Several have visited Portland recently. Read the report on the Taliaferro's visit from the Portland website at www.portlandchurch.org. Alex and Danielle Whitaker and 15 students from Seattle also came through for a few days. Doug Arthur came out from Boston as well. Doug writes about his visit in the following article...
From Chaos to Clarity
My visit to Portland
By Doug Arthur
The mountains quake before him
and the hills melt away.
The earth trembles at his presence
I walked in the door expecting to find a relatively tranquil setting. I had traveled thousands of miles to see old friends and talk to some mature leaders about plans for the future. As I opened the door, the Johnsons’ house was filled with people of all ages. The women were studying in the basement and the men were upstairs as they counted the cost with a young couple who had decided to become Christians. The Portland congregation’s elders and their wives arrived for our meeting as chili and rice were being offered to anyone and everyone willing to join in the feasting and fellowship. After 14 long hours of travel I was quickly refreshed by seeing friends and experiencing the chaos that so often accompanies conversions. The atmosphere was a familiar mixture of excitement and unpredictability as Chris & D’auna decided that their time had come. They did not want to risk another day separated from God. They were urgent to be baptized “at that hour of the night,” like their Philippian brother so many years ago (Acts 16:33). The rest of the evening was filled with celebration and serious conversations; it was a night I will long treasure.
Wednesday night was midweek and the atmosphere was electric! We shared from the scriptures, sang rousing songs and enjoyed fellowship that lasted long after the final prayer. I was encouraged to find the congregation so full of faith and zeal. Person after person shared about their determination to let nothing stand in their way of serving God through good times and bad. They are behind the church leadership heart and soul and had a twinkle in their eyes about what the future will bring. It was invigorating to see their indomitable spirit.
The Portland congregation is a church with a long history of doing battle for God. They have seen victory and defeat, but this band of over 200 disciples are focused on their mission and excited by the stream of good will and encouragement they have received in recent weeks. It was apparent from my first night with the elders; Bob Bertalot, Greg Gaumond, and Mike Mathis, that they are men of clear convictions and a strong faith in God’s sovereignty. They have guided the congregation through a storm and have emerged stronger for the experience. They are resolute about their vision for the future and their convictions about God’s church. Over several days of discussions with the leadership team we covered many topics including:
Commitment to Unity “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
Their dedication is to love the brotherhood and they are very encouraged by the visits in recent weeks from leaders from Seattle and San Antonio. They look forward to Randy and Kay McKean visiting from Washington DC later this fall. I was also thrilled to learn that at the urging and support of a variety of brothers from around the world Steve and Lisa Johnson will be attending the International Leadership Conference in Kiev, Ukraine in October. Congregationally they are eager to reengage with their sister churches in the Pacific Northwest.
Commitment to Missions “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” Mark 16:15
The leadership is resolute about their need to be a light not just to their local community but also around the world. In the coming months they will be selecting a foreign mission field to support financially.
Commitment to the Poor “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” Galatians 6:10
In uncertain times Paul and Peter agreed not only on the message of the gospel, but also to imitate Jesus in his ministry by remembering the poor. The Portland leadership has always been involved in local benevolence but in the coming months will be investigating ways to actively engage in helping the poor in the third world. While I was there Dan Allison, a Portland native, agreed to visit in December to share about his amazing work in Afghanistan with HOPE worldwide.
God sometimes takes us to dramatic places to give us a visual image of a spiritual reality. That is how I felt about our visit to Mount Saint Helens. Steve and I traveled to a lookout where you could see the crater caused by a volcanic eruption on Sunday May 18, 1980 at 8:32am. The devastation that day killed 57 people and flattened nearly 230 square miles of forest which was then covered in volcanic debris. Now nearly 30 years later the view is crystal clear and the forest has recovered to the point that you have to look closely to see signs of the earlier catastrophe. The crater still stands and is a spectacular reminder of the power of God. Steve and I sat on a bench and prayed together as we looked out over the mountain, I couldn’t help seeing that with time God can heal even the greatest of eruptions.
God is really good,