Levi Velasco, Author
A Normal Day
. . . was what commuters felt as they began their day as a normal routine. And then BAM! The commuter train they were riding didn’t slow down as it approached the Hoboken, New Jersey station. The NJ Transit No. 1614 hit the bumper guard rail at the end of the line and smashed through the terminal. Some on board the train described the ensuing moments in what seemed to be a very bumpy ride. As of this writing there have already been over a 100 injuries and one death reported.
This illustrates the uncertainties we face on a daily basis. A normal day can turn tragic in a matter of seconds. Hundreds of people, those who were in the commuter train and those who were in the station, will forever be impacted by this one single event. At this juncture, questions about mortality are entertained . . . but only for a brief moment.
But now that your attention is on mortality even for a brief moment, think about where you will spend eternity if this was the day your life was taken. Don’t let this not-so-normal-day turn tragic by denying the free gift of eternal life. The Lord Jesus Christ offers this to those who desire to spend eternity with Him. Don’t let it be a normal day again until you settle once and for all your eternal destination.
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In August, I hosted Pastor Tom Shedd, from the Global Training Network. Their mission: “To train Majority World church planters, pastors and Christian leaders so that they can more effectively equip their congregations to evangelize and disciple their communities for Christ.”
We had one training in Mae Sai, Thailand and one in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Basically, what I did was:
1) Make the connections between the trainer and the trainees (making connections may be turning out to be one of my roles).
2) Plan and book most of Pastor Tom’s accommodations and local/domestic flights.
3) Set up the training schedule and deal with many of the details.
4) Help finance bus tickets and food for the trainees.
5) Attend the training as both a teaching assistant and trainee.
Pastor Tom and translator Pastor Ed
After I was finished in Laos, I visited Breakthrough Thailand ministry in Khon Kaen Province. We did an art workshop there in July, which you may remember from my last newsletter. These two pictures are actually from that visit (this last visit the only pictures that I took are of manual rice transplanting – see a future blog).
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Levi Velasco, Author
When it rains it pours. We tend to equate this saying in the negative. Experiencing a string of three to four mishaps within a relatively short amount of time, we say, when it rains it pours. Such was my feeling in recent days. Within a period of two weeks we had to replace a microwave, our air conditioning (AC) unit quit and the garage door broke and wouldn’t open.
But as a child of God, born of His Spirit through His Son (John 1:12 [read the whole chapter for context]), I know He knows what I am going through at all times. I completely trust that my Father is able to provide for my every need, so I need not be perplexed with the daily travails of life I encounter as His son (but He understands when I get anxious from time to time).
Rain 1 – The Microwave
We live in a small townhouse having limited space in our kitchen/dining area. The decision to replace the microwave was more out of practicality, but it needed to be done. We gave away our huge microwave (circa 2003) and replaced it with a smaller one that could really fit on our kitchen counter.
Rain 2- The AC Unit
I did a good thing by having our furnace and AC compressor tuned up. It was a good deal or so I thought. A technician from HVAC Services (not its real name) came and did his thing, cleaned both units and recommended some parts be changed to which he included a quote. Hmm . . . I thought, wow, this is high.
Being the good shopper that I am, I immediately called a friend from Integrity Heating and Cooling (its real name) and asked for a pricing quote which definitely came out lower. I had done my homework and scheduled a tech from Integrity to do the job on September 6th. However, the AC unit all of a sudden quit a couple of days before the scheduled appointment – two of the hottest days this summer in Chicago!
Rafael (tech) came on the 6th, and it didn’t take a whole lot of time for him to replace the parts on the AC and furnace units, but the AC still wouldn’t work. His assessment? The fan motor on the compressor failed. I had a decision to make but being that it was one of the hottest days of summer, it was a no-brainer and had Rafael replace the motor. After finishing, Rafael, with sweat pouring down his face, said it was done. Ah, cool air once again came through the vents. (Rafael commented later that the reason why the fan motor failed was the tech who earlier tuned up the AC unit either made a mistake or intentionally reversed the polarity of the fan motor wiring. Only the Lord knows.)
Rain 3 – The Garage Door
Now, the garage door. It wouldn’t even budge as I tried to lift it Saturday night (09/10). I asked our neighbor, Craig, if he wouldn’t mind helping me figure out what was wrong. He came over, checked out the garage door, and then came back with rope. What on earth was he thinking? 🙂 Anyway, he looped the rope on the handle of the garage door and said, lift! It was heavy but it did open. Craig looked up and declared, “Your torsion spring is broken.” I looked, and it was easy to see it had split in half.
I prayed, “What do I do now?” The Lord reminded me of Miguel, so I called him and said, I have an emergency and need your help. He is REALLY a busy man. But he replied, the earliest he could come was Tuesday (09/13). Upon arriving, Miguel took one look at the door, and he lifted it with one hand. Amazing.
The challenge now was to find a store nearby that had the specific torsion spring for our garage door. Smartphones and Google to the rescue. Menards had it, so off we went, bought the spring, and Miguel replaced it. While he was on the ladder he commented, “Oh, you have an electric garage door opener.” I said, yeah, but it doesn’t work. I had attached the opener a few years back but the screw that was supposed to lift the door wouldn’t turn. Miguel says, “I’ll take a look at it after I’m done with this.”
It took awhile to adjust the spring until the tension was just right. After Miguel made the final adjustments, he asked me where the switch to the door opener was. I pressed it, and I heard a whirring sound. I asked, is it working? Miguel said, “Yeah, it’s working.” He attached the arm to the door and tried it again. Hallelujah, it worked. We programmed the remotes and we were done for the day.
Let it Rain!
When it rains it pours, but God’s provision is ever-present even before the rain stops. A couple of weeks ago we were surprised to receive a check from our mortgage bank. It was an overpayment to our escrow account. The amount from the bank covered the repairs on the AC, garage door, and even the purchase of our small microwave.
Not only did He provide the funds to cover all three needs but also allowed quality time with friends who showed love through their acts of kindness. Expressions of love are great but deeds borne out of love are powerful! Trust Him fully, even through the rain.
Levi Velasco, Author
“We don’t send Filipinos to the Philippines as missionaries,” was the common mantra of mission leaders when Diane and I were applying to a number of agencies in the late 1980s.
Several reasons were expressed, but I couldn’t put my finger on what was really being said. Because in my mind I reasoned, what could be better than sending people who already knew the language, well-versed in the culture and possessed a long list of contacts, both in ministry and the target audience?
Recalling a decades-old exchange with a mission leader, I once again posed this question: “Would you consider Diane and me to apply to your missions agency for the Philippines?”
I heard the oft-repeated reply: “We don’t send Filipinos to the Philippines as missionaries.”
So I asked why. The response was predictable: it’s not really missions if you don’t have to learn the language, how would the local pastor react to you, we can send you to Colombia but not to the Philippines, etcetera, etcetera.
I pried more deeply, “But didn’t you deploy a Filipino to be a missionary in the Philippines with your agency?”
He answered, “Oh, he’s married to an American.”
I responded, “But so am I.”
The quick retort was, “Oh, a natural-born American.”
To which I quickly countered with “Diane was born and raised in New York; does that count?”
He bobbed and weaved, back-pedaled like a cornered pugilist. His countenance changed colors in a matter of seconds, and in my heart, I knew right there and then that the real reason why I couldn’t be considered to become an American missionary to my native land, was that I didn’t have the right shade of skin.
After receiving my degree from the Moody Bible Institute (1988), and realizing our missions dreams had to be put on hold, I sent 30 ministry resumés east of Chicago (where Diane’s extended family lived) and one to the West Coast. Yup, you guessed it right; we landed in the Pacific Northwest. The irony of this church assignment in Western Washington was that during the interview process, the district missions consultant of the denomination asked me, “Young man, do you have a burden for your home country?” I was floored. I didn’t even have to initiate inquiring about missions to the Philippines. Surrendering our dreams to God, He made it abundantly clear that this was His purview, and that we only needed to trust His sovereignty over our lives. He knew we needed to learn more of Him and life lessons to prepare us for the rigors of being missionaries.
In God’s timing and wisdom He paved the way for us to return to the Philippines as missionaries. Our time, though only a four-year term (1994-1998), was fruitful as we envisioned and implemented a plan to plant a church in Manila society. To God be the glory, great things He has done.