Hello to all our friends and blessings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the fall of the year once again and the end of our fiscal year in the ministry. As usual, we are back in the States during these months to complete the accounting for the year and prepare our tax report for the 501-3-c exemption. It is also the time when we have opportunity to visit with some of you personally to both encourage and receive encouragement.
The purpose of this letter is to try to the best of my ability to keep you informed as to how the work of our ministry is progressing. It is my desire that as I endeavor to inform, paramount in that effort will be how God has guided, provided and worked on our behalf. So from the outset, let me state emphatically that were it not for the direct and continual intervention of the hand of God, we would not be in ministry in Talamanca or anywhere else on the globe for that matter. Being a minister of God’s grace in Talamanca was not a career choice, but a simple act of obedience to the beckoning from the shadowy side of an open door. The shadowy side of a narrowly open door where I could not see exactly what stepping through would ultimately mean. I tell my boys, obedience is really very simple. It requires no fore-thought, no planning, no study of alternatives, and no imagination. It requires no issuance of an opinion. You are given a command…follow it. How much simpler could that be, though admittedly I myself have struggled with the concept.
It brings to mind a story recorded in the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Luke. A religious man, in fact a religious leader came to Jesus and asked how he could obtain eternal life. From that one question we can ascertain several things. One, he wanted eternal life but didn’t feel that he had it and secondly, he somehow believed that Jesus could give him the answer. Jesus then pointed him to the Law and said you know the commandments. The man on hearing reference to the Law quickly testified that he had always obeyed the commandments. Jesus replied, “just one more thing then”, one thing, expressed and woven into three parts. Sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, then come and follow me. A simple command, unencumber yourself and follow me. The door was swung open for the man. The way was made clear to eternity, heaven and a life of unimaginable experiences. Not needed: fore-thought, planning, alternative study, imagination or opinion. Nothing more required than simple obedience. The story ends however with the man very sad. Why? Because we are told he was very rich. Jesus had revealed that the religious man had not kept all the commandments. In fact, he had broken the very first one. His God was not really Jehovah, the creator of the universe, but rather himself, the creator of all he possessed. The man was so distraught at the idea of giving up all he had; he missed the answer to his original question. Eternal life is found only in following Jesus.
Sometimes I think, if we are not careful, we will find ourselves hitching the plow to the front of the mule. A mule is made to pull the plow not push it. In our acts of religiosity, we think of things we maybe should do for God. Things that sound good to us, things that we might enjoy and things that don’t require us giving up too much of what we have accumulated, because it is ours after all and we’ve worked hard for it. And then, once we have the details of ministry all worked out, through fore-thought, planning, study of alternatives, imagination, opinion comparison, and a vote duly taken to determine the desires of the majority; then, we ask God to please bless our efforts. The plow is in front of the mule. What Jesus says is, “look, I am doing a work, get unencumbered and come follow me. I will show you what to do and I will give you what you need to do it.” It is interesting that Jesus did not tell the man to follow Him and then sell his stuff if he enjoyed hanging out with the disciples and found everything to his liking.
OK, back to the purpose of this letter. As you may recall, during the spring, I went to investigate helicopters in several states. A couple of them were in very bad shape requiring a great deal of work before even the possibility of being declared airworthy. I found three in California in good condition although they had not been flown for about 5 years. In June, I flew to California from Costa Rica with the intention of buying one of the three. The owner said that he would only consider a package deal, all three ships plus all the spare parts he had in inventory. In reality, it was a terrific deal. The problem was I had enough money for one ship or two, but not enough for three. The owner agreed to wait until I could find the remaining money I needed or until I told him the deal was off. Shortly after returning to North Carolina, a gentleman graciously agreed to help me with the short fall. I returned to Costa Rica to continue with the work there having all the needed funds safely tucked away.
Our ministry in Talamanca is a little difficult to explain in that it is multi-faceted. Daisy and JP have a ministry taking Christian films around to the local churches. There is a ministry of hospitality. You can count on one hand the number of times we eat a meal alone with no visitors in a month’s time. Indians constantly come by the house for medicine or other kinds of help. Then there is the work in the jungle, medical clinics and bridge building. In all of these things, the goal is the sharing of Jesus’ offer to us to come and take of the water of life freely. All this we continued to do until our return to the States in late August.
Once returning home, I began making plans to go to California to get the helicopters. We got quotes from several different shipping companies. The cost to have the three ships plus the spare parts moved from California to North Carolina was approximately $22,000. Timing was also an issue. We would only have two hours on each end to load and unload before we would start accruing additional charges. Not willing to pay that price I began to look for alternatives.
During the last week of August, I finished roofing the hangar on the farm in Caswell County. I found an old boat trailer for sale and bought it with the intention of converting it into a helicopter trailer. Moises Morales, my friend from Florida who is an aircraft mechanic and pilot, planned to accompany me to California to take charge of the rigging necessary for transportation. His father, also named Moises would go as well, driving his pick-up and pulling a flat-bed trailer which we converted for one of the helicopters. My Uncle Monty drove his pick-up pulling the converted boat trailer with his converted hay trailer stacked on top. That would give us two pick-ups with three trailers on the drive out to Lemoore, California. Once in Lemoore, we would rent a u-haul truck in which would be packed the spare parts. On the drive back, we would have the u-haul pulling the converted boat trailer, my Uncle pulling the converted hay trailer and Moises pulling the converted flat-bed. Everything said and done, it seemed like a good plan.
During the first two weeks of September, as I was making preparation for the trip, I had been praying intensely for the financing of the trip. Also during that time, I spoke with several pastor friends of mine and a group of men I regularly meet with and ask them to be in prayer with me. In the bank, I had $201,000, two hundred thousand for the purchase of the ships and one thousand for the 5500 mile trip. I had calculated that it was going to cost between $12,000 and $15,000, depending on how much trouble we had and the varying price of fuel.
Sunday morning, September 15, three days before departure, I took Daisy to the airport for a flight to Costa Rica. For more than a year she has been having a great deal of discomfort in her esophagus. She had several test scheduled for September and October. She elected to have the test done in Costa Rica as the cost is significantly lower. She will be returning to the States on Oct.30th and we would appreciate your prayers as she goes through this process of diagnosis.
Sunday night Moises and Moises, along with Moises Jr.’s family arrived at the farm. Our plan was on schedule to leave early Wednesday morning. I did not share with them the financial situation, but I continued to believe God would solve the problem. As John Paul, James and I conversed with God that evening, my petition was that God would show me how He intended to solve the dilemma I was facing. Forty-eight hours from leaving, still I didn’t have enough money to get us to Tennessee; much less California and back, and I had no idea where such an amount might come from. But I was determined to trust God. I had decided to take the position of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. They were sure God could deliver them from the furnace, they just didn’t know how or if. However, they were completely willing and content to accept God’s decision in the matter, they would simply trust Him. That is where I found myself, waiting for God to bring deliverance if He so chose, if not, I would accept the consequences. I believed I was in line with His plan.
Monday we began to work on the problem of stacking the trailers and doing the conversion on Moises’ flat-bed. Also Moises discovered the water pump on his truck was leaking, so a search for a new one was initiated. First order of business on Tuesday would be replacing the water pump. In the afternoon, the mail came while I was working on the trailers, as you might imagine, I was compelled to stop what I was doing and give God thanks. In among the junk mail was a check to cover the amount of the transport. God had provided and it came from neither church nor individual who I had told of the need. God moves according to His sovereign will.
We left Mebane on schedule Wednesday morning and followed interstate 40 all the way to California. The highway was in disrepair for a large portion of the trip and we arrived in Lemoore late Saturday afternoon, just in time to pick up the U-haul. The U-haul I received had a flat tire which could not be repaired by the company until Monday as long as it was on the lot. I needed to start loading on Sunday, so I drove with one flat tire on the rear from Fresno to Lemoore. I then called and was able to have the tire fixed on Sunday. The loading required two days and by Tuesday morning we started out on the return trip. In order to avoid some of the bad roads and higher mountains we drove south and returned along I-10. We arrived in Mebane at 6:30pm on Saturday afternoon. Twenty years of waiting and praying are close to becoming reality.
Since arriving back in Mebane with the ships, Moises and I have been working to get one of them ready to take to Costa Rica. There are lots of parts to inventory and because they have not been flown in so long, lots of bugs to work out. We are working hard to get one of them ready for the jungle as soon as possible.
I know that the acquisition of the helicopters is only a step toward more work and I am excited about it. There is still a great deal of work to do on the hangar and airfield in Bribri. Once the aircraft is in Costa Rica, a whole world of opportunities will open up; more bridges, clinics, wells and lots and lots of discipleship. The funding that will be necessary has increased dramatically. If you are looking for a place where God is working to involve yourself, opportunities abound for anyone who wants to be a part of God’s work in Talamanca. We invite you to join with us. There is nothing like staring Goliath or Jericho or the Red Sea or a fiery furnace or an angry storm at sea in the face and being the beneficiary of God’s gracious power as He delivers you from an impossible circumstance. But you must remember, in order to be delivered from an impossible circumstance you must be in an impossible circumstance. God desires to demonstrate His power to us in a personal way.
Thank you for your support over the past 22 years. You have been a blessing to our family and to those in Talamanca that we are trying to reach for Christ. May the light of Christ and the blessing of God the Father flow through you to all who cross your path.