Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God - Part 4 - Healing, tongues and salvation in Hong Kong

Read the whole series - Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God

If you've read some of my older posts then you've seen me mention that in High School I spent a summer in Hong Kong working at a heroin rehab center called St. Stephen's Society. If you've heard of Jackie Pullinger then might have heard of St. Stephen's Society - and if you've never heard of her then I suggest you look into her book Chasing the Dragon. It's a fascinating story of the Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong and her experiences with the Lord showing up in powerful ways again and again even in near death experiences.

I had some fascinating experiences there - some good and some bad as would be the case with any ministry. But I was definitely impressed with how the Lord was at work there. The section I worked in was called the New Boy House and this is where the heroin addicts come right when they enter the program. Each house (there were maybe 5 or 6) had 20 or so recovering addicts and then a separate room for the "New Boys." These were the guys fresh off the streets. And instead of using medication to quit heroin they simply go cold turkey with other ex-addicts praying for them 24/7 for the first 10 days (which is the hardest time).

The recovering addicts were amused by the the fact that I had dealt with some weird skin diseases that year - something which grew in my elbows and had to be burned off, leaving little circled scars which they mistook as track marks from previous heroin usage. So that gave me a little bit less credibility than I might have liked. But it was here that I first prayed in tongues.

Before I went to Hong Kong I had heard that Jackie Pullinger put a high value on tongues and when I arrived after my first night I asked if some of the people would lay hands on me to receive the gift. I'd done some reading on the subject and understood that if I didn't open my mouth nothing would happen, so not long into the prayer I opened my mouth and starting praying. It was pretty weird at first and I definitely wondered if it was from the Lord. However since then I've come to the conclusion that even if it's very natural at first - if I am honestly seeking he Lord in this and telling Him that I'm offering up my tongue to Him then He will be faithful to make it into what He desires.

And the next day I woke up and everyone ate breakfast and then headed into the community room to pray in tongues. And every addict young and old prayed at the top of their lungs in tongues for 15 minutes. It was weird. But Jackie says she's seen a relationship between how much people are praying in tongues in her ministry and how often she's seeing supernatural things happen - like healing etc... So we all did it.

That summer had so many fascinating things happen but I'll only share two. The first was when I had the opportunity to go to the downtown meeting where people came in off the street who wanted to join the program. Some were caught by the police and forced to come to these meetings, and some genuinely wanted to quit their drug habit. When someone came to this meeting they would hear a clear presentation of the gospel - and a shockingly large percentage of people would accept the Lord right then and there. And then seemingly without exception they would pray in tongues. I was only there one night and I may not have understood it, but the best I could tell no one was telling them they should pray in tongues, they just all did. After they became believers they just opened their mouths and began to pray.

Now most of these people were messed up in a lot of ways. Heroin addicts will often have huge gaping wounds that they wont take care of because the high feels so good they don't care. They end up losing limbs for this - and not a few in these programs were short on arms and legs, sometimes both. They're also dirty and hungry. I remember Jackie walking around the room praying for people while I was sitting with a guy who spoke english (by the time I left I could understand a bit of Cantonese, but I never spoke worth a stink). At one point she stopped, turned around and pointed at a guy and said in English, "That one's got a demon on him there." And then some folks stood up and ran across the room to begin praying for the guy.

I don't understand everything that went on that night, but I did understand that these were dirty nasty people both physically and spiritually but these people loved them anyways and the Lord was showing up in powerful ways.

My second story is a little different. At one point we headed downtown for a training Jackie did prayer. She was teaching us to keep our eyes open when we prayed for people to see what the Lord was doing. To ask the Holy Spirit to come and to just wait, and then to listen to see if the Lord wanted to say anything to the person we were praying for. I prayed for a few people with little by the way of bells and whistles. I told some people a few things I thought the Lord might be saying and none of it seemed to resonate with anyone. Then I decided to ask for prayer for my skin. It had been driving me nuts all year. I had to drop out of wrestling in High School that year because my eczema had gotten so bad I was a walking flake of skin. At the doctors orders I couldn't shower for a week just so my body could get back the oils it needed.

Anyhow some people laid hands on me and prayed for a bit. Finally one lady said to me,
"I'm not hearing anything from the Lord but I'll tell you what, a few years ago I had horrible eczema as well and someone in praying for me felt like they had a word from the Lord regarding the Masons. He asked if I had any history of people who were involved with Freemasonry. Actually my grandfather had been involved. That night he prayed that any connection or affect this would be having on me would be bound and broken in the name of Jesus. The next day I woke up in a pile of skin on my bed with only a little bit of eczema on my left hand forefinger. And it's there to this day seemingly as a reminder that I was healed of this."

Then she showed the spot on her finger and sure enough it was bright red, dry and cracked. She then explained how she had had eczema from when she was really little and it had always been a horrible problem for her - keeping her from doing many things she wanted to do. So this healing was a very big deal to her. Then she asked if anyone in my family was involved with the masons. Similar to her my grandfather had been very involved. Then she prayed a similar pray to that which was prayed for her.

I didn't wake up a puddle of my own flesh the next morning, but I did get much better over the next few months and since then it has never really come back. I get a few small rashes occasionally but nothing like I used to.

There were a lot of things about that summer that more than changed my life. Many of them wonderful and many of them terrible. But the Lord worked there and people were coming to know him in droves off the streets involved in gangs, drugs, and prostitution. The Lord was working in miraculous ways and it was fascinating to see.

Fear of the Lord leads to life - not other trash (Proverbs 19:23)

"The fear of the Lord leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm." - Proverbs 19:23

Seems so easy.

I've been convicted a lot lately (as I've written lately) about how much I look for life in other things. And the complete lack of satisfaction I've found in those things. You know those big steps in life where you feel like you have step it up and start acting more the Lord and less like your flesh?

Like when you get married, have kids etc... Last week I was given permission to move to another city and begin to recruit my own team. Something I'm stoked about to the say the least (even though I'm probably a year and half to two years out). The very next day I was pretty convicted about where I spending a good amount of my time and my thought life - and it was pretty stupid.

It still took me 3 days to actually give those things up and hopefully it sticks. But I'm just so bewildered about how easily I turn to things other than the Lord for life. I feel like Israel in the OT, with the reader just stunned at how dumb they are.

I want so badly to fear the Lord - to rest satisfied in him and quit looking elsewhere. Darn my stinkin' flesh.

Things you're not allowed to say as a Christian... (via ASBO Jesus)

I only drop by ASBO Jesus once in a while, but this one was too good to not pass on.

I'd like to add to this list, things you wish you could say in church but cant:

I farted,
He farted,
Did he just fart?

Okay, I've got nothing, that's why I don't do comics.

Nelson Mandela was full of crap

"Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure." - Nelson Mandela (Actually - according to wikiquote this is wrongly attributed.

But either way this is absolutely just downright wrong. I'm an incredibly self confident person and I much more fear inadequacy. I know the limits of my power - they are well within reach. I do not yet know the limits of my inadequacies. I keep thinking I find them, and then find I'm far far more inadequate than I previously thought.

Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God - Part 3 - Pentecostals and Tongues - A Trip Back to The Middle East

Read the whole series - Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God

About two months before I moved overseas to go into full time ministry (shortly after college) I took a trip back to the Middle East where I had lived during Jr. High School when my father was working for the embassy. My father had left his government job and become a missions pastor back in the states at a Vineyard church. There a team was put together and I helped lead a group of about six people to Amman for a month.

Now the connections my father had made while we lived in Amman were with a Nazarene Church and with a Pentecostal Church, so our visits to both were quite different. The Nazarene Church was putting on a training which I would tell you about, but has potential to get a lot of people in trouble should the wrong person hear about it. Suffice it to say we were meeting some men and women who were going to have a great impact on some pretty difficult places.

At this training I heard a man from Egypt preach from the Bible (as opposed to notes) for almost eight hours per day for a whole week. This man knew the Bible like the back of his hand and in talking about one section it would remind him of another, he would then turn and flip back and forth and back and forth to find more and more places to argue his point. I was blown away by this and have desired ever since then to have that good of a grasp of the one book I have no excuse to not know. Later I've realized I lack all ability to remember numbers and names, so I can remember a story and about where it is in the Bible, but have no idea what chapter or verse it's in.

Anyhow, all this is leading up to the Pentecostal Church. Before we left my father felt like he had heard from the Lord that we were supposed to go and pray our brains out for these people to receive the gift of tongues. I remember him saying, "This is weird to me because I so disagree with their theology about tongues, but I feel its what the Lord wants us to do, so lets do it." We then sat down with our team and there were two people who did not already pray in tongues so we prayed for them to receive the gift.

Then in Amman a number of weeks later we put on a camp for this Pentecostal Church. We were in charge of the whole program, music, exercise, games, worship, teaching etc... It was a great time and the Lord really seemed to work throughout the whole camp. On the last night I finally felt like I was beginning to grasp some of what these folks believed (before this I really didn't understand Pentecostalism). And I'll say for the record that I see absolutely no Biblical evidence for a second baptism of the Holy Spirit. From what I can tell as soon as we become believers we receive the Holy Spirit in its fullness and the gifts may come immediately, later, or never. But we have the potential from that moment on for all of them.

Anyhow, the last night we promised the kids they could stay up as long as they wanted, all night even and we would just hang out and play games. But first we had a teaching and then an extended period of worship. The Lord showed up, and big time. Then someone suggested that this was the time and we started to pray for everyone who had not received the gift of tongues to do so. That night a huge number of people did receive the gift, and I remember one young man who also accepted Christ as his savior that night. It was very obvious the Lord was at work. He was there and He was blessing this work, and though I absolutely disagree with the theology surrounding it, I saw him do great things.

I also remember one young kid who had only been a believer for about a few years. He was younger than the rest of the kids (I think you had to be 14 to come and he was 11) but came along anyhow because his parents were involved as lay people in the church and helped to organize some things. He received the gift of tongues that night too, and almost immediately afterwards he ran over to tell his parents as he was full of excitement. He then came back to me and told me his parents had told him he was too young to receive a second baptism, and that he hadn't been a Christian long enough to have this happen. I was heartbroken for the kid.

All of this is to simply give another situation where I saw the Lord at work in the gifts. It was obvious He was there, and while I disagree with the theology I cannot argue with what He was doing. I also saw both good and bad come from a willingness to follow the Lords call and then man's weirdness.

Thankfully God is bigger than these people and situations. More than anything this situation began my understanding of how the Lord seem to use many different denominations even though we are convinced they're confused about something.

Jesus - greater than the flesh (Matthew 3:13)

"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him." - Matthew 3:13

I've been thinking a bit lately about the choice the Lord has made to be a part of our lives. That is, He chooses to use us when He doesn't need us. He listens to our prayers even though He could bring Himself glory without answering even one of them. He loved us long before we loved Him.

Why does our God do these things? Why is our God so much more than we can fathom? Why is he so much better than we realize?

I'm so thankful we do not serve a human God. I'm so thankful our God is greater than us and not filled with human flaw. If He were like the rest of us he would have been upstream from John baptizing people, taking away their sin, healing them, and just generally doing what John was doing better than him. But instead He chose to come to one for whom he would die. He chose to be baptized by one so infinitely less great than Himself. And He chose to do so long before he laid eyes on John that day. He did it to fulfill scripture. He did it to love John. And He did it because our God is not us, He is God.

Thank you Lord for not being driven by the flesh like we are.

Indulgences return to the church

And what the heck is this?

Wimber on the gifts and cessationalism

I've been reading up a little bit on John Wimber lately as the man who started the church movement I grew up in. I've listened to a couple of talks on the Kingdom of God and today I heard this. In the first five minutes of this he shares what is almost verbatim a story that recently happened to a close friend of mine who started speaking in tongues and is so weirded out by it that he hasn't told his wife yet.

If nothing else listen to just the first 5 minutes.

If the video above doesn't work here is the direct link.

Romans 11 - Is Israel the Jews or all believers or something else?

"A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written," - Romans 11:25b-26a

Today I'm more just curious, in Romans 11 do you interpret Israel as the Jews or as the body of Christ (all believers) or something else? I've been curious lately to find many people take different stances on this.

Thoughts? And reasons?

Salvation for us - thank the Jews (Romans 11:11)

"So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous." - Romans 11:11

When I expressed interest in my wife (back before she was my wife) I had dreadlocks and some pretty gross long mutton chops. She shut me down pretty hard. And then a group of friends (her included) all went on a vacation for two weeks. There I asked two women to dinner because I wanted to find someone to be interested in so I could forget about how hot I thought she was. It didn't work, the other girls were morons compared to the woman I married. I couldn't take my mind off her.

But the thing it did do was make her come back to me complaining that I had just expressed interest and then cheapened it by immediately then going and asking out other girls. I told her I was just trying to forget her, and sure enough by making her jealous I won her heart (it may have helped that I shaved my head and my beard and looked like a person instead of a lion). Anyhow, jealousy worked - don't ever let anyone tell you it doesn't.

So then this is a pretty odd verse to me. Salvation came to the Gentiles so as to make Israel jealous. What? I don't see the Jews these days looking at us Christians and going, "Darn it, well their salvation just makes me downright jealous." I suppose they could be thinking that, but it isn't leading them to repentance in droves is it?

That said this makes me curious about what's coming in the future. I wonder how many Jews have decided Jesus is the messiah but are unwilling to accept Him as such given their jealousy that salvation was offered to the whole world. Maybe in the end it will lead to their returning to their God. And somehow this relates to their rejecting the gospel being the reason the Gentiles were even given a chance.

Fascinating. We have the Jew's hardened hearts to thank for our chance at salvation (unless your Jewish).

Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God - Part 2 - Abuse and Blessing - The Toronto Blessing

Read the whole series - Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God

Now I'm not too sure where to start. I guess I should start with some abuse (and God working despite it) as that is about as far back as I can remember.

When I was in elementary school our church had a partnership with a few churches in Germany and had planted one in Vienna, Austria. Every summer for about 3 years in a row my family flew to Europe for the summer and my parents were involved as lay people doing ministry there. One year the money for the trip fell through at the last minute and my father decided we should take a road trip instead.

I was young (around 11 I believe) and I don't remember every place we visited but I do know that my father had a friend who had gone up to the Toronto Airport Vineyard to see what was happening with the Toronto Blessing. I'm not exactly sure of the timeline but I believe at this point the church was already asked to change their name (from Vineyard to something else) as the Vineyard was not sure what to do with them. I know my Dad was curious to sort out for himself what was going on. It was interesting because my father really respected the man who was working there but wasn't sure what he thought about the church being asked to leave the Vineyard.

We went to the church for a few nights in a row, and I remember a few things. Among them were that the church really was right next to the Airport. Airplanes would land while flying what looked like inches above the hotel next to the church in their descent. Next I remember the lines of duct tape at the back of the church. The sanctuary was packed (I would guess 800-1000 from my memories... but I was small, it could have been MUCH more or MUCH less) and at the back of the sanctuary was a very big open space of carpet with parallel lines of duct tape on the floor. The lines were about 8 feet apart and I asked my dad about it. He didn't know either as I recall, but there were people dancing with flags around I think this was the first time I had ever seen that. I remember not knowing what to think of the dancing but I almost vividly remember thinking women should not wear spandex in church, even if they were dancing (thats a great memory).

The first couple of evenings were pretty uneventful and I remember little except that after the teaching the whole sanctuary of people would stand up and move to the back of the room. We would all face the same direction shoulder to shoulder and stand on the duct tape. Then some men (maybe two or three groups of two) would walk along the crowd one man in front of the people and one man behind. The man in front would pray for people and then they would fall over and the man behind them would catch them, lower them to the floor and then they'd move on. The first night the men prayed for me and then pushed me on the forehead and I fell over and was caught and laid on the ground.

Now I've heard of being slain in the spirit but this was not what was happening. Nothing supernatural that I could see had happened at all, I head merely been prayed for and then pushed over. That seemed dumb. I remember having the conversation with my father and he too thought it strange. The next night we went back and I lined up on the same lines. When the men came by to pray for me one of them pushed me over again except this time I took a step back to keep my balance. He actually smirked at me and then moved on. I was mildly entertained by this.

Day three I decided to not even play the game and just sit on the lines cross legged and wait for prayer, and that day they didn't even pray for me but just skipped right over (now I imagine them thinking, "What do we do? We cant push over a kid who's sitting down, this is out of my comfort zone, lets move on). I remember thinking, "What? If you sit down you don't even get prayed for?"

In retrospect I imagine it probably did happen that originally some people were slain in the spirit - that is, when they were being prayed over they were so overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit that they actually fell over. But this was certainly not what was happening any more. Maybe the revival started with something real like that, but had turned into men wanting to have the same sign from the Spirit instead of letting Him work as He saw fit.

But read on. This isn't the end of the story.

On the last night I came to the service rather discouraged about this whole conference. What kind of people come to a show every night where they play the fools? But I came because my Dad was still trying to sort it out and it was our last night in Toronto. That night a man by the name of Gerald Coates spoke. I don't remember anything of what he said. I remember that he was more interesting than any of the other speakers and I remember that he had a ridiculous British accent. At the end of the night this time we went to the front of the sanctuary instead of the back for prayer. As we walked up to the front Gerald Coates was talking to someone on the stage. He was looking out over the crowd and seemed very engaged in what he was talking about. As I recall he asked the person who was talking to him to hold on, and then he pointed at me from the stage and said, "You, I'm supposed to pray for you."

This was weird, there were a lot of people there, why did he pick me out of the crowd? He came down and picked me up in his arms, which was also weird, I wasn't a small 11 year old. He then asked my Dad how he could pray for me and my Dad asked that he'd pray for my relationship with my older brother (our daily fighting was a source of difficulty for our family). And so he did. And then he set me down and pointed right at my face and said look at my name tag. My name is Gerald Coates. Remember my name, because I'm going to see you again someday and you're going to have a story to tell.

Hmm... That's interesting.

The next night I remember laying in bed in the same room as my brother (he's two years older than me) and we were both staring at the ceiling. "Wow," I think I said, "Do you realize we went the whole day without being spanked?"

And it's true. I remember the first day of my life when I wasn't spanked. Because I was 11 years old. My brother and I fought literally everyday. I provoked him until he punched me and then we were both spanked. Something happened that night and my brother and I weren't perfect friends but there was a very noticeable change in our relationship. Something for which my father is to this day extremely grateful.

A few years later my father received an opportunity to move to the Middle East with the Embassy and my mother asked me what I thought about moving overseas. And I remember vividly. I remember being in the red passenger seat of our Pontiac Bonneville and heading south about a mile from our house. I said, "I'm excited about it. I think this is the beginning of the story Gerald Coates told me I would have to tell."

Maybe it's not, but living in the Middle East for four years in Jr. High and High School certainly helped give me heart and willingness to move overseas for ministry.

So what do I think of the Toronto Blessing? I think it probably started out with some great things and some real supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. I think it was sustained probably too long by weird human sentiment. I think there were sinful people involved as well as those who truly loved and followed Jesus. Probably these people were frequently back in forth between the two. But I also believe our God used this event in a powerful way in many lives - my own included.

I hope someday to see Gerald Coates again. I have an interesting story I'd like to tell him.

Broken off because of unbelief - ouch (Romans 11:20)

"That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe." - Romans 11:20

A friend of mine recently led her father to the Lord and he's been asking me all kinds of questions as a new believer. He asked me to give him the 5 minute version of the God/Bible story, which I did and then he asked me, "Why don't the Jews believe in Jesus?"

There could always be this one ridiculous answer.

I told him it was because the Jews were looking for a king with diamonds in his crown rather than a King who washes his followers feet. They didn't think Jesus could possibly be THE Messiah they were waiting for.

Then this morning as I was reading through Romans 11 I'm thinking about the consequences of this. They didn't believe this guy was the Messiah (which it almost seems safer to think 'maybe He's not' than 'yea, I guess this is Him') and then they were cut off and gentiles were grafted in. Pretty fascinating stuff.

And what does it take for us to be cut off and thrown out? Not much. A little unbelief is all. So we're called to humble ourselves and remember our awesome creator.

I've mentioned several times that I live in a city where the sun never shines. I just got back home last night and I'm shocked at this place. I spent two weeks in a city where the sun was visible everyday and the weather was amazing. I took three good and long mountain biking trips (one of which ended up with me and a friend completely lost in the mountains for 3 hours... it was a blast) and saw the Lord's beautiful creation up close and stood in awe. It's easy for me to forget how awesome our creator is when I live in a cement jungle, His creation is still everywhere, it's just buried in man's ugliness. Help me to remember Lord, to believe.

Signs, wonders, and the very present Kingdom of God - Part 1 - Intro

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I come from a strange background having grown up in the Vineyard, worked in several different ministries and lived in many different countries. Because of this, when people ask me if I'm a charismatic I always have a quite a long story to tell. A couple of years ago a friend suggested I write these stories down because they're a little on the odd side and so instead of waiting for myself to never put them in a book, I decided I'll do a series of longer posts here on my blog where I already have an audience.

Keep in mind that this will not be a deep theological discussion on whether or not the gifts exist today, but rather will look at my experience with the supernatural gifts both when they were used appropriately and when they were abused. I've been fascinated my whole life to watch people whose theology I agree with and those whose theology I seriously disagree with both be used by God. I do believe the gifts are around today, but I've also seen many people who disagree with that be very powerful players in the Kingdom of God.

First of all, as I've mentioned, I did grow up in the Vineyard and my father has always been very involved as a layman. He was then later on staff at a Vineyard Church for a few years when I was finishing up High School. Please understand that my father is a wonderful man of God and therefore I have long looked up to him and valued his opinion and theology. That said, I am certain my biggest theological influence has been my father.

From a young age when I would get sick my dad would lay hands on me and pray for healing. He would generally pray and ask the Lord to come, then he would pause and be silent for a few minutes and then begin to pray in tongues. Often for just a few minutes and then he would ask for healing. I never got the impression my father was sure I would be healed right away, but simply that this was what a believer did when someone was sick. You prayed for them. It didn't matter how sick or not sick they were, from the most mild of sunburns to the worst broken bones we prayed for comfort and healing and rest.

I would like to say here that I put healing a separate category. First of all because no matter what you think about the gifts the Lord has seemingly healed too many people even some of the strongest cessationalists to not argue that God still heals (don't get me wrong, people do believe that the Lord doesn't heal, but I would argue they're in the minority).

I've seen healing happen a couple of times and often I think it quite deniable. But we'll get to that more in depth in a bit.

I cannot speak for the whole Vineyard as I'm not exactly sure what they believe on all of this stuff and there will certainly be a spectrum within the movement, but one thing I've always appreciated about my home church is its stance on the gifts. It seems that my home church has understood that the gifts are just simply not essential in any way to salvation - and with this I agree, they're not - but are so divisive as to choose to be very careful about their handling. That is, my church would NEVER teach about tongues or prophecy from the pulpit on a Sunday morning. Too many people would be weirded out. But if you approached a pastor and asked him about the church's stance he would probably be able to tell you that it did believe the gifts were for today. Many of the pastors probably pray in tongues and seek words of knowledge or prophecy but many of them also probably did not.

This is absolutely fantastic. And is the stance that I have maintained since then. Now I've worked in many different ministries some that would agree with these ideas and many which would absolutely argue the gifts are no longer around, or completely essential to salvation - both of which God has seemed to use, but I believe have swung to far in one direction.

In fact I feel like the whole subject is so non-essential that I hesitate to even write about it, but because some people are sorting through what they believe about the gifts, I think my experience might be useful.

In the upcoming posts I plan to discuss where I have seen the gifts exercised in Biblically appropriate ways glorifying to God and where i have seen them abused and just down right awkward. I will also be talking about the strange things I've seen and the parts I still don't understand.

I hope you enjoy. Feel free to chime in if you have questions and maybe I'll address them throughout.


I update you all relatively frequently lately as though you're particularly interested in my life... that may not be true but I am particularly interested in my own life and seeing as how I have free reign on this blog I tend to write about myself a bit.

Gosh, the Lord has been so good. I live in a city with no sunshine all winter long. It's miserable. I truly love where I live except for this one thing and seeing as how I'm from Colorado (where we boast about 350 days a year of sunshine) it's exceedingly difficult for me to take. But I took vacation last week and got to visit another city where the sun is almost always shining and it has brought back joy I forget that I lose without sunshine. I spent a week on vacation and am currently in meetings with some of the wonderful people I work with.

In a few days I will head back home and for the first time in a month or so my life will return to some sort of normalcy. That's exciting. And the truth is, other than the lack of sunshine I absolutely love where I live. The people are spectacular, the food is amazing, opportunities for ministry abound and life is generally amazing. I cant get a decent beer except for about $3 and I hope that will change in the future but you cant have everything, and given the option I pick sunshine over beer.

I think I told you I took and bombed a language test recently. But what I don't think I mentioned is that by the grace of God I was still accepted to graduate school here. I mentioned I live in a closed country, well I do but the amazing thing is I'll be studying Christianity and more amazing, I'll be studying missions and theology. All of this in a country where it's not legal to be a Christian. This means I have a legitimate presence and an unbelievably easy transition into discussing spiritual matters. When someone asks what I do here, I am a student of Christianity, 'What do you believe?'

You may not think this is cool but this is a HUGE HUGE deal for me. I'm so excited I cant see straight. Through this program I will also learn some great spiritual vocabulary that I would never learn outside of a formal theological discussion setting. Life is good. My wife is great, my daughter is doing wonderful and bringing me a boatload of joy.

I'll keep you posted... and life will pick up once I'm home again here soon.