AFRICA - JUNE 1-12, 2005
from Mwanza Tanzania.
Tired. Why? No sleep. In two days on the planes I probably slept two
hours. Flew from Orlando to Miami. Waited in Miami for 8 hours for
a flight to London. The plane was hit by lightning on the way in as
were 7 other planes. Landed in London at 900 then jumped on a flight
to Nairobi almost immediately. Another 8 hours in the air. What a
beautiful sight! I watched out the window as the landscape changed
from French countryside to Swiss Alps to Mediterranean Sea to the
Sahara desert to the African plains. Incredible.
Then we landed in Nairobi around 900 pm and went to a little hotel
where we stayed until 630 in the morning. Five hours sleep. We had
to split up into two groups. One group was leaving in the afternoon
with a side trip of shopping. The other got to leave at 630 am and
fly to Mount Kilimanjaro, then to Mwanza. I was not on the "mountain"
group but begged to go. I went with no assurance that I would go.
I got on.
Kilimanjaro (spelling?) is the tallest mountain in Africa. We could
see high above the clouds. We landed in a small airport right outside
it, stayed for two hours, then flew to another airport. By the way
the planes are getting smaller as we go. This last plane was a 20
seater, bouncing around in the air. What a trip. We landed on a dirt
landing strip in another small town, name unknown. We stayed for 10
minutes then took off for Mwanza. The airport is so tiny.
Right now I am at an internet cafe across the street for our hotel,
which is the finest in Mwanza but so far away from our hotels. I would
say a really nice holiday inn, with fabulous service and nice people.
All of the Africans want to talk, want to know how you are, are friendly
and want to serve.
I had one discussion on the plane with a man who is a Muslim. He listened
to what I had to say and fired some questions back. Over all a pleasant
conversation. He wanted to email me and talk more. He was scared of
coming to America because he is Muslim and has a Muslim name. I assured
him that as long as he is not a terrorist, all would be fine.
Tonight we eat tilapia, a fish, which is from Lake Victoria, right
off of Mwanza. Victoria I believe is the largest lake in Africa.
Hope you are all well and look forward to hearing from you. I will
try to get back to this cafe, but the hours of operation are usually
during the times we are out and about.
We made our first visit to a small village in Misanguwi. We talked
to an 80 year old man who couldn't get off the ground and offered
him the hope of Jesus Christ after his death. We later talked to the
rest of his family who had mean looks in their eyes. After awhile,
the meanness lifted and they wanted to know God.
After a wonderful lunch, we visited a witch doctor. He had no hand
and his other hand was disfigured. He had scars on his face. He had
a hut where the demons lived and an office where he performed his
rituals. There was a patient there who was getting treatment for his
infected lip. As we told the whole family about God, the patient said
YES and wondered if he should get treatment from the evil spirits.
We said NO. Every time the witch doctor talked, the others in his
family giggled. It was eerie. We pushed him to give up dealing with
evil spirits. He said, 'if I do, I must give up my business. How will
God take care of me? I have no work. I have no hands.' It was a tough
one. That morning we talked about Matthew 6 where God promises to
take care of all your needs. It was like, okay God you promise this.
The man said he would think about it and come to the service tomorrow
morning. Our interpreter prayed for them so the demons would leave.
I spoke at the little service about Philip and the Ethiopian and because
of the faithfulness of Philip many believe that Africa first heard
about the gospel.
One of the nationals in our group was wearing a shirt that read 'don't
f*** with me.' I told him that was a bad word in America. He took
off his shirt. I gave him mine later. He danced with joy.
That's only day one. More to come. We were way out there, a half hour
from the city.
Today was church, but on the way there our van, full of two groups
of people (including Matt, Tammy, Sandy) which was going about 70
miles per hour went BAM. Smoke came pouring out of the bottom of the
van, but we weren't skidding which indicated the tires were fine.
We got out and saw that the drive shaft had snapped in two. Immediately
another van showed up (don't know how and where) and took us to our
Sunday service was...2 and half hours long. Song, another song, another
song...all sounding the same on a dinky little Casio keyboard. We
sat under a canopy while the whole group stared at us. A couple people
we had witnessed too the day before arrived. At the end, two people
other walked up and said they wanted to follow Christ. I had spoken
on faith found in Romans 3 and 4. One of those who walked up was a
Muslim girl heading to temple to pray. She heard us, stopped, listened
and gave her life to Jesus.
After that we ate. So much food. potatoes, watermelon, orange, two
meat dishes...cow we hope, fish, cucumbers, rice, something like a
sauerkraut, sodas. The whole time the whole village sits under a tree
and watches us eat. While they eat nothing. What can you do? It's
an honor for them that we are there and they make guests feel welcomed
by serving us food. I saw the church eat later...bread butter, some
rice. Hopefully they eat our leftovers. We couldn't eat it all.
We then visited three homes. In one hour, eight people said they wanted
to follow Christ.
We arrived back at church for another service. The night ones are
faster. I arrived from the visits, sat down, then the pastor said
that troy will give another message. I hadn't really thought about
it, so I stood up and talked about the most important sentence in
the entire bible. The one sentence that can rewrite your entire history.
John 3-16. I spoke, prayed, then sat down wondering if that was any
good. Five of the people we had visited that day showed up and three
more who were invited came forward. One was an alcoholic visited by
our other group that showed up at both services and asked for a bible.
He wanted to stop drinking.
None of the witch doctors showed up, though one group told us that
they too visited a witch doctor and she had thrown out all her witch
doctor tools to follow Christ.
One more day at this location then off to location number two. Don't
know where. life is pretty much: up at 615, breakfast at 700, meeting
at 715, meeting at 730, vans by 830, 45 minute drive to church, visit
homes, lunch, visit homes, night meeting, drive back, dinner, read/play
cards, bed. But it's awesome!!!
Talk to you later. Troy
Today was our last day at our first site.
We have been there for
three days. Of course you get to know and fall in love with all the
people. Today we were joined by the tour leader of global mission
fellowship (gmf.com) and a person who oversees the churches in this
area. He was a big deal and made our pastor nervous I think.
Usually we break up in two teams, but I noticed
that we were joined by
10 people in our group every time we went out. Imagine ten people
coming to your door. You would say yes to anything! I told the pastor
to take his own group. He didn't need us. The leader of GMF and the
other guy went on their own so we doubled our efforts. Guess what.
got double the results. The pastor looked so excited when we got back.
He was thrilled and dancing.
The pastor purchased some land and wanted
us to pray for it. He said
we need to walk around the land 7 times like they did when they wanted
the walls of Jericho to come down. 7 times! It's a big place to say
At 4:00 we gathered and had more people at
our celebration service
than ever before. 150 came out, many old faces that we visited and
shared our faith, but never saw until tonight. Including...the witch
doctor's wife...the giggling woman. She walked forward and took a
bible. How about that. Another old woman who could barely walked
arrived at our service. Another group had prayed and washed her feet,
and then we saw her. Our bus driver and co-rider accepted Christ thanks
a pastor in the front seat of our van. They used to be prostitutes
thieves. We are giving them bibles tomorrow.
I opened by telling them I had a confession.
I couldn't dance. They
dance all the time. I asked someone to come and show me how to dance.
The people laughed as I stumbled through the movements, and then applauded
my feeble attempts. I then told them maybe I needed a reason to dance.
I spoke on the beatitudes which show the reasons for true happiness
(Matthew 5). If they were a believer they had a reason to dance. If
they weren't and wanted true happiness only Jesus could bring to ask
him into their hearts. A bunch of people came forward. God just works
The weather here is good. No rain at all.
High 80s. Sunburn weather.
Two members of the group, Lori and Jessica Stremkowski, got sick,
stomach and fever. Jessica came to dinner and Lori was still upstairs.
Tomorrow we visit a new church, new pastor,
new people, new stories.
Thanks for praying for us. Troy
Today our group visited a new site...way out
there. We drove off road
for 10 minutes then arrived in the middle of nowhere. Just a field.
Finally the pastor met us. We walked 10 minutes to the church. As
as the eye could see, no homes. But the view...incredible. Rolling
mountains and a beautiful patchwork of greens, yellows and browns
the way to the horizon.
We ate breakfast, and then visited four homes.
The first was the home of
the pastor's father and brother. Interesting that they had not
accepted Christ. However after our presentation 8 people from that
family agreed to follow God. Only four homes that day, but each
required 10 minutes walk between them. I think we doubled the church
in four hours. One man had jewelry on him to scare away the evil
spirits. One of the locals told him to remove them, physically pulling
them off himself. Didn't seem very seeker friendly. The old man ran
into the hut with them. The pastor and others told him to go get them.
He did. This time they prayed that their spell would be broken. The
old man seemed fine with that. I told him he was a new Christian and
it would take some time to understand everything God wants for him.
felt sorry that everyone was picking on him.
Some were so excited that they wanted to be
baptized right away. We
started wondering...where's the water. Well the water is the local
drinking hole. A pool of brown swampy water. Now I heard that another
American baptized the locals himself. Everyone was looking at me.
wasn't going in that malaria infested water. Thankfully a local did
But it was so sweet. We walked from the church
in a long line, through
this beautiful countryside singing African praise songs along the
We gathered around the water and the people got in. 7 total. Young
and old. The pictures we took are gorgeous. It was so exciting I even
danced. The locals looked impressed. I showed them the dance that
learned yesterday. Their eyes went wide. I think that meant they
Tomorrow we visit a school, then proceed to
a Mwanza wide celebration
way way way out in the outskirts of the city.
A couple more got sick from the other church.
Lori was still out
today. The food in the homes for lunch is always the same...same
recipe book I guess...but it always tastes best. Breakfast is becoming
routine and dinner unappetizing at the hotel. It's the local food
See you soon...TROY
We had our final day of our campaign today.
Not much happened, but it was a little hectic. We arrived at our location
and the pastor had a list of things to do. Go to a school and speak.
Have tea. Pray over their new site. Have a service. Have lunch. All
in 1 and a half hours. Well things don't go that quickly in Africa.
I said we could only get two things in and that's all. pastor chose
tea and pray for new church...then he said, let's go to service...oh
and preach a message...oh now let's baptize...oh would you baptize
I said no that as an American, I am not use to the bacteria in your
dirty water. They agreed. After baptism pastor said, let's have lunch
then go to school. It was 12:30. We had to be at the all church celebration
to close our time in Tanzania by 2:00. The location is far and the
other group was there to pick us up. They would sit in a hot van for
one hour while we visited church and ate lunch. I said we had to go.
We made a hasty good bye and came home.
The drive was bumpy. That's all I can say. 19 people in one van. We
arrived but over 600 people had made it to this out of the way location.
And we had the only vans in the parking lot. How did they all get
there... they came from every where. Men, women and children. They
danced. They sang. They asked us to sing. We danced. It was so much
fun. Africans know how to party. They dance all the time. I even danced
because it was so contagious. We prayed for the pastors then some
people talked (including Santini who everyone loves). We loaded back
up and went home. Bumpy.
Tonight we had pizza at a local restaurant. It was actually pretty
good. Tasted great and semi-American. Our power went out city wide
about four times in one hour. Probably our air conditioners running
Tomorrow we leave for the Serengeti wild animal preserve. We drive
from 9 to 12. Eat lunch. Then go to the park. We sleep in tents...nice
tents with running water...don't know about air conditioning. Anyway
we wake up early the next morning at get out at sunrise when the lions
wake up. After a half day of that we return back to Mwanza, check
back into the hotel then leave the following afternoon. So, I will
be out of touch for a couple days.
The adventure continues...troy
The last couple days have been exhausting and amazing.
We have seen a side of God's beautiful earth that you always hear
about but few in America get to experience. Our interaction with African
animals is usually zoos and Busch gardens and Disney's animal kingdom.
It's nothing like the real thing.
We left our hotel at 900 am and drove for hours in a six passenger
all terrain vehicle to a camp outside the Serengeti. Our driver was
CITA, a former Serengeti park employee and expert at the Serengeti
terrain. Our rooms were either block rooms or tents. I chose the tent
with Matt Grubb, my roommate for this entire experience. It's a tent
with a metal roof over it, concrete floor and a bathroom connected
to it with tile floor, sink, toilet, and a nice shower. Even Barbie
would camp like this! Sure you share the shower with a few critters
now and then, but its hardly roughing it. The place is a lodge with
a beautiful lobby, sitting area and wonderful dining room where we
ate lunch. We agreed that we would rest there today then get up early
to hit the Serengeti.
I had two nights of four hours sleep a piece so I was tired and immediately
took a nap. I was awoken by cries from the others. "Troy look
out...troy don't come out." It was around five. Suddenly something
started hitting the walls of my tent. I thought it was some of the
other guys to wake me up. I looked out the zipper window and saw 20
baboons swarming my tent. I videotaped the moment. That night baboons
were heading to their treetop homes and we sat for an hour watching
At 700 we had dinner then all talked about our time in Tanzania. Some
wonderful stories were shared. As we walked outside we looked up at
the moonless sky and saw the stars. More stars than I have ever seen
in my entire life. Endless stretch of Milky Way. Some planet was clearly
seen. When we went to bed and turned off the light we understood why
Africa is called the Dark Continent. It's not what you think. Pure
pitch darkness. Can't see the hand in front of your face kind of darkness.
We dozed listening to animal cries right outside our window. Mostly
baboons grunting and screaming.
The next morning at 500 am we got up, ate breakfast, then headed to
the Serengeti national park in five vehicles and the same drivers.
The Serengeti is the size of Connecticut, run and protected by the
government of Tanzania. We started on the western end and watched
the sun come up in the east as we drove. This is where it gets hard
We encountered a few animals at first like the impala, wildebeest
and grand gazelle. One or two here or there. We were so excited and
we wanted to get pictures. Our drive assured us we would see more.
We would come over a hill and understood what he meant. Hundreds...thousands...
our first zebra we were ecstatic...then we saw thousands of them grazing
and roaming, either separately or in combination of groups. 1.6 million
Wildebeests live there, 500,000 zebra, too many to count impala.
The terrain was green, with those umbrella trees with the flat tops
and the other trees which Disney calls the tree of life. Rolling hills,
flat plains with tall grass...just amazing.
Then we started to see the star attractions. giraffes, plenty of those,
dik-dik, hippos in a pond, 3 or 4 crocodiles, hyenas, baboons, we
were tired of those.
Leopards. Two of them, sitting in a tree, one with a fresh impala
carcass hanging from the tree next to him, relaxing in the shade.
Our tour guide said he never gets to see two leopards in the same
day. A rare treat.
Lions. A female in a tree, then a female and a male in a tree, looking
right at us!
Elephants. We saw many from a distance, then we rounded a corner and
a saw a huge tusked male only 20 feet from us, fanning his body with
his ears. Our driver shut off our engines and said to be quiet. The
elephant just walked around us. In that area were at least 20 elephants.
Another elephant not too far was pretty upset. Our driver said because
we were there.
We ate at a very exclusive resort in the park, high up in a mountain
that overlooked a valley. It reminded me of Disney's animal kingdom
lodge and I bet they used it for their design. Lunch was so but something
different from the usual in Mwanza, then we headed back, returning
the same way. Our ride back we watched the sun set and the colors
change. Again, no words.
Our vehicle got a flat which was changed in record time, another overheated.
By the time we were leaving, it was 600 pm and the sun was leaving
the sky. 12 hours in such beauty you didn't want to sleep in the car.
Then a four hour trip home. At 1000 pm we arrived back at the new
Mwanza hotel and checked back into our same rooms, tired but satisfied
and full from our experience.
Today we make our way back, some flying to Mount Kilimanjaro, some
straight to Nairobi. Then Nairobi to London Gatwick, bus to Heathrow,
Heathrow to Orlando, arriving Sunday at 330 pm.
It's been a long trip and I'm excited to see you when I get back,
some sooner than others, or at least to be in the same hemisphere.
PS: The ride back took 36 hours from the first bus trip to our final
landing in Orlando. It was good to see some familiar faces at the
BOLIVIA TRIP - March
ONE - 3/18/06
Just a quick note to say that we arrived safely.
After a rough landing in La Paz which is 14,000 above sea level and
some difficulty breathing we entered the hot and humid Santa Cruz
area. The minute we stepped off the plane we said...Orlando!
We are staying in a gorgeous suite. Two bedrooms. The Bolivian pastor
of this whole trip, Enzo, is in my room with mark Scott. It is certainly
causing me to dig deep into my three and half years of Spanish.
Tonight we met our teams and tonight we visited a church where I spoke.
It was under attended but sweet. Just members of the church that we
Food is good. Coffee is strong. We are in heaven. Tomorrow a service
in the morning, door to door evangelism and another service at night.
Seriously need some sleep. I slept about four hours on the plane which
I never do! But it wasn't enough.
Talk to you all soon.
PART 2 - 3/19/06
Today we visited the home church and I spoke
at the service. It was sort of a worship/bible study. Long but nice.
Very heartfelt worship.
One interesting thing...they all know HERMIE! I pulled out the books
and they said YOU WROTE HERMIE! WE HAVE THE DVDS! Our worship pastor
is here with his wife to visit his brother. His sister in law saw
me and said they have a bootleg copy. Every DVD here is an illegal
copy. I wasn't too thrilled to hear that. It's strange being in such
a faraway place and have people know those books and videos.
The food here is...okay. Lots of potatoes, plantains, bananas, not
Akins friendly. The meat is tough, chewy. However all of it served
with a smile and kindness. We have not seen the extreme poverty of
Columbia, Cuba and Tanzania. Some of the houses are well built with
LANDSCAPING too. We walked around the area where they are starting
a new church. The locals from this church were so excited they took
off and just started knocking on doors. We had to catch up with them.
I am with a woman from another church and a 14 year old son of one
of the father's on the trip. Nice kid. A little music crazy who keeps
asking me have you heard of Reliant K... the woman is an old pro,
who has been on dozens of trips and works as a consultant with the
organization we are with.
We will work in this one area for three days, inviting people to the
church. I talked with a sweet elderly man, Hugo, who said he tried
Hare Krishna. Thankfully I studied a little about it and could converse
about their practices. My translator never heard of it. The man became
convinced that he could not find assurance in Hare Krishna, but only
in Jesus Christ.
A really drunk man walked up to us. He was so drunk my translator
could not understand him. I asked him if we could pray for him. He
mumbled yes. We did and said we hoped the man would remember our prayer.
Today is Father's day in Bolivia. There were many parties going on.
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America.
We are resting up for a full day tomorrow. It will be hot with giant
Sun screen and bug spray is required.
PART 3 - 3/20/06
Today was our first full day of going door to door. We scoured this
neighborhood hitting just about every house. We find that many of
the listeners say they are Christian and they believe the Bible but
when you point out that the Bible says that if you believe that Jesus
died for your sins that you can be saved and go to heaven, they say...no,
it's all about being a good person.
I show them verses that clearly say...if you believe you will be saved.
No being good to prove your worthy of heaven. No church attendance.
No you'll find out when you die. There it is in black and white. Believe...saved.
Some frustrations on this trip. A translator who is twenty years old
and loves his cell phone. I've promised to set the Bolivian cell phone
throwing record. I actually took it away from him once. He also talks
about this magical energy drink he sells, then he falls asleep around
five o clock in the home of someone we are visiting.
I'm finding it quite bizarre how much Spanish I have retained. It's
eerie. Maybe I'm preparing to go without the translator.
Tonight we invited everyone to a small gathering. Five showed up.
I gave them my testimony and talked about the parable of the prodigal
son. That night, a frog dropped on my lap. From out of nowhere. A
big fat wet frog...slap. They told me to wash my hands because its
pee was irritating to the skin.
One woman we visited said she had just been thinking that she should
accept Jesus Christ, but didn't do it. When we arrived I said maybe
God just sent her answer. She agreed and received.
I worked out tonight in the hotel gym and talked for 30 minutes with
a Bolivian boy who loved American music. For 20 minutes he named off
bands...Beatles, Tom Petty, Green Day, Van Halen...then looked for
my response. "Yes, no, good, si, so-so." It was cute and
the kid seemed to appreciate encountering an American. I told the
local pastor to work out with me tomorrow and share the gospel with
him. He agreed.
Good night. Troy
PART 4 - 3/21/06
These days are always the hardest. Right between
two hard days a long day ahead of you. Though tomorrow is easy as
you realize it's all over. You give it all you've got.
Today we had some nice visits. A few follow ups where we went over
a sheet to discuss what we talked about during our first visit. Very
effective, however, we spent over a half hour trying to remember where
the house was. You see, this neighborhood is brand new and the streets
have no name, to borrow an U2 song.
My most interesting time found us in the middle of the afternoon on
a bridge over a small stream. Nine men were fishing. You have to understand,
when we usually show up at a house, the men suddenly find something
to do. Even the boys. It's a masculine thing. They don't look in your
eyes. They seem to know that we are going to talk to them about their
sin. This area we feel the men are very hardened. It's sad.
We walked up to the bridge and the ten fishermen and I began talking,
thinking I would have a captive audience. They said nothing. I kept
talking. They didn't even turn around. My translator said keep going.
So I proceeded to give them the plan of salvation. Going through a
five minute presentation, showing the cube to the backs of their heads.
One man turned sideways. Another glanced over his shoulder. Another
walked away down the river. None of them spoke. I laid it on them.
I finished by saying...Jesus visited fishermen because he knew that
if could catch their hearts, they could catch the hearts of other
men...God could change their town if he captured your hearts. The
translator walked them through a prayer which none of them prayed.
Then we left. Two more actually turned to see who this idiot was that
would talk to them even they would not give him the time of day. Hopefully
it sunk in.
I felt a little queasy today. Thankfully our location had a real bathroom.
The others did not. Bill Lewis, someone from our church, was sick
all day. Hopefully he's better tomorrow.
We finish up tomorrow then we have a free day on Thursday. Jason beams'
brother is taking us hiking in the Bolivian jungle to a waterfall.
Then a little shopping and dinner at a Bolivian restaurant.
PART 5 - 3/22/06
Today was our last day at our site. We had
a great day. We visited many people, some for the first time, some
were follow ups.
Our evening service had 75 people at it. Now understand, this is a
new church. They had zero and in four days, 75 clogged the streets.
Many were just interested in what was going on. For a second day we
had activities for the kids with over 40 attending.
We visited many people today who showed up for the evening service.
Now you have to understand, throughout my travels, everyone says they
will come, but no one does. To have so many show up in Bolivia, shows
signs that God is working.
I spoke at the service, comparing the trip we took to amusement parks,
baseball games and family to the spiritual journey we are all on.
I used the book of Romans as our map. When it was over, a man came
up to me and he said... "I was in the store when you were talking
to someone about Christ four days ago...when you talked, I was listening...I
felt this light fill the room and I knew you were speaking the truth...I
came tonight to thank you...I heard you were a writer, so I wanted
to give you this pencil holder I made...I wanted to carve your name
but you are leaving now..."
Well, that just about tore me apart. You have no idea how powerful
the word of God is. You just have to overhear it and it will change
I have been going to the gym here every night and seeing some kid
who I talked about before. He loves music and I tell him about all
the bands I have interviewed. His mouth drops...you worked with Britney
Spears. Anyway tonight I felt I had to share with him the reason I
came to Bolivia. In Spanish. I hoped God would give me the gift of
tongues so I could speak in his language...but he did not. So in my
broken Spanish I did the best I could. When I finished I said, let
me get you a Spanish bible. I met Jason from our church in the lobby
with one and told the kid to read it. Just then I saw someone who
said a translator was still here at midnight...just an hour ago, in
the lobby. It was the one translator I knew he would like. The translator
is in a band and so was this kid. I told the translator to finish
talking with him and he prayed to receive Christ in the lobby. They
just finished talking and exchanged numbers. It was incredible. We
do not always have everything we need, but God provides it all.
There was a terrorist attack in La Paz. Some American. But it has
not effected us. Our Windermere team, and my friends, are going on
a hike in a state park tomorrow. It will be good to see them since
we have been on different teams.
Need to get to bed. Troy
PART 6 - 3/23/06
Well, we head home tomorrow early so I need
to get to bed.
Today, the brother of our worship leader took us out to a waterfall
area. We crossed 36 rivers, tributaries, streams in a four wheel drive
vehicle. Seven of us went including Stephanie Beams, our worship leader's
wife. We drove miles out into the foothills of the Andes, where there
was barely any road. We arrived at this place where a guide takes
you into over trails, climbing stick ladders, sliding down rock hills
to get to the waterfall. It was awesome. Then our guide said he'll
take us to the other one. This one had not been crossed in months.
Huge spider webs told us that. His machete cleared a path that at
times was barely only inches wide, if there was a path at all. The
ground was soft because of rain. It was the most dangerous thing I
ever did. It was so exhausting, I gave up at one point. Dehydrated.
The others talked me down. The entire trek lasted three hours down
and 2 hours up, descending 500 feet total. I got quite a reputation
from the others, but six nights of little sleep, very little food
this trip and an upset stomach took its toll. We made it out and felt
like men. Even Stephanie felt like a man. We officially made her a
Tonight we ate a typical Bolivian restaurant, kind of like a Brazilian
chuscarisca...meats, meats, meats. I didn't touch the intestines,
kidney or heart, but the rest was good.
We leave tomorrow at 630 am and arrive home at 730 pm. Looking forward
to seeing my family.
TURKEY - NOVEMBER,
please forgive the typing mistakes. the keyboards
are different here.
we traveled from 2 pm saturday to 330 pm here
sunday (8 hours difference) to izmir turkey after lay overs in munich
germany and washington dc. we are safe!
nothing to report really. we could not see
germany because it was so overcast when we landed. in fact many of
us were looking out the windows when all of a sudden BOOM we landed.
actually it was the smoothest landing weve had though we never saw
the runway until the last minute. thank god for computers.
i sat next to a german microsoft software developer
who had just been to ORANDO and wanted to talk about universal studios.
small world. nobody slept much so we were very tired.
interesting to hear this pastor in izmir turkey
speak. this week they put up a sign to their church announcing who
they were. he expects to receive opposition from the government because
christian churches are not allowed here. they could get shut down
and he could be thrown in jail. he does not mind. in fact he is from
america and came here to help the church in turkey. a police officer
came by the other day and said--good--there are too many bars here.
many people walk by and look in very curious. they have an internet
ministry here where hundreds renounce islam and accept christ. but
they are afraid to go to church. it is worse here--the intolerance
toward the christian church--than even Cuba.
99 % of the people in turkey are muslim and
some of the members here became christians and had to say goodbye
to their families. the families wont talk to a christian. the country
claims to be muslim but there are bars and prostitutes and adult movies
in the rooms. its an interesting cultural battle here. so far everyone
is very nice.
tomorrow the men are going to a university
to engage in conversations with students while the women go to the
mall (to engage in conversations there not to shop).
going to bed...troy
well this morning started out interesting.
i was doing devotions asking God to use me when i heard a crashing
and a smashing followed by screams. children i wonderedi no...women.
it sounded like someone was falling down the stairs. i put on my pants
and shirt and barefoot ran into the hallway. i came around the corner
to the stairs and saw an ashtray on its side. i walked up the stairs
and there i saw glass broken and pots smashed. the window was shattered
and it looked like a RPG missile and come through. then i saw a woman
who turned to me and began screaming in turkish. i have no idea what
she said but she took my hand and led me to another woman on the ground
whose hand was bleeding. i checked her out while walking on the glass
with my bare feet and saw that she was not bleeding badly just a small
cut on her hand. i told her i would go get a towel. the standing girl
started screaming and pounding the window with her bare hand. she
was the one who had smashed it and kept pounding. i went to my room
and grabbed my shoes and a towel. by the time i returned the police
where there escorting the girls out. they dropped the hurt girl at
my feet while the other girl led the police back upstairs. i wiped
what blood i could from her hand and rubbed her back. i had no idea
what to do or say except to comfort her.
i started to suspect what had happened by looking
at the girls and later found out my suspicions were right. these were
prostitutes and it appears a territorial dispute broke out between
two groups. i dont know what i did to help except to show compassion.
(it also appears all the other MEN of the group heard the commotion
but none of them were brave enough to find out what happened...ah
after a nice breakfast of cheese-bread-quail
eggs-molasses jelly we listen to pastor fikret testimony. he told
us how he watched BEN HUR on tv and wondered about this Christ that
was crucified since muslims do not believe jesus was crucified. they
believe judas took his place. he began exploring and praying. he saw
two american tourists on their honeymoon and told them should not
be walking in a certain fundamentalist muslim area. he asked them
to go to coffee. as they talked the man opened his backback a Fikret
saw an NIV Bible. he asked and they explained the gospel. fikret had
20 questions he wanted to ask and mailed them to the couple. the couple
promised to give them to a pastor to answer. two months later he got
a response. he read the answers then fell to his knees and received
christ as his savior. the pastor...Billy Graham. this couple worked
fikret says there are 2500 believers in all
of turkey. that is out of 7 million people. less than 1 percent. that
is the size of first baptist church of windermere. his church as 20
members. their history is full of genocides and cleansings of missionaries
and christians. it is so bad that they cannot talk about the massacres
in public or in the schools. it is NOT history.
we took a ferry ride to another part of izmir
full of shops and activity. this is not a poor city but very metropolitan.
nice dress shops and car parts and upscale. we walked the streets
and prayed and engaged in conversations. i talked to a very nice college
student on the ferry. he had an english book and i quizzed him and
helped him. he loved the los angeles lakers. when we got off the ferry
i handed him a bible tract. hope that gets through to him.
other than that it has been very hard. we talked
and smiled to many people. we even had a discussion with a man who
came up to us and said he lived in new jersey. he went to rutgers.
we talked about football and the yankees! he loved atlantic city too.
every saturday night.
the women are handing out flyers for a conference
they are holding to talk about women things. some men may come but
they will be very careful about sharing their faith.
we encounted a turkish woman who lived in dallas
for five years. she joined our group right away to translate but she
was not a christian. she stayed for dinner and i saw some women talking
to her and praying. i will find out what happened.
a group of us went to a starbucks to organize
a talk about my favorite subject COFFEE with people. one girl in our
group is a barista at a san diego starbucks. the manager agreed then
told us about a grand opening of a new starbucks and a friends and
family night they were having wednesday. we are all on the exclusive
list! we will go and talk about coffee and hopefully start conversations
about our faith.
i hope tomorrow morning is a little quieter
but i must be willing to go any where and do anything God calls me
to. Until then...Troy
well a nice restful morning. no prostitutes
battling it out.
however i want to make one correction to my
previous email. the population of turkey is 70 million. that is 2500
christians out of 70 million people.
today we had a nice breakfast and heard a testimony
from another pastor. we received bibles and went out and hit the streets.
we walked up and down the coastline of the agean sea trying to engage
in conversations with people. along the way mike combs and i crossed
by a school. big mistake. everyone ran to us (fourth graders) and
wanted to meet us and touch us. we exchanged names then did high 5s.
the teachers looked mad because the students would not get in line.
it was fun.
later we met some men who had pellet guns and
balloons floating in the water. we shot some balloons (mike combs
works for the police force in windermere). then we started talking
to the two old men. the one man had read the bible when he was in
the military but follows islam very closely. in fact as we talked
he pulled out some beads and i assume was praying. he believed both
books but the koran more.
well as we were talking a younger man sat down
next to us and was listening. mike motioned to him to come over and
join us. the man began to talk with us. they did not believe jesus
was as good a prophet as mohammed. but they believed he died on the
cross which was interesting since most muslims do not. the younger
man asked if i would like to pray a prayer to become a muslim. i declined.
he then asked if i had read the koran. i said i had read about one
third of it. he was surprised. i asked him if he had read the koran.
HE HAD NOT! the koran is in arabic and considered the only language
it can be in. only the teachers (or imans) can teach from the koran
and the students accept whatever they say. we told him about a passage
in the koran (imrans 3 42-55) that says that jesus is holy and jesus
did miracles and jesus knows the way to heaven. he could not believe
it. we told him to look it up. he would have to ask his mom to read
it to him. we said he should look it up on the internet. he said he
believed us (that is a big statement for him to say to us). we asked
if he would like to read the bible. he said he was very intersted.
it just so happens that they gave us each 2 bibles in turkish to hand
out. mike gave him his copy. we are set to go to his restaurant to
meet up with him later this week. now get this...he is the grandson
of a muslim cleric! that is pretty high up.
we met for lunch in a very fundamental section
of town and watched the managers fight over us as we passed by. we
ate outside as the call to prayer came and the muslims went inside
tonight a woman from campus crusade held a
womens conference which the women handed out flyers to all day yesterday.
mike and i were asked to be security and make sure no men came in.
53 women came in and they received free material and coffee and an
engaging speech by nancy. mike and i watched one man who entered and
asked the pastor to talk to him. he got an invitation from istanbul
(one hour away) and came to izmir to attend. the pastor after talking
to him for an hour said he was mentally disturbed and luckily he left.
pray that this bible will be read by the young
man and we can hook up with him.
tomorrow the starbucks party!! should be fun.
what am i thankful for...
1. turkey the country
2. turkey the food
3. family and friends
4. the smile from my wife and the laughter from my kids
5. divine opportunities
6. a free country
7. football not soccer
10. all of you taking the time to read these emails
it is funny being away for thanksgiving. i
am probably more thankful than i would be if i were home. being away
from everything makes you see everything more clearly. so enjoy your
stuffing while watching the dallas and bucs game (this is not a guilt
trip...i really mean it).
today i awoke to the sound of the call to prayer
from the mosques. others told me about the sound but i have slept
through them until this morning. about ten mosques at 545 in the morning
bellowing out an islamic prayer...all of them echoing in the valley.
it was a haunting sound. the powerful groan of a devil that has taken
over this city and this country awaking to start a new day of deception.
we started this morning with some testimonies.
we heard from Ugay who is going to dallas theological seminar in August
and will be the third man in turkey with a theological degree. turkey
is a very new country so the course of christianity can be tracked
very easily. in fact they know when the first turkish person accepted
Christ and when he died. that is weird.
we also heard from a pastor who is called the
father of modern christianity in turkey. he is english and trained
and pastored the pastors who are here now. we also heard from the
campus crusade rep. all of them have fantastic stories of perseverance.
we arrived at our location to meet our friend
from the other day and guess what...he was not there and no one knew
him. we have been had. discouraged we decided to walk around. to make
it more discouraging...it began to rain. mike saw a police station
and said he wanted to get rid of these police patches he brought.
we walked into the police station...a bold move for missionaries who
are breaking the islamic law. they were wondering what we were doing
there until mike handed them the police patches from the orange county
sheriffs department and windermere police department. they were so
thrilled, told us to sit and offered us tea. other officers came in
and asked questions about americas police force. they all wanted to
work there. when it was time to leave we asked where a good restaurant
was in town. they told us the best...cops love to eat...and offered
to drive us there! the police drove us a few blocks and said goodbye.
in the restaurant we were greeted by a wonderful
manager who stood at our table to talk. his father is in florida (we
think miami). when we told him we were here to see the seven churches
of revelation he immediately told us he has a bible and he watched
the passion of the christ four times! with 10 other people! we showed
him pictures of our families. we ate which was the best turkish meal
i have had so far but dont ask me what it was because i cannot say
the name. as we left i said i have another film about jesus he may
like and handed him a turkish copy of The Jesus Film. he was so happy
and patted his heart with his hand.
we stopped by a coffee-smoothie-internet cafe
run by two americans with Intervarsity ministry. they are here for
two years and both are from California. i kept wondering why am i
herei the guy--Norm--said pray for us. we are not at home and we feel
sad on this thanksgiving. we prayed for him...with eyes open while
looking at each other so others will not know we are praying. he was
very encouraged and i could tell our ministry today was one of encouragement
for those on the battlefield.
we met at the pastors house and 30 of us dined
on turkish food and KFC (yes it tastes the same but it is not turkey)
for thanksgiving. we laughed, i led a devotional, and we prayed. we
have been eyeing the football games online but it is nothing but soccer
here on tv.
tomorrow we start our tour and visit the ruins
of ephesus which are supposed to be spectacular. i may report on it
if i can. some are leaving. some are going on a different tour. we
will split tomorrow and look forward to another opportunity to serve
i have learned from this trip how important
a chance encounter and a smile and a nice conversation can mean for
the kingdom and God and eternity. i have heard stories of lives changing
because someone carried a Bible or overheard a conversation. i have
come to respect our freedom and i see that we take that freedom too
casually. i hope our efforts this week (about 100 opportunities of
sharing christ and exchanging information) will be the testimonies
many of you have been asking what has been
going on...here is an update...
for the past few days we have been visiting
the seven churches of revelation. these are the seven churches that
jesus spoke to giving them a spiritual health report. the churches
ruins from the time of all seven churches have been found. some greater
getting into all we saw would take hours and
we have yet to see sardis-pergamum-thyatira. by far ephesus was the
most impressive. this is the same city paul wrote his letter ephesians
to. a marvelous archaeological find with city streets and the actual
stadium paul addressed the city and caused a riot. statutes and temples
to roman gods litter the streets. we think christianity has a hard
time today. the church was up against some major opposition.
of course our group cannot help but witnessing
to everyone they see. seven from our group witnessed to 8 turkish
college students at laodicea. we gave them bibles and an author that
is with us from Campus Crusade (Nancy Wilson) signed books for them.
one night i was checking my email and another man wanted to use the
computer to find out a flight time (I think-we were using hand motions).
i saw him later with one of our bibles. a translator happened to show
up and i got us all together. he said someone gave him this bible
which he was investigating and was looking forward to reading it.
i guess christianity never takes a vacation.
today-sunday-we are going to the church we
have supported then to some local sites. an early day after driving
400 miles yesterday. tomorrow we see the last two stops then tuesday
we fly to munich and stay over night. we leave on wednesday fly all
day to chicago then home to orlando.
if i have time i will update you again.
Well we arrived home last night after being
awake 24 hours, departing from Munich Germany. We had a wonderful
night there eating at a traditional Bavarian restaurant in the heart
of Munich (http://www.weisses-brauhaus.de/). The German people were
wonderful and tough and VERY TALL! This is my homeland! I talked to
four Germans and two of them were journalists, so I guess that means
that 50% of all Germans are journalists. Don't quote me.
I wanted to share a couple stories as we were
leaving. As we were standing at the airport gate in Izmir, a police
officer walked up to me and asked me if I knew someone named Sherry
(an X-ray technician from Las Vegas). I said I did and they asked
if she could come downstairs into baggage so they could go through
her stuff. I offered to go with her as scenes from "Midnight
Express" crossed through my mind. He agreed. After some infighting
between airport security and police, they let us go. By this time,
four officers were with us. Sherry knew she had some souvenir guns
and knives (very common in the markets) in her bag and that was the
problem. When we arrived at the carousel downstairs, the number of
police increased to 10, including a female officer who spoke the best
English. Sherry remembered her and they were talking very cordially.
Sherry opened the bag and pulled out the items. The police all gathered
around the items and talking in Turkish I could tell they believed
the items were no problem.
Just then the female officer said "What
is thati" She pointed at Sherry's Turkish Bible. "The Torah
and Injeel" which means the old and new Testament. Then Sherry
said, "Do you want iti" The female officer's face dropped.
"Can Ii" Sherry handed her the book and inscribed something
on the inside cover. The other male officers looked perplexed. One
spoke to her firmly, but she answered back firmly and that was that.
Sherry then asked if anyone wanted her copy of the Injeel. No takers,
but the female officer clutched that Bible with a huge smile.
One more before we left. Sort of...
Then as we were just minutes before getting
on the plane a voice asked us if we were from America. It was a Turkish
man who lived in the U.S. (North Carolina). We talked about football
and America. We told him to meet up with us later. Well, things did
not work out but while we were in Germany, ready to board our flight
to Chicago, he showed up. Santini, he and I talked and shared the
Gospel with him. He nodded his head. "Yes, I have heard this.
I attended a Baptist school in the states." Unfortunately they
were calling for our plane and we had to run. We exchanged phone numbers
and promised to talk later. Pray for Selcuk.
I also had the chance to sit next to a very
nice Greek doctor on the plane and for many hours we talked about
everything and I mean everything! From food, to politics, to facial
surgeries, to raising kids. Finally we discussed Greek Orthodox religion.
He asked what I believed. Big mistake. I found a tract that our friend
Nancy Wilson had with her and showed it to him. He wanted to keep
it. Pray for Papa Nicky (as he wanted to be called).
It's been great seeing the family and soon
I will look at all the video and photos that were taken. Most of all
I will always remember the opportunity to serve God all over the world.
Thank you for joining me on this trip, praying
for me, writing encouraging emails and also to those that gave financially,
you were right there along side us.
COSTA RICA, APRIL
This is just a confirmation that we arrived
safely. Nothing much to report except to say I thought Florida was
humid. We arrived at the hotel, ate lunch, slept or went to the pool,
ate dinner, now heading to bed. Mission work is tough. A couple guys
have wireless access on their laptops and getting a signal. There
are four or five palm pilots floating around. We´re definitely
not roughing it yet.
Tomorrow is training and a little church service, then meeting with
local pastors and translators. We will be divided into four groups
starting on Monday.
Spirits are high. The group enjoys one another. There are mosquitoes
flying around my head.
Did I mention it was humid...
Take care, Troy
Today was a slow day, but a nice restful pace
to gear us up and get us ready for tomorrow. We ate breakfast, had
a worship service with the band that is joining us (Witness) who is
really my kind of rock and roll. I look forward to hearing them some
more! Then we ate lunch. Then we went to the supermarket where I bought
my coffee (it´s almost anti climatic to get it done at the beginning
of the trip). Then we met all the pastors and the translators. After
that we...you guessed it...ate dinner.
Every meal, I kid you not, had rice and two had beans. Even breakfast.
Actually not a bad food as long as you are doing something and burning
We went to a local church for their Sunday night service. It lasted
two hours with no air conditioning. The bad was a salsa-polka group.
It was fun.
We are at the hotel and getting a good night sleep before a 700 am
start tomorrow. More news to report then. Everyone is healthy. Must
be the rice and beans.
Well things certainly got interesting...
First of all, all of the participants came back totally over their
fears. After the first encounter of sharing the gospel, everything
went better than expected. Everyone is excited and ready for tomorrow.
Yvette had someone approach her and said he had a dream that she would
come and speak before the church. A hot air came swirling out of her
mouth and encircled her. She is fluent in both English and Spanish.
Maryann had a man tell her that he too had a dream that someone would
come visit her. He had fallen away from the Lord and Maryann was the
answer to her prayer.
Two teams came back with stories of healings that occurred. Both individuals
had tremendous pain and when the prayers were over, the pain was gone.
Later that night both people came to the church services.
Maryann's father passed away last week and she was led to a woman
whose mother died just recently. Maryann's understanding helped to
lead the woman to Christ.
Tom Burnett's group encounter a very small town with only ten homes.
Three of those homes were in a feud and not speaking with one another.
Tom decided to preach out of Psalm 31 and went right to the heart.
He told them they all needed to forgive. Pretty gutsy. But that is
Doug Rapp, fearful all week over giving a sermon, found it came very
easily as he stood in front of the group. Suddenly he was a pro. He's
ready for tomorrow.
I had probably the most inexperienced translator of the group. Yvette
guessed who it was before I told her. However, I had the most dynamic
nationale of the village. The three of us, with my limited Spanish
which I felt God divinely allowed me to understand, managed to lead
nearly 10 to Christ. At times I was speaking whole sentences and understanding
more Spanish than I ever had. During my night time sermon, three people
walked forward to receive Christ. One of them was a punk looking kid
that I laughed at when I first saw him and said, there's no way he's
coming forward. What do I know.
Nancy Mitchel said she definitely felt the prayers of the people at
home so do not stop.
We all appreciate you. Troy
I appreciate all the comments back. Thanks
for reading my messages and enjoying them.
We all had interesting days. Many of us encountered everything from
Pentecostals to Jehovah Witnesses. The Holy Spirit was up to something
and we were undoing much of what a cult like the Jehovah Witnesses
have been doing. It's interesting how quickly many of them gave up
their faith. They immediately suspect it as wrong.
Our first house was a friend of our local who, along with her daughter,
had listened to the JW speech. They had a JW Bible. I told them to
pull it out and read John 1:1. Then we read John 1:1 out of a real
Bible. They were different. I told them to throw that JW material
in the trash. Tomorrow I want to go to the JW church and talk to the
JW leaders. I'm getting sick of them.
Our group also encountered many people who did not like the church.
They called them gossips and judgmental. It appears there was old
leadership with many problems. A new church moved in and kicked out
the old leadership. Tomorrow we must spread the word that there is
Maryann gave a powerful testimony about her father's passing. I don't
know what happened, but afterwards a local woman was embracing MaryAnn
and crying. Obviously it impacted her.
As for the Holy Spirit, Sherry Lutes encountered an interesting service
where people were getting healed, flailing in the spirit and speaking
in tongues. Sherry is a very low keyed person and not the kind that
you would call Pentecostal. Sherry said she felt good, a little shaken,
but at peace. It was definitely emotional and she definitely said
she felt something.
I had my own encounter that was quite interesting. The last house
today had a woman and a man that did not like the church because of
the above problem. The husband was not a believer and while I was
sharing with him, the wife moaned in pain, wincing and folding over.
I was wondering, do I continue the message or pray for healing. It
got so bad that we stopped to pray for her. We told her to sit in
the middle and the national prayed a very fervent prayer. Then I prayed.
Now I believe God can heal but I don't believe I can call down healing.
But I'm open to whatever God wants to do. I don't want to get in the
way. So I prayed very fervently for God to heal her. She had pain
in her head, her heart and her stomach. When we finished, the woman
was weeping and saying she felt a heat inside of her and the pain
This kind of stuff goes on a lot more south of the border than at
home, but God is working any way he wants. I certainly don't want
to get in the way.
My local has an interesting testimony. I call her La Madre de la Cuidad.
The Mother of the City. Heidy. She is a former crack addict, currently
52, who lived under a bridge in a card board box for 15 years. She
went to a homeless shelter and heard the gospel. Her boyfriend said
choose God or choose him. She chose God. The guy later accepted Christ
and they got married. She is very dynamic and not afraid of any encounter.
It was a great birthday. I forgot many times that it was my birthday,
until I entered the restaurant and everyone yelled "Happy Birthday."
They had filled out a notebook with messages which I will read before
I go to bed.
Speaking of...good night.
Some incredible highlights.
Tom wanted to let everyone know that his whole week was a blessing
because a woman asked him to pray for her little baby. Tom blessed
the little kid and was just tickled about it all week.
Doug has met some incredible people and is especially moved by his
nationale who he calls a prophet. He has incredible insights and words
of wisdom for an 18 year old. Doug may pack him in his suitcase.
Yvette shared her testimony today to the group about the guy who had
a vision of her (it just so happens it´s Doug´s prophet).
She promised to never again to tell God ¨no.¨ That´s
Our team visited the Jehovah´s Witnesses. The woman next door
to the church was home. Now I´ve talked to JWs dozens of times
at the door and it felt good FOR ONCE to go knocking for them. We
stood outside her door, she did not let us in with 96 degree heat
blasting on us, for one hour. I´ve studied the JWs for 20 years
and I knew more about them than she did. I told her that the JWs believe
Jesus was created, that he was not God but the firstborn creation
of God, that when Jesus died his body disintegrated and he walked
around like a ghost and that the Holy Spirit is only the force of
God...not God. She had not heard any of that. We read verses from
her Bible and our Bible and she saw the differences. She took our
Bible and promised to read it. We will stop by tomorrow. I said to
her, ¨You believed a stranger who came to your door one year ago.
Why don´t you believe this stranger knocking at your door today.¨
Then we stopped by the woman that we prayed for yesterday. She looked
completely different. Her face was aglow. She was running. She fixed
us coffee (in 96 degrees) and showed us her medicines. She had...I
kid you not...an entire grocery bag filled with pills (I have it on
video). She said she was throwing out all the pills. She retold the
story and added a twist. The woman said she had a dream yesterday
morning that a man from faraway would come and heal her. I was like...WHAT!
Last night at the service, she wanted to come and tell her testimony.
The service included the band that is with us...WITNESS. Four guys
from Ohio. They rocked the house. Then they gave me the mic. I had
the woman come up and she went off. I´m not sure what she said,
but the church was cheering. She said something about the devil is
getting kicked out of Costa Rica. Then she opened up her bag of pills
and dumped them on the ground. The place went cuckoo! Then I hugged
her and took the mic and said come up if you want to start a relationship
with God or healing for your body or your life. People poured forward
and the pastor prayed in Spanish. He was on fire. Tom´s team
and Doug´s team was there and we all came forward and prayed
for the people. It was nuts. But good.
Tomorrow we will go to the church of the pastor and the band will
play again. I hear I´m giving the message but we´ll see
It has been so sad to read the news of Virigina
Tech. Our time on earth is always short. We never know when we are
going to die. Our work here in Costa Rica is important, but it is
just as important in the United States.
The freedom to share the gospel we should not take for granted, especially
after hearing the news in Turkey where 4 workers were killed (http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=9039&size=A).
My last trip was in Turkey. It is sad that Christianity is being persecuted.
Here is a message that I just received from a pastor in Turkey.
Yesterday, in Malatya, eastern Turkish city a christian bookshop was
attacked . 4 believers (3 turkish and 1 german) were inside. The attack
was planned by 5 students, who were living in an islamic dormitory
and all of them were preparing for university. When they came inside,
they threated the christians with knives, tied them up with a rope
to chairs and killed 2 of them (one is german and the other is turkish)
and hardly harmed the third, so that he died the same day in the hospital,
the fourth could escape. All 5 young men were caught and they said
that they were angry for missionary actions of these people and that
did for their motherland sake.
It was a shocking news and today all national channels and newspapers
were talking about it. Yesterday there was a city prayer in Izmir,
more than 200 believers came for prayer and police was protecting
around. The burial is on Saturday in Izmir Anglican Church.
For the last 1,5 year it's a third event. First was a murder of catholic
priest in Trabzon, the second was a murder of armenian christian journalist.
Interesting thing about the first murder. Last month there was a remembrance
ceremony of a killed priest and his mother and father came to Turkey
and met the family of the murderer and told to them that they forgive
them because God told to.
Please pray for the families of the killed believers and pray that
God would use this for His glory!
Something began to go on in Turkey!
I forgot to share one point of information yesterday. While we were
at our point, a camera crew showed up from the local TV station. They
wanted to show what we were doing. Everyone asked me to talk. I told
them about our mission and E3 Partners. Then they asked me to go through
the gospel presentation on the cube. They shot the entire thing and
said it will appear on the Liberia TV station in its entirety. This
is a regular news station, not the religious channel. Some one said
I am now officially a TV evangelist. I need a white suit!
Today members from our group shared at a school with 30 to 40 kids
in a classroom. After Yvette our bilingual American shared the gospel
with the Evangacube, all the kids accepted Christ. It was a sweet
moment to see all these translators and locals praying with all the
children. And in a public school!
I went by and visited my healed woman and she looked great. She had
put on a dress to greet us and washed her hair. She looked like she
was getting ready to go to the prom. And it was all for us. She cooked
tortillas with cheese and made coffee. We ate and talked about the
greatness of God. So sweet. Her husband came by and even he smiled.
We visited a woman who we met yesterday that did not want to receive
Christ. She never broke her blank expression. When we arrived, she
still looked very hard, but I noticed as we talked to her that she
was spitting blood. A tooth infection. So we prayed for her. The woman
poured out tears and thanked us. She even smiled and offered to come
to our Victory service tomorrow night.
All of our groups tonight met at an Assemblies of God church. The
power was out in half the city and we ate in the dark using flashlights
and cell phones to find the food then eat it. Outside the church I
met an American from Idaho. A Mormon. I engaged in a discussion with
him (Tom walked up) but his partner told him they needed to go. This
area is under attack in all directions.
Then, just moments before the service started, the power went on.
The band played and things got wild. Suddenly people were falling
all over the place, writhing on the floor and crying out to God. Many
of our members were visibly shaken, but it was an interesting experience
to say the least. Then, the power went out again. Even though the
music cut off, people kept singing and praising God for 20 minutes!
And we are talking over 200 people! Someone pulled a car up to the
back door and shined the lights into the church.
Then, guess what, I had to go up and talk...in the dark. Thanks to
the headlights and flashlights we could barely see and I couldn´t
read my notes and I had no amplification, but we got through it thanks
to my translator Tony. My message...the resurrection of Christ. Pretty
subdued. A few laughs. A cheer of VICTORY. For some it restored calm.
We got on the bus and arrived at the hotel...in the dark. Some of
us went to the pool and talked about the evening.
Our God is a big God and there is no one way to worship Him. We are
in a different culture. Some of us could worship with a little more
excitement, I believe. The discussion will continue, but we´re
seeing God at work in people´s hearts.
The power is obviously back on! One more day of visiting our areas.
Sorry I did not write last night. At the Victory
service I suddenly got hit with a gigantic headache. The back of my
head was in a vice and it hurt so much, my stomach was turning. I
had to smile and greet people, but I wanted to get out of there. I
think I know what happened. I bring exactly the number of shirts I
need per day and my shirt from yesterday morning was sweaty. Instead
of wearing a new shirt slated for today, I put on a tshirt. It was
so hot last night, the tshirt locked in my body heat. I was dehydrating.
I went into the church bathroom, took off my tshirt, splashed water
on my face, took Aleve and drank a fruit juice. I came home, showered
in cold water and crashed. Today the back of my head feels like a
bat has hit it. Better though.
Yesterday we returned to our sites briefly. All week we have been
visited by a guy they call Juan 2. Get it. One two? Anyway, he is
the town drunk, around 50 years old. He kept showing up and blowing
kisses to the girls. He may have been attracted to Maryann. We´re
not sure. Anyway, he is harmless and sad. All week we have been waiting
for him to be sober and he finally was yesterday. I told him about
my own struggles with alcohol in the past and asked him if he wanted
to clean up his life. We went through the gospel presentation. I then
told him it is a mind and a heart decision. You can KNOW the right
way but unless you DESIRE it, it won´t make a difference. I
told him right now there were others who were watching and if he prayed
this prayer and did not change, they would all believe that this God
was false. I pressed him...do not make a mockery of God. He agreed
and prayed. I looked at the tree he was sitting under and told him
that every time he sees this tree, he must remember it as the place
where God met him and he agreed to start a new life. God uses the
lowly things of this world to humble the proud. Let´s hope this
is one of those situations.
Next we visited the person who lives right next door to the church.
Funny how all week nobody visited her. It´s the people closest
to the church that sometimes get overlooked. She was a brand new Jehovah
Witness. She still reads her real Bible and said she has noticed differences.
I told her that those little differences are HUGE! She still refused
to toss out her JW material. Sweet lady. So sad.
We did some shopping yesterday and picked up coffee and trinkets.
Last night we held a Victory Celebration with all the locations inviting
their members. There were nearly 500 at the service. The Americans
were honored, introduced and the highlight...prayed over. The pastor
from the church last night came by to pray over us. In light of the
other night at his church, the group wondered what would happen next.
In one of the funniest moments, everyone locked arms in a move of
solidarity and stability. As the pastor prayed and tried to coax them
to receive the Holy Spirit, many said later they could feel the energy
in the room. It was powerful. I was documenting the moment on video
just in case. When the pastor came to me, I began to pray for him.
I touched his head, neck, heart and hands. He began to cry. He didn´t
fall, so I guess I don´t have that power.
In the second funniest moment, Tom Burnett went up to introduce his
group and give his thanks for the week. Before 500 people, Tom went
into a wonderful speech about the hospitality, the love, the work
they had done and about 40 seconds into it realized he had not stopped
to let the translator translate. Without skipping a beat and in Tom´s
dry way, he turned to the translator and said...¨Will you hurry
up!¨ Huge laughs.
After gallons of tears and tons of hugs, we returned to the hotel.
Today is a free day of activity. Some of us are visiting the beach
or the rain forest to do a canopy tour (zip line) where you ride a
wire in a harness over the tops of the trees. My sons did it last
time and loved it. It´s the local roller coaster.
Looking forward to returning home. Unfortunately it has been raining
in Orlando and we picked this week to replace our roof. Water has
soaked our living room where the missing roof sits and Barbie and
the boys are moving out the furniture and covering the carpet. It
always hurts to be away while the world at home falls apart. I guess
water will evaporate. Lost souls won´t heal after they die.
This will be my last email. We leave tomorrow for the airport at 430
am and arrive home around 440 pm. As always, it´ll be good to
Our final numbers were 425 people have begun new lives and four churches
have gotten a kick start in Costa Rica.
Thanks for being a part of these emails. Troy
I wanted to give one more update just to let
you know that Missions work is not all hard work and spiritual attacks.
We actually have fun.
Our group broke into different activities yesterday. Doug went surfing
on the Pacific Ocean. Kyle, Jared, Kerry found some zip lining and
ATV off roading. Some stayed at the hotel.
Sherry, Nancy, Yvette, Maryann, Tom and Myself (and a few others from
our group) visited a local national park. Costa Rica is, I believe,
the country with the most national parks. All preserved nicely and
naturally. We bought the Adventure Package which started us out...horseback
riding. We traveled 5 KM through a widing trail down to the river,
one time just inches from a deadly drop. What fun! None of us were
horse riders, except for that one pony back in 2nd grade. Then we
arrived at a river and tubed through rapids at level 2 and 3. That
took an hour through canyons, beautiful trees. We saw monkeys and
a huge tarantula.
Then after a beautiful buffet overlooking the park, we hit the zip
line. In front of us were 30 retired teachers from France, ranging
in age from 55 to 72. If they could do it. We can! They strap you
to a harness, hook you to a line then off you go, zipping any where
from 25 feet to 400 feet over trees and canyons. These were huge drops!
But after a few screams, we had no problem and quickly became pros,
including Nancy who almost chickened out, then never looked back.
Even Yvette one time hung...upside down! She wanted to be like Tom.
Every one of these activities required us to sign a waiver. That should
have been an indicator!
Finally we checked out the hot springs and mud baths, but we could
not spend a long time there. We got a hilarious picture of our enthusiastic
French teachers in their bathing suits covering themselves in mud.
After a wonderful dinner in town, we hit the bed, waking up now at
400 am. Here we come!
BURUNDI AFRICA, JANUARY
in Burundi 1
We have arrived in Burundi. This is probably
the longest I have ever traveled to get to one place. We figured that
we were awake, out of a warm cozy bed, for 48 hours. The traveling
part, starting at the moment we arrived at the airport, to the time
we arrived at the hotel, took nearly 40 hours (the length of time
it takes to drive to Los Angeles from Florida).
It all started with our flight in Washington
DC being cancelled due to snow. We were rerouted to Dublin Ireland
and an airline named Aer Lingas, which is Gaelic Irish for "Ain't
No Leg room." While the plane was nearly empty, with handy TVs
packed full of movies and games, the bulkhead and emergency aisles
were all taken, but I got a whole row to myself. It was fine, the
food was good and the stewardesses were very, well, friendly. They
kept touching my arm and shoulder when they talked.
We took a little hopper into Heathrow, unaware
of the crash landing that occurred there the day before. A pilot of
a British Air 777 was coming in for a landing, missed it and went
into the ground, off the runway. NO ONE was killed and they were working
on the wreckage all day. We were flying a 777 on our next leg of the
Our time in London was incredible. The Windermere
Team grabbed tickets on the underground, the Piccadilly line, and
took a one hour train ride to Piccadilly Circle. In a two hour world
wind adventure, we raced to Piccadilly Circle, Westminster Abby, Big
Ben, Parliament, Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. It was run
up, snap pictures, then run. But we did it, arriving back at Heathrow
four hours after we left.
The flight to Nairobi was another over night
flight, with a three hour lay over where we downed Kenyan coffee and
looked at each with dazed, bewildered looks like "how did we
get here" and "what day is it." We traded stories about
how much we didn't sleep.
The flight into Bujumbura was one stop and
they served beef liver for lunch. Luckily I slept through that meal.
I must have woken up, fallen asleep then woke up again nearly 20 times
that flight. Sleep deprivation setting in...
Needless to say, we couldn't wait until we
touched down in Bujumbura (that Heathrow crash always in my mind).
The people are soooo friendly, warm and huggable. Every pastor that
we are working with this week met us at the airport in their suits.
Quite a contrast as these foreign zombies shuffled up. After filling
out lost bag reports (the Berrymans first time) we were driven to
our hotel, a nice little retreat.
Tony Hollowell and I share a room, a queen
bed to be exact, and we both crashed hard for an hour and a half.
The shower was ALL COLD and the light in the room is about the strength
of a night light. We are hanging out in the lobby just so we can see
We met the pastors and leaders today that we
are serving with all week. It was so inspiring. The leaders were fired
up. This is the first E3 trip to Burundi and they are expecting great
things. Our church has a pastor and two evangelists who I believe
are like teaching pastors. Their enthusiasm was contagious. It will
be fun. Starting Monday we will go door to door until Thursday.
Tomorrow is church we will split up to visit
our sites. We will all preach or teach during the services. Tonight
is an early night to catch up on sleep and finally enter the REM state.
Thanks for taking time to read this and remember
to pray! We are SEVEN hours ahead of you. Troy
PS: We saw a military vehicle with a machine
gun mounted on the top behind the motel. Rumor had the President of
Burundi was playing soccer in a field nearby.
BURUNDI DAY 2
Incredible. Amazing. Unbelievable. Wait until
you hear what God has done on the first day!
This morning the team gathered to pray and
worship before we headed out. We shared stories about our rooms. Some
have air conditioning. Some have hot water. Some have light to see.
We have air conditioning. Cold showers aren't so bad. You really wake
up. Who needs coffee!
Gail and I headed to our church and arrived
at 9:15 am. The service was extraordinary. The joy of African worship
shames our stilted, frozen holiness in America. Dancing, shouting,
cheering. The whole body is alive in realization of what God has done
for us. In America, the "rocks" do cry out...every Sunday
morning. Yes I understand it's cultural, but culture does not make
something right or wrong.
Their dance was intoxicating and I'll add,
yes, I did get into it. I think I got the rhythm down. Their dance
was the dance of heaven. I told them that in heaven, we will be gathered
together then the Lord will present Himself. The Americans will clap
and the Africans will dance. The Americans will turn to the Africans,
see what they are doing, and realize what they have missed while on
earth. In response, they will join the Africans in a long delayed
The Burundi people are so full of warmth. They
hug first and shake hands second. They sing and sing. Yes the service
was three hours long, plus another 20 minutes to receive people for
prayer. I didn't mind.
One choir of young teens got up to sing. The
song was about heaven, where every tear would be wiped away and there
would be no suffering. Our translator told us that they were refugees
from the Congo and because of their tribal affiliation, they were
being slaughtered. Many had been raped, abused and orphaned. They
were here as refugees...singing about the joy of heaven. You couldn't
help but choking up.
My companion Gail Williams, a 58 year old grandmother,
shook her head. American kids want an Ipod and these kids just want
relief from their suffering. Perspective!
A married couple was there, freshly married
yesterday. I told them I wasn't in church the day after my wedding.
I was asleep!
During the worship, there was a 60 year old
guy with a whistle, blowing it to the beat, much like a whistle accompanied
some disco songs in the 70s. You had to love him! I told him I was
bringing him to America and he was going to have his own TV show.
A real character. Afterwards he came up to me and asked when we were
going to America. He thought I was serious!
My message was on the Great Commission and
what happened after Jesus commanded them to go into the world. It
says in Acts 1 that after Jesus rose to heaven, they sat around and
looked at the clouds. They just stood around waiting for Jesus to
come back. I encouraged them to stop looking around and get to work.
I gave them a mathematical equation: if one
believer shared with two and those two shared with four, then four
with eight, and so on...in thirty days there would be 5,000,000 believers.
Do the math. The population of Burundi is 7,000,000. I told them to
think what could happen in one month.
I then presented the Gospel and ten or so came
forward. While I was preaching, I noticed a crowd of people outside,
mostly teens, who were listening. I grabbed by translator and we went
out to them. I began to share with them, giving them the Gospel. As
the church members left, they saw us immediately sharing, outside
the church, taking the message to the streets. Nearly 15 prayed to
We left to go visit the church site we would
be helping to start. Thankfully we picked up a couple other members
of our team, Joan Norris one of them, before we arrived at the site.
I told them this would only take 15 minutes. What happened next I
never experienced before on any mission trip!
As we were getting out of the bus, dozens of
people were coming up to us as we examined this empty plot of land,
full of rocks and mud. The people circled the van--men, women, children,
homeless, drunks--and they all started firing questions at us.
"What are you doing here?" I explained
that we are missionaries from the United States to tell them about
"What is this Gospel that you speak of?"
WHAT? You're telling me to tell you?
Another said, "We are drunks. How can
we be free of the drink?" They were asking to be healed!
My testimony tells of God's deliverance from
drinking. I told them the story. The crowd grew so big, they told
us to get out of the street. No one could get through. We went to
the church property and held the first inaugural ceremony.
I began to tell the crowd how to receive Christ.
Another held an Evangacube as over a hundred pushed our backs into
the mud, clamoring to hear. The translator finished with nearly 50
praying to receive Christ.
Someone brought a young man to us. "He
does not understand what you said. Could you explain it again?"
You want me to tell you again! I handed him off to another who explained
the Gospel, as the crowds grew again. I stepped back as nearly 150
heard the Gospel in four different places.
God turned a 30 minute tour of a muddy piece
of land into a one hour crusade. The church was being built!
Satan tried to disrupt it. One time pickpockets
tried to get into my backpack. Drunks stumbled around and mocked us
with their comments.
Three of the drunks came up to me, acting all
tough. I told them that God took the desire to drink away from me
while I was drunk. I asked them if they really wanted to stop drinking.
Only one raised his hand. I prayed for him in English, saying that
God could turn his transformed life into a testimony in this town.
As soon as I finished, his friends laughed at him. The boy rebuked
them back. Already he was under attack.
As we finally got to the van, we told them
we would return tomorrow. A boy, early college aged, asked, in English,
will we be bringing Bibles for them.
Yes I promised.
While this was going on the streets, two Jehovah's
Witnesses walked toward us. They saw the crowds, turned around and
The forces of deception are strong but the
message of love, hope and eternity is even stronger.
We are off the rest of tonight as the Berrymans
and our leader Mike Talley go to meet the President of Burundi. (I
met one of his advisors today and gave him a copy of my book "Release."
Never miss an opportunity!)
Pray for strength tomorrow! We are sad that
we will be missing the football playoffs today, but those scores are
only temporary. What is happening this week will impact eternity.
PS: Auzelio Santini preached to 500 today.
Tony Hollowell performed magic to dozens of kids.
Troy in Burundi 3
Today we arrived at our site and once again
it happened. The crowds. Within minutes we presented the gospel as
they continued to come. They pressed in for two hours. We could not
move. (Kerry and Tony reported the same mass attack, as did Mike Thomas
and others). We finally traveled up the street and rounded a corner
where we stood at a bus stop - another hour. By now the team with
us was pretty good and they would break up into smaller splinter groups
with their cube. We would have four people presenting on the street
corner at the same time.
I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD BE A STREET PREACHER!
Two gentlemen wanted to have a meeting with
me privately. I asked him why and wanted to shake his hand. He refused.
I thought he was a Jehovah's Witness. He thought I was! He ended up
being Pentecostal (he could of at least shaken my hand). Kerry reported
trouble with the JW's. They have tainted the community to receive
We traveled down the street and thankfully
sat down--at a bar! I told them a bar and a church were a lot alike
(thanks Jess Moody). People come to a bar for friendship and to forget
their sins. Oh, and to drink. But the drink at the church comes from
Christ and He says that we will never go thirsty. They wanted it!
The bar owners received Christ.
I met back up with Gail (we had split from
us about a hour ago) and she had with her a teen girl. She was a drunk
and a prostitute and she had received Christ. She looked so broken,
barely smiling. We went to a house and sat in the shade (you've got
to thank God for shade!), drinking cool drinks, she sitting there
with us, the town outcast. A crowd gathered to watch us, a crippled
man walked (?) up on his hands.
He cursed us for not serving him a drink. I
could understand why Jesus did not heal everyone. The miracle met
their need, not God's need. Many come up to us and ask for money.
When we don't give it to them, they yell at us.
We went back to the church to provide discipleship
- a sheet of paper with questions about New Life, Works, etc. Very,
very useful stuff. A crowd of 70-80 gathered for the church's first
Bible study. Some who came back really seemed to get it.
I watched the former prostitute smile and dance
with the music. The first time she smiled. Then a church member pointed
at her. "She's a beer drinker!" She cried. I told her she
was a beer drinker, but now she is a Christian. The girl backed down.
Even the church has a hard time accepting redemption. People need
a second chance.
The drunks showed up and mocked us. One got
into a fight, pushing and stuff, with a pastor. They will be with
us the whole time, I feel. Pray God does a miracle.
We waited for the bus to arrive, which took
one hour. The kids gather every where you walked so I began to put
on a show. My best trick is the sliding, detaching thumb trick. Gets
them every time! Then I juggled evangacubes and taught them words
in English. They howled when I butchered their Kurundi words. I did
a sleight of hand trick Tony taught me...I put it in this hand, voila,
it's in this hand.
Tomorrow promises more crowds. It's exhausting,
In other news, Joan Norris visited a pygmy
tribe. Santini became mayor of small remote village while Lucas was
his Vice President. We picked them up. The town was in love with them!
Good day. More to come. Troy
Troy in Burundi 4
Just to let you know about the food - our breakfasts
are nice, simple: hard boiled eggs, some bread, sticky strawberry
jam, butter, cold cuts, tea and coffee. Lunch is on our own, comprised
of snacks and whatever the locals provide. Dinner is extraordinary.
A local woman cooks them and it is incredible. Vegetables, meat and
rice, fish, potatoes...it's some of the best I have had on a mission
trip. It is worth the wait until 7:00 pm.
Today was rainy so our efforts were hampered,
starting nearly one hour late. We arrived and began to look for the
head master of the local school who we had addressed yesterday about
the possibility of speaking to the students. One of our translators
was not there, so I led the way. We got lost. But maybe for good reason.
We passed a bar, an establishment on a porch
where a pure grain alcohol is developed, made out of cassava (a type
of root plant), bananas, pineapples. You get drunk fast on it. They
make in on the porch and drink it out of straws right from the pan.
As we passed, they turned to us and cried, "Come preach to us."
Drunks asking us to preach to them...what kind of country is this?
I delivered my testimony telling them that
drinking is only for forgetting our problems, but they are there the
next day. As the gospel was presented, the porch filled up...nearly
60 crammed in out of the rain. Even the drunks were listening. As
I spoke I noticed one man who made eye contact with me, nodding his
head in agreement. You can tell he understood. 25-30 received Christ
there. The man who stared at me...owned the bar.
He said, "I cannot accept Christ and continue
to run this bar." I said, "Which is more important: God
or this bar? Who saved you from your sins?" He nodded. I promised
him that God is faithful will take care of him. He agreed that he
would have to find another job.
As I finished I heard a scream...four people
were carrying a body down the street as people moaned and cried around
her. The woman was hurt and unconscious. I know why Jesus felt the
compassion to heal.
We found the school (right next door to where
we were dropped off) and found the headmaster. He took us into a class
and said I have one hour only. Wow! One hour!
They brought all the high schoolers together
and I told them that school was so important and that their headmaster
and teachers cared for them. They need to listen and obey them. The
headmaster smiled. I told them about my substitute teaching and writing
career. I gave a talk on the concept of story: every story has a protagonist/good
guy, a beginning/middle/end, a bad guy/antagonist and happy endings.
I told them that we all have a story and that the Bible tells a story.
A beginning (sin), a middle (conflicts with sin), an end (Jesus dying
for sin). At that point a boy ran out of the class. He was Muslim
and could not listen about Jesus.
I asked them if their stories would have a
happy ending, then proceeded to tell them how. 30-40 stood and prayed.
They asked me to pray for them. I told them to stay in school for
God has given us a brain.
We rested at a home and ate cassava bread (a
soft potato bread) and spinach with meat sauce. It was really good.
We ate with our hands and shared with the Burundians.
They took us into a room with mats and asked
us to take off our shoes. This was their prayer room. The women covered
their heads. Holy ground. We began to sing while they banged drums.
One drum was available so I joined it. I was playing bongos with African
drummers! They began to pray and asked us to pray. Then the older
woman began to spin around the room. She was a prophetess. She mumbled
things while a younger man interpreted. He too flailed and shook.
They asked us to pray after that. I felt I should give the woman a
hug. She said she had prayed for some white men to come to their town
and preach the Gospel and two weeks later we showed up. She had fasted
for 40 days. Hugging her was a mistake. Her body twitched and she
embraced me, prophesying over me, touching my heart, my stomach. I
could not get out of her grip. She was trying to make me fall down
(a trick I learned in Costa Rica). I received her prayer gladly.
Then she grabbed poor Gail (Williams) and did
the same. Gail's eyes were as big as saucers. I told it was okay and
relax. The prophetess prayed for her, then said that she had a disease.
That was discouraging for Gail. She comforted her later and said,
some day she would probably die of a disease.
We went to our location and preached to 100
or so. Twenty plus received Christ.
Our team witnessed 155 salvations yesterday.
We've yet to count today. Overall, counting Monday alone, we've seen
1,285 receive the Gospel.
It was a good day full of more surprises. Can't
wait to see what God will do tomorrow.
PS: One of our voices of Hermie, Rick of Rick
and Bubba fame, suffered a huge loss when his two year son drowned.
He is the voice of one of our cockroaches. Please pray for his family.
Troy in Burundi 5
We arrived to, you guessed it, big crowds who
wanted to hear from us. We immediately broke into two groups, while
I addressed the group at the church and Gail walked down the street.
When we finished, I noticed that the drunks were hanging around. They
were sober so I figured this was a good time.
I sat down with them on the rocks while a huge
crowd gathered around us. I talked to the one drunk who was usually
the problem. I told him he had heard the gospel message so many times,
he could tell me it. I pulled out the cube and handed to him. "Evangelize
me." The crowd laughed. The boy, 15 years old, tried his best,
but the confrontation humbled him and maybe mocked him at bit. I encouraged
him to come back to learn more. He admitted that we were doing a good
work here and we should continue. Everyone in the crowd heard that.
Just then an elderly woman pushed through the
crowd and came to me, sitting on the rock on the ground. She cried
out, "I am blind. I want to see." I thought, wait a minute,
I've seen this somewhere before. THE BIBLE! The crowd turned, wondering
what I would do. God I prayed...help!
I told her many people can see, but are spiritually
blind. She understood. I asked her, "Would you believe God if
you could see?" "Yes," she replied. "Would you
believe God if He did not heal you?" "Yes," she replied,
just as enthusiastically. I told her she had great faith and that
I would never presume to tell God what to do. The Bible, though, tells
me that I can pray for her. I did, in English, asking God to do his
will. She had thick calluses on her eyes but they did not fall off.
We visited three locations in the streets.
The last one was rather busy and very chaotic and dangerous. I always
position myself with my back to a wall or hedge, worried someone will
come up behind me. Every time you open your bag, they begin to push
forward, thinking you will hand out something free. It gets unstable,
so we rarely open our bags.
The drunks here were new and not friendly.
They ran around us and behind me. They would distract the crowd with
jokes and taunts. While the invitation was given, I pulled away from
the crowd, since those that were serious, would stay and pray with
the translator. The others obviously were only there for the show.
My thumb trick is a blessing and a curse. The
kids love it but it's all they want. However this time, the drunk
kept taunting me, so I turned to him and did my thumb trick. He fell
backwards, stunned over my detachable thumb. The crowd laughed at
him this time. I got my revenge.
Of all the trips I've been on, this is the
only one where I've questioned my safety. The looks, the glares, the
drunkenness, who knows what can happen. God protects us so keep praying!
As we walked to a location to rest, 100 kids
surrounded me. I had to watch the ground to keep from tripping over
them. For nearly a mile, kids wanted to hold my hand and rub my furry
arms (men don't have hair on their arms and chest here). The love
is tremendous. They had to shoo all the kids away when we arrived
at the house.
This trip has also showed me what Jesus dealt
with--huge crowds, appeals for healing, children wanting love, those
that only want to see a show (thumb), mockers, etc. When we retreat
to get away from the crowds, I understand why Jesus and the disciples
did the same. It's too much!
We went to the house with the prayer room and
sat in the shade. The prophetess served us rice, peas and carrots,
beef and cassava bread. It was good. Later she told Gail that her
disease was gone. Good news, huh.
Gail returned with stories of leading prostitutes
and Muslims to Christ. Good for her!
The prophetess' husband saw all the soda bottles
last night and wondered who visited his house. She said white people
from America. He was amazed. He remembered his wife had been praying
for us to come and was stunned God answered her prayer. He is not
We returned to the property and played a Proclaimer,
a small radio with the entire New Testament on disk. It plays in the
local language and you can go to any book or chapter. People stood
around and listened to the Bible. Pretty cool.
We split into two groups - one went with Gail
and Pastor to hear the Gospel. The other came to me to go over a discipleship
study. It went great. We talked about eternal security, sinning while
saved and how God forgives your sins even though you have not confessed
before you did. Then we held a Question and Answer time. What incredible
The real stumper was this: "If I become
a Christian and I have two wives, what do I do?" WHOA! God gave
me a great answer--Abraham had more than one wife, which was against
God's will, and it caused him many problems, yet God still used him.
I told him he had a responsibility to his family (the women are shaking
their heads) and to ask God what to do.
I believe we had as many come to Christ today
as our first day.
I was saddened to read about Heath Ledger's
death. Here's a man with everything - career, money, looks - and he
has trouble sleeping? It is such a contrast with the people here who
think career, money, looks will save them.
One more day on the field tomorrow, Troy
Troy in Burundi 6
Our final day of work was busy but short. We
immediately began to preach to those that arrived when the bus came.
One translator told me that when we arrive,
the people shout "God has sent us an angel!" It's humbling
to be imagined that way.
We began an interesting conversation with a
crowd who asked the hard questions: "How can Jesus be God and
the son of God?" "Isn't Jesus the firstborn, so isn't He
created?" "Why do we need more churches in this area?"
"Aren't all the churches the same?" It was an hour of fascinating
give and take with the audience. People all over the world have the
We moved on to a section very far from the
church, right on the main "highway." A hundred people closed
in around us. It was stifling. Claustrophobic. Eyes staring at you
trying to dissect you. Others whose eyes are in agreement, finding
relief in your words of love and grace and forgiveness. I thought
to myself for one moment: I am all by myself here. This crowd could
rush me and take my wallet, my passport, food. I'm the only white
American surrounded by young tough street youths.
Then I was reminded...I am not alone. God's
spirit is here and He is keeping the peace.
As we walked back, the children surrounded
me again, wanting to touch my hand and walk with me. They asked me
my name. Some remembered and said "Troy." Others said "No,
Jesus." I quickly dispelled that mistake, but it came to mind,
I may be the only representative of Jesus they ever meet.
We returned to the church site and where I
found the drunks. I had some clothes to give away and I felt God tell
me to give them to the drunks. We secluded ourselves in their house
and I told them God told me to give these clothes. They bowed in appreciation.
I told them I wanted peace between the church and them.
As I left I showed the small group of children
how to do with thumb trick. The "miracle" was revealed.
I truly am no Jesus.
We had a huge celebration tonight with all
the churches and we watched Mary Berryman and Lucas Santini dance
with African dancers. Lucas started to do the robot and the people
were howling with laughter. He was the star!
Our final numbers: nearly 11,000 people heard
the gospel and 4,458 accepted Christ. For E3, it was certainly phenomenal.
One more email, possibly, tomorrow, then two
days of traveling, the hardest part of this whole trip. Troy
Troy in Burundi 7
We began the day with a baptism at 7:30 in
the morning with 40 believers from a local church who became Christians
over this week. There is a huge lake behind our hotel, Lake Tanganyika.
They asked if anyone from our campaign would help. I decided to jump
It was an incredible experience because their baptisms are tremendous
celebrations. Over 100 people lined the shores, singing and playing
drums while six believers came out to us in the lake (there were six
of us out there). The pastor prayed and we dunked them at the same
time. The people were so happy. It was amazing.
Then all of a sudden we saw one of our own leap into the water and
wade toward us. This was interesting because Auzelio said to me earlier
that he felt he needed to extend baptism to our group, since he felt
one of them had not done so.
It was Joan Norris (mother of Vince Dottore). Joan was crying tears
of joy as she hit the lake wearing her jeans and a blouse. She didn't
care. She prayed with Auzelio and me and we baptized her together.
Joan bawled and bawled, kissing everyone she could. The Africans welcomed
her and hugged her as one of their own. It was something she had always
wanted to do and Africa became the time and place.
We took a trip to a market place and looked
at a bunch of stuff that all started to look the same. Then to a huge
shopping area that was the Wal-Mart of markets. We also stopped at
a game reserve that had one hippo and one crocodile. After being in
Tanzania, it was no big thing.
Tonight we are going to someone's house to
eat, then breakfast in the morning and a departure at 10:30 to the
airport. Our plane leaves at 1:00 pm.
I appreciated your prayers over the past week
and support of this trip. It has been unlike any other.
I could not do this if it wasn't for the support
of the Windermere Ministries International Missions Department, who
helps to fund people like myself who don't have the money, but they
have the heart. Also for Ray and Mary Berryman, who keep us focused.
You can always continue to support our mission
funds for future trips like this. Your money can change a country,
a city, a single life.
EGYPT, NOVEMBER, 2007
IN EGYPT 1
First of all I want to say that I arrived safely in Egypt. I was at
the airport at 9:00 am on Tuesday to get an early flight out. When
that did not work, I got on the 1:55 flight to Washington Dulles.
That flight, during take off, aborted as it was heading down the runway.
A warning light. It pulled off the runway and waited. The brakes had
to cool. Then they went back to the terminal and the grounds crew
checked it over. People were panicking. It was a flight of connecting
flights people. I was one of them.
When we landed, people with connecting flights
were told to get off first. My flight was at 6:00 pm to Zurich. As
soon as I got off the plane, I heard my name. "Will Troy Schmidt
please advance to gate C-42." True to my nature, and knowing
this may be the last Starbucks I will ever get, I grabbed a Venti
coffee and ran. They were waiting for me. I jumped onboard and...waited
for 20 minutes.
8 hours later we landed in Zurich, Switzerland. I sat in the terminal
for 2 hours, enjoying an espress and apple strudel, overlooking the
quaint and overcast country side.
4 hours later we were in Cairo. Coming into the town I was shocked
how huge is was. 14 million people. A very "brown" town.
Sprawling. So many...
I landed and waited for our group. We stood around for an hour doing
nothing (it's a mission trip and it's a foreign country so what do
you expect). Then we got on a bus and...sat around.
Not having slept very much on the plane, I immediately wanted to sleep
on the bus. I took the back seat which was really five seats and laid
down. I slept, but every five minutes I woke up because Cairo streets
have speed bumps and every time the driver stopped to slow down I
slid forward. We arrived in El Minya 7 HOURS LATER! Nearly 32 hours
of traveling. I slept well that night. 9 hours. In the hardest bed
that is six inches too short for me. It didn't really matter.
Today we had a wonderful breakfast and lunch. We are staying at a
conference center designed for meetings such as this. Nearly 200 pastors
will come and listen to seven different lectures. We will lecture
in 7 time periods, each lasting about an hour/hour half. My translator
is a wonderful man named Melad, a 35 year old pastor with two little
girls. He translated for the last lecture that was the on the same
topic I am doing..."The Celebration of Disciplines" which
focuses on prayer, fasting, solitude, silence, etc. He and I were
getting very excited about tonight (one lecture). He told me many
people will be blessed by my words. I wanted to cry.
I gave him my two books and signed them for him. He was so blessed.
I was struck with this image driving into El Minya. All over the countryside
we saw these towers shining in the night, decorated with green, white
and blue neon. These were the minnarets, the spires that mark the
mosques. Five or six crowd a village at a time. No church steeples.
No crosses. These are the tallest, most ornate objects that you can
see. Obviously the most important building of their lives. They are
monuments to an empty faith. They look like rockets, ready to launch
against Christianity. They may destroy the Christians. But they will
NEVER destroy our God.
I will report when I can, but there is no internet here. I borrowed
a computer today. Tomorrow there are 4 lecture times and 2 on Saturday.
Saturday night we rest and Sunday we go to TWO church services. Monday
we return to Cairo, sightsee. I stay an extra day by myself and visit
the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.
I will write when I can. Troy
TROY IN EGYPT 2
A couple items to get out of the way first.
Yes, there is a Writer's Strike and yes I am on strike. I can still
write emails. I love my Guild which gives me health and pension benefits
so I support what they are after. The Hermie scripts are effected,
but I wrote two of them quickly before the strike, so we will be fine.
Second, how about them Dawgs! It was hard to be away as they crushed
Auburn and I wished I could have watched it.
Anyway, on to more important news.
Speaking of sports, Egyptians love their soccer. Two nights ago, we
actually changed the schedule of our conference in order to project
the game on a large screen so everyone could watch. I gathered with
100 or so Egyptians to watch Egpyt play Tunisia for the African Cup.
President Hosni Mubarek was at the game. Egypt lost. It was a blow
out in soccer terms. They felt it was God's judgment on Egypt because
we shortened the conference.
The conference is over and attracted nearly 200 people from around
Egypt. We had seven sessions going on, ranging from the Holy Spirit,
to Business Ethics, to Story Telling and Worship. My session, Celebration
of Disciplines based on the book by Richard Foster, attracted 15-20
participants on a regular basis. I had everyone from young girls in
their 20s to old men in their 60s. And these people know their Bible!
This was not teaching new believers who were unfamiliar with the word.
They knew it backwards and forwards. I had to really be on my toes.
The response was overwhelming. The appreciation on their faces showed
especially at the end. What meant the most to me were the old men,
the elders of their churches. It was hard to believe that I could
teach them something.
We finished our sessions yesterday and we had a chance to leave the
conference area. We can't wander around town here. Two men in Bedouin
desert clothing sit outside our compound with two huge shotguns. That
is our security. They love to pose for pictures. I want them to like
We traveled to downtown El Minya and we saw the Nile at night. We
all rode bumper cars at one time then dined outside in a restaurant
called, get this, 7-11. It was great and we laughed and talked, finally,
getting a chance to get to know one another and relax.
Today we are visiting two churches and get to preach...at both of
them! The services last nearly 2 hours and I did not sleep well last
night. I hope I stay awake to the sound of my voice. These are Assembly
of God churches so it sound be pretty lively.
Finally, and this has been pretty amazing, the people here know HERMIE!
The broadcast it on a satellite with Arabic subtitles. The people
were so excited to hear that the Hermie writer came to Egypt. They
were saying, "Yes, the one about fear and the spider and the
bee too." I had no idea.
I will try to give one more report but I had
to get up one hour early before everyone else to send out this email.
Talk to you soon. Troy
TROY IN EGYPT 3
Sunday was a great and tiring day of worship. I preached at the early
morning service at our one host church. Sunday mornings are not as
popular since Sunday is not a day off. Saturdays are. Sunday night
services are very special.
For those that know me, I preached my Fish
Sandwich sermon which shows how God wants to bless us as his people.
We had a good crowd and over half the church, nearly 30, stood to
receive more from less, something from nothing, multiplication of
God's blessing in their lives.
We ate on the Nile and enjoyed a nice dinner
of lamb, chicken, steak and hummus. Later a small team went to another
church for a night service. The pastor was at the conference and is
a tall albino man. Very sweet but not in a good place at his church.
The church did not have a pastor for 23 years and he has been there
for one year. Mostly he has been pointing out how wrong they have
strayed over the 23 years. They are a hard, stubborn crowd.
Anyway, we shared scripture and they shared,
including some four young people who went to the conference to goof
off, but instead realized they needed to get serious about their faith.
They vowed to the pastor to support him. It was exciting to see the
young people step up. Later we had a prayer time and the four of us
prayed for people for over 45 minutes. They just kept coming. For
healing. For relationships. For guidance. People came up to me and
pointed to parts of their body and I just prayed. Young and old. It
was fun praying in English and knowing they could not understand me.
I prayed honestly as I felt the spirit was telling me what was wrong.
They smiled and thanked me later. If they only knew what I said...
The pastor was so encouraged and we prayed
for him. He has a sweet family.
We woke up after four hours sleep and went
to the pyraminds and Sphinx. Wow. I cannot describe how cool these
monuments to dead kings were. So huge and impressive. These were exactly
as I expected them. We then went to a famous market where people just
harrassed us for two hours. Come to my store! I have deal for you.
You are my friend. So annoying.
We are staying in Cairo. I was approached by
one of my translators to meet with a pastor in Cairo who has a heart
for drama. He wants to set up a seminar to teach writing and drama
to Egyptians and would like me to come out again. All expenses paid.
Hard to say no.
The rest of the leaders here are leaving tomorrow
morning but I am staying another day. I will visit a museum and a
church built into a mountain.
The experience has been rewarding on another
level. The church has so many difficulties and we were able to give
them the tools to be more effective. Our presence lifted them up and
let them know that people cared and were praying for them. So please
pray. Muslims are realizing their faith is not all they have been
told it was and many are seeing Jesus come to them in their dreams.
Pray that it continues.
Thanks for praying for me. Troy
TROY IN EGYPT 4
This is a long email, but read it to the very end. It explains the
most impactful part of my trip...
CAIRO - Tuesday November 13
Well I have arrived back in town, safe and sound, last night after
hours and miles of traveling. Yesterday's trip was a 24 hour journey.
My trip home took me from Cairo to Frankfurt to Washington DC to Orlando.
When I got through customs in Washington there was a Starbucks waiting
for me right there and they were serving my favorite blend, Yukon.
It was a true God thing (at least for me).
Tuesday I was on my own. The rest of the team returned to the airport
and I had planned an extra day of touring around Cairo. Let me tell
you, it was quite an experience. God spoke more to me during that
day than any other.
First of all, the Egyptians are so friendly. I was stopped 25 times
by kids saying "hi" and "hello," wanting me to
take their picture or to take a picture with me. You feel like a celebrity.
They love Americans and want to be our friends. I felt very welcomed
and it was genuine, not like when you are near the marketplaces and
they want to be your friend so you'll by this pyramid trinket from
them and not the guy next to them.
I went to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. It's more like the Egyptian
Warehouse of Pyramid Clearance Sale. It was funny and a bit disconcerting
to see all this ancient, valuable stuff just laying out in rickety
old display cases or 4,000 year old Rosetta stones sitting right there
for greasy kid fingers to smear. Everything was lit with fluorescent
bulbs (if they worked).
King Tut's riches are upstairs and take up a whole floor. Basically
his tomb was no bigger than a couple storage units, stacked with loads
of gifts that he would need when he was resurrected. He had everything
he needed once he came back to life, even a chariot to get around.
In fact, his entire life savings was buried there too. Needless to
say, Tut was not resurrected. That was another king...
Now all of Tut's riches sit in rickety old cases.
You can see the spiritual parallels of us accumulating so much in
our lives but one day, what will it matter. What difference will our
chariot make when we are in the ground. The resurrection will occur
for those that believe and we won't need our old stuff any longer.
All we will need is what God gives us.
My second stop took me to a city that they called Garbage city. I
don't know how to describe it. The taxi driver dropped me off and
pointed me in a certain direction. The street was FILLED with trash.
Goats battled for discarded food. Children and women sifted through
the bags of garbage. I was told there was a church in that direction.
I walked down the street and found a little church. It was nice. Fairly
clean. A pleasant man opened up the church and I took tons of pictures,
thinking, well this is it. As I left after ten minutes, I felt this
was no big deal. A little church in a city of garbage.
But the caretaker pointed me in another direction. I was confused
and couldn't understand him. He motioned to a little girl and she
was going to be my guide. We left the church and entered Garbage City
once again, this time even more unbelievable than before. The people
were working to recycle the trash, cleaning it, packing it up in huge
sacks that ten of me could fit in. Once they took to the recycle station,
they received 200 Egyptian dollars per ton. That's $40 U.S. dollars.
And the flies. I have never seen so many flies per square inch in
all my life. I closed my mouth, fearing twenty flies would all go
in my mouth at the same time! The smell was horrible and the people
worked and sifted and lived in the trash. I never felt safer with
this little 8 year old girl named Mirna. She knew where she was going
and everyone knew her. Here was a 6 foot 6 inch giant hiding behind
a tiny little...angel.
All of a sudden we walked up to a gate. A man stood at the gate and
stood to his feet. He greeted the girl and turned to me.
"Are you a Christian?"
It was a odd question to hear, especially in a country that is 95%
"Yes," I said.
He smiled and welcomed me in.
We entered the Mountain Church, the home of three denominations whose
churches are cut into the solid rock. They varied in size from a 500
seat room to an amphitheater that could hold 10,000. I climbed to
the top and was completely out of breath.
The rock walls have huge carvings praising God, proclaiming Christ.
The streets were clean and the atmosphere was peaceful, compared to
the noise and filth of Garbage City.
We walked around, admiring the magnificence and beauty. One time I
put down my bag to grab my video camera. So many picture opportunities,
that one time I forgot my backpack. I turned and Mirna had my bag
on her back. I offered to carry it. She refused. She wanted to carry
my weight. I wanted to cry.
After an hour, we had to leave.
As I walked through Garbage City, it didn't seem as bad to me. Why?
Because I knew the Mountain Church was just around the corner. All
of a sudden the people seemed friendlier. Some even waved to me and
said "Welcome" and "How are you". How could they
be so happy?
Mirna motioned to me that they belonged to the Mountain Church. It
was their spiritual home, while, for now, they lived in the trash.
Right now, life may seem full of trash and garbage and things stink
so much, but you know what, you won't be there forever. You can get
by because the Mountain Church is just around the corner. Like Mirna,
our job is to guide people there, a place of eternal beauty, cut so
solidly into stone that it will never be shaken!
Remember, only one question will be asked as you enter the gate. "Are
you a follower of Jesus Christ?"
If the answer is no, you must return to Garbage City forever.
If the answer is yes, you can enter the gates forever.
BURUNDI - JANUARY
My trips are not over. From January 17-27, I am going to Burundi Africa
to be part of the first team to work there. The President of the country
himself has invited us. During a pastor's training last month, they
went into the streets for one hour and 200 people became Christians!
The fields are ripe, as they say...
I knew I had to be there and witness it myself. As always, I am looking
for support. If you feel you want to support me in this effort, please
send your donations to:
300 Main Street
Windermere, FL 34786
Don't put my name on the check but write "Missions." You
can put my name on the envelope.
EGYPT AGAIN - MARCH
On Tuesday night I confirmed my return to Egypt. I met with the church
that wants me to speak and train their drama team. They are very talented
and just need a little guidance. I am sending them some scripts to
be translated and performed at their church.
This will all lead to a Drama Conference in late 2008 where every
Christian church in Egypt will be invited to send their drama teams.
It's a crazy opportunity but one I feel qualified and in the right
position to take on. They are paying for all expenses. That's how
much they want our help! With the Writer's Strike going on, how could
I say "no" to all expenses paid?
Just to give you some idea how active our church is in missions, I
stepped off the plane in Frankfurt for my connection to Washington
DC. I entered the terminal and heard someone say "Troy!"
It was Auzelio Santini. On his way to India. We hugged and encouraged
It was a divine appointment but said something about the excitement
of missions and how active we are around the world...
THANK YOU TO THOSE THAT SUPPORTED ME ON THIS TRIP AND I HOPE SOMEDAY
TO READ YOUR LETTERS ABOUT YOUR TRIPS SPREADING THE GOOD NEWS!
ISRAEL, MAY 8-29, 2008
I'm sorry I haven't been writing consistently,
but frankly every night I am so tired, more tired than a day on the
mission field when I seem to be able to write every night when I return.
The work here is steady and difficult, but interesting and enlightening.
To explain to those who don't know where I am, I have returned to
Israel working on a documentary that will appear on the latest iLumina
software, that will come out in 2009. iLumina is Bible software that
contains the Bible text, encyclopedias, dictionaries, commentaries,
maps, animation of Bible stories, 3-D virtual reality pictures, all
kinds of stuff. It has sold over 500,000 copies.
In 2003, I helped to shoot and compile mini-videos explaining various
sites around Israel. We've come back to shoot a different kind of
documentary, this time in H-D. This documentary I wrote, exploring
Jesus' point of view of the events of his life. What was it like growing
up in Nazareth? Did he have offers for marriage? Why did he call fishermen?
What was it like going up against Satan? Why did he get angry? What
made Jesus cry? Why did he choose crucifixion? Instead of an outside
looking in to the life of Jesus, we are looking inside looking out.
The script came out to a whopping 146 pages. Then I discovered that
they wanted ME to host it. I protested for a day, until others convinced
me to go ahead. I reluctantly agreed.
So we have been in Israel since May 8, traveling around Israel. I've
come with Nelson Saba, creator of iLumina and Jimmy Huckaby, director
and cameraman and three others. We have been joined by Avner Goren
who was featured on a documentary called "Walking the Bible,"
by Bruce Fielder (http://www.pbs.org/walkingthebible/). He's a teacher
of teachers and very knowledgeable. Every where we go, someone knows
him and his name opens up doors. He's in his 60s, very sharp and very
trim, with curly gray hair, deep tan and glowing blue eyes. I've enjoyed
immensely my time with him and consider it a privilege. Avner has
the phone numbers of Israeli Prime Ministers on his cell phone. But
you would never know that when you talk to him.
When we came in 2003, buses and nightclubs were blowing up as people
strapped bombs to their bodies and detonated themselves. Jews and
Palestinians were in a Cold War. All that to say, there were no tourists
here. We had entire places to ourselves. Not so this time. Buses and
buses and flocks and flocks of tourists are every where. They come
from all countries, all ages and all faiths.
It's great that people are connecting with God in the Holy Land, but
they get in our shots.
My roommate for this entire trip has been B-Gah, a Chinese sound engineer
who used to do all the Chinese dubbings for Dreamworks and Pixar pictures.
His name is Bezeleel (B for short and Gah means "brother"
B), from the artist who designed the temple in the Bible. He's a Chinese
Christian, a very talented photographer, about half my size and very
kind. I've enjoyed his company immensely since we been together. He
was very concerned over the earthquakes in China, but they were far
from his home. He said he lives 3 hours away by plane and the earthquake
cracked a window in his home. That's a strong quake.
I've also been impressed by his stories about how powerfully Christianity
is shaking up China, a communist country that has tried to squelch
any faiths. The depth of the commitment of those Chinese believers
far exceeds the casual commitment of many American believers. In China,
if you believe, you could be put in jail. How many in America would
continue to attend church under those circumstances?
The apostles faced those consquences.
We started our journey at the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias. We made
stops at Kursi (the healing of the demoniac), Capernaum (ruins of
a village where many followers came from), Bethsaida (where the feeding
of the 5,000 occurred), Caesarea Philippi (where Peter pronounced
that Jesus was "the Christ, the son of the Living God), the sea
itself, the Mount of Beatitudes, Mount Arbel (a likely place for the
Great Commission) and Tabgah (where Peter was called by Jesus).
As we walked up with the Church of the Beatitudes, a nun came running
out of the church SCREAMING at us. "No camera, no pictures, no
camera!" We were 75 yards away and she was all over us. We had
a permit and had paid all our fees, so it was all kosher, so to speak.
No, she screamed and screamed and screamed.
So, for the rest of the trip she became known as the Nun of the Church
of the Bad Attitudes.
Then we moved to Nazareth and visited a place where they've rebuilt
to look like a first century village, a kind of Holy Land Experience
in the real Holy Land. We also stopped in at the Church of the Annunciation.
While there, we ate at probably, so far, the best restaurant we ever
ate at. Arabic food. Unbelievable.
Our trip then took us to Jerusalem. We arrived on a Friday, the beginning
of the Jewish Shabbat or Sabbath. Jews take the Shabbat VERY seriously.
Many go to hotels so they don't have to work and allow others to wait
on them. They go so far as dedicate an elevator to open and close
to every floor so they don't have to WORK by pushing the button. They
have toilet paper in tissues so they don't have to WORK by ripping
the paper. They don't serve any hot food so they don't have to WORK
by cooking food, yet they serve cold food that they cut and serve.
I kid you not! The restaurants all close except in hotels and even
the coffee houses. It's insane. Then, when the sun goes down on Saturday
night, everything springs back to life.
Double cappuccinos for everyone!
We took the opportunity at the start of the Shabbat to go to the Wailing
Wall and see the weekly opening celebration ritual. It was very moving.
Nearly 1,000 Jews gathered at the wall to pray, dance and sing. We
covered our heads with cardboard yarmulkes and walked through the
party. I have never seen a worship experience like it. As I walked
inside a Rabbi's Tunnel where you can see Jews rocking and reading
the Torah, in front of first century stones dating back to Christ,
I began to cry.
My faith does not require me to observe any holiday like this, but
they were showing more passion for their unfulfilled Messiah worship
than I do for my fulfilled Messiah worship. I felt sorrow that I was
missing something in my own spiritual life.
Jerusalem is filled with proof of the life of Christ. One of the jokes
we tell when we arrive at a site is that "this is traditionally
the place where Jesus might have walked". Most times we don't
have any assurance that Jesus walked right there, or said this or
that right there. There may even be one or two places where that incident
occurred. One place is traditionally known as the place where the
Good Samaritan story might have occurred if it were a real story.
It never ends.
Sadly, we've seen places deified over Christ. The place is more holy
than the God it represents. In Tabgah, it was Peter's calling place
on the shoreline. Nobody has any proof that Tabgah was the place where
Jesus called Peter but thousands flock to that site. Or the Church
of the Annunciation, where Mary supposedly was called by the angel.
Both of the packed, crowded and manic. One of our crew, Marcio, the
nicest guy you would ever meet, got yelled at by a woman when he asked
her kindly to move because he was taking a picture.
"This is my faith and I've come here to pray!" she snapped
Marcio looked at her and said, "Could you pray for me right now."
I understand when people are mean at Disney World, but we've been
surprised how mean most people are on their holy pilgrimages. Especially
mean are the ones who oversee the holy sites. More on that as I go.
We did have an opportunity to enter the most sacred, holy site in
all of Jerusalem. The most "off limits" area you could ever
imagine - a Muslim site, the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock
and the El-Aqsa Mosque, two Muslim mosques, sit on what was once the
Temple Mount, where sacrifices occurred and where Jesus overturned
the money changer's tables. We got access inside both locations.
For the Jew and Christian, the Dome of the Rock is believed to be
the rock where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac. Also, it was the place
where the Holy of Holies sat-the place where God touched down on earth
and dwelled behind thick curtains. Now a Muslim mosque has sat there
since 700 AD. They believe the rock is the place where Muhammad traveled
on a white horse from Mecca and climbed a ladder to the heavens, where
Jesus, Moses and other prophets hailed him as the current prophet.
They also believe the rock tried to leap into the air as Muhammad
ascended and pulled out of the ground. (Islamic writings give no indication
it was Jerusalem Muhammad went to, but Jerusalem was assigned the
Here's the amazing part - they allowed us to stand on that rock and
shoot our video and still pictures.
When we told our Israeli production coordinator this and he has set
up documentaries for National Geographic and others, he said, "I
believe you are the first Western film company to ever stand on that
rock." Unfortunately the dome was undergoing renovation and scaffolding
filled the interior. We were allowed access into a cave that Muhammad
supposedly prayed and into their other holy mosque, the El-Aqsa.
We also saw the back of the Golden Gate, which is closed now, but
it was the gate (more like one of two possibilities) that Jesus entered
for his triumphal entry. Some believe it was closed up to prevent
Jesus from coming back, but it's more likely that it was closed up
to keep people from entering the Muslim area.
Interesting that Muslims deny that there ever was ever a Jewish temple
on that site, while all around them sit the ruins of an ancient temple.
For many the temple area is all about belief. For others, it's about
The Muslims there were very strict, but very nice. They listened to
every word I said on camera, so I had to alter the script to make
it "friendly" - until our guide got distracted. Then I went
off script and told the truth.
Another day in Jerusalem we entered Hezekiah's tunnel, a man made
underground tunnel chiseled out of bedrock that diverted water from
a natural spring into the City of David. The Old Testament King Hezekiah
wanted to make sure his city got water if they were ever attacked.
We walked from one end to another, a dark tunnel, about four feet
wide, six to 8 feet high, cold water running ankle to thigh deep,
for 30 minutes. It was exhilarating and tiring, a very Indiana Jones
moment. This water led to the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus told the
blind man to wash his eyes. The Pool had just been uncovered two years
ago. New evidence of the Bible is being unearthed all the time.
In Jerusalem, we visited the Southern Temple Mount stairs that first
century Jewish worshippers walked up to enter the temple area either
through the double gate or the triple gate. The Garden of Gethsemane,
a well preserved olive garden area with trees that date back nearly
2,000 years (there are olive trees all over the Mount of Olives, hence
the name). The top of the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended.
We also ventured into Jericho, an area in Palestinian territory. We
have gone through checkpoints routinely, which seem ridiculous because
our driver George (a Palestinian) just says "I have Americans
with me." Then the guards look at us and wave us through.
We stopped and filmed in a Wadi or valley that compares easily to
the Grand Canyon. These vast stretches of dusty brown mountains are
mind boggling as to their size and undulation.
In Jericho we saw the most ancient ruins of our whole trip, which
seem to date back to the years 2,000 BC. There is no indication that
these were the walls of THE Jericho, but they were interesting nonetheless.
Next we took a cable car up to the Mountain of Temptation, which spurred
all kinds of jokes. Suddenly everything became a temptation - ice
cream, gift shop trinkets, water.
The tradition holds that Jesus sat inside one of the mountain caves
during his 40 days of temptation. It makes some sense for a couple
reasons. One, it's far more hospitable to sit in the coolness of a
cave, then the extreme heat of a desert. From that vantage point Satan
could easily have tempted him with bread, then taken him to that high
mountain peak and shown a view that could have included the city of
Jericho (where Zaccheus lived) and Jerusalem, way off the distance.
From there it's a day walk to Jerusalem for the third temptation at
The Mountain sits high over Jericho and the cable car is in the Guinness
Book of Records as the highest cable car under sea level (whatever).
It took us to a monastery where we climbed a huge amount of stairs.
When we got to the top the monk who runs the monastery decided to
lock the doors. Other pilgrims began to line up, some saying he does
this all the time, closing the doors when he feels like it. We sat
at the top, while a salesman tempted us with jewelry he wanted us
to buy. Temptation never ends
especially on the Mount of Temptation.
At 2:00 p.m., the monk opened the door. He looked like a wild and
crazy John the Baptist. Long grey beard and hair. A robe that was
stained from years of use and no washing. Dirty old sandals and yellow,
unclipped toenails. He yelled at us in Greek, but nobody understood
him. Then he switched to English. We entered and walked into the church,
then he started to yell at us again! Now he became the Monk of the
Mount of Bad Attitudes!
He told us to get out of the church, walked away, then apparently
had a change of heart and returned to see our permits. He allowed
Jimmy and one other to go in to film. The rest of us stood outside
and waited. I tried to talk to the man and thank him, but he would
not listen or make eye contact. Slowly my ridicule of the man turned
to pity. He was so lonely.
If I were all alone on the mountain, twenty-four hours a day, seven
days a week, I would welcome guests. However the absence of relationship
seemed to strip him from the need of relationship. Visitors became
a nuisance. He really just needed a friend. There used to be 25 monks
who lived there. All of them have left. What kind of temptation did
the monk on the Mount of Temptation succumb to all alone without any
accountability or interaction?
Relationships give us hope and connect us to the world. Living like
a hermit stripped him from all the benefits of community.
Yesterday we visited Bethlehem. On our previous trip, we could not
visit this area, which is under Palestinian rule. If you remember,
back in 2002, a number of Palestinians took refuge inside the Church
of the Nativity and Jewish forces fired at them and a fire started.
This happened one year before we arrived in 2003.
Today, everything is more open and the place is mobbed! There are
three churches on the location, all of them leading to a small grotto
that you can enter from two directions. On the floor is a star that
marks (they believe) the exact birthplace of Christ. On the other
side of this small room sits the manger where (they say) the wise
men visited. Most of that is speculation, but they make a good case
for this being the birthplace. Pilgrims routinely visited the site
after the birth of Christ and Emperor Constantine's mother built a
church there around 325 BC, after another Roman emperor built his
own temple on top of it to deter Christ worship. Many have left their
bullseye right there for thousands of years.
All of this to say, people are pretty passionate about the site and
a line extended longer than Splash Mountain. Two or three at a time
drop down to take pictures, cross themselves, or kiss the star. Many
place items on the spot, believing the action will sanctify their
items and make them holy. The room is tight, hot and smells like body
odor - probably much like a real stable. One man pushed me aside as
I blocked our camera from getting hit. I was taking too much time
in front of the spot (sort of like a 3 seconds violation in basketball).
He cursed at me in some language. I just smiled wondering if the shepherds
pushed this much to see the actual Christ child.
I was happy to see how international this site was. The birth of Christ
really unites the world, while also dividing it. However, many Muslims
were there, who revere Jesus as a prophet, not necessarily THE prophet.
I hoped their visit here would reveal something to them.
Our guide took us to probably the most moving location so far-tombs
under the Church of the Nativity where the bones of children are stacked,
many (they believe again) from the children who were killed when Herod
ordered all infant boys, 2 years and under, massacred. Stacks of bone
parts and skulls lay in open tombs, behind bars. While they may or
may not be the bones of the actual children, they were a horrible
representation of the genocide that occurred here.
From the day of Jesus' birth, many gave their lives so the Gospel
could be preached. This was a sobering reminder of sacrifice.
Today we get to experience another Shabbat, a well needed rest. As
I sit here writing in the lobby, Jews are gathering, eating their
cold food and singing Jewish hymns. Religion and faith are all around.
All of us are very tired, sore and sun burnt, but excited to see this
project through. It's been a challenge, but if you are going to grow
and experience new levels of your faith, you have to be challenged.
I have three more days here, which we will visit the crucifixion and
resurrection sites of Christ, a fitting finale to our time here. I
will try to update you before I go.
That greeting I've actually seen on t-shirts
and it has made me laugh, thinking of my impending return to Southern
culture. It will be good to get back for obvious reasons, but there
is something so interesting about immersing yourself daily in another
world for weeks. I've exceeded visiting Israel. I've practically lived
here. When I meet tourists on the elevator and they say they are staying
for 10 days, I feel like a local.
"Ten days, that's nothing."
I wanted to update you on a few matters as I leave tomorrow on an
11:40 am flight, travel to Newark, then arrive in Orlando 21 hours
We visited the Holy Sepulchre on Sunday. Around 300 AD, the mother
of Emperor Constantine, the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity,
traveled to Palestine (Israel) and marked many sites that the locals
said were the official locations of Christ's life. The Holy Sepulchre
is the place she marked as the death and resurrection of Christ (including
the Church of the Nativity).
Unfortunately they leveled everything and put a huge megachurch on
top, that nearly six denominations declare as home. It's a one stop,
mini mall of orthodox churches. Everyone there wants a piece of the
pie. Of course that comes with trouble.
These churches have a treaty to keep them at peace. In fact, one church
locked the other out and the government instituted a new procedure.
The keys to the door to the Holy Sepulchre were given to a Muslim
family. For generations, 700 years, they have opened the church.
I find that
disturbing. I interviewed the Muslim man currently
in charge of opening the door. VERY nice guy. Very proud of his responsibility.
But remember, Muslims do not believe Jesus was the son of God and
they deny he was crucified and resurrected. The churches inside do
believe in the grace and forgiveness Jesus offers by his death and
resurrection, yet they can't get along.
Sounds like churches all over the world
Maybe we should ask the Muslims for help.
Anyway, the Holy Sepulchre is a museum for churches. There are old
paintings, nooks and crannies around every corner and a new denomination
popping up every day, it seems. While we filmed the services, many
invited us in so they could get press coverage.
When you enter, there is a marble slab there that they believe is
the one Jesus' body was prepared on. It's not. The marble is from
Italy. In the main lobby you find a tall ornate structure, a little
bigger, in footprint, than a kid's backyard fort, that you have to
duck down to enter (not just me, but everyone does). You can touch
the walls by stretching out your arms (I could). Then you enter a
smaller room, ducking again, to reach the spot (they say) of the resurrection.
You find another slab where Jesus was resurrected (it's not).
This room is about the size of our foyer closet and not only am I
in there with a cameraman, but a monk enters too to make sure you
don't steal anything. Cram three people into your closet and you get
the idea. How could three Marys and two angels fit in that size space?
Jesus would have hit his head when he resurrected.
Once again, spaces and places are deified. I know that Jesus died
and rose again and I'm sure it happened within 100 yards of where
they think it happened. That's all I need. I believed before I came
here. The places offer some proof, but they definitely offer a place
Hanging over the resurrection slab are a number of incense canisters,
kind of like ornate lanterns (the name escapes me). I asked the monk
inside what they were. Every denomination has their prescribed number
of canisters hanging above and he listed them for me. Nearly 24 hang
as place markers for the denominations. He sort of smiled to me as
he listed them, admitting almost, "Yeah, it's ridiculous, isn't
I noticed, like the Church of the Nativity, the number of people bringing
things like candles, cloth and items to be blessed by having them
anointed or touched at the holy sites. I think the Holy Spirit can
take care of anything. He doesn't need any help. The faith should
never be in the site, but the one who the site represents.
We shot the rest of the day on Sunday in the streets. It was fun to
watch the people's expressions as I talked to a faraway camera while
standing right next to them. Many of them stopped and looked at me
wondering, "who are you talking to?"
Monday we went to the Garden Tomb. The Garden Tomb is location number
two for Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. While many don't consider
it the real place, it does offer a more aesthetic location-beautiful
gardens, rock benches, fresh flowers, a bedrock carved tomb. No crazy
lines and denomination battle lines. No icons and images. Just a tomb.
Simple and pretty.
There are rows of benches so people can sit and think and even listen
to guides or pastors describe and reflect on the scene. Quite a contrast
to the chaos of the Holy Sepulchre. I like this spot more.
Most disturbing is the crucifixion site, Golgotha, which means The
Skull. In the back is a huge rock face with an image of a skull. The
"skull" is sort of clear (it once was a little clearer).
At times the face jumps out at you. Other times it doesn't. A Muslim
cemetery sits on top and is totally off limits.
Here's the disturbing part: at the base of the rock sits a bus station.
This wasn't there when we visited in 2003, but now it is fully operational.
Fifty buses lined the parking lot. Trash was thrown every where. Arabic
youths ran around the place, some working, some playing. While we
were taping a huge fight broke out, with nearly thirty kids in the
middle, pulling apart the two that started it. Someone asked if we
wanted to go down there and video tape. We all said NO.
It's a shame, again, if this is the place of the crucifixion, that
so much sin still abounds at the foot of the cross, people missing
the symbol of forgiveness, love and peace that looks out over them.
This is what Christ died for and like in his day, people passed the
man hanging by nails and looked the other way.
It's also a shame that this is a bus stop, with people from many countries
passing through, heading to all parts of the world. I saw, on top
of the rock, an antenna, broadcasting out to the area. However, no
message of forgiveness and love was emanating from this location.
We headed over to the Damascus Gate, another entrance into the old
city. I was shooting a piece on how much Jesus loved people and interacted
with them. While we were there, a fight broke out between two old
men, apparently once friends. One man cracked the other over the head
with his cane. People ran over to break it up. One pulled out a huge
Where is the forgiveness!
I talked to many, many people who were friendly and kind and wanted
to be friends, don't get me wrong, but the incident brought some reality
to the location.
We finished the day at the Via del a Rosa, Christ's traditional walk
with the cross to the Holy Sepulchre. We carried our equipment there
and back, commenting on how cruel the Romans were to make Jesus walk
up so many stairs. We were panting with our cameras and tripods. Jesus
carried a cross after being beaten to death. Why should we complain?
I came to appreciate the struggle he went through for me.
While we ascended a woman struggled with her luggage in front of me.
I grew annoyed and decided to help her. How is that for proper motivation?
I carried her heavy luggage to the top. It was then I realized I was
Simon of Cyrene, the man who took Jesus' cross and carried it to the
We can all do our part to help others.
We finished up on Tuesday at David's Citadel. David's Citadel includes
part of the original wall around Jerusalem (not all of what you see
in the pictures is original from first Century time of Jesus) and
a part of Herod's Palace, which was inside the wall. It is believed
when Pilate came to town, he stayed in Herod's Palace. That means
if there was an early appointment in the morning, after having just
woken up, it was likely the trial of Jesus before the crowds occurred
there. Others believe it occurred at Antonio's Fortress, just off
the Temple Mount. There are a number of paths Jesus could of taken.
I had a hard time with my lines today. A combination of being tired,
exhausted, of this being the last round of on-site production, of
the subject matter (Jesus dying for my sins), a headache from not
enough caffeine, you name it - I just couldn't concentrate and get
my lines out. The crew stayed patient until I finally got it right.
We finished with a 40 minute talk with Avner, where he answered a
lot of questions I had. And then
it was a wrap.
We have lots of work to do when we get back. Editing, finding b-roll,
re-recording my voice-overs, interviewing other experts, so we are
far from finished.
Tony and I head home tomorrow, while Jimmy, Nelson, Marcio and Avner
head to Jordan to go to Mount Nebo and Petra. I wish I was going with
them, but I'm glad I'm heading back. On Saturday I will be doing my
first wedding for the step-daughter of my friend Ned, who was in our
I appreciated your comments and prayers.