Wednesday, January 24, 2018

What About Evil?

I shared this with our students a few months ago after the massacre in Las Vegas. In light of yesterday's school shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky, I was reminded once again of the urgency of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

I am praying for those families who have been directly impacted. May God provide peace, comfort, strength, grace, forgiveness and mercy.

You are welcome to use this very short, non-exhaustive look at evil and the believer's role in prayer and action. (This is designed as a conversation piece, not a full on presentation.)

Even biblical writers complained about pain and evil:
  • Evils have encompassed me without number. Psalm 40:12
  • Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Jeremiah 15:18
  • We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  Romans 8:22

God did not create an evil world – Genesis 1:31

Evil is here, it is real, and it is also temporary. Rev. 21:4-5

We see how evil exists but cannot fully understand why God allows evil. Isaiah 55:8–9; Romans 11:33

What Can We Do?
  • Pray, empathize and comfort.
  • Speak out about evil and injustice.
  • Take a stand when others are oppressed.
  • Always have hope – Remember God is a promise-keeper.

Praying for the families of Bailey Holt and Preston Ryan Cope

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Merry Christmas

This has been a great year for us as a family.

Morgan and Wilson are still living in Jackson, Tennessee. Wilson just graduated with his BS in Nursing and starts a new job at Jackson General in January. He just finished his job at Starbucks so no more discounted coffee for us. Morgan is still working in enrollment at Union University and travels some which brings her our way at times. They are very active in their church and small group. They have proven this past year that anything is possible. We are incredibly proud of them.

Shelbi and Mark are still living in Rome, Georgia. Shelbi is a nurse educator and Mark is still running WinShape Camp for boys. (He actually is the operations guy, but believe me, organizations do not run smoothly without a good operations guy. Thus, he runs it.) They recently bought a new house, moved in during a snow storm and are enjoying all the joys and challenges of home ownership. They also are co-owners of a new escape room in Rome set to open Dec. 28. It is called Colosseum Escape Rooms and if you find yourself near Rome, go see if you can escape. And, oh yeah, they are expecting their first child! He is in the picture above and is expected to make his appearance in late April. We are a little excited about this as you might expect. :-)

Sondra is involved in the financial office at a local church and enjoys working there. The church is going through a financial systems change this year and it has been fairly daunting but she has excelled as you might imagine. She does a great job of caring for her mom in so many ways. After 32 plus years of marriage, I continue to be amazed that God graced me with her.

Joyce, Sondra's mom, is doing pretty well and still lives just a few miles from us. She "never wants to be a bother" and rarely ever is ;-).

Charles, Paul's dad, is doing well and stays pretty active at church and following the Royals. Still working on getting him to wear a hat when it is cold outside. ;-)

Early this year, God led Paul back into local church ministry full-time. He is enjoying the rhythm of being in the local church again. He still loves being outside and completed another Ironman in October.

Paul and Sondra went on mission in July serving people in Guatemala. They also enjoyed a few days of rest and relaxation with Sondra's aunt and uncle and cousins. They took Joyce along and she enjoyed being with her sister while we joined the mission team a few miles away.

We are grateful for God's goodness and we are thankful for each of you. May God bless you and your families and may you find the joy and peace of Christ to be all you need now and in the coming new year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Guatemala - GT = Good Times and God Times

First, let me thank each and every one of you who prayed for and gave money for our missions experience in Guatemala. Your sacrifice of time and money contributed to a great work that God is already doing in the area we were privileged to serve. Sondra and I are both grateful and humble that you would invest through us in the work that God is doing in the area of Las Conchas (The Shells) on the outskirts of Guatemala City. Those of you who gave financially, be watching your mailbox soon.

We departed from Nashville on July 4th and took Sondra's mother with us. Sondra's aunt and uncle have been missionaries in Guatemala for nearly 49 years and we went a couple of days early to spend time with them. Sondra's mother traveled well and we arrived rather late on the 4th and got settled in for the night. The next day, we met up with with Sondra's cousin Harvey, and his wife Sharon and the whole lot (notice the NZ way of saying all of us) of us headed to a house down on the coast for a short time of R & R. It was a great getaway for a day playing on the beach, laying in the pool, eating and catching up with family. (This was my first time in Guatemala so it was great to be with family in their setting.)

We headed back to Guatemala City mid-day on the 6th and got to meet up with Melanie, Harvey and Sharon's daughter, and she was delightful. We played a card game, took tea, and enjoyed just all being together. Melanie's new beau was coming by to take her out that evening and was meeting Harvey and Sharon for the first time. I had many things going through my head to mess with her new beau but actually thought it best not be my ornery self.

Friday was an enjoyable time going to see the camp that Betty and Graham have built in Guatemala and is used by many churches and ministries for camps and retreats. It was very meaningful for me to see it after hearing about the many adventures of them buying the property, building the camp, and hosting many groups over the years. We did a quick drive through Antiqua and then headed back home for a short visit and then to have dinner with Harvey and Sharon at Chili's. Harvey is actually kind of a big deal with Chili's in Guatemala. And I will say that the Chili's there are definitely a step up on those here in the States. I also led a Bible study Friday evening at Graham and Betty's church with a group of youth and young (and not so young adults) and it was a great experience to have Graham translate for me. I felt very honored that he would translate for me and actually helped me along. :-) Here is a pic of Betty and Graham and Harvey and Sharon.

Saturday we met up with the rest of the group coming from the States and got settled in to our living quarters for the week. We stayed at a Nazarene Seminary about 25 minutes from the area that we were serving in for the week. Nice accommodations with plenty of hot water and the food was muy bueno! And Sondra and I got to share a room that was filled with 3 bunk beds. A romantic get away! The air temp was very cool and pleasant but the rooms could be a little stuffy so the purchase of a small fan Sunday afternoon at Wal-Mart was a wise choice. (The elevation in Guatemala city is 5000 ft. plus so humidity is not too bad.)

Sunday was attending worship at Shalom Baptist Church which is church that has impacted that area of Guatemala for the Kingdom. It was a good time of celebrating Christ, followed by a lunch on the grounds and then our groups of ministry met with our other team members and translators.

Monday - Thursday were pretty much ministry in the Las Conchas school with VBS for elementary in the morning followed by middle school ministry in the afternoons, food distribution in the town and some worked on the Life Center being built that houses a local church and an education center that will teach job related skills for those who live in the area. Hermitage Hills has had a long standing relationship with Shalom and Las Conchas and it was great to see what God has done through that partnership.

Sondra primarily worked with women in the mornings facilitating a women's Bible study (along with some other ladies) and then doing food distribution in the afternoons. I served in the mornings by helping with recreation, assisting those taking pictures of the elementary children that will be sponsored by people to help provide them a good meal every day that they are in school. The picture here is our child that we sponsored this year.
(This is an incredible ministry of seeing that kids are fed at least 5 times a week with a nutritious meal.) And then each afternoon I shared the gospel with 35 middle school boys. Many of them were completely unchurched but we gave them a copy of scripture and I took a Bible story every day and my translators, Mark and Ivan, did a great job of helping the gospel come alive to these guys everyday. We gave them a chance to respond to the gospel everyday and on Thursday, 8 of those boys gave their life to Christ. It was an honor to be able to help plow some ground, plant some seed and see some harvest. I am grateful for Pastor Carlos, Ivan and Pastor Alvaro who day in and day out share with those in the area the truth of the gospel. We also did recreation with these guys each afternoon and Richard and Barry were great at leading games and a soccer tournament for the guys.

If you are still reading, I am almost done! Hang in there. There were leadership training opportunities Monday and Tuesday night and while others were leading adults, I met with the young adult youth leaders and had a great time with them. We will continue to meet periodically using technology to have ongoing training opportunities. This is a pic of some of the youth leaders.

Thursday night we had a celebration time as a team and Sondra and I met back up with her aunt and uncle and Sondra's mom (we had left her with them for the week while we were doing missions) and did a short visit with Harvey and Sharon again at their home. It was really good to connect with them again. They had stayed with us in the States for a short visit many years ago so reconnecting was much fun.

Friday we headed back to the States and got home very late. All in all it was a great trip and I only hit the highlights and I am sure after Sondra reads this she will say, "Well you missed sharing this and this . . ."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Chasing and Catching Fireflies

This week, Sondra and I have been blessed to host her cousins and their friends at our home. Noel and Janet are successful "farmers" (livestock and Christmas trees) and their friends, Julian and Nikki (whom we have not met before) are self-employed remodelers (that is my term for what Julian explained) who are all from New Zealand. They are traveling the States visiting Janet and Noel's daughter and son-in-law in NYC and then making their way back to Houston via train and rental car. They were gracious enough to add us into their itinerary and stayed with us two nights. AND IT WAS A BLAST!

On the way back from dinner on Monday evening, the boys and I were driving down a country road close to our house when all of sudden, Julian says, "What is that?" I asked for some clarity as to what "that" meant and he said those little shining lights that keep going on and off.  I looked up and said, "Oh, those are lightning bugs or fireflies." They were both astounded and soon became almost giddy. "You mean those are bugs!?!" I said, "Yep, those are bugs that God made and their butts light up!" We soon pulled over and got out of the vehicle and went about chasing and catching fireflies.

And . . . it was so much fun! Here are three grown men chasing and catching fireflies and loving every bit of the experience. Noel and Julian had never seen fireflies before. Ever. New Zealand (like even many regions here in the States) do not have fireflies. They had never seen them or even heard of them. They were quick to add that they had glow worms in NZed however. Tit for tat. ;-)

And then it hit me while we were chasing and catching fireflies. I had known about fireflies since I was a little boy growing up in Missouri. I had caught hundreds, if not thousands of them, in Mason jars; caught others to pull off their "lights" and make a ring for my finger; and had grown so used to them that I did not even notice them now that I have grown older. And it made me a little sad for myself. Familiarity breeds complacency in me too many times. If I am not careful, I can miss the beauty and wonder of God in His creation. I can miss the beauty and wonder in Sondra; my kids; my neighbors; the people I have the privilege of ministering to and with and serving.

"May I never lose that sense of wonder" is a line from a popular song a few years back by Lee Ann Womack. I like that song and even sing it in my head some times, but still too frequently seem to lose that sense of wonder.

You will find me outside more often at night chasing and catching fireflies. Feel free to join me. I promise we will laugh, remember, make new memories and rejoice. Thanks Noel and Julian for reminding me of the beauty of the wonder.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Support for Missions in Guatemala

Sondra and I are going on a mission trip to Guatemala in July. Here is a letter that we are sending out asking you to pray for our team and to consider supporting us financially. Thanks for praying and considering a financial gift as well.

Dear friends and family,
Paul and I have the opportunity to be a part of a mission trip to Guatemala.  We will be going July 8-15, 2017 with a group from Hermitage Hills Baptist Church.  This is Sondra’s fourth trip to Guatemala and Paul’s first.  Our focus this year is discipleship and training through vacation bible school for children and discipleship and bible study for youth and adults.  In previous years part of our time has been spent on construction, but that is not our focus this time.  The church project in Las Conchas is almost complete, and we actually hope to hold the first service in that location while we are there!  What a celebration this will be!
We are asking that you would consider supporting us in this trip in two possible ways. First, we ask that you pray. Pray for the time of preparation during the next several weeks, for the days that we are away, and for the many incredible things that God will do through this trip. Second, we are committed to pay as much as possible toward the expenses involved, but ask if you might consider supporting us financially.  The total trip will cost approximately $1,100.00 each.   This covers airfare, lodging, meals, insurance and trip supplies.  Many of you know that Paul’s position at LifeWay was eliminated in February. With the uncertainty of our future, we still felt strongly that we should be part of this mission trip when we made the commitment to go to Guatemala. The Lord has graciously called Paul to a place of ministry at Friendship Community Church in Old Hickory, TN and they are very supportive of us continuing with our plans to participate in this trip.   Your gift of support will be tax deductible by donating directly to Hermitage Hills Baptist Church.   Please include “GT Mission trip” on the check or envelope along with our name.  You may mail a check to:
Missions Office
Hermitage Hills Baptist Church
3475 Lebanon Pike
Hermitage, TN 37076

If you would like to give online, go here.  You will want to choose Mission Trip Support from the drop down menu to designate your gift for the trip.  You can put GT Missions/Turner in the comment box. 

Any money that you contribute for this mission trip can only be used for mission expenses incurred for this trip. If we receive more money than is needed or budgeted, it will be held for a year in an account to be used for our next mission trip.  Any unused funds will roll over into the mission account and will then assist others to participate on mission trips.  We sincerely thank you for your encouragement and support.


Paul and Sondra