Monday, November 30, 2009

Saturday of Service- Parkview Nursing Home

Here are some photos from November 21's Saturday of Service. This group went to Parkview Nursing and Rehabilitation Home. There, they played music for residents, raked some leaves, and made crafts together. The Great Adventure kids at OHC made some wonderful tray favors and Thanksgiving pictures for decoration at Parkview.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

b'golly it's Molly

Molly Hagen's home from Cambodia for a short visit, and we had the privilege of hearing from her this morning at church. Mols could be a ccda keynoter. Her love and passion for God and Cambodia and the witness of what God is up to in! Another example for me today of how God is on the mighty move at the margins.

I jotted down some notes today from Molly's talk:

A bit about Cambodia:

- Approx. 14 million people living in Cambodia. Half the population was born after 1987.
-From '75-'78, Khmer Rouge killed 2 million Cambodians.... 1 of 7 people were killed.
- 1/3 of the nation lives on less than $1 a day.
- Only 37% adult population can read.
- There's only 1 inpatient mental hospital in the country and 20 psychiatrists.
- There are 16 doctors for every 100,000 people.
- There are at least 100,000 commercial sex workers in Cambodia.
- There are now 47 colleges in Cambodia/8,000 graduates a year.
- 95% Cambodians are not Christian.

A bit about Molly:

- At age 19, Molly went to a Youth With a Mission (YWAM) Discipleship Training School (DTS). Her DTS took her to Somoa for outreach. During this time with YWAM, Molly fell in love with God and made God the Lord of her life. She received God's call to go to Cambodia and has been there since 2002.

- Molly works on YWAM base in Battambang, Cambodia, where God is currently multiplying their staff and raising up indigenous leaders like crazy. I believe Molly said that there were 10 YWAM staff in 2006...2 being Cambodian. There are now like 45 on staff, and I counted 28 of them as indigenous leaders. Outrageous! Molly talked about the Kmai staff. Many have little education or have gone through elementary school only. Yet, God is faithfully equipping those he's calling, and there were many fantastic stories this morning of God at work as these young staff members share the Gospel and teach the Bible, start youth centers, plant churches, start coffee shops, open a home for HIV/AIDS babies, reach out to neighbors, teach farmers planting techniques, and instruct villages in basic health care.

- Molly is actively teaching health care clinics throughout the region. She showed slides this morning of clinics where she and other YWAM staff teach about sanitation, hygiene, wound care, nutrition, and as they work to help people purify their water to control water borne disease.

-Molly has caught a fire for Jesus, and she had good words for us about our calling from God. First, she quoted Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China who said, "The Great Commission isn't something to consider, it's something to obey." Go and preach the Gospel and make disciples is not an option, it's a command. Molly exhorted her listeners to let Christ lead and to passionately go where he calls us. Second, Molly talked about how God doesn't choose those who are already qualified in their own strength, but he qualifies and equips those whom He calls. She spoke about many of her Kmai staff and how God is providing and growing and using them.

All about Jesus:

I was so inspired today by Molly. She talked about how they "see a need, meet a need" in Cambodia, and as they meet people's felt needs, they share with people about the hope and life found in Christ. Pray for Molly and YWAM as they make Christ known in Cambodia so that Cambodia may know Christ.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


My husband, Mike, loves a good adventure. He's a skydiving instructor who gives tandem rides, and he's been given the opportunity and thrill this past year to jump out of hot air balloons with passengers. He even took our son, Nathan, for his first tandem skydive out of a balloon yesterday, and our daughter, Sara, got an hour long balloon ride today at 8,000 feet. She did a great job with the camera on these photos too.

This quest for adventure that Mike lives has led me recently to pull a book off my shelf that I haven't cracked open for about 8 years. It's a book that impacted me deeply though, and it addresses our heart's longing for beauty, adventure, and intimacy. The book is The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge. A few words taken from the book and workbook:

"Something calls to us through experiences like these and rouses an inconsolable longing deep within our heart, wakening in us a yearning for intimacy, beauty, and adventure. This longing is the most powerful part of any human personality. It fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive. However we may describe this deep desire, it is the most important thing about us, our heart of hearts, the passion of our life. And the voice that calls to us in this place is none other than the voice of God....

God is the One behind all the things that have ever moved our hearts. We know, for example, that the world of 'creek-side singers and pastel sunsets...the austere majesty of snowcapped mountains and the poignant flames of autumn colors' (and brilliantly colorful hot air balloons against a bright blue sky..italics mine) has all been given to draw our hearts to God."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

thank you, God

For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

For the beauty of all you've made, thank you, God.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

quote of the day

The main stimulus for the renewal of Christianity will come from the bottom and from the edge, from sectors of the Christian world that are on the margins. - Harvey Cox, Religion in the Secular City

Monday, November 23, 2009

building capacity

Ever since Bob Lupton left us with his institute teachings a week ago, I've been thinking about him challenging us to "build capacity" within people and organizations. Development work is about building capacity, and building capacity will require relationship.

I served with my daughter on Saturday at Main Street Waterloo. While she and I were working to change out light bulbs on the big wreaths displayed on 4th Street, I found myself having conversation with a man who works on the design team for Main Street Waterloo. He asked me what I thought about the improvements downtown, and I told him that I really loved the brilliant magenta flower baskets that hung off the street lights all summer. The gentleman told me that it actually takes water everyday to keep them so vibrant, and that they pay an employee 4 hours daily to water them. I inquired if a job like that is ever given to someone who is under-resourced, and he replied that the person, of course, needs to be reliable, and that Main Street has learned some by trial and error with their hiring practices.

This conversation made me consider some questions. How many jobs are out there with easily attainable job skills that would offer work to those in poverty who need work? How can we connect these jobs and people? How can we work with people and walk with the under-resourced to help them become reliable, dependable workers and to grow in responsibility and excellence, relational intelligence, etc... Is there a way to become a liason between the job place and the employee to help improve the chances of success for the employee?

All of this would be relational work, but I haven't found an answer for development that isn't. And it's hard work that is not guaranteed. I have tried to do some of this in a relationship that I'm involved in, and my friend ended up not showing up for work several times and losing the job anyway.

All this to say that I just think there's no easy formula and that development work is going to require people getting involved with people. Programs won't transform...they might provide a structure or a resource that is helpful, but it will be life on life that will help a person build their capacity over time. I've discovered that the only thing I think is guaranteed is that it will be a messy journey. I only have to look at the areas of my life where I desire "capacity building" and change to recognize the familiar zigzag pattern in a life.

So, is there a hopeful word at the end of this post? Yes, two. Jesus. Thanks be to God for His good news of rescue and redemption and grace and lifechanging power through Jesus. And people. Thanks to people who are hard at the work of mentoring and sharing in life with people who need this this kind of a hand up.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Concluding Challenges for the Heart '09

Well, we're wrapping up the series of Challenges for the Heart at Orchard Hill. What has God been teaching you as we've focused these past three weeks on "becoming a good Samaritan"?

I'd love for you to comment on how your heart and mind and life may have been challenged.

Certainly, asking God to grow our hearts and lives in compassion isn't something we'll now shelve until Challenges for the Heart '10, so my prayer is that God will continue us along this adventure of compassion together so that the world will better know the love of Jesus, and so that we might all truly be reconciled and made whole through Christ.

This blog will continue along with some musings along the missional way. Feel free to continue reading along...and I love company, so please join in the conversation and share your thoughts as well!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday of Service-Grout Museum

Saturday of Service- Habitat

One of the service opportunities today was to help a new homeowner paint at her Habitat home that is in progress. Looks like everybody got a lot of good work done!

Saturday of Service

For our last day of the Challenges for the Heart series at Orchard Hill, we invited people into our community to serve for a morning. It also happened to coincide nicely with National Family Volunteer Day.
In the first two photos, Laura and Sara Hoy helped change all burned out bulbs on the wreaths that will be put up in downtown Waterloo for the Christmas season. Next, Marcia and Vern Hansen stand next to Cindy who works at Main Street Waterloo, and Jose, a fellow volunteer, right before heading out to pick up trash in the downtown area.
Lastly, the group posing by the Christmas tree volunteered at Alternatives Crisis Pregnancy Center. They spent the morning cleaning and decorating the center for Christmas.
What a great way to get to know more about our community and get to know people...all while helping to serve a person or organization!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

increasing violence

Violent episodes have increased leaps and bounds in the past seven or eight months in Waterloo. Yesterday, a friend was subbing in a preschool on the campus of the former Longfellow Elementary, when she found herself herding children into the classroom for a lock-down because just outside on surrounding streets there was an armed robbery, suspects on foot in the area, and a police car being rammed by one of the suspects that then resulted in the driver being shot by police. All of this at 11:00 a.m.

A few days ago, a person was critically beaten by a hammer inside a local Kwik Star at 3:20 p.m.
Reports of shootings are becoming commonplace. Fear in the community is on the rise. And the fear is found in many starts in the young people who are growing up and turning to violence. Broken homes and hopes, voids in life that are filled with gangs and violence. Fear in family members who see their kin out of control. Fear in those who live in highly targeted areas. Fear in businesses. Fear in the police officers. Fear and frustration in the court systems. Fear in the outlying and suburban populations.

How do we face fear? With faith. So in faith, God, we pray, as the circumstances of this age require "only God can" sized faith. Only God can redeem lives from the pit. Only God can change hearts and turn around lives. Only God can move in a mighty way to take back His streets. Only God's love can melt the heart and life of one whose heart has grown hard. Only God can protect. Only God can heal His city. Only God. So, we pray, God, for you to make whole your city. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done. We pray your covering. And we pray as people who have faith in your glory and your power that we might move out in love and courage to be your salt and light amidst the brokenness.

living in the questions


I have to say that the past few years for me have been filled with questions. I don't know if I've ever remembered considering so many questions before. And I'm discovering that this has been good for me...the questions themselves are really important and help me consider the deeper nature of get beyond the "software" to the foundational "hardware" of things.

I had a great conversation this morning with a UNI student who is doing a Nonprofit practicum. She interviewed me and had the most amazing set of questions. I asked her for a copy of them because the conversations and dialogue around these questions are positively critical for the mission of Christ's Church. Check out her questions and maybe live in some of them for awhile!

In your opinion, how is the Church called to serve each other and people outside of the church? In what ways?

How do you see your role in that calling?

How is the Church fulfilling that calling well?

What services does the Church provide well for their communities? What populations does the church serve well? Why this success?

In what ways is the Church struggling to fulfill that calling?

What populations would you consider underserved by the Church? Who does the Church have a difficult time reaching out to? Why? What will fix it? What services does the Church need to focus on?

How are services provided by Christian organizations different than those provided by secular organizations? What sets them apart?

What does it take for people's physical, emotional, and spiritual needs to be fulfilled and hurting people's lives to be bettered? What things need to be present in order for effective ministry to take place?

Relief...individual development...structural development. How do the efforts of churches and Christian nonprofits fit into these categories? Which are most effective? Which are most important? Are any of them neglected? What prevents them from fulfilling all of these?

How do you find out the needs of the people you are serving?

What are the biggest obstacles churches/nonprofits face in meeting people's needs?

What would increase the quality and quantity of services churches and nonprofits are able to provide?

How do collaborations impact the effectiveness of these ministries?

How have churches/nonprofits evolved in the ways they provide ministries and services? What changes/movements are you seeing right now and would you predict for the future?

What are some of the most important changes you wish to see in the Church in terms of serving each others' needs?

Wow, thanks, Rachel, for asking such important questions. I believe the power of the Gospel of Jesus to reconcile people to God and one to another will manifest in mighty ways if His Church will live into these questions and live out the Gospel in word and deed with our neighbors.

Love in the Name of Christ

I participated in my second board meeting for Love INC, a non-profit that is getting off the ground in the Cedar Valley.

Love INC's mission is to mobilize the Church to transform lives and communities in the Name of Christ. Love INC is a structure that is helping churches collaborate, engage, and work with existing agencies to wholistically address needs of people in our community.

The Board and Development committee is currently vision casting and raising support to hire an executive director for the non-profit.

Check out to learn more about this important church ministry network!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2 Corinthians 5:14-20

Today's "Live out compassion" challenge is to read this verse twice. What stands out to you as you read it?

"For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, anyone who is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God."

Any thoughts about this passage?

how big is our God?

This seems to be the question of my week. First of all, I've been reading a few books that speak directly to the power of God at work in our world today. Both books, The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch and Living Water by Brother Yun speak of the signs and wonders of God in this age when Christ's disciples are living fully surrendered and being led by the Spirit of God.

The second encounter I had with this question was this morning in a meeting, when Habakkuk 3:2 was read... "Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy." Our God is a big God! He parted the Red Sea, He raised Jesus from the dead, He changed my life, and I'm meeting people all the time who are having radical encounters with God.

The third encounter was a Bible Study I went to today entitled, "How Big is our God?" with a room full of many people whose lives have been redeemed by Jesus from years of addiction and abuse.

Excellent reminders for me today that God is indeed BIG and ALIVE and POWERFUL and IN OUR MIDST.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

no more mud puddles

"If you want to build a ship, don't summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs, and organize the work, rather teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"A great deal more failure is the result of an excess of caution than of bold experimentation with new ideas. The frontiers of the kingdom of God were never advanced by men and women of caution." - J. Oswald Chambers

These quotes speak to me about the need to inspire such a vision of living in the waters of the Kingdom that we comfortable and scared folks will risk our comfort and convenience, our security and safety to venture out into the deep.

I do not wish to live a Christian life where little is seen of the power of God, where life looks much the same as it does for people outside of faith, where there is no expectation for the mighty work of the Holy Spirit. Don't you long for the adventure that Jesus is calling us to? I know that I do, but I also recognize the battle to let go of that which I grasp. Might I trust God enough to begin to let go? The more I experience and taste and see that God is good, the more I am willing to let go bit by bit. I am sure grateful for the community God is forming around me that helps me step out in courage and faith!

(The quotes above remind me of something written by C.S. Lewis about how we are offered a vacation at sea, but we grow content to sit and play in a mud puddle instead.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Alvin Bibbs

Alvin Bibbs, director of multi-cultural church relations for Willow Creek Association, was with us at Orchard Hill this weekend. What a great weekend. On Saturday, Alvin conducted an institute called "Suburban-Urban Partnerships". This day was filled with teaching about how to begin to mobilize our church campus in compassionate engagement and how to begin to step into partnerships that take us across socio-economic and cultural lines in ways that will glorify God and transform communities.
Alvin then preached at OHC yesterday. A historic day for Orchard. Though JeanJean, our Haitian partner, taught from the OHC stage a year ago, we've never had an African-American take the stage and teach our congregation. God is up to something real good! Thanks, Alvin, for inspiring and challenging our congregation to step out of our comfort zones and follow the Spirit of God into the world!

Friday, November 13, 2009


We had the privilege today of having Robert Lupton with us for a seven hour CCDA institute called "Empowerment". It was a tremendous day of learning with a great mix in the room representing over 14 ministries/churches and 1 seminary.

Some powerful summarizing questions and statements that I walked away with are:

* Good questions for churches to ask: Are we having a redemptive influence on our community? How are we impacting the neighborhood? Do we believe we have a Gospel big enough to change neighborhoods?

* One way giving...the provider-recipient model- gives the subtle message of "you have nothing of value for me." It slowly but surely erodes human dignity.

* When we think about giving gifts to the under-resourced at Christmastime, can we think about giving the gift of dignity to the parents? By giving free gifts, we can heap shame on parents for not being able to provide for their children. (one alternative idea is to ask people to give toys to a "Toy Store" and then put a tremendously discounted price on the toys and allow parents to shop, choose, purchase, and wrap gifts for their children).

* We need to dream and think creatively about how to create a system of exchange with people.

* We must move from betterment (improves conditions) to development (builds capacity) of people and communities.

* When asked how Bob stays in he continues with joy and not burn out...Bob responded, "I just try to enjoy people, not fix them. I look to see the image of God in everyone."

What an inspiring day! Though the path ahead is somewhat fuzzy and as Bob says, "frought with danger," I've not been more alive to what the Spirit is doing in our midst! Thanks be to God for His faithfulness, power, and goodness!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

thank you, God

how has God shown His compassion to me?

"Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin...." Exodus 34:5-6

"But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:3-8

Thank you, God, for your great compassion shown me in Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

katie loves Jesus. katie loves his kids.

A few friends have directed me to a website that tells the story of a young woman who is a testimony of an ordinary radical for Jesus in Africa. You must check out Katie's blog at:

Read at least the first entry you see. I don't think you'll be able to stop...

a few quotes for today

"The spontaneous expansion of the Church reduced to its elements is a very simple thing. It asks for no elaborate organization, no large finances, no great numbers of paid missionaries. In its beginning it may be the work of one man, and that a man neither of learned things of this world, nor rich in the wealth of this world...what is necessary is faith. What is needed is the kind of faith which, uniting a man to Christ, sets him on fire." - Roland Allen The Compulsion of the Spirit

"We can only live the changes: we cannot think our way to humanity. Every one of us, every group, must become the model of that which we desire to create." - Ivan Illich

"The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief. - T.S. Eliot

1,086 kitchen items

So, part of today's challenge said that the average American possesses 10,000 things. And the challenge suggested counting possessions in one room. This morning, I walked systematically through my kitchen and listed all items which included things like 39 magnets on the fridge, 56 small spice containers on a spice rack, 44 glasses and cups, around 150 magic markers in a school supply cupboard under the cereal cupboard, 10 frozen rotten bananas in the freezer, etc. I counted plates, silverware, utensils, junk drawer items, canned goods, fridge items, you name it. 1,086 things. As I considered our basement, our crawl space, our garage, our clothes closets, my daughter's room full of stuffed animals and books and polly pockets and miniatures, I am quite certain that our family is far above the average of 10,000 items.

Instantly, my mind went to two places: The first being the AIDS Village last year, where we'd walk through a simulated path of a child's life and maybe found a bed, a chair, a bowl, a dress. I imagine you could count the possessions of most third world families in less than 10 minutes.

My other memory was of the time when my husband and I lived on the island of Guam for two years. We basically shipped over things we would need and used about everything we had in that apartment. It was simple. Maintenance was very minimal. And we also offered more hospitality and had more community in that place than I can remember in any other time of our married life.

I'm struck by the amount of resources we tie up....time and energy and our home lives and the amount of maintenance that keeps us from out-reaching, from building community and deepening friendships, from seeking justice in the world. Recognizing this, and recognizing the one life we have here, I am challenged to evaluate how much of what we have and do is actually ruled by the Lordship of Jesus in my much has eternal significance....and what is it that has really produced the most joy and and Christ-centered adventure and fulfillment in the days I'm living out here on earth?

My prayer today: Jesus, help us to see how we might free up more time, money, mental space, and energy for the Kingdom adventure you call our family to. Help us not to only see, but to experience the joy of the Lord in obedience. Give us your vision and passion and love for your people in the world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bob Lupton quotes

We are so excited to have Robert Lupton with us Friday. His book Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life has rocked my thinking of how to minister among the poor. I'll include a few quotes from Bob's book:

Betterment to development....

"A relationship founded on one's giving and the other's need never yields healthy outcomes. Even raising our own children teaches us that independence is the course toward which we must steer them if they are to become healthy, responsible, adults. Love toward our children that does not require responsibility is pathological. It is no different in loving the poor.

If we are to rightly care for those in need, the responsibility lies with those with the resources to create systems of exchange built on interdependency rather than dependency. Though our hearts have compelled us to begin with compassionate betterment activities, we must engage our minds to move toward development. Benevolence funds become job banks. Clothes closets become thrift stores. Food pantries become food co-ops.

We get out of the business of giving away. We start using oru heads as well as our hearts to build value into people and relationships- value realized only when authentic exchange occurs. Again, perhaps the greatest poverty of all is having nothing of value to offer the community. I want to believe that no one in my community is that poor."

FCS Ministries

Bob Lupton will be with us in Cedar Falls this Friday to teach us about "Empowerment". Bob founded FCS Ministries several years back. Read a few fast facts below or check out the website at

What do the initials FCS stand for?
FCS began as Family Consultation Service. Over time, its work grew from counseling urban children and families to include housing, economic development and other community development activities. Its name was officially changed to FCS Urban Ministries.

Is FCS a church-based ministry?
FCS is a community-based ministry that partners with many churches from a variety of denominations. We have also planted churches in under-served urban neighborhoods.

How are the various FCS programs related?
FCS is an incubator for urban visionaries. As visions take root they may stay within the FCS structure, incorporate separately and remain affiliated, or spin off on their own. The nine "family members" work cooperatively and are supported by the administrative center but are responsible for their own funding.

How did FCS begin?
Bob Lupton, a psychologist, began working with juvenile court referrals in 1971. He incorporated FCS as a non-profit in 1978 to provide counseling to urban families. Over time it has grown into a multi-faceted community development ministry.

How do I join FCS?
We are eager to find talented, self-starting people who are experiencing a sense of calling to use their abilities to serve among those in need in the city. Most staff raise their own support. Contact us to discuss how FCS can help you engage in front-line urban work.

Does FCS serve only in Atlanta?
Our ministry is focused primarily on four Atlanta neighborhoods. However, we do offer training and consultation to other communities and cities when requested.

How is FCS funded?
Tax-deductible donations from a broad base of churches, individuals, businesses and foundations provide support for our various ministries. Each program assumes responsibility for its own funding. Many of our staff raise their own personal support.

1 Timothy 6:17-18

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Monday, November 9, 2009

our financial standing

You can go to and type in your annual income. The website will tell you where you rank on the list of the world's wealthiest people.

Challenge for Tuesday: Keep track of every hour and dollar you invest today. Before going to bed, review your choices and ask if your life is being spent in ways that honor God and those in need around you.

book recommendation

Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life written by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas Morrison, is a rich book that I recommend for reading. It's deep, so you'd have to like a deep book, but it addresses the core of this challenging virtue. A quote to chew on...

"Jesus' whole life and mission involve accepting powerlessness and revealing in this powerlessness the limitlessness of God's love. Here, we see what compassion means. It is not a bending toward the under-privileged from a privileged position; it is not a reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary, compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there. God's compassion is total, absolute, unconditional, without reservation. It is the compassion of the one who keeps going to the most forgotten corners of the world, and who cannot rest as long as there are still human beings with tears in their eyes. It is the compassion of God who does not merely act as a servant, but who expresses the divinity of God through servanthood."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November 21 Saturday for Service

To look at options for the Saturday morning of service on November 21, click on and click on the button challenges for the heart on the home page.

Let's go and show our community that we are FOR the Cedar Valley. Let's go as servants and lovers of God and people! Four of the five opportunities are very family-friendly. What a great opportunity to help your kids become outward-focused and compassionate!

A Thousand Questions video

If you'd like to see the Thousand Question video played this morning at Orchard Hill, you can find it on this blog, posted on February 1.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Walk for Water

Around 30 friends joined together today for the Walk for Water. It was a beautiful day outside, and before we began the 2 mile walk to get water, we briefly focused on the purpose of doing it.
Reason #1: Gratitude. We often lose sight of the blessings that are abundantly ours and sometimes need a little "disrupt" to remind us of our blessings, to be grateful, and to live out of that gratitude.
Reason #2: Awareness. Becoming aware of the world's realities helps us to grow the holy dissatisfaction with what is so that we might awaken to the desire of what could be. The reality is that 1.1 billion people have no access to clean water and there are many deaths daily due to this.
Reason #3 Hope. We walk because Christ is the hope of the world, and His Church is his body here on earth. Together, his followers can bring hope to a world in need. Hope inspires creative solutions and imaginations that can bring about change!
The walk:
It was a pleasant walk to the creek that runs under South Main near Paw Park. People had a good time visiting with one another, and there was plenty of energy for the task. Under the bridge, we began to scoop water in our buckets. Water is heavy!! Eight pounds a gallon, to be precise. There was no way I could carry my five gallon bucket full due to the weight and the sloshing, so I think I may have had about 2 1/2 to 3 gallons. Sara, our ten year old, had a few gallons in her bucket, and so the group began their walk back to church. First one arm, then the other, then Sara and I tried the buckets on our heads. Then the left shoulder. Then the right shoulder. Slosh, slosh. Increasingly difficult.
Everyone made it back with some water in their buckets, but when we debriefed, we realized that for as many of us that went, we really didn't get all that much water. In fact, a few folks estimated that we had about 30 people, got about 30 gallons of water, and it took 90 minutes to get it. And here was the stunning fact: Our whole group would have had to go back and forth two more times to get a total of 90 gallons in 6 hours' order to provide the equivalent amount of water that ONE person in America uses on the average day. Oh my.
It was a very thought-provoking exercise. It was harder than I expected it to be. And to think that for many women and children, finding and transporting water consumes much of their days. We prayed for those in the struggle, we prayed that God might use His Church to be instruments of healing and help, and I pray that we walked away with just a little bit more gratitude, awareness, and hope.

Friday, November 6, 2009

water is life part 5

The last excerpt from The Hole in our Gospel written by Richard Stearns.

"A few years ago I was traveling in West Africa with Steve Hilton, head of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, one of our most faithful partners in bringing clean water to the poor. We visited a village in Northern Ghana called Gbum Gbum (pronounced boom boom). As we gathered around the borehole well tha World Vision had drilled several years earlier right next to the school, the school's headmaster told us that before the borehole he had just forty students. Now, more than four hundred children attended the school! The difference? Before the water came to Gbum Gbum, the women and children had to spend five hours each day fetching water from a waterhole several kilometers away. The would rise early, before dawn, making several trips throughout the day; they had no time or energy for school. Another man told me that before the well, children and adults alike were riddled with Guinea worm disease caused by parasitic nematodes found in contaminated water. These worms grow inside the body, sometimes up to three feet in length, and then when full-grown, burrow out through the skin, causing crippling pain and infection. Now the Guinea worms were gone.

As Steve and I continued our walk through the village, we met several dozen women working with great effort to make something called shea butter, an ingredient used in skin lotions and cosmetics, from a locally grown plant. To my amazement, they were selling this shea butter for a profit. In fact, I was told it was even being bought by Bath and Body Works- in the United States! The only thing these women needed to create this business was time and clean water, both of which were now available.

We also talked with some of the men in the community who told us that since they now had more water for irrigation, they also had improved crop yields. Then, one man said something that caused them all to laugh. Our guide, who translated for us, told us that the men also felt that the women now "smelled better," since they no longer had to fetch water all day in the hot sun. Water had transformed Gbum Gbum in every way imaginable.

I can imagine my own life without many of the so-called necessities that I have. You can take away my car and I would find a way to compensate by using public transportation or carpooling with a friend. You could take away my computer and my Internet access, my television, stereo, and radio, and I could still have a full and prosperous life. You could reduce the size of my house and my income by half, and even take away my education and I could survive and perhaps even thrive. But if you take away water and sanitation, you take away my health and that of my children. If you take away my health, you ahve taken away my energy and my industry. If you take away my energy and ability to support my family, you have taken away my dignity; and it you take away my dignity, you have taken away hope- for the future, for my children, for a better life. This is the harsh reality of the more than one billion people in the world who live without access to clean, safe water.

In Africa, they don't say that water is important to their lives; they say that water is life. It is absolutely the foundation upon which civilization and human life is built, and the best news is that we have the knowledge and the technology to provide it. All we lack is the will."

I was in prison, and you came to visit me...

"Meet" Victoria and Todd Hunemuller. Todd and Victoria are leaders at Harvest Vineyard, one of our partners. They lead music on some Sunday mornings at church, and both are active in visiting and ministering in the Black Hawk County Jail twice a month.
Both spoke yesterday during a luncheon about their calling in the past few years to those imprisoned, and how God's grace for each of them has led them to reach out in God's love and grace to share His good news with others.
Todd is also father to Megan Steffen, a member of the Orchard Hill family.

get closer

In my reading of Luke 10:25-37 today, I'm thoughtful about the wording used in the text as the three men encounter the wounded man on the side of the road.

priest-going down the same road- saw man
Levite-came to the place-saw him
Samaritan-came where the man was-saw him

It seems like each successive man saw the wounded man from a closer vantage point. A few years' back, I could sense God whispering two words into my life a whole lot. The words were "get closer". I took those words to mean that God wanted me to get closer to Him, but also that God wanted me to get up close and personal with people outside of my default circle.

"Get closer." This two-word directive is key. It is the remedy for our natural tendency to intellectualize, rationalize, keep everything theoretical, lip service, at arms length. When my focus is on God and getting closer to Him, I experience intimacy in my relationship with Him. When I focus on getting closer with people across divides (racial, class, culture), I can deal with my fear, prejudices, privilege, elitism that keeps me so far from people, and I can become reconciled with them. When I get close, real compassion and community has a chance to grow and reflect Christ to a world who desperately longs for this kind of witness.

What's standing out to you as you continue to read the parable of the Good Samaritan?

water is life part 4

The next to last excerpt on the topic of clean water from The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns:

"Tragically, living without water has even more dimensions. Thousands of hours are lost seeking and hauling water, especially by women. These are hours that could be spent earning an income or contributing to the well-being of the family and community. This same task affects children too: millions of them are unable to attend school because of the hours they spend fetching water. And because of the unsafe quality of their water, many who can go to school are chronically sick and struggle with learning. Some waterborne parasites- Guinea worm, for example-can even result in crippling, and bacterial diseases such as trachoma can cause blindness.

Despite the risks, women and children in developing countries invest two hundred million hours a day fetching water. That's equal to a full-time workforce of twenty-five million people fetching eight hours a day, seven days a week! The men, as remittingly ill as their wives and children, become less productive in their work, often reducing the agricultural output and food supply of the whole community. Those whose immune systems have been weakened by AIDS or tuberculosis are further ravaaged by waterborne illnesses, and it is estimated that as many as one-half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by people with a water-related illness.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

drinking water

Your thoughts and comments

How are you being moved or challenged through Challenges for the Heart or anything else that God is using to impact you in this area of compassion and justice?

Walk for Water this Saturday

Walk for Water
This Saturday, November 7
1:00 p.m. at Door G of Orchard Hill Church

Bring a bucket or two. We're going to walk 2 miles on the bike path to get water for our buckets and walk with the water back to church so that we might begin to identify with what it might be like to not have easy access to water in our lives and to remember those in the struggle.

The Hole in our Gospel

I've been sharing a few water-related excerpts from Richard Stearns' book The Hole in our Gospel. I recommend everyone read this book.

One of the blog readers commented a few days back that there is a companion site to the book that offers a 42 day journal. Day 9 deals with water. That link is

water is life part 3

Exerpt #3 from Richard Stearn's book The Hole in our Gospel.

"Last year my wife, Renee, was asked to speak to a group on the topic of clean water. Because she has not had the opportunity to visit as many World Vision water projects in the field as I have, she felt she needed to get a little firsthand experience. She decided to go through a whole day without turning on the water in our house. While going without a shower, not brushing her teeth, and forsaking her morning coffee were daunting enough, she was determined to carry it a bit further, so she set off with her Rubbermaid bucket toward the lake two miles away. She then dipped into the lake and started home, carrying perhaps just three or four gallons in her bucket.

By the time she got home, she was exhausted and less than a gallon of water was left in her bucket, as much of it had sloshed out along the way. It had been a terrible experience- made worse by the fact that a neighbor driving by saw her schlepping the bucket and asked if she had started a cleaning business! Renee found the whole experience quite challenging, and she was able to speak to her audience a few days later with the passion that only comes from experience.

Now, this little imaginary dilemma I took you through earlier may sound a bit amusing as you think about how absolutely dependent you and your family are on water, but let me add a more sinister dimension. Imagine that the water you fetched from the lake was teeming with deadly bacteria, parasites, and waterborne diseases- that are literally killing you. This is the grim reality for about 1.2 billion people in our world today. As many as 5 million people die every year of water-related illnesses. A child dies every fifteen seconds of a waterborne disease. This creates a no-win situation for millions of parents in our world today- they can watch helplessly as their children die for lack of water, or they can watch them die from diarrhea, because the only water they have is tainted."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

what sticks out to you?

What is sticking out to you as you read the parable of the Good Samaritan?

Today, I was thinking about how the expert asked Jesus, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" and then after the expert told Jesus what was written in the Law, Jesus said, "Do this and you will live." Jesus didn't say "Do this and you'll inherit eternal life." He said, "Do this and you will live."

Makes me think like this: Jesus offers the fullest life possible to me here and now through my choices and experiences of loving God and loving others with all I've got. I'm reminded in Christ's answer that my life now is part of my life that is eternal, and I want it to be the most abundant and purpose-filled life that I can have on this side of things. Jesus clearly gives us the "recipe" for this kind of life.

How about you..what catches your attention in the parable?

reading the Good Samaritan daily

If you're like me, I can read a passage of Scripture everyday for say, four days in a row, when my mind begins to tell myself that it "knows" the passage now and that I don't really need to engage in that portion of my daily devotional guide anymore.

My temptation is to read the story on the lefthand side of the Challenges for the Heart booklet, read the question and the "live it out" challenge, and shortcut the Scripture and prayer portions of the daily guide. Why is that? I don't know why that is exactly, but what I do know is that if I resist that temptation and actually engage myself in that Scripture and in prayer, then my focus tends to align right. Without the Scripture and prayer, my focus goes to people...myself, others, earthly things. When I persist in the reading, meditating, and praying, my mind gets set on God and things above, and I'm in a much better posture to hear from Him and allow Him to grow my heart.

One of the most difficult and important challenges of these 21 days may be to be disciplined in reading, engaging, reflecting on the same Scripture everyday for 21 days. It may be in taking time to pray and listen to what God may be speaking to us through this series. If we will only persist in taking the time to draw near to God each day, I believe that He will be faithful to draw near to us!

water is life part 2

Continuing today with an excerpt from The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns.

"Well, think about it. You would wake up wanting to use the toilet, take your hot shower, brush your teeth, swallow those vitamins, and fix breakfast- but you can't. What would you do? At first, you would be irritated by the minor inconvenience of having no showeres, toilets, dishwasher, or washing machine- until it started to dawn on you that this is far mroe serious- at threat, actually, to your health, your family, even your survival. Finding a way to get water would begin to consum your life. Without food you can live sometimes for weeks, but without water? Life as you know it would be transformed- and not in a good way.

Where I live, we are fortunate to have a wonderful lake just about 2 miles away, so if I knew I was going to be without water, I could begin to plan ahead to organize some water fetching. On foot, it would take about 2 hours round-trip to go fetch water to use for drinking and some rudimentary bathing, but 30 gallons of water weighs about 250 pounds. I checked my water bill and learned that my family uses about 300 hundred gallons a day. That would weigh more than a ton and would require 50 round-trips to the lake each day, so my family might have to reduce their water consumption a bit. Reducing to 30 gallons would be a 90 percent reduction, but carrying 30 gallons of water two miles would still take about 5 or 6 trips a day, carrying 50 pounds each time, consuming about 10 hours of hard labor. If you think it's inconvenient to go to the gym to work out every morning, try lugging 50 pounds of water back to your house so you can brush your teeth and have a sponge bath- then try making that trip 5 times. Now, if you had to work this routine into your schedule every day and still get everyone off to work or school on time, you would have to begin your treks in the wee hours of the morning. Washing your clothes and dishes, let alone your own body, would become an overwhelming task."

daily water consumption

I checked a few websites to find out how much water the average American uses in a day. One site told me 64 gallons, another site reported 100 gallons.

You can take a little "water sense" quiz at

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sunday's video: OHC sponsors meeting their kids in Mozambique

connecting across the continents

The letter above is from Rui Celestine Manuel, Doug and Deb Tensen's sponsored child in Mozambique. It reads:

Dear Doug and Deb, How are you? With me it is all right. Thanks to God I am sending some drawings to you. The most special among them is the ball. It was my 1st time to see a real ball and play it. We have been offered through Food for the Hungry through CDP (child development program...basically the sponsorship arm of things). Our school has 3 balls. They said that the balls came from America offered by Orchard Hill Church. And I saw the team when they came here to Mozambique. I would like you to come here also. Thank you for the letter and the photo you sent. God Bless You.

Our partnership really does impact real lives and stories of children, families, and schools! Be sure to pray and write your child if you are a sponsor!

water is life

This week, I am going to share some excerpts about water from the book The Hole in our Gospel written by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision.
"Most of you began this morning with a hot, clean shower. You brushed your teeth, filled a glass with water, and took a few vitamins. Perhaps you brewed a cup of coffee or drank a glass of juice with breakfast. And each day you run your washing machines and dishwashers and take your toilets for granted. You probably have one, two, or even three bathrooms in your home. You may also have a sprinkler system to water your lawn and garden. Your refrigerator is filled with cold drinks, bottled water, and maybe even ice-cold water dispensed from its door. If you have children, they probably haven't spent even one hour of their lives fetching water for the family to drink or to bathe with. And I'll wager that neither you nor your children have ever had a sick day due to unclean water- unless you have traveled to another country and picked up one of the many waterborne bacteria or parasites.
...imagine for a moment that when you wake up tomorrow, all the water-related fixtures and appliances have been removed from your home. The sinks, toilets, bathtubs, showers gone. Dishwasher, washing machine, garden hoses, sprinklers-all gone. Let's say, though, that everything else about your house remains the same. Still, how would your life change with just this one difference?" p.136 The Hole in Our Gospel.
Consider shutting off your running water for one day in your family. What did you experience? Maybe you've had to go multiple days without running water due to a problem that affected your ability to run water in your home. What was that like?

why might we pass someone by who is in need?

The title of this post was one of our breakfast questions this morning. Our ten year old son replied, "We're greedy." Our ten year old daughter replied, "People are scared. Not so much about the person who needs help but about what they might have to give up to help them."

My children never cease to challenge me in profound ways. Are you having any conversations in your home? Will you share with us about them?

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Monday, November 2, 2009

caring for the sick

The topic for this Sunday's "Start Becoming a Good Samaritan" class is 'Caring for the Sick.' The class meets in room 109 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Orchard Hill Church. Each week stands alone, so you do not need to have been at last week's class to come this week. The resource we're using is one of the best I've engaged in for a group setting. I highly recommend this series for anyone who wants to be a person "after God's own heart".

ccda institutes

On November 13, Bob Lupton will be with us from Atlanta, GA, to address "Empowerment" and on November 14, Alvin Bibbs from Chicago,IL, will address "Suburban-Urban Partnerships". Both workshops are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Commons at OHC. Lunch is included. Cost is $25 a day or $40 for both days. You can register by going on-line to or contact Heidi Fuchtman with any questions at

a new way of seeing

Some quotes from author Anthony DeMello:

"Take a look at a rose. Is it possible for the rose to say, ‘I’ll offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people?’ Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks to walk in its light? It could do that only by ceasing to be a lamp. And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and hold, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature – even to the one who seeks to cut it down. This is the first quality of compassion – its indiscriminate character."

"When I love with the compassion of Christ and not with a faint copy, judgments about worthiness are left behind. All people qualify for my love simply because they are human and, thus, image bearers of our wondrous God. To love in this way is to plow up the hard ground present within my heart. We are called to love the unlovely, to love those who hurt us, to love even when it costs us everything ... like God loved us."

"To see the image of God in others and to worship him through engagement with others is the culmination of loving Jesus, the purpose of community, and the greatest meaning of earthly life."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Food for the Hungry video

Sponsorship stories

I love the video that will be shown this morning of some of our Orchard Hill friends meeting their sponsored children in Mozambique.

Our family longs to meet Maria, our 9 year old friend in Mozambique.

In one of Maria's latest letters to us, she writes that one of her favorite ways to help the family is to fetch water. I wonder how far Maria must travel for water. I wonder if it's clean water.

Maria's report card stated that she had failed third grade. This brought up really good conversation with our children. Reasons for failing a grade might be different in Maria's situation than in our situation. Maybe she was absent too many days due to fetching water or helping find food. Maybe the walk to school is so long that there are days she cannot travel that distance. Maybe no one in her household is educated and can help Maria with schoolwork. The reasons are unknown, but it reminded me of how complex the web of poverty is, and how we will continue to pray for Maria and family and support her through Food for the Hungry so that she might have a chance to grow and thrive.

How about you? Any sponsorship stories or thoughts to share?