Grace: The Forgotten Truth We Must Return To

I was recently asked this question: “How in the world can you forgive someone who has wronged you so deeply and cruelly? How can you have any care or love for them after what they did to you?” Well that is indeed a good question and, as always, the answer lies in God’s amazing word. If there is anything that has come to my mind given the current political climate we seem to find ourselves in, it is that we are all truly broken and imperfect people. We have all fallen short in some way and have made some awful decisions and mistakes in our lives. In God’s word it says it like this: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) I also believe that if every intimate detail of our lives were to be revealed, it would destroy every single one of us. But do you know what is even more amazing? GOD ALREADY KNOWS EVERY INTIMATE DETAIL…AND HE STILL LOVES US AND SENT HIS SON TO DIE FOR US. How in the world can a holy and righteous God do that? He knew our sin and our darkest deeds we would commit before we were ever born…and that brings me to one of the most amazing stories from God’s word about Jesus. Do you remember the woman who was caught in adultery? The story is in John chapter 8 if you are not familiar with it. Basically there was a woman who was caught in the very act of adultery. She was apprehended and brought to Jesus. Jewish law was clear: she was to be stoned, and I am sure that was the plan. However they thought that they could also use this opportunity to cast Jesus in a bad light, which they were desperate to do so they threw her down at the feet of Jesus and explained the situation. At first Jesus ignored them by stooping down and writing in the dirt as though they weren’t even there. After pressing Him for an answer He stood up and uttered those well known words “He that is without sin let him cast the first stone.” The bible says that they began to leave beginning with eldest then down to the youngest. Jesus was left alone with her in front of the crowd who had gathered to hear Him teach. She expected death at any moment. Finally she looked up and the only person standing there next to her was Jesus. She looked up at Him and He said to her “Woman, where are those that accuse you? Does no man condemn you?” She answered “No man Lord.” He said “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Now there is something amazing that happened here. She was GUILTY. Jesus knew that, and what’s more is He also knew that His Father was getting ready to take her sin of adultery and put it upon Him when He was going to be on the cross. He KNEW that and still stood there and refused to condemn her and see her pay the price that she deserved. The reason could not be more clear. He was not excusing her sin. In fact He told her to go and not do that or any other sin anymore. But the reason He did not condemn her was not because she wasn’t guilty, but because He was getting ready to be condemned in her place. The price for her sin still needed to be paid, but He was going to pay it for her. Based on that He was able to offer her what no one else could: forgiveness of her sins. Did she deserve it? No! Again she was guilty. But Jesus bore her and indeed all of our punishment when He hung on that cross. He now turns to us and offers that same forgiveness. We don’t deserve it any more than she did. But that is the nature of God’s truly amazing grace. I don’t know about you, but I have done some pretty bad things in my life. I often feel that I do not deserve anything from God, especially His forgiveness. Nonetheless He loves me enough that He knew all that I would do and still offers it to me. What an amazing God and Father He is. One other thing Jesus said that we so desperately need to remember. He was accused of spending time with “tax collectors and sinners” in Matthew chapter 9, which He was doing. When He knew they were asking His disciples why He would stoop so low as to hang out with those miserable rotten sinners, He said some amazing things. “It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: I DESIRE MERCY and not sacrifice” (capitals mine). There are so many people who are totally devoid of any kind of mercy today, and yet God’s mercy was shown to us even when we absolutely did not deserve it. God’s mercy and grace go hand in hand. So there it is. God desires that we have mercy on those who have hurt or wronged us, just as He has had mercy on us because with our sin we have hurt and wronged Him too…and this is yet another aspect of God’s amazing grace. We cannot forgive and love after being wronged on our own. We also need God’s grace for that too. So don’t even try to do it alone. If you do you will fail every time. Rather simply go to the One whose grace is so great and freely offered and ask Him to fill you with it. I assure you that if you do that, He will.

The Next Step is Here!

Rocsana with Stan, Denise and Nick

Jeff McClaran and I depart for Guatemala on Monday, October 15th. We will be providing regular updates as we go. We have several objectives that we hope to accomplish while we are there and ask for fervent prayer as we go that God will prepare the way, open the doors, and connect us with the people who will be able to help us take these next steps. While there we hope to:

1. We are setting up meetings with orphanages, local ministries, and other missionaries to begin networking with them and share the vision of Rocsana’s Hope. Pray that God will bring us to the right people who will be able to work with us and that we will be able to help through our ministry.

2. This is a big one. We are going to dedicate much time to looking for our ministry headquarters. In order to find what we are looking for, we will need to connect with local people who know the area and can show us what is available. In general they do not have rental listings like they do in the United States. We will have to find people that know the area and can show us places that are available but are not listed in any way. Pray that God will direct us to the right people who will be able to show us the place we are looking for.

3. Also pray for the exact place. We are honestly not sure what will be best for our needs, whether it be a single large home, a complex with several houses on it, or separate homes and buildings in proximity to each other. We are going to see what is available and trust God to show us the one we need the most. We are truly going in faith on this and believe God will direct us to the right location and place.

4. Pray also for God’s provision should we find the right house or complex. If it is possible, I am hoping to put a deposit down on a place if we find the right one. I have no idea how much that will be but I am asking that God will provide whatever is needed to secure the right place when we find it. Pray that God will provide the necessary funds and make those available when the time comes.

5. We are going to be visiting churches as well and looking for those who we can partner with and work together with in our community. Pray that God will lead us to the right churches and that we will meet local pastors and congregations who can help us and we can help them.

What Amazing Things God is Doing

Next trip, possible new staff members, laying the foundation, the girls can’t wait, and God opening doors that no one can shut.

While you may not be seeing too much on FB or other social media, we have been extremely active in preparing and laying the foundation for our return to Guatemala and for the opening of Rocsana’s Hope. I want to share with you a few things that God has been doing behind the scenes. While in the United States we have been working hard behind the scenes to lay a solid foundation that can be built upon for years to come so that once we begin the work on site in Guatemala the ministry will be able to grow and have room for growth. There is much work that is being done behind the scenes to get everything ready. It is a necessary step in the process of opening a ministry that we believe is going to help hundreds of girls in Guatemala and Central America.

First item of business: I am planning a trip to Guatemala in September to begin doing several things. One of the primary things that we will be doing is looking for a Guatemalan house suitable enough to become the home and headquarters of what will be Rocsana’s Hope in Guatemala. We will be staying close to and looking in and around the city of San Lucas which is between Guatemala City and the City of Antigua. We have also been making connections and contacts with missionaries, ministries, and orphanages that we will network and partner with as we carry out the ministry of Rocsana’s Hope. There is much to do on this trip and we are looking forward to getting the ball rolling in on the ground in Guatemala.

There is something else we are extremely excited about. Denise and I have very dear friends that go back to our days at Youth for Christ many years ago. Their names are Jeff and Esther McClaran. Jeff and I have been working together developing all of the foundational work that we are doing for Rocsana’s Hope. Jeff surrendered to go to the mission field when he was 14 years old. He went on a mission trip to China as a young man and met Esther, a Chinese National. On his mission trip a relationship formed and they later became married. Jeff has felt the call on his life to be a missionary his entire adult life. They have visited several areas, one of which is the country of Thailand. They have been praying about going to the mission field and they have been looking at Thailand as an option. Now that Jeff has been assisting us and helping us get the groundwork laid for Rocsana’s Hope, he has become open to the possibility that God may be calling his wife Esther and him to join Denise and I in our mission in Guatemala. Jeff will be making the next trip to Guatemala with me to visit the country, meet the nationals, see the culture, and meet the girls. He will also be prayerfully considering the decision that they face about where to serve on the mission field. Please pray for Jeff and Esther as they prayerfully consider where God is calling them and asking them to go, whether it be to Thailand or to join Denise and I in Guatemala. We are praying for both of them that God will give them discernment and make it very clear to them what they are supposed to do we ask that you pray for them as well.

This last weekend we visited the town of Ozark, Missouri and were given the opportunity to present our ministry in a home meeting on Saturday night, then in a combined Sunday school class that featured 60 to 80 people on Sunday morning at First Baptist Church of Ozark. It was a very fruitful trip and one that we are so grateful for our dear friends Mark and Joy Specht who set up the home meeting and to a new friend of the ministry name Lacey who coordinated the Sunday morning event at the church. We are so grateful to you all for the work that you did behind the scenes in helping us and giving us the opportunity to share the ministry of Rocsana’s Hope. A huge shout out also to Todd and Jenell Wagner for allowing us the privilege of staying in their beautiful home during our time there.

The weekend of August 12th we will be in Arkansas City, Kansas to present the work at the First Baptist Church of Arkansas City. We have dear friends of the ministry that go to the church and have worked to give us an opportunity to present our work to the pastor and the church’s board of directors. We will be sharing the vision of Rocsana’s Hope with them. The church is interested in getting involved in possibly helping us and also bringing groups down for mission trips and visits in the future. We are very excited about this opportunity and look forward to sharing with the leadership of the church in Arkansas City, Kansas.

Finally, the girls. I hear from at least one or both of them almost every day. Paola will even record her voice so we can hear it here in the US and send it to us telling us how much she loves and misses us and can’t wait for us to return. I know they are counting the days until our return and we ask that you continue to pray for both of them that God will encourage their hearts and give them the strength to continue walking with God. They are both so excited about our return to Guatemala and their part in the future of the ministry. Pray for us also that God will continue to open doors, blaze the trail, and prepare the way.

Laying the Foundation

There’s an old saying that says: the larger the building, the more solid and firm the foundation must be in order for it to stand. That is what I have been doing during this time back in the United States. The foundation for the ministry of Rocsana’s Hope is being laid brick by brick and stone by stone.

God has been opening many doors here in the States for Denise and I to present the ministry of Rocsana’s Hope and to share the vision that God has given us. To help these precious girls in Guatemala right now, who currently have no hope and are just waiting for us to open our doors and begin to help them. I have also been making regular trips back and forth to Guatemala in preparation for all of the work that must be done in order for us to open our doors and begin operation as a ministry rescuing young girls who have been orphaned.

I will be heading back down to Guatemala in September to begin the process of finding the exact home that we are going to secure as the headquarters for the ministry of Rocsana’s Hope. We are looking in the city of San Lucas which is located between Guatemala City and the City of Antigua, Guatemala. This is a great area that will give us the most opportunity for helping girls and puts us in the best position to partner and network with many of the orphanages that we will be working with in Guatemala. I will be meeting with local pastors, missionaries, ministry directors, business leaders, and orphanage directors as we begin the process of forming partnerships and working with the structures that are in place in Guatemala at this time.

We have already been coordinating with some local missionaries and orphanages in the area and will be meeting with them when I am down there in September. We ask that you be in prayer for this next trip as we continue to lay the groundwork on the foundation for opening the doors of Rocsana’s Hope’s ministry.

Please pray that we will locate the right property and house that we will be turning into the headquarters and ministry home of Rocsana’s Hope. Also, that the Lord will allow us to connect with the right people, the right churches, the right pastors, and the right ministries.

The Lord has been blessing us with people, coming out of the woodwork, who want to help us, who have committed to help us, and who are catching the vision for this unique and innovative ministry that no one else is doing right now. We are grateful to the Lord for how much He has blessed us and how many people He is bringing to help. Only He can do what has been done and we want to make sure to give all honor and glory to Him. We also thank all of you, our loving and faithful supporters, who have been behind us or have just recently joined our team and are making the vision of Rocsana’s Hope become a reality.

When People Are Standing Beside My Casket

It’s not what people are going to say about me, but what are they are going to be thinking in their hearts about me? In that moment, as they stare down at my earthly remains, what they are thinking about me is what I worry about. I am certainly not afraid to die. In fact there is a great part of me that looks forward to it. I will get to see my mom and dad and so many others that are already in heaven with Jesus and I can imagine how excited they are going to be when I can join them. It is something I look forward to.

But I am also excited to live. While I am still in this world I get to do something amazing and that is serve the Lord Jesus Christ, glorify Him, and be a part of seeing kids’ lives changed by His power.

I never understood how amazing and life-changing that could be. I know so many Christians who go to church, sing the songs, put their money in the offering plate, and even say an occasional amen. But when the music has been sung, the sermon has been preached, and when the service is over they return to their real life, which for so many is chasing the “American Dream.”

The Great Lie

Denise and I spent a lot of years “serving the Lord” in various ministries but at the same time we were trying to keep up with the Jones as well. We had lived so poorly for the first 15 years of our marriage that we wanted to finally live like everyone else, at least everyone else we knew in America. So we worked hard and finally had the nice house, the nice cars, good jobs, and nice things. I mean, this is what it’s all about right? Marriage wise, it was some of the worst times in our relationship. For some reason, we seemed to be struggling in other ways and it was one of the most unhappy times in our entire marriage. Actually, our worst year was the year we made the most money. We couldn’t figure it out and something just wasn’t adding up. I mean, the more you have the happier you are, right? We were just beginning to learn a valuable lesson: True happiness, inner joy, and real contentment absolutely cannot be bought, no matter how much money or things you have!

When It ALL Changed

We started seeking God and, to make a long story short, we surrendered to Him and His purpose for our lives. We had NO IDEA what was getting ready to happen. Denise lost her job, I lost my business, and eventually we lost our house. That led to us moving to LaCygne, Kansas where I pastored a small country church. THAT, in turn, led us to taking a seemingly benign mission trip to a small country in Central America. Within a year after taking that trip, we surrendered to the mission field. We sold everything we had and moved to Guatemala.

Stupid right? Well to many still chasing the “dream” I am sure it looked that way. But for us it was one of the most liberating things we had ever done AND when we were on the field serving God and working with our girls, those have become the happiest times of our lives. I know for me, I have never ever felt a greater depth of joy than I have ever known before and a deeper sense that I found what I was looking for all along. You see, the happiness that so many seek through material things and big bank accounts can only really be found when we give that all up. I don’t necessarily mean literally, although for some that might be exactly what God will ask, but I mean realizing that the mythical pot at the end of the rainbow will never be found. It isn’t until you let all of that go and realize that total surrender to the Lord and finding your purpose in Him is what really can give us what we are looking for.

And so it isn’t what people are going to say about me when I die. It is what they are going to think. It is going to be what was really true about my life that I care most about when people stand beside my casket. How did he live?
So when people are standing beside my casket, what are they going to think? What has always scared me is that some people might be able to think things like “He had so much potential” or “He could have done so much more for the Lord” or “If he had only sold out and gave his all to the Lord and not given up”. People thinking those things is what I fear the most. What I hope for, what I pray for and desire more than anything is for people to say things like “Man, that guy gave his life to serve the Lord and help others”, “He didn’t hold anything back in his commitment to the Lord”, and “That guy served God with all of his heart.” I want people to know that I was broken and spilled out in service to the Lord and I want people to know that I never surrendered to discouragement or defeat and that God used me to make an impact in other people’s lives for eternity. That is what I want… just to serve God and live for Him. My time is coming one day… and so is yours. What are people going to be thinking about you when your time has come?