Our Mission Statement

Monday, August 29

Remembering where we were

I think I have figured it out. I am a gypsy. Well, at least, sort of. I have lived in a lot of different places. Gypsies roam and move around a lot. I have lived in 4 different states and 11 different cities. And I have traveled a lot too. I have been to 42 states and 17 countries. Moving around and traveling around is fun and adventurous. Sometimes I seem to have a restless spirit within me wanting to go out and see what is out there. It doesn’t mean I am not happy where I am, I just enjoy going out and seeing it all.

Now, what I said doesn’t mean I am about to jump ship and take off and go somewhere new. Not at all. I truly love living in Sarasota, Florida. Awesome place. Very beautiful. Great town, great church family, I love it here. I am just making a point that I have done a lot of traveling. And I have some very interesting stories to go along with that, but not this time. Maybe I will share some of the craziest stories with you in future blogs. But for now, I am going to try to stay on a specific thought.

I have traveled by boat, train, plane, and automobile. And as a traveler, I feel that I can maneuver pretty well anywhere I go. After all, you can’t consider yourself a good traveler if you don’t reach your destination, right? But getting from point A to point B can be challenging, can’t it? That’s why there are maps, right? However, if you are like me, you might find that reading maps is a lot more difficult than it looks! Good grief, just unfolding and folding maps is hard!!! And it is no fun to be lost. I mean, really lost. One time, while in London, I got separated from my group with a friend of mine during a tour of the city and we had a great time. We got to see all kinds of stuff the others missed out on. But, we also did not get to see any of the stuff we were supposed to see either.

So, now I am getting to the point of all of this. Getting lost. Being lost. Not a good thing, especially if you are supposed to be at a specific place or at a specific time. So, what do you do when you are lost? Get a map? Stop and ask directions? GUESS the right way to go? I have tried all of these! I worked one summer at a convenience store while home from college. Pretty boring job but at least I was making some money for school. It was on a busy road and I had people come in all if the time asking for directions. I took great pride in giving directions, too, because I thought I was pretty good at it.

I thought I knew the way around Huntsville as well as anyone. After all, I had lived there most of my life. One day a person came in and asked directions to a particular place. I quickly gave him very specific directions on how to get there. I gave him landmarks to look for, the number of traffic lights, the whole nine yards. He thanked me and pulled out and started down the road just the way I told him. It was about 30 seconds later that I realized that I had given him the wrong directions! Oh well, guess I won’t be seeing him again! I felt bad but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. It was going to be up to that individual to realize he was going the wrong way and stop and get new directions. I hope he did.

Being lost is kind of scary too. Have you ever been lost in a strange town that you know nothing about. The only thing you know is that by looking at the bars on the building’s windows and doors, the dimly lit streets, and spray paint on anything that can’t move, that you are in the wrong part of town. Oh man have I ever been there before! That is the time to have good directions, right? Absolutely! That is when knowing where you are and how to get to where you need to be is very important. That is when you would rather have someone in the car with you who know where he is going and giving you the directions instead of using a map or directions from a guy that works at a gas station, right?

The same thing is true when it comes to our spiritual journey. We are all gypsies when it comes to the fact that we are strangers in a strange land. The Bible even tells us that we are just that. We are not of this world, our home is somewhere else. We are just traveling through. And on this spiritual journey we go through a lot of different places along the way. And we get lost too. And sometimes when we get lost we have a little fun along the way, but ultimately we miss out on things we were supposed to see and do. And sometimes we try to read the map (Bible) but it seems so confusing at times and sometimes we cannot make heads or tails out of it. And sometimes we stop and we ask spiritual directions from people that have no idea what they are even saying, giving out directions that are going to lead us away from the goal.

And what about guessing? Oh boy, now that is an option you really don’t want to take! I “think” it is this way. I am “guessing” it is that way. Maybe this road will get us here. I have never taken this road; let’s see if it will get us there. Of course, once in a blue moon you might accidentally stumble in to the place you are looking for, but not very often. And most likely, it will take a great deal longer to get there, if you ever find it at all. The best bet is to travel with someone who KNOWS where they are going. That knows the turns and the land marks. Knows how to read the map. Knows east from west, up from down, left from right.

There is nothing more exciting than to get to your destination after you have been lost. A relief. And you know, we have all been lost. To sin. Being lost in sin is not fun, and definitely scary. It is not too scary being lost and not knowing it (driving around thinking you are going the right way when in reality you’re not), because you are not aware of your situation. There are a lot of people that are spiritually lost and have no idea. But, once you realize you are lost, things change. And there is nothing more frustrating than trying to get directions from people that are incorrect. And there are a lot of people out there that are in that situation right now too.

But, as Christians, we are saved by the blood of Christ and the grace He gives us through His sacrifice. Through the waters of baptism and the surrender of ourselves to the Savior, we enter into the Kingdom of His church. The body of the saved. We once were lost, but now are found, were blind but now can see. We are no longer “lost.” Isn’t that awesome! And now that we are on the road to salvation, maybe it is time we give some directions for those who are out there trying to find their way. After all, who would be best at giving directions, right?

But it seems to me that a lot of Christians are not giving directions. Not at all. And when we do, they are vague at times, judgmental at others. It almost appears that we know the right directions but we don’t want to share the information. Or if we do, we are almost selective in who we share it with. And we don’t seem to see or feel any urgency either. Sometimes it would be good to sit down and take a second to remember where we came from. We need to remember that we were lost once too. When we do that we might be able to understand what it means to go out and share the gospel of Christ. Because until a person puts on Christ, is in Christ, he is lost. And that is a place nobody wants to be. Nobody. Think about it.


Wednesday, August 24

modern day Abrahams

Torch Mission teams have been going to Honduras for nearly 20 years. In some ways that sounds like a long time, but in some ways it doesn’t. No matter how you look at it, a LOT of people have gone to Honduras through Torch Missions. I have no idea how many, but I can safely say thousands have gone. THOUSANDS. And the number of people we have come in contact with and ministered to during this time? HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS. When you take a moment to think about it, that is a lot of people, isn’t it? And how many people have been affected and changed because of these short term mission trips? Who really knows? (almost sounds like a Master Card commercial, doesn’t it?)

There are so many stories I could share. There are married couples that met their special someone on a Torch trip (even though we strongly encourage people not to hook up during trips!). There are people in full time ministry because of a mission trip to Honduras with Torch Missions. There are so many that literally plan their vacations from work around their yearly trip to Honduras. There are full time missionaries because of the time that was spent during short term mission work in Honduras. Many have changed their college majors because of Torch Missions. And there are those who have set their course to live and work in Honduras, both now, and in the future.

I would like to talk about three very special people that have done just that. They have decided to move to Honduras to work full time in the place they have grown to love over the years. For many of us, they are doing what we dream of doing. Packing up our stuff and moving to Tegucigalpa. To live, to work, to minister. These three have taken their dreams and have made it a reality. They have taken that step that most of us can’t, or won’t, do. They are modern day Abraham’s, stepping out on faith to go where they have been called. And what a calling!

I have known Jennifer Arnold for a long time. She was a student of mine when I was teaching at Ezell-Harding Christian School, in Nashville, Tennessee. She sang in the chorus I directed, she played on the softball team I helped coach. She attended the Rural Hill Church of Christ, which teamed up with my group from Wingate, on all kinds of activities and trips. Including Honduras. And it didn’t take much to talk Jen into going to Honduras! She was eager to serve the Lord and her heart was always in the right place. And she began her journey in high school. Every year since high school, and college, she went to Honduras with Torch Missions. She took on more and more work with the teams while finishing up here college softball career and college work. She became a vital member of the leadership team, specializing on the communications for the teams back to the states. She earned her master’s degree and got a good job teaching in the metro system in Nashville. And she saved her money. And then she took the step, or should I say, the leap. She decided this year to move to Honduras and to work at Los Pinares, a Christian school in Tegucigalpa. She will be the school librarian (she actually has a degree for this and she LIKES it!). She leaves a good paying job, a great church, and a wonderful family behind. To do what she loves doing.

I have known Katie Wells for a few years now. What an awesome young lady! To use the term “buff truck” around her is almost an insult. She will work most anyone under the table, men included. She is a servant in the truest definition of the word. From construction to visitation, Katie puts her heart and soul into her work in Honduras. Katie talked her Mom into going to Honduras last year. This year she talked her Dad into going. It was a real family affair. Her love for mission work is evident from the moment you meet her.

Katie graduated from Abilene Christian University with a degree in education. She has spent the past couple of years living in Washington state teaching and coaching (she is quite the athlete). This summer, while in Honduras, she heard about a job opening at Los Pinares Christian School. They needed a physical education teacher who would be willing to coach. Katie saw this as a calling and applied, literally within a couple of weeks of school starting. The job was offered and Katie spent little time considering it. She accepted the offer and packed up her stuff and headed off to Tegucigalpa, to live in the place she has fallen in love with since here mission trip experiences.

I have known Jennifer Wright for several years. I met her in Nashville while she was attending Lipscomb University. She lived in the dorm that my wife supervised, and Jen spent a lot of time in Margaret’s office (no, not that way, because she wanted too!). She attended church with us at Wingate and heard story after story, detail by detail, about the trips to Honduras. She listened and thought, then thought and listened some more. Now, Jen wasn’t the easiest person to convince to go to Honduras. She said no time after time. She finally made the plunge a year ago and went on her first ever Torch trip for 24 days. And it changed her life. Now, Jen, she has a degree in education, too. She has been teaching for the past couple of years up in Ohio, where she is from. As a teacher she has summers off, and she was able to go last year on her first trip. This year she led a team of 34 during spring break from her home congregation in Ohio. Then she came again for this summer’s trip with my group and stayed on with Marc Tindall’s group for 2 more weeks. To say she loves Honduras is an understatement.

With her heart completely broken, she began to search out what God wanted her to do with her life. She listened for the call. And she heard it, loud and clear. In October she will also be moving to Honduras. She will be working to help start and run an orphanage that will be built on the property in Santa Ana. She is packing up her stuff and heading off to the place that she loves. Doing what she loves doing. Working in the kingdom.

What amazing stories. Three young ladies, all from different backgrounds. All from different places, both in life and in location. Yet they all have things in common. A love for God. A love for kingdom work. A love for Honduras. A love for Torch Missions. And it is the things they have in common that has brought them together this year. To go, preach the gospel, to every creature. To step out of the boat, to fix their eyes on Jesus, and to make a difference.

When we take people on trips to Honduras through Torch Missions, we tell them that their lives will never be the same again. We tell them that they will never look at things the same way. We teach them how to do mission work, how to love the lost. And when they hear the call, when they go to do the work, we shouldn’t be surprised. We shouldn’t be surprised at all. After all, they are learning to do what Jesus has asked us all to do. We should be proud. We should be supportive. We should be with them every step of the way. And we are very proud of Jennifer, Katie, and Jen, for their decision to move to Honduras. We pray that you will be safe, that you will be healthy (don’t drink the water!!!). And we pray that your ministry will be a true reflection of Jesus and His glory while you are there. Best of luck, hold down the fort until we get there this summer!

PS: Why not keep in touch with them? They would love to hear some encouraging words from you! You cam e-mail them at the following addresses:
Jennifer Arnold: missions35@aol.com
Katie Wells: k8wells@netzero.net
Jennifer Wright: jenw22@yahoo,com For those who might be interested, Jen is in the process of trying to raise additional funds for the orphanage project at Santa Ana. If you can help, please let her know! It is going to be a tremendous ministry and will reach out to many in Santa Ana both now and for years to come!

Saturday, August 20

Make a difference

What a week. Actually, it’s been a couple of weeks. Since I returned home from Honduras I have returned to my work as youth minister at Central and getting the fall calendar off and running. Along with that, however, I have had to face the newest battle I have been fighting with melanoma. Skin cancer is nothing to laugh at and is something everyone needs to take very seriously. I never dreamed I would have cancer, especially skin cancer. While I was in Honduras some new tumors grew and I knew as soon as I got home I would have to deal with it. However, upon my return, I found that things had changed from the original plans.

I came home expecting to have surgery right away. However, I qualified for a new treatment that Moffitt Cancer Center, in Tampa, was conducting, which I accepted. I received a new method of treatment in which a special drug was injected directly into the tumor site (4 of them) and then a current of electricity was sent into the site to activate the drug and cause the cells to absorb it. The treatment went well and I am waiting for the results. I have some tests coming up and surgery on September 13th, as of now, and I petition your prayers.

I said all of that to lead into what I wanted to say. A wonderful family from Central, the Kluge’s, moved to Honduras to begin full time work down there on several different projects. It was a loss for us; the girls were very active in the youth group and Randy and Melissa went to Don Pablo’s with us on a regular basis after Tuesday night teen devotionals (ya got to eat, right?). Right before we came home from Honduras, Melissa and Randy found out that Melissa’s mom, Dee, had been diagnosed with cancer. It was very serious and the Kluge’s decided to come home with our group. It was devastating news since Dee had beaten cancer twice before. However, this time was different.

Dee was a wonderful Christian woman and one that everyone at church loved. The cancer was far advanced and she passed away after only 3 or 4 weeks. Her battle ended this past Monday, August 15th, and her funeral was today, the 20th. This was hard day for many, especially for me. I am close to the Kluge’s, and I certainly knew Dee pretty well. It was not a hard thing to know that she has gone on to receive her reward, to receive her new body. It is not hard to understand that she is in a place where she will never again experience pain or suffering. All of that I know and understand quite well. It was especially hard for me to see someone loose the battle to the very thing that I am fighting with right now. That was the hard part. I understand now, more than ever, how fragile life is and how temporary we are here.

For many, a new school year has started. My son, Nathan, reported in at Freed-Hardeman for his senior year. Where did the time go? I am pretty sure it was yesterday we were crying our eyes out as we took him up to begin his first year of college. Others have reported in at their respective schools as well. A new year, a new beginning. New classes, new books, new teachers. New friends, new acquaintances. New goals, new objectives. Starting something new is such a good thing sometimes.

For others, we are back to the same ole’ same ole’. Same jobs, same desk. Same boss, same office. Same people we work with, same tasks. Sure, some things change, but for most, it is the same thing we left before we went to Honduras. Nothing really new here. Nothing really exciting. Just like the students, we wake up, do our thing, and at some point go to bed. Amazing how our perspective is so difference, isn’t it? But a few weeks from now all of that “newness” will wear off and perspectives will change again. It is all on how we look at it.

Whether it is a new year or not, the same thing applies to us all. We are here right now, doing what we do, for a reason. So, what is that reason? To make a difference. That’s right, to make a difference. For you see, we are only here for a little while. James says our life is like a vapor, here for a little while, and then vanishes away. How long is a “Little while?” I don’t know, exactly. For Dee, it was 49 years. 49 years to make a difference. To make a difference with her family, her friends, and her relationship with God. For many, it is less time. For others, more. Don’t take time for granted, it is the one thing that we have no guarantees on. And it is the thing we take for granted most often. Use your time wisely, make the most of every opportunity.

Make a difference where you are right now. Do it now, while you have the time. Make a difference with your relationship with God. Make a difference with your friends, your co-workers. Make a difference at your schools and where you work. Make a difference on the team you play on, your club. Your church. You CAN make a difference and you can make it now. It is your CHOICE whether or not you choose to do it.

Dee, thank you for making a difference. We miss you here but look forward to the day that we will see you again. As the country singer Billy Dean says in one of his songs, “Cause we’re only here for a little while.”


Sunday, August 14

Thank you for what you do

Now that the trips are over and all of the teams are home, work begins to get ready for the 2006 mission trips. As amazing as it may seem, I have already begun the ground work. Even before the suitcases have been put back into storage, phone calls, e-mails, and conversations have already started. Summer is not even officially over and work for next year is off and running.

I can remember just a few years ago, literally, that prep work for the next year’s trip would not even cross my mind until after Thanksgiving break. August, September, and October were months to relax and do other things, like work your full time job! But now, I work my full time job and plan for Honduras after a brief 2 week “off” period. And I am sure it is not just me, I am willing to guess that the other Torch leaders are in the same boat. Do you remember the movie, “Jaws?” Sure you do. Who can forget that movie, right? Remember the scene where the crew is in the boat and they see the shark for the first time? Remember Chief Brodie’s line, “We are going to need a bigger boat?” That is how I feel! The Torch leaders are in a boat and we need a bigger one! The one we are in, which appeared to be big enough, doesn’t seem big enough now!

It was a tremendous year. Reading all of the bloodspots from the other teams reminded me of how much was done this year. If it was not for the work of Tim and Gena Hines, along with Joe Merillat, much of what we all were able to do would not have happened. Tim is amazing. All of us that know Tim know that he is amazing. He works with all of the groups that come down throughout the year, juggles schedules, scouts out work sites. He orders wood for the houses, orders food to be delivered. He makes phone calls to all of the places we want to visit. He pulls strings and calls in favors. He makes himself available the whole time we are there. He is up early, brewing his master coffee blend, and stays up late at night. And all of that with a back that has more metal parts than a lot of sports cars these days.

Gena schedules teams and the dates they will be in Honduras, making sure we do not over-lap. She makes reservations for the Mission House and makes sure there is enough beds for our mega teams. She makes travel arrangements for our retreats. She changes and corrects all of the tickets that we mess up. And she does it will a smile and with an attitude that just makes you want to give her a big hug.

And of course, Joe; he is the work horse. He gets up early to pick up wood orders. And Tin. And hinges (because you can’t get them all at the same place in Honduras…. That would be too easy…). He drives everyone around town to the places they need to get to each day. He helps plan out daily activities, heads up work crews. He volunteers to work, even on his days off. He gives up free time to be with the teams that there working.

I cannot say enough good things about Tim, Gena, and Joe. They are real warriors, true spiritual heroes. They work so hard, many times without even a “thank you” for their time. They sacrifice their time, their talents, and many times their own money, to make sure each Torch team has what they need to do the jobs at hand. If ever anyone is taken for granted, it is these three. Its easy to take things (or people) for granted, too. We rarely do it on purpose. It is almost certainly just an oversight. But, it happens.

I would like to encourage everyone who reads this blog to take a couple of minutes out of their schedules and write a thank you note to them. It really is the least we can do. Because of them we can do the things we do. And they make us look good doing it. Think about it, how many of us have done reports to our home congregations talking about everything we accomplished this summer? And how many of us specifically mentioned Tim, Gena, and Joe in our reports? And right now, how many of us are starting to plan for next year’s trips? How many of us are including these three in our dreams, thoughts, and plans? Tim’s e-mail is waywalker@msn.com; Gena’s e-mail is genahines@gmail.com ; and Joe’s e-mail is josephmartin12@gmail.com .

Congratulations to all of the Torch teams this year! What an amazing year it has been so far. There is still more to come, too!!! Thanks especially to Tim, Gena, and Joe, for making it happen. We couldn’t do this without you. You guys are amazing and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all that you do for the kingdom work in Honduras. There are others that were not mentioned that played huge parts this summer. But that is for another time, another blog.

Until next time, Dios te bendiga!


Friday, August 5

July trips exceed expectations

The 2005 summer mission trips to Honduras are over and we are all back home; back to our daily lives. We have returned to work, back to our day to day routines. Students are scrambling to get in the last couple of days of summer vacation in before starting another year of school. College students are packing up and heading off to their respective schools. It doesn’t take long to get back into the swing of things, does it? But most of us are still talking about the trip we made to Honduras this summer and the wonderful things we experienced. New friends, tons of stories, and freshly printed photos are floating around everywhere. This was definitely a great summer.

For all those who are interested, I have tried to calculate the statistical totals of the trips. Many will be doing presentations to their home congregations soon and hopefully this information will be useful to you. Feel free to contact me if you need additional information or any clarifications on what you read.

July 1-10 team totals: (98 total team members)
* 3 day VBS at Limon Church of Christ in Choluteca (600 in attendance)
* Painted the Limon church building and clinic (35 gallons of paint!)
* 3 day VBS/gospel meeting at Valley of Angels (500 in attendance)
* 1 day medical clinic outside Valley of Angels (450 patients seen)
* Built 6 new houses
* Passed out 650 boxes of food (163,800 meals)
* Passed out 1,000 bottles of purified water
* Made 35 gallons of lemonade!
* Made 1,100 peanut butter & jelly sandwiches!
* Visited the special needs orphanage
* Visited hospital Esquela twice (every patient and visitor received toys, clothes, and stuffed animals)
* Passed out 1,000 flyers in the Valley of Angels
* Gave away 650 Bibles
* Worked 2 days in Santa Ana hauling gravel, sand, concrete, and block
* Gave away 62 boxes of shoes, clothes, and toys
* Had 22 devotionals
* Gave $1,651 for contribution
* Visited Jimmy Hughes children’s home

The Crew retreat: (24 team members)
* Spent 1 night at the Marriott Hotel in Tegucigalpa
* Cleared brush at Santa Ana along with concrete work
* Built 18’x 32’ bodega at Santa Ana
* Participated in poverty simulation at Santa Ana
* Took the children from Dadasko orphanage on a field trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken (and the HUGE play ground!); Showed the Spanish version of the movie “Finding Nemo” with Tim’s video projector (with popcorn and drinks); Played games and soccer; and had a pizza party!

July 13-24 trip (94 total team members)
* 3 days of work at Santa Ana hauling gravel, sand, concrete, clearing brush, pouring sidewalks, and hauling blocks
* Visited Hospital Esquela 3 times
* Visited the blind school
* Built 4 new houses
* Packed 850 boxes of food
* Visited the Special Needs Orphanage
* Painted 2 school classrooms at Nueve Oriental
* 3 days of VBS/ gospel meeting at Valley of Angels (450 in attendance)
* Put on a carnival at Valley of Angels
* Distributed 650 boxes of food (163,800 meals)
* Visited the Good Shepard Children’s home and did a carnival for them
* Built a 3 tower playground at Dadasko Orphanage (3 bridges; 12 swings; 16’ cargo net climbing course; 20’ climbing rope; 4 slides; balancing beam rope pull; 7 decks) with unlimited playing combinations!
* Put on a carnival for the Dadasko Orphanage
* Passed out 1,200 bottles of purified water
* 2 day VBS at Aguas Agria ( 300 in attendance)
* Medical clinic at Aguas Agria (142 patients seen)
* Gave away 112 boxes of clothes, shoes, toys
* Passed out 1,200 flyers at the Valley of Angels
* Gave away 400 Bibles
* Painted 11 houses
* 24 devotionals
* $1,400 contribution
* Visited Hospital San Philippe
* Made 950 peanut butter and honey sandwiches
* Made 25 gallons of lemonade
* Our soccer team defeated the American Airlines team at the Olympic training facility 7-4 and the Cobras (Honduras' special task force) 6-5!!! 2-0 record!

For those of you that did not get to go this year, this is just part of the reason the one’s who came back can’t seem to stop talking about the trips. There are so many projects, so many memories. So many stories! But most importantly, there were so many lives that were touched and so many seeds that were planted. God granted us a wonderful trip that will be remembered a lifetime.

Thanks again to all who helped make this trip a reality. Thanks for the prayer warriors that prayed for us everyday while we were away. Thanks to all who gave money and supplies for this year’s trip. Thanks to the parents that allowed their children to go on the trip and gave us the opportunity to work with them. Thanks to all of the group leaders who participated this year. Thanks to all of the congregations that worked together to support this work. Thanks to all of the team leaders who headed up the different projects, without you it would be impossible to run teams as big as ours! And thank you Lord, for granting us good weather and health during the trip. God watched over us and guided us everyday while we were in Honduras and we give Him the glory for all that we did in His name. Until next time, Dios te bendiga! (God bless you!)