Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Miracle No. 1. Despite all the gloomy economic news, the Lord of the Harvest did a miracle with e3’s 2009 mission trips (with reports still coming in):
• Trip participants went up 7%
• Nationals equipped went up 13%
• Professions of faith went up 26%
• New churches went up 31%
Miracle No. 2. Even though we’ve only advertized I am Second in the Dallas area, God’s fingerprints have been on iamsecond.com since it launched about a year ago:
• 1.7 million visits from 208 countries
• 75,000+ Facebook fans
• 5,300+ Twitter followers
• Almost 3,000 people registered on a new part of iamsecond.com
• Partnership requests from numerous ministries and churches
The best part about these startling stats? Behind the numbers are multitudes of people whom God is touching and changing and inspiring. All for His glory.
God answered your prayers exceedingly abundantly above what we thought or imagined. Thank You, Lord. Thank you, prayer team.
So here’s the next prayer assignment we’d like you to embrace:
Marry the Miracles? How can we marry the international eternal impact of the mission trips with the excitement and commitment the I am Second movement is generating?
Idea: I am Second Expeditions. Do an experiment with some of our e3 Mission Trips. Keep the same focus: evangelism and discipleship with the goal of starting new churches. But add some I am Second elements. Like orientation using parts of the I am Second curriculum. And a community service activity on each Expedition, like medical or dental clinics, free wheelchair distribution, eyeglass clinics, sports clinics, or HIV/AIDS awareness training using our Hope Cube. Recruit through the I am Second network.
We look back on 2009 with great gratitude that our glorious God did things we did not imagine last January 1st. We can’t wait for 2010!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
It was about 4 am last Wednesday, the third day of our eye clinics around Gondar, Ethiopia. I woke up sad, but not because jet lag was stealing my sleep.
I woke up sad thinking about all the eyes I had looked into the previous two days. The eyes of the very old and the young. The eyes of those encrusted in dirt, and those of the smartly dressed. The eyes of children with flies feeding at their corners. The eyes of those clouded by age and cataracts. The weeping eyes of those with problems beyond our capability.
I woke up sad grieving the spiritual darkness that shrouded their spiritual eyes. Grieving the spiritual strongholds of religion and tradition that chained their hearts. Grieving that whatever help we gave them would evaporate the moment they breathed their last breath if they did not put their trust in Jesus the Savior. Grieving that they do not have the joy of worshipping our Risen Lord, but instead bow to lifeless idols amidst the daily squalor in which many live.
Our wonderful team of 23 did exactly what the leaders in Gondar asked us to do—break the spiritual ice with humanitarian aid. Eye glass clinics in four villages. HIV/AIDS awareness training using our Hope Cube. And 220 free wheelchairs on their way in a few weeks. Several government leaders enthusiastically thanked us for this help, and invited us back. So our obedience served its purpose, and for that we give thanks.
We did encounter opposition, though. In one village, the local religious leaders convinced the clinic director to barricade the door of the room we had been using. From what little information they gave us, it seemed that a couple stories our team told offended them, including the one about the Good Samaritan. While we told it to emphasize helping others, they evidently focused on the part where the religious leader is the bad guy.
It was harvest time in Gondar. As an Iowa farm boy, I was fascinated by the techniques they use. Cutting the grain by hand. Using oxen and other animals to tread out the grain to separate it from the stalks. Throwing it up in the air to winnow away the chaff. Loading bags on donkeys to transport to local markets. Like first century Biblical passages coming to life (pictures in slideshow linked below). But while there was an abundant harvest of grain, we saw no spiritual harvest. Too early in the process.
I woke up sad last week, and my grief continues today. But it fuels my focus on continuing to pray for the people of the Gondar region of Ethiopia. To pray for that spiritual harvest to one day come to these sweet and polite people.
Would you pray with us? Would you pray for the seeds of compassion that were planted to ripen into a harvest of more worshippers for our King? Take a look at this short online slideshow, and pray as you travel with us through pictures.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Heavenly Father, Lord of the Harvest, Patient God—
As Lord of the Harvest, You raised up a blessed US team. From 7 and 9 year olds to grandparents, with teenagers, college students, dads and sons, and many other godly people in between. Including a family and several couples. You even gave us several having birthdays and anniversaries during the trip. Even enduring their “different” traditions. You led us through Pastor Enzo. You raised up 30 talented and enthusiastic ministry partners (translators). You partnered us with host churches eager to reach their barrios for Christ. We fellowshipped together, then together saw Your fingerprints all over Santa Cruz. Blessed be Your name.
You opened doors and hearts all over the city. Down dusty roads. At barbed wire gates. In homes. The prison. Soccer teams. Executive suites. A restaurant chain, like the McDonald’s of Bolivia, where our team was able to go to about 10 locations to share the gospel with the employees. This was all You, Lord, all You.
But not any schools, which was a blessing. As the schools remained closed due to the swine flu scare, many kids and teenagers trusted Christ. Then started evangelizing and discipling their friends. Such as Katerine, who trusted Christ, then led several of her friends to Christ. As she began the discipleship process, she turned around and immediately taught her friends what she had learned. Just as ducklings walking in single file, following their brother or sister only one step ahead of them.
Father, You gave our team the privilege of seeing 612 pray to receive Christ as You drew people to Yourself by giving them faith to trust in Jesus as Savior. Thank You.
In the midst of all this, You gave us safety and good health over thousands of miles of travel.
Lord, we surrender the follow-up to You, for we are confident that You are able to complete the good works You have started in many lives. We were able to have 91% follow-up, but we know that discipleship is a long term process. As we turned over the names and addresses of these precious new spiritual babies, we trust You to raise up disciple makers to stick with them to help them follow You.
Jesus, You are the Head of the Church. You are Head over the 4 new church plants and the 5 churches that were strengthened. Enable all our Bolivian partners to obey your command to make disciples. As they build people, we claim Your promise on behalf of them that You will build Your church.
We pray this also for the restaurant chain, one of whose HR leaders is a Dallas Seminary grad. Enable them to disciple their employees who now are following Christ. Whether You point them to a church, or start small “restaurant churches,” give them spiritual communities in which to grow and obey.
Without You, we can do nothing. Everything that happened this week of eternal value was 100% You. Thanks for letting us in on the fun.
All this we pray so that You might be more famous in Santa Cruz and around the world.
In Texas we have a lot of Cowboy churches. Churches that reach people with similar interests who enjoy a similar culture.
Sunday we asked people what groups they are part of when we spoke at the church we helped plant three years ago. We were talking about the person of peace principle from Luke 10, an example of which is the woman at the well in John 4. We challenged them to be the key that unlocks the Gospel for their groups, networks, workplaces, neighborhoods.
At the end of the service the owner of a chain of hamburger fast food restaurants talked to Enzo. [Their restaurants are sort of like the McDonald’s of Bolivia, since McD is not here.] “Will your team speak to the employees of my restaurants? We have 200 in Bolivia, and 20 here in Santa Cruz. We will gather the employees at the beginning or end of their shifts to hear the Gospel.” So today Steve and the Vidor team (Linda, Terry and Lloyd) have appointments at four of the local restaurants!
We are challenging this church to start discipleship groups wherever people receive Christ . . . possibly right in the restaurants.
Please pray for open hearts, and also the discipleship of all the new believers. We are doing our best to model follow-up discipleship in all the areas. We want to have what Jesus called “fruit that remains.” Today and tomorrow are our last days to accomplish that.
Thanks for praying for us here in Bolivia. Everyone is doing great, although people are getting pretty tired from the long days.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
This week we have seen at least part of the reason. Every team had many teenagers come to Christ, and many of these new believers then have worked with our teams. So youth have come to Christ, then led friends to Christ, then helped disciple them . . . all this week.
Last night a 13 year old new believer performed a "Jesus Rap" he wrote this week. I'll try to post the video online soon.
Without the swine flu precautions here, they all would have been back in school every day! But a school break was extended for two weeks, and the start back to school next Monday, after we're gone. Thank You, Lord, for this blessings.
Please keep praying for our Bolivia team. Today is maybe our hardest day--saying goodbye to new dear friends. It is amazing how working side-by-side with people serving God bonds hearts so quickly. Even though we don't share a common language or culture. It is the power of the Holy Spirit and the joy of seeing God work as we walk the dusty streets of Santa Cruz together. Plus see people come to Christ and begin walking with Him as they begin to be discipled.
As Alex, my son-in-law to be (in 10 days!), said this morning, "I'm so torn right now. This has been the best week of my life. My fiancee is at home, and I want very much to see her and get married. But I also so much want to stay here with all my new dear friends." So pray for us all as the transition process back to life at home begins tonight as each team has a closing celebration in each work area.
Quote of the day: "I came here expecting to serve. What I didn't expect was being so much like a wrench--begin a tool that God uses to do His will." From PJ Charles, inventor of EvangeDreds, which now are spreading like wildfire in his area.
The "Burger Church" planters went to 6 restaurants yesterday. More on that in a future report. Keep praying--there are several more today.
God has given us the priviledge of seeing over 500 people say "Si" to Jesus this week. Please continue to pray for the leaders and workers in the 6 areas in which we are working to have a vision, a strategy and the commitment to follow-up with all these precious new spiritual children.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Four days ago, after returning home, he trusted Christ.
Yesterday, after only three days as a believer, he started working with Cameron. This week he will share his new faith with many.
God has so many ways to get us on His plan. Some nice and some painful. But His will is done.
Here's Cameron (in light t-shirt) practicing with Bolivian team about how they will do evangelism in new subdivision (shown in second picture).
Bo, their dad, told how Tessa shared Christ with one lady. As Tessa's eyes scanned between the very pregnant lady and the EvangeCube, she clearly presented the gospel. Perhaps spurred by a mother's love for little children, the lady listened very intently. Then she prayed to receive Jesus as her personal Savior.
Lord, what are You doing in the lives of our team?
Dozens of people are praying to receive Christ as the teams of Bolivians and Americans share about how Jesus died for their sins and offers eternal life only through faith in Him. Please pray for them to be open and eager to be discipled into a full life walking with Christ.
God has answered the prayers of this family exceedingly, abundantly already!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Today Enzo (e3 national director) and I were headed out to visit the MBBC team. We stopped to change some money on the way. When we got back in the car to head out . . . nothing. Wouldn't even turn over.
My first thought . . . "here we go again . . . why don't things work here like they should?" Not wanting to give in any more to this tempation to murmer, my next thought was "Lord, what do You want to accomplish through this?"
Almost immediately a car parked next to us, and a family got out. In a city of almost two million people, the lady says "hola, Enzo." We had stalled in front of the apartment of a former student of Enzo's, from way back when he taught high school for a little while.
Since I evidently had a mechanical lobotomy when I was younger, I knew everyone would be better off if I just stayed out of the way. So as her husband helped Enzo, I tried to engage in conversation with the lady with my very limited Spanish.
IF (and that's a big IF) I understood her correctly, both she and her husband are now doctors. They work at the Christian University here, serving as doctors and professors. On the weekends they volunteer doing medical clinics for the poor. So we invited them to participate in our medical missions trip in September to Sucre!
Since it was too late to go to the area, we then went to my favorite restaurant in Bolivia—Sakura 2. Hole in the wall place that serves world class chicken, plantains, yucca and French fries. Because of the swine flu scare here, the waiters were all wearing masks. Does this make me feel safer? Or not? How about you?
As we got our food, we heard another “hola, Enzo.” A lady and her new husband were walking in. Turns out his family lives in Sucre. His father is a recovering alcoholic, and now his parents do conferences to help families of alcoholics. So another Sucre connection within a few minutes.
Oh . . . you’re still wondering about the car. Enzo and the man tried his battery in the car, and it started right up. So with it running, they put the old one back in. We took it to a repair shop . . . they checked the battery . . . said it was good . . . maybe a drop of oil shorted out a connection (?) . . . for a little while . . . don't really know . . . stop bothering us with a car that is running fine?
Seems to be working fine now. Just had problems at the doorway of the two doctors. What are You up to, God? Time will tell.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Great day today. Breakfast. Worship. Orientation. Met our 30 translators, who helped as we met the leaders of the areas where we will be working. Dinner. Very relaxing day to get caught up from our long travel day yesterday.
On each e3 mission trip we follow the model of ministry given us by the Apostle Paul, the parts of which are summarized in this diagram.
Today we focused on prayer. We prayed for many things, including surrendering this week to the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus. Now we wait to see what He will do. It's gonna be exciting, whatever it is.
Tomorrow (Saturday) we begin the work. We'll continue praying, and add the evangelism part of our ministry. Please pray for us to be totally open and surrendered to what he wants to do through our teams of Bolivians and Americans, connected through our wonderful translators.
Check out the pix of the teams below.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I’m married to the same wonderful wife. We live in the same house. I work in the same office, with the same great team, and for the same organization—e3 Partners. Our kids continue to walk with the Lord. But other than that, just about everything has changed in the past few months.
I decided to take one of those online stress tests just to see how close our family is to going bonkers. Oh, no! It said we had an 80% probability of stress related illness! But what it did not factor in is the grace and peace and strength of God lavished on us. But here is a recap, so you can be praying for us!
Note--many of these things are great things! So we’re not complaining! But coming all at once is a blessed challenge. So here’s what’s up with us, taken from the Life Events Stress Test list--
Addition of New Family Member: Yeah, we love this one. Elizabeth Grace (Ella) joined our family 11 months ago, born to Alycia and Landon who have been living in Asia. We can’t wait until they come home this week for a 5 month visit.
Marriage: We love this one, too! We rejoice that Joanna is marrying Alex on Aug 1st! They both will continue to teach at Bryan High School, where Joanna teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) and Alex leads the school choirs.
Beginning or Ending Formal Schooling / Outstanding Personal Achievement (On a stress test? Yup!): Landon just finished his Ph.D. in Asia. They are coming home for a few months, then heading back to a new city in Asia in December. Landon will be a professor there.
Son or Daughter Leaving Home / Changing to a New School: After graduating from high school a few weeks ago, Philip is looking forward to Howard Payne University this fall, which is Alycia and Landon’s alma mater. The August 21st drop-off date already is marked on our calendars.
Death of Close Family Member: Woodlyn’s mother passed away in early May. Fortunately Woodlyn was able to spend about 6 of her last 8 weeks by her side. Picture above was taken at the graveside service.
Personal Injury or Illness: A couple weeks after her mom’s funeral, Woodlyn had surgery to remove some precancerous cells. We are praying that her follow-up check-up shows they got them all.
Major Change in Responsibility at Work: My transition from the international side of our ministry at e3 Partners to our I am Second project has been wild . . . and great fun. I am Second has been an “exceedingly, abundantly” blessed project as almost 1 million people have visited the website, each spending on average over 9 minutes watching the videos about Jesus changing lives. Even though we have only promoted it in Dallas, people from 191 countries now have visited.
Our vision is to “inspire a revolution of Second.” Which means helping followers of Christ live like Jesus really is First in their lives. Tall order in our materialistic consumer culture. We are writing small group curriculum to go with the videos on the website. Plus redesigning the “Get Involved” and “Find a Group” sections of http://www.iamsecond.com/ to make it easier for churches to partner with us and people to use these new resources.
Fortunately, I can still continue leading church planting teams. In July we have a team of 35 going to Bolivia. Then in November we are taking about 25 from our church to Ethiopia to open up a new area for e3. Plus I continue to serve as our Africa Continent Director until we transition that role to someone.
Change in Financial State: Like many in ministry, we have seen our support fall substantially. July 1st was our 17th anniversary with e3 Partners, known as Global Missions Fellowship way back then. So we trust Jehovah Jireh to continue to provide for our family as He faithfully has done over so many years. He is able and we delight in being “stranded on omnipotence,” as someone once said.
For the Fame of His Name,
Friday, February 27, 2009
I love my job. Daily we get to see God’s hand at work. I love the national directors and US Team Leaders I’ve been working with the past 4 years. We have seen much spiritual fruit (see blog posts below) as we have transitioned our ministry focus to serving our national partners as they plant new churches. Our World Conference last month was a joyful celebration of all these blessings, and a look toward many new initiatives coming online. I couldn’t imagine a better job.
So I got a real shocker about 10 days ago. That morning I was just strolling along on my morning walk. Enjoying the fresh air. Not thinking about anything in particular. Quite frankly, simply enjoying not having any crushing deadlines after the joyful chaos and crunch of the World Conference.
Then He spoke. It wasn’t audible, but it was clear and compelling. Along with it came a physical sensation that confirmed this was not an ordinary thought racing through my head, but directions from our Commander-in-Chief.
The words were as simple as they were direct—
--I have a new assignment for you.
--You are to focus on I am Second.
--Your contribution to the international ministry is complete.
My mind raced. More ideas tumbled about in the moments following, and I’m not sure how much was from the Holy Spirit and what was my mind figuring out “so what does all that mean?” Time will tell.
I power-walked home to tell Woodlyn and Philip. That evening I was able to talk to my good friend and boss, Curtis Hail. Then over the next few days we talked to Nathan Sheets (I am Second creator and team leader) and the rest of our leadership team here at e3. Everybody is a go!
Lots and lots and lots of details to work out. I am scared and excited all at the same time. As we’ve discussed what this might mean, three popular things from our culture stand out--
· Starbucks: how can we help people and churches start thousands of new groups (more than Starbucks) to reach out to our culture to evangelize and disciple people attracted to Christ through the I am Second campaign?
· iPhone Apps Store: how can we harness the creativity of individuals, churches and ministries who want to develop materials and strategies for I am Second (like Apple has done with developers of applications for its iPhone)?
· Facebook: how can we develop web functions to create an I am Second virtual community (like Facebook) to communicate, train leaders, get materials, etc. to use with I am Second strategies, especially to multiply new groups (just like we do internationally)?
Right now we are working on all the ripples this causes as I transition from my current role to this new assignment. Curtis Hail and our Cabinet are prayerfully and carefully deciding who and when. I definitely do not want to drop this baton, for our international ministry is the heart of all that e3 does. It is our main ministry, and probably always will be. So please pray for God’s direction and empowerment to pass on this leadership role to His choice in His way.