Worship in silence can be moving

I knew today would be difficult. Sunday is my favorite day of the week. Today, I was dreading it.For those of you who know me, I love to sing. Not just to sing, but sing in worship of a Holy God. I really don’t enjoy it otherwise.

But, today was different. Today, I would be worshiping God WITHOUT singing, without talking, without verbally praying and even without whispering. I would be confessing sin, adoring God and praising whoGod is without a voice of any kind.

This is the second time in my life I’ve done this. But, it was a totally different response from my first. 16 years ago I went through a similar situation where I lost my voice and couldn’t participate in worship, but the whole time I kept feeling sorry for myself. Each second was focused on, “What if I never sing again? Will I ever be able to talk with a clear voice? What would happen to my career? God, I don’t understand.”

Today, I only asked that question once. And, the reply I heard was, “Greg, it’s NOT your voice. I gave it to you. I’m the one using it. I’m the one who gave you the idea to sing. I’m the one who gave you that gift. And, I’m the one who CAN and did take it away.” That’s when I said, “You’re right — who am I to say ANYTHING.” So, I spent the remainder of my time in church marveling at how incredible it is that I have a relationship with God at all.

The songs that were selected were ordained by God (as they are every Sunday). But, I sensed they were for me today. Each one made me turn to Christ. Each one reassured me that everything was okay because God is in TOTAL control. He’s not depending and waiting on me. He’s not putting his trust in a doctor’s ability to treat me. In fact, He’s ordained everything.

Then Bible study hour came and I think I may understand why trials come in people’s lives. Let me give you my perspective.

In 2 Peter 1:10 is says, “Therefore, be even more diligent to make your calling (salvation) sure.” In 2 Corinthians 13:5 is says, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” While may say it’s a ‘sin’ to question your faith, the New Testament talks about it more than once. It looks like a command to me. The problem for me is, I really don’t WANT to. I don’t want to test my faith and force myself to question the foundation on which I stand. If I don’t want to, wouldn’t you think God is going to do something to FORCE me to do it?

I think so. I think because I like my comfortable world, God shakes it. He wants to see what I’m made of. He wants to test my faith, I’M suppose to be “diligent in making my calling sure.” He wants me to examine myself as to whether I’m in the faith. When He rocks our world with life changing moments we will either fall on our face before HIM (if we’re in the faith), or we’ll cry out with disgust to Him for making our lives miserable. He wants these moments to be precious times we won’t forget because they’re life changing.

When my friend Dan Cummings was struggling with cancer, I couldn’t understand how he could say his cancer was a blessing from God. I just couldn’t wrap my arms around that. NOW I CAN. I finally see that in Dan’s cancer, he was forced to be closer to God than he’d ever been. He understood that this was a test from God, not to be a mean God, but to put Dan in a position of total reliance on Him.

While my voice problem isn’t ANYTHING like cancer, my lack of voice could have a devastating effect on my career. But, for the first time I can honestly say — “this IS a blessing from God.” If it weren’t for my lack of voice, I wouldn’t have been able to witness one of the most incredible worship services ever. While I shed lots of tears, they weren’t self pity tears. They were tears of utter joy that God loves me so much. Why?  It’s only because of His Amazing Grace.

That’s not to say I won’t get frustrated. I’m human. But, now I understand what’s going on.

Health always seems to change you

I was asked by several friends to blog about what’s going on with me the last couple of months. So, I guess I will. I don’t typically like talking about myself, but in light of what’s going on and the fact I CAN’T talk for another day and a half, will will.

I’m going to go back to the end of October, 2008. I got a little tickle in my throat which caused a MAJOR cough. It got progressively worse. I was sick with the cough for six weeks. It affected my voice, but not too badly. However, I just couldn’t stop coughing. It was terrible. I finally got back to work just before Thanksgiving. But, a week after Thanksgiving I was pretty much over it.

Fast forward to January.  In the middle of January I got a little tickle and a cough, which got worse. On February 3, I lost my voice. I couldn’t talk well enough to broadcast. I felt like there was something in there…gunk (sorry to be so graphic). I thought I would be okay. That’s happened before. Typically cold or cough related illness I’m hoarse for a while, then it goes away. This time it hasn’t gone away. I have a terrible sounding voice and it’s lasted for almost a month.

On February 3, I went to the doctor. He put me on antibiotics thinking I had an upper resperatory infection. He also gave me some cough medicine. Unfortunately, it didn’t do anything for me. On February 24, I went back to the doctor to find out what we can do. He told me to take it easy — meaning, don’t over use my voice, and referred me to an Otolaryngologist.

On Friday, I met with my doctor. I told him I have a hiatal hernia, which had caused acid reflux before. I was told it created a voice issue with me before. He used a fiber-optic scope to look at my voice. It went in through my nose and went down into my voice. The doctor said my vocal cords looked red and swollen. He said there was damage, but it wasn’t irreversible. He didn’t seem certain about whether or not it was caused by acid reflux or not. He quickly put me on COMPLETE voice rest — no talking or whispering for three days. He also put me on two kinds of meds. One (Astelin) to get get rid of my congestion. I was also given Omeprazole to protect my esophagus from acid reflux.

It’s day two of no speaking. I cheated a little bit just to see if things were getting better. It’s not any better. If anything, it’s worse. So, I stopped making noise, hoping it will improve by the beginning of the week.

I’m trying to be positive about this. If I didn’t NEED my voice this week, I would settle back and wait for what God has for me. Unfortunately, my producer (and backup voice) is off Tuesday and Wednesday. The question is — will God give me my voice back?  It’s not totally gone. I have a voice. But, it sounds like I have laryngitis. It sounds like I’m on the beginning or tail end of a cold, which I’m not.

I have been praying throughout all this that God would use this to bring me closer to Him. I truly want that. But, I also want my voice back. I’m sure you all understand. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is NOT my timing. It’s not MY way. It’s HIS way. He has me in this situation to bring Him more glory. It’s more of Him. Less of me. I am HIS slave. He chose me, bough me, provides for me, disciplines me, and guides me just as any master does. But, the great thing is that relationship doesn’t end there. He calls me FRIEND. That’s the best relationship to have — a slave with a perfect master. Perhaps I’m going to start talking Monday and my voice is going to be back with no issues. THAT truly would be amazing and totally from God. Or, maybe He’s going to allow me to struggle for months so I’ll seek Him more often.

What ever the case, pray with me that God’s will would be done and that MY will would be overcome.

Greg In Ukraine — IEMF

I am on my way home from Ukraine, where I covered an historic event. It was the International Evangelical Missions Forum, sponsored by Russian Ministries.

The forum was the first of its kind to address a crisis in the church in the former Soviet countries.

The crisis is difficult to completely explain, but I will try. First, the church is on the decline. There are fewer people attending churches in these nations and it stems from a number of reasons. Many believe it’s because the church is stuck in tradition/legalism and not interested in providing worship that reaches and touches young people. Other suggest restrictions on religious freedom is causing part of the decline. Other suggest the emigration is causing part of the problem. And, yet other say evangelicals aren’t working together — not talking about these issues to help end the negative growth.

This forum saw nearly 200 leaders from many organizations and denominations from many countries in the former Soviet Union and they began talking. While no decisions were made about what to do about these issues, the groundwork was laid to see even more discuss to take place.

I’ve uploaded a short video for you to see what I saw.  Obviously, it’s not professional, but it was fun to do.

Guatemala Team finishes trip – October 11

What an incredible week we had in Guatemala! There were 26 of us from Michigan, Illinois, Texas and Edmonton who traveled to Guatemala to reach out to kids and see what Orphan Outreach is doing with orphanages, churches and communities.

Days one and two took us to Mrs. Patricia Arzu’s schools for poor children. Many of them are considered orphans by the U-N (they’ve lost one or more parents) and are either living in single parent families, or being taken care of by relatives. Mrs. Arzu, is the wife of Guatemala’s mayor (and former President of Guatemala) and has established child care center and schools to provide a place for poor adults to bring their kids to, to get an education, health care and most importantly, the Gospel.

Day three and four took us to Panabaj. We drove three hours west of Guatemala City, to see the work of Pastor Diego at The Good Shepherd’s Church. His church see more than 600 children in church. He wants to start a school. He’s also reaching out to the needs of those displaced by the mudslide of 2005 where an entire village was wiped out. The government says the area isn’t fit to rebuilt, so they’ve been abandoned.

Day five took us to Antigua where we visited an orphan called Casa Aleluyah, founded by Mike and Dottie Clark. They over see about 600 kids from infant to over 18. Their desire is to teach these kids how to be kids, give them an education, point them to Christ, encourage them to lead their peers in discipleship and church planting. The older kids now want to build a church for the community, so they can reach out with the Gospel.

Below, you’ll find a video about the entire week.  Enjoy it and continue to pray for the kids of Guatemala!

Mission Network News in Guatemala — last day

Thank you all for praying for me. I found out my problem with my health wasn’t really a ‘health’ problem, it was an elevation problem. We were at almost 12,000 feet and I am susceptible to elevation sickness. However, unaware of the elevation, I wasn’t concerned or even thinking that was an issue. So, all in all I’m very happy to know that’s all it was. I’m feeling great and had a wonderful day today.

I’ve produced another video for our final day in Guatemala.  Today we traveled to an orphanage outside of Guatemala City, near Antigua. It’s called the Casa Alaluya Orphanage and it’s run by Mike and Dottie Clark from Louisianna.  They have an incredible story of following God’s direction to run this orphanage which is home to about 600 kids.

Click here to see the video.

After we left the kids, we did a little shopping and came back to the hotel for our farwell dinner.   I’ll have one more video to post showing everything we saw on the trip.

Thank you for visiting regularly.

Greg Yoder, MNN

Guatemala Day 3 and 4 – October 9-10, 2008

Well, things have gotten a bit hetic here in Guatemala. For those of you who know me, know that I have a blood disorder. It makes my blood clot easily, well. I had to go to the hospital here in Guatemala because I THOUGHT I had a clot had moved into the deep veins, which is a bad thing. Dr. ‘Peppi’ as he wanted me to call him, gave me his card and told me to call any time night or day if I had any trouble.

The group left without me, heading to Panabaj. Carol (one of our interpreters) stay with me because she is a hospital professional. She ran the hospital up until two months ago. She was able to get me right in and see a very well trained vascular surgeon. He took blood, and checked me out with a dopler ultra sound. Fortunately, the clot I currently have is in a superficial vein and everything was good.

Carol and I were driven two or three hours to meet the team just after they had finished lunch. We then got on a boat to travel the rest of the way to Panabaj, which is on the banks Lake Atitlan. Beautiful is an understatement.

After the boat ride, we checked into our hotel rooms. Carol and I ate our lunch (very late) then headed to the Good Shepherd Church where Pastor Diego is the pastor.

For those of you who are regulars to this blog you know back in November I had a ’bout’ with something that the doctors weren’t able to identify. While standing in church in Panabaj I had a MAJOR bout again. Heart pumping, lightheaded, dizzy, feeling like I was going to pass out.

I got out of the church because I didn’t want to create a scene in a church who didn’t know me and decided to go sit down in the nearest room. That would be the room with kids making crafts. I just sat there. Fortunately, someone in our group went and got Lori Koorndyk, who’s a physicians assistant. She suggested we call Dr. Peppi. He told me to stop taking the medication and get back to Guatemala City in the morning so I could see him.

I left the group again, and traveled with Lori, Amy Seale (Orphan Outreach) and Carol back to Guatemala, leaving the group again. I just finished meeting with the Dr. and he doesn’t think it’s anything serious (good news), but wants to to rest today before doing any more traveling. So, I am following his advice. I’m sitting in my hotel room relaxing — writing on this blog.

I don’t feel real great right now, so I would like you all to pray for me.

In the mean time, enjoy this video I put together before I started feeling bad. That will give you a good idea where were are and how we got where we were.

The team is on its way back to Guatemala City, while I rest in my room.

MNN Guatemala trip – Day 2

I thought I’d make it easy on myself today and try my hand at making a video. This is my first attempt, so pardon the poor quality and abrupt changes of direction. Now that I know what I can and can’t do with my basic video editor, I’ll chose video more carefully.

So, here is a video for you to enjoy.

Feel free to post comments. They are moderated, so it does require me to approve them. Since I’m traveling, I may not be able to approve them as soon as you’d like.

Keep praying for us.

Greg Yoder, MNN

Guatemala City Day 1 – October 6, 2008

MNN/WCSG team gets ready to head to its first stop in Guatemala.

MNN/WCSG team gets ready to head to its first stop in Guatemala.

Today was day one of our Guatemala trip. There are 26 people on the trip, which is made up of Mission Network News and 91.3 WCSG listeners. We all met for breakfast at 8:30am. The hotel we’re staying in is one of the nicest hotels in the area. The owners are Christians and they give Orphan Outreach a great rate. So, we stay here. Breakfast is your typical American breakfast — eggs, bacon, french toast, you name it. It was good. Soon after we ate, we met in the lobby for our first stop. We were split into two groups — group A and group B (original names, I know) and boarded our buses. Much of the bus trip was spent shooting pictures.

A view of the dump from the school/day care center.

A view of the dump from the school/day care center.

We traveled nearly 45 minutes to a dump. That’s right, a dump. The reason? To visit a school Orphan Outreach is supporting NEXT to the dump. Because there’s such poverty, people (many single moms) go through the dump looking for anything of value. They collect it and try to sell it to provide for their families.  They’re street people. In year past mothers would take their children to the dump. But, now, there’s a school/day care center that’s allowing the kids to go to school, while mom works sifting through refuse. They work hours just to find enough ‘stuff.’ We were told it amounted to nothing more than a $1 a day.  A few months ago, there was a collapse in the dump that killed more than a dozen people.

A little girl at the school by the dump.

A little girl at the school by the dump.

The school is actually run by the wife of the Guatemala City’s Mayor, who is a Christian. It’s a government run school, and Christians are welcome. Obviously the children are very happy. The children are dropped off at school/day care every day. They’re cleaned up, put on school uniforms, given a healthy meal, given a good education and they hear the Gospel by either staff members or volunteers from the local church who are actively involved in the ministry. It costs a parent 50-cents a week to put their child in school here.  Since their parents only make about a $1 a day, that’s a significant contribution to helping their kids break the cycle of poverty.

Many Phillips helps this little girl with her lamb puppet.

Mandy Phillips helps this little girl with her lamb puppet.

As part of the trip, we spit up into groups to hold a modified daily vacation Bible school. One group told a story about the lost lamb. Another group did games. Another help kids with a craft. They made lamb puppets out of paper bags. And, the final group did a fun activity like painting the girl’s finger nails, blew bubbles or some of us just took pictures of the kids so they could see themselves. Digital cameras were the best invention when it comes to interacting with kids. Most love getting their picture taken. There was lots of laughter and even a few tears when some came to the realization that ‘school’ was actually the only safe place they had each day. This was the place it all finally ‘clicked’ and got ourselves focused on the task ahead.

From there we went to lunch. Then, we traveled to a girls school. There were 200 girls registered, but only 90 were in school today. We were told that gas prices prohibit these girls from coming to school every day. We did similar activities at the girls school.

Little girls asks to get her picture taken 'alone'

Little girls asks to get her picture taken

Girls jumping rope. First one to 20 wins.

Girls jumping rope. First one to 20 wins.

Little girl gets ready to go home.

Little girl gets ready to go home.

Greg with girls at the school.

Greg with girls at the school.

On my way to Guatemala October 5-11, 2008

I am getting ready to head to Guatemala for a mission trip. Mission Network News teamed up with 91.3, WCSG in Grand Rapids, MIchingan and Orphan Outreach. I’ll be traveling with 22 others. We’re going threre to share the Gospel with needy kids.

There are about 370,000 orphaned children. Many of these kids are living on the streets.

We’ll be working with local Christians offering vacation Bible school, carnival games, crafts and more. We’re excited about God may be doing in the kids already.

I’ll try to post something here every day following our days events.

Mornings on the radio/my life

It has been a fun couple of days. As many of you know, I am no longer involved in live radio. What does that mean? For, non-broadcasters, that simply means most of the programming we produce at Mission Network News is recorded. While it makes for good radio, you don’t have the same feel that you have when you’re doing something live. You also don’t have the same response from your listeners.

This week I was able to do live radio again. Thanks to my friend Jack Haveman at WGNB, Moody Radio. I’m filling in for Jack’s co-host Scott Curtis. It’s fun. It’s always a great time to try and put a good radio show together. Although, this week we haven’t been doing any interaction with telephone calls. I do enjoy that interaction. But, that’s just made it more challenging to make the show compelling.

This week has been a challenge for me, physically, however. I am dealing with pains and things that aren’t normal. I will be going to the doctor Friday to see if we can figure out what’s going on. It’s actually quite scary. I’ve had several friends that are dealing with cancer and I fear that.

Now please, don’t go out telling everyone, ‘Greg’s got cancer’ because it’s probably nothing. I’m 42 years old and I’m sure I’m feeling more pains because of that. But, it also makes me start thinking about my life and how I’ve lived my life.

I figure I’ve lived half my life already. The question is, how have I lived it? Have I lived it totally serving Christ? Have I loved and lived for serving others during my life? Has the sin in my life kept me from serving Him as effectively as I could have? What if God decides to plague me with something that will shake me to the core of my being? How will I react?

I don’t have good answers to all those questions. I haven’t ‘totally’ served Christ. I’ve been selfish many times. I haven’t shown love when I should have — especially to my wife and family. I fear being sick. I fear the pain that goes along with it. I fear my family being alone. But, at the same time I know going through something like that would take me to a new level in my spiritual walk with Christ.

When I experienced the problems I did in November with dizziness and numbness, I feared I was sick then. I still have those moments, but I just view it as God’s way of keeping me close to Him.

So, how am I praying? For the first time in my life (well, maybe not the first time) I’m not sure how to pray. Any suggestions?