Sunday, February 22, 2009


His garments were provided from another not once but twice

Our flight from Columbus, Ohio to the city of Port of Spain, the capital city of the country of Trinidad, had been uneventful until we got to the luggage claim after deplaning.

The airport was not a very large one so finding our luggage was quite easy. Immediately I spotted my two suitcases, but my friend who was traveling with me became alarmed as all the luggage had been removed and his was not there. His first thoughts were that someone else had taken his, but after a few moments came to the conclusion that they had missed the flight.

After a few minutes at the airline office, he was told they could locate where his luggage was at that time and they would call us at the hotel as soon as they found them.

Arriving at the hotel we settled down in our room to relax as our discussion began with what he would wear for the services which were only a couple hours away. Since there would be no more flights until late that evening he began to worry. As I looked at him, I realized we were about the same size so I asked him his size. To my amazement we were identical in all sizes.

My clothes had already been put in the closets and chests when I said, “see if my suits and shirts will fit you?” They fit him better than on me, I thought to myself.

That night as he addressed the congregation, I could not keep but see my garments on my friend and how well they looked on him. This was nearly a miracle because at our size 52 suits it would have been next to impossible for him to have found a store to fit him in such a remote island only miles off the coast of South America.

Well, for a whole week his luggage failed to show up, so he wore my clothes from foundational to outerwear all the time we were in Trinidad. When we landed in Miami on our return, while changing planes his name was paged just before boarding. His luggage had been found and had been put on the returning plane. He picked them up in Columbus with gladness. His last words to me were “Well, at least I won’t have to send them to the cleaners!”

For a number of years I teased him about that trip telling him how well he was dressed and it cost him nothing. He would only smile.

Well, my friend passed away recently and he is wearing heavenly clothes today. He is wearing a “one size fits all” prepared by the Master tailor.

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” Rev. 3:5

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cuba in 1988


So far as I know there is only one flight from the United States to Cuba and it is run by a Havana travel company flying Cubans back and forth from Miami to visit family. It only flies from 12:30 to 2 a.m. on Tuesday and even though you have made prearrangements you do not know until moments before takeoff if your name is on the manifest and will be permitted into the country.

About one a.m. my named was called and I was boarded into the plane. Then others continued until it was full. Then we were in the air and it seemed only a few minutes that we began our descend to an airstrip whose lights had just come on where we landed and then sat for a few moments when the police and military met us at the end of the runway. We boarded the buses they were on and were driven to the customs building where we waited until our names were called. Aqui, por favor! I replied. (“Here I am thank you.”) I was given my visa and noticed immediately that the signature on the visa was Castro’s direct officer, named Coronado, a man known for his forceful demeanor. Finally, after completing all the entry requirements, I was met by friends from Spain and Panama who were to be in my traveling entourage and serve as translators. It was a joy to see old friends after this frightful beginning.

By now it is about 2:30 a.m. and we boarded into a small Russian car and headed on a 5 hour drive to the western end of the island with 4 others, and our luggage, in an overloaded vehicle. We had been on the highway for about an hour when two state policemen pulled our car over. They asked for the driver to show his license and then ask him about his passengers. Seeing we were not Cuban, they said, “Are they Russians?” To which he replied with, “No, they are Americano!” Stunned they asked for our passports and visas. I could overhear them while they queried each other. “Americano? Coronado? They were having difficulty as they compare Americans with Coronado the chief assigned to Castro. However, they took a brief look at the trunk and suitcases and told us to go on.

Finally, we arrived to the city where we were to address the churches, speak in the seminary, and in a coming annual convention. Everything went well afterwards, but we knew we were watched daily with even government guests in the services. We were advised to not discuss politics in the cafes since they would seat us in designated tables. Once we were even invited to a city meeting at about 11 p.m. where a session was put on for our behalf. I knew it was done for our benefit since they waited for us to get there before they started.

At the convention without thinking I chose to preach one of my favorite sermons where God told Moses to choose 12 men to go to Canaan to spy out the land that He was giving them after 430 years of bondage in Egypt. Little did I think how this could be misunderstood by communist officials attending. It reads, “And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: And see the land, what it is; and the people that dwells therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. Now the time was the time of the first ripe grapes.” (Numbers 13:17-20) Afterwards, I was concerned as to their thinking from then on and chose my subjects with more caution.

Since an embargo is held against the country, I was told I could not spend any American dollars, use a visa card, and would be totally at the expense of the Cuban churches where I was visiting. This proved to be hard on the people, but they rejoiced at our presence and many families would send about a cup of beans to help in feeding the other speakers, translators, and me.

I was deeply moved with their compassion because they receive so little to live on. One quarter of a pound of beef a month to eat. One dress, towel or sheet, one pair of shoes a year for the women each year or a pair of pants and a shirt for the men, along with one pair of shoes. Fifteen gallons of gas every three months. And so on.

Each morning my shower consisted of a heated coffee can of water poured over my head and a towel I shared with a missionary friend from Spain who had to bath as I had. We also stayed in a small room together on narrow beds with little room to walk between us.

Our hosts slept on the cement floor in another room.

But one thing over shallowed this, knowing these people even in suppressed condition had a deep belief in God who helped them daily.

The conference choir was filled each night with young people from the many churches whose voices lifted in sounds of praise. I began to notice that the girls had been swapping clothes so one could be dressed differently each night. After the services they would gather around the piano and sing to late at night. The next day you would see them all hand in hand walking around greeting everyone and rejoicing in His goodness.

When I left Cuba I praised God for His blessing on us, but remembered what the Bible says, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

At the American customs in Miami the attendant picked up my large suitcase and immediately realized it was totally empty. His first and only remark was, “I see you had a good trip on the island.” He knew I had given everything away.

Nearly 15 years later I was invited to speak in a large beautiful Cuban church in Miami and had the surprise of my life when I met again the young man who had played in that convention. He introduced me to another who was just a small lad, a minister’s son, who remembered me eating in their home.

Thank the Lord heaven will be a place of free people.

“Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” --Ephesians 4:8

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mexican Ruins still available to visit.

Tulum tells of a long history
--Photo by Eldar Kadymov

My son Randy called me while I was teaching a series of Teacher Training workshops at the Mile High church in Denver and asked if I would like to be his guest on a western Caribbean cruise. I was aware that his wife was pretty far along with their second child and the doctor might not recommend her going. Because of this I had set aside the next two weeks just in case.

His company forwarded the tickets to me by internet in Denver so my flight was direct to Miami the next Monday early.

I was looking forward to spending some time with him and we did have a great time visiting the areas and laying awake at night just talking.
One of the most unusual stops was down the coast of Mexico south of Cancun (which in Spanish means “den of snakes.”), and near the little town of Tulum where one of the most beautiful old Mayan cities still partially stood and the only one overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Perched on a cliff, Tulum is thought to have been a major Mayan port. Here one can see the temple of the descending god and El Castillo a temple on a cliff with commanding splendid views of the coast.
After visiting Tulum we journeyed to Xel-Ha (Mayan for ‘clear water’) the perfect spot for snorkeling and relaxation. This natural aquarium is made up of interconnected clear-water lagoons that form a great habitat for angelfish, lobster, barracuda, parrotfish, French grunts and many others.
My son was excited about snorkeling so got his equipment and headed for the water. The clear water and colorful fish was even pretty for me who had not brought a bathing suit, but enjoyed watching him have-a-ball.
The day came to a close and we headed back to the ship which would travel overnight porting in Key West in the morning.

Key West is a great town to visit with a multitude of stores and famous places to visit. Two of my favorites are the home of Hemingway and the Fisher museum.

But the best part of the trip was the times with my elder son, because life is to short without days of memory.

“By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”-- 1 Corinthians 15:2