November 2014 Trip to Honduras

Preaching at BaxterThe weekend before Thanksgiving, Steve Ridgell and I traveled to Honduras for a Hope For Life/Herald of Truth campaign. I mentioned a few months ago the passing of Rigoberto Vargas, who was not only our Central American field representative, but was also in charge of our Honduras campaign. We missed Rigo in a lot of ways on this trip.

Leopoldo Villacorta stepped up and tried to handle the things that Rigoberto would have done. Not having worked with us on a campaign before, there were many things that he didn’t know about how we carry out a campaign. Yet God worked in the midst of our miscues; 14 people were baptized into Christ during the time we were there.

IMG_2700The Baxter Institute in Tegucigalpa was a great help. Not only did they loan us their amphitheater for a combined service on Sunday, but dozens of their students canvassed the neighborhoods of Tegucigalpa, distributing literature and inviting people to the campaign. Local Christians did the same, inviting friends and neighbors to be a part. And the harvest came as a result of many people working together.

As often is the case during such events, I remembered Jesus’ words to his disciples:

“Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:36–38)

That’s how it is for all of us who do campaign work. We get to enjoy seeing a time of harvest, but that harvest comes after much labor by many different workers.

Can I Tell You A Story?

Can I tell you a story?

That line probably got your interest. We like stories. We like to tell stories: stories about our grandkids, stories about our pets, stories about what happened on the way to work. Science has even shown that our brains react differently (more alertly) when listening to a story.

Stories work.

That’s the premise behind Steve Ridgell’s book Can I Tell You A Story? Steve takes the ideas that he has shared for years in his “Sharing Our Story” seminars and puts them down in book form. Not surprisingly, stories make up a significant part of the book.

Besides the book and seminars, Steve has also successfully used stories for years to teach people about Jesus, to counsel hurting Christians, and to encourage and edify the church. In the book, he teaches how to use stories to engage non-believers in discussions about the Bible, how to address the need for change in a non-confrontational way, how to enable new believers to share their faith with others.

Full disclosure: Steve is a colleague of mine at Hope For Life/Herald of Truth. We’ve written 3 books together (I let him go solo this time). In this book, Steve draws on many of the stories told in video on our website. 21st Century Christian has taken those videos, along with commentary from Steve, and put them into DVD form: Can I Show You A Story?

I encourage you to get Steve’s book and read it. I’d also encourage you to think about having Steve come to your church for a seminar. His stories can create new stories for the people of your congregation.

Click on the image below to read a sample from Steve’s book:

Sample Pages

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book, but was not asked to write this review nor do I receive financial compensation for any books or DVDs purchased.

Lipscomb Summer Celebration 2014

I spent the last few days at the Summer Celebration at Lipscomb University. I would have liked to be there for the whole event, but there are times when real life gets in the way of what we’d like to do. What I especially regret is not seeing a good number of friends who were there; things just didn’t work out.

I thought I was going to be teaching in the Spanish part of the lectures. I was invited to speak a while back. I was then given a topic and a time. Later I saw the published schedule, and my name was there, with a different topic and time (Tuesday afternoon). Unfortunately, the new time listed was after the departure time for my plane back to Abilene.

So I reached out to my contact person on the organizing committee of the Spanish part. (I never got any official letter nor e-mail; I only had Facebook conversations with this person) He let me know that my topic remained the same, but that my time had been moved to Monday afternoon. I wrote back asking if it was truly on Monday, since I couldn’t be there Tuesday afternoon. Yes, I was assured, my time was on Monday.

I knew enough to be sure and attend the first session of the Spanish classes. There I was told that I was indeed scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, but that they could use me on Monday instead (at yet a different time). I would be teaching on the topic I’d been given, despite the fact that the first class I heard was on the very same subject!

Following that first morning class that I heard, the organizers approached me again. They had a problem. Schedule conflicts. And, in their words, since I was mature enough to handle it, they were bumping me from the schedule. So… there went my class.

We also had a Hope For Life/Herald of Truth breakfast Tuesday morning. It looked like it was going to be just as problematic. When we arrived, Shamblin Theater had not been cleaned from the night before. The carpet had food on it. The tables had leftover cake and plates on them. And there were no tablecloths on the tables.

Fortunately the event staff arrived quickly and provided the table cloths. We cleaned as best we could, and nobody complained about the state of things.

Then there was the food. We told them that our event would start at 7, but that we would need to have the food line open about 15 minutes ahead of that. “Sure, no problem.” However… they didn’t open the food line until a little after 7, which made us quite late in starting our presentation. (There was an 8:10 class, so we had no leeway) Again, we got it all done, and everyone seemed quite appreciative.

So… it was an interesting few days. I’m thankful for the people I did get to see and regretful about those I missed. I was quite disappointed not to get to teach, but glad that our breakfast went well.

So how has your week been so far?

Conferences in Madrid

IMG_5292As part of my work with Hope For Life (Herald of Truth), I was privileged to travel with Steve Ridgell to Madrid, Spain, last week. Juan Antonio Monroy, our representative in Spain, organized the trip and made the arrangements for me to give a 3-day seminar on the book of Revelation. IMG_5270The first two evenings were at a hotel in downtown Madrid. The final lesson was given Sunday morning at the Teruel St. Church of Christ in Madrid.

In addition, we spent Thursday afternoon doing some radio interviews. IMG_0815The first was for a website,; the interview went out on several radio stations, in addition to the website. The second interview was for Dynamis Radio, an evangelical station in Madrid.

The sessions on Friday and Saturday evening were well attended, with between 175 and 200 people coming each night. Several congregations in Madrid had worked hard to invite their members and friends. They had also passed out invitations on the street.

IMG_5301The church service was packed on Sunday, with an overflow crowd. That’s not unusual for that congregation; they are trying to find ways to move to a place with more space.

I was reminded that traveling east-west is much more taxing than traveling north-south. The crossing of multiple time zones really confuses our bodies. IMG_0825I’m amazed again at the stamina of Juan Antonio Monroy, who makes several trips like that each year, even now when he’s in his 80s.

Great trip, but as always, I’m glad to be home.

Rigoberto Vargas

Rigoberto VargasIt’s ironic that Friday’s post on this blog was about death. Friday evening I received word of the death of a friend and colleague, Rigoberto Vargas.

Rigo, as his friends called him, was an energetic evangelist in Tegucigalpa. During his course of study at the Baxter Institute in that city, back in the 1980s, Rigo developed a passion for prison ministry. He worked tirelessly in the prisons of Tegucigalpa, establishing congregations within the prison walls and converting hundreds. It would be interesting to know how many preachers in Honduras were converted in the prison; I know that the number would surprise many.

Rigo extended that ministry to a radio program called “Jesus Christ in the Prisons.” It was widely listened to by prisoners and their families as Rigo would use that space to communicate important information between those two groups. He would also teach them the gospel as they listened to him on the radio.

Rigoberto had dreams of expanding this ministry beyond the walls of the prisons. He started a halfway house that was funded for a time by our ministry, Herald of Truth. He had obtained some land near the prison and had a vision of establishing a center for vocational training, preparing ex-prisoners to go out into the world with occupational skills.

One dream that was realized was the Reinsertion Church of Christ. This congregation is made up largely of ex-convicts and families of prisoners, many of whom would have been uncomfortable in other churches.

In addition to these activities, Rigo volunteered his time to work with Herald of Truth. He helped us set up projects in Central America. I’ve worked with Rigo in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. It will be hard for us to find someone who can do all that Rigo did.

The last year or so, Rigo has had health problems. He was gravely ill during much of 2013. In addition, he was viciously attacked on social media by a dishonest man in Nicaragua who calls himself a believer. This man spread shameful lies about Rigo in an extortion attempt, even going to the point of accusing him of faking his illness. The vengeful part of me wanted to find that false brother on Friday night and ask him if he would dare to repeat those false accusations. Yet there was no need. Christians from many places assured me that they recognized that greed-driven man for what he is and had no problem in seeing that the accusations against Rigoberto were false.

We’ve lost a great man of God. Yet the effects of his work will live on for many years to come, throughout all eternity. Rigoberto Alejandro Vargas, we will miss you. And we look forward to seeing you again.