Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Goodbye, Lou

My An Arkie's Faith column from the November 30, 2016, issue of The Mena Star

My friend, Lou, passed away early Monday morning, November 14. We attended the same church together for over 25 years. We both had a passion for missions. My favorite memories of Lou are from a mission trip that we made to Belize.

In 2003 Don and Minnie Johnson moved to Cove, Arkansas and started attending our church. They had spent a year living in Belize. They were passionate about the people of Belize and suggested that our church get involved there.

The members of the church liked the idea and after much planning, money-raising and preparation, it culminated in a mission trip to Belize in early 2004 and the building of a church in San Pedro. My wife and I, my son, my parents, and Lou were among the seventeen members of our church that made the trip to Belize.

After one week, our group had to return home, but we left with the walls of the new church in San Pedro completed. We left the building project in the hands of the local congregation, but we wondered if the church would ever be completed.

During the following months, the church members in San Pedro did finish the church building. Plans were made for a church dedication service to be held in February 2005. I was invited to come to the dedication service. I wanted to go. The church building project had been very important to me, and I had made many friends in San Pedro that I wanted to see again. There was just one problem. I couldn’t afford the trip.

One day I received a letter in the mail from Fare Finders Travel. Why were they sending me a letter? When I opened the letter, I was surprised by what it said. Please come to Fare Finders to make arrangements for a round trip ticket to Belize. Someone has paid for the ticket, but they want to remain anonymous. I couldn’t believe it. My wife immediately tried to figure out who the anonymous donor was. She still hasn’t cracked the case. It is still a mystery. The mysterious ticket has to be one of the best gifts I have ever received.

Lou and his son made the trip with us back to Belize. Lou’s son is a diver, and San Pedro Belize is a great place to dive the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the western hemisphere. We had a great time vacationing together. We rented bicycles to get around the island. Lou was in his eighties, but I was amazed by his stamina as we rode our bikes everywhere we needed to go. At the end of the trip, Lou said, “he never wanted to ride a bike again!”

It is hard to say goodbye to friends and family. But I am sure that one day before long Lou and I will be reunited. He passionately believed that Jesus was returning soon. It was the focus of his life.  I find comfort in the words that Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NKJV), “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

I’m comforted by the fact that Lou has fallen asleep. He is resting peacefully. He is no longer fighting the daily battles of life. Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:7 (NLT) could be Lou’s words. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” I’m comforted by the fact that God has promised that if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we can be sure that those who sleep in Jesus will live again. When the Lord Himself descends from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, the dead in Christ will rise again.

Gentle Reader, if you have experienced the loss of a friend or family member, remember that God does not want you to be ignorant “concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NKJV) God has said that they are blessed. We read in Revelation 14:13 (NIV), “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”’ I’m confident that my friend Lou could repeat the words of the Psalmist found in Psalms 17:15 (NASB) “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.” I’m looking forward to the day that Jesus returns and Lou will awake and look into the face of Jesus, his Savior.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Love Yourself

In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’”  What He meant is that a person’s love ought to reach in three directions—upward to God, outward to others, and inward to self.

Most Christians agree that loving God and others is important, but is it important to love yourself? Self love or self esteem isn't considered a Christian attribute.  It’s often associated with pride and self-centeredness—and there are plenty of both in our world. However, that’s not what Jesus meant. He was saying we should recognize and appreciate our worth. God created us in His image so we could have a relationship with Him. Jesus died for us so we could be forgiven and reconciled to the Father.

Since God values us so highly, shouldn't we love ourselves? I’m not talking about a boastful attitude, but a quiet peace that comes from knowing we’re deeply loved by our heavenly Father.

A healthy self-love is essential. If it is missing or in some way incomplete, we can’t really love God or others as we should. A sense of unworthiness leaves us empty and prevents us from looking up to God in devotion and reaching out to others with affection.  God does not want us to have low self-esteem.

The Bible actually has many passages that tell us what God has to say about our worth and our value in His eyes. Genesis 1:27 says that “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." You were made in the image of God.

Psalm 139:13-14 says “You made my whole being; you formed me in my mother’s body. I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way." You were made by God in an amazing and wonderful way.

Ephesians 1:4 says that “God chose us before the world was made so that we would be his holy people—people without blame before him." God chose you even before the world was made.

In Romans 5:8, the Bible tells us that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus died for you not because you were good enough, but because he loved you.

If we focus on how much God loves us and the price He paid to redeem us, we’ll come to see ourselves as God sees us, and that will help us understand just how much we’re really worth as children of God.

Our self-worth is too often based on what other people tell us about ourselves. Jesus is the true authority on our self-worth.  Since He gave His own life up for us by dying on a cross, that should tell us just how valuable we really are.

When we fully accept God’s love for us, we’ll have a healthy appreciation for ourselves, an ever-growing passion for Him, and the ability to care for others.

How much are you and I truly worth? And what value should we place upon each other?  Often we'll look at the work someone is doing, and if they're doing a poor job, making mistakes, then we view that person as of little value.  But is this the correct way of seeing value in someone?

Think about it, if we truly saw the value of people as God does, would we still treat each other the way we do?  Mathew 25:45 tells us, "I tell you the truth, anything you refused to do for even the least of my people here, you refused to do for me."

The key to seeing and understanding the value of you and me and all other people in the world, is to see our value in light of what Jesus did to save us! Are there people in our sphere of influence who are failing to thrive because we are not showing them the love that they need?

There’s no question that Christians should want to be loved and to love others. But it’s not enough to tell others that you love them – you must SHOW you love others! Love is not an abstract idea. Love must be manifested. True love is not just something you feel – it’s something you demonstrate!

We all need to grow in this area because everybody needs to know they are loved. You especially need to know how to show love if you are a follower of Jesus because He said, "All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other." John 13:35

In 1 John 3:17-18 the Bible says, “What if a person has enough money to live on and sees his brother in need of food and clothing? If he does not help him, how can the love of God be in him? My children, let us not love with words or in talk only. Let us love by what we do and in truth".

We show our love through our actions.  God has asked us to love others to help them thrive.  There are so many people in this world who are failing to thrive.  Are there those that we know who are failing to thrive because we are not loving them – by what we do?

Let’s remember how much we are of value in God's eyes! All of us! And remember to be kind and loving to all the people in this world because of what Jesus has done for us, and the great worth He has placed on each of his children.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

My Thanksgiving Proclamation

The way we celebrate Thanksgiving in America has its roots in British Harvest Festivals and in American history.  In 1620, a group of more than 100 Puritans fleeing religious persecution, settled in a town called Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts. The Pilgrims' first winter was so harsh that fewer than 50 of the group survived the season.

The next spring, Native Americans taught them how to get sap out of the maple trees and how to plant corn and other crops. The harvest was successful, and the Pilgrims had enough food for the winter. Plymouth Colony's Governor, William Bradford, decided to throw a Harvest Festival and invited the colony's Native neighbors to take part.

Historians believe that this celebration took place sometime in the fall, though there are very few clues to reconstruct the feast.  All we really know about it comes from a letter Edward Winslow wrote to a friend in England: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men fowling, that we might rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They in one day killed as much fowl as served the company almost a week. At which time with many of the Indians coming among us, for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor”.

It wasn't until two years later, after enduring a month’s long drought, that an actual Thanksgiving was celebrated. In response to the hot, dry summer months, the governor called for a fast. Soon afterward, rain revived the shriveled crops, and the Puritans celebrated.  William Bradford issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation. This wasn't a feast like the Harvest Festival of two years before, it was a church service.

“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest, has spared us from pestilence and disease, and has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, do gather at ye meeting house, on Thursday, November 29th, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings”.  --William Bradford Ye Governor of Ye Colony

The custom of marking good fortune with a day of gratitude quickly caught on throughout New England.  In 1789, President George Washington issued a Proclamation that called for a day of thanksgiving.

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed. -- GeorgeWashington - October 3, 1789

The idea of a national Thanksgiving Day didn’t catch on, but in the mid-1800s, magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale mounted a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.  In support of a national Thanksgiving holiday, she wrote letters to five Presidents.  Her initial letters failed to persuade, but the letter she wrote to Lincoln did convince him to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation in 1863.

“It has seemed to me fit and proper that the gracious gifts of the Most High God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.  To set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union”. By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Each year since 1863 the president of the United States has issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Thanksgiving shouldn't be a day, it should be a lifestyle.  Philippians 4:4-6 tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God”.

For the Christian every day should be Thanksgiving Day.  As a Christian, what is your Thanksgiving Proclamation?  Here is mine with a little help from George Washington.

WHEREAS, It is the duty of all people to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor;  Now, therefore, I do proclaim Thanksgiving to be devoted by the people of my family to the service of that great and glorious God who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection.

We are in awe of the marvelous grace that is offered to each one of us as God’s children, and are also astounded that God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  We unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Almighty God and ask Him to pardon our transgressions.

What is your Proclamation?

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


My An Arkie's Faith column from the November 23, 2016, issue of The Mena Star

My son-in-law is an avid backpacker. In 2001 he spent six months hiking the Appalachian Trail, a 2,190-mile trail that traverses fourteen states from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. The Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. Only about one in four who attempt to hike the entire trail are successful.

In 2007, My daughter and son-in-law vacationed in Olympic National Park in Washington state. They backpacked 27 miles of the most remote wilderness beach in America. My daughter was seven months pregnant at the time, and my two-year-old granddaughter rode on her Daddy’s shoulders. Talking about the trip, my son-in-law said, “I carried Autumn, and Cynda carried Rebekah, and the Lord carried all of us!”

As a family, they have continued backpacking. My six-year-old granddaughter has a couple of trail names. She is called Louisiana Lightning, because of her steady but slow pace, and Trail Tripper because she has a tendency to fall down on the trail. As they hike along, they sing, “She is a trail tripper, a Sunday hiker yeah, It took her so long to hike out, she hiked out.”

Recently my son-in-law organized a weekend backpacking trip for more than thirty people, including 15 kids ranging from six to fifteen years old. They backpacked  15 miles along the Eagle Rock Loop Trail, from Winding Stairs to Little Missouri Falls, spending two nights on the trail.

It is a lot of work organizing a backpacking trip with such a large group, especially with so many kids. My son-in-law spent many weeks preparing for the trip and demonstrated good backpacking practices to the kids and their families. He taught classes and presented a list of things to bring. At the top of the list of items to bring on the trip he wrote the following words, “If you think we have forgotten something, we haven't. You simply don't need anything more than this. If you only bring these items, we guarantee a fun trip. Anything extra will void our guarantee. More stuff equals more pain, NOT more comfort.”

The number one rule of backpacking is, “pack light.” Every ounce that you take has to be carried on your back. The lighter the load on your back, the fewer blisters, aches, and pains you will have. The key is to balance comfort in camp with comfort on the trail. A lighter backpack can help you hike better for a longer period and help you enjoy the hike more.

The Globotreks website offers the following advice, “pack everything you think you will need, then get rid of half of it.” The website goes on to say, “don’t carry things just because you think they can come in handy. From experience, most of the time those ‘handy’ items are never used; but you end up carrying them all the way.”

Backpacking can be an allegory for the trip that each one of us is making as we go through life. Many times the Bible uses the concept of a path to describe our lives. In Psalms 16:11 (NET) the Psalmist states, “You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.” And in Psalms 18:36 (NOG) he says, “You make a wide path for me to walk on so that my feet do not slip.” Psalms 119:105 (NKJV) tells us that God has provided us with a way to light our path, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.”

As we backpack through life, remember that many people have gone before you on the path. Listen to the wisdom of those who have walked through life before you, and think about the lessons they have learned that could help you in your walk. We don’t have to learn for ourselves things that others have already learned from experience.

Make sure to plan your route. Planning is an important step whether you're mapping out a hiking destination or seeking God's will about decisions in your life. Remember that God promises to be with you, guiding your steps. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)

Check regularly to make sure you're on course. If you've left the right trail or made a wrong decision, you can always find your way back with God's help. If you're weighed down by carrying too heavy a load, lighten your burden. In Psalms 38:4 (NKJV) the Bible talks about a heavy burden; “For my iniquities have gone over my head; Like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.”

One of the most common mistakes that first-time backpackers make is trying to carry too much weight. They feel that they really must have that battery operated fan/light, those cans of beans and a frying pan. In this life, God knows that we are carrying a heavy burden and He wants to lighten the load for us.

Gentle Reader, you can hike more comfortably when you pack less, and you can walk more comfortably on the paths of life when you give your burdens to God. “Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries.” 1 Peter 5:8 (VOICE) Jesus asks you to, “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mission Trip to Belize

In 2004 I was privileged to be part of a mission trip to Belize. I recently came across this article that I wrote about that trip along with photos of the project

Belize Mission Trip

Seventeen members of the Mena SDA Church recently returned from a mission trip to San Pedro, Belize, Central America. During their stay they helped with the construction of a new church, helped in the New Horizon SDA School, and delivered food in Belize City.

The idea for a mission trip started a year ago. In March of 2003 five couples from the Mena church went on a vacation together. On their vacation two days were spent in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It was a great vacation, but the group came away with the realization of the great need of the people in Central America. Shortly after the group returned from their vacation, Don and Minnie Johnson moved to Cove, Arkansas and started attending the Mena Church. They had spent a year living in Belize on an island called Caye Caulker. They suggested going to Belize and helping there.

Don knew of a need for another church in San Pedro. Plans were made by the group to build a new church and the Mena Church raised over $20,000 dollars for the project. Don worked many long hours in planning and coordinating the project with the members of the San Pedro Church. Don and Minnie went to Belize 2 weeks earlier than the rest of the group to oversee the beginning of construction. Members of the San Pedro church built the church, with the help of the Mena group. Before the Mena group arrived, the slab was poured and the first two rows of cement block were up. By the time the Mena group left the walls were up. Members of the San Pedro church are finishing the church with the help of the Belize SDA Mission.

In addition to building the church, an anesthesia machine and other medical supplies were provided for the La Loma Luz Hospital in Santa Elena, Belize. Troy Morrison, a nurse anesthetist at Mena Medical Center was able to arrange for the donation of the anesthesia machine. He was excited to see the machine in the La Loma Luz hospital, and talk to his counterpart at the hospital their.

The Mena Church has been drawn closer together by this mission project. Members are not ready for the project to be over. Ongoing help is going to be given to the New Horizons SDA School, and the La Loma Luz Hospital. While Don Johnson was in Belize he received a promise from the government of Belize for land on Caye Caulker to build a church. The Mena Church is planning to go back to Belize to build another church if the Lord opens the way.











Gina M



Gina L




In Class

After School

School Transportation

Receiving Plaque


Gavin in School 2

Miguel, Don and Elder Cima


Central Church

On The Beach

Jim Makes A Friend

Clothes Distribution

New Horizon SDA School

New Horizon SDA School Students

New Horizon SDA School Students 2

Passing Out Candy

Gavin in School


Construction 2

Construction 3

Construction 4

Construction 5

Construction 6

Construction 7

Construction 8

Construction 9

Construction 10