Monday, June 7, 2010

From Despair to Hope

Our friends, Rex and Sherry Holt, pastor Conejo Church in CA. They started this church and they are having a wonderful ministry. Rex and Sherry were our associates back in the seventies when we pastored in Wichita Falls. We've stayed friends all these years.

The Holts have three children, and the story of their coming is a miracle in itself. They were childless for 17 years and looked into adoption. In fact, they were very close one time to receiving a child through adoption but they were already headed for the mission field in Africa and had to decline. It was a heart-breaking time. I remember questioning the whole timing thing. The rest of their story is included below in Rex's e-mail to his church members this weekend. I grabbed two pictures off their church Web site so you could see Rex in the guy-picture (the white hair one) and Sherry in the middle of the church-dinner picture; one of their daughters is the one in the forefront. Great folks! Just wanted to share one of their ministry times.

Here's the e-mail Rex sent to his church members:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." 2 Cor. 1:3-5

We arrived home from Haiti this afternoon. It was a wild and wonderful adventure that started last Monday on Memorial Day.

We spent the night in Miami before arriving in Haiti early Tuesday morning. Our team of 8 people settled into our home for the week--small tents pitched in the front yard of a house with no running water. We purchased bottled water, put on a lot of mosquito repellent and began to prepare for a week of ministry.

A part of the team worked at Lamothe in Port-au-Prince to complete a reservoir that will provide water for this village of 600 families.

Curtis Johnson, Executive Pastor at Calvary Community, and I led a 2-day training workshop for 80 pastors in the Port-au-Prince area. "Leadership during a time of crisis" was the subject of the workshops. We looked at leadership principles from Jeremiah 29 and from the book of Nehemiah.

The first of 6 leadership lessons was, "During a time of crisis leaders must face reality." At this point I asked, "What are the realities that you are facing as a result of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti?"

I was not prepared for what happened next.

"I lost my wife," said one pastor. "She was away from the house and just disappeared." "We never found her body."

"My wife was teaching her class with 10 students," another pastor said. "A few minutes after the earthquake I came to the collapsed school building and saw her laying face down," he explained, "but we could not get the cement boulders off of her in time." "My wife and all 10 of the school children died."

One pastor who appeared to be in his thirties lost two children in the earthquake. All of the pastors lost their homes, their church buildings and practically all of their possessions.

Most of these pastors are living in tents with their families in what many of us would call impossible conditions. One man told of his father who had worked hard all his life to build his home and had several rental houses that would provide a living for him in retirement. The earthquake destroyed all the houses and thus his retirement was gone. I asked him if his father had insurance on these houses. He shook his head and said, "We don't have things like that in Haiti." The man is now living with a relative.

But the harshest of all realities is the emotional pain and distress these pastors expressed. They are concerned about the emotional and mental well-being of their wives and children and church members. Life will never return to normal for these pastors.

And yet in the midst of this untold pain, there shined the light of hope. It is the hope that Jesus gives to his people when life tumbles in. Over and over we referred to this great promise for people in captivity and great tribulation.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

During a morning session on Friday I became overwhelmed with the intensity of their pain. I felt I couldn't go on. I had nothing more to give. Nothing more to say. I felt a chilling despair. I turned to Curtis and said, "I've got to stop: I'm done." He came up, spoke a few words and said, "Let's pray." During his prayer I felt an unusual touch from the Holy Spirit. I got my heart and my hope back. Suddenly, I felt refreshed and knew exactly what I was to do.

I shared my story.

I told them how God gave us children when there was no hope of us ever having children. I told them how the Africans prayed and would not give up. I told them about their simple, child-like faith and how God answered their prayers after 17 years of childless marriage. I told them how Abraham who against all hope, in hope believed. I told them how the Africans during those days would say to me, "Pasteur, ayez un coeur d'espoir" - "Pastor, have a heart of hope."

I could see God giving these pastors a heart of hope.

At the end of the workshops the pastors gathered around to thank us for coming, for listening, and for sharing a message of hope. I am convinced that they are now facing the future with a new confidence and hope. I feel they have some tools that will help them lead their churches and communities to rise up and rebuild.

Though I was the only one from our Conejo Church family on Haitian soil last week, I believe we were all there in spirit. I felt your prayers. I felt your support and encouragement. Thank you!

May the quietness, confidence, and joy of our Lord be your strength this week. We have been given much. We have been blessed so that we can be a blessing.

Have a heart of hope. The best is yet to come.

In His grip of grace,



Paul Burleson said...

This is outstanding. I linked to it at my blog as you know.

Aussie John said...


Thank you for this amazing article!

That is the God my wife, family and I know!

Mary Burleson said...

Hey, Handsome, We like the same things don't we? We're also linked and not just to each other's blogs. :)

Hi, Aussie John, good comment. Our friends in this article are a wonderful couple and really live out the Christian life as we think the true gospel teaches. They're always an inspiration.