Tuesday, March 06, 2018

30 Years Ago in China

I first stepped foot into China 30 years ago. It was a different place then.

First of all, there were bicycles EVERYWHERE! And hardly any cars at all. They had taxis and delivery vehicles and official vehicles and military vehicles and buses. But practically no one had private ownership of a car.

This is not my original pic, but is representative. This is Wuhan in 1980.

Second of all, foreigners were only issued "Foreign Exchange Certificates" instead of the Renminbi, or the People's Money. In fact, you had to have a special permit to use Renminbi if you were a foreigner. The exchange for the FEC was similar to what it is now (~8FEC to 1USD), but you could get over 60 RMB to 1 USD on the black market. (Just don't get caught with it!) Outside of the very large cities, no one knew what an FEC even was.

Thirdly, Americans (and other Caucasian foreigners) were still a rare sight. A year or so after my first visit, I was in the Guangzhou Zoo. A friend and I were watching the pit of monkeys (maybe 100 or so) and we noticed that the 400-500 Chinese were no longer watching the monkeys, but were watching US watch the monkeys!  Very strange indeed!

When I lived in Hong Kong, I traveled over the border many times. It was described as going back 100 years in just 12 miles. And it was like that. I used to smuggle in Scripture and religious materials from Hong Kong. It was against the law, yet I always declared it on my customs form. They would ask to see it and I would show them my Bible. I would speak very fast and tell them that this was my Bible and it was for me alone to use and I have a whole lot more in my bag, but THIS is my Bible. They never looked in my bag. If I remember right, the customs form at that time, asked if you had drugs, guns, pornography or Bibles.

In 1990 at the Great Wall
I have many wonderful memories of my many visits to China over the past 30 years. It is really hard to find any remnant of the China I remember. But I have my memories.
Pray for the people of China. Pray that God would draw them to Himself and that they would know Jesus.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

25 Years and counting....

December 5, 1992
 Twenty-five years ago, at First Baptist Church, Vinita, Ok, Sally and I were united in marriage.

Sally's dad walking her down the aisle.
 Looking back, it seems we were just kids, although we had waited longer than most of our friends to get married.

Her parents, us, my parents.
It has been a wonderful journey that God has led us on; to serve Him all around the world.

A moment of quiet in a busy day.

God has blessed us abundantly.
Audrey's 2nd birthday in Vinita, OK.
 He blessed us with Audrey.

Emily, Me, Audrey, Sally in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.
 He blessed us with Emily.

Our family in Mongolia in 2004.
 He blessed us with being able to see His creation.

Beijing, 2004.

And pray for people all over the world.

Hong Kong, 2005
 We have been blessed to live all over the world, too.

Koh Samui, Thailand, 2005
 And enjoy great family adventures together.

My 1st Anniversary as pastor at Immanuel Southern Baptist Church, Wagoner, OK 2008.
 Then, He brought us back to Oklahoma, we He has allowed us to serve Him at "home."

Emily, JD, Audrey, Sally, Rick, Wagoner, OK 2017
 We added John Ellis to the family last year.

At the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Our adventures will continue.

A continuing love story.
Now, with an empty nest, we will continue to serve the Lord. Continue to fall in love with each other even more every day!

Thank you, Lord, for my wife and family. May you continue to bless us that we might be a blessing to others!

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

10 Year Anniversary

10 years ago, today, I became pastor of Immanuel Southern Baptist Church in Wagoner, OK.

Sally and I had been serving with the International Mission Board in Hong Kong when I felt God's leadership to shift gears in ministry.

I had never pastored before. I was scared. Yes, as I reflect back on it I was scared. At the same time, I was confident. Certainly not confident in my abilities, but confident in the axiom, "God equips those whom He calls."
Me, a month or two after I became a pastor.

I had never pastored a church before. I had only preached less than half a dozen times. My wife later told me that she thought it was going to really be something to watch because, in her opinion, I couldn't preach worth a hill of beans. She has later often told me that God uses me to preach His word in a wonderful way.

Pastoring a church isn't for sissies. There is such a high Scriptural standard that I am held to, by the Lord, and by those I pastor. I will readily admit, I often don't live up to that standard.

In my previous 40 some years experience as a church member, I never knew that the pastor faced so many obstacles and difficulties. There are some nasty people who call themselves Christians. I have been lied to, lied about, gossiped about, slandered, cussed, and called names with words that don't belong in the Family of God.

There are, however, some true saints in the Bride of Christ. There are those who, if a mosquito bit them, it'd fly off singing, "There's Power in the Blood!" These are humble, hard-working servants of God who would do anything for anyone out of love, but avoid the limelight like the plague.

At my 1 year anniversary

I've seen people come and go. Some situations were so bizarre that I still don't understand what happened. For instance, several years ago, I baptized an entire family, like mom, dad, and 3 or 4 kids. The very next day, they moved to Arkansas!  Some came as flashes in the pan. They caused a big stir, but had no staying power and ultimately caused more trouble than whatever good they initially had.

But it's the faithful ones who are truly beautiful. Those who give without being asked, serve without expectations of being thanked or acknowledged, and share without thought of themselves. Praise God for the faithful ones!

I've seen God work wonders in people's lives, like the time He raised a woman from the dead on Easter morning (LINK) or when someone got saved at a business meeting, or watching lives being completely transformed. I've seen a whole lot of new/weak Christians grow in the Lord and I've watched some train wrecks as they walk in the flesh. Some are so embarrassed that they refuse to attend church or even take my calls.

I do know this: if everyone who has told me that they would be in service, rain or shine, would all show up at once, we'd have to build a balcony and have three services!

I have performed the duties and ceremonies expected of pastors. I have baptized new believers. I have married couples. I have performed funerals. To be honest, I'd much rather perform a funeral than a wedding!  There is much less drama. But I LOVE to baptize people. I've baptized over 200 people in the past 10 years. (Where are they now? Inquiring minds would like to know.)

Baptizing my daughter, Audrey, in 2011.
It seems that in the last 10 years, I have a lifetime of experiences. I have been blessed to be the front man for VBS for the past 8 years, usually dressing up in a character that goes along with the VBS theme; I have preached in Ukraine, China, and Israel; I've been to children's camp (KBA) and youth camp (Falls Creek); I've driven the senior adults on fall foliage tours; I've gotten my class B CDL to drive the new church bus; and so many other things that escape my memory.

God has done a great many wonderful things in our church in the past 10 years. We have a growing and thriving children's and youth ministries, we have a Food Pantry Ministry that distributes food to the hungry to the tune of about 750,000 meals in the past 8 years, and we have a unique jail ministry that we call "The Cookie Ministry" where we take bags of cookies with a gospel tract to the local jail each month. We are currently debt free and are looking to build a new multi-purpose building with designated funds that we've been sitting on for the past 25 years.

Me, today, on my 10th Anniversary as Pastor of ISBC

We also have a long way to go. Our financial situation is precarious. Yet, we've never not met our obligations. God has always been faithful with that. I would love to see the expansion of our youth ministry to include a separate class for middle school students. I want to see our YokeFellow and FAITH Rider groups to re-activate. I want a group of folks to step up and help with our children's Sunday School classes. We must have a nursery staff.

I love being a pastor. I LOVE preaching God's word. I love the wonderful folks at Immanuel Southern Baptist Church. 

No matter what God has in store for me and for ISBC, we can only pray it is for His glory! For in the end, that's all that really matters!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Okie Weather Meme

A little meme I made today that explains the psyche of Okies!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Sharing Opinions

Remember what it was like to be able to express an opinion without being lambasted for it? Me neither.

Well. I'm a conservative. I am pro-life. I support traditional marriage, only. I am pro-2nd Amendment. I believe in God and trust in Jesus. I think we need to build a southern-border wall. I think we need to be very very careful with any refugees we allow into our country. I am cautiously optimistic about Trump. I don't like cauliflower. I tired of the hypocrisy of Hollywood. AND the Democrats. And the Republicans. I cannot stand to be around cigarette smoke. I do not like Halloween. I do not like the commercialization/secularization of Christmas. I believe the Bible is the inspired inerrant Word of the Living God. I could live without professional sports of any kind. I love my wife. I think Islam is an ideology more than a religion. I am a Sooner. I think our time on earth is drawing to a close.

There ya go. That's not all of who I am. That is only a few OPINIONS. Don't like it? Tough. De-friend me or block me or whatever. Or, you could just be tolerant of me, like I'm supposed to be of you. I'm tired of playing games.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Trump or Clinton?


It's like some horror movie gone terribly wrong.

There's even clowns roaming around scaring people.

Is this the end?

Well, not quite, but we're getting mighty close, in my opinion.

This is the most important election so far. In the history of America. Yeah, I said it.

I know. Lot's of people are saying it, too, but I actually mean it and believe it.

First of all, let me say that I'm getting really, really tired of my vote for president being a protest vote. Oh! How I'd love to have a candidate that I actually supported! But it ain't happening this year. Again.

Second, let me say that those who compare third party candidates to Abraham Lincoln are just being plain silly, or are deluding themselves. Gary Johnson is no Abraham Lincoln. I worked with Abraham Lincoln. I know Abraham Lincoln. I was there when.... wait. Wrong candidate.  Nevermind about that. Johnson is a miniature version of Clinton.

For all the young people who can't stand the thought of Trump being president because they don't like him as a person, let me tell you a little bit about Hillary, (although I shouldn't have to). Actually, I'm not gonna just tell you; you need to research some things, too. So here:  google.com

  • Fired from Watergate
  • Whitewater
  • Looting the White House
  • Vince Foster
  • Chinagate
  • Filegate
  • Travelgate
  • Sniper fire in bosnia
  • Cash Cows
  • Saul Alinsky
  • Thomas Alfred Taylor
  • The Clinton Foundation
  • Peter Franklin Paul
  • Emailgate
 and last but certainly not least, and perhaps the most infamous, treasonous reason:
  • Benghazi (where the "H" is silent)
And don't forget her mysterious health issues that they emphasize is not an issue....

But the biggest issue I have about HRC, besides her integrity, loyalty, health and abilities, is the fact that the next president will most likely appoint up to four new Supreme Court Justices in their first term. With Hillary and her ideology, this scares the snot out of me!

Now, to be fair, Trump isn't without his problems, too.  But they pale in comparison to HRC. He calls people names and is rude. He lost nearly a billion dollars twenty years ago. But come on people! He had a billion dollars TO LOSE!

He is brash. He says what's on his mind without thinking (or so it appears).

So, let's now take a look at those who would be just a "heartbeat away" from the Oval Office: Mike Pense and Tim Kaine. (I wish it was Pense running instead of Trump). In any case, Kaine is simply a mini-me for Hillary and Pense appears to me to be the real deal. Plus, if there is any way possible, Kaine is more rude than Trump!

So it comes down to this in my opinion: Hillary would make Obama look like a good president. If you voted for Obama just because of his race, I hope you learned your lesson. Please don't vote for Hillary just because of her sex.

Hillary; you just can't trust her.
Trump; at least he doesn't want to destroy America.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Why all the confusion?

It's getting pretty confusing lately.

People whom I love and respect warn about the so-called "Blood Moons". Other people whom I love and respect belittle those who pay any attention to the astrological event.

People whom I love and respect are praising the Pope and his address to Congress this morning. Other people whom I love and respect are pointing at it being a sign of the last days and him being the "False Prophet."

People whom I love and respect point to all the recent earthquakes around the world as signs of the end times. Other people whom I love and respect belittle those who pay attention to these events as naive.

People whom I love and respect look to a so-called "rapture" of the church to escape tribulation. (so called because "rapture" isn't a Bible word) Other people whom I love and respect say that there won't be a rapture to escape tribulation and still others that Christians will endure the tribulation before a rapture.

People whom I love and respect point to all the events in the world that the "last days" are upon us and Jesus will return soon. Other people whom I love and respect dismiss all the so-called signs as unrelated coincidences and accuse those who believe it as having fallen prey to bad eschatological theology.

So here's the deal. I thought we all (followers of Jesus Christ) had the same Spirit; the Spirit of God. How can there be such a great divide among believers as to what to believe?

Each "group" claims spiritual authority as their guide, but are on opposite sides of an issue.  If each group is following the leadership of the Holy Spirit, how can they each be right? How can either be wrong?

To be honest, as a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this is just downright confusing to me. I certainly don't claim to know all and understand all.

But here's what I DO know for sure: Jesus is coming back!  He said He was and I believe Him. I don't know when, but He did give us some clues so that we wouldn't be caught unaware.

I try to live my life expecting Jesus to come back today, no matter what the day is. I am longing to see His face. I want it to happen before I finish typing this line, but I see that it didn't happen....

I don't want to fall into the trap of belittling or even disrespecting my trusted friends who fall on the other side of an eschatological issue. I fell into that trap several years ago with politics, and I deeply regret it. So, today, I will do what I always do; proclaim Jesus!

God loves you so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for you (in your place to pay for your sins). If you believe that, according to Jesus, Himself, you will be saved. (John 3:16)

Won't you trust Jesus for your salvation today? You don't need a priest, or even a preacher; you can do it all through the One High Priest, Jesus! Call on Him to save you and be prepared for eternity. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Karma, Angels, and other Instances of Biblical Ignorance

I am appalled at the number of my FaceBook friends who regularly reference Karma, or talk about becoming angels when we die.

Karma is NOT a Christian concept. It is defined thusly on google.com:
(in Hinduism and Buddhism) the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.
In American culture, we have the saying, which could be loosely related to Karma, "what goes around, comes around."

In essence, this speaks to a cosmic force that comes back to get you when you do something bad. You certainly won't find the word "karma" in the Bible and you will never find proper reference to God and Karma.  (You might find a reference to a "god" and Karma, but not the Living God.)

There ARE consequences for your actions; this much is true. The Bible says that "the wages of sin is death." But the whole idea of karma is that the universe (which is attributed with some of the characters of God) must keep things in a balance of good/bad. This is a counterfeit of what God has ordained. And remember, ALL religions (other than Judaism and Christianity) are counterfeits created by the devil to deceive and confuse people from worshiping the True and Living God.

Then, we come to the idea of becoming angels when we die. We see this most often when someone passes away and someone (with good intentions) say something like "Heaven needed another angel."  Dear friends, people DO NOT become angels when we die. Angels are created beings that are a whole different class than humans. Angels CANNOT be saved. The angels that sided with Satan will never be redeemed. Jesus died for people, not angels.

There is no indication in the Bible that we will have wings when we get to Heaven. In fact, the Bible talks about the role of angels in Heaven that is separate from the function of the redeemed.   Frankly, WE ARE BETTER than angels!

Why does this make any difference? What is the big deal if people talk about Karma or about becoming angels?

The big deal is that when CHRISTIANS talk about these things, it confuses people. We are called to be light in the darkness. Truth comes from God; lies from from Satan. When we perpetuate lies, we are unwittingly doing the will of the great deceiver. We are called out of the world. We can't just pick and choose what we like from the Bible and what we like from the world.  It's "all or nothing".

Please, followers of Jesus, KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between God's Word and what the world teaches. Please don't "mix and match" to suit your own needs. That's how cults (like Mormonism & Scientology) get started.

Read and STUDY your Bible! BE light in the Darkness! Live a life of TRUTH in a world of lies!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Internet Scams

Over the years, I have seen some interesting internet scams. I'm sure you have, too. The past couple of days, someone claiming to be with the "Department of Asian Domain Registration in China" has been trying to get me to answer an email. I've copied it here for your amusement:

Dear Sir/Madam,
About the "immanuelsouthern". We are the department of Asian Domain Registration Service in China. Here I have something to confirm with you. We formally received an application on November 20th, 2014 that a company claimed "CriTony Company" were applying to register "immanuelsouthern" as their Net Brand and some "immanuelsouthern" Asian countries top-level domain names through our firm.
Now we are handling this registration, and after our initial checking, we found the name were similar to your company's, so we need to check with you whether your company has authorized that company to register these names. If you authorized this, we would finish the registration at once. If you did not authorize, please let us know within 7 workdays, so that we could handle this issue better. After the deadline we will unconditionally finish the registration for "CriTony Company" Looking forward to your prompt reply.
(It's very urgent, so please transfer this email to your CEO or appropriate person. Thanks a lot.)  
Best Regards,
Luke Yang
Senior Adviser Manager

Whether or not this is a scammer from China or Nigeria, it really doesn't matter to me.

What does matter to me is the audacity of con artists. I see news stories of people conned out of thousands of dollars. I've seen my own family and friends fall victim to such treachery.

Treachery? Yes. Treachery. The word "con artist" comes from the way a person gains another person's confidence in order to use that trust for unlawful gain.

A couple of years ago, I scammed a scammer and had a whole lot of fun doing it. You can read about it here. In fact, it has been one of my favorite posts here at RickBoyne.com

Con artists and scammers are like the devil in many respects. Satan will gain your confidence, or at least get you to listen to him, and then BAM! take something away from you.

The Bible says that the devil is like a roaring lion; roaming around looking for someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8) It warns us to be alert; be on guard.

We should always be on the alert when it comes to anything out of the ordinary with requests from the internet. If you aren't sure about something, don't just automatically respond to it. If you get a "pop up" on your computer screen, don't just automatically put in your username and password, either. Ask someone. Get someone else's help.

Just like dealing with the devil. No need to try to go it alone; you've got a friend in Jesus!

You do, don't you? That is, you are friend with Jesus, right?  If you aren't, I'd suggest you make friends with Jesus real quick. I guarantee you want to be on HIS side when it's all said and done.  There is a link at the top right hand part of this blog that says, "Do You Know Jesus?" Click on that or right here and it will take you to another link I created just for the purpose of your making friends with Jesus.

And that's no scam!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

When Tolerance is Hate

"Live and let live" - in other words, don't judge. In other words, take care of yourself and let other people worry about themselves.

If we take this to its logical conclusion, it is a message of hate.

These words have been spewed at me whenever I quote the Bible about righteousness, specifically morality, even more specifically, homosexuality.  People say things like, "if you don't want to marry a person of your same sex, then don't do it, but don't tell others they can't." (Live and let live)

On the surface, this is a message of tolerance. But actually, it is a message of hate.  When we apply it to the problem of so-called gay marriage, it is tolerance. If it is applied to the different problem of hunger or poverty or taking care of AIDS patients, the same message would end up sounding like, "live and let die." In other words, I didn't get them into that mess, why should I care about them at all?

I know what you're thinking and my answer is, "Oh yes it IS the same!"

What if we applied the "live and let live" philosophy to children? "Oh, let them play in the street after dark!" "So what if they want to play with a loaded shotgun?" "Live and let live" right?

Certainly not! In those cases, it WOULD be "live and let die!"

Well, what if, as little children, people didn't know right from wrong? What if, by telling them what God has to say about righteousness, morality and sin, they gain insight and perhaps conviction that what they are doing goes against what God has to say about it? What if, by warning them of the consequences of their actions you are actually demonstrating love?

It is my opinion that to remain silent about sin is to show hate. I have friends and relatives who practice homosexuality. I love them enough to tell them what God doesn't approve. It should make no difference at all whether or not I approve; it isn't really about me.

But if I really believe that there are eternal consequences for actions on earth, then out of love I am going to at least mention that fact.

If I didn't care at all, I'd "Live and Let Live."

But, I'm called to love, not just tolerate.

Friday, August 08, 2014

America, Tribulation, and End Times

I've heard many Christians say that America is insignificant or plays no role in end times and the return of Jesus Christ. To that, I honestly have no opinion.

However, it is assumed that America will suffer in the Great Tribulation.  Where does that assumption come from?

Those critical of America's potential involvement in the end times emphasize the fact that the Bible talks about places only in the Middle East and America is irrelevant. If these events only happen in the Middle East, does the persecution from the Great Tribulation only effect those in the Middle East?

Why or why not?

Side note: The Christians in Iraq seem to be facing exactly the scenario that is fixed in most people's minds about what the Great Tribulation will look like.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

10 Years with Blogger

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of my blog. It started off as the Goofball Blog, or some such silly nonsense. I finally bit the bullet and bought the RickBoyne.com domain some time ago.

Looking back over the first year or so, I see that the sort of things I posted on this blog, I now post on Facebook. In fact, Facebook has nearly been the death of this blog, but I still feel a need for it.

So, after 10 years, we're still going. Maybe not as strong as at first, but going nevertheless.

Happy Anniversary, RickBoyne.com!

Friday, August 01, 2014

7 Year Anniversary

Today marks 7 years that I have been pastor of Immanuel Southern Baptist Church in Wagoner, OK.  My first official service was a Wednesday evening.

Me in my office in March 2008

Previous to being a pastor, I was a missionary with the International Mission Board for more than a decade. I had never pastored before coming to ISBC.

Sally & me playing special music one evening

I've learned a great deal about myself in the past 7 years. I've more aware of my weaknesses and weak tendencies. I've learned a great deal about God; that's for sure.  And I've learned a lot about people; Christians, in particular.

Recently donated box trailer

I've seen God work in this small congregation in wonderful ways. I've seen the devil at work here, too. I've seen self-sacrifice of the dedicated and I've seen the self-serving of the worldly.  Some of the nicest things that have ever been said to me have been said in the past 7 years at this church. Some of the worst things that have ever said to me or about me have been said in the same 7 years at this church.

Our beautiful sanctuary

Sometimes, it seems like it is two steps forward - one step back. Yet God has been faithful through all of my time here. We've had some disastrous experiences with youth leaders. We've gone through several song leaders. We have a hard time getting people to work with very young children. We've faced several major crises that have threatened the life of the church. We are currently experiencing a horrific budget shortfall.

Our first VBS
Our most recent VBS

I've seen a few people get mad and leave the church. Usually, they are mad at me (generally blaming me for something) and cause a lot of problems after the leave (but not as many as they caused when they were here).

Falls Creek 2014

Despite the problems, there are many more wonderful victories. We've seen our youth and children's groups grow from 2 or 3 to 25 each! There were weeks at a time when no one drove our church vans; they are being used 3 or 4 times each week! For the first time in the history of our church, we had our own cabin at our children's camp this year taking a total of 31 people from the church (which includes adults). We are about to build a new Children's Ministry Center next month. We are experiencing growth in all areas of Sunday School and have started 4 or 5 new classes in the past several years. Our Vacation Bible School continues to grow. Our Food Pantry Ministry provides over 140,000 meals per year to needy folks from our community. We've seen many saved and baptized as a result of this ministry. In fact, this past Sunday, I baptized 15 people who had been saved through the pantry, VBS, or one of our camps.

Family baptism

As God allows, we will accomplish a lot for His kingdom in the coming years. We plan on ordaining two men to the Gospel Ministry in October. We have a long range plan which includes outreach to the Hispanic community, community education, and perhaps even partnering with an orphanage in the Middle East. As long as our members continue to seek to serve God and His kingdom, He will continue to use us.

I am grateful for the privilege of pastoring this flock. I do not take it lightly, nor do I take it for granted. It is a great responsibility that God has given me. I am grateful that He has seen fit to use me here.  May God (continue to) bless Immanuel Southern Baptist Church!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Half a Century

Most of my classmates have already done it. My wife has already done it. My best friend, too.

I turned 50 years old today.

Half a century.

Egads! (as my Uncle Bill always used to say)

I didn't really want to, but I didn't have much choice in the matter.

3 months old

Mostly, I'm very happy where I am at 50 years old.  I'm in a very happy marriage and we have two stunningly beautiful godly daughters.  I'm the pastor of a thriving church. I drive a  Jeep AND a convertible (just not at the same time). I have a mortgage-free home!

The parts that I'm not too happy about are: I can't get any publisher interested in my novel; I'm over-weight and out of shape; my eyes are bad, and I have less money now than I did when I was 40.

My best friend, Martin Whipple and me at Little Friend Kindergarten in 1969

I have lived 18,300 days.

By God's grace, most of them have been excellent days!  God is so very good to me. Better than I deserve, actually.

First trip to the Great Wall in 1990

I saw on the news last week, where someone had joined the Senior PGA Tour this year. He had turned 50 two weeks prior.


Sally joined AARP when she turned 50, so I've already been a member for two years. And don't be fooled, I whip out that AARP card at every restaurant, hoping for their discount!

Wedding Day 1992
 Audrey will fly out of our nest in a month. She starts her freshman year at Oklahoma Baptist University August 16.  Emily will start driver's ed in two months.

Many of my classmates are already grandparents. I didn't have my first child until I was 32.

Our last prayer card as missionaries in West Africa 2002

In my 50 years, I've lived in 28 different houses or apartments, not including the hotels and other temporary housing that we used as missionaries. I've visited 29 different countries on 4 continents and have lived in 6 different countries on 3 different continents. I've officially studied (and passed basic proficiency exams) in 6 foreign languages, although I'm sure I couldn't pass those same tests now.

Tibet 2004
 I've been to the uttermost parts of the earth - and back again.

I have friends LITERALLY all around the world.

Preaching in Ukraine in 2011
I consider myself to be rich. Not with with material possessions or monetary wealth, but with the blessings of family and friends. I may not be where I thought I would be 20 or 30 years ago, but I wouldn't change a thing.

I love my wife. I love my children. I love my church.

Sally and me at the Western Wall in Jerusalem - December 2013

God has blessed me abundantly! If there is  anything good, anything noble at all in my life, it is because God has blessed me with it.

Thank you, Father, for making me the richest man on earth!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Memories of Mamou

I knew better, but I did it anyway.

We were living in Mamou, Guinea. That's in West Africa, for the geographically challenged. Wikipedia says it has a population of abut 76,000 people. It was our first post in Africa in 1998.

Life is fairly simple, but very hard. Poverty is rampant and Islam has stifled  practically every aspect of the Fulani culture. The people were oppressed from nearly every side, but because we were in the rain forest, famine wasn't as bad as in other parts of Africa.

We were living in a house that had been home to missionaries for years.  It was a comfortable 5 room house with 2 bathrooms. It had running water (with a 2000 liter storage tank) and electricity. Well, sort of.

Mamou, Guinea - 1998

City electricity was interesting, to say the least. On the standard 220v 50hz system, sometimes it only provided 20-30 volts. Other times, so much current came through that it burst the lightbulbs in our ceiling fans.

Most of the time, we simply didn't have city electricity. The story was that some official had embezzled the money earmarked for a city-sized diesel generator and had fled to France. Since our "regular" electricity came from a hydro-electric generator at the nearby reservoir, we had "good" electricity during the rainy season, which lasted from July to August. After August, we were rationed until all the water ran out of the reservoir until they simply shut off the city supply. The rest of the time, we used a portable gasoline powered generator.

Things would have been better had we owned a diesel power generator, which brings me to my story.

Our helper, Amadou, told us that our trash pit was full and needed to be burned. I should have just let him to it. (mistake number 1)  The pit was about 6x6x12 and was where be put everything from household trash to cut limbs and other debris from the yard.

Our night guard, Ibrahim, used a little kerosene lantern to shine (usually while he slept) during his night duty. I wish I remembered that I bought a gallon or two of kerosene for his lantern (mistake number 2)

I went out to look at the pit. It was indeed full. I looked around for something to light to catch the pit on fire. I found some rags, but they wouldn't  burn.

In my search, I spied my cans of gasoline that we use to run the generator. I figured that I could pour a little bitty teeny tiny amount in the pit and get the fire going. (mistake number 3)

I found a small little cup and poured perhaps a half a cup of gasoline into the pit. I stood back and threw in a lit match. Nothing.

I found a piece of paper or something and lit it and tossed it into the pit. Nothing.

Reasoning that I simply didn't have enough propellent, I poured in two or three more cups of gasoline. (mistake number 4)

I stood back, lit a match, threw it in and was knocked backwards by the explosion that sent burning banana leaves 20 feet into the air.

The explosion was so loud, that it made the pedestrian traffic stop on the national highway below the mountain to stop, look up, and wonder what those crazy white people were up to again.

Amadou told me to let him burn the trash pit the next time. I told him that I thought that was a good idea.