Living Honorably in a Crazy World

I read this article by David Limbaugh this morning. Indeed, it seems that everything is backwards.¬†What Isaiah said is true. We live in a time where “good is evil,” and “evil is good,” Isaiah 5.20-21. It’s enough to get you down,… if you let it. Continue reading “Living Honorably in a Crazy World”

Sunday Update: Bogota

Good morning from Bogota! I’m the first one up this morning and sitting in the hotel restaurant about to eat breakfast. I’m sure the others will join me in a few minutes. Most of yesterday was a travel day. I think it took longer to process our baggage & get checked in than the actual flight here. It’s quite a logistical feat moving 7 persons around with luggage. We’re actually bringing home less than we brought, but it’s still a lot. After we landed, we had to wait an hour for Natalia’s bag, because another person grabbed up hers thinking it was his. The airline had to contact him – he was already out of the airport, inside a taxi, when they called. Once we got that dealt with, it was out to the curbside where arrangements had been made to have a vehicle large enough for us and our luggage waiting to move us to our hotel. That didn’t happen. Well, let’s just say a vehicle arrived, but it was either us or the luggage. So.. we waited another 30-40 minutes for the second vehicle to arrive. By the time we arrived at the hotel and got checked in, we had just a few minutes to quickly eat before our rides started arriving for evening services.

I spoke at the El Rincon congregation last night. They got 2 sermons from me, both translated by Jaime. I preached on how Jesus is our great high priest (using Exodus 28 as the starting point) and on three great realities of our salvation in Colossians 1. Jason, Mac, and the girls went to another congregation. Sounds like Mac and Jason did well. And, from reading Leigha’s Facebook post from last night, it looks like the girls had a great time too. I really enjoyed being with the El Rincon congregation last night. They are so warm and friendly. I love the Jerez brothers, Henry and David, who serve this church as the evangelists. They traveled to Manizales last week to be a part of our leadership conference and are asking that I return to do the conference here in Bogota next year. We’ll have to see about that.

I just find the brethren here to be so loving and kind. Saying “goodbye” here is a process that usually takes 15-20 minutes. Everyone comes up to hug and thank you. And then, as you start toward the door, the process repeats itself. I just love it.

As this trip winds down, there aren’t just enough words to describe how good this has been. I wish you were here to experience it. Sometimes I feel as if my reports are too brief, because it is so difficult to fully summarize the emotions you have as you interact with the Christians here. In fact, it is almost impossible to capture everything in short letters like this. I am hoping over the next few weeks as I reflect on things, look at all the pictures and videos we’ve taken, that I’ll be able to write more down. I can tell you this. It’s been such a blessing to be here. It always is.

I can’t wait to return again in the future. Emilea is already making plans to come down and spend a few weeks with Natalia next summer. And, Kettering family, thank you for making this trip possible. All the glory goes to God. He is the one working through us, Jaime, and all the preachers/teachers down here. His church in this country is growing and well prepared for the future. As many of their congregations are moving into the second generation, they understand the importance of developing spiritual maturity and establishing Scriptural leadership over their congregations. Jaime mentioned that the effects of what we’ve done in reaching 30-40 preachers from a large representation of the country could be wide reaching as we move forward.

May God bless you all. Looking forward to being home. Can’t wait to see Becky and Zack. And, can’t wait to see all of you too.

Hope all of you have a great day of worship today. Give that Kipp Campbell guy a hard time for me.

matt

Saturday Update: Baranquilla

Good morning from northern Colombia. My apologies for no report yesterday. Couple of things. Mainly, our internet connection here in this hotel is spotty at best, I ran out of data on my cell phone (we’re all sharing my iphone hotspot) and I’ve been sick. Nothing serious, just a head cold. Thursday morning I woke up feeling like my head weighed 800 lbs. Better yesterday and … even better today.¬†Today is the last travel day before we head home Monday. Fly down to Bogota later this morning. Jaime & I will be at the El Rincon church tonight, while Jason & Mac will speaking at another congregation. We’ll switch out churches tomorrow. The girls will be interacting with the teens in these congregations as well. Should be a great experience for them.

On Thursday afternoon we met for lunch at the home of Pedro and Delsy Castro. Mac, Leigha, Emilea, Jason, Jaime, Natalia, and I all got the seats of honor at the table and the most food. Our plates were piled high with meat, rice, plantain, and avacados. Everyone else ate somewhere in the house. I’m not sure if they got the same portions as us. They just want to go out of their way to thank us for being here. At the end of our lunch, a couple of older men who came from as far as 6 hours away approached us to let us know how much they benefitted from our teaching. They said they’ve rarely heard teaching on the eldership and they were excited to take what they learned and share it in their area. They just went on and on with the words of praise and thanks.

We were also able to sit down and interact with Pedro and Carlos, as well as Ezekiel Nunez. Earlier in the week I presented Pedro with a new computer purchased with funds donated by various Christians at Kettering. In late December, as Pedro and Delsy returned home from a preaching trip, they walked in on a home invader who was robbing them. He held them at knife point until Pedro offered them the money in his pocket and his computer. The thief took these things and ran. Pedro just thanked me over and over again for the generosity of his brothers and sisters. Jason presented Ezekiel Nunez and Carlos Correa with video projectors. These were from funds donated by a number of individuals, etc. We were able to let each of these men know how much they are appreciated and that prayers are being continually offered. We assured them that their reports are read and brethren are thinking of them often. When I asked if there were any additional needs they had, their requests weren’t for money – they were for spiritual needs. Carlos Correa asked that we pray someone come to Lorica and help him on a full time basis. He is working with a number of congregations over a large radius across NW Colombia. (Due to the guerrilla activity, some of these areas are dangerous to be in, even for him.) He asked us to pray for his safety and for someone to come help him. All three of these men live on $300-400 per month. They travel, at their own expense, to help churches 2-3 hours away, every week. Their homes are simple. A few pictures of family hang on the wall here and there. Out back is a small, square back yard surrounded by 6 ft walls with clothes lines scatted across.

Thursday afternoon we traveled down to Cartagena for a service with this new church. With traffic and other things, our 109 km journey took a little over three hours. Needless to say, we were all very happy to get out of our rental van when we arrived. The Cartagena church has been in existence for just over 2 years. When I was here in 2013, we had a Bible study with several people from the area, who later became Christians, and were present at our service Thursday pm. Mac and I preached and after the service we drove back here to Baranquilla.

Yesterday morning, we started our day by walking up the street to a local Christian bookstore. This book store would have been unheard of in this country 25 years ago, but with the fast growing charismatic movement sweeping across South America, these book stores are now very popular. The staff was very helpful and assisted us with the purchase of 60 large print Bibles to be used in various churches in this part of the country. In place after place, I’ve noticed how the vast majority of church members do not have Bibles. We’ve also arranged for the purchase of a good number of Bibles from a bookstore in Bogota to be distributed in the areas where we were during the first week.

Yesterday afternoon, we took off. We drove back to Cartagena and toured the old city (surrounded by 500 year old walls built during the days of the Spanish) and the fortress on the hill above. A great time was had by all.

Our trip this year is rapidly drawing to a close. It’s been such a great experience and an overwhelming success. We can’t wait to get home and share with you what we’ve learned and how we’ve been built up by the things happening here. I just can’t say enough about my travel companions. Jason has been such a great partner to travel with. He’s worked so hard to present his lessons and has done a spectacular job. Mac’s experience on the eldership has been invaluable. Natalia’s help with the girls in translation has been such a help, plus I’ve really enjoyed watching the three girls build a friendship. Emilea and Leigha, I think, have been forever changed by making this trip. And then, there’s Jaime. We absolutely could not have functioned very well without him. He loves helping us and is just fun to be with. Thanks be to God for blessing us with such a wonderful team of individuals to encourage one another along the way.

Thanks again for all your prayers and encouragement along the way. Looking forward to being back in Ohio next week.

matt

Thursday Update: Baranquilla

Our second leadership conference concludes today. Our days have been long with back to back events with little break in between. Moving around this city is difficult. Traffic is challenging. Today, looks to be even longer – after we finish up this afternoon, we’ll take a 2 hour drive down to Cartagena for a service there tonight. Then we’ll drive back 2 hours here to Baranquilla to stay in our hotel.

Yesterday was very good. Jason did a great job teaching on elder’s qualifications and following his session he and Mac ran a Q & A for around an hour. Just like last week, the questions were good and indicated they’ve been studying on the matter. Many of them wanted clarification on what the age of the elder should be. We got questions on how many children an elder should have, whether they all should be faithful, what “being faithful” means, and what “the husband of one wife” means. All were asked with sincerity and a group of brothers came up to me after the first session ended saying how this week has really challenged them. They are ready to help their congregations go to the next level. I reminded them that this is a process and takes time – perhaps decades in some congregations – but they could all play a role in helping their churches move in the right direction.

We ate lunch at a restaurant across the street from where we’ve been meeting. It serves traditional Colombian food. It was great to be able to spend more time with these brothers, visiting and catching up on details about their lives, etc.

I conducted the afternoon session on 6 principles that every leaders should be developing within himself. We worked together on an activity on decision making, answered a few questions and then dismissed for the afternoon. In pm traffic, it takes about 30 minutes to get back to our hotel. We were here long enough to change clothes and then we were off for a 45-60 min commute to the 7th of April church. The place was packed. Kids and people were standing in the back door and out on the sidewalk looking through the barred windows. And, boy was it hot. Metal roof. Concrete walls. Only windows were in the back entrance area. Mac & Jason preached last night. Kids got to teach a number of little kids. Leigha presented her lesson. All the kids here are just so adorable.

Let me take just a moment to brag on Jaime. 10 days of translation in a row is hard. It’ll wear a person out. But, he keeps going. And he goes out of his way to help us, encourage us, and provide for our every need – even helping us with our menu orders, etc. He’s doing all the driving (for which I’m extremely thankful) and helping coordinate logistical things on the ground here for us. For example, due to it being a national holiday here, our flights on Monday were goofed up by the airline, with Mac & Leigha being bumped to different flights. He was able to talk with the check-in agent and get us all on the same flights. Had it just been me trying to negotiate everything, things might not have ran so smooth. We absolutely could not do this trip without his assistance. Kettering family, I want to encourage each of you to take a few moments and send Jaime a personal email of thanks. He’s a great person, a dedicated servant, and a very good translator. We have been very blessed by his being with us, as well as Natalia.

Once we finish up today, we’ve been invited to the Castro home to be served by Pedro’s wife, Delsy. We’re excited about that and look forward to their hospitality.

Please remember Becky as well. She’s had just a little stress while I’m away. The night before we left, a lightning storm hit near our house and took out a TV, satellite receiver, and other electronic devices in our home. Evidently, the lightning hit a tree next to the back corner of our home. Most of that tree fell yesterday afternoon, hitting part of our patio, etc. It looks like Mom’s garden has been destroyed, etc. After speaking with mom this morning, we got power restored around 12.30 this morning. Looks like I’m going to be spending next week cutting up a tree.

We appreciate all your prayers, and emails. We’re enjoying ourselves. I have two great traveling companions and the girls all get along and are having a great time. Of the 7 trips I’ve done like this, this one has been by far the best. (Not that the other trips were not successful.) But as this one enters its last stage, the success we’ve had is easy to see.

thanks again for your prayers and encouragement.
More on Friday.

Wednesday Update: Baranquilla

Day 2 of our lectureship is about to begin. We had a great Tuesday with 17 participants, men and women, from all over northern Colombia. Carlos Correa brought 3 others from the Lorica area in the NW. They all live 4 hours W of here. Ezekiel Nunez traveled 5 hours from La Jagua de Ibricco (NE Colombia next to Venezuela) to be here. One man traveled six hours.

We are meeting with the Boston church. Each day’s presentations are being made in a community room at a local apartment complex where a member of the church lives. That facility has a AC unit, which provides “some” or maybe a “hint” of relief from the intense, humid heat. I’m not sure if Jason & I have ever sweated this much. It’s all good. We just don’t smell good at the end of the day.

I conducted both sessions yesterday and Jason & I spoke last night at the evening service. We had a full house and the girls had 5-10 kids to teach. Since there wasn’t enough room, they had to teach inside another apartment. I haven’t had a chance to get the pictures off of Em’s phone, but Mac got a few from Leigha and posted them on Facebook last night. You can follow him on Facebook under Carl McMurray.

This part of Colombia is a different world in every way. They speak Spanish so fast that its even hard for Jaime to understand. Mac ran a question/answer session yesterday afternoon, and several questions had to be repeated because they cut the words so much. But, all were edified. We know this from the many thank-you’s and words of appreciation we received afterward. You can really tell they’re listening intensely. They’re taking notes. And, they agree that they need to do more teaching on leadership and the eldership. Just like last week, I asked the men “when was the last time you’ve taught a lesson on the eldership?” “Has it been lately?” No one raised their hand. So, we’ve challenged them to study the issue more, see the great need, and make opportunities to teach on it. They agree that this subject needs to be addressed.

Today, we’re going to continue. Jason is teaching the am session. Immediately following that, Mac will run a Q & A session. I’ll be teaching this afternoon on 6 principles to develop in growing leaders. Looking forward to that. The girls should be able to teach again tonight too. They’ve worked hard and spent alot of time in preparation for what they’re doing. And, we’re so indebted to Natalia Restrepo who has been such a valuable help in translating for Emilea and Leigha. They’ve been become close and it’s fun watching them interact with each other.

As always we appreciate your love and prayers for us.

More on Thursday.

matt

Tuesday Update: Baranquilla

We have arrived safely in our new city. Flights yesterday were mostly uneventful, although we did circle for 20 minutes before landing in Baranquilla due to severe storms. Landing in a thunderstorm is always interesting, but this one wasn’t too bad. (I’ve been in worse) Once we got into the terminal, we waited outside baggage claim for our rental van. A few feet away it was pouring. It was enough to make a Florida thunderstorm look tame. Once all the arrangements were made for the rental van, we ventured out. Still pouring. Then it stopped long enough for us to get our luggage loaded into brother Omar’s car. Then we were off for the hotel. Once we got into Baranquilla, the streets were flooded. Jason caught some video as we were driving through one flooded area.

Our hotel is clean and has AC. Girls have a nice, big room. Due to the weather, we’re having connectivity issues via wifi. So, in order to communicate back home, everyone is using the hotspot on my iphone.

After we got unpacked, we walked to a restaurant for supper. While there, the storms came on again. The restaurant arranged for a couple of taxis to pick us up and take us back to the hotel. Imagine the scene. We’re riding in this incredibly small taxi, and water is rushing down the street toward us. On the way, Pedro Castro called & said our service was cancelled for the evening because many streets and homes were flooded out. So we spent the evening in our hotel. We’re all thirsty on this trip and we can’t drink the water here, which makes you even more thirsty. The hotel supplied Mac & I with one bottle. Jason & Jaime didn’t get any, and the girls got one to share. So, about 10 last night Jason, Mac, & I decided to go on an adventure. We walked up and down the street for several blocks in each direction looking for a store that was open where we could buy water. We even approached a couple of street vendors, hoping they’d sell us some, but no luck. One lady had a big nice plastic bottle of water sitting there and she wouldn’t sell it to us. We figured out it was for the coffee she was selling. We eventually gave up and went back to our room.

We’re looking forward to getting started later this morning with our leadership conference. We’ll be having that at the Boston church over the next three days. (Their meeting place is equipped with AC!)

We’re all in good spirits and doing well. Can’t wait to meet our brothers today.

More on Wednesday.

Monday Update: Cali

Writing from the plane this morning as we make a short flight from Cali to Bogota. Both Avianca flights thus far have been on brand new equipment. Flying on a A320 today. Last Monday’s flight was on a very nice turbo prop. Seats are very comfortable and roomy. And, I’m a very nice guy this morning, flying in the middle seat between Em and Jason. After a quick layover in Bogota, we’ll fly up to Baranquilla.

It was just a wonderful weekend in Cali. The Quintero family was very gracious in their hospitality. The women went out of their way to provide food, plenty of juice and coffee, and other accommodations. Yesterday afternoon, was very special. We had time to relax with the Quintero, Rameriz, and other families from the Cali church. Orlando grilled steaks for lunch, along with plantain and potatoes. (No yucca this time. Yea!) For several hours, Carlos Julio took Emilea, Natalia, his daughter Laura, and Leigha to the top of Cali where there is a park with a large statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. Em got some really great pictures. The girls have had such a great time together.

Our morning service was excellent. I started things off with a lesson specially requested by Carlos Julio. It was the one I preached last Monday night in Niera and is based on Ephesians 4. The lesson emphasizes how leaders equip and saints serve. It fits in nicely with our overall purpose of the trip – teaching on the need for Biblical leaders, etc. During worship, Jason delivered remarks for the Lord’s Supper, and Mac spoke on shepherds from Psalm 23. After the service concluded, a lady from the community, Blanca, came forward to be baptized. She has been listening to the radio broadcast that Carlos Julio does every Monday and Friday. She came to services for the first time Saturday evening. After a brief study, she wanted to be baptized. That happened after Sunday’s worship service. It was a joy to our hearts to see the happiness on her face as she was born again. She hugged us all, and told us how much she appreciated what we taught. Like everyone, as you taught, you could really see how much she was participating in the service. Listening, taking notes, etc.

Last night Mac led a great discussion with Orlando and Carlos Julio and their wives on the importance of leaders setting an example in the activities they engage in. Because of the position they hope to occupy in any possible future eldership, there will be some liberties they’ll have to forego. Influence and not being a stumbling block to young sheep is of vital importance for spiritual leaders. I bet it was at least an hour of talk going back and forth, all in good humor. Both Carlos Julio and Orlando were sure to let us know how much they appreciated this discussion.

Brethren, I just can’t tell you enough how good of a work this is. They are great people. They go out of their way to make us feel comfortable. Everytime we leave, there are 10 minutes of hugs to go around and they are always sure to tell you how much they love you and are thankful for your teaching and care for them. For me, it’s totally humbling. I feel inadequate at times. But, I trust God, pray for the right words to say, and depend on Jason and Mac, who have been such great companions along the way.

We’ve just landed in Bogota, so I must close for now. Thanks again for all your prayers. It was good to see/talk to Rich last night over FaceTime. We love you all.

More on Tuesday.

Sunday Update: Cali

Good morning from Cali! We made it here safely yesterday afternoon after a 4 + hour drive from Manizales. We’ve receive a good night’s rest in the home of Orlando Quintero & family. We just continue to be blown away by the hospitality of our brethren. They are going out of their way to make us feel welcome and even though we don’t speak the same language, the communication is obvious.

Yesterday was mostly a travel day. It’s quite an operation when you’re moving 7 people around with luggage. Carlos Julio drove one car, with the girls, and Jaime drove the other, with Jason, Mac, and me. On the way, for lunch we stopped at a roadside restuarant that Jaime says offers the best meat around. When we got there, the meat was being cooked over a flame and the guy sliced off samples for us. We asked Jaime what kind of meat it was. His reply: “Don’t ask.” So… anyway… it was really good. Mac seems to think we ate a Tapir. Before we got to Cali, Jaime took us to the city of Palmira. This is where his uncle and dad operated a dairy for many years. Jaime was working here in 1984 making $12/month. It was at this time he wrote Royce Chandler looking for support, and Kettering stepped up with $200 per month. This start enabled him to move back to Manizales and begin the work of preaching. Anyway, Jaime’s uncle and father have passed away, so Jaime’s cousins operate the dairy now. As part of their business, they sell these yogurt like drinks called “Super Kumi’s.” The family treated each of us with one of our favorite flavor.

We got to Cali just in time to change clothes for service, where Mac and Jason preached last night. There were 40-50 people present. After the service ended, all the teens gathered up together in a circle and spent time visiting with Emilea & Leigha. You could tell they were really having fun. While this was going on, Mac, Jason, and I were having a discussion with one of the brothers who attended the first day of our leadership conference. He had some questions regarding what we taught. I think we were able to clear up some of his thinking on a few matters. While we were talking, Carlos Julio was in another part of the room talking with a contact, who had attended the service after she heard about it on his radio program. They talked together for over 30 minutes. Jason and I sat down toward the end of the conversation, and found out that the lady desires to be baptized today. We’re excited! Jason led a prayer for her, we all embraced, and departed.

Looking forward to the rest of today. Excited to get to visit with Orlando and his family. Looking forward to encouraging him, as well as the others.

More on Monday! Must go for now. About to eat breakfast, which includes mandarins Mac picked out of Orlando’s back yard earlier this morning.

matt

Saturday Update: Manizales

Good morning from Manizales. We’re all packed up this morning and ready to travel to Cali today. It’s a four hour + drive. We’ll have our luggage crammed in two cars. Carlos Julio will drive one & Jaime the other. I did this trip (Cali-Manizales) two years ago on a bus. Everyone should have that experience at least once in their life.

Friday was another great day. We met back at the meeting place in the morning and spent the first 45 min or so watching a video recorded by four of our former elders at Kettering. All the preachers who gathered watched intently, and from their reaction afterwards, you know it had a positive impact on them. After this, we spent the next few hours listening to each of the preachers give a brief report on their work. You would just not believe some of the sacrifices these men make to preach, and how hard they work. Their humility is evident and their dedication is real. Some of the work is in dangerous parts of the country (places where Jason & I can’t go due to security reasons, guerrilla activity, etc.). Some travel 3-4 hours away to serve one-two families who live in remote areas. Travel here is both difficult and dangerous. Some of the men also detailed their work in neighboring parts of South America. It was great to learn of these efforts in other places.

We spent the remainder of Friday relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. Jaime has gone out of his way to make us feel comfortable and has been so hospitable. Yesterday was Celina’s birthday. So as we ate together, we celebrated her birthday with her. These guys all love to laugh and have fun together. I wish you were here to experience it. She was a very gracious host yesterday, working hard to prepare meals for 18-20 people … on her birthday!

During the evening last night, Jason and I took time to meet with four (Jaime Restrepo, Carlos Julio Rameriz, Rafael Amaya, and Wilson Valbuena) of the men Kettering supports here in Colombia. We thanked them for what they do, and let them know their reports are read and that they are prayed for all the time. In turn, they let us know of their appreciation for us and want each of the Kettering saints to know what an impact you have had on their life. Let me tell you how wonderful it is to know these men personally, see the look in their eyes, and feel their humble heart. They are good men. Not only are they making sacrifices, but their families as well.

We’re excited to move into the next phase of the trip, but I’m a little sad to leave Manizales. It is my favorite city in this country. We’ll spend the next two days in Cali, before flying to Baranquilla on Monday. This weekend, we’ll be staying in the home of Orlando Quintera. I’m excited to see his family again. They have been such gracious hosts in the past. Services begin at 6 tonight, with Mac, Jason, and I all scheduled to speak.

Have a great Saturday. As always, thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement.

matt