Tuesday, August 30, 2016

a model of presence

I can't stop thinking about a funeral that my friend, Judy, pastor of Harvest Vineyard Church, officiated a few weeks back. 

Roy was a neighbor in the Walnut Neighborhood, and alcohol took a toll on Roy's life, ultimately leading him toward an early death while he was in his 50's.  

What moved me so much through this funeral, was the fact that Judy knew more of Roy than his alcoholism.  She spoke of the encounters she'd had with Roy through the years, both in the neighborhood and when he'd come to church a few times.  She knew of his kind heart, his love of fishing, his good nature.  She told stories of his help with the community garden, and the times when he tried to kick his addiction.  

As Judy spoke with the family and those gathered, we could see and celebrate who God made Roy to be.  It was a holy time of personal story and brokenness and God's grace.  

And for me, it was a powerful testament to presence.  While many in the neighborhood might have only seen and labeled Roy as the neighborhood drunk, Judy really saw Roy beyond that, as a deeply loved human being with gifts and a future, a person who needed Jesus and healing, just like every other one of us who walks the earth. 

I was so warmed by this funeral.  By the loving presence and "noticing" done by a neighborhood pastor, to the sense of grace and healing I could feel happen with family members in the room.  

This hour marked me as I consider my own presence in the neighborhood, the eyes by which I see, and the availability I have (or don't have) to be with and experience life alongside my neighbors.  

Thanks, Judy, for your witness of incarnation and loving presence with people...especially people who are often passed over or dismissed.  

Sunday, August 14, 2016

God's working through partnerships

Yesterday, Orchard Hill Church's leadership and Mission Strategy Team had the honor of bringing together our partners from UCI in Haiti, and from Food for the Hungry in Mozambique.  After being at the Global Leadership Summit Thursday and Friday, we joined together Saturday morning for a brunch and a time of listening to our partners share what God is doing through their ministries.  

This time of listening and learning was a Spirit-filled, holy time together.  The group was especially captivated when Aweke and Joal, staff at Food for the Hungry, Gorongoza, Mozambique, spoke about God's fruit through the many savings groups forming in their region.  

Food for the Hungry initiated several groups consisting of 12-25 adults and began to share with them a biblical view of money and stewardship.  They described the value of saving money together. Initially, the participants rejected the idea that they could save money.  'We don't have any money to save. We're too poor,' was a common response.  However, with education and a compelling vision, the participants began to pool small amounts of their money, and they began to loan it to individuals within their group who would return the money along with interest.   

God is working mightily through these savings groups!  No seed money was given to these groups.  From the beginning, it was owned by the participants and the money saved was their own money.  The groups provide motivation, encouragement, and accountability from within.  Relationships are built.  Businesses and innovative ideas are being pursued with the loans.  A faithful God is experienced, and His principles are being learned about and lived out tangibly.   

And, talk about a "fishes and loaves" story.  From their initial meager offerings, these savings groups have generated over $400,000 U.S. dollars together over the past 4 years!  These groups have been bearing much spiritual, relational, and economic fruit.  It is a goal of Food for the Hungry that some of the savings groups would now start to join together to form associations together.  

This time of sharing was a great reminder of the following:

1. Wholistic ministry integrates the spiritual and physical.  Economic development within a biblical worldview.  Spiritual development and Christian community are central in community transformation because they address the heart, mind, and the foundational "why"...the motivation toward being Kingdom people on a Kingdom mission toward a Kingdom vision.    

2. Mutuality!  Our partners felt blessed by being invited to come be a part of the Global Leadership Summit, and I was inspired and challenged by the ministries of our partners.  We have so much to learn from one another.  The picture in the room was one of the global Body of Christ listening and learning from one another.  JeanJean and Kristie, from Haiti, asked for more information from Aweke and Joal regarding these savings groups so that they could consider savings groups for their context in Gorongosa, Haiti.  I've been taking Dave Ramsey's class with our two teens, and I'm aware of the troubling statistics in our country around Americans' lack of saving money and living instead in debt.  I also know many right around me who would say, 'I don't have the money to save.'  Whether America, Mozambique, or Haiti, we all need to address thinking about and stewarding money God's way!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Perkins coming back to Iowa

"What separates Christian community development from other forms of social change is that we believe that changing a life or changing a community is ultimately a spiritual issue...I want to be clear that a ministry of Christian community development without evangelism is like a body without a soul.  To be Christian, by definition, is to live and speak in such a way that our lives continually point to the wonderful person of Jesus Christ."  John M. Perkins from Beyond Charity

Dr. Perkins is coming back to Iowa in October.  He'll be a presenter at the first ever Iowa CCDA Regional Conference in Sioux Center, IA (Dordt College), Oct. 27-29.  Learn more at www.edu/events/ccdiowa 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Willard Wednesdays

The Divine Conspiracy: Chapter 4 Who is Really Well Off?  - The Beatitudes  (p. 123-125)

Uh oh, it's bad, when you look at your own blog and only find your weekly Willard posts!  I have much else I'd like to share in writing and no time to do so...that's a problem!  I will attempt a little more variety in the future between Wednesdays.  :)

I am blogging through The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard.  It's been a pivotal book for me as I seek a renewing of my mind (Romans 12) and a more fully formed Kingdom of God worldview.  

Some quotes today from Willard who spent the last part of chapter 4 writing about the "hopeless blessables".  

"Blessed are the physically repulsive, Blessed are those who smell bad, the twisted, misshapen, deformed,, the too big, too little, too loud, the bald, the fat, and the old- For they are all riotously celebrated in the party of Jesus."

Willard goes on to write about others we tend to disqualify:

"The flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned-outs.  The broke and the broken.  The drug heads and the divorced.  The HIV positive and herpes ridden.  The brain-damaged and incurably ill.  The barren and the pregnant too-many-times or at the wrong time.  The overemployed, the underemployed, the unemployed.  The unemployable.  The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced.  The parents with children living on the street, the children with parents dying in the "rest" home.  The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid.  The emotionally starved or emotionally dead.  And on and on and on."

"Is it true that Earth has no sorrow that Heaven can't heal?  It is true!  That is precisely the gospel of heaven's availability that comes to us through the Beatitudes.  And you don't have to wait until you are dead.  Jesus offers to all such people as these the present blessedness of the present kingdom- regardless of circumstances.  The condition of life sought for by human beings through the ages is attained in the quietly transforming friendship of Jesus."

"If I, as a recovering sinner myself, accept Jesus' good news, I can go to the mass murderer and say, 'You can be blessed in the kingdom of the heavens.  There is forgiveness that knows no limits.'  To the pederast and the perpetrator of incest.  To the worshiper of Satan.  To those who rob the aged and weak. To the cheat and the liar, the bloodsucker and vengeful:  Blessed! Blessed! Blessed!  As they flee into the arms of the Kingdom Among Us."