Progress at La Perla! (Pt 3)

empty shed PR

This is where it all started!

Many will recall the ‘recovery work’ of the Lord after devastating Hurricane Maria Hurricanes Strip but Jesus Covers  and the Lord’s faithfulness to His servant Pastor Ivan,  When God Moves Into el Barrio (Pt 1)  and then  The Pastor of La Perla (el Barrio Pt 2).

Forsaken and ravaged by drugs, rampant immorality and witchcraft, God launched a new thing in La Perla – the darkness a perfect backdrop to His shining light and new life.  God is preparing La Perla to bless His Kingdom – what an honor to witness and partake of this work!  

As previously posted, the Lord called Pastor Ivan from a comfortable church in NYC for church planting in this dangerous area of Puerto Rico.  While there was some gathering of believers, Hurricane Maria all but destroyed the seedlings of church.  But Pastor Ivan’s vision and calling did not waiver.  In spite of months of depravation, he stood and stayed the course, believing that God would finish what He started.

According Pastor Ivan, it started with a ‘shack’ and the faithful foresight of what God can do with a surrendered shack.

Introducing….

le perla progress               le perla progress pastor

                                                CENTRO DE ARTE BEZALEEL!

Bezalel Art Center – BAC – named after the man chosen by God in the Book of Exodus, to lead the work of building His tabernacle and all its furnishings.  In Exodus 31, God “filled him (Bezalel) with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts”.    Not only for Bible study and fellowship, BAC will be a place for gaining personal growth and valuable work skills.

“My desire is for people to come and learn and work at the Center and experience the anointing power and love of God.  May they experience the creativeness of God.  God is the Creator and has placed in His people His Spirit of creativity.”  Pastor Ivan

la perla seashore progress II

La Perla by the Sea…once a place for degradation, now where God’s beauty and love take root and grow. 

Wow.  I’m impressed by the hand of God.  So excited to think of the next postings!

 

 

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…

 

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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!

Is This Church?

The life of Christ dwelt within the heart of Haig but we missed it for many years.  Haigie was a mentally and physically disabled Armenian man, without family, who lived with the elderly at the Armenian Nursing Home.  Culturally vibrant and lively, this ‘nursing home’ was a beloved Armenian community for Haigie, even though he wasn’t elderly.  Since my husband and I live 200 miles away, our visits were infrequent and our attention was spread over several residents.

After many years there, Haigie was evaluated by the state for placement into a residential group home for the mentally and physically disabled.  Now in his sixties, leaving his aged Armenian community was a crushing blow, many tried to circumvent this move but in the end it was a ‘God move’, a tremendous blessing for us all.

My husband and I began visiting Haigie at the group home, which did not have 80 residents but under 10.  With Haigie our only focus, we grew closer and the Lord soon revealed his living faith in Jesus Christ.  As a brother in the Lord, visits with Haigie became times of scriptural sharing and worship, including Armenian and English hymns.

However, within two years, Haigie’s health begun to fail.

Bob and haigy

For his memorial I wrote, in part,

It was clear that Haigie had a living faith.  We hadn’t realized before, that in his broken body was a vibrant love for God…In spite of longsuffering, he was ready to worship and expressed his love for Jesus Christ.  Haigie was a true believer whose faith greatly encourages us.  It will be a joy to worship the Lord with Haigie one day in God’s Kingdom.

I believe that ‘living faith’ doesn’t die.  

During our last visits with Haigie,  a woman wheeled herself into his bedroom as we were singing.  Mentally and physically disabled and mute, Adrienne somehow communicated to us that she was Armenian and friends with Haigie.  Another Armenian in this residence?  Adrienne joined us and we soon learned that she cared deeply for Haigie, his death would be a great loss to her.

SO following Haigie’s death we continued to visit this group home, Adrienne seemed to cherish this fellowship.  We sang songs and had scriptural reading in the ‘sun room’.  It was different.  But I soon saw the Lord doing a new thing.

One day Linda was in the ‘sun room’, her wheelchair parked by our sitting area as she worked on an art craft.  We hardly knew her but she seemed happy to have us there.  We socialized a bit with Adrienne then we opened up fellowship with singing (accompanied by much needed YouTube songs online!)  and Bible reading.  Although Adrienne is mute, Linda is not and we soon found that she had faith and something to say about it!

We came to know the other residents and the staff as well.

This Christmas our visit moved from the ‘sun room’ to the living room, the common social area.  A group seemed to form around us, including a Jewish resident!  The ball started rolling with Linda’s request for the all popular ‘Jingle Bell Rock’.  We sang out Christmas songs in every pitch and tone that perhaps only the Lord could love.  We even sang a Hanukkah song before sharing God’s word about Christ’s birth.  The story highlight became the shepherds and God’s choice to miraculously announce the Savior to simple folks huddled around sheep.

This is the best part…there was a time of prayer before leaving.  With joined hands and bowed heads I looked up, and saw residence staff come and join in!  

Was this church?  I think so!

 

Lord, speak to the heart of every resident and staff member in that home, water every seed of faith.  Open our eyes to value and seek the childlike faith of Matthew 18:3, humble and dependent upon you.  Press upon our hearts the kind of fellowship You desire, in the places that You ordain to make Yourself known.

I pray for each reader that visits this site, whet their appetite for more of You, Jesus.  Speak to their hearts and encourage them as they walk through each day, no matter how heavy the steps.  I pray for every writer that visits here, anoint them and inspire them with Your Holy Spirit.  Let Your seeds of living truth come to fruition through their work.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

A Ragamuffin in God’s Hall of Fame?

Being slammed with the flu this week availed to me the pleasure of doing nothing, lounging guiltlessly.  Floors need mopping?  Who cares.  Carpets to vacuum?  So what.  Hubby hungry?  Order delivery.  Achy and feverish, I did not have concentration to read but was well able to watch.  I turned to The ‘Pure Flix’ cable subscription – its educational programming includes biographies of godly men and women.

Amy Carmichael,  Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Florence Nightingale are worthy to esteem and study.  They lived sacrificial lives, walking with a burden from God.  They were divinely appointed to their call and were relentless in fulfilling God’s purpose in spite of severe opposition and tremendous suffering.  Their focused hearts precluded worldly and temporal distractions.  They did not marry nor did they value any possession.  They were people broken by God, vessels through whom He poured out His love.  

The biography of Rich Mullins is quite different.  He was a gifted songwriter, singer and musician however it is doubtful that many would include him in the same ‘hall of fame’.  His songs touched lives deeply, often moving them towards the Lord.  Mullins’ connected with people’s despair and struggles.  When my brother was terminally ill, he found much comfort and encouragement in Rich Mullins songs.

Mullins, however, was not the pinnacle of holiness.  His biography, Ragamuffin, produced by his brother David,  portrays a deeply troubled inner life, stemming from an emotionally abusive father.  Mullins had a relentless quest to know God and apprehend His love, his music was an expression of that search for and worship of God.

When discovered and launched into the world of ‘Christian entertainment’ his success led to a growing discontentment.  Christian ‘entertainment’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘celebrity status’ were hollow goals that Mullins rejected as antithetical to the Savior he sought.  Inner turmoil and battles with depression and alcoholism were constants in Mullins’ life, a well loved but alienated man.

The shallowness of American Christianity weighed heavy upon Rich.   Although financially successful, he arranged a very modest income of approximately $20,000 for himself,  allotting the rest to specific charities such as Compassion International.  He finally drew away from ‘Christian entertainment’ and moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation to teach music to their youth.

So why might this emotionally tormented, depressed – sometimes disheveled and irreverent – Christian musician be included in a Believers Hall of Fame?  Becausein spite of being an “emotionally tormented, depressed” and “alienated” Christian, he never gave up his quest to know the love of God.  He battled alcoholism and loneliness but never squelched his gift to exalt the Lord.  Mullins continued to praise and worship until his death in 1997.

Rich Mullins had a word for the suicidal, the downcast, and alienated who desperately needed the Lord.  Perhaps it takes great inner resolve, even courage, to exalt and praise the Lord when your heart is crushed and your mind oppressed.  A broken man, Rich Mullins gave his life to the Lord and continues to minister to us through music and song.

“If I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, whom I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way I can do that is to identify with the poor.  Christianity is about learning to love as Jesus loved.  Jesus loved the poor.  And Jesus loved the broken.”    (Rich Mullins)

 

 

“God takes the junk of our lives and makes the greatest art out of it.”  (Rich Mullins)

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”

 

He is Sovereign Over All Our Enemies

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph. 6:12                   

The problems you are having with your husband, your in-laws, your co-workers, and your kids, are not with them. No, they are flesh and blood. The battle is really with powers and principalities, Satan and his demons. You must fight spiritual enemies with spiritual warfare.  (Excerpt from 4 Rules For Fighting Your Enemy, http://www.amountainoffaith.com )

We don’t often think of “powers and principalities” or “Satan and his demons” as the cause of so much distress, calamity and grief.  The article quoted above holds important truths worth meditating upon.

Our faith in God will deepen exponentially as our trust finds deep roots in His sovereignty over everything – including our enemies.  The word of God demonstrates this most profoundly when God Himself lets down a protective hedge, allows the enemy to encroach, and shakes our heart to rise up in faith.  In this way He reveals Himself to us, His faithfulness and power – a great reward indeed.  

The Lord showed this again to me during a long distance drive last weekend…..

Although my husband had repented from a period of backsliding in our marriage, he is plagued by attacks of darkness,  partly due to entanglements with those who practice witchcraft.  I see and experience evidence of this witchcraft.  One minor occurrence he reports happens in his agency truck – hazard lights will go on, A/C will turn on or off on its own, warning lights will flash for no reason.  

It was inconsequential to me until in our own car with our two cats and lots of stuff on that long distance drive….

The A/C went on high and cold.  When I complained to my husband, he insisted, “I didn’t touch it! Maybe this is like my vehicle, things going on and off on their own…”  

“Well”, I drove on, “I don’t care if the A/C, the hazards or anything else flashes on as long as nothing touches the engine or brakes!”

Shortly thereafter, while in a middle lane of a major highway and with 30 miles left to our journey, the car started shaking and jerking.  Bob immediately laid a hand on the dashboard and we both prayed.  The shaking and jerking stopped, occurred again and we continued praying for the Lord to bring us home safely.  

Which He did.

Mechanical? Supernatural?  Intentional or not, our trust must be in the One who claims total ownership of our lives.  We are His “treasured possession”, we “are bought with a price.”    (Deut 7:6, 14:2;  I Corinthians 6:20, 7:23)

Remember that our Lord has paid all the price for us; there is no mortgage or lien upon us; we have therefore no right to give a portion of ourselves to Satan. And he has bought us entirely from head to foot, every power, every passion, and every faculty, all our time, all our goods, all that we call our own, all that makes up ourselves in the largest sense of that term; we are altogether God’s.   Charles Spurgeon, “Bought with a Price” excerpt

Yes, our life is not our own, we are to surrender and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice unto God.  But our Owner takes full responsibility for us, providing, defending, and seeing us through every situation.   

In these end times, may the Lord teach us how to spiritually battle, lead us to dig deep into His word and stand firm behind His living promises to us…..waiting upon Him for the appointed time of victory.

 

Can Animals Preach the Gospel?

Can they proclaim the Good News and the glory of God?

Lovers of scripture can indeed find numerous examples of God expressing His great power and divine purposes through His creation.  At God’s command insects, animals, and forces of nature plagued and destroyed the world power of Egypt.  Balaam’s donkey spoke, animals obeyed the call to the ark, and at Christ’s call schools of fish arrived to the disciples’ boat.

“For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine.  If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.  (Psalm 50:10-12)

Creation declares God’s glory and He reveals it to us through the most minute details as well as the vast and endless universe.  He reveals so that we may acknowledge His awesome power.    God knows us…His will is that we come to know Him.

God’s creation reveals His glory but also His great love and divine providence.  God uses His creation to intervene into the lives of people often as divine appointments, impossible to plan or replicate.  Reigning over creation, His will often supersedes natural order, such as a ravenous bird delivering food…

 Drink from the brook and eat what the ravens bring you, for I have commanded them to bring you food.”  (I Kings 17:4)

Or perhaps a tiny kitten going forth in the rain.  This five minute video expresses such ‘divine appointment’….

vet saved by kitten

Desperate  soldier saved by kitten

View video here

There are countless true heroic stories of dogs and other animals rescuing, guiding, and ministering to people.  Martha Thompson is one blogger and author with such a story to tell in her book,  Giving Paws, where an unlikely service dog enables her to face the many life challenges of a hidden disability.     

giving paws book

The story is as beautiful as the cover photo

There is no way to schedule such divine appointments nor could we ever arrange to have our deepest needs and hidden grief so touched through them.   These stories and perhaps even our own move us to laugh, cry and marvel.

Looking deeper,  marvel at this – God intervenes in our lives through His creation, gifting us with His mercy and revealing His greatness. As a cherished gift conveys the love of the giver, so even animals given to us can express – even silently preach – the good news of God’s love reaching into our lives.  The Lord ministers, heals, and intervenes into our lives for the divine purpose of drawing us to Himself.

When creation intervenes it is an living invite from our Creator.

Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the One holding dominion over all creatures and creation…

For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.  Colossians 1:16

Our furry friends, designed and often gifted by God, can teach, guide, love, rescue, and befriend…and perhaps they can preach as well!

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  (Job 12:7-10)

Lord, reveal Yourself to us today through the gifts of Your hand.  Let thanksgiving lead us on a journey to acknowledge You and seek You in all circumstances.  Draw our hearts to look beyond every gift and “fix our eyes on Jesus”, “the Author and Finisher of our faith”.   Amen.