Posts tagged ‘Cuba’

July 29, 2013

Back by Popular Griping?

by pastortimfowler

I feel humbled that so many have griped about my lack of blogs lately. Griping seems like such a harsh word though, so maybe I should have used another. Oh well, I can’t think of that word though. I don’t think I will do a daily blog, but I will try to do one a week or so. I have been extremely busy in the past few months and needed some down time from the blogs to deal with more urgent issues.
I have had the opportunity to travel this year. In March I went to Israel and walked where Jesus walked. I was able to see the Old City of David and walk the streets where Jesus carried the cross. I sailed the Sea of Galilee and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. I even had the chance to be baptized in the Jordan River. It was an incredible experience that I would encourage anyone to do if given the chance.
In June I went to Cuba for the third time. Our church is partnering with a church there and this time I led a group of ten men from my church there to help in growing the church in Cuba. We took about 30 soccer balls, 50 baseballs, a bunch of gloves, and some bats and helped them start a children’s sports camp where they can tell kids about Jesus. We are already planning to go back next year and hopefully take two groups from our church next time.
In November I will be flying to see a friend in the Philippines. I have known him for about ten years and he has visited me a couple of times. Although the invite has always been there to visit him, the timing never worked out until now. I am not sure what I will be doing there outside of a lot of preaching and teaching, (Nothing to complain about there). I do believe this will be something that I will do again, if God allows.
Besides these trips, I have had some opportunities to travel quite a bit in the US too. Nothing as incredible as the foreign trips, but certainly nothing to complain about.
So I figured I would start with a blog explaining what I have been doing and hopefully I can elaborate on some of the more interesting parts of each trip in the next few blogs to follow. If not, I will make up something that is every bit as interesting. After all, I have such an amazing life, just being married to that woman God gave me and dealing with these people who come to my church. All of them are weird and or different and give me plenty to talk about.
So if you are one of those who has griped about me not blogging, stand by, you may be part of an upcoming blog. Just remember that I only do this because I love you and…you asked for it.
Thanks for reading and thanks for “encouraging” me blogging again.

August 1, 2012

Missions

by pastortimfowler

 

Mission – a ministry commissioned by a religious organization to propagate its faith or carry on humanitarian work. Does that not sound awkward? Maybe it is the use of the word propagate, which means to spread, or maybe it is the use of the term religious organization, which could mean anything if you think about it. Sometimes definitions of words bother me and why I get into looking them up is beyond me, but for some reason I do.
When I was younger I use to watch Mission Impossible, the TV show. They were not a religious organization. I use to watch war movies and they would talk about “the mission” that they were on. I used the term, “I am a man on a mission” several times prior to becoming a Christian. Usually it was focused on finding a party or finding a girl or both. All of the examples I gave were to some degree exciting and challenging and even dangerous, especially the girl hunting. So I understand the term and what its root meaning is, and it fits in well with what God has called Christians to do, but, we are not all acting like we have a mission that is exciting and challenging and rarely dangerous.
This whole missions thing is on my mind lately because of my recent trip to Cuba and the fact that my friend from the Philippines will be here this week. Going to Cuba is exciting and challenging and even a bit dangerous. If things go well I will be going to the Philippines too, and that will be exciting and challenging and dangerous. My friend left his family in the Philippines to come here for a few months and they are in an area that recently had a major earthquake it is not uncommon to get typhoons through there this time of year. Why do people do this? Because it is needed.
Much like a soldier has a mission or a secret agent has a mission, God has given Christians a mission. We are to go into the whole world and preach the good news. Yep, the Philippines, and Cuba and Africa and Rock Hill and New York and Los Angeles and, well everywhere. No one said it had to be a foreign country, we are just supposed to go.
Some people think when Jesus said, “go”, that He meant to church on Sunday. Sorry; not what He was talking about. He meant to go where ever there are hurting people who need to know Jesus. Going to church is not what we are called to do. It is important to go to church. I like to think of it as the pit stop in the race. The race is out on the track driving as fast as possible to win, but from time to time you have to pull into the pits to get fuel, tires, and a cool drink of water. This is a short pause with the intent of getting you back out on the racetrack trying to win. Missions is the race, church is the pits.
Maybe you find it nearly impossible to go to a place like Cuba or the Philippines, but everyone goes to the grocery store. Kids go to school and parents go to work, and sometimes we get to go the beach or the mountains. Where ever we go we are on a mission. We are out to show Jesus and God’s love to whoever we come in contact with. It doesn’t mean we sit everyone down and give them the old “Bible beat down”, but we can help someone at the grocery store who may be overloaded and have kids, or we can help that new kid at school who doesn’t have a friend yet, or we can fill in for that co-worker who needs to be with a sick child. We can always be that shoulder to lean on or that ear to listen and that can go a long way into sharing the love of Christ with those who need it.
Some of you are thinking that this doesn’t sound exciting or challenging, and certainly not dangerous. If this is what you are thinking, you must ask yourself, what is more exciting or challenging and sometimes dangerous, than sharing the love of God with someone, no matter where they are? Why do we have to be in another country to do what God has called us and allows us to do anywhere? Maybe you are looking back at the definition and thinking that you have not been commissioned by a religious organization to propagate you faith. That is probably a good thing. Because Jesus should be and is the one who has commissioned His people to go into all the world. But if you think that you need an organization to commission you too, talk to your church and your pastor about it and I am sure they will agree with Jesus and say, GO!

July 25, 2012

Comfort Zone

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/uncorrectedproofs/3483703050/

I like being comfortable, don’t you? My bed, my truck, my way. All of these make me comfortable. I don’t like sleeping in strange beds, riding in someone else’s car, or doing things someone else’s way. That being said, why does God always seem to be getting us out of our comfort zones? I think He has a weird sense of humor and likes watching us say things like, “I will never do that”, or “God would never ask me to do this”. I learned years ago to not say those things very often and thought that I had gone unnoticed for a while. But…NOOOOoooo. I had to tell someone who getting an exchange student was not for me and I didn’t think that God would want me to do that.
So, a friend, and I use that term loosely now, told me that she needed someone to take an exchange student for a month until she could find a longer term family for him to stay with. My first response was not what I wanted to say. I told her she could talk to my wife about it. Remember her? She is the baby addict who loves all kids and would have 100 of them at my house all the time if I would let her. I know what she is going to say.
Now don’t go freaking out yet. It is not final. God could change His mind. And the point of this is not to tell you about us getting an exchange student. It is about not getting comfortable with God. It is about making yourself available to share the love of Christ with anyone, anytime, even at my house, even if you don’t live there.
Last month I went to Cuba. I had just told someone, a few months prior to being asked to go, that I did not think that God wanted me to go outside the country to serve Him. God had me just where He wanted me and I knew it. So, off to Cuba He sent me and it was one of the most incredible times I have ever had. About 11 years ago I was very comfortable in my hometown of Spartanburg and knew that God wanted me to stay there forever and serve in churches there. I have been living in Rock Hill now for 10 years and it is amazing. 33 years ago I was perfectly happy living the life of a bachelor and now I just celebrated my 32nd wedding anniversary…happily.
As a pastor I am constantly challenging people to listen to God and hearing them say that God is telling them to stay with what they are doing and remain comfortable. I laugh at them, on the inside, and tell them to be careful because God is always listening. Comfort is not God. Peace is God. Comfort makes you go to sleep. Peace makes you able to stay focused even though the storm is raging around you. Comfort is doing the same thing week in and week out and not seeing much different happen. Peace is not knowing why things keep happening all around you but wow, people’s lives are being changed by the presence of God.
About 20 years ago, I felt like God was calling me into the ministry. I was a few months removed from being a complete drunk and self-centered jerk. Very few people believed that God would call me to be a pastor, but I knew it was happening. I did not like it. I did not want it. I just knew it was happening. Today I have been the pastor, for ten years, of a church that is unbelievably growing with folks that are a lot like I was 20 years ago. They are not sure of why, but are sure of Who is calling them to be different. Some are facing the call to trust God for something more. Some are stepping out in faith and finding that they really can trust God to do everything that He says He will do. Some are just getting the courage to invite a friend who is still struggling with life’s constant bombardment of crap to visit this place that will accept them without judging them. It is so exiting to watch.
So let me encourage you to get uncomfortable with God for a while. If you call yourself a Christian, you should not be comfortable around God, you should be at peace. There is nothing comfortable of being around perfection when you are so far from it. But it is mind-blowing to be considered the child of God who is using you to do something that you never thought possible and finding out you love it.
Meanwhile I am still hoping that God is only messing with me about this exchange student and soon I will hear Him say, “PSYCH!”, ’cause this has me way out of my comfort zone.

July 6, 2012

Youth Gone Wild

by pastortimfowler

Today I saw our church youth and their leaders off for their first ever retreat and mission trip. Because our church is a young church, only 6 years old, missions has been slow to develop and certainly youth missions have lagged. But God has been doing some incredible stuff this past few months and is preparing our church to be a mission minded church. For those of you who aren’t “churchy”, missions is the command from Jesus that says to go into all the world and preach the gospel. It includes helping those in need and sharing a message of hope.
In the last year our church has had the opportunity to help several missionaries as well as take a few trips, including our recent trip to Cuba. Our youth are going to the beach to have a time of bonding and growing spiritually and to serve at a campground in the area as the missions part of the trip. I know it sounds minor, but before you can walk you must first crawl.
At last count there are 13 youth and 7 adults who are gone. I worry about the adults, especially those who are taking their first trip of this type. I can only imagine the fun that they are going to have. We had prayer with them before they left and I told the youth to behave, but I feel like perhaps I should pray for angels to surround the adults. When all is said and done, they will return with many stories of jokes and pranks and good times that will cause them all to be closer with each other and hopefully, closer to God.
So to end this very short blog, please pray for our youth and the leaders who took them. If you don’t believe in prayer, then buy the upcoming video, Youth Gone Wild, featuring youth from our church duct taping youth leaders from our church to various utility poles all around the Myrtle Beach area.

July 3, 2012

Third Option Men

by pastortimfowler

 

I want to tell you about an organization that is worth checking out. It is called Third Option Men. The founder is a guy named Evan, and him and his dad were the ones who made our trip to Cuba possible. I encourage you to check out the website and/or Facebook page. The website is www.thirdoptionmen.org and just type in the name to find them on Facebook. The purpose of this group is to encourage guys to develop relationships that allow for accountability and more than just a Sunday morning type relationship that is far to common in the church today. It is about the type of relationship that Jesus had with his disciples, close and personal.
Far too often men tend to take their Christianity way too casually. We want the type of relationship that does not allow another man to get close enough to ask the hard questions or hear the brutal truth about how we are struggling in our relationships at work, home, and with God. Evan describes this beginning and often only type of man to man relationship of Christian males as the ‘awkward handshake’. The kind of relationship where we know your name and your favorite football team but never know that your marriage is falling apart and you might be struggling with an addiction. He encourages us to develop relationships that are real, relevant and reliable, just like Jesus and His relationship with others.
Basically, men have only three options in life. We can live for self, live for worldly gain, or live for God. Christian men need to choose the third option…get it? Third Option Men?
Living for self is easy. Looking out for number one is the way we are taught through most of life and the media. This is much like the “if it feels good do it” mentality. I saw a commercial the other day about a company that does cosmetic surgery and one of the women made the statement that if there was something that someone could do to make them feel better about themselves that they should do it at any cost. So if you think the way God made you is not good enough and that He made a mistake, a doctor can fix it and you will feel good about yourself. Sadly, surgery does nothing for that God shaped hole we are all trying to fill. So self-indulgence is not the answer.
Living for worldly gain sounds good. If we could only have more money, a bigger house, or a nicer car, we would feel better. Even if we could have bigger breasts (not men, but our wives) and less wrinkles, that would help, but you need to have the money for that. After all, we see how happy all the Hollywood crowd is with their plastic surgery and successful marriages and lack of drug and alcohol abuse, (Sarcasm). I actually saw more satisfied people in Cuba making $20 a month than I see in Hollywood making millions. Before you disagree, think about the number of famous people who are divorced, in rehab, gone broke, or even killed themselves. Jesus said it best about this option; Matthew 16:26, What good will it do for people to win the whole world and lose their lives? Or what will a person give in exchange for life?
The third option, to live for God, requires one to deny self and think of others. It requires you to build a relationship with someone who cares enough to invest time in you or vice versa. It requires you to give and to love and to get involved with someone to the point that you know what is really important and what can really help. It is what Jesus did with the men that He decided to hang out with. It is what we need to do as Christian men.
We took this message into Cuba and found that men there have the same reservations as we do in America. But when laid out in plain and biblical truths, it is undeniable that it works and is needed. Not the program or the book, or even the title, but the lifestyle. Third Option Men has a heart for those who are hurting and is going into churches and communities and countries to help men get over that macho attitude of self-reliance and teaching them to live for God.
I chose the third option. It is not easy and I fail often, but I have some friends who know how to help and care when I struggle. They too have chosen to follow God. God does not want men to be loners, but to have vital relationships to help us through that many paths that He may lead us.
Check it out…Third Option Men.

July 2, 2012

Back From Cuba

by pastortimfowler

I am back and wow, do I have a lot to tell you. Cuba is a place that is full of beautiful people and scenery and yet my heart breaks every time I go. Socialism and Communism have made it one of the poorest places in this hemisphere. The average monthly wage is around $20 per month and because the government has taken everything from those who were rich, now everyone is poor. The old saying that it takes money to make money is true. There is no way to equally distribute what I make in order to lift others out of poverty, it only makes me poor too. That taxation in Cuba assures that the government only has money and the people get “free” healthcare from doctors who are lucky to make $45 per month and would make more money if they drove a horse-drawn cart around for the public transportation system, which is how we got around in the city of 140,000 people.
But the church is alive and well and serving those in need like you would not believe. Their hearts are filled with hope and appreciation for God’s provisions, even if it means they can’t afford to eat anything more than rice and beans and plantains. But they share and help and love, even with those occasional American Christians who come to help. I truly believe that I learned more from them than I was able to teach the Cuban church. Humble takes on a new meaning for me now.
We are fooled by pictures of classic cars and beautiful facades on buildings that have been touched up to make them look good. The cars are not owned by collectors, but rather by people who bought them the last time that they had any money to spend on such a luxury. Most cars are only painted over rust buckets and few have any original working parts. The buildings are weathered and termite infested and crumbling. Not even the locals can drink the water from the public water supply because it is such poor quality.
But this does not stop the people of Cuba from taking pride in what they have and sharing it with others. They have little from the government to share but have found ways to make ends meet and share what they get through an undercover free market that shows hope of letting entrepreneurs make a little more that they can keep to provide for their own and those who need help just to survive on what the socialist way has taken away. I love the heart of these people. They know more than most, that government is not the answer and never will be when it comes to providing the needs of family. Hard work and free markets are the only reason that they were the once a thriving resort and leading producers of sugar and entertainers of years gone by. That is a fading memory now.
People in Cuba cringe when you mention the name Castro. They lower their voices and do not say his name themselves. The do not speak out against the oppressive socialist system that has plunged them into poverty like we in the USA have never seen. But they know the answer is freedom and free markets where people can achieve a level of prosperity that allows others to be employed and purchase goods produced by individually owned companies who can provide jobs to others instead of money to the government.
I cannot wait to go back. I will be sharing more about the things we did and saw, but I wanted to get this out first. So many people in America are thinking that the government is the answer and that socialism works. It is a failure everywhere it is tried and Cuba is a direct and devastating example of its results. Taking everything from the rich so that the poor have more only results in the rich becoming poor and no one able to provide jobs to those who need it. Handouts are only a temporary fix. The old saying, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime is true. But if you can’t even afford to buy a net or a fishing pole and there is no one now making them because no one can afford to buy them, what happens? People starve and suffer and no one is better off except the elite few who dictate oppression to the people who need a job.
Thanks for your prayers and support. God, please bless Cuba again. And God bless America!

June 15, 2012

last one before Cuba

by pastortimfowler

One week from today is when I head to Cuba for my mission trip. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be going back and how appreciative I am to all who helped to make it possible. Over the past few months my church and my friends have helped me to raise the money needed to go and with my personal obligations added to it, it has provided all of the expenses of the trip. THANKS!!!
We leave next Friday and I am taking the week off before I go to tie up loose ends and spend a little time with my wife. Because of this I will probably not do any more blogs until I return. Once back, I hope to share some amazing stuff about my trip. There is so much that I hope that will happen that I may need the whole week when I return to tell everything. But until then, this is it.
So here are some things that you can do while I am not blogging.
1. Go back and read my blogs that have made you mad in the past. This will give you a chance to see if you were just having a bad day. It will also let you reconsider why you may have disagreed with me. I am sure that I was right and you were either having a bad day or need to change your mind.
2. Go back and post something nice in response to my blogs that you originally ripped me apart on. I don’t expect you to apologize, but you can at least say nice things, especially since I am going out of country. Those of you who write mean responses to my blogs probably do it out of frustration because you know that I am right and this will give you a chance to say that.
3. Go back and read my blogs that you liked and write another raving review. Maybe you liked my blog so much that it left you speechless the first time and now you have had time to think of something wonderful to say about my blog and/or me.
4. Send my blogs out to everyone that you think will enjoy reading them. I like having people follow my blogs. For a long time I blogged to myself and although I always thought they were brilliant, I finally got tired of writing the blog and the response.
5. Send my blogs out to everyone that you think will despise reading them. I enjoy those of you who get irritated almost as much as I enjoy the positive ones. By sending them stuff that irritates them, I am sure they will look for me when I get back with a sense of excitement as they can’t wait to tell me welcome home.
Finally, while I am gone, you can pray for my safe travels and that God is able to use me to help the folks of Cuba. No matter how much I know I irritate some of you, I still appreciate your reading my blogs. I love the positive feedback and the negative and I don’t take anything too seriously. But I do know the power of prayer and no matter who you are, I will accept your prayers and appreciate them. I look forward to my trip and even more to getting back to the greatest people in the greatest country in the world.
Thanks for all of your support, and God bless you all.

April 23, 2012

Cuba Update

by pastortimfowler

 

We just got our flight information for our mission trip to Cuba in June. We will be flying out of Miami to Havana and back. This leaves me trying to decide on should I drive or fly to Miami. But at least I know the trip is starting to become more real. I wish that there was a way to express how excited I am to get to go back to Cuba. It is a wonderful place to visit and do ministry.
Since my last blog about this, I have been raising money for the trip. I am trying to raise $2000 and have reached a little over the half way mark. Now that I have to include a trip to Miami in there I am thinking that $2000 is going to cut it close, but I know that money will not hinder me from going. So many people have reached out with donations and helped with fundraisers that I have been blown away by their support. We have already had one car wash and plan on another in a few weeks. My church has been the best at helping to coordinate and work these fundraisers and I am very thankful to them. My associate pastor was also accepted to go on this trip after my last blog so we are splitting the funds from car-washes and the sort. Many of you who read my blogs have given and I am grateful there too.
About 8 years ago I was able to go to Cuba with a friend of mine who has recently died. He loved the Cuban people and went there often leading mission trips. My wife went the year before I did with a group that he led and then the next year I had to go. We both quickly found out why he loved going there. To this day we stay in touch via Facebook with some of the people that we met. I don’t know if I will get to see any of them this time, but I sure hope so. I do believe that I will meet others to whom I will form a bond with and hopefully stay in touch. I can’t wait for my associate pastor to be blown away by this experience. He has a wonderful heart for people and I know he will feel a special tug at his heart for the Cuban people and church.
There is always the element of the unknown when you take a trip like this that leaves you with a bit of anxiety. It is not fear and nothing that I am worried about. My last trip was a blast but did provide several times of wondering how things would work out. My main piece of luggage never made it to Cuba. I spent a week with what I carried on the plane. Luckily, I was smart enough to pack most of what I needed in my carry on. Then we had hiccups with our visas and our flight out of Cuba. Probably the worst part was in Nassau, when we got there at 1am and the airport was closed and we had to find a hotel to stay the night, then find a flight home the next day. But it all worked out to where now it is a great story to tell on this trip down there.
Thanks for the prayers and thanks for the donations. You can still give via our church website, www.thebodylive.com, note Pastor Tim, Cuba trip. I look forward to telling some great stories when I get back and will try to continue to give updates as or if needed before we go.

March 22, 2012

Cuba

by pastortimfowler

Cuba, La Havane

Yesterday I found out for sure that I was going to Cuba in June for a week-long mission trip. I am amped up! 7 years ago I went and was blown away by the experience and have wanted to go back but never was able to make it happen. Then a few weeks ago a friend of mine told me that he was going and invited me to tag along. So I filled out the application and sent in my deposit and yesterday I spoke to the guy heading it up as he told me I was going to be part of the group.
Cuba is a fascinating place. Many think that the old cars you see in pictures are collections of classic cars, but they are not. They are the last cars from America that were ever sold in Cuba and to many, the last cars they were able to buy. Cuba is a very poor country, but so beautiful. The people are amazingly friendly and warm and their hospitality is unforgettable. Even the government officials that I met there were friendly and although extremely professional, they were not rude, but rather very likable.
We will be helping to build a seminary while we are there and helping to encourage the church leaders. My feeling is that we are probably going to be the ones who are encouraged. When I came back from my last trip I was filled with joy and re-energized to do ministry here.
So I am asking for people to pray for us as we prepare for this trip. Pray for our safe travels, a smooth passage through customs on both sides, and for lives to be changed because of the unique opportunity to meet fellow believers in a country that many Americans don’t get to travel to. I am also going to be asking for donations to help cover the costs. If you were to feel led to donate you can give through our church website, http://www.thebodylive.com/onlinegiving.html and just be sure to note that it is for the Cuba trip. That way your gift will be tax-deductible.
I told you that God keeps blowing my mind with the things He is doing in my life. It is hard to express the joy that I feel. I am even blown away by the fact that He lets me blog and people really read it.
Thanks!

March 21, 2012

21 March, 2012 17:07

by pastortimfowler

I have been overwhelmed in the last few days by how awesome God is. I wanted to share some of the things God is doing with you. Many of you have heard about my friend in the Philippians and how he struggles from day-to-day to get the supplies that he needs to stay healthy and do the ministry that he does. Our church collected money a few times to send and he is very humble and grateful for what we did. The last money we sent was for him to buy Bibles so that he could teach his people not just the Bible, but English as well. The Bible has both his native language, Tagalog, and English side by side. He just posted some pictures of the Bibles and the people who were receiving them and it blew me away. The joy on their faces was priceless. When I saw them, God filled my heart with overwhelming joy as if He was saying, “well done”. Sure it may not sound like the awesome experience that I started off saying it was, but look at the pictures for yourself on our church Facebook page. (The Body~A Church for Anybody)
Years ago I got the experience of a lifetime when I got to go to Cuba on a mission trip. I thought that I would never get to go back, but just last week a friend sent me an invite to go with him in June of this year. Immediately I began to pray and ask God if He wanted me to go. I can’t explain the feeling of peace mixed with excitement that filled my heart. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit and is often God’s way of telling us to go or do. Then last night I dreamed that I was there seeing the friends I had met the first time I went to Cuba and we were building their new seminary building. Most of my dreams are usually weird and senseless, it may have something to do with my past drug and alcohol abuse. But from time to time when I need to have clarity about what God is saying, I have dreamed things like this. I woke up this morning knowing that I was meant to go. So I have filled out the necessary paper work and sent in my deposit.
For the last several months our church has been hearing and learning about missions and outreach. My church is an incredible place filled with people who really love God and want to love others so that they may experience the love of God. We have been doing things to reach outside our church walls and have felt as if there was still something more that we could do for our community. So as I go to the mailbox yesterday and there is an invite to meet with another pastor and old friend of mine who is launching an incredible ministry in our town that is perfect for our church to get involved in. I won’t go into the details, but it is all about getting personally involve in helping others who are in need. It goes way beyond soup kitchens and rescue missions and fills a void that is often overlooked as churches and these type ministries try to help others. The timing of this could not have been planned any better if I had tried. It coordinates perfectly with what I have been teaching and our church has been wanting to do.
Jesus said that we are to go into all the world and share the good news. Sometimes it means taking a flight to a place like Cuba or sending Bibles to the Philippians. Sometimes it means getting involved with a local outreach to help those in need. Sometimes it means we can help others go because we can’t. And most importantly, it means that we can pray for the love of Jesus to guide our own lives every day so that the salvation and love of God is taken everywhere we go or send it in His name.

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