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

Story Threads #3

Story Thread #3: We believe in profound connections.

People with God. People with each other. Leaders with resources. BrookLink is all about facilitating and maximizing profound connections. We believe that God brings people into our lives for His purposes, creating a divine, inter-ethnic patchwork of connections. This network is deep, wide, active and alive, and all of us benefit. Encouragement is inevitable. The result is an amazing linkage of hearts that delivers life and power, making a holistic difference in individual lives and their communities.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.” Sounds like Chesterton had been reading Solomon who advised us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work (Eccl. 4:9). BrookLink is committed to connecting people across continents and cultures by going and offering ourselves as “allies for the under-resourced.”

S t r e t c h e d

originally posted on my old blog on December 4, 2008

Story Threads #2

I’ve just finished meeting these past two days with the members of the newly formed BrookLink Board of Directors. Allow me to introduce them. From left to right: Mrs. Louise Warren, Vice President of TW Consulting- Seattle,WA; Mr. Gary Muchka, President GSM Consulting LLC- Hartford, WI; Dr. Lee Heyward, Executive Director BrookLink- Germantown, WI.; Dr. Dave Seemuth, Associate Pastor, Elmbrook Church- Waukesha, WI. On the far right is Karen Seemuth. While Karen is not a member of the Board of Directors, she will serve as BrookLink’s Director of Operations.

Terry and I gathered with our Board at our home to pray, further define our vision and focus, discuss our values, and strategize for the future. To say these hours together were energizing and inspiring would be an understatement. I’m so grateful to God for these partners who stand with us.

Previously, I wrote of BrookLink’s story threads. Another story thread is:

Story Thread #2: We believe in stepping across borders and into lives.

God calls people to make a difference right where they are. BrookLink exists to help Christian leaders do just that, especially in under- resourced and developing countries—which is the reality for the majority of the world. We believe strongly that the best way to touch communities is by empowering indigenous leaders within those communities. Mentoring, coaching, advising, strategizing, preaching, teaching and encouraging—all of these describe the resources we offer. From Southeast Asia to Nigeria, we have seen men and women discover their God-given calling, grow in their knowledge of the truth and lead with courage. Through the power of God, we learn together, listen intently, serve unceasingly and are there for them…right where they are.

BrookLink aims to step into people’s lives in a spirit and posture of humility. During these past two days Board members were reminded to be like Philip in his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8). The Spirit told Philip, “go up and join the chariot” (vs.29) Philip did so and eventually he “was invited to come up and sit with him” (vs. 31). We empower others not by dominating and dictating to them, but by coming alongside. What a joy!

S t r e t c h e d

originally posted on my old blog on December 2, 2008

Story Threads #1

In my last blog I related how we decided upon the name “BrookLink” as the name for this new ministry. I spent a considerable amount of time pondering the “name.” One day a friend of mine said to me, “Lee, it’s not about the name, it’s about the story.” Names come and go, but it’s the compelling story that people are most interested to hear. This statement got me thinking about our story. As we wove our storyline, we discovered that the story of BrookLink contains four “Story Threads.” I’ll take the next few blogs to unravel our story threads.

Story Thread #1: We believe in running with God’s Spirit.

God’s Spirit is at work in the world. Our goal is to live in that powerful flow, drawing strength, inspiration and energy from its stream. The Holy Spirit leads us to opportunities we never dreamed possible. As we plan for each journey, for each task, we know that God has great things in store for us that we can’t imagine. At each unexpected turn in the road, each unforeseen bend in the path, we continue running with Him— anxious for the next adventure.

Years ago the great pioneer missionary David Livingston left his native England for the subcontinent of Africa. No sooner had he arrived that he received an urgent message from his home church in England which read, “Dr. Livingston, we have ten people here who want to come and join you. Let us know when you’ve found the roads.” Livingston, quite stupefied by the message, sent the following reply, “I don’t need those! I need those who will come even if there are no roads.”

Throughout the Scriptures God often told his servants to “go” even if there are no roads. One of the foundational principles of BrookLink is to listen to God; be led by the Spirit; and pray fervently. We do not always know when or where the Spirit will lead us. If it’s clarity you want, you’re most likely going to forfeit those awe-inspiring adventures with the Spirit. Clarity might be what we want, but it’s trust that we need!

S t r e t c h e d

originally posted on my old blog on November 30, 2008

Friday, June 5, 2009


Welcome to my first blog. Frequently I will offer some of my own musings, thoughts, insights and perspectives about BrookLink, ministry, life and the world.

Some of you have asked me about the name BrookLink. Why BrookLink? Partially, “Brook” is a reference to the “Brook” churches in Milwaukee. However, there’s another reason why we chose the name “Brook.” A brook is a small stream usually not so large as a river. But it is also a stream that is preparing to burst forth. For the past 15-20 years I have had the privilege of traveling to various foreign countries to minister to national church leaders and pastors. Additionally, Terry and I have hosted a ‘steady stream’ of these wonderful servants of Christ in our home. These relationships we’ve enjoyed over many years are a source of deep and abiding joy. The metaphor of a “brook” seemed an appropriate one because it suggests the idea of flowing. Our lives have been blessed immeasurably by the steady flow of these relationships. And just as these relational gifts flourish and flow into us, so they must flow on from us as well. Hence the word “Link.” Our desire is to now link arms with these dear friends and continue to make an impact not only in the local communities they represent, but all across the world.

If you wish to learn more about BrookLink, please visit our website at

S t r e t c h e d

originally posted on my old blog on November 28, 2008