Friday, December 26, 2008

Momma's home!!! And a Very Merry Christmas!

Hello everyone!

"Momma's Home!" Those were the words of joy that would echo through the house whenever mom came back from grocery shopping. My brother and I would help her carry the groceries into the kitchen and might even help put them away, but mainly to see what kind of "Free Inside" was in the cereal she had bought that day.

If you're not familiar with the tradition of "Free Inside" let me introduce you. Cereal makers have long tried to induce children to ask their parents to purchase their brand of cereal by seducing them with promises of prizes inside the box. Though the prizes would change, the packaging always included the word "Free" when talking about what was inside! So my siblings and I began calling the prize "the Free Inside". We took turns getting the "Free Inside" and we were especially happy if we got to go with mom and pick out the cereal if it was our turn to get the "Free Inside".

But more often than not, Momma, like the wise woman she was, would leave the children at home when she shopped for groceries (probably to avoid the incessant requests for candy in the checkout aisle!). So we would await her arrival and someone would shout, "Momma's home!" whenever she arrived, bringing home the goods. It was a good feeling.

That's how I feel today that "Momma's home" from the hospital! And the "Free Inside" is the visit we had in her bedroom, just chatting about everything and nothing, all the while sitting on her bed, not being interrupted by people taking her blood pressure, giving her a pill or the sounds of someone being paged over the intercom! What a great gift it is to have mom home! She's doing well, looking good, feeling better and well on her way to recovery. Thank you for your prayers.

She came home the day AFTER Christmas, which was ok with us. We wanted her to get the best careChristmas Lunch at the Cabrini Cafeteria - hamburgers and gumbo, YUM!!! she could, for as long as it took to get better, and she did. We did get to enjoy part of our Christmas Day with her and Dad in her hospital room. We took our gifts up there for a grand revealing and really enjoyed visiting with them for awhile. (I took a few pictures with my cellphone camera. Don't tell her about the picture that she's in - she'll KILL me! ) Then we had lunch in the cafeteria before heading out to visit with a few friends. I was very appreciative of the cafeteria staff and all those who worked on Christmas Day serving others. What a blessing you are!

All in all, it was a great day - and the best gift we've received is getting mom back home, well on her way to recovery. Thank you to everyone who visited, called, sent flowers and gifts and prayed for her, and us. Your encouragement has been tremendous! Thank you again.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas as well. This morning as I drove though a drive-through window I noticed folks weren't as happy or cheerful as they had been leading up to Christmas. I started to say "Merry Christmas" in an effort to cheer them up but held back, thinking they would find that strange. But I've decided that since we celebrate Jesus' birth all year long that I can say "Merry Christmas" at any time - and hopefully it will bring a little cheer to someone's life. Even though "Christmas Day" is past, the message of Christmas lives on. So ..... Merry Christmas everybody!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Carols & Communion by Candlelight!

Hello everyone!

I'm SUPER excited about our Christmas Eve service at 5:00PM on Wednesday. "Carols and Communion by Candlelight" will be a great experience to everyone who comes, and YOU'RE invited!

We've got several folks who will be participating in leading various carols and we'll celebrate communion together, all in an atmosphere of worship and simplicity. I'm excited about the wide participation from several folks who will each add a special touch. And the candlelight portion of the service is always special and creates wonderful memories! All of this and we'll have you out by 6:00PM so you can enjoy the evening with your family. I'm really looking forward to spending part of our Christmas Eve with YOU!

I know you're looking for an update on my mom and I don't have a lot to report, other than she's doing better every day. Today was better than yesterday and tomorrow will be better than today! They did find a blood clot on her lung, which explains why she was struggling with getting her blood-oxygen levels up. They've got her on some additional blood thinners that should help with the clot. She'll feel so much better when she's not out of breath!

I really do appreciate the care she's been receiving from the fine folks at Cabrini. BTW, someone asked me about my use of the word "cracker jack" when I described one of mom's doctors in yesteday's post. I meant it in the most respectful way. Here's the definition from that shows what I meant:

  • crackerjack - expert
  • Definition: Having or demonstrating a high degree of
    knowledge or skill.
  • Synonyms: adept, crack, master, masterful, masterly,
    professional, proficient, skilled, skillful

I apologize for any confusion. I really am impressed with the care mom's received and I'm excited that she has a highly skilled team of physicians, nurses, techs and care-givers attending to her. They're definitely a crackerjack bunch of folks!!! :)

See you at our Christmas Eve service!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday's "Mom Message"

Hi guys!

I don't have a lot to update but I know you're curious. So just a quick blurb to say that Sis. Betty remains in Cabrini and we're not sure when she'll be home. She's on some new "big gun" medicine that has to be closely monitored. She had a little set-back this evening, but the whole thing was recorded on her heart monitor so hopefully that will help the cracker-jack heart doctor figure out what's going on with the fluttering, palpitations, arhythmia, or whatever you want to call it.

Everyone keeps asking me if she'll be home in time for Christmas. To be honest, I think all of us in the family really don't care. Not that we don't care about Christmas, but we want mom better - so if that means staying in the hospital over Christmas so the medical team can get all this straightened out, then so be it. We just want her better!

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement. The cards, flowers, balloons, emails, text messages, IMs, phone calls, carrier pigeons (did I leave anything out?) are all very encouraging to us. And thanks for understanding when we don't respond right away - be we are uplifted by your love and prayers. Thank you.


P.S. Don't forget out AWESOME Christmas Eve service at 5:00PM Wednesday. "Carols and Communion by Candlelight!" It's going to be GREAT!

P.P.S (Or is that P.S.S.?) I'm going to bring ringing the bells for the Salvation Army tomorrow morning from 10:00-12:00 at the Pineville Walmart on the Grocery entrance. Come say "hello!"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Update on Sis. Betty

Hello everyone,

I'm getting lots of emails, calls, texts, etc, asking for an update on my mom. Here's the synopsis - she's doing better. :)

Here's the longer version - Thursday morning she started experiencing severe heart palpitations and chest pain. Dad called me to come down to the parsonage to check on her. We called the doctor's office and told him we were headed to the ER, which we did quickly. Once there it didn't take long for them to have a lot of people working on her. They tried shocking her heart twice to get it to "convert" back into a regular rhythm and that didn't work. So they used some powerful meds that finally kicked in and called in a cardiac electrophysiologist who quickly got her on a relatively new drug that specializes in this type of problem. They eventually settled her into room 244.

She rested well last night (Friday night) and feels much better today. They're talking about doing another heart cath to make sure they didn't miss any blockages and a CT scan of her lungs to try to find out why her oxygen levels are not where they should be. We don't know how long she'll be up there, I'm guessing at least a couple of days. But she does feel good and would welcome visitors. She's at Christus St. Francis Cabrini hospital in room 244. You can call her at 318-449-2244 if you'd like. Thanks for your continued prayers for my mom!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

She's baaack!

Hello friends and family,

The picture at the right probably sums up my mom's feelings. No matter how wonderful the care at Christus St. Francis Cabrini, and it was indeed wonderful, still there's no place like home. Mom came home this afternoon and is settling in well. The folks at Cabrini were absolutely wonderful, as my dad commented on his blog. They take their mission seriously to extend the healing ministry of Jesus. But we are definitely glad to have mom home where we can love on her and serve her even more.

Please feel free to stop by the parsonage for a visit. She'd love to see everyone. (You might want to call first to make sure she's presentable! And don't tell her I said that or I'll be in trouble! ) Thank you to everyone who has visited, and especially for being considerate of her need to regain strength by keeping your visits brief. She really appreciates the words, hugs, balloons, flowers, etc.

Well, that's it for this update. I'll try to keep updating. We've got our AngelFood distribution this Saturday, which is always fun. I'm also wrapping up our "Old Carols in a New Light" sermon series this Sunday, talking about "O Holy Night". I've really enjoyed this series. And I'm looking forward to our Christmas Eve candlelight service next Wednesday evening at 5:00PM. It's FUN to serve Jesus!!! Especially with YOU!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Moving on up ... for real!!!

Sis. Betty is moving to room 352 at Cabrini

Hello everyone,

OK, the second time is the charm! Mom is being moved out of ICU - and believe it or not, she's being moved to the SAME ROOM she was scheduled to be in yesterday - room 352!

So, all the info from my previous post stands: You should be able to call her directly at 318-449-2352, once she's in the room. And she would LOVE visitors! Please keep in mind to keep the visits brief so she can get her rest and regain her strength. But she definitely looks forward to being loved on. (And she likes balloons!!!)

Thanks again for all the love and support. We sure do appreciate it!

Sent from my Treo 700p cellphone - Sorry for any tyops!

Monday, December 15, 2008


Well, it seems we got a little ahead of ourselves! The doctors decided they wanted to keep mom in ICU at least one more day! So disregard the previous post and stay tuned for updates - I'll let you know when they finally do move her and the room number. Thanks again for all the support!

Sent from my Treo 700p cellphone - Sorry for any tyops!

Moving on up!!! [Updated]

Sis. Betty is moving to room 352 at Cabrini

Hello friends and family!

Just a quick update on my mom. She's doing really well and should be moved from ICU to room 352 this afternoon. (Oops ... we were a little premature in this announcement. Read the next post.) Since ICU is on the 2nd floor, she's definitely "moving on up!"

I don't know how long she'll be in the hospital, anywhere from 2-5 days. You will be able to call her room directly at 318-449-2352. If you plan to visit, please be aware that she will tire quickly. She does want visitors but we in the family ask that everyone help us help her get better by keeping the visits brief. But she does look forward to being loved on!!! :)

Thank you all for your continued encouragement and prayers. We are uplifted by you. And we are very grateful to the fine people at Christus St. Francis Cabrini hospital for the wonderful care they've given my mom. More updates to come.

Sent from my Treo 700p cellphone - Sorry for any tyops!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thank God for His Healing Hands

Liquid HealingHello friends,

It's been a whirlwind couple of days and by looking at the picture you can probably figure out that the medical field is involved. In this picture you can see a few of the 10 bags of liquid healing that are being pumped into my mom in the ICU at Cabrini. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

My mom had been experiencing some chest pains off and on for some time. Finally she was referred for a stress test and then a heart cath, which showed 5 blockages. She was scheduled for bypass surgery the very next day.

While this was sudden news, we were filled with God's peace. Mom was glad to know it wasn't all in her head and that it was treatable. It was reassuring to know that her surgeon, Dr. Jones, had previously been tasked with providing care for Nelson Mandela some time back and President George W. Bush on his recent visit - so mom was definitely in good hands.

The morning dawned with many visitors, phone calls, texts, emails, etc - all expressing thoughts of prayer, support and encouragement. They finally took mom back and we migrated to the surgery waiting where we received frequent updates on her progress. Finally they were through and the doctor came out to inform us of her excellent progress - they had done 3 grafts, bypassing the 5 blockages, and he was very pleased with how well it had gone. They had not needed to give her any blood and there was no heart damage. A home run!

They brought her up to the ICU and eventually we got to go see her. Her color looked great! She wouldn't have approved of me snapping a photo of her, so I took a picture of the bags of healing. (Sorry for violating the "no cameras" rule, Cabrini!) Later tonight they actually took out the breathing tube and she's doing GREAT!

When I look at that picture, I think of how the Lord has sustained us with His peace and provided everything we needed throughout this entire journey. God is the Great Physician, and He extends His healing hands, sometimes through people. Thank You, Lord, for being our Shepherd, providing EVERYTHING we need. And thank YOU, friends and family, for being there for us. You overwhelm us with your love! Truly we are blessed to feel God's loving and healing hands through you.

Sent from my Treo 700p cellphone - Sorry for any tyops!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Last day in Mexico - and home, sweet, home!

Huevos Motuleños - my new favorite breakfast!
Hello everyone,

I'm a little late getting this blog out, but I wanted to post about our last day in Mexico. Thursday started with us all packing up and getting ready to leave. Lori and I had a leisurely breakfast at a brand new restaurant overlooking the Gulf of Mexico called California. It's round and all the walls are made of glass so just about every seat looks out over the malecón (beachfront bullevard) onto the Gulf. Beautiful! I had my favorite, "huevos motuleños" - a dish that originated in the town of Motul in the the Mexican state of Yucatan. I used to love "huevos rancheros" as my favorite breakfast dish, but the motuleños have definitely replaced the rancheros, at least on this trip. (Who would ever think of putting green peas on a breakfast dish? And the fried plantains are a touch of genius!!!)

(BTW, pictures are available on my Flickr account at: )

After getting packed up we headed back into town for some last minute souveneir shopping. (I got my shoes shined instead. I also saw some motorcycles for sale on the street - I had to take a picture for my friends in CROP.) We also headed by the famous malecón for a couple more pictures, like this one of a man fishing in the Gulf with a hand-thrown net. Then we headed back to the Agua Viva offices for another wonderful lunch - but not before stopping at my favorite taco stand of all time for a quick "tacos de barbacoa" appetizer! (Thanks, Joel!) Back at the offices, they had taken the flowers from Sunday's service and created even more beautiful centerpieces, making the room stand out with elegance.

What our tiny bathroom looked like in our first apartmentBTW, the men's bathroom at the Agua Viva offices reminded me of the bathroom in the first apartment Lori and I lived in back in Matías Romero, Oaxaca. You could literally sit on the toilet, wash your hands in the sink and take a shower all at the same time! When I brought Lori down to Mexico, she didn't know what to expect. She thought I lived in a mud hut with a thatched roof, so she was happy to have running water! However, she did spruce it up by hanging a beach towel over the doorway for some privacy. Ah, the woman's touch!

After lunch Joel and I met with a couple of the leaders about a long-range leadership training initiative that Agua Viva is taking in cooperation with John Maxwell and Marcos Witt's ministries. Over the next 3 years Agua Viva will be hosting free leadership conferences for over 100 pastors in the region. Joel has invited me to participate and I'm praying seriously about the commitment to make regular trips down to sow into the lives of leaders from church all across the region. I admire Joel and Jose for taking this step of faith and investing in the lives of so many others.

Nathan, Jose, Pedro and Joel - some of the original Hijos del PactoAfter the meeting we hopped in the vehicles for our final trip out of Coatzacoalcos. We were headed for Las Choapas, Veracruz where the Agua Viva church is pastored by one of my favorite people, Pedro Chulin Gordillo. We first met Pedro when he was the chauffeur for an oil executive's wife who started coming to Agua Viva when we were in our first building that only seated 75 people. Doña Dora would come in but Pedro would sit out in the car, not wanting to come in. Eventually he started coming in, but would stand agains the back wall with his arms across his chest, almost daring God to love him. Eventually God's love broke through his tough exterior and he surrendered completely to the Lord. He soon led his brother, Alfredo, to the Lord and they became quick disciples and part of the group we called "Los Hijos del Pacto" or "The Sons of the Covenant". We met every Tuesday night for leadership training with a small group of men, including Jose, who is now the General Director of all the Agua Viva work. Alfredo is the pastor of the church in Agua Dulce, where we were on Wednesday night, and Pedro started the work in Las Choapas that has now grown to several hundred.

A view of the Agua Viva church in Las Choapas, Veracruz before the people arrivedThe Lord has really blessed them and their faithfulness. When I last visited with them 5 years ago they were just starting out in a rented building downtown and they had a decent sized group. now they own several acres and have built a beautiful sanctuary that seats almost a thousand and are just finishing up a Children's ministry center that will serve several hundred children. It should be open in January. And all of this is paid for!!!

Pedro is a dynamic leader who loves to praise and worship. His daughter Norma is now married to the worship leader and they have an exciting worship experience. Pedro bubbles with joy and enthusiasm and it's obvious his people love him and his wife Coqui very much.

Nathan ministering to husbands and fathers during the altar callI was privileged to get to preach in Las Choapas again and I shared a message to men from Psalm 127-128 about keeping their priorities right, not being work-aholics but instead loving their wives and demonstrating Godly character to their husbands. At the end I called up the men who wanted to retake lost ground and who wanted to be the Godly husbands and fathers God had called them to be. I then called their wives up and had them stand behind their husbands, praying for them. It was a powerful time of ministry that ended with the couples embracing in love and forgiveness. We also called up the single mothers who have to serve as mother and father and prayed for them, exhorting the church to reach out to these women and help them. Finally we had a time of ministry for the ushers and leaders before Pedro led out in an extended time of celebration and praise! Wow! What a night.

After a quick supper we loaded back up for the 2+ hour trip to Villahermosa, Tabasco, where we would catch our plane back to Houston. We got to the hotel around 1:30 and set a wake-up call for 4:30 since we had to leave by 5:30 for the airport. We made it just in time, some of the last passengers aboard the plane, and settled in the for 3 hour flight back to Houston.

Once in Houston, after passing through Immigration and Customs it was time to say goodbye to our traveling companions from Life Church West Monroe. It was such a pleasure to get to travel and minister with our old missionary partners, Joel and Angel Dyke. It felt like "old times" and it was hard to say goodbye. After changing our pesos back into dollars (at a HORRIBLE exchange rate) we took the shuttle to our car and started the drive back home (after filling up with gas, of course! ) We got in some time after 5:00PM and had a wonderful reunion with our other daughters, Faith and Hope, who had stayed with my mom and dad while we were gone.

I wish I could summarize this trip in just a few words, but that's not possible. I will say that this has been one of the highlights of my life. I honestly don't feel worthy of the honor they bestowed on us. We simply planted the seed and others watered, but God caused the growth. When Lori and I moved home to Pineville in November, 1990, the Agua Viva Coatza church was running somewhere around 200 people in attendance. We thought that was a significant thing, having started with just a handful in weeknight bible studies in an apartment and Sunday services in our living room. Now there are thousands of believers in several Agua Viva churches across southern Veracruz. And the mountain churches have continued, and have begun another generation of leadership. And they are investing in the region by providing training to pastors from churches from all denominations.

This is the work of God. He gets all the glory. Joel, Angel, Lori and I just happened to be the vessels He chose to use because we were willing. And we were simple enough to do what He said. We didn't know what we were doing. Everything was an experiment. But God worked through simple vessels and brought glory to Himself. It's like this:
He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES." (Mat 13:31-32 NASB)

That's how God grows His kingdom - one seed at a time that He then multiplies.

Thank you for reading this blog, for praying for us, for supporting us. Thank you to the churches who took a chance on a 22-year old kid who said he had a call on his life to be a missionary in Mexico. Thank you to the family who stood behind us and believed in us. And thank You, Jesus, most of all, for honoring us by using us. "Here we are, Lord. Use us again!"

I *love* serving Jesus with YOU!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Not your daddy's Coatza! And a trip to Agua Dulce

Hello friends!

I hope you've enjoyed the blog so far. Thank you for the comments and the emails - keep them coming!!!

Wednesday was a day we would go to the Casa del Alfarero (Potter's House) church in Agua Dulce that was started in the past few years about an hour and a half from Coatza. DSC02121That gave us plenty of time during the day to look around town and do the most important thing for the female contingent among us - go to the mall!!!

Coatza has a new mall that is absolutely gorgeous! Lots of neat stores, many of which we have in the states, and a first rate food court, complete with Burger King, Domino's, KFC and a couple of taco stands!!! (I ate tacos, of course! ) They even have a Cajun food restaurant - although the pictures looked more like Chinese food than Cajun! :)

DSC02122As we've driven around Coatza, we've been amazed at the progress. There are so many stores and conveniences here that they didn't have 20 years ago. Just a quick sampling: Walmart, Sam's Club, Office Depot, Office Max, Home Depot, Bennigans, McDonald's, etc. I commented to the folks in our vehicle that "this is not your daddy's Coatza"! It's definitely more modern, more streets are paved, it's cleaner - it's come a long way from when we lived here. It would be much easier to live here now ... and sometime's I think we're a little tempted. Of course when we joke about coming back with Jose he says that's fine, but we'll have to raise up a new congregation because he already has his!!!

DSC02124They took us back to the Agua Viva building in town that now serves as offices, training center, and for special meetings. It also has a small book store and a coffee shop. They had prepared a spread for us in the back room that was decorated beautifully with flowers on each table and a wonderful meal that Joel had requested. They've treated us like royalty! It's very humbling.

We headed back to the hotel for a brief rest. (That's when I posted yesterday's blog - I should have rested !) Then we were off for the community of Agua Dulce (Sweet Water) where Alfredo Chulin is the pastor of this new work that has been raised up in the past few years. DSC02129Alfredo was a rough and tough guy when we met him 20 years ago. His brother, Pedro (now the pastor of the work in Las Choapas where we will visit tomorrow), had gotten saved in our ministry and asked us to visit with his brother. Over time God softened Alfredo's heart (we call him Freddy) and he has served in just about every capacity in the church in Coatza before coming to Agua Dulce to raise up the work here. It's fairly new and there were only about 50-60 adults in service, but it was a sweet, sweet time.

As we arrived in town Joel informed me I would be preaching! I thought we were going to tag-team it again but it was not to be. So I quickly asked the Lord to impress my heart - and I felt led to share two of the points I had shared the previous night, adding one more about being quick to confess our sins, based on 1 John 1:9 and Psalm 32. DSC02136I talked a good bit about the importance of living in good relationship with others because that impacted our relationship with God. I challenged the men to seek to honor their wives and make sure they didn't offend the precious gifts from God - and to seek forgiveness if they had so that they could walk in an undistrubed relationship with God and would be examples of the relationship between Christ and the church. At the end quite a few people came up for prayer - a very sweet time of ministry.

As quickly as the service was over they broke down the meeting room and brought in tables to feed supper to everyone who had come. We had "empanadas", basically the Mexican equivalent to the Natchitoches meat pie, but these had chicken. We also had one of my favorites, fried bananas!!! Yum!!! After supper it was back to the vehicles for the trek back to town and our last night in Coatzacoalcos.

As I write this we are packing in preparation to check out of the hotel. We will eat lunch at Agua Viva's offices again and perhaps go out to their property for prayer and pictures before heading to Las Choapas. I'm really looking forward to seeing Pedro and Coqui, some of our favorite people. (I'll tell you more about Pedro later.) After service tonight we'll head to Villa Hermosa, about 2-3 hours from here where' we'll spend the night and have to get up early to catch a 7:00AM flight back to Houston. And as quick as that, this trip is over. Hard to believe it has flown by so quickly. So many memories - and so many new ones. Thanks for making this trip with me.

I love serving Jesus with YOU!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Monday and Tuesday update

Hello everyone!

We've got a little time before we head back out to another service so I wanted to try to update you on the happenings of the last couple of days. I don't have time to write a lengthy blog (don't say "Praise the Lord" too loudly!) but I did want to update you as best I could. One of the best ways to update you is you show you some of the pictures we've taken. I've added descriptions that should walk you through what was going on. Here are two links to pictures from Monday and Tuesday:

Monday -

Tuesday -

Here's as brief a recap as I can give you -


We left around 7:00AM to head for the mountains of Oaxaca where we used to live. It took quite awhile to get down because the roads are (still) in poor condition. We headed into Matias to check into the hotel, because we wouldn't be back until very late and we wanted to make sure we had rooms. Then we headed out for a two-hour+ drive to Zacatal, the home of one of the main churches that our team founded in the mid 1980's.

On the way out we stopped at a little store we used to visit frequently, curious if the same lady was still there. She was, and she squealed when she saw Joel! It was a great visit!

DSC02105On through the narrow streets of San Juan Guichicovi, home of an ancient Catholic church that looks like a fortress (I'd love to know the story of this church) and then on the narrow, muddy trail that leads to Zacatal. We arrived to a great welcome from Pastor Eleuterio and his family. They had been awaiting our arrival and someone had donated a cow for a meal for everyone. The BBQ was delicious! Several other pastors from other churches we had planted arrived and we had a wonderful reunion.

DSC02109Bro. Eleuterio asked us if we would baptize four new believers but we didn't have changes of clothing and it was pretty cold so we asked if we could just witness and participate that way. We headed down to the river/creek in two borrowed people-haulers and had a wonderful time seeing four new believers being baptized into the body of Christ! Then it was back up to the church for the evening service.

The church was severely over-crowded and overflowing all around with people. The pastor's son, also named Eleuterio, led out in worship, after sharing about our impact on his life as a child. DSC00047More worship, and then the children of the church presented a song for us in Spanish - "Lord I lift Your name on high". It was beautiful. I shared some songs and Joel preached and then we had a time of prayer for the needs of the congregation. So many came up for prayer that it took a long time to finish. Just like in the olden days!

It was getting late and we were concerned about the muddy condition of the road so we decided to skip the after-church coffee and head back to Matias. The pastor sent another truck to follow us out past the worst of the muddy spots, just in case we got stuck. We made it back safely to Matias after midnight.

Before we turned in for the night, Lori and I walked around the downtown, reliving some of our memories from those days. DSC02119We walked past the places we lived and then came back by the market where the hot dog/hamburger carts hung out at night. We wondered if we'd find the fellow we used to do business with on a regular basis, and sure enough he was still there! We shared a hamburger and visited with him until it was very late. I thanked him for his friendship and shared the gospel with him, telling him I didn't want to go to heaven and find out he'd not made it because I had never shared the good news with him. He was very sober as he listened intently and affirmed his faith in Jesus. We had never tried to raise a church in Matias because we felt it might distract us from the mountain churches, but leaders from the Coatza church are feeling a leading to begin a work in Matias so we gave them his contact information. Then it was off to bed.


DSC00055We woke up to a wonderful breakfast and headed out to do a little shopping in the market and headed around town to view the sites in the daylight, including the houses we lived in and the post office that we visited every day to see if we had any mail. (Remember, this is well before the days of email!) We visited with some old friends who were still around, surprising them all. It was a great reunion - and amazing to know that they remembered us after all these years. One of them actually saw Joel walking by and chased him down, calling out for him in English: "I know you, I know you!"

DSC00080One of the more emotional visits was with Augustin, our mechanic. Joel thought he would recognize me easily because of my hair but wondered if he would recognize Joel since he's bald now and somewhat heavier. He walked into the mechanic's shop and Augustin looked at him with a puzzled look on his face. Then Joel said, "I need a mechanic" and Augustin began running towards Joel with his arms open wide! I stepped out around the corner and joined the celebration! This tough Mexican who had helped us through many scrapes had tears in his eyes as we visited and reminensced about old times. It was hard to leave.

We headed back towards Coatza with our planned stop for evening services in the Agua Viva Restauracion church in DSC00092Acayucan that had been started after we left. They used to meet in the Chamber of Commerce building but about five years ago bought a large stripper bar in downtown and completely renovated it. It's now paid for and they've outgrown it so they're looking at other properties on the edge of town.

We had a wonderful service - incredible worship led by the Pastor Sergio's sons, who had written some of the songs themselves. Then Joel and I did something we've never done before - we tag-teamed the sermon, each one taking turns sharing truths we've learned over the last 20 years, since the founding of Agua Viva. Here's what we shared:

  • Nathan: The most important thing for a Christian is to know how to hear the voice of God.
  • Joel: You must learn to be flexible, or you'll be broken.
  • Nathan: Your relationship with God is affected by your relationship with His children.
  • Joel: If you're going to err between justice and mercy, err on the side of mercy.
Joel then led an altar call and several people committed or recommitted their lives to the Lord. Then he called for a prayer service for those with needs. Our entire team came to the front and spent quite a bit of time in personal ministry - powerful time of tears and healing. It was a beautiful service.

DSC00093After church we stopped by a taco stand for some delicious "shepherd-style" tacos. Joel and I tied, eating 14 apiece! Then we headed back the hour+ ride to Coatza, getting in around midnight to the hotel, totally wiped out but thrilled to have been used by God and to have experienced such a wonderful time with our Christian family in the mountains and with our Christian "grandchildren" in Acayucan. What an honor it is to have been used by God to plant a seed that continues to bear fruit.

OK, I said I wasn't going to post a long blog, but apparently I don't know how to post a short blog! If you've read to this point, I hope it's blessed you. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to post about tonight's service in Agua Dulce. We only have a couple of days left - it's hard to believe the time has flown by so quickly. Thanks for your prayers and your encouragement! See you soon!


Overwhelmed - and Wore Out! But beyond happy!

Hello everyone,

It's after midnight and we just got in from the jungle area of Matias Romero, Oaxaca and we're all wore slap out. I don't have the energy to post a full blog or upload any pictures, but I did want to let you know that we arrived safely back to the city.

The time in Matias was out of this world! It's hard to describe the impact being back in the city where we first lived as young missionaries. We visited some old friends, found the houses we lived in, got stopped several times by the police and the army to check us for drugs, bombs and firearms - just like old times sake!

We had two services - Monday night up in the mountains in Zacatal, our main church in this area. It was overwhelmingly packed out and very emotional. (More details later.) Then Tuesday night in Acayucan, on our way back to the city. Joel and I tag-teamed the sermon and had a great time with it. More details on that later as well.

I wish I could write more but I'm literally falling asleep at the keyboard. Thank you for your prayers and support. I'll upload some pictures as soon as I can.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

From a small seed ...

Hello friends!

Words will fail me as I try to describe the celebration that took place today - the celebration of 20 years of God's goodness and faithfulness to the Agua Viva family in south Mexico. We have been so blessed to be invited to share in this significant anniversary. I don't have time to write everything but I do want to hit some highlights. You might also be interested in some pictures from the day. I've uploaded 31 pics to my Flickr account, which you can view at:

Or better yet, here's a slideshow that hopefully will work for you:

First view of Agua Viva's new facilitiesPastor Jose didn't want us to see the building until today because they had several things planned as surprises. But when we finally got to see it, we were blown away! It is beautiful! Agua Viva has purchased almost 5 acres and has a plan for using every bit of it! The building had about 700 seats in it and they also had an overflow tent with another 700-800 seats with four giant video screens - and it filled up too! (Agua Viva has started three other churches in the surrounding areas since we returned to the US. There were people from all three of the daughter churches.)

Children from Agua Viva singing about a clean heartThe 3+ hour service was very moving - exciting, tearful, every emotion you can imagine. They started with some powerful praise and worship music, with a couple of dozen young ladies in matching outfits worshiping with tambourines while several others waved worship flags. Then the children from the main Agua Viva church put on a play about how to get a dirty heart clean. It ended with them singing a wonderful worship song to the Lord.

After that something wonderful happened. I've shared that our first Bible study began in the apartment of Fernando and Josefina Arteaga, then we started Sunday services in our living room and finally we rented a small building around the corner from where we lived. The Arteagas had moved from Coatza some time back but Josefina and her daughter Tanya and her family were able to come to the service today. Jose brought her up to honor her for their willingness to share their home - and to enjoy the fruit of their gift 20 years ago.

After that they showed a beautiful slide-show of the history of Agua Viva, starting with the Arteaga's apartment and moving all the way through the various rented buildings and theaters to the final location. What a celebration!

Joel and I being interviewed about the early days of Agua VivaThe worship leader invited Joel and me to the platform to share about the beginnings of Agua Viva. He did a brief interview and then asked us to go back to the beginning and share how the worship was when we first started. Back then I played the keyboard and Joel used another keyboard to play the drums - it was rudimentary but it worked, doing the best we could with what we had. Joel and I played one of the early songs and then I shared a song I had written based on Psalm 139:23-24 (Examíname O Dios/Search me O God).

After this the three daughter churches of Agua Viva in the surrounding area presented special programs - mainly skits by their youth. Christian Mariachi!!!They were incredibly inventive, creative and dramatic. Pastor Jose then called each of the pastors up to honor them for their years of service, presenting them with certificates of recognition. Then the biggie! No true Mexican party would be complete without the most Mexican music of all - MARIACHI! Jose had brought in a Christian Mariachi band, complete with trumpets, violin and the big bass! The crowd went wild!!! And so did we! It was a perfect ending for a perfect celebration - but it wasn't the end. Not just yet.

First Jose presented a "Parade of Culture" - women dressed in many of the typical outfits of the region, representing the many different cultures being reached by Agua Viva. Angel, Joel, Nathan and Lori being honored with crystal plaques commemorating their role as founders of Agua VivaThen they brought Joel and Angel, Lori and me up to the platform. There they presented us with crystal plaques to commemorate our role as founders of Agua Viva. It wasn't until I saw this picture taken by one of our group that I realized they had put a picture of us up on the giant screen behind us that had been taken 20 years ago. It was a very emotional moment. Jose asked us if we wanted to share anything, but by this point we didn''t trust ourselves to share without breaking down. I would love to have shared verses like "You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain..." (John 15:16) or "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth." (3 John 1:4). But those words probably wouldn't have been understood over the emotion of just being in this place at this time.

The service ended with a bang - the original group of worshipers came back up and led us in a celebratory song that ended with a huge balloon drop with lots of confetti - a true celebration! And then lunch! They had prepared food for 1500 people, believe it or not, and we enjoyed it tremendously. The day ended with lots of hugs and pictures and memories being shared back and forth. We had to be peeled away. But here are a couple more pictures I just have to share:

DSC02092[Photo at left] (L-R) Nathan, Lori, Joel, Angel, Nelly & Jose in front of Agua Viva near a cart representing the humble beginnings. On it was a sack of grain with some stalks of wheat sticking out - each head with many kernels of wheat that came from just one grain.

DSC02095[Photo at right] Here's a picture of of the sack of grain. Truly God can cause great harvest from a simple seed.

DSC02096[Photo at left] Note that the heads of wheat have many grains - but each stalk comes from just one grain. In the same way, Agua Viva has grown from a simple planting of the Lord to a flowering plant that has produced MUCH fruit for the kingdom of God over the last 20 years. And we are very honored to have been a part of the beginning of what God did in this region. It wasn't anything special about it. It was all God's doing. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

DSC01917I want to close with this photo. These little sacks of seed were given out as a momento of the 20th anniversary event on November 30, 2008. The rough translation is: "Agua Viva - A storehouse from where the seed will be scattered, where we can't store it any longer - it will die and will bear fruit." It reminds me of what Jesus said in John 12:24: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

There has been some dying over the last 20 years - dying to self, leadership changes, dying to dreams, etc. But truly the Lord has allowed much fruit to grow from a small seed planted in fertile gound by obedient servants. Paul described the process this way: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." (1 Cor 3:6) Joel and I planted, others, including Jose, have watered, but truly God is the one who has given the growth. And to Him goes ALL the glory.

I don't have any secrets to church growth or how to do this "church thing". All we knew to do was listen for the voice of God and do what He told us to do at that time. Looking back there are lots of things I would have done differently, knowing what I know now. But maybe that's why the Lord didn't have us do it with what we know now. We might have been tempted to take some of the glory to ourselves. But as it is, we know it was all HIM! So He gets ALL the glory. And we are blessed to have been used by Him. And we pray to continue being useful to Him. Which is one of the reasons I often sign off by saying ...

I love serving Jesus with you!

P.S. Joel, I really love serving Jesus with you!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Safe in Mexico!

Hello everyone!

I hope you're having a great weekend! I just wanted to send out a quick blog to let you know we safely arrived in Mexico! But it was a little eventful getting here - especially the drive from Pineville to Houston. Hopefully the guys in the audience with get this and have a little compassion on me!

We left with a good cushion of time, which worked out to be necessary. We had about 3/4 tank of gas when we left. (Can you see where this is going?) I knew we would need gas either getting close to Houston or as soon as we got back before our return trip. But being a guy, I didn't want to buy gas until I absolutely needed. Why fill a tank that's still 1/4 full? (You can really see where this is going, right?!) I chose to press on until the "Buy Gas Dummy" light came on.

It didn't come on. Nope.

Just as we're taking the Beltway 8 exit off of 59 in Houston, the car sputtered and quit, coasting up one of the larger strings of spaghetti in this particular spaghetti bowl. As the lane narrowed our vehicle coasted to a stop a few thousand feet in the air. OK, it wasn't that high, but it felt like it! Cars whizzed by us a 60+ MPH as I brought our car to a stop hugging the right concrete wall, wondering how on earth am I going to get us out of this mess.

"The light never came on!" - That was all I could say to an incredulous wife and daughter who, to their credit, were extremely patient and understanding. We pulled out the insurance card to see if we had emergency roadside service on this particular vehicle. Whew! That was a relief! And then a call to 911.

Try explaining to a 911 operator that you ran out of gas ... and that you're stranded a mile high on the southbound 59 ramp getting onto Beltway 8 West. It takes awhile. She tried to keep the amusement out of her voice, once she realized we were ok. I asked her to send a wrecker or traveler's assistance vehicle or something. She said she would but didn't know how long it would take.

We sat and prayed and I asked the Lord to help us get the car out of this dangerous spot. I considered pushing it but we were still a couple hundred feet from the crown of the ramp - I didn't relish trying to push the car uphill as NASCAR drivers in training whizzed by. So I prayed. And I would turn the key off and on several times, hoping the gas pump would send just a bit of gas each time to prime the line.

It worked!!! The car started and we were able to get a couple hundred feet before it died again, but this time we were over the crown and going downhill! I figured if the wrecker made it to the ramp and didn't see us, he would keep coming and find us eventually. We coasted to a stop in a safer place, just past the next onramp.

I saw a Texaco about 3/4 mile back down the ramp and I told Lori I would walk back to buy some gas. She said, "What do I do if the wrecker shows up?" I told her to tell him to wait for me! But I didn't want to sit there for an hour or two and him not show up. We were less than 2 miles from the airport, according to my GPS. So I had to do something.

I started the trek to the gas station. Jog, walk, jog, walk, jog some more until that car passes so they won't see me stop jogging, walk a little more ... and eventually I made it. Sweaty and out of breath I walk in - "do you have any gas cans for sale?" "No, sorry. I sold the last one," he replied. I began looking for options. I asked if I bought a gallon of windshield cleaner would he let me pour it out and put gas in it. Sure.

I took the gallon of blue fluid out and was about to pour it, but first asked a fellow if he wanted any. I explained the situation and we poured a little into his car. I filled it with gas, paid the attendant and the guy was still outside. I asked if he was going my way would he mind giving me a ride - no problem! So I hopped in and he and his wife drove the 15 miles back - ok, 3/4 mile, it had just seemed that long! He was kind enough to wait with his flashers on while I poured the gas in. His wife even gave me a sales brochure to use as a funnel.

PRAISE THE LORD the car started right up! I frantically waved my thanks to the angelic stranger and his wife and we took the next exit to the airport! We arrived with time to spare, met up with Joel, Angel, Hannah and Bekah Dyke and two more from their church who are traveling down (Jason and Austin). We all enjoyed a laugh together, now that the story was over. (Another story for Joel to tell on me!)

There is a moral to the story - don't keep pushing the limits because one day the light might not come on. That's what Samson learned when he arose from Delilah's lap that fateful day, thinking he would shake himself like all the other times, but he didn't know the Lord had left him. The light didn't come on and he had pushed the limit one time too many. That's a pretty good lesson. So from now on I'm buying gas whenever the needle hits 3/4 tank. Just kidding! But I won't be counting on the light!

This has been much longer than I thought. (Sort of like my recent sermons and video presentation! :) ) Let me recap the rest of the evening. We had a very uneventful flight down to Villahermosa with lots of great visiting. One of Jason's bags didn't make it so we made arrangements for it to be brought to Coatza whenever it got here. Jose and Nelly were at the airport to receive us along with two other brothers from the congregation, in three vehicles. We loaded up and took off on the 2-hour drive to Coatza, getting in around 11:00. We stopped for a wonderful supper and then got to the hotel around 1:00AM.

I tried to get online last night to post this but my computer wouldn't connect so I sent a brief email to some family/friends from the hotel's computer and crashed. We're up and about, getting ready for a wonderful day of visiting. We'll get to drive around to see some of the sights, where we lived, some of the buildings Agua Viva used to be in, etc. I'm already amazed at how much Coatza has changed. But I'll save that for the next post. Thanks for reading this far!!! And thank you for your prayers for us on the trip.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Back to Mexico!

Hello everyone!

It's been about three weeks since my last update - I'm sorry! I said I would do better but it's been hectic! However, I did want to do just a QUICK update about our upcoming mission trip to Mexico!

Lori and I, along with our daughter Joy, will be headed to Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. We will be joining Joel and Angel Dyke, and their daughters for the 20 year celebration of the founding of the Agua Viva church in Coatza!

Nathan & Lori Martin, Joel & Angel Dyke
On August 8, 1988 (8/8/88) the Dykes and the Martins moved from Matías Romero, Oaxaca, where we had been working with various indigenous tribes, establishing churches and training leaders. We moved to Coatza to begin a new type of work, one in which we would not use "religious" terminology - we were being very intentional about trying to establish a fellowship of believers whose sole purpose was to know and follow the teachings of the historical Jesus.

God granted us much success! We were only there a few weeks when we started our first Bible study, then Sunday morning meetings in our living room. In October we rented a building to begin having services in - we held our Grand Opening services with just a handful but soon the 75-seat building was at capacity. We rented the house next door for children's services to free up more room for adults.

Soon we had to rent another building, which would seat a couple of hundred. Over time Agua Viva rented another, larger facility and then bought their own property and began having services in a theater. Lori and I had returned by this time but we were blessed to get to visit them from time to time. Joel visited more frequently and kept me in the loop on the progress.

Now they have purchased several acres outside of town and have built a large building that will seat several hundred - and they don't owe anything on it! In addition, they have started 3 other urban churches in nearby cities and continue to provide oversight to the rural churches that we began in Oaxaca.

It's a great honor to be invited to join Joel and Angel for the 20 year anniversary of the founding of Agua Viva Coatza. We fly from Houston on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Here is our schedule:
  • Saturday - Meetings with leaders
  • Sunday - All day celebration in Coatza
  • Monday - Travel to Zacatal for celebration with the rural churches of Oaxaca
  • Tuesday - Minister at Agua Viva Acayucan
  • Wednesday - Minister at La Casa del Alfarero, Agua Dulce
  • Thursday - Minsiter at Agua Viva, Las Choapas
  • Friday - Return to the States
We definitely covet your prayers. While this is a tremendous honor to be a part of this and to see the remaining fruit of our ministry, it will also be somewhat grueling with a good bit of travel. I'll do my best to update you on our activities through this blog as I have access to the Internet.

BTW, if you're interested, below is the presentation I made at Christian Challenge this past Sunday, sharing some pictures of our time in Mexico, to help everyone understand what our life was like when we were missionaries:

Please keep us in your prayers. I look forward to updating you!


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Barack Obama is My President

Hello friends,

Like many of you I stayed up to watch the election returns. And it appears that in the future no one is going to want my support since NO ONE I supported ended up winning!

I'm sitting here listening to President-elect Barack Obama give his victory speech, having listened to John McCain give a gracious concession speech. My cousin who lives in DC just texted me that the people are taking to the streets to celebrate. I'm also receiving text messages of concern from people who fear this selection, not because of Obama's race but because of the platform of the Democratic party.

I must admit to mixed emotions. On the one hand, Obama has a tremendous ability to inspire. He is a very charismatic figure and a captivating speaker. I have been inspired by some of the things he has said. And I'm grateful that a whole new generation was motivated enough get involved in a process they usually feel doesn't have a place for them. I think it speaks well for our country to that we did not make a choice based solely on the color of his skin. That encourages me.

I remain seriously concerned about the planks in the Democratic Party platform that oppose the values and morals of a world-view that is based in Biblical teachings. Will life be cherished? Will the sanctity of marriage be upheld? Will secular humanism be the promoted religion of our land? These are questions and concerns that only time will reveal the answer.

So, I do have mixed emotions. I want to join the crowd saying with confidence, "Yes we can." I want someone to speak up for the down-trodden, the oppressed, the poor and hopeless. And at the same time I worry about the values that will now be promoted by the new powers that be. Values that are 180 degrees opposite from the values I have tried to teach my children and exemplify to those the Lord has trusted to my care as a pastor.

But when it's all said and done, we didn't select Barack Obama for our President, the Lord did. Romans 13 begins this way:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1 NIV)

So Barack Obama is my president, put in that office, not by voters, but by God Himself! And I must follow the biblical command to pray for him and for all who are in authority:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 NIV)

I urge everyone who reads this to join with me in praying for President-Elect Barack Obama and all those who were elected today, whether you supported them or not. And remember, God is in control. He made this choice. He has a plan that He is working after the counsel of His own will. And He is GOOD. I can trust Him that He has a plan and a place for me in it. I can trust Him as I pray for the ones He selected to be our leaders. My confidence is that my life is in His hands. So I can go to sleep tonight and sleep well, not worried or bothered, but assured that God is in control.

So I pray for my president, Barack Obama. He has a huge job on his hands. He will need all the help he can get. Will you join with me in praying for him?


Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Recommendations

Hello friends,

Well, once again I've slipped into the bad habit of not posting on a regular basis. For that, I apologize. Nevertheless, I'm back and hopefully this post will at least spark some thinking, if not dialogue!

I've been asked by several friends and family members for my recommendations during this year's election cycle. I have become increasingly reluctant to offer my recommendations because each person's vote is sacred and something they should exercise with the utmost of care. However, I also recognize that my interest in politics causes me to take more of an interest and perhaps be somewhat more informed on some issues. I definitely don't claim to be an expert, but with the greatest of humility I offer my recommendations on some of the upcoming choices you'll face in the voting booth tomorrow.

Before I do so, let me recommend that you go to the following website - - select your parish and voting precinct, and you will be presented with a sample ballot that you will vote on when you go vote. If you don't know your precinct number, there is a link to another site that will tell you your voting precinct after you input your address - - that's a helpful tool. OK, without further ado, here goes:

President: John McCain/Sarah Palin
While Barack Obama is an attractive candidate in many respects, his positions on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning and other moral issues, such as same-sex marriage, are simply incompatible with my core, basic beliefs.

U.S. Senator: John Kennedy
For the same reasons as above. Mary Landrieu has been an effective Senator. But her opposition to my core beliefs keep me from supporting her.

Judge, Court of Appeal: Triston Knoll
I supported Loren Lampert in the primary because I know him to be a man of integrity and values. I don't personally know either of the other two candidates, but people I respect who do strongly support Knoll. From what I've read of their backgrounds, I believe he is the better choice.

District Judge: Rocky Willson
Again I find myself in the position of having voted for another candidate in the primary, Greg Beard. I have met both of the remaining candidates in the runoff and they are both fine people. However, I have more personal experience with Rocky and know him to be genuine. His experience in many areas of the law will serve us all well.

And now for the seven constitutional amendments. Let me preface my recommendations by commenting that our constitution is the most amended of all the states. We seem to have to keep "fixing" it. We are continually providing additional amendments to protect things from political shenanigans, which is less than laudable. However, my complaining about it won't change anything, so here go my recommendations, with a brief explanation:

Amendment No. 1 - FOR
Establishes term limits for members of certain state boards and commissions. The fresh intake of ideas is often healthy. The downside is that term-limited boards often become "staff driven" because it always takes awhile for new members to "learn the ropes." However, I feel fresh ideas are always needed, so I support this amendment.

Amendment No. 2 - FOR
Requires two additional days of notice (7 instead of 5) before calling a special legislative session. In addition this actually defines the word "day" for those legislators who aren't sure what the word means. We shouldn't need this amendment - but there are LOTS of laws we shouldn't need, so maybe this one will help.

Amendment No. 3 - AGAINST
Allow a temporary successor to be appointed for legislators called to active military duty. This only affects one current legislator - not sure why we need to amend our constitution for one person. This also raises the question of accountability - basically a person not elected would be making laws, but would not be held accountable during reelection. Bad idea, in my opinion.

Amendment No. 4 - FOR
Redistributes state severance tax revenue, giving more to the parishes. I'm all for more local control of spending. Too often "unfunded mandates" get sent down where the local governments have to enforce laws, but aren't given the resources to do so. This would put a few more resources in the hands of the local governments, which hopefully will know better how to use them than someone sitting in an office in Baton Rouge.

Amendment No. 5 - FOR
Allow the transfer of the special property tax assessment level for homeowners over 65 if their property is expropriated. Senior citizens have the option of "freezing" their property tax assessments because of their typically fixed incomes. If the government expropriates their property for public use and they have to move, this would allow them to keep their frozen tax assessment on their new dwelling. Sounds fair enough.

Amendment No. 6 - AGAINST
Changes the requirements for public bodies to re-sell expropriated property. We have a big problem with abandoned properties ending up with tax liens on them higher than the value of the property. This allows a local government to sieze "blighted" properties that are a threat to public health and safety and place them back into use by selling it through a public bid process. This is especially helpful for communities devestated by hurricanes and many of the properties have simply been abandoned. However, this also diminishes the rights of property owners and could be abused. Even though I am a city councilman and understand the need of municipalities to have a way to put adjudicated properties back into use, I recommend voting against this amendment simply on the basis of protecting the rights of property owners.

Amendment No. 7 - FOR
Authorize certain post-retirement benefit funds to be invested in stocks. This is a pretty technical amendment because it deals mainly with accounting standards and their impact on pension funds. The new accounting standards (known as GASB-45) create enormous burdens on governments to comply without claiming huge unfunded liabilities on their balance sheets. This amendment would allow the creation of trusts that can grow at a fast pace on the stock market, to keep up with the pension funds obligations. Otherwise many local governments may choose to discontinue benefits altogether rather than violate obscure accounting standards. It's more complicated than that, but since most IRAs, 401ks, etc are vested in the stock market, this would make public pensions more competitive and would comply with the law.

If you're interested in a more in-depth explanation of each of the amendments, check out the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana's online guide at: - it's very comprehensive and presents the information in a non-partisan way.

I hope this information is helpful. I'm certainly not the expert on any of this. I encourage you to do your own research and come to your own conclusions. We can even disagree agreeably! Just don't forget to excersize your sacred right (and duty) to vote! Too many have shed blood to give us this right and too many other countries envy us this right for us to take it for granted. See you on the other side!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Didn't Get Selected :( - But not all was lost!

Hello friends,

Well, the bad news (for me) is that after sitting in the court room all day, I *didn't* get selected to serve on the Jury. They seated a jury of 13 (12 plus 1 alternate) before my name was ever called. I had to sit there through the process, which oddly enough, I really enjoyed! Since I had never been called for Jury Duty before I didn't know what to expect. It was definitely an eye-opening experience. I thought you might enjoy me walking you through steps.

The night before you're supposed to go you call a phone number to get your instructions. I was told to report to Courtroom 3 on the 4th floor by 9:00AM. I got there a little early and mingled with some of the others. I had brought some reading material along, just in case. (Later we were told reading material wasn't allowed, but I think that's during the trial itself, not necessarily during jury selection - although I'm open to correction on that.)

Around 9:00 two bailiffs began taking roll. They had everyone's name and address individually on a slip of paper. If you were present when they called your name your slip was put into a box that they would later randomly draw names from. People who drove more than 10 miles were told to tell them how far they had driven, as they would be reimbursed for mileage. If there were any address corrections, you simply informed the bailiff. Some people had changed their name since they had registered to vote (marriage, divorce, etc) - they were instructed to inform the judge of this in the event they were selected.

Finally the roll call was finished and the box had about 40 names in it from the people who had shown up. (I don't know what happened to the people who didn't show up - maybe nothing?) We waited a little longer and the attorneys for the two sides trickled in and then we were instructed to "all rise" as the the judge came in.

After we settled back in he began by thanking us all for coming and shared how serving on a jury is one of the responsibilities of citizenship that is a bedrock of our democracy. He shared briefly what would be expected of us, if we were selected, and confirmed that this was a civil trial, not a criminal trial. (Apparently being on a criminal jury is more difficult for some people.) At some point during this process he had us all stand, hold up our right hand and swear (or affirm) that we would answer any questions truthfully if our names were drawn as potential jurors. (More on that in a minute.)

Before the jury selection process began he asked if anyone felt like they should be excused from serving. A few people made their way up to the front and spoke with him individually. A couple of people were excused, but most came back to their seats, obviously not having convinced him of the legitimacy of their excuse!

Then the selection began. Slowly 14 names were pulled from the box and announced, calling the individuals to go sit in the jury box. After they were all seated the group was called up once again to swear, or affirm, that they would answer truthfully. The the judge began asking each individual a series of questions, some longer than others depending on their answers. This took a long time as each person was asked the following:

  • What is your full name?
  • What do you do for a living? How long have you done that? Who is your employer?
  • Before that what did you do? And for how long?
  • Are you married? Who are you married to? What does he/she do?
  • Do you have any children? What are their ages?
  • Ever served as a juror before? What type of jury was it? Did you have to make a decision in that case? Did the jury decide for the defendant or plaintiff? Did your experience in that trial affect your ability to render a fair verdict in this case?
  • Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit? What type of lawsuit? Was it litigated to a judgment? Would your experience affect your ability to determine the facts of this case and offer a fair finding of fact?
  • Is there any reason you could not or should not serve as a jurror?
Obviously it took a LONG time to go through 14 people, asking them individually these questions. Then each of the attorneys got up in turn, briefly stated their summary of the case and proceeded to ask follow-up questions of the potential jurors, obviously trying to determine the kind of juror the person would be, and if they would have a leaning towards their side of the case. As the people answered you could sort of get a feel for if an attorney "liked" that juror or not. In my mind I figured at least three of the potential jurors would not be selected.

After each lawyer had asked their questions the judge called a brief recess to meet with the attorneys in his chambers. After about 10 minutes they all returned and the judge began with the first person, telling them they were either accepted or dismissed. Of the 14 potential jurors, 8 were accepted and 6 were dismissed, including the 3 I thought wouldn't make the cut, for whatever reason.

By then it was close to noon so they drew 14 more names and then told everyone to break for lunch and come back at 1:15. When we met back we were told they needed 6 more jurors from the next 14. (Apparently during lunch one of the attorneys had used his discretion to dismiss another of the previously accepted jurors.) So we started the process all over again - the individual questions from the judge and then each attorney. By this time, I knew a lot more about the lives of 27 strangers and 1 acquaintance than I ever imagined!

Finally the questioning ended, the judge and attorneys recessed to chambers and when they came back the judge began going down his list. Again I had correctly predicted who would be dismissed and they made it all the way to number 11 when they decided they had gotten the additional 6 they needed. The judge then thanked the rest of us and told us we were all dismissed and were free to leave. The bailiffs stamped the parking garage permits for those who needed it and we began filing out, most happy to be free - except for me! I never even got my name drawn to be considered! But I enjoyed the process.

I Voted in the 2008 Presidential Election!The day was not a complete waste, though, because it was the first day of "early voting" and I decided to excercise my other "sacred duty" and vote. I had pretty much made up my mind who I was going to vote for and had previously glanced at the 7 constitutional amendments so I was somewhat familiar with them. I used my trusty Treo 700p to go on the Internet to PAR's website to read their synopsis of the amendments and marched into the voter's registration office. Earlier the line had stretched way down the hall, snaking back on itself, but by now there were only a few people in line in front of me. The ladies working there told me over 800 people had voted so far that day, which indicates a pretty heavy turnout! After I voted, I proudly put on the "I Voted 2008 Presidential Election" sticker they were giving out, which I later attached to my Jury Duty summons as a momento of the day I participated in TWO of the most important responsibilities of any citizen - jury duty and voting!

Hopefully this synopsis of the jury selection process will help someone else who gets one of those lovely notices in the mail. It's not a scary thing - and it's a wonderful opportunity for you to serve your country. It's important for the continuation of our freedoms. So don't forget to vote, even vote early (but not often! [G]) and when called upon to serve as a juror, do so with a sense of pride and patriotism. Not many nations enjoy the freedoms we have, that are continued by our participation in these important institutions. Until next time!


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jury Duty!!!

Hello friends!

Do you see the green card? A lot of folks don't like receiving them because of the message contained therein:

"You have been selected to serve as a Civil juror by the Rapides Parish Jury Commission. You are summoned to appear at the Rapides Parish Courthouse, Alexandria, LA, on the date and time indicated on the reverse side. FAIL NOT UNDER PENALTY OF LAW"

Now a lot of folks don't like this green card because it means your life is about to be disrupted. But I guess I'm odd. (You didn't need this blog post to tell you that, now did you?!) I super excited about jury duty!

Ever since my high school civics class I've been fascinated by government. And believe it or not, I've longed for the opportunity to participate on a jury! To me it's one of the bedrocks of our free society, ranking right up there with the sacred right to vote.

Two weeks from today we have the opportunity to help shape the future of our nation. And today I'm sitting in the courtroom, hoping my name gets called. It's a small price to pay to live in a country of such freedom and opportunity!

See you on the other side!

Sent from my Treo(r) smartphone

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm a GREAT uncle!!!

It's true! I'm a "great" uncle (no matter what my nieces and nephews may think) because my niece, Wesley, just had a beautiful daughter, Cadence Amery Lamoureux at 8:53 last night! She was 7 lbs 12 ounces and measured 20 1/2" - definitely a "keeper"! She's already ruling the roost, being waited on hand and foot, as true royalty should be treated! Congratulations Wesley and George! Welcome, little lady, to a loving family. And thanks for making me "great!" :-)

Posted from my Treo(r) 700p smartphone

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Joy's Home!!!

Hello friends!

After three months, my daughter Joy has returned from Mexico! Lori and Joy in front of Johnny Carino's on our way home from Houston.At the end of our July missions trip to the Benito Juarez orphanage in Reynosa, Mexico, we left Joy to serve as an intern at the children's home for three months. While we've had ongoing contact with her via phone calls, text messages, etc, we haven't seen her since July. After three months Mark Russell, the orphanage director, brought her to McAllen, TX where Lori's dad lives and he put her on a non-stop bus to Houston where we picked her up. It was great to see her. On the way home I asked her where she wanted to eat and the answer was easy for her - Johnny Carino's! So we stopped on the way home and had a nice supper. 

I'm really proud of Joy. She graduated from high school in May and has plans to go to beauty school soon. But in the meantime she wanted to spend some time as an intern at the orphanage. She feels a real connection to Mexico since she was born there in 1990 when Lori and I were missionaries. She has dual-citizenship - two birth certificates, one from Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz and one from the US Embassy in Mexico city. She has a US passport and next week we'll go to the Mexican Consulate in New Orleans to get her Mexican passport reissued since her old one expired. She has all the rights of a citizen in two countries - that's pretty cool! (I could preach a sermon about how our citizenship is in heaven while we live on earth, but I'll save the sermons for Sunday mornings! [G])

$2.97 for a gallon of gas in Baytown, Texas on Tuesday, October 7, 2008By the way, on our way home from Houston I stopped for gas in Baytown, TX because I saw gas prices so low I couldn't believe my eyes. I just had to take a picture - look there on the left - yes, that $2.97 for a gallon of regular unleaded gas! We paid $3.59 earlier the same morning when we filled up before going to Houston. Hard to believe a price difference of 62 cents in one day! Of course, what's even more amazing is that I'm excited about paying $2.97 for a gallon of gas - a year or two ago I would have thought that was high-way robbery! Maybe that's the game they play - shoot it up real high, get us mad but used to it, then bring it back down a little bit and we'll be happy to pay 50% more than we were paying not that long ago. Argh!!!

OK, back to my pleasant thoughts about Joy being home! I want to invite our friends and family to a little "welcome home" celebration this Thursday, October 9, at 6:00PM at Christian Challenge. We'll have some light refreshments and just a time of visiting. This isn't a formal setting, just "come and go" - so drop by to say hi to Joy on your way home from work. She'll be glad to see you! (And for our Christian Challenge family, don't forget our Christmas parade planning meeting at 7:00PM Thursday!) I look forward to seeing you guys! And, boy howdy, am I glad to have Joy in my house again!!! [GRIN]