Grace and Peace Tour – Part 3

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Grace and Peace Tour – Part 3

Eph 1:2 Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Last week we ended the review of our tour as we were about to leave Perth, Western Australia, for Bahrain. We were going there to meet with our beloved brother and sister in Christ, Ron and Mae Pasaporte. What an experience lay ahead of us there in Bahrain! Ron and Mae live in Saudi Arabia, but because of the oppression of sharia in that country, Ron decided to meet with us in Bahrain, a far more ‘moderate’ little island nation just off the coast of Saudi Arabia. There is a man-made causeway from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, and the poor repressed Saudi’s use Bahrain as their Las Vegas of the middle east to get away from the restrictions of sharia on the weekends.

Bahrain’s population is mostly in the northern half of the island, and that is where Ron and Mae met us at the airport in his car and took us to our hotel. Ron had rented a suite on the fourteenth floor which was large enough to accommodate his family and Sandi and me. We arrived on Friday afternoon, at the end of the Muslim Sabbath. It was an incredible night of festivities, and we listened to blaring horns and motorcycles revving their engines until at least 2 A.M. We were on the 14th floor, but the sound came right up to us. Saudis like to party after a long Sabbath day.

The next couple of days were all planned out by Ron and Mae, and it was both exciting and educational for us. Our first day Ron and Mae took us to the state museum where we learned about the history of the island, which long ago was known as the kingdom of Dilum.

The next day Ron took us through every part of the city you can imagine. We spent time in the Gold Suhk, a huge complex of many gold vendors, who were selling gold watches, gold necklaces, gold bracelets, earrings, rings, etc. I have never seen so much gold in one place in my life. We went from there on a tour of the spice markets, the produce markets, and the garment and fabric markets. There were so many vendors with so many colors of fabrics. There were gowns and blouses of every color, yet you seldom saw women in public wearing anything but black. Most all women, even in ‘liberal’ Bahrain, cover their entire bodies, including their faces. I saw many who even covered their eyes with a veil.

The restriction of sharia on society was something we had not experienced anywhere else in the world. Ron drove us through the extremely narrow streets where we actually had to back up to let some cars go by. But in spite of the crowded conditions people seemed to get along with each other. None of us speak Arabic, and there was really very little opportunity for interaction with the people of Bahrain.

One afternoon we ate at a native family restaurant. It was quite an experience. Only men were allowed to dine on the main lower floor. Women and families had to enter the restaurant by a side alley and go upstairs. Each family had a little semi-private room in which to dine, and the guests were free to pick a room with a table and benches, or they could eat seated on the floor. The family in the room adjacent to ours, were seated on the floor with their legs crossed and the food was on plastic sheets in the middle of the little room. Ron picked for us a room with a table with benches on each side. The table was covered with thin transparent plastic, and the food was served on plates which we all shared. It was a very good dining experience for which Sandi and I were most grateful.

It seemed that everywhere we ate, Ron discovered that those who were serving us were Filipinos. The girls who worked at the hotel restaurant were from the Philippines as well, and it was good to have a host who always seemed to have an in with those who were serving us our meals.

One day Ron took us out to see the camel ranch belonging to the prince who was the son of the ruler of Bahrain. We were privileged to get to pet the camels. Our guide took us across the wide facility to where there was a baby camel which we were free to pet. Then he gave us some hay to feed the mother camel and all the camels in the adjacent lot. Eventually we went back to the entrance where we found that we had missed the deadline for being given complimentary fresh camel’s milk. Even though we had missed the deadline to even be there, much less get some complimentary camel’s milk, Ron talked the guards into letting us take the tour, and then he talked them into going into the cooler and getting us some camel’s milk. Camel’s milk tastes like cow’s milk to me.

I think it was the day before we had to fly out of Bahrain to Nairobi that Ron had arranged for us to tour the largest Mosque in Bahrain. What an experience that was, to enter such a huge facility and to know just how opposed to the Christ of the New Testament were these people. Before we could begin our tour, our wives were required to don black robes and to cover their heads. Ron and I could have worn the white robes Muslim men are required to wear, but it was not required of us, and we did not do so. Our tour guide was a very well-read Egyptian Muslim woman who appeared to be in her fifties. She spoke American English fluently, and we found out later, she is married to an American. I am always struck by the frankness with which so many Muslims speak and answer your questions. There is little or no political correctness within that community. They let you know up front that they think Christians are hypocritical, corrupt idol worshipers who must be converted to Islam.

Our guide made it very clear that being faithful to pray and going to the Mosque on a regular basis would give one more “points” with Allah, to use her own words. This lady went out of her way to attack the doctrine of the trinity right from the beginning of her ‘tour’ which seemed more like an attempt to convert her guests than a mere tour of the mosque. She was completely nonplussed and puzzled when I agreed with her that the doctrine of the trinity was heresy.

Since she had solicited questions from her audience, I had to ask a couple of questions I have always wondered about. My first question was, “If Christ were born of a virgin, as Islam concedes, how could Mohamed be placed above a prophet who was conceived of the holy spirit?” She had a ready answer, which is always the case when speaking with heretics. Her answer was that both Adam and Christ were without a physical father, and that Christ was conceived of a virgin but, according to Mohamed, Christ was not the Son of God, and Christ was not raised from the dead. This is definitely what the apostle Paul called “another Jesus”, and this is what Paul warns us about such a doctrine:

2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
2Co 11:4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

But that was exactly what happened while the apostles were yet alive:

Gal 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Gal 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

At the very mention of the name of the apostle Paul, our guide made it very clear, and these are her words, “We Muslims hate the apostle Paul.” The truth is that many Christians also hate the apostle Paul because he was the apostle the holy spirit inspired to deal with so many different subjects, one of which is the abomination of homosexuality (Rom 1:26-27). Because Paul was faithful to the mind of Christ on that most basic subject, he is hated of many Christians. Though the Muslims agree with Paul on that subject, when I asked our host why they hate Paul she retorted, “Because Paul did away with the law.” I had no interest in casting Christ’s pearls before swine, so I did not attempt to explain that “the law of the spirit” raised the bar far above the law of Moses, by which Muslims live and call it sharia, which is simply Arabic for ‘law’.

Our last day with Ron and Mae was the day we put our luggage into their car and traveled to the southern tip of the Island of Bahrain, past much barren landscape dotted with many oil wells, to see one lone tree atop a small hill, which is the highest point in that area. This tree is said to be over four hundred years old, and it is called ‘the tree of life’. After taking our pictures there at the ‘tree of life’, we went down to the district with the most exclusive homes on the island, only to be denied entry. But it was meant to be because we had just enough time to get to the airport to catch our flight out of Bahrain and down to Nairobi. At the airport we had a pizza dinner with the Pasaporte family and enjoyed a few minutes of fellowship before having to say goodbye to our brother and sister who had given us the time of our life in Bahrain. Thank you, Ron and Mae! “As you have done it unto one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto Me” (Mat 25:40).

Our flight to Nairobi was at night, and we got very little sleep, but seeing our brother George Mwaboli and his wife Judith and their family the next morning was very invigorating. What an incredible blessing it was to meet Jesus of Nazareth in Nairobi, Kenya! We took a taxi to our hotel where we made arrangements to get a shower and a nap before meeting George and Judith and their two boys and their little girl for lunch.

While waiting in the lobby for George and Judith, Sandi was browsing the hotel’s tiny gift shop. I had sat down in the lobby when a lady asked me if she was hearing an American accent from me and Sandi. I said, yes, and she asked me what brought us to Kenya. I told her of our internet ministry and our friends who were coming to have lunch with us. She asked me what I thought of Kenya, and I told her we had just arrived but that I was looking forward to trying some of the Kenyan mangoes I had seen on trees and in the markets as we were coming to the hotel. She told me she had to keep an appointment, but she would be back later in the afternoon with some mangoes. Sandi had finished her browsing, and I introduced her to ‘Mary’, who gave us her name at that moment. I really did not expect to ever see this woman again.

Shortly after Mary left, George and Judith arrived for lunch. We had a wonderful time of fellowship, and then we all went up to our room to continue our fellowship. I was sharing some very meaty doctrines with our brother George and with Judith, when the hotel desk called telling me we had a guest waiting in the lobby. Lo and behold, the woman I thought we would never see again was there in the lobby with a bag full of large Kenyan mangoes. I invited her up to our room where I told her we were discussing some very deep spiritual principles and doctrines. To make this story a little shorter, we simply continued our discussion, and Mary was given a witness of the mercy and of the judgments of God which will bring all men to repentance “though as by fire” (1Co 3:15).

As dinner time approached we all went down and ate on the outside tables of the restaurant with George and Judith and Mary. After dinner Mary had to leave, but she assured us she would be back the next day. George and I agreed to meet for lunch the next day, and Sandi and I returned to our room for some much needed rest.

The next day George and Judith returned at lunch time as we had agreed. While we were eating lunch a sister with a big smile and a beaming personality came to our table and introduced herself as Priscilla Gikaru. Priscilla had just recently joined the body e-mail list, so at least I was familiar with her name, but what a blessing it was to meet another part of the body of Christ face to face. But there was another surprise for us in just a few more minutes. While we were fellowshipping with Priscilla and George and Judith, and enjoying a delicious lunch, our waitress came over and whispered something in George’s ear. Sandi, Judith, Priscilla and I continued our fellowship while George got up and went over to another table to talk to a man there. I just assumed it had to do with George’s work, but when George returned to our table, he told me that man he had talked with told him he had been reading the site for years and said the man had asked if he could join us. I think you know what was my answer to that question.

That was when we all got to meet Nicholas Ondari. He came over and introduced himself, and as we all got to know each other we all discovered that Nicholas was the cofounder of a very large church in Nairobi, and to the surprise of us all, it was the very same church Priscilla had attended before the Lord called her out of Babylon. Nicholas and Priscilla had never met each other, but they discovered they had many mutual acquaintances in that church. God had ordained that they would not meet each other until that very day. Nicholas had come to realize the corruption that is Babylon, and when he had spoken out about it, he soon found himself on the outside, but many people had come out of that church with him. In time, as Nicholas began to see and teach more of the truths of scripture, his little group became smaller and smaller until there were only 12-15 people who were still coming together to get to know the mind of God.

It was a very encouraging blessing to discover there really are others who are out there in the world with whom the holy spirit is working a great work though we may know nothing of what the Lord is doing. This whole story was to be repeated in and through another brother we had never met or heard of in Ghana just about a month later. But I am getting ahead of myself.

After our lunch, Nicholas and Priscilla had to leave us. We had eaten a late lunch and our fellowship had lasted until the restaurant was gearing up for dinner. Sandi and I had to leave for Nairobi the next morning so we said our goodbyes to Nicholas and Priscilla, and spent another half hour in our room with George and Judith before saying goodbye to them. Just as we were settling in for the night we got another call from the hotel desk telling us a woman named Mary was asking for us. It was a great pleasure being with Mary and hearing her story. She had been listening closely earlier because her question to me was did I think that the crushing she had already endured was enough to be considered the ‘fiery trials’ Peter spoke of (1Pe 4:12). I told her the trials she had already endured were indeed part of the fiery trials Peter spoke of but that our trials do not come to an end in this age, or Christ would not have said “He that endures to the end shall be saved” (Mat 10:22). Mary gave us her phone number as she had no other means of contact not having a computer. Sandi passed that number on to George, and I am happy to report that I got an e-mail from George informing me and Sandi that he was in touch with Mary, and they intend to continue fellowshipping. Keep these, your own body, in your prayers.

The next morning we said goodbye to Kenya and flew down to Johannesburg, South Africa, where we were met at the airport by Benson Murithi, who took us to his home where we spent the next three days. Benson and his wife Susan and their little son Harman were our hosts. Later that day we were joined by Desre Heunis, who drove four hours to be with us. We were also joined by Mcebisi Tugana and Thobile Leeu. Our first days was spent sharing each others’ stories and the struggles we all endured being dragged to Christ. The details differ greatly, but truly “there is one event to all” (Ecc 9:2).

The following day Benson and Susan took us to a large mall where Susan had a store. She then guided us to a steakhouse in the mall where we had a very memorable meal. We returned to Benson’s home where we were later treated to a traditional South African meal prepared by Susan.

Desre and Benson, Mcebisi and Thobile all traded contact information with each other before Benson took us to the airport the next morning to catch our flight to Capetown to spend the next three weeks with Pete and Ronel, in Franschhoek, an hour north of Johannesburg . Larry and Lyndell came up on the weekends, and we had the time of our lives being entertained by and singing with Larry and Lyndell.

We were met at the Cape Town Airport by Pete, Larry and Lyndell. What an incredible blessing to see Larry and Lyndell again for the first time since our conference in Alcester, England in, I think it was 2012. We were to be blessed in their presence several times while staying with Pete and Ronel. Sandi and I are grateful to Pete and Ronel for making our time in South Africa a blessing beyond our wildest dreams. I cannot spend a lot of time on all the places we went to, all the unique experiences we were afforded by Ronel’s connections and her winning personality at the many wineries and olive oil processing plants we visited, as well as the many unique outlets and unique stores and restaurants Ronel took us to see and experience.

I will mention just a few of those experiences, and then I want to concentrate on the people we were granted to meet and to whom we were sent as the ambassadors of Christ to this world:

2Co 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

On one occasion Ronel took us to see the largest winery south of the equator. I cannot imagine a larger one. It was massive, but then there are many thousands of acres of grapes in the south cape of Africa. Right next to this huge complex was an olive oil pressing facility. Though it was late and past time for tours of this facility, Ronel was able to get the people who were in charge to let us see how the olives were pressed and processed. It was but one of many such blessings for which Sandi and I will always be grateful.

One of the most enjoyable things from my perspective were the hikes Pete and I took. We hiked to the top of the ridge of the mountains seen outside Pete’s back door. We foolishly phoned our wives who stayed home and asked them to come out and see if they could see us. We later realized what an impossibility that would have been at that distance without a very good set of binoculars.

We spent time in a resort town called Hermanus, on our way down to a wildlife refuge. Pete and Ronel has spent some time in Hermanus while looking for a home and while waiting for their belongings to arrive via boat from the U.S. Pete was familiar with the hiking trails around Hermanus, and he took me up to the dams in the mountains above Hermanus. These were the source of the water for that town, and it seemed impossible that so much water can come out of mountains that are basically solid rock, but there they were, three dams in a single gorge. We climbed down the interior part of the first dam to see more clearly where a side stream was coming from. From the top of the dam the water appeared to be coming right out of the side of a solid rock cliff, and as close as we were able to get, it still appeared that way. We went on up to the next dam before returning home with a bouquet of the many different brightly colored flowers for our wives.

The next day we drove south to the game reserve where Pete and Ronel had rented little round cabins with thatched roofs with air conditioning and all the modern comforts of life. Our cottages were on a hillside behind the main complex which housed the bar and the restaurant where all the guests were fed at an all-you-can-eat buffet where you could got your steak, pork, lamb, and other more exotic meats, like wild hog and ostrich meat, cooked to order. We got up early in the morning for breakfast, followed by a tour of the several thousand-acre game reserve where high electrically reinforced fences kept the lions and elephants away from the many antelope, water buffalo and giraffes. We saw rhinos, hippos and cheetahs very close up. God has made some incredible beasts!

The final and most exciting time of all at the game preserve was when we were taken by the man who cares for the elephants to the barn in which the elephants willingly came to spend each night. It was here that we got to feed the elephants who would let us put a double handful of hay in pellet form in the end of the elephant’s trunk. It amazed me how wide the end of an elephant’s trunk is. It must be about eight inches (20.32 centimeters). An elephant’s trunk has literally thousands of muscles and can expand and contract to the extent that it serves as both arms and hands for the elephant. Again, one has to wonder what the poor elephants did for millions of years while they were waiting for their trunks to develop all those thousands of muscles? I speak as a very foolish man.

Larry and Lyndell took us on a tour of the environs of Capetown. We had lunch at a Malay restaurant, then we took a trip up to the top of Signal Hill to see the views of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head mountain and the ocean, and then we went down the mountain and along the seacoast.

After a day of such sensory fulfillment we returned home to Pete and Ronel’s in time to join in on Cameron’s Saturday morning fellowship call where we got to hear familiar voices of. Our heavenly Father blesses us beyond our ability to appreciate it, but I pray we are all asking to be given to offer to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving, even in our trials:

Psa 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

The second Sunday we were in Franschhoek, Pete and Ronel and Sandi and I went down to Cape Town where we met with Larry and Lyndell. We then followed Larry and Lyndell to the home of a lady who had contacted Larry just a couple of months earlier. She lived in a town which was right on the Atlantic Ocean, about an hour from Cape Town called Simon’s Town. This sister’s name is Karen Leigh. Karen has a teenage daughter named Suzanne. Suzanne helped Karen to feed us all a very big and delicious meal. Afterward we spent our time in fellowship. Karen was full of questions which we answered while we were there, but I am thankful our brother Larry is very well equipped to answer Karen’s future questions.

Eph 3:9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
Eph 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,

Eph 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Eph 4:16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Our last night in South Africa was spent at the home of Ronel’s daughter, Claudine. Claudine’s husband, Anton, was the braai expert and our steaks were cooked to order. Claudine’s daughter Chalo, who some of you met at the conference on Lake Lanier a couple of years back. Jeanine, Ronel’s other daughter was also there with her young daughters, so we were privileged to meet all of Ronel’s daughters, her sons-in-law, and her grandchildren. We had a wonderful time together and then returned to Franschhoek for our last night with Pete and Ronel.

The next morning Larry and Lyndell came to Pete’s with a wonderful Malay lunch for all of us. After lunch we asked an employee to take a group picture of all of us out in the front of the house where the word Franschhoek is spelled out on the mountain side with whitewashed rocks above our heads. Then we bid Pete and Ronel goodbye, and Larry and Lyndell took us to the airport on their way back to Cape Town. They waited with us until we had to go through security, and we said our final goodbyes, and caught our plane to Accra, Ghana, where we met another group of people we did not even know existed.

That is as far as we have time to go this week. I hope to share our most encouraging experience in Ghana with all of you next week, as well as our trip to New York to visit our son Austin and his wife, Katherine. Kat had a most interesting observation which she shared with me, and which I will share with you all next week. Lord willing.

From New York we flew down to Miami where we met up with our granddaughter, Alexa, of Buffalo Chicken Dip fame from the December conferences, and we took her with us down to Trinidad where Alexa was required by popular demand to make her internationally famous dip again, and where Sandi and I were treated with the most inspiring and moving words of appreciation just before we came back home.

Next week will be the end of our review of our God-given tour of the world. Lord willing, after next week we will resume our studies in the book of Isaiah.

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