In the Absence of Integrity…

If darkness is the absence of light, and black is the absence of color, then we are to conclude that the absence of one thing creates a void which has a name, feeling and presence all its own.

No one can deny that darkness has a physical feeling attached to it. If it didn’t, children (and many adults) would not be afraid of the dark. It is the fear of what can happen in the dark that truly frightens us. Where there is no light, our imaginations can conjure all sorts of terrifying scenarios and possibilities. The Word of God refers to Hell as “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12, 22:13 and 25:30) and the “blackness of darkness” (Jude 1:13). Many might ask, ‘but isn’t there fire in hell?’ It’s hard to imagine a fire that gives no light, but the darkness scripture refers to is much more terrifying than the physical or emotional darkness we experience in the world. It is a darkness that pierces to our very soul without the hope of relief. This is only a small part of what we need to understand as the horror and hopelessness that is eternity spent in utter separation from God. The absence of God will leave us experiencing a truly unique darkness which is palpable and very real.

By this same logic, where integrity is absent, we are left with corruption. We are quick to denounce corruption in our society as an entity all its own. We regularly hear about complaints and protests against corruption because of the negative effects it has on the most vulnerable members of our society. But, I don’t remember the last time I heard an outcry or protest for integrity. The reason you hear few people asking for integrity is because, deep down, we realize that, ideally, we should be willing to live out the very thing we are asking others to exhibit in all levels of society, culture and government. 

It is an easy thing to call out corruption in others. It is much more difficult to commit to a life of integrity for ourselves

I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

PSALM 101:2-3

The truth is, the best training in integrity begins in the home. Our children and grandchildren will imitate what they see, not what we tell them. This means that we need to be constantly striving towards integrity in everything we do. If not, we need to be ok with children who grow up to perpetuate the corruption that we left them with by failing to instill integrity. 

In its simplest form, modeling integrity for our children means keeping our word with them and others. It means answering their ‘why’s’ and ‘why nots’ with evidence from scripture. A child should never be satisfied with the age-old “because I said so” from their parents. Children should be given the basic respect and opportunity to understand the reasons behind limitations, restrictions and discipline. Understanding that everything we believe, and each decision we make has a strong foundation will allow them to make sense of a world that is intent on confusing and deceiving them.

On a more complex level, integrity is modeled for our children in how we treat them, how we treat our spouse, our neighbors, our employees, the person in line at the pharmacy and all who we come in contact with. Every word we say…every decision we make…has far-reaching consequences. 

As children grow, what they saw in their home is what they will likely reflect as adults. Those willing to deceptively pad a résumé or falsely embellish a work bio will often be perpetuating their parents’ example to them. A person’s willingness to cheat for the work promotion, or an inclination to lie to make the sale can more often than not be traced back to a parent who did the same, and who promoted a ‘you gotta do what you gotta do’ mentality.  What people portray on social media vs. what their lives and relationships really look like can also often be traced to the legacy of a parent or parents more preoccupied with portraying a certain image than the example they were being to those under their care. 

As the topic of corruption continues to dominate headlines in Puerto Rico, Ricky takes the time to remind families in the churches on the island that if we are going to cry, “¡Corrupción! Corrupción!”… then we had better be willing to look at the plank in our own eye. He asks them, “But in your home…is there integrity? Are you walking in integrity? Are you modeling integrity for the little feet that follow you? Because every government official was once a child with parents whose actions informed their future, for better or for worse. If corruption is the absence of integrity, and you are not intentionally and actively modeling integrity in your home, I have news for you, beloved: You are raising the next generation of ‘corruptos.’”

not negligent to remind them

This post covers the opportunities we had to share the above message and more with 9 churches, 6 public schools and 2 private schools in the 14 municipalities where you see a red star below.

STAYING ALERT

I don’t often sit while Ricky is preaching in a church. I’ll snap a few photos for this blog and for our ministry’s social media pages, then I will often stand or pace at the back of the church listening intently, watching the congregation, and praying for the Word to fall on good ground. We have had so many varying experiences in churches across the island over the years that I feel that I need to be ready for absolutely anything. I’ll give a discreet fist pump to encourage Ricky in a portion of the message, particularly when I see that the Spirit is leading him into a new and relevant direction. As Ricky preaches, the Lord will often give him special insight in the moment, leading the teaching into new, scripture-supported territory that really brings the message home for the congregants. I want to encourage him to continue down that path when this happens, and will signal him using our own kind of ‘RAME sign language’ that we have developed over the last several years.

Below, some photos from the churches where we were able to bring a message of love, exhortation and hope to the congregants gathered.

WALKING CIRCUMSPECTLY

Our message in the schools is geared towards students and faculty. Obviously, in this environment, parents are not typically present. Here, we have the opportunity to lead the children into analytical thought about the influences that affect their thoughts and actions, and how they do not have to follow the negative patterns set before them. We talk about music, movies and influences from the communities they live in. We use God’s Word to counter certain behaviors that they may be taking for granted. In one school recently, a 5th grade boy approached Ricky, sobbing and said, “I listen to that music you were talking about. I didn’t know what they were singing about.” He seemed to be genuinely impacted by the realization, and teachers who know him as a ‘tough guy’ told us they had never seen him like that before.

Below, some photos where were blessed to encourage children into critical thinking about their behavior and choices…

GOD-BREATHED

God has blessed us with a ministry that is truly adaptable to so many different types of groups. We love when we get to minister to all ages together, but we also really enjoy the opportunity to bless very small children and/or children with special needs with lots of music and laughter. Public schools, private schools, HeadStarts and other learning centers are thrilled when we tell them we can do a program suitable for each age group. In schools, students from about 2nd grade and up receive a thorough message relevant to their current life stage and experiences, while the smaller ones get more music, more laughter and a shorter, more concise message. We tell schools that we are theirs for the whole day so that we can cover each group according to their needs. God gives us and our boys extraordinary energy, vocal resilience, and most of all, great joy while we work from wee hours of the morning to late in the afternoon, often to do it all over again the next day.

As our God is so good, He never forgets to give us our ‘seventh day!’

Below, some photos of our time in a private school and an early learning and special needs center.

IN HIS HANDs

The year 2020 marks the beginning of our 7th year of service on the island of Puerto Rico. While we can’t believe how quickly the time has gone, we are blessed when we meditate on how God’s providence has ordered everything so perfectly as we have served Him here. From His initial calling when we lived stateside to the way He has grown this ministry and our faith, we see how the work established for our hands has always been according to what He has equipped us for in each season of our family’s life. We look forward to seeing what this 7th year will bring, and what new opportunities He will bless us with to share encouragement and exhortation from His Word.

If you would like to make a donation of any amount to RAME Ministries (no amount is too small), you may click on the image below to be directed to our PayPal donation page:

2019

Thank you for reading, and may the Lord bless you richly as you seek to live a life of integrity in His name.


Below, a recent video from our YouTube channel; part of a new ‘behind the scenes’ series that shows how we transform our house into a studio to create our videos, and some of the shenanigans that take place during the filming process. Enjoy!

And All God’s People Said…

There’s a song that I sing during the music portion of many of our presentations. It is an opportunity to briefly teach about an oft-used word in Puerto Rican culture, which many have appropriated to mean that they are in agreement with something: the word ‘Amen.’ 

Before I sing a Spanish rendition the catchy and upbeat song “All the People Said Amen” by Matt Maher, I introduce the song by asking what the word “Amen” means. Someone will always answer “Así sea” (so be it), which is correct. I then take the meaning one step further by reminding the group that the word ‘Amen’ is to be used with careful consideration, understanding that by using it we are in essence saying that we are in agreement…because God is in agreement. 

I next ask, “But how can we verify whether God is in agreement with something? How can we know whether what we are seeing or hearing pleases the heart of God?  How can we know whether we should say ‘Amen’ to something, or if we should stay quiet?”

This part of the presentation is an opportunity for us to gauge where the group is in terms of their understanding of God’s truth and where to find it. In schools, there is always one or more who answer correctly: “By reading the Bible.” 

In churches, however, we are often surprised at how few of those congregated know the answer to the question: How can you know the heart of God? 

The following are some of the answers we get, and the responses we give: 

Answer: “By prayer.”
Response: Prayer is how we speak to God; How does God speak to us? 

Answer: “Through dreams.”
Response: If you are not in constant communion with the Lord, your dreams can be very confusing, and God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). More on this later. 

Answer: “By listening to our hearts.”
Response: The Word of God says that our heart is wicked and deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9). In other words, no one can lie to us better than we can lie to ourselves. 

Answer: By prophecy (a popular notion in churches here where titles such as Prophet, Apostle and even Archangel are common among church leaders) 
Response: A prophecy is to be confirmed by the Word (1 John 4:1-6)

Answer: By asking our pastor, or ‘through others.’

Your pastor is a person of the flesh, and people make mistakes…even your pastor and church leaders can and will make mistakes. The Word confirms this when in Acts 20:28, Luke warns church leaders to be very careful in how they lead, because they are still men still in the flesh, prone to error and sin just like the rest of us.

Answer: By reading God’s Word. 
Response: AMEN! 

Now, I want to be clear here that prayer is a crucial part of a true believer’s relationship with the Lord, and that reading of the Word alone without regular prayer time will not profit us much. I know, too, from personal experience, that the Lord can speak to us in our time of prayer, usually bringing to mind scripture that is applicable to our prayer—again, thru His Word (John 14:26). 

But, there are many who spend tons of time on bended knee, or attending corporate prayer services, asking for and offering prayer to others, even fasting…who are spending little to no time in God’s Word. Prayer and fasting without the Word, or vice versa, will not bring forth fruit in the life of a believer. 

Additionally, dreams can be informative in the life of a praying, Word-reading believer. However, we know that when the Lord speaks to us, He will not just say it once. He is a God of confirmation, and the bulk of that confirmation should come from His Word. If it does not, the dream should be disregarded until we feel He is speaking to us about it again.

A last, but important note on dreams: We should be cautious when someone other than a spouse tells us they’ve had a dream about us and our circumstances. God is not in support of His children regarding the ways and paths of those outside their own home. He commands, ‘Consider your ways,’ (Haggai 1:7), so why would he give us dreams about someone else? People who claim to have dreams about other people’s lives and circumstances are considered by God’s Word to be busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3:11), and should find better work to do with their hands, like, for example, “Considering [their own] ways.” (Haggai 1:7).  Furthermore, pinning our hopes on the dreams and visions of others for our lives can open the door to dangerous avenues, as we are not to trust in the words of man, but in the Word of God. Hence, why He gave us the Spirit and the gift of a personal relationship with Him thru His Son. 

“But,” you may ask, “What of the prophets?”

In terms of prophecy, we understand this is a popular practice in churches today. Leaders and other congregants lay hands and ‘declare a blessing’ onto someone,  ‘speak into the lives’ of church attendees, or ‘prophesy over’ congregants and people visiting churches. This is incredibly dangerous and more akin to fortunetelling than anything else because…

The age of the prophets has ended. There are no new prophecies, as many modern churches would like us to believe. Christ fulfills all the prophecies, and the ones yet to be fulfilled are written in the book of Revelation and all scripture that relates to end-times. As I mentioned earlier, since Christ ascended into heaven, the Spirit of God dwells in every true believer, allowing us personal and constant access to the throne of grace.

That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Therefore…

We have no need of modern-day prophets to speak to us on behalf of the Lord. 

There is no physical location where need to go or pray toward to seek God.

There is no person here on earth who we need in order to communicate with God.

Jesus Christ is our only intermediary to the Father. Everything the Lord wants us to know, He has included in His Word and has made available to us right now. Therefore, if you are looking for a prophet, you would do better to seek a solid teacher of God’s Word because, if he is doing his job correctly, he is teaching God’s complete Word and how to apply it right now. As you can see, it all comes back to God’s Word.  Nothing more, nothing less.

reaching out

In the month of October, we ministered in 10 churches, 5 private schools and 7 public schools in the 16 municipalities where you see a red star below. Several of the municipalities were visited more than once throughout the month.

by family, for family

When we set out to minister on the island of Puerto Rico, we trusted God to show us where and how we would share the truths of His Word with the Puerto Rican people. Would we work with children? Youth? The elderly?

We spend a lot of time ministering to intergenerational groups in churches, and seeing many people, young and old, receive the Word with joy, understanding and conviction. As God has shown us that He doesn’t intend any part of his Word for only a certain age group, He also showed us the need of every heart at every age for His truth. In obedience, we serve wherever He opens a door, and He has blessed us with a ministry that can reach any person at any age, and at any stage of life. Additionally, God has made it so that our young boys are able to participate more and more as they get older and become more capable of handling certain responsibilities. This encourages other families we reach out to that children should not be seen as a hindrance, but rather a great blessing in service to the Lord. We understand that it is not we, but He who reaches them thru His Word.

Below, some photos of our time ministering in churches during the month of October…

NOT SHUT OUT

We never imagined the door God would open to minister in schools on the island. Each year, we are encouraged by how many workers in the public schools are willing to stand in the gap for their students to bring them truth, exhortation and encouragement from God’s Word. Below, some photos from the public schools where we served in the month of October…

And in continuation, the private schools where we also had the pleasure of bringing our program to smaller groups…

affirming the power of godliness

As prevalent as religion is on the island of Puerto Rico, we encounter quite a bit of confusion about what it means to be a true believer in the risen Christ. It is more than being just a congregant in a church or a person who abides in the religion of their culture, or even a leader of an entire ministry. Our aim is to bring conviction to individual hearts about the importance of having not just the form of godliness, but of also affirming its power in the way that we live. We continually pray that our lives and household can be an example of integrity to those unto whom minister, and that our words can be supported by the silent witness of our character, conduct and conversation.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

We appreciate and are encouraged by your prayers for our family and ministry, as well as your financial support of this work in Puerto Rico. To make a donation of any amount (no amount is too small), you may click on the image below:

2019

Below, a recent music video posted to your YouTube channel. The Spanish word ‘Dicen’ means ‘They Say’ in English. This is a cover of a melody by Vico-C, a well-known artist on the island, but with new lyrics and musical arrangement by Casa de Doña Jenny. Enjoy!

Far and Wide

During the months of August and September (yes, we are a little behind on updates!), we had the opportunity to minister God’s Word to people of all ages across 24 municipalities in Puerto Rico.

Below, a map of the municipalities we visited in the months of August and September. Many of them were visited several times, as we ministered in 16 churches, 2 group homes or government housing facilities, 11 private schools and 6 public schools.

As you can see from the map above, the ministry’s reach has extended farther across the island with each passing month. We have been blessed to receive calls from places like Ponce and San Sebastian, and have very much enjoyed the beauty of the island as we drive to different out-of-the-way locations.

BACK TO SCHOOL

As the school year got started, we received calls from public school administrators eager to welcome the students back with a message of God’s love.

One public school principal invited us to bring a message to her first parents’ meeting of the year. She warned us that on a good day, maybe 20 or 30 parents will come to a meeting. When we arrived at the school, she told us she expected even less, as few parents had responded letting her know they would attend. For the glory of God, the cafeteria where the meeting was being held filled up to capacity, and many parents of this large San Juan public school were able to hear a message of exhortation from God’s Word about their duty as the stewards of their little ones. Below, some photos of our time with them…

We ministered in many private schools as well, for retreats, Grandparents’ Day and other special activities. Below, some photos of our time in private schools big and small…

YOUR CHILDREN’S CHILDREN

During the month of September, many private schools commemorated Grandparents’ Day. We were invited to several of these activities to bring our ministry for the grandparents and grandchildren gathered. In God’s perfect providence, Ricky’s message to families has included some exhortations to grandparents for some time now about how to impact the lives of their grandchildren for God’s glory:

Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren…

DEUTERONOMY 4:9

Ricky reminds grandparents that whatever they consume, their grandchildren will also consume. Grandparents are not exempt from guarding their minds and hearts by virtue of their age and experience. Now that there are tiny feet walking behind them once again, they should take special care to guard the minds and hearts of their beloved little ones by guarding their own minds and hearts from the pollutions of the world. Below, some photos of the different opportunities we had to bring a message from God’s Word to grandparents about their important calling and impact on the lives of their grandchildren…