When God Moves Into el Barrio (Pt 1)

La Perla ( “The Pearl”) is a historical shanty town established in the late 19th century outside the city walls of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  As the site of a slaughterhouse and cemetery and a catchment for former slaves and homeless servants, La Perla was, by law, established outside of residential communities and business areas.

La Perla’s claims to fame….

Areas to Avoid in San Juan

1. La Perla
Tourists are advised to avoid the area known as “La Perla,” one of San Juan’s most dangerous places. “The Pearl” district in Old San Juan is a slum area where a lot of drug trafficking takes place. Despite recent law enforcement crackdowns, it remains one of the most dangerous places in Puerto Rico. It isn’t difficult to spot, as it is decrepit and quite run-down.  (AOL.com 10/4/2010)

 

In the 1970’s, Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon launched La Perla into world view with Calle Luna, Calle Sol.   Described by some as ‘gangster salsa’,  the song was intertwined with the tragic and tormented life of beloved Hector Lavoe and lives on as part of Puerto Rican culture.   Lavoe knew the streets of La Perla well….(English translation)

“Put your hand in your pocket,  take out your knife and your keys and be careful, Listen to me, in this neighborhood, many gangsters have been killed

Listen Mister, if you want your life, avoid this neighborhood or you’ll lose it

In a neighborhood of gangsters, you don’t live in peace.  Be careful with your words or you’ll be worth nothing.

Your pockets have been ripped out.  Since you went to La Perla, they left you broke and beat up…”

Notoriety, danger, fame  – “No Go Zones” – are powerful allurements for many seeking excitement and/or drugs.  The vastly popular music video, ‘Despacito’ made La Perla a ‘must go’ spot for island culture, excitement and sensuality.   With nearly 4 billion views, this music video gave La Perla international spotlight in early 2017, until Maria came and ravished all worldly hopes of fame and prosperity.

la perla after maria

Hurricanes Strip but Jesus Covers  testifies of God’s presence through the rubble in Puerto Rico.  As part of that mission team, my husband met with Pastor Ivan in La Perla.  Much of the pastor’s work seemed to wash away with the hurricane, as did the folks who were able to leave the area and the island.

But Pastor Ivan has a vision for La Perla that goes far beyond the notoriety of folk songs and sensational videos.  The thoughts and plans of man established a slaughter house and place for social rejects.  Man then turned these dangerous dark streets into a sensual allurement.

But when God arrives in the storm, what He builds has eternal value.  He turns ‘slaughter houses’ into places of new life, ‘social rejects’ into beloved saints, and brings light and song to ‘dangerous streets’.

By faith we see…

empty shed PR

A godly center rise up with a workshop for youths and Bible study for all.

 

The work begins…

 

wheelbarrel PR

 

As the Body of Christ teams together under His calling…

 

15089

Pastors have come and gone from La Perla over the years.  One told my husband, “Satan has thick chains around that place.”  That man is now part of the building team!  We believe that the power of God will break those chains and make “La Perla” a “Shining Star”!

The Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field…the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls…”

Pray for the people to find this great ‘treasure’, this ‘pearl of great price’.  Please pray for Pastor Ivan.   May the Kingdom of God advance with power to break chains of drugs, witchcraft and despair, and exalt the name of Jesus!

Excited about posting Part II, III….and IV!

I Prayed For My Neighbors….Part II

Over 300 flyers and bilingual street signs went out into the neighborhood for yesterday’s Dec. 4th meeting.  C.U. was on the agenda to once again press the City Board to approve their plans to take part of our street, build a ‘plaza’ – ultimately expanding their campus.  As the ‘largest private land owner in NYC’, we knew of Columbia’s neighborhood take overs – I encouraged one neighbor, “With God, all things are possible”.  But what would God do?

Over the weekend I studied the book of Nehemiah.  I often study the Bible with the commentaries by Zac Poonen, a gifted teacher.  I highlighted some notes to meditate upon…

  • “Fear is the opposite of faith, and when we act in fear we are acting in unbelief.”  Nehemiah may have feared before the King (“I was very much afraid”) but he never compromised, he pressed on.
  • “If we really believe that God Almighty is supporting us in what we do, it is ridiculous and foolish to fear anyone.”
  • “Nehemiah was a great organizer and a man who could motivate people.  The people worked with him happily because he worked alongside them.”
  • “Nehemiah was a fearless man who was not seeking for a reputation as a kind, gentle person…If you are concerned about your reputation, you might as well forget about building the church.”

I do consider humility and meekness foundational in Christian character.  But I also see the boldness of God’s leaders who confront opposition with zeal when set forth by God.  Although the presenting battle in my neighborhood is not spiritual per se, I believe that the Lord is doing something with me and my husband, perhaps preparing us for spiritual battles in these last days. For example, after speaking at a podium in a large gathering, I really sensed new confidence within.  I  find myself more comfortable engaging with people in public places such as bus stops and stores, extending simple kindness with hopes of sharing God’s love.

When the meeting started, almost no one was there.  Thankfully though, by the 3rd agenda item Bob and I turned and saw the room full – once again, standing room only.  Many new people came, obviously from work.  There were seniors, young adults, many Hispanics and even students!  “We’re from the Columbia School of Social Work…We are with you! We stand in solidarity with your neighborhood against the expansionism or our university!”  Really!

Months ago, C.U. initially deceived the City Board, presenting a building plan with an elaborate but devious survey to quickly convince the Board:  “93% of all people polled are in favor of our plan!”  They neglected to report that only C.U. students were polled, the residents were totally unaware.  Now, aware and informed, our stand came forth with clarity and strength…and with fire!

The room heated up as one by one all the neighbors cried out against C.U.’s plan, and they had done their homework!  The C.U. reps began to shrink.  When they presented, all points seemed to fall to the ground, their strategies exposed and deflated.

After nearly two hours, it was time to vote….or once again table the issue!!

The Board was divided but the majority confirmed, a vote must take place.  The whole room was silent, we stood up, waiting for their votes………….with 2 abstentions,  THE CITY BOARD VOTED AGAINST COLUMBIA’S PLAN!!  WE KEEP OUR STREET!!

(Of course, the giant may resurface and come back next year…)

Somehow I was the point person in this endeavor, my husband to a lesser extent as Bob works long hours.  Several people acknowledged us and expressed gratitude for our continuous outreaches and signs to notify them.  Maybe the Lord is giving us favor.  After our victory we met more neighbors from our street, some whom had lived there for 30 years, contact info was exchanged and we conversed.

While I had wondered about God’s plan in this, Bob frequently quoted Proverbs 31:8 to me, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves…”  A true calling, but I also believe that with God, there’s often more than just the ‘issue at hand’.  We prayed for our neighbors’ salvation and entered a different arena…but I believe God is not finished!

Together we saved our street, but neither a ‘Bible study’ nor ‘prayer meeting emerged.  After 30 years the Lord introduced us to many folks and perhaps with future purpose.  ‘Coincidental’ meetings, times of sharing or, who knows, when calamity strikes one day, could we be ‘point persons’ for prayer?

Only God knows!

Thank you friends and brethren for your prayers!!

 

P.S.    C.U. should change either their school motto or their deceitful exploits…It is never good to hide hypocrisy behind God’s word.  (They had their flag with this seal standing at the meeting!)

CU seal

C.U.’s school motto”In Lumine tuo Videbimus Lumen” translates: “In they light we shall see light”, Psalm 36:9, the banner around the woman holds the words, “Auri Al”, God is my Light”, from Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation”

 

I Prayed For My Neighbors, Look What Happened

Many of my neighbors have moved in and moved out over these past 30 years and, while I’ve prayed for them, most relationships remained superficial.  I really understand – at the end of the day, everyone wants privacy and rest after bustling through the city.  But at the same time, I believe that “the times and places for man to live are ordained by God” and don’t want to neglect any opportunity to show God’s love.

Showing some kindness isn’t hard – helping carry bundles (we have no elevator), being a listening ear when someone needs to unburden, or even an occasional hospital visit.  But I kept praying, was there more?

THEN I happened to see a flyer posted, announcing a plan by Columbia University to build a ‘public plaza’ on our small residential street, eliminating two blocks and much needed residential parking.  They already demolished housing for a conference center – the flyer urged residents to get involved.

(After the city itself, Columbia University is the largest land owner in the City of New York.  They have displaced more residents and dismantled more neighborhoods than anyone else.)

I really felt a stirring but feelings can deceive….does the Lord really care about our street per se? Are these concerns worldly?  Temporal? Of no consequence in view of eternity?

But the stirring continued.  I attended this open meeting where C.U. presented their illustrious “plaza plan”.  But something was wrong, I sensed something devious and underhanded in their overture, “This is a plaza for you to enjoy!”

Their plan must be approved by the Community Board and that meeting would be held on November 5th.  My husband and I felt compelled to notify our neighbors over a two block radius.  We distributed flyers to many, especially to weary drivers, urging them to attend this meeting and stand up for their neighborhood.   I continued to pray, hoping that my zeal is from God and not my own unction.

On November 5th, during my morning prayer and devotion,  Deuteronomy 20:1-8 was the scripture topic twice!  One inspirational blog I read,  A Mountain of Faith, posted “Is Your Tank Full?”  (https://amountainoffaith.com/2017/11/05/is-your-faith-tank-full/)  I truly felt covered by God for this meeting, that no ‘chariots’ ‘horses’ or ‘armies’…even big businesses…can come against the purposes of God.

For the LORD your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and he will give you victory!’  Deuteronomy 20:4

There were many empty places as the meeting was about to begin.  However, shortly thereafter my husband and I turned around and saw behind us dozens of people who came from work and from their homes.  Standing room only!

C.U. presented a slide show of their ‘plaza plans’.  Their P.R. reps tried to present how this will ‘benefit’ the neighborhood,  a fancy but hollow attempt to patronize while ruining and taking our street.

My inward ‘stirring’ turned into a ‘churning’.  I stood and challenged C.U. with unexpected fervor…which passed the torch to others.  They thought their plan was a slam dunk in this Spanish speaking, working class neighborhood.  And why not?  They have never lost an endeavor, especially when displacing families, the elderly and small businesses…those with no clout.   They did not get approved on this night though, the board ended up divided and could not vote.

Digging into rumors uncovered the truth.  C.U. really needs this plaza in order to change the zoning law on our small residential street and proceed with building plans.  The plaza is their platform to build upon and expand their campus, architectural plans are are already established, waiting in the wings! 

I privately prayed more though for God’s guidance, “Lord, should I take this farther?  Should I see an Assemblyman or Councilman?”  Shortly afterwards my husband came and suggested, “Maybe you try and see our Congressman or Councilman…”

So I met with the City Councilman’s intermediary, who happens to be a pastor. He aligned with the neighborhood concern and added, “God bless you!”  He strongly urged me to contact the Chief of Staff…whose name is Jose Espiritusanto!  (which from Spanish translates Holy Spirit!)

This week my husband and I had opportunity to address a larger general meeting and present the truths behind the ‘plan’.  The next Community Board meeting is Dec 4th.

So far I testify:

  • God is “training my hands to battle” (Psalm 144:1) strengthening us toward a spiritual calling.  I never addressed a public gathering before, but the Lord is breaking new ground within me, teaching me that through Him I am able to do this.
  • After praying for my neighbors, we’re getting to know them, perhaps they’ll see we care.  Already some have shared personal struggles and know, “We’re praying for you!”  Might we remember each other when this battle is over, when hardships or calamities strike?
  • I believe that the Lord is revealing Himself, teaching us greater dependence upon Him and His unmatched sovereignty….strengths we will need for future spiritual battles.  

“No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.”  II Timothy 2:4

This is scripture to live by.  But somehow God has put us in the middle of a neighborhood issue and has stirred us within. Sometimes our prayers for people don’t supernaturally create home Bible studies and prayer meetings.  Sometimes God positions His Body alongside the lost and hopefully upon that road, fulfills divine appointments.

Would you pray for us?

 

 

 

Jesus on the Guest List

In Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 14:15-24 Jesus powerfully describes, through parables, a wedding feast and banquet with elaborate preparations and personal invitations. The intended guests of these extravagant affairs dismiss the servant messengers and worse, abuse and kill them. While representing the tragic rejection of Jesus by the Jewish people, the Lord affirms the offer of salvation to the Gentiles.  The Kingdom of God is available to all who come by faith in Christ as Savior.

God is determined to fill His banquet hall. There is no mistaking His personal invitations, His outreach to the byways and country roads and neither is there uncertainty about the fate of those who reject Him.

However, the wedding feast in Cana recorded in the second chapter of John is an actual wedding, most noted for Jesus’ first miracle of changing water into wine. There is great significance in the wine and wedding and much is gained from studies therein. Yet an important point seems neglected in this passage. Unlike the Jesus’ portrayals of God’s invitation to man, here Jesus is the invited guest. The parents of the betrothed decided, let’s invite Jesus and His disciples to this wedding (John 2:1-2).

If it were only Jesus and Mary one might conclude that the invitations were familial but the varied backgrounds of the disciples lead us to conclude otherwise. Perhaps the anointing and authority of Jesus became evident and so, when planning a most important life event, Jesus and His disciples would be on the guest list. And undoubtedly they accepted.

It is paramount for us to accept God’s invitation of salvation and the promise of eternal life. But aren’t we greatly remiss if we neglect to personally invite Jesus into the everyday events of our life whether great or small?

Would we invite Jesus as guest to our wedding or how about on that date, would Jesus and His followers join you at that movie? Is there any rendezvous or event that we would not invite Jesus?

Being sovereign and omnipotent is not the same as being invited. We are right to consult the Lord with all our plans and submit to His will. But a consultant is not an honored guest.

I believe that if we decidedly make Jesus our guest of honor – even at church – we will see change. His divine presence may not be evident to all, perhaps only ‘servants’ will see His glory. The wedding party and guests all enjoyed the supernatural wine but God’s glory was revealed to the servants and disciples, “…and his disciples put their faith in Him.”

I am not planning a wedding or other significant event. But I am going to the Mets game at Citi Field on Saturday. Be it corny or weird, I am inviting Jesus to go with me, not just to be with me but as a guest that I might honor.

faith day

“Lord, I pray that we welcome and honor Your presence wherever we are. Give us real desire to ‘introduce You’ in every encounter with others and open up the way.  Soften our hearts to express Your love in word and deed and invite You, “the Truth” into every conversation. As the world never cowers to present an honored guest, let us present You, our King, with joy and reverence. I pray for Faith Day Lord, that You may be invited and honored by many. Let Your glory be revealed and give birth to redemption and new life. As You are invited, King Jesus, I pray that Your wedding banquet greatly increase!”

The REAL Independence Day

We all look to celebrate, especially as this world and our personal lives may hold such cause to lament. In fact, I often pray for reasons to celebrate, for laughter in my soul, for joy that makes my feet dance and arms punch the air.

But the bad thing about man made ‘celebrations’ is that whatever you bring into it, sadness, defeat, loss, sickness, disappointment, you will end up bringing out with you at the end. Man-made celebrations tantalize the flesh with sensory pleasures….fireworks, food, drink and parades….but are powerless to reach the needs of the heart or release us from what really oppresses.

It is our heart and soul that long for victory and celebration.

fireworks

Momentary pleasures are but a distraction

To celebrate freedom from England or any other government can never replace the true cause for man to rejoice – the freedom to approach God, the freedom from sin, from guilt and all that would separate us from our Heavenly Father.

“But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  II Corinthians 3:17

The Bible says that the devil blinds us, taking us captive to do his will; that sin is a bondage, a prison, from which only our Savior and Deliverer can destroy.

I pray that on this Independence Day and every day our families, our neighbors, our community and country will look deeper for a true reason to celebrate. Lord, stir our hearts away from the temporal.   Let us rejoice as heaven rejoices, when a sinner – anyone separated from God – turns from his ways and trusts the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and new life. When a person is not just born into this world but born again into the family of God, that is cause for us to dance and shout!

May we see the Holy Spirit move and save those around us and celebrate as the Kingdom of God advances – freeing us from all that would ensnare and oppress – and leading us boldly to the Throne of God.

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Colossians 1:13-14