. And because of that, God took center stage.

The children learned about the responsibilities of being a child of the King. God expects that we honor Him with our lives and serve others to His glory. They loved the crafts and games again. It is so humbling to watch them color. Debbie, Lisa, Amie, and Christina always say how meticulous they are about taking their time and making their pictures beautiful. I think they would sit there all day and just color if we let them. Can’t wait to see their faces when each of them gets a pack of crayons in their own backpack tomorrow. :)

One cannot ignore the living conditions these children go home to every day. They arrive at the camp in trucks overflowing… Children hanging off the sides and singing loudly, songs of praise to God. And when they leave – either on foot or in those same vehicles – the houses waiting for them are make-shift shelters we would be ashamed to have as dog houses. Every day when we leave we pass “tent cities” where hundreds of people live, digging through the trash and sleeping on broken concrete or dirt… But the children smile and wave. And men and women go about life as if they know nothing else at all. “Poverty” does not even scratch the surface of what these children call home. But they and their families are so very beautiful to our God. And when you catch a glimpse of them through the eyes of that living, loving Creator, your heart bleeds for them.

Pastor Mitchell taught the church leaders about youth ministry today. They spent a lot of time on the issue of sexual responsibility and how to lead their youth into honoring God with their bodies. They also had a great discussion about youth serving in the church and learning to support the church and its pastor. In spite of the cultural differences, today’s youth ministry training was very successful. Dad taught the pastors how to discern, study, and preach the Gospels. They loved his method of preparation and delivery, and learned much from his instruction. These pastors are so grateful for our time and investment in them. What an honor it is to serve along side my own father in teaching them how to develop and sharpen their giftedness and calling from the Lord. They will all hold a very special place in our hearts as long as we live.

The greatest news of the day is that 3 children (ages 9-12) placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ today for the very first time! They have become children of the King! 1 John 1:12. The angels in heaven rejoice tonight for these three beautiful children coming to faith in Christ Jesus. We will be connecting them with local churches in their areas tomorrow for follow up and discipleship.

Something that sticks out to me tonight as I reflect is the commitment from volunteers. Some WALK 1-2 hours one way EVERY DAY to come help. Their love for The Lord is contagious and their service to Christ is a model for us to follow. What an honor to work with these young men and women for the glory of our Lord.

Tomorrow is a big day. We will finish our VBS at Petion ville and hand out backpacks of school supplies to all the children who attended. We will wrap up the weeks’s activities in Petion ville with a celebration and evangelistic service. There will be a certificate ceremony for the pastors and church leaders, a live band, and I will be preaching Matthew 6:33. I am praying that more souls will be saved and that Christians (including ourselves) will commit to being Kingdom Seekers, for the glory of God! Will you pray with me?!

We are so grateful for the prayers of many which are being lifted up to God on our behalf. You are a part of this ministry, and your prayerful support is felt daily as we minister here. Thank you for being partners in the ministry of this team. May God receive all the glory!

Grace and Peace,
Tony

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Haiti Diary Wednesday Night

The storm ended up taking a turn south and west of us today, so we did not get the rain or high winds expected last night. Praise be to God! And we all feel good that the kids and leaders were able to be at home with their families just in case the storm had blown through as expected. Since one of our locations is up in the mountains and not easily accessible, this morning we rescheduled our last day at Lone from tomorrow to Saturday. Lord willing, we will be able to get up the mountain safely and minister to and bless those children with the love of Jesus.

We used the morning to pack school supplies into backpacks/bags for the kids at both locations, and to make some crafts to give to them all. As we were packing I was overwhelmed by the amount of supplies donated. So many of you took your time and resources to give to these children and it will be such an honor to hand out to them this great symbol of your love in the name of Jesus. We passed the time singing songs and hymns in English and Creole. The singing is one thing I believe none of us will ever forget.

This afternoon several of us had a 3 1/2 hour discussion about the spiritual needs of Haiti, and how they are not so different than the spiritual needs of our country. The same general things we struggle with in the States are struggles here too, just on a different level, and with different variations. These conversations help bond us together and strengthen our resolve to reach the world for Christ… Not Justin Haiti, but even in our own back yards.

Tonight we all gathered and watched the movie Courageous together. We even had some visitors from other mission groups and Wall’s guests and workers who stayed to watch. What an excellent reminder of our call to live courageous, Christ-centered lives for the sake of our children and their children after them. Reflecting on this team who has given up so much to come and serve God in Haiti this week, I am blessed by the courage they have shown and are showing… Braving difficulty and boldly stepping into the unknown for a whole week so that they can tell children and adults about the Savior… Laying down their comfort and their own resources to invest in the lives of church leaders and pastors for kingdom purposes… Letting go and trusting God… These are truly kingdom people.

Please pray for the team tomorrow as we return to Petion ville to continue the VBS there, and also continue to train pastors and church leaders. Pastor Mitchell will be training youth workers and Jim Wolfe will be teaching Pastors about preaching the Gospels. Yesterday’s training seminars were very successful and it quickly became obvious that God was using us for His glory. These beautiful men and women of God are hungry for the Word and are longing to know how to effectively serve God in their own ministry contexts. What a privilege it is to minister to them and encourage them in their calling.

Pray for us!

Grace and Peace,
Tony

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Haiti Diary Tuesday Night

Every day in Haiti requires flexibility. This morning the whole team was at the Petion ville location where we had the privilege to teach 120+ children, 52 church leaders, and 22 pastors.

Children learned about growth (discipleship) as a child of the King. In Luke 2:40, the Bible says that Jesus, when He was a child, grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him. As children of the King, we too can grow in our knowledge of and relationship to God. They played some fun games, sang some really fun songs, and made some cool crafts. The children are so wonderful and are like little sponges soaking up everything That is said. They love to hug on us and play with our hair. :)

Irv Atkinson and Jim Wolfe did deacon training today and had some very interesting (and very culturally relevant!) conversation. Irv got through most of his presentation, but a great discussion broke out covering salvation by faith not works, an “age of accountability,” how to share the gospel, finances in the church, and learning to appreciate and follow your pastor. Pastor Kenny stepped in after lunch and led another 1.5 hr. discussion on those topics. I am thankful to be serving with a group of men who listen to the Holy Spirit and are willing to be flexible, following His lead so that we can minister to the people at their place of need… Not just what we were planning to do.

The pastor training was wonderful as well. A great discussion broke out early on about the sovereignty of God and human free will. Today’s topic was “Preaching Old Testament Narrative.” After a while we concluded that regardless of the many variant beliefs we could agree on three fundamental truths: 1) man’s sin is the problem. 2) Jesus Christ is the answer. And 3) the whole Bible testifies to Jesus Christ. From there, everything went on as planned. We studied 2 Samuel 12:1-15, made an outline together and learned about main thoughts, transitional statements, and key statements in sermon preparation and delivery. After lunch I actually preached the sermon to them as they followed along in their notes. They were very thankful for the training and said they got some good ideas from it. It is my prayer that God uses this to make us all better stewards of his word.

Tomorrow, tropical storm Chantal will be shutting down our efforts. We are not expected to get violent weather but runoff from heavy rain is a big problem here considering their methods of transportation and the poor construction of roads. So we will use tomorrow to prepare for Thursday and Friday. But as Pastor Kenny keeps reminding us: God’s plan is best. He knows what He is doing, and many times we have to be willing to let go of our plans to jump on board with what he is doing. Amen.

In other news… There have been several one-on-one conversations about the gospel involving members of our team. Pastor Mitchell in particular is still working on a young man whom God definitely has put in his path. He is from Israel, staying at the same guest house as us, and Mitchell came from Texas… And they met in Haiti so that God would give him the chance to share the gospel! Please pray for Mitchell as he is continually faithful to tell this young man about The Lord. Also please be in prayer for a number of other relationships that are building this week for the same purpose. I am so very thankful that God has put this team together according to His grand design.

Grace and Peace,
Tony

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