2015 Ecuador

Previously Jorge and Bert were with Alcivar, who just became a new believer. Then his brother was injured in the mine collapse. Bert went to the hospital to pray for him and he, too, asked Jesus to be his Savior. Please pray for his healing. James  5:13-16: "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Thank you to all who prayed for John's healing from the Lord. Your prayers were answered! Chief Ramiro is pictured with his firefighters.19Farewell hug between Bert and Chief Ramiro     Joe Lindaman and Pat Stilson had the privilege of baptizing Christian, who the team nick-named Turbo. Pedro on the right is one of the firefighters, who asked to be baptized.26     Don't miss reading about Fred from Germany in Dan's blog. Chief Ramiro closed the farewell ceremony with prayer.  <>18 - 18

 

October 24, 2015

 

This is our travel day home and we started with a light breakfast before devotions. Jorge led this morning and started with how special this trip was for him. If I failed to mention previously, his family is from Ecuador. His message was primarily about God's faithfulness (in spite of our oftentimes lack thereof). He read from Proverbs 20:6, "Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man?" We know every good thing in our life all comes back to God. He gives us the faith to believe in the first place. Jorge acknowledged some limitations due to significant pain in his knees and appreciated everyone stepping it up to help out. He was really blown away with this trip, not only because of everything God had done, but to see God's hand at work in his family's home country. He also read from Hebrews 10:23, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful." And another about God's faithfulness, Psalms 89:8, "O LORD God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O LORD? Your faithfulness also surrounds You." And lastly, from Isaiah 25:1, "O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth." He was especially blessed last night to see Chief Ramiro close out last night’s ceremony with prayer. All the firefighter students and instructors formed a large square, interlocked arms over shoulders, and Chief Ramiro prayed.

 

Others commented on the highlights of this trip for them:

 

Joe: One of the firefighters that got baptized yesterday (Miguel) asked if it would be ok if he started a Bible study.

 

Dave: We had a vision of what we want to see on this trip, but the Lord always does so much more.

 

Rick: Had traveled to many third world countries for vacation or with church camps, but nothing has ever been like this. The firefighter connection is huge. This trip is like an evangelism boot camp.

 

Jorge: Had been approached by some of the firefighters who said they have had other fire departments come here before for training but they went through some classroom training and socialized at night. You care. You work hard, we feel your love, and we know you care about us.  We've heard this many times before. On a similar trip Panama, one chief commented that he wanted nothing to do with Christians; but after a week with us gave his life to Jesus.

 

Ernie: The day he met Claudio he knew this was of the Lord. With all the riches (gold) taken from this area, the people still live humble conditions. Jesus said, "The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor... (Luke 4:18). In spite of the many obstacles in arranging this trip, God has been faithful.

 

Jose: I know this trip was meant to be. The way the (recall) numbers lined up, I happened to be working the day that Joe came by the station and asked if he wanted to go on this trip. The follow up phone call from Joe sealed the deal and he was in. He was very touched at how we accepted him and blessed to be part of this team.

 

There were so many other side stories, some of which I never wrote:

 

-   meeting a retired A/C at LAX, a good friend of John's

- another lady at LAX, who saw our shirt logo and asked about our group—Her dad was a retired LAFD firefighter.

- another lady at a mango stand on the road to Portovelo—Orlando witnessed to her and she opened up immediately, telling him of some family hardships (drug use issues). He (with a group of us) prayed for her and she wept in tears. She was given a Gospel of John and very thankful for the gift and prayer.

- Fred (and Eric), mentioned before, and the many conversations that took place—Both are former atheists, and I believe Fred now has a new faith in Christ.

- the waitress at a Chinese restaurant, who was given a Gospel of John and asked to read 3:16—This was the first time she had ever heard these words. She was beaming and wanted to read more.

- the owner of the hotel— Orlando had lengthly conversations with him every day. He was not offended the least, but wanted to know more. He was up and ready to see us off as we left.

- the hospital visit with the injured miner who gave his life to Jesus and the attitude of our class who took a knee to pray for him, and that God spared his life

- the applicability of each day’s devotion—God-inspired and put into practice

- the weather—It had rained every day for weeks before we got here, but we only had a light sprinkle on one afternoon.

- the interaction of Bert and the firefighters and their daily devotions—We are accepted and they know who we are...They know that proclaiming Christ is what we do.

- continued relationships as we leave via FaceBook or email.

- the servant's heart of Chief Ramiro, seen in action daily

 

There are almost too many things to mention—all in five days of training and four days in travel.

 

Our motto, "Just show up" implies that God has already prepared the way. When Jesus said, "...for without me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) God's Word contrasts that with (Ephesians 3:20,21), "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

 

From here, we packed up, said some more farewells (to Fred and others) and left for about a 4-5 hour drive back to Guayaquil. Chief Ramiro accompanied us the entire trip, (and had to return again after dropping us off). What a servant! Continue to pray for Ecuador...God is doing a mighty work!

 

October 23, 2015

 

It was good to see John up for morning devotions. Rick led this morning and read from James 5:13-16, "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." He chose this passage to encourage this group...some were starting to feel ill, and he could only imagine that because of what we were doing we must be a target on satan's list. He kind of had an outsider’s view of this FFC team. He had done a lot of international travel - for vacations or sightseeing, and had participated in several church outreaches or camps, but this was his first mission trip with us, and first trip like this ever. He was amazed how we took God at his Word. "Is anyone sick?"  John is sick. What did you do? You laid hands on him and prayed. "The prayer of faith will heal the sick." His favorite part is verse 16, "... The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." Fervent...when your knees buckle under the pressure and you cry out to God.

 

This morning as we were leaving the lobby of the hotel, Fred (Eric's German friend mentioned in a previous blog) met us in the lobby and asked if we would take a group picture with him. The other day Orlando met him in the lobby and prayed for him. He said that was the first time in his life that anyone had ever prayed for him, and that day was a turning point in his life. He downloaded a German Bible app on his phone and has been reading it every day. He wanted a picture of us to remember our group and that special day.

 

At the training site we explained the days activities and they broke up into groups that would be demonstrating what they had learned. The brush group kicked it off first and they put on a great show. It is amazing what they can learn in only one real day of training. They had a team demonstrating cutting line, and other groups doing shovel work on line fire, simulated spot fires/tree fires, and demonstrated how to make a field stretcher and carry out a downed firefighter. We ended that demo with a bon-fire and group picture. This is usually the finale but for more efficient travel, we started with the brush demo. We then made our way to the Auto Extrication site.

 

Before that demo started, Alcivar (whose brother was injured in the mine yesterday) received word that his brother was not doing well, and that his family was being called to the hospital (a common practice when one is not expected to live). He left, but while he was arranging a ride, Bert prayed. Everyone instantly, and without prompting, took to their knees. Bert then left with him to go to the hospital about 20 minutes away. He met with his brother, prayed for his healing, and shared the gospel with him. He prayed to receive Jesus. Alcivar then rode in an ambulance with him to a larger hospital in Machala for more advanced care - he reportedly has internal bleeding, among other injuries.

 

Alcivar, once a miner himself, had a similar accident involving a collapse. Because of that incident he is no longer a miner. There are about 70 mine rescues per year in Portovelo...and this is one of the safer operations in the area. In the southern Provence of El Oro, the fire personnel I talked to estimated about 400 deaths from mining accidents per year.

 

The Auto Extrication group continued with their demo on a couple different props using the tools we donated to cut, lift, push, and pull vehicles for various rescue uses. The Swift Water group did their demo at the training site without water, but gave a visual of the rope-work and rescue operation in a simulated river.

 

We then regrouped in the multi-use area for closing words. John shared the gospel and led them in prayer. All but about 4-5 stood, indicating they were making a decision to follow Christ.  It's hard to really know who are first-time believers, because I had witnessed a couple of those who stood praying with Bert a day or two earlier, but, the response to the gospel was amazing!  John mentioned that if anyone wanted to be baptized, making a public confession of their new faith in Christ, we could do it afterwards. We finished the meeting and some went to dress-down for baptism. We baptized Miguel, Diego, Pedro, Willman, Christian (we nick-named Turbo), and Fernando.

 

Many pictures and gifts were exchanged, then they called us back together for a send-off for Bert. He needed to leave and take an earlier flight home so he could be back for church Sunday.  It was quite a send-off and started with them loudly chanting, "Bertine, Bertine, Bertine...."  There were some heartfelt speeches, gifts, and music. One of the firefighters was a singer and wrote a Christian rap song that was apparently well known. He got up and sang. Everyone else was clapping and loudly cheering him on. Bert left with a big hug from just about everyone, and both he and Chief Ramiro were a bit teary-eyed as they embraced and said their farewells.

 

We returned to the hotel to start packing for tomorrow and change into our travel attire for the official evening ceremony. There was quite a bit of planning involved on their part. Fire Chiefs from several jurisdictions, city officials, Claudio (who initiated the apparatus donation idea), and representatives from Del Monte (who provided shipping) were there. Along with the firefighters, some of their families, and a local dance-group of boys and girls dressed in traditional attire representing the different regions of Ecuador. They performed a dance routine for us. The almost three hour event included a song (the firefighters anthem), speeches, gifts/awards, a dance exhibition from the dance-group, and then some of the female firefighters drug a few of us to the floor for a dance. It was quite a ceremony. It ended with a barbecue dinner and a huge cake decorated with the FFC logo on top. We then began saying our farewells to those leaving and then returned to the hotel.

 

We got back to the hotel very late, exhausted from the long day. Fred and Eric were in the lobby again (the only place for internet). I told Fred that I heard he was reading the Bible and asked how it was going. He said yes, but he was having a hard time with all the names (...the son of so-and-so, who was the son of...). I thought maybe he was reading from Matthew, but he mentioned he was on page 75. He was reading Genesis. I re-directed him to start in John and continue from there. He is definitely eager to learn of his new faith. I also gave him Steffen's email so he could help him with any questions in his own language. He is new to Ecuador and trying to learn both Spanish and English at the same time.

 

The next morning Fred again met us in the Lobby, wanting to see us off. He very politely asked if it were possible for him to get an FFC T-shirt. I happened to have one left in my daypack and figured it would be right gift for him to remember this past few days together. His eyes lit up as he received this gift and we said our good-byes. For us, he just may be that Ethiopian eunuch Bert spoke about in our first devotion (Acts 8). He wasn't the goal or focus of our mission trip, but God led Ernie, Orlando, and a few others to reach out to him, and his life is changed as a result.

 

October 22, 2015

 

John is not feeling well this morning. He skipped our morning devotion to sleep in and rest up for tomorrow. Need to keep him in prayer.

 

Pat spoke this morning and had a message prepared titled, 'Three Beds and a German Lad'.

He based this upon Mark 8:34-38 and focused on the importance of relationships. You may be thinking, "O.K., What's the 'Three Beds and a German Lad' all about?" Well, you aren't alone.  He went on to explain that the three worst beds he's ever slept in were connected with significant relationships and ministry.

 

In the 80's, he and Joe were helping to deliver a church bus to a small village in the Mexicali Valley. There were lots of bugs, which made sleeping nearly impossible, but that trip helped to develop a relationship with the Pena family that still exists today. A trip to Haiti meant sleeping on a hard tile floor at a small airport for one night, and several other nights being awaken by bug bites and earthquake aftershocks. This resulted in helping build a relationship with Ronnie (who has become like a son to John). On an FFC scouting trip to Panama, he slept in some oily, dirty beds after taking a ponga boat ride to San Miguel - a small island off the Pacific Coast. That trip helped to deepen our relationship with Bert. On a trip to Germany, Pat thought he would be ministering to firefighters, but ended up spending a lot of time with the son of a firefighter named Jeremias. They kept in touch and on a return trip to Germany; Jeremias gave his heart to the Lord. They still stay connected every other week or so via Face Time.

 

Pat said that he's not really known as the trainer-type guy, or leader of large groups, he's more of the planner/organizer. But his strongest asset is his ability to make and build relationships.  Everyone has a place in ministry. You may not be an evangelist, but be content and use the gift you are given. These trips are about the Gospel and relationships. We need to be thinking one-on-one, and for "each one to reach one".

 

Today was another good day of training—pretty much the same, just another group to work with.  After lunch, I could see Bert sitting down in prayer with another firefighter. I asked him later what that was about. He said that a couple firefighters came up to him and said that something was wrong with their buddy. He was weeping this morning as Bert was teaching and hasn't been himself since. Bert sat down with this firefighter and asked if he was O.K. Bert's message this morning had convicted him and he confided in Bert some personal issues. That's when I walked by as they were praying. God is really moving here.

 

The weather has been great—very comfortable. Today was a little cloudy with increased humidity, and we got a very light sprinkle of rain this afternoon. My group in Swift Water was cut in half when the Potovelo guys took off emergency to an incident. There was an accident at one of the mines and five miners were missing. We've been hearing dynamite detonating everyday, as there is a lot of mining activity in the area. As they took off to this mining incident, I started asking those who remained, "Who does the rescue work in the mine, the miners, or the firefighters? "  The firefighters said they go in together with the miners, because the miners know the mine, but they end up doing the rescue work—pretty scary stuff. We heard just before dinner that they had found four (three hospitalized, one non-transport) but the fifth miner was dead.

 

When we got back to the hotel, we found out that John had spent most of the day in bed. He was hoping to rest up and feel better, but no real change. He is trusting God to get him up to deliver the gospel tomorrow, and then maybe an early flight home.

 

Prayer points:

 

- John's health

- Possible change of flights (for John)

- The gospel message: John (or Bert as back-up)

- Baptism? Some have already requested it

- Wrap-up the class in a.m.: demos of techniques learned

- Wisdom deciding what departments are getting the equipment and smooth transition/delivery

- Evening BBQ and official ceremony with dignitaries

 

October 21, 2015

 

One of our worship songs this morning was "You are my King". I'm printing some of the lyrics because for me they are so moving. Every time I sing them I'm reminded of God's love, forgiveness, and grace to the point that it often brings tears to my eyes. Read and let the words soak in.

 

I’m forgiven because you were forsaken

I'm accepted, You were condemned

I'm alive and well, Your Spirit is within me

Because you died and rose again

 

Amazing love, how can it be?

That you, my King, would die for me

Amazing love, I know it's true

It's my joy to honor you

Amazing love, how can it be?

That my King would die for me

Amazing love I know it's true

It's my joy to honor you

In all I do, I honor you

 

You are my King

Jesus, You are my King

 

A worship song like this sure helps me to put things into proper perspective.

 

This is Darryl's last day with us, as he needs to leave tonight. This was my first trip with him although he'd traveled with John on several mission trips in the past. His message was from Ephesians 6:13-18, but we started off by taking turns reading through the entire chapter. He began by recapping the previous devotions we had up to this point and noted that the Holy Spirit is at work in such details as lining up the topics in logical order: Bert - "Fixing our eyes on the mission", John - "What does it mean to ‘Go?’, Bob - "Be courageous", Wade - "Put on His righteousness".

 

Ephesians 6:10 starts with "Finally..." Paul has already carefully established our place in Jesus, then the basics of the Christian walk, now he is preparing the reader for the spiritual battle to come.  "...Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power."  Verse 11: "Put on the full armor of God..." God's armor is complete, lacking nothing. Verse 12 explains why we need this armor. There is a spiritual battle against evil forces in the heavenly realms, attacking faith, marriage, family, etc.  Armor up so that when that day comes you will be able to stand. The armor consists of:

 

Belt of Truth (John 14:6)

Breastplate of Righteousness (Proverbs 11:4)

Foot protection that comes from the Gospel of Peace

Shield of Faith (Hebrews 11:1,6)

Helmet of Salvation

Sword of the Spirit (Hebrews 4:12)

 

And  "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions...for all the saints. " He added, if you are not on the FFC prayer chain, you're missing out. It's phenomenal to hear the hearts of those in need, pray on their behalf, and see the results.

 

We had breakfast this morning at the training center with all the firefighters. Normally, we have been eating breakfast at the hotel and lunch at the training center.  Chief Ramiro had asked if we would eat breakfast with them this morning because he had planned a special meal. (His mom and wife have been preparing all the food for the firefighters (and us for lunch). Breakfast was tilapia, fried rice, fried banana, and juice/coffee. Between students, instructors, and overhead personnel, they must be serving 90-100 plates. And lunch today was shrimp.

 

After breakfast and before we started class, another firefighter came up to Bert for prayer. It's pretty bold for a firefighter to do this in front of his peers and walk away a bit teary-eyed. He prayed to receive Jesus.

 

Today was pretty much the same as yesterday; we just rotate groups of firefighters to different training stations.

 

When I solicited input from the Brush guys, they said that yesterday Jose did all of the classroom teaching while Joe supervised and assisted as needed. Although Jose is the youngest member of the team, and this is his first trip with us, he is bilingual and has some brush experience, so he has been a valuable asset to the team. Wade and Rick spent the morning building a couple training props. After lunch the class went through the training props, learned some shovel techniques, and went to the field and cut 200' of line. Joe ended the day with a brief message sharing his faith. Today sounded pretty much the same.

 

I'll pry some info out of the Auto Extrication guys tomorrow.

 

After lunch today, all the class lined up for some unknown reason. A few chiefs not normally here arrived (one from five hours away!) They asked us to line up perpendicular to the class, so we did...sort of, or at least tried. Then they called Darryl forward and said that they knew he was leaving tomorrow and wanted to present him with a plaque before he left. They had a nice exchange of words, Darryl telling them how this plaque would hang in his office at work reminding him to continue to pray for the firefighters in Ecuador. It was pretty thoughtful to have this little line-up ceremony just for one guy.

 

Prayer points:

 

- Two minor injuries to date, both yesterday: a large bruise on a thigh from a trip/fall on a boulder at the river rescue site and a smashed/swollen thumb at Auto Extrication. Pray nothing serious develops.

- Need to finalize plans for last day’s events. We would like to have them demonstrate what they have learned. We're certain they have some formal ceremony planned but we'd like to have our own farewell with the class before that takes place. John will present the gospel during this time.

- Some firefighters have asked if the can be baptized. Bert will be teaching on this tomorrow during his morning devotion with them. A large spa is right here at the training facility. Pray that it fits into our schedule.

- Pray for wisdom in dividing up the equipment.

 

October 20, 2015

 

Wade led devotions this morning and reminded us of a time we can all relate to...standing in line to get our badge. With it came a new uniform, way of life, and more responsibility. It was certainly a new chapter in life. Even after years of retirement, he still feels the responsibility of being a firefighter. He compared his new life as a firefighter to his new life in Christ and focused his message on Col. 3:12-16, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of the one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God."

 

He backed up a bit and read briefly starting from verse 1. This starts off by contrasting different life-styles, with a focus on things we need to get rid of..."set your hearts on things above... set your minds on things above, not on earthly things....Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature....rid yourselves of all such things as these...take off the old self...put on the new self..."  Starting with verse 12, it focuses more on how we are to live now and he highlighted some key words and referenced pertinent Scripture: Compassion (Matt 9:36), Kindness (Romans 11:22), Humility (Philippians 2:3), Gentleness (Psalms 37:11), Patience (1 Timothy 1:16), Forgiveness (Matthew 6:14,15), and Love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

 

Today was the first day of hands-on training (for the three disciplines we will be teaching). We split up in three different groups: Auto Extrication, Brush/Wildland firefighting, and Swift Water Rescue. My portion is the Swift Water Training, so not only am I a bit biased toward this, it is where all of my day is spent and where I get most of my information. Bert is our translator, and quite honestly, he's done this enough times now he could just teach the class by himself. The morning power-point presentation has all been translated into Spanish so he goes through it with very little input from me. When they ask questions he doesn't even need to translate and ask me, he just answers their questions directly. The class was quick to learn and picked up the manipulative portion well. In the afternoon we took a ride to a river (I think there are 3-4 in/near Portovelo) and did some rescues with floating victims. Those who wanted to get wet did. Chief Ramiro even volunteered to be one of our victims. An elderly couple upstream was watching our operations for a bit, and suddenly the man came floating down waving his arms for help. The team in place went into action - he was thrown a line, pulled to shore, and captured by the rescue team. I guess that counts for their practical exam. Bob closed with a short message tying in today’s training and sharing his faith. We finished the day with a group photo and a little water playtime. We had a great day overall and no injuries to report.

 

I will get more info from the other training stations tomorrow.

 

Prayer points:

 

-   Weather has been great! no rain, not too hot, and a little breeze

- Bert was asked to teach at a home-church group tonight, and also Thursday night

- Need wisdom on how to distribute the donated equipment. We have four sets of Auto-X equipment and four sets of Swift Water gear...and fourteen agencies present.

 

Even Chief Ramiro volunteered to be one of the victims. Dan Rodriguez and Bob Ameche team together as instructors in Swift Water Rescue Training. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.7Jorge Perez said the Auto Extrication group had an awesome day! We look forward to getting pictures from the Brush/Wildland firefighting group tomorrow. The team is praying for Pastor Bert, who is speaking to an evening home group. Praise God for all the doors He is opening to share His powerful Word.Some of these Ecuadorian swift water rescue students were able to throw a line, pull to shore and capture an elderly man, who came floating down the river waving his arms for help.Another Ecuadorian firefighter approached Pastor Bert, asking for prayer. Dan Rodriguez said, "It's pretty bold for a firefighter to do this in front of his peers and walk away a bit teary-eyed. He prayed to receive Jesus."<>7 - 7

 

October 19, 2015

 

Ramiro Camacho, the fire chief of Portovelo, came to our hotel last night and presented us with a gift. He had some T-shirts made with the FFC logo on the front, flags of Ecuador and the U.S. on the shoulders, and the word "INSTRUCTOR" on the back. It was a nicely thought-out gift.

 

Bob led devotions this morning and spoke from 1 Samuel 17:31-52, recapping the story of David and Goliath. When David heard the taunting of this Philistine giant, he expressed his anger and willingness to take on Goliath. Yet, he was met with criticism from his own brother, others around him, and even King Saul. Sometimes when we are ready to take a step of faith, criticism or discouragement can come from family, close friends, or those we work with.  They can stand in our way of ministry. But God often equips us for ministry, prior to sending us out, by experiences we develop in our everyday life. Just like David was prepared to fight Goliath, when as a shepherd he was required to kill a lion and a bear while protecting his sheep. David's focus was not on Goliath, but on God. So often we are too concerned about our reputation. What will others think? Our focus should never be on ourselves but on the Lord. Courage becomes supernatural when our strength comes from the Lord. We are all empowered by the Holy Spirit.  One last though...while on our layover in Miami, my son called and said, "Be safe, and be courageous".

 

Pastor Bert led devotions with the firefighters this morning. He does this about the same time each morning while we are doing ours, and he will be covering sections of the Gospel of Mark.  This morning his message was on the importance of studying God's word.

 

Our reception this first day of training has been phenomenal. John started out the training by handing out a rescue strap and carabiner to each firefighter. This has been our standard gift to all attendees and it has always been appreciated. John covered the many uses of this strap. He is very specific in this training and incorporates many fire stories and personal experiences. He lightens up at the end with a smile and a little humor. I am ever amazed that at 81 years old he continues to do much of this training refusing our help. After many years, I've finally convinced him that we can crawl around on our knees and demonstrate operations almost to his level of expertise, while he talks us through it. We may not do it exactly like he would do it, but we get the idea across. We got to save those knees and get a few more trips out of them. This training took up most of the morning before we broke for lunch.

 

After lunch we divided up into three groups and had the class rotate through some basic firefighting operations. We set up a search and rescue station, an engine company operations, station, and an above-ground hose-line station. It was all manipulative, some technical, but allowed for a bit of old-fashion firefighter humor, as some got a little wet...but we all had fun.

 

After we had wrapped up training and were waiting for our van (which has never been late) one firefighter came up to Pastor Bert. He had asked for prayer a couple times earlier throughout the day, but was always interrupted for one reason or another. This time when he told Bert he needed prayer, they prayed, and he received Christ. He was ready. We witnessed another emotional conversion which left no doubt as to what had just taken place. No sooner than we finished with hugs and congratulations, another firefighter approached us and wanted to talk.  Bert said we needed to hear what he had to say. After receiving a New Testament yesterday and hearing the gospel during church service, he received the Lord. He said the gift of the New Testament was Life, and worth more than $1,000,000 and a trip to the U.S. He said his life of serving others has a whole new meaning now. He went on and on about his new life in Christ and mentioned a couple scriptures he read last night.

 

New believers (spiritual birth) are very much like newborn babies in the physical realm. As new grand parents, my wife and I are amazed at every new coo and grimace of our grandchild. In a similar fashion, I love to see and hear the joy of a newborn babe in Christ. Pray for more.

 

Pray also for:

 

- safety, tomorrow starts hands-on training

- confirmation of a swift water training site; there are two possibilities, but with some safety concerns...rocks, boulders, difficult terrain (trip/fall hazards)

- continued development of relationships

- continued moving of the Holy Spirit

- a Bible-believing church to come alongside these new believers in towns where they live

 

Search and rescue trainingSearch and rescue trainingSearch and rescue trainingFFC's team always begins their mornings with devotions and prayer. Portovelo's Mayor is a wonderful woman and is extremely gracious to FFC's team. The official opening ceremony was well-orchestrated.       Standing with John White is the Chief from Amazon.  Portovelo's Fire Chief Ramiro Camacho is a wonderful host to FFC's team.   Jorge Perez still has family members in Ecuador. He's been especially excited about this outreach and of course knowing their language is an extra bonus.  Jorge and Pastor Bert encourage this new believer in Jesus Christ! Orlando Sanchez has been translating for John White for many years. What a gift he is to FFC's ministry!    Bob Ameche is wearing one of the shirts, which is gift from Portovelo's Fire Chief.  <>21 - 26

 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

 

Last night, as soon as I sent the blog, four of us ended up having a long discussion with Eric, a mining engineer from Germany. This town, and the area surrounding it, has a very active gold mining industry. Their mining boom started about the same time as the gold rush in California, and the industry continues today. Eric moved from Germany to Ecuador 15 years ago and has no intention of ever returning to Germany; he said he doesn't want to have to learn Arabic. That prompted a discussion regarding the spread of Islam and last day events. He said that he used to be an atheist, but now believes in God. We spent quite a while answering some questions, sharing about last days events, and gave Eric a thorough presentation of the gospel. He listened intently, but we learned we weren't the first to share with him. Eric had a couple near-death experiences in his life and a Bible-believing friend of his (who had quite a notorious past) shared the gospel with him on at least a couple occasions. He welcomed our offer of prayer for him, but he wasn't quite ready to commit. He was shown (and read from) the German translation of The Holy Bible app on Orlando's phone, and later loaded that same app on his phone. He's seeking...keep him in prayer.

 

This morning we started devotions with a worship song...an even better way to start the day. John spoke and gave an overview of the history of Firefighters For Christ. To be honest with you, a simple overview of this message just won't do it justice - a book really must be written - but for this blog, I'll condense.

 

FFC started with a couple guys meeting for prayer in an upper room at a fire station.  They had no idea it would ever become an organization like it is today, they just prayed that their buddies would have a relationship with Jesus. They met each shift and prayed, and set their eyes on following Jesus. After all, Jesus so often told his disciples to "Follow Me." His last command in Matthew 28:18-19 was to "...go and make disciples of all nations..." And again in Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

 

Our mission is to know Him, not just know about Him. (Philippians 3:10) Our ministry goal is to encourage firefighters to live their lives for Jesus Christ. We often encounter three types of individuals: those who don't know Jesus, those who are shy about their faith (sort of undercover agents), and those who are fully committed Christians. Our lives should be lived in a manner that pleases God, fully perfected in unity so that those around us will know the Father has sent Jesus. (John 17:21-23) We don't preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Savior.

 

John spoke a bit about having examples to follow. Has been walking with God about 45 years now and has had some excellent examples to follow. Although his dad died when he was 11 years old, John knew he was a godly man. His dad's friends were men such as Dawson Trotman, Dick and Don Hillis, Luis Palau, and other great men of faith at that time. One of John's favorite people in the bible is Caleb...a man who walked with God fully for 45 years. His final example is Jesus, and our encouragement to live like Jesus, because 1 John 4:17b says that ...in this world we are like him (Jesus)". John closed by saying that when you do sin, keep short accounts with God. Confess and ask forgiveness.

 

We left the hotel, went to the training site, and met with most of the students who had come in the day before and had set up camp. If my numbers are close, there are about 60 students representing about 12-15 different departments, primarily from southern Ecuador, with some traveling 4-5 hours to get here. It looks like anyone who has traveled from outside of Portovelo has pitched a tent for the week. The training site is nice. It has a covered, open-air multi-use area with a stage that can be used for large group gatherings, and has a kitchen attached. There is also a very nice pool and large Jacuzzi spa. On the property is a large fishpond and vast open space (for brush training) surrounding the complex. The river that runs through town is not far away and we hope to find a good spot for Swift Water Training.

 

Portovelo Fire arranged breakfast for us and all the students at the training center.  Following breakfast, the multi-use area quickly converted to church seating and we conducted a church service...after all, it is Sunday. It looked as if all the students came and Pastor Bert spoke. He spoke from 1 Peter 1:18-21, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from our forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so our faith and hope are in God." Although I couldn't understand what was said, his passion and message invoked such a positive response from the group. Many came up afterward and really thanked him. Pastor Bert is such a tremendous asset to our team.

 

Next was the official opening ceremony. They played an opening video of a previous FFC training trip (Thank you Lizard) and began with some formal introductions. Present were five fire chiefs from southern Ecuador and the mayor of Portovelo. After the formal ceremony ended, and some of the dignitaries left, we had a less formal introduction of FFC and our team.

 

Lunch followed, then some mingling and pre-planning for tomorrow. One of the firefighters approached Pastor Bert, was touched by his message today, and with obvious sincerity, gave his life to Jesus. And so this trip begins.

 

 

 

Pray:

 

- that relationships continue to develop

- that God's Spirit continues to move

- that our training schedule is efficient and fluid

- for Pastor Bert...as he will be leading devotions with the firefighters each morning

- for a good area for field training with Swift Water and Brush

- for vehicles for Auto Extrication

 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

 

We began our trip yesterday as our team of 14 met early at LAX. Our team represents four different fire departments (Los Angeles County, Los Angeles City, Ventura County, and Oceanside) plus two pastor/minister/translators. We are:

 

 

John White, retired LAFD Captain

Joe Lindaman, retired LA County BC

Ernie Ramirez, LA County AC (translator)

Pat Stilson, retired LAFD Captain

Dan Rodriguez, LAFD Captain

Jorge Perez, LAFD Captain (translator)

Dave Kromka, Ventura County Captain

Bob Ameche, retired Ventura County BC

Darryl Hebert, Fire Chief of Oceanside

Rick Langlotz, retired LA County Captain

Wade Little, retired LA County Captain

Jose Marroquin, LA County FSA, (translator)

Bert Almazan, Senior Pastor, Calvary Chapel Beachside (translator)

Orlando Sanchez, Minister (translator)

 

This trip originated in 2012 at Firehouse World in San Diego when Ernie met Claudio Idrovo, the owner of Multitalleres (a mechanic shop that services fire apparatus for six counties in southern Ecuador). They discussed the possibility of having L.A. County Fire Department donate some fire apparatus to Ecuador. There were many obstacles to making this happen. This required approvals from L.A. County Fire, L.A County Board of Supervisors, The State Department, and the Ecuadorian Consulate, as well as the logistics of transportation. Firefighters For Christ desired to be a part of this, and through prayer and several divine appointments these plans came together.

 

FFC worked with L.A. County Fire and The Friends of Loreto Foundation, a non-profit organization approved by The County to facilitate donations. They facilitated the donation of apparatus, while South Bay Ford provided mechanical modifications to three diesel apparatus preparing them for service in Ecuador. The rigs were equipped with tools and equipment and Del Monte, with the approval of The Port of Hueneme, provided the transportation of ten fire apparatus, valued at $600,000. FFC personnel worked in establishing these contacts and is now providing the personnel for training.

 

We spent all of Friday in travel, from LAX to Miami for a short lay-over, then off to Guayaquil, Ecuador, a large city with a population of about 3,000,000. We spent one night in a hotel and began the next day with our morning devotion.

 

Pastor Bert spoke and his message was, "Don't be too busy that you take your eyes off Jesus."  His message was taken from Acts 8:26, where in the midst of a mighty movement of God, "...an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Go south to the road - the desert road - that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official..."

 

Bert told what led up to this point. The early church in Jerusalem was growing and there was some complaining going on that certain widows weren't being care for properly. The Apostles told the disciples to choose seven Spirit-filled members of the church to care for these needs within the church so that they could focus their time on prayer and ministry of the word. Philip was one of the seven chosen. His ministry was waiting on tables within the church. Then great persecution arose against the church at Jerusalem and all but the Apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Philip ended up in Samaria and preached the word and performed many miraculous signs. So many accepted the Word of God and believed in Christ that Peter and John were sent to Samaria and prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. A mighty work was taking place in Samaria. Even though Philip was the origin of this new church, he was NOT too busy to remain sensitive to God's voice. When God said for him to "Go south..., " he went.  As a result of his obedience to go, an important official from Ethiopia was saved, and the church was spread to Ethiopia.

 

Bert’s message for us was not to get caught up in the training or to be concerned about numbers at all. God may be using us to reach out to that ONE individual, and that just may be His plan.

 

Following devotion, we had an awesome breakfast at the hotel and packed up for travel to Portovelo. Four fire department vehicles met us at 0930 and we were on the road by 10:00 am. Our 4-6 hour drive turned into an eight hour travel day when you factored in a stop for lunch and several other short roadside stops. We arrived in Portovelo about 6:00, settled into our hotel, and met with Claudio and some of the Portovelo firefighters for dinner. Tomorrow we will attend church with some of the firefighters in town and plan out our week of training.