Toy Story 3.5ish

While I always hope that everyone reading this blog gets something, I usually have a specific audience in mind when I write.  It could be believers or unbelievers or even a specific family member or friend that is on my mind.  This post is dedicated to the 45 plus members of the Adventures in Missions World race GAP Year, Route 6, Squad V. An inspiring group of 17 – 21-year-old men and women from diverse backgrounds who have chosen to defer their first year of college in lieu of transforming and being transformed in the name of Jesus Christ. It just so happens that we have blessed with the opportunity to coach them during their journey to four countries over the course of 9 months.

WORLD RACE GAP YEAR V SQUAD

WALL OF PRAYER IN OUR HONDURAN TINY HOUSE

One of my first memories as a child is watching the first astronauts land on the moon on my parents 16” Zenith black and white T.V.  suffice it to say that I was hooked from the start.  I used to put on a football helmet and sit for hours in the hall closet pretending to fly the lunar module.  Alas as so many have heard me say, I really wanted to be an astronaut.  But I sucked at math. So, I became a counselor instead.

 

In Toy Story One we see Buzz, a toy astronaut with an identity complex.  Buzz does not know he is a toy.  As the story begins we see Buzz comparing himself to, and competing with, the other characters for Andy, the toy owners, love.  Buzz denies his obvious weakness, rationalizes and justifies his failures to the point of the absurd until one day he sees himself on a television commercial and is confronted with truth.  Never the less he seizes upon his powers of denial, pulls himself together and once again tries to fly only to fall with less style than ever and loses an arm.

In the next scene we see a broken and dejected Buzz drinking Darjeeling tea with a bunch of headless dolls in Andy’s sisters’ room.  His friends try to rescue his shattered self-worth but to no avail.  Buzz must go through the fiery process of transformation and discovery of his true identity.  Fast forward tot eh conclusion, we see Buzz rallying a bunch of broken toys to overcome the wiles of the evil Sid and save the day. In the end He becomes a real super hero but within the context of brokenness and in partnership with those who had also be broken.

That said, I am Buzz Light Year - Space Ranger.

Cathy loves horses.  So much so that she used to pretend she was a horse when she was little.  Even now everything stops the moment Cathy comes near a horse. Horses are everywhere in Honduras so that happens a lot.  She could have married a rancher or a cowboy.  Lucky for me she chose a wanna be astronaut instead.

Jessie the Cow Girl a.k.a. Cow girl Cathy does not come on the scene until after Buzz’s identity crisis in Toy Story 2.  She appears to be looking for love in all the wrong places and is a bit fearful and claustrophobic until she comes into her own.  She then shows herself to be the most courageous, kind, loyal and helpful to others.  Those are just a few of Cathy’s qualities.  By the end of Toy Story 3 Jessie appears to be developing the hots for Buzz.

Here begins our story.  Toy Story 3.5ish and beyond.

We will not attempt to tell the whole story here.  Adventures in Missions blogs tend to be short.  So, we’ll save that for the future book that so many have encouraged us to write.

 

We Just Might...

 

Instead we thought we would simply bullet point some fruit of a few of the transformative lessons that we’ll call needless pain avoidance/soul - spirit hacks that we have learned along the way, specific points that we think might be of help to the members of our squad whom we have already grown to love.

1. It is easy to confuse the living God with our perceptions of the living God.

2. It is even easier to confuse our identity with our perceptions of ourselves.

3. Ideas, diagnoses, personality profiles and tattoos are not identities. Neither are feelings.

4. Many people believe they are worshiping God and are worshiping themselves.

5. The voice of God will never contradict His word or His character.

6. Truth and love can not be separated.

7. Truth is absolute. Happiness is relative. Joy is eternal and rooted in truth.

8. Faith (Revelation Faith) is fuel to propel you on His way.

9. Compassion and codependency often look the same. The first is selfless. The latter is the epitome of selfishness.

10. The manifest presence of God is real. Its purpose is not for us to catch a buzz.

11. The mercy of God is frequently misinterpreted as judgment.

12. Judgment and discernment are not the same.

13. The love of God may manifest as a healing touch or a whip.

14. If you really want to grow, learn, and love; die to self and let Him resurrect you.

15. A problem can not be divorced from its root cause if a solution is to be found.

16. Selfishness and self-centeredness are the root of every interpersonal problem.

17. The easiest lie to tell is the one you tell yourself.

18. Suffering is required. Suffering has purpose.  Suffering should never be a goal.

19. To love and be loved is a basic, God given, human need. The problem lies in how we try to meet that need.

20. Nothing opens the door to deception as much as emotion.

21. Your future spouse is like a fruit ripening on a tree. Be patient.  If you attempt to pick it before it is ripe it will be bitter.

22. Sometimes our weaknesses, failures and short comings are what make us lovable.

23. If farts offend you; don’t get married.

24. Forgiveness is for, and the responsibility of, the forgiver. Only then can God heal the associated hurt.

25. We cannot give what we do not have ourselves. We cannot lead where we have not gone.

26. Books are good, but the word of God is distilled, pure truth.

27. Knowledge is not understanding. Understanding comes with time, failure and perseverance.  Wisdom comes from God as an expanded revelation of                 understanding.

28. Triumph and Disaster are imposters and “IF” by Rudyard Kipling is a good road map to maturity of the soul.

29. The top of the mountain is filled with open sky. There is a reason so many ultra-successful people commit suicide.

30. Many people spend their entire lives trying to relive and redo the Book of Ecclesiastes. You can take a short cut and skip ahead to chapter 12.

31. Salvation and sanctification are a process.

32. True identity is found in brokenness. False identity is a prerequisite.

33. People generally don’t care what you know until they know how much you care.

34. Integrity matters. Say what you mean, mean what you say, do as you say. Own your own failure to do so.

35. There is no such thing as failure only opportunities to learn and do better.

36. Every action has a reward and a cost.

37. “Fair” is a fantasy.

38. “Do the little things with radical love. The bigger things will come.”  -Heidi Baker-

39. Everyone is a leader to someone.

40. Approach determines response. If you don’t like the response, then change your approach.

41. Knowing your weakness is the best defense. You can not defend what you deny or don’t know.

42. Transparency and vulnerability are weapons. Your testimony is the nuclear option.

43. The primary purpose in any spiritual calling is for God to teach us and bring us into a deeper relationship with Himself.

44. “I struggle with comparison” can be a white washed term for jealousy, envy and covetousness. Repentance not hugs might be the better answer.

45. When scared unsure or nervous, jump into papa’s arms and allow Him to remind you who you are.

46. Forgiveness, revival and healing are preceded by repentance.

47. Men who don’t cry are wimpy or dead.

48. Obstacles and spiritual attacks are blessing markers.  The bigger the challenge the bigger the blessing on the other side.

49. “Truth is like a lion. It can defend itself.”

50. “If you don’t quit, you win!” -Heidi Baker”

I Am Josue

I often think of Mrs. P, my first-grade teacher.  She was a sweet lady, at least as far as I could tell.  I don’t remember her saying very much, only kids running around yelling, tipping over desks and chairs and a girl named Kathy who  barked and bit kids on the leg during class.  It was a pretty wild scene.  One of our favorite games was to steal Mrs. P's stapler that she tried so hard to hide and staple each other anywhere we could.  As for me, I liked science and sword fighting.  And I still have a pencil lead from a sword fight with Steven Adams stuck in my hand.  What I remember most is being filled with energy and craving contact.

I loved to hurl my body at things especially the floor. 

Beyond that, school was pretty boring. Reading was boring.  Math was boring.  Sitting at a desk among rows of other desks while Mrs. P talked and pointed on her overhead projector was boring.  My teachers thought I was impaired.  In fact, one day Mrs. E, my special ED reading teacher threw her book down in exasperation and exclaimed: "Brian, you are the stupidest boy I've ever seen!"  My mother was pretty angry about that.  I didn't quite understand all the hoopla.  Reading was boring, and I couldn't have cared less about Jane and her dumb dog Spot.   I never saw Mrs. E after that.

One day Mrs. P put her head down on her desk and started sobbing.  No one knew why.  So they took her away.  I never saw or heard from her again either.  I never gave any of this much thought until I was older.  Now that I am an adult and have  suffered my share of pain my heart hurts for them, and I wonder what was the cause of their pain?

My life as a six-year-old was in retrospect, a hyperactive mental fog.  Only I didn't know I was in a fog.  I didn't know that I was hyperactive either.  It just felt right to run around crashing into things and laughing until my belly hurt.

Getting in trouble for it wasn't fun.

I just always seemed to forget what getting in trouble was like until I was in trouble.

Even so, I did eventually learned to read on an eleventh grade level by the time I was nine, thanks that is to my mother and some books about the solar system. It turns out books about planets and stars were a lot more interesting than ones about Dick and Jane watching Spot run.

Josue is one of our special kids at the City of Refuge. He’s also one of our favorites. He is intensely friendly.

Actually, Josue is intensely intense and sometimes inappropriate. He's one of the inspirations for a recent "good touch-bad touch" class for the 4-8-year olds.

Josue loves to laugh and connect his body to people and things in impactful ways and at high speeds.

He will love you if you play with him.

But beware, he's very focused when he's in impact mode and has been known to pee at the most inopportune times. I find It's best just to smile when this happens and act as if it also happens to me. After all, urine is sterile, and a little soap takes it right out.

Shame can last a lifetime.

If you've seen our videos, then you know that Josue's mom was killed while attempting to immigrate to the United States.  That left his dad, Josue and his brother alone.  There's no social safety net in Honduras,

and single parents are often faced with choosing between working to provide for their children or keeping them safe. 

 

So they come to us.

Josue has some type of yet to be defined learning disability.

Or so they say.

What we know is that Josue is a worshipper

He's Cathy's flagging partner on "Soaking" nights and other worship times.  And If Cathy is on her knees praying then Josue probably is too.

He also loves to sing. He doesn't always get the words right, but his heart is definitely in it.

While Josue does prefer impact related types of interactions, calm tactile, kinesthetic activities can be magical too.

We've found that there's almost always a way to meet kids where they are and redirect their behavior based on their strengths instead of reacting to their negative behavior

in terms of how it makes us look or feel in the moment.

This is what opens the door to relationship and trust.  Relationship with an adult who knows and loves God is often the key to a child's future relationship with God.

There are several Honduran staff members who think that Josue does not belong here, that he'd be better served if he were in an orphanage with more kids like him.  I'm not sure if I buy that.  But then I'm not in charge, and it's not my call.  Life in Honduras is hard.

It’s a place where suffering, not success is expected.  Honduran children become strong and resilient, or they don't survive let alone thrive. 

My own approach is rooted in one of the most poignant lessons I learned as an adolescent substance abuse counselor.  That 60% of any change that takes place during treatment is the result of  relationship.  Nothing else we say or do matters apart from the connection that is established through relationship.  It’s a connection that frequently cannot be established with words alone.

More often than not what kids like Josue need is a good strong hug, one that squeezes them hard and doesn’t let go, one that says we aren’t going to give up on you

and you can not make us “unlove" you.

Some people imagine missionaries as human fire hydrants pumping Bible verses into people who never heard the gospel.

Others imagine missions as an endless activity.  The harder they are serving and the more they accomplish in the natural, the more spiritual they feel especially if the working hurts.  Still, others see it as formulaic as if we're a syllabus based curriculum.  Granted there is a time and place for all of these things, and they do serve a purpose.  But long-term missions is different and more like regular life albeit under harsher physical conditions.

For me the answer to the question; what does it take and what is it like to be a missionary lies with Josue.  I identify with Josue.  I can empathize with how he feels when he's hurling himself on the ground, when he's excited, when he's causing trouble, when he's in trouble.  I can see his heart and his love for God.  I can comprehend God's love for Josue

and in that comprehension I can understand God's love for me.

So often people arrive here with an honorable desire to serve those whom they see as worse off than themselves.  While this is often the case in the natural, Jesus exalted the poor, mother Teresa strived to identify herself with them, and the Sermon on the mount is pretty clear that the material world  is not the Kingdom.  Please don't be mistaken. I'm not saying that living in a grass hut with a dirt floor and eating worms will bring you closer to God. That would mean that leaving people to suffer is the best way to help them.  That's what Hindus and Buddhists believe.  What I'm saying is that God will bring a person closer to Himself through their identification with Him in the life, suffering, and joys of another.  Whom that person or group is is entirely up to Him.  Our job as missionaries is to know Him well enough to recognize His voice when he speaks through the life of a child here at the City of Refuge, an old man in the community, a single mother in the dump or the teenage girl next door who simply wants to stay in school. The definition and key to being a long-term missionary for me today is found in Josue.  Because at the end of the day,

I am Josue.

Pips, Probability and Presupposition

It’s been awhile since I last blogged and after writing this one I think people might be better served if it were a chapter in a book.  I guess I tend to have a lot to say.

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The most important job that I have as a missionary is not to merely fight poverty and injustice.  It is to plant seeds that lead others to Christ and pull weeds that prevent it.

This is a weed pulling post.

Ironically, while I am serving as a missionary in Honduras and sometimes facing weighty and scary things, I often find myself thinking and writing with those in mind whom we left behind.  Friends and family who will probably never even glance at this blog.  At least while I am alive. People whom I love.  People who see Jesus as just another guy and the Gospel as a lovely little fairy.  Others have rejected  Jesus and the gospel as the result of some misunderstanding or an offense. Some believe that they are Christians yet have no real idea of what that even means. Some think they are smarter.  Some are headed for significant crises. Some have gone off the cliff in the past and are headed there again.  Still, the lives and worldviews of others have drifted so far from mine that it’s nearly impossible converse on topics more in-depth than “hey how’s the weather over there.”  So I don’t.  Not because I can’t or won’t engage but because I don’t dare ask the wrong question for fear that an already strained relationship will come to a cantakerous end. Our society is fast losing the ability to debate differing worldviews with the honest truth as its goal without becoming offended at the passion of another then refusing to forgive and engage again.  Then again, I’m probably writing all this for the sake of posterity anyway.  Lord knows I would love to read the blogs of my own grandparents and great-grandparents.

'Grandpa, what's peace?'

Yeah I’m writing to my future great grandchildren which suddenly makes writing this completely worthwhile.

But before you read on let me ask you one question.

If the claims about Jesus and the Gospel were true; would you become a Christian?

There is a scene in Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ” that I find particularly poignant if not eerie.  It is the scene where Pontius Pilate obviously disturbed by the decision facing him, contemplates the fate of Jesus with his wife Claudia by his side.  Claudia asks Pilot about the truth to which Pilot replies “What is “truth?”

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Sometimes it seems that money a.k.a “mammon” and those things related to it are the only real truths in this world.

I’m sure you are aware of the multitudes of financial advisors and investment opportunities online.  All are selling a product or service that usually amounts a belief in what they believe.

They always make money.

Sometimes their clients do too which compels others to hop on the proverbial moving train destined for future wealth.  The more people on the train, the more people want to jump on the train.  Funny thing is most if not all these people have no real understanding of why they are on the train.

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If they are making money, they assume they made the smart decision.  Besides, It feels more secure to ride the train with lots of other people.  I mean that many people couldn’t be wrong. Right?  The more people on the train, the faster and higher it goes until, for reasons usually only understood in hindsight, such as there were too many people on the train, it doesn’t, and everything comes crashing down. What traders call “smart money” jumps off the train with the loot while the regular people  otherwise known as “dumb money” loses badly.

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“People are destroyed for lack of knowledge”  regarding what drives markets and more importantly, themselves.

I first watched this happen with Real Estate in 2007 when I was beginning to learn about trading and markets. My friends just laughed at me and called me a “buzz kill” when I tried to pop their bubbles by warning them that money is never free, and it was crazy to buy.  You know the story. The bubble popped, and my friends rode the train with myriad others off the edge of the cliff.

 

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All markets move in three directions. Up, down and sideways.  That gives speculative currency traders a 33.3 percent chance of scoring some “Pips” (price points on a chart) without doing anything more than clicking a mouse.  “Sounds like gambling,” you say. Perhaps.

Traders gather technical and or economic fundamental evidence to form or confirm a presupposition that they hope will increase their chances of success. But presupposition is often the enemy of analysis.  As humans we tend to see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear and filter out the rest.

The ability to suspend emotion and presupposition is the key to placing a potentially successful trade.

 

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I won’t burden you with the technical details of my trading tales. I’ll simply give you the conclusions to the lessons I learned that apply to life in general.

1. You can do all the right research and gather all the proper evidence that supports your presupposition regarding a particular trade and make a fortune.

You can then repeat the same steps and lose everything you have. You can also do everything wrong and be wrong. Then repeat the same steps and make a fortune.

In the end, there is only one guarantee. There is no guarantee, just probability.

2. The most important and only things you can know, understand and control are your own emotions and cognitive biases.

 

 

 

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While they certainly didn’t like it, even sixth graders I counseled understood the reality of no guarantees. Which is another way of saying,

“sorry Dorothy but life is not fair.”

For example, the odds of safely crossing the street are relatively good, provided I look both ways and listen carefully. Still, they are never one hundred percent. Those odds decrease as I remove those safety precautions. They get awful if I take stupid risks like wearing earplugs or a blindfold. Even so, there is also no guarantee I will fail.

That’s where gambling comes in.

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Ironically human beings are predictable and easy to manipulate because we prefer moving trains that are full and we live in a world where three blindfolded people can get run over by a car, and there will still be those who want to cross the street blindfolded. They will usually focus on the fourth, the exception, not the rule, the one that didn’t get hit believing that they are like him. “That’s not reality,” you say “that’s hypothetical. Ok, I’ll give you that. But what do you think happens when an extra strong load of heroin hits the street and kills ten people in a week? Sales go up exponentially. That’s what happens. Or a subprime mortgage broker tells people he can put them in a million-dollar house today and they don’t even need a job? “Well, that’s dumb.” You say. It is. It’s also not hypothetical, and several people whom I know are betting their destinies against odds like just like these.

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In my experience, most people don’t particularly like the idea that life in the natural world is inextricably rooted in probability and that a handful of people on earth are smart enough to manipulate them into gradually surrendering all their wealth and power. People want the feeling of security even if they are not secure. So, they assemble tidbits of info that they have read or been told. They call these tidbits facts and then base their life choices on them. Which is fine if you are buying hair products, vitamins or maybe organic lettuce as the risk versus reward ratio isn’t going to be that far out of whack. But risking one’s future or that of a nation by the same method?

Alas but “What is truth?” says the king.

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Pontius Pilate had nothing against Jesus and knew He was innocent.  He could have protected Jesus but He didn’t.
Most people do their utmost to avoid Pilot’s predicament. Standing for truth can be dangerous. It’s a lot easier to jump on a passenger-filled train especially when you are pressured to so so from the very start.

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For example, if you’re a staunch conservative then you probably have conservative friends in real life and on online. You get your news from Drudge, and you might listen to FOX. If you’re a dedicated liberal, then Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post might be more your speed along with CNN and MSNBC.

Ironically it doesn’t seem to matter much that nearly all major media outlets and their narratives are controlled by about six corporations; all of whom have the same basic goal.

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Those on opposite sides of the proverbial aisle might be stupid Christian, racist, homophobic, misogynist, fascist pigs or they could be stupid God-hating, radical, communist, ANTIFA punks depending on your side

or should I say, tribe?

This bias, whichever bias it may, be is further confirmed in conversations among peers who agree with each other. They call this agreement consensus and pretend that consensus implies truth. Rarely does anyone in an opposing camp respectfully discuss or present evidence for their viewpoint. Rarely does anyone know or understand the history or philosophy of democracy, socialism, communism, fascism or free market economics let alone subjects like, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity or Atheism. They only know what they have been taught. They only know what they have been told. What they have been taught is right. What they haven’t been taught is wrong.  Nine times out of ten neither side has a clue about the reasoning, if it exists at all, of the other.  Sort of like when I hear Christian friends passionately declare that “Buddha isn’t God!” Thanks, guys. The Buddhists know that.  Or non Christian claims that Christians are evil because of what so called Christians did in the crusades.  Some people also think Adolf Hitler was a Christian because he liked to quote Romans 13.  But Hitler was an occultist. The Knights Templar were too. Like I said people generally only believe what they have been taught.

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Think I’m exaggerating? Answer this.

Is the earth flat or round?

Now tell me why you believe whatever you believe without basing your argument on something you’ve read, seen on TV or been told. Hmmm…
If you like this mental Rubik’s Cube sort of thing and are a glutton for punishment, you might listen to some of the flat earth theories on YouTube. For the record, I am not a flat “earther.” I’m not sure I can give a reasonable explanation according to the criteria above.  But don’t be stupid!  It’s round! Ok?!

That said, I am impressed with the flat “earthers” ability to provide evidence for what they believe.

I have similar respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and some Atheists. I have less of this type of respect for some of my so called Christian brethren.  And oh yeah, ANTIFA.

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I like science a lot too. Not the pop culture version of those who say,

“I don’t believe in God, I believe in science.”

'No, this is its nucleus, not its cell phone.'

Sorry guys. Science is a method. God is an entity. Science is a way of gathering evidence and arriving at a theory of what might be true based on the evidence at hand. Science is by definition, never settled. Hence the earth that Al Gore convinced so very many was about to burst into flames due to an over abundance of atmospheric tree foodar124649772288326

may actually be cooling unless of course you think it’s warming. None of us knows for sure and those who say they believe in science really only believe in scientists.  That said, it sure feels like Al Gore’s breath in Honduras right now.  Turns out time frames and locations matter in climate science as well as trading and they can really fudge your analysis too.

But I’m getting off track.

For the record;  I’m not a fossil fuel fan.

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In fact, I think we should plant more trees, and everything should be solar powered. I just happened to know about  the derivative based Chicago Carbon Exchange and the humongous wealth consolidating trade that old Al was creating for himself and his friends.

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Sorry Al. Actually I’m not that sorry.

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That said, even the assumption that light holds the speed record in all of creation at 186,000 miles per second upon which much of our initial understanding of quantum physics is rooted, is now in question.

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And gravity? We still don’t know what the heck that stuff is.

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One week it’s dark matter the next is the graviton and the next there is no gravity because we are living inside a computer program. In every case, people present convincing arguments. And every time the tidbit gatherers gather their tidbits,  and present them as facts. Sometimes the “facts” seem true and others who want to be in the know jump on the moving train. The only thing we know for sure despite the efforts of physicists at CERN is that no one has ever seen dark matter or a graviton or even the devoutly worshipped

God Particle.

 

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As for the computer program theory; I think I saw a movie about that once.

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I actually prefer that one because a computer program implies a computer creator and a computer programmer. And besides, it supports my presuppositions about existence. Why?! Because I think it’s true that’s why!! Back off!! What are you some liberal God-hater?
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I’m sure you get the point.

 

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Lots of people swear by the theory of macroevolution too even though it is easily proven that “macro,” not to be confused with “micro” evolution is not science. The fossil record has yet to confirm what Charles Darwin said must be established if his theory of the origin of species is correct. And the idea that life could merge from primordial slime is not even mathematically possible let alone scientifically probable.

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Yet millions, if not billions, of people, hold onto these presuppositions as indisputable facts. They are not. In fact, many of them require a lot more faith than do the claims of Christianity.

Can I prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true? Of course not.

But neither can anyone else confirm that it is not. This a point is frequently missed in your normal “I believe in science” versus a supernatural God debate.  In the end, it, all comes down to faith. Faith in one’s presuppositions and the probability of their accuracy. The truth is that most of us are just looking for something  real to believe in.  Because at the end of the day our natural lives here on earth are rooted in chance, pure probability, a proverbial roll of the dice.

As I see it, the only real game changer would have to be a supernatural one.

Stay tuned or maybe tune out if this bores you. I’ll be planting seeds more than pulling weeds in subsequent posts and presenting the evidence that supports my own presuppositions and experience regarding the reality of an awesome and all loving supernatural God.

Be blessed

 

 

Great Expectations, Transitions, and Enantiodromia

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons learned in twelve years of running a transitional house for furloughed inmates and ten years as an adolescent substance abuse counselor in Hawaii. This is certainly due in part to my having encountered so many members of visiting mission teams who are considering doing something similar and have asked for advice. Perhaps a more significant reason is that despite my expectations that I would be doing something vastly different here in Honduras we are frequently called upon to help deal with some of the very same issues. At any rate here are two hard yet indispensable truths and one paradox that are vital to those experiencing a call to backyard missions like running a transitional home.
If you follow our blog you may have noticed that I am a fan of etymology. I love to drill down into the original meanings of certain words. Ironically it only took me twelve years to look up the word “transition” which is from the 15th-century Latin “transitionem” “a going across or over”. In my mind “going across or over” implies traversing some challenge or obstacle and not necessarily an immediate metamorphoses or change. It also suggests the idea of a bridge. Bridges get walked on, driven on, rained on, jumped on, sometimes urinated on… People don’t thank a bridge, stop to have a picnic on a bridge or set up sales, information booths or churches on a bridge. In fact, most people are only concerned with what lies on the other side. People typically only pay attention to bridges when they fail or appear to be at risk of failing.
Which brings me to the first hard truth that I’d like to impart.
Counselors, missionaries and transitional houses are bridges. Most of the positive change that you will see in people if you see any at all will likely happen after they leave you behind. This can be discouraging particularly if you are confused about your identity and relationship with God such that pride takes root in your soul. Our job is not to fix, change or save people. Our job is to be a bridge from certain destruction to some greater semblance of hope which for some might be yet another bridge. The principle also applies when helping orphans or counseling substance abuse clients. Many of us pay lip service to this truth only to suffer burn out due to unmet expectations and or we assume too much responsibility for long-term outcomes. We need to remind ourselves and each other that we are bridges that some will refuse to cross regardless of how much or how hard we pray. Others will never fully appreciate our efforts until years later when they look back and realize what was provided for them and that they could never have made it across without our help. However, the likely hood that we will be around to hear their gratitude is slim at best. Still, there are others who will jump, fall off or otherwise fail to make it to the other side. In this case, you can be sure that you will be blamed by someone and perhaps investigated or sued. Keep in mind that Jesus described Himself among other things as the Way. A student is not above his master or a servant above his Lord. What they did to him they will probably do to you.
Hard truth number two is that we plant seed, and we water seed in faith. Many seeds are “Storm Seeds”.
Our transitional home was in Hawaii, and we always had a garden of some sort. One year I planted squash which normally grows like a weed and for whatever reason, nothing would grow. So, I planted again, but still, nothing would grow. I had pretty much given up when a massive storm and days of torrential rains hit us. Everything was washed out. It was about a week later when I noticed a new squash plant growing about fifty feet from where I had planted it. Sometimes a big enough storm is required to make the seed you plant grow. I never questioned the seeds I planted in soil or in people after that. We plant seed and we water seed in faith. We do not make things change or grow. That is God’s job. The challenge is not to give up planting and watering when the fruit we desire fails to appear at the time of our choosing.
Enantiodromia is a term first coined by Heraclitus and often attributed to Carl Jung describing the tendency of things to change into their opposites. Sort of the way a pendulum swing exhausts its momentum in one direction and swings the other way. The distance it swings in one direction determines how far it goes in the other. While Jung seems to get most of the credit, I think it was Jesus who described it first. “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” and “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. People in transition be they orphans or inmates are not the final versions of themselves. They are in a process of dying to themselves and their old way of life. This process can be extremely messy. Another problem is that people in transition have a unique way of making others want to quit helping them and sometimes even throw them over the side of the proverbial bridge. Never the less, as in the case of a pendulum swing, sometimes the change begins at the very peak of a person’s so-called badness.
Jake (not his real name) was one of many seemingly incorrigible inmates that the warden of our local jail sent to us through the years. Unsalvageable was the term he used. Jake was a shot caller in the Hawaii gang known as the USOs (pronounced ooso). He was a collector and a strong arm which means he’d probably killed people or at least came very close to it. He engaged in pornography production with young women and even impregnated one of my former Teen Care clients. The drugs he sold went to local kids and also probably contributed to some of my other clients who died. There was absolutely nothing good about Jake when he came to live with us. Not only did he do nothing to help anyone with anything ever but he also helped himself to everyone else’s possessions and food. The other inmates would never complain because they were terrified of him. Never the less Jake heard the gospel, watched our walk and listened to myriad apologetic lectures regarding the abundant, clean and sober, crime-free lifestyle. As expected Jake immediately began dealing drugs, was caught and returned to jail. The last conversation I’d had was via text and amounted to a string of profanity insulting my intelligence and manhood which I printed and sent to the warden who posted it in the prison for everyone to see. Sometimes love doesn’t look all that loving in this realm. But that’s a topic for a future blog should there be enough interest in this one. Even so, I wasn’t angry or being vindictive. It says in Proverbs that a rebuke from a friend is sweeter than kisses from an enemy. I was merely doing what I could to facilitate the process that I had come to understand so well. It wasn’t long before Jake ‘s nineteen-year-old son joined him in prison and they became cellmates. Ironically, Jake ‘s own father had been murdered in that very same prison. Then something happened. Jake’s pendulum swing reached its peak as he came face to face with the reality of who and what he had become.
It was several years later and right before we were due to leave for the Harvest School of Missions in Pemba Mozambique that the doorbell rang. “Cathy?” I heard as I came around the corner. “Who the heck is this?” I thought. “Oh my gosh its Jake ” I yelled! “Come on in!” I said greeting him like a celebrity. Long story short it soon became clear that Jake was completely transformed. He’d gotten born again in prison and become a worship leader. He was completely repentant, and all he wanted to do was to make amends for what he did in our home. He laughed as he explained how he used to tell people that “Brian is boring! Christianity is boring!” He took full responsibility for all the wrongs he ever did, lead us in worship and prayed the most anointed prayer we’d heard in a very long time. Naturally, we invited him to move back in, and he became a manager and the spiritual covering for the house the entire time we were in Africa.
We have other comparable stories to reflect upon even if they pale in number to those who have not made it – yet. Even so throughout the years, the one thing that kept us going was the absolute and undeniable understanding that good, bad, ugly, or beautiful, God had placed His desires in our hearts and called us to love the unlovable. There were times when I – we so wanted to quit and even prayed to God asking Him to release us. Many times, we would ask ourselves “what if all of this was just for one or two people? Would we still do it?” To which one of us would invariably reply “how much is one life worth?”

Now we are missionaries. We continue to feed the poor in the dump, save and raise children. We counsel and clothe, support and serve and strive to be a voice for the voiceless. These are things people honor most and love to hear about. Yet I was hit with the most profound revelation at breakfast the other day. I realized that my perception of the poor dump people I once pitied from my prior, presumptuously, prideful place of material superiority had changed. I realized that I have come to see them as equals, people who were no different and perhaps even superior in some ways to me. I can’t explain it or provide any rational or apologetic argument for it because it was a deeply spiritual experience. Perhaps I am getting closer to understanding Mother Teresa when she said, “we serve the poor knowing that they will rule over us.” And that she always saw Jesus in the eyes of the poor and dying. I know I have already written similar things. I guess we are still in the midst of another “crossing over”. Our expectations are greater than ever now. Enantiodromia.

If you want more regular updates regarding what we do they please visit and follow us here Gray Hope Missionaries

The Paradox of Leaping


    The final uprooting of our lives on Kauai continues as we prepare to be transplanted to Honduras. Meanwhile it has become apparent that many of our friends and family are regarding us with a mixture of marvel and incredulity. Others just think we are insane. How in the world could we leave careers that we love, our family, grandchildren and friends? What kind of nut job spends their retirement on an obscure missionary school in Africa and then moves from the paradise where darn near everyone in the world dreams of visiting one day to live in a third world country with zero income? “What are you thinking?” they ask. “Aren’t you afraid?” Well, yes and no. The truth is; most of the people we know don’t have a grid for this. After all it’s basically the antithesis of the American dream.
    There is a scene in the film “The last Crusade” where Indiana Jones finds himself pinned to a cliff and faced with nowhere to go but across a bottomless chasm or down. It looks impossible and the internal battle plays itself out in his breathing and facial expressions as he closes his eyes in preparation for the inevitable plunge to his death. “It’s a leap of faith” he says as the camera zooms and freezes on his foot suspended in mid air. Then wincing, he steps or rather falls forward only to land on solid ground as a land bridge to the other side mysteriously appears. That’s a pretty fair description of how the process of becoming a full time missionary feels at times with the only difference being that Indiana Jones didn’t have the assurance and peace that comes with knowing Jesus.
    I realize the last statement might seem a bit pollyannic as we born again Christians are prone to sounding when we attempt to articulate our experiences with God. I certainly do not mean to imply that I have transcended normal human emotion and weakness or that I have all my ducks in a row. It’s just that that explaining Jesus to someone who has never encountered Jesus personally is like trying to explain a double rainbow over mountains in Hawai`i to a blind Eskimo in the Arctic. Why in the world should he believe you. Believe me I know.
    You see I didn’t grow up in the church and I didn’t like Christians when I was young. In fact I persecuted them more than any atheist I’ve ever known until I finally met Jesus at the barrel of a shotgun and landed in jail. Instead I struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for over 20 years. I basically tried everything you can think of to get clean all the while struggling to maintain a facade of functionality that was finally torn away in an instant. I was in a blind drunken rage and definitely not looking for Jesus when I charged a guy with shot gun all the while screaming “shoot me!” All I know for certain is that he fired. I saw a blinding white flash of light and a thought that was more like a voice roared through my mind “this is the last time!” The deeper implications of those words are too much to cover here but suffice it to say that I did not get shot even though he fired at point blank range and I never had a desire for a drink or a drug again. My point here is that I am not special in any worldly sort of way. I know where I came from and I know where I have been. I know that I know within the depths of my soul that everything I am, have and have achieved since that last drunken day has happened in spite of me and not because of me. 
    But that’s not all. I have other problems too. In fact I have an orphan spirit that periodically rises up within me. I am ashamed of it. Missionaries are not supposed to have it. If you mention it, I will almost always deny it. But it’s there. It is rooted in a time filled with rejection and abandonment. It manifests as a voice that says “don’t you dare ask for…you are a burden; a loser and everything you touch turns to $#@!” It is a mindset rooted in a lie that is itself the root of addiction, poverty and failure. It forever declares that God won’t provide even though He always has. It is a proverbial “thing” that pins me to a wall like Indiana Jones with nothing left to do but take the next step or die. It is something that must be confronted with faith and the revelation of my true identity as a son of the Most High God even though I might FEEL paralyzed with fear. In the end it is the actions we take often in spite of what we are thinking and feeling that determines what we actually believe. Jesus said to “seek first the Kingdom of God and all His righteousness and all these things will be added onto you” Mat 6:33. He did not say to get all your ducks in row before you go. Remembering our previous steps of faith as we overcome fear within the context of obedience to the call of God can require a serious leap yet it is also the source of paradoxical provision. 
    I suppose I could write a more flowery, testimony of faith filled with inspiring prophetic poetry. Honestly I’m still pretty rough around the edges. I also recently read that the top reasons people are turned off by Christianity is that they feel shunned by Christians who seem fake and act like they don’t have any problems. That’s not to say that all Christians are fakes only that the rule of approach determines response is always in play. My audience is often composed of people who are completely turned off by the church. So sometimes it’s best to just keep it real. Apparently the Apostle Paul thought so too. (2 Cor 11:30) 
    At the end of the day I’m not much different from you. I’m certainly not better because I’m going to live in third world country. If anything I’m probably worse. I just happen to be blessed with the knowledge of my need, that God’s miracles in my life have been the result my most glaring weaknesses and that my Father’s blessings for me in spite of me are proof of His great and abounding love for me. I’ve found freedom in gratitude and obedience beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve found peace in the midst of turmoil, His strength in my weakness, provision in poverty. I know there will be bumps in the road. I know there will be days when I want to quit. Heck I might even die. Even so, I fully expect that in writing this; I am laying the foundation for a powerful testimony of God’s guidance, provision and miracles in our mission one day. It is in losing our life that we will gain it. Mat 10:39.
    Taken in its most literal form, the missionary walk is as fantastically paradoxical as it is adventurous. It requires ridiculous supernatural assurance and trust that transcends discursive thought and emotion and makes absolutely no sense in the natural until after we take the leap; a leap of faith that gets a little easier each time we leap. I highly recommend it. But only leap to where you are called.

Anatomy Of The Call

We purchased this charcoal drawing  from a Sudanese Refugee during a Power and Love conference in 2010.  It depicts Sudanese Children awaiting a visit from an unnamed  U.S. congressman who they thought was going to save them and never showed.

People need redemption.  Even renowned atheist Mathew Parris, understood this when after returning from a visit to his boyhood home of Malawi he stated:

“I have come to a conclusion that staggers me.  The impact of the missionaries with their message of Jesus Christ with its redemptive foundation seems to be the only thing that has effectively worked in order to change the hearts of some against the other in their antipathy and hostility towards one another – the redemptive aspect seems indispensable to the transformation of this. I find myself surprising myself in having to the say this.”  “I truly believe Africa needs God”.

Christians understand this.  The book of Romans says that atheists do too.  The hunger of one’s heart must change before anything else will. It needs to change in Africa, in the Americas and everywhere else in the world.
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People need Jesus and the fullness of  Holy Spirit. They need people to carry the message of their testimony. They need people to teach them and give them hope; people who will love them. In fact people need love more than anything else.  This is true regardless if one is living in a mansion in Beverly Hills or a card board box at a dump.  As it happens God is calling us into the dumps right now.  Who knows; he might even call us into Beverly Hills one day.

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But people also need to eat.   They need a place to live and rest, to work, to earn a living, to create, and communicate. People need a place to study and learn, a place to come together to worship and soak in the presence of God, a place that is safe and accommodating with the potential to expand; a place where anything and everything good can be done. A place that influences the surrounding culture with the love of God until the love of God becomes the culture.

Now we are going to Honduras. “Why Honduras ?” you ask.  Well I guess I could give you a monologue about why the 2nd or 3rd poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere needs our help more than the wealthiest; how helping the 3rd world to prosper solves issues like illegal immigration and makes the world a safer place as a whole. I guess I could rant about how the first world has heard the gospel message time and time again only to reject it.  But that’s really not it at all.  “Ok then why Honduras and not South Sudan?”.  Read on.

Cathy and I have testimonies galore of how God has spoken to us over the years. Suffice it to say that one of us usually senses a decision or a change needs to be made, then prays and gets a word or an answer. The other does the same often without knowing what the other is thinking or doing. It’s pretty amazing when we finally talk and find that we are both thinking about the same thing.  When we both get the same word or answer we act.  If we don’t then we wait.

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There were so many times over the years when we wanted to abandon what frequently felt like a fruitless ministry to inmates and addicts. Even so God had more for us to learn and every time the word was a resounding “no”.  Until last year that is when we both clearly knew that it was time to go to the nations.

Our plan was to move to Honduras in December of 2016.  Yet the Bible clearly states in Proverbs that we might make our plans but the Lord directs our steps.

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One day in September Cathy was on her usual prayer walk listening to a podcast as she was accustomed.  This one featured Rolland Baker on “IRIS AFTER HOURS” She then returned home and adamantly stated that “We can’t go yet. God has a work to do in our hearts.”
I listened to the same podcast; Google searched IRIS Global and learned about the Harvest School.  I then heard myself saying “honey they have a school. I think we are supposed to go.” “Really?” she asked. She didn’t tell me she’d already heard the same thing in her heart.  “Yes!” I said. “Let’s do it! The rest is history much of which you can read about on our previous WordPress blog posts.

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Africa was amazing and the need there was seemingly even more profound than in Central America. We thought we might not be going to back to Honduras after all. But we prayed. We asked God to show us both individually and together exactly what our next step should be. At one point while in a South Sudanese refugee camp in northern Uganda we thought for sure that God would call us there instead.  Yet by the end of three months the message was clear.
We were to return to Honduras as originally planned.

I’d like to say I know for sure why aside from loving our friends, God has us going back to Honduras; that we will be ones who bring the City of Refuge model to Africa one day. That would be very neat indeed. But that would also be several steps ahead. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about walking with God it’s that thinking about the second step while still engaged in the first frequently results in a fall.

Some might disagree but for us the anatomy of a call has more to do with “who” is calling and “when” we should go than it does with where, what, and how. That’s how faith works.  At the end of the day I’d rather be in the will of God under machine gun fire than apart from it on a beach in paradise.  That doesn’t mean some are not called to a beach in paradise.  Some are called to go.  Some are called to support those who go.

IRIS has the motto that “Love looks like something.”  It’s more than just an idea to them.  We would agree. Many people would say that going to Refugee camps in Africa looks more like love than does going to Honduras.  Right now, for us, love looks like a City. But it’s only because God has called us there. It’s kind of exciting that while we are pretty clear on the “what” and “how”; we don’t yet know the full story of “why”.  This is the anatomy of our call.

 

Post Note:

I realize the “S” word causes many discomfort and we do need support. But please apply the main lesson in this blog and only give what, where and when God calls you to.

Please don’t stop following us and praying for us simply because you are afraid we are going to bug you for money.  We won’t.  Giving should be regarded as an opportunity.  It should never be done out of compulsion.

If you would like to support us then please visit the Join Us Page on our web site grayhope.com

God Bless,

Brian and Cathy.

 

 

Moving to Weebly

img_2442Well it’s  official.  Our business, Gray Hope Productions on Kauai is now a thing of the past.  

We are now Gray Hope Missionaries on all fronts.  

We used WordPress while we were in Africa.

But now we are moving to Honduras and our blog is moving to our reconfigured website at

 http://www.grayhope.com/

Click on this link to check out our latest blog post

“The Anatomy of a Call”  

and then subscribe via Weebly.

We are moving at the end of February.   We’d love to stay in touch so please follow us.

Love and God bless,

Brian and Cathy

Growing Down in Uganda

It’s December 30th 2016 and we are boarding a plane from Amsterdam to NY. After three months in Africa we just spent four hours in an airport with wall to wall fine food, perfume and jewelry stores. There are coffee and candy and Tulip stores. There are liquor stores and clothing stores and cheese stores galore filled with Gouda blocks and Cheddar blocks the size of your head. There’s a place to take shower and a place to take a nap. There are toilets that flush with actual seats in private stalls with toilet paper mounted on painted walls. There are sinks that work, soap dispensers with soap and paper towel dispensers with paper towels. There is even a ventilated, glass room where smokers can smoke and one wall is made out of Heineken beer. 


We walked for a while just seeing the sites before stopping for breakfast. We found a Dutch stand and ordered gourmet coffee and muffins, the cost of which would feed a Mozambiquen family of four for week but who’s judging; right? I contemplated the mass of people in the Rhino refugee camp without water or food all the while sipping my espresso and swallowing the succulent cake. I wondered and prayed as I chewed, if the South Sudanese children we met in the camp and two babies in particular, were still alive and if it was wrong to be at peace with my own powerlessness apart from prayer. After all  wasn’t it Jesus who said the poor would always be with us? 


Boarding is nearly complete now and the stewardess is passing out earphones while passengers scroll through inflight entertainment options in search of something to take their minds off the indomitable task of sitting for hours in a cushioned seat that reclines. I just heard the “F-Word” for the very first time in three months. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I jumped in my seat even though the teenager behind me had employed it as a simple conjunction in an otherwise normal sentence. What am I feeling right now? I think ambivalent might be the word. I do believe our reentry process is officially under way.  


We have experienced a lot in the last three months and there’s lots to unpack. In case you didn’t know I’m starting to unpack right now and right here. So please excuse the seemingly disjointed thoughts as I write. Unpacking is rarely as sequential and organized as packing. Not to mention that some or all of the laundry might be, shall we say, less than clean. But as Papa Rolland Baker says, things are not always as they first appear, sometimes the answer is not “yes or no” but “yes and no” and the Kingdom of Heaven is upside down. 


 But I digress. 

We have experienced a lot in the last three months. Our team saw blind eyes open, the deaf hear, the lame walk and children doomed to die live. We have lived in a refugee camp and deep in the bush, preached the gospel to leaders and those in prison. We saw the miraculous multiplication of food. We have seen people come to Jesus in droves. 


We hugged  little Muslim children who threw rocks at us. We have helped to start businesses, plant a church, rescue orphans, pay for job training, taught videography to children, fixed a wheel chair, bought a wheel chair and put a new roof on a wheel chair ridden guy’s house. We saw machine-gun fire interrupted and countless lives saved when the machine gun miraculously broke in half. We helped save a baby, named a baby, furnished a nursery and handed out more soccer balls, bread rolls, cookies and flip-flops than we can possibly count. I have laughed and cried more and harder than ever before and sometimes simultaneously. In fact I sobbed so hard one day when Heidi taught that I literally thought I might die. There were other days when I was angrier and more frustrated than I have been in years. Still we have seen more of the world and built more relationships within more cultures in the last three months than we have in all of our previous fifty plus years. Yei God!! Yet missions is deeper than simply giving, building and doing things. I know it but can I explain it as I unpack? 

God really started a work in me, in us during Harvest School. We knew he would. That’s why we went. It was during our final outreach to South Sudanese refugees when an important part of that work finally came to a head.  


Nothing about the final leg of our African adventure had worked out as expected. I had planned to be a part of a proverbial Holy Spirit Calvary dodging bullets and ministering to child soldiers in a South Sudanese war zone. Instead I ended up wrapping Christmas gifts for 117 South Sudanese orphans in Uganda. 


Sure we taught a few kids how to shoot video.

 But I spent the rest of my time sitting with, hugging, singing and dancing with traumatized children to a point where I was starting to feel more like Mary Poppins than the Machine Gun preacher. But enough about me. 
The truth is these South Sudanese refugee children are by far the most patient, humble, gentle, forgiving, loving and spirit filled human beings I have encountered any where this side of heaven. It would have been entirely worth the trip if all we ever did was hear them worship and pray.  They have given up everything; parents, homes, friends and families to narrowly escape from a civil war with their lives and the shirts on their backs. And yet they have purposed in their hearts to forgive those who harmed them. Their one desire is for peace; peace in their country and peace in their hearts. They are incredibly resilient and independent. The older children care for the younger ones. They take turns doing laundry by hand as well as the other chores such as cooking and cleaning. They never need to be asked or supervised. They lead worship on their own. They compose skits and dances and teachings from the Bible on their own. Many times there was literally nothing for us to do on such a short term basis. So we sang songs with them and we danced with them. We laughed and played soccer with them. We ate food they cooked for us and celebrated Christmas with them. Yes we bought them a crazy amount of crazy gifts

 

as we westerners are prone to do.  

Even so we were not the proverbial calvary we had imagined ourselves to be. We were still students being taught and ministered to by those whom Jesus said we must become like. 


We were and are undone. 
Luckily we were able to do at least one thing that had a concrete impact. Sort of… I guess… Several of the kids at the orphanage are in their late teens and early twenties which means raging hormones create a need for discipleship specifically in the area of dating and marriage. 
One strength in this situation was that South Sudanese culture is quite prohibitive when it comes to public displays of affection even between a husband and wife. Therefore in a effort to honor the culture and avoid becoming a stumbling block Cathy and I intentionally maintained a respectable distance from one another when we were in public. Then the team scheduled some times whereby some of the married couples could speak into the lives of the teens regarding the topic of relationships and the opposite sex. However Cathy and I did not participate in these. We assumed (perhaps wrongly) that we were either too old and or our sorted pasts that included divorce might further complicate an already potentially confusing cross cultural topic. 


Ironically by the end of the outreach the kids reported being more impacted by our marriage than by anything else we said or did. They said they saw that Cathy and I “loved each other so much, always cared for one another, worked together and always had one another’s backs.” They said they want what we have one day. The Lord used our presence and who we are in Him to teach the very thing we purposed not to teach. After all marriage is supposed to be the model of Christ’s relationship with His Church. We got out of His way and He shined through us in spite of us. Yei God.

  
So what is the lesson in all of this? Well it will probably change a bit as I continue to unpack but maybe the point for today is the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God. Things are often not as they first appear and the deeper things of God are often only found within the smaller things of the world. 


We came to Africa to grow up, to have God do a work in our hearts, to mature in Christ so we could do more in Christ. Ironically we became less and in that less we became more. What we did accomplished we accomplished through our being and not our doing. 
It seems to me that Mighty Oaks of righteousness and any other tree for that matter all have one thing in common. They grow in two directions or they don’t grow at all. They also grow down first in order to form the root system needed to sustain them as they reach toward heaven. It’s worth thinking about as some of you endeavor to make America great again.
God willing we aren’t done. In fact we are just getting started. We still plan to do a lot of things and help a lot more people. We came to Africa and the Harvest School to learn. We came to stop for the one. We came to know Him better, to commit ourselves to becoming love, to operate out of intimacy with God and our identity in Him instead of the the normal life sucking striving of the secular world. We came to learn how to give what the world needs. We came to learn what love looks like.
People are not starving because others prosper and being rich does not make someone bad any more than being poor makes someone good. The state of the world is as it is because people don’t know Jesus. People don’t know their creator. As a result they don’t know themselves. It is simple but it’s deep. It’s deeper than we knew. It’s deeper than we know now. I realize some of you will not accept this. That’s ok. I won’t argue the point. I promise.  

Ultimately we came to Africa to offer our hands in compassion and were imparted the simplicity and love of a child. We came to grow and we did. We grew down in Uganda. 

I AM SHAMSI


It’s hard to believe our time in Mozambique is drawing to an end. The lesson has been so very simple but how in the world will we ever explain something that runs so contrary to normal Western values and thinking namely that as Surprise Sithole says, “relationship is more important than hard working”. The Mozambiquens understand it because as one youth explained “We live in a place where you can get sick at any time and be dead in a just few days.” 
The village of Namoto sits peacefully on the shores of the Ruvuma river about four kilometers from the Tanzania border. “Namoto” actually means fire and was the site for one of our “Bush Bush” outreaches. 
After ten and half hours on the road we finally arrived at the village of Namoto. There is no electricity there and the village was already asleep except for a 13 year old boy named Shamsi who stepped out of the dark to greet Cathy and me. Shamsi spoke Swahili and a just few words of English so it took some time for us to learn that Shamsi had recently fled his family of “another faith” in Tanzania to arrive barefoot and penniless in Namoto on the very day we met. Apparently his mother had recently died, his father was missing in action and he feared for his life. Several people did not trust Shamsi because his story seemed to change each time he told it. This was reason enough in the minds of many not to help him. But Shamsi would not leave Cathy’s side. Shamsi wanted a mamma and Cathy was the chosen one. Later the next day we went deeper into the village to invite people to the IRIS Jesus Film we would be showing that night. Shamsi witnessed a young man receive Jesus in Swahili and a he asked to receive Him as well. Everything seemed to be going really well. The only problem was that Shamsi was an illegal alien minor with absolutely no documents. This could mean prison for Shamsi and anyone harboring him if he were caught by Mozambiquen police. Shamsi was in effect a proverbial “hot potato” that no one wanted to touch. Everyone in authority within the village was completely freaked out and afraid they would be jailed for child trafficking. But later that night we met with the head pastor in the village. We squatted in a circle for about an hour while the pastor drew in the sand and told stories of how he had helped boys in similar situations. He assured us that he had favor with the local authorities and it would be “no problem” for him to take Shamsi in to live with him. Problem solved. Yay God! 
The next morning we jumped on the truck for the 10 hour drive back to Pemba. We had travelled about 5 miles when Shamsi suddenly emerged from the bushes and began running after our truck. Our hearts sank. Luckily another vehicle carrying a Swahili speaking pastor from Tanzania was close behind. They stopped and the pastor reexplained the plan to Shamsi before sending him back to the village. Obviously the language barrier had clouded Shamsi’s previous understanding but now everything would be fine. Problem solved. We returned to the IRIS base in Pemba and I gave a brief testimony regarding our awesomely successful experience of “Stopping for the one”. Yay God.
About a week later Shamsi showed up at the Pemba gate just as we were returning from visiting a family in the outlying village. He had walked/ hitchhiked for four days to find Cathy and me. We got him some food and water and not knowing what else to do, I brought the situation to the attention of the IRIS staff. They freaked out for the same reason that the Namoto village leaders had. “Is he impaired?” They asked as they organized Shamsi’s departure alone by bus back to Namoto. I could see the anger in Shamsi’s eyes. “That’s not going to work. He’s gonna bolt.” Cathy told them. “Don’t worry. He won’t bolt” a staff member replied.
The next morning Shamsi was outside our door, hungry and smiling and looking for breakfast. So we fed him our morning ration of bread rolls and brought him to church thinking it would be best to just take him straight to Heidi. After all she was the author of stopping for the one. Surely she would lay her life down and help this boy who had just come into the kingdom. “What? Who invited him here? How did he get the address? “Beats me” I said, “I don’t speak Swahili.” You’d better pray!” she said as I knelt beside her trying in vain to explain the situation. “We are in a lot of trouble! They could charge us with child trafficking, shut this whole base down and take us all to jail.” There I knelt, face to face with one of my all time spiritual heroes on the planet second only to Mother Teresa and Jesus himself, having “stopped for the one” and possibly destroying everything she and Rolland had given their lives lives too.
Ain’t missions fun. Yay God.

As Heidi likes to say, there are two reasons for being persecuted in the body of Christ. One is for the sake of righteousness and one is for stupidity. I have a lot more experience with the later. Needless to say I wasn’t feeling particularly righteous at that moment. I was kindly asked to remove myself from the situation while they investigated. Then the Harvest School staff obtained police permission to escort Shamsi back to Namoto. Where is Shamsi now? I have no idea. In fact he could be walking back to Pemba as I write. “This is pitiful!” you say. “Why are you even telling me this?” Bear with me.
To be honest I was angry. I was offended and disillusioned with Heidi and IRIS as a whole. Then I finished my tantrum. Did I really expect the IRIS staff to go to jail, to forfeit the current and future welfare of tens of thousands of people for the sake of one 13 year old boy? What would I say to them; “Sorry but you all have to go to jail and or die so we can help this one boy who couldn’t follow directions”? 
The reality in this life is that saying “yes” to the one usually means saying “no” to another. That we need to choose in the first place is a result of our choices not His. I was suddenly confronted with my own propensity to sit in judgment, positively and negatively, of all creation and subsequently upon God Himself. I realized that every time I am angry, depressed, offended or disillusioned, every time I slip into self-centeredness; every time I covet an alternative reality to what God has created I am actually condemning God. Gulp…
Instead of focusing on the character of God and acknowledging that his ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts; I judge God and others according to current circumstances when I should be judging both according to the character of God who is good and seeing Jesus in everyone. 
How easily I forget where I came from, that I am where I am today because of His mercy that so frequently manifested as pain in my life. God is good and He is by definition love. That means His “yes” is love and so is His “no”. 
We live in a universe that is literally composed of relationships. Believe it or not the goal is not to feed the poor, heal the sick, help widows and orphans or anyone else for that matter. It is not about fixing people or situations. Our purpose is to simply love God. But how do I love God? Well, we feed the poor, heal the sick, help widows and orphans and anyone He puts on our hearts to help. It’s a paradox. God doesn’t need us to save the Shamsis of the world and yet He does. He’s a “yes and no” God not a dichotomous “yes or no” God. No thing or situation will ever make sense apart from an intimate relationship with Him because that relationship is the goal. Everything else is fruit. 
That is what we came here to learn or part of it anyway. That is why we quit our jobs, left our home in paradise, left our loved ones, sold our stuff, went into debt and came to a diseased and poverty stricken country literally on the other side of the world. We came to enter the fire, to have our self-centered pride, delusions and frivolous fluff burned off our souls. We came as proverbial Marthas to learn the lesson of Mary, that our lives are but a vapor and “relationship is more important than hard working”. There may be some here who’s dross is fully burned off and have fully comprehended the paradox of loving. As for me I’m still working on it. I’m still burning. I hope and pray that Shamsi is too. Because at the end of the day I am Shamsi, sincere, hard headed and wanting my own way.

Teach a Man to Fish

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Mozambique is country filled with mostly untapped oil and mineral wealth. It is also a place where nearly everyone goes hungry some of the time and many are hungry all of the time. In fact it is nearly impossible to find anyone who doesn’t know at least one person who has starved to death.


The villages outside of the IRIS base in Pemba are perfect examples of this desperation. It is no wonder that the gate outside of the Harvest School is a place where young 20 something year old men congregate to sell cheap hand made jewelry to missionaries and students from the west in hopes of simply eating that day. Not dating or playing or partying like their western peers. Just eating a bowl of rice or Shima and maybe just maybe a piece of a chicken leg. Others invent tragic stories they hope will be believed and result in some one giving them money. The stories may be fabricated but the tragedy is real. Unfortunately begging undermines the dignity of both the beggar and the giver and frequently results in resentment on the part of one or both parties particularly when the giver’s money runs out. It’s not that there is zero opportunity for economic growth in Pemba. It is simply untapped. Sometimes it is  just a matter of these young men not knowing how to access opportunity do to a lack of education, ignorance of work ethics and or how the world of business and employment works. Some simply need a leg up to get started and a few hundred American dollars can mean the difference between a life of abject poverty and the dignity that comes with being self supporting. 

It’s a bit ridiculous in my opinion if not completely insane to preach the current and popular Ephesians based “Christian identity motif” to a culture already demeaned by centuries of white colonization when a Mozambiquen man still feels the need to beg for a proverbial fish from a white man just to feed his own children. Feeding the poverty mentality within a given culture is the epitome of disrespect and not what Jesus meant when He told Peter “if you love me then feed my sheep.”  People need discipleship not just evangelism. 

When we first met Daniel he was selling Bibles to missionaries on base. I personally grabbed 25 before I realized that they were actually Gideon Bibles. I rebuked Daniel ever so gently explaining how selling Bibles that were intended to be free was not only wrong but also not good for him. “But papa” he began, “you don’t understand. I have no money to start my business and I have no money to eat. I need to do something.” “Hold on” I said “Tell me about this business.” “Papa I’m very good at cutting hair…” and he proceeded to tell me about his dream of opening a salon for both men and women in his village. (Hair salon?! I thought people were starving.  Well as it turns out  starving people are seeking dignity just like everyone else.) “I could make maybe 1500 Metacals ($20.50) per week” he said. So we proceeded to work out how much it would cost to get him started. 

As it turned out Daniel could get the required business license and build his salon for just under 600 US dollars. So he gave his remaining Bibles away and resolved to never sell one again and we started giving him money in increments. 


What began as a gamble quickly became a solid investment in Daniel’s future as he proved to be a man of his word in every way. Obviously we do not expect a financial return. That would not only be absurd but also illegal under Mozambiquen law. Our ROI comes in the form of the joy goes with helping another human being succeed and find dignity through empowerment. It is also a way to preach a Gospel that has teeth as we made it abundant clear that this was not about us.  Rather it was about the love God put in our hearts for Daniel. 


We are praying that God opens the door to similar opportunities in the future. Perhaps you’ll want to partner with us if He does. 


​​​​Be sure to check out Daniels short video https://vimeo.com/194167440