Friday, December 8, 2017

That's My Cup of Tea!

This post is about an event that happened a few weekends ago.  I've been swamped, but wanted to share.

It's Friday after a long week of fighting to stay well and the last-minute to-do's of leaving the country for a while.  After a couple of meet-ups at the airport, successfully making the first leg of the flight, and barely making the connection flight, I'm glad to rest on the plane.  Based on her conversation with the flight attendant, the girl next to me doesn't seem too keen to speak English, giving us both permission to keep to ourselves.  That is, until she sneezes, to which I naturally say "Bless you" and she just as naturally replies "Thank you."  This happens 5 times when she announces that she caught a cold on her business trip.

I confess that my immediate thought is, "Great, I'm trying my best to stay well and of all spots on the flight, I got this one?"   But almost just as immediately, right as I am contemplating if I have enough coins to purchase an steeply-priced bottle of water, I hear a familiar voice in my heart.  It's encouraging me to offer to buy her a tea, and all the while a wave of compassion is washing over me.  So I ask, "Would you like me to buy you a tea?"  A bit hesitant, she points toward an overhead bin a few seats ahead, saying her wallet is in her bag.  I reassure her that I am offering to pay for her, and she slowly agrees.  And that changes everything.

As she gratefully sips her tea with lemon, she admits that she can't understand why I would buy her tea for her.  Trying to stay sensitive to how the Lord wants to guide our conversation, I say that I am a Christian and believe that God gives freely, so I want to give freely.  And besides, I felt compassion for her since she was sick, and I wanted to help her.  She smiles, sharing that she is also a Christian; and this opens the door for more conversation as well as an invite to show me around town the next day (which I never would have time for, but was thankful).  She also ends up sending me off with a tin of the best chocolates my sister and I have ever tasted and a special drink that I would gift a couple of dear friends who I knew would appreciate it.  

Thankful to have this tin that was once full of chocolates as a tangible reminder to take the opportunities before us
to show kindness and love to those in our path. 


By the end of the flight, she cheerfully proclaims that she's feeling better; and several times points out that "it all started with a cup of tea!"  The truth is, as blessed as I was to receive gifts and her invitations, the joy of helping someone in need along with responding to the Lord's guidance was the greatest reward.  And even now, as I was then, I am humbled that such a small act of kindness could have such an impact and can't help but wonder how many times I have surely missed similar opportunities.  

Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink?...And the King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.'    ~Matthew 25:37, 40 (out of context, but is it?)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Pray-cation

Last Saturday my boss told me to take Monday and Tuesday off since we’d had overtime the previous week in Berlin.  Though the mental to-do list was screaming out to me, my body which was starting to fight something, thanked him.  It was timely as so many matters of prayer were surfacing all at once; and the cold, rainy weather was not beckoning me to get out in the least.  Okay, I could give two days, and so I did.

But then it so happened that the Lord was asking/granting me more time as all 5 of my meetings from Wednesday to Friday were canceled, all for different reasons; and a lot of the remaining week’s workload depended on them.   Mensch!  (Aw, man!)  It could be nice if it hadn’t called for mostly cold rain every day and if I’d had more to do; but sometimes it takes these types of situations to get us in a place where we have to deal.  Deal with the inner issues that we’re tempted to ignore and are otherwise too busy to really examine and bring to the Lord.  The things that if left unaddressed burden us and hinder us and get in the way of our relationship both with God and with others.  The things that I would've gladly escaped through work or busy-ness, but wasn't afforded that option this time!

The Message version of the book of James tells us to "[consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors.  So don't try to get out of anything prematurely.  Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (ch. 1, vs 2-4) That’s been this week for me. 

Now that I’m (trusting I'm) on the other side of it, I truly am thankful that the Lord loves us enough to let us get uncomfortable or even miserable if that’s what it takes to bring Him those places that need changing, but are unchangeable without His help.  


I’m also thankful that He’s a God who trains us so that we grow and get strong and are able to face the challenges that are ahead.   What a good Father we have who sticks with us in our times of need and helps us in every situation.   

Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.     ~ James 1:12 (Message)

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Berlin and Back

 Another week come and gone.  It started off with me being venturous, wanting to try the third church on my list before I headed to the airport that afternoon.  In theory, it was an easy train ride; in reality, 
my getting there early was seemingly futile as I searched and searched for the place with no success.  
After asking a couple of people for help, I finally arrived late, but thankful to have made it!  Then that evening, I made it from the airport in two buses only to be dropped off at a bus stop with no hotel in sight.  Another wandering, yet again a thankful heart after finally finding it!


Remnants of the Berlin Wall

Then came Monday.  You may or may not know that just hearing the word conference drains me of energy, so I had a long week ahead.  We spent the morning setting up and then exploring Berlin a bit before the events formally began that evening.  The week had its ups and downs, but the ups were all being together as a team and getting to fellowship together.  We also made a lot of connections at our booth with pastors who are eager to train their people to share the Good News; so the time was valuable.

First day of the conference
Taking advantage of this opportunity to physically be in the same location, our team spent all of Thursday having productive meetings before we shared a meal together and departed Friday.

Fruitful time of discussion and prayer

While I truly enjoyed the camaraderie and love of the 12 men I spent the week with, it was timely to have a women's event to attend this morning where the speaker is from my home state and attended the same university where I got my grad degree!  The lady on one side of me has family in my hometown, and the lady on the other side greeted me in the elevator last week at the church I was visiting!  Needless to say, I felt well-connected.  And so here we are at the end of another week with  much to be thankful for.


Friday, October 27, 2017

What a Week!

Lots of drama and putting out fires.  I started the week talking with my cell phone provider to clear up a lot of unexpected, incorrect charges on my bill.  Then I had to call my credit card company which kept being denied by a certain merchant who lists this company as a valid payment option only to be told I need to contact the merchant directly; so I had to fill out an online form.  And that’s just my personal life.  Work has been much of the same.  We’ve had so many unexpected issues to tackle that we’ve had to put most of our to do list on hold…never good news for someone in a task-oriented position.  Sigh…

But such is life.  And God tells us “ In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)  Besides there is so much to be thankful for each day especially when we have a God who can turn a mess into something beautiful and a sorrow into something to rejoice over.  That, too, has been the case on a couple of occasions of this stressful week where I, along with others, watched the Lord take a sticky crisis and not only resolve the matter, but in a way where others were blessed; and we all get to see God’s power, might, and love at work in a way in which we otherwise wouldn’t have.


And there have also been several blessings this week like a lovely walk on one of a few gorgeous days of sunshine.  I also got to meet a non-native speaker to study the Bible together yesterday, which makes me so, so happy to blend ESL and Scripture with the beginning of a new friendship—all of which bless my heart.  And last night, I was invited to attend a ladies’ group where we talked about birth order and how it affects how we develop including our personalities and relationships.  It was quite fascinating… and quite humbling as I stumbled through my high German which was never advanced in the first place, but very rusty!  Motivation to üben, üben, üben!  TGIF!


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Looking on the Sunny Side

For the past 10 days since my arrival, I’ve been disturbed at my inability to properly greet people.  I don’t remember having this problem in Germany or France.  Must be a Swiss thing.

And quite honestly, it’s not the type of situation I’ve ever thought to analyze, but there’s a window of opportunity as you approach someone on the street to exchange greetings.  I know it works here because about 1 in 10 times this past week, I got a “Grüezi”--that’s Hello--from a stranger.  And I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what I did differently than all the other times of feeling shafted. 

But today was the day.  Not only did I have 100% success rate of 8 out of 8—yes, I did count—but I also deduced what it must be.  Today, being the beautiful day that it was, I wore sunglasses.  So, my theory is it’s the eye contact!  And more precisely, the timing of it.  I still don’t know at which point the Swiss eyes need to meet the one they're greeting, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the same as an American!  I think it’s much earlier.


Anyhow, it’s such a nice feeling to get a jovial greeting back even though I’m fairly certain that I was the initiator every time; but that’s progress, right?  At least it’s supposed to be sunny the next two days.  That gives me time to practice, and maybe I can catch on to this timing thing so that I’ll be able to get in some warm greetings for the not-so-sunny days!  😎

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Kindness

Perhaps it’s because of the recent weeks of studying the book of Ruth, but I’ve been very aware of God’s kindness toward me through the kindness of others.  I suppose that kindness is always appreciated at some level; but as a foreigner, the depth of gratitude reaches much deeper.  

The two back-to-back international flights from Fiji to get here could’ve been much more stressful, but I had a flight buddy on both who helped me with my bags and with some of the issues that came up.  Since my arrival, those I work with in EE—some who are new faces--have looked out for me and been very gracious with the language barrier.

Then there’s the family who is renting me their flat.  Kindness doesn’t even seem to capture the generosity and really love that I have received from them.  They constantly think of things that will help me feel welcome and comfortable and have gone out of their way to take care of me.  They’ve had me for a couple of meals and given me all kinds of extras for the flat.  The most recent is the table/chairs they put outside for me to sit in the sun and the scooter they offered me to get to the train/bus more quickly.  Not quite sure if I’m ready for that, ha, but those are examples of their kind hearts being put into action.  

Thankful for a spot in the sun!


Like Ruth, I feel so humbled and thankful for the favor and kindness being shown to me by those who have no reason to help me.  And they not only reflect God’s nature of kindness, but are the channel through whom I get to taste and see this kindness.  I’m thankful we have a kind God who extends His kindness through others.  I hope to be a channel of His kindness as well.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Vocab Word of the Day...

I learned a new German word today: Nebel.  It means fog.  The couple who is renting me a place to live has been so kind to me and offered to take me to a church this morning about 20 minutes from where we live.  It was about 48 degrees and heavy fog as we left.  After the service was over, the fog was still there.  They asked if I’d like to go up to the mountains and get above the fog and clouds.  Yes, please!  Had I known there would be an hour hike involved in my afternoon, I wouldn’t have worn white pants and 3-inch boots!   But I have no regrets as it was so beautifully breath-taking as we had our lunch outside looking at the Alps, and I absolutely love hiking.  And by this time, the weather had warmed up to the 70’s, which made it a bit warm, but again no complaining from me.  

View from the top of the tower of Lake Zurich


At one point, I was telling them how it is so amazing how changing your position/location can provide such a different perspective!  I think about how things in life can sometimes be cloudy, and it’s hard to get our bearings straight and know how to think and pray at times...at least for me.  But maybe what we need is to get out of the spot we’re in so that we can gain a different view.  And then, of course, there’s God’s perspective.  While we don’t necessarily have to climb a hill or mountain to have that, it does take intentionality to get away from the “fog” of life and also to choose His ways which are higher than our ways. 






He promises in a psalm, which just happens to be on a picture in my room, (translated) "I will show you the way you should go; I will lead/guide you with my eyes." I hear that the fog, though sometimes fleeing, will most likely stick around till February!  I won't be here that whole time, but still, that’s plenty of time to practice this concept.  Hopefully I’ll get some more get-aways in the future.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Few Takeaways From Fiji

My first night in Fiji was a bit surreal as I walked to the cottage where I’m staying under the starlit sky.  What am I doing here?  In Fiji for the third time in 3 years?!  Among these amazing leaders from all over the world? Who two different speakers praised their positions and influence for such important, eternal matters.  It’s extremely humbling and such an honor, not just to be in their presence and a part of their team, but to glean knowledge and wisdom with them and from them.

The night we arrived, we were served a delicious Fijian meal as we met some of the board members for EE in Fiji.  They had some of the youth put on a phenomenal drama that acted out the history of Christianity in Fiji.


Delicious Fijian Food!

A skit the Fijian youth performed

Each weekday was filled with lots and lots of meetings and discussions in how to equip the national leaders better, work as a team, and review different policies.

My favorite session was when we looked at Exodus 18 to learn about leadership, priorities, focus, and delegation.  The first nugget I’ll share was very practical: basically, the later in the day (when we have less mental energy remaining), our decision-making abilities decline; so, better to make decisions before 4 PM.  (That finding was from scientific research, not the passage).

Second, first and foremost, we’re the Lord’s servant. This speaks to me because my very role is one of a servant.  I serve a person, a team, and an organization.  I also serve those who are sending me.  While that’s so true, I must remember that above anyone else, I serve the Lord.  It’s all too easy to get caught up in our responsibilities and get our priorities off kilter.  May we keep Him at the highest place in our hearts.

Saturday was a free day where I rested, walking the beach and marina in the morning and relaxing at the center in the afternoon.  Sunday, I was asked to share my testimony at a local Anglican church where Bishop G. is a convert from a different religion.  E. from Russia gave a strong sermon, using personal examples to exhort us to take every opportunity we have to share the Gospel with those who God puts in our lives.  I think we always need this push.

With E, Bishop G, and an Aussie after the service


Many people left Thursday bright and early, giving me all of Thursday to pack and get to visit a Fijian-Indian couple I met last year at a clinic we held.  Their kindness is humbling as they don't have electricity or much at all, but they had me over for a meal and showered me with gifts.  We were all so grateful to see each other despite the short time I had in Fiji.  As I left, the Fijians predicted it won't be the last time they see me.  With this unplanned track record, I'm starting to wonder myself! 

Quick visit/meal before my plane left!



Third Time's a Charm

Well, I guess it all depends on how you define charm.  I love this place, I must say.  There have been a few differences this time around, other than the people I’m here with.  Fiji has had a terrible drought, leaving the normally green spaces brown and causing some wildfires.  Ima, who takes care of the center, was thanking God that at least we have water.  Me too!  

I still take my early morning walks, but found a new path after the first day’s dogs barking from afar.  At least they aren’t muddy walks like last year. 

Sunrise on my morning walk in the sugar cane fields


This time, there are pigs, bees, goats, and roosters.  The little baby goats are so cute and apparently know to come back to the center after roaming and mixing with other goats in the sugar cane fields during the day.  The roosters are not as loved and have been threatened by at least one participant for their disrespect of choosing to make so much noise during sleeping hours.  :)

Speaking of goats, we had the option of goat or beef curry for supper. I decided on the goat since that’s not something I eat at home.  Then later as I gazed upon the field and watched the cute little kid goats frolicking, I started feeling a little guilty about my choice of meat. 

Then there’s Felix.  That’s the rat who graces us with his presence every night.  At first, I didn’t actually see him and comforted myself with the possibility that maybe he was a mongoose, squirrel, or even mouse.  But finally one night, my eyes beheld him and had to accept the disturbing truth.

It's also been very hot, and some in the group are used to A/C, which we don't have other than a unit in the meeting room.   And the limited data and signal for Internet, which makes it feel like we're living in a different era for some.  But there's just something about Fiji with its natural beauty and slow pace which helps you to enjoy life as it is.  So thankful for my time here...once again.

Monday, October 2, 2017

More Than Meets The Eye

Well, it's been a while.  I've had much to write, but haven't had a free minute!  This past week was filled with online meetings, lots of emails to our workers to remember deadlines, preparing for upcoming VP meetings, and last-minute prep for traveling.  The time has finally arrived, and I'm en route as I type!

I often am asked what a typical day looks like.  That's hard to answer because every day is different, and quite honestly, I'm afraid if I start explaining, it would make you sorry you ever asked.  Or maybe that could be due more to my detailed personality that explains things to the tee. ;). The reality is that a lot of what I do is behind-the-scenes work.

I am learning that many things--whether decisions, projects, or even newsletters--require a lot more time and process than expected.  And when you work with others, which we all do, the collaboration of schedules and lives requires even more time.  And as I consider the nature of my own role which is more "backstage," it has me thinking about how God also works behind the scenes sometimes.

While He's shown Himself in my own and others' lives to be a very present God and sometimes reveals Himself in amazing ways on-the-spot; there are also examples in scripture where people have asked for help, and it takes quite a while before the human eye will see evidence of Him responding.  Like a man named Daniel who prayed and had to wait 3 weeks before any sign of God hearing that prayer (Daniel 10).  Come to find out, what he and others didn't see was a battle in the heavens waging war on behalf of this man and those around him.  It tells us that a holy angel who was connected to getting Daniel's prayer answered was opposed by an evil force, and they were fighting 21 days.  Now that is behind the scenes!  On the one hand, it is encouraging to know that silence and passing time does not equal disinterest or neglect on God's part.  On the other, it reminds us that there's usually more than meets the eye to a situation.

Getting back to the work I do, I don't meant to imply that it is nearly as significant as that of angelic beings, but I find it comforting to know that it takes unseen action to accomplish the goals of a much larger operative.

That said, the next couple of weeks are going to be packed.  I hope to get a post in, but if not, I'm probably making a to-do list or tracking people down to get it done. :)  Stay tuned!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Storms of Life

Last Monday morning, I was meeting online with my boss in Europe  as the winds were starting to pick up.  Later that morning, I sent a mass email out asking for some information, and several workers throughout Europe asked how I was and were praying as Hurricane Irma was making news worldwide.  I had to break early afternoon when we finally lost Internet, just in time for the tornado warnings, something we thankfully don't get very often where I'm from.  

As you probably know, despite some record-setting flooding that did devastate areas of downtown and some beaches as well as the expected power outages and loss of trees, we actually escaped the path of the hurricane itself, experiencing "only" tropical storm conditions.  In other words, we were spared much wrath.

Image result for charleston irma
Battery Downtown
Not a personal photo, taken from Time Magazine ;)
Personal Photo this time :)
One of many boardwalks that didn't make the storm :(

As the next few days have been characterized by checking on others, cleaning up, and catching up, there has been a strong sense of gratitude in many a local heart especially considering those in the islands and Florida as well as Texas and Louisiana.  I think it's a combination of our last two years of flooding, Harvey, memories of Hugo, and the uncharacteristic nature of this storm, but this hurricane had our attention.  And I think anything to that degree should cause us to look to One who has power over nature for help. 

As we get back to life as normal, I can't but help think of the storms of life that many of us or around us face, but also the fruit of these storms.  They shake things up.  This results in the trees and branches that are rotting, weaker, or are not firmly rooted to end up with piles of debris on the side of the road.  And I think it's the same in our own lives: when the storms of life come, they also shake us until that which is firmly rooted remains.  How crucial it is that we root ourselves in the Lord who is a sure foundation, the One who is the Author and Finisher of our faith.  

Jesus taught those who follow Him that "...everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."  In light of the havoc and ruin we've witnessed from physical storms, I hope we'll take Jesus' words seriously for the metaphorical ones as well.  

People weren't the only ones who were ready to get back out Tuesday.
Lots and lots of butterflies!

And while the Lord is so kind and good to instruct us on how to survive the trials of life, may we also acknowledge when He, in His mercy and kindness, spares us from the "storms" that are headed our way, like we literally experienced here in South Carolina.  




Friday, September 8, 2017

That's...communication!

Speaking of communication, sorry for the lack of mine with you!  Ever since I started full-time, there's been a lot to do!  I've been preparing for my upcoming travels, working a lot for the organization, and several doors that were closed or not even there have opened recently to meet with churches and individuals who want to know more!   

I was thankful when a family asked me to dog-sit last weekend.  Sometimes it helps to "get away" to be able to pray more intently about issues on our hearts and minds.  It was also a chance to be creative and even try new things like painting!  Okay, so this was a mini canvas with a stencil for ages 6+ that only required minimal painting, even following a pattern they gave.  It was still a thrill for me, and hats off to any 6-year old who can stay in those lines!

My masterpiece.   Don't look too closely. ;)

At one point during the weekend, as I was doing some creative writing, I was dwelling on Psalm 119:105, specifically the word "word," wanting to know more about what the Lord was referring to.  It's a very common term after all.  So I delved into the Hebrew, not surprised that it refers to speech and utterances; but one definition stood out: commune(-ication).  And it opened my eyes to the genius of the word and how God designed us.  Words/speech are a form of communication, but the fruit and I suppose goal, in this case, is to commune with the one we're communicating with.  I may just be a language nerd, but isn't that amazing, the connection between words and relationship?  And it matches God's heart and what He says elsewhere that the purpose of the Scriptures is so that we can know Him personally.  How beautiful and amazing is that?

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105

I should add that "word" has many definitions, including but not limited to news, counsel, commandments, promise; so, it's relaying different types of information to others.  In that regard, one of my largest roles and responsibilities is communication as a liaison between EE EuroMENA and the international headquarters as well as between the leadership team and the different nations we represent.  And I must say that it makes me so thankful for the intercultural communication class I took in grad school, which I now apply on a weekly, if not daily basis!   

Finally, you may have noticed some changes in the ways I'm communicating, like how this blog is now private. :).  I'm re-thinking how I'm going to communicate with those who are interested in what the Lord is doing.  While I do want to inform and even "commune" through words with those who desire, it's important to me to protect the privacy of those I serve with as well as preserve the value of personal communication.  So I'll be praying through what and how to share with others in this "communication age" where the norm is to gain real-time access to all the information and photos we want with just a click.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-technology; just wanting to be wise and restrained, keeping the big picture in mind. Hope you'll keep reading!

Friday, August 11, 2017

At last!

Long time, no blog!  But the good part of letting some time pass is that I have some news to share with you!  After months of waiting, we are in the process as I type for me to officially begin my post as assistant to EE EuroMENA!  

There have been many behind-the-scenes prayers and God-stories that I won't share in this particular blog.  To be honest, I don't think I'm even aware of all of them!  But one thing I am aware of is how the Lord uses our circumstances to make us into who He wants us to be.  It seems like the delays have had many purposes.  For one, they remind me that I'm not in charge, keeping me in a place of trust and openness to do things differently than expected or planned.  

And this is a very good thing because the plan has changed!  I'll share more details in my next newsletter; but rather than being based in Switzerland, I'll now be based in the US and traveling within Europe and other locations at key points throughout the year.  This will allow me to be more efficient and cost-effective and seems to be the way that God is leading and opening doors.

I'm thankful for a God who guides our prayers, speaks through His Word, and uses a body of others to provide counsel.  I'm also thankful to be joining a team who exemplify the strength of unity and grace to me.  You can be praying for wisdom and understanding as I tackle a few new projects which I'll be working on till I meet with the team in early October.  

And if you're in a season of waiting, may the Everlasting God guide your prayers and give you counsel in whichever ways He chooses.  

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.  Genesis 21:33


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Facing a Task Unfinished


Last week, I attended the ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) Provincial Assembly in Wheaton, IL along with several other SAMS missionaries and 1400 Anglicans!  While it made for some very long days, I have to say that I was so encouraged in so many ways.  The theme of "Mission on our Doorstep" addressed needs and opportunities both locally and globally.

That's a lot of Anglicans!

I'm not sure about you, but sometimes I find the state of the world--and even the church--to be demoralizing.  There are so many people with so many real needs--addicted, broken (relationships/families), persecuted, refugees, hungry, poor, marginalized/outcast, forgotten, sick, dying, confused, foreigner...the list goes on.  Sometimes the needs are so overwhelming, the temptation is to throw up our hands and do nothing because will our small efforts really make a difference?

But what is so beautiful and ingenious about God's design of His Church is that it is a Body, made of many members.  I was reminded of that and the strength that we have when we are surrounded by and connected to a body of believers under Christ's lordship.  As I sat in on workshops and plenary sessions and met people at meals, I was so encouraged to see different ministries that are addressing these needs and making a difference.  So, maybe I can't meet every need that exists, but I'm a part of a larger Body who is!




One of my favorite hymn re-makes: "Facing A Task Unfinished"

http://www.gettymusic.com/facing-a-task-unfinished/

This takes some pressure off, but equally begs the questions, "What's my role?"  Until Jesus returns, there will always be unfinished tasks and unmet needs.  May we seek Him to know how we can join what He is doing through the Church to meet these needs.  May we always share His heart to know Him and make Him known, for Him to be exalted in the nations and on the earth.  



Archbishop Foley invited longtime friend Louie Giglio who exhorted us  from Psalm 46:
 God will be exalted in the nations and on the earth.





Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Opportunity Knocks

In case you're unaware, today is World Refugee Day, with the purpose to raise awareness about the global crisis of refugees as well as to encourage advocacy and helping those in need.  Unfortunately, the word "refugee" has become more of a political term and stirs up heated emotions, which sometimes diverts from the true issue at hand: millions (over 65!) of people are living in such hostile, desperate, or un-livable conditions that they must leave their homelands.

Image result for door and europe
"Doors of Europe" Taken from Peter Carlsson's blog
://petecarlsson.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/doors-of-europe/

Interestingly, it's the poorer and less developed countries who welcome the most.  Maybe because they know what it feels like?  I can't imagine...  On several occasions, I've chosen to leave my homeland.  It hasn't been easy, but I've always had the choice, as well as the choice to return.  I'm so blessed and thankful to have been born in a nation that values freedom.


Turkey is overwhelmed as they welcome refugees who were rejected in Greece
(taken from telegraph.co.uk)
While the intolerance and brutalities are atrocious, we often don't have to look far to see how God can bring something good out of a bad situation.  Since EE works directly with churches, I've gotten to glimpse some of the ways that the Church in Europe has responded to the situation.  One of our leaders is a pastor who has outreaches for many, including refugees to Switzerland.  Another attends a church that welcomes refugees and was able to befriend an Iraqi who wanted to "know God."  And despite the poverty and effects of war, the workers in Ukraine reach out to the Crimean Tatar refugees.

This is another reason that evangelism, in my opinion, is so important in Europe right now. For the Europeans, yes, but also for those who have come from countries with no other Christian witness!  It's amazing that such an unfortunate and tragic situation has actually created opportunity for people from closed countries (not open to the Gospel) to go to open countries where they are able to hear the Gospel.  


Donate
Taken from UN's webpage

It encourages me to see the Church respond because as Christians, we adore and worship the God whose Gospel--or good message that He put into action--is "the power of God for salvation..." (Rom 15:1).  This word salvation does apply to a future salvation from damnation, thank God; but its primary definition from the Greek is "deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation" and "deliverance from the molestation from enemies."* Since a refugee is "a person who has been forced to flee their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster" (Oxford Dictionary), by definition, they are ripe for God's gracious gift of salvation.

It helps, though humbles me, to remember the rest of this verse, that this gift of salvation is "to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" because it reminds me that I myself should be an outsider of God's kingdom.  It's by His sheer grace and act of love that I get to be included because He's a God who has rescued me from danger.  

As the Church prays for God's "kingdom to come, [His] will to be done," may we embrace the doors of opportunity to bring His kingdom to earth and participate with Him in this crisis of a situation, not just for the refugees, but for the nations who are trying to help. 

*Greek definitions accessible through www.blueletterbible.org

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Magnolias and Meetings

This morning is the first time I've joined the monthly VP calls.  Thankfully I'm on Eastern Standard Time and got to start at 8AM instead of midnight like those in Fiji did!  I set up my computer on my window seat, which gives me an immediate view of the magnolia tree right outside my room.  I love this time of year watching the magnolias bloom, but I learned something new today: they open up very quickly...or at least this one did!



In the course of an hour, I watched this flower which had only slighted budded open into full bloom! Perhaps the rain sped things up, but I really couldn't believe my eyes.  And I suppose it was quite appropriate as the VP's and leadership team were reviewing plans and resources to help assist national directors with their growing countries.  Obviously, not everything in life will develop or grow as speedily as the magnolia outside my window, but there are conditions and care that will facilitate growth.

On a more somber note, it also reminds me that everything on earth is temporary, relatively speaking.  Whether you tune into the news or just get out of bed, death haunts us in literal and metaphorical forms, confronting us at times with uncertainties and unpredictability. This morning's magnolia almost puts action to this sober reality that is confirmed in the book of Isaiah: "The grass withers, the flower fades..." reinforcing the need to bring the Good News to every person.

Thankfully, when Christ is our Lord and our source of Hope and true Life, we have security and stability that people, things, and plans of this world are unable to offer us.  And while death is a reality, it isn't final.  Jesus has power to resurrect.  He gets the last word.  To complete the sentence, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever." (Isaiah 40:8)


Thursday, May 18, 2017

It's a Small World

It's really good to be here in Asheville with passionate leaders from around the world.  The last time we sat around a table together was in Indonesia last August as the (6 out of 7 new) VP's gathered today after the Congress of Nations.

Thai Food Together

The week has been intense, but very good.  I arrived Monday late morning and have snuck away from a few of the meetings to meet individually with some of the more experienced staff to help answer the slew of questions I have.  The past few weeks, I've picked up more and more responsibilities, somewhat to prep for this week; and the more I get assigned, the more I realize I have to learn!  That's an ongoing prayer request, for wisdom and understanding, for all of us.

The meetings have been extremely insightful for me, and it's a real privilege to hear all that the Lord is doing around the world, which seems a lot smaller when we're all joined together despite the different cultures and languages represented.  I'm excited for tonight's meetings as the VP's will each share with the board about what is happening in their particular areas. (Hope to share more later).

Of course, we don't only talk of all the successes, but the challenges as well.  As we were reminded in a session on Master Planning this morning, conflict and misunderstanding are the result of differing assumptions; so communication is vital for clarity.  Also, mission points us in the right direction while vision motivates and inspires.  Just a couple of nuggets from today. :)

Tom Reviewing Master Planning

We would all appreciate your prayers as these final two days are the longest.  Thank you!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Risky Business

 "The moment they saw Him they worshiped Him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally."  (Matt 28:17)

In light of the Easter season upon us, I've been reading the accounts of both Jesus' death and resurrection.  Jesus has risen from the dead, presented Himself to Mary and several other women, and now the 11 disciples see Him face-to-face, and the above statement is how the Message records their response.

Of course, we know that wasn't the end of the story and that Jesus' death was intentional, prophetic, and even powerful as it served as the required sacrifice needed to cover the payment for sin, once and for all, to restore us back to Him.  That His resurrection brought the power to bring life into what is dead.  



But imagine having given up everything to follow Jesus only to watch the religious people who had given up nothing and challenged His divinity have Him killed.  And instead of defending Himself or God, He suffers a brutal death right along with common criminals and goes into a grave, leaving them abandoned and scared.  Disappointment doesn't seem to capture how I imagine those who had risked everything for Jesus must have felt.

But the disciples had a choice: to give themselves back to Jesus with reverence, obedience, and respect or to keep their distance because of doubt.   The original Greek is to waver, the same word when Peter started walking on water but then fell.  

I wonder where you or I have been disappointed by Jesus.  We may deny such a thought because we know that Jesus doesn't disappoint, but our own expectations of who we expect Jesus to be and what He should do for us certainly can just like they did for His disciples when He walked the earth.  And so when He tells us to "meet Him in Galilee" so to speak, to trust Him again, we have that same choice.  Will we offer ourselves to Him as our worship, or will we waver because we're trusting in our own abilities or simply don't want to risk being disappointed again?

Perhaps it would help us to remember that Jesus doesn't empower us for our own individual comfort and success in life, that our following Him isn't for us alone.  This whole scene is actually the background for the Great Commission where Jesus' next move is to verbally transfer His own power and responsibility to carry God's salvation plan to those who follow after Him as His disciples.  So I think it's worth contemplating these things and considering if our God who gave up His very life is willing to trust us with this crucial role, will we trust Him in our everyday lives as well as with this call?

  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I Don't Need Jesus

I was asked to speak at an event this past weekend for homeschooling parents about evangelizing teenagers.   Since far too much time has passed since my own high school years, my only "qualifications" are that I taught teenagers the past 3 years and have a teenage nephew.  Clearly not the expert!  But since the starting point that we teach in XEE is to connect and relate to others, it seemed like a good place to start is to consider the teenage life and mind.

Dot and I had some convo/role plays about learning to connect with others with Chloe and Audrey.  They're both high school students who are enthusiastic to share the Gospel. Note: the flowers were Audrey's idea, but brought back memories to Fiji! 🌼

One point we talked about is that many teens, whether they've grown up in church or not, may not recognize their need for Jesus.  And I'd say this is not limited to teenagers, but could hold true for all ages and all cultures. It's something I have encountered with Europeans, particularly the French who pride themselves in secularism.  Perhaps it's because Jesus is associated with the Church and religion, which hasn't always prevailed in the teachings of Jesus.  Perhaps it's because many associate Him with a 2000+-year old historical figure that has zero relevance to the 21st century.



That's where I get hopeful and even excited because as the approaching Easter season is supposed to remind us, Jesus is alive and oh-so-relevant.  A teen (or anyone) may deny their need for Jesus, but they may be better able to acknowledge their need for emotional or physical healing.  Because Jesus is Healer, He heals emotions, bodies, and spirits.  So, actually who Jesus is and what He does meets their needs after all.  Perhaps they need counsel for a tough decision or relationship or even counseling to help through some pain or confusion.  Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.  Maybe they live with loneliness and just need a friend.  Jesus is Friend.  In fact, He befriended the outcasts, despised, and "bad people" most of the time!  Or they may need someone who can stick around after dealing with a failed friendship, relationship, or even parent who has left.  Jesus is the Faithful One. 





The point is as humans--teen or not--we may not think we need Jesus when in actuality, that's exactly who we need.  We just don't know it because we've relegated Him to a figure from an ancient text rather than the God-With-Us, one of His other names.  The reality is that His Holy Spirit lives inside of those who do recognize their need for Jesus; so we have access to Him directly but also through others who are filled with His Spirit!  



Perhaps a real challenge is first getting to know Jesus in the fullness of who He is for ourselves so that we can share Him with others.  Then the Gospel is more than an awkward conversation, but the Good News that it truly is: Jesus did die over 2000 years ago to pay the price for every wrong thing we and others have done.  But now Jesus is alive and relates to us right where we are to restore us back to the One who created us to be whole and fulfilled.  

Jesus does meet our needs emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  Right here, right now, and one day forever.  Let's recognize the real need for Jesus that is there for all life stages because of our common human state; and let's share Him with others.  We all need Jesus.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Ch-ch-ch-changes

Change is on my mind.  More specifically, changed minds.  There's a parable in Matthew 21 that compares two different sons.  One say he's going to do something, but never does it.  The other initially says he won't, but then changes his mind and does it.  God uses this story to illustrate that anyone who wants to have a right relationship with the Father will need to change their mind.

I remember when I was a teenager and had heard this aspect of the Gospel and genuinely questioned what there was to change about myself.  I knew I wasn't perfect, but no one was; and I tried to lead a good life.  By God's grace, I was able to see that God isn't just perfect; He's holy, and I needed Jesus to save me from my natural unholiness that gave me no chance of being in relationship with Him.

Years later, I am thankful to have experienced much transformation through the relationship I have with God. This can look so many ways, but it's always positive and beautiful.  In light of this, I'd like to share a true story about one example of Christ's power to transform in the lives of others who are connected with my sending agency:

There is a native South American group called the Yaghans.  Back in the 1840's a SAMS missionary named Allen Gardiner set out to share the Gospel with them even though they were savage and fierce. In fact, Charles Darwin said that "one can hardly...believe they are fellow creatures and inhabitants of the same world."  After Gardiner and the others died without seeing any success by the world's standards, another young SAMS missionary named Thomas Bridges returned and shared the Gospel with them.  He did this not by mere word, but by action when he chose to forgive the hostile tribe members who had killed his friends.

Unfortunately Allen Gardiner died before being able to share the Gospel or seeing the fruit of his labor.

This time, there was fruit.  The transforming power of Christ shone brightly as the barbarian Yaghans actually put their own lives at risk to help rescue a stranded ship of sailors at sea.  This visible display of transformation of the Yaghans was evident to many.  In fact, Charles Darwin himself became a regular SAMS donor because he was so impressed by the change that had taken place in their hearts and minds!

Perhaps this is one reason that Jesus places such a high value on a changed heart: because of the way that it points others to Him.  And why He commends the heart that is willing to yield and allow Him to change it--even after initial resistance.  I'll end by challenging us all to offer our hearts and minds to Jesus to show us where we may need some kind of change that could free us to be who we were created to be and in doing so, point others to Him.