Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I'm going to Peru!

Training site in Chazuta, Peru
I’m happy to announce that, Lord willing, I’ll be travelling to Chazuta, Peru, in October 2016 on a one-week mission trip with Reaching & Teaching International Ministries.

Chazuta is a small community on the eastern side of the Andes mountains. Pastors from as far away as a week’s journey by trail and boat will be coming there for the week of October 8-15, 2016, for an ongoing training program that began in 2013. I along with others who go on this trip will teach a survey of the New Testament, the personal spiritual discipline of prayer, and an advanced course for those who have completed the basic program.

I encourage you to watch this Youtube video from a trip in October 2014. This is what I’m getting myself into.

My focus right now is on praying over this trip. As a matter of fact, please pray for the trip right now, and if you can commit to it, include it in your regular times of prayer.
I’ll be making a concerted effort at fundraising closer to the New Year, but if you’d like to get a head start and donate towards the cost of the trip ($2400, including airfare), you can do so by sending a check to

Fall Creek Baptist Church
8901 Fall Creek Road
Indianapolis, IN 46256

Please put on the check that it is for the “Peru Mission Trip—Andrew Wencl.”

I’ll also be working on getting in shape for the trip and developing some outdoorsman skills that may be useful in that area of the country. I’ll chronicle my efforts on those fronts closer to the New Year as well.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

3 Christian martyrs in Malatya

On April 18, 2007, three Christian men were tortured and killed by five young men in Malatya, Turkey. I remember seeing the story in the news. It was terrible and tragic, but there was little information beyond the fact that they were stabbed multiple times and some generic language about religious tensions in Turkey. I knew three men were killed. I knew that they were targeted because they were believed to be Christians. I couldn’t say anything for certain beyond that. Now, after reading Martyrs of Malatya, I know them as Necati Aydin, Uğur Yuksel, and Tilmann Geske, brothers in Christ. They had lives of their own—stories of their own—before the events of April 18, 2007.  This book tells their stories.

The author, writing under a pen name, originally wrote the book for distribution in Turkey. Because of the cultural dominance of Islam, as well as suspicions that missionary activity is orchestrated by Western intelligence agencies to undermine the religious, social, and political unity of Turkey, Wright is careful to show how these men were motivated by their love for Jesus and their desire to see the Turkish people know about Jesus’s love for them.

The author’s purpose for the book was not solely for evangelism and defending Christian witness in Turkey. He also wanted to make sure these men were known and remembered by Christians who may have seen the headlines, but didn’t know who these men were. I’ve always enjoyed biographies. Our routine day-to-day activities distract us from the greater picture of our lives. Biographers show us that our lives are much more meaningful than we often realize. And as significant as the martyrdom of Necati, Uğur, and Tilmann was, their lives were even more significant. It is hoped that their deaths will result in more people coming to Christ than before. I hope that their lives, as recorded in this book, will result in more believers taking a bold stand for the gospel.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of providing my review.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Insanity of God

I had heard The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin (pseudonym) was good. I even had a digital copy of it on my ereader, but I just never got around to reading it until now. It lived up to the hype.

The full title of the book is The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected. Ripkin tells of how he became a Christian, got married, and got appointed as a missionary to Africa. Once there, he ended up doing relief work in Somalia—he was in Mogadishu during the events portrayed in the book and movie Black Hawk Down. The things he experienced doing this relief work and a personal tragedy shook his faith. This led him on a journey through many countries to meet with and learn from persecuted believers around the world, which ultimately breathed fresh air into his faith.

Ripkin’s story drew me in. So many of the stories were heartbreaking or tense, yet there were moments of sudden relief, unexpected humor, and even joy. It’s not surprising that Ripkin struggled with what he was experiencing—feelings of doubt, failure, and being overwhelmed. As I read, I found myself challenged as well. This book wrestles with the problem of evil, miracles, God speaking, and persecution. It’s not systematized like a textbook. It’s stories. Much like the Gospels and Acts, the narrative calls for a response.

I feel invigorated after reading The Insanity of God. I’m in seminary, but I don’t just want my knowledge to grow, I want my faith to grow. This book has reminded me that believing God isn’t merely about knowing certain things and holding certain positions. It’s about trusting in him more today than I did yesterday, and acting on that trust more and more. It may end up having a bigger impact on my walk with God than any other book I’ve read this year. I wish I had read it sooner.

I received a copy of the audiobook from christianaudio for the purpose of review.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

August, our busiest month this year

August may end up being our busiest month this year. We started off the month picking up some friends, the Arroyo family, from the airport after their vacation/family visit to Puerto Rico. Hannah made lunch for them, and Abby and Lukas enjoyed playing with their two girls, Delilah (7) and Charlotte (3). Their kids really enjoyed playing with our rabbits, Cadbury and Oreo—so much so that I struck a deal with the parents, Ismael and Deborah: if I found a rabbit and built them a cage, they’d let the girls have it. This would turn out to be quite the adventure.

Before we get to the rabbit story, a few other things happened. Chile Verde, the Mexican restaurant owned by our Guatemalan friends (I chuckle over that), hosted a welcoming party for Marvin Ceballos, the newest player for our local soccer team, Indy Eleven. I was there, and it was packed out. People were singing and cheering, and I imagine Ceballos couldn’t have felt more at home. It was nice of Hannah to let me go while she stayed at home with the sleeping kids.

Two days later on the 7th I took Abby to her first movie at the Hamilton IMAX Theater. Shaun the Sheep has been one of her favorite TV shows, so when we heard it was going to be on the big screen, I knew it was something she could handle. There’s no dialogue, so the Claymation alone tells the story and kids are able to follow along without much trouble. Despite the theater being one of the busiest ones in town, there weren’t many people there at six o’ clock on a Friday, so we enjoyed having the theater mostly to ourselves.

Sunday the 9th marked my first in what would be four Sundays preaching at Calvary Heights Baptist Church in Martinsville, Indiana, about a 50-minute drive from our home. I preached a series from the book of Daniel titled Pilgrims in an Unholy Land. Here are the links: (Dan1)(Dan3)(Dan5)(Dan6). The church was very friendly and took good care of my family and me. Perhaps the best part was spending the afternoons with Michael and Leah Pratt and some other church members. Our prayers are for their blessing as they search for a new pastor (I’m not applying in case you’re wondering).

After lunch that first Sunday I went to a house near Martinsville and picked up a rabbit for the Arroyo family. My children were happy to see it and seemed to forget our much larger and less new rabbits in favor of the black, brown, and white baby lionhead. We kept it in a dog kennel cage while I spent each evening sweating it out in the garage with my tools and sawdust building a cage. I don’t know how many hours I put in that week outside my regular working hours as I shifted from building the cage, writing a sermon, translating a sermon into Spanish, and cooking some pigs in a blanket for a work pitch in, but my wife assures me the children did see me and remembered who I was. On Saturday I preached at Enfoque and then followed it up preaching at Calvary Heights again. Sunday afternoon I finished the cage and we all piled into the van to deliver it to the Arroyo residence.

We met up with the Arroyos and another Puerto Rican family from church, the Nieves family, who, coincidentally, also have a rabbit. Charlotte and Delilah were thrilled, and, most importantly, the parents didn’t renege on their agreement.

The following day, feeling tired and wanting to treat my family for putting up with my crazy schedule this month, I took Hannah and the kids to Chile Verde for dinner. Then we remembered why we don’t take our children out to eat very often. Cups of water spilled over the table. Rice and refried beans were everywhere. We felled an entire forest just trying to keep everything cleaned up with napkins, but in the end it was fun. We were doubly blessed when we asked for the bill and found out a friend who just happened to be at the restaurant had paid for us. We still tipped our waitress pretty well since she would have to deal with all our plates and napkins.

On Tuesday the 18th Hannah and the children started back at WEE Care Preschool. The children were happy to see their friends and teachers, and Hannah was glad to be back into her routine. That evening I got to see the kids’ first crafts and worksheets and the big smiles that went along with them.

On Wednesday I found out from the Arroyos that something terrible had happened. After Delilah showed her rabbit to some of the neighbor kids, someone came up to the cage that night, undid the latch, and let the rabbit out. The children were heartbroken. They put out alerts on Facebook, but we all assumed we’d seen the last of little Oreo. Then, two days later, one of their neighbors down the street texted them: “I think I found your rabbit.” Sure enough, someone saw it outside and recognized it wasn’t a wild rabbit. They picked it up, saw the message on the homeowner’s association Facebook page, and two little girls were happy once again.

On the 23rd we went to a birthday party for Mia Sara (8), the daughter of the Nieves family I mentioned earlier. I hung out with the men while Hannah stuck with the women and watched the kids while they played at a splash pad. I saw some guys playing dominoes, which is to Puerto Ricans what Canasta or Euchre is to the Wencl clan. I ended up playing two games, and somehow my partner and I won the second game. It was exciting to play, especially when someone would slam down his last domino to end the round. I enjoyed it so much that I’m going to get my family to play with me next time I go up to Michigan for a visit.

After I preached my last sermon for the month on the 30th I was exhausted. I didn’t have time to rest, though, because Hannah found an amazing deal on a children’s outdoor play set. I just had to find a way to transport it. Thanks to some friends like Derrick Flowers, the Arroyos, and Santos Garcia, we were able to pull it off. I rented a truck from Home Depot and just three of us managed to lift the structure onto the back. Then, with about 10 inches of clearance under the power lines, I drove it to my house where we unloaded it, this time a little wiser and using four people. While I returned the truck so as to avoid any more costs than I had to, Hannah and the guys started grilling burgers. We enjoyed a nice dinner together before going back to work moving the structure to our back yard. Derrick stayed a while longer to help me put the beam and A-frame together for the swings, and I’m sure each one of us collapsed into bed that night fully exhausted.
On August 31st, the last day of the month, I enjoyed sleeping in a little because I was scheduled to telework from home. Abby and Lukas, who had watched the whole undertaking the day before, finally got to enjoy their new play set. Makes me glad my wife didn’t let me get an Xbox One instead.