Honduras 2015

hopeHonduras –  I recently had the privilege of spending time with the Miller family in the beautiful mountains of  Honduras.  Mike and Kim Miller and their beautiful daughters have loved their way into their local community and the hearts of the children they care for.

The central focus of the ministry is the 014Hope of Jesus Children’s Home. Each child in their home comes from a situation of great need.  My many years of experience with Children’s Homes in Thailand caused me to smile at the structure of their work.  The children are in smaller, nurturing homes making every effort to create a family environment.  It was a joy for me to hear the children’s voices singing at full volume during the chapel service!  Their mission includes community development projects as well as a coffee growing project with a goal to help offset some of the expenses of the Home.  My role was to provide some training as well as some guidance on some transitional direction for the ministry.  From my perspective, it was clearly a God-ordained and Spirit-led time and I think the Millers would agree.  Please continue to pray for this family, their staff and the work they are doing in a country that is known for its danger and violence.

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Tasmania November 2014

Tassie 2014TASMANIA –  I always find it difficult to translate our ministry experiences into written words.  It is challenging because those experiences are many, varied and most often deeply personal.  This certainly describes our recent outreach to Tasmania.  Couples, families, individuals and groups were our ministry connecting points.  A real highlight was once again working with the Directions Tas team in providing a Men’s Retreat.  In my estimation it was profound ministry.  The location of the retreat was rustic and format of the retreat was quite unique as it beautifully opened sacred space for hidden hurts of men’s hearts to be healed.  And indeed some were!  One man, after allowing the Lord to take him to a deep place of forgiveness, wept many healing tears in my embrace.  His whispered words to me were “the poison has come out”.  He, as well as others left the Retreat with a greater capacity to experience the Lord, life, family and even some laughter.

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Kenya, Africa 2014

Map of AfricaKenya is an amazing country punctuated with harsh violence, beautiful yet rugged land, heartbreaking poverty and needy people that our Lord dearly loves.  It is an heart-impacting place.

Kijabe Hospital – Our team visited the amazing work of the

Kijabe Hospital

Kijabe Hospital

Kijabe Hospital.  Our team members had the privilege of spending time in the HIV/AIDS ward, visiting folks in their homes who were at the end of their lives, going on rounds with hospital chaplains and holding sick babies.   Our good friends Andy and Mardi Steere, SIM missionaries, are key individuals in the work of the hospital.  Andy, a civil engineer, as funds are available is constantly improving the infrastructure of this 100 year old facility.  Mardi is the Medical Director of this hospital that does 10,000 plus surgeries a year.  Their patients are poor, sick and needy.  We experienced firsthand the incredible burden of the prioritizing of funds and staff necessary to keep the hospital functioning.  Sadly, during our stay, the oxygen producing plant failed and three infants did not survive.  Please keep the Steere’s in your prayers as they wholeheartedly serve the Lord while also raising their own family.

SIM Conference – SIM gathered their missionaries serving in Kenya and Tanzania for a four day Spiritual Life Conference. Our Team provided child care, fun with teenagers and worship.  My role was to provide a one day Marriage Seminar, debriefing/counseling, ideas that create longevity in the Field and a seminar for single missionaries.  My schedule was full!  I had the privilege of working with Dr. Judy Frey, local member care director.  I think in all the countries that Patty and I have worked with missions organizations, this group may have been the most open, engaged and invested.  The feedback has been amazing!  While I returned to the States as tired as I can ever remember, thanks partly to the African Weight Loss program (smile), my heart was full.  I believe our partnership with SIM will continue and expand.

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Italy 2014

OM Italy Staff Training

OM Italy Staff Training

My time in Italy was divided between two very different organizations.  The first, Operation Mobilization.  This was my fourth time working with OM, Italy.  OM is an excellent organization, established many years ago and is active in 100 nations.  In general they are organized, staffed and focused. However, like all organizations they have their strengths and weaknesses.  OM Italy was/is in an acutely critical season of transition and the word from the Italian director on down confirmed the timeliness of my visit.  Much of what I was involved

Giuseppe, the OM Sicilian Cook (along with Dawn Mann.  I loved his smile and his cooking!

Giuseppe, the OM Sicilian Cook (along with Dawn Mann. I loved his smile and his cooking!

in is simply too sensitive for publication. I came prepared with a particular focus of teaching and ministry and  by the Lord’s grace it seems to be exactly what was needed.  Luke and Dawn Mann, our wonderful friends, coworkers and missionaries with ACCI were once again critical to what was achieved during my time in Italy.

The “young” team being trained at a farmhouse.

The “young” team being trained at a farmhouse.

The second and very different organization truly captured my heart. It is a fledgling ministry that is reaching out to their community by serving the homeless, drug addicts, neighbors and friends. They are unique because they are primarily Italian.  The younger folks of the group are first generation Believers.  Their families are not Christians and they receive no support; financially, spiritually, emotionally or otherwise from family or churches.  They have simply banded together to share their love for the Lord in a practical demonstration.  And the Lord is blessing their work! The older folks of the group are also amazing.  Sadly,

The “Oldies” at their “Free Clothing Center”

The “Oldies” at their “Free Clothing Center”

the local church frowns on caring for the poor and needy (yes, you read correctly), but unsupported and undaunted these oldies pool their resources and reach out to the Gypsies, Muslims and the poor.  And lives are being changed! Their joy, energy and unity were absolutley infectious.  While I came to this group as teacher, encourager and trainer, I was the one encouraged!

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Tasmania 2013


C 3 Church, Hobart, Tasmania

What an incredible time in Tasmania!  Diversity of ministry was the name of the game.  The ministry venues ran from a high tech church conference center in the city of Hobart to rugged Wadamana, deep in the Tasmanian wilderness.  The one phrase that I heard over and over was “Ray, the Lord has you are here at the perfect time!”  And I too believe that to be true.  There is much I could say but I will share with you two portions of feedback I received.  The first was from a young man, a husband and a dad who I actually knew when he was a little boy when we lived in Tasmania.  After I spoke on gaining freedom from past hurts that have affected our lives he told me “Ray, I wept my way through your message.  So many roles and expectations were placed on my life as a child.  Thank you for bringing the truth I so needed to hear!”

In a sleeping bag, covered with a blanket, wearing two shirts, wool socks, a wool hat – and still cold in Wadamana!

I also had the privilege of once again working with Directions Tasmania.  S2S and Directions are ministry partners. Directions, directed by my good friend Phil Harback, along with the amazing Directions team is a powerful outreach to men.  My roles, as I participated in the JourneyRetreat included meeting with men one-on-one as the need arose and being a support to the staff of Directions.  As you know, the primary focus of S2S is to help people in ministry stay fresh, motivated and healthy, in order to see them fulfill their “calling” to reach the lost and hurting.  Below is an excerpt from a letter I received from the wife of one of the Directions staff.   “My husband has come home from the men’s retreat with more passion and more commitment to his ministry for and with , men. He mentioned you were one of the major parts of the encouragement he received on the weekend and I am writing to say thank you for YOUR commitment to helping others in their walk as men and people of God”. 

I love Tasmania!

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Italy 2013


View from Forterocca Headquarters of Operation Mobilization
Bobbio Pellece, Italy

I recently returned  from nearly one month of working in Italy.  I worked in several parts of the country from Trento in the north to Naples in the south. This was my 4th ministry trip to this very unique country and the Lord certainly blessed and expanded our work there.  My work included training/teaching and staff development of missionaries.  There was also a good deal of pastoral care as well as quite serous individual and couples counseling.  HE is faithful!  I want to share with you some of the life-stories of the missionaries I worked with.  The Lord is weaving a very diverse international fabric of people reaching out with His Truth to the beautiful yet spiritually desolate people of Italy.

Italy like Thailand? Really?  Thailand prepared me to work in Italy. There are interesting similarities to these two countries.  Both have populations around 60+ million.  Thailand has less than one percent Christian.  Italy also has less than one percent evangelical (born again) Christians.  Superstition runs high in both nations. Italy actually has a higher missionary attrition (burnout) rate than Thailand!  Only about one out of ten missionaries to Italy will continue past their first year.

DSCF8277Luke and Dawn Mann Americans working with Adventive Cross Cultural Initiatives in Italy and are our wonderful friends and ministry partners.  It was through their hard work that all the missionary organizations connections and travel came together.  The Mann’s have amazing international experience plus hearts of passion. Their multifaceted ministry in Italy is truly making a difference!

Marcieo and Noemi Ciechanovicz and family are from the DSCF8280country of Brazil.  They have been serving in Italy for several years.  They have had unusual and amazing success in reaching the Italian youth.  They have weathered and persevered through many difficult challenges and the fruit of their ministry is growing.

DSC_0022Fabian and Charlene Abrahams are South Africans also working in Italy.  I had the privilege of meeting an Italian man they led to the Lord. I asked him what was different since He came to know Christ.  One phrase would sum up our lengthy conversation “I lived in death – now I have life!”  Fabian and Charlene grew up under the horrors of the Apartheid system of racial segregation.  Of the 3 racial categories (white, black & colored) they were labeled “colored” or people of mixed races.  They remember violent attacks on their villages by club wielding police.  The Lord transformed their hearts from pain and bitterness to forgiveness and passion, and then planted them in Italy!

DSCF8303Ronel and Ferdi – South Africians  In this photo you see me alongside two missionaries that really touched my heart and to whom I bonded quickly.  Ferdi and Ronel are missionaries to Brussels.  I met them in Italy however while they were taking some “time off” to give a couple of weeks of service to Operation Mobilization.  This couple carried an amazing joy, a zeal for service and pain in their eyes.  This beautiful couple has been touched by very painful loss.  The three of us wept together as they somehow managed to share their story with me.  Their journey, a journey where this is no answer for  the tragedy they experienced, has taken them to a few conclusions that fuel their sacrificial ministry today.  “God is good, He is for us and sharing His love with others gives purpose and meaning to this life”. 

Below are just a few snapshots of the culturally diverse fabric of those He has called to serve Him in Italy.  It is a good work that they do!

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Motorcycle Taxis – Bangkok

We once again found Thailand to be wild, warm, wet and wonderful.  I had to laugh our first day in Bangkok.  Patty and I needed to go somewhere and it was rush hour traffic in a crazy city of 10 million plus people.  So we decided to take motor cycle taxis!  As we sat on the back of the motor cycles, swishing and swerving through unbelievable traffic, at times going the wrong direction on one way streets, I could not help but wonder “what would our mothers think?”

Deeper Still Ministries International

Deeper Still Ministries International:  We had the privilege of spending some time with a Chiangrai mission called Deeper Still Ministries International.  I had the privilege of teaching the Thai staff on finding our identity in the Lord.  It was a joy to watch the Lord impart the very necessary truth of who we are to Him.  To discover who we really are to Him, how He values us, sees us, defines us and loves us changes everything: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…(John 15:15)

Timely: If there is one word that describes our time in Thailand it is most certainly the word “Timely”.  Whether it was helping a young missionary family to get some healing and direction with their marriage “at just the right time”, or helping a young pastor find balance, as he carries the weight of a heavy ministry and a young family.  Or, seemingly a chance encounter with a missionary to China, clearly on verge burnout and helping her to make good and wise decisions that will not only sustain her ministry, but her love and zeal for the Lord. We were at the right place at the right time over and over again.  Our work connected us with missions ministries involved in trafficking rescue, children who have been abused, evangelism and discipleship.  The Lord is faithful to sustain His friends.

Thank you – We want to thank you our friends and family for being an integral part of Shoulder To Shoulder Ministries.  New doors continue to open, both overseas and domestically (we’ll share more about that next month).  It is your prayers, encouragement and support that enable our work to continue and to grow.  You are indeed impacting the lives of many.  Thank you for making a difference.

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