Vacation – yeah!

It’s day one of my summer vacation. I have been looking forward to this for soooo long.  For the past couple of year, vacation for the Yoder family has been traveling 4 hours away to the family cottage on the northeast side of Michigan along the coast of Lake Huron. I grew up coming to this cottage, built by my grandfather in 1955.

There are so many memories ‘up north.’ Each year, we have traveled to ‘the cottage’ along with my four grown kids, grand-kids, and my my nine year old daughter. It is heart-warming to hear how much they look forward to this one week in the summer where we can just relax, play games, swim, play in the sand and soak in the sun.

For me this is a time to not only renew myself with my family, but to renew my life to God. I spend almost every morning (weather permitting) with a frest cup of coffee, and read God’s Word outside on the beach. What a blessing to be able to take my time going through God’s word.

Stay tuned. I hope to blog about my time with the Lord all week.


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.

A tribute to Dan Cummings

“We’re beggars who happened to have found bread” is a quote I remember vividly sitting under the teaching of Dan Cummings. As I looked at Dan for the first time I thought, “Wow, he’s small.”  Then after listening to him for the first time I thought, “Dan, I want MORE…give me more.”

We moved to West Michigan from East Michigan. I had never heard Grace preached like Dan preached. Deep inside I knew what I believed, but

Pastor Dan Cummings

Pastor Dan Cummings

was never able to verbalize it. Then I heard Dan preach the Gospel as I have heard no other preach. It was a breath of fresh air. Knowing that God had forgiven my sins completely and that He CHOSE me before the foundation of the world to be His.  That there was absolutely NOTHING this dead person could do to save himself. ‘But God, being rich in mercy…’ It was an unbelievable thing to process. How could he love me and want me to be His so badly? And, more importantly, what was I doing in return for this gratitude.

I had so many questions about salvation. “If God chooses us, why do we need to do ANY evangelism? If He can choose people, why doesn’t He choose everyone?  If God is, “not willing that any should perish and that all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) Do people really have a free will? All of these questions were answered by God’s Word with love and grace. I was truly amazed by his love for the Word and the answers he gave.

Today, I’m a man who LOVES the Gospel because it means so MUCH to me. I’m truly amazed at grace. I marvel that God chose me for “honorable use” (Romans 9:21). I certainly don’t understand why he chose ME? There are certainly other people who deserve it more. I’m just a beggar who found bread given to me by a merciful and loving God.

I sat under Dan’s teaching for just three short years. But, today I still consider him THE man who helped me understand my salvation and what Christ’s death on the cross accomplished for me.  HE’S the one God chose to share the truth of the Gospel at a pivotal point in my life. He was the man God used to help Grace Community Church to start being a church of Grace in our community. He was such a gifted communicator that even my young kids came home talking about the messages they heard each Sunday, not just once in a while. Each Sunday we sat riveted, wondering what new truth he would help us understand.

I loved his passionate plea for a church to be more like an AA meeting — “Hi, I’m Greg Yoder, I’m a sinner. I’ve been a sinner since birth…”  Instead of people in the pews putting on some kind of act, thinking they’ve got it altogether, when in reality we all fall short of God’s Holiness every day.  I remember when he actually did this in front of church and someone yelling from the back and said, “But, we love you Dan!”  Apart from Christ we can do absolutely NOTHING.  Even on our best day we’re smelly rags before God. “But, God….” We can’t help but love our sin, “But, God.”

If the world had more preachers like Dan Cummings, we’d have a lot less churches preaching ‘another Gospel, which really isn’t another Gospel’ (Galatians 1).

I wish I could write more about this man I called my captain. That comes from a movie both Dan and I enjoy, “Dead Poets Society.”  It’s a scene that reminds me of how many of us ‘reformers’ are viewed by those who claim Christ does some and we do something to earn our salvation.  Since Dan is the man who helped me understand truths of the Gospel, I’ve called him oh captain, my captain.

Oh, captain, my captain, a young pilgrim on his way to the City has arrived. Dan Cummings completed his journey Thursday February 5 at around 9:30pm at the age of 48 after suffering from cancer. He was a great fighter.

Here’s a quote from what Dan called HIS pastor, Jonathon Edwards:

“To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husband, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.”

On Dan’s blog on January 19, he wrote: “Jonathan Edwards’ physicians’ note to Sarah captures what I want for my life in these days: “This afternoon [Mar 22, 1758], between two and three o’clock, it pleased God to let him sleep in that dear Lord Jesus….”

If you’d like to see Dan’s writings during his sickness, you can go here:

If you want a sense of Dan’s passion for the Gospel, watch this from John Irvine’s wonderful tribute. 

Thank you Dan for being true to God’s Word, true to your faith in living and in dying.  Til we meet again oh captain, my captain.

Mourning in Dan’s loss, rejoicing in Dan’s gain,

Greg Yoder

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

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.

A Day of Fasting — but for a different reason

I have published stories about my health in months past and I’m going to be open about my health today as a way ease my fears and perhaps help someone who’s going through a similar experience.

In November I was experiencing unknown dizziness, light headedness, and other symptoms. I went through at battery of tests. The result? The doctors couldn’t find anything (don’t laugh) (Click here to see my journal about that).

Well, tomorrow starts another chapter on my journey through ‘life’ that a good friend calls ‘A journey to The City.’  Don’t get upset — everybody’s on that journey, some are just closer to The City than others. Others have a better idea of how close they are to The City because of the suffering they experience here on earth whether it’s through cancer, heart issues, or persecution.

Ever since April I’ve been having ‘issues.’  It kind of embarasing, actually.  I’ll just say it — I’ve had a pain in my butt and issues passing ‘stuff’ that should be passed. Being the typical man, I just thought it was another ‘phase’ of getting old and that it would pass (no pun intended).

About 6 weeks ago I had a physical and the doctor asked if there were any ‘issues’ and I described them. Thinking he would just say, “That’s a part of getting older,” he didn’t. He said instead, “Hmmm, that’s not good, let’s get you scheduled for a colonoscopy.” So, that’s what I doing tomorrow.

What are the things going through my mind?  A couple of things:

1. I’m concerned that they’re going to find something — cancer. I have a dear friend going through colin cancer right now and he’s struggling. I hate the thought of dying that way.

2. I’m concerned their going to find nothing — which will probably mean more probing and more questions about what’s going on inside my body.

However, spiritually I’m thinking other things.

1. Is this a season God is going to use to lead me to another level in our relationship?
2. Is this a moment of judgment on my life. His way of dealing with sin in my life.
3. Is God using this in my life to help draw my kids to Him. I have a few that aren’t following Christ at all. Maybe this would be His instrument?

I don’t have answers to ANY of these questions, but they are legitimate concerns.

I am sacred, concerned, and anticipating what God has for me.

I’ll let you know.