Spying

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They meet every week, depending on God's leadership to direct our global mission to help fulfill the Great Commission. With ministries in 190 countries their scope could not be larger. They call themselves the "E" team, which is short for the Executive Team. This week new global leaders like myself have learned what it takes to guide and govern our worldwide effort. This morning we had a chance to spy, via in room cameras, into one of the weekly meetings of this leadership team and study how they live out our mission, vision and values in real time.

Prayer before the meetings begin

Prayer before the meetings begin

We were briefed before the E Team Meeting's start. We learned how they conduct their meetings with their norms for discussion and decision making. I appreciated the emphases on listening to the Lord and petitioning Him with our cares and concerns. We broke into groups and prayed for their time together and for our time learning from them.

Global leaders from French speaking countries in Africa

Global leaders from French speaking countries in Africa

It is so "other world" to be in meetings where we are translating (in this case from English to French) and where the air is thick with accents from far away places.

Thank you once again for the part you play in enabling Lisa and me to play a part in this global mission of helping to fulfill the Great Commission.

Going Global

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"Welcome to the 2014 Global Orientation for new global leaders!" our vice president of leadership development said in her opening remarks as we embarked in week long meetings introducing new leaders like me to the global theater of ministry for which we are now called to lead. She showed a graphic that pictured the way we are organized. I will include it here. It is complex. Complex in part is what it means to lead globally.

This image describes the leadership structure of our global ministry. 

This image describes the leadership structure of our global ministry. 

It is also big. We are learning how we have structured our work into 13 Areas. Each area has a set of leaders and so the global leadership is made up of a lot of people. 

It is complex. There are many relationships. There are a number of systems to learn. There are many needs.

It is diverse. We have backgrounds, perspectives, cultures and languages to navigate. 

So this week is an orientation to learning to lead in a global context. Pray for Lisa and I as we learn to serve in a global capacity. 

Breakfast Date

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At first I did not want to go. It was going to break up my morning routine. What a goof I am. To think I would have missed all these smiles and giggles. The girls just seem to beam. I guess it is just a special thing for them to have me enter their world (okay, it could have been the donuts that made them so happy). I can't help, but think of some parallels of Jesus entering our world, only with Jesus it was not just donuts with dad, it was the bread of life offering eternal life so that you and I would never be hungry again. I am so glad I came, and I am way more glad that He came.

Worldwide Day of Prayer

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"We have an appointment with heaven" our emcee for our day of prayer said in his opening comments. Two times a year our ministry around the globe pauses from mission activity to worship, intercede, and petition our Father. We pray for you too and we are so grateful to have you with us in this mission. Thank you for partnering with us. 

A Special Request

It is called OLC5 and it stands for Operations Leadership Conference and the number 5 (this is the fith one since I don't know when). I no longer work in Operations, but there is a two day track focused on Communications and my new team, Global Advancement, is very much involved in that part of our mission. Working in this global part of our ministry really stretches the geographic scope of what I am doing and connecting with these other staff working in communications is valuable. We work with these people to bring back stories of what God is doing in various parts of the world. In addition, this trip will only deepen my understanding of what our ministry looks like in other parts of the world prayerfully giving me greater insight how we will might serve them in learning how to go about trusting God for the resources they need and teaching them how to look for friends who will join them in the mission.

I would covet your prayers as I make this trip. I want to be a curious learner. I want to build trust in what we can offer these global ministries. I want to learn ways that get timily information from our work abroad.

I would also ask you the favor of praying for my family. Travel is challenging, and I think it is hardest on the one that remains. No doubt you have been in the same place with your work.

Thank you for your partnership in helping to fulfill the Great Commisison. Getting to our goal takes many parts. This part is about building capacity so that we can see more lives changed by the person you and I call Lord–Jesus.

 

Thy Kingdom Come

This just came in my inbox as I work in Global Advancement,

  • In Mandano, Indonesia in 7 days, 30 staff shared with 595 people and 497 prayed to receive Christ.
  • In addition, 100 of the new believers went thru follow up 1 that week.
  • New believers were invited to share their faith- they shared with 119 and saw 97 trust Christ.
  • Multiple generations were birthed that week as new believers shared Christ and started follow up.

That is so cool right? It is a blast to get a "sound bite" like that in the middle of the day. I love what God is doing. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and glory forever. Amen.

 

The Beginning

Picture of a start. A question many are asking me is, “How is your new role going?” I am grateful for the care and interest. However, I have not figured out how to give a simple answer, for it is a bit complex.

Before I am able to fully dive into my new role, I need to find the funding to sustain us in this mission. This is a challenging task, but incredibly rewarding. We have moved to 77% of full funding and I can’t wait to see it at 100%. Until that day, the majority of my time and energy is spent sharing our ministry with potential partners.

I am delighted that nearly all of my former team has joined Lisa and me in our move to the Global Advancement team. I know them well, and I am finding that the team we are merging with is filled with sharp, competent, and daring people. Yes, daring, they believe we can help mobilize 10 million multiplying disciples by 2020! Incredible.

We have a team retreat next week and a team photo is planned. I hope to share that with you next week. Thank you for enabling Lisa I to be one of those that dare to believe that God will enable us to mobilize 10 million multiplying disciples by 2020.

loved like mad

We live on giving. To some, that's appalling. To others, it's faith-filled. Some are indiffierent. And others have no category for it...at all. It's a foreign thought. For us, it requires grit, trust, sacrifice, flexibility. It tests us like nothing else. And it is the hardest thing we often do.

But we both believe we were made for our work with Cru. And so we persevere in living on giving. On the flip side of the coin, these people who partner with us in reaching the world for Christ...they love us like mad. And we don't know why. It seems like another incredibly undeserved outpouring of our God's grace upon us.

We have been spoiled the past 10 days with a visit to see our ministry partners in California. A few days into our time here, two of our kids expressed, "Mom, I wish we could live here with these friends." Our kids have seen and experienced much of the challenging side of living on giving. But from time to time, we head to the epicenter of our support and they are cocooned in with us into the silken threads of love. Today as we drive away from these ones we adore, we feel full. We are encouraged to press on in our work. Because we've been loved like mad.

 

Transformed by "Withness"

As our flesh hungers for it's fallen vision of justice to be executed on others, judgment occupies such vast space in our souls that there is no room left for compassion, empathy, mercy, or grace. Judgment requires distance to take up residency in a soul. When we coddle judgment, a callous forms on the heart. And our vision of the other becomes skewed. I'm finding it's only when I am “with” another that judgment melts into compassion.

Dennis, Madison, and I approached the razor-wired fencing surrounding buildings expectant to commune with our friend who took up residency there months ago. Six months ago he left our community to serve time. A three-year sentence. The surreal hit us like a brick wall over two years ago when we received the news of his arrest. Our broken hearts pouring forth wails of grief over a friend who had fallen hard. Fallen into places unacceptable to our society...rightly so. He had poured into our sons and a thousand other youth at our church throughout the years. But darkness lurked and prowled and sought to devour. And he bought into the lie...as we all do at some point in time.

The exposure was merciless. Had I not known him, I could have poured out my judgment with the rest. But now this fallen one was "our" friend. "Our" fallen youth leader. The one who'd dined with us on Sundays and played with our family until sundown. Ache and tears and pain filled the space where judgment would have resided had he been a stranger. We were tasting the miracle of the incarnate Jesus. He released in us a hunger to walk beside our friend in the mire, to embrace him in his brokenness. To be “with.”

The One who came down to absorb all that judgment we so deserve. The judgment we brutally throw onto others. His name is Immanuel...God "with" us.

The revolutionary who lived out the loving the unlovely so we'd have a vision for entering into another's darkness. His name is Immanuel...God "with" us.

The One who showed us how to be "with" because it's so unnatural when someone's more broken that we think is acceptable. His name is Immanuel...God "with" us.

And this Jesus moved us to remain "with" our friend throughout his two-year sentencing journey. Because not many were moved as we were, we monopolized his weekends and he became one of us. We were graced to hold him in the darkness, where shame devours the bent over soul.

He spent the first two weeks of his sentence in the massive county jail. As Dennis, Keegan, and I entered the visitation center, surreal hit hard. These visitors were "our" people. People pulling out the stops to go be "with" the one they love. The one they love in spite of the brokenness. We sat at a kiosk in a line of three, only one of us able to talk through the phone at a time. The other two of us sticking our ears around the receiver hoping to capture as much conversation as possible in our 45 minute visitation. And we were surrounded by a roomful of others aching to hold the receiver and commune with their loved one. Laughter, sorrow, smiles, tears. All of us wishing we could touch the one on the other side of the monitor held in another building. These were now "our" people.

Dennis, Madison, and I arrived at the state penitentiary by 7:40 am last Saturday, hoping to acquire a spot at the front of the line. We had to leave the rest of the family behind because they were denied visitation rights. Two long rows of park benches lined a prison entrance. I'd never been so close to one before. The benches were almost filled and we arrived an hour before visiting hours began. We were surrounded by grandparents, mommas, papas, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, children, and friends. We spanned multiple ethnicities. There was no imbalance in color. More stereotypes shattered.

Within 30 minutes of our arrival, the door thunderingly unlatched and a young man walked out with a small Dillard's bag in his hand. His momma and another young man ran to him and embraced him tightly. Everyone began to clap so I joined the throng. With tearful eyes his momma yelled to us, the 40 there to witness his release, "My baby's been in there for three years!" That was the first time I'd witnessed somebody released from prison. And I felt momma's joy. And I ached for redemption to flesh into that young man's soul as one of the visitor's yelled, "Don't you come back!" I pray he doesn't.

I sat next to an older woman who, with a thick Cuban accent, was the consummate welcome wagon. She'd been there the day before as well, visiting her fiance. She'd befriended a striking twenty-something young woman who'd also spent the previous day there visiting her husband. Her style was punk. She had orange, black and blond hair with matching rainbow-colored eye shadow, perfectly applied. She was dressed to the hilt in black. Her daughter of two was decked out in a black sequined mini-skirt and tank with sequined skull and crossbones. They live three and one-half hours from this man they both love and adore. Spending their weekends in Ocala, Florida going between the prison and a cheap hotel, squeezing out every minute they can get with their man. This is their normal. A woman in her 90's dying of diabetes and her daughter joined us. They were visiting their son/brother. The woman's discomfort was great but nothing would keep her from communing with her son that weekend. She has another child in a prison in South Florida as well. Beside us was an academic middle aged man who looked like us, talked like us. He was visiting his brother. Another young woman on my right was visiting her boyfriend. They'd grown up in church together. With expectancy in her voice, she shared, "He gets out in 2021." 2021. And there she was, faithful to drive the distance into the middle of Florida to be "with" the one she loves. Every weekend. This space was filled with a stunning collision of worlds. I longed to sit with these people, my people, and hear their stories. But there wasn't enough time because at 9:15 we were finally invited to enter.

After our processing, we were sent into a large cafeteria-like room to await his arrival. At 9:40 he walked through a door and never have we seen him beam so brightly. His entire being smiled. We embraced for the first time in months. Then we sat across from each other at rectangular tables, inmates on one side, visitors on the other. There we sat as we shared our lives for three and one-half hours, surrounded by our new acquaintances doing the same. Most visitors affectionately and excitedly embraced their inmates. However, there were some who couldn't hide the tension between them. The loss, the betrayal, the ache was too much. But the people still came, and sat across from the ones they love, willing to be “with" them in the pain.

A handsome, tall young man entered the room and the two-year old in sequins squealed and sprinted into his arms. Then his wife decked out in black kissed him like she meant it. Around 10:30, daddy's girl laid down on the table between her parents and drifted into dreamland. This is her normal.

The time came for us to return to our children not with us. As we walked out the door, we were filled because we'd been "with" our brother again. And our God was protecting him. And working in Him as He is in us. We tasted our Immanuel. God ‘with” us.

I was in awe of the commitment and love to these men who'd violated societal laws to such an extent that this place without rights or comfort had become their dwelling. Christ follower or not, these people are reflecting His heart for the world. Love compelled them to be “with” whatever the cost. Bringing tastes of Immanuel into dark places.

Judgment is our natural response to another in this fallen state. A friend of mine exhorted me years ago, “Hang in there until your judgment turns to compassion.” I've found the only way to enjoy that movement is to be “with” the one from whose eye I seek to remove the plank. Only in that closeness can my calloused flesh be crucified and the love of Immanuel pour forth offering life through me. In this pursuit, I think I taste true justice.

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. —Zechariah 11:9

 

Prayer: ACTS or SCAT

Prayer Time Perhaps you have been exposed to the helpful acronym to prayer “ACTS”. The “A” is for adoration, the “C” is for confession, the “T” is for thanksgiving, and the “S” is for supplication. We gathered our team as we do each Tuesday to come before our Father and pray. We engaged in prayer using this framework to talk with our Father. It was meaningful as we used Psalms 145 to inform our prayer. I was thinking about something I read in RC Sproul’s book called The Prayer of the Lord where RC says that often our prayer times take the format of ACTS and turn it into SCAT. We spend a lot of time with S and push quickly through CAT. That was not our experience, and it was important for us to to adore and give thanks to our Father who each of us has has experienced in so many wonderful ways. Have you found ACTS in your prayers with God?