Three Kings Day 2017

The first week of this year our church sent a team of six uniquely gifted people to work with our Dominican Partner, Benedicion Church, to host a 3 Kings Day outreach to their community.  Our goal was to help the church do something that they could not otherwise do by themselves.  During our time there we met with neighbors, the regional mayor and his staff, and church members.  It was a productive week.

When our team arrived in Santo Domingo we had a tough time getting our rental car and during our very long wait with Alamo, Pastor De los Santo had his car towed while waiting at the rental car desk with us!  Fortuneately it only cost $18 to retrieve his car from the impound lot.

We look forward to returning to the Villa Hermosa area of Santo Domingo very soon where we plan to rebuild a baseball field, build a new church plant, and share the gospel with the community.  Stay tuned.


Monday is for Missions

Beginning soon, I hope to begin a Monday morning missions blog that will provide insights into the missions ministry vision and strategy of Living Faith NY and things we will do to fulfill it. A good understanding of God’s activity worldwide is foundational to taking steps to properly engage missionary partners and establish missionary endeavors to the glory of God.   See: Missions Page

Facts on Haiti

Poverty rate: 77%
Population: 10,123,787
GDP: $7.35 billion (66th lowest)
GDP per capita: $726 (22nd lowest)

The World Bank notes that more than half of Haiti’s population lives on less than $1 a day, while about 80% of the country lives on less than $2 a day. The country’s estimated unemployment rate as of 2010 was 40.6%. The impoverished nation is in a state of rebuilding since a devastating earthquake hit the country in 2010. According to a USAID report, the death toll from the earthquake was between 46,000 and 85,000, while the official figure by the Haitian government estimated the death toll at 316,000. The World Bank estimates that damages from earthquake totaled $8 billion, or about 120% of gross domestic product.

Source: Fox Business News, Sept 14, 2012

Things I Learned In Haiti

IMG_6134Last week I returned from a mission trip where our group of 20 Living Faith Christian Church members and attenders served the Onaville, Haiti community.  We worked in cooperation with two churches and visited, fed, and played with children in two different orphanages.  Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and has the highest percentage of people living in poverty.  That rate is 77%.

Haiti is a strange place to me.  It has a wonderful warm climate that offers vibrant refreshing mornings and evenings and the ability to dress and comfortably move about.  The mosquito population was unbelievably non-existent which made our sleeping nets and Deet products useless, praise God.  The food was good and abundant.  I did not see anyone starving but we did see one lady begging outside a grocery store.  While the main and side streets were crowded, they seemed safe.  We saw no crime but we did see guards in multiple locations with shotguns in hand. Having been robbed at gunpoint in Brasil a few years ago made me jittery about this.   I think shotguns tend to keep crime in check.   Although shotguns were quietly flashed, we found Haiti to be a very friendly place filled with warm and joyful people.   The airport was extremely easy to use and surprisingly fast to process through, howbeit we did have to go through two electronic screenings to board our flight on wonderful jetBlue.

Sunday, and throughout the week, we experienced the vibrancy of Haitian Christians as they sang songs and hymns.  Whether in church, at children’s VBS, or in a meeting to distribute food, everyone in Haiti seemed to have a strong ability to sing about God.  We are told that as many as 33% of the people are involved in an evangelical ministry.  That is 10 times the number as we have on Long Island!

On Tuesday three of our trip members and I were honored to be able to address school students.  In the morning we visited all the elementary and high school classes.  The students sat together on benches and graciously stood to welcome us into their classrooms.  The rooms were mostly 12 x 12 cement walled rooms with metal ceilings/roof, no door, and a 6 foot high blackboard that acted as a barrier to the next classroom.  I was sweating profusely in the heat of each room yet the teachers were comfortable in a full suit/tie and the students were dry in their uniforms.  In the afternoon we addressed a college medical student class where we were given open privileges to share the love of Christ, our testimonies, and our purpose in the visit.

While a unique and friendly culture welcomed us in Haiti, there were many less than great things that will stick with me.  First, I was taken back by all the dust in the air.  Everywhere you looked there was dirt and rocks.  Rarely did we see a visible green lawn.  I cannot help but think that this greatly affects the health of the children and adults.  With all the millions/billions of dollars flowing into Haiti since the earthquake, you would think someone would address basic infrastructure needs such as roads and parks.  Cars and trucks were broken down all over the place due to broken axles, blown tires, and other suspension issues.  Fixing the roads would save people lots of personal repair costs, increase personal and corporate productivity, and could certainly improve the air quality.  Since I am an American, I want to fix it.  It is sometimes hard to just understand and accept things as they are.

Second, the people of Haiti are hard workers yet without jobs.  A few local church men and a few from our group dug a trench around a well while they roasted in the very hot sun.  We were told that 70% of the population are unemployed including 87% of those under 27, yet every street was filled with sidewalk vendors.  Perhaps the unemployment count does not include unregistered self-employed street vendors. Many of the items being sold by these vendors seemed to be used or of an eclectic nature.  They were items like odd sized used tires with rims and an assortment of bras at the same table.  It was like seeing a continuous garage sale!  Foreign investment in the infrastructure seems non-existent.

Automobiles looked like we were in another decade.  Rust was the color of the day including the bus we travelled on.  People crammed into Tap Tap truck taxis’ and so tight in buses that faces seem smooched against the windows.  While we were there a taxis truck rolled over in the mountains killing and injuring 15 people. The traffic was just organized chaos and safety not even considered.  One really needs to be able to walk to schools, churches, and shopping.

The final negative that I experienced was that of seeing how little people seemed to care for the orphan.  I realize that many of the orphans are in a group home because the parents dropped them off because of need or greed (to get ahead at someone else’s expense).  Many children are in an orphanage because they experienced human trafficking due to work or sex abuse.  The people, and churches don’t seem to feel any sense of responsibility to the orphan.  I know that most people are barely able to feed their own household but there has to be something that can be given to the orphans….everyone has something to give.



International Student Ministry Trip

In just a couple of weeks I will be leading a team of young adults to work at an international student retreat in Charleston, SC. Our trip takes us into a unique opportunity to engage with international students and scholars from Clemson University. We will be assisting the ministry of Friends of Internationals and their leader Jon Varner.

This is an exciting ministry. We will assist the group by helping with meals, speaking English with students, and touring a plantation and historical Charleston as we help guide students through the cultural issues they may encounter. We really want to help students understand Christianity and of course, we hope to invite them to visit us here in New York.  Upon returning we will evaluate if we can begin to launch a ministry to international students here on Long Island.  Here is an older but well done video about Friends of Internationals that shows the full scope of this ministry.

Lead Your Teenager To Walk With God

Last weekend I led a seminar @LivingFaithNY titled “Moving Your Teen To Lasting Faith”.  A good number of parents spoke with me after the seminar about how much they appreciated that we engaged in this subject.  It is am important matter.

Today I found some great videos that I had produced a few years ago on the subject of reaching out to university students.   I am posting them here for you to view and share with your teen and others.

Fraternity brother Drew at USF in Tampa.

Jenny tells how she was transformed at James Madison.

Football player Ray at James Madison explains how God miraculously touched his life.

Student Chris Ortiz explained how God moved him from drugs to Christ.

New Yorkers Surprise Me

It has now been almost a year since Lynn and I arrived here on Long Island. To some degree it has been everything we expected: expensive, crazy traffic, crowded, and mean winter weather. But there are other things we have noticed that we did not expect. Things like little to no interest in college football, beautiful ocean beaches, very knowledgeable and helpful county officials, and a population that will attend church if you invite them. That last one really surprised us.

Every week our church sees a good number of visitors in our services. Since July 1 we have had 117 different households complete a visitors card and of course many who visit do not complete a card. We guess that for everyone who completes a visitor card, there are one or two who do not. What really surprises me is what visitors say.

Most visitors to say that they have never experienced a church like this. They say they have never seen a place where people sing so vibrantly and where they are greeted so warmly. They often mention that they were shocked to have a parking lot attendant help them with parking AND welcome them to church. Most say they will be back.

People who visit Living Faith usually have a positive respond to the preaching. It seems that most are from a church that rarely encourages use of the Bible, either corporately or privately. It is not uncommon for people to need lots of help in finding the passage in the seat Bible so that they can follow the sermon. In December an 85 year old lady approached me after the service to say that it was her first time here and that although she attended a church every week, the sermon that day taught her more than she had learned in her church in years. That kind of stunned me. I look forward to hearing many comments like that from New Yorkers.

The Class of 2017

Check out the latest Beloit College Mindset List of the college class of 2017. Here are a few of the ID markers for these students:
* They have never attended a concert in a smoke-filled arena.
* Gaga has never been baby talk.
* Their parents’ car CD player is soooooo ancient and embarrassing.
* Java has never been just a cup of coffee.
– and my favorite…
* With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address.

Sunday Morning Message

On Sunday morning at Living Faith Christian Church I will be preaching at all three services.  In the message I will speak about priorities and possibilities.  We will look at how to identify Christian  priorities, how to overcome obstacles that block their success, and look at ways we can accomplish our calling in life.  Parking at the first and third service are always the easiest.

See you Sunday!

Five Ways To Know God’s Will

It always amazes me that Christians have a difficult time discovering God’s will in matters in their lives.   I think there are three reasons they struggle with this.  The three include but are not limited to:

1.  They don’t seek God’s will or they seek it with such little effort.  If one has a big decision to make, what would make them think it would come through one prayer?

2.  They don’t read the Bible.  Those who know the Bible often know principles that will guide them in decision making.  I.e. “Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.”  That principle would sure help lots of people in their dating relationships!

3.  Many cannot articulate their views on the Biblical concepts of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation.  If you don’t understand what God is doing in the world, then how will you make Godly decisions?

So, here is a good pattern for discovering God’s will:

1.  Pray.  Ask God for wisdom.  He says He will provide it.

2. Seek the will of God from what He says in the Bible.  God’s Word speaks very loudly.

3. Evaluate your gifts and assets.  Know what God has given you to be able to fulfill a decision you might be considering.  I.e.  If you cannot sing well, it is probably not God’s will for you to join the choir!

4. Ask the faith community for insight.  The Lord has given us one another to make good decisions.  Your own desires and insights can be misleading.

5.  Look for the providential hand of God.  The Lord will often make His will known through events, happenings, things, etc.  However, be aware that the world, the flesh, and the devil can mimic God’s activity so use all five of the above in seeking God’s will.


Seven Lessons Learned in Selling Our House

It has been a long time since I updated this site but it has also been 10 fast paced months.  In March we quickly placed our house in Georgia under contract.  It was a breeze to show the house (although it was a busy time) and it did not take much to get a contract.  Many people made offers on the house and most wanted to bid low and work their way up expecting us to give in at any moment.  Well, we held out for a strong near asking price and closed things out in April.  Here is what we learned.

1.  You should keep your house in good condition so that it won’t take long to prepare to sell.  Our house was like a showcase house and all the potential buyers were impressed.  Buyers commented that they had seen many homes that were poorly kept and really turned them off.

2.  You CAN sell the house yourself.  A great house WILL attract lots of buyers AND realtors with their customers.  If you know what is involved in preparing a contract, and it is not really a lot of work, you can sell a house like you sell a car.  You simply need to know what you will negotiate, have your disclosures in order and available, make copies of utility bills available, and have a flyer about the house handy.  Then work with your listing people or lawyer to get the contract signed.  I am probably missing a few things but my point is that selling is simple.

3.  Make sure buyers are really buyers and not just lookers.  You don’t need to waste your time.  It is your house so don’t let just anyone look at it but make sure they have a bank letter saying they qualify as a buyer.

4.  Protect your valuables when showing your home.  You don’t have to let buyers out of your sight as they tour your home.  We had no problem with this but you should be away of potential problems.  Even those touring your home with a realtor could take small items.

5.  Be prepared to point out issues you have had with your home or that currently exist.  People appreciate honesty and inspectors will discover problems…at least they should!  Some of those issues will be selling points such as a new roof, new heaters, or repairs that lead to upgrades.

6.  Don’t trust buyer realtors are being open and honest with you.  Buyer representatives are not there to help you or protect you in the sale.  I had a few who were rather deceptive and even got upset when I would not respond to their ‘low ball’ offers.  There is nothing that says you have to respond to offers that realtors know are not in the price range.  A good buyer representative/realtor will work well with you and you will know it.

7.  Be prepared to move quicker than you think you might need to move.  Buyers want in soon.  They often have time constraints on their rental agreements.  The biggest problem we had was arranging the moving company while making sure the closing happened as planned.

Easy to sell