Sunday, December 6, 2009

Taboo!


It’s Sunday night in Adidome, Ghana West Africa. We were up early this morning after what can only be described as a fitful night of sleep for me. I guess jetlag finally gets you sometime. My time happened to be last evening.

Pastor Jacob, my host and translator for the week knocked at my door dressed in his Sunday best. “You look so ‘smart’ in your Sunday suit,” I said. “Oh. I’m just wearing my suit because I’m cold” was his reply; which I found quite amusing given the rising humidity and 85-degree temperature I felt when I opened my door. I am not in Wisconsin this December 6th. Angelo and I gathered our things and walked over to the chapel where the early service had already begun. Singing, dancing, drums, clapping and joyful exuberance met us as we arrived. I thought to myself, “It’s good to be back in Africa.”

Each morning this week before I start training these pastors in the subject of expository preaching, I take a passage and preach a mini-expository message in order to model the principles I am teaching. I had decided some time ago to teach from the book of Titus during this week. The passage I had selected for today’s message was Titus 1:10-16. The topic: “Dealing With Unsafe People.” Not exactly an easy passage or subject matter. Onward I went.

When I finished we were dismissed for breakfast. Immediately pastor after pastor approached me to tell me some story about some unsafe and difficult person in their congregation. It was as if someone had finally given these dear men and women permission to talk about that difficult someone, or that disappointing circumstance they were facing. Most had been carrying silent pain and agony for a long time. I have learned through my interactions with pastors, especially in these past couple of years that there are some subject matters that are taboo. I don’t know who declared them so, but they aren’t talked about near enough. So we talked about one of those subjects today. It clearly seemed to touch a nerve, if for no other reason than these dear saints were given opportunity to bear their unspoken grief and pain together.

Throughout today, more men and women have approached me to say, “Thank you for teaching us this week. Your words have given me renewed perspective and hope for ministry.”

So at the end of this Sunday in early December in West Africa I’m unusually tired. But it’s a good kind of tired. Come to think of it, it’s my perspective and my hope that’s been renewed.

Off to sleep,

S t r e t c h e d

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ghana Day 2


It’s Saturday, Day #3 for training. Each morning we have awakened to beautiful sunny days with a slight haze to the air due to the dust from the north. The wind is a gentle breeze and when you walk out in the morning it feels like a hairdryer is blowing against your skin. By noon the air has quit moving and you feel like you are standing in a sauna.

Each morning I have been teaching these dear servants of God about preaching. Today Angelo got up and gave his testimony. He was moved to tears telling these men and women the journey of his own son’s long history of drug abuse and alienation from his own parents. Angelo often refers to himself as a “trampler.” A corporate big-whig who would trample over anything and anyone to make his way to the top. He and his dear wife Margey had come to faith in Christ years ago through a friend in Baton Rouge, LA. But it was during the heartache of losing his relationship to his drug-addicted son that he finally renounced control and surrendered his life to Christ. He wept and so did we as he recounted the precious story of his son’s long recovery from drug abuse. Angelo has been my traveling companion on this trip and I’m deeply grateful for the friendship we are developing. Incidentally, yesterday while I was teaching the preachers I happened to mention one of the New Testament Greek words for preaching was “euangelleo.” The word means, “to announce Good News.” Later as Angelo and I walked together to lunch he told me his birth name was really “Euangellos” and his Greek-born parents had shortened his name to “Angelo.” I told him that he had come along with me just so he could deliver his “Good News.”

We both were quite relieved this afternoon during our daily break when we heard the pitter-patter of rain on the corrugated tin roof of our rooms. Before we knew it the rain turned violent and what started as pitter-patter suddenly sounded like the force of a mighty freight train rushing through a canyon. Gushing rivelets of water poured from the gutterless roof splashing the dry soil below and disappearing only moments later hardly leaving trace of a puddle. It’s supposed to be the dry season. There is an almost savannah-like quality to the terrain here. You can see for miles and miles the bush and the brush with a occasional tree poking it’s branches above the horizon which jiggles in the mid-day heat. The rain felt good! But we knew it was only a temporary reprieve from the heat. In a matter of minutes, we could feel the humidity building. It was now time for the afternoon teaching session. I was glad for my breathable Ex-Officio travel clothing.

Many of these 40-50 pastors that I’m teaching this week traveled by bus or car 2 whole days to attend this training. Almost all of them are working and serving in remote Ghanaian villages among the poorest of the poor of Ghana. Their conditions are austere and difficult and almost all of those I have talked with were responsible for not one or two churches, but seven or eight congregations. They travel village to village on bicycles providing spiritual oversight to their people. One pastor from the north, shared over lunch yesterday that his congregation’s offering last Sunday was 4 Ghanaian Cedis (Ghanaian currency)—about $2.80USD, and one of the cedis had been given by he and his wife. This same pastor went on and on about the value of the training we were providing. Penetrating stories from simple people that constantly remind me why BrookLink is doing what it does.

Today was the first day it was possible to use the Internet. I also called my wife from Ghana. It was good to hear her voice. It’s good to be here. One wonders what impact these days will ultimately have on a few pastors and church planters who come from the out-the-way and hidden places in the world. Only God knows what fruit will ultimately be born. As I lay my head down to sleep tonight I'll try to remember these familiar words: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Humbly,

S t r e t c h e d

Touchdown in Ghana

It’s Thursday, December 4, 2009. Angelo Afgrafiotis and I arrived in Accra, Ghana at 7:30am this morning aborad a Delta Airlines flight out of NY’s JFK airport. A loaded plane with crying babies. Not the way you want to spend a 10-hour transcontinental flight, but oh well, we are here.

Walter met us and took us immediately to the newly acquired IN Network headquarters. A clean, well-maintained two story with adequate parking and nicely appointed offices for the operation. We went inside to greet the staff there interrupting them in the middle of their morning devotions.

One of the first impressions here was the heat. It was stifling hot—93 degrees plus. The air was hazy due to the enormous amount of dust in the air. The cold winds from the European continent blow southward across the Sahara Desert and deposit liberal amounts of dust and particle into the Cape Coat countries like Ghana. It’s not only hot, but dry. The rainy season is during the summer months of June, July and August. In addition Ghana is only 5 degrees north of the Equator and this means you can count on heat during this time of the year.

It’s been 12 years since I last visited Walter in Accra. I was anxious to travel to Adidome, our destination for the next five days. Adidome was selected as one of the major sites for the IN Network work because it is this region where the Trokosi slave practice predominates. It’s a area of the country tucked away, hidden from the public eye, off the beaten path making for an ideal setting for a diabolical slave practice that torments women and children to thrive. We drove three hours north of Accra into the remote area of flatlands that stretched as far as the eye could see on both sides of the road. Lots of vegetation and greenery, but little arable farmland. Futhermore, there was little evidence of any form of wildlife. Walter explained that years ago as kids they would frequently see antelope and deer dart across the ball fields where he and his friends would play. But no more! The African wildlife was conspicuous by its absence.

We arrived in Adidome by 1pm. Angelo and I were feeling not only the effects of the heat, but the jetlag too. We had a small bite to eat and conversed with some of the IN workers before retiring to our rooms for the afternoon to escape the unrelenting heat and take a shower. We will begin tonight the training we are here to conduct.

Gratefully,

S t r e t c h e d

Thursday, November 5, 2009

$3.50 Worth of Neighborliness


I was in Atlanta several weeks ago and happened to be driving back in the late evening to my in-law's home after visiting another relative on the opposite side of town. I was a driving a borrowed late-model luxury car that I don't mind telling you was a sweet experience. You see, I like cars and I like cars that go fast, not that I was breaking any speed limits! Gazing down at the dashboard I suddenly noticed we were low on fuel so I pulled off the interstate at the nearest service station to fuel up. It didn't take long for me to realize that the area I had chosen to refuel was not the nicest part of town. My wife and son were with me, so I quickly jumped out of the driver's side, slid my card into the pump and hurriedly pumped my gas.

Suddenly I heard a slight shuffle, turned my head and was startled to see a young man standing in front of my car with his hands up as if protesting his own request. "Excuse me sir," he hesitated, "I don't mean no harm, honestly!" He seemed nervous and he spoke softly but quickly. "You see sir, I was hopin to fetch the bus home. The station attendant told me dat the bus be goin' by in a lil bit, jest across da street," as he pointed in that direction. I anticipated what was next and sure enough he managed to blurt out, "If you could jist gimme some money, I'll be on my way."

Many of us have faced similar circumstances. What do you do in these kinds of situations? I'll tell you what I did. I reasoned, "This guy isn't going to catch any bus. He'll only take my money and go and waste it on booze or buy a lottery ticket." So I asked him (not that his answer would matter), "So how much is a bus ticket?" With a look of hopefulness and expectancy he replied, "Three dolla and fifty cent, sir." I protested silently, "No bus ticket across town could possibly cost that much!" And with that I waved him off, turned my back and proceeded to finish pumping my gas. He hung his head shamefully and sauntered off to wait out his time for another unsuspecting motorist.

I finished pumping my gas, climbed back into my car to be met by my wife holding out a five-dollar bill. "I heard the conversation; we were wondering if this guy was legit. Let's give him a hand." I said, "I don't know. I'm not sure what this guy will do with it. Is he just waiting around to go in the store and buy himself some booze?" My son Drew reminded me of the story he had read sometime earlier of C.S. Lewis, when he was berated by his Christian friends for giving all his money to poor street people. "Aren't you afraid that they will only use your money to buy booze and intoxicants." Lewis replied, "So would I." I drove over to the young man, rolled down the window and held out the $5.00 bill for him. "Here, spend this on a bus ticket and get yourself home!" He grabbed the bill, uttered "God bless you!" and bounded across the busy street to the nearby bus-stop.

I've been thinking about this experience these past few weeks, especially as it relates to Jesus' command to "love our neighbor as ourselves." What does it mean at the core of my being to be a neighbor? It's natural for me to help people who are like me or who I like. But what about neighboring those who are unlike me? Certain kinds of people are easy to neighbor, especially those whose need is produced through no fault of their own. But what about those people who act irresponsibly or who make unwise choices? To those I want to say, "you deserve it!" Am I obligated by Jesus command to neighbor these kinds of people? Unfortunately, I am often guilty of "limiting" my "neighboring."

Jesus however, doesn't qualify or condition his command. It's straightforward--no conditions, no qualifications. Love those who are different. Love those who are undeserving. Love those who may take advantage of your generosity and blow it on booze. What I'm learning is that Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves may say more about the condition of my own heart than the heart of those I am seeking to love.

Love on,

S t r e t c h e d


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Waning Influence?

Forgive me if I sound un-American, but from what I am observing as I travel these past few months is that the United States has lost its status as “most admired.” I’m saddened that as a nation, we now seem to have earned the designation, “the country everybody loves to hate.” We’ve been knocked off our pedestal. Let me give you a few examples.

Being in China this week it’s pretty clear that the people here wish to overtake everything, including everything American. They are now the third largest economy in the world behind the US and India, and are ambitiously on a course to replace America from the top spot. The International Monetary Fund recently reported that China would take the lead in the world’s economic recovery by growing its gross domestic product by a world-leading 9% rate next year. This compares with the United States growth projected at a mere 1.5%. China is coming! Moreover, many experts who study the church in China agree that the Chinese church has grown without outside interference and they want to keep it that way. Many observers believe that the brand of Christianity that the North American church often exports is “toxic” to other parts of the global church.

Sunday morning I read the South China Morning Post. I turned to the Sports section to read about the IOC’s recent decision to award the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In a post-award interview, a reporter asked Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio “Lula” de Silva, how it felt to “knock out President Obama in the first round?” I was struck with the wording the reporter chose to ask his question. It saddens me that in many places of the world there is growing sentiment that the United States is an opponent that most people want to see “knocked out!”

Last May while having lunch with church leaders in a section of the city formerly known as East Berlin, I noticed a well-known magazine lying on the countertop where we paid our bill. The magazine cover pictured an American flag, tilted, tattered and partially burned. The headlines of the magazine boasted, “In Celebration of the Demise of An Economic Power.” So much for respect!

We no longer command respect in the eyes of many nations! We no longer enjoy, “favored status.” It’s humbling for me to see and hear these things.

But my grief goes beyond patriotism. I wonder if the reality I observe isn’t related to a deeper, perhaps less obvious reality—a spiritual one! Is a country’s national and/or international reputation in some ways tied to its spiritual vitality? Has the church in the US so politicized its message that we have unwittingly negated our influence globally? Recently it was reported that if one wants to know the future of China, watch the church. The church is out front humbly leading, modeling and exemplifying compelling new initiatives for the sake of others. There’s an absence of a siege mentality here. No demonizing the government here. It’s simple people living simple lives. As they do they penetrate their communities and culture with light and with the Gospel! And people are taking notice.

During my travels this week I have been meditating on two passages of Scripture. The first is:

I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. Psalm 81:10-12

The psalmist observed the nation of Israel and this passage depicts what he concluded. God’s people exhibited stubborn, resistant hearts. As a consequence God silenced their voices in a place called exile. Exile was a place where the voice of God’s people was silenced and their influence curtailed. Is the same true of God’s people today? Has the church’s voice been muffled and silenced because of our own stubborn resistance to Him? Is the moral deterioration and waning international influence somehow connected to the church’s unwillingness to listen and submit to Him? Are we the church in some ways to bear the blame for the degradation of our culture and the diminishment of our reputation? I’ve been praying for the church these words of the psalmist:

Restore us again, O God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant to us your salvation. Psalm 85:5-7

May God revive His church toward a posture of humility, service and love.

Every blessing,

S t r e t c h e d

Thursday, October 1, 2009

China's 60th Anniversary

We finished up our sessions early and boarded Hong Kong’s Rapid Transit system for the 45-minute ride to downtown Hong Kong. When we disembarked we suddenly found ourselves in a huddled mass with thousands of Chinese people rushing to the Victoria Harbor front in anticipation of China’s celebration of their 60th Anniversary. Sixty years ago yesterday China became the Communist People’s Republic of China. While Hong Kong is a part of China it has its own autonomous system of government and currency.

We quickly dropped our belongings at the YMCA Salisbury Hotel situated along the harbor front and made our way outside. It was hot and muggy outside reminding me of the lakefront 4th of July Fireworks in Milwaukee on a hot July evening. We exited our hotel and walked one block to Nathan Road, the major north-south thoroughfare and Honk Kong’s version of Madison Avenue. When we got to the intersection I looked left and all I saw was a mass of people migrating northward toward the harbor front only a block away. People were laughing and celebrating and anticipating this event. There was no drunkenness, no loud obscene language or behavior. We saw dozens and dozens of small children with lights in their eyes and anticipation on their faces. Old and young alike were rushing to the harbor front. We decided instead of fighting our may through the massive crowd we would go back to our hotel room and watch the fireworks from our room overlooking the harbor.

The fireworks spectacle was launched form four floating barges in the middle of Victoria Harbor. Imagine a harbor lined with tall glistening skyscrapers at the bottom of towering mountain peaks. All around the harbor camera flashes flashed as the 22-minute pyrotechnical display began. It was a stunning spectacle. As we watched we turned on the TV in the room to keep our eye on the celebration simultaneously in Beijing. China boasted that the celebration in Tiananmen Square last night topped the opening ceremonies of last summer’s Beijing Olympic Games. 100,000 adults, 80,000 children and 140,000 security forces participated in the celebration in Tiananmen. During the finale along Victoria Harbor I was waiting for an all-out display of enthusiasm and hooping and hollering. But it was not that way. The finale seemed more of a fizzle to me.

When we had our breakfast this morning I couldn’t help but notice a copy of the South China Daily newspaper when we walked in. The headlines read: “A Celebration that Stopped A Nation.” It certainly stopped me! This is a nation that exhibits enormous national spirit. It is a nation that prides itself on its efficiency in everything it does. After the fireworks last night we returned to the streets to grab a bite to eat. On our way back to Nathan Road and as people were returning to their homes, I couldn’t help but notice that there were street sweepers everywhere. Five minutes after the fireworks subsided, Hong Kong was already at work cleaning up its city. The police removed the barricades that had blocked all the downtown city streets and within 30 minutes of the conclusion of the fireworks, the downtown city nightlife resumed.

It all seemed to run as efficiently as the Chinese had planned. I was quite impressed.

Every blessing,

S t r e t c h e d

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Third Day- China


A friend who spent the last year in China recently commented that if you visit China for a week, you can write a book. It you visit China for a month, you can write an article. If you visit China for a year, you can’t write anything. I now know what she means. I’ve been here for not even a week and I’m hesitant to write, because it’s such a complex, rapidly changing culture. And I’m still in Hong Kong!

This week I’ve had the privilege of teaching and interacting with 70-80 Chinese church leaders from all parts of China. Talk about diversity: yesterday I met a young Malaysian man who is working amongst the Chinese in Tibet. Over dinner I sat next to a woman who was responsible for training 2,200 workers this past summer to reach 128,000 Chinese children in one city through vacation Bible schools. Still another is a bi-vocational pastor who manages a full-time job while circulating between his twenty-one, yes twenty-one, congregations!

This morning before I took the platform to speak, I stood with these leaders singing, “The Old Rugged Cross.” Suddenly a young Chinese woman began to weep loudly with a heart-felt prayer of confession “Lord forgive us, forgive us Lord! We have failed You in being people of the cross!” Others began to weep and so did I. I was moved and humbled by her ardent declaration of brokenness. Most of these leaders Quique Fernandez and I are teaching this week minister daily in very urban settings. Their issues are complex, their questions are thoughtful, their industriousness is exemplary, and their courage is admirable.

Quique said something during his teaching yesterday that resounded with me. He said, “Every time you venture outside your own culture to interact with another culture, expect to learn a great deal about others, but more about yourself!”

I have a lot to learn from these!

Every blessing,

S t r e t c h e d

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hong Kong #2

We relocated today from downtown Hong Kong to and area a 45 minutes drive north of the center city. The King’s College training will begin tomorrow morning and we will take the subway each day to Ecclesia Bible College from our hotel.

Last night one of the Asian Outreach workers, Audrey took Quique and me to an authentic Chinese restaurant. This was no PF Chang’s. She treated us to the works and made sure we got a sampling of Chinese delicacies, including chicken feet. Yes, bonafide, ‘meat on the bone’ chicken feet. Now I’ve been known to put a foot in my mouth, but not like this! My hostess gave me permission to eat it like the Chinese—that is, you place the whole foot in your mouth, gnaw away the tender meat and voila, remove the bone when you have finished. Not too bad! After dinner, we walked a few blocks the well-known Hong Kong night market.

On Sunday Quique and I attended the Rainful Church on Honk Kong. A three-year church that meets in a government building. The Hong Kong government rents the facility to the church for $1.00 HK per year. Since the government understands the church wants to reach the aging population in their area these kinds of arrangements are quite common here. This is such a contrast to the often cold and indifferent relationship churches in the US have with government bodies. It works here rather amicably. I preached the message while David Wang translated. That was a bit intimidating.

We’re tired but looking forward to beginning the training tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Every blessing,

S t r e t c h e d

Friday, September 25, 2009

Touchdown in Hong Kong


We arrived early this morning in Hong Kong. We're staying at one of my favorite places called Tsim Sha Tsui overlooking beautiful Victoria Harbor. Tall, colorfully glistening skyscrapers surround the harbor sending their reflections rippling across the the choppy nighttime waters. It's a breathtaking site! Each evening the city presents its Symphony of Lights. Named the World's Largest Permanent Light Show by the Guinness World Records this lighting spectacle involves 44 different buildings on both sides of Victoria Harbor creating an all-around panoramic of colored lights, laser beams and search lights. Synchronized to music and narration it celebrates the energy, diversity and imagination of this magnificent Asian city.

We awoke this morning and peered out our 14th floor room below to the distinctive “ski-jump” roof of the newly constructed Cultural Centre dominating the waterfront. Hong Kong, unlike other parts of China is a city known for its cuture. The city teems with life, diversity and youthfulness. Quique and I both noticed how young the population is in Hong Kong. Later over breakfast, we learned that most Chinese, especially those from the Mainland have only known one culture—the Chinese one. But China wants to interact with and gain exposure to the world. One of the exciting things about being here this week is that Quique will be lecturing all week long on “Cultural Anthropology,” with special emphasis in helping Chinese pastors and leaders to develop a Biblical Worldview. I will be training those same leaders in how to take timeless Biblical truth and speak into the ever-changing cultural realities. It’s significant that we are here to learn and interact with serious-minded believers trying to understand their context and help shape their methodologies and ministries with Biblical truth. We were told the students will come hungry and eager to learn. Ironically, I think we stand to learn much more from this experience.

Pray for us as we begin this adventure. I am grateful to God for His strength and mercy; strength which stretches me and His mercy, that upholds.

Every blessing,

S t r e t c h e d

Monday, July 13, 2009

De-Clutter


I wish you could see my basement today. It’s not a pretty sight right now. I have two college-aged kids living at home this summer. And you know what that means? Basements are to college students what landfills are to citizens. Basements make superb dumping grounds!

Truth be told, I am by no means innocent in all this. I’ve made a few trips myself to my lower-level landfill. At last count I just deposited 35 boxes of books in my basement. And each time I haul another box downstairs, I silently rationalize, “books are safe for the basement environment.” Let’s hear it: kudos for the king of clutter.

I have a sizeable task in front of me. How will I arrange all those books downstairs? Where will I put them all? We are in the process of moving my office downstairs next to my ecologically friendly landfill. Feel free to join me if you wish. But for that to happen I will need to make space.

I was pondering this thought today: in a similar kind of way, my basement is a lot like my soul. Souls, like basements become depositories. Sometimes the things I deposit in my soul nurture, inspire and sustain me. The people I meet, the books I read, the sermons I hear, the service I offer all do this. At other times, I store away toxins or hazardous materials like harbored grudges, relational bitterness or unforgiveness. These pollute my soul and threaten to bring about great damage internally.

Today, I read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:5ff:

Here’s what I want you to do: find a quiet place, a secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.

I long to experience God’s presence and grace more regularly. Do you? I know intellectually that God is present everywhere, but why don’t I seem to experience His presence more palpably in my day-to-day experience? Could it be that like my basement, there is too much clutter in my soul? Those who experience God’s presence and grace as a rhythm are those who practice what Jesus commends—a “quiet place.” Solitude like few other things creates space for God in my life. And in order to create space I may need to move some things around—even well meaning and legitimate things. Maybe I need to reevaluate my leisure pursuits or draw boundaries on time spent with friends or make adjustments in my daily schedule to include time alone with God or maybe even limit the time I devote to Christian causes or activities. Or during times of solitude God may whisper His affirmation and delight. Sometimes He will detect a destructive soul toxin and commence a program to "detoxify." When I de-clutter my soul, I allow for the possibility of my own personalized and direct experience with the living God. There is nothing standing in between.

Ruth Haley Barton in her book, Sacred Rhythms states: “…solitude is a place inside myself where God’s Spirit and my spirit dwell together in union. The place within me is private and reserved for intimacies that God and I share. What happens between the two of us in that place is not meant for public consumption. It is a place where I can give myself with abandon to the Lover of my soul, knowing that I am completely safe from anyone else’s curious gaze or judgmental glance.”

That’s enough for today. Now I’m off to basement to de-clutter my landfill.

S t r e t c h e d

Friday, July 10, 2009

Some En-COURAGEMENT

Several years ago while visiting my 86-year old mother in South Carolina, I met an inspiring 93-year old man named Charlie. Terry and I enjoyed a delightful dinner with him and my mother one evening, during which he described how he was about to embark on a one-week sailing expedition across the North Atlantic with one of his sons. And this trip was only one of the many trips he had planned during the decade of his nineties.

I love people like Charlie. None would ever accuse him of not being spry. I was thinking about Charlie recently when I read of another older man—an octogenarian named Caleb. At a time when most people his age were showing signs of slowing down and wishing for easy tasks, Caleb asks for a hard one. Joshua, his close friend and admirer granted his request and Caleb set out at once to drive a difficult people called the Anakim from the land. You can read about his inspiring story in Joshua 14-15.

What prompts people like Charlie and Caleb to tackle tasks like these in their twilight years? I long for this kind of faithful courage even as I get older. For a long time I believed that courage was the absence of fear. But what I’m learning is that courage is not the absence of fear—courage is acting and carrying on in spite of my fears. This means that oftentimes I will need to act brave, even if I don’t feel brave because most people don’t know the difference. If I’m not scared or fearful about what I’m doing, chances are pretty good that the hill I’m trying to take is not big enough.

"Courage is fear that has said its prayers." Anne Lamott

Maybe one of the reasons why the Bible tells us to encourage each other so much is because we give in so much to UN-couragement or fear. What I lack most times is courage. When I en-COURAGE others or when I am en-COURAGED by others, I find His strength to sail an ocean, serve the poor, share my faith or stand my ground.

Now let’s go take the hill.

S t r e t c h e d

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Poverty and Being Generous


Now I’m not one to weigh in on too many subjects related to politics, but today I can’t resist.

Did you hear? Newt Gingrich is back in the news. This week he, along with several thousand of his Republican friends gathered inside the Washington Beltway to engage in a bit of Obama-bashing. Among other things, they took their stabs and jabs at the Obama Administration’s economic recovery policies. Not surprisingly, Newt and his friends say that the stimulus, omnibus, bailout initiatives aren’t working.

Not to be outdone, Obama’s officials’ quickly countered saying the present economy is reversing the downward trends and policies of the previous administration. Don’t you just love the political banter between Democrats and Republicans? Add to this the frequent charges of many that Obama is drifting toward economic socialism and you’ve got a ripe recipe for national division right along party lines. Some things never change!

Today I read Deuteronomy 15 and was struck by two statements the writer makes. On the one hand the people are told, “there should be no poor among you” (Deut. 15:4), and moments later the writer says, “there will always be poor people in the land” (Deut 15:11).  If you are like me you may be saying to yourself, “So which is it?” The statements appear contradictory. Maybe in the first statement the writer is describing the ideal, while in the second he is simply commenting on the current reality. Whatever the case, a question arises: Is there any economic system available today that guarantees the eradication of poverty?  Economic systems don’t run themselves; they require human beings to operate them. Countless hours of manpower are required to keep any economic machinery grinding along. And like anything else operated by human beings, it’s only a matter of time before the flaws, cracks and imperfections of the system and the people who operate them become glaringly apparent.

This is not to suggest for one moment that all economic systems or theories are equal. Nor is it to suggest that economists, politicians and legislators shouldn’t keep working hard to devise national and global economic strategies and solutions. What it is to suggest is that given my human sinfulness and my innate inclination toward greed and selfishness, any notion of economic utopia seems out of the question.

Maybe this is why the Scriptures repeatedly urge me and encourage me to adopt a lifestyle of spontaneous, openhanded generosity. Maybe, such a lifestyle choice curbs and restrains my own intrinsic selfishness and enables me to do my small part to help the poor.

What do you think? 

S t r e t c h e d

 


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Eternal Matters


These past few months I have really enjoyed reading and reflecting on the writings of men and women of God from ages past. These tiny connections to the “saints of old” have served to inspire my own devotion to God. Recently I ran across this adaptation of words written by Alcuin (c. 735-804) and decided to share them with you:

Eternal Light, shine in my heart;

Eternal hope, lift up my eyes;

Eternal power, be my support;

Eternal wisdom, make me wise;

Eternal life, raise me from death;

Eternal brightness, help me see;

Eternal Spirit, give me breath;

Eternal Savior, come to me.

Until by Your mostly costly grace,

Invited by your holy word,

At last I come before Your face to know You,

My eternal God.

Eternal light, shine in my heart;

Eternal hope, lift up my eyes;

Eternal power, be my support;

Eternal Savior, come to me. Amen.

These words inspired me to write a prayer of my own:

Oh, eternal One, to You I call. You, who have no beginning and no end. You exist before time ever came to be, and your eternal nature has no end point. You cannot cease to be! You are forever and ever. I worship you on this glad day—O great God whose habitation and home is all of eternity. Your nature and person cannot be measured, or bound or counted or quantified. You are limitless in your attributes and your power is inexhaustible. Time will never define nor confine You, the Ageless One. No one can say, ”There is no space available!” You cannot be contained.

Yet, the Eternal One looks upon me. Yes, He invites me to know Him. The One without time—without space, invades my tiny world fixed by categories of time and space and limitation. He bursts upon my thought world and my heart world with His all-sufficient, all supreme, self-giving grace. He set the insatiable longing for eternity in my heart. He invites me to the great exchange: the here and now for the there and then. Come Eternal One and make Your habitation in me! Amen.

Now I'm going to go out today and live like eternity matters!

S t r e t c h e d


Saturday, June 6, 2009

I Love Berlin


One of the unique realities about Berlin is the convergence of East and West in this city. Every German I spoke with this week reminded me of the sizeable differences between what used to be called “East Berlin” and “West Berlin.” While it is true that all those living here are “Berliners,” the old distinctions have not gone away. One person even reminded me that 10% of those living in the former East Berlin long for the “good ole days.” By that they mean, they long for the socialist Germany to reemerge.

Today I had the chance to meet and dialogue with three of East Berlin’s young urban church planters: Christian, Constantino and Fridtjof. All were in their early 30’s, single, theologically trained and very earnest and dedicated to what they were doing. Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan has influenced all three, and each has attended the Redeemer Church Planting Institute. Here they are part of German Free Church. In 2005 Christian and Constantino started a church in one of the most artistic, socially liberal and edgy parts of East Berlin. The name of the church is The Berlin Project. Recently that time a young and attractive German-Korean gal has joined their team. The church is reaching 350-400 people weekly in their makeshift sanctuary, which meets in a local theatre. Please understand, this many people by German standards in a formerly communistic, largely atheistic country is considered a mega-church. The area teems with young urban professionals, freelance artists, musicians and an assortment of counter-cultural icons. It’s an edgy, sophisticated, trendy and professional. On the counter of the restaurant where we enjoyed lunch that day rested a socialist magazine heralding the fall of the Bush regime, the erosion of the American Empire and the ascendancy of all-things Obama. Right in the heart of anti-American hatred and socialist propaganda are three young and courageous German leaders seeking to spread the fragrance of Christ! There are few things that enthuse and jazz me more than the opportunity to dialogue bring encouragement to people like these.

Even though these leaders by every definition are considered successful, they too carry the treasure in jars of clay. They suffer discouragement, heartache, and frustration and are generally overworked and under-appreciated for what they are doing. So what I did was take the short time I had with them to applaud their efforts, affirm their vision and offer encouragement.

BrookLink exists to serve, encourage and develop indigenous Christian leaders across the world. Whether in an African village or European world-class cities like Berlin, the need is the same.

Thanks to your support and your prayers, it’s working.

S t r e t c h e d

originally posted on my old blog on May 28, 2008


Germany on the Ground



Remember this? It is part of the old Berlin Wall. I arrived in Berlin, Germany yesterday, a city, which was at the center of the world only twenty years ago. I speak, of course of the peaceful revolution in November 1989 that led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. This event, one, which author Thomas Friedman, cited as one of the ten leading “world flattening events” that began an era of globalization. It was also this event 20 years ago that led to a radical worldwide transformation, heralding the end of the Cold War that had kept Germany, and for that matter Europe divided. This year, Germany’s capital city will commemorate the 20-year anniversary of that history-making event.

Today my host Diet Schindler drove me near the location of “Checkpoint Charlie” and other ominous reminders of the famed Berlin Wall. Change is evident everywhere including-for example- the Pariser Platz, which has been transformed from a potential flashpoint of confrontation between east and west, to a meeting place of the world. Berlin stands as Germany’s most populated city as well as its most multi-cultural and multi-ethnic city too. The changes present marvelous opportunities for the church of Jesus Christ. As Director of Church Planting for the German Evangelical Free Church. Diet invited me to join him for four days of dialogue with German Church leaders to consider the possibility of planting an English-speaking International Church in this, Germany’s largest city.

While Berlin represents compelling opportunities for the church, it also presents startling complexities. How do you overcome the long-held antipathy between some East Berliners and West Berliners? How do you build a church that simultaneously acknowledges the German church’s rich and robust theological history with the need to engage an urban and largely postmodern context that does not see its need for Christ? What church models fit a context like Berlin? To what extent, if any, could the church in America help or hinder church-planting efforts in Berlin? These questions and more are ones we took the time to consider.

There are already several International English speaking congregations in Berlin. While these congregations vary in make-up, size and focus, our discussions concentrated on launching an English-speaking International church targeting a growing population of professional business leaders and influencers. Values such as holistic ministry, missional focus and expository preaching were among many that repeatedly surfaced. Given Berlin’s reputation as an internationally recognized business epicenter and it’s historically rich cultural diversity, what role will Christian belief and practice play in shaping marketplace ethics and practices and informing artistic expression.

During our time together Diet commented to me that Germany plays a unique role with regards to the church, especially when it comes to Church Planting. The German Evangelical Free Church has endorsed the ambitious goal of planting 100 new churches in Germany in the next 10 years. Plans are underway to launch a Church Planting Institute in the near future and the German Free Church has already hired a leading German missiologist, himself a church planter, to head up that work. Germans are earnest and serious about what they are doing, something that should come as no surprise to us! In fact, because of these kinds of initiatives and more, other European countries will look to Germany to help launch similar church planting enterprises in their own countries.

S t r e t c h e d


originally posted on my old blog on May 26, 2008

What's His Face?

When our four children were younger my wife and I did our best to teach them how to greet and address grown-ups. We would say things like, “stand to your feet when a grown-up walks into a room.” We instructed them to, “look people straight in the eye” whenever someone introduced themselves. We all know the sensation we get when addressing someone who refuses to look you in the eye. “Shifty,” “dishonest,” and “untrustworthy” are just a few descriptions that come to mind.

In Numbers 6 God commands Moses to tell Aaron how the leaders are to bless the people of Israel. The words of the Aaronic blessing are familiar to many:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

The Lord turn His face toward you and give you His peace.

Numbers 6:24-26

I was struck by the idea of God “turning His face toward” a person. The psalmist reflected a similar idea when he wrote, “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1). God turns to sinners and looks us full in the face. Moses and Aaron were to bless God’s people by invoking the Lord to “turn His face toward” them.

To “turn the back” or “to turn away” is an affront. It indicates displeasure, disapproval, withdrawal from relationship, loss of communication--even offense. We all know what if feels like to get the “cold shoulder.” God commands Aaron however, to call upon God to “turn His face toward” His people. It’s no coincidence that the word “repentance” carries this idea of “turning” to another level. Repentance means to “do an about face.” To sin is to “give God a cold shoulder.” When I sin, essentially what I do is ‘turn my back on God.‘ I refuse to look Him in the face--I’m shifty, dishonest, and untrustworthy. When I repent, I do an about FACE. I turn my face toward God--not away. Repentance means a change of direction--I’m willing to “look God in the eye.”

But my capacity and ability to “look God in the eye” is predicated on God’s initiative. As I seek after God, I discover much to my delight, God has already been seeking me! God is always the initiator in the divine-human encounter. All the commands in Scripture to “turn my heart” toward God are predicated on the sublime truth that God has already “turned His face toward me.”

S t r e t c h e d

originally posted on my old blog on May 4, 2008


Meaning from Above or Below













As a member of the human species I long for meaning and significance. I’m no different from any other human being. Part of what make me so astonishingly human is my perpetual search for meaning--in my relationships, in my work, in my experiences, in my worship, in all of life. However, when I begin my quest for meaning quite apart from God, the inevitable outcome of such a quest is meaninglessness. This is precisely the conclusion that Solomon, arrived at in the book of Ecclesiastes. Qoholeth, elsewhere referred to as “The Teacher,” begins by observing his world “from below,” a broken and fallen world at best. His laboratory admittedly was limited for he only took in and considered what was “under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9,14) and what was “under heaven” (vs. 13). Like many of us, Solomon commits a common human error. His starting place to discover meaning is “from below” rather than “from above.”

Every human experience, by very definition, is limited. Everyday I confront the reality of my limitations: limitations of time, of knowledge, of energy, of money, of resources, of pleasure, of freedom and much more. Human existence is intrinsically limited and limiting. I commit a serious error when I seek meaning from a starting point “below.” Theology from “below” is depressing, limiting and ultimately full of despair. Theology from “above” brings hope. Perhaps that’s why the Bible begins with these familiar words, “In the beginning God...” (Gen. 1:1). There is no attempt to prove God’s existence. His existence is assumed. Even the well-known critic of Christianity Bertrand Russell conceded, “unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”

When our search for significance begins without God, meaninglessness is the natural and logical outcome, simply because the search begins “from below.”

Fortunately, Solomon does not end up anywhere close to where he started. By the end of Ecclesiastes he arrives at an enormously meaningful, but different conclusion:

“Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (12:13)

Solomon reminds me to make God the object of my search instead of meaning because ultimately when I discover Him, I discover meaning too.

S t r e t c h e d

originally posted on my old blog on April 14, 2008

Mugged in America

The Czech playwright Franz Kafka once wrote these words to his friend Oscar Plook, “I think we need to read only books that bite and sting us...a book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.” While mixing his metaphors, Kafka makes a valid point--good books ought to mess with our minds, challenge our assumptions and thaw out our preconceived understandings.

I’m reading one such book right now entitled, “The Monkey and the Fish” by Dave Gibbons. Wow! Gibbons refers to a story recently reported on National Public Radio about Julio Diaz.

Julio was a New York City social worker who lived in the Bronx. Every evening he would board the subway enroute to his home in the Bronx and he would disembark one stop early to eat at his favorite restaurant.

One night as he stepped off the No. 6 train and into the deserted station, something unexpected happened. He was suddenly confronted by a teenager who whipped out a knife and demanded his money. Julio calmly surrendered his wallet. But then Diaz did something astonishing. As the robber turned away, Diaz called after him, “Hey wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”

The teenage thief was dumbfounded. All he could manage to mutter was, “Why are you doing this?”

Diaz replied, “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money.” He then told the youngster he was on his way to get dinner and if he cared to join him he was welcome.

So they went to Julio’s favorite diner, plopped down in a booth, thief and victim alike. When several employees came by to greet Diaz, one of their regular customers, he politely introduced the boy to them.

After several minutes, the teenage robber asked Diaz, “How come you are so nice to everyone, even the dishwasher?” Diaz asked him if he hadn’t also been taught to be kind to everyone. The boy told him he had, but he didn’t think people acted that way in the real world.”

Then Diaz asked his young assailant, “What do you want out of life?” The boy didn’t express much of an answer.

When the tab came, Diaz told the teen he was going to have to pay the bill, since he had stolen his wallet. That is, unless he was willing to give his wallet back, in which case, Diaz said, he would be glad to pay for the whole meal, his treat. According to Diaz, the teen, “didn’t even think about it” and handed over the wallet. Besides treating him for dinner, Diaz also gave him twenty dollars, just something to help him out.

In return, Diaz asked for his knife, and the boy, who had threatened Diaz with the same knife only moments before, quickly surrendered it.

In reflecting upon the event, Diaz said that treating people right, regardless of how they treat you, is the simplest and most promising prescription he knows to bring people hope and to make the world a better place.

I want Julio’s response to be mine. Today and everyday. To absorb pain and to extend generosity, especially where it is undeserved.

S t r e t c h e d

originally posted on my old blog on February 16, 2008


Report from Bangladesh and India





















After logging thousands of air miles, navigating six different airports, crossing 12 time zones, and recovering one lost piece of luggage, I arrived back in the States just in time to witness the swearing in of our 44thPresident. It wasn’t just the political climate that was different when I got back. The temperatures that confronted me back home were dramatically different from those I had grown accustomed to in Bangladesh and South India.

I spent four days in Dhaka, Bangladesh visiting Jim and Elaine Dressner, whose work amongst the Bengali people deeply impressed me. For over 20 years this couple has labored quietly but faithfully in this small but over-populated country. Sometimes their work requires them to move about in extreme conditions among some of the most poverty-stricken people of the world. They incarnate the Gospel of Christ daily by establishing and overseeing technical training centers, engaging in relief and development work and directing the activities of a non-governmental organization. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Jim and Elaine and caught a glimpse of their faith at work!

After several days in Bangladesh I boarded a plane and made my way to the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. My friend Murli Menon met and took me to the new campus of Impact International located just outside the city of Coimbatore at the base of the majestic “Nilgiris” (Blue Mountains) Hills of South India. The next morning I climbed up and over those same mountains and arrived in Quiet Corner. Here I spent four days with Thomas and MaryKutty Samuel along with a group of 20-25 rural pastors teaching and preaching. My time at Quiet Corner was capped by a festive Indian-style 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration to honor the Samuels. One of the highlights of the evening was a video their children had managed to produce recapping Thomas and MaryKutty’s many years of ministry throughout India.

The next morning Murli and I headed north to the State of Karnataka to the city of Mysore. Known as the “City of Palaces,” Mysore is a stronghold of Hinduism and boasts some of the largest annual Hindu festivals in all of India. The Impact International Team had managed to secure a sizeable Catholic retreat center there where we conducted a one-day Pastor’s Conference for 160 pastors. At the end of the day, after preaching three times, a young Indian Pastor who requested that I pray for him greeted me. We bowed out heads in prayer together. When I finished I looked up and saw approximately 30 pairs of eyes staring back at me. Pastors, one by one, had all lined up wanting individual prayer. Nearing a state of exhaustion, God supplied what I needed at that moment as I stood and prayed with each one.

We traveled back up the mountain to Ooty and the next two days I taught the faculty and students at the Nilgiris Institute of Biblical Studies. I was grateful that these all-day sessions on Expository Preaching were in English with no translation. What a thrill to teach young men and women from seven different states throughout India.

My final Saturday took us a two-hour drive from Coimbatore to the city of Erode. Here, a completely different Impact International team had set up a second all-day Pastors conference for 185 pastors and their wives. Indians are marvelously efficient people. They utilize space well and they manage to fit more people in smaller spaces than anywhere I have ever been. The hotel meeting space we used that day was overflowing with people—out the door and up the stairs! The hunger and thirst for the Word of God was palpable, and reminded me of how often we can take for granted the multiple opportunities for Biblical teaching here in the States.

The airports were full, the planes were full, the schedules were full, the countries were full and my heart is full! I owe a debt of gratitude and thanks to you who prayed for me and for Terry during my absence. We cannot do these kinds of things in our own strength. I am reminded daily of how deeply dependent we are upon our all-sufficient Savior, but also dependent upon our ever-faithful friends who uphold us with their prayers, encouragement and support. Thank you for your partnership as we declare the “desire of the nations” to the peoples of the earth.

S t r e t c h e d


originally posted on my old blog on January 25, 2008


Bangladesh Revisited

Imagine a country that is geographically the size of Wisconsin, but its population is 20 times our state. That’s Bangladesh. Like neighboring India—it’s full! However, the Bengali people are wonderful, kind-hearted and gracious. My hosts, Jim and Elaine Dressner have been serving in one of the world’s poorest countries as non-Government officials (NGO’s as they call them) for more than 20 years. The population is 88% Muslim while 11% are Hindu and their ministry among the people focuses mainly on relief and development. I was quite impressed with the work they are doing.

This was actually my first time to a predominantly Muslim country. Several things struck me like: the industriousness and resourcefulness of the people, their progressive mindset in the face of some rather overwhelming odds, and the significant challenges for the church. When one is in a country like Bangladesh, traditional ways of reaching people with the Gospel are rarely effective. You aren’t allowed to preach openly and even church meetings take place in small houses with small gatherings of believers. Living as a Christ-follower in a context like this requires a whole different approach. You must “live” out your faith every day. Most every day Jim and I would walk through outside markets. We were greeted by smiling Muslim shopkeepers who insisted we sit and have a cup of tea. In fact, the hospitality shown to me as a foreigner by Muslim people was quite a contrast to the usual stereotypical image most Christians have of Muslim people. Every place I went I never felt threatened or unsafe. It was comfortable. I met Muslim background believers whose families had rejected them, or in some cases, disowned them. A few days in Bangladesh made me think about how “programmatic” the church in the west has become. We never intend to be this way, but our hectic pace and penchant for results, sometimes diminishes the value we place on just spending time relating to people.

I met believers who were deeply committed to helping make the lives of Bengalis better, whether through teaching them electrical wiring, welding or small machine repair. If you insist that people be Christian or become Christian before enrolling in these programs, you will never succeed. The emphasis throughout is to incarnate the love of Christ everywhere with people who are quite different in mindset and belief. The work is slow and hard but rewarding. I met Kashem and Kamal, both of whom are serving in a town called Joypara. In quiet, unassuming and effective ways they are seeking to help plant a church where there is no church. I was introduced to Ramjan Ali, a young Muslim background believer who has just finished two years of Biblical studies and wants to help improve and resource the people in his own country.

Every time I take a trip like this I’m humbled to discover what I do not know. Thanks, Lord for opportunities like these.

S t r e t c h e d


originally posted on my old blog on January 8, 2008


Off to Asia

Terry and I are sitting in a hospital room tonight with our son Drew. He has just undergone surgery to remove both tonsils. Thankfully the patient is resting for a few hours before we become another statistic in “short hospital stays.” We estimate an 11:30pm departure for home later tonight!

In just a few days I will be leaving for three weeks to visit two Asian countries. I will fly to Dhaka, Bangladesh on Saturday to visit some dear friends. This dear couple and their two children have been serving as relief workers in Bangladesh for many years among some of the poorest people in the world. I have always admired their consistent and faithful work there and now I will have the opportunity to visit for three or four days seeing it firsthand.

From there I will take a rather circuitous route to the southern part of India arriving in the city of Coimbatore where I will be met by my longtime friend Murli Menon. Murli and his lovely wife Usha, head up the Nilgiris Institute for Christian Studies in Ooty, India. Ooty was once a favorite vacation destination for British colonialists and is located high up in the Nilgiris Hills amidst terraced tea plantations. It’s a beautiful place with cooler temps offering welcome relief from the usual Indian heat and humidity. My trips there always include picking up a fresh supply of one Terry’s favorite teas: Silver Cloud. I thoroughly enjoy teaching the students at the Nilgiris Institute. Many of these students come from smaller villages and upon graduation will go on to pastor churches throughout this vast country.

If you take the two hour journey down the mountain from Ooty you will arrive at Quiet Corner. Quiet Corner is the ministry founded by my dear friend Thomas Samuel. Thomas and his wife Mary Kutty started this ministry years ago after serving for many years as the Director of OM ministries in India. This will be my fourth visit to Quiet Corner. Thomas’ son Paul Samuel, now directs this ministry and he has arranged a three-day Pastor’s conference at the Center. I understand that some of those attending will come from the State of Orissa, a place recently featured in the headlines because of the severe outbreak of persecution against Christians by radical Hindus.

I plan to return to the States on January 20th. I would greatly appreciate your prayers as I teach, train and encourage these dear servants of Christ. Stay tuned to my blog as I will be giving periodic updates throughout my journey.

S t r e t c h e d


originally posted on my old blog on December 29, 2008


Story Threads #4

Last week my computer decided to revolt. Two months ago this long-time PC user decided to “convert” to a Mac. And what do I get? My brand new Mac rewarded me by taking an impromptu one-week vacation to a place called a “Genius Bar.” Oh well, I’m back and so is Mac!

I’ve been sharing the various story threads of BrookLink. Today I want to share story thread #4:

We believe in partnerships that last.

Profound connections lead to partnerships that get stronger over time. Through engaging in long-term strategic relationships, BrookLink seeks to integrate into the life of communities across the world, and has done so for more than 20 years. One of the ways BrookLink expresses this partnership is by modeling ethnic diversity as we train and equip. Frequently as I travel and train, standing next to me is one of my non-westerner partners. As we train and equip together we model the diversity of Christ’s body. With this kind of partnership, we are able to counteract our own cultural biases and present a more “global” perspective concerning the issues facing church leaders today. BrookLink is blessed with friendships that span continents and cross borders, laying a foundation of effective ministry for years to come.

One of the greatest blessings in my life over these past 20 years has been the development of a growing network of international partners from Latin America, Africa, India and Asia. Terry and I enjoy an incredible “mosaic” of relationships across the world. Not only have we been stretched to think differently, but we have blessed to listen to, learn from and labor with these dear friends.

William Blake once quipped: “Traveling abroad is a progressive exercise in the discovery of your own ignorance.” I couldn’t have said it any better!

S t r e t c h e d


originally posted on my old blog on December 17, 2008