Tag: ideas

Mission at Home

Somewhere along the way many congregations in the USA began to see “missions” as what we did overseas, while “evangelism” or “discipleship” was what we did at home or in our own community. This division of ideas does not exist in the New Testament. We are called to “make disciples of all nations,” and in Acts, Luke quotes Jesus more specifically as us “being witnesses, first in Jerusalem then Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” The task is not divided between what we do at home and what we do overseas. It is one single mission and what we do here is intimately involved with what we do there (regardless of where “there” might be).

I am learning this lesson in my new ministry in Dubois, WY. This is definitely small-town USA! Less than a thousand people in the town limits with maybe 1500-2000 in the surrounding area. Most people are prosperous, but there remains many needs that the church can and should address: An aging population as most young adults leave never to come back; Too few jobs and opportunities for those young adults which leads them to abandon the town; A struggling business community that is so geared to summer tourists, it has nothing to offer the rest of the year.

But we do have some advantages! First, the oil boom left behind an excellent school and school system. With only 130 students (total) in grades k-12, this is unusual. However, we have the school now and the opportunity to train young people for both professional and trade careers. We also have a very active church community. Granted, they are kind of divided between the Evangelical and Social Justice camps, but the fact is they are already engaged with the community and have the potential to create a lot of positive change. We also have a very beautiful environment! Surrounded by the Absaroka and Wind River Mountains, we are on the main southern pathway into Yellowstone and the valley of Jackson Hole. This beauty is not just a characteristic of our scenery. Rather it is probably one of our most attractive assets. We have four seasons of sports and the potential to be a major visitor destination.

As far as spiritual needs, most of the folks who are interested in church are in church somewhere. But the unchurched seem so apathetic as to be almost impossible to reach with the Gospel. Many within the churches are very secular and church-hopping seems to be a favorite pastime here.

So, just like the mission fields of Haiti or Ecuador or anywhere else, we need not only the Good News, we need community and business development; some church discipleship to mature the folks we already have, and some form of economic stimulus to foster growth in jobs and opportunities. Sounds like real mission work! Maybe the ideas we use over there will help over here and the opportunities we try here to reach our community just might help us over there.

Wow!

It has been over 3 months since I last posted an entry here! I apologize for the delay but our life has been crazy. One week after we returned from Haiti in June, my family and I packed up and moved from Florida to Wyoming. This move and all the adjustments we had to make because of it put a hold on all my other activities and thoughts. However, Haiti is still on my heart every day and in my prayers constantly. Here are some thoughts I wanted to share.

First, God has blessed us to live in a time when international communication is fairly easy and inexpensive. Since the 2016 Annual Pastor’s Conference for ICDM, I have gradually built a network of young pastors and leaders in Haiti with whom I communicate regularly. Unlike the Apostle Paul, who had to write lengthy letters that may take months to arrive, I have the privilege of communicating in real time with most of these men and women. Tools like Facebook and other social media (WhatsApp, Twitter, and simple text messaging) allow me to interact with these folks on a regular basis.

Second, The work I have already done in Haiti keeps opening opportunities for me to learn and grow. Pastor Yvan introduced me to the work of Mohammed Yunus, known as the “Banker to the Poor.” This man’s life work in micro-finance and social business have both inspired and educated me to try some new things in ministry. So my mission work in Haiti is greatly enhancing my ministry work in Wyoming.

Finally, I do not want to either forget my experiences in Haiti nor stop experiencing new things there. The cost of travel may be prohibitive for me to travel as often as I have been lately, but I would still like to be there at least once a year. What is more, few people in my current congregation and community have ever been on a short-term mission trip. What an opportunity to introduce them to Haiti!

In the weeks and months ahead, I hope to be back in the swing of regular postings and replies here. I invite you to follow me, share with me your own experiences, and challenge me to greater work in the Name of Jesus!

June Team Returns Home

About a year ago, I started pushing a former student of mine to come to Haiti with me. At the time I just wanted Steve to experience this island nation and see for himself why I loved Haiti and Haitians so much. Steve is a high school coach at Ed White High School and a pastor at Vision Baptist Church. In December of 2017, I met Linda Klumpp, who ran a ministry here in Jacksonville called HappyPeriodJax. This ministry provides feminine hygiene supplies for homeless women and women in our local shelters. Almost immediately, she started talking about working with me in Haiti. Shortly after we met, she passed her board exams for her Medical Doctor license. These two were the first two I thought of bringing to Haiti in the summer of 2018.

I also wanted my wife to go with me. Although we have both been on several short-term mission trips, we had only been on one together. This would give me the chance to share my work in Haiti with her and allow her to see all the people and places I was always talking about. Now we had the team up to four people counting me. Then one Sunday my nephew, Mike, said he would like to go with me sometime. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me to add him to this team. He said yes.

A couple other people had expressed an interest, but as the date began approaching, these four and myself became the only ones committed to this trip. Two pastors, one who was also a coach and the other who had experience as a mechanic and cabinet maker. A school music teacher (my wife), a businessman and author (my nephew, Mike), and a newly certified physician.

On June 16 we left for Haiti. Steve preached Sunday morning at the local church in Bayonnais. Monday thru Friday, “Dr. Linda” worked in the clinic with our school nurse, Marc, and our midwife, Zebetee. This was a very interesting dynamic as typically in Haitian culture physicians are male and nurses and midwives are female. This week, the physician was a female and both the nurse and midwife were males. Mike and Steve spent a lot of time playing with the kids. I worked on the solar inverter and got power back on to the guest house. Ron Fink, another ICDM partner, and I worked with Mike and Steve and a few of the local men to remove a refrigerated box from a truck and turn it into a walk-in fridge/freezer for the compound. Some of the team painted the upstairs bathrooms. And all week, Joi did a Vacation Bible School with Rosemond Pierre. Sometimes it did not seem like we were accomplishing very much. However, after I returned home and thought about it, I realized these five people had accomplished much. But it was more than just the tasks we performed.

Steve got to spend some time with Ron’s daughter talking, laughing, and working together. Joi got to know some of the children and work with them in VBS. Mike got so popular with the kids he could not walk through the village without the kids crying out “Mike, Mike, Mike!” Dr. Linda became so popular the women started asking for her specifically. This is really what short-term missions is all about. We think we go to do some task or work on some project. But what really matters are the conversations we share, the meals we eat together, and the relationships we build. Every one of us came back home with new friends in our hearts and that matters more than any work we accomplish while there.

Why do I say this? Because when you know someone by name and have heard their story, it is hard to ever forget either them or the place where they live. This is why partnership is the goal!

Knowing God’s Will

Knowing God’s Will

The major part of my professional and vocational life right now is the teaching I do online. This teaching includes a number of subjects from basic Bible survey courses to graduate courses in practical ministry. Whatever the level of learning among my students, there is one question I am asked more frequently than any other: “How can I know the will of God for my life?” For some this is very general, but for others it may have to do with their specific calling into vocational ministry. Here are some thoughts I have on discerning the will of God.

Our first and most consistent guide to God’s will is of course God’s word. The Bible is our primary source for knowing what God has revealed to humanity. What is more, God will never contradict himself, so anything which is contrary to the Scripture cannot and will not be God’s will for us. Of course, my assumption and belief is that the Bible is God’s word and authoritative for the life of the believer. If one does not accept such authority from Scripture, then this guide will be meaningless. However, for the believer, our faith in  the written word of God must lead us to trust his guidance there.

A second way to determine God’s will is to ask a different question: What is God doing in the world and how do I participate in it? This is the question which led me to initially work in Haiti. Many things since have confirmed my choice, but by looking at Haiti seeing what God was doing and how I could participate in it has been the major determinant in how I perceived God’s will for me.

A third way we can discern God’s will is what I call the “open door guidance.” If God wants you to move in a certain direction, he will open doors for you towards that goal. However, this cannot be blind movement. We must also ask, “who is opening this door?” “Should I walk through this door, at this time?” Open doors can be helpful but they are also like the signs Gideon sought: they can be ambiguous and unreliable.

One of the fourth ways to discern God’s will is to practice humility and calmness. As I write this my own heart wants to say, “What do you mean, ‘humility and calmness? This decision is disrupting my whole life! How can I be humble and calm?” Marva Dawn (2000) claims, “God’s purposes will fulfilled whether you participate or not, but perhaps this is exactly why you are in the position you are in” (p. 171). By cultivating the humility that God does not need me, yet God still calls me, we are more likely to understand his calling and our free choice in the process. What is more, we are more likely to sense the moving of God in calmness (Be still and know that I am God), than if we are constantly worried, anxious, or excited. This attitude points to a willingness to be patient in the meantime. As we wait for God’s leading to become clear, we can avoid panic and through patience and prayer we can wait on God/

Finally, one of the most often neglected means for discerning God’s will is within the counsel of the faith community. The Christian life is distinctly communal and when we try to determine God’s will in isolation from others, then we are missing the most important element, next to the Bible, in determining God’s will and purpose. Sometimes it is because the saints know us better than we know ourselves. Sometimes it is because they want what is best for us and can perceive this “best” when we cannot. At other times, the questions and input offered by the community help us think and act more clearly in decisive moments.

So, we should seek to know God’s will through all these methods. But above all, we need to follow God in obedience and joy.

God is on the Move!

God is on the Move!

Got some pictures this morning on Facebook. The Clinic project in Bayonnais Haiti is literally off the ground! The foundation stones and footers have been laid out and poured (see photos) and construction is moving ahead very quickly. Funds are in place and teams are coordinating with local workers to complete the building. This is truly Good News!

As I have worked on the history of ICDM, I have had the chance to hear about children meeting under the trees for their classes and how gradually new buildings were added. Today, we have the Center for Hope, the Guest House, the dining hall, the church sanctuary, and a staff housing building. Now, the new Clinic is going up across the road from the school. This one clinic will provide daily access to health care, midwifery, eye care, and dental care for a rural community that is an hour away from the nearest health care and hospitals. This is a critical part of community development, providing quality healthcare for people who currently have little or no access to such care.

However, this is more than merely a healthcare facility for the locals! In addition to the care of nurses, physicians, and other professionals, this clinic is also to become a training ground for Haitian nurses and doctors. By partnering with physicians and nurses from other parts of the world we can train indigenous doctors and nurses with advanced skills and techniques. Such partnerships also build the community in a truly international sense.

Want to do something crazy? Why not come to Haiti and help us build the Clinic! Skill is not necessary! Just a desire to see God’s work move forward and to be a personal part of all God is doing!

Listen and Learn

My father used to always tell me that I did not listen! He was right! My attention was almost always somewhere else. But as I have matured I have learned the value of really listening! It is not always easy, but it is always worthwhile.

First, you have to still your own thoughts and focus on the other person or persons. I cannot be planning my answer and listening to the other’s thoughts at the same time. Usually my mind is so prepared to answer that I cannot hear. But when I push aside my own need to answer, I find that my ears and mind can pay more attention to what the other person is trying to say. I also find that I am more attentive to the contextual clues in their communication, body language and tone of voice. This has become especially important in my communication in Haiti because of the language barrier. When I am speaking with another through an interpreter, I find I must be attentive to both the speaker and the translator.

Second, I need to enter every conversation with the expectation that the other person has something to teach me. Whether it is a deep spiritual truth or just a detail of their life, they have something to give me if I will slow down long enough to receive it. This is where I think social media has spoiled us. We no longer spend time in conversation, we only throw words at each other. In one of the online classes I teach we experienced this text-based communication problem just this week. I said something to one student, but she heard something completely different. She then communicated what she thought I said to another student who went complaining to his advisor that I was giving them two different directions for the assignment! Because so many communication clues were missing a small misunderstanding became a big one very quickly. Real conversation takes time and effort. We must commit ourselves to the process and put aside distractions if we are to listen and learn.

And third, we need to weigh our words and temper our attitudes. Something else my dad taught me was to “count to ten” before responding in anger. Anger is not the only emotion that can hinder our listening. Communication requires us to trust one another with the ideas and thoughts we are sharing. If these ideas or worse our words are shared through our wounds, hurts, negative expectations, or anger, then communication ceases. If we allow words to trigger the worst of our emotions, then we stop communicating and end up only venting our emotions.

Dad, if you are paying attention to what I am doing now, I want you to see, I am learning to listen, so maybe I will listen and learn!

2018 Pastor’s Conference

2018 Pastor’s Conference

On January 9, I returned from an amazing event! The annual ICDM Pastor’s Conference had convened the previous week and I was more than impressed by the outcome. Three things in particular caught my attention. The first were the growing relationships I experienced. Relationships between myself and a number of Haitian leaders, but also the relationships I witnessed between these leaders. Coming from all over the nation of Haiti, these men and women gathered for days of learning, inspiration, and encouragement. And that is just what they experienced! But most of all friendships were built and strengthened! Abraham Vilsaint, Jean-Noel Preval, Nanette Pierre, Chiff, Gina, and many more! I have learned to love them and to listen to their stories. Each year my friendships grow with them and I feel that much more a part of their ministries and mission.

The second thing I witnessed at this year’s conference was the sense of purpose and hope among the participants. Pastors and leaders in Haiti often face challenges that leaders in the USA can barely comprehend. More than being preachers and teachers, they are often community developers, activists and advocates, and business leaders as well. Yet, in spite of the challenges, they are joyful! Whether it is n our worship together or just conversations in the courtyard, there conversation and communication is permeated with joy! These men and women see the reality of Haiti as it is now, but they also have a vision of change and transformation. This hope, deeply grounded in the Christian gospel or Good News, shapes their work, inspires their efforts, and energizes their creativity. And their joy is also contagious! No matter what is happening in my life and ministry, I always come away from these meetings with a new outlook! Energy renewed, vision expanded, and heart inspired, I come back to the USA stronger and more joyful!

Finally, I think this year’s conference came at a critical time for both the leaders of the sessions and the participants. While the conference was going on, ICDM was working on a home for a family in Bayonnais. Right after the conference a team from New Jersey came and finished up this construction. Construction on ICDM’s new clinic is getting started. A record number of children are enrolled in the school. New leaders are being trained and commissioned. All of these things seem to bring a sense of strength and possibility to everyone’s mind. It is as if the entire mission has reached a point of great momentum. As each new idea becomes a reality it sparks more new ideas, inspires new leaders to take charge of these initiatives, and these in turn spark even more ideas and visions. Such momentum is awesome to observe! It is even more powerful when you are even a small part of such momentum!

For anyone who reads my thoughts posted here, I invite you again to visit this wonderful country with me! Post your interest here and I will send you more detailed information.