Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Athlete Worship and Role Models

There's are lot of people upset over the latest Super Bowl.  What's new?  Pro-death groups are mad at the Doritos commercial about a baby.  There are people upset over Beyonce supporting and pushing the Black Panthers.  Coldplay, though a great band, was pretty boring at halftime.  There's the terrible sex-trafficking issues that Super Bowls always bring.  There's lots that people are mad about, though clearly some are more warranted and important issues that others.

Since those things have all been written about extensively, I wanted to write about something else I saw.  It's something I've written about before a bit.  It's just never more clear than it is right now with the Broncos winning the Super Bowl and me living amongst Bronco fans.

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog about how Von Miller tended to troll and bully people online.  My friend was sickened when he thought about all the kids who look up to him and the poor role model he was being.  Miller's actions were teaching kids that bullying is okay.  If my favorite player does it, so should I.  It was a great article that made a lot of great points.  My buddy who works with youth had a really great perspective.

Reading the article sparked some thoughts of my own in a slightly different direction.  I think I'm more concerned with how fans worship players like MVP Miller and Aqib Talib.  Though I have a problem with the online trolling Miller has been doing throughout his time on social media, I'm more concerned with how they handle themselves on the field in front of millions, and how fans not only tolerate it but celebrate it.  They look the other way because they let winning become an idol over morality.  In that, it sends a terrible message to kids.

To my point, many Bronco fans would throw their arms up and say "Why are you picking on Miller and Talib?"  Many truly believe they are model citizens or something.  They'd probably call me a Chiefs fan troll.  Do they have a point or are they blinded by the idol of winning?  Well, let's discuss the evidence.

Miller, it seems, is constantly cheapshotting people and trying to hurt them.  There's plenty of video evidence to make that accusation.  He's tries to trip people he's not good enough to tackle, hits quarterbacks way late, spears them with his helmet, throws people down after the whistle blows, puts his knee on the throat of other players trying to crush their windpipe, and much more.  I'll touch on the more part in a bit.  The man seems to have some serious rage issues even for a football player.  It goes well beyond just being aggressive.

Talib has done the same kind of stuff with his latest offense nearly breaking someones neck by grabbing their facemask violently and twisting them to the ground. "One [penalty] I just did on purpose and I just had to show him." -Talib referring to the extreme facemasking penalty which he actually also called complete BS.  Well, it was.  He was only penalized one yard when he should have been thrown out of the game.  There was also the incident where he was going after another player's eyes and sight earlier in the season.  It's pretty despicable stuff.  He's had a long list of transgressions throughout his career.  Still, if you google him, you find people talking about him slipping on his backside jumping on the stage to be interviewed after the game.  Few seem to care that he just tried to severely injure someone, an injury that could have left the player dead or paralyzed.  I think we call that anything from aggravated assault to attempted murder outside of the football stadium.  Wouldn't be the first time he tried to kill someone...or at least been accused and indicted for it.  The other time, he "allegedly" used a gun.

Miller not wanting to be outdone adds, "I tried to lay on him a few times. I tried to rub my **** on his face."  Uh...I'm no lawyer but I'm pretty sure that if this were done off a football field, that person would be going to jail for sexual assault...unless you're Peyton Manning in college.  Miller later denied that he was the one who said it but unfortunately for him, there's video evidence of him humping others' faces during games.  So either Miller is a lying or the Broncos have more than one player trying to sexually assault other players.

With the Broncos, these two aren't the only players breaking rules and doing very questionable things.  There's a good list of other players who have as well, from dirty plays to past or present PED use.  You can find those lists on any team really, in any sport.  Obviously, some things are worse than others.  Trying to seriously injure someone's neck and dry humping faces are certainly up there.

Normally, I'm not a person who likes to go around airing other people's dirty laundry because we all have some sort of dirty laundry we're not proud of.  With Miller and Talib, though, they seem to be proud of it.  (With Peyton and the incident with the college trainer, he did put it in his book for the public to read...whether he was proud of it or not.)  They wear it as a badge of honor.  They're already putting it out there proudly for the world to see.

We write these things off as boys will be boys or it's just football.  We laugh it off and give their jerseys to our kids.  We turn the blind eye because they win.  We deny and pretend it never happened. We let winning trump morality.  The media loves them.  Fans love them.  It seems all of America loves them.  Even Obama gives them shout outs.

I guess that's why we call it fandom.  That word comes from the word fanatic, and fanatics don't usually think logically or rationally.  Case in point, there's no reason the Cubs should have any fans having not won a World Series since the dinosaurs roamed the earth.  But they have some of the most loyal fans you'll ever meet.  Heck, I've been a Royals fan my whole life and up until this past season, that wasn't really rational.

I don't just want to single out the Broncos and their fans in the football conversation.  We as fans, across the board, must be better and demand better from those we root for and support.  We must be careful to not glorify those not worth glorifying.  Let's not make role models for our kids out of those unworthy of being role models.  There are good guys in the NFL.  There's lots of them, I'm sure.  We just need to look a little deeper than their box score.  Don't follow blindly because of what the media or your buddies tell you.  Let's not sellout our morals for winning.  "For what good is it to gain the whole world if you lose your soul?" Mark 8:36.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

That Terrible Cam Newton Press Conference #SB50

I tend to write every now and then about sports.  I've never posted anything on the blog but I figure, if it's already written, why not post it?  Sports is a big part of my life so I might as well share my thoughts.

With the Super Bowl being yesterday, there has been a lot of talk of how Cam Newton handled himself at the news conference after the game.  This 26 year-old is catching a lot of flack for being a sore loser.  Most of it is coming from the media desperately trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.  And where the media goes, the general public soon follows because a lot of people have trouble thinking for themselves.  But that's for another day, another blog post.

So what happened?  The Panthers lose to the Donkeys.  The Panthers made way too many costly mistakes.  The Denver D gets away with a ton of instances that are against the rules.  They beat up Cam, the quarterback of the Panthers, much later than the rules allow many times.  Denver isn't punished, though, in most of the cases.  With all that going on, it keeps Cam and the Panthers from moving the ball.  The Panthers should have played better but to a lot of non-Bronco fans, it appeared that the game might be fixed.  Now, I won't go as far as saying the game was fixed because players still have to play the game but it did at times appear the league was strongly nudging the game in the direction to help what the league thought was the best storyline happen.  Those nudges made for huge point swings that could have cost the Panthers the game.  But again, the Panthers certainly didn't help themselves either.  Had they just cleaned up their own mistakes, they probably would have won.

Well, after the game, Cam was not happy.  You could tell he was pissed and extremely saddened to let his chance to win a Super Bowl slip away.  He sulked having to answer the questions.  At times, he gave one-word answers.  Towards the end, you start hearing the Broncos press conference occurring nearby.  To the losing team, it certainly could come across like gloating or trash-talking.  Those conferences should never have to hear each other.  It was pretty poor planning by the league.  Or maybe it was planned out that way to get a poor response out of the losing team.  I think the NFL views drama as good.  They love it even when they pretend they don't.  It keeps people talking.  It keeps their eyes on the NFL.  As they say in Hollywood, the only bad publicity is no publicity at all.  Well, the league got their drama.  Eventually, he just got up and left before the interview was officially over.

I think Cam's actions were fine.  The NFL puts players like him in a really bad position after games.  They force you to do a conference right after the game and then tell you what you can and can't say.  That's ridiculous.  It would be much better, at least for the losing team, if they actually gave players a day to cool off before releasing them to the wolves that are the media. 

Even the much worshiped Peyton Manning (except for that stretch during the season where fans hated him, booed him, and basically threw him under the bus) has had his bad moments in front of the press. That's what you get with extreme competitors...which we want but only certain aspects of it.

Cam shouldn't be criticized for the press conference just because he's not who people want him to be.  Cam is a competitor.  He should be mad after a loss.  He should be sad.  It will probably stick with him till he plays his next game months from now.  I'm the ultimate competitor.  It's taken me years to get to the point where losses don't destroy me and ruin my week.  I still hate losing though.  I get where Cam was coming from.  The media and the fans will criticize but deep down, those people don't want Cam to change because they know that hate of losing, that competitiveness is going to drive him to be better.  We say we want one thing and criticize but really want another thing.  It's hypocritical.

I'm sure Cam was not only hurting emotionally during the press conference but also hurting physically...because he got the snot beat out of him.  He took some illegal helmet to helmet shots to and may have been slightly concussed.  He certainly didn't seem like the same Cam we're used to most of the game.  The league normally protects players from speaking after getting concussions but if Cam was concussed, I'm guessing he didn't tell anyone.  It's the Super Bowl.  You tell someone you might be concussed and they sit you the rest of the game.  No player is going to do that.  I've had plenty of concussions in my life.  That's no state of mind to be in and have to deal with the press.

Quite frankly, Cam probably had nothing nice to say so he said very little and then chose to say nothing at all.  Isn't that what we teach kids from young age?  If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.  If he doesn't want to talk, he shouldn't have to.  He could have easily said that they lost because the Broncos D is the dirtiest in the league.  He could have also said that the refs did all they could to give the game to the Broncos.  He could have thrown his line under the bus and blamed the loss on their terrible play.  Though all of that was probably going thru his mind, he chose not to.  Instead, he said little and eventually left.  I don't blame him.  He basically told the truth that everyone on the team needed to play better including himself.  He gave the reporters enough to write their stories and left before saying something he'd regret.  We should be patting him on the back, not crucifying him.

The truth is, I'm not normally a Cam supporter.  Cam actually annoys me most of the time but this isn't one of them.  I do see him maturing...and becoming less annoying.  I'm actually a big fan of him giving touchdown balls to kids in the stands. It's a step forward for him.  It's cool that he's pouring into the kids and probably making their whole year.  He's seems like he's making strides in life and on the football field.  Let's not kick him while he's down.  And lets be honest, aren't there bigger things in football and in life to worry about than a 26 year-old's press conference that will be forgotten in a month or much shorter?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Christian Challenge November 2015 Update!

 
     Happy Thanksgiving!  We hope everyone had a great holiday!  Yes, it's already that time of the year.  Where has the semester gone?  It's certainly flown by.  Great semesters tend to do that and a great semester is what we have had.

     We have such an amazing group of students this year.  We continue to build on the foundations laid out in years past.  Last year, we had a solid group of students we were discipling.  Toward the end of the school year, we had many students starting to disciple other students.  That has continued this year as our group continues to grow.  We are seeing more and more students who want discipleship and are being discipled.  Our students are becoming disciple-makers and it's awesome to see.  God is really working thru the ministry!

     If you read our first update of the semester, you saw all the things we had planned.  Everything went really well.  I wanted to hit on some highlights though.

     One of our biggest event so far was our pizza party we do on campus for the freshmen.  Last year, we had around 260 students show up for it.  This year, we had even more, probably just under 300.  Thru the event, we were able to make a lot of connections with the new students and meet them that first weekend they were on campus.

     Just recently, we had Thanksgiving dinner put on jointly by most of the campus ministries.  We only planned for 120 or so students.  We ended up having around 300 at it.  We did a lot of praying that the food would stretch and it did.  Somehow, we fed all 300 and had a good amount of food leftover.  It was pretty cool seeing God multiply the food.  It was also great seeing all the ministries work together.  Thru that, God blessed us with a huge amount of students who got to hear the Gospel that night!

     Our discussions on Tuesday nights have gone really well too.  So have family dinners on Thursday nights.  We may be outgrowing the houses we host at very soon.  That's a great problem to have.

    Another highlight or highlights of the semester have been our retreats.  We've had two so far.  Our first one was on our identity in Christ.  It was an eye-opener for a lot of students.  Both Christians and non-Christians alike said that it was something they had never really thought about.  There was a lot of growth that weekend in our students and new friendships were built.



     Our second retreat focused on discipleship.  We brought in Josh's parents to speak.  They have been in ministry for years and just recently retired from running a college ministry at Oklahoma State University.  We also brought in former NFLer Clarence Lee, who happened to be in town at the time, to share.  At one point, we had around 40 people at it.  We were blown away to have so many students who wanted to go a lot deeper with their faith.  It was so exciting!

     As great as things have been, I wanted to have students share it from their side.  The first comes from Chelsea who is in her second year with us.  Not only is she currently being discipled by the ministry, she is now discipling other students.  At our first retreat, she led one of our discussion groups.  Here are her words:

     "The fall retreat was incredible this year. I had the privilege of being one of the small group leaders, and God really used me in that. In the small group discussions, I made sure that I was open and honest with my group. It was amazing because there were times where I would be talking but I really was not talking.  It was the Spirit through me, and it was incredible. Also, at the end of all our discussions, God laid it on my heart to ask if anyone had anything they wanted to say or share. So a guy in my group, named Logan, said that I had brought him back on track and he wanted to start walking with God. That was incredible to hear because none of it was my doing. Another cool aspect of this story is that there were originally going to be four small groups but something came up at the last minute, and we had to do three small groups instead. Logan then, got put into my group. I just love how time after time, God reminds us that he has it all under control, and if we let him, he will use us for wonderful and marvelous things."

     Now, I had met Logan at our table that we run at the club fair on campus in the first week of classes.  The club fair allows us to share what we do with new students.  As I talked with Logan, he talked about a deep desire to get plugged back in with his faith.  He was wanting to get serious about it again.  He said he was kind of like the prodigal son and was really looking for a group to help him grow in his faith.  We've been meeting weekly for discipleship ever since.  Another student, Lucas, joins us.  Lucas is in his second year with us.  Just so happens, Lucas grew up 15 minutes from Logan back in Oklahoma but the two never met until college.  It's been awesome to walk with those guys and help them grow.  In talking about Logan, I thought I'd share some of his own thoughts:

     "For me, Christian Challenge has had a huge impact since moving to Colorado. It is by far the group I am the most involved with here on campus. Christian Challenge has helped me to grow in my faith, meet several great friends, and partake in many great activities such as helping the homeless. Because of the great Christian Challenge atmosphere, I have been able to keep myself on the straight and narrow path throughout my first semester living at Fort Lewis College. Overall, Christian Challenge has definitely had the largest impact on me in Colorado. I look forward to many great times that lie ahead."

     It's encouraging to see the impact God is having on our students.  I'm thankful Rachel, I, and the ministry can be a part of that.  But we're not just seeing an impact on the campus.  We're seeing an impact across the world.


     Some of you might remember Sarah.  She went to the Philippines with us a couple of summers ago.  After only being there a day or so, she told us she thought God was calling her there.  Not just for the two weeks we were there but possibly permanently.  I laughed a bit in my head because we hadn't even started our trek yet.  There was still a lot of heat and humidity in front of us without air conditioning.  I thought maybe we should revisit that thought after the trek.  And after the trek, she still felt the same way.  It may have been a year or two down the road but she would eventually be moving to the Philippines.

     Well, this past October, she did just that.  She is currently in Tacloban doing mission work with the kids in the area.  You might remember that Tacloban was devastated by a super typhoon not too long ago.  She committed to working there for six months but there are many who suspect she may just stay.  After her first month, it sounds like she's having an amazingly blessed time.

     After our last trip to the Philippines, Rachel and I wondered if the biggest reason for that trip was to just get Sarah to the Philippines.  I still think it was.  And funny story with that...Sarah never would have gone if Meagan, her roommate, hadn't gone on the first Philippines trip with us.  Meagan played a big role in getting Sarah to go on the trip.  It's amazing how God works.  We're stoked that God can use the mission trips we take students on in more ways than just us directly sharing the Gospel.  That's a big part of why we take students.  We want to be able to introduce our students to missions.  We want to give them a taste of it and an opportunity for them to put their faith into action.  We want to do that in hopes that maybe someday, God will call them to the mission field full-time.  In reality, we're all called to the mission field, whether it's at home or at our jobs or overseas somewhere.

     Before I end this update, I just want to remind our friends and family who do end of the year giving, that the time is coming soon if you’re wanting to get it in for 2015 tax purposes.  Know that we definitely appreciate that support!  You can find a link to give at the bottom of this section.

     Thank you for all the support and encouragement you give! We are super thankful for that!  Keep us, the ministry, and the FLC campus in your prayers!  #Pray4FLC

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

If the Lord is leading you to give, follow this link to our giving options:
http://thewallscall.blogspot.com/p/other-giving-options.html


Prayer Requests:

- Jen's dad has been battling some pretty serious health issues due to diabetes.  Pray for healing there, and that the family would have the strength to make it through these tough times.

- With Sarah being in the Philippines, be praying for her.  Pray that God would bless her ministry and grow her in her faith during her time there.

- Our water heater and house heater have been broken for two and a half weeks.  Unfortunately, our system was only supposed to heat our water.  It was never meant to heat the house but a plumber before we moved in rigged it up to do both.  That caused it to fail and dump out lots of water all over everything...and void our unit's warranty.  Thankfully, we have a wood stove we have been heating the house with.  Unfortunately, we had to leave the house unattended due to a retreat out of town so we couldn't keep the fire going in our wood stove to prevent our pipes from freezing.  We called immediately when it originally happened but due to the plumber trying to find parts and him taking a week off for Thanksgiving, he's just now getting to replacing the unit.  That was supposed to happen yesterday.  Pray that our plumber didn't have any issues with installation, and that we don't come home to water damage and pipes that froze.

- Throughout the year, the semester can wear on you and it can be easy to find yourself discouraged at times.  It happens in just about any ministry at one point or another.  Pray that God would keep us and our staff encouraged.

- Being Christians, we are in a spiritual battle.  When you do ministry, you become a bigger target in that battle.  Keep praying for us and our team that God would protect us from any spiritual attacks.  Pray that God would give us the strength and encouragement to endure.  Also pray for everyone praying for our ministry because when you pray for the ministry, you become a bigger target as well.

- On any given year, about half of the students we work with are atheists or non-believers.  Pray that God would open doors for the Gospel to be received and understood.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working on the hearts and minds of the students we work with.

- Over the years, our staff has had a lot of health issues that can really be a discouragement.  Our most successful years have been when we have good health.  Pray that God would keep our staff safe and healthy.

- We are still working to get our support where it needs to be.  
We trust God to provide but would appreciate you praying as well that the funding needs would be met.  If you would like to give, go to: 
Give Now!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Christian Challenge Post-Trip Peru Update 2015


      The Peru update is finally here!  It's been a long time coming due to computer issues and just the craziness that comes at the beginning of the school year.


     It certainly was an amazing trip!  We were able to venture into the Cordillera Blanca with Climbing for Christ and minister to the people who live and work in the remotest regions of the high Andes Mountains.  God did so many amazing things!  I could talk or write about what He did for hours, and if you want to hear more after this update, I'd love to share more about those amazing things.  Let me know.  Until then, check out the video I put together on the trip.  Click the highlighted link: Mission Peru 2015!

     So now that you're back from watching the video, I'll give you the stories behind the video.  The ministry side of the trip in Peru was so easy.  They are just ready for the Gospel there.  They are so thirsty.  God has prepared them to receive the Good News and we just need people to step up and go.  The harvest is ready.  The harvest is plenty.

     On the other side of the coin, the physical side of the trip was probably the hardest I've ever experienced.  It was brutal.  There were long days on the trail backpacking up to almost 16,000 feet in elevation as we crossed many passes.  Many times, it was two passes a day.  It was so exhausting.  But God sustained us...even when I became really sick at one point on the trip.  Here's a link for more info on what happened with that: That time I almost died in Peru...

     Despite the exhaustion and tough physical aspects of the trip, God moved and did huge things.  He put people in our path as we were hiking and brought them into our camp.  We didn't really have to go to them.  God brought them right to us.  That's really nice when you're as tired as we were when we'd finally get to camp.

     Goodness, there are so many stories I want to tell but I'll leave you with the highlights...and even that won't be short because there are so many highlights.

     The first village we came to was one of our most fruitful.  As we pulled in, I thought I heard our interpreter say that "gringos" weren't really allowed in the village.  Something may have been lost in translation though because there we were.

     As we set up our tents, the kids came out to see who the new folks were in town.  Almost immediately, we were able to start handing out New Testaments to them.

 
     They were stoked to get them.  If I remember right, we gave out around 20 of them right there.  After handing them out and sharing about Jesus, we spent two hours with them playing soccer.  We all had a blast.  We ended up hanging out with them until the sun went down.



     The next morning, the kids packed out our dining tent as we ate breakfast.  They just wanted to hang out some more.  Before packing up and moving onto our next location, we were asked to pray over some of the locals who were struggling with different personal issues.  When done praying, we started our ascent for the day.

     After a long day's hike, we reached our next camp.  That night, our Peruvian cook, Peter, accepted Christ into his life.  He was not a believer heading into the trip but we were able to share the Gospel with him and the Holy Spirit moved on him to accept the Good News.  I was able to pray over him afterward.  I was also asked to share any advice I had.  I just encouraged him to pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with others and explained why that was important.  It was a great afternoon.

     The night was not so great though.  That was the start of me getting sick.  Thankfully, I eventually recovered and saw God do more great things.  God was continually working.  It wouldn't take long for us to see those things again with our own very eyes.

     Soon, we'd meet a family living in an extremely remote valley.  These people seemed almost untouched since Incan times. Their dialect was even different from the other valleys nearby.  They saw us setting up camp so they came down to see what was going on.  There, we were able to invite them to dinner.  They had actually never been invited to dinner before.


     That night, we found out more about them.  Magmo was the head of the family.  They were a very poor family with almost no food.  They really couldn't grow anything, they were so high up in elevation.  They had a ton of animals but the animals were not their own.  They were payed extremely little to live on someone else's land and take care of the livestock.

     As the food came out, we asked if they would mind if we prayed over it.  Though they said it was okay, their daughters began giggling as our team took off our hats and bowed our heads.  It seemed they had no comprehension of prayer.  We would find out why as we talked to them some more.

     We first asked if they believed in Jesus?  They all said no.  We then asked if they knew who Jesus was?  Had they ever heard of Him?  Again, their answers were no and no.  It's at that point that my jaw just kind of dropped, figuratively.  How does this happen in a country that has had some form of Jesus' story for hundreds of years?

     That's just how remote they were.  No missionaries had ever made it that far back to share the Good News with them.  No Christians had ever taken Jesus to Magmo's family.  When we asked if they believed in some sort of God, they replied that they believed in a Creator but didn't know anything about Him.  They said that they didn't have any one to tell them about Him.  They had no books to learn about Him.

     Well, now they did.  God had brought us to them to share.  After explaining the Gospel to them, the whole family came to Christ.  We were also able to give them New Testaments so that they now had a book to learn from.  It was amazing!  I still get chills and goosebumps thinking about it.  They were ready for the Gospel.  God had prepared them.  They were just waiting for someone, anyone to show up with the Good News.  Sadly, many in the Peruvian Andes still wait.  I'm thankful, though, that God opened the door for us to reach as many as we could in our time down there.

     Another memory I have is of a night where we were going to put on a church service for one of the valleys we were in.  We were told the locals would drop by our camp by 6 p.m. so that's what we planned on.  We'll, 6 came and went.  We thought maybe they were just running late.  It's expected in areas like what we were in.  Then 7 came and went.  By 7:15, we decided we should have some dinner.  In my mind, I kind of figured people would start showing up just as the food was put in front of us.  We'd have to leave dinner and do the church service without any food.  Being pretty hungry, I can't say I was looking forward to that situation.

     Well, dinner came and went also.  At this point, we felt they just weren't coming.  We were bummed but thought we'd get a good night's sleep and hopefully, God would open a door for us to minister in the valley the next morning.  Not more than three minutes after my head hit the pillow, I heard Jaime, one of our Peruvian team members hollering that the locals had arrived, that we needed to get out of our tents immediately.

     Being that it was now 9 or 10 p.m., I was not stoked at all.  I just wanted to get warm and sleep at that point.  Despite my lack of enthusiasm, God somehow got me out of the tent.  With the people coming to us, we weren't going to let that opportunity pass us by.  We packed everyone into our dining tent and had what I called a small tent revival.


     For hours, Pastor Ezekiel, another Peruvian on our team, talked with the group that came to us.  During that time, we had no clue what he was saying.  There was no translation for us.  We just smiled and prayed for the situation.  It was a little comical as to how clueless we were for hours.  We thought we were there to lead some worship and share the Gospel but there we were, just sitting there.  We just gave it to God and let the Holy Spirit lead.

     Eventually, it was announced that a bunch of them wanted to receive Christ.  It came across as an "Oh, by the way, they want to receive Christ now."  We thought, "Well...awesome!"  Still, it struck me as pretty funny that we didn't really do a whole lot and people were still getting saved.  We just had to show up and God would take care of the rest.  That's how ready the area we were in was for the Gospel.  So amazing.

     After they prayed, we thought we'd just head back to bed...but no, we were asked to finally lead a worship song.  "Sweet, we'll do one song and head to bed."  Well, after the first song, they wanted another...and then another.  I wasn't sure the night would ever end.  What a fun night it was.  It certainly didn't go the way I thought it was going to.  I think we eventually got to bed around 1 a.m. or so.  We were so tired but it was worth it.  God was ready to move and we certainly didn't want to miss that opportunity.

     At the end of our trek, we finished up in the town of Chalhua.  This is a town the Climbing for Christ ministry had been working in for years.  The ministry has also been working towards building a church for the village.  It's something the villagers had been praying for, for a long time.  One of those was a 95 year-old man.  He'd been praying for a church for over 35 years.  Now, he finally had one.  I remember seeing how excited he was being in the church building for the first time during it's grand opening as we led worship.  It was so great to see his prayers answered.


     Now, despite us worshiping in the church building, there were still some things to be done to finish it.  Culturally, because it was not fully done, there was some apprehension about using it for church.  Still, it was usable.  It was functioning.  I shared that night that though God had not finished working on us, He could still use us.  And just like God working in and thru us, though the church building was not fully finished, it could still be used.  It could still be used to bring glory to God.  God could still use it to reach the community around it.  Don't neglect using it because God could still do a lot of great work thru it and thru the people who worship Him in it.

     On our last day in Peru, we visited Allison's family.  Allison is a teenager C4C has been connected with for years.  We originally met her family in Chalhua years before.  The locals at the time refused to share the Gospel with her grandpa because he was always drunk.  They didn't think it would take, I guess.  Knowing that the Holy Spirit is stronger than alcohol's grip, one of our past teams decided to share the Gospel anyway.  Long story short, the man got saved and has never been drunk since.  Thru that, the rest of the family got saved.  We praise God for that!

     One of the man's daughters, Allison's mom, has severe epilepsy and depression which has almost led to suicide.  She now lives in Lima to be close to a hospital.  Over the years, we've tried to help out with her medical expenses.  There have been many epileptic-induced injuries over the years, the latest being falling into a boiling pot of water that was on the stove.  By the time we arrived, her fingers were completely blackened from the burn.  Living in the conditions the family does, this woman could have easily gotten infected even more so and lost her arm or even lost her life.


     With us insisting that she go to a hospital, we drove her to the nearest one.  Being that it was almost a holiday and she was poor, the hospital blew her off.  We were going to pay for it so money shouldn't have been an issue but they didn't care.  As we walked back to our van to figure out what other hospital we could take her to, we passed a dentist office.


     On a whim, we checked to see if he could look at it.  And thank the Lord, the dentist was happy to treat it.  He fixed her up and got her on antibiotics.  That dentist may have saved her life.  Still, we continue to pray for her and her family.  They are a family that etches themselves onto your heart.  They love the Lord and you see the love they have for others...and you can't help but love that family.


     By the time we arrived back in the airport in Lima, it was clear how much God had blessed our team during our time in Peru.  It was a successful mission trip.  We had accomplished our purpose and our goals.

     Our goals were simple:  To go where others haven't, to go where others can't, and to take the Gospel wherever the Lord leads us.  It's not that we're special or super qualified.  We just go when God calls.  When you go, when you step out in faith, that means God can use you in a multitude of different ways.

     This might sound strange but for us, we give protection to the local missionaries.  Don't worry, we aren't roughing up anyone who gets near.  We aren't bodyguards.  In the area we were, it's just safer to travel in a big group than alone.

     We were told that local missionaries can't go to these places by themselves.  If they go alone or with only one other person, they risk getting robbed, beaten, or killed out on the trail.

     When they get to the areas where people live, the locals won't talk to them.  They won't be allowed to sleep nearby.  In the area we were, people think that a person traveling alone is going to rob you or cause bad things to happen to you.  A traveler traveling alone just isn't trusted unless they already know the people.  When the local missionary travels with us, that missionary doesn't have to worry about those things.

     Being in a big group also provides credibility for the missionary.  They must be important if they have a big group to travel with.  Once you have that credibility, you let the curiosity of people seeing a big group take over.  It breaks down walls and opens the door for the Gospel to be shared.

 
     I'm still amazed at how many open doors we had.  It was such a fruitful trip filled with divine appointments, salvations, and people receiving the Word of God for the first time in their lives.  In all, we distributed nearly 100 New Testaments and saw nearly 20 people come to trust our Lord and Savior.  But it doesn't end there.

     Seeds were planted, and we are already seeing fruit from them.  Jaime has been able to follow up with the people we met on our trip going back to the places we went.  Since they met him with our big group, he was able to gain their trust.  Even more people are now getting saved through the seeds that were planted when we were there!  Praise God!


     With all God did, this trip wouldn't have been possible without you guys.  We want to thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given and continue to give! We are super thankful for that!  Check out our prayer requests below and keep us and Peru in your prayers!

Cheers and God Bless,
Mike and Rachel

If the Lord is leading you to give, follow this link to our giving options:
http://thewallscall.blogspot.com/p/other-giving-options.html


Prayer Requests:

- Pray for protection over those that accepted Christ on our trip, and that God would grow them in their faith.

- This was an extremely tough trip physically. We couldn't have done it without God providing us with the strength to complete it. Praise God for the strength He gave us to fulfill what He was calling us to do in Peru.

- God changed many lives while we were down there. Praise God for lives changed. Also pray that He would continue to open doors for the Gospel to be received and understood as Jaime revisits the people we met and follows up with them. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be working on the hearts and minds of the people we met.

- Praise God for getting our team home safely.

- Pray for wisdom and discernment concerning our plans for next summer. We would love to go back, with as ready as the place is for the Gospel, but it would take a miracle with where our finances are right now. I know it seems early to even be thinking about next summer but this is the time where we need to start figuring things out and planning.

- Lastly, due to circumstances out of our control, the mission was much more expensive than expected or planned on for Rachel and me. Unfortunately, we are still paying the trip off and will be until probably after Christmas. We trust God to provide but would appreciate you praying as well that we could get this trip paid off as quick as possible. If you would like to give toward that, go to: Give Now.

Friday, October 9, 2015

That time I almost died in Peru...


Hunched over a big rock, I couldn't stop throwing up.  I didn't understand.  A day earlier, I'd felt maybe the strongest I'd felt in a long time.  We were on a mission trip in Peru to reach people living in the high elevations of the Andes with the Gospel.  Our team had just climbed more than 3,000 feet up in vertical to around 14,000 feet in elevation.  I felt amazing.  The training I put in was paying off so I thought.

Sure, I didn't train as much as I'd have liked.  There was the support trip down to the South for a month.  Being at sea level is no place to train your body to be above 14,000 feet in elevation.  And train during that time, I didn't.  I just tried to not gain any weight with all the fried food the South is known for.  I actually lost weight during that time.  What can I say, we ate a lot of cheese and crackers for lunch and dinner trying to keep expenses down.

After getting back to Colorado from that trip, I wanted to train...but couldn't.  Unfortunately, there was a nasal surgery that needed to happen.  I was down for another week with that.  But after the week of healing was up and I was cleared by the doctor, I started training hard.

I ran a lot with my wife, Rachel, near where we live at 8,100 feet in elevation.  I hate running but knowing I was doing it for a mission trip and God's glory made it not as terrible.  My wife and I also did a lot of training hikes around our area to get as high in elevation as we could.  I felt like despite our month in the South and my nasal surgery, we made up for the time away from working out with training extremely hard in the month leading up to the mission trip.

So why was I now in this terrible position?  Did I have altitude sickness?  It couldn't be.  We were only 6,000 feet or so higher than where I live.  Was the training we did not adequate?  Did I never really recover from the support raising trip to the South?  Questions swirled in my foggy mind.

My bad health could probably all be traced back to the day before.  It was a combination of things that all led to something much worse.  And then that would turn into something even worse.  The snowball was rolling down the hill, getting bigger, and gaining speed faster and faster.  That is, until it hit a wall and exploded.  This Wall to be exact.

The day before, our guides had persuaded us to drink coca tea.  Yes, the same coca that is used to make cocaine, but in tea form, it doesn't get you high, nor is it addictive.  It just helps people adjust better to high elevations.  We didn't just drink a cup though.  We were filling our Nalgenes with it and drinking it like Gatorade.  I went through two Nalgenes of it that day.

The problem is that I'm allergic to most green veggies.  Yes, it's real.  And no, it's not just that I don't like green veggies.  My wife has actually made me sick by trying to blend them into dinner without me knowing.  She was just trying to help me be healthy and prove that it was all in my head.  I would have loved for it to be all in my head but unfortunately, it wasn't.

Now, I've never had issues with teas but I've also never drank them in such quantities at one time.  But basically, a lot of teas and green veggies are similar.  I'm also slightly allergic to coconut, and the cake I ate that day had coconut baked into it.  Not much but a little.  Then the soup we had that night had some green veggies in it.  I only took a small taste of it before realizing there were green veggies in it.  All of that together was enough to cause an issue.

That night, I couldn't sleep.  Our tent was set up on a slope and there was a pretty big rock under where I was sleeping.  I spent the whole night sliding off my sleeping pad down to one side of the tent and trying to get back to my pad.  It's a pretty frustrating situation.  I also spent the night shivering...maybe because it was pretty cold or maybe because of an allergic reaction that was starting to take place in my body.  Probably a lot of both actually.


When the sun finally came up the next morning, I had no energy.  I figured it was because I hadn't slept.  I tried rolling my sleeping pad up and had to pause every few seconds.  I tried putting my sleeping bag away and collapsed to my elbows and knees.  It was so difficult.  I took my heart rate and oxygen saturation reading and there weren't terrible but they weren't great.  My heart rate was around 110 and my O2 saturation was at 88%.  Again, not terrible for being up above 14,000 feet but still lower than I had ever been during my many times above that elevation.  The lowest I had been previously was 91% saturation and that was after a hard climb.

I wasn't too worried.  I just needed some food, some morning coffee and my energy levels would be fine.  The only problem was that the more I moved around, the worse I felt.  I was thirsty, though, so I drank as much water as I possibly could.  I literally couldn't quench my thirst.  I thirsted for more water than my stomach could hold.  The high elevation we were at was the last place I wanted to be dehydrated so I took in what I could.  By the time I made it to our dining tent, I didn't want to put anything more in me.  I was struggling to keep whatever was inside me down.  I needed food for energy but I declined.  I just couldn't at that point.  Instead, I watched everyone else have a great breakfast.

With me not having breakfast, it was becoming apparent to the rest of the team that I wasn't feeling well.  When we stepped outside the tent and started getting ready to continue our journey, team member Jordan asked if he could pray for me.  Never one to turn down prayer, I thought excitedly, "Sure, why not?"  Though physically, I probably seemed a little less enthusiastic.

He prayed for my health, and that if anything I had eaten previously was in me causing problems, that the Lord would get it out even if that meant throwing up or making a bathroom run.  If I had had more energy, I might have slapped him for that last part.  I thought, "What are you doing?  Don't pray that!  That's a terrible thing to pray!"  Jordan could have just prayed, "Lord, snap your fingers and just make Mike better."  Asking for a simple miracle would have been fine.  No need to bring up throwing up.

After he was done praying, he asked if I wanted some Pepto.  I initially declined.  I would just power through and be fine.  But after a minute or two, I changed my mind and took him up on his offer.  Why decline something if it would make me feel better?  It seemed stupid not to take it.

Stupid or not, I took it and reaped the consequences.  I tried to chew the tablet but the taste was enough to send me over the edge.  I found a large rock and threw up probably ten to fifteen times behind it.  It was all of dinner from the night before undigested.  After I was done throwing up, I had to make a run to the bathroom (also known as a hole in the ground) as well.  Fun times.  At that point, Jordan told my wife, "So I may have just prayed for all of this to happen..."  Thanks, Jordan.

By the time I was finished cleansing my system, there were multiple options for the team depending on how I was feeling.  Originally, we had an eight-hour day of hiking ahead of us.  It easily could have been ten or eleven hours, though.  Another option was to drop down to Chalhua, the town we would be finishing our trek in many days later.  We'd use that as our base camp and do outreach to the communities surrounding that town.  It was lower in elevation, maybe 11,000 feet, and would have allowed me to recover.  Our guides wanted to bring me all the way back to the mountain city of Huaraz at just above 10,000 feet to recover and be close to a hospital if needed.  That would have essentially ended the mission before it even really started.  In my mind, that was not even an option.

Our last option was to make our way to a possible camping location four hours away.  It would be higher in elevation, we were told by a little over 300 feet, and add an extra day to the trek but would basically break up what would have been a really long and hard day of trekking.  In actuality, it was 300 meters.  (We wouldn't find that out until we got back to the States, though.)  That's a big difference but it unfortunately got lost in translation as can happen a lot when you're in a foreign country and don't speak the native language fluently.  It would put camp at around 15,200 feet.  With my health, to choose that would have been a major mistake and a very poor choice medically.

Now, the guides were sure I had altitude sickness and wanted to take me down lower.  Rachel assured them that the symptoms I was showing were consistent with when I have allergic reactions to certain foods.  My wife and I both figured I'd be better by the next day like what normally happens...though normally, I'm not trekking around 14,000 to nearly 16,000 feet in elevation.  I'm normally in bed trying to rest in the pain and discomfort.  Occasionally, that includes a trip to the hospital and an IV to get rehydrated.

It was a really tough call to make especially considering last year.  On the last trip, team member Haley ended up getting violently ill.  God used it to split the team up.  Part of the team would head back to the villages with Haley.  The other part would go deeper into the mountains.  Both would minister and cover more ground for the Kingdom than we would have if the team had stayed together.  It also allowed each team member to use their gifting and be used of the Lord which wouldn't have happened if the team had stayed together.  Within a day of the split, Haley immediately got better and each team saw the Lord do something big giving confirmation that each team member was where God wanted them.

Was this one of those moments?  Was God trying to steer us back to Chalhua to do ministry?  Our team was smaller this year so there would be no splitting up.  If it was God wanting us to go to Chalhua, I was probably the worst person to allow to get sick.  I'm extremely stubborn and will push on no matter what, even unto death.  It's my competitive nature.  I hate to lose.  I refuse to be beat or be held back by whatever opponent is in front of me, including illness.  Now, if Rachel had gotten as sick as I was, I would have turned the team around and headed to Chalhua immediately.  But it wasn't my wife that was sick, it was me.

Maybe this was just a spiritual attack.  We had just seen Peter, one of our cooks, get saved the afternoon before.  I was there when it happened and was able to pray over him and give him advice in his new walk.  Was this retribution from the enemy for that?  Was it to keep us from pushing forward and gaining new ground for the Kingdom?

Though Chalhua was an option, it made less sense to go to that village.  There was a new missionary from the States in a nearby village who was starting to reach out to all the villages around him.  Those would include villages we would probably go to.  That wasn't the point of the trip though.  That wasn't our mission.  Our mission was to go to the places other missionaries can't get to, to go places others haven't yet been and probably won't go to due to the remoteness.  We were open to what God wanted but going back to Chalhua just didn't fit with what we felt called to do.  That wasn't why God brought us to the area.  But with my health, was it really a reality to do anything but drop in elevation?

These were all things my foggy mind had to weigh at that time.  I was feeling a little better.  I still had no energy but at least I didn't feel like I was going to throw up.  Despite Jordan telling me I didn't need to be a hero, I decided the team should push on to the place fours hours away.  I was not trying to be a hero.  I was just being stubborn.  I wasn't going to let the enemy knock our mission of course. If he was attacking me this hard, there must be something big he was wanting to keep us from.  There were people who needed to hear about Jesus ahead of us.  There were people who needed God's Word.  I wasn't going to let my sickness keep us from those people.  The Lord would give me the strength to get to our next camp, and I'd be fine by the next morning.  I just needed to get there and get some good sleep.

I may have been a little naive as to how tough the day would be on me.  Well, naive and misinformed with the mistranslation of the actual elevation gain.  The day would be brutal.  Thankfully, the team would divide up my things and carry them so that I wouldn't have to.  Carrying a heavy pack would have made it even more brutal.


I started out somewhat okay hiking.  I made it about two or three hours.  Every step became tougher and tougher.  To become so weak so quick was quite humbling.  I was a man who could ascend quickly and lead the pack if I wanted...but now, I was literally picking rocks twenty feet up the trail just trying to make it to the chosen rock.  After catching a short rest, I'd pick another rock twenty feet farther just trying to make it a little further one rock at a time.  It was almost like trying to move through wet cement.  I got a taste of what it must feel like to climb Everest.  It felt like my body was reacting in the same way bodies do in the death zone, yet I was only just under 15,000 feet in elevation.

Most of the time, I had one phrase going through my head.  "The Lord is a lamp unto my feet."  It was repeating over and over.  Now, lamps don't illuminate a whole lot but they illuminate enough to keep a person moving forward.  That verse was never more real to me than in that moment.  I couldn't move fast or far but at least I could push further little by little, bit by bit.  The Lord was giving me strength twenty steps at a time.  That doesn't seem like much but it was just enough.  It was what I needed at the time.  Looking back, anything beyond twenty steps was really just lost in what seemed like a fog, lacking any kind of real focus, visually.

Despite me still moving, I was slowing the team down more and more.  Something was going to have to change.  My pace was turning what was supposed to be a shorter hike into something much longer.

Before we even started, I was offered the option of riding a horse to our next camping spot.  Naturally, I declined opting to tough it out.  My hope was that after clearing my system out of whatever allergen was causing my sickness, I'd bounce back to normal once I got some blood flowing and my heart exercising.  Adrenaline would start pumping and kickstart my body back to normalcy.  It had worked in the past under other circumstances.  Maybe it would work this time.

But unfortunately, it didn't.  So with us still an hour away and me moving in slow-motion, we finally made the decision to put me on horseback.  As Jordan and I talked, we came to the conclusion that all this new stress on my body was not going to help me heal any quicker.  At this point, the less stress was going to be better.  The quicker I arrived at the camping spot and could rest, the quicker my body could recovery and get healthy.  There was no need to push it anymore.


As our donkey team passed on by, we asked if I could take them up on the horse offer.  They obliged but there was a catch.  The horses were already loaded down.  We'd have to wait for them to unload at our new camp and then come back and pick me up.  Being that the whole process was going to take awhile, I kept moving forward until they could bring the horse back.  This would keep the team progressing and keep me warm as it was a pretty cold day.

I may not have shown it but I was pretty excited when the horse finally showed up.  That excitement died pretty quickly, though, when reality hit me.  I crawled on top of the horse only to realize there wasn't really a saddle, just some cloth.  There were no real stirrups, just a rope.  And there was nothing solid to hold onto, just the horse's hair.


I was basically going to ride this horse bareback.  On flat ground and in good health, that would be no big deal but we weren't on flat ground, and I wasn't healthy.  We were on a mountainside.  If I thought the trail was bad at the moment, it was only going to get worse.  This was going to be interesting to say the least.

In my head, I had my idea of how the trail was going to be.  We were going to ascend a little further and then the trail would flatten out until we made it to our camping spot.  At this point, I could even see, when I looked up, where I thought the trail would flatten.  It was close.  If they were going to put me on a horse with no saddle, it had to be pretty safe and mellow.  It would be short and easy.  We'd be there in no time.  Then I could rest.

The only problem was that I was completely wrong on just about every aspect.  It would not be short.   It was much longer than I anticipated.  It was probably another hour and a half or two hours.  It was only supposed to be an hour for those on foot but it took them much longer as well.  It would not flatten out.

Once we reached a certain elevation, there were a lot of rocky up-and-downs between us and camp.  It was not easy.  It was not mellow, nor safe.  Horses don't do well on slick rocks.  They tend to slip a lot.  And, well, humans don't do well on horses without any saddle.  Just trying to stay on was exhausting.  I nearly fell off multiple times.  Thankfully, our cooks and now, my horse guides, put their hands up every time and held me up on the horse.  It was great that they were trying to keep me from falling off but I thought, "Who was keeping them from falling off the mountain?"  There was little to no space for them.  The last thing I wanted to do was take them with me as I fell off the horse.

The fun part was still to come as the trail became even more narrow.  Yes, even worse than before.  It didn't seem real it was so extremely narrow.  This was no place for a horse...or me to be on a horse.  One misstep and we both fall to our deaths off the side of this cliff hundreds, if not, thousands of feet down.  I'm not sure exactly how far down because looking down at that point was just a blur in my mind.  I really just had to let go of the whole situation and give it to God.  Whatever was going to happen would happen.  If it was God's will for me to die that day, so be it.  It was completely out of my control.  All I could do is hold on for dear life while hoping and praying we'd all get there safely.

As I rode the horse, different things went through my mind.  The first one was that having a sharp horse spine stabbing you in your butt crack is no fun at all...especially when you're really sick.  The second one was that I must have been crazy to get on this horse while on this trail.  Trying to hold on with my legs was just as exhausting as hiking.  I could see why Haley on the trip the year before only rode the horse for a short time while she was sick before choosing to hike again.

The final thing that came to mind were a bunch of sermons I listened to before the mission trip from Flatirons Community Church near Boulder, CO.  I listened to them on my iPod before the trip while I trained.  I always say listening to sermons while running makes running almost bearable.  The sermon series was on what to do when storms hit your life.  I laughed when listening because life was good.  There were no real storms other than our funding that was supposed to come in for the trip wasn't coming in.  Even though that funding never did come in and put us in a pretty bad spot after the trip, I figured it would eventually come in before we left.  But I wasn't worried.  I figured at the time that maybe the sermons were for me to share with someone else.  They certainly didn't apply to me.

Well, as I clung to the horse with all I had in my sickly state, now those sermons did apply.  They were seemingly prophetic to an extent.  God had been preparing me.  I was in the storm literally and figuratively, and I needed God more than ever.  Some people let storms push them away from God but had I pushed God away, I'm almost certain I would have ended up in a hospital or died.  I wouldn't have had the strength to make it through.

"God is my strength...  He is strong when I am so weak...  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me...  Be strong and courageous for the Lord God is with you..."  It seemed like I was constantly reminded of those statements throughout the day as they echoed through my head.  I had nothing left to give so God was carrying me further.  Looking at me that day, there was certainly no strength of my own that was going to get me to camp.  My reliance on God was sustained thru such a deep desperation.  I had no where else to go.  I had nowhere else to turn.  It was God or nothing at that point.  Given my options, it was an easy decision.  He has and will always be the best option.  Via con Dios!


As we pushed closer, the clouds starting lowering and it started snowing.  The closer we got, the heavier the snow became.  It was crazy.  With the landscape, the fog, the snow, and the fog in my own brain, if felt like I was not in reality anymore.  I was in a dream, a fantasy world.  I was in Middle Earth or Narnia.  It was surreal.  I was riding a horse on a cliff in the fog and snow with huge mountains all around.  Despite my physical state, it was amazing.

When we arrived at where camp should be on these huge steps of granite slick rock, we couldn't find the rest of our donkeys and horses with all of our gear.  That means we couldn't find our tents to get out of the snow storm.  At this point, we'd just have to wait for the rest of the hikers to catch up.  Once they caught up, our guide could go off and find where all of our gear was.  Until then, we'd just try and stay warm on the slick rock just under an amazing glacial lake at the foot of a huge glacier.  Needless to say, it wasn't a very warm wait.  At least I could sit though.

Soon our group arrived.  I was feeling better just sitting.  I was exhausted and could barely stay awake but it felt so good to not really have to move much.  Our guide, Edwin went off to find our gear donkeys.  People don't normally camp at this place because there aren't any good camping spots due to the granite slick rock.  We would just have to make due.  They'd choose a place near a couple of structures run by the water authority there which sends the glacial water to villages, much farther below, in aqueducts.

Unfortunately, the buildings we were going to camp by were locked up.  There were no water authority workers there at the time.  Though I didn't know it at the time, I was starting to get really pale...or maybe people were finally noticing how pale I had been.  It's hard to know.  I didn't feel it but my health was starting to decline rapidly.  It had been slowly declining all day but now, it was getting worse with speed.  The physical stress, the cold, and the high elevation was taking its toll.

Seeing my condition, our guide and cooks decided to take drastic measures.  They knew I needed to get out of the bad weather fast.  So being that it was an emergency, they grabbed a multitool and broke the locks to get into one of the buildings.  Once in, they found some old cardboard and made a bed for me to lay down on.  They even donated one of their sleeping pads for it.  It wasn't exactly a Tempurpedic mattress but at that point, I couldn't tell a difference.  It was amazing.  With Rachel's help, I was put into two sleeping bags.  Once in them, I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the warmth.

I was eventually moved to a tent after they were put up so I could get some sleep away from the noise of the group.  Before completely passing out, Rachel had me take my vitals.  My resting heart rate was over 130 and my blood oxygen had dropped to 72%.  Again, those were resting rates.  My oxygen levels were probably even lower when we first arrived.  Still, at those current levels, I was in trouble...though, I had no idea how much trouble I was in until returning to the States and doing some research.  I was in so much more danger than we ever realized.

After trips, I always like to look back and evaluate what happened on the trip, good and bad.  That includes looking at different health issues, figuring out why they happened, and how I can prevent them in the future.  When I got back to the States, I started looking up blood-oxygen-saturation.  What I read was pretty scary.  According to the Mayo Clinic, values of 95-100% are considered normal.  Anything under 90% is considered low which results in hypoxemia.

Looking around at other websites, I found that anything under 80% can start causing organ damage or failure.  Things like respiratory arrest and cardiac arrest can occur.  Also add stroke and brain damage into the mix.  At high elevations, terms like high altitude pulmonary (HAPE) and cerebral edema (HACE) start getting thrown around too.  Just about everywhere mentioned that you need to go see a doctor immediately if your oxygen saturation drops below 80%.  Some recommend it if it drops below 90%.  Well, at that point even at 72%, it was not an option.  We had prayer and hopefully a good night's sleep.

Thankfully, I made sure I brought Diamox on the trip as well.  Typically, you're supposed to take it before you start having issues.  It's a preventative to help fight against altitude problems before they happen.  I also had Dex on me just incase things got worse or didn't improve.  Dex is what climbers use on Everest in emergencies when people have elevation issues.  It's literally a lifesaver but for me, it was a last resort.  I wanted to see if the less harsh, in my mind, Diamox would work before taking the Dex.  I'd take Dex in the morning if I wasn't improving by then.

So why was this all happening?  To my best guess, it was all due to the allergic reaction.  When I had the allergic reaction and couldn't keep anything down, I had nothing to burn for energy.  I also quickly became very dehydrated.  Due to the dehydration, my blood thickened.  When it thickened, everything had to work a lot harder to keep me alive.  With my thickening blood and the high elevation, my oxygen levels dropped to dangerous levels.

In my condition, I wasn't going to be doing anything that night but sleeping.  I wasn't in any pain or anything.  It was just extreme exhaustion, a lack of energy I'd never felt the depths of before.  Though I may have, for a time, been heading in the direction of death, at no point did I ever think I was going to die.  I never saw my life flash before my eyes or anything like that.  At this point, I was free of stress, free of doubt, and free of worry.  I was floating in a sea of deep, euphoric peace.  This was just a small setback.  God would get me through it and have me better by morning.  There were no other possibilities in my mind.

As the team ate, I fell in and out of sleep while lying in the tent.  Rachel eventually came back with a bunch of coats the team had given her to keep me warm.  I was doubled up in sleeping bags because my body couldn't regulate my temperature enough to keep me warm.  Being that one of the sleeping bags I was using was Rachel's, she could now cover me in warm coats so that she could use her bag.  I was so blessed to be on a team with such caring people.  When all was said and done, I probably slept for around 14-15 hours.

The next morning, I awoke feeling much better.  I was still pretty weak but I actually had at least a little energy.  I took my vitals and my heart rate was much lower around 100 beats-per-minute and my oxygen levels were up to 86%.  Things were looking up.  I was recovering.  There would be no need to head back down in elevation.  We could continue our mission, thank the Lord.  I remember later writing in my journal what had been echoing thru my thoughts thru this ordeal, "God is strong when we are weak!"  How could I not be reminded of it over and over again?  It was so true.  It was so real to me.  God was whispering into my life a great encouragement.

It was a really cold morning so I rushed to breakfast for some warm liquids.  Though I still didn't have an appetite, I ate a little bread with jelly on it anyway.  I was just needing easy calories at that point.  Thankfully, I was able to keep everything down.  It was a huge next step in recovery.  I still had a long way to go, and the road ahead wasn't going to be easy but at least, I was heading in the right direction.  I would just take it slow from there on out and try not to push myself too much.

After packing up, we moved out.  We had another high pass ahead of us.  Thankfully, we were already so high up that we didn't have much higher we could go.


As we hiked, snow covered the sides of the trail while we passed by beautiful clear blue lakes.  The mountains and glaciers had finally appeared out of the clouds to reflect God's great glory; His creation so beautiful!  It was as if God was showing off.  As our lungs grasped for what little oxygen was in the air, the sights before us left many of us speechless in silent awe and praise.

Not long after we had crossed the pass and started descending, we decided that since it was Sunday, we should have a church service.  Nothing like having church on a mountainside at 15,000 feet.  There, we broke out the backpacker guitar and sang worship songs in English and also Spanish so that our Peruvian team members could join in.  Such a blessing when two cultures can come and worship together under one God.  It was a great experience.


After worship, we went over our trip devotional for the day and discussed it.  One of the questions it posed to us was "Where had we seen God working lately?"  We all went around and shared, and then it came to Peter, the cook.  He looked at me and said: "What I see before me is a miracle.  It's a miracle that you are better.  God healed you.  We went up in elevation.  You shouldn't be healthy now.  You shouldn't be able to hike.  I've never seen someone up here get healthy that quickly."

Now, I hadn't completely recovered.  It would takes weeks of being home before I really felt close to normal.  It seemed like forever for my energy levels to return to where they should be.  Not only did it beat me down physically, but also mentally.  My brain felt foggy for weeks after being back.  It really took away my mental toughness as well.  That toughness that allows you to keep pushing thru even though you hit the wall hours ago.  I never thought I could lose that so quickly.  It would take a long time to get back.

As I thought about it though, I realized that it truly was a miracle.  The team prayed over me fervently and I was healed.  God had brought me from possible organ failure and maybe even death to being able to again function for what God had called us to Peru to do.  God had brought me a long way.

By that night, my vitals were still improving with oxygen levels of 90% and my resting heart rate was 91 beats-per-minute.  By the next day, my heart rate was fully normal and my oxygen levels were back up at 96%.  Praise God!

Most importantly, I was healthy enough to share the Gospel.  When we'd get extremely tired after a long day on the trail, I would always say to myself: "We're not here to lay in our tents.  We're here to share the Gospel!  Get up and go!"  Well, I could again get up.  I could again go.  I was functional and healed up plenty.  I wasn't near death laying in my tent anymore.  I was out on the trail and able to share the Gospel with anyone God brought our way.  The team prayed and God delivered.  I have no problem calling that a miraculous recovery.

For Peter, he was seeing a miracle right before his eyes after two days of being a Christian.  God was using the whole ordeal to cement his faith.  Now, I don't ever want to go through that again but if God is going use it to build Peter's faith, or to get His Word to those who don't have it, or to line up divine appointments for people to come to salvation, then it was totally worth it.  I'm just hoping that next time, God will work it out in a much easier and more comfortable way.  You know, snap His fingers or something and just make it happen.  That would be just fine by me.

But God had His own plan for our trip.  I got sick, our team prayed, and He answered those prayers.  Because of those answered prayers, our team was able to continue on our journey to reach people who had never been reached before with the Gospel.  And because I got sick, our schedule changed.  We met so many people that we wouldn't have met had our schedule not changed.  Many wouldn't have gotten saved at that time.  Many wouldn't have received the Word of God with the New Testaments we gave them.

Rual was a great example.  Rual was a young man who had just became a Christian four months before.  We met him as we were trying to do outreach.  We were trying to find a place to cross a river which was in our way from reaching a lot of people that were on the other side.  We walked up and down the banks for what seemed like forever with no luck.  There were no bridges or any other safe places to cross for us, and it was getting late.  We were just about ready to call it a night and head back to dinner with most of our team thinking there was a closed door in front of us.  We should probably just be back resting as our guides suggested originally after a monster of a day of hiking.

Literally seconds before we turned to head back to camp, I spotted a guy about to cross the river.  I pointed him out to the team and mentioned that maybe this was our open door.  Maybe this was our safe crossing.  After watching him cross, it was clear this wasn't going to be our safe way across at that moment.  But it would be in the future.  It would be God's open door to the people on the other side.  It would be His safe crossing to reach those people.

Let me explain.  When we saw Rual cross, our team went over to him and began a conversation with him.  We found out, as I said before, that he had just become a Christian.  We found out that he was going to a church down in a town twenty minutes away by foot.  He told us that no one other than the pastor in his church had a Bible despite the congregation's deepest desires to have God's Word.  Lastly, we discovered that Rual felt called to be a missionary or pastor to the people in the valley we were in.

Talk about a divine appointment.  Through our meeting with him, not only were we able to encourage and pray with him, we were able to equip Rual with the materials needed to reach those people on the other side that we couldn't get to.  Our team wouldn't be able to reach those people on the other side of the river but God was going to use Rual to do it.  In sports terms, we weren't the ones putting the ball in the net but we were certainly getting the assist.  God was paving the way for those on the other side of the river to hear the Gospel.


On top of that, our team was also able to equip his church with New Testaments for almost every member so that they could not only equip themselves with God's teachings but also those throughout the town they lived in.

We were super stoked.  People like to say that God works in mysterious ways and to an extent, He does.  But to me, He more so works in awesome ways, at least that's what stands out in my mind.  Seeing the way God works really is just awesome.  It leaves me in awe the way He reaches out to people and draws them near to Him.  Throughout the trip, people tended to either come to us or be right in our path at the perfect time.  We really had no need to go out looking for them.  God always seemed to bring them right to our team.  Even with Rual, yes we went out trying to reach people but when we were about to give up in failure, God brought the guy right to where we were standing.  Truly, God was orchestrating our path thru sickness and health bringing divine appointment after divine appointment our way.  God was moving right before our very eyes.

We had been so blessed in our ministry but it came at a cost.  For me, I had never seen so many divine appointments on a trip.  I had also never felt so many spiritual attacks...and they had never come so hard at me.  You start thinking there is something wrong with you.  Throughout the trip, thoughts would creep in of: "Why isn't God protecting me this time?  Why am I here?  Was I not supposed to come on this trip?  Is that why God is allowing me to be attacked like this?"  So many negative thoughts and questions went through my mind.  And I didn't have answers for them.

As I reflected on the trip during the ride back to Lima and the plane flights home, I listened to an audiobook on the life of Hudson Taylor.  It was there that God began to answer some of those questions for me.

When I looked at Hudson Taylor's life, his ministry was full of spiritual attacks and terrible things happening to him.  By our standards in today's world, we'd probably say he was almost always underfunded.  He lost to death multiple family members at young ages.  There was sickness, physical attacks, and spiritual attacks.  He saw it all and pretty much sacrificed just about everything. But still, he pressed on for the Gospel.  He didn't let it hold him back or chase him out of the mission field for the rest of life.  He would recover, he'd overcome, and he'd jump right back in as soon as possible.  He fought the good fight and didn't let Satan scare or intimidate him into a life of retreat.

For me, getting sick on the trip was not the first or the last spiritual attack waged on me during the trip.  There was a lot.  I've never felt so many directed at me while on a trip.  But I wasn't alone.  Everyone on the team saw spiritual attacks on the trip.  I actually felt better when I heard that.  It wasn't focused directly at me.  That was just the cost of doing business on this trip for our team.  God was doing amazingly huge things thru our team and Satan was going to try and stop or disrupt that the best he could.

Whether you see spiritual attacks or not, that has no bearing on whether you were called to a place.  You can't let it discourage you from doing ministry.  It's not a litmus test for if you're called to a ministry or not.  If you're doing successful ministry, you're going to see attacks.  In reality, if I'm not seeing any attacks, I might be worried that I'm not really making an impact for the Kingdom of God.  We have to know that attacks will come and be ready when they do.  Why do you think that most of the armor of God we are called to put on in Ephesians is defensive gear?  Because we're going to be attacked.

Despite the attacks our team encountered in Peru, God was doing great things.  I'm guessing that's why we got hit so hard...and really when I look at what other missionaries have endured throughout the ages, we got off pretty easy.  But still, when you're in the moment, it's feels pretty terrible.

It's not fun when it happens but God can give us the strength to get through.  When you get knocked down, get back up.  Pray a lot.  Don't give up and turn away from what God is calling you to do.  Be strong and courageous in weathering the attack.  Don't be discouraged but encouraged.  God might just be in the process of doing something awesome and amazing!