Nov 30, 2011

I made it this far, now what?

     When I was a young teenager my Papa took me out to a farm and taught me how to shoot many types of guns. We would go there often just me and him to shoot. He started me off on a single shot 22 rifle from the 1800's. As I learned how to load it and to shoot it he talked about how it must have been used by a man to feed his family and what it must have meant to have it back when it was made. I remember thinking how important this one bullet gun must have been to the family that had depended upon it for food.

    Over the years we went out many times. It was our special time together and I always looked forward to it. Each time the type of gun and the amount of fire power increased. I shot everything from that single shot 22, a German 8mm mouser, and a 30/30 carbine fully automatic riffle and on the hand guns I shot revolvers, lugers and even an UZI. I had so much fun with just me and him shooting.
     I got great pleasure from trying to impress him. One time I put a 22 box on the top of a milk jug and walked back 40 feet or so and said, "Papa I am going to shoot that 22 box off that milk jug without hitting the jug with this snub-nose bodyguard." He laughed a real big and said, "You are not even going to hit the jug let alone the box." I lowered the gun just like he had taught me and pulled the trigger. Box parts flew everywhere but the jug stayed right where it was. He laughed again and said, "Well I guess I am going to need to start calling you 'dead eye dick". I really did not know where the reference came from but I knew he was proud of me and it made me very happy. I would clean all the guns faithfully and kept then shinning and ready for our next time out. He would often tell me that they were my guns but I had to wait to take them home with me until I was mature enough to keep them.

 All month I have been struggling with the fact that I was going to be turning 35 and at first I was not really sure why this birthday was bothering me so much but then as I was setting out a picture of Papa and me for the dinner we had on Sunday, I realized what it was. You see Papa had said to me many times over the years that when I turned 35 I would be mature enough to take all those guns home with me. He explained that he felt that when I did turn 35 I would be a mature adult and ready for the responsibility. I thought he was a little silly, and of course, felt that I was already mature. Looking back now I can see I really was not. Sadly, Papa passed away last year and now that I am 35 I do not have him here to give me those guns or to shoot with me anymore, to hear him say how proud he is of me, and to hear him call me all the nick-names he had given me over the years. I miss him more than words can say and would give anything to hear that laugh of his one more time.

     I know that he can not come to me, but I also know that one day I will go to see him. So between now and then I am going to continue to do what I can to make sure that when we meet again he will have plenty of reason to say I have made him proud, not in how well I can shoot a gun but in how well I handled the responsibilities I have been given by the Lord.

Today I am feeling the sting of death but I take great comfort in knowing that one day I will be able to say, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?"

God Bless,
David Ingram
New Day Christian Ministry

Nov 22, 2011

It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!

   To me, Sundays are like a box of chocolates; they're sweet, everyone anticipates their arrival, and the variety is thoroughly enjoyed.

   Sunday is the one day where we have a pretty solid routine for preparing for church, although the outcome is never guaranteed! Here’s a little window into our day:

   We wake up at a leisurely pace, have breakfast and spend the morning playing around and relaxing. Then when the clock hits high noon, it’s like something clicks, we shift gears.

   I clean up after lunch and endeavor to put Hannah down for a nap. Afterwards David goes into his office and chisels, polishes, and fine tunes the Bible study for that night.

   Meanwhile I am all over the rest of the house, cleaning and cooking and making sure the laundry basket is either empty or hidden in another room (it’s not that I am at times too lazy to empty the laundry basket, it’s that I am dependent upon the weather to dry my clothes and sometimes on Sundays it likes to rain on my plans ! ).

   While scrubbing the dirty dishes this past Sunday different thoughts started bouncing around inside my head: “I wonder how many will come tonight?”, “Why do I have to clean dishes and have a clean house for people to come over?”, “I wonder if they will enjoy what I have prepared for supper?”, “I hope Hannah has a good nap so she will be more apt to behave for church tonight” and so on and so on.

   We never do really know how many are coming to church on any given night. Sometimes we have a full and crazy house with everyone seated elbow to elbow (about 15+) then sometimes all the neighbor’s who come will be busy doing different things and some of the Deaf will be sick or busy with family affairs and we’ll be left with just 1or 2 passengers in the van. Then we ask ourselves, “Do we cancel? Should we just hang out and play a game?” The few times this has happened with different people, we quickly learn it is for a reason.  There is usually something that needs attention in that person’s life. God has arranged it so that we can minster to this brother or sister and build them up and pray and encourage them. Unfortunately we know of pastors and churches that have shut their doors because only a couple people show up for services. But what about those few people who are left? They have come to seek fellowship and nourishment from the Body of Christ and yet some think that one or two people aren’t enough for keeping the services going? At times in our ministry here in PR we have struggled with our very small groups. Growth is slow and we minister to people who cannot give back in a significant monetary way. We have been discouraged at times because of this and have even been tempted to move where our other ministries are “booming”. But then I am reminded about that 1 person who might show up with a need, can we justify leaving this group of 1 or 2 behind just because they don’t meet our expectations of what our ministry “should look like”?

   The answer is “No”. No matter how large or small our groups are here in Puerto Rico, we won’t be going anywhere until the Lord directs otherwise.

    David normally leaves around 5pm to begin picking up people for church. His expected return is supposed to be at 7pm but that ETA comes with many strings attached. David never knows what to expect when he pull's up to a house. He might have to sit and wait for them to finish getting ready, an unexpected need for counseling a family member may arise, getting gas might take longer than desired, he's even had to hunt down some people because they were not at the predetermined meeting place. But whether David makes it back by 6:45 or 7:30, the expectations of our guests are always the same. Whenever they arrive, there is an exception to be fed not only spiritually but physically too and that is one way I, apart from David, get to minister to my friends.

   There is something about walking into a place and meeting with other believers to study God’s Word; it brings peace and comfort. One thing I have noticed is that when our guests start arriving and they walk in the door, I can tell by the looks on their faces and by their demeanor if they have walked into my home with a burden or if they’re filled with joy and peace. I clean and prepare a meal in order to create an atmosphere that will be the best for learning, fellowshipping, and discipling. Sometimes the sink is full of dishes, the floor isn’t spotless, I forget to put on a new roll of toilet paper in the bathroom or the table doesn’t get cleared off before the services start and it’s those times when I have to remind myself to stop being a “Martha” and be a “Mary”.

   When we do begin the Bible study, we open with prayer, sing a song or two, take up donations and then dive into The Word. David begins sharing with our group what the Lord has taught him and I interpret for the Deaf (ministering to the Deaf is one of my biggest passions!) David and I have become a well oiled machine when it comes to Sunday night services. He senses when we need to pause to take time to further explain something or when we need to take a detour from the outlined message to address something that spontaneously arises out of a concern or difficulty from a member. It's always an adventure juggling teaching in 3 languages! It has never been 1 language over another, it's a time of giving and taking in which all parties not only learn from one another but also enjoy each other's company. When we come to the closing of our services  we have a time of sharing and testimonials at the end where we get to see what each one has taken away from the study. Everyone is excited to share about their own “light bulb” experience.

   David then takes the Deaf home and I am left with our hearing neighbors who enjoy staying behind to hang out and usually ask to play on the internet. Hannah gets to have fun playing with her friends while I try to straighten up the house. Sometimes I get an extra helping hand from 1 or 2 of the teenage boys and we make sure to document it for posting purposes on facebook!

   When everyone leaves and it’s just Hannah and me, which is around 9:30 – 10 pm, I begin putting her to bed. David doesn’t usually come back until 10:30 – 11:30pm. When he does get home we enjoy a little “vegging” out and swap our thoughts about how the service went that night.

   Now, sometimes, when we’re fortunate, this is pretty typical but when it’s not and we get a monkey wrench thrown in, well…..that’s when it becomes like a box of chocolates. And hey, who doesn’t like chocolate?!

Nov 14, 2011

The application part might just come sooner than expected!

In life we might find ourselves asking God for______.
You fill in the blank; faith, money, patience or wisdom, you name it.

Then what happens? Does God wave His “miracle wand” and bippity-boppity-boo, it appears? Not always.

   Yesterday night we had our church services, like normal. But before we could even get started with the Bible study, we faced several distractions of various kinds. We finally managed to set them aside and begin. We worshipped God through song and had a time of prayer and asked God to open our hearts to learn His Word. We just started getting into the Word when several more distractions arose, in spite of the distractions we did eventually manage to press on and came to the end of the study.

What was this study about, you might ask?

   We have been studying about the life of Elijah and how the Lord  was guiding him as he would wait to hear His voice before responding to whatever challenges he was facing.  This particular night we focused on  how important learning this lesson truly is. Elijah should have already known this lesson well from all that God had already brought him through but this time was different. The distance between expectation and disappointment is reality and this time Elijah was learning more about the "reality" part. After God had displayed His power in such an amazing way, Elijah expected that all of Israel would repent and turn to God. Instead he was told that the Queen had planned on murdering him the next day. When his expectation for what would happen did not occur,  we see for the first time Elijah acting without waiting to hear a word from the Lord. When Elijah acted without waiting for the voice of the Lord he stumbled, so much so, that he asked that the Lord would just let him die. Even as Elijah stumbled the Lord was with him and sustained him. God  used the difficult situation and  the distractions to serve a purpose; He taught Elijah how to effectively listen to His voice and follow His guidance regardless of whatever storms may rage around him. 

Distractions are always happening, sometimes distractions are fun, and sometimes they can be very inconvenient. When we encounter a distraction, 1 of 2 things can happen: we can allow the distraction to consume our focus and forget about what the Lord has for us to do or we can consider this distraction  an opportunity to learn whatever lesson it has to teach us and to move on to what God has next for us. Distractions, in and of themselves, aren’t the problem, it’s how we respond and handle them that determines the impact we allow them to have.

Like our ministry verse says, “Forget the past, see God is doing a new thing, do you not see it?” 

This very lesson was reinforced again for us today. We had many expectations for the day that definitely did not happen.Perhaps you have had these types of days too. Regardless of the day we are having it is important for us to consider what distractions we are experiencing and looking for what God is trying to show us through them.

Whatever we face, whether good or bad, this verse rings true,

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the LORD in everything you do, and he will show you the right way." (Pro 3:5-6)

Nov 12, 2011

Divine Encounters

Have you ever met someone either in passing or because of a mutual place in time and came away thinking, “Wow, meeting this person was definitely not a coincidence. I wonder if we’ll bump into each other again…?”

In the last 2 weeks we have had 3 of these divine encounters. Let me share with you a little bit about each one of these encounters:

1.) Car trouble seems to follow us around like a dark rain cloud! After having our car in the garage for 2 days we were ready for a “stress-relief” kinda day and were excited!  It was this day after leaving a local playground with Hannah and a friends’ daughter that we received a flat tire, (insert *sigh* here). We were on a winding road and tried to find a safe place to pull over before more than just our flat tire became damaged. We pulled into private property where we were promptly met by a gentleman. He told us where to park our van and began to assess the damage. He jumped right in and ran to get his own tools to help us. Between him and David I felt like I was inside a pit crew area! Come to find out we had pulled into a Christian addict rehab haven and he was one of the managers. He was very kind, out-going and gracious. We exchanged contact info and I believe this won’t be the last time we encounter him this side of Heaven.

2.) In between car trouble drama we managed to do some grocery shopping at Wal-Mart. It was 3pm, we had been forced to post-pone lunch due to waiting on our van to finish inspection. With a 4 year old in toe we accepted the fact of needing to eat out and decided to eat at the Wal-Mart deli. Hannah picked out a place to sit next to a mom and a little boy. We sat down and Hannah looked over and said, “Look mommy what a cute little boy!” Now normally when such remarks are made we either get weird/blank looks for speaking English or we simply get ignored. This time though, the mom exploded with laughter and the “little boy” (who is not so little, he’s 7) grinned shyly. We exchanged pleasantries and Hannah began praying for our food. When we finished the mom said, “Wow not only do you speak English but you’re Christians too!” We began talking and found out she attends the English church that we used to volunteer at when we first moved to PR over 7 years ago! Needless to say we hit it off wonderfully; even the kids were getting along and playing. Our lunch break lasted almost 3 hrs. We exchanged phone #’s and promised to get together for a play date. We did get together at a park (the same one where got the flat tire) and it rained almost the entire time =( . We spent the time getting to know them better and our first impressions of her were confirmed; a giving, gracious, servant-like sister of Christ who we look forward to getting to know her and her family better.

3.) The last one I am going to mention is a young Deaf boy I met 2 weeks ago through some friends who have an Awana program at their house church for the kids every Wednesday night. I was invited to come and try to work with him since he had no one to adequately interpret for him. I was eager to meet him and help in anyway. We started working on his assigned verses and I quickly realized, like with most Deaf, he got hung up on trying to read every single word and by the time he was done reading a sentence he had forgotten what it says and had missed the meaning. So I asked him if he would like it if we learned the verses in sign language instead of him simply repeating words. I signed it to him and asked him questions concerning the relevancy of the verses. By the time we were done he was excited to find out the meaning behind these words and letters he was being asked to memorize.  By the end of the night he seemed pretty proud about having a person following him around and acting like his personal assistant! I am excited to see how much of an impact our new relationship will have on shaping his beliefs about the Bible, God and his personal relationships.

I believe that these 3 divine encounters were not an accident. Some people might call them “chance” encounters but here’s what the Bible says about these types of encounters:

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' " (Mat 25:35-40)

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."(Heb 13:2)

These 3 stories are not the first time we have had these types of encounters. Most of our friendships that have developed here in PR have been through these types of divine encounters. Another example is when David, who is known for his friendly and outgoing personality, introduced himself to some ladies at Wal-Mart simply because they were speaking English! That introduction got us an invitation to their family's Memorial Day cookout where we met their daughter and son-in-law. That introduction later led to us moving onto their ministry camp property to live for a little over a year. It was these very people that introduced me to the young Deaf boy I told you about above. We now get together weekly and Hannah plays with their 3 children. They have become great friends and have been a blessing to us countless times in countless ways. We have been friends for a little over 6 years now!

There are many more stories like this that I could share but by this time I am sure you get the point =)

I am excited to see where these 3 encounters will lead to. I pray that we all will be able to be a blessing to each other as we experience life off the beaten path!

Nov 11, 2011

Hear ye, hear ye, this blog is called to order!

Hola everyone! I just wanted to welcome everyone to our new family blog. This will be our new way of telling our personal stories and testimonies. It will entail day to day activities and how they relate to our ministry, personal testimonies of things the Lord has laid upon our hearts or just little tid-bits here and there about wherever we may be at the moment. I have never been too great at sharing personal information via this kind of platform, to me it's a very personal and revealing way of communicating. I'll even go as far to say that I am a "shy blogger" =) 

Let me just say that this is not going to be a political or doctrinal blog. Like I said above this blog was created to give everyone a window into our day-today- lives and let everyone know of our experiences. 

Anyhoo, I hope everyone will follow our blog and please feel free to comment, as it will let me know who's reading and what everyone's impressions are.