Monday, November 25, 2013

And a Child Shall Lead Them...

Prior to moving to Haiti, our family was involved in a full-time children’s music ministry called Mister Bill Music.  The Mister Bill Music Ministry was birthed out of my (Bill Manassero’s) early involvement, as a new Christian, in Children’s ministry.  Because I came to Christ late in life, at the age of 33, I felt I had a lot of “catching up” to do to make up for all the “lost years” so, as a new Christian, I always volunteered at my church for anything and everything they needed when they called for volunteers.  One of those “calls” was in the area of children’s ministry, or, more specifically, in the nursery, or, as my friend Pastor John McHoul calls it, the “poop ministry.” 

As a single guy, I knew nothing about about babies and even less about changing dirty diapers.  But I didn’t complain because I died to my old self and I was a new creation ready to suffer for the cause of Christ.  The veteran moms that served along with me used to get a kick out of watching me struggle with the complexities of baby maintenance.  But, over time, I eventually triumphed, learned the system and became a lean mean diaper changing machine.  

By the grace of God, I eventually got promoted up to the toddlers/Pre-K crowd.  Now they were fun.  I loved playing with the little kids.  I also was blessed to be matched up with a super Sunday school vet, a lady with 20 plus years of experience, who even knew how to make her own play dough.  She was the perfect Sunday school teacher and I learned a lot from her.  

When it came to “song time,” she put me in charge of leading the kids in singing little kid church songs little, “Jesus Loves Me,” This Little Light of Mine,” and “Father Abraham.”  The only thing was, I didn’t know any of these songs.  Having been raised a Catholic as a child, I never heard of these songs, so I had to listen to these cassette tapes (remember those!), learn the songs and then teach the songs to the kids.  

Now, I didn’t tell the teacher that I was a musician because that was part of my “dark rock n’ roll past” prior to becoming a Christian.  To me, music was of the devil (well, at least the music I used to listen to and play in my various bands).  But over time, and as I read God’s Word, I found out that the Lord actually loves music and that, used properly, can be a powerful means to glorify God and to reach young hearts with the Gospel.  So, one day, I pulled one of my old guitars out of cobwebs and brought it to Sunday School class.  Now, instead of singing along with tapes, I was able to lead kids worship by singing along with the guitar.

Years later, I got promoted again, but this time, I was the main Sunday school teacher for older kids and pre-teens.  To help reach the kids and help them remember specific lessons and verses, I would write little themed songs with a rock beat.  Certain songs became favorites for the kids and we would sing them all the time in class. Some of the kids’ moms would ask if they could come to the class and record the songs so they could sing the songs in the car and at home with their families.  One thing led to another and we ended up going in the studio and recording an album of some of the more popular songs.

So, to cut an already way too long story down to size, a local Southern California radio station picked up the CD, started playing the songs and before long, our songs were being played on over 300 radio stations in the US and internationally.

By now, I was married, had five children and a very busy life.  I had a responsible job and traveled extensively.  The only drag was that my business took me away from my family a lot and I didn’t like that at all.

As our music spread, many requests came in to do family concerts, play for VBS events, children’s camps and music festivals.  Unfortunately, it was difficult to do both music and my “real” job.  I loved the music ministry because I was able to serve alongside my family.  My wife Susette, and eventually, my kids, created hand motions for the songs and we even had a band with my brother-in-law Tim on drums, son Jordan on lead guitar and oldest daughter Jasmine’s boyfriend Danny on bass. We were a regular Partridge family!  Haha.   

We would do music events on a weekend here, use vacation time there and before we knew

it, were doing up to 30 music events a year – all while I still had a full-time job in business.   
The pressure was on and I felt the Lord wanting me to choose between my business career or full-time music ministry.  I prayed a lot.  I loved the music ministry because I was with my family and we were reaching children and families with the Gospel.  But, the problem was,  I never thought we would be able to survive doing music full-time.  It was a labor of love.  It was never about money.  I prayed more and the Lord made it clear He wanted me in full-time ministry.  But I just couldn’t see how it would work even though He said, “Just trust in me.”  After much much more prayer and much kicking and screaming I quit my “real job” and went into the music ministry full-time.  A giant leap of faith for me and my family! .
We sold our home, rented a tiny house, bought a 34 foot RV and spent years traveling and ministering together.  And the Lord always provided for our needs. They were precious years.

During those years, my daughter Ariana and I traveled a lot to places together where I couldn’t afford to take the whole family – Russia, Africa, children’s ministry conferences and special week-long events.  At a lot of the events we attended, Compassion International would often have a booth or display and Ari used to love to go and hang out at their booth with her best friend at the time Alyssa.  They would spend hours just looking at the faces of the children in need of sponsorship on the sponsor packets.  She got to know the people at the Compassion booth so well that they often asked her and Alyssa to watch their booth
while they went on breaks, even though she was only 8 or 9 years old at the time.

She would always show me the pictures of the children she wanted to sponsor and asked if I would pay the monthly sponsorship.  I thought about it but wasn’t sure.  I didn’t want to just pay for her to sponsor the child because then it would be “my thing” and not hers.  I wanted her to "own it" and appreciate the importance of what she would be doing.  Later, when Compassion International came to our home church, I told her she could sponsor a child but she would have to pay for the monthly sponsorship out of her own allowance and savings.  That way she would appreciate the true value of the commitment.  She agreed.  It was not easy and she struggled with only being able to choose one child.  Eventually, she was able to narrow it down to one little child.  She ended up choosing a boy named Donald.  He was from a place called Haiti.

She loved having a sponsor child and would write to him and patiently wait for his return letters.  She would send him pictures of herself and draw him little pictures too.  Her love for Donald grew and so did her love for the island nation of Haiti.  When she could get on the Internet, she would just research everything she could about Haiti.  She was impacted by the vast number of orphans and children living on the streets and in orphanages.  She would find orphanage web sites and print out pictures of all the babies at the orphanages and would put their photos in her “Haiti Notebook.”  (We went through a ton of HP ink jet cartridges during this period).  When we traveled, she would take her Haiti Notebook with her everywhere and stare for hours at the babies’ photos, memorizing their names and facts about their lives.

One day, when I noticed a jar full of coins on her dresser, I asked her what she was saving for, she  
responded with, “Dad, I’m saving to build an orphanage, hospital, school and church to help the children in Haiti.” And the rest is all history…

It started with a child sponsorship.  A child sponsoring a child.  And then, a child leading a family to Haiti.  And then a family being led by God to raise-up fatherless and at-risk children whom, Lord willing, will one day transform a nation. 

Today, other little boys and girls are choosing from amongst a bunch of photos of “Ariana’s Haiti kids” at Child Hope’s web site to sponsor a child.  To change a life… and not just the life of a child from the third world country.

This Christmas, some moms and dads are going to select a unique gift for their kids, one that will not end up broken or worn out in a month or two, or end up in a box at a garage sale.  They will give a gift that can change a child's life -- eternally. 

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 
Child Hope has lots of children still in need of sponsors.  Children in need of an advocate.  Someone to pray for them, to invest in their future and give them a chance to succeed.  People who are willing to make a small sacrifice so that big things will happen in the life of a child who was once without hope.  A Child Hope child sponsorship.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child or giving a sponsorship as a gift this Christmas click here.  God bless you.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sergeant Dad

Two of our daughters, Ariana and Vienna, have been in California for the past few months and we are still missing them and adjusting to their absence.  Ariana is on a sabbatical and Vienna has started her first year of college at Santa Barbara City College.  They are both doing great. 
Recently, Susette had a very strong pain in her hand and she too left for California.  That left Mr. Bill alone, in charge of the household.  So now, he has Elijah, Frankie and Kenny and all the regular house duties (laundry, homework, running Frankie to ballet lessons, Elijah and Kenny to soccer practices, shopping, etc.) on top of the day-to-day duties of running the ministry here in Haiti.  Oh, and, I might add, temporarily taking over the Lighthouse Bakery until one of the graduates can step in to take over.

To keep it all in order, Mr. Bill has had to adopt a sort of paramilitary system so that the kids can better know expectations and have a little order.  For example, when requested to do something, the kids, instead of responding, “Sure, Dad, when we get a second,” they now must shout out, “Sir, Yes Sir!” and run to the task.  If just helps affirm proper ranking and respect.  The kids were doing pretty good for a while, until Mr. Bill started insisting when they came home, to change out of their uniforms in into camos to do homework.  But when they were required to clean the toilets with toothbrushes that  took them over the top.

So, after a little friendly advice from mom, he has backed up a bit and he’s down to only fifty push-ups in the morning, 5am wake-up call, instead of 4 and camos are now optional after school.

Please pray for Mr. Bill AND the Manassero kids and for a speedy recovery for Susette.