Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday sharing...

We had a good day at Crossroads seeing old friends and meeting new ones. We fielded a plethora of questions in the adult class and taught a lesson for the college group. We saw former students who have grown up and had babies and encouraged us with all they are doing for the Lord. It was a great day! We had dinner with some friends we met in Zambia who live here. We came home and jumped in the lake. Thanks for your prayers. Here is the video I promised the college group about our year in Zambia... enjoy!


video

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Grace


I am heading back to Crossroads tomorrow to teach in a couple Sunday school classes and be introduced at church. I am looking forward to seeing old and new friends and to be a part of the church body again. It has been awhile since I was last youth pastor there and yet the fellowship and friendships get sweeter over the years.

One example of this is the wedding that I am officiating between Whitney Berkan and Colin Swope on July 25 (my girls are the flower girls:). Whitney was in my youth group at Crossroads from sixth grade until her senior year, and then joined me at Western for a couple of years in our college group there. And, it is not only such a joy to be doing this wedding because there is so much great history and Colin is a stud, but it also amazingly wonderful because they did it right. They made good and hard choices along the way, guarding their heart and their purity and made good and honoring decisions seeking to glorify God with their lives, so that when it comes time to officiate their wedding, it is such a joy to be a part of... (I mean they met at Bible School of all places!)

Over the years, you wonder if your ministry helped anyone at all just like I am sure parents wonder if they are getting through and if any good will come out of all their sin and failures.But when you get to see that through grace when kids listen to Bible teaching and they follow God and they do it right that it really is such a blessing to everyone involved. May our students these days really believe in God and follow Him and trust Him and so they can reap the benefits of holiness and the brilliance of God's book. Praise God that he loves us enough to give a book that really is the way to life and praise God that he gives grace so we can obey it and praise God when people do. Thanks Whitney and Colin for encouraging me and may the next chapter of your lives bring joy and thanks to many, many more people because of the grace that will sustain your marriage.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Here is an example of walking in their shoes

This was from the blog Brent and Kerri Roberts who are a part of Action Zambia. In light of this idea of walking in someone else's shoes, and then bearing the burden that you would want bore if you were them, they did just that. They spent some time, treasure and talent for eternity and made the Mutale's temporary a whole lot better. (Now, about yesterday's blog. Does anyone have any ideas on how we can help Juana Cecilia Ventura?)

Here is the blog!
Who said I wouldn't use my experience & education in business on the mission field?

A while back, our guard Charles Mutale told me that he envisioned opening a katemba (a small neighborhood store). He wanted to sell things like sugar, soap, cooking oil, etc... One of our missionary friends shared with me how he had helped his guard do the same thing, which put the thought in my head. So, today, Charles and I went to the town market and bought supplies.

One thing that is true in Zambia is that "a little bit can go a long way." Just to give you some background on this family, Charles works for us during the week and leaves his wife at home where she fulfills the job of a Rock Crusher. 3-4 days a week, someone delivers large stones to her property which she breaks into smaller stones. These small stones are then used to make gravel for roads and various other things. It is an all day job and pays about 40,000 Kwacha or $12 a week.

Now, though, instead of breaking bricks, Mrs. Mutale will be manning the Katemba. And here's the great part. Sales from the Katemba can be much more lucrative. It is not unheard of for a stand like this to provide as much as 100,000 Kwacha or $30 a day if the location is right and they are run well. So, we are anxiously looking forward to see how things will go.

Please be praying for Charles and his family in this new business venture. And pray for me as I work with Charles. Over the next several weeks, I will be coaching him on key business concepts while also trying to teach him how to do record keeping as well as inventory & cash flow analysis.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Walk in their shoes...

It is so easy when your shoes are comfortable to not walk in other's shoes. I am feeling this even here and now. I get home and I get comfortable and it is out of sight, out of mind.

So, I read this blog today...

Tragedy For The Rain

This has been one of the rainiest Junes on record here in Guatemala City. Through the first 20 days of June, we have had rain 18 days. The average rainfall for the entire month of June (during the rainy season) is 250 mm. So far after 19 days we have had about 350 mm!

This has caused problems. There have been several small landslides that have buried a few houses with several deaths. Last Wednesday, June 18, a section of the large wall surrounding the General Cemetery in Zone 3 fell on several houses killing 3 people. This happened about 2 blocks away from a child center, Casita Benjamin, where we help. There are other problems also in these neighborhoods that I have been asked to help with. Many single mom households, very, very poor area, with roofs that leak, drains that don't drain, etc. I will be meeting later this week with some to see what we can do to help.



Then, last Friday, June 20, another tragedy caused by the rain. A large section of the main land fill dump, right alongside this same neighborhood in Zone 3, slid down in an avalanche of garbage and mud. Hundreds of people eke out a living by digging through the garbage daily for anything of value that can be recycled, etc. The avalanche buried many. So far they have recovered 6 bodies with at least 18 people still missing. They have called off more searches as the area is still considered a very high risk for more slides.

Just to personalize this story, here is a picture of Juana Cecilia Ventura. She is 15 years old.

Juana was injured in the land/garbage slide, but will recover.

Her mother, Catarina Ventura Ventura, and 10 yr. old brother, Francisco, were killed. Now, she will take responsibility for her 7 younger brothers and sisters.


Please pray for these people, and remember all of the people in this wet season when there are always problems with landslides, etc. It is always the poor, where the only available land for them is usually in hazardous areas, that are effected the most.


You read a blog like that and you probably feel horrible like I just did. And then their is a crucial moment where you decide to, A. say, "Bummer for them" and then click off the link, B. say a short prayer for them, or C. love them. What does love them mean? How do I practically love them, especially this girl, who is a million miles and a lifetime away? What can I do?

Well, the Bible says, Matthew 7:12 (NIV) So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Bible also says, Galatians 5:14 (NIV) The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

So, if you do a little math:
If A=B
And B=C
Then, A=C, right...?

O.K. then

A=B – Love fulfills the law

B=C – Doing unto others fulfills the law

A=C – Love is doing unto others as you would do to yourself…


So, in this situation, how do we love Juana Cecilia Ventura so that we can do the will of God?

Well, what would you want done if you were her?
Well, to know that, you have to walk in her shoes, to feel what it must feel like to one, just have lost your mother and your brother, two, to know what it feels like to be living in a dump, and three, to feel the helplessness and discouragement and pain that she must be feeling.

And once we have felt that, we then ask, what would I want someone to do if I were her and she were me. And then, what?

Galatians 6:2 (NIV) Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Love fulfills the law...

Do unto others fulfills the law...

Bearing burden fulfills the law…

Love is bearing the burdens that you would want bore if you were them and they were you.

So, what are WE going to do about this?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An update





Well, we are home. It feels great to say that, which is nothing against a wonderful week at Whidbey Island, a great week with our friends the Collin's and fun and great eats with the grandparents and great-grandparents, but there is something about finally being home, together as a family, which is really nice.

For those of you who don't know, we are living in Bellingham during our furlough at a camp. The only house they had available just happened to be right on the water and so we are really roughing it... The picture is from our house. (We love watching the camping happenin' every day... Really fun!) Before you start to judge me, you need to know, the interesting part is that when we were feeling led to Africa, I prayed to go someplace near water. I mean, don't diss my prayer, there are at least 20 countries on water. I grew up on the water. I love water. It is just in my blood. So, God sends us to Zambia which is landlocked by 8 countries. Because life is not about this earth, and we live for eternity, we made the most of God's sense of humor. But, we surely don't mind these few months of water living, which makes hosting and getting together with friends and supporters, especially sweet!

Stephanie is doing well, pregnancy and all. We are about 8 weeks away which is really cool. I can't wait to hold our little girl. Sleeping is a challenge for her, and I think it may

We have felt an overwhelming waterfall of God's blessing lately, which has included people lending two cars, 2 cell phones, a cool house, and then some really thoughtful welcome home gifts. But, the cherry on top of the ice cream of blessings came two days ago, when we found someone to lease our house for two more years. I happened to look at Craig'slist for a renter (our renter wanted out of the lease early) and found someone who wanted a house on the day we wanted a renter. We met this family and wow, they loved it and we loved them. So, that was HUGE and settles us big time.

Regarding this last week, we had a wonderful vacation on Whidbey Island. Relaxing, processing full, and peaceful. We missed the kids a ton, though, and we enjoyed an early 9th birthday celebration with grandparents and cousins. I can’t believe my first born is 9 years old... (Her actual birthday is today!!!)

While we were at Whidbey, we met up with a friend Josh who came to Zambia on a mission trip this past January. We brought back a bunch of handmade bags. These bags are made from the recycled plastic bags from the grocery stores. Josh and his family sells them at their Forget Me Not Farm! It just another cool way how we here can support African widows there who make these amazing bags. When Stephanie paid them for these bags their, they did a sweet dance for Stephanie out of the joy of selling their bags. It was really cool!

Well, that is pretty much the update. As far as Action details go, I have an important meeting on Friday regarding working on Pastor Leader Development stuff and then on Sunday, I am sharing at two classes on Sunday at Crossroads. The following week I will speaking at a middle school youth group.

I am realizing how much I am learning and thinking these about being here in the states, and I've got to be honest that the blogging is probably not going to lessen... I've got too much in mind and it has to find a place to be processed or I'll go crazy... So check back often if you dare:)



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Processing...


When I was a youth pastor, I went on a lot of mission trips. At the end of each trip, I would always schedule a "wasted day" of debriefing. I am not sure there was ever a year when someone didn't contest this idea of debriefing when we could be doing ministry. But in all my years of doing ministry trips, there was one year that I didn't really schedule debriefing time and it really shortchanged the trip, the processing of lessons learned and it wasn't a good finish. I learned my lesson and debriefing became a priority.

Now that we are home, we are doing a lot of debriefing. We are spending a week at a beach house and something about water makes processing so easy:) Our processing is taking a variety of forms, through preparing messages, preaching, journaling, talking with friends and family and walks with my wife. I thought I would use the blog over the next few weeks to process the lessons and hopefully, these memories and lessons will be a blessing to encourage you in living like Africa and other third world countries exist...

To kick it off, I thought I would include a link to my message at Crossroads Bible Church. It is a first person look at the lessons of what God taught me. I think the microphone was having issues that night, so you'll have to bear with a less than perfect audio... Click here for the link!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Our Last week in Zambia

(NOTE: Before you read this blog, please note that we are going to be in Bellingham from June 9-15 and we will have very little internet, so yeah, I know it is going to be hard for me:) but I probably won't be able to blog for a whole week.... Auhhh!!!! So enjoy this post!)

I haven't gotten a chance to post a blog about our last days in Zambia... We had a lots of people show up the last couple of days and below are the pictures and a few tidbits about them.


This is Given and her daughter, Dorcas. She is a single mother who is supported by a former missionary. There is so much I could write about this sweet 21 year old with an eight year old daughter, but I don't think the blog is the place to write. Needless to say, God loves these two and so do we.


This was the group that came and saw us off the morning we left...




My guards hamming it up. They love to be in pictures. Daka said, "You look... so smart." Smart I guess being a compliment that I looked good? Who knows? I'll take smart anyday




This is our beloved Auntie Miriam... It was especially difficult saying goodbye, even if it was just for six months. She became like family and you always felt like she had your back. She lived to take care of us, and it gave me a great picture of what being a servant means.




This is Daka, one of our workers, and his wife and their baby boy John. I have a lot of blogs about Daka, but if you want to read about the birth of this child and the craziness that Africa can be, click on blogs about daka... It was great going to his house, having a coke and rejoicing in the blessing of his child.


We have now been back a week and it just is (I keep using this word, I know) surreal to know that all the pain and heartache and hardness and laughter and joy and contentment just continues for them... We dare not forget, lest we miss out on all the good that Africa has been for and in us.

But saying that, it does feel good to be back, hanging with family and friends, going to church and sharing about Africa and eating good homemade gluten free food... We haven't been to one restaurant and I am as happy (and full) as can be...

I thought I would share some pictures of our kids and their cousins! Oh, and a super cute picture of Julia with her new clothes from Grandma and Grandpa! Have a great week!


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Surreal

Surreal is how it feels. Just less than a week ago we were driving on the left side, boiling our water, sleeping under mosquito nets, and living next door to the poorest people I have ever seen. And now, we are back home in Bellevue and it is different. But, not different in ways you would expect... It is just the little things, like seeing a mailman deliver mail, a garbage truck with the little remote control arm picking up garbage, paved roads without potholes and water pressure. You find yourself every once in a while just gazing out at the landscape, trying to take it all in. Though we were only gone for nine months, it felt a lot longer. It is great being with family again, and it is great having ample gluten-free food to eat. We are looking forward to this next two weekends, seeing friends and worshiping with our churches. We woke up this morning at 4:30am, ready to face the day. The joys of jet lag... But, we dare not even remotely complain as it has been such a great transition, from the flight to being home... I am so thankful for the smooth transition so far and your prayers are being heard. Thank you...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Daddy, what does 12:00 mean?

Ahhh, the joys of jet lag. I had told my kids that they were to stay in bed until 6:00 am. But, just four fours after going to bed, Bradyn was at my bedside asking, "What does 12:00 mean?" It means go back to bed, Bradyn. Julia soon came out... There was nothing I could do. I was defenseless against the powers of wakedness, and so I am awake at 2:28am writing on my blog because they are awake, and I don't want them to wake up my wife and other child. Such is the life of traveling:) I am so grateful to my parents and Steph's parents because we are staying at my parents house and my parents are staying at Steph's parents to give us space to you know play puzzles at 2:00am:)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Home, Sw(EAT), Home!




Well, the wonders of travel has catapulted us from Zambia to London to the United States and we are shaking our head in surrealness (is that a word?). A huge thank you to all who prayed as it was sooooooo smooth, I can't even tell you. The girls did amazing, they were healthy and though we feel a bit woozy and out of sorts, we are glad to be back. I still can't believe just "yesterday" we were hugging our workers and Zambian friends goodbye and now we are hugging our parents and friends hello.



Thanks for your prayers and for those who are in Bellevue area, we look forward to seeing you this Saturday at Crossroads!


As for pictures, our first eating adventure was guacamole salsa with corn tortilla chips.. Ohh, amazing...