IT FEELS SO GOOD TO BE HOME! I’d like to announce in advance that this is going to be the very rare, two-page Morrissey prayer letter. I don’t usually do that, but with all that has happened in the last two months, I feel that I should make an exception.
After almost exactly four months in the States on a much-needed furlough, we are back home in Dapitan! Our trip from the States went very smoothly . . . UNTIL WE GOT TO TURKEY, and then the chaos ensued! We were scheduled to be in Turkey for a 13-hour layover, which we didn’t mind because Turkish Airlines has a policy of giving a complimentary hotel room to any passenger with a 12-hour or longer layover. Actually, our original itinerary only called for a 4-hour layover, but when I received an email changing our layover from 4 to 13 hours, we didn’t mind because of the wonderful, hospitable, considerate hotel policy offered by Turkish airlines. Well, our problems began when we approached the airline helpdesk to ask about our room. The lady behind the counter informed me that there was another flight available that was leaving earlier than our flight, so she would not be able to give me the complimentary room. I told her that was fine with us; we would be happy to transfer to the earlier flight, which, ironically, was probably the same flight that I had scheduled in the first place! She told me that I would have to talk to the man in the sales department at the next counter over. I was confused by this, but we obediently walked over to the next counter and waited in line. When we got to the counter, the man informed us that we would have to pay to switch flights. When I told him that the airline had changed our itinerary, he said that there was nothing he could do. When I asked to speak to a manager, he informed me that he was the manager! So, I asked how much it would cost to change our flights; he grimaced and said, “Very big.” “And how much is very big?” I asked. He took several minutes putting information into his computer and then apologetically said in his strong Turkish accent, “Over $2,000.” Well, that settled that; we would not be flying on the earlier flight. We would just have to wait it out at the airport. There was no way I was going to take my family outside the airport looking for a hotel on our own! Unfortunately, our troubles weren’t over yet. Because of the length of our layover, we were required by law to pick up our checked bags and check them again, but when we tried to go to the baggage claim, we were informed that we would all need to get a visa because we would be leaving the secured part of the airport. Eventually, we found our way to the officer in charge of visas. I handed him our passports, and he promptly informed me that I would have to pay $180, $30 per person—SERIOUSLY! At this point, I was about to lose my mind! Just for context, let me point out that we were traveling with four children, the youngest of whom was just two months old. By this time, we had been in airports and airplanes for 15 or 16 hours. We were tired, and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to log into the airport WiFi, but all the instructions were in Turkish. Thankfully, in the midst of all this, I can’t remember exactly when, God sent us help. An airport employee, a young man whose name I have now forgotten, approached us and asked if we needed help. He was the first good English speaker we had encountered in the entire airport. Without him, I don’t know what we would have done. I think he was actually the one who helped me find the visa office, but the idea of spending $180 just to get our luggage was still a bitter pill to swallow. So, our new friend had an idea. He suggested that only I get a visa to go out and deal with our luggage, and the rest of our family could go straight through security and wait for me on the other side. He helped Ruth and me connect our phones to the airport WiFi so we could communicate while we were separated. Because we had no way of paying, our service was limited to one hour each. Our friend then led us to security, and Ruth and the kids started through. It was a scary feeling, but at least we could communicate. Our friend then informed me that his shift was ending, and he needed to go. I thanked him for all his help. He pointed me in the right direction and then disappeared into the crowd. I’ll be honest; to this day, half of me wonders if he was really a man or if I was actually entertaining an angel unawares. I guess I’ll find out when we get to Heaven. Let me get back to the story. I found my way through to the baggage claim, but by the time I arrived, the belt was empty, and our bags were long gone. For about 20 minutes, I was sent from one office to another and finally found our missing luggage. From there, I had to find my way to the check-in counter. I was lost, and English speakers were rare. But, through many dangers, toils, and snares, I found my way to the correct counter. However, somewhere in the process, our hour of internet had expired. That was scary! I was in a huge, strange airport, I only had a vague idea of where my family was, and I had no way to communicate with them or anybody else. I initially ran into some problems in trying to check our bags, but the lady at the counter took pity on me and went out of her way to help. After checking the bags, I hurried to security. Once through, I began looking for the information desk. Our Turkish friend had instructed Ruth to wait by a specific information desk, but I didn’t see it. Thankfully in all of this, we were under no time pressure; we still had another 10 or 11 hours until our flight. As I slowly walked looking for the desk, I heard a voice cry, “Daddy!” I turned around and saw Beth. In my intent search for the information desk, I had walked right past them! I don’t tend to be emotional, but I almost cried! The remainder of our trip went very smoothly. I’ll be honest; I love Turkish Airlines . . . once the airplane leaves the ground. They have great service and really good food, but I probably won’t be flying with them again. 😊
I LOVE TBC SUNDAY
For those of you who don’t know, 2022 was an extremely difficult year for our church. We went through some intense battles! During that time, I was forced to cut our Sunday school back to just two classes–one class for the children and one class for the teens and adults. While we were in the States on furlough, I had a really good conversation with Bro. Allen Domelle, one of our supporting pastors, about the importance of the Sunday school. He gave me some really good advice, and then I picked up a copy of The Hyles Sunday School Manual. Once we arrived back in Dapitan, we hit the ground running. I immediately began implementing the things I had been learning. I began emphasizing the Sunday school, recruiting new teachers, and reenlisting former teachers. I decided to start all the new classes on the same day. I chose February 19, and dubbed it “I Love Truth Baptist Church Sunday.” On that day, we started three new Sunday school classes and installed a new preacher and his wife in our Sunday morning Junior Church! Our promotion for the day was “I Love TBC” keychains. God blessed the day, giving us a total of 94 people in Sunday school! Please pray that God will continue to bless our Sunday school emphasis. Our new teachers are growing, and our people are excited about what God is doing!
I very rarely talk about money in my prayer letters. However, since arriving back on the field, some of the most striking blessings we have received have been in the financial arena, and I just have to share! For many months, we have needed a new jeepney for the church, but it was only in December that we officially made it a matter of serious prayer. We began praying and asked our church to join us. Within just a couple weeks of our arrival in Dapitan, it became very obvious that our current jeepney was no longer worth fixing, but we simply did not have the money to buy a new one. Then we received a huge spike in our January support. (As a side note, no one who sent us extra support in January knew that we were praying for a jeepney!) Naturally, we concluded that this was God’s answer to our prayers and began looking for a new (used) jeepney. Unfortunately, our initial searching yielded little fruit. Every jeepney we saw either had major issues or was outside our budget range. Then on February 7, I received an email informing me that a businessman whom I have never met had decided to send us $3,000 to be used for any need we had. Just two days later, God gave us another blessing by way of one of our faithful church members. He has always been a man of modest means, but on Thursday, February 12, he received a major financial blessing! (No, he wasn’t playing the lottery! 😊) He was so excited that he brought his tithe to the church that day! We have been saving money since last July to tile and paint our church building. Because of this one man’s blessing, our church now has enough money to tile and paint the entire building, using only the funds from our church offerings! Our God is awesome! This past week was a whirlwind! On Monday, the construction crew began the painting and tiling, and on Wednesday night, our church driver and I took a boat to a city on another island and purchased a very nice jeepney!
Dividends on Your Investment
On Monday, January 27, the construction crew arrived to begin painting and tiling our church building. Over the next couple of days, I began looking for an opportunity to witness to them. I tried to talk to a couple of them individually, but nothing came of it. On Wednesday morning, March 1, God just kind of dropped a sermon outline in my lap. The theme of the message was Christians who tell God to wait. In quick order that morning, God gave me three points. While you wait, (1) you are disobeying, (2) the Devil is working, and (3) your heart is hardening. I quickly entered those points into my phone, but the outline seemed incomplete. I jumped on my motorcycle to run an errand, and as I pulled out of the church, I saw the work crew. God used my own outline about waiting to convict me. And then the thought for the fourth point popped into my head. While you wait, people are dying. I said, “Okay, Lord, I get it! If You’ll help me, I’ll witness to them on their lunch break!” He did help me, and I did witness to them at the end of their lunch break. It was one of the easiest Gospel-sharing opportunities I’ve had since we got back. I just walked up and asked the foreman if I could share the Word of God with the crew before they went back to work. He agreed, and the men gathered around to listen. About 20-30 minutes later, all seven of them bowed their heads and put their faith in Jesus Christ! SOUL WINNING STILL WORKS!
God has truly been very good to us. Thank so much for your friendship, faithful prayers, and consistent support.
Yours for souls,