Carnival Cruise Lines: A Class Act Operation


I just returned from celebrating my twenty fifth wedding anniversary to my lovely wife Mary.

Our festivity took place on a cruise to Key West Florida, and Cozumel Island, Mexico.

I am new to cruise ships and cruises.

After my daughter Sarah took a cruise I went to pick her up at the Port of Miami.

The drive from my home was twenty five minutes and the entrance to the port was as easy as pie.

With the incredibly low price that she paid, and that I have the cruise ships at my fingertips, I decided to investigate for our 25th.

How could I allow such an opportunity to slip by me, when many others spend money and time on airplanes to get to what I have on my doorstep?

Carnival Cruise Lines offered a four night cruise with pre-paid gratuities and taxes for a mere $694.00 for both of us!

Where else can you find a five day vacation for two, with food, lodging, travel, entertainment, tips, and taxes for less than 700 bucks?

So this Monday we left on the Carnival Ecstasy and returned Friday.

The trip was memorable, fantastic!

I don’t have time to blog about everything.

But what I will list are some of things that so highly impressed me.

I am not one to be impressed by much.

I look to quality wherever I go, and quality is lacking in so much around me.

When I stepped onto the Carnival Ecstasy and eased into my first lunch, the excellence which surrounded me began to seep through my emotional pores.

Standing with many others at the buffet line, I was struck by the stir fry lunches that chefs were cooking “to order” for hundreds of people.

A wide assortment of raw vegetables all immaculately laid out for me to pick from, to then be taken to my chef, to be stir-fried with chicken, beef or shrimp.

A huge staff of busy people, always friendly, very human, available and relational, and never pushy, would lay everything down to engage the guest at all time and in all places.

I find this set of qualities as one of the most essential to our social world.  Clearly, for Carnival this is their top priority.

A dirty plate would never be on the table for more than five minutes before someone removed it, and it was never removed without your permission.

An amazing amount of excellent food was available at all times and in all eateries.

Soft serve ice cream, yogurt, pizza and pastries, you name it!

There were hundreds of people eating every minute of every day. Yet they were all flawlessly and amply taken care of.

The sit down dinner at Wind Song of unlimited steak and lobster cooked to perfection was unforgettable.

The punctuality of the restaurants was impressive. The buffets opened at 6:00 AM sharp and closed just as sharply on time.

My sit down restaurant opened its doors at exactly 6:00 PM as announced.

At 5:30 AM as I went out for my sunrise photos, a full crew was already hard at work in the restaurants, cooking, cleaning silverware, mopping floors.

Coffee was available and so was a full assortment of pastries.

The breakfast brunch at the Windstar restaurant which included eggs benedict and bagel with cream cheese and locks, and assorted breads muffins and cakes was the best I’ve had in sixty years.

All games and shows began and ended punctually.

They were creative and well thought out.

Seventies music, sports trivia, TV show trivia, married people shows, game shows, bingo and hairy men competitions were some.

Little trophies were given to those who won the trivia show.

We were encouraged to enter into numerous, free raffles and contests.

There were free prices, free gifts, free food tastings, free liquor tastings.

For Carnival, freebies are a big deal!

What about for your customer and mine?

At the pool which was effectively laid out with lounge chairs for everybody, or so it seemed, great music from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s was on tap.

Crews were continually in the public bathrooms, or mopping floors, cleaning tables, or repairing things.

Our three waiters, Jorge, Iputu and Peter were first-rate. My chair was pulled out for me at every sitting. My cloth napkin was unfolded and laid on my lap. My water was continually filled. Bread was brought to me as I sat down.  I could eat as much as I wanted to from a world class menu.

The professionalism, etiquette, friendliness, availability relationalibilty and wonderful humor of our waiters were unrivaled.

Our room and bathroom were cleaned impeccably.

There were bathrobes for both of us

Our concierge was gentle, serviceable and kind.

At night time our bunk bed was pulled out and our sheets pulled down ready for sleep.

The next day’s program and chocolates were brought every night.

The ship was exceptionally people friendly. None of the staff were in any rush. You could engage any of them casually for five minutes at a time, and laugh with them. Any questions about their jobs they would candidly answer.

Our on board bill of $37.00 was meticulously printed out for us before we left.

Customer service was opened from very early and manned by professional and courteous people.

Announcements about the trip were regularly broadcasted on the PA system.

Disembarking, which included releasing thousands back into the terminal from twenty six zones was executed with precision and order.

I can go on and on.

How does Carnival accomplish this with clockwork precision for thousands of people over a five day period of time?

I have no idea!

I wrote this entry as much for you as I did for me, so while the trip is fresh in my mind, I can take pointers for myself and my ministry.

What are you taking home from this entry?

Professionalism, hard work,  kindness, politeness, friendliness, and an amazing knack for being very relational and totally human with guests while being busy at work, was the mark of the staff.

For Carnival, there is no doubt that guests take the top priority.

Clockwork punctuality was key for so much to seamlessly transpire.

The quality of the food was unflawed, and there was always tons of it.

Free goodies, free prices, and giveaways are so important to any good business, as it is to Carnival.

Games and shows were ongoing at all times so that no one could complain of boredom.

Anyways, let me leave you with a few pictures of this incredible trip with this amazing organization.

Doubtless to say that I recommend Carnival and their ship The Ecstasy for your vacation needs.

Carnival Cruise Lines for me is a Class Act Operation, hands down!

Many blessings

Jose

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Our friends, Ruben and Rebeca

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With the ship’s captain

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With my friend Jianli

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Baked Alaska

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Where is the fire?

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Iputu, trying out his singing skills

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Iputu and Jorge should have been singers instead of waiters

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Iputu: Indonesia

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Jorge: Panama

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Peter: Serbia

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“My Journey to Africa” by Sarah G. Alvarez


This entry in as essay written by my daughter Sarah Alvarez as part of a submission to one of her college classes.

In 2005, my parents uprooted my family to Kenya, Africa. Living in a third world country proved to be an experience that changed my life forever. At the time, I did not realize how much of a significant part of my journey it would become, shaping me into the woman that I am today.

Needless to say, as you can imagine, living in a third world country was a humbling experience. From the moment you step off the airplane you are taken back by the poverty that the people of Kenya live in. Kids roam the streets without shoes, families live in small shacks, and clean water is a luxury. On a day-to-day basis, food is no guarantee. Health is an afterthought, and survival is the priority. Many people watch the news and hear the stories of a third world country from their own home, and have the comfort of being able to change the channel and forget about it all. However, it is another thing to immerse yourself in that environment and face the true reality of what it is to walk in the shoes of the less fortunate in Kenya. People cleanse themselves with unsanitized water contaminated with bugs and bacteria. It is a rare luxury to have a shower, and an even rarer luxury to take a hot shower. The toilets consist of a deep hole in the dirt, and if you asked a local from Kitengela if they had ever heard of a refrigerator, their answer would most likely be no. Even living there, I cannot say that I fully endured the poverty that so many around me did, but in my year and a half in Kenya I experienced just a small dose of what life is and always will be for millions of people.

Initially, moving to Kenya, I don’t think that any of us anticipated it to be as difficult as it was.  Leaving the United States with just your parents, three siblings, two Chihuahua’s , and just a few bags is no easy task. We were leaving a whole life behind us. A life that we were all so accustomed to knowing. A life where we had our friends, family, and even small comforts that I soon learned to never take for granted. As time passed, we adjusted bit by bit through the culture shock, but I would be lying if I said that there weren’t any days where I stayed in my bed crying. I was home sick. I longed to see familiar faces, and to go about with my normal routine which I had in America. I wanted to eat the food that I usually ate, and watch the television that I usually watched. Adjustment was the most difficult task of them all, and I don’t think that I would have been able to do it without my family’s love and support. We helped each other through it all. Whether that being my hilarious brother trying to go out of his way to make his sisters laugh instead of cry, or even just being homesick together, it helped tremendously.

Finally, the impacting realization that I took away from this experience, was that I came to see how grateful I am to be an American. So many of us take for granted the little things that I have already described. Whether that is food, clean water, shelter, or other basic needs. But more so, we take for granted the very country we live in. We often do not realize that compared to so many others out there, we have it amazingly well. We need to be proud of where we have come from, and most of all, be thankful for everything we have been blessed with.

All in all, the experience of living in a third world country shaped me into who I am today for a number of reasons. First, my year and a half in Kenya humbled me greatly.  It reminded me more than ever how important my family is to me. Also, it has taught me to never take for granted being an American, our rights and the freedom that so many others would do anything for. It is important to give thanks every day for what we have, big and small. There is so much to be grateful for in the world, whether that is family, health, or maybe even just hot water and food. But it is our job to never, even for one second, take what we have in life for granted.

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Sarah Alvarez in Central Park, NYC, NY.

 

The Anthology Of a Santo Domingo Paella – Voila!


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Master Paella Maker, Fernando Tapias, buying the ingredients in Santo Domingo, DR.

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Laying out the stuff

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Lighting the Special Paella Stove

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Chicken

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+ Pork

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+ Fresh Garlic and Onion

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+ Red and Green Pepper

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+ Rice

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+ Fish Stock

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+ Baby Octopus, Fish and Scallops

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+ Shrimp

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+ Another Kind of Shrimp and Clams

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+ Mussels

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+ Langosta

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+ Peas

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Cover and Simmer

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Voila

Its Been A God Given Privilege to Minister Around The World ( A Pictorial Blog )


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Sunset over New Mexico.

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Ministering in Kitengela, Kenya

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At the ordination ceremony of Apostle Stella Marie Ngoka

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At Ndeda Islanad; an island of fishermen on Lake Victoria

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At Ndeda Islanad; an island of fishermen on Lake Victoria

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At Ndeda Islanad; an island of fishermen on Lake Victoria

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Mombassa, Kenya

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Simba, Kenya.

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With baby Henry.

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With Maasai friend, Jane

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Preaching in Masat Kenya

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At the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Ministering in Kiminini, Kenya

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Ministering in Kiminini, Kenya. This is a Muslim woman who had tremendous courage to come and get prayer.

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Open heavens over Kiminini Kenya

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Open heavens over Kiminini Kenya

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With friends in Kiminini, Kenya

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Jose is one of the conference speakers in Mashuru, Kenya

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With Pastor Paul

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Cutting the 9th year anniversary cake at Arise and Shine Ministries in Mashuru Kenya

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With friends at Simba, Kenya

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With Pastor Sarah at Simba Kenya

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At Thompson Falls, Nyahururu, Kenya

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Facing fierce cannibals in the Name of Jesus

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Seeing a healing in Farmington, New Mexico

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At Ndeda Island, Lake Victoria

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Taking a preaching nap at Ndeda Island

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With friends at the great Navajo Nation near Carson, New Mexico

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Domingo, New Mexico

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Revival service, Ugunga, Kenya

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Maasai manata at Narok, Kenya

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Baba

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at Narok, Kenya

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Maasai manata at Narok, Kenya

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Mama

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Narok, Kenya

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Narok, Kenya

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Mary with Maasai girls, Narok, Kenya

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Four hour ride back from Narok Kenya

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Maasai worship, Mashuru, Kenya

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Getting ready to teach in Mashuru, Kenya

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Talking with Pastor Daniel Lomunyak, Mashuru Kenya

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My bed in Simba Kenya

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Young people on fire for God and saying ” Jesus ” in Simba Kenya

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Simba Kenya church service

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Conference speakers at School of Fire Conference in Mashuru Kenya

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Amish Country. Ohio

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In Ohio

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Ready to baptize people in Mashuru Kenya

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Being honored with the Maasai walking cane the fimbo.

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with friends in a bible study in Albuquerque, NM

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In downtown Miami

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In Kampala, Uganda

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Mary being honored with Maasai jewelry

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With our friend Dorothy at the Navajo Nation

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Ministering to the Lost Tribe of the Emus

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President Jose Nixon

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With our friends Ken and Angie Aguillar of the Pueblo Santo Domingo Native American Nation

Can A Culturally Relevant Disciple of Jesus Exist In 2013?


The culture might change, but people and God remain the same.

Mat 10:39  He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.  

  • He that comes upon, hits upon, and holds on to his own selfish life for his selfish gain, shall bring himself to ruin, destruction, uselessness and misery through his corrupted self.  He that ruins, destroys, and wastes away his sinful existence for the sake of the Lord shall discover, recognize, acquire and real life from the Lord for himself.

 Matthew 16:24  Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

 Matthew 26:34  Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

  • We see that Jesus commands His disciples to “Follow Him” in the above scripture. This is defined as a  union in traveling the same road.  It is an oneness with the pattern of Jesus’ life, His ministry, and even of His death, if necessary
  • Look at the illustration of Peter’s denial of Jesus in comparison to Jesus’ command to deny ourselves.  As you will notice, it is exactly the same word!  Can you imagine how vehemently Peter with every fiber and atom in his body angrily disavowed that he knew, or had any relationship with the Master?  This should be our same attitude in denying ourselves for the sake of our Lord?

Mark 1:2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send (apostolic sending) my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

  • Which shall prepare: Literally who will lay down all the needed gear, utensils and equipment at another’s disposal.”

 1 John 2:15  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

  • First John two and fifteen is an example of what I call a “proportional scripture.”  In other words, to the proportion that the love for the things of this world fills the limited space of our heart, is to the same proportion that the love of God has no more room within that limited space, and must leave.

1Cor 9:24  Know ye not that they which run (to run and spend my strength in attaining to something) in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.(to possess and make my own).

25 And every man that striveth for the mastery (the agony of athletic competition) is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

  • Our Christian lives should abide in the exhilarating agony of strenuous athletic discipline.  If we are experiencing boredom as believers, we are missing out on part of Christ’s destiny for us.  Every great work of God has been executed on bended knees.  Every great work of God takes between one to five hours of prayer daily

26 therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:  

  • Our faith must contain a clear perception of God’s vision for our lives.  “Without a vision the people perish.” We must not walk obscurely, as those who do not know the voice of God.  We must not trash the air aimlessly with those things that Christ has not called us to, no matter how noble or praiseworthy they might be.  Our time must not be wasted by the missed discernment of God’s will; too much is at stake!  Our punch must be sure; we must strike straight and not spare.

27 But I keep under my body (To beat the body black and blue, or get a black eye), and bring it into subjection(make my body a slave to the Spirit of God) lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (a reject , reprobate, and one who failed the test that God put before them.)

  • The love of God and the love of the world are opposed to each other.  Either you love one or love the other.  What the world values, Christ abhors.  What the worldly man esteems as of great value Christ says, “get the behind me Satan!”

1Cor15:10  But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured (To labor with strenuous zeal, to the point of exhaustion) more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.   

  • “Spiritual burn out” is always inadmissible.  It is the product of all labors for the Lord initiated by us, and not the Holy Spirit.  Yet our lives should be consumed with the Lord and His work.

Philippians  3:13  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

  • Therefore I neglect and no longer care for what is behind me. I stretch myself out and towards, and run swiftly after what is before me. The direction being, the mark of the goal of the high price of unbroken fellowship of Christ’s resurrection life, and the hope of His calling for me.

1 Tim 1:12  And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

  • Greek: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who endued me with His power (only as He found me dependable.) The gift of His power was given to me as He found me worthy of trust. Once that the trust and power were there God placed me into my ministry.

1 Tim 4:14  Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.

  • Greek: Do not become careless about the spiritual gift, which was given to you by (the Holy Spirit) through prophecy and the laying of hands.

 15  Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.

  • Meditate- Care for, attend to, and keep practicing “the things that we have discussed”
  •  Give thyself wholly to them – Literally “to become one with them”.
  •  Paul tell us throw ourselves fully, or become submerged and consumed with the things that lead to godliness, purity, charity, spiritual gifts, and so forth.
  •  That thy profiting   Literally “pioneers cutting a way for an army”
  • Every Christian is called to a blaze a new pioneer trail, through which the Lord can effectively travel, in accordance with their unique calling. There are now pew sitters, and no room for mediocrity in God’s kingdom.
  •  May appear to all  – Will become evident to all.

16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

  • Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine Fasten your attentions to, observe, and attend to yourself first, and to your doctrine second. This doctrine is what you teach. It must be in accordance with the truth of the scriptures and your life must line up with it.

Continue in them – Be sure to remain in these things!

Our provisions when we go to teach in Maasai Land, East Africa

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Mary preaching in a church in Kibera Town, Kenya. Kibera is the second largest slum in Africa.

 

According to the Glorious Gospel of the Happy God in the Dominican Republic


Last week Mary and I were invited as guests of Fernando and Lorena Tapias to lovely Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic.

I had been to Santo Domingo in 1974 and to the “Twelfth Juegos Centro Americanos y Del Caribe” (The Twelfth Central American and Caribbean Games).

My family, then lived in the Virgin Islands and my father represented them in the games in pistol shooting.

Thirty eight years ago, I was a kid of twenty when accompanying my dad to Santo Domingo.

I remember not only the immense height of Cuba’s basketball players, but their overbearing and pompous advantage over every other basketball team. Cuba was like Gulliver against the Lilliputian Caribbean countries.

Everybody at the stadium complained.

”The guys in the games are supposed to be amateurs, people who have jobs and then train for the games.”

“But no, what Castro has sent are professionals. He forces them to do nothing else but to play basketball the whole day, or else.”

“It’s illegal,  what this Castro does. It’s professionals against amateurs!  It’s not fair!”

“When have the communists done anything fair?” I ask today.

The Tapias and their four wonderful daughters are folks on the go.

“Alright Lord”, I said, “How can we bring your ministry into Santo Domingo without totally disrupting the schedules of these busy folks?”

God is a needle threader.  He is task specific. His voice and commands are as detailed as your faith can make them.  He loves the razor-sharp ways, the fine particulars, the narrow paths, the perfections, and precisions.

God is broad-minded in His love, but narrow-minded in His will.

The more narrowly you follow His voice, the greater will be your success.

When people fault me for being narrow-minded, I consent wholeheartedly.  I am, because God is.

There is no permissive will with God. There is only black and white obedience into His precise and exact paths.

The way to destruction is wide and masses will fall headlong into it.

The way to life is narrow and few will discover it.

So the Lord chose to use His razor-sharp words to needle thread His ministry in a country where Mary and I only knew the Tapias.

He showed me in a vision a skinny and tall woman with short hair, an artist, who was traversing great stress and difficulty.

“Pray for her!” said the Lord.

I went to Fernando and Lorena, “The Lord showed me such and such a lady who is an artist, and He wants us to pray for her.”

Immediately they knew who I described, and made a phone call.

The next morning the woman  rang the door of their home.  When I saw her, she was the one in the vision.

We spent several hours ministering to her. She was wonderfully touched by God. Afterwards she took us to her house and showed us her beautiful art.

I believe that on that day her life was transformed by God.

The Tapias had a dinner get together with friends.  Many of the fifteen or so, knew each other but were unknown to us.

After a meat feast we sat down for a prophecy feast. This is a spiritual spread where we expect God to bless each person with special words from His Spirit, things that we would not know, but would be deeply intimate and personal for each.

The Spirit of God moved and released His words.

I observed folks gasping, looking at each other wide-eyed, heads nodding, as things that were known to only them, resonated loud and true.

“You have two grandsons. I see the first one dressed in a tuxedo with white gloves and conducting  a symphony orchestra.  He also has black hair. The second one has lighter hair and I see him in adventures on boats.”

“Yes”, the reply came. “My first grandson likes music, and my second grandson wants to be a sailor.”

More gasps and nods.

The following morning this person showed me a picture of his black hair grandson. It was the spitting image of the one which I saw in the vision with the black tux and white gloves.

To another one.

” I see you finishing something, now it’s complete, now you are blowing off the dust from it.”

“Yes, I am finishing my home in South America,” was the response.

“You were going to get married, you had a wedding ring on your outstretched finger, but the person that was going to be marry you, had a theater mask. This person was not genuine, this person was no good for you, and God protected you from getting married.”

“Yes, this occurred exactly like this at the end of last year; “the affirmative came from another person.

More gasps and nods.

“I see you with a ministry of dreams like Joseph in the OT, and like him, God gives you a multicolored coat.”

“Yes, I do get dreams”, was the response.

The next day, this same person approached us.

“You know that since I have been small child I have loved the story of Joseph and have read it more than what I have read about Jesus?”

And yet to another.

“I see you behind a chess board and you are playing with the pope.”

The rejoinder came.

“That’s exactly what I want to do. I want to study international relations and want to be kind of a chess player to other countries.’”

And so God continued in this trend of razor-sharp words throughout the trip.

In the Dominican Republic, at least five gave their hearts to the Lord.

Others came back seeking more revelation.

Yet others received God’s peace in the midst of trying situations.

Most of this was the fruit of prophecy to many who had never gotten a single prophecy.

Rom 8:19  For the earnest expectation of the creature ( of creation) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. ( God’s church )

As with all of our travels, there are  multitudes anticipating and yearning to get a personalized Word from the God who is personal, intimate, and living.  This can be done only through the church.

Religion makes God distant, unattainable. Jesus Christ brings the Heavenly Father up close and personal.

I love the church. I love each person in the body of Christ. Truly everyone is precious to the Father up above.

Yet, we  who are within our church walls have  received so many words from the Spirit. We have seen the Father heal so many. We have witnessed so many demonstrations of God’s glory.

There is a vast ocean of people without the walls of the church who have never heard one word of prophecy. They have never witnessed one act of God’s glory or received the touch of one healing.

The fields are white for the harvest, Jesus said.

There is no speedier way to bring in the harvest than with love, authenticity, and the power of God.

The time is coming, and now is, when Christians cannot afford to be exclusively within the walls of our churches.

There is globe hungry for the God whom they don’t know. They don’t know exactly what they search for, but it is for the love, power and glory of the unseen God.

I am not trying to make anyone feel guilty.

But reflect on praying for God to make a way for you to get out of the walls of church and into this hungry world for God.

As long as you are yourself, loving, real, and accepting , most of the world is awaiting for the church to come out of its walls

Don’t be religious, legalistic, or Christianeeze.

Be fun, be real, be happy, have a good time.

God is happy. He always in a good mood. He likes to have a good time with His creation.

1Ti 1:11  According to the glorious gospel of the happy God, which was committed to my trust.

1Ti 6:15  Which in his times he shall shew, who is the happy and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords;

The secret to evangelism is in the hands of the happy and fun church who can demonstrate the love and power of the happy God at the same time.  So go for it!

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Fernando and Lorena Tapias

 

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Bayahibe Beach, La Romana, Dominican Republic.

 

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With new friends at Casa De Campo, Altos De Chavon, La Romana, Dominican Republic.

 

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Mary with friends Sophia and Alice next to the Chavon River, Dominican Republic.

 

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Santo Domingo at dusk!

 

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With new friends Arian and Helen.

 

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With new friends Miriam and Maritza