Archive for the ‘missions’ Category

I was hungry and you formed committees.

I was thirsty and you preached sermons.

I was naked and you said, “That’ not in the budget.”

I was sick and you sang another chorus while internally debating traditional verse contemporary style of worship.

I was lonely and you rushed to the restaurant to get the best booth.

I was in prison an you held another congregational meeting.

I tell you the truth: whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.

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Last month we had a fall festival at church. Kids came and played games and were rewarded with candy. We tried to be as intentional as possible about setting it up in a way that we were able to interact with the kids and their parents. I think we succeeded in some small way with interacting with the families. I got to spend some good time playing and talking with the kids. I worked three games and it was so much fun. I loved meeting the families. It seemed the most popular game of the evening was the soccer ball kick. Basically we had a goal and the kids kicked the soccer ball into the goal. What I liked about it was the way the kids took their time to aim their kick. This gave us a great opportunity to talk. There were lots of names and faces and I know I will not remember them all, but I will definitely remember one family. There were 4 kids of varying ages and a mom. They were friendly as I said hello and introduced myself. One of the girls came dressed up in a home made costume. I could tell she felt uncomfortable with some of the other kids wearing their store bought costumes and the look in her eyes told me she wanted to fit in and have a nice costume like the other kids. I could tell from her hair style and the sparkly jacket she was dressed as Hannah Montana. I watched this family as they went to various games. Understand that most of the people working were of retirement age and had no idea who Hannah Montana was. However, they could recognize Spiderman, Batman, and Batgirl This made the girl feel even more inferior. When she came to my game, I decided to treat her like a star. I walked over to hand her the ball for the game and said. “Wow! Hannah Montana is right here beside me.” The girl smiled because I recognized her costume. I began to ask her what her favorite song was, what she liked about performing, has she ever done a talent show at school, would she be willing to sing for us. Her mom got teary eyed as I asked “Hannah Montana” for her autograph. As the girl walked away with a big smile, her mother stayed behind and said “thank you.” The family was so moved by the experience, they stayed after everyone else had left to help us clean. We loaded their arms with left over candy and food. I walked with the family to their car and thanked them for coming. I especially thanked “Hannah Montana” for coming to visit us. Their eyes and smiles were beaming with joy and happiness as they drove off. I said a silent prayer for the family and went to hug my own kids and tell them how much I loved them.

What I did was nothing significant. I did not solve world hunger. I did not explain the deepest mysteries of life. I made a family smile. I made a little girl feel good about herself. I made a mom cry tears of joy. It was so small, yet it made a difference to that child and to that family. I often find myself around people who want to make a difference but do not know how. They feel in order to make a difference, they have to do something really big and life changing that converts hundreds of people. I understand where they are coming from. I used to have those same thoughts. I thought if I made a difference in the world – it would have to be huge and gain national attention. But the fact of the matter is I made a difference to that little girl and her family. She went from feeling awkward and inferior at the beginning of the evening to confident and filled with laughter by the end of the evening. Her mom went from feeling sad for not being able to buy her daughter a costume to feeling so happy that her daughter’s costume brought her so much attention. Making a difference in someone’s life is not always some big act of kindness like giving them a car or house; sometimes it’s making them smile and feel good about their life. I thank God that I met “Hannah Montana.” She reminded me that life is about building others up when the world tries to tear them down.

It was a great and exhausting week of spring break. A group of students and faculty members from Ozark Christian College came to work with Memphis Urban Ministry for the week. It was a great time of outreach and service. Sunday evening we passed out flyers and registered kids for the two day kids camp that would be taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was a good opportunity for the people to see Memphis and the neighborhood they would be working with during the week. The area of focus was Clearborne homes which is saturated with poverty. Monday was a day spent preparing chili and serving lunch to the community. Many homeless men and women came through the line as well as many families who stated they would not be able to feed their children if they did not have that meal that day. About 70 people were served lunch on Monday.
Tuesday and Wednesday was spent conducting a kid’s camp. It was basically a two day VBS. About 30 kids participated in the full two day camp and there were many more who were able to attend only certain portions of the camp.
Thursday was also a great day. Hot dogs were served and clothes were given out. About 50 people came in for clothing and approximatley 10-15 more people came for lunch only.

It was a great week. I am thankful to the group from OZark who gave up a spring break to come to Memphis to serve a hurting and impoverished community. The smiles on the faces of the children and the parents who were served tells of the great appreciation.

Okay, do not let the title of post fool you. I will not spend time talking about the airplane. I will not write of how you are putting faith in a giant piece of metal flying through the sky at 30,000 feet and how if one wire is not properly connected life as you know it could take a drastic change. Wow, now I do not want to fly anymore. I will not talk about all the people it takes to make a successful flight from the pilot, flight attendant, mechanics, air traffic controllers, ramp crew, fuel crew, wing walker, and on and on. I think there is a great lesson there for the church about how each person has a different function but a common goal of helping people reach their destinations safely. I will not discuss those things. Wait, I already have.

I want to share about an experience I had on our way to Ethiopia to meet our son. Our itinerary was to fly from Memphis to Chicago; Chicago to Washington Dulles; switch airline in Washington and fly to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was a smooth flight all the way. When we were flying from Chicago to Washington, Kellie and I were not able to sit together. I thought I would take advantage of the situation by catching up on some reading. I grabbed Blue Like Jazz and opened the book. However, before I was able to read a single word the man sitting next to me began to ask me questions. He sat down and said hello. I said hello in return and then once again opened my book. He proceeded to ask how my day had been so far. I told him it was fine and I stared back into my book. Feeling guilty, I asked him how his day had been. He responded that it was good but that he had a long flight ahead of him. I said “Well, I wish you the best” and began to once again look at my book (I had read about five words so far and I thought I should have been finished with a few pages by now). He did not seem to care that I wanted to read. He told me he was travelling to Liberia to visit his family. I decided to put my book back into my bag and have a conversation with the man.

We talked about Africa and how to communicate cross culturally. We discussed stereotypes Americans have about Africa and Africans have about America. It was a good discussion.

He asked me what I do. I find that question funny because I have no idea what I do. I minister to people whenever I can. I teach classes at church. I do leadership development. I am a student, but not this semester. I do not get paid to work for the church. I decided to tell him that I was a minister. He got so excited. He began to talk about ministry, about how we are all ministers, about how Jesus changes lives. He talked about the need for Christianity in Africa where his family is and in Chicago where he had lived for the last 17 years.

I learned a lot from this man. I was glad to be sitting next to him. He began to tell me what he did for a living. He has a business in Chicago that cleans church buildings. He then began to teach me about discipleship. He talked about how being a janitor doesn’t seem like an ideal occupation, but how he would not change his career. He said Jesus washed the disciples feet because there was a need and everyone thought they were above that job. Jesus served his disciples. He said people come to a church building and sing songs and hear good sermons and attend good events; but they often think they are above cleaning the toilet. He said if Jesus were here today, he would clean the toilet, he would mop up the vomit from the three year old classroom, he would serve because someone needed to serve. He was not above service. In fact his own words were that he came not to be served, but to serve.

I think that is an awesome picture of Jesus. Jesus serving. Jesus wrapping the towel around his waist and washing the disciples’ feet. Jesus grabbing the mop and cleaning up after we get sick. Jesus grabbing a toilet brush and doing the job no one else wants to do. Jesus serving. Jesus loving. Jesus taking a cross and carrying it up the hill to be crucified because of our impurities.

I am thankful for this man. I am glad I had the opportunity to sit next to him. I enjoyed the book once I was finally able to read it. But I am so glad this man interrupted my selfish desire in order to teach me about discipleship. Am I willing to serve? Do I seek only the glory positions? Sure, I love to preach and teach and be out in front – but am I willing to scrub a toilet in the name of Jesus and consider my role just as important as the teacher, preacher, and missionary? Thank you for the lesson, Lord. Teach me how to apply it.

A picture of unity

Posted: November 20, 2006 in church, devotional, family, missions, unity

Sunday was a beautiful day. It was also a confusing day. One of those days where the worship service does not go as planned, but still created a beautiful image of Christ. We had an area wide worship of the urban congregations on Sunday. The auditorium was packed. It was an interesting mix. Inner city poor, missionaries who are working on Masters of Divinity, and people who do not speak English. We have never really had a bilingual service. It was difficult to communicate. It was uncomfortable at times, but it was a beautiful picture.

The theme of the day was unity. We were a group of people seeking unity. We were people that most would say would have nothing in common. It is true. We did not have much in common. We did not all look alike. We were not all from the same part of town. We were all different ages. We did not all speak the same language. But we do all serve the same Lord. That brought us together. We were together in the name of Jesus singing songs together. The songs were in English and Spanish and we each would sing in our own language at the same time. We were, if only for two hours, a united people. Memphis is not known for unity. It is a very segregated city. We made an effort to be a family. As our Spanish speaking brother would say “Somos familia.” We are family.

Communion took on a new meaning. It was not a smooth well played out communion. We decided we would all take the communion together as a symbolic sign of unity. It took a while to pass out the trays and there was awkward silence in which we decided to sing a song that probably wasn’t the idea choice for communion, but it was a song we all knew. As I looked across the audience while giving the communion meditation, I saw black, white, and Hispanic all sitting together ready to take communion with each other. It was a small picture of unity.

How beautiful it is to know that there are Christians all around this world. Brothers and sisters who do not look like me, think like me, dress like me, or share the same hobbies as I do. They do not speak the same language, but they do serve the same God! I pray for them and lift them before our Father. And I pray for unity. Unity: such a small word, but what a difficult word it is. For unity is not always popular. But when Christians unite, it is a wonderful picture.

This passed weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a youth seminar by Group called Re-ignite. It was a great time to get re-energized and to be reminded of how much this generation need to know Jesus. According to the National Study of Youth and Religion, 9 out of 10 American young people do not have what social researchers call a devoted faith. Their faith in Christ is not central to their life. They do not know the basics of their faith. They do not see how their relationship with Jesus makes an impact on their everyday life.

What have we done wrong? Why is there such a disconnect between this generation and the older generations? What has gone wrong?
According to Battle Cry, this generation of teens is the largest in history and current trends show that only 4% will be believers by the time they become adults. Compare this with 34% of adults today who are believers in Christ. Something must be done. Our method must be off. We have built youth ministry around a big event and big personalities. The problem is that our big events cannot compete with the other big events in life. Thepersonalities we build our programs around do not always stack up. We have focused on men and not on Jesus. We have left Jesus out of ministry. When Jesus is left out, our teaching becomes irrelevant. When asked to describe Jesus, teens described him as “nice.” The problem is that we do not teach the real Jesus. A Jesus who is simply nice is not strong enough to walk with teens into the difficult stuff of everyday life. At the Re-ignite workshop, we focused on three questions that are very relevant for our world today.

1. Who do I say Jesus is?
2. Who does Jesus say that I am?
3. Who do I say that I am?

We have spent the majority of our time talking about issues with teens. We have told them not to have premarital sex, but 1,000,000 teenage girls are pregnant and 8,000 youth develop an STD everyday. We have talked to them about avoiding peer pressure, but 1/3 of all youth have been drunk and 1/4 of all youth have used illegal drugs. One in five teenagers have attempted suicide, while 1,500 hundred a year succeed.

Maybe we should spend more time teaching about the real Jesus. If nine out of ten youth do not see how their relationship with Jesus impacts their daily life, maybe we are not teaching the real Jesus. The questions are real. The trials are real. The struggle is real. It’s time for youth to be able to see the real Jesus.

In our world, it is easy to take things for granted. I take it for granted that I will get to eat when I am hungry. I will have place to sleep tonight. I have a roof over my head. I have transportation. I have access to medical care. I have a support network of friends and family.
I take that all for granted some times. I find myself complaining because it is too hot with the air conditioning off and too cool with it on. I complain because the cable goes out and I am not able to use my high speed Internet connection. I get frustrated when I am at a restaurant and my glass of sweet tea is empty. I cannot finish my meal so I get a box to take it home in.
As I type these words, I see that I am spoiled. I am blessed. How was I blessed to live in a country like this? When I start to feel that I don’t have much, I go back and look at the world all around us. Go to http://www.globalrichlist.com/ and see how wealthy you are. Check out http://www.miniature-earth.com/ and see how blessed you are to have opportunities that many do not have.
It helps me realize that I have so much that I take for granted.
I am not trying to preach a sermon on poverty, I just want to share in case you need to be reminded. I know I do.