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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Testimony

I have to take a minute to tell you what God has did for us recently!

We first moved to South Africa in 2008.  Many who have moved know that, despite your greatest intentions to pack and move in a dignified, organized and structured manner, you reach that certain point where you're just throwing things in boxes.  When you're moving to another continent, not knowing exactly what you'll need, that tends to exacerbate the difficulty.

LDS Authorized KJV Bible
Well, here we are, over 6 years and 4 moves later, and we're still trying to recover.  It's not that we haven't gone through some of those boxes, but since our arrival in 2008 things have been so busy that when we did "reorganize" there was a greater emphasis on the "re" and less so on the "organize."  Our goal, as time has permitted over the last several weeks is to determine what, if anything that we own is really unnecessary at this stage of our life.  We've found lots of things, most notably baby, infant and toddler items.  While we've desired to have more children God hasn't chosen to increase our family in 5 years so we decided that it is past time to make sure someone else gets to use the things He so graciously blessed us with when Meredith and Drake were small.  But I digress.  The point is, we've streamlined.

Amber with some of the team.  Utah is B-E-Autiful!
But here's where it gets good.  I was going through a box of old photos and found several items of interest.  In 2003, less than a year after getting married, Amber and I took a trip to Utah (photos from that trip throughout this post).  While there we served with Chip and Jamie Thompson at a local outreach.  Part of that included training on the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  In this box I found the study guide, visual aids and an LDS authorized KJV Bible.  I thought to myself "What a weird place for us to pack these things.  Good thing I haven't needed them in the last 6 years.  I should put them with my study materials."  So I did.

If it looks like we're fighting, it's because we are.  She beats me. 
That was last Friday.  On Sunday, Gladston Jonas from our church (whom you may remember from this post), told me that he had bumped into some American missionaries here.  He was excited to meet some other Americans so he arranged with them to come over to his house sometime.  He didn't know right away that they were LDS missionaries.  When he told me about it I offered to come along, if he would have me.  He agreed and so the next day we had a meeting scheduled at his place.

We had the opportunity to meet Elder Holman from Reno, NV and Elder Ngundu from Zambia.  God gave us the privilege to speak together for about 2 hours, sharing the grace of God that draws mankind to Himself.  It was really cool because Gladston was able share his testimony, which if you remember, was somewhat humorous in the way he had been challenged in regard to his own righteousness.  We were able to discuss the same passage, along with lots of others from the Bible, with both young men.  Using the visual aids that I had found or more accurate, that God had led me to, we also discussed some of the LDS requirements for salvation from the Book of Mormon, Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrine and Covenants, etc...

Young Amber & Louis at The Great Salt Lake
The main point that stands out is that there is Nothing that we can do to earn God's love, favor or eternal life.  Think about it for a moment.  When I only do something for someone based on what I want to receive in return, or worse yet, because then they'll owe me something in return the word used to describe that isn't Love.  The word to describe that kind of relationship is Manipulation.  So, if I serve God hoping to earn His love, or so that He'll karmically owe me blessings like eternal life, then I'm trying to manipulate God.  And if God can be manipulated by me He's no longer God...I am.

Yet so many religions in this world are based in a mistaken belief that we can and must earn God's favor.  The point of the Law is not that I can do well enough to satisfy God.  The point is that I can't, never will!  How can my sins be paid for, if one sin against the laws or character of an infinite God is worthy of infinite punishment?  I need an infinite payment, right?  Guess what?  Nothing about me is infinite.  Jesus is.  By living a sinless life, yet paying the penalty reserved for those who have sinned, His infinite righteousness is available to me.  God, as a righteous Judge, can accept His infinite payment for my infinite violation, transferring His righteousness to me as my sin was transferred to Him.  This divine transaction is called Justification.  Through this I now have peace with God, not because I have worked hard enough to earn His favor, but because Jesus - HIS OWN SON - is eternally worthy of God's favor.  The words we use to describe this are Freedom, Grace, Mercy, Peace, Joy, LOVE!
Young Louis finds a buried knife wrapped in a
photo at old Indian cliff drawings.  Probably
an ancient murder weapon.

During our conversation there was some back and forth, some good questions asked.  It was clear that Elder Holman and Elder Ngundu were thoughtfully engaged with us.  At the end Elder Holman bore his testimony to us.  But it was clear that he understood a vast difference between the gift of salvation that we discussed from God's Word vs. the merit-based salvation taught by the LDS church and most major religions worldwide.

The LDS Temple in Manti, UT.
We're hoping to have a couple more opportunities to meet with these guys, as it was such a privilege to sit down together and open God's Word.  Really, anytime we can open Scripture together is a blessing not to be missed!  In fact, after Elders Holman and Ngundu departed, the four of us left at Gladston's house were able to share another 45 minutes of Bible Study, looking at 2 Tim. 2:25 and John's warning in his second epistle.  Earlier in the day I had a moment of repentance as I realized that going into the meeting I was more concerned with having the right answers than for the salvation of souls.  And during this time one of the other guys prayed for forgiveness as well, recognizing that his attitude was to be proven correct rather than meekly instructing those whose beliefs are in opposition to their own eternal souls.  Again, such a privilege to be unified with true believers and share in God's work like this!

Continue to pray for Elders Ngundu and Holman!  Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life!


For good LDS resources go to: Tri-Grace Ministries website  -- Special Thanks to Chip & Jamie Thompson for their faithful work!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Atonement

This past weekend - Good Friday, Saturday and Resurrection Sunday - Welkom Baptist Church had a conference focusing on The Atonement.  I think everyone reading this post knows the holidays I referenced, but many people may not know what "Atonement" means.  Now, we just had like 6 hours of preaching and teaching on the subject, but a simple definition is "Reparation or Expiation for Sin". The dictionary gives the origin of the word as meaning "at one + ment" denoting unity from the Latin word "to unite."

Ultimately, we know that our sin separates us from God.  Sin is a violation of the character and laws of an infinite person (Rom 3:23, I John 3:4), meaning that there is an infinite punishment to pay (Rev 20:10-15).  But when Jesus, the sinless Son of God, accepted the punishment for sin, He proved to be the sacrifice that removes God's wrath...the one who brings unity with God (Is 53, John 1:29, Rom 5:1, Gal 1:4, I Pet 1:18-19).  Through His infinite righteousness He fulfilled all the requirements of God to expiate sin, making a way for us to be reunited with the source of all life.  And when we are united with God, we ourselves possess eternal life (John 17:3).

The problem is that:
1) humans don't like to admit fault for anything, let alone the fact that we're completely sinful.
2) due to our sinfulness, there is no way we can ever do anything to cleanse our souls and merit God's favor.
3) we constantly try to appease God when His standard is absolute perfection, something we can never attain.

Yet for the one who understands his sinfulness and God's righteous obligation to punish sin, the one who responds "God, have mercy on me, a sinner!", this very one receives God's approval on the basis of His approval of His Son's sacrifice.  It isn't anything I've done, am doing or can do.  It is all a work of Jesus.  My baptism, church attendance or allegiance, my acts of penitence, my acts of charity, any righteous deed - none of these things earn God's favor.  They can only be worshipful offerings of thanksgiving to my Savior.  If I think these offerings somehow pay for my sins, somehow balance out God's divine ledger, I've just nullified the death of Jesus by making the statement that my efforts will appease God's wrath.  I CAN'T DO IT!

But now, as a child of God, I now receive all the benefits described in Romans 8.  Paul's flawless logic in Rom 8:32 puts it this way "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"  You see, if God was willing to give His Son on my behalf, is there anything more precious than that?  If He gave it all, what more is there to give?

Pastor John Macdonald was our preacher for the Good Friday service.  By way of illustration he told the story of a wealthy man whose son passed away.  Admittedly this story is most likely an urban legend, but it encapsulates the point well:
A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When war broke out, the son went to serve. He was very courageous, and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified, and grieved deeply for his only son.
About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands. He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you and your love for art." The young man held out his package. "I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."
The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. "Oh, no, sir," said the young man, "I could never repay what your son did for me. It's a gift."
The father hung the portrait over his mantel. Every time visitors came to his home, he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected.
The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.
On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. "We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"
There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."
But the auctioneer persisted. "Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"
Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!"
But still the auctioneer continued, "The son! The son! Who'll take the son?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. "I'll give $10 for the painting," he said. Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
"We have $10, who will bid $20?"

"Give it to him for $10," called out an angry voice. "Let's see the masters."

"$10 is the bid, won't someone bid $20?"

The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. At last, the auctioneer pounded his gavel. "Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!"
A man sitting in the second row shouted, "Now, let's get on with the collection!"

The auctioneer laid down his gavel. "I'm sorry, the auction is over."

"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

I John 5:11-12 "And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back in S.A.

Greetings from South Africa, where the weather is as predictable as a Swiss watch.  Which is a big change from the Midwest, am I right?

We've now been here for about two weeks and it's high time that we update everyone.  We left the States on March 27th, after a parade of goodbyes.  I always thought that farewells would get easier...but I was wrong.  So we won't say too much about those except this - If we missed saying goodbye to you, or if it was extremely lame, it's because we were trying a new technique.  If we pretend that we aren't saying goodbye for a long time it lessens the drama, especially for our kids.  We've spoken with many former missionary kids and a theme that stuck out was how hard the times of transition were.  So we tried to make it easier this time.  I'm not sure it worked.

We also tried something new on our flight back.  Our kids are old enough now that traveling with them isn't such a game of roulette.  The most direct route between DSM and Johannesburg is a non-stop Delta flight through Atlanta, running about 24 hours total, depending on layovers.  Unfortunately that one is usually more expensive.  So we find ourselves taking whatever flight is cheapest.  This time it was through London and we had the opportunity for a 10 hour layover.  So to make the most of it we went into the city to see what is so great about Britain.  

But before we get to that I need to share something cool that happened during our layover in Chicago.  We had been given a Flat Stanley by a friend's child.  When we arrived at our departure gate Amber got Stanley out to take a picture.  And as she was doing that we noticed a woman sitting next to us getting out a Flat Stanley of her own...except her Stanley was a girl (which seems like a strange name for a girl, but whatever).  So Amber asked if we could take pictures of them together.  This started a conversation with the lady, which eventually led into an opportunity to share the gospel with her.  She is a native of London who has lived in the Chicago area for the last 25 years.  Her mother had passed away in November and she was returning now to settle up her mother's estate.  Sadly enough, this seemed to be the first time she had ever heard the gospel in any form.  As an atheist she was very polite but obviously wasn't in agreement.  Eventually the conversation moved back to her trip and how hard it would be to close her mother's things out.  
At that point Drake pipes into the conversation and says to her "I know what you should do."  
"What?" she replied.
"You should pray to Jesus to help you."
And he was so earnest about it there was nothing she could say.  She just sat there nodding at him, then said "Yes, you're probably right."
At that we were called to board the plane and didn't have a chance to go further with her.  But I know this, she had an 8 hour flight to think things through.

Once we arrived in London it took us a couple hours to actually find the correct terminal, get our carry-on bags secured, buy tickets on the train and then get to Picadilly Circus.  We had just enough time to take the double-decker bus tour before we had to return.  Here are some of the highlights:
-The double-decker bus, which our kids loved.
-The history, such as St James Palace which was built by King Henry VIII as a hunting lodge.
-Buckingham Palace, the guards, the pomp and ceremony.  We got off the bus to see the front of Buckingham, and there must have been some official State event, because every 30 seconds or so a small group of people would emerge from the palace.  You should have seen the various hats the women were wearing.  High comedy!
-Seeing the main sites, such as Westminster, House of Parliament, the Clock Tower (mistakenly called Big Ben by ignorant folk such as yours truly), London Bridge, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, etc...
-The historical tidbits from the tour guide on our second bus.  He was great and we were sitting right next to him so I got to ask all sorts of questions.  We learned all about the London fire, Oliver Cromwell, the Thames waterfront, Fleet Street, all manner of things...
We wanted to make sure to get back to Heathrow in plenty of time, so we were careful to keep an eye on the clock...actually, that's just a figure of speech.  Because about halfway through the tour we were still moving away from Picadilly Circus so I asked the tour guide approximately how much longer it would be.  He said about an hour and a half.  So I asked him what time it was.  Completely deadpan, with the sarcastic British humor, he says to me (over the loudspeaker so the entire bus-both levels-could hear) "Why don't you turn around?  The most famous clock in the world is right behind you."  Yep, there was Big Ben, not 300 yards away, telling me exactly what time it was.  From that point forward it was easy to keep an eye on the clock.  (Bloody British and their cutting wit!)

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  Our biggest fear was meeting up with my brother Caleb.  He came along to help us but had to take a different flight.  So to our great joy he was there waiting in the lobby of OR Tambo right on time the morning we arrived.

Here is where I have to give a list of so many things to thank God for:
-Caleb's willingness to take time out of his schedule to help.
-Brett and Celita Winson and their willingness to car-sit for us and deliver our car to the airport.
-Tricia Dargie and her hospitality, friendship and love.
-Paddy Winson for caring for our dog, etc...
-Jim and Kim Heffner, who have allowed us to stay in their home for a few months.

In fact, I need to give more information on the Heffners.  This is a family that we met last year.  God has called them to come serve in Welkom, ministering to and discipling young people in the church and community.  I'll need to do another post at another time to fully share who they are and how God has led them.  For now I'll leave it that they have become dear friends and have been used by God to bless us in many ways.  They are hoping to arrive in Welkom in June and we are greatly anticipating their arrival.
 
The Heffners purchased a home in December in anticipation of their upcoming ministry here.  It was opened to us to occupy until they arrive.  We got to Welkom Saturday afternoon.  Sunday was a great time to reunite with people from church and rest.  Then on Monday we began to move things from our house at RHV.  First item on the agenda was to meet with the Heffner's realtor and get access to the house.  This being Africa we anticipated several hours of headaches trying to get the house and work with the local municipality to get utilities started.  But God spared us.  It took 15 minutes to meet with the realtor, get the keys and get into the house.  And the realtor had already registered the house with the municipality so water and electric were fully functional!

Everyone from The Village was gone for the day at an amusement park in Johannesburg, so we had no interruptions...an oddity in South Africa.  Caleb was an amazing help and we got about 90% of the moving done that first day.  We had to return the rented trailer by 8:00am the next morning, but since we still had a healthy dose of jet lag it was no problem to get an early start.  With so little left to do we were finished by 7:30 and had the trailer back right on time.

Now we're just working to settle in...both to the house and to reconnect with so many relationships.  Of course, that has been the enjoyable part.  

Oh, and we were able to get internet access on April 9th...6 days after we applied with the phone company.  Last time we needed to get phone/internet hooked up it took 6 weeks.  My apologies for this overdue update.  

Until next time, keep looking to Jesus.












Monday, February 24, 2014

O'Tool South Africa Update - Jan/Feb 2014



Dear Supporter,

Greetings from us transplanted Mid-­‐westerners who are enjoying all that winter in Iowa has to offer. It has been a few years since we had the “fun” of snow, wind and icy roads. Of course, the kids are making some great memories in it all!

There has been a lot of activity for our family in the last couple months. As we follow Christ’s call to make disciples there have been many decisions to be made. The two biggest are “Where exactly is He calling us to serve?” and “What gospel organization should we partner with in this disciple-­‐making work?”

After several months of walking through this process in prayer, meditation and counsel, we believe that God has led us to some answers.

1. We plan to accept an offer from Welkom Baptist Church to serve in the areas of evangelism and discipleship, primarily focusing on ministry with youth/young adults and families. In our last letter we shared that WBC is running about 150 in attendance, with at least half of those 6th grade and under. The work we will be engaging in is primarily related to church planting and establishment. While there are a few details to be worked out, there is a lot of work to be done and we are excited to return as part of that!


2. In a process that included lots of internet research, emails, phone calls and even two interviews, we can finally announce that we have been accepted as missionaries with Wordsower International just this week. Wordsower was founded by Jason Nightingale, whom many of you may recognize through his ministry of dramatic recitation of Scripture. The organization partners already with a variety of works including orphan ministry in Haiti, Kenya, Liberia and India, church planting in Liberia and Ghana, and refugee ministry in Ghana.

We appreciate your patience as we have walked through this season of ministry. With our acceptance by Wordsower Intl., they will begin to receive donations for support of our work. For those of you who
have held your donations and are ready to resume support there are several ways to give. Please see instructions in the box below.  There is also a link to the Wordsower Donation page  at the bottom of this post.

Wordsower is a registered 501(c)3 non-­‐profit corporation and donations to support the work are considered tax deductible. Please ensure that you note on all donations that the funds are for the support of the O’Tools. If you have questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us. 

 Donate Online - Specify Donations for O'Tool Ministry




Obviously, there are many more details than we can possibly share in this letter. We would love to speak with you by phone, Skype or email if you would like more information on our plans or the thought process behind them.

Throughout this whole season, regardless of where God would lead, our confidence is that the Gospel is the power of God to salvation through faith to everyone who believes. And as we approach our future we do so knowing that our loving Father is in control and has already established good works for us to walk in. The goal in disciple-­‐making is always to work yourself out of a job. In whichever way He continues to direct our steps we rest in His promise that we did not choose Him, but that He has chosen us and ordained us that we would bring forth fruit...fruit that would remain.

Thank you for your partnership in prayer and financial support over the years we have been privileged to serve in South Africa. By the grace of our Savior may we be granted many more years in service of the King.

Louis & Amber O’Tool 

Click Here to Donate Online (please specify for O'Tool Ministry): www.wordsower.org








Friday, February 21, 2014

Interesting Olympics

Ever since I was a kid I loved the Olympics...especially the Winter Games.  From my first cognition of the Games in Albertville, then on to Lillehammer, Nagano, Salt Lake City, Torino, Vancouver and now Sochi, the different competitions have fascinated me.

And maybe even more so, I enjoy the stories that go along with the pageantry, like when NBC did a piece on Allied infiltration of a Nazi "Heavy Water" factory in Norway during the Lillehammer games.  When I was doing my paper routes in the middle of winter back then I used to pretend that I was one of the soldiers, even going so far as to carry homemade wooden guns with a homemade removable silencer.  I know, I'm a huge nerd.  Homeschoolers, right!  (Nowadays, if a kid got caught doing that he probably would get in actual trouble which would make some of the intrigue actually real).

Of course, as anyone my age and older would know, the Games aren't nearly as fun anymore.  Partly that's probably due to the commercialization of entire sports.  Maybe some of it stems from the fact that a lot of the American athletes are paid to participate in their sports while many from poorer foreign countries have to be motivated only for love of the game.  But I think the biggest reason the Games don't seem to have the same meaning is the end of the Cold War.  Remember back in the day when we hated the Soviets?  I mean literally hated the Soviet Union.  Those Olympics just seemed like the extension of the Cold War.  Sure, there was the Nuclear Arms Race, the policy of Mutually Assured Destruction, bomb shelters, gas masks, Star Wars (the real one, not the Harrison Ford version), etc...  But when the Olympics rolled around, if our teenage girls could beat your teenage girls on the ice, we win!



Well, now that I've gotten a chance to reveal to the world a glimpse into
how weird I am, I wanted to share an interesting article that I happened to read this morning over breakfast.  Hope you enjoy!

The following is taken from the website mentalfloss.com and is written by Justin Feinstein.  Due to some other links and content on that website I chose to post it here rather than link to it.  But full credit needs to go to the actual author.

7 Stories You Haven't Heard About the Olympics

by Justin Feinstein
olympic_medals-file.jpg

1. PERFECT 10S ALL AROUND!

Scoring a perfect 10 is the dream of every Olympic gymnast. In 1924, 22 male gymnasts made this dream a reality in the same event. But this wasn't due to some freak occurrence or heightened level of competition "“ the event was rope climbing, which has since been discontinued.

2. BASKETBALL GETS DRAGGED THROUGH THE MUD

Basketball's debut at the 1936 Olympics was nothing short of a disaster. Not only were the finals a low scoring affair (the United States snagged gold from Canada in a yawn-inducing 19-8 game), but the conditions were a mess. Part of the problem was Germany's venue: the game was played outdoors. On a dirt court. In the pouring rain! Playing on mud made dribbling and bounce-passes impossible. Things weren't much easier for the fans. A lack of seating forced all (approximately 1,000) spectators to stand and watch in the rain.

3. PARIS TAKES GAMES TO A NEW LOW

As bad as Germany's basketball planning was, the event barely holds a candle to the 1900 Paris Olympics, which were held in conjunction with the World's Fair and spread out over five months. Take the marathon, for instance, which was rife with logistical nightmares. The event was run through the city's active streets, complete with pedestrians and bicyclists. Worse still, several competitors got lost because the course was so poorly marked. Of course, the long race was just one of the many memorable events, including several that would never be seen again. The 1900 Olympics were the only Games to feature such time-wasters as pigeon shooting and swimming through an obstacle course "“ which included swimming under boats.

4. JOHN BOLAND WINS AN AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION AWARD

The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 and yielded perhaps the most unlikely champion in Olympic history. A student at Oxford, John Boland traveled to Greece as a spectator to take in the excitement. But a friend on the Olympic Committee had signed him up for the tennis competition. Despite a lack of proper attire, the plucky Boland decided to go ahead and play (in his dress shoes, no less) and actually won.

5. GOLFER BRINGS HOME GOLD (WITHOUT EVER KNOWING IT?!)

Margaret Ives Abbott was the first American woman to win a gold medal. Unfortunately, she lived her entire life without ever knowing what she had accomplished. Since the aforementioned 1900 Paris events were spread out informally over several months, de-emphasizing their Olympic status, she simply thought she had won a nine-hole golf tournament in Paris.

6. THE ONLY CASE WHERE "SLOW AND STEADY" ACTUALLY WORKED

The 1904 Olympic Marathon in St. Louis was perhaps the most brutal event in Olympic history. On a sweltering hot summer day, marathon runners took off on an unpaved dusty course, following pace cars and inhaling exhaust. Many runners had to withdraw to receive medical attention, and even the winner, American Thomas Hicks, needed repeated medical care both during and after the race. And by "medical care," we mean strychnine and brandy. Of course, our favorite tale from the Games is that of Felix Carvajal, a Cuban who took "The Tortoise" approach to running the race. Despite stopping to chat with spectators and breaking to pick and eat fruit from an orchard (which made him sick), Carvajal still managed to finish in fourth place.

7. AND JUST A WORD ON THE GAMES' (HARSH) ORIGINS

The ancient Olympic Games served as the basis for our modern Olympics, and fortunately the whole "competing in the nude" thing wasn't the only custom left to history. Athletes that arrived late to compete were fined, with the only acceptable excuses being shipwreck, weather or pirates. Athletes that were caught cheating were also fined, but were allowed to keep their winnings. But married women caught watching the Games got it the worst: they were executed. Of course, that probably had something to do with the whole competing in the nude thing.
And let's not forget three of our favorite Olympic athletes. Swede Oscar Swahn won a silver medal in a deer-shooting event at the 1920 Olympics at the age of 72! In 1904, American gymnast George Eyser won six medals (three gold) despite having a wooden left leg, which is even more amazing. But Hungarian pistol shooter Karoly Takacs taught himself how to shoot left-handed after his right (shooting) hand was shattered by a grenade, and then went on to win the rapid-fire shooting event at the 1948 Olympics. He gets our gold.
Justin Feinstein is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com. Besides the Olympics, he also knows a lot about weird medical conditions, New York restaurants and keeping infants entertained. You should read his blog: Guardedly Optimistic.

Monday, December 30, 2013

News From Louis & Amber O'Tool

Dear Supporter,

Normally our updates are filled with pictures and stories of the ministry in Welkom.  God continues to do great and awesome things in the children of Restoring Hope Village, at Welkom Baptist Church and in the community as a whole.  I wish you could personally meet each of the children, young people and families that God has brought into our lives.  After nearly 6 years serving in South Africa we feel we can truly understand Paul’s heart when he shares his desire to visit the believers in Rome.

“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” Romans 1:11-12

Although we have been sent to South Africa to minister the Gospel there, we have found that in the midst of ministry we are receiving exponentially more than we expend.  What a privilege to serve a God who constantly fills us back up.  Our testimony is that you can never out-give God.  And as with Paul, He so often uses the very same people whom we serve to bless us!

The past several years of ministry have brought both blessing and heartache.  But our sovereign God uses heartache to bring about His most precious blessings.  It is in the difficult times that He drives us more deeply into an intimate relationship with Him.  Since He is the treasure of surpassing value, whatever causes us to know Jesus more deeply is a blessing that cannot be measured.

Reading between the lines, you probably can tell what’s coming.  Over the past several months we believe God has led us in a new direction…new to us at least.  For several years we have been working with the children’s home ministry, focusing almost exclusively on orphaned and abandoned children.  We still have a tremendous burden for this type of work, but God has also revealed to us a significant need within South Africa, and especially in Welkom.  That need is for the solid establishment of a Gospel community, of a church family that will be able to minister not only to their own orphaned and abandoned children but to a culture desperately in need of God’s redemption message.

I want to share with you what God has been doing in our life and ministry, and at Welkom Baptist Church.  Throughout our ministry in Welkom one of the greatest challenges has been the lack of a healthy Gospel community - a place to worship, serve, encourage and be encouraged.  While the children we have worked with have received the gospel message, it has been a struggle to find a spiritual family for them outside the walls of the children’s home.  This spiritual family will be vitally important for their ongoing spiritual growth and wellbeing.  This is God’s design for His children to thrive.

Welkom Baptist Church has existed in Welkom for several decades.  Along with the decline of the mining community in the area, the church saw a decline as well.  In 2011 they were down to about 20 people attending and hadn’t had a pastor for about 7 years.  Through a long and complicated process God brought Pastor Joshua Bolaji to the church in September 2011 and we joined in December 2011.  Since Pastor Josh’s arrival the church has grown from 20 people to an attendance of around 150.  However, many of these are either unbelievers or new believers much in need of discipleship. 

Last March we were able to start a youth group at the church.  God has been doing His awesome work in the hearts and minds of many of these young people.  We have seen them go from a fractured group of cliques to a unified group sharing their bond in Christ with other young people in the surrounding communities.  There have been several young men and women step up to take leadership roles and they are becoming active in serving the church body as a whole.  Our study through 1 John has challenged us all in our walk with Christ and with one another.

We believe that God is leading us to focus more directly on the establishment and growth of the church, either in Welkom or elsewhere in South Africa.

The leadership of Welkom Baptist Church have asked me to join in an associate role, along with Pastor Josh, working to spread the Gospel within the church and community.  Our primary responsibilities would be evangelism and discipleship with young families, young adults and youth.  Given the situation of the church it would be very much a church-planting type ministry.

Whether we return to Welkom Baptist or pursue another ministry, it would still be in a “missions” capacity, as whatever work we pursue would not have the financial resources to pay us.  Your ongoing financial support is important for us as we continue serving in the Gospel.

Because of this change in direction our family is in the process of looking for a new supporting agency.  Our work will no longer be under Restoring Hope International.  You may have received a communication from RHI announcing our resignation.  We appreciate the time we spent there and have not made this decision lightly.  On the one hand, we approach these changes with excited anticipation to see how God will work as we abide in Him.  On the other hand, the transition will be difficult as our relationship with The Village children and staff changes.  The leadership of Slater Baptist Church, our “home church”, has been actively involved as we have worked through things over the past several months.  Attached along with this letter is a letter from Pastor Michaelsen on behalf of the church leadership.

For those who have been supporting us financially, we thank you for your faithfulness.  RHI will no longer be accepting or processing our donations.  We ask that you please hold those donations for the time being, and as soon as we have arrangements with another supporting organization we will let you know. 

If you have any questions, please contact us at louisotool@gmail.com or 515.203.9700.  We would love to speak with you and clear up any questions you may have.  We appreciate the prayers and encouragement we have received from so many throughout this time.


Louis O’Tool






Friday, November 29, 2013

Meditations - Galatians 1:3-4

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father."  Gal 1:3-4

I just read this and chewed on it for a couple hours whilst on the airplane from Joburg to London.  One thing that struck me is the question "what does it actually mean to 'rescue us from this present evil age?'"  Is Paul speaking in physical terms?  I don't think so, because the two ways that would be accomplished is either through physical death or Rapture.  And His "giving of Himself" doesn't accomplish our physical death...in fact, that itself is a result of the curse of sin, not the restoration work of Christ.  And if He is speaking of the Rapture, then only saints who are alive to be raptured would be actually included in this referenced deliverance from the present evil age.

A key word is present.  If His rescuing was through physical death it would be rescuing us from the future punishment, not the present evil.  So then how does He rescue us, or what does it mean to be rescued from this present evil age?

To answer that we must first determine what the evil age refers to.  Satan is called the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), His forces of evil are referred to as the rulers of this age (1 Cor 2:8-16).  As the ruler of this present evil age, His plans stand in direct opposition to the working of God.  Going back to Genesis 3, we see His plan was to convince mankind that they could be as gods themselves, knowing good from evil and exercising control over their own lives.  This brings to fruition an attitude that leads to willful ignorance and "going about to establish your own righteousness (Romans 10:3)."  In other words, this default setting of emnity with God leads to a certain restlessness, a lack of peace.  And in that, we know we need righteousness, so we set up our own code of conduct, our own standards with which we measure ourselves, our own goals to accomplish.  In this is pride manifested in its depths.

Doing this leads us only to discouragement, bitterness and failure.  One, because we can never accomplish righteousness on our own.  Two, because God Himself promises to ensure our failure, as our pride stands in opposition to Him.  Our participation in this present evil world is spiritual bondage.

"But thanks be to God, that though you were slaves to sin you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance" (Rom 6:17).  We are freed from our own selves, to experience victory in Jesus!  He died for all.  So I died.  And my life isn't my own...it's His!  His act of rescuing us from this present evil world is to set us free from our bondage to self, to the works of the law, to the constant struggle to obtain righteousness apart from Him.  He cures our blindness to His glory and we are liberated to live for Him, not to ourselves.  Not to our own perceptions of success, our own struggle for righteousness, our own desires to have others think well of us.  Jesus rescues us from this present evil age!

So, then, if this is what Jesus gave Himself for, we have to ask the very same question that Paul was led to ask.  "This is the only thing I want to find out from you; did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh?"

If the Spirit must rescue us, isn't it equally true that the Spirit must keep us rescued?  That He must work in us His life-giving work?  It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Therefore, don't become entangled again with the yoke of bondage.  Let us rejoice in this freedom, this liberation that Jesus gives us to know Him and to make Him known.  And let us pray for those of our brothers and sisters who do not live according to this freedom.  According to Paul, they are bewitched.  Deceived.  In bondage to the elemental things of the spiritual forces of this age.  Oh, that we may all experience the freedom that we have been blessed with in Christ.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quotes

Kamohelo:  "Why did God make sharks?"

Kamohelo:  "Does Mufasa believe in Jesus?"

Revival:  "Who were the first two children in the world?"
Kamohelo:  "Cain and Esau."














Meredith:  "When Jessica grows up…"

Meredith:  "Monica, Drake and I were playing houseparents…"