Archive for the ‘Mission’ Category

What If We Were All Disciples

June 8, 2015

A disciple is someone who follows a master trying to be like the master, live like the master, talk like the master.

Jesus called the people around him at the end and gave them a vision. He wanted them all to be disciples and to make disciples of others. He also said that his disciples would be known by society at large by their love.

Maybe it was when the speaker stopped teaching and started “preaching” that my mind latched on to this idea. What would the world be like–what would it have been like–if all of Jesus’ followers actually were disciples?

Suddenly my thoughts were captured by my failures as a disciple. Have I been a good one?

That is the crux of the matter. It’s not pointing fingers at others. It’s looking first at the log in my eye before helping the other remove the spec. The German writer Thomas Mann wrote, “If everyone swept their own porch, the whole world would be clean.”

I wrote that on an engineering blog several years ago. Those darn literal engneers. One wrote back that there would still be vast areas of geography that wouldn’t be clean.

That, of course, is a metaphor. Our own porch is our own life, our thoughts, our actions, our words. 

But let’s speculate. What if all people who call themselves followers were actually disciples? What if we were all known by our love instead of our politics, or our unfounded opinions, or our stubbornness, or our fears and angers?

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but that would be a great step toward actualizing God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

And forgive me for my mind wandering during church 😉

Reminds me of the little boy who sat in class staring out the window. The teacher noticed and stopped talking. Eventually the little boy noticed the unusual silence and came into the present world. “What were you doing?” the teacher asked. “Thinking,” said the little boy. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to think in school?” replied the teacher.

That’s me.

Charity Will Never End Poverty, Opportunity Will

May 27, 2015

She visited Africa. Saw a poor, rural village where women had to walk miles for their daily water. Feeling deep emotions, the woman pulled out her check book and paid for a water well for the village.

It was a great act of kindness. 

However when she returned after several years, she was dismayed to discover that the well was not being used. It had not been used for some time. The people in the village had a well, but it had no “water department.” There was no one trained to maintain the well. Calling in a maintenance crew from the city was far beyond the reach of the local people.

People in another area once lived off the fruits of their farms. Then large corporations entered the area with the idea that the climate was great for growing crops that would be in great demand in North America and Western Europe. 

Colluding with corrupt local and national government, the company bought all the land, threw the farmers off their land, and hired them back at extremely low wages to grow the crops. That happened many years ago in places where pineapples grow. We enjoyed pineapple. The people now had no way to grow their own food and not enough money to buy it. They were modern slaves in effect.

Ethical business

That same effect happened with coffee. By the time ground coffee reaches the grocery store, it has gone through so many “middle men” that there is not enough money to pay the farmers.

I have bought whole bean coffee for years “fair trade” from a small roaster in Tennessee–Just Love Coffee. Fair trade coffee cuts through the layers and pays the farmers a fair price for their labors.

The next step is “direct trade.” A local roaster buys beans directly from farmers he met while on a short-term mission trip. 

Is it possible to run an ethical business that benefits the community, employees, suppliers all the way to the grower?

I think so. I’m an angel investor in a coffee shop due to open in 4-6 weeks just down the street from where I live. High Grounds Cafe touts a “quadruple bottom line.” (The Website is under construction, too.) We will buy our beans fromthe roaster I just mentioned.

The quadruple bottom line?

  • Spiritual
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Environmental

The working foundation is to be ethical in all our dealings–whether with the building code people, employees, customers, community. And the farmers who grow our beans.

I’ll have more to say in the future. Next month I’m heading to Colorado Springs for a conference of Christian business people with the same outlook. How can we help plant sustainable businesses in areas of abject poverty? Something that truly changes the lives and outlooks of the people rather than just handing out money.

Money is essential help following a disaster such as we just witnessed in Nepal. But giving money is not a sustainable aid package. Changed lives–that is sustainable.

They Came Over The Hill

March 17, 2015

These posts are usually meditations with a point. However, last week several of us visited Tijuana for a mission trip. In addition to serving at an orphanage with children (from 4 to 20), we also visited an active landfill. The experience was overwhelming. I’ve changed literary styles for this meditation.

The scene was eerie, much like a movie about an apocolypse. 

Our van was stopped by security where we were questioned. Allowed through into the landfill, we parked near some newer cars. Some sort of business was transacted there that I do not wish to know.

We grabbed our two boxes filled with 100 ham and cheese sandwiches and three packages of bottled water. 

We are outside Tijuana, Mexico. It is desert. Hot, even in March. Dusty, with spirits blowing mini-dust storms as if impeding our way.

The dirt and dust dried out our sinuses and became grit in our eyes.

We hurried beyond the cars, across a road and over a rise. The scene below was beyond belief. Hundreds of people. Maybe 500. Maybe more. Sorting through the days droppings from the parade of waste trucks. Hoping for enough valuable material or recyclable stuff to get paid to make it through another day.

They saw us. Over the ridge. I looked up. Men with hoodies and neck cloths protection from the dirt. Coming toward us. At first, admittedly a little fear. But there was no harm.

We offered a sandwich, a bottle of water, a blessing “Dios te bendiga”.

Each one offered a grateful “gracias” in return. I have even witnessed these people sharing during my past trips. They often look out for each other. A spark of humanity and God.

When we had given the last of our offerings, we hurried back to the van. Escaping the sights, the smells, the dirt.

Had we 400 more sandwiches, we would not have had enough. When asked why even bother, I responded, “It’s like the story of the starfish thrower. We can’t help them all, but those we do help appreciate it. And out of their misery and slavery, perhaps they hear the blessing of God.”

One little church was built in their little tent city on the other side of the hill. The people who built the church and visited on Saturdays had led one man to salvation by the power of the Gospel. That’s one. It’s a start. Just like our sandwiches. A start.

Just like back home. We can help one. Maybe we can’t help everyone. But one at a time. That’s not unlike what Jesus did. One at a time.

It was the juxtaposition with the bright and happy kids cared for by the orphanage that was most shocking.

Why do we go on these trips? 

We are called to coviction about how great we have it. And how great to burden and calling to share what we have. Not unlike the rich young man in Matthew 19, where he proclaimed that he had followed all the comandments since he was a youth. “Sell all your possessions and give them to the poor, then follow me,” Jesus replied. We gave only a little, but we were reminded about how great the task is that remains.

Our hearts were enlarged by the experience. May we always retain the perspective of life in the spirit.

Leadership Lessons From A Recent Mission Trip

July 11, 2014

The church had a leadership void in a ministry area. I accepted a lunch invitation and wound up agreeing to fill that void. The position was leader of our missions ministry. Lunch was just over a year ago.

Last week a team of eleven people returned from a week working at an orphanage and women’s shelter operated by the Tijuana Christian Mission. We have had a longstanding relationship with TCM, but the leadership void had caused a break in the relationship.

We had a similar relationship with a mission in Haiti–also serving youth and orphans in that country. Same situation–but I’m still putting together a team for that trip.

This seemed like a good time to reflect on the past year and share some leadership thoughts. None of these are ground-breaking ideas. Humans have known about doing leadership for thousands of years. We just need reminding and encouraging.

Vision

I had a vision of restarting the relationships and trips to Tijuana and Haiti. Circumstances pointed to Tijuana as the best place to start.

My “reach” vision is to start new relationships leveraging two groups with ties to our church with ministries in Africa–Kenya and Ethiopia.

Obstacles

One of the staff people strongly suggested that the first thing I do is form a committee, hold committee meetings, build a formal organization with all manner of job descriptions–just like the business she had come from.

Then when I told her that I was organizing a trip to Tijuana, I was told no. That was not in my area of responsibility.

Then I found other leadership problems–mostly apathy of senior staff.

Gathering advisors

So I started finding advisors and helpers to tackle the various obstacles so we could get moving. There were internal leadership advisors and advisors who could help me plan and prepare for the trips. Such help was invaluable.

Recruiting a team

Approvals received. Dates for the trip established. It was time to recruit. Once again getting help from other leaders was essential. Circumstances beyond my control dictated a trip with only three months to recruit, plan, fund raise and go.

But a group was recruited and we began to prepare them for the trip.

Planning to smallest detail

Here are some of the planning details. We had to plan around several unknowns, but we do that in business all the time.

  • develop budget
  • agree on projects with TCM
  • budget time and money for the projects
  • plan air travel for a group
  • make sure all had passports
  • plan each day’s activities–when we eat out, when we eat at the orphanage, when we work on projects, when we work with the kids, when we arrive, when we leave

Flexibility

There are many circumstances that cannot be planned. Vans may not be available just when we think we need them. Meals may be later (or earlier) than we planned. The scope of the project may change. We had to be flexible to go with the flow and accept schedule changes.

Reflection

We gathered each day in the morning and the evening to reflect on the trip and our objectives, as well as our personal reactions.

Writing this post is another way of reflecting on the trip–what we did, what we learned. Each team member is expected to also reflect on the trip and feedback thoughts for future trips.

Doing What God Calls You To Do

April 28, 2014

The city was known for its violence and cruelty. Its treatment of outsiders was known and feared.

It had gotten so bad that God decided to act. It was either that the city, meaning the attitudes and orientation of all the people in the city, change its ways or it would be destroyed.

God called a man to take this message to the city. He went to the city and preached what we would call repentance. That means he called the people to change the attitude of their hearts from one of cruelty and violence to one oriented toward walking with God. This attitude would be reflected in the way that they lived, such that instead of a reputation for cruelty, they would gain a reputation as God-followers.

The man went, he preached, they changed. Great story.

Except.

The man did not want to do that. The city was his people’s archenemy. He wanted it destroyed and all the people who lived there.

So he did what anyone would do in that situation. He fled. He ran away from God. But God cannot be escaped. He caught the man and pretty much forced him to go to the city and preach. And the man was successful. The city and all the inhabitants repented and changed their ways. God did not destroy the city. The man sat outside and pouted. He wanted destruction. God wanted a right life.

The man’s name was Jonah. God caught him with a fish who grabbed him and took him back to the land. The story isn’t about the fish. The story is about repentance. About how God wanted everyone (not just the Hebrews) to repent and follow Him. It’s also a story about call.

Do you feel a call. It weighed on my soul for a long time that I should have a ministry. Didn’t know what it would be. I thought I knew. But then came a call. Actually, I was called for the same ministry many years ago. Said I couldn’t do it. God waited. He struck. I’m stuck.

How about you? What is weighing on your heart? Or maybe it’s a clear voice that you’re trying to ignore. Don’t ignore. In the end, God wins.

You Will Know My Followers By Their Love

January 16, 2014

I’m continuing my posts from the Tijuana Christian Mission. This is our last day. We’re flying home overnight, so back to work Friday afternoon.

What an amazing testimony to God’s love at work. These Jesus followers serve some of the poorest of the poor, the abused, the neglected. There is no false sentimentality, likewise no finger-pointing. Just sharing God’s love with a sandwich and a Bible lesson. A shelter for abused women. Orphanages for abandoned children. A hospice for lost people.

I’ve traveled and seen many things. But I’ve never been taken into an alley packed with people who have little hope, many the only hope they have comes through a needle. But appreciative to Christ-followers who share.

Jesus said, you will know my followers by their love.

Sometimes I wonder about some who claim his name, yet fail so much to love others.

When you see these illnesses of society, you realize how much work there is to be done.

I’ve seen changed hearts and changed lives. We need many more.

The Power of Prayer Plus Work

January 15, 2014

I am in Tijuana, Mexico this week visiting the Tijuana Christian Mission. Begun 50 years ago by an energetic young pastor, the mission now incorporates an orphanage in Tijuana, another in Rosarita, a shelter for abused women (mostly rescued from the sex trade), and a hospice hospital.

The founder (I’m probably not spelling it correctly) Sergio Gomez told us about his life and the ministry he has built. Rather God and he have built. I have written before about praying with intention. Well, he is the best example I’ve ever heard of prayers answered while praying specifically and with intention. As well as starting the path even when waiting on God to provide.

His family and the other staff are doing a great work (hearkening back to my Nehemiah discussions), and they “will not come down.” They keep the faith even when cheated and when promised support withers away.

I’m sitting in the courtyard typing this post listening to the boys playing basketball, a young girl rollerblading, the girls talking, a guitar lesson has just ended. Amazing.

Everything I’ve learned from my daughter about running a group home and dealing with troubled kids–they are living out. Most of the kids are victims of some sort of tragedy, and most are doing well. They’ve even had a college graduate recently.

If you are interested in learning more, just contact me.

[oh, sorry about the double post–I’m still learning how to use the WordPress app on my iPad]

Treat Everyone Equally

January 13, 2014

When most of you read this post, I will be in the air on my way to Mexico to visit the Tijuana Christian Mission. I’m going with three members of our church’s pastoral staff partly so that I can rejuvenate our mission ministry.

One of my small groups is studying James right now. As always, what we study seems to have immediate application. Twice early in his letter, James teaches on respecting everyone. Everyone in the community is equal before God. We should not feel either inferior or superior. We should not treat others as superior or inferior.

That’s one of the things I admire about Pope Francis, by the way. In an organization that retains most of the medieval trappings of power and authority, he is trying to bring some other traditional Christian teachings into the church.

I have traveled internationally enough to intentionally try not to be the “typical American.” But often I’m at engineering conferences. This is a different trip. I’ll be the only engineer. James’ teachings will be at the front of my mind. Although (probably as an American) I seldom recognize personally superiority or inferiority, going on a mission trip with the poor and dispossessed will be different, for sure.

James teaches two things early in his letter–respect for others and awareness of our own motivations. Nowhere does this come out as much as during travel into other cultures. Should be an interesting time.

Many Ways To Discipleship

July 1, 2013

Is there just one way to be a disciple? Are disciples like little toy Ninjas spit from an injection molding machine so that each is exactly like the one before and the one after?

The thing about becoming a disciple is that it is much harder than just saying you agree with some proposition. There are powerful and charismatic people who arise from time to time who have a vision of what a perfect person is like. He (almost always a “he” throughout history) then tries to develop a society of robots under his control.

Jesus was not like that. He had a core teaching. He expected his followers to abide in that core teaching. He also collected an amazingly diverse set of characters into his inner circle. Beyond the Twelve and into the next circle, there were religious leaders, wealthy people, recovered prostitutes.

I was thinking about this reflecting back on my life while I’m also reflecting forward into what I’m doing now. Have I always been a disciple? Have I always done what I should?

We can look to Paul for some advice. I, like many of my contemporaries, initially disliked Paul. In fact, I have a friend today who will tell people to get out the big, black magic marker when reading Paul’s letters to just blot out some of his words. People have been doing that for centuries.

That’s a mistake. It’s just that Paul tried so hard, sometimes he got a little confusing. And sometimes he was telling disciples in AD 60 how to organize without thinking about (it probably never occurred to him) organizing when Christ-followers (or Christians) became powerful and diverse.

But Paul addressed this discipleship thing a few times. What he said was that there exist a variety of people. These people in general possess a variety of talents. Each individual has at least one talent. These talents are what we devote to putting into practice Jesus’ commands–such as to go into the world and make disciples.

Early Christ-followers were remarkable in their service to fellow humans even from a political and social position of powerlessness.

I guess that in the end, am I using what talents I have to help people and further the Kingdom. Am I constantly developing those talents to help even more? That would be my task–and my test.

Celebrating Is Not Condoning

June 6, 2013

I have a friend who worries–a lot. She worries about being holy and how other people are not. Actually, she thinks she is holy and most other people are not.

She asks me, “If you are helping people who have made bad decisions in their lives and are now suffering with the consequences, aren’t you condoning their lifestyle?”

Let me tell you a story. Seems that a young man, probably early 20s, felt like a prisoner working in the family business. He sat calculating and dreaming. One day he approached his father, the owner, and told him that he had calculated already how much his share of the inheritance would be.

“Why don’t you just give me my inheritance now,” he asked, “and then I’ll be out of your hair. And I can go live a life of freedom.”

So his dad shuffled some investments and gave him the money.

They young man left his small midwestern town and headed for the big city. He spent his entire fortune on women, gambling, expensive hotels and buying drinks for his new-found friends.

When the money was gone, he found himself scrounging for food with the street people. All the old friends were gone since he had no money.

Coming to his senses (some of us take a long time to mature), he decided to go home and get a job in his dad’s business.

When he returned home, his dad greeted him with great joy and threw a huge party for the whole town to attend.

The dad’s other son asked, “Aren’t you condoning his actions?”

“No,” dad replied. “He has done what he has done, and all his money is gone. But he is my son, and he has returned home. Let us celebrate that.”

No, Jesus said. We are not condoning his (my) actions. We are celebrating every time someone who was lost is now found.

Don’t be afraid to help others. Don’t worry about what people think. Jesus celebrates every time you help someone who was lost so that they will be found.