September 29, 2009


Exhaustion set in on Thursday. We were carted off to the school once again where we would see first the Jr. High, then the Sr. High. This time, it was a little later in the morning. I spoke Thursday about, “Enduring in the Revolution.” I shared God’s desire for his revolutionaries to remain steadfast and vigilant. The Movement requires people who are not set back by set back. There is little room for casual Christians who expect things to get easier when joining ranks with Jesus. So, I invited the kids to be baptized with the Holy Spirit that day. Once again, we spread ourselves out down front and invited any who were in need of the Spirit to come down. In addition, I told the kids to just wave one of us up if they needed prayer, but couldn’t/wouldn’t come down.

It was important to me on Wednesday that the kids come down front. There is something important about physically moving toward God. (I know, God is in the bleachers and pews too, that isn’t my point.) Given the skepticism we found in those first days at the school, I truly felt that it was the kids’ move to make. Thursday was different. I wanted those who were still struggling to know that God finds them right where they are – if only they are willing to be found. So, over the course of the morning, we prayed with hundreds of more kids who were seeking blessing, healing, anointing, wisdom, freedom, and life. We prayed down front and we prayed in the stands. We prayed with individuals, pairs, and groups.

At one point, I looked up to see around 40 kids in a tight circle. RT had begun praying with three kids which multiplied again and again. By the end, RT was spinning in a circle laying hands on the kids praying blessing down upon them. As he said, “Amen,” the kids broke into tears and shouts of joy all at once. A mighty cry went up before the Lord from that corner of the room – let me assure you.

After services were over, I met with a young man who would become a real friend. Jose came and with tears expressed his joy at what he had found during the course of the week. He told me he wasn’t sure about this on Monday, but thought it was a good presentation. He said by Wednesday he had been found by the Lord and cried, Abba Pappa. Jose said he thought we were angels from heaven for sure.

I thought about that a lot. The word angel and messenger are the same in Hebrew. The angels were messengers who brought word from God to his people in their time of need. They played a role in the revelation of the person of God. Though I am certain we came from Texas and not heaven (though it is easy to confuse the two), I think Jose was right in the end. This week in Costa Rica, God used our little team to be messengers of His Word for His children.

That night was friend and family night for the kids of the school. We had a large group there that night for worship. I preached one of my favorite sermons, “Outrageous Ridiculousness” with the translating help of my friend Luis Palomo. Once again, Luis did a great job following me around as I preached, sang, and danced! I pointed out that God is in the habit of doing outrageous things – most notably in the person of Jesus Christ.

Alison broke out in “Oh How He Loves” and I invited all who would be saved by God’s outrageous and ridiculous grace to come forward for prayer as our team came forward. Once again, hundreds poured out of the stands to give their life to Christ. We were amazed by the number of young children who came to follow in the footsteps of their older siblings.

As Thursday drew to a close, we were full of God’s Spirit, but completely poured out. It was with a thankful heart that we laid down that night.

September 27, 2009


Wednesday had the earliest wake up calls for the week. The early breakfast time was exacerbated by my sleeplessness during the night. When I finally lay down the night before, I was troubled by cramps in my legs and an overall restlessness. I was painfully aware of how important Wednesday would be and was frustrated by my inability to rest. I knew from the start it was a feeble attempt to weaken me. Though my body did pay the price for the attack from Satan, my heart was in line with the Master and his strength was made perfect in my weakness.

We arrived at the school for an 8:00 a.m. start with the Jr. High kids. That morning I preached about: “How to join the Revolution.” I shared with them my experience in a Rwandan orphanage and the child who simply wanted to leave that place. I recounted him saying, “Go, Papa, Go.” I shared with the kids Paul’s assertion that by the Spirit of Christ within us we are the adopted children of the Most High God – and by that same Spirit we cry “Papa, Father.” In what I believe is the finest sermon I have ever been privileged to deliver, I shared the fundamental truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I concluded by inviting the kids to come forward if they want to accept Christ as their Savior and commit to following him as their Lord.

Before the service began, I had asked the team to prepare themselves to pray with the kids. I instructed them to simply come forward and spread out along the floor down front. After my invitation, the team came down and Mark began to sing. He (Mark) would later recount for us, “I was just praying that even one kid would come down. You know how people always say, even if it was just for that one.”

There was quite a pause after the sermon ended and the music began. I looked up to the kids sitting in the bleachers only once or twice. There was more than one child weeping already, but no one moved. Exhausted and poured out, I sat down on the floor. I knew they would come – I had seen their sweet faces while I shared Christ with them. I knew they were living in a spiritual orphanage and were desperate to cry Abba, Father.

Two girls finally rose together and made their way to Alison. They were the first to receive salvation that day, but not the last. They came as individuals and they came in groups. They surrounded every person standing down front waiting for them. Life began that morning for hundreds of young people as their hurt and sin poured out and grace proved triumphant. A group of ten kids would come and surround one of us and we would ask “how can we pray for you?” and a confused look would spread across their faces. Then we would ask, “who wants to receive salvation and make Jesus their Lord?” and ten hands would go up into the air. We would ask their name and one by one lead them in prayer. They confessed their sins and claimed the love of Christ as their very own.

It was the same with the older kids later that morning. I read Acts sometimes and wonder at the power of God’s Spirit to add thousands to his flock when Peter preaches the Gospel. In San Jose, I got a glimpse into what is otherwise words on a page as hundreds entered eternal life that morning.

As if that wasn’t enough for one day, we went back to the seminary where we led worship for the pastors during their chapel time. I spoke there about the enduring nature of God’s promise. Bishop Palomo rose after I spoke to bless the Communion meal. I had the benefit of Ray Zirkel translating the Bishop’s words. Once again, I found myself awed by the depth of this man’s understanding of the things of God. At one point, he prayed that God would bless our taking of the holy meal, “not because of our merits” and he paused, then said, “mostly because we don’t have any.” So simple, yet such an important truth.

Since I was the preacher, I was sitting in the front row and therefore one of the first to receive communion. I wasn’t sure of their practice, but given the events of the morning, I went to the front of the room and simply knelt on the floor. I intended to just stay in my crumpled position, but I hadn’t been their long when the Lord called me to my feet to pray for the other pastors positioned around me. I rose and prayed as instructed. Somehow, the Spirit moved through me as I prayed clearly and specifically for each pastor. For one I prayed direction in their new endeavor. For another I prayed for healing in his family. Again and again I prayed for the pastors kneeling and standing around me. I came to a young pastor standing with his arms raised. I put one hand over his heart and began to pray as the Lord led. After a few moments the Bishop was standing behind the man and motioned for me to bless him with a touch to his forehead.

In that moment, I breathed a prayer of peace over him and laid my hand on his head. He fell back into the Bishop’s waiting arms. The Bishop gently laid him on the ground and gave me a long look. Finally, he slowly nodded his head without breaking that penetrating stare. Not knowing what else to do, I sat down next to the pastor sprawled out on the floor. I covered his heart with my hand and rested. Sometime later he would slowly stir and rise up – the picture of a man who has laid in green pastures (Psalm 23) – and give me a warm smile and gentle hug.

While I was there on the floor, the Bishop called for those who needed to give testimony. Many shared, but one pastor in particular stood out for me. He said that he had recently planted two churches each of which was far from his home church. Through his tears, he said that he had been weary, but this week with the other pastors had strengthened him. Planted two churches each far from his home church. Oh, God, who am I and what am I doing?

That night we had a meaningful team meeting followed by a precious time of worship and prayer. As a group, we lifted up the names of the kids we had prayed with that day. Hearing each name was like a drop of rain in the desert.

We finished the night with a mean game of charades. It really was a riot, though Alison took the cake as both the best at the game and the most competitive. FYI: If you ever play with her, you definitely want her on your team!!!

September 23, 2009


As the week went on, our nights got later and the mornings got progressively earlier. Tuesday was the beginning of a three day run of non-stop worship events. After breakfast, we loaded up and headed over to the school.

My topic for the day was, “Arming for the Revolution.” At one point, I looked up and saw Bishop Palomo seated high on the steps near the rafters. I thought, “What am I doing? Am I really in Central America preaching to a group of Latin kids to join a revolution? This is either going to be very good or I’m going to be in a small cell well south of the border.”

Our reception Tuesday was definitely warmer. A couple of things helped. First, the kids knew what was going on – Monday had been a mystery and now they had had a chance to process some. Second, I had the band fling themselves out amongst the students during the message. They were spread around the room with the task of praying over their area while I preached. Third, we had two services – one for the lower grades and one for the upper. The smaller numbers made things slightly more manageable. Nevertheless, we still weren’t sure which way they were going to break.

I spoke to the kids about preparation for God’s revolution – one not of flesh and blood, but for eternity itself. I encouraged them to take up the belt of Truth that is the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I reminded them that without a belt your pants are likely to fall off – a most embarrassing situation (though I was careful not to use the Spanish false-cognitive embarrassado – which means pregnant). God sends the Truth so that we are neither ashamed or embarrassed on the final day, rather we can stand in the confidence of our salvation.

Two services and some hang out time with the kids later we were back at our home resting and preparing for our evening service. I was surprised by God’s provision when my interpreter for the week walked into the house. It was Luis Palomo – the Bishop’s son and my classmate from Asbury Seminary! He was down visiting his father and working on a new ministry venture to financially boost the long term goals of the Costa Rican Methodist Church. Luis is a gifted preacher in his own right and I gave him permission to preach whatever sermon he wanted – regardless of what I was talking about! He assured me that he would say and do whatever I said and did. His words, “You jump, I jump.” That night, I put him to the test.

Tuesday night worship was held for the churches of San Jose. The Bishop had invited his people to come in for this special event – and come they did. I spoke that night about, “Living up to your name.” I started by telling them about my first experience with a certain Costa Rican cookie named, “Yippy.” I shared that in English, “Yippy!” is an expression of surprising joy. This is exactly what a Yippy is too. A wonderfully flavorful bar of joyous goodness. As I repeatedly shouted, “Yippy!” in my best falsetto voice, Luis followed right along. This phase became a word I heard throughout the rest of the trip. Young and old alike would speak the one word of English we shared – “Yippy!” It never failed to bring a smile to my face and theirs.

I exhorted the church to live into their name, Christian – to be the kind of church that causes others in their community to be surprised by joy. I shared the urgency of the work of the church to redeem their communities, their cities, their nations, and ultimately their world.

At the end of the sermon I took a cue from the Holy Spirit and deviated from our program. Though the Bishop was scheduled to have some words following my sermon (how to strike fear into the heart of a Methodist preacher: Tell him the Bishop will be addressing the group when you have finished). I begged the Bishop’s pardon and shared that I was feeling led to invite the people to pray over the room. I explained that we were engaged in a great spiritual work in this very space with 550 young people. I told them that in the morning I would be offering an invitation to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. I asked them to get up and pray over the seats and floor where the kids would be seated. I told them, I know you don’t know the name of the kid who will be sitting where you are, but God does. Pray for them.

After about 5 minutes of this prayer time, Bishop Palomo rose to take the mic. I thought that perhaps prayer time was over and it was time to go on with the program. Instead, he began to encourage the people. He declared freedom in the name of Jesus. He called down the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit. I’m not sure how else to say this to you, dear reader. He was invited and He came.

The prayers of the saints grew increasingly louder as intercession began in earnest. Bishop Palomo continued to speak blessings and words of power over the people and the place. Soon people were weeping and kneeling as they moved onto the spiritual battlefield and began to push back the darkness.

After some time – I don’t know if it was 10 minutes or an hour – the Bishop began calling for our team to come and kneel. As we did so, they people of the church prayed mighty blessings over us. The Bishop called for us to rise as he blessed and anointed us. With arms raised, I stood before this man of God as he spoke Spanish words of blessing over me – words whispered in my ear by my friend, Luis. At the end of the blessing, the Bishop blew into my face. I have never experienced this before and it was powerful. The wind of the Spirit, the ruah (breath) of God filled me. At once, both peace and power filled my limbs.

I won’t share the other members of our team’s experience as he blessed them – that is their story to tell. Needless to say, we were each equally blessed and humbled by the experience.
We left that night and went home to unwind. We talked very little about our experience during our team meeting that night. I think it was just too close and raw for words.

So, after a brief talk, we decided to play Catch Phrase (yep, there is an app for that!). By the end our sides were hurting from laughing so hard. Oh, did I mentioned we played where you had to give your clues in either an accent or sing them in an operatic voice? I highly recommend this form of play. It adds a whole new level of fun.

September 21, 2009


Monday we were introduced to three people who would be a major part of our week. At breakfast we met Javier. Javi drove us everywhere all week long. More than being a driver, he was a good friend and watched over us at all times. We enjoyed getting to know him over many meals and shared the physical humor of two people who are separated by language, but united in service. By the end of the week, he was a friend for life. When we arrived at the school for sound check, we met Winston and Raul. Winston was the head sound engineer and Raul was his assistant. These guys had brought in a truckload of electronic equipment. Ray Zirkel (our missionary host) said, “Well it really shows a strong commitment to the kids.” To which I replied, “Yeah, but they are going to think U2 is here!” Seriously, it was BIG and LOUD!

Our sound techs really knew their business. On Sunday during a sound check with the band, the sound board started billowing smoke. Never a good sign. They just opened it up, did some work and everything was back in business. Really it was like that all week. They hustled and worked like madmen for us and for the kids to have a great experience.

While the team did a sound check and began to get going, Vicki and I began to prayer walk the room. The kids were on these enormous concrete bleachers running the length of a large covered gym – where all our events save one took place. VP (Vicki) and I walked slowly over every row, praying for God’s hand to be on each young person in the room. It’s been a while since VP and I prayed the sanctuary together. It was a good reminder of those early days in University Praise before things really took off.

About 30 minutes before the service started, our team gathered together in an upper loft of the space for prayer. We try to do this before every service, but sometimes the technology works against us and the time gets shortened a bit. It was important time in prayer together as we settled into God’s sovereignty for what was about to happen.

Soon the kids came streaming into the building – all 550 high school kids (7-11 grade) and it was time to begin. My topic for the week was: Revolution: The Movement. On Monday, I spoke on, “What is the Revolution?” I started out by talking about the goodness of God’s creation – the plan and purpose with which all things were created. I discussed the intricacy of creation and the care with which God ordered all things. From examples in nature to the creation of the students of collegio metodista, God has a plan. Those plans have been frustrated for some time, though. Human sin has distorted God’s purposes. This will not be the case forever. Rather, God has a particular purpose for his earth and it shall come to pass – of this, you can be certain. God has begun a worldwide revolution to right what has gone wrong and bring perfection back into creation. I ended by challenging the kids to open their hearts to the notion that God has a bigger plan and purpose for their lives than to just exist. I suggested that just perhaps he has as many plans for their lives as he does for the birds of the air and flowers in the fields.

The kids laughed a lot and I think enjoyed themselves, but it was hard to know for sure. They were certainly restless throughout and talking amongst themselves. Honestly, I sensed a great deal of skepticism in the room about the whole service!

After it was over, we went up with the kids to lunch. They eat in the outdoor corridors, so we just hung out and each talked to a few students. I was encouraged by a number of the students who remarked, “I liked your presentation,” or “good speech in there.”

That night our team had our evening meeting to discuss the events of the day and find out what needs they had for Tuesday. We then moved into a time of worship which quickly became a night of intercession. Alison let rip with “Revelation Song” and we began to pray for hearts to be moved. As things were winding down, I found myself standing at the back door looking out into the city. Mark came over and put his arm around me. He quietly asked what I was thinking. I whispered, “The kids. They are like a restless herd. I can feel that they are going to break and run. There is going to be a stampede, I just can’t tell yet which way they will go. Either to the Lord or off a cliff.” Those were perilous moments.

September 19, 2009


After completing our two Sunday morning services, Mark and I were taken to the airport by Mark’s dad, Steve – thanks again! We moved through security and jumped on a plane headed first for Houston, then San Jose. We weren’t sure what our arrival would hold for us, so we ate in San Antonio . . . and Houston . . . and on the plane!

Flying South I was going over my notes for the week and making lists on airline napkins. I’m sure it was confidence inspiring to the people at the school who asked for some details on my sermons and I whipped out a doodled on Continental Airlines cocktail napkin.

When we had come for our scouting trip in May, Mark and I were totally lost. We exited into the San Jose night not knowing who was picking us up or even where we were staying. Ultimately our driver found us, but it was a tense few minutes. This time, we came through immigration without incident. We are now seasoned pros. We connected with our driver from our last trip, Luis and headed to the seminary to meet our team.

We arrived at the Methodist University/Seminary after dark. The team was inside waiting. We stayed in a great little place. It had a kitchen, living room, 4 bedrooms with bunks, and 2 bathrooms. As Mark and I looked around, the team started giving us instruction on staying in our home for the next week. 1) Don’t try to sleep in bedroom number 4 – the skylight in there lets in light starting around 4:30 a.m. 2) The electric water heater for the shower is on the showerhead itself. Be sure not to touch the exposed wires. The heat works better if the overhead light is off. 3) You can not flush toilet paper in San Jose. There is a trash can next to each toilet.

It was really quite charming, until they got to number 3 – or perhaps I should have numbered these differently . . .

After settling in and catching up, our team began to sing and pray a bit together. It was a good centering time for all of us as we sought to settle our nerves and prepare for the early morning that faced us.

September 16, 2009

Antes de

Ray & Lydia Zirkel are graduates of Asbury Seminary. Their family has a deep and rich history in the Southwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. They are one of many missionaries supported in part by the people of University. Fifteen years ago, they made their home in Costa Rica. From the very beginning they dreamed of making the Methodist School a place not only of the highest academic standards, but a place of spiritual transformation. Because of the quality of education received by the students, they go on to become the leaders of their nation – doctors, lawyers, civic leaders, etc.

About three years ago, Ray invited me to come down and speak at the Methodist School – to lead a “Spiritual Emphasis Week.” At the time, I was just beginning my work in Rwanda and was not able to take on additional international travel. Twice more Ray would ask me to come down, but it wasn’t until at this year’s Global Impact Celebration that things came together. Ray suggested that I come down this Fall and bring Mark and our worship team. The Spirit really stirred within me and I knew the time was right.

Mark and I ended up taking a quick scouting trip down in May – Ray thought it was really important for us to see the school and put our feet on the soil before bringing the whole team down. He was absolutely right. That 36 hour visit was pivotal for planning purposes.

As the summer wore on, everyone’s excitement grew – along with my own anxiety. I rarely get nervous anymore about speaking, but there is still something about international preaching that gives me butterflies. I was also acutely aware of how big the stakes were in what we were doing. Ray & Lydia had been praying for a decade and half for revival at the school. In truth, I really look up to this couple who have sacrificed so deeply for the sake of Christ’s mission. I didn’t want to let them down.

Mark and I sent the team down one day ahead of us. We wanted to give them a little extra time to adjust before leading worship on Monday. Sunday morning was hard for Mark and I as we mentally began to make the leap to the mission field while leading worship at home base! In my sermon, I mentioned that I was quite nervous, but going none the less. On their way out, a number of folks wished me well and told me not to worry – things would be great.

The last conversation I had was with a good friend who pulled me aside before I left. He said, “I just want to tell you something before you go – I know you said you are nervous.” I waited for him to say, “Don’t worry, it will be great.” He said, “As you were talking about the trip and being nervous, I really felt the Spirit of the Lord saying – ‘Eternity hangs in the balance.’”

Well. Oh. Alright then.

Those were true and right words. I carried them with me down South – even sharing them with the team. I held them as we waged spiritual war throughout the week. His words were true, eternity was in the balance.

September 14, 2009

Costa Rica Account: Stay Tuned

I didn't have a chance to Blog while I was in Costa Rica. The truth is, the internet was sketchy at best, but even more importantly, I couldn't do it. I was being so wrung out each day for the sake of those God had placed before us, I didn't have anything left at the end of the day. If I had tried to explain or document it at the time, I would have ended each day in a weeping wet ball on the floor.

I have taken some time since to process much of what we saw - I doubt I will ever fully comprehend all the movement God wrought, but I have outlined the week and will now start writing it up. My goal is to post every other day or so until I am complete.

I want to thank all of you who followed along with the trip through the facebook video updates. In particular, I want to thank the sweet prayer warriors of University and beyond who stood under my arms and held me up as the battle raged for the hearts and minds of the students at the collegio metodista in San Jose. All glory for the week belongs to God, but I believe He is extremely pleased by your unyeilding support of His work through your worship team.

Our little team understood that we were nothing more than the tip of the spear. Your support and prayer provided the direction, strength, and power of the thrust made into enemy occupied territory. God's Kingdom went on the offensive and I could not be more thankful for your intercessory work. There is more light in the world today because of you.