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white house on green grass and green mountain

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When I was a child I went to church because my parents took me there.

When I was a teenager I went to church because I experienced the love of God and wanted to learn more about Him and His great love.

When I was in Bible College I went to church because it was required by the Bible College and I enjoyed the preaching.

After I graduated from Bible College I went to church because I worked with the youth group and I was married and had two daughters.

After I divorced I went to church because I needed the fellowship and support of the Body of Christ, and I was committed to contributing to the life of the church in various ways.

I have gone to church my whole life, and for the most part it has been a positive experience. I have enjoyed the music, both the richness of the old hymns and also the lively contemporary tunes. Most churches that I went to had talented musicians who made that aspect of the service something special.

The sermons were usually my favorite part. Most of the ministers were highly educated, gifted speakers who made the Bible come alive. Preachers who explained biblical passages in their cultural and literary settings, and then offered practical applications for present day followers of Jesus.

I came to Mexico to help needy children thirteen years ago. These years have probably been the happiest years of my life. Living my life helping the fatherless and the incarcerated. Making a difference in the lives of poor children who have been abused and neglected by those who should have cared for them. Seeing smiling, happy faces everyday of young ones who would otherwise be living miserable lives, is an exceedingly rewarding experience for me.  Laughing with inmates and bringing a message of encouragement to them; many who were falsely accused and unjustly imprisoned, is a great blessing for me.

Going to church in Mexico, on the other hand, is not such a great experience for me. The music is almost always too loud and hurts my ears. The lyrics are generally shallow and the theology of the songs suspect. The same can often be said for the preaching. I miss the music and sermons from the U.S.A.

So why do I still go to church? Because that is where I encounter the Body of Christ, the Community of Faith, gathered together to acknowledge the goodness of the God who has called us, redeemed us, justified us, rescued us, saved us and is sanctifying us everyday. I go to church primarily to look around and be reminded that God loves US and wants US to be happy. I go to church and see the Family of God, adopted sons and daughters of the Most High, brothers and sisters of the Faith.

In reality, every time I walk out my front door here at the mission, I go to church.  The church is the people who I work with everyday, my fellow Christians.  In one sense, I don’t go to church – I live in the church.  I live and work with people who are dedicated to making beauty, doing good and sharing the truth in the name of Jesus.  People who strive everyday to love God and love humanity.  People trying to bring peace, joy and light into dark and unhappy lives.  We do it all depending on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the strength of the Lord and the nurturing of our loving heavenly Father.  That is the true church.

But when we all gather together, now that is something special.  The presence of God is manifest in our lives in a unique way.  I look around the auditorium and I see house parents who give their time and love to children desperate for love. I see cooks who make delicious, wholesome meals for children who previously lacked a proper diet and nutrition. I notice men who do maintenance; who keep the vehicles in working condition so the kids can go to school safely and the cooks can go and buy food and the teachers can go and buy supplies. I take in the school teachers who are so dedicated and give so much of themselves so that their students have a good education and can make something of themselves in this country where it can be so difficult to get ahead.  God’s presence is with us all as we go about our individual chores and fulfill our responsibilities.  But when we all gather together to worship God and look into each others eyes and pray for one another, that gives God an opportunity to do a work in our hearts and lives that would not otherwise be accomplished.

So I go to church and worship God with music that is too loud and where the preaching is less than stimulating, because I am part of a team that God has called. He has not just called us individually to salvation, but He has called each of us to come to Tlacolula, Oaxaca, Mexico, to work together and grow together and make a difference together. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I go to church to celebrate US. US who are God’s handiwork. US who are created in Christ Jesus. US who are doing good works that God has prepared for US to do.

I go to church to celebrate God with my brothers and sisters in the Faith. The God who has opened our eyes to the truth. The God who gives us a common vision of how we can participate in the Kingdom of God in the Tlacolula valley of southern Mexico. To celebrate the faithful God who gives us “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

That is why I still go to church.

Don’t

live in the world

and go to church.

Live

in the

church

and go into the world!!!

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I pray the Lord’s Prayer every morning. I especially like the part about “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Kingdom of God on earth is Already – But not yet. It already exists.  It started with the new born King whose little body was laid in a wooden manger in Bethlehem and whose adult body was crucified on a wooden cross outside Jerusalem. It started out as the smallest of seeds, starting to grow over 2000 years ago, and is still growing, just like Jesus said in Matthew 13:31-32.  It has not yet come to completion.

When George Bush was President he promoted a 1000 Points of Light program. I like to think of the Kingdom of God on earth as a Million Points of Light program. Everywhere that Christians gather together to glorify God and love Him and love their neighbors is a Kingdom Point of Light.

I live at a Home for Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is one of those Points of Light. We take in children who are poor, abused, neglected and abandoned. They are hurt,sad, angry and confused when they come here. Here they experience the love of God and of Christians who care for them.  Here they are transformed.  We give them a safe place to live with plenty of nutritious food to eat and clean water to drink. They receive a good education and spiritual direction. Our goal is not just to make them into good people, but to make them into faithful disciples who love God and want to cooperate with Him in growing the Kingdom.

My wife and daughters and I spent Christmas day with a half dozen of these children, all under the age of 6. They are new comers to our little Kingdom Point of Light. Most of them are brothers and sisters who had been separated and put into different children’s homes in Oaxaca. Now they are reunited, happy and healthy, living in a loving Christian community that meets their every need.

New Kids at the Mission

Brother and Sister Reunited

God’s Kingdom is coming everyday in many different ways all over the world. In 2018 He may choose to bring His Kingdom to fulfillment; to completion. Then He will be the one to wipe away the children’s tears and there will be no more need for children’s homes. If that doesn’t happen in the new year, then God’s Kingdom will continue to come, on earth as it is in heaven. Little light by little light. Followers of Jesus will continue to spread the joy and peace of God and people all over the world will be coming into relationship with God, glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever. He is the One who truly puts the Happy in the New Year!

March first was my ten year anniversary of being at the Home For Needy Children in Oaxaca, Mexico.   Looking back on those ten years I think about Beauty, Goodness and Truth.  I have been rereading a Christian philosophy book about Beauty, Goodness and Truth, with regards to the writings of C.S. Lewis.  Beauty, Goodness and Truth are three important characteristics that describe God and his work with humanity.  We are created in God’s image, thus three important aspects of of humans, especially Christian humans should be Beauty, Goodness and Truth.beauty, truth, goodness

In God we see he created beauty in the six days of creation.  Not only was it beautiful, but God pronounced it good.  We also see the goodness of God in the way he provides for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.  As Pastor Aaron is fond of saying, “God is good all the time” and “All the time God is good.”  When it comes to truth, well, God is truth, and all truth is God’s truth.  Jesus said, “I am the truth.”

As Christians we strive to be like our maker (who after creating man and woman proclaimed this special act of creation as Very Good).  Everyday, followers of Christ should desire to make beauty, or make the world and the kingdom of God, more beautiful.  A true disciple should also do good and acquire and disseminate truth.  As I look back on my ten years in Mexico I ask myself if I have done these three things.

God loves us and wants us to be happy.  He has created us to be most happy when we do these three things.  I have been extremely happy these past ten years cooperating with God in making beauty, doing good and acquiring and disseminating truth.  I am most happy when I am making gardens, following in the footsteps of God who made the first garden.  Genesis tells us the first garden was first of all beautiful, and then good for producing fruit.  I try to make gardens that are also beautiful and good for producing peace and happiness, as well as good food.  I appreciate it when visitors to the Oaxaca mission tell how beautiful and peaceful it is.  My primary hope is that the gardens bring a sense of peace and joy to the hurting children that we care for.  We have one troubled boy who, despite his inner struggles and conflicts, consistently tells me, when I am putting in a new garden, that it is beautiful.  Thank you Danny.

All the staff members at the mission do good things and practice kindness everyday.  We take kids to school and pick them up.  We do dishes and sweep and mop floors.  We go to Oaxaca city after our “workday” is done on Tuesday evenings and spend a few more hours at the fruit and vegetable market asking vendors for donations of produce, arrive back late and unload the pickup.  Usually some kids from the mission go along and help.  It all makes for a long day, but I think that as we finally climb into bed, we give thanks to God that he has allowed us to participate with him in the kingdom work of helping “the least of these”.  For members of the Family of God, doing good is is important, especially considering Jesus words in Matthew chapter 25 – when you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, take in strangers, help the sick and visit those in prison, we do it as though it were for Jesus.  “When you did it to these my brothers, you have done it for me.”  These ten years in Mexico I have done a few good things, by the grace of God who has allowed me to partner with brothers and sisters who share a faith to “love one another as I have loved you”.

One of my favorite things to do throughout my life has been to acquire and disseminate truth.  I have always loved to read and learn and to share with others what I have learned.  At the Home for Needy Children there is a primary school which offers the students a variety of electives.  I have been privileged to share truth with the children on gardening, baseball and currently basketball.

There is a prison across the street and for over five years I have walked across the highway to that prison and have taught an English class to groups of women, men, and inmates in the psyche ward. Disseminating truth not only about nouns, verbs and vowels, but also about God’s love, compassion and mercy.  Psalms says that God gives us the desires of our heart.  God gave me the desire to learn and teach, to acquire and disseminate truth, and I am blessed that I have been able to do that in a variety of ways at the Mission in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Speaking of Beauty, Goodness and Truth that I have experienced during my time in Mexico, I am most grateful for my beautiful wife Anita, and two wonderful daughters, Sally and Kelly, that God has given me during my time here.  They are so good and bring much happiness to my life. Surely God is good all the time.

I also thank God for the chance to get to know Charla Pereau , the founder of Foundation for His Ministry which operates the Home for Needy Children here in Oaxaca.  She is the epitome of making beauty, doing good and sharing truth.  Thousands of the “least of these” in Mexico enjoy happier lives because of her life.  I am one of those.

*****          *****          *****          *****

How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good He has given me?  I will take up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the LORD.   Psalm 116:12,13

 

There are three things that will never die: truth, goodness and beauty.  These are the three things we all need, and need absolutely, and know we need, and know we need absolutely.  Our minds want not only some truth and some falsehood, but all truth, without limit.  Our wills want not only some good and some evil, but all good, without limit.  Our desires, imaginations, feeling or hearts want not just some beauty and some ugliness, but all beauty, without limit.  These three things are three attributes of God, and therefore of all of God’s creation:  three transcendental or absolutely universal properties of all reality.   C.S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty  by David J. Baggett