Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Needy in the New Year

Today I spent some time reflecting, journaling, and praying through 2008. I have much to be thankful for, and much to give God praise for. It is humbling to see His faithfulness over the course of the year. I made note of different opportunities that He gave me in ministry, relational blessings, financial provisions, and ways in which He has stretched me and grown me.

However, at the same time I have come into the end of this year feeling tired, anxious, and struggling to trust Him in areas of uncertainty. I am thankful in some ways for this odd tension of a mindfulness of His faithfulness and power, and at the same time a wrestling in my spirit to fully trust and follow. It has put me on my knees, literally. I have not been one to pray on my knees, but have been intentional in assuming this posture lately. This has been both a blessing and a challenge (I highly recommend it, if you don't). As my good friend Aaron recently wrote (paraphrasing) as prayer becomes more habitual and more intentional, there is a "weightyness" that comes with it.

So I head into 2009 needy, needy to depend much on Him, needy to stay on my knees.

Learning to follow...

I am reading through the Cost of Discipleship right now by Deitrich Bonhoeffer. It is a great read, and a very challenging read. I also just read through the gospel of Matthew (it too is a great and challenging read). I have been reminded of Jesus' frequent invitations to "follow." You see it repeatedly in the gospels:
Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, 19:21
Mark 1:17, 2:14, 8:34, 10:21
Luke 5:27, 9:23, 9:59, 9:61, 14:27, 18:22
John 1:43, 10:27, 12:26, 21:19, 21:22
This adds up to 21 times throughout Jesus' recorded ministry in which he invited people to "follow." I think sometimes in Evangelical, "Bible believing" churches we are guilty of reducing the gospel to "easy beliefism." It becomes all about articulating the "right stuff." So we ask people to repeat prayers or to answer "is this what you believe" questions and then declare people as saved. In the midst of all of this I think we must be careful not to miss Jesus' words of "follow me."

To follow, no doubt, requires faith. You cannot follow Christ without faith in Christ. Jesus repeatedly said, "your faith has..." However, to follow Christ is deeper and "messier" than reciting back a ten point doctrinal statement. To follow is to "put feet" to what we say we believe. Following is where our orthodoxy flows into orthopraxy. It is hard. Bonhoeffer's book (mentioned above) walks through the sermon on the mount that Jesus preached. Bonhoeffer seems to imply, "what if Jesus meant what He said to His followers?". I think the tendency is to seek to "hermeneutically soften" Jesus words using other Scriptures. I'm not sure if we can do that as we live out Luke 9:23 where Jesus said,"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." "Followship" is impossible apart from the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

My thinking on this is in process, so I won't ramble any further. I like Shane Claiborne's thoughts from his book "The Irresistable Revolution." He shares...
"But then you start to think there must be more to Christianity, more than just laying your life and sins at the foot of the cross. I came to realize that preachers were telling me to lay my life at the foot of the cross and weren't giving me anything to pick up. A lot of us were hearing, "don't smoke, don't drink, don't sleep around" and naturally started asking, "Okay, well, that was pretty much my life, so what do I do now?" Where were the do's? And nobody seemed to have much to offer us. Handing out tracts at the mall just didn't seem like the fulness of Christian discipleship...I was just another believer. I believed all the right stuff - that Jesus is the Son of God, died and rose again. I had become a "believer," but I had no idea what it means to be a follower. People had taught me what Christians believe, but no one had told me how Christians live."

I want to be a follower. I need to learn from Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pastor Ford reminded us on Sunday that, "Christmas is the BUT GOD of history!"

I like how "the Message" translates John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood..."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Heart Check

This time of year is a time of much activity - good activity. Ministries like ours are abuzz with various activities before the holiday break. In the midst of much activity I have been reminded both through Pastor Ford's messages out of Revelation 2 and through personal devotional time that we must be careful that in our work for the Lord we don't forget about the Lord of the work. In other words, our duties must flow out of our devotion. It is the Mary/Martha tension of being vs. doing. This has been an ongoing lesson and challenge for me in my 7 1/2 years here in Chicago as I like to pride myself on "staying busy." I wanted to share a devotional that spoke directly to this the other day and caused me to do a heart check in the midst of a busy month. Here it is...

"A Heart That Loves God" - taken out of Experiencing God by Henry & Richard Blackaby

No amount of activity for God will ever take the place of a heart that is right with Him. Through the ages God's people have been persuaded that they could please Him through their service and their offerings, regardless of their heart condition. King Saul offered generous sacrifices, hoping God would overlook his disobedience (1 Sam 15:22-23). David may have assumed that after all he had done on God's behalf, God would overlook his sin (2 Sam 12:7-15). Ananias and Sapphira thought that their generous gift to the church would compensate for their deceitfulness (Acts 5:1-11). Paul was certainly one who had thought his zealousness would please God. After his conversion, however, he concluded that even if he had faith to remove mountains, gave all he had to feed the poor, and offered his body to be burned for the sake of God, and yet had a heart that was not right, it would all be for nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3)

We are susceptible to the same misunderstanding as all of these people were. We can be deceived into assuming God is more interested in our activity for Him than He is in the condition of our heart. God has consistently made it clear that He will not be pacified by even the most generous offerings and zealous service if our hearts are not right with him (Micah 6:6-8). No matter how much we do in God's service, regardless of how active we are in our church, not matter how honorable our reputation in the Christian community, He will not overlook a sinful heart. His desire is that we devote ourselves to knowing Him and loving Him with all our hearts.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Every Eye

Yesterday at church Sister Betts did a children's message (You know the scene: all the children to the front of the church for a short sermonette as all the parents look on.) on Advent. She explained that the word "advent" means coming. She reminded us that with Christmas coming we are not only reminded of the coming of Christ at His birth but that we are also reminded of the promise of Christ's return.

Pastor Ford then preached a message on Submitting to the Sovereign Savior out of Revelation chapter one. I hung out this morning in that same chapter during my quiet time. I was reminded of one of the amazing facets of the second coming - "Every eye will see Him,". Verse seven states, "Look He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him." That is hard to even get your mind around. As one preacher stated, "We are going to marvel at Him!"

Revelation 1:3 = Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Event Vs. Lifestyle...

I have been thinking lately about "events" in ministry. I think these thoughts are coming from my recent experience with the Boxes of Love outreach event. I also took note, as I drove through the neighborhood over the last few days, of all of the lines outside of various churches. This will continue through the month of December, at least until the 25th. This is not unique to my community. Every church and ministry during this season of the year does some type of compassionate outreach event to the poor or "less fortunate." Fast forward a few months, and during the Easter season you will see advertisements and fliers for outreach events and passion plays at various churches. The Easter holiday is another season during which "events" are popular.

Now my intent in writing this post is not to say that we should scrap all events, or to take a shot at churches who are "big" on events. I think God uses events. Plenty of brothers and sisters in the Lord can testify that God made the move on them at an event - either drawing them to Himself for the first time or strengthening their faltering faith during a tough period.

However, if we are not careful ministry events can become a crutch that we lean on in order to avoid more relational, ongoing types of service and ministry. Seasonal outreach events can become the only time that we "participate in ministry." I think they become crutches because they are more comfortable for us. Let me explain what I mean...

It is relatively comfortable to serve a dinner to the "less fortunate" in your community. It is a bit more uncomfortable and stretching to actually build a relationship with one of the men or women or families that shows up at the event. What if God actually asked us to invite this man or woman or family over for dinner in "our" home? What if instead of serving a meal at a church or community center we invited those whom we served to our family get-together? And what if this relationship lasted way beyond a holiday meal? What if we actually began to "do life" together? What if we learned that we have much to learn from those with less materially? What if we learned that our faith isn't as strong as we thought? What if those whom we "reach out" to begin to discover that we have issues too? What if Christ was then shared out of an authentic, reciprocal, relationship?

It is relatively comfortable to invite neighbors, co-workers, family members, and even people on a busy street corner to an Easter event at our churches. It is a bit more stretching to develop a lifestyle of intentionality with those whom we invited as we pray for, build with, grieve with, and rejoice with those same people. If they receive Christ, will we rally around them as a family of believers to disciple them individually and as a community? Will we be transparent, and vulnerable, and authentic, and sacrificial with them? And if they don't receive Christ will we still surround them with love even if they never receive Him (as I believe God would have us to do)? Or will we quickly move on to find "another ministry project?"

Events, if we are not careful, will keep us at arm's length from people and keep people at arm's length from us. Events also sometimes foster a perspective in which we view people as "objects of ministry" rather than "fellow subjects of the Kingdom or as those created in the image of God." (Shout out to Joel Hamernick for that quote Maybe we should emphasize events less, but rather emphasize the relationship building that could and should happen following all ministry events.

As we move towards this type of missional, Christ-exalting lifestyle, regardless of our context, it gets messy. It gets hard. It gets uncomfortable. I think though that as we look at Christ in the gospels, as we look at the early church in the book of Acts, and as we examine the charge of the prophets in the OT, this is the type of lifestyle they point us towards. As we push towards this, we will ever be in need of God's grace and we will ever be reminded of the interdependence of the body of Christ.

In my next post I will highlight churches in various contexts who I believe by God's grace are moving towards this type of Kingdom lifestyle...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Below is a prayer written by Michael Easley from his prayer book entitled "Interludes." It really resonated with me this morning as we head into Thanksgiving.


Great Provider and only Creator,

Help us every day to know that You
Gave to us in our sleep
Renewed our weary frames in the night
Presented us with a new start - every morning

Help us every day to remember You
Provide a roof
Supply us with nourishment
Protect us with clothing
All of which - to our shame - we take for granted

Remind us when we forget that You
Heal us when we are sick
Nourish us when we (greedily) consume
Supply us when we freely spend
Use us - even though we sin - for Your glory

Forgive us every day when we
Hurry into busyness
Disregard appointments with You
Rush past You with self-importance
Think our lives are more important than You
Help us have a constant awareness
That Jesus has covered all our sins
That as unlovely as we may feel, Jesus loves us
That forgiveness cost immeasurably
That our lives can be more about Jesus and less about us
That our lives can be ongoing "Thank You" for
Your grace, righteousness, mercy, and love.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Boxes of Love

Pete and I arrived at the Agape Center just after 8 on Saturday morning. (The Agape Center is the Chicago site of Here's Life Inner City, the urban ministry arm of Campus Crusade for Christ.) Vince had beaten us there and was ready to begin loading trucks. The Agape Center was ready to distribute over 2,100 Boxes of Love, which would then be distributed to 2,100 households through Chicago and the south suburbs. The gym was packed with volunteers from various churches in an assembly line formation. Some packed turkeys, some folded boxes, some loaded stuffing and vegetables, some put a Bible in every box, and finally some put the finishing touch on by sealing the box with packing tape. In one of the classrooms evangelism training was offered and volunteers rotated from the training to the packing line. Outside roughly 15-30 men worked together loading various amounts of boxes into church vans, moving trucks, vans, cars, etc. As I surveyed the men loading trucks, and also the over one hundred volunteers working inside the gym I was reminded how beautiful it is when the body of Christ works together. There were men and women, young and old, Black and white, urban and suburban, some who voted for Obama and some who voted for McCain. There were Baptist churches, Lutheran churches, Pentecostal churches, Bible churches, Independent churches, Storefront churches, and Para-churches. Everyone was working together. Everyone was serving one another. We all were collectively preparing to go out and BE the church.

Pete, Vince, and I loaded vehicles from roughly 8 to 12. We then took a short lunch break at our respective homes (I enjoyed a Deliano's frozen pizza - always good!), before regrouping at Sunshine to prepare to make home visits and drop off the boxes. We spent some time in prayer, discussed our plan of delivery, and then headed out. At each home we determined whether to send 2 or 3 of us in depending on how well we knew the family. By the end of the day we had made 11 stops. At some stops we walked through the gospel with them, in others we discovered that they were believers and asked for how we could better encourage them. We shared, we listened we prayed. After each stop we debriefed the visit thinking through questions we could have asked, ways to follow up, etc. This conversation has continued today. Although no one necessarily prayed to receive Christ, I am confident that seeds were planted, and that families were encouraged.

I know the 3 of us were blessed through the experience. Many shared that the timing of our visit was truly a blessing. One mother shared how God had delivered her from an addiction to crack, another how God was giving her strength to raise her niece (young enough to be her granddaughter) who is now living with her due to difficult family situations. Several shared that they would definitely be interested in an adult Bible study at the center. Please pray for 2 mothers in particular who after hearing the message of the gospel shared that they just weren't ready.

At the end of the day we were all tired, but it was a good tired. It was a great way to spend a Saturday. It was a meaningful experience to share with 2 of my closest brothers in the Lord.

We have 9 more boxes to deliver between now and Thursday. Please pray for these remaining home visits, and for the follow up conversations that will be had as the result of our initial visits.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities, Two Elections, Two Churches, One Lord

In the fall of 2000, I was living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Technically, I lived in Wyoming, Michigan just off of 44th St. This area has many churches, Christian bookstores, Christian publishers, and Christian colleges. Grand Rapids is definitely a white evangelical hub (though the city as a whole continues to grow racially and culturally diverse.) The area of the city that I lived in was predominately white. As the presidential election drew near that fall, there was definitely an excitement in the air. People were excited for a new candidate. Christians were engaged in the political process. They encouraged and exhorted one another to get out to vote. Their candidate was elected that fall. Although I can't remember hearing it that fall, there was definitely a sense of "we won" after the election. It was even stated that God had given "us" the victory in the election.

Fast forward the tape...

It is the fall of 2008. I live in Chicago, Illinois. I live on the south side of the city in a neighborhood called Woodlawn. The south side is saturated with churches (Woodlawn is no exception). Chicago as a whole is very racially and culturally diverse, however where I live it is predominately African-American. As the presidential election drew near this fall, there was definitely an excitement in the air. People were excited for a new candidate. Christians were engaged in the political process. They encouraged and exhorted one another to get out to vote. Their candidate was elected. The day after the election, people were excited and there was a sense that "we won" the election. It has even been stated that God has given "us" the victory in the election.

Although I don't know this for fact, but I am willing to bet that the people in Woodlawn were not all that thrilled with the 2000 election result. Again, althougth I don't know this for fact, but I am willing to bet that the people of Wyoming (MI) were not all that thrilled with the 2008 election result. I am even willing to bet that this past Sunday morning, the churches in Wyoming mentioned that God is sovereign over elections, while the churches in Woodlawn celebrated the election.

The body of Christ is racially, culturally, and even politically diverse. However, the most disturbing thing to me during election season is our lack of humility and grace with one another regarding our diverse political perspectives. We stay in either our "red" or "blue" huddles and only interact with the "other side" through nasty email forwards or self-righteous blog comments. It is great that we are passionate about issues. We should be. However, I just wish we made more of an effort to understand one another. We could actually learn from one another and even sharpen one another.

I get the sense that we are as divided as ever as a church - racially, politically, etc. Maybe I am wrong (I hope I am). I am praying for grace, humility, and a desire to learn from one another. Let's hang out. Let's build with one another. Our testimony to a watching world is at stake.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A powerful quote...

A guest pastor at church on Sunday made the statement that as followers of Christ as we look towards the future, that "we head into the unknown with the Known One!" That is a powerful thought.

This Fall on the Gridiron

This fall...

The Detroit Lions are 0 and 6. They could possibly go winless this year, honestly.

The Michigan Wolverines are 2 and 5 and could potentially lose out.

However, the Paw Paw Redskins are 7 and 1, playoff bound, and heading into a Wolverine Conference showdown against the Dowagiac Chieftans. I haven't really followed Paw Paw football in years, but this fall they are the only glimmer of hope right now on the gridiron. You can check them out at

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Beautiful Feet

I hate feet. If I'm honest, I think they are disgusting. I don't like looking at or seeing other people's feet. I don't care if you just had a pedicure or just polished and painted your toes. I don't care to see them. For this reason, I don't wear sandals - never have.

However, recently I have been reminded of Scriptures that speak to the significance, importance, and even beauty of feet.

Consider these...

Isaiah 52:7 (NIV) = How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"

Romans 10:14-15 (NIV) = How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Ephesians 6:15 (KJV) = And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace...

Lately, I have felt an ever increasing burden to have "beautiful feet." I have felt a renewed sense of urgency, and have been praying that God would increase my burden for the lost. I want evangelism to become more of a lyfestyle for me, not just an event.

In John 13, Jesus gives us a model of what it means to truly serve one another through the washing of feet. We must remind ourselves that in the cultural and historical context in which Jesus washed feet, they wore sandals everywhere on some dusty roads. In other words, their feet would have been "a mess." And yet we see the King of kings and Lord of lords wrap a towel around his waist, get down on the ground, and wash his disciples feet! I have heard this referred to as "the ministry of the towel." In graduate school we were exhorted to have this ministry. In the passage in John 13, after Jesus has washed His disciples feet He states in verse 14 and 15, "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." He even adds in verse 17 that we "will be blessed" if we do it! There is blessing in washing feet. There is a blessing in serving others. There is a blessing in wrapping a towel around our waist, and humbling ourselves...washing feet.

As I look at these two examples of the significance of feet within Scripture I see that they point to both the Portrayal and the Proclamation of the Gospel. They are the Audio and the Visual of the Gospel. There must always be both. When we separate the two our witness is ineffective and Biblically incomplete. However, when both are present (Portrayal and Proclamation) our witness is credible, it is Biblically wholistic. They must always be intertwined ie Evangelism & Social Justice, Compassion/Mercy/Justice & Evangelism.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Tough Week/God At Work

It has been a tough week in the neighborhood! God has been at work this week in the neighborhood! These statements may seem like they contradict each other, but let me explain. In order for you to understand how these statements fit together I have to tell you “the whole story.”

First the tough part…
Early last week I began getting emails of alarm and concern from some of my neighbors about the frequent shootings (thank God no one was getting hit) that were occurring on the block that I live on. The thing that made these emails particularly unique was that these shootings were not happening at night, they were happening during the afternoon.

Then Saturday night there was a shoot-out between two rival gangs on 61st St (a few blocks west of where I live), just off the corner from where the Sunshine building sits. Two bullets went through the windows of our tech center. Seven bullets went into the metal window shades in the salon across the street. Within minutes the police arrived on the scene and a shoot-out occurred between one of the gangs and the police.

The next evening (Sunday), a 25 year old young man was shot and killed on 62nd and Vernon. His name was Rodney. Please pray for the family that has been affected by this tragic death (and others that occurred around the city during the past weekend). These young men were somebody's sons, brothers, uncles, grandsons, friends, possibly fathers, etc.

God at work…
Monday morning we gathered as a staff to discuss the events of the previous week and weekend. Our discussion led us into a time of prayer. Our time of prayer led us into a “what are we gonna do about it?” - brainstorming session. We prayerfully and thoughtfully came up with the following action points:
1. Host a community leader meeting (which includes block club leaders, teachers, alderman, local beat police, and pastors)
2. Upped physical presence in the community by our staff - walking around, talking to people
3. Request prayer support from friends, family, & supporters
4. Contact well-known role models who may be willing to come speak with young men in the community.
5. Address the physical safety of the youth in our programs which means building a wood barrier in the classroom of our Community Technology Center, providing snacks so that students won't trek to the store during class breaks, and providing rides home in the evening.

On Monday evening 10-12 neighborhood residents (representing 5 different blocks and block clubs) along with three of us Sunshine staff gathered to share concerns and to come up with collective solutions. Joel (our executive director) wrote the following summary of our time together…
“We came up with an overall strategy to respond to what his happening in our neighborhood and I learned a lot like the importance of getting people to leave their front porch lights on, make sure their garage has the house number on it, and make lots of phone calls for every incident to the police. So when the city orders its resources to react, they don’t just look at actual incidents but they look at PHONE CALLS." (Drug deals, buildings broken into, domestic violence, and even shootings are currently getting far too few phone calls made to report them.) "So we discussed how part of our overall process has to create an atmosphere in which (a) lots of people make phone calls (think prayer chain on the phone to 911!!) and (b) they make calls about EVERYTHING and (C ) they they know what to say when they call. We also ended up talking about all the vacant buildings (like 10 on just one block!) that have been foreclosed on. They are routinely broken into and vandalized and used as dumps for garbage (attracting rats) and drug dealers and users. One elderly neighbor described waking up every night multiple times in fear that the drug users in the abandoned building physically attached to hers might burn down the entire block while doing drugs. Another spoke about having at least 3 kids shot and killed right in front of her house over the years. Yet you couldn't miss the resolve, the strength, the faith in the room. After dealing with this sort of thing for 20 years or more they were willing to believe again and try again! Wow!!! I was also really encouraged by the presence of several young professionals — one of whom described hitting the dirt in front of his condo when bullets fly. . . But undeterred to invest in the community. There was also a very real spiritual openness if not outright presence. I suggested we open in prayer to which everyone immediately said “YESS!!” and proceeded to hold hands in a circle. We also closed in prayer. . . . They were sure to ask that we do!" We all agreed that this "block club collaborative" would not be just a one time meeting. We will continue to meet together, pray together, work together, and reach out to one another as neighbors. Everyone agreed that we need to meet again soon.

This evening we had a community block club meeting on the 6100 block of Rhodes (1 block from Sunshine). We met together outside on the street. Local police came to show support. Young and old from the neighborhood gathered on the street together. We ate hot dogs and nachos together. We got to know one another better. Then Mrs. Clark, the block club president and long term neighborhood resident, gathered everyone into a circle. Everyone held a lit candle. She thanked everyone for coming, and encouraged everyone by saying, “things are rough right now, but they are going to get better.” Then she asked Joel to pray. In prayer Joel reminded us that God cares about each and everyone of us. God is concerned about what is going on in the neighborhood. He prayed for peace. He prayed for safety. He prayed for the young men that are acting out of desperation. He prayed that we would work well together and help meet each other’s needs as neighbors.

Things are tough right now, BUT God is at work! I am concerned for the kids and their families. I am concerned for my elderly neighbors. I am especially concerned for the teenage young men that I work with. In the midst of these challenging days, it is evident that God is on the move.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Turning Point

Over the last few days, I have been reflecting and thinking on when God got a hold of my life - aka my "turning point" as J'Son refers to this on his song entitled "Turning Point." This morning as I listened to that song and thought about when God made the move on me and how much He has transformed my life I began to "well up." (I need to do this more.) In the song, J'Son tells his story - which is very different than mine (in terms of the details) - but with the result being the same, a transformed (and still being transformed) life for Christ. In the fall of 1996 I headed to Albion College. I had aspirations to play two sports, talk to girls, and "experience" college life. None of that happened. God had other plans for me. I'm reminded that God is always the initiator - He makes the move on us. Gideon in the OT and Paul in the NT are two of my favorite examples of God as the initiator. Athletics had become an idol in my life. I was overly self-conscious and self-focused. Where I found my identity was out of whack. I was committed to please people, but not focused on pleasing Christ. Then through a series of events as J'Son says, I "found that the King was better." God humbled me, got my attention, reminded me of the Gospel that I had heard about in church growing up, and radically altered my life focus, purpose, and pursuits. As Shane Claiborne says, when I encountered Christ, "He messed my life up" and I am still "recovering" from my conversion experience.

Yesterday, I was reading through 1 Peter and a Scripture leaped off the page at me. 1 Peter 2:9 states, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." I am His now. He drafted me. As the Ambassador once preached, we were "unlikely choices, unmerited choices, undeserving choices," - but God in His grace and mercy made the move on us, redeemed us, "called us out of darkness into His marvelous light." I love the response in this verse - "that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who...." We get to proclaim the excellencies of Him!

I am humbled this morning. I am messed up. And I am grateful.

When was your turning point? How did God make the move on you?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Challenge & Significance of Education - Part 2: What Are We Gonna Do About It?

(If you have not read Part 1, please read it first. Scroll down.)
We, the Church, must step up! This has to matter to us. One Teach For America graduate puts it this way, “We’ve all heard a lot of sermons preached about our God, who is a God of justice. “The Lord works righteousness and justice for the oppressed (Psalm 103:6).” If we want to know and serve God, we must be willing to act on His desire and mandate for justice. Education is key to justice for many children in low income communities; it’s key to restoring peace and ending discrimination…it is key to helping all children have the change to live free and productive lives (Pearl Esau -Los Angeles, Teach For America)."

A Harvard professor offers this challenge...

“How many effective schools would you have to see to be persuaded of the educability of
poor children?...We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose shooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.”
-Ronald Edmonds, Harvard University

So how can the Church get involved. In New York City, local pastors have started a movement called Vision 20/20 ( that connects local churches with local schools. Today there was a meeting in Chicago to discuss the possibility of starting this here. Consider this...

-There are roughly 700 public schools in Chicago
-There are roughly 7,000 churches in Chicago
-That is 1 school to every 10 churches

So imagine if...

-10 churches would partner with their local school and assist the present administration to create the best environment possible for the students.
-Believers would volunteer a couple of hours a week to read to a kid, coach a basketball team, paint walls, assist in ACT prep, etc.
-The Church would have the impact on the world that God intends.

This is an incredible opportunity for us to be "salt & light" - Matthew 5:13-16. We have got to work on developing more of a "life on life lifestyle" in which the ministry involvement described above is just something we do. If I could quote Pastor Vincent from an earlier post, "This is what the Church does. This is what we do as Christians."


The Challenge & Significance of Education - Part 1: The Challenge

Today I taught a session for our volunteer training entitled The Challenge & Significance of Education. During the session I highlighted some inequalities and challenges in the area of education in lower resourced urban (& rural) areas. I emphasized before I started that this is not an urban problem, or a rural problem. It is not a black problem or a latino problem or a white problem. It is not a Chicago problem. This is a challenge to the Church. This is our issue as followers of Christ. We need to take these statistics personally. They should make us uncomfortable, they should convict us, and they should make us angry. They should push us to our knees and then push us to action ("praying with our feet" as Sho Baraka says). This entry will be in 2 parts.

The Challenge (in this nation)
-Only 1 in 10 students from low-income communities will graduate from college.
-4th graders growing up in low-income communities are already three grade levels behind their high-income peers
-About 50% of students from low-income communities won’t graduate from high-school by the time they are 18 years old.
-The 50% who do graduate will perform on average at an 8th grade level.
-For 13 million children growing up in poverty today, disparities in educational outcomes severely limit opportunities in life.

The Challenge (in Chicago)
-Only 6 of 100 African American and Latino high school freshman males will graduate from a 4-year college (Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 31, 2007)
-Only 9% of African American 4th graders ranked proficient or above in reading, ranking Illinois 38 out of 41 states (Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 2nd 2006)
-Nearly half of Chicago public school 9th graders who started high school in the last seven years have dropped out without earning a high school diploma. (Chicago Tribune, February 2008, Education Study done by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.)
-During the 2006-2007 school year the drop-out rate was nearly 44%
-Illinois ranks 49 out of 50 states when it comes to funding education from state funds.
-The education funding gap between the wealthiest district and poorest district is the largest in the nation.
-Between 1985 and 2000 Illinois increased general fund spending on higher education by 30%, but corrections spending grew by 110% (JPI Report).
-Illinois spends 2.8 times as much per prisoner as per public school pupil.

Think about this…
-The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the average annual income for individuals without a high school diploma or GED is $18,734.
-High-school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than graduates to be incarcerated.
-In 2001, 55 percent of young adult dropouts were employed, compared to 74 percent of high-school graduates and 87 percent of college graduates.

-Kids who cannot read cannot conduct Bible studies or complete job applications!
-Kids who cannot do math cannot balance a checkbook or budget a household!

Teach For America ( has a statement that fuels their mission. It states, "Educational inequity is our nation’s greatest injustice." So what are we gonna do about it?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Life Be Like Ooh Ahh

The Christian hip hop group Grits used to have a song with a chorus that said, "My life be like, ooh ahh, life be like ooh, ahh, 00hhhh. Times like these that make me say, Lord if you hear me please come my way." It spoke to the ups and downs of the Christian walk and of life and of our ever-present need of the Lord. I have felt very needy (of the Lord) since returning from South Africa. I have felt overwhelmed. I have felt as if my "to-do" list is never-ending. Don't get me wrong, I came back feeling encouraged, and inspired, and renewed from my experiences in South Africa - and in the midst of those emotions and feelings - overwhelmed (My life be like...). I am working on a couple of new programs/outreaches this fall and still have my hand in the other youth outreach elements. And one thing I continue to realize is that I put too much (unrealistic) pressure on myself to "do well." I struggle with perfectionist tendencies - and I realize it. In some ways it's a strength in that it keeps me driven, but at the same time it can be a weakness and drain me emotionally. I have also felt, in recent days (and before), completely inadequate in my ministry role. I told a co-worker today, "I really don't know what I'm doing." Any other ministry people feel me on this one? (I know this can happen in other areas/roles - husband, father, vocation, etc.). I have also felt a renewed sense of the significance/urgency to the work to which the Lord has called me (and for this I am grateful).

I have had brothers come to me before and shared transparently about feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and inadequate. Mainly, I have listened. Sometimes I have shared that "it is a good place to be" because it means that we have to lean fully on God - His strength, His grace, His wisdom, etc. Sometimes it's hard to internalize how I would counsel someone else. Sometimes it's hard to internalize what I know to be true in God's Word.

I read James 1 this morning, and it reminded me of an old song by the Winans called "Count It All Joy." It went something like this..."Count it all joy, even when it seems to hard to. Know, He'll never give you more than you can handle." I was reminded today to "abide in Christ" - John 15. I prayed Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in all the earth."

This afternoon and evening I taught two orientation sessions with Moody Bible students who will be volunteering with us, I assisted with a parents orientation for parents of the students in our tutoring program, I walked home and had an encouraging conversation with a neighbor I hadn't met before - and I loved all of the above. As I sit here after a day FULL of activity, I am grateful for what God is doing in my life. I continue to learn the lesson of what it means to "press into" Him.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Lion & The Lamb

During my time in South Africa we visited a "Lion Park" and Krueger National Park. We were fortunate to see lions at both places. Allan encouraged us after the lion park to think about and discuss ways in which lions are mentioned in Scripture.

I did a little searching and one of the most powerful images of lions in Scripture is where Christ is referred to as "the Lion of the tribe of Judah" in Revelation 5:5 (this makes me think of Aslan from Narnia). I looked deeper into this passage in a study Bible, and was really blessed by what I found...

"God's purposes of redemption and rule can be accomplished only through One who is uniquely worthy: Jesus Christ. He is simultaneously the fierce Lion of the tribe of Judah, warring against God's enemies (Revelation 19:11-21; 17:14), and the gentle Lamb that has been slain, purchasing His people with the blood of His atoning sacrifice (Revelation 5:9-10)."

It reminds me of the lyrics in Chris Tomlin's song...

The Lion and the Lamb, The Lion and the Lamb....How Great Is Our God!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Necessity of Faith

On Monday we met with Pastor Philip at his church in Temba. I actually had the opportunity to spend the night with Philip and his family after our meeting. It was really good to catch up with him and to meet his family and get to know them a little bit.

I met Pastor Philip on my first trip to South Africa in December of 2003. I have corresponded with him every since, and he even stayed with me for a few days during a US visit back in 2006. His church, Ebenezer Bible Church, is located in the community of Temba. Temba is a more rural community roughly 35 minutes outside of Pretoria. It has a population of roughly 350,000. The church is in the process of building an orphan home in conjunction with African Leadership Development (a US based missions organization). When it is finished it will house 20 orphans. Temba like many other impoverished communities throughout South Africa has been heavily hit by HIV/Aids. During our time with Philip we focused our discussion on the spiritual dynamic within Temba (and other black communities there) - more specifically the stronghold of witchdoctors and ancestral worship. He described the reality that in some families, to accept Christ is to disrespect your ancestors - and that is taken very seriously. He also spoke in great detail on the impact of witch doctor's on peoples lives. He shared that when people are poor and when they are desperate the supposed healing and help that witchdoctors offer is very appealing. When I picture "witch doctors" I usually think of face paint, strange hair, and strange clothes. However, Pastor Philip shared how most times now they are in plain clothes, and have normal vocations such as teacher and principal. He emphasized both the use of psychological manipulation (FEAR) and the realty of a spiritual battle going on. The thing that encourage me the most about our conversation that day was his emphasis on injecting FAITH and HOPE into people's lives through the Word of God and prayer. Here is some of what he shared...

"God uses faith, the devil uses fear. Fear is the door for demonic activity. I have to teach much about Faith."

"The Name of Jesus is stronger than a witch doctor. I must teach people this Truth. It is my job to teach people that God is more powerful than the devil."

When discussing how he ministers to those who are sick and suffering from HIV/Aids...

"We don't console people to die. We provoke people to Faith. I don't say people will be healed but it is my duty to give them Hope."

"I don't pretend to have all of the answers. When I don't know what to say I say, 'let's pray' and God moves! We are depending on God's grace."

During my recent Montana trip this summer our theme was faith. We spent the whole week in Hebrews Chapter 11 - the hall of faith. We memorized Hebrews 11:1 and Hebrews 11:6. I was given an experiential education on faith during my 2 weeks in South Africa. These pastors and really all of our brothers and sisters in the churches here truly seek after and rely on God for MANY things. Philip echoed what Vincent and Gloria shared with us, "and God moves!" I have shared with several people lately that I have been challenged in my devotion time and in my readings to have a more exalted view of Christ and/or a loftier view of God. I have been quoting Tozer who states that "an exalted view of Christ will always lead to radical actions for Christ." It is evident that Pastor Philip, Pastor Vincent, Pastor Isaac and others here have this "exalted view of God." God is BIG to them (God IS big!). I pray that my faith would increase...

Hebrews 11:1 = Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6 = And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Worship At The Powerhouse

Sunday morning we attended church at Powerhouse Church in Mamelodi. The service begins at 9am. We arrived a little bit late, and worship was in full swing. We were escorted to the front of the church as special guests (my dad and I as first time visitors). This particular Sunday was youth Sunday – so the praise band, praise team, worship dancers, and Scripture readers were all children and youth from the church. The worship here is such a celebration. One of the songs we sang was so powerful…
When the praises goes up, His glory comes down
I can’t even really describe the exuberant sound nor the emotion and passion with which people worship here. It was a huge blessing to be a part of. At times I would sing and then at times I would just listen to their singing with my hands raised. I even got pulled into the dancing, and I think I held my own:) Worshiping with my brothers and sisters here is something that I will always treasure. It is a reminder of how BIG the God we serve is. He is the God of All Nations.

After the time of worship, they recognized the first time visitors. They invited my dad and I to the front of the church to introduce ourselves and to share a little about where we were from. Pastor Vincent encouraged me to tell the church about what I do at Sunshine so I was able to share a little bit. One thing that struck me that morning, (that I shared with the congregation) is that in the past few weeks I have worshiped at Christ Bible Church in Chicago, Lawton Evangelical Mennonite Church in Lawton, Springhill Presbyterian Church in Bozeman, Montana and now Powerhouse Church in Mamelodi. Four very different places, four very different cultures, four very different worship services and styles of worship, But ONE LORD who unites us all and who we all worship. My dad shared how welcome and at home he felt at the church and in Mamelodi, and how blessed he was by the worship. After we shared, the church extended their hands toward us and prayed a blessing over us. I felt so welcome, and as my dad shared “so at home.”

Pastor Vincent preached out of Luke 15, the parable of the lost sheep. He emphasized in many different ways with various illustrations that the sheep that was lost was VERY VALUABLE to the shepherd. He added that not only was the lost sheep valuable, but each sheep is created for a purpose. He reminded us that we are all valuable to God. He created us and we are of great value to Him. And for those of us who are saved or found, we were saved for a purpose. Our lives should then reflect the mission for which God saved us.

Pastor Vincent then got very practical. He stated that there are many children living near the church who are not going to school because they cannot afford the uniform. He added that some of them once they have purchased the uniform have no way to clean the uniform or iron the uniform, and thus don’t go to school. He further explained that the church needs to start a laundry and ironing business so that families can come to the church to wash and iron their clothes, so that their kids can then go to school. He then took it a step further! He said that they needed wash machines, irons, detergent, and peoples time to make this work. He asked who was willing to donate either machines/materials or their time. It was amazing. Hands started going up all over the sanctuary as people called out what they were willing to donate. There was no hesitation. Pastor Vincent then shared that recently he had visited an elderly woman’s home who lived with a crippled relative of hers. The two of them lived there alone. He stated that the house was very dirty and that they often went long periods without food. As a church they are going to visit the woman’s home, clean it, and take them food. He made it clear that after they had shown them the love of Christ, they would tell them the message of Christ. He exclaimed that “this is what the Church does, this is what we are to do as Christians.” I have never witnessed such a powerful message followed by such practical/sacrificial obedience. It was a clear reminder that we must “be the church” in our communities and neighborhoods.

I am convinced more than ever that the church in the States and the church in Africa needs each other. We need to collaborate with one another, learn from one another, celebrate our cultural distinctness and unity in Christ together. However, I am also convinced that the church in Africa can teach us much about what it means to “be the church.” I pray that we (the US church) would be teachable.

Revelation 5:9 = And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…”

Monday, August 25, 2008


I just thought I would share various things that people have stated here that have impacted me...

Pastor Sollly who teaches HIV/Aids prevention and education classes within public schools often warns young people of the negative influence that their peers can have on their lifestyle decisions. He tells them that PEERS stands for, "People who Encourage, Evilness, Rudeness, and Stupidity." He also stated that when it comes to the HIV/Aids epidemic in South Africa, "parliament has many questions, but the Church has the answer!"

In our time together with Pastor Vincent and his wife Gloria, I have often here them describe a tough situation/circumstance and then state, "and then we prayed and fasted AND GOD..." It is evident in their life and ministry that they wholeheartedly seek the Lord and cry out to Him through much fasting and prayer. (Isn't this the pattern we see in the early church in the book of Acts? Hmm) God is at work in incredible ways in their church and community! As Lecrae says, "I've seen it with my own two." In their 5 year existence of their church they have seen witchdoctors lives' transformed by the power of the gospel, miraculous healings, and radical acts of love and sacrifice done by their members. If you ask them about it, they will give all the glory to God!

During the service yesterday, Pastor Vincent encouraged and exhorted his people to "be the Church" in the community. He stated that when "God gives us a mission, He always gives us the provision!"

Last night we attended the evening service at Hatfield Christian Centre. They had a guest preacher there from the UK. He preached at both services there yesterday and is going to be the speaker at a young adult retreat they are doing this coming weekend. In reference to the retreat he exclaimed, "We are going to rattle the cages of darkness this weekend!" He further explained that he is anticipating God to move in a powerful way in people's lives, setting them free.

In that same service we were exhorted to be "people carriers" - from the example in Mark 2 in which a group of friends did whatever it took to get their sick friend to Jesus. They carried him on a mat and lifted him through the roof. The speaker exhorted us to not be "pew sitters" but to be "people carriers."

Stay tuned for a entry coming on the service at Powerhouse yesterday...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What do you see?

Sleeping OR Praying?

Serious nap OR intense intercession?

On a serious note, Allan and Annie have updated there Africa Revolution blog. Annie's latest entry is very challenging and encouraging.

Also, Nate & Rebeccah have an amazing blog/web site called "Mamelodi Stories" through which they highlight stories of the way God is at work in Mamelodi.

I will be including a blog update as well on our day worshiping at the Powerhouse this morning and then at Hatfield Christian Centre this evening. It has been a great day in the Lord. I greatly appreciate those of you who have been lifting our trip up in prayer.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Some Choice Foods

Those of you who know me well know that I love food, and that I get excited about meal time. So I thought I would give a short update on a couple of different food items that I have tasted and thoroughly enjoyed while being here.

1) The McDonald's here have a sandwich called the McFeast (picture coming). It had two beef patties, cheese, mayonnaise, and bbq sauce. It was moist, and seasoned just right! They also have a "mega-mac" Big Mac which is essentially double the size of an ordinary Big Mac. I hope to return to McDonald's at least one more time to try that one.

2) Pap (pronounced pup) - It is a corn meal type substance that is served with many different types of meals. I had it with chicken and beef the first time and then chicken and pork the second time. Each time it has been special! Traditionally it is eaten with your hands and you can use it to "sop up" gravy, beans, dressing, etc. It is pretty much a nice combination with anything you put it with. I have to give a shout out to Vincent's wife Gloria for the pap last night at dinner!

3) Boerwors (farmer's sausage) - It is similar to a bratwurst, but not quite the same. Allan took me for one today. You can put various sauces on it and it is eaten in a hot dog bun. I put chili sauce on mine. It was just right. For those of you of Dutch descent (Pete Blodgett), "boer" is a term that means farmer here - the word is Afrikaans.

4) Nando's - It is a South African chicken restaurant chain. You can order the chicken with various degrees of spiciness. You can also douse them with "peri-peri sauce." The fries also come with "peri peri chili" seasoning on them. Pretty much everything on the menu is bangin'. I may bring a chain location back to Chicago.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Dreams of Young People...

This evening we attended the youth service at Pastor Vincent's church in Mamelodi, the Empowerment Church. There were roughly 20-25 teenagers there. It was a blessing to be there. We began with a time of worship (w/some dancing...and yes I danced...quite well I think:)). The worship here is off the chain...can't even really describe it. After the time of worship the youth leader read Psalm 91 out loud and then highlighted a few verses. She then gave my dad and I a chance to introduce ourselves and then had Allan say a few words. Allan told the group of youth that he (and the rest of us here with Africa Revolution) really want to listen and hear from them - their dreams, their struggles, etc.

I was really blessed (we all were) as they shared with us. Their dreams included being a... film writer highlighting the positive aspects & struggles of life in Mamelodi, dance choreographer, preacher, businessman, counselor to young people, radio person. All of them shared their desire to see the young people of the church be a powerful witness in Mamelodi and in South Africa as a whole. In fact 4-5 of them gave short sermons, full of Scripture, exhorting and encouraging each other to be bold witnesses in Christ in both word and deed. One young man reminded us to "not be selfish with the gospel." Prior to closing out the time in prayer, I had the opportunity to encourage the young people to commit their dreams to the Lord, to write them down, to share them with people who will help them get there, and to not let anyone discourage or negatively persuade them from what God has put in them to do. (To often we as adults snuff out the dreams of young people with statements such as, "you won't make any money doing that," "you should think about doing this," "that's to dangerous," etc.)

As I sat there listening to the youth I was reminded of a statement that I have heard Pastor Harvey Carey (of Detroit MI) say on a couple of different occasions. He says that real youth ministry is about "youth doing ministry." My initial impression is that the young people of Mamelodi get this, and really desire to serve and reach out to their peers and the community with the gospel.

Another thing I was reminded of is that within the church (and really in most places) we don't listen to the young people enough. We need to allow their dreams to be heard. We need to listen to their fears, struggles, aspirations, etc. They need to know that we believe in them. Yes, we must equip them. Yes, we must teach them. But we also must empower them, and coach them, and help nurture their dreams. (The Bible is full of young people that were used greatly by God: David, Solomon, Timothy - to name a few.) I sat in a room full of tremendous Kingdom potential tonight. I can't help but think that the Lord is excited.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Everything You See Here Is A Miracle"

This morning we visited and toured a ministry located within the city limits of Pretoria called Pop-Up (which stands for people upliftment programme). Pastor Vincent and Allan had set up the meeting to begin to build with the CEO Marlene Freislich and the Pastor Alistair Westcott of Pop-Up to discuss future partnerships and to learn from one another. Pop-Up is connected with Doxa Deo church, which is an Afrikans mega-church with 6 campuses throughout the greater Pretoria metropolitan area. It is a Christ-centered, holistic outreach ministry that equips and empowers unemployed people from Pretoria and the surrounding area. One of the unique elements of the program is that the first week is a "life-transformation" class during which the gospel is presented and instructors walk participants through what a new identity in Christ means. This sets the tone for these one to 3 month vocational training/life skill classes that they offer. They shared that 60% of students who go through the courses give their life to Christ! They offer training in home management, computer skills, entrepreneurship, child care, home care, fork lift driving, catering, and probably a few others which I am forgetting. One thing that really struck me as Marlene and Pastor Alistair shared was how they celebrated what God was doing in and through Pop-Up in their lives, the instructors lives, and the lives of the students. As we toured the building and went into the various vocational training areas, Pastor Alistair commented several times that "everything you see is a miracle." Their enthusiasm for the Lord, people, and the work of the Lord was contagious, and all glory was given to God.
*Their Christ-exalting enthusiasm made think about how I give tours of Sunshine when groups come for a day or for a week. Do I(we) celebrate what GOD is doing? Hmm...

They have been able to secure corporate funding even though they are a faith-based non-profit. They can receive government and corporate funding as long as they don't discriminate in who participates, YET they can still remain be outspoken about their faith with all who come through their doors and who receive their training. Praise God for that!

Another thing that struck me today and yesterday is this. It is evident here that the black and coloured (that is the term here used for people of mixed race heritage) churches located in the townships need the white church (Afrikaans and British) often located in the city and suburbs here. However, what I don't think is as often recognized is that the white church here NEEDS the black and coloured church as well. The same is true in the states. We often talk about how the urban church needs the suburban church, but don't as often discuss how the suburban church needs the urban church. BOTH statements are true, but both statements aren't always recognized. The body of Christ is racially and culturally diverse and it is global, and we NEED each other. We are a powerful force when we partner through authentic, two-way relationships and collective efforts. I think this is one of the major challenges that the Church faces in the US and globally.

In the picture above L to R: Annie Grieg (Allan's wife), Pastor Alistair, Rebeccah (one of the AR interns), and Pastor Vincent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Images From South Africa

My dad and I arrived in South Africa on Monday afternoon at around 3:30pm local time. Alan took us to the house we were to stay at and we had dinner with he and his wife, and Nate & Rebeccah (the couple who is interning with Africa Revolution). This morning, after spending some time in the Word together, we headed to Mamelodi for the day. Mamelodi is a black township located just outside of the city of Pretoria. It is a community home to roughly 2 million people. You can check out more about Mamelodi at
Let me explain the four pictures that I have displayed above.
The picture on the top is a picture I took in a local cemetery that we drove through today. It is a picture of a mass grave. During apartheid the government would do mass hangings in the capital city of Pretoria, then transport the bodies in plastic bags in the back of trucks, and then finally dump the bodies in these mass graves. You could be hung for leading, organizing, or even participating in a demonstration/protest that fought for the liberation of the people under the apartheid regime. These hangings took place from the 50s to the 80s. It was very sobering to think about this very painful element of South African history. It is almost unbelievable to think that apartheid only ended in 1994. This particular cemetery (according to Pastor Vincent) is at or near capacity, with grave upon grave. Some people are now being buried on top of other's graves. Pastor Solomon and Pastor Vincent both made mention of the incredible numbers of funerals they are now performing as a result of the AIDs crisis.
The second picture is a picture of a group of senior citizens that gathers in the local YMCA in Mamelodi for a time of recreation and praise and worship together. Many of the women are grandmothers or "go-go's" as they are called here. There are 51 men and women in the group all together. There were just 15 or so women and 1 man there today due to the cooler weather. They hosted us there for a meal and sang several of their songs for us (they had a beautiful sound). They are preparing to travel to Johannesburg and Cape Town for various competitions for seniors. It was a precious picture.
The third picture is of Pastor Solomon (Solly) Mathibela. He works for the city government doing HIV/Aids Awareness & Prevention workshops/seminars in local schools, local churches, local health clinics, prisons, etc. He is also a pastor in the community. His passion for the people of the community and especially for those infected with HIV/Aids flowed out of him as he shared with us. He loves the Lord and loves people. He has been given favor to not only teach and raise awareness but to also share Christ in all of these various contexts. He has the opportunity to preach at a lot of funerals during which he shares the hope we can have in Christ as well as correcting peoples misconceptions in order to help eradicate the stigma attached to HIV/Aids. He encourages and educates those who are HIV positive - reminding them of the hope that they can live with in spite of their condition. I (and all of those with me) were very blessed by our time with Pastor Solomon. Hope oozed out of him in spite of what I'm sure often feels like a hopeless circumstance. I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
The final picture is my dad standing with Pastor Vincent Nyathi. Pastor Vincent pastors the Powerhouse Church (and/or Empowerment Center) in Mamelodi. He grew up in the community and felt called to start a church roughly 5 years ago. I have heard stories about what a "pastor of the community" Pastor Vincent was, but I experienced it first hand today. He knows his community and he loves his community. His church began a technology/computer center a few years ago. It has been invaluable in equipping people with skills and empowering people to get jobs. He wants each ministry of the church to be Christ centered. Many of the people who have come through the computer classes were not part of the church when they began taking classes, but have begun coming to the church before they graduate. Pastor Vincent is a great man of faith. He has trusted God to provide for he and his family's needs and has served the Lord faithfully in the work that he has called them to.
I am praising and thanking God for a great first day! I am still processing all that we saw and experienced today. Stay tuned for future updates...