No Matter What!

I haven’t written much in quite a while.  At times, I’ve not had anything to write about.  At other times, what I did have to say was too overwhelming to try to put into words.  But lately, there is something I feel the Lord has been impressing on me, and I hope I can communicate it in an understandable and not too long-winded way.

This reflection was born out of a time of prayer and meditation on various events and struggles in the lives of people I know.  One of the main ones began a year ago, when a series of truly providential circumstances (too long to recount) led me to read a book called, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.  I was riveted to this true story of a young man and his journey of faith from Islam to Christianity.  I literally could not put it down and finished reading it in two days.  Afterwards, I felt strangely led to go to his website.  It was there I learned that the author, Nabeel Qureshi, a then 33 year-old new father, had just been diagnosed with Stage IV stomach cancer.  I joined literally thousands over the next year who followed his video blog updates and prayed for his healing.  So many people praying with so much faith, including him.  But still, he passed away in September.  He even declared many times that Jesus was able to raise him from the dead, and his wife delayed his burial for 7 days, in continued prayer.  All this from a man with a conservative Christian background, as well as a medical degree and three theology degrees.  The whole story of his life, timing of his diagnosis, etc. is unbelievably poignant and way too much to share here.  But it is truly so inspirational – he lived and died amazingly well and his legacy will live on.  If you have interest, I encourage you to read his book(s) and visit his Facebook page (where his widow continues to post updates).

This past year of following his journey and intensely praying for his healing has not shaken my faith, despite the outcome and great loss to his family and future ministry.  But it has certainly left me with probably the biggest, “Why Lord?” I’ve ever had.  There is so much I cannot understand looking at it from a finite “here and now” perspective.

I also think of a faithful Christian acquaintance just a little older than me.  A mother of nine children, grandmother of twelve, beloved wife and loved by many others.  Her husband is even a minister.  Most people would describe her as one of the sweetest, most sacrificial people they know.  Last year, she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in her tongue (and no, she didn’t smoke).  What followed were medical procedures and intense suffering too horrible to even describe, all which failed to save her life – she died ten months later, last December.  When I think of the horrendous physical pain she endured, and the early end to a faithful life, leaving so many heartbroken loved ones behind, it leaves me with another, “Why Lord?”

I think about and pray daily for the sufferings of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who are enduring persecution for their faith.  They live in countries too numerous to list.  In fact, the majority of those who are following Jesus in this world are living under great difficulties and persecutions (after all, He told us if we followed Him, we would).  I read their stories and I am humbled beyond words and moved to tears.  The only daily hope they live with is looking forward to the New Heaven and New Earth.

I think about Jesus, when He hung on the cross and cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Surely Jesus, of all people, had His theology straight.  He knew exactly why He’d come, why He was dying and that He would rise again three days later.  Not only that, but certainly He had the most intimate relationship with God, His own Father, than any other who walked the face of this earth.  He knew all the truth (yea, He IS the Truth), and yet in that dark moment, it felt to Him that God, His Father, had abandoned Him.  I find it interesting that in Hebrews 5:8 we are told, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience from the things he suffered.”  If Jesus, the One who was without sin, had to learn obedience through suffering, why would it be any different for us?

Recently, my spiritual twin brother has been on a very intense journey with God.  I will not share his personal details, but suffice it to say he is in the midst of following some steps of radical obedience, the likes of which few people would ever consider.  He’s basically stepped off a cliff with no safety net, and not even a real understanding of the “why” behind the things God is calling him to do.  It’s truly one of the most sacrificially painful examples of “walking by faith and not sight” that I’ve ever witnessed.  He has no guarantees that things will come to a happy conclusion – he’s just being obedient.

Certainly we have examples of “happy endings” in the Bible.  Abraham was spared from having to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were saved from the flames of the furnace unharmed.  And then there is Job, arguably the greatest sufferer of all time, next to Jesus.  After he endured the loss of almost everything but his life, we are told, “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” (Job 42:12)

But lest we get too comfortable with these examples, what about the apostles, who history tells us all but one died a martyr’s death?  Or many of the Old Testament prophets, such as Jeremiah.  God chose Him as a prophet “before he was born.” (Jeremiah 1:5)  He was never allowed to marry or have a family.  He prophesied for nearly 40 years to a people who totally rejected his message.  Several attempts were made to kill him.  He saw the fall and captivity of his beloved nation because they would not listen to him.  And in the end, he was forced to travel with the small remnant who were disobeying his warnings not to go to Egypt.  Jewish historical tradition says he was later stoned by his own people there.  He was not nicknamed “The Weeping Prophet” for nothing!

Which brings me to the point of all these mentionings.  We’re told all throughout the New Testament that trials and suffering are a part of the Christian walk.  Not only that, but these trials actually serve a purpose – to strengthen, refine and purify our faith.  What that looks like is different for each person.  But I’ve long believed for the church in the last days the times will be very dark, and it will often look and feel like we’ve been abandoned.  What will we do in those times?  Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)  Will we be hanging on and walking by faith, despite what we see or feel in the circumstances that surround us?  If we are not “rooted and grounded in love” (Eph 3:17), then the pain and suffering we don’t understand can cause offense against God to rise in our hearts, and even the eventual abandonment of our faith.

What will we do when there seems to be no end to the darkness or pain in our life?  What will we do when there is no happy ending to the story on this side?  Jesus said, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at me.” (Luke 7:23)  He made that statement in a message sent to John the Baptist, when John had sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask if He was the Messiah, or should they expect someone else.  John had been imprisoned for his faithful witness, and shortly after receiving this answer from Jesus, he was beheaded.

The purpose of our time spent on this earth is not for God to make us happy, it is for Him to make us HOLY.  “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)  I’m continuing to see more and more “faith shaking” events happening in the lives of so many people.  And yet the Bible tells us that in the last days, God will “remove what can be shaken, so that only what cannot be shaken will remain.” (Hebrews 12:27)  What is it that will remain?  “Now these three remain: Faith, Hope and Love…” (1 Corinthians 13:13)  So once again I will repeat, but rephrase Jesus’ question just a little differently:

When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith IN YOU?

Here is a song that I’ve posted before, but I think it is a fitting finish to remind us of what we are called to do in this life, NO MATTER WHAT!

A Final Warning – Worth The Watch

Hello Friends,

Yes, I know I haven’t written anything in an unprecedented nearly 4 months.  A few of you have checked in to make sure I’m still on the planet – thank you.  I’m just fine, actually.  I have just been doing all of the same kinds of things I’ve written about before (including a trip to Cuenca and Salinas).  Plus, for some reason, my inspiration just shut down.  I started a few blog posts, but never finished them.  I just can’t write unless I really “feel it.”

But in all honesty, I’ve been watching the “signs of the times” with much sober mindedness.  A few of you will know what I mean, but most of you probably have no clue.  There is so much I could have shared, but quite honestly it’s been overwhelming to see so many things coming to fruition and a head.  I’ve been warning that we were headed for the “last of the last days” for some time, but even as they bare down on us, I’m still blown away at all that I see.  God highlighted 2017 to me years ago, because there is a long list of prophetic fulfillments that fall this year.  And since then, He’s just added more things to the list.  It’s truly a time to be “looking up,” as Jesus told us to.

Below is a video that packs a lot of astounding information in its short 22 minutes, but still just scratches the surface of all that is going on right now.  I hope you have “ears to hear and eyes to see” what is happening all around us.

And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides.  People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.  For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth.  Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able (KJV “counted worthy”) to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

Transition…

There are many ways I could have shared this news with you, but I choose to do so this way.  I’ve chronicled here, and mentioned many times, the significance the number “11” has taken on in my life.  It wasn’t until well into the phenomenon of it showing up everywhere, that a friend enlightened me to the fact that it was the Biblical number for transition.  During the time it began for me, there was much transition happening in my life.  Ever since then, I’ve continued to steadily see it in various forms (usually 11:11), to greater or lesser degrees.  When it escalates, it always signals more transition.

So when I saw 11:11 four times within a 24 hour period over New Year’s Eve/Day, I knew it meant something was coming.  Transitions often happen for me around the first of a year.  I can remember many, many years ago when life seemed to be going along just fine, but as the New Year approached, I had a foreboding feeling I could not shake.  Very shortly after the calendar changed, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, while simultaneously my father was hospitalized with a mysterious heart ailment.  It was a very stressful several months before things “normalized” again.

Of course, for the past five years, as the calendar changes, the dates begin reminding me of the approaching anniversary of my mother’s death on 1/11.  As I noticed the date the day before, I made a conscious decision that this year, I would briefly acknowledge the day and move on.  No memorial blog post or time of going through remembrances.  But later that day, all of that changed.

As I recounted in my Thanksgiving blog post, just 7 weeks ago today, my birthfather had been diagnosed with cancer at the same age my mother was when she passed away.  He then finally revealed my existence to his oldest son, my brother, who has since been keeping me informed as to my birthfather’s treatment and progress.  I spoke with my birthfather just one more time on December 3, following the Thanksgiving weekend they had called.  It was before he was to begin his radiation treatments.  Although the doctors were quite optimistic that the small sizes and types of tumors meant a good prognosis, my birthfather didn’t feel the same.  When I asked him why, he said, “I’m just so tired.”  But he said he felt such a relief and weight had been lifted, now that he had told my brother about me.  Although I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be our last conversation, I still told him how much I loved him and how grateful I was that he’d wanted to know me and that we’d had a relationship all these years, despite the less than ideal circumstances.  He apologized again that it had not been more, but told me how much he loved me and was proud of me.

The updates I received from my brother the past several weeks were mostly positive.  There was a setback at one point when the doctor doing the radiation on the three tumors in his brain, decided “on the fly” to do them all at the same time, instead of spacing them out as previously planned.  That was too much for my birthfather’s body and it threw several other things out of whack, causing him to have to be hospitalized for several days.  But he rebounded from that, tolerated the rest of the radiation treatments on his lung well, and was making good progress.  He had entered a two month pause between treatments, at the end of which, they would re-scan everything and see what progress had been made.

This past Tuesday, I had gone shopping in Manta and was riding back with Mesfin and Elaine.  She asked how my birthfather was doing and I gave her the updates I knew.  I told her my brother had been very gracious to keep me informed and although I’m sure my dad had not had any time alone to call me, I missed talking with him and hoped during this recovery period he might be able to call.  But when I arrived home, I saw I’d missed a call from my brother.  Up until now, he’d been sending email reports, so I thought the call, along with not leaving a message, was not a good sign.  I sent a text message and anxiously waited to hear back.  Shortly after, Craig called to give me the news that although my birthfather had continued to make very hopeful and positive progress, he’d taken a sudden turn for the worse a few nights prior.  They were not certain what happened (possibly a tumor ruptured), but he was no longer conscious, not eating or drinking, and they had him at home on hospice, who said it wouldn’t be long.

I spent all day yesterday grieving all of this, along with the flood of memories it brought up surrounding my mother’s death.  Then this afternoon, I received another call from Craig to let me know that my birthfather had passed away – just one day after the five year anniversary of my mother’s death, at the same age of 87.

And remember the number “11” that signifies transition?  Not only did I see it four times over New Years (and plenty of times since), but yesterday while working through all of this, I booked a bee call job and when I was given the address, it was 1111 and the appointment was for 11:00 on 1/11.

When talking with my good friend Rissa yesterday, she reminded me how often what is happening in our individual lives, is happening to others too.  She shared with me that she knew of several other people who have been thrust into a time of sudden transition at the beginning of this year.  Not to mention that America and the world are in a big state of transition at the moment as well.  As I’ve said before, I believe all this transition is rapidly leading to the ultimate transition, when…

“The kingdom of the world (becomes) the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign for ever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15)

Until then, I will miss you, Jerry.

The Whole Story

This is a rather long post, but I realized not long ago that I’ve never fully told the details of how I ended up exactly where I am.  I’ve given the general background information of what caused me to leave the U.S. on the Story page of my blog.  And in an early post, I highlighted some of the reasons many people choose Ecuador as a relocation spot.  But for me, it wasn’t my choice.  I moved here on faith, and today, on the 3 year anniversary (can you believe it?!) of the day I arrived here, it seemed fitting to finally fully share how it all happened.

As detailed in my Story page, at the beginning of 2009, the Lord began revealing to me that the U.S. was the Babylon of Revelation 17 & 18.  At first, just as Ezekiel said after his vision in chapter 3:15, I was “astonished,” “overwhelmed,” and “distressed.”  I shared it with no one for many months, but agonized over what the Lord was showing me and continued to question Him and ask for confirmation (which I continued to receive).  I couldn’t imagine what He wanted me to do with this information and why He was revealing it to me (although I was confident He was revealing it to others also, and since then I’ve found out there were many).  After several months, He highlighted to me the verse, “Come out of her my people.”  I asked Him what He meant by that, and specifically what He was saying to me.  It was then He began to tell me to, “Get your house in order, I’m going to send you somewhere.”  It all seemed so unbelievable and yet He continued to confirm it to me.  I sat on it for 2 years without making any plans, and finally at one point in essence told God, “I believe what you are telling me, but I just don’t see how it can happen.  There are three things standing in my way of preparing to leave.”  I told Him I had a husband who wasn’t on board with what God was telling me.  I had an aging (but healthy) mother, who was widowed, and I was her only child.  I knew that God had told me years earlier I was to take care of her until she died.  And I was also serving many people in a very busy volunteer inner-healing prayer ministry, that took up a lot of my time.  These were the things that kept me from being motivated to make preparations to leave.

At some point, I shared with my (former) husband what I was hearing, and of course he didn’t believe it.  But eventually I asked him to just humor me and if we were to move somewhere outside of the U.S., where could we go?  There were several specific criteria on the list (including a low cost of living), that narrowed the field considerably.  I bought a few books and subscribed to a few publications written for people looking to repatriate.  As I processed and prayed, several options dropped off the list and Ecuador kept coming to the top.  One particular daily email publication gave a variety of information about Ecuador, and I specifically began paying attention when properties were advertised for sale, to get an idea of the values.

After some time and to my surprise, my husband actually suggested we make a survey trip to Ecuador.  I remembered there was a missionary couple supported by a church where we had previously attended, who had lived in Cuenca for over 20 years, so I began by contacting them.  She said they would be happy to host us and show us around that area.  I was also exploring other areas for us to look at.  I was more interested in living in the mountains, but my husband was more interested in the beach.  Of course, ultimately I trusted God would lead me to where He wanted me to be.

In the Spring of 2011, I was narrowing down plans and approaching making travel arrangements, all the while praying whether this was God’s timing.  I was feeling some hesitation, so was proceeding with caution.  When I contacted the missionary couple again about scheduling a time, she informed me that just a few days prior, the doctors had discovered her husband had a large mass in his stomach.  They were already in the states for the birth of a grandchild and were now planning to stay indefinitely while he received medical care.  This caused me to begin to re-evaluate the structure of our trip.  But just as I was coming close to nailing down alternative plans and arrangements, my mother’s health crisis began and in the middle of it, my husband left.

Later, as I sat beside my mother’s bedside while she was dying, I literally said to God, “You really are serious!”  In just six short months, my life had taken a watershed turn and everything that I told God stood in my way, was wiped from my life.  (My prayer ministry came to a screeching hault the day my mother fell, and the Lord never allowed me to pick it back up after she passed away.)

After my mother’s death, I finally began the process of “getting my house in order,” which of course first meant cleaning out her apartment, selling her things and dealing with her estate.  I also had my husband’s divorce to deal with, which was finalized in June of 2012.  With all that behind me, I began to ask God the question, “Is it still Ecuador?”  Somehow moving to such a country alone felt even more intimidating, than if I had a spouse to accompany me.

But literally every time I prayed that prayer, within 48 hours someone would randomly bring up Ecuador in conversation!  This country I’d never really heard anyone mention previously, was turning up everywhere!  Whenever I’m wrestling with whether I’m really hearing from God on something, I’ve always asked Him to confirm things to me by “the testimony of two or three witnesses,” (2 Corinthians 13:1) and He has always been faithful to answer that request (with three).  He did that with the Babylon message, and He did it with this as well.

First, I met a new girl at the church I was attending and felt compelled to reach out to get to know her better (some may think that was a common occurrence for me, but actually it was not – it’s the only time I can think of that I did that).  She had a very busy schedule and it actually took us several months to finally meet for breakfast, but when we did, it was just a normal opportunity to learn more about her.  She was engaged at the time and attending seminary school, and I asked her to share with me the overall journey of her life until then.  Imagine my surprise when she shared that she had lived in Ecuador!  I quizzed her more about it and discovered she loved her time there.  I then hesitantly shared with her that I believed God might be calling me to move to Ecuador and that I had just been praying for Him to confirm it.

The next time this happened, I’d gathered with all the ladies from my former home church for a reunion of sorts.  We all met at a restaurant to catch up with what was going on in each other’s lives.  When we turned to one of the younger girls, who was a speech therapist in a school, we asked what she was going to be doing for her summer vacation.  She replied, “Not much – visiting my family, relaxing…oh yes, and going to Ecuador!”  My response was, “What???”  She then shared with us that her brother and sister-in-law had recently sold almost everything because they felt led to move to Ecuador!  I can’t remember what I shared with the group at that point, but did tell her I had been feeling a similar call.  She told me she would send me their blog and I followed it the whole time they were here.  They didn’t get to stay as long as they had hoped, but have been back to visit and have a huge heart for Ecuador.  I was later able to meet them, we’ve stayed in touch, and they even visited with me right after I arrived, when they returned to visit the orphanage they’d worked with here (which, incidentally, is only 2 hours down the coast from me).

The third and final confirmation came when I learned in the fall of 2012, that my nephew (by marriage), an atheist and who I hadn’t seen in some time, was in an internship at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  This was a place I’d visited many times for conferences and spending time in the prayer room.  It was earlier in April of that year that I attended the “Passion for Jesus” conference with friends, and received my life changing prophecy.  I was so anxious to hear first hand about the turn of events in my nephew’s life, and how he went from being an atheist to interning at IHOP-KC.  But I had a very busy November and December coming up, with a trip to Arizona to visit family for a week at Thanksgiving, then with only a few days turn around, a trip to Israel that would get me home just a week before Christmas.  So I asked my nephew if I could fly up for one day and visit him.  I took the first Southwest Airlines flight of the morning, rented a car, picked him up for breakfast, spent the day with him (including dinner with him and another friend from my church who was also interning at that time) and then drove back to the airport and took the last flight home.  As we were driving to breakfast, I told my nephew to start at the beginning and tell me the whole story of what turned his life around.  It is an absolutely incredible testimony of how God broke into his life in a dramatic way!  But at the beginning of the story, while still an atheist, he told me he had studied the history and patterns of the rise and fall of civilizations and saw the handwriting on the wall for the U.S., so he was making plans to move to ECUADOR!

Keep in mind all of these within a six month period, were on the heels of a prayer 24-48 hours before, “Lord, is it still Ecuador?”  At that point, I finally knew without a doubt I had my answer.

My trip to Israel that December was very providential as well.  It had been a longing in my heart to go for many years.  In 2010, I was trying to put together a group trip (ironically with my friend’s brother that later came here – he takes tour groups to Israel.  My spiritual twin brother actually went on one with them earlier this year).  But then my husband decided to leave me and squashed it (he later returned, but the trip never got planned).  After my mom died, someone mentioned going to Israel and it resurrected the desire in me.  I asked, “Lord, would it be in your will for me to go now?”  Once again, the heavens answered and shortly afterwards, I got an email from a group I’d never heard of and to this day don’t know how I got on their email list.  It was headed up by a lady wanting to host a “Global Day of Prayer” in Israel on 12/12/12 (interestingly enough, they had hosted their first Global Day of Prayer the year before on 11/11/11).  I looked at the itinerary and the purpose of the trip.  They didn’t just want to go as tourists, but as prayer warriors and worshippers to all of the sites.  They were also visiting several houses of prayer, in addition to broadcasting the Global Day of Prayer internationally from the CBN studios in Jerusalem.  I showed a friend, who had been to Israel several times, the itinerary and he said, “I cannot see anything it is missing and the price is unbelievable.”  So I contacted them and signed up within less than two months before the trip.

The trip felt like it was a “kiss from God” and a sweet present from Him at the end of one of the hardest years of my life.  But I also sensed it was to inspire me towards the next journey God had for me.  I felt, even before I went, that it would be a line of demarcation in my life and that things would move quickly after I returned.  I was the only one in the group who did not have any connection with anyone else in the rest of the group.  I made friendly acquaintances and people were kind, but this aloneness allowed the trip to be a very personal and healing journey for me.  As I was being symbolically re-baptized in the Jordan river, I told God that my whole life was His and I was ready to do whatever He was calling me to do – I was closing the door on all my past and if He would open the next door, I would walk through it.

Also on that trip, I can remember when we visited Caeserea by the Sea.  As we stood at the ruins and our guide gave us an overview of the history of the area, I was mesmerized watching the waves of the Mediterranean ocean.  After the guide dismissed us to have our own time to explore, I couldn’t seem to tear myself away.  I remember saying to him, “I love the ocean – I could stand and watch it all day long.”

On the heels of returning home from Israel, I sat in my living room that following Saturday morning and earnestly prayed to God.  I once again reiterated that my whole life was His, that I was ready to close the door on my past and walk through whatever door He opened for me.  I had no idea what that would look like, but I vowed not to search it out, but wait for Him to bring it to me.  I trusted that He would leave no doubt in my mind that it was His door.  I even remember saying, “It might even be some random email, like the one I got that led me to Israel.”  Shortly after praying, I checked my email (only as a matter of course, not expecting anything).  I saw a message from a publication I was subscribed to about Ecuador.  I had gotten to where I deleted most of what I received from them by that time, because it was redundant information.  I especially paid no attention to anything about real estate.  But a funny thing happened that day – my mind purposed to delete the email, but my hand opened it.  It was there that I read about a development with beach property for sale.  Having been looking at property prices for the previous few years, I knew the asking price was good.  I began to follow a breadcrumb trail of research about the area, developer, etc.  This led me to discover the blog of Steve Watkins, who was literally arriving in Puerto Cayo just as I was reading his blog.  The details of that day and the first contact I made with him are chronicled in this post.

The following day, Sunday, I went to church.  My mind was reeling with the impact of what I was apparently about to step out to do.  I wanted prayer from spiritual elders.  There were two men in my church who I looked up to and had specifically confided in over the years what I believed the Lord was showing me about the U.S. and that He was calling me to leave.  One of the men was frequently absent from church at that time, due to travel and other commitments.  But that morning, in a rare convergence, both men were there and when the pastor asked for those who wanted to pray with people to go down front, both men went down and stood together.  I made a bee line straight for them and said, “I think God is opening a door for me to move to Ecuador!”  They looked at me and smiled and said, “Let’s pray.”  Their prayers were powerful and confirming, and I felt all the more confident that this was it.

So as the calendar clicked over to 2013, I was making the arrangements to buy my property and build my house.  And as I sat at home with my part-time job taking “bee calls,” my full-time job was cleaning out and sorting through all the things from my childhood that my mother had left stored in the closets of the house where I grew up and was presently living in.  I also had many antiques and collectibles from my parents there as well.  It took lots of research and selling things through eBay, collectors and dealers, as well as to friends and family, to dispose of all that was in my home.  Not to mention photos, memorabilia and heirlooms to sort through and pass on to other family members.  Imagine going through everything in your home, not just to move it somewhere else, but to totally dispose of it down to a few suitcases!  For 9 months (the same amount of time a woman waits and prepares to give birth), I was literally sorting through and purging my entire life, in order to prepare for a new one.

As the months ticked by, I was growing anxious because I wasn’t getting the “green light” for the timing of when I should leave.  I desperately wanted and felt that I was to be gone before the end of the year.  But as chronicled in my post “The 11/11 Story,” the timing finally emerged, and after I booked my plane tickets on faith, believing that God had set that date, with less than 8 weeks to go, everything rapidly fell into place.  My house sold the first day it was on the market, a friend said she wanted to buy my car, another friend offered for me to stay with them after my house sold, etc.  It was amazing how many things wrapped up in a less than two month period of time.  I was walking through a door into the unknown – a country I’d never been to before, where I knew no one and didn’t speak the language.  But I knew Who was leading me, so I knew it would be good.

My morning beach walk view

My morning beach walk view

After moving here, I heard story after story of people who traveled the whole coast of Ecuador and when they found Puerto Cayo said, “This is the place.”  It wasn’t until after I moved here, that God reminded me of that statement I’d made in Israel.  He knew, despite what I had thought, that the ocean was the place for me.  But not only that, He brought me to a unique place where the mountains meet the ocean.  I literally have an ocean view in front of me and mountains on the sides and behind.  Every day on my morning beach walk, I walk looking straight at the mountains of Machalilla National Park as they spill into the ocean in front of me.  God is so good!  (In addition, the predominant food on the coast here is, of course, seafood, which I love.  The predominant food in the mountains of Ecuador is “Cuy” – roasted or fried guinea pig – YUK!)

More and more I see the reasons God brought me here (not the least of which is the rapid decline the U.S. has taken since I left).  Those who are not people of faith, will likely find the details of this account hard to believe, and even some who are might doubt.  But God made sure, through all the providential events that led me here, that no matter what might happen, I would never doubt that He was the One who orchestrated it all, and I am confident that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be!

PS – in reviewing this post, I realized I left out a key component.  Some may wonder why did God call ME to leave?  I’m sure there are several reasons, most of which I probably won’t know on this side.  But I do believe part of them were a culmination of two things.  1) The HEAVY burden on my heart for many, many years regarding the spiritual direction I saw that our nation was headed; and 2) some years prior, God drew my attention to one of the very few prayers Jesus told us to pray.  I figured if He told us to pray it, it must be important.  So without fully understanding what I might be asking for, on faith I began to pray, “that I might escape all that is about to happen and that I might be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36)  As the Apostle Paul says, we don’t always know what we ought to pray for, but the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:26)  I believe in praying this prayer in faith, it was applied towards what was coming on America, and God in His mercy called me out to escape (and to be a voice to warn others).   But just so you know, I still pray that prayer. 🙂

Election Reflections

Well, on this Election Day in America, I finally decided to weigh in on “the state of the Union,” but not in the way you might think.  Although I have read very few media reports, I’ve kept abreast (through my spiritual twin brother) of the major highlights (or should I say antics) of this election.  Let’s just say, I warned you.

But my reflections today are not about the election itself.  For in anything like this, I look at a much bigger picture.  This message is mainly for my Christian brothers and sisters in America.  For years, I pleaded with God to “awaken His sleeping bride” in the U.S.  I saw (for the most part) a people that were primarily caught up with their own self-interest and comfort, and not focused on the Kingdom of God.  They seemed happy to be saved, but then go on with their life, expecting their salvation just meant they now had a God who would bless them.

But I believe the rapid decline in the U.S. over the past few years, culminating with the escalating chaos surrounding this election, has finally served to answer that prayer.  For the most part, the (true) church finally appears to be eyes wide open and sober minded regarding the times we are living in.

But these times are not ones that should bring fear and anxiety upon us.  No matter what is happening in the political arenas, not just in the U.S., but around the world, the church needs to remember these important truths found in scripture:

1 Why do the nations conspire (rage)
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
5 He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
6 “I have installed MY king
on Zion, my holy mountain.” (Psalm 2:1-6 NIV – emphasis added)

“So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”  (Luke 21:28 NLT)

In times like these, we need to remember that our hope lies, not in the stability of the kingdoms of this world, but in a “Kingdom that cannot be shaken,” (Hebrews 12:28) “a Kingdom that will never be destroyed,” (Daniel 2:44), and of which “His government and peace will never end.” (Isaiah 9:7).

“Even so, come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

I Know That I Know That I Know

I’ve been pretty busy lately.  But yesterday afternoon, the full day of plans I’d made with friends for today was cancelled, and I found myself with a blank slate.  Before going to bed last night, I checked the tide chart to see that low tide would correspond with a long overdue morning beach walk.  When I awoke, we had our gray clouds that are typical this time of year, with an ever so slight mist.  At the last minute, I decided maybe a windbreaker jacket was in order, so I put that on over my t-shirt and workout pants and headed out, determined to enjoy my nature walk.

But about halfway into my excursion and praise music, I began getting a solid spitting rain on my face.  I looked up to realize that a fog had moved in and now almost totally blocked my view of the mountains ahead and beside me.  Suddenly all the familiar scenery disappeared, and I was left with only what was in my most immediate vicinity.

Just about that time a song began playing, and I quickly sensed a spiritual correlation to what I was experiencing.  I realized that just as the fog had suddenly moved in and obscured what was all around me, there is currently a fog of chaos and confusion rapidly descending on the world all around us.  More and more people are beginning to recognize that the “signs of the times” are hurling us towards the end of this age.  Although it was prophesied in the Bible that these things would continue to escalate, in the midst of them, it is easy to lose sight of what was once so familiar to us.  But despite the troubled and uncertain times we are living in, we need to keep this one truth always anchored in our hearts and minds…

What Happened?

It’s a Spanish word I never wanted to have to learn – “Terremoto.”  But it’s now in the first sentence exchanged with anyone I see for the first time since Saturday evening, April 16.  The news sound bite is over, everyone back home knows I’m OK, and life quickly goes back to its normal routine there.

But life is anything but “normal” or “routine” here anymore.  My beloved Ecuador has been forever altered in a single, one minute event called “terremoto.”

Most of my efforts this past week have been focused on fundraising and relief, both for my friend Edwin, as well as several other causes endeavoring to bring urgent help to some of the small, forgotten villages on the coast, north of Manta and Portoviejo, that are by most accounts even more devastated than the larger cities.  I’ve also been fighting to expose some misuse of some relief funds, in an effort to see that monies being raised by local organizers are going where it is really needed.

The earthquake site actually shows 3 separate simultaneous quakes a short distance apart - 7.8, 7.7 and 7.4 (the smaller circles are much smaller quakes that happened earlier in the day).

The earthquake site actually shows 3 separate simultaneous quakes that night, a short distance apart – 7.8, 7.7 and 7.4 (the smaller circles are much smaller quakes that happened earlier in the day).

But I’ve also done a little bit of hindsight reading regarding what so much of Ecuador just experienced.  Friends back home tell me the media have all but dropped our earthquake from their “news” now, but are still focusing on the Japan earthquakes, despite the fact that one geologist stated that Ecuador’s quake was six times stronger than the largest of the Japanese quakes, and other geologists have estimated it was actually 20 times stronger.  In addition, the last reports show the Japan quake death toll at 48, whereas Ecuador is now over 650.

Initial reports stated the earthquake lasted 40 seconds.  It seemed longer than that to me, and now I’m reading that some reports were over a minute and others even say up to three (although I believe that to be a bit exaggerated).  All I can say is, set your kitchen timer for a minute and then imagine everything around you violently shaking, and seeing things falling and breaking for that period of time – it was definitely the longest minute of my life!

I also read this in another news article:

According to the New York Times, both countries were also hit with different types of quakes, with the two that hit Japan likely resulting from something called a strike-slip, that occurs along faults situated at a relatively shallow level. The Ecuador earthquake, on the other hand, occurred because of a process known as subduction — where one tectonic plate slides under another to create what is known as a “megathrust” event.

I can tell you that “megathrust” is a perfect description of what I felt!

One thing that I’d previously mentioned to a friend was that there seemed to be a “line of demarcation” between the terrible destruction that happened in our nearby shopping cities of Manta and Portoviejo, and the relatively minor damage we’d experienced here.  And as I said before, the night of the earthquake I had guessed that we were at the epicenter of a 5.0 quake.  Well, interestingly enough, I found this map of the “shake intensity” on the Samaritan’s Purse website (we are very grateful for their relief efforts, by the way).  Here you can see that, sure enough, the shake intensity that we experienced was equivalent to a category 5.0, and is dramatically different from those in the areas that experienced a 6.0 intensity.

All I can say is, I regularly cover my little town of Puerto Cayo in prayer.  Some people question where our “spiritual authority” lies when praying over territories or regions.  But most will agree that we have authority over the homes, neighborhoods and even towns where God has placed us.  As Ecuador braced itself for what had been predicted as a “Gozilla El Niño” year, and many here braced themselves for what that might mean for our homes and ability to obtain daily essentials (much flooding was anticipated), I consistently prayed that the rains we would receive be “productive and not destructive.”  And you know what?  That’s exactly what we got.  While other parts of Ecuador experienced excessive rains and repeated flooding, our little area simply got much needed relief from several years of drought.

Recently my “spiritual twin brother” had a similar, but more dramatic experience in commanding a terribly destructive storm away from his parent’s house.  You can read his account of it here.

All I know for sure from these experiences that I’ve witnessed is that God is, as He said He would do, shaking all things (Haggai 2:6-7) and that the only safe place to be is “in the shelter of the Most High.” (Psalm 91:1)