Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cebu Philippines - Harvest

For the last couple of days I have started to get to know the thirty new residents. Each one a unique individual, with their own histories, pains, sins and sufferings. You realise People that enter rehab centres (willingly) are very brave. They have made the decision to face their problems and no longer run from them. As far as soil goes, it is fertile and 'good'. I see more and more why Christ wants me to open Harvest of Hope.

The mentoring here and amount of Bible study is amazing. It is God's Word, fed through the Holy Spirit in Love, that is healing people. For 14 years now hundreds of men have been set free, who then go on often to be Pastors, Nurses, Judges, Missionaries or work within the ministry. No medicines, no psychology, rather; the living God and His people. Trying to explain that to the west is difficult. You really have to experience it to realise how real it is and how far away in the 'wealthy west' we can fall from the real Grace and Peace that His Spirit provides.

The first three hours of every morning is spent focusing on God. Yes three hours. Group Bible study and discussion, then a full service (daily). Each morning a different resident leads the worship - EVERYONE does this. Each day four people pray, which rotates daily. Thus within weeks men have gained confidence praying (in public) singing (in public) reading from the Bible etc. Then a different Pastor comes from a number of churches to preach. The Spirit brings the message and miracles happen..of which I am about to write...

Two nights ago I gave my testimony. I know many of you were praying and I thank you sincerely. I originally had thought to do this near the end of my stay, thinking 'get to know the men, soften up hearts first etc', however, in hindsight, this was insecurity - the worry of what if they didn't respond? I spoke to the Pastor and He said do it tonight (which was my third day here). We both saw logic in this, get a few saved and infilled with the Holy Spirit prior to teaching Romans, rather than afterwards. The thinking being; they wont understand much of it unsaved. Very true.

All day I prayed and by night time found myself  weeping in prayer. I knew the Holy Spirit was moving, I could literally feel Him! All the staff prayed for harvest. Thus people at home, people all over the world and people here were praying for harvest.
I showed a presentation on the Gospel, a contemporary kind of rap message a good friend gave me (thank you again Manuel!). In four minutes it provides an overview of the whole Gospel and our combined plight. Then I put up the 'happy' snaps of my past life. By the time I finished preaching nearly an hour had passed. I remember bits and pieces, but it was a bit of a blur to be honest.  Then the moment of truth. I asked them to stand if they wanted to give their life to Christ (As in TRULY give Him your WHOLE life). I told them don't if you are not ready, don't if its not from your heart, don't just to be a sheep, you have free will.

Thirty men stood up. A Platoon.
Since then a change has come already. The Spirit is moving and all can see it. As individual Pastors preach, the messages are combining (including my own) without any consultation or collaboration. And thus God's directing. More importantly the men can see it! They know God is showing Himself. I have began Romans and presented them with powerful testimonies of Hells Angel Bikers being forgiven, right through to the 'everything' drama. Last night was Romans Chapter 1 and the somber news of God's Wrath.

They were given both barrels. Heaven, Hell, God's Wrath or God's Love - you CHOOSE! Bad boys know devils exist, we played with them as they played with us for long enough. Thirty men right down to a 16 year old, that looks terrified half the time, (I am laughing, this morning he had a tshirt on saying 'Jesus loves you'  with a big love heart) all thirty understood Romans chapter one better than many Bible Scholars I have read. They understood the drugs were idols. I didnt need to theologically defend the position or take a stance against secular medical "theories". They knew they had worshipped the creation instead of the Creator. They got it! They understood only a Spiritual cure (Christ) can fix a spiritual problem. Psychology cannot destroy an idol by itself, neither can a 'wonder' drug. Often, the last thing ex drug addicts want (this coming from one) is more drugs. Whatever colour they are!

I promise you, the singing outside this office is now worshipping the Creator . And to Him, Jesus Christ, be all the praise.
Thank you all for your prayers. Please pray now for their protection (VERY Important) they are babies and yesterday Satan tried to make one quit and leave. Thank God with loving support from brothers and staff He stayed. Thus pray for the men's protection and growth as the Word comes flowing in. Pray the Holy Spirit speaks to their hearts. A Platoon of Christ's soldiers are born. They are worth more than all the earth's combined gold. God will reward you for praying for such men.

God Bless

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cebu Philippines - Bearing Fruit

That much seems to be happening I am compelled to write. The 6am wakeup call sounded on the megaphone – the normal mode of reveille here at House of Hope. Yet it doesn’t bring feelings of discord, you look forward to getting up here. God is honored and sought everyday in community and thus His presence is seen, heard and felt (Acts 2:42-47). Today was no exception. After showering, the Pastor offered me a dress shirt to preach in (which he proceeded to iron for me). One of the brothers, Neil a co-Director of Harvest of Hope, also invited me to talk to his Sunday school children. By 1030 am I had preached twice!

Bear with me as I try to explain the Sunday school. About twenty incredibly cute girls and boys aged from four to eight. Neil had literally scooped them up from the surrounding poor villages and now taught them about God each week under a tree (within the compound of a Christian Rehabilitation Centre). As we sat there you could hear the men of God singing hymns from within the worship hall. It’s another planet here – and by God’s power, it’s a good one. Proudly the children each took a turn singing a particular hymn or song. I was to judge (I had to hold back bursting into tears, these kids stood, incredibly brave, and happily sang for me, one was three and sang alone!). I honestly sometimes want to just cry my lungs out to God. Why a wretch like me should be called by the most High? Then I am to judge the talent contest of kids that have very virtually nothing but happily sing to God for you. Choking back tears I enthusiastically clapped each group.

I then gave them a message from the Bible, being as animated as I wanted to be. They got to see John the Baptist preaching in the Desert! Humble kids are great, they don’t judge or give you mean looks, rather, their eyes are dish plates as you exhort God’s Word for all its worth. The Holy Spirit does the rest! Afterwards we decided who won the singing, and I also witnessed a little boy (6 or 7) recite all of the Beatitudes and the whole of Psalm 23 - perfectly. I remember thinking; most western Christian adults I know can’t even do that. Feeling guilty? More enthusiastic clapping. I prayed for them all then ran over to preach to the adult congregation, sweat pouring out of me as the excitement built. Anyone that knows me knows I Love preaching, so I can’t keep the smile off my face.
God gave me a powerful message – Christ’s temptation in Matthew Chapter 4 and the importance of reading God’s Word. The Pastor is a serious man with a deadly serious job. Addiction kills and when looking after 50 grown men it isn’t a task for those who are not 100% committed. When he thanks you, he means it. He sincerely thanked me for the message. We then headed into town for eggs. Why eggs you ask? Well you see, the men only get one egg two times a week for breakfast. The remainder of the time its coffee and bread and butter for breakfast. Yes you read correctly. So it is now a tradition that when Jack is here part of the blessing I ask the Lord for is to allow me to provide a simple egg every day. It’s appreciated by all. God doesn’t spoil people here. This in turn makes them good!

I bought chocolate for the kids – the promised reward. I decided everyone won, so everyone received a prize. On returning the children told me you look like Mel Gibson. I hoped they didn’t mean the graying drunk He seems to be currently? They had made me something. One little girl had written out in colorful letters a thank you and blessing. It’s going on my wall when I get back home. They asked me to pray again in parting and asked Neil if I was here next week also? Children asking you to pray? As I said, another planet.
Afterwards Neil (a spiritually discerning man) pointed to the tree above us. I had been telling the children this is a church and church is not a building but people. They understood the concept of a spiritual family. Neil said “Jack’s Fruit”. I smiled humbled. But he pointed above a second time. Whilst preaching I was standing under a JackFruit Tree! It was bearing huge JackFruit nearly ripe. Can you imagine such a sign from God? Here is this fairly rare exotic fruit and you are preaching right under it all about God, hoping what you are doing will bear fruit and at the last moment God says “your preaching under my tree that has your name on it and its producing fruit”. That morning, Peter, good friend from Ireland, sent me Scripture to encourage me that God’s Word won’t return empty while I am here, it will bear fruit!

I need to rest I am overwhelmed. Tomorrow morning I am to share my whole testimony including the PowerPoint presentation, and then preach the beginning of Romans that night. ‘Jack fruit’ – I get it. To God be ALL the glory. 

Cebu Philippines - No Obstacle too hard for God

It is 1030am, warm and sunny here in Cebu, Philippines. I left Thursday night, it is Saturday now. I arrived four hours ago and have preached for thirty minutes to forty men already. The journey was long. Over thirty hours in total. Perth-Singapore-Manila-Cebu. I always travel the cheapest possible route and airline; it allows me to bless with the funds I save. It does, however, mean long waits in airports. Yet God always makes the journey an adventure. Arriving at Singapore 3am I hoped to go right into the transit terminal for the next flight; 14 hours later. However, you can only really check in two hours before, and then go through customs. Outside the transit terminal is like living on the outskirts of wonderland. Inside boasts free internet lounges, TV stations, transit hotels with showers that can be purchased in six hour blocks, even free foot massages. Changi Airport isn’t voted the best airport in the world year in and year out for nothing. Peering through the glass wall of the transit terminal I felt like a child at the gate of Disneyland denied entry. I prayed over and over to God "Please Father get me in".

I approached the check in desks of Philippine Airlines. Eventually I was told sorry sir you will have to come back at 9pm (it was now 8am, so only a 13 hour wait). She suggested I go to town and do some shopping. As a missionary you feel like saying "I don't 'shop'", but you refrain and politely nod. I prayed more. Dear God make this woman go away and we can try again with someone else. She didn’t go away. I literally stood there waiting for her to leave. After 15 minutes I gave up and headed back to MacDonald’s (it had become my personal transit lounge). Trying hard not to complain I accepted the situation I was in. I grabbed my second egg and sausage mcmuffin and reminded myself why I never eat McDonalds. I had prayed and asked for Internet access and God lead me straight to the Golden Arches, where my internet access was granted. I smiled and thanked the Lord. I realised I need to persevere with getting in to the transit terminal! I decided my best option was to wait until the negative lady left (I had decided she was in cahoots with the Devil and thus my only option was trying again, but not with her- I also reminded myself to love everyone).
I grabbed an hour or so sleep on the MacDonald’s bench - thanking God and stating this wasn’t really suffering, especially compared to David Livingston walking across Africa with river fever! After a quick prayer I headed off again. Time now 10 am. The woman was gone and so was everyone else. Someone was at the excess baggage section of Philippine airlines, she looked friendly - this was my chance. The response was better, she directed me to a Philippine Airline office – I didn’t know one existed, this had to be God’s direction! Soon I would be relaxing in the transit hotel, surfing the net for free and sipping Frappachino at Starbucks! My wishes were short lived. The lady at the office gave me the green light, however, I had to wait till 2pm for the next boarding shift and they inturn could give me a boarding pass for my midnight flight. She told me it wasn’t allowed but an exception could be made for me (God intervention).

I walked out, thanked the Lord for teaching me humility and patience and headed back to McDonalds. Nodding off I slept another hour. After reading Philippians, at 2pm I headed back to the counter. Hoping the previous lady wasn’t back on shift. She wasn’t, I started getting hopeful. Twenty minutes later and after some phone calls (this was obviously some sort of security breach letting people in so early) I was given entry to the coveted Transit Terminal! Still about nine hours to go thus plenty of time for rest and to buy a six hour block of time . As I walked to the Hotel (I was beaming ear to ear being in the Transit Terminal now), I said to the Lord, if it is more than $70 dollars I will go without. It was $69! I nearly started laughing as she told me. Again I thanked the Lord.

Two showers later, 5 hours sleep, 20 mins prayer and 5 chapters of Matthew I was on fire. I got on the plane to Manila at midnight feeling like it was morning! God is good – ALL THE TIME. On arriving at Cebu, at 6am, the plane came to a stop with an advert outside the far window saying “You’re in Safe Hands”. I knew it was God talking and I smiled as Joy flowed all over me. On meeting the Pastor he asked If I would like to preach at 8:30am today. Over thirty new brothers had entered the program. I understood now why God wanted me to teach Romans during my stay. This large influx of brand new residents would benefit from a summary of the Bible’s message – Romans being perfect. I shared my testimony and preached about Joshua 1:9, the men in a fight for their souls rather than returning to drugs. They were encouraged and sang heartily afterwards.

Already I have been in town to the markets; saw all the exciting sights of open fish and meat mongers, the smiling faces of Filipinos and a lot of interested looks. You don’t see many white people in Cebu. Thus you feel like a novelty as people ask my guests who I am. At which they reply He is my brother, a missionary and Pastor from Australia. The response is warm, God is respected here, such a change to back home. I returned to the centre in a motorbike concoction with seats built all over it for a capacity of 7 I think! In an hour I head back out with the Pastor to see a small shop the centre runs for extra income. I really like the Philippines. In many ways it reminds me of Cambodia yet the Filipinos are entirely different. They have their own unique spirit and English is the second language. Tomorrow I am to give the message at the Church service. It is such a privilege to be asked to teach thirty young men (20-40 yrs old) about God for ten days. It is also encouraging to see they are all hungry and willing listeners. Thank you all for your prayers.
God Bless

Monday, July 4, 2011

Seek and You Will Find

What really captures your heart? Is it sport, money, travel, sex, career or music? None of these exploits ultimately fulfils. Eventually they all dim. Often it takes a lifetime to discover this. Michael Jackson, for all his musical talents, was obviously a troubled soul. Sigmund Freud was not exactly Mr Contentment.  Bill Gates worth hundreds of billions dedicates his life now to giving it away. When we reach pinnacles, either physical ones such as Mount Everest or intellectual ones like designing software systems, the journey back down is often the hardest.

There is, however, one summit that never diminishes. It cannot be fully attained and thus striving to reach its peak is a continuous adventure. The ultimate journey, life’s principal rush and the real never ending story, is in seeking GOD. If you truly know that God exists, why would anything else matter? Say to yourself in capital letters - THERE IS A GOD, and then finish it off with an exclamation mark. When that sinks in life is never the same.

When I venture out as a Street Chaplain I am seeking God. There is no other reason I walk Perth’s entertainment district from 9pm to 4am as a volunteer than to see God at work. Oh I could boast and say “I do it because I love people” or “I just want to help the people out there” or even “I like being the Good Samaritan”. However, I would be lying through my teeth. I go out there to see God. Just as God tells me to – Seek and you will find (God).


Last Saturday God was at work as usual. As I put my thoughts down on imaginary paper created by Mr Gates I realise I have something I would not swap his billions for. I write about someone I love and know, not about philosophical speculation, or a character from ancient antiquity or even theological conjecture. Rather, I write about someone I know. He is God and He is alive and well. One does need to repent though (yes He still calls for that one), destroy the idols in the heart like Josiah did (which render us spiritually blind) and then turn to Him. He then gives you eyes to see and ears to hear. You no longer ponder “does God really exist?” you know He does, because you see Him everywhere.

 When I arrived at the Police Station it was discovered the Chaplain backpacks had not been handed in. We therefore resorted to the backup backpack. I was impressed such existed. We also had to utilise the second set of Chaplain Mobiles. As an ex soldier, I admire strategic plans, especially those that pay attention to detail. As the saying goes ‘the devil is in the detail’, when you forget the details - the Devil doesn’t!
I thought we better ring the Operations Room and give them the alternate numbers (they had the original mobile numbers). Something made me think ‘I bet we will be called tonight and if they have the wrong number we will miss the opportunity of helping the police’. After ringing we headed out. It was a dark wet night. I really liked it. Rain doesn’t bother me – it isn’t acid, its water. I doubt Jesus would have decided not to go to the Cross if it was raining. Rain, hail or shine the Street Chaplains should be on the streets. Just as the Police are.

An hour later I heard the mobile in my pocket ringing. The police do not call every week. In fact, it is only just starting to occur after three years of relationship building. So when the phone did ring (and with - ‘I bet they will call’ - still fresh in my mind) I felt like Batman answering the Bat phone. I also knew straight away that God was at work. God knew they would ring later. Yes GOD .The Sergeant at the other end told us that a young drunken woman needed help. She was with two officers; however, our help would be appreciated. I said no problem and he told me the street address. We then headed off in a hurry in the completely wrong direction. Five minutes later the bat phone rang again. “Where are you?” This time I decided to get directions and managed to swallow my pride. What happened next stunned me.

As we turned back I saw a familiar hat amongst the crowd. This hat was so unique that you could not miss it. I knew it because only a few days earlier the owner of the hat had come to a mid week dinner at one of the churches I go to. It was his first time at church. And here he was standing in Northbridge. I walked up to him and his two friends who also had been at the dinner. Rough lads in their mid twenties, but amazingly they had come to this suburban church for a meal! Everyone had commented on his hat! I shook their hands, they were sincerely happy to see me.

I walked off and realised that God’s perfect timing was at work. A minute later and they would have been inside the club. We were almost running now to where the police were, I could literally sense God’s Spirit at work.

When we arrived a young girl stood weeping uncontrollably. Two officers were trying to console her. One of the officers told me she had lost her friends and he had called her father who was on the way. They wanted us to stay with her until he arrived. She was far too emotional to be left alone in Northbridge. As the police introduced us I came forward and spoke reassuringly to her. One of the officers then quietly said to me, “that is a nice necklace she is wearing”. Around her neck was a brown chord. At the end of it was a large wooden crucifix.

I stood in awe for a brief moment, I realised the officer was alerting me to God’s sign hanging around the young girl’s neck. The officers departed, they were thankful for our intervention. We stayed with her, we prayed internally and she calmed somewhat. Her dad arrived after another ten minutes and she rushed into his arms. She turned and looked back at us. I thought for a moment she was going to give me a kiss. Her glance said it all. Her tear soaked eyes voiced the words, “thank you”. She was no more than seventeen, a pretty drunk girl, alone and afraid. An easy target for predators.

God orchestrated all of it - from beginning to end. The prompting of the initial call to the Operations room to provide the new mobile number. The telephone call at just the right moment. Even the wrong turn to ‘bump’ into the church lads.  The pinnacle being the spiritually aware police officer noticing the cross around the girl’s neck.  

Seek and you will find. The more you seek the more you see.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Philippines here we come!

Another Semester is over. Twenty two thousand words were written, many grey cells imploded and my skin toughened a little. I only have two Semesters left to complete a Masters of Theology. I would never have imagined such and can only sit in wonderment of God and where God leads us. My marks were blessed throughout and I thank God for His guidance in helping me persevere, even when I continually whined like a child and at times felt like quitting.
I am off to the Philippines during the break. Tickets are booked; I depart in two weeks to spend ten days with some brothers in a Christian Rehabilitation Centre. Going on mission is an integral part of a Christian’s life. Christ sent His disciples on short term missions. Part of the training before the Great Commission (Mt 24).

Seeing other parts of the world expands our horizons. Christianity is diverse and often differs greatly in the third world to our own westernized religion. Christian mission should incorporate helping others. Coming alongside people, bearing burdens and offering compassion. What good are words without action?. These techniques were utilised by the first disciples over and over.  

The blessing is also felt in just being on mission. People's spirit in the third world seems stronger than that in the west. They smile so much more, they have fewer idols in their hearts. I encourage anyone reading this to seek Christ in mission. But do not expect Him to be in squeaky clean environments. He gets His hands dirty and He works hard at helping the people who need Him. He is love in action.

This trip will help in my research of addictions and allow me to continue in practical discipleship. Christians should seek to grow, seek and you will find. God’s will is for continual change. Sanctification is never dormant. Living water flows, it does not stagnate.
I will write each day while on mission. God will be moving powerfully whilst in the Philippines. It has been nearly six months since my last trip (which was to Cambodia) therefore,  I am eager to get out on mission. Have daypack will travel. A few shirts, a few socks, one toothbrush and one Bible. What else do we really need, if God is truly in our heart?