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10/22/08 (Wednesday)

5:50 AM.  I am sitting at the gate in Quito airport awaiting the boarding process.  It took an hour to work through the check in process.  I moved from one line to another and stood and waited for my turn.  Fortunately, I had no problems at any of the steps, just time waiting in line.  Soon I will be on my way to Miami.  Jane and Damarys picked me up at 4:30 AM and we were then at the airport by 4:45.  We said our good-byes and passed hugs and kisses back and forth before I left them to go through the doors into the check in area.  These two ladies are such special people.  I told them they were my home away from home. 


8:15 AM.  Boarding went efficiently.  Once on board and when the doors were closed, engines running, the captain came on the PA system to announce we would be delayed for about 30 minutes.  Mother Nature sent in some ground fog that appeared in just a few minutes and all flights were held for the moment until the fog moved on.  About 30 minutes later we got the okay to proceed and we then taxied out to the runway and took off.  Now we are flying above the clouds at 35,000 feet and are enjoying breakfast.  At least on the international flight from to and from Quito, we get food served.  Breakfast this morning was nice and hot and very good.  I had a very tasty omelet.  Because of the delay in departure, our arrival time in Miami was moved back 30 minutes to 12:15 PM.  There I will get my luggage and go through customs and then move on to my next gate to fly on to Dallas/Fort Worth.  My time in Miami will be about 3 hours before leaving for Dallas.  There I have about an hour and a half layover before flying on to Fort Wayne. 


Father, we are flying above Your majestic creation.  Your handiwork is so evident all around us.  Thank You for giving me the ability to see, touch, taste and hear Your creative works.  Thank You, Lord, for thinking this all out ahead of time.  Nothing has escaped Your wisdom, Lord.  I pray today for a safe trip home.  Thank You for caring for Phyllis and keeping her healthy.  Thank You for introducing us and bringing us together in marriage.  Thank You for giving us love for each other.  Lord, I am so blessed to know Phyllis and to have her as my wife.  Thank You, Lord.


Father, I pray for Jane, Damarys, Loida, Angelita, Maria Luisa, Jorge, Gonzalo and Nancy.  Bless them, Lord as they have become Your instruments of mercy and grace to the people they serve.  Thank You for the healing of body and spirit that happens in San Lorenzo under their care.  Lord, I pray for Maria.  Please continue the healing of her legs and the reversal of the lymphedema.  Thank You for guiding her to San Lorenzo and Jane’s team where she can realize hope and joy.  Lord, I pray for the people we cared for last week.  Help them heal from their surgeries.  Thank You for what You accomplished in their lives.  Thank You for allowing us, especially me, the opportunity to be part of the healing process for these people.  Lord, You are an awesome God.  You teach me so much about Yourself.  Thank You!  Amen.


1:45 PM.  We landed in Miami on schedule at 12:15 and I made it through customs without much difficulty.  It was certainly easier handling one piece of checked luggage instead of two.  My bag weighed 55 pounds and I was not charged in Quito for being overweight.  As I watched the bags come off the carousel I noticed weights on every bag.  There were many bags that were way heavier than mine.  Once I made it through customs I then went to my next gate to wait for the next flight to Dallas/Fort Worth.  In this gate area was a small Pizza Hut with personal pan pizzas.  I gave in to the temptation and purchased a pizza for lunch.  The lady waiting on me noticed my shirt which has the logo and name of the clinic in San Lorenzo on it.  She asked me if I was going to Ecuador.  I told her I was returning from there.  She asked me if I had been to Esmeraldas or San Lorenzo and I told her about working at Clinica San Lorenzo and working with Dr. Weaver.  She said she was from Guayaquil, further south on the coast and she knew the area of San Lorenzo very well.  She seemed excited to meet someone who has been on her home turf just recently.  It is interesting to experience such a small world. 


I just phoned Phyllis and talked with her for awhile.  It is good to hear her voice and to know that I will soon be home again. 


11:00 PM.  The flight from Miami to Dallas/Fort Worth was smooth and on time.  While waiting to board the next flight to Fort Wayne I checked with the airline representative at the desk about my carry-on duffel.  She said it was big enough that it would have to be checked with the other carry-on luggage as we enter the plane.  This duffel is full of the carvings and other fragile things I purchased at Otavalo and San Antonio.  Knowing how the airlines handle luggage, I could see my stuff being crumbs and splinters by the time I get home.  So, I repacked my duffel and my backpack and was able to move the fragile things into the backpack and carry my laptop separately and then checked the duffel that had everything else.  This allowed me to place the laptop in the overhead storage and slide the backpack under the seat.  The trip to Fort Wayne took a couple hours and I was cramped because the backpack took up most of the room under the seat.  Flying across Indiana the sky was clear and the cities and towns were a display of lights everywhere.  I was fascinated at all the beauty of the night time lights from the perspective of the airplane.  Our landing in Fort Wayne as very smooth and it felt good to be on home soil once again.  Especially, it was wonderful to find Phyllis standing and waiting for me with a long and cherished hug. 


Throughout the two weeks I have been studying the Scriptures, especially the Gospels, to reread these again and learn to know God better.  I read with interest the four different accounts of the life and ministry of Christ.  The four authors gave slightly different perspectives by presenting Christ in a unique fashion.  Matthew writes about Christ at the Messiah and uses a lot of references from prophecy and Old Testament writings to support this.  Mark presents Christ as a servant and writes from that perspective.  Luke shows the human side of Jesus Christ and being a physician writes a lot about how Jesus interacted with people and how He healed the sick.  John presents Christ as God, the Son of God.  Thus, Jesus is described as both human and divine when you are able to look at Him through the four Gospels.


As I read these accounts and studied them closely, I saw some common threads that weaved through the stories about Jesus and His outreach to the people.  These common threads seemed to speak to me very clearly with application to my own life.  One thread was about faith.  I mentioned this earlier in my journal.  Repeatedly, in all four Gospels, Jesus makes the statement to the recipient of healing either from some physical malady or some spiritual oppression that the faith of the recipient was the key factor in bringing on the healing.  In a few instances the writer describes in broad brush strokes that Jesus healed many who were sick and oppressed without going into any specific detail.  When the event was described with more detail, Jesus’ words included, “Your faith has healed you.”  Clearly, to me, the point was the healing process is very dependent on the faith of the person seeking healing.  Also, the healing process is very dependent on the faith of the person actually administering healing.  In my life there are times when I need healing and this is very dependent on my faith at that moment.  Also, in my career I have had opportunities to administer healing to a patient.  Whatever healing took place, I had the opportunity to deliver that through my touch and my words.  The healing power did not come from me.  I was there as the final conduit of this power.  The healing power came from God only.  The message to me was what I experienced this past two weeks and what I have experienced on previous mission trips and in my practice gave me a clear conviction that any healing that would take place depends on faith, my faith as a provider/deliverer and the faith of the patient.  If either one of us lacked that level of faith, healing may not occur.  The quest to know God at a deeper level was a walk of faith.  I learned more about how important faith is at every step I take.  God took me through the Gospels to teach me this about Himself.  To God the most important thing I can do in my relationship with Him is to believe in Him, to have complete and total trust in Him in everything.  It is that faith that then delivers. 


A second thread is the importance of keeping the right perspective on the people I encounter every day.  People came to Christ from all walks of life and to Him they were helpless and harassed.  He came to seek those who were lost and save them from eternal condemnation.  It didn’t matter at what socioeconomic level the person resided or how they dressed, He loved them first of all and because of that love reached out to them.  To him everyone needed a right relationship with God.  That was His priority.  What obstructed this relationship building was the person’s attitude and belief that ran counter to the truth about God.  The people who were filled with pride and self-righteousness could not grasp the concepts that Christ talked about.  Their jealousy and the perceived threats to their position and power caused them to be blinded to the true message Jesus preached.  This drove them to destroy Him.  Jesus had some strong words of criticism about the hypocrisy demonstrated by these people.  Unfortunately, their hearts were hard enough that the truth could not penetrate and transform.


A third thread was the comparison of light and darkness.  We see these in our physical world.  We enjoy the light because through this our vision becomes clearer and we can travel along the path without being vulnerable to danger.  At night when our vision becomes inactive, or when we are blind, the guidance and protection that we would receive from light is just not there.  Then we grope along, living and moving in fear, and fall prey to multiple dangers.  Jesus uses this analogy to the presence or absence of truth.  He railed at the religious leaders of the day calling them blind guides, the blind leading the blind, because they could not see and accept the truth about God.  They blinded themselves with their man-made rules and regulations and made a religion out of following the rules and thus could not see God when He was standing there in front of them in the person of His Son.  The blindness caused them to walk and live in darkness.  And this darkness could not tolerate even a sliver of light that might penetrate the darkness.  The more I studied trying to learn about God at a deeper level, the more I desired light, the light of the truth, to illuminate every corner of my heart, mind and soul.


A fourth thread was the presence and employment of a love that goes deeper than most of us can imagine.  I look at how Christ reached out to the people and this was through love for them.  When the rich young ruler came to Him and asked Him how he could gain eternal life in heaven, the person describing this event stated that first Jesus had a deep love for this man.  His heart led the way to reaching this man and explaining the truth to him.  Unfortunately, the man stumbled over the need to give up things he held close to him, things he basically worshipped, to become God’s agent of love to his sphere of influence, his world.  The more I learn about God through studying Christ, the more I see the need for a deep love that sees beyond the surface of an individual.  Jesus could read a person’s heart.  I feel His love allowed Him to do that.  He could reach beyond the externals and truly love that person.  I have to ask myself how often I allow the externals to blunt the love I might have for someone.  There is so much about love that most of us don’t understand or could even comprehend.  What is the level of love that would express itself in words of forgiveness when hanging from a cross, the most painful and terrible method of killing someone?  Jesus went through a mock trial, falsely accused, beaten severely, mocked and humiliated, and then crucified.  Yet, as He hung there suffering at an intensity that I cannot imagine, He asked God to forgive His attackers.  That is love, pure love.  I think about the love God extends to me, even when I walk away from Him and purposely defy Him, yet that love is always there.  It is what David in Psalms says repeatedly…unfailing love.  That is what I experience more and more as I learn more about God…His unfailing love for me and for anyone who would receive that love.  It is continual, ever present, unchanged in spite of my rejection…unfailing.  Think on that for a moment.  No one else will extend to you unfailing love, love that is always there without conditions.  Love that comes to me regardless of how worthy I am to receive it.  It is unfailing.  Wow!


A fifth thread was the effort Jesus did early in His ministry to develop the process of spreading the Good News to the helpless and harassed.  This was the choosing and training of His disciples, people He chose to come along side Him and learn from Him and then carry the message to the world.  The band of followers seemed to be an unusual group to take on this occupation.  They were uneducated according to the world’s standards, they had no financial backing, they had a variety of personality issues and they were available.  The availability and willingness was the key for these men.  When Jesus came up to the men and said, “Follow Me,” the response was immediate.  These men immediately left their career, their place of business, even their family and followed Jesus.  Their hearts were ready and all Jesus had to do was ask.  I have to look at my life and ask myself if I am that ready to be a follower of Christ.  How often do I allow the pressures of the world get in my way and discourage me from following Him?  How often do I allow excuses to paint over the fact that I am not motivated enough or even want to follow Him and do what He asks me to do?  Jesus, being God, had the power to spread His message and love instantly world-wide.  Yet, He chose to do this the old-fashioned way, through dedicated followers who would carry the torch after Jesus handed it off.  And carry it they did.  A quick read into the book of Acts shows how the torch started as firestorm of belief in Christ as Peter leads the development of the early church.  There we read statements that reflect not just one or two but hundreds and thousands placing their faith in Jesus Christ as a result of Peter’s convicting words.  I came away from this study convinced that I have the opportunity to be a follower of Christ, His disciple, and I must recognize and seize that opportunity. 


A sixth thread was Jesus’ priority to pray.  He was God, He came from God.  Yet, many times He would pull off somewhere away from the crowds to be alone with God and to pray.  Frequently the Scripture describes Him praying.  I am sure there were many more times of close, intimate prayer with God that were not even recorded for us to read.  Prayer was standard practice for Jesus.  Is it for me?  How often do I take the time to pray?  How often do I find myself conversing with God, giving Him praise, thanking Him, and asking Him for help?  Is it usually when I am at the end of my own resources and strength and then I turn to Him?  Or is it so common that I find myself talking with God like I would be talking with my co-worker or a family member as we work on something together or go somewhere together?  The example Jesus gives is that prayer should be a standard part of every step I take as I walk with Him.  It isn’t something I must think about first and then find the time to pray.  It should be something that just flows spontaneously.  It is that freedom to know that I can talk with God any time at any place.  To Jesus, prayer was most important.  I need to learn that better.


Father, dear Father, thank You for this mission trip opportunity.  The past two weeks opened my eyes wider to see more of You and opened my heart wider to experience more of You.  Thank You for teaching me and allowing me to experience and deliver Your love and Your healing power.  Thank You for taking me, walking with me to Ecuador and into the lives of those we served.  Thank You for instilling in me the desire to continue that walk even more intensely back home.  The culture may be different, the living conditions certainly are; however, Father, the basic needs are the same.  The people I see need love, a love that comes only from You.  They need healing as well.  I can be an instrument of Yours to help deliver that love and the healing power.  Lord, make me that instrument.  Sharpen my skills and give me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and to share You with the people who cross my path.  Lord, help me become a better disciple for You.  Thank You for the opportunity You give me every day to do just that.  Thank You, Father, for this wonderful mission experience.  Thank You for the continual blessing of Your presence with us.  Thank You for the miracles of healing we were able to witness.  Thank You especially for the salvation extended to those who placed their trust in You.  Thank You, Father.  Amen.


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