CROSS COUNTRY NEWS
WHAT'S HAPPENING ON THE ROAD FOR JESUS WITH THE ROWES
Praise the Lord, My precious brothers and sisters in our Lord Jesus Christ! I pray this letter finds you all well and being blessed.
As most of you know, on July 1, 2001, the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned me to embark on a prayer walk up the Mississippi River to pray on behalf of the church in America. On Dec 29, 2001, I began the journey with my family at Venice, Louisiana, at what is touted as the Southern-most point in Louisiana. During the next two years, we parked at various churches in South Louisiana, working with the pastors, ministering to the lost, and encouraging the Body of Christ to walk in the calling that the Lord has for them, and to make Him their number one desire.
About July of 2002, while I was parked at a church in LaPlace, Louisiana, I was invited to a Southern Baptist church planting "probe" at a church in Gramercy, Louisiana. It was there that I met Pastor Jim. Some time after this meeting (Shortly after Christmas), I was scouting for a church to park at while we passed through the Baton Rouge area, and in the course of my scouting, I ran into Pastor Jim, who remembered me from Gramercy.
The church we met at wasn't the church that he pastored, but he "just happened" through a Divine God-incidence to work there as an accountant. He told me that his church was quite a ways from the Mississippi River, but I was welcome to stay there and work in the community if I wanted to. I accepted his offer, and we have worked in this area now from January 2003, until now, at the time of this writing, which is July of 2004.
Later on Pastor Jim explained to me that my being there wasn't an accident; he told me he had been praying to the Lord that He would bring someone to labor with him who could relate to the people in this area. He confided in me that he had been getting to the point of giving up on the area, and he knew that I was an answer to prayer. He told me that the strongholds on the River were drugs, alcohol and sexual immorality. Last year in a three month period there were eight deaths on the river. Most of them were drug related. We made an agreement that I would stay here as long as the Lord required me to stay and work in the neighborhood. The church building is situated on the banks of the Amite River, and when referring to the community here, it is common to allude to it as "The River", as in "Well, that's life out here on the River".
I continued my prayer walk up the Mississippi river until I got too far away from the church for it to be practical for Michelle to drive me to the place where I had finished walking the day before, and to pick me up later that evening. I walked as far as Port Hudson on this side of the Mississippi, and as far as New River on the other side. I had really figured that once we got so far up the Mississippi River, we would leave the Riverbend Baptist mission church, and continue on our journey.
But the Lord had different plans.
I see now that one of the reasons the Lord brought me to the church at Riverbend is so I could get a clearer picture of the challenges that the church in America faces. I believe that The church at Riverbend, its pastors, the congregation and the people in the community is a small scale model of the church in America, and by bringing me here, I believe the Lord was leading me into an understanding of the condition of the church in America, the obstacles that are facing the church as far as the part it is to play in the transformation of America back to it's Godly heritage, and how I can more effectively pray for America on my walk up the river.
I cannot understand the challenges that a pastor faces in his daily ministry unless I fill the role of a pastor. I have done that here for the past year and a half. On Saturday nights we have had a service over which I officiate.
The "official" pastors of the church do not live in the community and cannot be immediately available when there is a need. This is not intended to be an indictment on them. I love and respect them both. Their situation demands that they both maintain secular employment, so they are not available on a full time basis to pastor the church. I have been blessed to be able to be in the ministry full time because of the financial support of a few faithful brothers and sisters who have come along side of us and have been a vital part in this ministry the Lord has called us to.
Because of this, the Lord has appointed me to be the "unofficial" pastor on The River for this season. I have been awakened in the early hours of the morning on a few occasions to counsel someone, to pull someone out of a ditch, or just to visit someone who had a choice of visiting with me or going out and getting loaded. Some times I was awakened by people who had gotten loaded, and then felt the need to talk to me about their situation.
I have had a phone call at 4:00 in the morning to counsel a young lady who had no where else to turn, but she had my phone number.
I have been the shoulder to cry on, the friend when all others had forsaken a person, the teacher, the counselor and the transportation to visit a son in jail. I have been the peace maker when members of the congregation were offended by other members.
I have baptized 12 people in the Amite River, been privileged to prevent a suicide, and I was there for the brother who came to the bus and frantically told me that his son had just died from and overdose, and he needed me to come to help revive his son. I was there to comfort those who mourned, and to preach the funeral of this young man.
I have seen victory as drugs have been thrown into the river, and have felt the burden of frustration as some of those who had made professions of faith returned to their old ways. I have seen some maintain their victory, and others slip back, and get back up, only to slip back again.
I have seen those who murmur and those who would be used of the devil to work division in a church, and I have known those who gossip and who just won't quit because they think their gossip is "sanctified gossip", they're only doing it so we know how we need to pray for this person.
I have seen the lack of a burden for the community on the part of the congregation, and the challenge that a pastor faces in trying to impart that burden to the church. I have seen those who are bound by strongholds that extend back to their childhood days, and have counseled families who were falling apart.
I have learned how a shepherd who cares for his sheep grows to love his sheep, and how he will leave the 99 just to get the one back. What a wonderful privilege the Lord has given me this past year and a half, equipping me so I can more effectively pray for the pastors and the church in America. It appears that this season is drawing to a close, and that soon we will resume our journey up the Mississippi river.
I don't know whether to label this time as a success or a failure as far as the community having been transformed or the congregation having been strengthened in their faith and motivated to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is concerned. There doesn't appear to be less drugs, and as I have said before, I have experienced the frustration of seeing people give their hearts to Jesus, be baptized, only to fall away, and quit coming to church. There have been a few success stories, some wonderful testimonies, and some ground taken for the Kingdom of God. Whether our stay here has been a success or a failure as the world would measure success or failure is not the issue.
THIS IS A FACT: IF WE ARE FAITHFUL TO DO THAT WHICH THE LORD HAS CALLED US TO DO, WE HAVE SUCCEEDED.
I know that our labor in Christ is not in vain. It is God that gives the increase if we would be faithful just to plant and to water.
I DO know that this has been a very eye opening and wonderful learning experience for me. I believe that the Prayer walk will take on a new dimension in understanding once I resume it. Pray for us that we would be in His Perfect Will and in His Perfect Time concerning our stay and our departure. It's going to be difficult to leave here. We really have fallen in love with the people here. But we need to be sensitive to the Will of the Father for the ministry that he called us to.
Mar 10:29 And Jesus answered
and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren,
or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake,
and the gospel's,
30 But he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Please pray for Brother Tommy Martin, the interim pastor of this church, that the Lord would continue to strengthen him and give him wisdom in the leadership role he has been entrusted with. Also pray for this church, that they would find a pastor whose heart is truly for the people of this community and for the congregation.
Brother Tommy is an excellent teacher and preacher, but because of his job situation he can't be out here all the time for the people.
The Lord gave me a kind of parable for this area when I was speaking to a brother who was having a hard time understanding how someone could come to the Lord, and then fall back, and then get back up, and fall back over and over again.
I said, "Brother, say there is a man who is a shepherd, and he needs to add more sheep to his flock. When he gets to town where the auction barn is, he finds that the only sheep there to buy are a motley looking bunch. They had been owned by a hard task master who had cared nothing about them. He beat every one of them with a rod, until they were absolutely afraid of him. He fed them thistles and thorns, and made them drink from drainage ditches, so they had never tasted anything good, and were very sickly. He didn't really lead them any where; if the wolves would come, he would just let them have at them, instead of risking his life for the sheep.
"That flock would be a high maintenance flock, requiring constant care and faithfulness on the part of the shepherd to regain their trust. But the shepherd who has a discerning eye can see the value in this motley flock, and will lay down his life for these sheep. This is a high maintenance flock, and a high maintenance flock needs a shepherd to be there at any time of day or night to meet the needs and keep the wolves at bay.
"How long do we continue to go after that one who resists and rebels and finds himself back out there among the wolves? Until he finally realizes that life is better and safer in the sheepfold with the shepherd."
Also pray that the little flock here would remain strong and determined to let their lights shine brighter than they ever have before, and for this community, that they would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We love you all…. Lance, Michelle, Talitha, Feather, Elijah, Grace, Noah, Abigail, and Hoshea
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