The Adventures of Yazoo and Huckleberry (Ch. 6)

The next morning we woke up at 5:30 and Yazoo and I went for a 5k run. It is high altitude in here at 5750 ft. It was also still wet. So we had fun dodging puddles. But this city is very modern and beautiful. So we had great running paths. You just have to make sure to listen out for mopeds.

They are battery powered and you can barely hear them coming from behind you on the same path. At least twice I was startled by a moped racing past me from behind.

After the run we packed up all of our things and checked out of the hotel. Today we are headed to a smaller city to the other business office and near the villages. But not before another stop at Starbucks. Switzer is very into coffee.

Fulmer picked us up and we headed out for Starbucks. I found out that this region grows coffee beans. So I bought two bags of regional beans from the Starbucks Reserve store while we were there. Folks, this is good coffee. I brought back those two bags of beans and ground fresh coffee each Sunday for my LIFE Group class for a couple of months. After taking a few minutes discussing the major coffee growing regions of the world, we were off on stage two of our adventure.

On the trip there are about nine tunnels. One of them was more than a mile long. The mountains on this east side of the region looked like the Smoky Mountains with the fog rolling over. We also drove through a stone forest, and saw live Eucalyptus trees.

Upon arrival we saw the new business office. Fulmer and Kevin did a great job getting this spot. It is a two story store front, and the second level is set up for fairly large groups of business folks to lodge as needed.

We unpacked and set out to attend a prearranged lunch meeting with the local agriculture officials. I was in the back of the car and had no idea where we were going. Kevin was driving and he knows this city. So when we turned into a back ally and pulled into a parking spot with people peaking out from behind the blinds of the small windows of the buildings, I was a little confused. I thought we would be going to a large government building. But this seemed more like a meeting with a mob boss.

We all piled out of the car, there were five of us in the little compact SUV, we were greeted by a young lady who quickly got us out of the ally and into a small building that was just set up as one large room with two table. One smaller six top table and then a very large round table. It was set up with the standard place setting for a meal.

After a couple of minutes a slightly rounded gentleman with glasses came in the door flanked by two well dressed (business attire) ladies. We all introduced ourselves and were motioned to sit down at the table.

We were sitting around a big round table in a private location and it felt like I was living a movie scene. Half scared and half amazed. I watched as the official was served by the female hosts like a king. He came in with a cigarette and the ladies made sure he always had a fresh one waiting.

It was an awesome lunch with all local produce and meats. For free. It was amazing food. I was a bit nervous though. As I was eating Fulmer leaned over and translated a few words for me.

This meal had included some cooked mushrooms that were so expensive if bought anywhere else in the world it is a rich man’s delicacy (like $3000 an ounce).

He and Yazoo sat and talked mostly as Kevin translated. But after a while he and Kevin just talked together as Kevin explained our business model Fulmer, Switzer and I sat on the opposite side of the round table, and I was flanked on my left by the two ladies all around a very large round table with a huge lazy susan.

After eating and talking a while. The official leaned back in his chair as to say it was time to get to business. We discussed business and the official gave us tips based on the information that Kevin had relayed, he then told us we could look around for the best growing areas and come tell him what we needed. It was a God thing really.

He took us up to his office, the ladies served us fresh green tea from local leaves, and he gave us each one of his cards. It was our golden ticket to use if we were harrassed in any village by the police. We were international business men with money to invest in his region, and that was true among other things. We do want to invest in these villages and in many ways.

I was relieved as we left the office and headed out to the car.

As we rolled around town for a while and visited local shops we were able to stop into a shop making garments with local flare. I wanted to buy a dress for my daughter, but they said they make these dresses custom to size. So, we didn’t have time to wait on that.

I was amazed at one point as we were driving around. This smaller city had many high rise buildings with apartments and open air stores/restaurants on the lower levels, similar to the larger city. However, you could tell that the people were not used to this, because they were still farming in every single spot of dirt that was available around these buildings. I found out that many of these folks had to make a decision to leave their villages in order to find jobs in the city.

I saw several small trucks and even makeshift flatbed mopeds with pigs and even cows on them coming into the city and directly to restaurants. They would be quickly dispatched for the customers coming in for lunch or dinner later in the day. They would simply wash off the sidewalk to clean off any remaining body fluids.

After driving around and getting the tour from Kevin, we then headed back to the office to rest before a dinner meeting with another group of local club members.

Group Hot Pot is on the menu.

My First Trail Run

In late summer a wild idea popped into my head. Our F3 group should do a trail run together in the rocky terrain of northwest Arkansas. I’m sure that is probably due to the event advertisement for the Bella Vista Back 40 Trail Run popping up on my Facebook timeline.

I had to talk myself into it before asking anyone else to join me. In the past I had told myself and others that I wouldn’t do a trail run due to the risk of injury.

After I decided I would do it, I sent a note to the F3 group and found out that Yazoo and Sniper were planning to go as well. So, we signed up for the 13 mile run.

Sniper and I trained together on the trails around Lake Atalanta in Rogers, Arkansas a couple of times. And I trained on those trails four different times.

I found out quickly during our first training run that I would need shoes specifically for trail running in this rocky terrain. I love my Brooks Ravenna running shoes. So the next week I went to Rush Running in Bentonville and asked them to give me the trail running version, it was the Brooks Cascadia 10.

My longest training run at Lake Atalanta was about 7 miles at a pace of 10:40/mile. This may sound like a slow pace to road runners, but I assure you I was moving quite well for a new trail runner in that terrain and elevation variance.

The Trails at Lake Atalanta in Rogers, Arkansas are well maintained and they are marked with various levels of difficulty. I highly recommend these trails for a new trail runner. It is near historical downtown Rogers and after your run you can quickly jog or drive up the hill and have a cup of coffee and breakfast.

There are also numerous paved trails around Lake Atalanta that I train on regularly including an option to train on the grueling hill between the lake and the Railyard Mountain/BMX bike park which adjoins the downtown area.

My first training run of two miles caused a good bit of soreness in the hips and calf muscles. So, I made sure to start using the lateral movement elliptical machine on my cross training days at the gym.

On the week of the Back 40 race I checked the weather forecast and everything looked clear but cold. So I geared up appropriately with my running gloves and UA Cold Gear top and leggings (I wore my branded gear from my online store). I also wore my Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes that I picked up at Rush Running in Bentonville and my Junk headbands to cover my ears and neck.

On race morning I ate my protein bar and drank a Zipfizz. I met Yazoo and Sniper at the parking area at Bella Vista Blowing Springs park and we started our pre-race prep. This actually just means that we went to the restroom a couple times until we had everything out before the race started. We also did a few active stretches and static stretches.

The starting line was packed and buzzing with excitement. The race organizers of this event, along with the volunteers, are amazing. The starting line area, as well as all the aid stations, are well supplied and supportive. And the runners are all kind on the trails.

This event had distances from 5K, 13 mile, 20 mile and 40 mile for the run. There was also a mountain biking event the next day with the same distances.

We started the race and had a fun time together running in the woods of Bella Vista. The trails were nice but challenging to a new trail runner. I definitely used a few different muscles and ligaments in my hips and legs that I normally don’t use as much in paved running. But my training helped mitigate that.

I really enjoyed the Back 40 trail run and the mumblechatter with the folks on the trail. And to top it all off, they had fried catfish for all the finishers at the finish line.

Trump Hasn’t Done Anything for Evangelicals!

Who has done it?!

I tried to hold silent all week about this kerfuffle over an article in Christianity Today magazine calling for the removal of President Trump. And I did.

I tried to hold silent when evangelical “leaders” got their feelings hurt about the article and started writing letters and posting long messages on social media about how horrible the article was and how wrong it was to question their support of President Trump. And I did stay silent for a while.

Here’s where my indignation needle went wacky.

I continually saw these evangelical “leaders” giving praise and thanks to President Trump for all the great things he has done for evangelicals.

Let me remind you all of the one truth, God did that! Donald J. Trump did not do anything for evangelicals. God did.

I know why evangelicals had to vote for Donald Trump. It is because we didn’t want the other candidate to win. We will not vote for a candidate who advocates for the abortion of babies on demand. And we will not vote for a candidate who would take away our religious freedoms. This is the same reason we have to vote for Donald Trump in 2020, because there is no better choice. I don’t know what the Lord’s plan is but He does and that’s all that matters.

Do not dare try and tell me that President Donald Trump is my hope, my safety, my protector or savior of my country.

Donald J. Trump is simply the vessel being used by God at this moment in human history to move forward His plan. Just like the rest of us, President Trump has a purpose, yet the praise always goes to the Lord.

God is my stronghold, Jesus is my savior and the Holy Spirit is my sustain. God will protect His children and God will punish the wicked. And if God chooses to continue to bless the United States of America that is His plan and we are all along for the ride.

Just like the rest of us, Donald J. Trump says some extremely ill advised things on social media and when he gets behind a microphone. This happens too often with him, and because of that he does not seem to have the emotional intelligence needed to be the President. Sometimes he makes me want to crawl under my chair when I read his social media posts. Somebody please send the man to a diversity and inclusion class! I know he doesn’t mean some of the things he says in the way that they sound, he’s just ignorant of the perceived undertones.

Pray for our president and our government, and that God would continue to bring forth His plan for our country and His people (born or unborn). But praise be to God that my real home is with Him and in His kingdom.

Let me remind you why I know who is in control.

Take a moment to reflect on Egypt and Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus. Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Why? God wanted to show Egypt and the Israelis who He was and His power, to bring glory to His name. Who caused pharaoh to change his mind and release Israel? God did that!

Let’s reflect on Shalmaneser king of Assyria, he was sent to punish Israel for its wicked ways. Let’s reflect on Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, sent to punish Judah for its wicked ways.

Who sent them? Who is in control?

And when the appointed king, who was sent by God, becomes arrogant and prideful, will he go unpunished? No, he will not. (See examples: King Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod Agrippa, etc..)

“All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’
Daniel 4:28‭-‬32 NASB

The Adventures of Yazoo and Huckleberry (Ch. 5)

We set the alarms for an early start Monday (not that I needed it). I got in a short workout in the room with pushups, situps, lunges and squat before taking a shower and getting my backpack replenished for the day out.

Today we had planned a store visit to a large international retail chain store and we hoped to meet with the store manager. We were looking to gain some insight into the local market and product assortment for pecans. Part of the goals of this trip was to help determine multiple revenue streams to fund the company which would then support the local club growth and outreach.

I know a little about retail and eating pecans. But, I’m more of a technologist in the retail sector. I do have a hobby farm at my home which includes four apple trees, three plum trees, twelve chickens and nine muscadine vines. However, on this adventure, Yazoo is the big boss man and I’m just the sidekick. If questioned, I’m just a tourist and maybe I can consultant on business, technology and risk management if pressed for a better reason.

Now, funny thing is, our new friend Fulmer just happens to have a degree in some agriculture science area from a southern college and knows quite a bit about pecan trees. This is another awesome God thing. Putting Fulmer in this region and getting him involved in this adventure is a special kind of blessing. If our first goal is to plant pecan trees and get access to villages, we’ll need to know how to talk to the agriculture officials, farmers and land owners. Now we have a resource in place to do that.

So, we started the day by going to McDonalds for breakfast and coffee. Fulmer picked us up at the hotel and we met Kevin at the McDonalds. Let the adventure begin. Remember, this is my first time ever leaving the U.S., so some items I saw in this store were new to me.

We found only a few pecan related items at the store. But no nicely shelled whole pecans and really no dessert or health food items that incorporated pecans like we do here in the states.

After the store visit, you’ll never guess where we went.

Yep, we went over to Starbucks for a couple hours to discuss the inner workings of the business, management structure, funding and opportunities. Due to my lack of sleep, I was tired but alert and only occasionally interjecting an opinion. But I did partake in quite a bit of people watching. This Starbucks was on the corner of a big shopping area and I could see people walking by from all directions.

It was interesting to see all the different fashions of clothing. I suppose I’m used to seeing people wearing all the southern and mid-western U.S. fashions. So, I don’t think about how many different clothing styles are worn. But, as I sit in this Starbucks and look at these people walk by, it seems like they are all wearing something new and unique from each other.

We left Starbucks and started looking for a good place to eat lunch. We found a great local family owned restaurant that serves what they call Muslim noodles. These noodles are made fresh in front of you and they hand pull and separate the noodles and drop them in the soup base of your choosing. I chose chicken and some assorted greens for my noodles. It was delicious.

After lunch we went on an adventurous ride across town to meet the accountant. We were weaving through the crisscross patterns of traffic and seemingly fearless moped riders. It was more like a running back trying to run through the line of scrimmage than driving on a roadway. But when two weird American dudes stick their heads out the back windows and wave with a big cheesy smile, the locals are stunned long enough for you to nudge your car into the open line.

We were going to meet with the business accountant to check on the status of the money that Yazoo had sent to this country from his bank in the United States. Funding this business had become quite problematic. This country is not friendly to missionary work. So, when Yazoo’s bank accidentally sent the money to the foreign bank with a memo on it that said “missionary funding”, that did not go over well. And it happened twice. It was purely a mistake on the U.S. bank’s part, and the middle man bank that handles transfers. But, funding the business took more than six months and several corrections to paperwork.

The money still had not fully been added to the foreign bank account until the week after we left that country. This little issue would also be the cause of some troubling thoughts in Yazoo’s mind on our last day in the country, but I’ll tell you more about that later. Because, he also didn’t tell me until we were on the way home boarding the final plane back to the U.S.! Which, providentially, the flight was moved up a day earlier than expected two weeks before our trip. At the time we didn’t know what happened, but I checked our flight on the AA app a couple weeks before we were to leave and our Saturday flight home had been cancelled. I texted Yazoo, and he had to quickly scramble to get us tickets home on that Friday. There was no explanation to why that flight was cancelled, but now it seems we may know the answer.

We were at the accountant’s building for a while. So I stood out on the balcony and took several pictures. The ones I can share below are of an area where some outdoor adult exercise equipment was set up. I believe there must have been an assisted living area nearby.

I watched as several people took turns using the equipment. There were also older people sweeping and taking care of the grounds. The brooms were made of full stalks of grass.

It was Switzer’s birthday. So, after planning with the accountant, we went to the hotel and changed into comfortable clothes. We then headed to the huge six story mall for some Hibachi/Teppanyaki dishes and we were accompanied by Fulmer’s family. Among other dishes I had Lotus root coated with peanut flower. This was very good.

While we were eating, unbeknownst to us the rain had started outside. When we got down to ground level the streets were flooding around the mall. There was also a huge leak opening up in the center roof of the large atrium of the mall. Apparently this was very embarrassing for mall staff because they politely asked me to stop filming the big leak in broken English. We quickly made our way to the small SUV that Fulmer had parked in the below ground parking garage, and made our way out. We all worried that the parking garage might fill up with water. Luckily we were able to leave quickly, but once at ground level the water was a couple of inches deep across the whole road for several blocks.

It was a great full day, and that night I slept like a rock after not sleeping Sunday night. I did take two Tylenol PMs to confirm I would fall asleep, because the next day would take us on a trip to our office in the smaller city near the villages.

The Adventures of Yazoo and Huckleberry (Ch. 4)

As we were eating lunch I was able to meet Kevin’s friends from his club. One of them was the shepherd of the club, and this was the first time he was meeting for a real business meeting with Fulmer and Switzer. This was a big surprise to me. I felt honored and centered being there with them. I didn’t feel adequate to be there, but I knew I was supposed to be. This shepherd openly lead us in prayer before we ate, which was at first frightening to me because we were in a public space, but then I embraced the connection we had together and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Now, at this point I started noticing the absence of serving utensils. Well, that is because we all used our own chop sticks to pick out whatever we wanted off of the main dish platter or out of the main soup bowl. Yes, double dipping of the chop sticks is approved! I made myself okay with this situation by repeating in my mind all of the vaccinations I had taken before coming on this trip. I am happy to report that I did not get sick on the trip, as far as I know, yet. But I did go ahead and take a dose of pin worm treatment when I made it back to the states as a precautionary measure.

After lunch we made our way to the closest Starbucks. We each ordered something and then headed over to the city office of the agriculture company. The company has an office in this big city and one in a smaller city near the villages where we will plant trees and find people of peace to share THE business plan with.

When we arrived at the office, Fulmer was excited to show Yazoo the space. Fulmer had worked with Kevin to set up both office locations. Each location is set up to be used for business planning and overnight stays as needed. The locations will be a great asset for the business as a whole, and for the big club back home.

We briefly talked through some possible revenue streams while sharing some of the pecan samples with the group, but that was not the main purpose of this meeting.

The local shepherd wanted to talk with all of us about the needs of the club and the flock. His flock is in need of materials to share THE business plan with villages in their language. And his flock needed a plan for growth. The backstory is a good one. This shepherd and Kevin came from the same village, they went to school together in a city near their village. They had each been exposed to THE business plan by a man who was there teaching English when they were children. But the village itself is still a UPG, and is surrounded by UUPGs.

Fulmer and Switzer had a few ideas on how to get them some materials created in their language, but the process takes some time for translation and confirming the meaning is accurate.

The shepherd also shared how the government is slowly finding members of clubs in the area. They go missing for several days before being returned and sometimes they do not return. There are official sanctioned clubs and buildings set up for clubs that remain in the country, but the version of the message shared in those buildings are not THE true plan.

After some time in prayer, Yazoo covered the four fields program with Kevin, the shepherd and their friend. We then started talking with Fulmer and Switzer about future training and story translations needed for the UPG/UUPG groups.

It was getting late in the day, so we decided to part ways and head back to the hotel.

Fulmer dropped us off at the hotel and went to his place. Switzer, Yazoo and I changed clothes and walked about a mile to the huge six story mall for a small dinner at a Burger King. This city is beautiful at night. I have never been to Las Vegas, but there are several buildings here that I think would fit right in on the Vegas strip. Outside of the smell of sewage that occasionally wafts by, I really enjoyed this city and the mix of modern building design and classical architecture of the historic downtown.

We were already very tired so we quickly made our way to BK and went back to the hotel that night. At last check I had 16026 steps in on the Garmin Forerunner 235.

No sleep came for me Sunday night.

I probably should not have had the late Starbucks. I won’t be drinking coffee on Monday, just my Zipfizz.

Here is where that bed near the window fits back into the story. I wasn’t able to sleep, and I had left the curtains open a bit. Our hotel was surrounded by huge high rises on three sides, and the other side had an Olympic size pool, tennis and basketball areas. I’m convinced those were actual Olympic training areas.

I laid in the bed that night just staring up at those high rises and watching lights go on an off in the windows and thinking about what those people must be doing at all hours of the night. I knew the food trucks stayed open late, but it was 2:00 AM local time and the city still wasn’t yet asleep. I had brought some Tylenol PM with me on my doctor’s advice, but I didn’t take it before bed and I didn’t want to be chemically tired on top of physically tired the next day, so I didn’t take any after going to bed.

It was also an emotionally tough night. It didn’t hit me the first night because I was so tired, but on this second night I started feeling the distance away from my family. We were almost a full 12 hours ahead of my home timezone, so I called/texted my wife and talked to her around the time she was leaving our home club. Her words calmed me, and the Comforter soothed the pain in my chest. You know the pain I’m talking about, that pain of being away from the familiar and having a slight fear of never being able to return. I had not felt that pain since I was a young child.

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