Monday 3:00 pm: Hello from the highway, we are driving Madrid to Lugo, a 5-hour trip. Six of us are in this van: John and Jeff, missionaries based in Santander and our hosts; Penn and me are seated behind them; and in the back are Chris & Joan Wood. We enjoyed lunch at Betel with Elliott, and now have a nice ride. We’re having a pleasant time surveying the countryside. We just passed a massive cross on a hill which marks Franco’s burial plot. My hosts are dropping all kinds of interesting trivia on Spain.
Monday 9:00 pm: A happy arrival into this charming city of Lugo. There’s an amazing stone wall around the old city, I’ve seen photos of it, hope to see it in person. We’re leaving shortly for a dinner together.
Tuesday 9 pm: Today I passed on the tourist activities so I could stay back and pray. It was the right decision. I was able to prepare adequately for this afternoon’s sessions. We were able to walk from our hotel to the church. The host church has 250 people in it, it’s one of the largest churches of this entire province. A number of leaders have come to the conference from surrounding towns. Those who have come are very eager to receive, many of them are writing notes the entire time. So it’s great to minister to such an eager group. Our first session launched around 4:30 pm, and after worship I taught two sessions. The first session was bringing out principles and lessons from the life of Lot. In the second sessions, I spoke on the groaning ministry of the Holy Spirit, Rom 8:26-27. The Lord helped us, it was an excellent time. With a group of around 50. Now Penn Clark is teaching on giving, just marvelous. The group has swelled to around 120 as some folks from the local church have been able to join us. This is a strong turnout for an event in Spain.
I’ve been surprised by the price of fruit here. It’s like around half the price of fruit in USA. I want to buy all this fruit cuz it’s so cheap!
Thursday morning: Excellent meeting last night, the last night of our conference here in Lugo. I spoke on the secret place, and at the conclusion almost the entire room came forward to receiving anointing with oil, to be anointed with greater grace for the secret place. They seemed to receive the message very openly.
It’s a chilly but bright morning in Lugo, and this morning we’re heading for Santander, Spain (pronounced sun-tun-DARE). We’re hitting the road at 9:15, which is an early start for a Spanish day. First, before we leave town, we are swinging by a facility to witness the food distribution ministry of this church, they have quite an aggressive outreach of mercy to their region, even though they’re a small church by USA standards. Then we will launch into the 6-hour drive to Santander. Our hosts are speaking of taking some back roads so that we can enjoy the sights of the region better. Nicer scenery, longer trip.
John Mark Hill, my host, started a church in Santander 5 years ago, and now they run around 90 people. That’s a strong launch for this region. We’re doing a weekend conference at his church. I’m scheduled to speak Friday night and Saturday morning, the first two sessions of the weekend. After that, the sessions are divided between Chris & Joan Wood and Penn Clark. I’ll have Sunday off, smile.
Thursday: Greetings in our Lord Jesus! Today I am launching on the longest trip I’ve ever taken—a total of nearly 3 weeks. Here’s how it happened. I planned a trip to Spain, which was designed for 12 days including travel. That’s about my max. Then, an invitation to Siberia came along. The only feasible way to make it happen was to go directly from Spain to Russia. After prayer, I decided to say yes to Russia. So a week in Russia means the whole trip will involve 18-19 days. This is the first time in memory that I have strategized the laundry I will need to do half-way through in Spain in order to refresh my clothes for the second leg of the journey.
This is my second visit to Spain, and my host is the same American missionary who hosted me on my previous visit. His name is John Mark Hill and he’s based in Santander. He is good friends with my friend, Penn Clark, and after he had brought Penn to Spain for a few events, Penn suggested that I join them for a conference. That’s how the last event came together. And now that we know one another, John Mark has invited my return.
When I first arrive in Madrid, however, I will begin with another ministry. Elliott Tepper leads a ministry in Madrid called Betel, a ministry that primarily targets drug addicts. Elliott is a grad from Elim Bible Institute in NY, as am I. When he went to Spain as a missionary, his initial plan for ministry went belly up. In desperation to know what to do next, somehow he began to minister to addicts. And that had the spark of God upon it. Today, Betel is one of the strongest Protestant ministries in Spain, and has bases in 20-some nations I believe. While Elliott is still pastor of the Madrid base, he spends much of his time traveling the world to strengthen the various Bethels all over the world. It’s a ministry that bears some resemblance to Teen Challenge, but also with some differences. The main difference being, they provide their program graduates with jobs, and thus establish communities comprised largely of ex-addicts who are walking in victory and finding success in the marketplace. This strategy has made their base in Madrid one of the strongest churches in all of Spain, with something like 600 adults in the community.
Last year I ministered at a conference in Monterrey, Mexico, where Elliott was also ministering. He happened to be in Mexico visiting the various Betel bases in that nation. It was our first time to really connect on a personal level, and he expressed an interest in hosting me in Spain. When the trip with John Mark Hill came together, I contacted Elliott and he seemed eager for me to make a stop at Betel. So I’m starting the time in Spain by ministering at Betel this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday night is for the Betel community, Saturday night is being presented as a night for the churches of the region to join us, and then Sunday morning is the regular weekend meeting.
Also joining us on this trip are Chris & Joan Wood, pastors of Zion Fellowship in Canandaigua NY (where we pastored before them). Chris and Joan live in close proximity to Penn Clark, and when the Spain trip came together, Penn asked if they might want to join us. And they did! It’s my impression that Chris & Joan will be with me at Betel this weekend. Then on Monday we will be collected by John Mark Hill and Penn Clark, and will go from there to two other cities in Spain during the next week—Lugo and Santander. Those events will be more conference-like, meaning there will be multiple sessions each day, which means that all of us will have turns at speaking.
Friday midnight: I felt drawn of the Lord to speak on envy, and the Lord helped us. At the close, around 25-30 folks came forward to indicate their response to the Lord. With great sincerity. I think it was a good launch to the weekend. I think we got the sound system conquered, so Elliott is able to translate for me effectively.
Betel keeps track of how many sign into their program, even if they stay for only a minute. Since inception, 250,000 have come through their doors in Spain. Elliott says most churches in Spain have someone who’s come through their doors.
According to Elliott, Spain “cures” its heroin addicts by giving them methadone—which is actually far more addictive than heroin. Heroin turns people into thugs who rob and steal exorbitant amounts every year to maintain their habit. With methadone, people are peaceful. And rendered incapable of functioning. But it’s cheaper to give them daily methadone and free housing, than to have them stealing to support a heroin addiction. In the 80s and 90s addicts flocked to Betel, searching for help. I understand the amount of traffic to Betel has slowed, now that the government is doping the people with methadone. But Betel’s international reach continues to enlarge.
Saturday 5:30 pm: We’re back from a tourist outing, something I rarely do on a ministry trip. Our host Elliott took me and the Wood’s to downtown Madrid "for lunch". I didn’t realize it, but in the process he had plans to show us around the old city. And he didn’t realize it, but it happened to be a “flag day” in Spain today, and the downtown was crawling with people. Elliott is an excellent tour guide, so we got to see and learn about some amazing sights. And had lunch in what is claimed to be the oldest restaurant in the world (http://www.botin.es/en). Opened in the 1700s, it has been in business ever since (I think perhaps it’s no longer operated by the original owners). And my, was their food delightfully flavored! Salad and roast chicken. A real treat. A hint to the wise: When in Spain, eat the olives. And the cheese.
Saturday 10:30 pm: Tonight I spoke on worship, and the group responded eagerly to the message. During the message itself they seemed rather impassive and hard to read, but at the close when I invited a response, the entire altar area filled with folks, and they were eager to give their hearts to the Lord. The worship team went for it, and we had a marvelous, prolonged time of ministry to God’s saints and to the Lord. Very sweet. Now we’re sitting down to our dinner.
Sunday 7:00 pm: This morning’s service started at 11:30, but by the time the service actually got launched, it was edging toward noon. Excellent spirit in worship. The Lord enabled me to preach on Heb 12, and again the altar filled with folks eager to respond to the word. The people are reserved in their facial responses while I’m preaching, but they have ways of showing an eager spirit after the message is finished. Although they speak the same language and although there’s a lot of traffic flow between the two places, the latinos of Mexico and S. America are quite a different people group from the Spaniards, in terms of temperament and social manner. Spaniards are more reserved. Something I was able to identify on this trip is that when it comes to Spain and Mexico, the baby now parents the mother. What I mean is, Spain is the natural parent of Mexico, but Mexico is now the spiritual parent to Spain. Spain imports much of the spiritual fervor of Mexico and the Americas in order to find fresh faith and fervency. Which is wonderful.
After the service, we were taken for a 30-minute car ride to one of the properties Betel owns (Betel is based on around 450 properties worldwide, owning around 50 of those, the home base being just one of those properties). This place is a palatial home that Betel was able to purchase for an excellent price when real estate prices bombed. It now houses around 12-15 men who are in Betel’s program as well as two families (the complex has 2 separate 3-bedroom apartments) who bring spiritual oversight I think. When you consider only the real estate that Betel holds, you realize the amazing reach of this ministry. It has been such a delight and honor to be with them and partner with them in ministry this weekend.
Next up: John Hill and Penn Clark arrive here around 1:00 pm on Monday (after a 3-hour drive to get here), and after collecting us will take us an additional 5-6 hours of driving, until we arrive in Lugo, Spain. Meetings will start on Tuesday, and I think will run Tues to Thurs. I do not know the schedule of meetings at all, nor do I know if we’re all speaking at one location or if we’ll be divied up to go to different churches simultaneously (I think the latter is quite possible). So the rest of our week here in Spain will be a bit of an adventure as we discover what will happen. The plans may be rather fluid and spontaneous, I don’t know. John and Penn are tremendous brothers, and already I’m looking forward to our times together.
Friday: Today I’m flying to Buffalo, and then zipping up to Niagara Falls, NY. This will be my second time at Destiny Christian Church with Lou & Louisa Perez, the first time being 10 years ago. I’ve been with Lou & Louisa at some other events in NY, but now finally get the chance to be with them again on their own soil. The city of Niagara Falls has been bleeding for a number of years, with their city population taking a real hit and also the general vibrancy of the area. While Niagara Falls, Ontario has kept its energy, the city on the NY side has been slogging through mud. May the Lord visit this region with fresh power and grace in the Holy Spirit!
I’m scheduled to speak Saturday morning at a breakfast meeting, and then Sunday morning.
Saturday 5:00 pm: I made it to Buffalo last night! I finally arrived at 3 a.m., and got to my room in Niagara Falls at 4 a.m. But thanks to the Lord’s help, I made it. Up at 8:00.
We had a 9 a.m. breakfast meeting this morning. A group of around 30 leaders, a good turnout. And an excellent breakfast thanks to Panera Bread. I spoke on the life of Lot, my first to do so, and from the response it seemed the group really appreciated the message. Lot represents the believer who has lost their sense of sojourn. There are strong lessons to be learned from the tragedy of righteous Lot’s life.
My hostess is Sicilian, and tonight I’ll be served a spaghetti and meatballs feast. Along with three other family and friends. Will be great! By the way, Delta continues to have cancellations today as it recovers from this week’s chaos, and I’m over here hoping my Sunday flights will be in good order, smile.
Sunday 9:15 pm: Hi from home. Great flights today, got home on time, thank the Lord. This morning we had a great time in the Lord’s house. Good spirit in worship, good spirit in the receiving of the word. Everyone seemed to have profited from gathering together in the Lord’s name on His day. So once again I have returned home with a grateful heart for being able to have a small role in the furtherance of the kingdom of our Christ.
Today (Thursday) I’m flying to Kalamazoo, to have our first visit with Joel and his family after moving there this month. Marci is meeting up with me in Kalamazoo today as well. Looking forward to this!
Then on Saturday I will leave Marci behind in Kalamazoo, and will travel by car to Brighton, MI. This will be my first visit to Brighton Christian Church. Saturday evening I will share for 15 minutes with the worship team at a fellowship dinner in a home, then Sunday morning I will share with the congregation.
Sunday 5:30 pm: Greetings from Detroit airport. Had a great weekend with Brighton Christian Church. I was finally able to piece together my connection to this church. Pastor Jacob has been here 2.5 years, and prior to this, he was a youth pastor in a church in Mobile AL where I had ministered in 2011. He remembered that time, and wanted me to come to this church now that he is pastor here. Saturday evening’s gathering with the worship team was very sweet, they just hung out and enjoyed one another all evening. Then this morning’s service was graced of the Lord. I’m hoping that this will not be our last time together.
Wednesday: Today I’m flying to Chicago, to minister in the midweek service of Salem Baptist Church (sbcoc.org). Today they are starting a 4-week Wednesday series on worship, and they’ve asked me to be part of this series. This will be my first time with them. I saw in their online banner that they put the title “Exploring Worship” on my session. I saw somewhere the claim that they are the largest African American congregation in Illinois. Already I can tell I’m going to have a marvelous time tonight!
Thursday morning: Greetings from the 25th floor of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago. I have a stunning view of the downtown area from my window. The tops of the buildings are hidden this morning in the clouds, it’s raining.
Last night’s meeting at Salem Baptist was special for me. It was my first to meet Walter Owens in person, the worship director at this amazing church. For their Wednesday worship series, Walter decided to invite me to come for the first in the series. I spent all day Tuesday in preparation, and just wrestled all day to find clarity. I went into the pulpit feeling like I never did find full clarity, so I was leaning hard on the Lord. The Lord seemed to step in and help me during the time of delivery. In the end, there was much appreciation expressed for the message on the cross and the blood of Jesus. After the closing I did a book signing, and a lot of folks lined up for that. I would guess they had 450-500 people, which is a pretty strong attendance these days for a Wednesday midweek service. The Lord has led them to construct a massive facility in one of Chicago’s most needy areas. May the Lord enable them with wisdom and strategies to glean the harvest in Chicago.
Sunday afternoon: I’m heading home now from a marvelous morning of ministry. When I consider that I came close to cancelling the weekend because of bronchitis, after seeing what the Lord did this morning, I’m so glad I pressed through and was able to see the Lord do such a strong work among His people.
Saturday early: Good morning! I had to be driven to the Chicago airport extra early this morning because the other party being taken to the airport with me has an earlier flight. It was a short, restless night, and I look forward to taking a couple naps on the planes today, smile.
Even though I’m not feeling 100%, the Lord helped me in the ministry of the word last night. The saints seemed to receive the message with eager hearts, and the soaking time around the altar at the end was especially sweet. The musicians and singers got into a very sweet flow.
Now I’m making my way to Buffalo via Detroit. To be with my friends at Creekside Gospel Assembly in Amherst again. It’s already been 3 years since I was last with them. Interestingly, I feel drawn to speak on the same topic that I preached on last night — the chastening of the Lord.