Sunday, March 27, 2011

Puraquequara - PQQ


My wife and I were eating at La Hacienda, a Mexican restaurant in Orange City, Florida when she asked me how to pronounce an entrĂ©e that had too many L's and R's for my fat tongue to roll through. She was disappointed that the smartest man in the world couldn't say it. (I’m affectionately known as the smartest man in the world at home, but that’s another story.)

I said, "Oh yeah, pronounce this," as I wrote on my napkin, "PURAQUEQUARA."

"Purr - a - key..... I don't know." She stuttered.

I said, "In Brazil the R's are like D's in this word and it's pronounced, Puda - Kay - Qua - Da.”

I repeated it and she was amused… for a moment.

When the waiter asked for our orders I said, “She would like Number 7, please.” (Smartest man in the world strikes again!)

After we finished eating, one of the four people across from us got up and asked me, "Excuse me, did you say 'Puraquequara'?"

"WOW!" I said, "You must be with New Tribes Mission."

He was, but now he is a pilot for Wycliffe Associates.

He said, “The man sitting next to me is Dave Sharp. His dad built and named Puraquequara; it's the only place in the world with that name."  PQQ, as the students call it, is a New Tribes Mission’s boarding school for missionary kids. It’s about a thousand miles up the Amazon River, near Manaus.

I said, “Yes, I heard his name when I was in training with New Tribes in Pennsylvania.”

The pilot, Dave Byron said, “My wife grew up at New Tribes in Pennsylvania.”

She was Becky Sanford, daughter of Dick and Lucille Sanford. Her Dad was the northeast representative for New Tribes. Becky was in high school when I was in training there.

Dave Byron said that although he is a pilot, he's been tasked with writing the Crisis Response Plan for the missionaries in Peru.... and he doesn't have a clue where to begin.

Amazing how God used the word ‘Puraquequara’ to bring us together, isn’t it.

I told him that I might know something about that, I'm been a Risk Manager for 17 years and write disaster and crises response plans. I also know an organization of risk managers that are responsible for their faculty and students traveling abroad. I was a member of the University Risk Management and Insurance Association for eight years.

A few weeks later, I met Dave for breakfast in Sanford. We went over a lot of plans I wrote or stole from the Internet and then I hooked him up with Vincent Morris, Risk Manager of Wheaton College. And wouldn’t you know it, Vince was at the annual URMIA conference when I called and was being honored as Risk Manager of the Year. God always sends His best, doesn’t he!

Dave’s experience on the field was the greatest starting point. He just needed help in getting the creative juices flowing. I was just thrilled to see God take the smartest man in the world and allow him to be a servant again for a cause so dear to his heart.

God sure has a great sense of humor, doesn't he!

Puraquequara indeed!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Dad

My Dad

I was married, in college and a soon to be Dad the night I got saved. I couldn’t wait for the weekend to come to drive back home to Sanford to see my family. Mainly, because we stayed with one of our parents, they fed us and always sent us home with a care package of canned food and more utensils.

As soon as I walked in the house I told my mother, “Mom, I got saved.”

She was very happy for me, but it wasn’t a minute before my Dad came into to the room. He walked up to me, got in my face and said, “Boy, I’ve got to put up with that from your Uncle Bill, but this is my house and you can either shut up or leave.”

I just stood there. I couldn’t get over the people that weren’t as excited about me getting saved as I was. I honored my father and shut up. Dad and I continued to do a lot together; he was a jack-of-all-trades, my fishing buddy, but most of all, my Dad.

I moved back to Sanford about a year later and not much had changed in my life. I had a lot of friends, but one couple was special. (With two kids named Punky and Beaver, they had to be.) When I talked to Tom about the Bible, something was different.

It was like when Cleopas and the other disciple that walked with Jesus along the Emmaus Road. They said, “Did not our hearts burn within us as He talked with us by the way, and while He opened up the scriptures?”

My heart began to burn within me. I knew something was wrong, but not why. So, I decided that I wanted to change some of the things I was doing and that I was going to go to church. I was going to say no to “sin” in my life. It was a Wednesday night, and they had a service, so I went, and I went by myself.

Everyone was on one side of the building and the preacher wasn’t on the stage, he was in front with a little pedestal. I sat in back.

After a prayer, a guy raised his hand and said that he needed money to buy a new spark plug for the church lawn mower, “All approve say aye.”

“Aye,” Motion approved.”

Then they sang and the preacher gave a Bible study.

But he didn’t preach, he talked, and others would raise their hand and talk back.

Wow, this was different. After the lesson I raised my hand. “Yes, George?”

“Do you do this every Wednesday night?” I asked.

“Pretty much,” the preacher replied.

I said, “We’ll I like it.”

“Come back next Wednesday, then,” he said.

As I pulled into my driveway, there were two teenagers telling dirty jokes. It reminded me of another one, but I paused and said, “Nope.” Then I got out of the van with my Bible and said, “Sounds like you boys should have been in church tonight.”

"Tonight? We don’t have church on Wednesday,” they said they attended All Souls Catholic around the corner from where I lived on Elm Street.

I pulled a Gospel tract out of my Bible that I found at the church and read it to them. Then I asked, "What do you think, do you want to do that?”

One said no and walked off, the other, named David, said, “Yeah... I’d like to do that.”

Well, I didn’t have a clue what to say next so I asked him to come inside. We sat on the couch and I read the tract to him again and asked, “You still want to do that?”

His eyes were getting red and he almost whispered, “Yeah, I do.”

I still had no clue what to say or do next. I was laying in bed when I got saved so I said, “Come on, let’s go in the bed room!” We sat on the edge of the bed, David had his head down in his hands and I could hear his tears dropping on the carpet. I said, “Just a minute.”

I turned to the side and said, “Lord, I don’t know what to do!”

I didn’t hear a voice or anything, but it was like, “Thank you, let me do this.”

I felt a sweet peace and turned to David and said, “Just say, ‘Lord help me to pray' and tell Him what you want to do.”

He did, he prayed, and it was sweet, and just like when I got saved, he got real happy about it. I went into the kitchen and called the preacher. I said, “This boy just got saved, tell him what he did,” and handed the phone to David.

While David was on the phone I looked down and saw a pack of cigarettes in my pocket. I was embarrassed. I snuck them out and hid them in the bottom of the trash can. I was ashamed that David might see them. The strange thing was I just sat through a church service with them in my pocket and lit one up in the parking lot as I was driving off. Didn’t bother me a bit.

Even though I had been saved a few years, I did not know that the Holy Spirit lived in me. And when I started saying “No” to what I wanted to do, His presence became real. He was there all the time, longing to have a relationship with me.

Almost thirteen years later, I went over to pick my Dad up to go fishing. It was 5:30 in the morning and he always had breakfast ready when I got there. I walked into the kitchen, breakfast was ready, but Dad was back in his den.

He came into the room, slowly, and with his usual limp on his right side. He held up a little red booklet and said, “Hey boy, I did that.”

As I walked over to see what it was, he reached out and handed it to me. It was only 2 by 2 ½ inches, but the title stood out like BOX CAR letters! It read: Personal Bible, Verses of Comfort, Assurance and Salvation.

Dad reached over and flipped to the back pages where his name was signed at the bottom of a prayer that read, “God be merciful to me a sinner! I believe Christ died for me and that His Precious blood will cleanse me from all my sin. By faith I now receive the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart as my Lord and Savior; trusting Him for the salvation of my soul. Help me Lord to do thy will each day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen”

He wrote in the margin around that prayer, “3-11-79 Born-Again Praise the Lord.”

Dad was 58 years old when he was “born again.” A Methodist preacher from Tampa held a revival at my Dad’s church and Dad went and knelt at the altar the night before.

My Dad died when he was 80. Like you, I get excited when I read, “Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you… so that where I am there you may be also.”

Every time I see the sun gleaming through a huge cloud in the eastern sky, I think, “Wow, now would be good time!”

I want to be alive to hear the Shout and the sound of the trumpet as we meet our Lord in the air! But, as I walk by those Jasper walls and along the River of Life, the next sound I want to hear is, “Hey, boy!” And I will, because someone shared the Gospel story with my Dad and he was ready to listen.