Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Break 2010- San Francisco

There were 20 of us (16 high school students and 4 leaders) that went on the trip to San Francisco. While we were there, we partnered for the 6th year with YWAM San Francisco.

They are located in the heart of the city and help to restore broken down community by facing issues such as homelessness, poverty, and addictions. Their ministries focus on relationships as the key to life change.

The main learning this year as we talked to our students after the trip is that EVERYONE has a story. Every person we encountered in the Tenderloin of San Francisco has a story, whether homeless, addicted to drugs, or not- they all have a story. So as we come home, we see our students and ourselves being challenged and encouraged to figure out that God loves each person they are surrounded by at work, in class, etc. and also that each person has a story…A place they come from, a place they are headed. The trip was amazing!

- Kris Hoskinson, co-leader of SF YWAM trip

water in Haiti

Dear faithful supporters;
We are so thankful that the Lord is gracious enough to provide us with a great well. Many of you know of all the difficulties that we have faced in trying to get a reliable water supply. Ever since 2005, we have dug 4 other wells, built a cistern and gutters off our house, and tried to help fix the public spring. None of these options have given us, and the community of Caiman, a good source of water. For the last month, we have had to go to the river with the truck and haul water by the barrel. We have been very limited in our agricultural projects because of our lack of water. With the influx of more people from Port, it has become an issue of some urgency.
A man that we know quite well asked us if he could dig us a well. We were hesitant because it is hard to hope after so many times of not getting water. Every time we have dug a well, we pay for the cost of digging whether or not water is found. But, this man was so sure that he could find water and wanted to help our community, that he said he would pay for the digging out of his own pocket if water was not found. His words to JeanJean were, "I know of all the great things that UCI is doing for this community and I know you need water. I want to help out as much as I can." We would only pay if water, a lot of water, was found. We had a contract made up to this effect and had him start digging. For those who know our property, he thought that water could be found right next to the soccer field. You should have seen all the people out there each day watching and praying that he would find water.
He dug 355 feet. He actually found water at shallower depths but we wanted to be sure to have water all the time. Of the 355 feet, 264 feet was filled with water. Remember, this is the dry season. When we got the pump down into the well, we started pumping water. We were able to fill a 55-gallon barrel in 2 minutes and 30 seconds. We had him pump for 6 straight hours. Then we had him pump again the next day. Water, water, water. JeanJean went out there again this morning at 5:00 AM to pump water and many of the community came to get water for their households. What a blessing.

Kristie and JeanJean

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kenny's Bible

I attended a funeral today for a man named Kenny who died very unexpectedly on Friday of an aneurysm while he was out on the bike trail.

Kenny was an avid walker and biker on the trails, and when he was found, the only identification on him was a small brown New Testament with his name written in it. How right that it is....that our only identity be found in God's Word. In Christ.

Kenny also had a full-size Bible that was on the table surrounded with some of his personal items. I thumbed through his Bible (picture left), and found it highlighted, marked up, with notes scrawled in the margins. I only knew Kenny's sister, and not Kenny himself, but I could tell by the activity in His Bible, that he had been a man actively pursuing Christ. I hope my Bible will tell the same story for my life at my funeral...that I was a person passionately pursuing God through His Word.

recreation readiness

This van belongs to my friend George. He's always prepared for an adventure and an opportunity to escape away into nature to have some time with God and His outdoors.

I love that George never allows himself to be overrun with commitments to a point that he can't find time for connecting with God and connecting with that which renews and refreshes him.

When I look at the kind of ministry work that God has called George and his wife, Judy, into...working with a largely marginalized population of our community...and when I look at the healthy pace and boundaries he and Judy model, I am challenged to rest and trust in God more with my lifestyle and habits.

Spring Break- Denver, CO

Our trip went really well. We served in Denver, and specifically served in a part called Globeville. We partnered with a gentleman named John Gallegos, who has felt called to to plant a church in that neighborhood. The start of his mission was to paint a house, Mrs. Romero’s home, and to reach out to other neighbors to prepare for the following summer, where a youth-driven mission organization will Lord-willingly be partnering with John. What was an amazing God moment, is that only a few weeks prior to us arriving, John heard from the city that a building only three blocks away from the house we were coming to paint, was going to be donated for only $1-a-year from the city. Most days we prepped and worked at the house in the mornings and early afternoons, and in the evenings we had small group times. Tuesday evening we had the privilege of going to the 16th street mall in downtown Denver and handed out water and burritos that we made, and offered to pray for different people that we met. Another evening we hung out with another youth group at a church nearby, and worshiped with them. The theme that we constantly heard was that the work done during spring break was seeds being planted in that community. John explained that our actual presence was the foundation of this church being planted.

From an outsiders point of view, our group came to Denver, stayed in a couple’s home, painted a house, and fed and prayed for folks on the street one of the evenings we were there. From the inside-out, what I saw happening was a hope being restored for not only the community of Globeville, but to the folks that we ministered to in the evening on the streets, and to the people who are currently serving God in Denver.

13 people went (including leaders)

Brad Hillebrand

Monday, March 29, 2010

Haiti group leaves April 7

1. we will be doing VBS 2. cementing floors for families who sleep on dirt to prevent the spread of worms and parasites 3. possibly building 3 homes with Haiti Earthquake relief $. 4. Jean Jean does a lot of pastoral teaching and is glad to hear MIke Brost is going on the trip
18 people are going on our trip.
The Lord has done great things since January in Haiti! UCI has seen a revival in the wake of the earthquake aftermath. We expect things to look different when we go down this year, especially in the amount of people we will see. Bohoc is mainly a rural area, but many have come to live there since the earthquake. Because we aren't in the immediate vicinity of Port au Prince, we don't expect to see earthquake damage. God is already moving there and we hope to be a small part in whatever he is busy with!! - Marla Kraayenbrink, trip leader (photos are from last year's trip)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

update from Kristie in Haiti

Jesus said to the people, " I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, because you will follow the light that leads to life". John 8 :12

I have seen how God is at work in all areas of life. Every Sunday, I see so many that are giving their life to Christ. I have been busy baptizing people--almost every Sunday for the past 6 Sundays. Praise the Lord!

TESTIMONY: I want to tell you the story of the man that killed my dad. His name is Andre and he is my mother's nephew. My mom told us kids that Andre was responsible for the death of my father when I was 13 years old. My dad was a hard worker and someone who wanted to help everyone. My dad wanted to buy a piece of land that Andre's dad had rented for gardens. The owner of that land decided to sell the land to my dad instead of continuing to rent it to Andre's dad. My dad bought the land. Andre was jealous and poisoned my dad. That was 28 years ago. The fact that Andre poisoned my dad was found out when Andre's friend and accomplice, confessed to this on his deathbed. Since November, one of my friends and fellow evangelists, Dabou, dreamed about how I needed to go and witness to Andre. Twice Dabou dreamed about the need to witness to Andre, even though he knew this was the man that killed my father. Andre has a history of being violent and deceptive. In December, he was fighting with another man over a land issue. They got into a fight with machetes. He was thrown into jail. The policemen of Pignon often come out to our place and they called me when they found out that their new inmate was a relative of mine. They didn't know what Andre had done 28 years ago. They just told me that there was a relative of mine in jail and wanted to know if I would talk to him. I asked who this was and they told me that it was Andre. I wasn't surprised that he was in jailed but I didn't know what to do with this opportunity to help him. After much prayer and discussion, my 2 older brothers and I went to see him.
When Andre saw us coming, he was shocked. He said, "You came to see me? No way!" He couldn't imagine that we would be there even though we knew what his actions were. We told him that we wanted to help get him out of jail. I talked to the judge, but I didn't mention his past crimes. He said that if Andre would pay restitution for what he had done against his neighbor and if we would vouch for him, he could go free. Andre was amazed.
A few days later, 2 men were sent from Andre to get me. Andre was asking about Jesus. He knew that there had been no reason for us to help him. There had to have been something special that gave us the ability to forgive. Andre knew that I was a pastor and so he wanted to learn more about Jesus. Andre had been in voudoo almost his whole life. This was the first time he was willing to talk about Christianity. It was a wonderful experience. There were a couple of people from a team that was with UCI and they got to share in this. Andre gave his life to Christ. Ever since, Andre is going to our church. Praise God for this new life in Christ. It is not me but Christ in me that was able to show him grace like the grace that Jesus shows us every day.

RELIEF: As we had mentioned before, we have been transitioning away from relief into development. UCI has purchased 6 water irrigation pumps and 2 cows for plowing. With these tools, we will be working with families to increase production of food. There are so many more mouths to feed in the community. Each pump will be shared by 5-6 families who have adjoining land by the river. The cows will be shared by all the families to plow. We have several gardens by the river side that produce wonderful vegetables and staple crops but it has always been limited by how much a family could water by hand. With the pumps, the food produced year-long will increase dramatically. UCI's hope is that people can start their own life again instead of depending on hand-outs. The proverb in Kreyol is, "Instead of giving someone a fish, show them how to fish." One of board members here puts it this way, "Since the quake, we have had to give people food. But, with this project, we hope that in a couple of months those same people will be knocking on our doors asking to sell us some food that they had grown."

HOUSING: Please help us pray about the housing situation for those from Port-au-Prince. There are many who are in limbo because there hasn't been many decisions made concerning the future of Port. But, many people are adamant that they will not return. These people need places to live. UCI's board is praying about ways to help with this need. The picture above shows a family receiving a cement floor. There have been 76 houses that were able to receive this blessing. No more sleeping on the dirt or mud, no more rats burrowing under the dirt to gnaw on people's feet while they sleep, and less chance of parasites.

MICRO-FINANCING: Another avenue that UCI is exploring is the use of small loans to help refugees find the start-up money for commerce or small businesses. We desire to get people back on their own feet again. We believe this will be a good, long-term use of the relief money that has come in.

SCHOOL: So many parents have come to us and asked us to open a school that would help their kids. We didn't have enough schools to handle the children that were here before the quake. Now, those schools are even more over-loaded. The parents are very worried about their kids' futures. This idea of a primary school is not a new one for UCI. For years we have been working with the schools in the area and providing scholarships for students and helping the administration of the schools. Now it seems that it is the moment to help even further. We also want to continue with our plans to offer university-level education. There is more of a need for that now, too, since most of the universities in Haiti are closed. We really want to offer theology, computer, and agricultural courses. There is also the difficulty of becoming accredited. Help us pray for what the Lord desires.

Thank you for all of your prayers, encouragement, and support for the ministries of UCI.
JeanJean, Kristie, Tana and Kerri

Saturday, March 27, 2010

classic Saturday

Brother Lawrence (1611-1691) lived 24 years as a lay brother and dishwasher in a Paris monastery. He determined to live his life as an experiment of practicing the presence of God in every waking moment.

"Thus, I resolved to give my all for God's all. After having given myself wholly to God that he might take away my sin, I renounced, for the love of God, everything that was not God, and I began to live as if there was none but God and I in the world....I worshiped him as often as I could, keeping my mind in his holy presence and recalling it back to God as often as I found it had wandered from him."

A suggested exercise this week from Devotional Classics is to experiment with practicing the presence of God this week. Develop the habit of returning to God even in the midst of your daily tasks.

when I was in jail, you visited me

Meet Betty and Harry DeGroote. Harry is 83 years old. At age 71, he walked into the Black Hawk County Jail for the first time to visit someone from his church who was incarcerated. Due to some pretty amazing handiwork of God, he was asked that day if he wanted to begin leading a Sunday service in the jail. That was 12 years ago. He's only missed 2 Sundays since then. Two Sundays in twelve years...and they even live out in Parkersburg! Betty, his wife, joined him in ministry at the jail 7 years ago, and over the years, these faithful servants have touched thousands of lives for Christ.
Harry and Betty were honored tonight at the "Shout it Out" Banquet for their faithful and humble service in our community. If you talk with Harry for long, though, you won't find him taking any of the credit. "It's all because of Jesus. I'm as wretched as any sinner in the jail. It's only because of Jesus. He's the one that's good."

Friday, March 26, 2010


Steve Sjogren does a great job inspiring and training people to get outwardly focused and to "touch" people with the goodness and kindness of God. He has a couple of websites that are excellent resources as we consider how we might bless others in very simple, practical ways on a daily basis. and

Check these sites out. Sometimes it takes just a simple reminder to look outside of self, look up to God, and look around at others, asking..."Who would you like me to touch with a gesture of your kindness today, God?"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

defining social justice (by Rose Marie Berger)

What the Heck is ‘Social Justice’?

by Rose Marie Berger 03-24-2010

Today I was interviewed by a sociology student who wanted to know more about “social justice.” I was happy to talk to her. My Catholic tradition considers social justice as a central element of faith, public witness, and as integral to Catholic Social Teaching. In our conversation I drew on an article I’d written a few years back: “What the Heck is ‘Social Justice’?” (Sojourners, February 2007).

A starting question when talking about social justice is: What’s the difference between justice and charity?

Justice is the moral code that guides a fair and equitable society. When an individual acts on behalf of justice, he or she stands up for what is right. Charity is a basic sense of generosity and goodwill toward others, especially the suffering. Individual charity is when one responds to the more immediate needs of others — volunteering in a women’s shelter, for example. [See also An Active Faith by Yonce Shelton for more on charity and justice.]

The goal of social charity and social justice is furthering the common good. Social charity addresses the effects of social sin, while social justice addresses the causes of such sins. Brazilian Catholic Archbishop Hélder Câmara famously said, “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” His phrase indicates the societal pressure to separate charity and justice. The two cannot be separated. It would be like taking the heart out of a body — neither would live for long.

Social charity is sometimes called compassionate solidarity. A church’s decision to buy only fair trade coffee might be considered an act of social charity. It is a communal economic act that addresses the immediate needs of those who are oppressed by an unjust economic system. However, it doesn’t fundamentally change or challenge the unjust structure.

So just what is the definition of social justice?

The principle of social justice, according to Catholic social teaching, requires the individual Christian to act in an organized manner with others to hold social institutions accountable — whether government or private — to the common good. The “common good comprises the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily,” according to Pope Paul VI. However, social justice can become hollow if it is not constantly in touch with real people’s experiences.

How does one “do” social justice?

Social justice issues are determined by “discerning the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3), a careful process of social analysis. First, we listen to and observe the experiences of those closest to the problem. Second, together with those closest to the problem, we look at the context. What’s the history and what are the root causes? Are there political and/or cultural forces at play? We take the expanded information (experience plus context) and examine it in light of biblical values and Christian teaching. What would Jesus do in a situation like this? Third, we ask: What action might successfully make this situation more just? Finally, we take the action and evaluate the results. The evaluation takes us back to step one.

The theology of social justice cannot be separated from the full scope of Christian spiritual and moral development. But theology is always incarnated in the real lives and experiences of people. If it’s too abstract, then it becomes useless to the living breathing walk of faith that every Christian must make.

Rose Marie Berger, an associate editor at Sojourners, blogs at She’s the author of the forthcoming book Who Killed Donte Manning?: The Story of an American Neighborhood (Apprentice House, April 2010).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

servant evangelism

Last week, I went to part of a day's workshop with Steve Sjogren who teaches on effective evangelism through servanthood. When Christians think of "evangelism" all sorts of emotions and memories get attached: fear, distrust, inadequacy, distasteful, pushy. Sjogren talks about evangelism as a process of serving into the hearts of people.

His functional definition of servant evangelism is:

Demonstrating God's love by offering to do some humble act of service with no strings attached.

He gives 15 ways that servant evangelism seems to be effective and do-able:

1. works through character rather than gifting
2. quick
3. touches many
4. team building
5. allows for a flexible focus
6. opens doors for the Holy Spirit
7. allows shy people to get their feet wet
8. non-aggressive
9. simple
10. inexpensive
11. doesn't require a great amount of training
12. giving-centered versus asking-centered
13. provides an open door for the miraculous
14. provides a safe place for very ambitious people
15. it's big fun!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Break 2010- West Virginia

We had 12 people: 8 boys, 2 girls, 1 guy leader, 1 girl leader

We went to Bramwell, WV. Bramwell is located in the Appalachian Mountains, and has a lot of poverty. We did several different service projects while we were there, for example we helped a family by painting a couple of their rooms. We also helped at a local food pantry, by bagging groceries, and we helped hand them out. We also helped out a free medical clinic with Spring cleaning type things, like shredding papers, things that take quite a bit of time, when there isn’t always extra time to give. So through our trip we were able to help out a lot of different people, and see some of the affects of our service.

We saw God soften the hearts of all who were on the trip. I think that it is easy to forget how privileged some of us are, so seeing people barely making it, and houses falling apart was very humbling.

Natalie Nesbitt

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spring Break 2010- North Carolina

Deb Bachman here from the North Carolina trip. We went to Arden, North Carolina and worked at Lutheridge Bible Camp helping them get ready for summer by doing some trail work, cleaning cabin areas from all the storms this fall/winter and cleaning a playground. We spent one day working at Open Door Ministries in their thrift shop and soup kitchen. There were 8 students and 2 leaders on the trip.

Spring Break 2010- San Rafael, Mexico

Twenty-five of us headed to San Rafael, MX over spring break. It was a diverse group with ages ranging from 10 to almost 70! Throughout the week, we had the opportunity to mix & pour cement by hand, level ground for a future church in Arteaga, MX, pull lots of weeds, and paint. We accomplished a lot of work, but equally important, we had a great time bonding with others on the trip and with Pastor Juan and his family in Mexico. It was awesome to worship God together with the people of Mexico. You could see God at work in the risks that Pastor Juan and his family are taking for Jesus in expanding His kingdom, and the humble, simple lives that they live. We were so blessed to experience this for a week and can't wait to go back!

Holly Matthias
Trip Participant


I had the following phrases written in my journal. I think someone may have summarized them from the book Unchristian, and I liked what they had written, so I put these in my journal. These are really important to keep in front of me...this is a common battle for me.

Perception: Christians are prideful and quick to find fault in others.
New Perception: Christians show grace by finding good in others and seeing their potential to be Christ-followers.

* If our primary fixation is on sin, it is virtually impossible to demonstrate love to the individual.
* Do you see someone as a potential follower of Christ or as an unChristian?
* Respect others. Listen. Don't label. Don't be so smart. Put yourself in their place. Be genuine. Be a friend.
* The opposite of sin is not virtue. It is grace.
* Getting close to others helps to understand them.
* Create a nonjudgmental environment: Extend grace to those who are often stereotyped and judged as well as those who tend to be self-righteous, prideful, and judgmental.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

a new category, please

When I first went to a CCDA conference in 2007, I remember coming home thinking, "That was the conference I was born for." Finally, I had found a home where social justice and evangelism had married one another. I found a place where the shoe fit for me.

I have never fit real well into any existing "camp" or category. For me, I have found that God's taken me on some broad adventures to experience and learn on my faith journey.

I grew up in a church that was missionally minded, both locally and globally. I learned early on that Christians should be out and about serving and giving in their communities. Expressing the love of Christ through our actions and concerns for our neighbor. I had a number of models in my life who reached out beyond their families and social circles to serve and help work for a positive difference locally. And I sat on a Peace and Social Justice committee at the national level of the PC USA.

What was lacking, though, was any real sense of a life-changing encounter with Jesus. My upbringing did not point me to the power of Holy Spirit, alive and active, and transforming individuals lives in mighty ways. Verbal witness was not much a part of my upbringing, nor was there any real focus on discipleship, growing in holiness, or accountability. I almost never looked for a supernatural movement of God....until I began to have personal encounters with Him in His Word.

As I began to walk as a disciple, I found I had to read quite broadly and have broad experiences. I needed help found in many conservative circles that would assist me in my personal walk with Christ....discipleship, daily living, and accountability. I needed help found in many liberal circles about how to give love liberally to others and not to judge others. How to serve sacrificially and not to grow a self-righteous spirit. And I needed help found in more of a charismatic circle that would help look to the supernatural power of God through the Holy Spirit.

Then, I went to a Christian Community Development Association conference. I listened to John Perkins, an evangelist to the core, speak passionately about the need for repentance of sin, our individual need for Jesus to forgive our sin and give us new life in Him, and the call then to follow Him in His redeeming work in the world. I spent four days at a conference that had wholly embraced the Gospel in a way that I had not encountered before anywhere else. Hurray!

Currently, there's upheaval due to a talk show host's comments about how any Christian who hears the words "social justice" in their churches, should leave their churches. God, help us all. We can't seem to use a lot of good language anymore because it tends to trip people up who think categorically. Why do we become so polarized? Can we just establish a new category, please? The Whole Gospel Category. Strong in demonstration, strong in proclamation. Deeds and words being backed up by each other. Both/and not either/or. Focus on the Holy Spirit instead of ourselves. A relationship with Christ who came to redeem and transform individuals and cities and systems. Anybody else who wants a new category?

classic Saturday

From Devotional Classics, this week's devotion was written by Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626) Andrews was a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth, an apologist for King James 1, and was one of the scholars who was appointed in 1607 to prepare the King James version of the Bible. He's known for his ability to write prayers that "lift the mind up to God".

From his Private Devotions:

"O Lord, be my God, and let there be no other before you. Grant me to worship you and serve you according to your commandments: with truth in my spirit, with reverence in my body, with the blessing upon my lips- both in private and public.

Help me to show honor and submission to those who have been put over me. Help me to show affection and care for those who been put in my charge. Help me to overcome evil with good, to be free from the love of money, and to be content with what I have. Help me to speak the truth in love, to be desirous not to lust, or to walk after the lusts of my flesh.

O Lord, help me: To bruise the serpent's head. To consider the end of my days. To cut off occasions to sin. To be sober. Not to sit idle. To shun the company of the wicked. To make a covenant with my eyes. To bring my body into subjection. To give myself to prayer. To come to repentance.

Hedge up my way, O Lord, with thorns that I may avoid the false path of vanity. Hold me steady with the bit and the bridle so that I do not pull away from you. O Lord, compel me to come in to you."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

prayer of the day

I subscribe to a daily verse, quote, and prayer from Sojourners. Today's prayer:

Jesus, we pray for the spread of your gospel and for the kingdom of God to come on earth. We pray for those who speak, act, and live out your words and your truth; we pray for your Church, that we may be more faithful and more courageous. May we proclaim the coming of the kingdom by our words, our actions, and our interactions. Let your will be done, Lord. Amen.

God renews and rescues us for Kingdom impact

Steve and Janie Sjogren and Darlene and Bill Davis (picture upper left) were with us in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area today as a part of a conference they're teaming together on called "Renew and Rescue". God used these special friends and this day- a combination of worship, sharing, outreach, and prayer-to impress several things on my heart and mind. Here's just a few:

1. I was reminded that God is SO BIG AND SO POWERFUL! His Spirit is actively moving and drawing people to Himself all over the place. There are days that I tend to lose a sense of expectancy for His Spirit to move in mighty ways. God gave me today as a gift of renewing that anticipation for God to act in surprising, creative, and powerful ways. May we remain listening and watchful, obedient and faith-filled as we follow Him on His mission.

2. A small gesture of kindness (like an outreach of handing out groceries at married student housing- pictured above) has a huge impact on a person's heart. I think that in our individualistic society, we tend to move about our busy days without having many folks smile at one another, ask about another person, engage in a conversation, or stop long enough to show genuine care or kindness to a fellow human being who is deeply loved by God. When someone does stop and offer a gesture of God's kindness without any strings attached, there is something profound that happens. God touches that longing deep within us for Him...A glimpse of being known by a God who is love and joy and that longing to know Him in relationship. And it also brings joy to the giver, reminding us that we were made to believe, to belong, and to BLESS!

3. God is up to some amazing good things in the Cedar Valley! I love to see how He is moving and weaving and working in and through people across our community for His purposes. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, God, right here in the Cedar Valley!

Please take a few minutes to check out the ministries of the Sjogren's and Davis's. You can find out more about them at and Pray for God to turn Tampa, Florida, right-side up as they share the Gospel throughout that city!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Canaan Children's Home

My friend Laurie will be visiting this orphanage in Uganda next month. You can also read more about it at Pastor Isaac has an amazing testimony of how God saved and called him for his present work at this orphanage.

Spring Break 2010- Local

Spring Break Local 2010. Twelve of us went to Harvest Vineyard today for a few hours. Judy gave the group a tour of the church, and then half of the group helped Harvest make signs for an upcoming "Thank You" Banquet for volunteers, while the other half went outside and raked around the building. The group then took some goodies and a thank you note over to the Boys n' Girls Club and House of Hope. We walked just a corner of the Walnut Neighborhood as we visited these two non-profits and as we picked up litter along the curbside.

A verse that the group wrote on one of the signs today also fits well for our time together serving today. Galatians 5:13 "...serve one another in love."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

ccda in Chicago

I'm working to sign people up over the "early bird registration" period (through March 31) for the Christian Community Development Association conference that will be in Chicago on September 7-11, 2010. These conferences are a "must go" if you believe God calls his people to the work of reconciliation and restoration of communities! Check out or contact me if you're interested.

serving the city part 3

I've been answering the question, "Why must the Church be a serving community in the city?"

Third, the Church must serve the community because of Jesus.

We are called to follow and imitate Jesus Christ.

Jesus gave up Heaven and came to our neighborhood in the flesh. He was incarnational, and so must we be.

He spent his life serving and sacrificing. He even said, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve." (Matthew 20:28)

Reading the Gospels, you see that Jesus did not wait for people to come to him in the synagogues, but he was out on the streets healing, talking, eating with, engaging people.

God is a sending, missional God. He sent his son, and He sends us, too.

"Change the conversation. Instead of 'how big is your church?' or "what programs do you have?', how about, 'Tell me about the difference your church is making in your community?' 'What is happening in your community because of your church?'" Swanson and Rusaw, The Externally Focused Church

Saturday, March 13, 2010

classic Saturday

Today's classic devotion comes from Julian of Norwich (1343-1413). Julian was an English mystic who wrote about various encounters with God. At one point in time, Julian was delivered from a sickness that had taken her to her last breaths, and in that experience, she received several revelations from Christ. An excerpt from her Revelations of Divine Love:

" brings more honor to God and more true delight if we faithfully pray to him for his goodness than if we employ all the intermediaries in the world. Why? Because his goodness is full and complete, and in it there is nothing lacking.

We pray to God to know his passion, death, resurrection- which come from the goodness of God. We pray to God for the strength that comes from his Cross- which also comes from the goodness of God. We pray to God with all the help of the saints who have gone before us- which, again, comes from the goodness of God. All of the strength that may come through prayer comes from the goodness of God, for he is the goodness of everything. For the highest form of prayer is to the goodness of God. It comes down to meet our humblest needs. It gives life to our souls and makes them live and grow in grace and virtue. It is near in nature and swift in grace, for it is the same grace which our souls seek and always will.

Just as our flesh is covered by clothing, and our blood is covered by flesh, so are we, soul and body, covered and enclosed by the goodness of God. Yet, the clothing and the flesh will pass away, but the goodness of God will always remain and will remain closer to us than our own flesh.

God only desires that our soul cling to him with all its strength in particular, that it clings to his goodness. For of all the things our minds can think about God, it is thinking upon his goodness that pleases him most and brings the most profit to our soul."

This week, focus on the goodness of God, point out the goodness of God, live in the goodness of God!

Friday, March 12, 2010

africa through my friend's experience

I have a friend named Laurie who is heading to Africa April 6 and will visit four different orphanages with a team. Laurie and I jog together, and I am learning about her preparation for this trip and all that she is learning along the way. I will share things with you as I learn from her. The horrors of some of the stories are beyond my ability to comprehend. One orphanage that Laurie will go to can be found at Another site is a home for orphans who were child soldiers in Uganda. One website of an organization that advocates for child soldiers is

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

serving the city part 2

Second, the Church must serve the community because the Church needs to regain her identity and mission.

The Church in North America has had the tendency to become inward and institutional. We’ve been found in the huddle studying the plays and focusing only on our own team often without ever getting out on the field playing the game with people who don't go to our church. Our focus has become more church-centric than focusing on the mission of God.

What's exciting though, is that at the Church's core, the Church is made to be God's people expressing God's love to the world. When we're reminded of this and we're encouraged along in practicing that, we begin to get back to our identity and the mission at hand. We are blessed to be a blessing, and God works in and through us giving us His joy and courage and vision along the way. I love the Church! I love that God draws us together in Him and then sends us out together in Him. I love the hope for the world found in Christ and that we have the awesome responsibility and privilege to go be ambassadors of the Gospel!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

serving the city part 1

I spoke at a Black Hawk Area Evangelical gathering, and thought I'd blog a few posts around the thoughts that came together for that.

Twelve years ago, I was involved in a deep church conflict that ended with me leaving the church. In and after that experience, I really began to consider the core of "church". What is the deepest nature of the Church to be? God took me into Scripture, into learning about the early Church, into a walk through church history that allowed me to see the rhythms of the Church through the centuries, and over the past few years into exploring the Church across North America and the world.

One discovery is something that I was convinced of even before that conflict 12 years ago, but it has become a more deeply rooted conviction and that is that the Church must be a serving community in their local community. Why?

Because the culture in which we live will demand that we do.

It’s a new day in our culture. Gone are the 1950’s when the church had a place at the table in the community and when going to church was more of a norm. Church, to many, is an inconsequential, powerless institution or club.

Today’s culture is more and more unchurched. I heard a story through one of our staff members of a little boy who asked his dad in the car one day, "What are all of these t's on buildings around town?" He wasn't familiar with the symbol of a cross. This is more common, as a generation began to leave the church in the 70's and has now raised kids without any church context. Large percentages will not come to the church; the church has to go to them.

In this posmodern world, truth starts with the tangible and experiential. Real is everything. People are weary of words. The Church has lost trust, credibility, and integrity because we’ve often not demonstrated or embodied the message we speak, and our lives look little different from our unbelieving friends. I know 100% as a parent that our kids are learning more from my actions than from my words. Words can help clarify my deeds, but without the deeds verifying the words, those words remain empty. Sacrificially serving our community in love helps people to see the sacrificial love of Jesus that we talk about. It allows us to meet real needs in our cities, and helps us to rub shoulders with people we'd normally remain isolated from. Genuine serving touches hearts as we notice people and care about the well-being of our community. The Good News becomes tangible as the Church begins to show up and conversation about Jesus our redeemer will carry weight and validity.

In Dallas, at Missional Renaissance over the past few years, we talked about how exciting it is to be the Church in today's culture. Our culture is currently both spiritual and altruistic in nature. People are seeking meaning spiritually and they are wanting to make a difference in the world. If the Church is not out on the street serving and loving, she will not be a part of the spiritual conversations nor will she be invited to be a part of the efforts taking place to make positive change in our world.

Monday, March 8, 2010

quote for today

"If we keep heading where we're going, we're likely to get where we're headed. -Chinese Proverb

"If we look down the road, and we don't like where we're headed, then why are we headed down that road? If we look into the future 10, 20 years, where are our communities headed? Our congregations? Will our community of believers have had any impact on the direction and condition of our communities?" -Robert Lewis The Church of Irresistible Influence

Sunday, March 7, 2010

more mobile camp

Dylan (pictured last in these photos) is one of the most spiritually sensitive first graders I have met. During snack time at Mobile Camp yesterday, Dylan pointed out a cross on the wall at Harvest and began to talk to me about its meaning and bring up questions about Jesus. Even after the conversation was interrupted, he came back to it, and kept on with his curiosity about Jesus the savior and teacher. It was my understanding that Dylan doesn't have a church home but first heard the Gospel at Mobile Camp this past summer. I've been thinking about and praying for Dylan several times today..that the seeds planted continue to grow into a strong and lifechanging faith in Christ.

mobile camp

Mobile Kids Camp brought 22 kids together yesterday afternoon for some fun at Harvest Vineyard. Mobile Camp staff, Ren (the guy with his tongue sticking out in the photo), led the kids in some games, songs, dances, and skits. Many of the kids had come to a week of camp this past summer and were re-connecting through this Saturday mini-camp experience.

Even the corniest game or skit can be fun (or at least tolerated!) when kids know there are adults who care about them and are interested in them. That was my take away from the afternoon. There was a great adult-kid ratio, and you could just see how the kids were being listened to and engaged in conversations, fun, and learning. I think everybody went away feeling affirmed and cared about.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

classical Saturday

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was born in France but lived his adult life, after his conversion in his mid-twenties, as a Trappist monk in an abbey in Kentucky. Today's post is from a little book he wrote called Contemplative Prayer.

"Many people who have a few natural gifts and a little ingenuity tend to imagine that they can quite easily learn, by their own cleverness, to master the methods-one might say the 'tricks'- of the spiritual life.

The only trouble is that in the spiritual life there are no tricks and no shortcuts....One cannot begin to face the real difficulties of the life of prayer and meditation unless one is first perfectly content to be a beginner and really experience himself as one who knows little or nothing and has a desperate need to learn the bare rudiments."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

quotes to ponder

"There is a widening gap between the condition of the average American city and the impact and influence of the Church." -Robert Lewis The Church of Irresistible Influence

"Since the Church is absent from the streets, people are turning to all kinds of false answers to their spiritual quest. Church members then have the gall to sit inside churches and pass judgment on people for their errant beliefs." - Reggie McNeal This Present Future

Monday, March 1, 2010

francis chan

Above is a little youtube clip of a person who is new in my scope. I was at a simulcast marriage conference on Saturday, and Chan was the first speaker up in a line-up of many who spoke on the marriage relationship. I really resonated with his message. Some notes I took:

- Rather than focusing on marriage, it's better to have a focused marriage. Focused on the bigger mission and calling of discipleship and making disciples.
- God created us FOR something. Not just for a happy life, happy marriage, happy kids. It's about following and serving God.
- We are to keep each other focused on the mission and who we are and who we're to be before God.
- We are to help each other secure undivided devotion to the Lord.
- If there is conflict in the marriage, there is most likely spiritual conflict. Someone not walking in the Spirit and being led by the Spirit of God.

I was inspired by his passion and urgency. I appreciated how he saw family as a unit God wants to grow and use on mission for Him. A friend recently gave me his book entitled Crazy Love. I will look forward to reading it...anyone else have an opinion or review?

eyes on the prize

What do you know about the Rosa Parks story? The Emmit Till story? The beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement? I sat with a small group last night and watched a one hour documentary called "Eyes on the Prize" that shared about the events which helped launch the Civil Rights Movement. It was interesting to see real footage surrounding the Emmit Till murder in Mississippi in 1954 and the Bus Boycott in Montgomery, AL in 1955. Interviews, real footage, a look at all the pieces that lined up for "such a time". Some observations and reflections from the video:

1. That time period is not all that far back in our history.
2. So very many African-American activists were courageous, persevering, and faith-filled.
3. The African-American community was bound together so tight from their shared experiences of suffering and oppression.
4. There are many unnamed heroes and martyrs from the black community who helped pave the way for the next generations.
5. It is easier to look back on injustices and call them plainly out and recognize them as horrendous and inhumane. It is more difficult to call out injustices as we live in the midst of them. Why? Probably several reasons. For me, denial and blinders (because I don't want to take responsibility nor sacrifice my privilege or ease). Also, keeping myself fairly separate from one another means I don't really get to know people and therefore don't really grow in caring about people. And, while there are laws against segregation and racial discrimination, injustices still exist now...but are just more hidden... brokenness continuing to heap brokenness through the years. We often don't consider the history, the macro-level of why things exist as they do, nor do we feel any individual responsibility in working toward reconciliation or justice in these enormous social issues.

At one point in the video, a reporter was interviewing 26 year old Martin Luther King Jr. He was new on the was his first role of community leadership as he led through the Bus Boycott, and there was a lot of opposition from whites. When asked if he was fearful, he replied that he was not. That the cause was greater than his individual self, and that it was his duty; his belief that every person stand up and be counted. As we continue forward in this world to live for Christ and partner with him in his redeeming work, I pray that I would be able with integrity to live like King....he clearly had his eyes on the Prize.