Remembering and longing

As the son of survivors of a grim Japanese POW camp
—as a son-in-law of an incredibly brave hero who fought on South Pacific beaches
—as someone who also wore the uniform and served my country
—as one who grew up overseas, has traveled the world and understands how exceptional the United States is
—having more than once stood on twisted wreckage where relief was being delivered to victims of horrific tragedies
—being convinced that my beloved country has, on balance, been a powerful and compassionate force for world peace
—this Memorial Weekend is both about deep gratitude for those who fought for my freedom
—and looking forward with gut-felt longing for the day when the Prince of Peace brings true world peace!

Even so come, Lord Jesus,

Larry Hall
Africa’s Hope/Live Dead Africa

We cannot go until we linger

It’s a story my granddaughters would love. The beautiful princess falls in love with the dashing shepherd. He proves himself brave, worthy of her love and they marry—happily ever after? Not quite.

Her villainous father, King Saul, chases him away and forces her into an unhappy, adulterous relationship with another man. Then, the plot turns. The shepherd David ascends the throne and sends messengers to find her and restore his marriage with Michal, his princess, his first love. She returns to happily-ever-after in the palace? Not quite, but that’s another story.

We are the messengers for the King, sent to seek and restore. His is the perfect love, never forgetting, always forgiving, always inviting back. He does not write off those who are deeply involved in other relationships. We go with joy to find broken hearts who long to hear the invitation from the King himself. Come to the palace. He’s paid everything; You can be forgiven!

This Friday we will reverently and quietly meditate on the price the King paid before he could commission us to go to the lost and broken with this beautiful story. The invitations we hold in our hands are priceless, measured in immeasurable agony. Only when his prayer, “Not my will” resonates deeply in our own hearts, are we fit to carry this good news.

We cannot go until we linger a while.

Heaven seems closer at Christmas

Maybe it’s a father thing?  At the nativity, I most easily identify with Joseph, holding the newly-born Jesus in his hands—maybe the first person to do so.  I picture Jesus seated in one hand, tiny shoulders held in the other, head supported between a thumb and finger.

This is God?  This is God, the one who existed from the beginning!  “We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.” 1 John 1:1 NLT

The unreached people groups will see God for themselves as our Live Dead Africa teams come to live among them—in the flesh.

When they completed their testimony

“When they completed their testimony…” Rev 11:7

We challenge spiritual strongholds and put lives at risk when the gospel is lived out in resistant areas where Jesus is not known. We are promised Spirit-given power to witness and the continuing presence of Jesus to the ends of the earth but the Bible does not promise complete safety. Actually both scripture and history tell us to expect that lives will be lost.

We can expect that the current level of opposition will only get worse. The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will come on the scene during a time when the resistance to the gospel is greater than ever before. At that time everything—world-wide government, culture, media—will be aligned against God. In that hostile environment, the two witnesses will be empowered to boldly stand against that opposition and proclaim the gospel unharmed, protected by miraculous powers rarely seen in scripture.

Unharmed—until they complete their testimony. When their mission is finished, they are killed and their bodies left unburied while society celebrates. It is difficult to imagine that level of vicious hatred nor the astonishment when the two come back to life and are caught up to heaven.

“Completed” is the key word. They are safe until their mission is finished. Our Live Dead Africa missionaries face opposition now but they can confidently live and witness anywhere God sends them until their calling is complete. Only God knows when each person’s calling will be completed but we do know that God has asked the church to continue going, sending and praying as long as there are unreached people groups.

We estimate 867 unreached tribes remain untouched by the gospel in sub-Saharan Africa. The mission of the church is not complete. Thank you for continuing to support the work of our Live Dead Africa teams until their testimony is completed.

But first the cross

One of the powerful lies of Islam is that those who die in jihad are guaranteed entrance to paradise. That deception is behind the terrible power of the suicide bomber. Those who are eager to die are almost unstoppable.

As in all convincing lies, there is a hidden, partial truth, a distorted message of the cross. In the twisted view of Islam, suffering and death earns eternal, carnal pleasure for the destroyer of innocents. In the cross of Christ, the suffering and death of the Innocent One gifts eternal life to us who deserve only to be destroyed.

Islam promises pleasure beyond death. Christ calls us to suffer in this life and in our suffering to find joy, in our suffering to find the honor that comes only to those counted worthy to bear it, and through our suffering to bring life to others who also deserve only eternal death.

Christ’s followers are also unstoppable. Those who are willing to Live Dead cannot be kept out of the fortresses of Satan. They boldly go where those who have not died to self, fear to enter.

Find time today to meditate on the Crucified One. If you are able to gather in a Good Friday service, come with a prepared heart. If not, find your own quiet place and let your heart be broken for those deceived by half truths, still unreached by the loving truth of the Savior.

Resurrection Sunday is coming but first the cross.

Let Him do the work

I breathe a prayer as I wait in an aisle seat for the person who will claim the window. It’s a simple prayer, “Lord, prepare me to speak for you or to just listen to this person.” But this time, for some reason I didn’t. Distracted, tired, I don’t know.

The young man who arrived, immediately claimed the shared arm rest and began talking very loudly on his phone. In Russian. My attitude was not Christ—like as I settled in for an uncomfortable nine-hour flight.

But the conversation started in spite of my selfish attitude. At the second sentence he paused, extended his hand, “Alex.” He doesn’t understand Western airplane etiquette, I thought.

“I hoped I could practice English,” he said. In that moment, the Spirit replaced my selfishness with genuine openness.

He was engaging, intelligent and eager to talk. Latvian by birth and Russian by heritage, he was completely unreached by the gospel. He wanted to talk politics. I steered him from the fighting in the Ukraine to Jesus.

He staked out his position, “I’m a realist, scientific.” I liked him more.

We moved through the first verses of Genesis matching how scientists describe the Big Bang with God’s description of the same events. He was interested but puzzled, “Every religion has its book. How do you know what is true?”

“Look at the facts. The one whose testimony matches the evidence is the one you can believe. No one but the creator was there to witness the birth of time, darkness, light then matter.” I introduced him to the first chapter of John, “Do you have a Bible?”

“I have not read it but I will.” I’m pray the next person will lead him to a decision.

Sometimes being a missionary is simple. Be there. Get self out of the way. Let the Holy Spirit do the work.

Then enjoy the ride!

The Challenge that is Africa

How can we grasp the challenge that is Africa?

The continent is huge with room to swallow the USA, China and India with space left over. The Sahara Desert alone is bigger than the continental US.

The physical needs are crushing: poverty, terrorism, civil war, HIV/AIDS. And now, Ebola.

The spiritual needs are daunting. Scott, Craig and I framed a single sentence to encapsulate that spiritual challenge.

“Live Dead Africa exists to plant churches and make disciples among the 316 million people in 867 unreached people groups of Sub-Saharan Africa”

One third of all Africans, 316 million have not heard the Good News—that’s equal to the entire US population! If those 316 million shared a single culture, that would be a major evangelistic challenge but they live in 867 different cultures—think historical tribal animosities, difficult religious barriers, language hurdles.

Picture building 867 relationship bridges one at a time, slowly, patiently, lovingly in the heart of the enemy’s toughest spiritual strongholds. One misstep and years of effort can end abruptly.

Amazing people are stepping up to that awesome challenge. Two new teams are launching in West Africa. AR leaves soon to join a team. DL and RL are currently serving short term assignments and plan to return for life commitments. AM, AW and NC are seriously praying about in joining Live Dead Africa. Many more have contacted me with questions.

I can’t share more about them but would you pray for these? And for many, many more just like them! Not just two new teams, 867 new teams are needed. The Holy Spirit is cultivating more hearts right now and your prayers will help place them strategically on a bridge to the unreached.

Thank you for your prayer and faithful financial support,

Larry and Kathi Hall
Live Dead Africa

Welcome home!

Tomorrow, June 1, my assignment changes. Thinking back….

It was a quiet moment that defines the rest of a life. Alone in a Jonesboro motel, 2:30 am, reading the words of Jesus, I felt God ask me to be willing to help the Live Dead Africa teams. It was a simple yes or no, weighed with unthinkable complexities.

I said yes. Then the questions started. Why Africa? Why not China, my life-long interest? How do I know Live Dead needs my help? They’ve not asked.

Then it became more complicated. Within days my leadership asked me to help launch a new online college for China. It was an ideal assignment, but I’d already said yes to Live Dead Africa—who still hadn’t asked for my help! They agreed I could do both, volunteering as needed for Live Dead while guiding China Bible College. It was then I learned the Live Dead leaders had been praying for help.

In less than three years, China Bible College has grown from a dream to 18,000 students studying 40 online courses. I’ve enjoyed that assignment but held it lightly. There was wisdom in placing Africa first in my heart before I started working with the College.

In working with the Live Dead teams, a deep love has grown in me for them. Each day I’m reading their stories of victories and frustrations, awful heart breaks and awesome answers to prayer. They’ve put their lives and little children in danger living where sharing Jesus is illegal and maybe fatal.

Now, tomorrow, June 1st, my assignment changes to Live Dead Africa. I will continue to help China Bible College but now as a volunteer. We have 14 more courses to go online and maybe ways to grow even faster. It’s impossible to overstate the need and eagerness to study God’s word in China. Exciting!

But something relaxed. Greg Beggs, Africa Regional Director, emailed me, “Welcome home!” Yup, it feels like home. A home I’ve never lived in and probably never will, helping a people not my own. Funny how the Spirit can do that to your heart.

Larry Hall
May 31, 2014

Tears mingled with joy – Easter 2014

“But those who die in the LORD will live; their bodies will rise again.” Is 26:19 NLT

Kathi and I will reflect on the crucifixion of Christ in a “Service of Shadows” tonight. It’s my second favorite service of year, second only to Resurrection Sunday itself.

It’s been over 50 years since I cried on my mother’s shoulder in the parsonage of Glad Tidings Church, Hilo, Hawaii, repenting of my rebelliousness to her and to my Savior. That began a walk with the Lord not marked with any firmness until I was out of college, but it was my moment at Calvary. And it is to that moment and to Calvary that I return each Good Friday―to mourn and to rejoice.

I’m enjoying getting to know my new team mate, Dave Trementozzi. Dave’s first book “Way of the Thorn” was an excellent allegorical fiction work on the crucified life. In it, “Jack” rises in new life from his cross but he does not leave the cross behind. The cross becomes his backbone, the skeleton in his limbs.

The cross of Christ becomes ours, this day and always. We die—and live anew—at the cross. Our new life is in our death. Tears mingled with joy. Amazing weekend.

Christmas Peace 2013

In the pre-dawn hush of this snowy Missouri morning, the verse in Psalm 46:10 is settling into my heart. “Be still and know that I am God”. This morning has been a pause between work and celebration and, with no one else awake, I’ve been meditating on the peace that He brought 2,000 years ago.

Where is it? Certainly not in the political sphere. Our nation seems more divided than ever. Around the world millions of war-weary refugees have fled their homes. New fears of nuclear weapons threaten the very birthplace of our Savior. Everything not surrendered to His authority can never know His peace. When He said, “Peace, be still”, the winds and waves were instantly stilled. The elements have no contravening will power. But we, with our free-will, are still battling, still struggling.

But we, individually, can know His peace and this morning I’m mulling how it comes by degrees. Remember the peace of conscience that came when we accepted His forgiveness? I have a vivid memory of the joy of that moment, but it did not end our struggles, did it? If you are like me, every day He shines light on more dark places in us and, poof! any peace we are feeling disappears. I almost wish He would quit it. But what I’m seeing so clearly is that peace only comes through surrender, and the first steps are to let Him point out those self-controlled areas of our lives, to let Him open each closed door of our hearts, to let Him, bit by bit, be Lord of all of me.

So, step by step, I come to know that He is God. And little by little I find His stillness. “Divine stillness is an experience we are to enter through many testings, by inward training of the soul, by not only ceasing from sin and … ambition, but being conquered by … the Holy Spirit in all the details of life, by being subdued into that abiding hush like the breathless quietness of a serene sunset after the storms … after the clouds have melted … after the tired winds have sunken below the whisper point.” (Bridehood Saints, G. D. Watson)

From the bottom of my heart I wish that you, my much loved friends and family, might truly know the Prince of Peace this season.

With lots of love,
Larry and Kathi