Sunday, May 1, 2016

In memory of Chad...

I have debated whether or not to write something in regard to the passing of my cousin Chad "Slam Dunk" Coon. There are so many memories that I will not be able to capture all of them in this post. I will do my best to remember him, but it will not be complete or in order.

Chad was more like a older brother to me than a cousin. Some of my earliest memories are from when I was in 1st grade. Chad, who was in 12th grade, along with his twin sister and younger sister would come in the big blue van and pick me up for school. I remember watching Chad, #14, play basketball. He had a love and passion for sports, but especially basketball. He is the reason why I am a Chicago Bulls fan. In the time before the technological age that we are in now, I would go down to Chad's house to watch the Bull's on WGN. Chad was so cool because he had a satellite.

He was such a giving and gracious person. He would take this teenage boy to "cruise the boulevard" in town. He would let this much younger cousin hang out with him and his "older" friends. He would let me tag along with him when he would broadcast sports with Q102 FM. He would take me to buy soda and candy to Brister's Grocery. He would let me play co-ed softball with him and his crew. He had the first "bag phone" that I had ever seen. He would always stop by my parents house and just talk sports. If he wasn't talking loudly about sports and how to correct the coach of a certain team, then it wasn't Chad talking. If he wasn't covering a sporting event, he was always watching our high school play sports (Go Jackets!) wherever they were playing. He would stand on the sidelines of every football game. He would be in the dugout cheering on softball and baseball teams. He would be at every basketball game coaching from the stands.

I remember when he had an accident while working at the paper mill. I found out about it while at school and I immediately left and headed to the ER to check on him. I remember playing pool (billiards) with him in the upstairs of his house. I remember the poster of race cars and bikinis on his bedroom wall. I remember that when we would "go to the pool" he would always come say hi and eventually we would be throwing some sort of ball around in the yard.

My first experience with golf was with him. We would drive all over the state to watch high school and college basketball. We drove all the way to Ole Miss one time to watch an Ole Miss and Alabama game. We drank a lot of Mountain Dew and Dr. Peppers on that trip. We made many trips to State Championship basketball games. I remember driving to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to his friends apartment and we watched Brett Favre play. A lot of these things I would have never done or gone to, but because it was with Chad my parents would let me go. I got to experience a lot of things because of him.

Memories are flooding into my mind as I type and I can't begin to write them all down. Chad was always supportive of my decisions. He always seemed proud that I was following wherever God was taking me.

Now that I think about, he may have even introduced me to coffee. For those of you who know me that is a big deal. My first "coffee milk" was probably at his house. He always had a golf bag, a softball bag and some dirty shoes in his car.

He loved sports. He loved family. He loved his "baby girls." He loved Michael Jordan. He loved Dr. Pepper. He loved his mom, dad and sisters. He loved.

When I heard about his cancer one year ago, I immediately booked a flight to go see him. I spent a lot of time with him last April. I was able to see him again on a visit this past October. I am so glad I got to spend this time with him. Of all these memories I have shared and of all the things that I have listed that he loves, I was reminded on these two trips about how much he loved Jesus.

He understood that all he was going through was a part of God's divine plan. He told me that he was able to share about Jesus with his friends who were visiting and with the doctors and nurses who were providing treatment and care. When most people question God during a difficult time, Chad trusted God. His belief and faith never waivered.

Chad is in heaven with Jesus today. It is not because of all the great things he did or the kindness he extended. It is not because he was a good man. It is not because he loved. The reason he is with Jesus today and the reason he could be kind and good and love was because he had a personal relationship with God through Jesus. There was a point in his life, when he asked God to forgive him and save him. God was faithful and He did forgive him and save him. Chad is now face to face with his Saviour and Sustainer today. Chad is cancer free and pain free today.

He would want all of you to know that you can have a relationship with Jesus too. Chad was not perfect, but Jesus doesn't ask for perfection. He asks that you trust Him with your life. Chad trusted Jesus with his life through the sports and through the cancer. Because he trusted Jesus with his life, he now has eternal life in the presence of his Creator and Saviour.

What about you?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

40 days and 40 nights

On December 21 I began a fast. It was not your typical fast. I did not fast from food or drink, but I began a fast from social media. I am an avid user of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and other social media outlets used for staying connected. I decided to delete all those apps from my phone and live without them for 40 days. I have tried these types of things in the past and have failed miserably. I would log in for a quick check or reinstall the app and that would defeat the purpose. I can honestly say that I did not login, reinstall or check any of the aforementioned platforms over this 40 day period. Today, January 31, ended the fast.

The purpose behind my fasting was spiritual. I wanted to be reminded to pray, meditate and read. Think about how many times you reach for your phone, iPad, tablet or computer to check Facebook. What if you prayed to God instead of opening Twitter? What if you meditated on who God is each time you reached for your phone? What if you read His Word instead of posting a picture of your food (or coffee)? As I thought of these possibilities, I realized how many times a day I was on social media.

I want to share with you a few things I learned from this social media fast. Most a very simple. Not many are super spiritual. Here are 7 things I learned:

  • I am less distracted. I am more attentive to my job, my kids, my health and my responsibilities. Previously, I would put checking my phone first. I would even say, "wait kids, I am posting a status." 
  • I have more time for other things. I have been reading from books more. I have been folding laundry more. I did not say I like all the things that I have more time for, but I do have time to do them.
  • I do not need to know what is happening every single second of the day. The world still moves on and I can find out about it by watching the news once a day.
  • I am actually talking to people. Social media keeps us informed on who had a baby, when they went on vacation and what restaurant they ate at lately. Without a constant check on Facebook, I have to actually ask people questions.
  • I am surprised when I hear news. With the constant access to news via videos and tweets there really is not element of surprise. For the past 40 days, I have been surprised when my wife has said, "Did you hear about..." and I say, "No I haven't."
  • It helped me grow in some spiritual disciplines. I purposefully would pray when I reached for my phone. I has helped me to get in a better habit of prayer. 
  • I may not go back. I logged in tonight to see my notifications, likes, retweets, etc and to post this. I actually did not enjoy trying to "catch up" on everything that I missed over the past 40 days. I currently have not reinstalled the apps on my phone.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Day 6 update

We are all sitting in the Phnom Penh airport waiting for our flight to Incheon/Seoul, South Korea. We have a very long layover and we plan to explore Seoul for a few hours.

This has been an amazing week. I believe that our team has grown close and our lives have been changed.

It was sad to leave the kids at the orphanage today, but I know we will see them again. As a pastor, I am so proud of our team and our church. I am blessed to pastor a church that wants to go. I am blessed to know partner churches that want to give to make trips like this happen.

Today, I was able to be apart of a baptism service. Henry (missionary to Cambodia), Kevin (missions pastor of FBC Broken Arrow) and myself baptized 77 new believers.

We were able to give out noodles, water, rice, mosquito nets, bread, and mattresses to over 300 villagers who attended.

This week over 600 lives were changed forever because of Jesus. It's is amazing that God chose us to be a part of His work.

These verses from Romans have become very real this week:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" - Romans 10:14 and 15

Thank you all for your prayers! You were a vital part of this trip. Continue to pray for our trip back to Vancouver.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Day 5 by Pastor G

What was the best thing about the day?
There were many good things about today. We went to the market and got to experience Khmer culture at its finest. From the great deals to the street food, the market was great. We were also able to visit two existing churches. We were able to teach and encourage both adults and children. At one of the villages all of those who came were already believers, but at another, 17 villagers became followers of Jesus. The number of people who have accepted Christ this week is now over 500.

What was the hardest part of the day?
I am continually overwhelmed by the poverty. Village by village food is limited. Village by village clothing is limited. Village by village safety is limited. These villages are so remote that access to most everything is limited. I held a baby today who was only being cared for by other children. It breaks my heart to see kids in this environment.

How did God speak to you today?
God reminded me that I am selfish. From our air conditioned building and comfortable chairs, I don't feel we have as much as these Khmer Christians. They are overwhelmed with the joy of their salvation. I have walked barefoot through villages and sat on dirt floors and have sweat profusely. It has not bothered me one bit.

How do you see God working?
God is working deeply in the staff of the Home of Grace orphanage. These are the first Christians in this area. These guys are doing all the ground work. They are delivering food. They are leading worship. They are praying. They are serving both these village churches, but they also deeply care for the children at the orphanage. 

Henry and Nari are amazing. God is using them to find new villages, to train new believers and continue to lead this orphanage. Henry will be spending nights out in these villages over the next month following up on all the salvations. God is multiplying His kingdom throughout rural Cambodia.

I also see God working in our team. Seeing Anthony, Lawrence, Logan and Jessica step up to teach, preach and/or encourage has blessed me. They have not complained any and have always been willing to jump right in and do whatever needed to be done.

Tomorrow (Friday in Cambodia) we will baptize over 200 new believers. We will celebrate with the children. They will eat pizza for the first time ever. After dinner we will begin our journey home.

Continue to pray

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day 4 by Logan Holmes

What was the best thing about today?
Today was an amazing day. We went to two villages and saw maybe 350 people come to Christ. It was amazing to see the people accept Jesus and listening to the people as they prayed was very cool. It is just great to know that those people aren't going to hell and will go to heaven.

What was the hardest part of the day?
Today it was hard to see the people and how poor they are. It is heartbreaking to see how skinny some of the people are. It was sad to see the kids in their clothes with holes in them or that they didn't have any clothes at all. It makes me appreciate what I have a bit more. 

How do you see God is working?
I can see God working in the villages by saving all those people. It shows that there is hope for Cambodia. All the new believers will be able to share Jesus with other villages or other people in there village. It's just great to know that today there are plenty more people going to heaven. 

How did God speak to me today?
In the villages I saw how poor the people were, but all the people were so joyful. It just shows me that it doesn't matter what physical things you have. If you have Jesus he will make you happy. I also saw the kids and I could see what a future those kids will have for there village. If we teach them about Jesus now they can lead up the next generation as Christians. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Day 3 by Jessica and Anthony Ho

Today's post is written by Anthony and Jess. Jess shared her testimony and Anthony preached about the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. I followed them up and invited the crowd to follow Jesus. Over 100 people accepted Christ today.

What was the best thing about the day?

We went to two new villages today! Nari and Henry laid the relational groundwork which allowed us to come and witness to the people. 

The Canadian team helped out with the kids at the first village. We told the story of Daniel and the lion's den and the children really enjoyed the story. It was great to see the children so engrossed by the story. 

In the next village we witnessed more than half of the crowd (about 100 people) accept Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was working in our hearts as He was with the crowd. God transcends language and cultural barriers! 

What was the hardest part of the day?

Speaking in front of a crowd of over 100 people and just being hopeful that someone in that crowd will come to believe in Jesus.

How did God speak to you today?

He continues to use this broken and unworthy vessel to do his work. I am continually amazed by the outcome and power of his Word!

How do you see God working?

For a person like myself who stutters and gets super nervous when it comes to public speaking, God was with me using me to speak to the people in the village of His awesomeness. It felt like a Moses moment.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 2 by Lawrence Kwok

Today's post is written by Lawrence Kwok. Pray for our team tomorrow as we travel 3 hours into the mountains to bring the Gospel to a new unreached village.

What was the best thing about the day?
Today we had a young man come to Christ. Although number-wise it doesn't compare to the 22 who were saved yesterday (the village was smaller and many were already believers), just like the Parable of the Lost Sheep says, there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner saved than 99 already saved.

What was the hardest part of the day?
In addition to keeping dry and hydrated, the hardest part of the day was witnessing the high school where people were tortured and the Killing Fields. We could still see blood stains on the school floors and teeth and clothing in the dirt in the Killing Fields. Learning about how evil man can be reminds me of how much we need God.

How did God speak to you today?
When I saw villagers in the countryside sitting in the heat or walking seemingly to nowhere, I wondered what their goal into life is. I imagined how long it would take to reach first-world status like Canada. But then I realized I was thinking in terms of worldly success. Even if Cambodians live like kings, there is still no purpose to life without God. Money does not last forever and ultimately our purpose is to worship God. 

How do you see God working?
In a smaller village we visited, we saw a young man run up to the front of the crowd when we asked who wants to accept Jesus as their saviour. You could see the smile on his face and his genuine happiness. It makes me hopeful that a new, young generation can build a stronger and better future Cambodia.  

Back at the orphanage, we handed out loaves of bread to each child. They were holding the loaves while singing enthusiastically about Jesus. I was touched by the fact that despite having so little that bread makes them smile, they are able to praise God.