Monday, June 16, 2014

A Breakfast Date in Eternity

I’ll never forget it--the day that Bro. Ron asked me to show him how to use Facebook. Everyone in the office gave me that look like, “Are you sure you want to do that?”

They were kidding of course—mostly.

I opened him an account and the fun began. Initially he didn’t know how to do anything so he would have me print all of the comments on his page, all his friend requests, and all his messages. Then he would hand write responses and statuses for me to type in and I would upload pictures.

When you are Ron Bishop, your friends list grows FAST so it wasn’t long before maintaining his Facebook seemed like my primary job.

One day I told him, sort of nonchalant-meets-hopeful, “You know, I can show you how to run this pretty easily.”

“Let’s do it.”

Not long after that I was watching as my newsfeed blew up with statuses and pictures and shares with “Ron Bishop” as the poster.  I would still get a random phone call with a “how to” question here or there, but those became few and far between and eventually he was set.

And that was how Bro. Ron did things—full speed ahead.

“Let’s do it.”

Long before I had the privilege of working in the home office of SCORE International and serving as a SCORE missionary, Bro. Ron was the interim pastor at my home church, Calvary Baptist. When I was just 11 years old, I remember him speaking on what he loved—missions, reaching the Nations with the Gospel. I sat on the front pew of the church on a Sunday night and I hung on every single word that came out of his mouth.

And I was sold. The Spirit was saying, “This. This is for you.”

I went forward that day with no idea what it even meant to “be a missionary” and said, “I’ll go.”

Fast-forward almost 17 years later and I can see that not only did the Spirit use Bro. Ron’s message that day to speak to me, He used Ron’s very life.

In the following years, Richard and I went on countless mission trips through SCORE, served as interns and translators, and eventually became missionaries. Bro. Ron paved the way for us to attend Word of Life Bible Institute in Argentina where we studied Spanish and the Bible. It was there that we met some Brazilians and God knit our hearts for the Amazon.

Along every step of the way, there were Bro. Ron and Mrs. Pat, cheering us on.

Shortly after we were married, Mrs. Pat called and asked if I would be interested in working in the home office of SCORE.

Um. YES!

Not only did they provide me with a full-time job, they allowed us to travel, leading teams and visiting Brazil, the very place we would end up.

All along the way, they were supporting us prayerfully and financially.

We had many lunches with Bro. Ron and listened to him speak and pray and share. I listened as Mrs. Pat would pray during our staff prayers and would weep for those who were hurting. God used them to shape me.

Working in the home office gave me a unique look at the day to day. I watched his passion and watched him plan and dream. I saw him shoot for things that didn’t succeed and watched him regroup and try a different way. I watched him rejoice when souls were saved and grieve at lives lost. I saw him make mistakes. I saw him apologize. Even from his mistakes I learned. God’s grace is good that way. After all, no one is perfect and it’s His mercy in our lives that uses even our shortcomings for His glory and our good.

As I look back over my life and where we are today—running full speed ahead in a ministry here in the Amazon Jungle—I am so thankful for the influence and the legacy that Ron Bishop had on our lives.

I would not be wrong to say that God used this man’s life to influence our spiritual journey more than any other human being.

My last conversation with Bro. Ron was via Facebook. We were in the States not too long ago and had hoped to get together for breakfast with him and Mrs. Pat. Our time flew by and we never got the chance.

I wrote him to let him know it wasn’t going to work out due to our limited time and I told him we planned to be back in town this fall. Then—then we would get together.

But God had other plans.

I wish we had gotten together, but the reality is God is sovereign. He knew our paths wouldn’t meet again this side of Heaven and He purposed that. His last words were that he loved us and that he was praying for us. And I believe that.

We loved Bro. Ron so much and will miss stopping by to see him in the home office or meeting him at Moe’s for an impromptu lunch. We’ll miss his encouraging words and his Facebook statuses. We hate that our kids won’t know him like we did.

But in all our missing, we rejoice that he is in the presence of our Savior. We rejoice that God worked through him and that he said “yes” to that call. We celebrate the life that God allowed him to live and the lives that were affected for eternity because he was led by the Spirit.

Thank you, Bro. Ron, for your example, love, encouragement.

We look forward to finally having that breakfast date in eternity. We’ll have all the time we need!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I Never Wanted This

I scanned the table, trying to read the expressions on each face.

I tried to read my own heart, too.

The visitor at our meeting had just told us that what we were trying to do is impossible. It would never happen. Nothing like that had ever been done here. It’s just “too hard”.

He began to offer up “easier” alternatives. Maybe we could have a day program to feed the kids and offer activities as alternatives to drugs and pre-marital sex, two things that are quickly dominating this small town and contributing to the crime and teen pregnancy rate.

Rosa was almost expression-less. Was she discouraged? Did her dream of twenty years just die?

Aurilene was searching, asking leading questions, trying to find a loophole that would give us hope that this thing could really come to pass. But she kept calling it “their” desire, referring to me and Richard.

‘No,’ I thought. ‘I never wanted this. God gave us this.’

In fact, we had fought against the very idea. It was never even on our radar to facilitate a children’s home. We knew, after our short experience with the government here in Brazil, that it would be a series of nightmares to try to pull off something like that.  We had said, ‘This can’t be for us.”

But God had said, “Yes. I AM is telling you yes.”

So we [reluctantly] said ‘yes’… and our hearts began to change. That was over a year ago now.

We began to learn the stories, see the faces of these children with no hope. We met our daughter. We learned of Rosa’s heart to give, love, serve, with nothing but Jesus to guide her.

And here we sat, like so many other times in our life, with someone saying, “Ain’t gonna happen, y’all.”

Before this meeting had started I felt something in my Spirit saying, “You need to pray. This meeting won’t be like the last.”

Our last [and first] meeting had been one of excitement and dream sharing and we all left ready to conquer the world.

But this one, the Spirit said, would be different. Pray.

So I did. Not as much as I should have because I thought, “What could be so bad?”

And here it was. Our dream was being challenged. So while our well-intentioned friend spoke of the rules and difficulty of such an undertaking, I began to pray, “Lord give us the faith we need. Lord, give us the wisdom that comes from You. Lord, may we see you and not the challenges in front of us.

God, don’t let us doubt in the dark what you so clearly revealed in the light.”

After about an hour and a half of ‘what-ifs’ and ‘how abouts’, we got the light we were searching for, a new direction that gave us hope. Our guest left shortly thereafter and our meeting continued.

That’s when I probed a little at the heart of Rosa.

“What do you think, Rosa? You’ve been quiet.”

She paused. And that familiar, knowing smile came to her face and she said, “I’ve waited twenty years for this. I’m sure not giving it all up now.”

I relaxed a little. And felt the conviction. This never was “my” dream, yet just when the opposition started to present itself, I was ready to throw in the towel. And here I sat across the table from a woman who has, for twenty years, raised children who are not her own. She took in her husband’s love child and raised him as her own. She feeds and clothes and bathes street kids when everyone around her condemns her, saying she should just worry about her own three biological children. After all, she doesn’t have the means. Just the other day her power was cut off. 

“I have Jesus,” she once told me. “Therefore, I have all I need.”

So she has waited and pursued and trusted that one day, God would bring to fruition this dream He has put in her heart.


Since that meeting about a week a half ago, God has given us new leads.

Pray for us. Pray for this home. We know God is in this. We also know that the challenges are real. But God is just as interested in growing our faith in Him and making us more like Him through this process as He is in reaching the lost and broken in this little town.

Because it is all for Him and through Him and by Him that any of these things will happen.

And that is all for His glory.
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