Monday, December 19, 2011

Remembering My Friend

My friend, Steve Holtrust, died in Honduras on Monday, December 5. He died doing what he loved—helping others. Steve had flown down to Honduras the day before to help a friend who is a missionary. She had lost her husband in a car accident just a few days before. Steve was driving their rental car when an unknown gunman shot at their car and killed him. Even in his death, Steve was somehow able to negotiate the car off the road and no one else was physically injured.

Steve Holtrust
The first time I met Steve was when I was visiting Humberto Del Arca, another missionary friend, on the North Coast of Honduras. Steve drove up in a pick up truck and said, “Howdy!” I remember thinking at that time how infectious his smile was, when out of the truck popped this 6 foot 5 inch man. He was a little intimidating at first, but I soon learned how warm and gregarious he was. That was about 14 years ago.

I enjoyed learning that he grew up on a dairy farm and I loved how he would use illustrations about cows and the dairy farm to explain things. Steve had a wonderful way of stating the obvious and using questions as statements, like asking, “Whose going to pray?,” when really meaning—we’re going to pray now. He was someone you were always happy to see and I just enjoyed spending time with him.

His brother, Mark, said: “For at least twenty-nine years that I know of, Steve had a vision and worked toward helping and supporting those whose full-time occupation is to spread the Good News about Jesus.” Steve was outspoken about his faith and his desire to serve missionaries and God’s work. I had the privilege of serving with him for a little over a year on the Beyond Partnership Board. His insights and wisdom were a great value—and more importantly—he loved people and shared that openly. “Steve’s faith in Christ was the center of his life,” his pastor said, “He didn't do this simply because he was a selfless man, he did this to honor Christ. That was his life.”

Steve was firefighter for 32 years with the Ontario Fire Department in California. He worked his way to the rank of Deputy Fire Chief; the rank he held at the time of his retirement in 2007. He volunteered as a Chaplain for the Fire Department. In 1996, Steve began going on mission trips with his church. He traveled to countries like Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Jamaica and Kenya. He showered God's love on the poor of these countries through his personal resources and physical labor. He also helped with a good friend's deaf ministry called Signs of Love in Honduras. He was the President of the Board for Beyond Partnership, the ministry I work with. He was a faithful member and very active in his church, North Hills Community where he served as an elder. Steve had been married to his wonderful wife Debbie for 36 years and was the father of three daughters as well as three grandchildren.

“My husband died doing what he does best, and that is serving the Lord and being with friends,” is how his wife, Debbie, described his death. This is who Steve was and the legacy he leaves behind—a Godly, humble, caring and giving man who touched the lives of so many, including me. I’m going to miss my friend and his infectious smile.

Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. Philippians 2: 3-5

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Treasure Hunt

One of the ideas I present to short-term mission team members is we are on a “treasure hunt,” (Short-term Missions Workbook, Tim Dearborn). Our greatest gift to our Christian brothers and sisters in another culture is encouragement. We can see with fresh eyes how God is working through and among them. I help team members with this “treasure hunt” by randomly assigning each team member a Fruit of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Their assignment is to find a national and a team member who exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit they are seeking to unearth. However, this is not the end of their assignment. Each team member is encouraged to share the treasure found with the people they saw exhibiting it.

Samuel working
One of the nationals regularly identified as exhibiting several Fruits of the Spirit is Samuel. He is 17 years old and has worked as an apprentice for three years in the construction ministry of Misión a las Américas–Guatemala. Samuel and his mom were abandoned by his dad when he was about 11 years old. This experience and the influence of his grandmother led them to become believers and to trust God for their needs. Misión a las Américas provided a job and a place for their family to live as caretakers of a ministry property. Samuel works 5 ½ days a week and goes to school all day on Sunday. In addition, he leads worship in his church six nights each week and serves as president of the youth association for all the churches in his district. He sacrifices to work a full-time job to support his family and exhibits many of the Fruits of the Spirit. I had the opportunity to spend six weeks with him this summer and to encourage him. The truth is Samuel has been an encouragement and blessing to so many—his family, his church, the youth in his district, the team members who have worked alongside him and me.

It seems to me that every day should be a “treasure hunt.” Why is it that we don’t take this opportunity to seek out those we come in contact with who exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit and encourage them by sharing it with them? It is difficult not to be impacted by the events of September 11, 2001—my sister, Barbara, lost her friend, Rosanne, in one of the Twin Towers. One of the things that September 11 reminds us is that we never know how long we have in this life. Why not start today by “encouraging one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24)?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A New Direction

Pastor Armando and Phil after a cement pour.
I’ve been thinking about the idea of vocation vs. career for some time. In his book Wishful Thinking, Frederick Buechner writes of vocation: “It comes from the Latin vocare—to call—and means the work a person is called to by God… The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done… The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

I have felt a deep gladness while working alongside fellow Christians in Latin America, and, after 22 years of working in Christian higher education administration—mentoring students, leading short‐term mission trips, leadership development, alumni relations and fundraising—I feel it is time to step out in faith and follow my calling to full-time mission work. My work and experiences have prepared me for this next phase of my life. I have been volunteering with Beyond Partnership since 1993 and I left my job in higher education administration on June 30, 2011 to assume the role of Director of Partnership Development.

Beyond Partnership is committed to the principle of “undership”—to be under the authority of the national leadership in all aspects of ministry. My role will include leading short‐term mission trips, spearheading communication and helping to develop a strategic plan for Beyond Partnership and our ministry partners. 

I'm excited about this new chapter in my life. My goal is to post bi-weekly. You can learn more about Beyond Partnership at