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As part of my studies at California
Baptist University, I was required to submit
Journals for my FOCUS class. As I began to share
these journals with the folks at the epicenter I was
approached with an offer to write for the page from
Galt to the Ends of the Earth. Although I am
no longer required to write, I have found that it is
good to have an outlet.
From the Philippines 1-14-07
I am safe and sound and having a wonderful time in
the Philippines. I just left Moscow yesterday
morning at 0115 and arrived after Midnight.
Earlier that day (Saturday) Masha helped me to get
my Visa registered in Moscow, then we picked up my
new miracle ticket from Qatar airways. Then we went
back and I resituated all of my possessions. I had
been burdened with two large suitcases, but after
the arduous adventure of trying to leave the airport
on the 11th with them, decided that I could pack
what I needed into one suitcase and a backpack. I
still wondered if there was some extra things, but
thought that it would be able to make it through the
weight requirements at Moscow airport.
First, we arrived at the airport. The maximum weight
for a suitcase is 32 Kilograms. Guess what?! My
suitcase weighed EXACTLY 32 Kilos. Yeah, Masha and
I were pretty impressed until the clerk informed me
that my ticket allowed me to only take 20
Kilograms. Unless I paid an excess baggage fee.
So, we went to see how much that fee would be, while
they began to send my suitcase off to the plane. The
fee turned out to be over 9,000 rubles. That is more
than $300. As I was deducing this conversion, Masha
was busy pulling rubles out of her wallet. She was
going to pay for me!! Well, that is such a sweet
gesture, but there is NO WAY that I was going to pay
that much. I didn't even have anything worth that
much to me in that entire suitcase. So, I asked
Masha to ask the attendant if I could get the
suitcase back, and if we could move the baggage
around or something so that I wouldn't have to pay.
Anyway, I ended up finding 8 Kilograms of very nice
warm clothing that Masha was willing to receive and
will distribute to orphans and others in Russia.
This was such a good blessing from God. Here I had
thought that limiting myself to one overstuffed
suitcase was enough-- how God has shown me what I
can live without, and I was blessed to invest the
warm clothing in a cold climate. How ridiculous it
would have been to cleave to my possessions and feel
such a loss to bring extra sweaters to the
Philippines during the dry season.
So, my burden became a blessing to others.
NEXT! the airport did not check my visa
registration, so they did not have an opportunity to
ask any questions.
The airport almost sent my luggage to MANchester
instead of MANila. ( unknown to me until I received
a new baggage tag at the gate when I was boarding
After I landed, I was in a rush to get out and get
through immigration. I made it through immigration,
but had left my backpack on the plane. IT was
recovered and I did not even have to leave the
baggage belt and then found my suitcase on the belt
safe and sound.
NEXT Dr. Russell met me just outside the baggage
On the ride home, Dr. Russell told me about the new
ride that I would have up to PBTS. I would not have
to take the bus alone, God had provided a man who
would drive up, and I would get to meet him at
church Sunday morning ( MORE ON THAT LATER).
The final luggage comment will be that Dr. Russell
gave me the one condition of the ride, I would be
allowed to leave my suitcase at his house and take
my backpack full of clothes. He will bring my
suitcase on Thursday. I LIKE TO LEARN WHAT I CAN DO
WITHOUT. It is also nice to know ahead of time
sometimes, so one can choose what to take and what
to leave--- much better than paying for things one
does not need and then having them sent to another
God is SOOO GOOD!!!
Saturday, May 6,
After a few weeks
pounding the pavement and scouring this tiny town
for meaningful employment,
have been hired to work here in Galt at Longs.
Also, I am making
plans to travel with the
New America Singers
for their 2006 tour. This year begins with a trip
across the state of
for a concert at
. After the California leg, we will say goodbye to
about half of the choir and the remainder will
After this portion, yet more will return to the USA
and the rest of us will continue to
Last year was my most exciting tour so far and I am
expecting God to accompany us, lead the way, and
follow up in the hearts of those who we meet.
Interact with Joe's Experiences online
The Purpose Driven Life
by Rick Warren
during the 80 Day Spiritual Adventure
pg 94 To
be God's friend, you must be honest to God,
sharing your true feeling, not what you think
you ought to feel or say.
As this is so,
we should not dwell on feelings and our own
perceptions. Briefly acknowledge our lack of
understanding and then take a more positive step
by reciting the Biblical cure. It is not deceit
to communicate with God that although we have
deep emotions, we do not want to live without
faith. So as much as we can-- we speak the
absolute truth of God's Word. Even if it does
not drastically, immediately change our
feelings, the Truth has gone forth and God
honors our attempts.
God is pleased when your worship is practical.
this idea to mention that people who will not
bother to go, but instead say their spirit is
there -- that is worthless. Well, I might not go
that far, but it is very valuable to Pastor
Wesley to someone from FBC Galt visit regularly.
It is important to go and do instead of just
praying. Good thoughts and money are good, but
many times the worship can be in the feet. If
you won't go, make sure that God has some
reason for you to stay.
Sunday March 5th, 2006
another fine service at Greater Love Bible
Baptist Church. Since it was the first Sunday of
the month we remembered the Lord's Supper. The
Theme of the Sermon today was The Imperfect Made
Perfect -- From James 1:2-5 The main message
that was conveyed was when trials come our way,
we should see the trials in the way God is
dealing with us (from God's perspective). Gold
has to go through the refining process. When God
allows trials, it is a result for our own good.
When the trails are aborted, cut short, it will
not produce the patience necessary for this
perverse world. God has a timing. JOB 42:5 "I
have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen
you." Trials are not for evil; God will allow
them for my own good.
Aspect: Many people in Liberia do not have what
they would desire so sermons widely use verses
about overcoming trials and the benefits that
will come later. "Deep valley experience before
Well, I needed
to hear this sermon as well.
around 70 people at church today and 8?
visitors. One was a man who is returning for a
short time from Lebanon. He is excited and wants
to see his Lebanese church help Pastor Wesley.
Focus on who God is:
His unchanging nature.
Day 14 (PDL) is
about trusting God and having faith even when
you cannot feel His presence. Though God
promises to never leave us, sometimes He hides
himself from us to test us and strengthen our
relationship. pg. 110 " He wants you to sense
His presence, but He's more concerned that you
trust Him than that you feel Him".
When we put our faith in Christ ... other
believers become our brothers and sisters, and
the church be comes our spiritual family.
compels us to help other believers. We need to
connect (hmm ... I guess I was distracted when I
was writing this) with those who are in need,
especially those who have the love of Christ in
them and are helping people in Jesus' name.
Day 56: pg 125
not achievements or the acquisition of things,
are what matter most in life.
generally considered myself a rather loving
person. Now I am beginning to struggle with more
long term concerns and they have fogged my mind.
This has led to very close relationships with my
parents, but also to a more isolated,
introverted existence. In my concern, I have
tended to not be as outgoing to make new friends
or genuinely care about others. Even as it feels
like I do not have the same drive as in past
years-- I believe it is still important. So I
trust God and step-by-step make advances in
these Godly relationships.
church family moves you out of self-centered
from your family: Today's study is all about
how we all need a local, dependable group of
believers to share life with. I am happy to have
a church family at FBC Galt. It's hard growing
and being away. But, I have still found great
encouragement from my family in Galt. It is hard
to go away and to commit. Tough when I was at
school because though I was there, my heart had
not settled with a new church family. The
important thing is having groups of believers
who you are accountable to even if you cannot
always be with them.
Day 58: pg
139 In real fellowship people experience
difficulty with being authentic comes when we
feel weak and do not know how to change the
situation ourselves. pg.140 "it means facing
our fear of exposure, rejection, and being hurt
again" It is easy to be honest when everything
is great and things are looking up, but it is
difficult to tell people your concerns and daily
failings. The benefit is that God has created us
and placed us in a family to help each other. We
do not need to fear our brothers and they
provide strength and a listening ear when we are
Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is
thinking of yourself less. Humble people are so
focused on serving others, they don't think of
I say I want
the blessings that come with humility, and I do
not want to be proud. It is hard to serve others
and forget about ourselves. We see what we see
all day. We know what we feel and what we want
all the time. It takes effort to feel what
others need and to see what they see.
Most conflict is rooted in unmet needs. Some of
these needs can only be met by God. When you
expect anyone … to meet a need that only God can
fulfill, you are setting yourself up for
disappointment and bitterness.
was written to instruct the reader how to
restore human relationships. I feel like I keep
pretty good relationships with others. Where
this applies to me seems to be the reminder that
there are some needs that only God can fill. I
have many reliable people who care for me very
much, but there are inner workings and spiritual
lessons that they cannot do for me. They can and
do pray for me, but the rest is a process with
God so that God and I can build our own
Day 41 (of 80 in Liberia):
The purpose of life is far
greater than your own personal fulfillment, your
peace of mind, or even your happiness . . . you
must begin with God.
This ties in with what Blackaby and everyone
else has been saying. Prayer and faith and
reading the Bible develop this relationship so
He can show us the path. But we need not focus
on happiness or peace of mind -- instead focus
on praying and doing God's will. Peace will come
later, Right?? --Joe
God never does anything
accidentally, and He never makes mistakes
God made me for a purpose. He planned for me to
be an American, go to good schools, and care
about people. There are abilities and
experiences I possess that need to be invested
and experiences and attitude adjustments are
part of God's preparation for my future.
pg 33 It
is usually meaningless work, not overwork that
wears us down, saps our strength and robs our
Finding what God has for my life is most
valuable. The alternatives would not be
satisfying. Without God's purpose for me, I
could change jobs and other circumstances
seeking joy and peace, or I could seek rest, but
it would all be vanity. --Joe
When you fully comprehend
that there is more to life than just here and
now . . . many activities, goals, and even
problems that seemed so important will appear
trivial, petty, and unworthy of your attention.
If we don't invest in eternal things, then we
are building on a false foundation and it will
all eventually crush us. All of our days have
some purpose for eternity. We can either follow
the purpose, or fill the time with things of
this world. We should not let the cares and
concerns for corruptible things distract us from
the value of those that will last. --Joe
pg.43 You are
always being tested. Every day is an important
day to deepen your character, to demonstrate
love, or to depend on God.
We must use every day to the fullest, because
God has entrusted it to us. It makes me as an
American afraid because we are trusted with mo
much wealth and opportunities. Those of us who
have been given so much by God need to make sure
that we are not wasting it on ourselves or
letting it spoil and rot. It is fine to enjoy
what God has given us, but there is a limit and
Americans are obese in so many ways. How could I
ever give a valuable return for all of the
opportunities that God has given me? The truth
is that we cannot repay what we have been
entrusted, but with God's help we can grow to
use it more effectively. --Joe
February 3, 2006
Joe's 20th Birthday
January 9, 2006
Once again I
write to explain how grateful I am to see God
working through the efforts of those in our local
church and their willingness to help those in
As Dad and I
studied over material about Liberia (learning a
little more about the culture and religious groups
there) we were glad to yield to a message from our
church. Preparations are being made for gifts and
items to be sent with me to the children's home. It
was pointed out to me that my feelings have been
changing as I witness the actions of the local
church and the response of members who are sharing
with those precious people in Liberia.
January 8, 2006
I am very glad
for the support of my church as I prepare to go to
Liberia. I said today in the 11:00 service that I am
afraid to go to Liberia. I was thinking later ....
of course I am afraid. This will be my
longest trip in the most severe conditions. Even
amidst the roller coaster of emotions that I am
going through I am doing my best to trust God. For
the first time in my life, I am really giving
everything to God.
As good a boy as
God helped Joe to be, God does not want Joe to trust
in himself. I must trust in the Lord with all my
heart and lean not on my own understanding; if I
acknowledge God in all my ways then he will direct
others have experienced much more severe trials in
their lives, this is really a first for me. Mom and
Dad have helped a little by comparing my position to
being in labor or going to boot camp. I think that
both of those would be much more difficult, but some
common aspects would be the uncertainty and anxiety
that arise. Also, they are part of growing up for
many people. Just because I am afraid or cannot
envision the future does not change the fact that
God is in control and He wants the best for me.
January 3, 2006
Busy day today. I
got online and applied for my semester class 491
International Missions Practicum. Dr. Dan Wilson
agreed to serve as my professor for this semester's
experience in Liberia. There are four learning goals
outlined for this practicum. First, I should come to
understand the realities of living and ministering
in a culture different from the typical American
culture. Second, through my writing, I should
demonstrate an understanding of the basic principles
of the Christian faith as contrasted with the
principles of other religious systems in Liberia.
Third, I am expected to serve in evangelism, Bible
study, youth related activities, church services,
and follow up decisions in that context. Finally, I
am expected to maintain a daily journal with
specific details of this mission's experience. I
will also be expected to note matters of personal
significance and long-term value of this experience.
I am scheduled to
leave one week from tomorrow although there remains
a question about the trip from Accra, Ghana to
Monrovia, Liberia. I must admit that I feel
inadequate to the task but trust that "apart from
Him I can do nothing" ... so I guess He will give me
grace to see this God-sized assignment through to
His end. If you have time and high-speed connection
for a video that says it better than I.
New Year's Eve
Tonight I am
going to be staying home and spending some time with
my parents and sister. Mom is making oatmeal
chocolate chip cookies and later we are going to
play some Rummy and maybe some other card games.
Earlier today I
went to the Men's Prayer Group at FBC. They meet
every Saturday morning at 6:00 AM. Yeah, it is a bit
odd for a teenager to be awake at that hour on a
Saturday, but it is a good time to remember God and
to put aside my own agenda.
I have really
been trying to discover what God wants me to do and
am learning more about how to follow and obey when I
'don't feel like it'.
I also learned
today that,Bellview, the company flying from Ghana
to Liberia has reopened flights after their short
shutdown last week.
Please email me:
December 26, 2005
has been a good morning. I awoke and went downstairs
with my parents to watch Horizon's Church in a Box.
It was a nice DVD with the Christmas story. Then we
watched the VHS tape that we had made of different
performances from our Christmas Eve Service at FBC
received some more interesting news as I was
checking my grades for the last semester at CBU. I
GOT a C in my Mathematics Proofs class. Now that was
a very difficult class and I was very unsure about
how the grades were going to come out.
will head out for a walk around Galt with my
parents. I really enjoy being able to spend time
with them and get exercise.
It is a
beautiful day here and I am very excited about going
outside into the sunlight. There is just something
therapeutic about how the light feels and looks. I
am getting excited just thinking about it. If you
need a boost, I would encourage you to step outside
and receive some sunlight.
Please email me:
December 18, 2005
Sunday at Home
morning I was able to attend my favorite church and
fellowship with the very special people
of First Baptist Church of Galt.
message to me was about God's Will and how we can
know much of it from searching the Bible. That is we
can foresee many sins to avoid and the Fruits of the
Spirit that we should convey. Beyond that, God has a
will for us that we do not see clearly. He will show
us one step at a time and we have to have faith to
persevere even when we do not perceive beyond the
next inch. Because faith is only shown when one
take our life one day at a time, avoiding sin,
loving others and listening for the next step that
God would have us take.
Please email me:
I hope that this page loads a little faster now
because I moved much of the contents to
an archive page.
2005 Living Christmas Tree
Tonight I went to Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church to
see their 26th annual Living Christmas Tree. It was
quite an amazing event, and I will try to explain
some of the qualities I observed.
If you can imagine on the stage in the sanctuary,
there is what appears to be a large Christmas tree.
There are platforms so that a choir can stand up
inside the branches and sing choruses. That is what
I was expecting, a stand up choir in the Living
Instead, I was quite delighted to find a Christmas
program complete with some fifty's music, an
orchestra and full choreography. The performers were
everywhere, all over the stage and all around the
audience as well. Of course, there were soloists and
the necessary sing-along hymns.
Also great, was the use of songs about the
resurrection-- odd for a Christmas program, but it
worked quite well. I am glad that they took the time
to make this something more than just a party for
Christians, Because to the unchurched friend who
came to see the show, it is very important that they
be presented with the news that the Christmas story
has a far reaching message. It is not only about the
birth of a baby, but the salvation of all men
Then Ted took me out to dinner and I was able to
spend some more time fellowshipping with him and his
favorite wife. It was a very good afternoon, and I
am so blessed to have people in my life who care so
much about me and invite me to hang out with them
and to show me new experiences.
(adapted from Ted's letter)
About 300 Marines came out to our performance at
Camp Pendleton. They were very serious and very
attentive. 10 Marines had been killed in Iraq the
They not only stood up (and sang!) during God Bless
America, hey stood at attention while we sang the
Then, at invitation time, about 70 men indicated
that they had prayed with us to invite Jesus into
their hearts. Praise the Lord, for one more
opportunity to share with these brave young men.
Pray with us that the new Chaplains will be able to
arrange for us to come back again in the future, and
pray for the men who made decisions. Pray that they
can find Christian friends to help them grow in the
I appreciate your for making time to share with this
audience during such a busy time of year. Aren't you
glad you did?
Love, in Jesus,
New America Singers
At the beginning of the school year, I was
quoted in an issue of the California Southern Baptist
(in a story
about the New America Singers). We performed at the
Baptist World Alliance during our mission trip to Asia
in the Summer of 2004.
Read the full
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