Monthly Archives: August 2011


This month has been very busy with travel.  At one stretch I slept in nine different beds over the course of twelve nights. Last week was originally planned to be a quiet stay at home week of vacation.  Hurricane Irene changed those plans. After two nights home we had to leave again when our entire county was told to evacuate. I talked with Debbie and we decided to use that time as a family get away. Thursday night we packed and left late for Lancaster, PA. God’s timing was perfect once again, on Tuesday we received a large rebate check which padded our vacation fund and made it possible to go away and not worry about the financial drain.

It was a great time of family relaxation, just what we had been missing over the past month. Elyse who is entering her junior year at Ocean City High School had wanted to visit Lancaster Bible College, so this was the perfect opportunity. We ate our way through Kitchen Kettle Village, drove scenic roads, took advantage of Borders going out of business sale, watched movies, played games, sat in the whirlpool and read books. I finally felt refreshed and “on vay-cay”.

Most of my reading was on the New Testament Book of Acts. I decided a couple weeks ago to begin preaching on this book in September. Over the past nine months the pastors of Greentree Church have been seeking to assess ourselves and the ministry of our church. The bottom line is that we want to cause all that we do to be as faithful and effective as possible in fulfilling Christ’s values for us. As I pondered how my preaching could help lead us, the idea of preaching through Acts became stronger. The more I read through Acts and read books on Acts, I became very excited for this series. Acts describes the church in the years immediately following Jesus death, resurrection and earthly ministry. This book is meant to bring a framework to the heart and values of the church. If you are part of Greentree Church, PLEASE PRAY that God will greatly bless this series and use it in an unusual way in our congregation. The heart of God is clear, the challenge is whether or not we will wholly embrace God’s heart for our own lives.

When we got home today, everything was still standing, the electricity was back on and I was eager to get hold of what God has been putting in my heart and in the hearts of the pastors of our church. I know the storm was a terrible and destructive burden to many. Yet for each of us, God is always in everything that comes our way. Our responsibility and our blessing is to make each day about Him. Over the past week, I have been reminded of that simple lesson once again.




This morning our team had devotions with the ASELSI staff. We started with worship, going back and forth between English and Spanish with all of the songs. I have found that I am moved within when I am participating in joint worship with our mission partners. There is something special about the weaving together of our languages and voices. It feels like a greater taste of heaven’s worship to me.

For my message I chose Psalm 27:1-3, which declares we do not need to fear when the Lord is our light, our salvation and our stronghold. Eman mentioned yesterday that were some struggles with fear among the ASELSI team, so I felt this would be a helpful word to all of us. Afterward, a couple of the people thanked me for the message and Eman asked if I could send him a copy. It was a great start to our day.

Later in the morning we drove to the city of Antigua, which has the flavor of an old Spanish colonial town. It is very different from Chichicastenango. Debbie and I have wanted to visit here for some time. There is a beautiful tree filled central plaza, huge old churches, even older ruins and plenty of shops to meander through. When you look through the open heavy wooden doors of the many cafes and hotels you can see lush courtyards inside. Debbie said we could spend days here just visiting these inviting places. We did stop Colleen’s favorite cookie bakery for coffee and baked goods.

Tomorrow is Colleen’s birthday so we celebrated at dinner by having cheesecake with a candle brought to our table. She has done an excellent job hosting us throughout out trip. We can see how she has been growing as a strong godly woman and a faithful worker. Most evenings Colleen would join us in the hospitality house, where we would talk or play games until fatigue took over. The fact that she will be coming home soon for a visit makes it easier to say goodbye to her.

However it was not easy to share goodbyes with the rest of the ASELSI staff. All of us felt our relationships with the staff have grown in significant ways. These faithful workers are a joy to be with and it is difficult to leave. Our church does not simply show up to carry out projects at ASELSI; we come to share life and ministry with them. John and Sharon have done a remarkable job in building a ministry that we are excited to call part of our ministry. We feel as if we are part of their team family. Carlos and Emily are becoming dear friends to Debbie and me. Eman and Jessica are growing into strong leaders. Whether it is the nurses, the office staff or the men who keep up the buildings and grounds, we enjoy all of their company and we deeply respect them.

If any of you have ever considered a trip to ASELSI you will not regret taking the next step of actually showing up!

Tomorrow we head back home, but it will be a long day of travel. Please pray for smooth and safe travels.   Continue to pray for Pastor Don Logan and his family, as well as for Benjamin and Manuella. Also ask God will bring much fruit from al that took place during our time in Guatemala; and pray that we will have God’s wisdom for how we should continue to grow our partnership with ASELSI and the Mayan churches of Guatemala.


The weather was beautiful today; sunny and mild with low humidity.  The women worked in the therapy clinic and the men went on home visits.  These are opportunities to share the gospel to families who have been coming to the ASELSI medical clinic.

My morning began by meeting with Benjamin and Manuella. On May 2nd, their two and a half year old son Christian, died after falling and injuring his head. Benjamin and Manuella have responded with grace, but the weight of grief is still heavy upon them.

Benjamin struggles with fear that he will not be able to protect the rest of his family. Manuella struggles with guilt that she did not protect her son. Their 5 year old son Andy has become quiet and does not like to leave the house.  I pointed out the faith they have manifested and encouraged them to keep a simple focus on Christ. As we prayed together, I told them I would share their need to all of you, for which they were very grateful. It was a hard visit, but I was blessed by it. Their grief was palpable, yet their trust in Christ was just as evident. Please pray for them.

Immediately afterward, I met with Miguel Angel. Miguel was an ILIO student when I first came to ASELSI.  I have been developing a relationship with him since then.  Miguel pastors a thriving church loaded with young people 20 minutes from Chichicastenango.  He is an engaging man and a natural leader.  In addition to the responsibilities of his church, Miguel has taken it upon himself to help other churches develop discipleship training.  Most churches have no idea how to equip people to grow in their Christian walk.  Preaching is commonly restricted to stringing together statements about praising God, with warnings against sinning.

I asked Miguel questions about the struggles and deficiencies in Mayan churches. It was quite helpful. There is no shortage of churches, yet communities are not affected by them. A major problem is the lack of biblical teaching that connects to life. In addition, believers are taught to be separate from unbelievers, so there is little evangelistic engagement. We ended by exchanging prayer requests.  I told Miguel I wanted to continue our conversation when I return in the spring.

After lunch I met with Eman Perez, who is the administrator of ASELSI and has taken increased responsibility from John Harvey. Eman is a gifted and gracious young man with strong leadership and ministry potential. We talked about ways our church can be a help to pastors and churches in Guatemala. As with Miguel, I have been building a closer relationship with Eman. It is easy to have good intentions that are not fulfilled, so Eman and I agreed to be in contact monthly. In these calls we committed to discuss ministry issues and our personal lives. We are both excited for this step of growth in our relationship.

We were still talking when the missionaries who work at ASELSI come to the Hospitality House for a Bible study. I presented principles on being gospel centered from the Wednesday series I recently gave at church. This is something that has been meaningful to me, which made it meaningful to share with them.

For dinner we all went to the home of Miguel Calgua. Miguel is in charge of facilities. He has a powerful testimony from the days of the Guatemalan civil war. He witnessed many horrors and a lot of death. Miguel is a strong evangelist who has a passion for sharing the gospel. We had a fun evening with his family. In September, Miguel will be coming to the United States for the first time. We are excited that he will spend this trip at Greentree! His great desire is to share the gospel. Pray that God will make his time fruitful.


I slept in a long time today.  The team was finished breakfast by the time I stumbled out of bed.  My body needed the rest.  It was a rainy morning, but it turned into a truly special day.  The Harveys are leaving for the United States later today, so we thought our scheduled 10:00 meeting was an ordinary team debriefing.

When we entered the room, many ASELSI staff was waiting for us.  John said they all wanted to express their thankfulness for the partnership of our church.  We then watched a video they made to thank our church.  It began with scenes from our teams ministering at ASELSI followed by an address by John and Sharon to our congregation.  The video ended with messages of thanks from all of the ASELSI staff.  I did not even try to hold back the tears of joy that flowed from my eyes and heart.  What a privilege to have such a ministry relationship.

Afterward the ASELSI staff laid hands on us and prayer for God’s blessing.  I was deeply touched by Carlos prayer for me.  Debbie and I have grown to love Carlos and Emily and we greatly respect their service to Christ.  They are a great team.  All of us left the room deeply touched and energized for the remaining tasks of our trip.

Fran Deibert and Debbie went back to the therapy clinic, while Steve Breunig and Ed Arentz began to tackle the next items on their “to do” list.  The middle of my day was something I really enjoy.  Carlos had scheduled me to meet with a dozen pastors in the region.  Some of these pastors such as Mario Xon are men who have become true friends over the years.  Others were pastors I was meeting for the first time.

My desire in this time was to encourage these men, and to grow in my understanding of the needs they face.  Whether it is in Belarus or Guatemala, I am continually seeking to improve my understanding of the churches in these cultures.  I have a big heart for pastors, so spending an afternoon with a room full of them is exciting to me.

Carlos asked me to begin by introducing myself and describing the ministry of our church.  I gave a brief overview of growing up in our church and the path that led to my becoming a pastor.  I described some of my weaknesses and the struggles I have faced as a pastor.  I wanted to be vulnerable before them as an encouragement to opening up themselves.

Pastor Jose and Pastor Lucas described problems of strong opposition from their villages.  Edwin brought up the lack of desire for growth in his congregation.  Rene and Antonio brought up difficult cases of moral failure and church discipline with their leaders.  With each case I would establish common ground and add a thought from Scripture and our experience.  One of the points I asked the pastors to consider expository preaching through books of the Bible.  Only one of them men has done this.  I was gentle, but also emphasized my conviction that it would be a help to their churches.

We shared a delicious meal and I showed pictures of my family and our church.  The men all seemed grateful for the time we had together.  Jose was an ILIO student the first time I came to Guatemala.  He told me that he still had my notes from the Romans course I taught and that the material continued to help him.  That was a wonderful encouragement to me!

The rest of the team made hospital visits, giving out gift bags we brought with us.  They shared the gospel and prayed with those they met.  Fran and Debbie visited the maternity ward.  It was a large room of women with newborn babies – except for one weeping woman whose child had died.  All the team found the people to be open to their visits and prayers.

We finished the evening having dinner with Colleen at Cofrades and playing Trivial Pursuit at the Hospitality House.  We enjoyed the time together and laughed harder and louder as the evening progressed.

Tomorrow I will speak before a gathering of missionaries, and meet with individual pastors.  I will also meet with Benjamin who works for ASELSI and his wife Manuella.  Earlier this year, one of their sons fell while playing and suffered a head injury, he died a day or two later.  Carlos felt it would be helpful for me to have this time with them.  PLEASE pray for all these activities and for all that our team is doing.


Note:  We had no Internet signal for the last two days so I will catch up today

I awoke from another good night’s sleep.  The mountain air settles well with me.  This morning we attended the missionary church.  This is an English speaking congregation made up primarily of missionary families.  On my last visit I preached because pastor Don Logan and his wife Heather were in the capitol having their third child.  This was my first time hearing him preach, and it was an outstanding message.  He handled Scripture adeptly and connected well with how we think and live.  I would be glad to have my family sit under his teaching.

After church we walked to the market.  Chichicastenango is home of the largest market in Central America and one of the largest craft markets in the world.  On market days (Sunday and Thursday), tourist come from around the world to walk the noisy, colorful and crowded streets.  It is a fascinating experience.  Dealing with the relentless young street vendors who follow and nag you for blocks, or haggling with a shop owner are part of the charm and adventure.

Unfortunately I was not feeling well by the end of lunch.  Actually I felt really bad, so as the rest of the team was shopping, I caught a tuk tuk back to the Hospitality House.  Tuk tuks are tiny three wheeled taxis that roam the city streets.  They are quick and cheap transportation.

When I entered the ASELSI compound, I was greeted by one of the three large German Shepherds that guard the property.  During the day, the dos are kept in pens.  At night they are let out to roam the property.  It would take a brave or foolish person to climb over the tall fence with that welcoming committee.  I make it a point to walk by the pen in the mornings and allow the dogs to smell my hand and get to know that I am one of the good guys.  As the dog bounded over to me, I called to him as if I was his owner and to my relief he responded obediently.

In the evening, Carlos picked us up for a service in a newer church on the edge of Chichi.  It was a tiny church, but the building was packed!  The building entrance was right on the highway, with steps leading down into the meeting area.  The negative to this arrangement was that exhaust fumes drifted down into the church. My stomach was already unsettled, and the addition of the fumes made me it worse.  I knew Debbie was praying next to me.  However as soon as I started preaching, I forgot about my stomach and was fully into the message.

The people of the church were very friendly; afterward even the kids came up and gave us hugs, which is not typical.  Debbie and I were encouraged by the percentage of young people who were in the church. The pastor is an older man, but he has several young men who helped to lead the service.  This included his son who is a student at ILIO.

At 10:30 we joined many of the missionary families at the home of Pastor Don Logan.  Don has been facing an intense period of spiritual oppression in his home.  It started with Don having panic attacks.  In the past two weeks his children have been waking up struggling to breathe and having intense fear. His daughters have described dreams in which someone is trying to take them away. This happens between 11:00 and 1:00 every night.  Don has also heard loud noises like moving furniture and sounds like a dog being violently harmed outside.  He sits up at night and waits.  He hears the sounds and his daughters begin screaming, but he doesn’t see anything.  Don said previously he would have listened to such stories with a lot of doubt, but now that it is happening to him, he and Heather are burdened with fear.

We all came to their home to pray for them.  Don was very humble and appreciated the encouragement and support that came around them.  He does not understand what is happening, but he knows he is need of God’s intervention.  Please pray for the Logans and their three children; Aiden, Allie and Olivia.  Ask God to remove all oppression and to fill their hearts with peace.  Chichicastenango has been a center of Mayan religion for centuries.  There is a lot of witchcraft and some evil practices that are hard for us to image.  We can be thankful that in everything and in every place that Christ is Lord.  That includes Don’s home and our own.


I have surprised myself by waking up early each morning.  The mountain air was crisp and made me want to stay under the covers.  However the day is full and I needed to get moving.  I am teaching at ILIO, which is ASELSI’s main training center.  For my Marriage and Parenting course the students were invited to bring their wives and leaders from their churches.  When our team showed up for the opening worship, the room was full.

Steve Breunig led the devotions.  When I asked the team how I should describe Steve’s message, they answered, “He finished”.  Actually that was Steve’s answer; the rest gave much more complimentary responses.

I worked at making my sessions interactive.  In the past this has been especially hard with Guatemalan classes, but they warmed up fairly quick today.  I think the universal experience with family life and everyone’s desire to improve in these relationships made it easier for them to participate.

I was pleased to see my good friend, Miguel Angel come in with his wife.  Miguel was an ILIO student the first time I came to Guatemala.  Since then I have preached for him a few times.  He has become a strong leader among the churches in this region.  He always tries to attend ILIO when I am here, which is an encouragement to me.

Each session I had a different translator, and each did a good job.  It is a long day, but I felt better about my connection with the class as the day wore on.  Afterward Carlos told me he thought it was my most effective time at ILIO.  We both thought the eager responsiveness of the class was a big help.

ILIO is usually 6 hours of teaching, but today we ended early because of the wedding of Misheila, who is a secretary for ASELSI.  I had to fit the course into 5 hours today, but I don’t think any of the students were complaining about the slightly shorter day.

After the lunch break, I opened the time up for questions.  They had several good and a few tough questions.  I like to get their questions, because it enables to address what concerns them.

Before the last period, John Harvey called and asked if I could give the message at the wedding.  We had already been invited to attend, but taking part in the ceremony was a pleasant and wonderful surprise.  I enthusiastically said yes.  After the class was over, I quickly changed and we head off to the nearby city of Quiche for the wedding.

We all found the wedding to be an interesting and fun experience.  The ceremony was formal and lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes.  The bridal party entered under the drawn swords of young men in elaborate uniforms.  Throughout the ceremony the vows, music and message were addressed to Misheila and Jose as they sat on a decorated bench off to the side of the platform.  Considering the length of the ceremony, it was a good idea to have them seated.

Now that I am back at the hospitality house and sitting down, I can feel fatigue quickly catching up to me.  We are all grateful for your prayers and it encourages us that you are thinking of us.  We have a GREAT team and God is presenting wonderful opportunities for us to serve Him.  Please ask God to make every opportunity fruitful!  To our Greentree Church family, we will miss you in church and look forward to telling you all about our trip.


As my thoughts slowly shifted from the world of dreams to that of reality, I heard a sound that at first was hard to figure out.  Finally I realized it was drums.  Schools start early (it was 5:30) with band practice.  The dominant sound is drums with the bleating of horns, with the occasional rooster joining in.

After breakfast, my stomach was unsettled, which is not a good sign in this part of the world.  I laid down for awhile and prayed for a calming of the gastro-seas.

John Harvey led us around ASELSI giving updates on the many facets of their ministry.  The guys then began work on replacing parts of the water treatment system.  Debbie and Fran went to work in the therapy clinic.

I spent much of the morning with John Harvey discussing both our ministries.  A big challenge for ASELSI is the transition process as John and Sharon give more of the ministry oversight to their staff.  I will be addressing the staff next week, so this time was helpful for my preparation.

Mario Xon, a good friend who is a pastor in Chichicastenango came by the office and we had the unexpected pleasure of catching up with each other.  Mario has a ready smile and is quick to laugh.  I easily knew it was his voice coming from the hall.

In the afternoon, I was scheduled to speak to the leadership in the nearby town of Sepela.  However, Pastor Manuel Mateo ended up inviting the whole congregation, so I switched gears and broadened my topic to be helpful to the whole church.  A key to mission trips is remaining flexible to meet the situations rather than getting bound up in our expectations.  In this sense these trips are a wonderful lesson for life.

The church is high in the mountains on a narrow dirt road.  Even Carlos commented with amazement on the faithfulness of the people who have to walk to church.  The complaints we so easily make about church would sound hollow in front of these believers.

I commented on the newness of the building and found out it used to be the pastor’s house.  They needed a building so he moved out into an old cottage so his home could be enlarged and renovated into a church.  He has made himself an excellent example to his congregation.

The church was friendly and brimming with smiles.  I made it a point to tease all the kids, just to make myself feel at home.  Carlos led a few songs to open the service.  The people sang with gusto, I enjoyed being with them.  I felt quite comfortable from the beginning in my preaching, until the rain on the metal roof was so loud even I couldn’t hear me. The people must have been used to it, because they did not seem as distracted as I was.

We ate dinner at San Juan where I took Carlos’s wife, Emily’s advice and ordered the hamburger San Juan with ham and a fried egg on it. Actually it was pretty good.  The men were evicted from the Hospitality House, because Debbie was leading a Bible discussion group there with the missionary wives.  So we hung out with John Harvey until it was safe to return.

Tomorrow is a long day of teaching for me.  My topic at ILIO is Marriage and Parenting.  This subject is so important; ASELSI has invited pastors from surrounding churches to attend.  Please pray for this class which is the key reason why I am here.


We are here!  All traveling was timely and lacking in unnecessary adventure.  What blessings we have, when I can begin the day at home and then have lunch in Guatemala.  My grandparents could only have hoped to cross state lines at the same pace.  Colleen McLaughlin met us at the airport in Guatemala City.  We picked up food at Walmart of all places and headed off on our 3 ½ hour drive to Chichicastenango where ASELSI is located.


Driving finally brought us some measure of adventure.  Even the buses don’t hesitate to pass slower traffic while navigating the continuous stream of curves.  Our eyes soaked in the beauty of the mountainous landscape; we are at an elevation of over 7000 feet.  We also see the evidences of Guatemala being the poorest country in Central America. The most common images are fields of corn, mangy dogs trotting by the road looking for a scrape, and boxy buildings of grimy concrete with rebar jutting out from the roofs like unkept weeds.

It was great to see Colleen and she was visibly excited to host some of her Greentree Family.  Colleen has grown into her responsibilities which include overseeing the 26 teams which will come to ASELSI this year.  It can be a hectic schedule, but the Harveys expressed their gratefulness for the excellent job she is doing!  Her Spanish has definitely improved.  She converses with the ease of someone who has become comfortable with the language.


After a delicious lasagna dinner at John and Sharon’s we were feeling the effects of getting up at 3:30 a.m., traveling a couple thousand miles and finding ourselves with a two hour time difference.  We have been up for over 20 hours and our bodies can feel it.

Please pray for our physical energy as we begin our scheduled tasks.  Our team has a full schedule in the days ahead, and we are eager to grab hold of it.  We want to hit the ground running and use each day well.

On Our Way To Chichicastenango

Debbie and I were out the door before 4:00 – that’s A.M. to join a team from our church who will be working with ASELSI, our missions partners in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.  ASELSI is a Spanish acronym for “Equipping the Saints International”.

ASELSI has an impressive ministry to the Mayan people in the mountain regions of Guatemala.  The cutting edge of their ministry is their medical clinic and milk program that lasts for the first few years of a baby’s life.  This connection builds trust with the Mayans which then leads to evangelistic opportunities.  ASELSI also has an extensive Bible training program.  It begins with basic level Bible training in satellite locations throughout Guatemala (and now into Mexico and Ecuador).  Many of those who attend these courses have no more than a second grade education.


The next step for those who want to continue their training is to attend the ILIO Bible Institute at ASELSI.  ILIO (another Spanish acronym) now has three levels of training that each last two years.   ASELSI was founded by John and Sharon Harvey close to 20 years ago.  They have grown a ministry of breadth and depth.  Just as impressive is their commitment to raising up Guatemalans to lead the ministry when they retire.

I will be teaching at ILIO (our church sends down teachers twice a year), and spend time with pastors; Debbie will work at the clinic and the rest of the team will be involved in a wide range of ministry activities including evangelism, hospital visitations and construction help around their growing facilities.

Our church has been excited to develop a strong partnership with ASELSI.  In addition to financial support and sending down teams, we have also had a few of our young people serve internships at ASELSI.  Colleen McLaughlin began as an intern and now serves long term on the ASELSI staff.  She will be in charge of our team when we arrive.  Kate Kristeller went down as an intern last year and Amanda Paone will be leaving shortly for her internship this fall.  It has been very satisfying to see how God has knitted our hearts together and brought much fruit from this shared ministry.

My goal is to blog daily about my trip similar to what I do when in Belarus.  I hope you will follow along and stop for a minute each day after reading the blog to pray about what is happening.  Your prayer support is ALWAYS precious to me and it will mean a lot to the team.


For those who are interested in learning more about ASELSI, you can click on this link to visit their website.  If you go to the Team Gallery, you can see photos from Pastor Eric’s trip in May.


Ambassadors for Christ

A few years ago I was in a new employee orientation at a large children’s hospital.  The speaker was emphasizing that the hospital is child-centered and family-centered and that those values should be ingrained in every employee, from the doctors to the custodians, to make it a priority to show this value while they were at work.  That meant to hold the elevator for others even if you are running late for a meeting because showing others that you care is more important than the meeting.   If you saw someone in the hospital who was visibly upset, stop and ask if you can help.  They were emphasizing that all employees should be an ambassador for the hospital and the values it represents.

That got me to thinking about how I go about being an ambassador for Christ in all of life.  I am usually in a rush to do something “important” and in that rush do I take time to put others before my agenda? I have noticed that people are basically shy and afraid to talk to others that they do not know, gravitating to those they know well.  This can sometimes be misinterpreted as being standoffish or cliquish.  I can tend to do this – to stay in my “comfort zone”.  But my goal in all of life is to be a representative of the King and to demonstrate the effect of the Gospel in my life!  Is staying in my comfort zone showing love to those around me?

A few examples of how we can be ambassadors for Christ to those around us:

An ambassador for Christ will make it a priority to look for those they have not met in church and go up and say Hello.  Don’t be afraid that you might have met them before and forgot.  It is better to say Hello, than to not say anything!

An ambassador for Christ will go up to the person in the church service who they see may be struggling to see if they can be of help.  If the person does not want to talk about it they will let you know.

An ambassador for Christ will show that it is a priority for them to listen and pray for the person in the neighborhood or at work who shares a burden with them.  Follow up with them to show them that you truly care!

An ambassador for Christ will not be a part the gossip which so often happens when we are around others.

An ambassador for Christ will seek to help meet the physical needs of others around us even when life seems too busy right now.

God places people in our path everyday who need to be impacted by the same Gospel that changed our lives!  We should look at every interaction as a God-given opportunity to show that we care and there is a God who cares!  We are His ambassador!  Do we see all of life from that perspective?