In 2003, my dear friend and mentor, Craig Englert, brought a team from Hope Chapel to work with our schools on the Rio Coco in Nicaragua. It was a brutal trip. It had rained heavily for over a week. We prayed that the rain would stop, and it did. The sun came out and it got very hot and humid, and within a few days, all, I mean ALL of the bugs, came out to play.
It was so hot that at night in our tents (the only bug free environment), we would break out in a sweat with any movement. Craig brushed his teeth with slow wrist rotation- with a 2 second pause between strokes!
One afternoon, Craig and I were standing by the river. We had had a long day, and I could see he was thinking. Finally he said: “Mike, this school project is definitely a God thing.” Sensing a compliment on my efforts coming on, I said “Why do you say that Craig?” To which he replied: “Because I know you and on your very best day you could never pull this off.”
Now I have known Craig since 1981, sat in his discipleship classes for over two years, worked with him in small group ministry, spent hours in the water spearfishing, played tennis with him every Monday morning that I was on Maui and traveled with him to Europe. If there is anyone who knows me on Planet Earth besides my wife, it is him. I accepted his evaluation. The school project along the Rio Coco is, always has, and will always be a God Thing. He’s right. I could never on my own pull this off.
Craig is the one who modeled Relational Discipleship to me from the first time I met him at my cousin’s home in Kihei in September 1981. He conveniently lived right next door. I was a very self-centered, arrogant, fun loving guy then, but Craig and his wife Kathy treated me as if I was an old friend. They invited me into their home, shared meals with me, and Craig picked me up every Wednesday night and took me to Bible study at Diane Daniel’s home. Once I was locked into this group, Craig told me to drive myself- he was picking up the next new guy….
Craig, along with his assistant Jake Spence, along with my cousin Kean Salzer, taught me the Bible. But they also taught me many life lessons just by being around them. As a new follower of Jesus, I had many bad habits, and my friends never played the Holy Spirit for me, but rather they patiently allowed THE Holy Spirit to speak to me.
I’ll tell you one of the first, and then the most recent.
I met a cute girl at our church who was also a new Christian. She too had some worldly behavior that fell outside of Christian morality, and as I began spending time with her, we reverted to our former habitual behavior. I was living in Haiku with my friend Steve, and working in Lahaina, getting off at 9:30 each night. She lived in Kihei, halfway between work and home. I would stop to see her, and sometimes since I had to be back in Lahaina by 10 am, I would sleep on her couch. Soon I abandoned the couch for a more “comfortable” sleeping arrangement. I knew that this was not right, but it seemed ok, most of the time. I was growing in my awareness of what God’s best was for me, but even though the spirit was willing, the flesh was weak. I was severely conflicted, and knew that I was going to have to end the relationship with this cute girl to grow more spiritually. But I couldn’t, or didn’t want to. Do you know what I mean?
One Monday morning I woke up in her bed, looked at my watch. Whoa! It was 7:30 and I was late for my tennis match with Craig. I rushed out of her house, and guess what? There he was, sitting in his car. Busted! I didn’t know what to say.
Craig said “Are we playing tennis this morning?”
“Yes, let me grab my racquet and shoes from my car.”
We played three sets. Even though we are normally competitive, I did not win even one game. Craig kept smiling on each serve, and he kept me running back and forth. 6-0, 6-0. 6-0. I was so convicted of my sinful ways, I couldn’t concentrate on the game.
Afterwards, he dropped me back at her house, and smiled, and drove away. Not a word spoken. I stood there and made the hard decision- and in the next few days ended my relationship with her. It was a very good decision that I was later very thankful for.
A few months ago, I was on Maui, teaching a class at Hope Chapel. Before the class began, I was talking to a few people, and Craig and Laura were sitting nearby. Somewhere in the conversation, I mentioned that I used to fly in the Navy. I heard Craig say to Laura, “Wow. Michael lasted 16 minutes before he told them that he was a Navy pilot.”
Apparently he has noticed that I often drop that into the conversation with new people that I meet. It’s true, especially when I meet a pilot who comes into our café in Vero Beach. I even have photos on the wall of my airplanes. Perhaps that is a more important part of my identity than I am aware of.
I thought about that the rest of the time one Maui. I still think about it, and realize that Craig was showing me a better way to present myself to strangers- a more connecting, humble manner.
A few weeks ago two new Swiss Air Force pilots came into the café. I greeted them and began to ask them about their time in Vero Beach, and then told them of some of my Swiss Air Force friends that I know from earlier years. I mentioned the first two I had met in 2012, “Big Foot”- Lukas Nanaimo, and “Magnum”- Riccardo Ricci. “Those were our instructors!” they exclaimed. “Big Foot is one of our Flight Demonstration Team (their Blue Angels).” I took them to the south hallway where a large 20 x 16 photo of these two hang. They are standing in front of their airplanes at the base in Switzerland, holding bags of Rio Coco Beans. These new guys were impressed that I knew these two.
Then one of them asked me “Do you have a background in aviation?”
“How long has it been since we started talking?” I replied.
“Over 30 minutes” he said.
“Well yes, I used to be a Naval officer and fly the A-6 Intruder. Here is a photo of my airplane.”
Since then, I have become friends with these two Swiss Air Force officers, naturally, and in a manner where they asked me. That felt very good. Craig has taught me once again a better way.
Relational Discipleship is the Jesus method of making disciples. It is naturally developing friendships, intentional in God’s purposes, living in community, with transparency and openness that grows deep lifelong relationships that last for all eternity.
We all need trusted friends who speak into our lives, and who model the lifestyle of a true follower of Jesus. Craig has always been that way with me. Now I find myself being that to others. I know many of you reading this are also that to many that God has placed around you. If not, take a look to see who God has placed close to you. Who speaks into your life? Whose lives do you speak into?
Craig taught about relational discipleship on a Saturday morning at the Rio Coco Café.
“Relationships are messy! But they are worth the effort you give them. Make the effort to develop relationships, and let God use you in their lives for his purposes, and enjoy the process.”
A few days later he spoke to our Rio Coco team: “Be intentional! Know how to express the Gospel in you won words using your own experience. Be alert for those the Holy Spirit brings around you.”
These were a few of the gems that he passed on to our community here in Vero Beach.
God is doing something big in our culture now. More and more are being confronted with the fruits of self-centered amoral living, and realizing that there must be a better way. They will meet you and me, and we will have opportunity to show them a better way. With grace and humility, serving and loving them, and trusting the Holy Spirit to do His work around us and often through us.
Reflections on Relationships
The Lord disciplines those He loves. The host of heavens witnesses in awe all that our Heavenly Father works out in and through our lives- Mostly in our hearts as He alters us from the inside out. What is happening on the inside often gets displayed on the outside. Our lack or our abundance of discipline and self-control has a way of showing up as does every other poor or good choice we make in life. The law of the harvest… the reaping and sowing.
God is fast at work in very deep parts of our lives trying to free us from our hurts and wounds. Each of us has those logs in our own eye which God is trying to remove (Matt 7). He wants us to be asking him, seeking Him and knocking at His door of wisdom to discover for ourselves why we react negatively, have bad attitudes, get angry, have no peace, why we get so affected when this person does this that and the other. He desires to free us by unlocking the hurt, the offense, the event that leads us to our prison of judgement of examine and seeing the specks in the eyes of others.
I realized a long time ago after bringing my total inadequacies as a “homeschooling” mom to Jesus that I would constantly feel like a failure – not enough, but realized that He would be enough. He told me to continue to present myself to Him in every aspect of life and entrust each one of my children to Him constantly. He would work out the details.
Our sin and failures have inevitable effect upon one another. That’s a fact of life. Disrespect, unwillingness, and disobedience create major setbacks in our lives. Our humanity as parents adds to the fiasco at times even though we are trying our best. Becoming One with a spouse, having babies and doing life In general is a new experience and I never ever feel like I know what I am doing, but I know He does, and each of us must decide to allow Him to change us. It’s a choice to focus in on our own issues instead of focusing on their issues. It always has to be about how we get free from this sin within that so easily entangles us, again asking the question of why I react, feel or do what I do….. not why they do what they do, but how then should I be and live.
God seems to use the people around me as His most effective discipleship tool. We are all in the prime time of “home-schooling” as a community of the Family of God. Let us make the most of our ability to be able to still “run” together or at least “walk”.
Life is but a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. This is a season for us to work more together than we ever have and to reach new levels of victory and success In our relationship, as well as the mission that God has for us all.
It’s a two pronged approach: God working in us, and us becoming better at representing Him to those who are searching for The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Laura
Our Project Ezra school continue to function in the most remote corner of Nicaragua, unaffected by the brutality that is occurring on the Pacific side of the country. Daniel Ortega’s armed thugs are firebombing homes and incarcerating demonstrators. Many have “disappeared”. Others have been found dead of torture. Voices are being silenced now by a ruthless dictator and his wife, backed by loyal police and military. Human rights groups are condemning the actions of the Ortega government.
Pleases pray for the safety of our project leaders, our teachers, as well as many of our former students who are attending universities in Managua.
Moselle 18th Birthday
Yes, it is true! All my children are legal adults now, with Moselle turning 18 on the 12th of this month. But we have all know that she has been an adult since 2011 when a lady came into our newly opened cafe in Vero Beach asking for my daughter. I pointed to Mikaela and asked “Her?“. She shook her head. Then I pointed to Arielle. “Not her. The short one- the one that can run a small country.”
She had grown into a capable, sensitive, athletic, spiritually mature lady. We are so proud of her.
Here are some celebration photos:
Hurricane Michael Coffee
This week, we roasted a hundred pounds of a nice Honduran coffee, grinded it, bagged it, , and sent it to Panama City to the survivors of the terrible storm which struck there last week. What a mess! We hope this coffee will convey care and concern to those who receive it. Please join us in praying for total recovery and restoration of those communities.
A special thanks to my good friend at Royal Coffee, Camilo, who in his own special way, helped us with this Honduras coffee. We are fortunate to have friends like Camilo who travel to distant coffee farms, source very good specialty coffee, and pay the farmers a good price for their crop.
How You Can Help
2) Support one of our missionaries;
3) Help us with school supplies and teacher salaries.
1) Protect our team in Nicaragua during this political unrest.
2) Bring many into the Rio Coco Cafes this month.
3) Provide us with workers for the Utila Café. We are in need of team members.
Rio Coco Beans
A new website is coming soon! It will be a massive upgrade!