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No, Never alone

Greetings All:  This is my first attempt at sending my friends and anyone else that I may not even know yet a brief message.  I hope you will see fit to respond.  We are all forging ahead through unchartered waters through this Covid crisis, and I thought it might be appropriate to remind ourselves of a foundational truth.  In my next installment I want to send you a poem that I penned for this past Easter; though it will arrive to you after Easter, I hope you can file it away for future use if you ever need an Easter poem.  Easter poems are not as easy to find as are Christmas poems or poems for other special days, but I feel like this is a good one and so wanted to share it with others. But the poem will come later.

No, Never alone

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have:  for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5)

Recently, while all of us were “sheltering in place” in individual efforts to keep the COVID 19 virus from spreading, my sister and I were exchanging text messages and in one of them she was reflecting on what the health mandated isolation meant to her.  She lives alone, an octogenarian grandmother, on top of a mountain in Georgia, separated by miles from any family, but supported by them through loving constant communication, and buoyed by neighbors and friends who look in after her.

During the conversation she mentioned our grandmother, who, having lost her husband in death when she was a young mother of three, expecting her fourth, children lived in a small rural community in southeastern Iowa, in our nation’s post-depression.  She eked out a living by doing housework for people in the community, supporting herself and children by a meager income sometimes of a dollar per day.  We never heard her complain.  Hers was a difficult life; she was not given to many lighthearted moments and the few times that I remember being around her she seemed austere and not very “warm” like most grandmothers might appear to be.  It would be years later, when I became a parent, and later a grandparent, and had some perspective on life and on history that I would be able to somewhat appreciate the austerity of the times through which grandmother Moore had lived and had provided, without any governmental assistance, for her four children.  My sister in our texts back and forth made this observation about grandmother: “She explained to me how she felt about living 55 years as a widow:  ‘I am never alone.  The Lord is always with me.’”  My sister followed that up by saying, “I have had the opportunity to prove that fact to be absolutely true, and I never feel alone.”  Nor should any of us who can sincerely affirm “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…I will fear no evil for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” No, we are, with Him, never alone!

An Incredible Missions Story

The story begins in the early 1960’s when Pete Weiss, a successful businessman in the Chicago area, trusted Christ as Savior at the age of 52, thus becoming instantaneously a “completed Jew,’ i.e., a Jew by birth and a Jewish convert to Christianity by the new birth through the Spirit.  Pete and his wife began nurturing a burden to honor God by serving missionaries who were traveling on either deputation to raise funds to go to their respective mission fields, or to report in to supporting churches when they returned to the states on furlough.

While they were praying about where, when and how their burden to assist God’s servants could be fulfilled, God led Pete and Marge to a woman in southern Indiana near West Baden Springs who had been wanting to sell 66 acres in this beautiful Orange County country as an investment.  When the Weiss’s told the woman that God had laid upon their hearts a desire to provide a haven for missionaries as a place to stay between meetings, the woman said she would sell the 66 acres to them for what she had paid for it 20 years earlier:  $4,000!  Pete and Marge, both in their early 60’s by then, sold their business and 10 room ranch home that sat on three suburban Chicago acres and moved into a trailer on what would become known as The Shepherd’s Bethel.  The woman who sold them the property, pleased that it would be used for the Lord’s work, also donated the first three trailers and paid to have them moved and situated at Shepherd’s Bethel.  In the next 10 years those first three trailers would be the beginning of what would become 10 trailers that were made available to missionaries free of charge, along with laundry facilities, a fashion store where they could get at no cost clothing, a playground for their children, storage buildings, a recreation room with ping pong tables and a pool table and a library which would eventually contain 3,000 of the finest of Christian books for study and reading enjoyment.  In 1980, Pete, mowing the campus grass, suffered a massive heart attack and, the tractor hitting a guywire, overturned upon him resulting in his death.  Marge continued on with the help of staff and volunteers operating the haven for the next 10 years while her Lord was at work, through His Spirit, on their adult alcoholic, drug-addicted son, Mike, who was when sober, holding down a good salaried job as associate food service director at Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago.  Mike did come to Christ and was delivered from drug addiction and set on his way to becoming addicted to the ministry, God speaking to his heart while attending Marquette Manor Baptist Church and a Sunday School revival meeting led by Leon Kilbreath.  Mike surrendered to God’s call and leading and was joined in that decision some days later by his wife Susan.  Mike and Susan began to soak up Bible teaching and it was not long after that God directed them to join Mrs. Marge Weiss at the Shepherd’s Bethel as Mike would become the operational manager of the mission, relieving his dear mother of the pursuit she had been engaged in as she tried to find a Christian group to give the mission to.

What God had done to that point was phenomenal and could only be to the praise of His glory.  What he has done in the past 30 years under the servant leadership of Mike and Susan would have to include the word miraculous somewhere in the saga!  Beginning in1997 a 100’ by 40’ metal framed fellowship hall was built which houses the library, exercise weight room, kitchen, storage and office area. Walk in freezers store ample deer meat and beef which the missionaries are the primary beneficiaries of.  Next the existing mobile homes, by then manifesting obvious deterioration due to age and use, were replaced with wood frame, two and three-bedroom homes, a project beginning in 1999.  The beautifully built and tastefully furnished duplexes were completed in 2014 with the completion of “Enoch’s Abode,” a two-bedroom duplex with a basement unfinished for use as a furniture storage room.  All of the furnishings for these modern duplex dwellings have been donated by individuals or churches and they are not only excellent in their attractiveness but durable, practical and beautiful.

In 2020 God supplied in a totally unexpected way money to construct a new shop and fashion center with an 80 X 40-foot building containing 12-foot garage doors allowing for a vehicle lift that enables maintenance of ministry trucks and missionary vehicles (oil changes and tire repair/replacement).  This year, 2021, a new “state of the art” playground will be constructed that will service the missionary children, centrally located for ease of adult supervision.  Long range vision includes a three-acre lake on the 30-acre bottom land owned by the Shepherd’s Bethel.

What is the greatest story about all of God’s miraculous work through Pete and Marge Weiss, whose philosophy of serving was “be willing to give to God something that costs you,” is the thousands of missionary servants who have been blessed, physically and spiritually, by being able to resort to this southern Indiana oasis dedicated to God’s active missionary work force—all free of charge for one, two or three years as needed!  That part of the story will have to remain untold until we get to heaven and hear missionary after missionary rehearse how God used the fruit of the total surrender of a “completed” Jew, his wife and their son and daughter-in-law to work out their own salvation.  Mike and Susan would be the first to quickly and emphatically say that but by the grace of God and without the assistance of hundreds of local churches, talented and sacrificially serving lay folk who gave their time and resources freely and fully, and pastors and church work teams who came at their own expense to serve and give, businesses who gave abundantly building materials, equipment and man-hours, none of what we now know as a 21st century “God thing,” located on the lovely rolling hills of southern Indiana would have been possible.  Yours truly has had the privilege and pleasure of serving as a board member of Shepherd’s Bethel for almost 30 years from a “front row” vantage position watching it all take place.  Samuel F.B. Morse’s’ first transmitted telegraphic message in 1844 is appropriate:  “What Hath God Wrought!”  (Numbers 23:23)

http://www.shepherdsbethel.org

“I Will Give Myself”

Missionary Ron White served his Savior faithfully and fervently in active duty for the best part of 60 years, mostly in Japan  where he and his wife, Odessa, headed to Japan as ambassadors of our Lord soon after graduation from college having raised a marginal amount of support to couple with their full load of faith, still both in their early 20’s.  Ron and Odessa would serve in Japan for four decades together until God chose to call Odessa to Himself for her reward and rest leaving Ron to continue serving solo as a “missionary to the world” encouraging young missionaries and especially missionaries to start Bible Institutes and plant churches while training national leaders.  As a pastor for forty years at Thompson Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis it was my privilege to invite Ron to lead in our annual faith-promise world mission conferences on several occasions and he never failed to leave us stronger in faith, sharper in vision and deeper in commitment to world missions than when he came.  Ron just recently suffered some physical setbacks that have sidelined him from his itinerant missions ministry, but his life, labors and legacy are written indelibly on the hearts of believers around the globe which benefited from his indominable spirit, his insightful, soul-stirring preaching and his singularly blessed skills on the keyboard through which God set souls singing wherever Ron was ministering. 

Though our church has supported the Whites since the late 60’s, it was, I believe, in a conference in the late 80’s or early 90’s when I first met him.  In our 10th annual faith-promise conference I discovered he could not only preach but he could also play the piano. Our church supported (and still does) a rescue mission ministry, Good News Ministries, that at that time had a family shelter for homeless families.  I remember arranging housing for Ron, who attended this particular conference without Odessa, in the homeless family shelter of Good News.  Little did I realized then that Ron White was to become one of my missionary heroes, but had I known then how highly I would come to esteem him for the Lord’s sake and for his selfless missionary endeavors, I would have done whatever I could have done to provide him with housing other than in a shelter for the homeless.  The shelter was clean and comfortable, and we were appreciative of their hospitality, and Ron was grateful for it, but as I look back, I marvel at the humble graciousness the man of God displayed as I assigned him housing for the week with the homeless.  That was Ron White.

He grew up in a humble, broken home in West Virginia and was for the most part reared by his grandmother.  His mother, overcome with the thought of having to care for a child she had not anticipated having at that juncture in her life, was not exactly overjoyed at his birth.  When asked what she wanted to name her baby boy, Ron’s mother in exasperation said “Oh, I don’t care, name him whatever you want to!”  The doctor who delivered her child had Ron as a first name, so he named the infant Ron White.

As a lad, someone invited Ron to church, and his first Sunday there happened to be the Pastor’s last Sunday there.  He had arrived in town about a year earlier, but after a year-long spiritual draught with no conversions and very few attendees, he was ready to “throw in the towel there.”  The discouraged pastor had just closed the door and walking down the steps saw a ten or eleven-year-old boy sitting on the steps, and asked “What do you want, son?”  Ron said, “I want to be saved.”  That pastor led the little boy to Christ and though then leaving his church  discouraged, will be “clipping coupons” through eternity.

Ron would grow up in another Baptist Church near his home, the church “coincidentally” where Odessa and her family attended.  Ron and Odessa became childhood sweethearts and would eventually attend Tennessee Temple Schools.  As a teenager Ron responded to a missionary message to support missions by going forward at the invitation and telling the preacher, “I don’t have anything to give, but I want to give myself.”  And now you know the rest of the story!

He fell in love with gospel music at the church and was captivated by the piano.  He never had a piano or lessons, but he would position himself so that he could see and study the techniques of the church pianist.  When eventually he had the opportunity to try playing on this beautiful musical machine, it was immediately apparent that he would make not just a good but a gifted pianist.  The church bought and had delivered a piano to the home of Ron where he lived at that time with his mother and stepfather.  When Ron saw it, he was thrilled, but his exuberance was short lived in as much as when the stepfather came home upon seeing the piano and learning that the church had bought it and had given it to Ron, he ordered it out of his house saying that there would be no piano in his home.  Not long after that, Ron and Odessa would find themselves as students at TTU where he would soon thereafter be regularly accompanying a university singing group that traveled with Dr. Lee Roberson, the school president and pastor of the Highland Park Baptist Church. Interestingly, Odessa was also a participant in the ensemble that sang.

Ron and Odessa and two or three other missionary couples were used of God to establish four churches in their first term in Japan as missionaries, a feat almost unheard of then or any time thereafter.  He would also found the Kansai Independent Baptist Bible Institute where Japanese young men and women were trained for ministry, all of them being required to learn to play the piano. That Institute has thrived and is thriving after more than 50 years doing what it was established to do.  Scores of its graduates serve not only in Japan but in several other countries as church planters and educators. 

In one of those churches planted on that first term in Japan a group of believers meeting in Osaka were overhead by a passerby business man hoping to learn some English singing “What a Wonderful Change in My Life Has Been Wrought Since Jesus Came into My heart.”  That dear soul stopped upon hearing that line and thought “I have never had any change in my life that was wonderful.”  He slipped into the service, was gloriously saved, later attended KBBI and was trained for ministry.  Ellen and I visited the church in Osaka that he founded and was pastoring when we were there in 2009, and it is one of the largest if not the largest church in Japan with beautiful modern facilities.  Pastor Ogawa’s sons serve alongside of him in this exciting work.

Ron White, teacher, church planter, missionary statesman, musician and man of God whose touch upon the hands and hearts of multitudes world-wide in the 20th and 21st century may not result in any biographies or books written about his wonderful works, but his memory has been etched upon the minds of co-workers, converts and church members wherever he ministered.  We have read the book he is still writing, the living epistle, known and read as the life and labors of Ron White, with his loving wife, Odessa, faithful, fruitful follower of His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to whom Ron would humbly beg us to give all praise, honor and glory.  Amen.

“You can only do two things with your life:  give it away or throw it away, but you cannot keep it.” (Ron White, October 2003)

You’re the best Christian that somebody knows; if you don’t go, who will?” (Ron White)

The Pastor’s Wife

“None know how grateful I am to God for you.  In all I have ever done for Him, you have a large share, for making me so happy you have fitted me for service.  I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship.”  (Charles Spurgeon, in a letter written to his wife dated 1871)

Incalculable is the God-given helpmeet to the man of God who occupies the office of pastor.  Her prayers with and for him, her unflinching support of him and his ministry, her watchful waiting with him for souls and for sheep who are suffering, straying or staggering under the weight of life’s cares is worth more than words are able to capture.  Happy is that under shepherd who labors with a godly, spiritual wife serving alongside of him, laboring mostly  without recognition or reward, but always with wisdom, grace, compassion and concern often in a way that her husband, loving as he may be, can never duplicate because of his peculiar and particular calling and constraints.

There is one person in our church,
Who knows our pastor’s life
Who weeps and smiles and prays with him,
And that’s the Pastor’s wife.
  
You tell your tales of prophets brave,
Who marched across the world,
And changed the course of history                            
By burning words they hurled.
  
And I will tell how back of each
Some woman lived her life,
Who wept with him and smiled with him—
She was the Pastor’s wife!
(Unknown) 

Another sage, whose name to me is unknown, praised these special gifts from God:

            “Her gifts and talents make you look good, or at least, better.  Your wife can stretch an ordinary Tater Tots casserole to feed six unexpected dinner guests; work full-time putting her husband through seminary; save her husband’s dignity by choosing his clothing; send out thank you notes in a timely fashion with his perfectly forged signature; spend forty hours in hard labor delivering your children then as much time in the doctor’s office wiping runny noses; never threaten to divorce you over that vacation at Ralph’s Fish Emporium, Kamp Ground and Cart-A-Rama; puts up with her mother-in-law’s helpful advice on child rearing and talks you out of resigning at least once a month.”

Years ago, I read a tribute to Pastor’s wives published in a Christian magazine.  It reads: 

I am the Preacher’s wife.  I am the woman who proudly sits in the shadows as her husband stands in the light.  I am the one who knows her husband is a gift from God, and so I give him back to my Lord through his full-time service.  Often times, I am so lonely for him because I share him with others.  But I am also pleased that he gives himself so unselfishly.

I am the one who encourages the preacher when others fail to.  I am the one who listens to his dreams for the church and helps him to look into the future and see his dreams become a reality.

And when others wonder if he really cares, I am the one who sees him on his knees, shedding tears for the future of the Lord’s church.

I am the woman who so often hears flattering phrases.  At times, I am treated with such loving kindness.  The kindness you show me makes it all worthwhile.  It keeps me going when I feel like quitting.  But I am also the woman who often hears unkind remarks.  My heart can be broken, just as yours can.  But I am the one who has to learn to smile at the ugly things that are said.  I have to pick up the broken pieces of my heart and forgive, even when forgiveness is not asked of me.

Yes, world!  I have my ups and downs, just as you do.  And there are times when I, too, feel like quitting.  I need your tenderness and your encouragement to keep on keeping on.  As I give my husband, my child, my home and myself to the Lord, I am the woman who is happy to sit back in the shadows.  I am the preacher’s wife.”

It has been this pastor’s privilege to have served local churches now for more than half a century, and, by the mercies of our great God, every day in service has been with the custom- made help meet by my side that God granted to me before I accepted the call to pastor that first congregation in Wichita, Kansas in 1971.  Her name is Ellen and her heart and hands have steadied me throughout this fabulous journey.  Some time ago Ellen put on paper reasons why she considered it a joyful privilege to be in ministry as a pastor’s wife.  Here they are:

  1. Because this is that which God has called me to do.
  2. Because I can be totally involved in work that the Lord thinks is important.  We know that He  died for the church, and it is the only institution He left to carry on His work.
  3. I can be intimately involved in the life of people.  I have many opportunities to share the gospel.
  4. I have been the recipient of many kind acts because we are in ministry.
  5. It has been my privilege to have shown hospitality to some of the greatest people in the world and many have become close friends.
  6. Fellow believers pray for me because we are in the ministry.
  7. I can share in the most important moments in a family’s life which is the birth or adoption of their children, marriages and deaths.
  8. My children were reared in a good environment.
  9. Because I am respected as a leader.
  10. Because I have the privilege of taking care of God’s servant.

Who can find virtuous woman?  For her price is far above rubies.  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.”  (Proverbs 31:10,11)

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The Overseer of Your Church

Paul, with pastors gathered to hear his farewell message to them, said to the elders (pastors) of the Ephesian church, meeting at Paul’s request in Miletus on his way to Jerusalem, charged these men of God to take heed to themselves “and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseer, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

The pastor in today’s world, as then, labors out of love, if he is called of God and anointed of the Spirit, to a world that is, for the most part, unfriendly and inattentive.  That does not lighten his responsibility or lessen his burden; to the contrary, he works in the Master’s vineyard as an ambassador, not as a diplomat; as an evangelist, not as an entertainer; as a deliverer, not as a delighter.  His main business is teaching and preaching; His only tool is the sword of the Spirit; his first and last goal is regeneration not reformation, resurrection not resuscitation, Christ not culture and theocracy not democracy.  He depends not on his power of persuasion but on his privileges of prayer.  He pleads with souls for Christ’s sake not with sources for currencies’ sake. His strength is in proclaiming “thus saith the Lord,” and his throne is the pulpit.  The stakes are eternal, not temporal, the sphere is spiritual, not natural and the issues are truths not traditions.  His allegiance is to no organization but only to the Head of the world’s greatest organism, the Church.  He succeeds only through humility and more often than not receives hate not help, rejection not reception and malignity rather than dignity.

That’s why Paul, when greeting Timothy and Titus, his “preacher boys,” in I and II Timothy and in Titus, departed from his typical greeting that he invariably employed in every church epistle that he penned using in those letters “Grace and Peace….”  But to these protégé pastors Paul’s greeting was “Grace, mercy and peace….”  Paul, though never having been a pastor himself having been called and commissioned to a church planting missionary ministry, knew that every God-called pastor would need not only grace and peace, but a heavy dose of mercy if he were to survive in this high calling.

A respectable source reported a few years ago that 1500 pastors leave the ministry every month; 50 % of pastors will be divorced by the time they leave the ministry; 80% of pastors and 84% of pastors’ wives feel discouraged or unqualified in their roles; 50 % are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they had an alternative way to make a living; 40% experience extra marital affairs since they started in ministry and 70% acknowledged that the only time they consulted the Bible was when they were preparing a sermon!

There are ways you can help your pastor:  (1)  Keep him informed of your needs; he cannot know everything so let him know of your spiritual and physical status and something of what’s happening in your home and with your family; (2)  Attend services of your assembly regularly so that he will not have to “track you down” if you have been absent for an extended period of time; (3) Volunteer to help your pastor to carry the load; find a job that needs to be done and roll up your sleeve to do it; (4)  If a lesson or message proves to be a special blessing or meets a particular need in your life, don’t worry about giving your pastor the “big head” by telling him so—it will encourage him and work wonders for him; (5)  If you are troubled about something that you feel is amiss in the church body, feel free to share constructive criticism or concerns with him—God has equipped him with broad enough spiritual shoulders to be able to handle and carry that load; (6)  Pray daily for him, his wife, his family and ministry—he can only be as effective as his people are effectual in praying for him, his spiritual leadership and the church; (7) Be his friend yet not expecting an exclusive relationship with him as he can’t be “best buddies” with everyone though he might like to, but know that he treasures a friendship relationship with you so do not miss that opportunity; (8) Learn what he likes and dislikes and respect his individuality and try, as opportunity presents itself, to assist him in enjoying satisfaction as a person; (9) Decide to follow Jesus Christ sincerely and supremely and you will honor, reward, encourage and strengthen your pastor’s ministry in direct proportion to your obedience and love and loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”  (Hebrews 13:7)

Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves:  for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief, for that is unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Coming Soon:  “The Pastor’s Wife”


In His Own Words

Kelvin U. Krueger 1976-2021

You and God” has published two previous installments about missionary Kelvin Krueger, missionary to South Africa under the auspices of Baptist World Mission, who recently was called home to be with His Lord and Savior.  The last post was a eulogy about Kelvin and this post is Kelvin’s testimony in his own words.  “He being dead yet speaketh:”

“Good evening, my name is Kelvin Krueger.  I was born into a Christian home where my parents love the Lord.  When I was young, I was interested in being a cowboy.  At the age of four, I received Christ as my Lord and Savior.  As soon as I received Christ, He gave me a burden in my heart for the mission field, so I changed my direction from being a cowboy to being a cowboy missionary.  At the age of six I was diagnosed with brain cancer.  I was operated on, and the doctors had to take out a good portion of my learning cells.  After my surgery I was flown to Boston where a team of doctors were going to  perform radiation therapy.  My parents had to sign a release form saying that if I came through the therapy, which was doubtful, I would have the mental capacity of a six-year-old.  The release was signed but fervent prayer made the difference.  The Lord brought me through the surgery.  The doctors said there was going to be some side effects of the radiation therapy which included:  puberty, at an early age as you can see, I am shorter than my dad, but at least I am taller than my mom; scoliosis, it is hard to walk straight, and memory loss, where am I?  It has been a long road to where I am today but thank the Lord for the paths He has led me by.  I graduated from Marquette Manor Baptist Academy and went to Bob Jones University for part of my schooling.  I received a Certificate of Children’s Ministry from Northland Baptist Bible College.  At graduation Dr. Les Ollila presented me with the JOB award for accomplishments regardless of difficulty.  I have been on mission trips to Mexico, Australia and Saint Kitts.

The Lord then gave me opportunity to go to New Zealand for a few months.  When I returned home, I worked under the maintenance director, who was a also the children’s pastor at Marquette Manor Baptist Church.  Through him I got involved with ventriloquism, and gospel magic, and also in my duration there, I was able to lead ten first graders to the Lord.  Through the Lord I will be all He wants me to be.  Isaiah 6:8 says, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send and who will go for us?  Then said I, here am I; send me.”  I believe the Lord has called me in the service of children’s ministry in South Africa.  Proverbs 3:5-6:  “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”

I was at Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wisconsin, for the Baptist World Mission annual conference meeting from October 22 through 25 of 2007.  While at the conference I was interviewed two times about where I stood doctrinally, and I was questioned on key issues.  I went into the interviews knowing the Lord was on my side.  The last interview I had was in a room where all the board members were sitting down.  I was asked to sit in a chair and give my testimony.  I was asked why I felt called to the mission field, and why I wanted to join Baptist World Mission.  I thank the Lord for His help and His guidance in leading me to Baptist World Mission and allowing me to join.  I know that if we reach children with the gospel, that will give us an open door into the homes, and that will give us an opportunity to tell the parents the good news of the gospel.

There was a very brilliant Bible teacher, Robert Dick Wilson, born in 1856 and he died in 1930.  By the time he was 25 years old he could read the New Testament in nine languages. (I have trouble reading it in English).  He could repeat from memory a Hebrew translation of the entire New Testament as well as a large portion of the Old Testament.  One day while teaching his students he said, “Young men, there are many mysteries in this life I do not pretend to understand, many things hard to explain.  But I can tell you this morning with the fullest assurance that Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.”


For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty…that no flesh should glory in His presence.”  (I Cor. 1:26-29)
  


“Here Am I, Send Me”

One day, when he was yet a child, Kelvin Krueger’s heart was touched by the same vision that Isaiah was moved by as he observed the Lord sitting high and lifted up while seraphim’s cried one to the other “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty.” Isaiah observed the King, the Lord of hosts, the sinful people and nation, a people of unclean lips, and hearing the voice of the Lord say, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us,” Isaiah said, “Here am I, send me,” and Kelvin echoed Isaiah’s response, and God said, “Go, tell this people….” (Isa. 6:1- 9 )

And Kelvin from that moment was a missionary at heart.  Never mind he was only a lad; never mind he would live through the most excruciating test that a child could endure, the removal of a cranial tumor with its life-long after effects leaving him handicapped in almost every capacity but his spirit; never mind the world would relegate him—even the Christian world—to a separate class assigned to menial tasks not considering that Kelvin Krueger was in every sense of the word a missionary, a servant of Christ, wholly dedicated to God and separated by the Spirit for the work to which he would be called.  Kelvin, like Jeremiah, was set apart to God from his mother’s womb for service as a first-class missionary.

Oh, others before him had gone through human screening experiences only to be discounted as “not able” for the task at hand.  The little Israeli girl whose Syrian master suffered with leprosy had to overcome an age handicap before she was heard with life-saving information for the captain of Syria.  “She’s only a child—an Israeli one at that—what would she knowing about curing leprosy?”  Yet her heart for God excelled the head of any Syrian and she was the person in touch with the true God and you know the rest of the story!

Here’s Jesus preaching and teaching to thousands of men, women and children who had not eaten in days.  How could they be fed?  Well, none of the important disciples had a clue; but a lad with five loaves of bread and two fishes did and he was just child-like enough in faith to bring them to Jesus for His use; and Christ, with the help of a little boy, considered little more than an annoyance by the big men around Jesus with their conventional wisdom, fed thousands of hungry people, proving once again that “little is much when God is in it.”

A discouraged pastor gave his annual service report to the church board one sad Sunday, telling them that there had been a spiritual draught that year and that only one small boy had been baptized.  Well, time would prove that the single soul saved that long barren year just happened to be Robert Morrison, who when he was of age, became one of England’s finest and most fruitful ambassadors for Christ on the foreign mission field.

And Kelvin Krueger presented himself to Christ one day for service, but what could he do?  Was he not limited by handicaps?  Maybe he should stay at home and pray, but to go to a foreign field?  Surely not!

But Kelvin lived out his dream going first to New Zealand as a missionary and then to South Africa serving ably out of a heart of love with hands of service.  Ask the scores of boys and girls in a group home in Johannesburg, South Africa, wheelchair bound boys and girls, who delighted every week when they saw Kelvin come to greet them and to minister to them.  They would testify that Kelvin was a blessing with his touch of tenderness and his look of love; one can only imagine what a special treat that was for those precious boys and girls when a kind man, himself somewhat skewered in life and limb from his earliest days, showed them what in flesh the love of God looks like.

And ask the churches, one here in Indianapolis in which Kelvin served as an intern under my mentorship and alongside a cadre of Christian servants who took Kelvin in and treated him as family for the half a year that he served here in preparation for his going solo to South Africa to live and work.  Ask the team of bus workers about Kelvin’s coming early and staying late to lend a hand in picking up boys and girls on the church bus.  Ask the choir members alongside whom he sang, faithfully practicing and “pitching” in as best he could; ask the primary and church-time children’s ministry workers about his tireless and selfless serving in whatever way he was needed week after week; and ask the pastors and church staff about how inspiring it was to work alongside of this humble, sweet-spirited man of God.  He was always a dedicated Christian and Christian worker out of whose mouth a complaint about anything was never heard.

So, I am still always and ever rejoicing that one day, Kelvin Krueger said “I will go, send me.”  And God did send him and Kelvin did go, and in so doing He lived out his dream; and we can only imagine the joy bells ringing in heaven when on the second day in February of 2021 Kelvin’s body-bound spirit was released to its heaven-ward flight where he found himself “Home, at last,” giving new meaning to those words of the poet John Donne: “Death be not proud though some have called thee mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou thinkest thou dost overthrow die not, poor death, nor yet canst that kill me.  One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

As Kelvin’s Pastor, here’s what I saw in him:

  1. A faithful co-worker
  2. A compassionate Christian
  3. A servant’s heart
  4. One who did not complain. Never.
  5. One who loved children
  6. One who was spiritual
  7. One who strived to please
  8. One who was grateful
  9. One who obeyed his Lord
  10. One who honored his parents
  11. One who loved chocolate mocha!!

Kelvin Krueger, missionary to South Africa, passed into his Savior’s presence on the morning of February 2, 2021.

 “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth:  Yea, saith the Spirit; that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.”  (Rev. 14:13)


The Kelvinator

You and God” features a repeat of a post published last fall about Kelvin Krueger, missionary to South Africa.  Kelvin was released from lifelong disabilities Tuesday, February 2, and was ushered into his Savior’s presence.


When doctors discovered a cranial tumor in Kelvin before he was five years old, they did not give him much hope to live out a normal childhood.  His parents, trusting God and hoping help would come, transported their little boy to Mercy Medical Center where an extensive brain surgery would be undertaken, praying God would spare his life, yet doubtful that he would ever enjoy “normal motor skills.”  Even at this young age, Kelvin harbored hopes in his heart that he would one day be a missionary.  Those dreams seemed to be worlds away at the time the trip was made to Children’s Hospital in Boston, but Mom and Dad and many others were praying.  The surgery not only spared Kelvin’s life, but in time he would be able to walk, talk, eventually drive, attend college and live quite like anyone else.

Kelvin graduated from college, still with a heartbeat for world missions.  He acquired a “dummy” he called Zeke and honed his ventriloquist skills well enough that he could entertain folks with his routine with Zeke.  He served for some time in New Zealand before coming back to America for further medical attention.

I met Kelvin when he appeared before Baptist World Mission for appointment to serve on the field of South Africa.  There was an instant bond between us when I heard his testimony and saw his heart for God’s mission field, and in a short time I had the privilege of becoming his sending pastor after his internship with us for several months at Thompson Road Baptist Church.  I gave him the nickname Kelvinator.  He drove his own car, lived independently, worked diligently, displayed a commitment to ministry with a love especially for children, and his time at TBBC was an encouraging time for all of us.  We learned that people who from birth have labored with serious physical handicaps cannot be sidelined from serving.  Kelvin was faithful in our choir ministry, our bus ministry, our children’s ministries including VBS and was always ready to serve.  I have no doubt we (I) learned more about ministry in those few months that Kelvin served alongside of our staff and members than Kelvin learned.  He was an inspiration every day of the world to all of us.

On September 26, 2010, we had a commissioning service for Kelvin, and he was ready to go to South Africa. His loving and devoted parents accompanied Kelvin to Johannesburg, SA, and helped him to get set up in an apartment and in necessities, then left him there to serve His Savior.  Kelvin made an adjustment or two concerning what church/pastor he would end up serving alongside, then began a faithful ministry of soul-winning, serving and visiting weekly an orphanage where dozens of wheel-chair bound boys and girls looked forward to his visits to cheer them and to tell them about Jesus.

In 2015, as Kelvin was serving and faithfully discharging his duties as a servant of our Lord, he suffered a disabling stroke.  He was flown home to the states and has since been not only fighting for life but learning to do basic movements in a rehab program.  Unless God would miraculously intervene, Kelvin will never be able to function again independently so his time as a “foreign” missionary has ended; but he will always have that missionary heart that beat in his boyhood breast compelling him, as a child with an incredible disability, to desire to serve as a missionary on God’s field, the world.

Some weeks ago, I wrote about a little girl who had the same heart for world missions who now serves in Africa as a missionary with her family.  What she did, as a single gal, crisscrossing America raising support to go, was an incredible story that was summarized in a single question she raised when told the field she originally wanted to serve on was closed.  She simply said, “Where Can I Go Then?”  

Kelvin’s story is not dissimilar.  When faced with herculean obstacles that would discourage most anyone from thinking of going to a foreign field as a missionary, Kelvin said, “What Can I Do Then?”  Well, it would have been easier to answer Kelvin with this question, “What Can You Not Do Then?”  He gave God his all, with impairments and crippled limbs, and he served well as one of God’s choice emissaries.  He is one of my heroes today.  He is on “R & R” now, wounded in the line of duty, as it were.  He’s the Kelvinator.  He enriches every life he touches.

As a tribute to TRBC’s missionary to South Africa, I wrote this poem in his honor for his commissioning service; it is entitled “Farewell, Dear Kelvin.”

“To ripe fields we send you, with our prayers you’ll go;
Telling folks of Jesus so His love they’ll know.
 
We’ve grown so to love you, love you in the Lord;
For your love of children, teaching them His Word.
 
You have served amongst us with a servant’s heart;
We are kindred spirits, have been from the start.
 
You’ve shown us Christ’s spirit by your words and deeds;
We have seen Him in you, meeting others’ needs.
 
You’ve taught us His virtues by your godly talk;
He has loved us through you by your humble walk.
 
So, to the field you go now, Africa the south;
Your words will be mighty—as if from God’s mouth.
 
You will reach His littlest, lovingly bring them in;
Their lives will be salvaged from a life of sin.
 
And when at the Bema we lay our worn tools down,
There’ll be great rejoicing when you get your crown!


Cheer Up Ye Saints of God

“Count it all joy” James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote to Hebrew believers about 30 years after Jesus had been crucified in Jerusalem by the Roman government at the behest of the Jewish nation.  James calls them the “twelve tribes scattered abroad,” because a wave of harsh persecution against Jewish converts to Christianity broke out four or five years after Christ’s ascension back to heaven following His resurrection, and the flourishing Jerusalem church, which saw thousands of souls added to their church on the Day of Pentecost and in the days following, were driven out of their sanctuary in Jerusalem to other cities of the then known world.  Their sudden flight left them in many instances homeless, jobless and without any family support system.  To this first-century suffering church James, pastor of the Jerusalem church, writes, “Count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.” (James 1:2)  And “divers” is a pretty good description of the various and sundry kinds of trials they almost overnight were faced with.  They lost all social standing, all rights and privileges of citizenship, all opportunity to gather in synagogues for worship and in many cases their losses included spouses, children and extended family which ex-communicated them because of their acceptance of Jesus as Messiah.

James exhorts these brethren to maintain the right attitude toward these severe challenges; to remain joyful.  This would seem impossible considering the enormity of their losses.  The word which James employs in James 1:2 for “count” means “reckon it to be so,” even when you cannot reason it out, understand it, explain it or make any sense of it.  Even though your soul aches and your heart breaks while your whole being trembles with throbbing pain because of the loneliness and losses, “reckon” it; chalk it up as joyful because you can and must accept it as from God. Knowing this, the pastor, James, who was not always a follower of Jesus himself but was finally and fully convinced of His deity when Jesus made a special post-resurrection appearance to him (I Cor. 15:7), assured these suffering, scattered saints that God has a purpose, a plan and a product that will be perfection in and through these trials, leaving them, in the end, complete (mature), lacking in nothing spiritually.

Writing to this same group of believers, the writer of Hebrews said that these Hebrew believers had endured a “great fight of afflictions.” (Hebrews 10:32-34)  Paul the Apostle testified that he was “joyful in all tribulation.” (2 Cor. 7:4), and in his epistle to the church at Philippi Paul reminded his beloved followers in Europe that “it is given on the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Phil. 1:21)

Jesus, instructing His disciples on kingdom matters, warned them that they would face the unmasked hatred of men, and be separated from their company, and reproached and their names would be cast out as evil (Luke 6:22,23) but precisely at that point they should “rejoice in that day, and leap for joy…”  Peter, later, who would be crucified upside down at his request, not feeling worthy to be crucified in the same manner as was Jesus his Lord, would write that “…if any man suffer as a Christian let him not be ashamed , but let him glorify God on this behalf.”  That is the same Apostle who wrote “that the trial of your faith, being more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found to the praise and the honor and the glory at the appearing of Christ.” (I Peter 1:7)

So, there are indeed “divers” kinds of trials, tests, temptations.  But remember, if God chooses to allow you to go through the fiery furnace of affliction, you will, having endured, be “blessed,” and you will be a candidate for the “crown of life.” (James 1:12)  Along with the crown of life there will be a crown of rejoicing, promised to all those who love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8).  These crowns and others will be meted out to His faithful ones at the Bema seat of Christ and those who receive them with great humility will be able to cast them before the throne of God joining in with a multitude who exclaim that “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power:  for Thou hast created all things and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev. 4:10,11)

Some years ago, I walked into Methodist Hospital in downtown Indianapolis to visit an elderly woman, a member of the church I pastored.  She had fallen on hard times physically and had suffered multiple surgeries and was facing at that particular time another one.  I expected to find a dear saint over burdened with afflictions that even the world’s finest physicians could not cure.  To my delight, a wide smile broke out across her wrinkled face as she said upon seeing me, “I was just thinking today He’s chosen me for this closer walk with Him and it’s going to be something to see how it all turns out.”  She ended our conversation a short time later with the words, “You just can’t out do God.  He had it all planned out ahead of time.”

And so He did and does.  And my dear old friend had also planned it out ahead of time that she would choose to “count it all joy.”  And so she did for the brief duration of her remaining sojourn here in this land of shadows just before she stepped into the eternal sunlight of His glory.

And I beheld…and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor and glory and blessing’.  And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”  (Rev. 5:11-14) 

I Can’t Outrun Your Tears!

Each of the synoptic gospels gives us insight into a character trait that the Lord Jesus Christ possessed, one that every follower of His ought to strive personally to cultivate: compassion.  It is a rare find today to see it evidenced in our skeptic-riddled world, which is so distrustful, so doubting and dubious of the motives of our fellow mankind.

Mark says that when Jesus saw a great multitude, He was moved with compassion toward them and He healed their sick. (Mark 14:14)

Matthew reports that upon seeing two blind men sitting by the wayside near Jericho, Jesus had compassion on then and touched  their eyes and immediately their eyes received sight. (Matt. 20:34)

He healed a man’s son that had been possessed by a dumb spirit that caused him to foam and gnash with his teeth and pine away.  In desperation the boy’s father pled with Jesus “…if thou canst do anything, have compassion on us….”  (Mark 9:22)

And, when a funeral procession passed by near the city of Nain where Jesus was walking with His disciples, the Lord noticed the weeping widow distraught over her now deceased son and He said simply, “Weep not,” and then the son sat up in the bier alive again, as Luke noted that Jesus had compassion on the grieving widow. (Luke 7:13)

He also fed a multitude of thousands of people who had not eaten in three days, saying, “I have compassion on the multitude.”  (Matt. 15:32)

Then, too, Jesus came upon a lonely leper who knelt down before Him and begged “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him and saith unto him, ‘I will, be thou clean.’”  (Mark 1:41)

So, how does your compassion barometer read these days?  In July of 1988 the U.S. Navy Cruiser USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian Airliner with 290 aboard leaving no survivors.  The ship’s captain mistakenly thought they were under attack, so he ordered the defensive action.  In the weeks following, public opinion polls indicated that most Americans did not favor paying the Iranian victim’s families any compensation for their tragic losses.  The Iranian’s holding of 52 plus American hostages still lingered fresh upon America’s collective mind, but President Ronald Reagan approved the compensation and when asked by reporters why he would do that and whether he did not think it might send a wrong signal, the magnanimous President replied, “I don’t ever find compassion is a bad precedent.”

A crippled evangelist of yesteryear known as Hop Hadley was chasing a backslidden convert who was drunk down a city street into a side alley.  Finally, exhausted by the chase, the handicapped preacher leaned up against a light pole, tears streaming down his cheeks.  Under the dark shadows in a dirty, dank alley the drunken man suddenly reversed his course heading back to where the preacher was, saying “I can outrun your feet, but I can’t outrun your tears.”  

I read some years ago in Pulpit Helps about a man who had fallen into a pit.  One person came along and said, “I feel for you down there!”  Another fellow hollered, “I figured someone would fall down there sooner or later,” while a pious hypocrite said, “Only bad people fall into pits!”  Then a fake news reporter chimed in: “Can I have the exclusive story on your fall?” The IRS man wanted to know if he had paid taxes on that property or did he have an exemption?  A self-absorbed person opined, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen the pit I am in!”  And, of course, there were the optimist and pessimist who said respectively, “Cheer up, things will get better,” and “Just wait, it can and will get worse!”  And Jesus came along, noting the man’s predicament and extended His helping hand lifting him out of the pit.

Spurgeon reminded his audience on one occasion that the New Testament writers employed a word for compassion that called to mind in its root form one’s entrails or inward parts, meaning “sympathy, pity, affection, compassion,” denoting that Jesus was moved to the core of His being when He considered the plight of a sin-laden, suffering, sick humanity.  Spurgeon said, “It is expressive of the deepest emotion, a striving of the bowels, a yearning of the inner most nature with pity.”

How long has it been since you have been so moved for or about anyone or anything?  

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36)

Can it Be?

Photo from mbhistory.org

In my last post I told of Russian Pastor Georgi Vins exiled in 1979 from his homeland for the “crime” of preaching the gospel.  He was separated from his family and his beloved home until the early 1990’s when the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev reversed the decree whereby Vins had been stripped of his Soviet citizenship (President Ronald Reagan was a key figure in this glasnost experiment) eventuating in Georgi getting the green light to return to Russia for a visit to his cherished Russian homeland and churches and family.  He never did move back to Russia, spending his last years in Elkhart, Indiana, representing the persecuted church until his homegoing. But the trip back to his homeland, after spending years in Siberian prisons for his faith, and more years in exile, was a thrilling experience.  While waiting for his visa application to be approved for his trip home, Vins wrote a poem in part and then finished it in November of 1990 when he was in Leningrad.  I had prayed for Vins prior to his release from prison and had held him, a 21st century Hebrews 11 kind of believer of whom this world was not worthy, as a hero and was privileged in about 1984 to have him speak in our church in Indianapolis to share his testimony.  I want to share with you the poem he wrote and to which I have alluded.  He entitled it “Can it Be?”

Can it be that I soon will be seeing
 My dear brothers and sisters again?
Can it be that once more I’ll be hearing
 Russian choirs singing songs about Christ?

In the language familiar since child hood
 I will hear and drink in God’s own Word!
And my heart is preparing for this gladness,
 I had dream of it while far away.

Years have flown. . .as the birds in migration
 Swiftly speed with sad cries to the south.
But how strong were the walls of my prison,
Bound by chains—bitter dread and farewells.

After that, the great waves of the ocean
 Thrust the coast of my homeland away…
And each day, like a craft small and lonely,
Was besprinkled by sorrowful tears.

The afflictions groaned on without number
 As the waves of destruction rose high…
Only faith through the clouds shone more brightly,
And the Lord strengthened me by His love.

(The rest of the poem was written in Leningrad.)

But today, with great joy I am seeing 
My dear brothers and sisters again!
And I hardly dare breathe, as I’m hearing
Russian choirs singing songs about Christ!

I am listening once more to God’s message,
Once again with the brethren I pray.
Oh, how precious to me are Christ’s people
And a Russia that seeks God today!”

Knowing that there was not any religious freedom in Russia before Gorbachev and Reagan achieved the glasnost accords in August of 1990, my wife and I “picketed” the Wichita Convention Center in the summer of 1978 while 10,000 delegates filed into a denominational world conclave featuring some visiting Russian Baptist pastors who were addressing that meeting saying that there was religious freedom in the Soviet Union at that time.  Our picket signs were simple:  “WHAT ABOUT GEORGI VINS?”  Within about a year, Vins was shipped out of Siberia to the United States, exiled from his homeland without any family members but living in freedom!  In time, as stated above, he was able to revisit Russia and his family was able to migrate to America.  In 1989 I was thrilled to visit Russia with Evangelist Ed Nelson and Pastor Vins’ daughter Natasha on a trip to Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad and other cities where we worshipped with and sang with those precious believers, hearing some of those wonderful choirs that Georgi alluded to in his poem.  It was through interpreters that we prayed, praised and preached, but the Holy Spirit of God left little doubt in our hearts that those people in those Soviet Union churches, many of whom had spent time in prison themselves, were the kind of believers one reads about in Hebrews 11.  It was so very humbling and exhilarating that words could never capture the feeling.  Praise God for Georgi Vins, his faith, his fearlessness and his fidelity to Jesus to the end in his pulpit and in his prison cell.  His impact upon this preacher’s life as a young minister of the gospel enjoying freedom and affluence has in part shaped my life and I will be ever grateful to him and to God for allowing me to follow his ministry in the shadows and through the sunshine.

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment…of whom the world was not worthy, they wandered in deserts, and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith….” (Hebrews 11:36-39)