In April 2014 I received a call from my brother, Oscar, asking if I could travel with him to Nicaragua to minister to some brethren who requested to have evangelistic meetings and baptisms. We contacted some other brothers in Costa Rica, who also requested to have meetings there.
On June 10, Brother Oscar, myself, and Brother Ramon and his family boarded an airplane to fly to Costa Rica. We had a wonderful flight and had some very interesting experiences along the way that enabled me to share books with six people at the airport or on the airplane. One young man on the airplane wanted a book, so I gave him our small booklet, Christ in You. I was very tired, so I slept on the plane. When I awoke, he excitedly told me that he had read the whole book and enjoyed it very much. I gave him another one, Understanding the Personality of God. He said he would read that one also. I invited him to come to our meetings in Costa Rica and offered to send him Present Truth every month. He was very interested in this and planned to attend the meetings and requested our monthly newsletter.
We were greeted at the airport by some dear brothers, Federico, Clayto, and Pedro. The Lord touched the hearts of the brethren to put us up in a hotel close to where they rented a very nice meeting hall. We were scheduled to have meetings each evening that were open to the public. My theme was based on my book, Understanding the Personality of God, which covered the love of God in giving His Son—the biblical teaching about the only true God, the Holy Spirit, and the amazing sacrifice of Christ. We opened the meetings up for questions and answers as well, one of my favorite parts of the study.
It was thrilling to meet such dedicated brothers and sisters who arranged the meetings so well. Several people came from the community and their local groups. There was a good turnout. The meetings went very well, and were recorded on DVD for those who would like a copy. The meetings were spoken in English and translated into Spanish by my wonderful brothers, Oscar and Ramon. Some of the meetings were broadcast over the Internet live for people to see around the world.
On Sabbath we went to a farm in the country for Sabbath services and baptisms. There were about one hundred people in attendance. My first topic focused on the importance of truly allowing Christ to dwell in our hearts, and how that is manifested in loving others. We saw that all the knowledge in the world is useless if it does not transform the way we treat others. Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
After a time of testimonies I gave my second presentation on how the gift of the Holy Spirit enables both God, the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ to live in our hearts. We focused on the wonderful benefits of this gift. In the afternoon, two souls dedicated themselves to the Lord in baptism. We then had a question and answer session that was filled with some wonderful insights into God’s love.
On Sunday we participated in a cooking class for the community, after which I was asked to dedicate a new house of prayer for them.
Our Last Night in Costa Rica
On Sunday evening, June 15, we returned to the hostel at about 6:30pm. I felt impressed to spend some time with some of the residents at the hostel. There were three men, Kam, Louis, Theo, and a woman named Margot playing pool. I went over to talk with them. We talked about their interesting travels. Theo, Louis and Margot live in France, and had come to the United States to drive through Central America all the way to Panama. They showed me some pictures of their trip. We started telling stories of our lives. I told them my conversion testimony about how the Lord delivered me from a nearly two-month long acid trip when I asked Jesus to live in my heart. I read to them the Bible verses that changed my life. God promised, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26).
When I was finished with my story, Margot said, “I have a lot of questions about your story. Couldn’t your experience have happened just because your mind wanted to be free from the acid, and had nothing to do with God?” I came to find out that all of them had a difficult time believing in the existence of God, except for Kam, whose experiences in life had convinced him of the reality of God. I told Margot that it could be a possibility except for the fact that my prolonged acid trip was removed when I asked Jesus into my heart.
She told me that the mind is a powerful thing and that if you want something bad enough, and believe a remedy is going to work, it can happen without the existence of God. I explained that I had wanted very badly to get off of the acid before, and I tried some medicine from a doctor who told me that the medicine would help counteract the acid. I trusted the doctor and wanted to be free from acid very badly, but the medicine did nothing good for me, instead it caused my vision to become terribly blurred. That was the only effect I noticed from the medicine. I explained also that I have never had a flashback from the acid since Christ removed it twenty-three years ago. I am certain that God performed a miracle to remove that from me.
Theo asked, “Is God all powerful?” “Yes,” I replied. “Then why doesn’t God remove all the suffering in the world and cause everyone to be good?” Theo countered. I told him that this is one of my favorite questions, and told him that there is a verse in the Bible that explains this. They were all eager to hear what the Bible says about this, so I opened the Bible with them, and for the next two hours we had a Bible study on many topics. They were full of questions, but Margot expressed that they rarely have the opportunity to ask someone about the Bible who can explain it from the Bible.
The first verse I shared with them is Nahum 1:9, which says, “What do ye imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time.” I explained that this is God’s promise that sin with all its sorrow and pain, will not rise up the second time. After God is completely finished removing sin from the universe, it will never come back. God has to be very careful in the way He deals with sin, otherwise there would be a possibility that sin would arise again.
Theo asked, “Why did God create people with the possibility of sinning even the first time? Wouldn’t the world be much better if everyone only did what is right?” I explained that God had the option of creating people who could not possibly choose to sin, but then He could not have meaningful interaction with them. For example, if I made a robot that was forced to only do what I programmed it to do, could I be satisfied if it continually said, “I love you, I love you, I love you”? A forced obedience is not truly obedience. For someone to actually be good, there must be the ability to choose to be bad. Otherwise it is force. God does not operate on that principle. He never forces anyone, and He created us with a free will to choose either to serve Him or not.
The Bible says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19). God wants us all to choose life and good.
I read to them what the Bible says about where sin started. The Bible talks about Satan, “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; … Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. … Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more” (Ezekiel 28:13-19).
We saw that God created Satan as a perfect exalted angel but he became proud of his own abilities and corrupted his wisdom. We also read, “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7-9). We saw that there was a battle over God’s character of love, and that Satan convinced a large number of God’s angels to join him in his rebellion.
We then read how sin started in this earth with Adam and Eve. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:1-6).
Satan tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, which transformed her into a condition that is not good to be perpetuated forever. We read, “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24).
Margot asked why God would not let Adam and Eve eat of the tree of life anymore. I explained that if he allowed this in a sinful condition, it would cause sin to last forever, and God didn’t want that to happen. She asked if Adam would ever be able to eat of the tree of life. I assured her that everyone has the opportunity to turn to God and accept His salvation, which will cause them to be worthy of eating of the tree of life again. We read, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14).
Margot brought up the story of the prodigal son who went and spent all his money, then returned to his father who gladly accepted him (Luke 15:11-32). She asked, “If God is so good, will he forgive everyone?” I read to her the following verses: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Jesus gladly accepts anyone who will come to Him for life.
Margot remembered that the prodigal son came back to his father, so those who come to God will be gladly accepted. I told her about the verse that says, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10), and also, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).
I also read to them where God said, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11). I explained, “If this hotel was on fire, would it be kind for someone to come in and warn us to get out, or would it be better to leave us alone?” God loves us and wants us to live, so he explains the dangers of continuing a sinful lifestyle.
Goodness Without Knowledge
They asked how people who do not know about Christ could do good. I read, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts,…” (Romans 2:13-15). We saw that anyone who does good does so as a result of God writing His law in their hearts.
I read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:1-9). Jesus is the one Who sheds His light upon everyone who enters this world.
By this time another gentlemen, named Matt, had begun studying with us. He was completely opposed to the idea that there is a God, and he said, “All of the problems in the world with killing and stealing are because people do not have enough of what they want or need. If God is all powerful why doesn’t He just give everybody everything they need then they would not do evil things?” I pointed out that the Bible says, “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10). If everyone had all the riches they could desire, it would not remove crime from the world. Sin is embedded in our natures and cannot be removed by the increase of wealth. The richest people on earth are some of the most miserable. I quoted Solomon who wrote, “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Proverbs 30:8, 9).
Matt asked me, “Why did you come to Costa Rica?” I answered, “I came to encourage people and help them to see how they can have a better life.” He asked, “If a Buddhist who does not know about God but lives a life that shows the law written in his heart, then why would you want to tell him about Jesus, since your goal is to get them to live a good life. If they are already living that good life, then why would you bother them with more information?” I replied, “That depends upon your definition of ‘good.’ Jesus said in Matthew 19:17, ‘There is none good but one, that is, God:…’ I would still want to share Jesus Christ with them because with the knowledge of the Bible your life can be so much better than without.”
A Personal Testimony
I told them a story about an amazing thing that happened to me by knowing what is written in the Bible. I explained that I had been experiencing a difficulty in my life that agitated me greatly, and I continually nagged about it to my wife. I explained that one morning I woke up early in the morning with three verses linked together in my mind that changed my life. I read to them the first verse, which says, “Love suffers long and is kind;…” (1 Corinthians 13:4 NKJV). I commented, “I got the suffering long part down, but I was not kind about it. I recognized that I did not have this love.”
The next verse was, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, 23). I saw that this love comes by receiving the Spirit of God. The next verse was, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).
I explained that all of these verses were linked together in my mind as a chain. I saw immediately what I needed. I got out of bed and read these verses for myself, then prayed to God and asked Him to give me His Spirit, which is specifically manifested in the love that suffers long and is kind. Immediately a peace came over me. I went back to bed, and when I awoke the next morning my life was completely changed in this area. I no longer felt upset or hurt, and I no longer felt a need to nag.
I read to them, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:2-4). I shared with them that there are thousands of promises like this in the Bible that can dramatically change your life. I would surely want to share these blessings with others.
They all agreed that if this is something that can help live a life of kindness and love, that it is a good thing. They were happy for me that it was able to change my life. They, in general, were still not convinced that God is real, but they could see a value in the Bible that they had never seen before. Margot exclaimed, “I am going to have to read the Bible again. I have never heard it explained that way before.”
By then it was getting late, so we went to bed. The next morning I saw Margot and Louis again before we had to leave for Nicaragua. They were very happy to see me again, and said that they really enjoyed the talk last night and wanted to exchange email addresses. Margot said, “I have so many questions, I could have talked for hours and hours. I will have to continue our conversation by email.” I told them about our monthly newsletter, Present Truth, and asked if they would like to receive it by email. They both heartily agreed and looked forward to getting it. I told them that I would write an article about our experience and send it to them. They were thrilled. It was sad to say goodbye to them, but I had to make it to the bus in time for our trip to Nicaragua.
Please pray for all of these people, that the love of God will thrill their hearts as it has mine. I hope that we will be able to meet again sometime soon.
We took an eight-hour bus trip from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, where we were greeted by a warm family and warm meal. We stayed in the home of Brother Jose. He and his family are wonderful hosts, and they have a large meeting area prepared in their backyard.
We were scheduled to have meetings each evening, with visits scheduled each day. The evening meetings were very similar to the ones presented in Costa Rica. The brethren were happy to hear the messages, and each night we answered some of their questions.
One of the highlights of our daytime visits was when we had a Bible study with a family on the love of God in giving His Son to die for our sins. Even though this should be basic knowledge, the family was excited to hear this and learn more about the reality of God’s love. Afterwards we had a study with a lady who is a pastor, and who had some questions about the Sabbath. We had a study on what the Bible says about the Sabbath, as well as the old and new covenants. The pastor indicated that her church would begin worshiping on Sabbath. Please pray for these brethren.
On Sabbath we had about sixty people show up. After studying about the importance of having Christ live in us, twelve people dedicated their lives to the Lord in baptism. In the afternoon we opened the meeting up for questions, which was very enlightening for many.
Before leaving, we made plans to have a camp meeting in Nicaragua in January 2015. Plans are moving forward in this regard, so please pray for this. All of us who travelled from the United States are planning to return in January where we are hoping to have a large gathering from all over Central America. Please keep this in your prayers.
On Sunday we travelled back to Costa Rica for our return airplane trip. We stayed in the same hostel where we had been before. Of the people I had studied with, Kam was the only one still there. He said that for several days all of them were talking about the study we had, and that it had a big impact in their lives. Praise God! Please keep these people in your prayers. God is working.
We were accompanied to the airport by some of our brethren from Costa Rica. It was hard to say goodbye, but we did so with the plans to return in six months. Please keep all of these dear brothers in your prayers. If you know anyone who may benefit from a camp meeting in Central America in January, please let them know. We will keep you informed about the dates and locations. Blessings!