Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Reflection on 2009…The Year of NEW…

We are ending our year in a very familiar way…spending the week between Christmas and New Year’s with family and friends in the frozen tundra of the Twin Cities that we used to call home…times spent going sledding, playing WII, drinking Caribou coffee, building snow forts, and even going to see my beloved Timberwolves have been done before and most likely will be done again in the future…

And yet as our time in MN draws to a close and we get ready for our daily lives and routines in 2010, there is something very different about our holiday trip…instead of driving back to Chicago we will continue our road trip around Lake Michigan to our new home in Grand Rapids…and as I think back on this year, the change in our lives is much more than just driving by the ever familiar Route 59 exit…

In many ways, almost everything we were used to and connected to over the last 14 years is now different…we still watch the Bears and Cubs with special interest and keep up with some of our dearest friends in the world, but the life we were so used to was pretty much flipped upside down when we moved to West Michigan at the end of August…

This past year was one where we grew, we cried, we celebrated, and we often wondered about God’s leading and plan for our lives…and we are all still OK…we still love being a family and we still can’t believe that God invites us daily to be in relationship with Him, His people, and His world…and that HE has somehow seen fit to call us to be part of the remarkable and marvelous work He is doing in the midst of the brokenness of lives on this planet…

So in the midst of a deeply grateful season, here’s a few moments that have stood out to me in the last 12 months that shaped my career and our lives as the Huber clan…

*A seemingly endless series of significant conversations at the West Chicago Starbucks that became my favorite coffee place in the world due to the people I knew and met there…

*A random phone call from my pastor growing up one morning while at a conference in Austin with a teacher friend that ultimately led me to leave WA just over a month later…

*Walking around a quiet Cornerstone University campus on Memorial Day as a family and thinking to ourselves, “I think we could see our family becoming part of this community…”

*Going into my good friend and supervisor’s office at WA on the same day as one of my closest and longest colleagues to tell him I was leaving WA after 14 years as the Dean of Spiritual Life there…

*A final WA trip to Zambia (Trip #5) where we were so blessed by seeing long-time friends and change in Kakolo Village, and then being inspired to new action by seeing new needs in a community called Moyo in another part of the country…in many ways, the time with students in Zambia only made leaving WA an even more painful and daunting task after such a meaningful and life-changing experience…

*Final times with friends and former students at our favorite Chicago places as we got ready to leave the Windy City…

*A final family week at Disney World due to the generosity of a WA family where we had a wonderful time and relaxed before getting ready to move…

*Driving away from our first and only house for the last time after crying together at Subway at lunch and spending 4 hours the night before at a going away party with many of the people who had shaped and impacted our lives for eternity…and to be honest, I was thinking to myself, “Honestly, Chip, what have you done to your life and your family? And why have you done it?”

*Standing by myself grabbing my luggage at the airport in Bozeman, Montana not knowing the students and staff at the school where I was working for the first time
in a decade and a half…

*Sleeping on the living room floor in our new house we had finally decided on in Grand Rapids…and by the way, locking your keys in the new home and then trying to break into the house with your new neighbors isn’t a bad way to get to quickly know a neighborhood…

*Spending 10 days with the new freshman class at Cornerstone and some great student and staff leaders seeking to get them engaged spiritually and socially in the earliest days of their college experience…and I felt like I could relate rather well to them, to be honest…

*Dropping off Trey and Olivia at Orchard View School down the street from our house instead of WCGS on the day after Labor Day and trying to not cry myself walking down the new hallways with them…

*Wondering daily if we would sell our house back in West Chicago or face being separated for an undetermined amount of time…and watching God provide to meet our need, even if it wasn’t close to the selling price we first proposed…

*Going back to see old friends and finalize the move to Grand Rapids on a Homecoming weekend…and being OK with heading back to MI despite enjoying being with people we knew so well…

*Weekends with family and friends showing them our new home and the new places we’d discovered on the east side of Lake Michigan…

*Having groups of students and new friends on the CU staff into our home down the street from Cornerstone…and finding that college students were great to be with like hundreds of high school students always were…

*Discovering that “lake effect snow” was a very real deal in our new location…

*And making it through the first semester of life in our new home and being able to talk about new experiences, new friends, and new callings for our lives with thanksgiving and expectation…


As I re-read these moments, I am flooded with all kinds of emotions and memories and questions and even a few answers as I get ramped up for a busy first month of 2010 that will be spent with CU soccer players in Central America and another group of new college students in northern MI…

And to be honest, I still feel like I am in many ways going through a period of transition in my life, my job, and my faith…and I have often found myself when I am in an honest mode admitting that I definitely believe that the person in our family who has had the most difficult time making this change has been me, the one who signed up for the new gig in the first place!

There have been lots of moments over the past six months where I’ve mourned the loss of such real and caring community, the freedom and resources given to me over many years to chase down vision, and simply the familiarity and consistency found in being so grounded and connected and cared for by people whom you have experienced much with over a lengthy period of time…I’ve found that almost everyone wants and expects you to move forward without taking time to say goodbye or to grieve that which is no longer in your life in our fast-paced culture…and most of all I think it frankly was impossible to not reflect and remember and hold on to on some level the privilege we had in being part of something so richly anointed and blessed by God over a long period of years…

This year of new, this year of change has been different and been good…I’ve had moments of anxious fear wondering if this would be ultimately the right place for us; I’ve had moments of surprise as I’ve connected with and built new relationships with students and co-workers and even folks from my distant past that help build a new world in a new community; and I’ve often been reminded in the midst of prayers and struggles and joys that the presence of God is still hovering in and around and over Grand Rapids like it does in Edina, West Chicago, and other places where the Kingdom of God continues to break out in creative and noticeable ways…

As I write these thoughts of reflection, I also find myself starting to dream of what 2010 might hold…and those dreams and hopes are based on three realities I’ve discovered really are true as they have held firm in the new places God has taken me over the last six months…

1. The people who make up the church of Jesus Christ are truly people who can and often will demonstrate the love that God the Father has for each of those He has created…the followers of Jesus I’ve met in many new settings and new places have truly been life-giving in a year where you could easily feel like you had abandoned the security of belief and care and love that you wanted to bask in for the rest of your life…

2. There is nothing that will get the people that God has created in His image more quickly excited and inspired than taking steps to care for those in need in our world today…I’ve loved being able to pray for the orphans, plan trips to have our hearts broken and encouraged by the people of the Dominican Republic and Zambia, and be challenged in community by the words of Scripture that jump out and scream at us to live out our faith in sacrificial and authentic ways toward those both near and far away whom God desperately loves and wants to know Him and experience the fullness of abundant life…

3. Taking risks is in line with the character and nature of a God who is constantly on the move and up to that which we couldn’t even imagine…I’ve felt His presence despite doing something that on some days seemed to make no sense to my own heart and mind as well as the minds of those around us…and doing something new ultimately produces something in and through us which couldn’t get done without steps into the unknown…


So yes, it will be a bit strange on Saturday to not head south on 59 toward North Ave this Saturday as we drive through Chicagoland on our way home to being a new year…but I’m OK with the new route and actually have found myself expecting more changes and new adventures for the next year ahead…I am blessed with a past that gives me the courage to do that which is new…and my prayer is that I will trust in the Divine One in 2010 to such an extent that I’ll live in a way that brings honor and attention and blessing to Jesus…and I will pray for many of you that the change that comes your way will bring new life to your own heart and soul and those whom God brings across your path this year…

CHIP

John 10:10…He has come that we might have life, and have it to the full…

Monday, December 21, 2009

PRIMAL: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson

I just finished reading my first book of the holiday season, which is often a time for me to get some reading done...Mark Batterson's latest book PRIMAL (really liked his first two books as well) offered me a great reminder of the vision God ultimately calls me to pursue in 2010 and beyond as a Christ-follower...

Batterson writes about rediscovering what it means to live like the early church believers did and invites his readers to consider how the values of heartfelt compassion, soul captivating wonder, intellectual curiosity, and the strength of passionate workers can move us back to a place of intense belief and love in the God of all things...

I loved his mix of personal stories, scientific insights, and insights into the Scriptures that really made me reconsider some of my own current life patterns as a long time follower of Jesus...I found myself stirred to renew my passions to give lavishly out of a longing to meet the needs of others, to once again go to places where I see the awe of God's creation, to use my imagination to think of new ways to engage God's grand mission, and to rededicate myself to investing my energy into the completion of the tasks God has invited me to be part of doing as a servant of Jesus...

Batterson invites us all to be part of another reformation where we flesh out the Great Commandment and Commission in very fresh ways...and I found myself drawn in and inspired as a lover of Jesus...something I desperately need to feel and pursue as one who is professionally invested in ministry with the next generation...

It's worth a read early in 2010 as you contemplate what it means to live differently in the year ahead...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

TIGER and the Good Life by John Ortberg

A great reflective piece on the question we all wrestle with every day...

Celebrities and obituaries offer competing definitions of what's worth pursuing.

For the moment, you cannot look at a newspaper, magazine, TV or website without running into the name Tiger Woods. What is behind our endless and growing fascination with celebrities?

Dallas Willard writes that there are four fundamental questions that every world view—and every human being—must answer. Whether we want to or not; whether we do it well or poorly, whether we've illiterate or have five Ph.D.'s, we must assume something is true about: What is real?

Who has "the good life"?

Who is a good person?

How do you become a good person?

Our preoccupation with celebrities has to do largely with question #2. We are not computers, not robots—we will inevitably pursue a life that we think is desirable. If we become convinced that the good life is unattainable to us, it can lead to despair or even suicide. Many thought leaders inside the church and outside often criticize churches for appealing to people's desire for self-fulfillment in the name of "relevance." They have a point.

But the question of who has the good life is woven into the human heart with fine stitching, and cannot be rooted out without tearing the heart itself. We cannot address it simply by pointing out how people pursue it wrongly.

We often associate the good life with access to money or pleasure or success or attractiveness. A magazine published in southern California was actually called The Good Life. Based on its ads the good life could be pursued primarily by fine dining and weight reduction, which is a little paradoxical when you think about it. (Although it's also a little Christmas-y; the fine dining comes in December and the vows for weight reduction in January). The pursuit of the good life generally involves assets that we believe celebrities possess. We are fascinated with them because we suspect they have the life we want.

When there is a mess involving a celebrity, we're fascinated because often we think that if we had all the good stuff the celebrity had we would be smarter; we would be able to enjoy the good life. Writer Alain de Botton notes one of the main differences between ancient tragedy and modern tabloid journalism is that tragedies called for us to identify with the central character—what happened to him could happen to me. Tabloid journalism invites us to pass judgment—I would never be that stupid; he must not be normal and healthy like me.

The deeper issue, though, is that no one ever entered into the good life by trying to pursue the good life. In the early days of AA, a little group around founder Bill W noticed that he was becoming increasingly enamored with the attention he was getting as the spokesman of this new movement. They warned him that the attention would become as addictive and deadly as the bottle for him. Out of this came a decision that no one would become wealthy from AA, and no one would become famous.

It's why they now only use initials instead of last names in telling their stories publicly. They decided that their fallenness meant that fame and money were spiritual forces that were simply too powerful and too dangerous for them to allow at the center of their communal motivations.

It is interesting how often the evangelical community gives rise to its own little set of celebrities; and how often money and fame (on a limited, evangelical scale) get held out as rewards, and how often they end up being destructive and leading to little scandals (on a limited, evangelical scale) in our world as well.

We live in the tension between our desire to have the good life and our desire to be good people. A fascinating place to see this tension on display is to open up a newspaper and compare advertisements with obituaries. Ads tell us: "here's how to have great hair, great teeth, great clothes, great food, great sex, great cars and great bodies." But obituaries never say: he had great hair, great teeth, great clothes, great food, great sex, great cars and a great body. We want to be good people, but we're willing to give it up to have the good life. We want to have what is offered in the ads but be what is spoken in the obituaries.

This is why the news of Jesus never goes away, and why it is good news. Jesus understood the connection between the good life (the blessed life; the life now available to people who thought they were rejects like those the meek or the mourners or the poor in spirit) was actually available to those who with God's presence and help were becoming genuinely good people.

If you work at a church, you are in the news business; and in this season once more people's hearts turn for a moment to the news that matters. May it be told well, and spread far …

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The need for laughter

Words from G. K. Chesterton: "I do not know why touching the heart should always be connected only with the idea of touching it to compassion or a sense of distress. The heart can be touched to joy and triumph; the heart can be touched to amusement."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Why Should Christians Care About Anything at All?

Here's a piece from the WV ACT:S website written by York Morre, National Evangelist and US Invitational Director for InterVarsity and founder of the website, Tell the Story...

“I understand that these things are important but when the students I send to your conferences come back caring more for the environment or slavery or clean drinking water than the gospel and evangelism, I have a real problem!”

These were the frustrated words of a mega-church pastor as we shared lunch together after I had delivered evangelistic messages for his four services. The comment came as we were discussing the new face of evangelism and how addressing the gospel through the lens of justice has produced so much fruit in our ministry nationally. This pastor’s concerns or not rare, there is a growing frustration with conservative evangelicals regarding the direction of the church, particularly when it comes to social justice issues. Racial reconciliation, caring and loving the creation, AIDS, child prostitution, urban poverty, immigration-the list of issues and causes Christians are awakening to is long and growing and the pastor’s “problem” is a good one to have. The questions of why we should and how we should care about the injustices and needs of the world around us need to be answered. Embracing causes without critique just because we think God cares about them is not a good trend.

The short answer to why we should care about injustice is because God does, but the deeper question is why does he? Certainly, all causes aren’t equal-caring for animals is not equal to setting children free from the brick kilns of India. Does God care about animals? Proverbs 12:10 says, “The righteous know the needs of their animals, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel,” (NRSV). Certainly, God and His people do and should care for the creation. While finding passages that demonstrate God’s love for animals is a bit challenging (even in my ‘Green Bible’!), it is nearly impossible to miss God’s concern and passion for the poor, the oppressed, and for those despairing. There is a hierarchy of needs so to speak when it comes to things that we are to be about. The needs of peoples both physical and eschatological certainly are at the top of such a hierarchy but this is where the lines get fuzzy.

If a family of farmers on the Malaysian coast can no longer farm because of the effects of climate change and are thrust into abject poverty and are thus at a greater risk to be trafficked into forced labor by the powerful, it is difficult to untangle their temporal needs from their eternal needs. Additionally, we can see from this illustration how directly linked the issue of climate change is to poverty, oppression, and ultimately conversion. This may seem like a leap for many conservatives, but I don’t think it is an irrational one. Charles Finney said that one of the greatest obstacles to salvation was the blinding that comes from being worldly, or preoccupied with the overwhelming temporal needs of the world. Certainly, these Malaysian farmers need Jesus but they also need to be productive, own their own land, have access to the fruits of their labor, live free and enjoy the earth. These issues are not mutually exclusive and Jesus Christ is the answer to both sets of needs.

How we should care about issues is probably the main concern of my mega-church pastor friend. Certainly, it would be a calloused and out of touch Christian to hear of the needs and have no regard for the 13 year old African child who lives alone because both his parents have died of AIDS. Even if such a so-called Christian existed, she would keep such disregard private. Every day, however, we demonstrate our lack of love for God’s creation and the people of the world by the way we care or fail to care for the temporal needs of those around us and by doing so we allow Finney’s conception of worldliness to proliferate, blinding hundreds of millions to the great news of Christ. For the on-looker, the Church seems aloof, unconcerned about the real needs of people and this disillusions them to the person and message of Christ.

For those caught in the cycle of poverty, oppression, and despair, such lack of action and concern by the Church prevents them from hearing and seeing Christ and, according to Luke 10, is tantamount to being complicit in their victimization. We must care, but how? How do we stay committed to the gospel and avoid a new kind of liberation theology or spiritualized activism? Are we doomed to the same dichotomization that produced left and right, conservative and liberal? The answer is to never allow such a schism between gospel proclamation and Kingdom demonstration to appear practically in our lives and ministries. This may be easier said than done but it must be done and done right.

For instance, recently I spoke at a large Presbyterian church and was excited to see their commitment to recycling everything from light bulbs to Sunday morning brochures to bottles and cans. I asked my guide at the church about their program and she said, “We are so excited to help our people understand the importance of caring for God’s creation and it really helps us connect with other non-Christian organizations in our community!” This is the right attitude! Why does our care for the earth need to be separate from our concern for non-Christians? I think the concern for many, and legitimately so, is because so often one comes at the expense of the other or for many “evangelistically minded,” the care for an issue is really a cloaked mechanism to get a gospel presentation in with little or no real concern for the issue.

Both concerns are important to note but should not prevent us from creatively and sincerely committing do both-to proclaim Christ and demonstrate His Kingdom. We should never even try to conceive of providing clean drinking water or AIDS relief or freedom for slaves without also thinking about the eternal needs of those we are seeking to help. This is not to say that caring for the poor or the earth does not have intrinsic value that is worthy to be expressed even if people don’t “get saved”-this is what worries some. However, it is often short-sightedness, a lack of creativity, and a stunted theology that prevents us from bringing the two mandates-proclaiming Christ and demonstrating His Kingdom-to bear in our expression of Christian evangelization.

Back to my pastor friend. What I shared with him was that we stand to lose on both sides if we allow the old dichotomization to emerge in our generation’s expression of the faith. If we don’t care for the earth and for the peoples of the earth, we lose our legitimacy in the eyes of the watching world and will perpetuate spiritual blindness through our complicity of inaction. If we continue to evangelize without demonstrating God’s Kingdom power and love, we may win individuals souls for Christ for a season, but end up losing the battle for the hearts and minds of a generation. If we divorce our cause, whichever cause that may be, from the transformative power of the gospel, even at our best we will continue to perpetuate the spiritual damnation of the lost, God’s chief concern in sending Jesus to be our propitiation for sin. Human flourishing is God’s ultimate goal for us, eternal, abundant life and this starts with conversion.

We must be saved. We must proclaim Christ, calling women and men everywhere to repent but we do so through the lens of demonstrating God’s Kingdom power and love as Paul says in I Thes. 1:5, “…the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake.”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Big Draw for First-Time Guests: Ministry to the Poor

Some interesting research about what draws unchurched people to come to churches...

LifeWay Research recently published in their newsletter a new study about ministry to the poor. Obviously, the church should serve the poor and reach out to the hurting. What this study reveals is that churches remaining obedient to Christ’s example of serving the poor are also more likely to attract guests.

This research blurb comes from their findings:


Americans indicate that an active ministry to the poor is more likely to draw them to a church than knowing that it is made up of predominantly young families or their neighbors. That’s the finding of a recent survey by LifeWay Research that asked 1,600 American adults what factors would affect their decision to visit a church for the first time.

Thirty-four percent of Americans say that they would visit a church with an active ministry to the poor in their community while 31 percent indicate that they would visit a church where several families in their neighborhood regularly attend. Twenty-five percent say that they would visit a church made up predominantly of young families with children, and just 13 percent would visit a congregation made up predominantly of senior adults.


Ed Stetzer, church research guru and President of LifeWay Research, comments on the findings:

It appears that people are interested in what a church is doing to impact and transform its community. This seems to be an opportunity for churches and Christians to validate the gospel by showing the good news of Christ as they share it.

Even the unchurched in America know that Jesus came healing the sick and serving the poor so they are surprised to see Him represented by a church uninvolved in such activities. Churches would do well to be engaged with, and also to be known for, caring for the poor.

Monday, November 23, 2009

African Christianity and Politics

A strong piece of reflection from a Zambian ministry leader who we'll be spending time with this summer at Jubilee Centre in Ndola, Zambia...

Mark Noll is his book Turning Point states that David Livingstone’s, “lifetime activity in sub-Saharan Africa-as missionary, explorer, scientist, consultant to European governments, and antislave zealot-was guided by a firm belief that modern agriculture, energetic commerce and serious Christianity could together end the slave trade and ennoble African society.” Livingstone did not foresee any problem with the combination of imperial and Christian interests. However, the combination of colonial and Christian interest did create problems as the European began to use the missionaries’ to influence indigenous people to cede land to European companies. The land rights transfer to these companies included mining rights, game rights, governing rights, taxes and privileges of whatever sort connected with territory. This is why early missionaries are blamed for paving the way to colonial rule in Africa.

Today, Africa has not changed much. Instead of the combination of imperialism and missionaries’ interests, there is now the combination of Christian leaders and African political leaders interests. Africa is not short of credible Christian leaders who are engaging presidents of nations and leaders of local communities that our hope to overcome the ravages of HIV and AIDS and extreme poverty lies in “Christianity, Commerce and Industry.” However, a most serious difficulty for the Christian leaders in Africa is how to convince citizens that politicians who have biblical leadership qualities combined with skills are what will bring prosperity to the nation. Especially since the current structures of power in most African countries, and recruitment into them, seem destined to produce leaders for the country who enjoy less than honorable reputation of character-leaders who are uncommitted, practice tribal politics, and are corrupt and self-serving. In the later part of 19th Century the missionaries refused to represent Christ fearlessly and independently as to prophetically speak against the evils of colonialism. The missionary attitude was to visit the colonialists privately and have dialogue with them over a cup of coffee. This achieved little and it eventually led to a violent reaction by the colonized people of whom most were Christians and elders in the missionaries’ churches.

In the 21st Century the church in Africa has not generally lacked evangelists, pastors and teachers. No wonder the church is growing numerically fast. But prophets have been scarce in Africa. The situation in Africa today, as it was in the later part of 19th Century, requires prophetic power to address the sin of greed, selfishness, and corruption which is one of the causes of poverty, AIDS, war and oppression in Africa. With the growing Christian population and the combination of free market and democracy there is no reason why Africa should be bound in ethnic hatred and be failing to spread the benefits from its resources to the needy so that those who have much do not have too much and those who have little do not have too little (Exodus 16:16-18). The question is: are we preaching from the Bible with profound insights that our people identify with powerfully as seen in the example of the early church in Acts 2-4? May the church leaders not be blamed for paving way for selfish and evil political leaders.

Lawrence Temfwe

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Jesus Invitation by Philip Yancey

I loved this description of how Jesus engaged people in a very unique way...

We sometimes use the term "savior complex" to describe an unhealthy syndrome of obsession over solving others' problems. Ironically, the true Savior seemed remarkably free of such a complex. He had no compulsion to convert the entire world in his lifetime or to cure people who were not ready to be cured.

I never sense Jesus twisting a person's arm. Rather, he stated the consequences of a choice, then threw the decision back to the other party. For example, he once answered a wealthy man's question with uncompromising words, then let him walk away. Mark pointedly adds this comment about the man who rejected Jesus' advice, "Jesus looked at him and loved him."

In short, Jesus showed an incredible respect for human freedom. Those of us in ministry need the kind of "Savior complex" that Jesus demonstrated. As Elton Trueblood has observed, the major symbols of invitation that Jesus used had a severe, even offensive quality: the yoke of burden, the cup of suffering, the towel of servanthood. "Take up your cross and follow me," he said, in the least manipulative invitation that has ever been given.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Social Justice and Evangelism

A strong piece I pulled from the World Vision ACTS network, a group of college students on many different campuses seeking to proclaim and advocate for justice and the needs of people in our world today, that was written by Scott Bessenecker, Associate Director of InterVarsity Missions and author of “The New Friars”...like very much its balanced and strong perspective on an often divisive conversation...

It is probably a frightening oversimplification to claim that when the early Church emphasized Jesus' humanity she spawned great social programs and when she emphasized his deity produced great theology. Understanding and expressing the reality of these two natures existing in a single person inspired the historic schisms. To this day we quibble about the deified power of Christ to save and the incarnational power of Christ to serve, as if they were at odds with one another.

This tension between social justice and evangelism - or Christ as Man and Christ as God - is a bit like the tension between LOVE as verb (I love) and LOVE as noun (my love) - it works great both ways, it just depends on what you are trying to say. In fact the noun and verb can have a symbiotic relationship, "A lover loves." I become the noun, a lover, when I consistently engage the act of loving.

I am grieved when Christians feel like an invitation to accept Jesus is the only way to legitimize the protesting of evil or need to throw an altar call in when feeding the homeless, as if confronting evil or doing good were not enough. Jesus held up a Samaritan as the picture of what it meant to inherit eternal life by fulfilling the law of loving your neighbor (Lk 10) even though he had substantial theological issues with what Samaritans believed (Jn 4). Hating evil and loving justice do not need an evangelistic call in order to become valid. Those actions please Jesus all by themselves.

I am grieved when I meet Christians who have no problem protesting unfair wages for migrant farmers but have no desire to call people into a saving relationship with Jesus. How can we see the kingdom come without inviting others to acknowledge the King? Justice flows from a Judge and answering Jesus' question, "who do you say I am?" matters. A friend of mine, Doug Schaupp, observes that it is easier for him to take someone who is good at evangelism and turn them into a lover of justice than to take a socially active Christian and grow them into a good evangelist. That is sad to me.

Separating social justice and evangelism is like getting married and then not living together. Is it better to have the security of a marriage covenant and never see your spouse, or to live together with no real commitment or promise? I want both. Some of us may be more gifted at the prophetic confrontation of evil systems and structures and others at calling people to say yes to Jesus' invitation to trust him for salvation, but we must remain stoutly committed to both.

Jesus as God and Jesus as man, separating those things is heresy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Church: Love It, Don't Leave It

An interesting article from the Washington Post by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, authors of the book Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion.

Here's what Bono, Oprah, and the guru speakers on PBS won't tell you: Jesus believed in organized religion and he founded an institution. Of course, Jesus had no patience for religious hacks and self-righteous wannabes, but he was still Jewish. And as Jew, he read the Holy Book, worshiped in the synagogue, and kept Torah. He did not start a movement of latte-drinking disciples who excelled in spiritual conversations. He founded the church (Matt. 16:18) and commissioned the apostles to proclaim the good news that Israel's Messiah had come and the sins of the world could be forgiven through his death on the cross (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 2:14-36).
For almost two millennia, it was axiomatic that Christians, like, actually went to church (or at least told other Christians they did). From Cyprian to Calvin it was believed that for those to whom God "is Father the church may also be Mother."

But increasingly Christians are trying to get more spiritual by getting less church. Take a spin through the religion section at your local bookstore. What you'll find there is revealing - there are "revolutionary" books for stay at home moms, teenagers, and Christian businessmen. There are lots of manifestos. And most of the books about church are about people leaving the church to "find God." There are lots of Kerouacian "journey" stories, and at least one book about the gospel according to Starbucks. It used to be you had to overthrow a country to be considered a revolutionary, and now, it seems, you just have to quit church and go pray in the woods.

We've been in the church our whole lives and are not blind to its failings. Churches can be boring, hypocritical, hurtful, and inept. The church is full of sinners. Which is kind of the point. Christians are worse than you think. Our Savior is better than you imagine.

But the church is not all about oppression and drudgery. Almost every church we know of visits old people, brings meals to new moms, supports disaster relief, and does something for the poor. We love the local church, in spite of its problems, because it's where we go to meet God. It's not a glorified social/country club you attend to be around people who talk and look just you do. It's a place to hear God's word spoken, taught and affirmed. It's a place to sing praises to God, and a place to serve others. It's a place to be challenged.

The church is more than plural for Christian. It is both organism and organization, a living thing comprised of a certain order, regular worship services, with doctrinal standards, institutional norms, and defined rituals. Without the institution of the church nurturing the flock and protecting the faith for two thousand years, there would be no Christianity. If Gen Xers (like us) and their friends want to be against something, start a revolution. If you want to conserve truth and grace for twenty centuries, plant a church.

We love the church because Christ loved the church. She is his bride--a harlot at times, but his bride nonetheless, being washed clean by the word of God (Eph. 5:25-26). If you are into Jesus, don't rail on his bride. Jesus died for the church, so don't be bothered by a little dying to self for the church's sake. If you keep in mind that everyone there is a sinner (including yourself) and that Jesus Christ is the point and not you, your dreams, or your kids, your church experience might not be as lame as you fear.

Perhaps Christians are leaving the church because it isn't tolerant and open-minded. But perhaps the church-leavers have their own intolerance too--intolerant of tradition, intolerant of authority, intolerant of imperfection except their own. Are you open-minded enough to give the church a chance--a chance for the church to be the church, not a coffee shop, not a mall, not a variety show, not Chuck E. Cheese, not a U2 concert, not a nature walk, but a wonderfully ordinary, blood-bought, Spirit-driven church with pastors, sermons, budgets, hymns, bad carpet and worse coffee?

The Church, because it is Christ's church, will outlive American Idol, the NFL, and all of our grandkids. We won't last, but the Church will. So when it comes to church, be like Jesus: love it, don't leave it. As Saint Calloway once prophesied to the Brothers of Blues, "Jake, you get wise, you get to church."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Looking at the World Upside Down by Philip Yancey

Some great words about the Counter-Cultural Kingdom Jesus Brought to All of Us and Invites Us to Bring to Our World...

Taking God's assignment seriously means that I must learn to look at the world upside down, as Jesus did. Instead of seeking out people who stroke my ego, I find those whose egos need stroking; instead of important people with resources who can do me favors, I find people with few resources; instead of the strong, I look for the weak; instead of the healthy, the sick. Is not this how God reconciles the world to himself? Did Jesus not insist that he came for the sinners and not the righteous, for the sick and not the healthy?

In India I have worshiped among leprosy patients. Most of the medical advances in the treatment of leprosy came about as a result of missionary doctors, who alone were willing to live among patients and risk exposure to study the dreaded disease. As a result, Christian churches thrive in most major leprosy centers.

In Myanmar, I have visited homes for AIDS orphans, where Christian volunteers try to replace parental affection the disease has stolen away. In Jean Vanier's center in Toronto, I have watched a scholarly priest lavish daily care on a middle-aged man so mentally handicapped that he could not speak a word. The most rousing church services I have attended took place in Chile and Peru, in the bowels of a federal prison. Among the lowly, the wretched, the downtrodden, the rejects, God's kingdom takes root.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Unifying Vocation

An insightful piece on "why development work and gospel work cannot be put asunder" from a recent Christianity Today editorial...

In 2002, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof proclaimed evangelicals the "new internationalists," lauding us for engaging such issues as sex trafficking, slavery, and HIV/AIDS. We actually became internationalists with the blossoming of the modern missions movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Wherever missionaries took the Good News, they contributed to development by expanding literacy, promoting public health through sanitation, diet, and medicine, and improving the lot of women, children, and orphans.

But nearly ever since, we have debated the wisdom of faith-driven development work. Some harbor a suspicion that development work will squeeze out gospel work, while others argue that gospel work is impossible without it. That discussion continues now that international justice and development concerns have been mainstreamed by popular Christian musicians, megachurch pastors, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

Pope Benedict XVI can help us think through the issues. In July, he released his encyclical on development, Caritas in Veritate. Many took it to be about global economics, since the Vatican released it the day before the G8 Summit was to begin just a short drive from Rome. But Benedict's letter dealt with much more than economic life, focusing instead on what people and societies are and are called to be.

As Baylor University's Francis Beckwith explained on Christianity Today's website, the encyclical is "a brief against secular materialism in its economic and metaphysical forms, and its harmful consequences on the human family's common good." Secular materialism is an ideology, and ideologies are reductionistic. Thus, they are lies—or at best, distortions of the truth. They treat societies and people as functions of just a few factors. And both Marxism and free-market economics often treat people and societies as determined almost solely by economic factors.

But society is more than economic systems and governments. "Doing the Truth in Love," evangelical leaders' response to the encyclical, says that active Christian love "demands space for myriad human communities and institutions, not just for the state and the market, but also families and the many relationships of civil society. It is primarily the internal resources of communities, such as those of neighborhood associations, municipal councils, trade unions, small business, and more, that facilitate the cultivation of local talents and resources" (doingthetruth.org).

Human beings are not just workers or citizens. We are parents and children. We are members of ethnic groups. We learn. We love. We play. We plan. We celebrate. We seek justice and fairness for all. We use imagination to create art and solve problems. Above all, we worship. These are markers of human flourishing.

This is the truth about human beings, and, says Benedict, you cannot properly love people unless you understand the truth about them. Thus, Benedict reflects on a long list of areas that affect human flourishing: education, social security systems, food security, infant mortality, demographic control (including forced abortions), euthanasia, religious freedom, unemployment, food and water, the integrity of the family, the natural environment, energy resources, and migration, among others. Integral development, he says, "has to promote the good of every man and of the whole man."

By using the word vocation 28 times in this encyclical, Benedict points to humanity's transcendent dimension. He quotes Pope Paul VI: "Progress, in its origin and essence, is first and foremost a vocation: 'in the design of God, every man is called upon to develop and fulfill himself, for every life is a vocation.' " He continues: "To regard development as a vocation is to recognize, on the one hand, that it derives from a transcendent call, and on the other hand that it is incapable, on its own, of supplying its ultimate meaning."

So development work is not only about the relief of suffering (countering a negative); it is fundamentally about helping people respond to God's transcendent call (empowering a positive).

This concept of vocation, God's call to all people, can provide the unifying force that holds development and gospel work together. Without a unifying force, Christians wander off the path, concentrating on compassionate work for those God loves while forgetting the scandalous Good News of the Cross. Or becoming so jealous for the glory of the Cross that they neglect the work of compassion and development.

But there need not be such conflict. As the Micah Network's Declaration on Integral Mission states: "Justice and justification by faith, worship and political action, the spiritual and the material, personal change and structural change belong together. As in the life of Jesus, being, doing, and saying are at the heart of our integral task."

Monday, September 21, 2009

God Shows Up in Everyday Situations...Anne Graham Lotz

A quote that I often need to hear in order to be aware of the moments when God has shown up and I might actually miss what He's up to if I'm not careful...

God shows up in the ordinariness of our day, doesn't He? He doesn't show up only when He parts the Red Sea with a powerful wind, or in the banquet hall with handwriting on the wall, or on Mount Sinai with thunder and lightning, or on the Mount of Transfiguration in radiant glory. He shows up in everyday situations, as we are going about our everyday responsibilities in our everyday routines.

Moses was shepherding his flock at Mount Horeb. Gideon was threshing wheat by the winepress. David was looking after his father's sheep. Elisha was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen. Nehemiah was serving wine to the king. Amos was tending his flock and his sycamore-fig trees. Peter and Andrew were casting their fishing net into the sea. James and John were mending their nets. Matthew was collecting taxes. The Samaritan woman was drawing water from the well. Saul was in the midst of a "business trip." All of these people were simply living their ordinary lives when God invaded, interrupted, and turned their world inside out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Pinnacle of Power: What I saw at the U2 concert by ANDY CROUCH

A great reflection piece by one of my favorite cultural thinkers about the band that has been my personal favorite for over 20 years and a lead singer who has played a shockingly large role in flipping my world upside down...enjoy...and oh how I wish I had been there...

Sometime in high school, I acquired the idea that attending a rock concert, for a middle-class kid anyway, was a transgressive act. It was a step out of the sedate norms of suburban life into an exhilarating, dangerous netherworld, an intoxicating haze of smoke, primal rhythms, and throbbing sensuality—throwing off the shackles of predictable conformity and throwing down the gauntlet of rebellion.

Well, earlier this week I joined 60,000 Midwesterners at U2’s 360 Tour concert at Chicago’s Soldier Field, and can report, with faint disappointment, that the most transgressive act I managed to commit, or indeed witnessed all evening, was talking with some friends in the narrow stairway of section 443 before the concert began, thus impeding the path and incurring the wrath of the vendors of Miller Lite. (“ONE CAN LIMIT,” their coolers proclaimed.)

The concertgoers streamed into the Chicago Bears’ home stadium in attire that can best be described as Apple Store Clientele—casual cool with an extra helping of organic sustainability. Befitting U2’s long and protean career, they were strikingly intergenerational. Four teenage boys wearing school T-shirts from the Near North Side, cleancut and fresh-faced, stood right in front of me, singing every word through the whole show. A couple rows down, two late-40s parents escorted their teenage daughter and preteen son. Or was it the other way around? I saw lots of parents accompanying pre-driving-age teenagers, making me wonder whether the parents or the children had been the ones to make the case for going to see U2. Perhaps the predominant demographic, at least in the nosebleed seats, was twentysomething couples, few of whom betrayed the nervous electricity of first dates: my bet is they were either married or contentedly cohabitating. All in all, it was a perfectly domestic evening.

The show was spectacular, of course—conducted in the round under a superstructure that was part circus tent, part spacecraft, part church spire, with a pantographic video wall whose versatility was probably the best surprise of the evening. (It’s hard to remember or believe that rock acts used to fill stadiums without using video, so essential is the medium for bringing the tiny figures on stage to life.) Perhaps my experience was affected by the third-rate sound at our level (one friend said that given the multiple echoes, it was like we were attending three concerts each two seconds apart), but what captured my attention most of all was the visual drama of the night, not the music. And what really began to captivate me was what was happening in the seats, not on stage.

The scene, it dawned on me, was straight out of a Leni Riefenstahl film—the stadium, the adoring crowd, the fists pumping the air, the coordination, not to say manipulation, of emotion, music, volume, noise, silence. The performance was masterful in every sense of the word, including its more sinister sense. The mastery was not just that of Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, Jr.—it was also, even more so, that of a great unseen crew of engineers, designers, videographers, producers. They used every trick in the book, and several tricks destined to be added to books yet to be written, to usher four men, and above all one man, to a position of power.

The tempter in the gospels suggested that Jesus throw himself from the pinnacle of Herod’s Temple—perhaps 150 feet high—in order to gain the admiration and worship of the masses of Judea. But U2’s stage set (which rises to 164 feet if the scarily comprehensive Wikipedia article can be believed), with all its technological wizardry, makes the Temple look like an elementary-school swingset. To be sure, Bono did not ascend its central spire and throw himself down, but if he had, I suspect the crowd would have gone wild.

U2 seems to have found a way to wield tremendous power without being consumed by it.

For what became clear, and increasingly distracted me from the brilliant performance, was that the crowd wanted it all. They wanted to look alike (each, of course, alike in their own individually expressive way—each judiciously sized tattoo, placed where it would be covered by business attire, a personal statement). They wanted to pump their fists in unison. They wanted to vicariously exult, suffer, die (at the conclusion of one song Bono lay sprawled on the stage, motionless, just long enough for the crowd to catch its breath in anxiety), and triumph. The boys in front of me—was it so long ago that I was their age, their stage, full of their improbable joy and rage?—were almost palpably desperate to be drawn in. The right man, I thought, could have transmuted all this fervor into something genuinely powerful, genuinely transformative in the world beyond the stadium. Or the wrong man. Ask Leni Riefenstahl.

It is curious to think that in this postmodern age of pluralism, individualism, and self-expression, fascism may not be as far removed as we think. Perhaps it is not incidental that Apple, the ultimate merchant of cool (for whose products I am daily, insanely grateful), enforces its own sort of velvet-fisted uniformity on its devotees. I cannot be the only person to have occasionally wondered if I am worthy, not to mention appropriately dressed, even to enter an Apple Store. But enter it we do, in search of simplicity, beauty, and predictability—a bit of control in a complex and chaotic world. Which is pretty much what all gods offer their worshippers.

All of which makes me glad and a bit amazed that such power has fallen, in the case of U2, into such humble hands. Bono would be the first to protest that he is anything but humble, but of course that is one of the signs of humility. For all the posturing, for all the 30-foot-high closeups on the screen, after much wandering and experimenting (including a phase where Bono dressed up as Mephistopheles) U2 seems to have found a way to wield tremendous power without being consumed by it. They have done so by choosing to spend their power on others, and on pointing to Another. The two emotional highlights of the show, for me at least, were a performance of the sublime anthem “Walk On” dedicated to Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi, with a simple but effective bit of crowdsourced theater on behalf of her cause; and an a capella rendition of the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” The crowd knew the words, and they sang along.

If it is possible for as outsized a personality as Bono to recede from awareness, in those moments he was just one of us, leading us beyond himself to what truly matters. This is something that Steve Jobs, for all his brilliance, has never done—his rare public efforts to address any topic larger than the latest insanely great Apple product, such as his much-quoted 2005 Stanford commencement speech, are no more and no less than a distilled version of the Western cult of self-realization. Steve Jobs has never led a crowd in singing “Amazing Grace.” Maybe someday he will, though perhaps first he will have to go through a phase where he dresses up as Mephistopheles.

As it happens, U2’s 360 Tour was, in a dramatic shift, sponsored not by Apple, which sold umpteen million devices to the throbbing soundtrack of “Vertigo” back in 2005, but by a much humbler fruit, the Blackberry. No doubt that decision was made primarily for commercial reasons (though Bono has also said that Apple wasn’t interested in collaborating creatively with U2, which tells you something about Apple’s corporate confidence). But it’s interesting in its symbolism nonetheless, and suggests that U2 will continue to turn their unparalleled cultural power in unexpected directions. If all the stories hold together, it was Mephistopheles who tempted Adam before he tempted Christ, urging him to take a bite. Against all odds, U2 keep telling that old, wily fool to get behind them, turning the vast unquenchable human thirst for worship toward someone worthy of it. Walk on.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Time Well Wasted by John Ortberg in Leadership Journal

An article that really spoke to me as we are in the midst of a first real family move, job change, a huge new Freshman initiative and seemingly endless new programs to kick off and people to meet...and being part of a family grieving the loss of familiarity and good friends...how paradoxical that I must waste a bit of time wisely to be who and do what God intends...

Why you need downtime and how to spend it

Most Christian leaders don't waste enough time.

At least that's my conviction. But wasting time well is an acquired skill, because there is good wasting and there is bad wasting. Bad time wasting is the hang around/watch TV/perform random online search kind that leaves you with less life than you started with. You may be doing it right now. I don't need to say any more about that, except to stop.

The good kind of time-wasting will actually lead you to be more connected with God and more full of life. But it's hard to engage in, because there are always more pressing matters. This isn't really wasting time, of course, but our culture makes it feel as though it is.

There are three categories for these well-wasted times.

1. The discipline of solitude.
I used to think that solitude would involve pure, unadulterated prayer and intense spiritual activity; and because it is not, I never do solitude without a sense of wasting time. I have learned that wasting time is fundamental to solitude. People often want to know what you're supposed to do when you go into solitude. But this is the wrong question. The point of solitude is what you don't do.

Spiritual disciplines can be categorized as practices of abstinence and practices of engagement. In abstinence I refrain from doing what I normally do. In engagement I practice what I normally do not do.

Solitude is essentially a discipline of abstinence. In solitude I withdraw from relationships and noise and stimulation and see what there is when I am alone with God. The point of solitude is not what I do—it is what I don't do. I get away from all the voices and demands of my life and find out about what my little life is like when all the distractions are removed.

The primary gift I find in solitude is freedom. After time alone, I begin to remember that what other people think of me really matters very little. Those people all have their own lives; they will all die one day and take their applause and criticisms with them. I'm always aware of this, but in solitude I come to feel it deeply. I feel a sense of peace that I treasure. A Bible or a journal may be fine for solitude, but they are not necessary. The primary thing to remember about solitude is just don't do anything.

(Interestingly enough, the Sabbath was described in Exodus in terms of "not-doing"— "on it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals … ")

2. Musing.
A second form of time-wasting is musing, or listening. Here I bring before God what I am concerned about. Often for me it involves either family or ministry. I am worried about one of my children. I am concerned about the health of my team. I am unsure about whether our ministry is functioning well.

I spread these out before God, and then I listen. This listening is a form of prayer, but it is prayer than involves thinking and imagination and asking questions. Often I will ask God at the beginning of it for wisdom regarding next steps to take. I might write some ideas down. It will often lead to plans.

It's important not to mix up solitude as a discipline with planning or musing. When I plan, I am hoping for an outcome. But by its nature, solitude as a practice requires letting go of all outcomes. When I am engaging in solitude for God's sake, I am not trying to get anything out of it; the pressure of wanting something keeps me from the very freedom God wants to give. But when I am musing over a concern, I am very much hoping for some next step to take.

3. Production enhancement.
The best example of this third kind of time wasting is a cow. A cow is a miracle on four legs, producing milk that fuels all kinds of people. But if you look carefully at a cow through the day, it looks remarkably unproductive. It spends hours chewing and then re-chewing. It takes less than five minutes to download the milk that it took 24 hours to produce.

But when you're creating milk, you just can't make it go any faster. There are limits in the creativity game.

If you are going to create, you need some time to chew the grass and stare into space.

In my experience, the more creative people are, the more space-staring they need to do. You can make instant coffee. But milk takes time.

For me, production-enhancement time wasting usually involves some activity that I love just for its own sake. I read history. I go to the ocean and stare at the waves. I do a crossword puzzle. I call up a friend. I put a fire in the fire pit outside. I play the piano.

How do you waste time badly? How do you waste time well? Are you wasting time adequately? If you find yourself feeling inwardly free, if you find yourself with all the ideas you need for planning, if you find yourself in a creative ferment, then you should probably stick to your current schedule. If not, you might want to re-think how you're wasting time.

Enough for today; time to go back to work.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rebranding Africa by BONO

A wonderful piece from Bono in the New York Times as President Obama visits Africa today and we look toward the future of an amazing continent with so much to offer to the rest of the world...

DATELINE: Imminent. About now, actually.

Soon, Air Force One will touch down in Accra, Ghana; Africans will be welcoming the first African-American president. Press coverage on the continent is placing equal weight on both sides of the hyphen.

And we thought it was big when President Kennedy visited Ireland in 1963. (It was big, though I was small. Where I come from, J.F.K. is remembered as a local boy made very, very good.)

But President Obama’s African-ness is only part (a thrilling part) of the story today. Cable news may think it’s all about him — but my guess is that he doesn’t. If he was in it for a sentimental journey he’d have gone to Kenya, chased down some of those dreams from his father.

He’s made a different choice, and he’s been quite straight about the reason. Despite Kenya’s unspeakable beauty and its recent victories against the anopheles mosquito, the country’s still-stinging corruption and political unrest confirms too many of the headlines we in the West read about Africa. Ghana confounds them.

Not defiantly or angrily, but in that cool, offhand Ghanaian way. This is a country whose music of choice is jazz; a country that long ago invented a genre called highlife that spread across Africa — and, more recently, hiplife, which is what happens when hip-hop meets reggaet├│n meets rhythm and blues meets Ghanaian melody, if you’re keeping track (and you really should be). On a visit there, I met the minister for tourism and pitched the idea of marketing the country as the “birthplace of cool.” (Just think, the music of Miles, the conversation of Kofi.) He demurred ... too cool, I guess.

Quietly, modestly — but also heroically — Ghana’s going about the business of rebranding a continent. New face of America, meet the new face of Africa.

Ghana is well governed. After a close election, power changed hands peacefully. Civil society is becoming stronger. The country’s economy was growing at a good clip even before oil was found off the coast a few years ago. Though it has been a little battered by the global economic meltdown, Ghana appears to be weathering the storm. I don’t normally give investment tips — sound the alarm at Times headquarters — but here is one: buy Ghanaian.

So it’s not a coincidence that Ghana’s making steady progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Right now it’s one of the few African nations that has a shot at getting there by 2015.

No one’s leaked me a copy of the president’s speech in Ghana, but it’s pretty clear he’s going to focus not on the problems that afflict the continent but on the opportunities of an Africa on the rise. If that’s what he does, the biggest cheers will come from members of the growing African middle class, who are fed up with being patronized and hearing the song of their majestic continent in a minor key.

I’ve played that tune. I’ve talked of tragedy, of emergency. And it is an emergency when almost 2,000 children in Africa a day die of a mosquito bite; this kind of hemorrhaging of human capital is not something we can accept as normal.

But as the example of Ghana makes clear, that’s only one chord. Amid poverty and disease are opportunities for investment and growth — investment and growth that won’t eliminate overnight the need for assistance, much as we and Africans yearn for it to end, but that in time can build roads, schools and power grids and propel commerce to the point where aid is replaced by trade pacts, business deals and home-grown income.

President Obama can hasten that day. He knows change won’t come easily. Corruption stalks Africa’s reformers. “If you fight corruption, it fights you back,” a former Nigerian anti-corruption official has said.

From his bully pulpit, the president can take aim at the bullies. Without accountability — no opportunity. If that’s not a maxim, it ought to be. It’s a truism, anyway. The work of the American government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation is founded on that principle, even if it doesn’t put it that bluntly. United States aid dollars increasingly go to countries that use them and don’t blow them. Ghana is one. There’s a growing number of others.

That’s thanks to Africans like John Githongo, the former anticorruption chief of Kenya — a hero of mine who is pioneering a new brand of bottom-up accountability. Efforts like his, which are taking place across the continent, deserve more support. The presidential kind. Then there’s Nigeria’s moral and financial fist — Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a managing director of the World Bank and the country’s former finance minister — who is on a quest to help African countries recover stolen assets looted by corrupt officials. And the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which is helping countries like Ghana clean up the oil, gas and mining business, to make sure that profits don’t wind up in the hands of kleptocrats.

Presidential attention would be a shot in the arm for these efforts — an infusion of moral and political amino acids that, by the way, will make aid dollars go further. That should be welcome news to the Group of 8 leaders gathered in Italy to whom Mr. Obama bids a Hawaii-via-Chicago-inflected “arrivederci,” as he leaves for Africa.

This week’s summit meeting looks as if it will yield some welcome new G-8 promises on agriculture. (So far, new money: America. Old money: everyone else.) This is the good news that President Obama will bring from Europe to Ghana.

The not-so-good news — that countries like Italy and France are not meeting their Africa commitments — makes the president’s visit all the more essential. The United States is one of the countries on track to keep its promises, and Mr. Obama has already said he’ll more than build on the impressive Bush legacy.

President Obama plans to return to Africa for the World Cup in 2010. Between now and then he’s got the chance to lead others in building — from the bottom up — on the successes of recent efforts within Africa and to learn from the failures. There’s been plenty of both. We’ve witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly in our fraught relationship with this dynamic continent.

The president can facilitate the new, the fresh and the different. Many existing promises are expiring in 2010, some of old age and others of chronic neglect. New promises from usual and unusual partners, from the G-8 to the G-20, need to be made — and this time kept. If more African nations (not just Ghana) are going to meet the millennium goals, they are going to need smart partners in business and development. That’s Smart as in sustainable, measurable, accountable, responsive and transparent.

Africa is not just Barack Obama’s homeland. It’s ours, too. The birthplace of humanity. Wherever our journeys have taken us, they all began there. The word Desmond Tutu uses is “ubuntu”: I am because we are. As he says, until we accept and appreciate this we cannot be fully whole.

Could it be that all Americans are, in that sense, African-Americans?

Bono, the lead singer of the band U2 and a co-founder of the advocacy group ONE and (Product)RED, is a contributing columnist for The Times.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Coming Home

As we sit in London where we were almost two weeks ago, this time period is filled with so many memories and so many new ideas…so many people and so many times when God’s Spirit was alive and moving…so many things that I have thought about and been challenged to consider in a new and fresh way as we have gone to Zambia and been part of a different church, different world, and a different culture with incredibly different needs and blessings…

So I sit down with my laptop and now try to summarize what we’ve learned and describe the images of Africa that will remain with us as we return to be the voice for the poor and sick, the voice for justice and equality and compassion, the voice telling of how God is bringing hope and change to a continent and country and community, the voice of praise to our Jesus who loves us and the children of Africa and that love has allowed us to be deeply connected and become lifetime friends…

A Baker’s Dozen Reflections on our Trip of a Lifetime:

1.Imago Dei…the reality that we are all created by God and each person is His image bearer is an unbelievable powerful truth for our lives
2.God is raising up leaders in His Church in every place on the planet to be and share the message and personal representation of the love of Jesus Christ
3.Soccer is a universal connection and language to speak to people all over the world that even those who don’t play it in the States are drawn to overseas
4.The Spirit of God roams the earth looking to build relational bridges between the most unlikely of peoples
5.When you freely and tangibly love children they will shower you with love and affection in return
6.Jesus calls us to be grace-givers to those who are involved in behaviors and living lives we cannot relate to
7.We are invited to enter into the suffering of the poor and sick through our prayers, presence, and gifts…and in that work we find community and life and even joy in a new and fresh way
8.Our resources and everyday stuff can do exceedingly more than we can even believe in places like sub-Saharan Africa
9.The AIDS pandemic has truly affected and continues to impact every person and family in Zambia in the 21st century
10.There is clearly a moment, a window of opportunity to help change the future of an entire generation in Africa so that their lives will be different than their parents
11.Our ability to become compassionate like Jesus will determine our impact as Christians who want to care for and save the lives and souls of people in all nations
12.God has given a special anointing and vision to this generation of young people to take on the world’s biggest and deepest issues
13.When you choose to give your resources and your very life with a thankful heart and spirit in order to “love your local and global neighbor as yourself”, there will be a cost---and that cost is overcome by a marvelous and surprising joy and meaning and blessing that is a beautiful reward

This trip has been both a mixture of seeing dreams become reality in a village in Zambia, and then asking God to help plant new visions for how we can help respond to the world’s greatest needs in other places at this moment…and the things that will propel us forward to chase the Kingdom vision he has poured out on us are the images, the snapshots, the pictures of Africa that we bring home to you…

My ten images from Africa this time are ones like these:

*Dancing, dancing, dancing…I’m not a candidate for Dancing with the Stars, but you are just drawn by the spirit and culture of this place to dance with joy and freedom…and we did it almost every day we were with our Zambian friends…

*The cloud of dust on the dirt pitches as we played soccer like millions do around the world with people just like us in so many ways

*Stretching out our hands to touch and pray for those both dying and those receiving healing in their huts in a quiet village

*Children standing up reciting the verses they had memorized in their brand new Good News Club as a few Zambian adults wept with joy in the back row

*Hundreds of children running and singing and screaming “DO IT!” as the bus filled with muzungus arrives in a small village called Kakolo

*Our students’ hands each locked with small African hands walking toward their schoolhouse that serves as a center of life and hope in the community

*The amazing beauty of Victoria Falls at sunrise and the majesty of the animals that the people of Africa love for you to see and experience

*Many of our students spooning the only meal of the day to young children lacking the nutrition they desperately need to learn and grow and develop

*One of our girls being carried in love by her new friends as they both sang in one of the poorest places on the planet

*Looking at the stars while sitting by a fire on the Zambian roadside laughing at how only God could have brought us to this place and given us such a strong hearbeat for His work we couldn’t even imagine on the other side of the world


I’ll end my African blog with a passage of Scripture that I think is our calling of response as we look forward more than you know to our reunion at O’Hare tomorrow afternoon (British Airways #295 scheduled to arrive at 2:10 pm)…CHIP

I TIMOTHY 6:18-19…Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

P.S. A personal word that came out of our final 3 hour sharing time last night under the African hut…so many students are still feeling like they have lots to process from this trip…they are carrying so many thoughts and experiences that they are still trying to incorporate into their lives and mind’s framework…they want to desperately respond to all they have seen, but yet are caught already in this tension between the Africa they have fallen in love with and the world they are so grateful to have grown up in…don’t be surprised if they struggle to tell you everything they saw and now feel, are unsure how to respond and participate in American culture, and are a bit nervous about feeling adequate to immediately express their trip experiences…so be patient, enjoy their company, and be assured you will have lots to talk about and engage together in the days ahead…your love and support is so meaningful thru the prep, the trip, and the debrief time now…I am praying what they have seen will bring new life and a rich blessing to your lives as well...

The community and time with all the folks on this trip has been so rich and so good for us all...and a perfect ending for 14 years at WA...

Awaiting our Reunion With You All,

Chip and the Zambia Crew

Friday, June 26, 2009

Seeing and Experiencing all of Zambia

Hello, hello from Zambia...in fact, we have now flown back to Lusaka from Livingstone and are spending out last of 11 full days in country here before starting the journey home tomorrow...well, even in 2009 we sometimes struggle with technology and I wasn't able to jump online to blog for the last few days in Africa...let's see, where do I start with trying to update you on some moving and some very interesting experiences we've had over the last 4 days...I'll try to give you a summary of each day so you can know what we've been up to in our second week here...

Tuesday--this was a day spent driving all the way from the Copper Belt in the northern part of Zambia down to the southern part of Zambia...at our lunch stop in Lusaka we got a personal thank you from the founder of World Bicycle Relief, FK Day, who had recently flown in from Chicago...the trip featured lots of sleeping, lots of conversations, lots of journal writing, and seeing much of the geography of this land...we arrived at Choma and had a late dinner with a great friend of ours named Fordson Kafukwe who is the Southern Region Director for WV Zambia and came to WA and spoke in chapel back in 2003! He is a visionary and deeply personal friend to all and was a major help in our visit to this area of Zambia...we have never spent any real time in this region and were anxious to hear about and see the new work WV Zambia is starting in the Moyo community here...

Wednesday--we started off this day getting a presentation about the desperate needs of community in Moyo and the vision for areas of opportunity for response in the days an years ahead...major needs include a high school, clean water, health facilities, and help with food security...it is a group of communities where over half of the households are taking care of an orphan, the malaria rate is close to 70%, and 20% of the children under 5 are severely malnutritioned, and only 25% of households have adequate food throughout the year...it is clearly one of the poorest regions in a country classified in the bottom 10% in the Health and Development Index ratings...we made a journey in Land Cruisers back into this rural area often affected by drought and were deeply privileged to be part of an all community meeting head under the biggest tree in the village (sounds like Africa, doesn't it?) where World Vision announced to the people and leadership for the first time that they would begin a program of community development and child sponsorship beginning in October...they were claps and cheers from everyone who attended...in this area, the Chief (called His Highness) who is the regional leader for many of the different tribes present gave his presence and support to this step which is very important for its long term success...

We went up to a high plateau where the new high school is to be built and were shown the work that the people of the community regularly do getting the land and foundation and bricks set by hand from 4-9 am before getting back to their normal farming and community and home duties...this lack of a secondary school has been identified as the greatest need in the community by its own residents...it is fascinating in this region as many of the schools that function were built by missionaries in the 30's-50's but have been turned over to the government as Zambia has become independent...they are often dilapidated and do not serve to create a good learning environment...

To be honest, the educational needs as one single issue we have seen overwhelmed us...students sitting on stones outside to learn, 20 desks for 600 students, and a dropout rate of 95% when students finish basic school in the ninth grade (and most of them have to get married to survive at that point)...one of the more powerful experiences for us was visiting the "Dorms" where students who travel even to the basic school where we were at spend the week because it is too far to go home...they travel alone and must bring all the food they will eat or cook over an open fire for the next five days...and then they will walk home often several miles for the weekends...the dorms are an open area with blankets on a cement floor stacked closely next to each other and a bag and some clothes for each student is hung on a nail above them...there were about 50-60 boys and girls in separate dorms in an area the size of one of our bigger lodge rooms in Zambia...some of the boys were reading their Bibles and waved as we walked thru and the girls were soon singing and dancing with the girls in the female dorm...the contrast to our own educational experiences as students in America is just about too great to even make a comparison...you walk away feeling and thinking it can't continue to be this way...

The chief said some interesting things while speaking to us on this day...he talked about being a community that has been forgotten, and yet still mentioned that he believed they could make the journey from Egypt to Canaan in the future as He saw God's people offering help and hope in practical ways...it was a visit finished with of course a short soccer game with the whole community watching...Christy was the star of the show as the Africans continue to wonder at the play of our girls! And I got my WV friend Tony Frank to make his African debut on the pitch as well!

As we drove away, many of the conversations focused on what our response should be...and my prayer is that WA, Leyden, Cornerstone, and many, many others will be part of God's Kingdom activity in this part of the world in the days ahead...it is a powerful thing to see the need with your own eyes and hear the invitation to respond with your own ears...

After a late lunch where Caleb and Annalee has great visits with their sponsored children, we turned our bus toward Livingstone, our next stop on the journey...unfortunately, the bus didn't seem to want to go all that way and broke down about an hour into our journey...it turned into another Zambian experience featuring collecting wood to build a fire, starting it in non traditional ways, and sitting around a campfire after pushing the bus off the road while we waited for a replacement to come pick us up...our friend Fordson drove down and hung out with us till we were picked up and all in all, most of us would say it added a pretty wild and fun dimension to our trip...the stars in Zambia are beyond measure in the African wilderness and we were thankful for God's provision and protection as we rolled into our lodge in Livingstone later than expected on Wednesday night!

Thursday--after a few hours of sleep we headed out in chilly Livingstone to our Safari day! We crossed via boat to Botswana and headed to the Chobe Game Park, one of the best in the world...we took a cruise on the Chobe river to see crocidiles, hippos, and all kinds of birds and reptiles in their natural habitat, and after a great lunch at the safari lodge, we set out in vehicles on land to see many, many elephants, giraffes, warthogs, kudu, impala, and other animals...it was a beautiful day and the pictures should be spectacular...we had dinner Thursday night at our favorite pub in Livingstone and got a great night of sleep after a long and busy 36 hour stretch...

There is a great deal of tension when you move from a poverty-stricken village one day to a beautiful tourist area the next one...and yet that tension is what we as Americans have to struggle with and battle as we consider what it means to live in our world with the other world still in the front of our minds...

Friday--another early morning for us as we headed to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls, which runs between Zambia and Zimbabwe...it was gorgeous, featured rainbows as the sun came up, and soaked us as we walked thru the massive amounts of spray that rise up from the bottom of the 400 foot drop...you are absolutely overwhelmed with the grandness of what our God has created, and the Zambians are so very proud of this piece of creation in their land! We also had a chance to shop in a real African market and are coming home with all sorts of fun things and African artifacts for you all (at least I hope you get something!)

In just an hour or so, we will head out for a final dinner here in Zambia and have a final extended team conversation about the moments that have touched us most deeply and the ideas and questions we are coming home with as to how this trip calls us to respond to what we have seen and experienced, and how are lives must be different as a result...your prayers are deeply appreciated for this final crucial dimension of the trip and for safety as we head to London tomorrow morning and to Chicago on Sunday...we are so very anxious to see you all and tell stories in the tradition of our Zambian friends...

We hear it is hot in Chicago...we are used to 75 and 50 with no clouds here!! I will try to send a few final reflective thoughts from London as a last blog...your comments and prayers have encouraged and blessed us more than you know!

With Love on the last Day in Zambia, CHIP

Monday, June 22, 2009

Final Day in Zamtan ADP

You have to remind yourself that we just arrived here Friday night...you get in a rhythm of life and begin to connect with people and become familiar with certain communities, restaurants, and activities in Zambia...

Today is our last day in this community before heading to the southern part of Zambia early in the morning...today was busy, emotional, joyful, and sobering...all in 8 hours!

We started with a devotional time with the World Vision staff in their office where I shared part of one of the chapters from the book I have been writing entitled "All I Really Needed to Know in Life I Learned in Zambia" where I talk about many things I have learned from the relationships developed and time spent in this place quite different than my home...I read a section from I Corinthians 13 and talked about the remarkable exchange of love we have seen here and how the love that comes from God truly does lead us to endure, to believe, to hope, and to bear all things...and I showed the staff our Ornage Bag video Matt Hockett made after distributing school supplies at the school last summer...the staff here love to see the videos made after our trips...

Tony and Tom and I had a chance to meet with the Head of Education for this area of the country for Zambia for a few minutes...he is incredibly grateful and excited about the impact he is seeing being made at Kakolo School and is giving them more staff and resources as a result of their progress...I love the chance to engage with the govt leaders who are so pleased with the work of the church and NGO's like World Vision in helping them to achieve their goals of improving education for all students in Zambia...

We then had a chance to participate in a feeding program sponsored by World Vision but run as a small business by several women in the community...It is called HEPS, whoch stands for High Energy Protein Supplement...we made a couple batches of this food by measuring out amounts and stirring them in a big barrel...the supplement is cooked over a fire and becomes a porridge for about 50 pre-school children each morning...they are also each given a hard boiled egg...our students passed out and helped feed the children, who readily polished off the contents of the bowl...for many of these children, it can regularly be the only real meal of the day and one worker told me that some students don't want to go to first grade because they will not get the meal anymore...

We then went out with caregivers, who focus in this area on taking care of about 50 orphaned and vulnerable children and their families each month...my home visit was with a grandmother taking care of her own kids and her children's children...this is in many ways the story of sub-Saharan Africa...a grandma caring for her own kids and those of her children, who have died from the AIDS pandemic...this dear lady herself is HIV-positive but due to the availablity of ARV's from the clinic WA supported, she is now feeling better after having been unable to get out of her home...I have read this story hundreds of times and seen it several myself, but today it just got to me again...life doesn't look the way it should here...this disease has torn apart families and threatened the quality and length of life for so many...I met up with some of my neighbor's sponsored girls in the community and one of them had dropped out of school for a while because her grandmother had been taken to the hospital by World Vision staff...she is the only adult living in their family and you are left wondering what will happen if she is gone to this precious little 8 year old girl...the questions are almost too big to handle, but they are personal questions you have to answer and not just choose to not hear...

We then visited the beautiful and state of the art medical clinic in Zamtan that specializes in stopping the transmission of HIV from moms to their unborn children...it was built with the help of some amazing donor friends from Chicago (we had dinner with them last night) and a few years ago WA students provided over $100,000 to help build a three room maternity wing where close to 300 babies have now been born...it is truly an amazing blessing for the whole region and also provides testing, count readings, and medicines for people dealing with HIV...a nurse giving us the tour was called to help with a delivery while we were there (we didn't watch that part!) and another patient was delivered for treatment on a World Bicycle Relief bike...and we took a picture of the Mauriello twins with the 2 year old twins the Dominguez family sponsors in Zambia!

As we drove up to Kakolo Village for the final time, hundreds of school children in their uniforms with orange school bags on their backs were lined up in straight rows outside the school and began frantically waving as they saw our bus coming down the road...it is one of those sights that you don't have words to describe...as usual, I turn into a puddle as I think about the fact that when I first saw this place, nothing was here...no finished school, no students, no soccer field, no hydraulic pump well, no electricity, no maternity clinic...The students sang their beautiful songs and the headmaster read a letter from the Zambian government to us after we prayed for the families of children who had been struck by lightning and died during the rainy season...We had a chance to tell the student body how much we believe in them and how excited we are for their future...each class was doing something special we could see or do with them...I did grammar with first graders and math with third graders while dancing, singing, and have them recite Philippians 4:13 to me...

We presented the headmaster with jerseys and school supplies in his office, and he told me he simply doesn't have the words to express his thanks for what God has done in this place thru the generosity of a generation of WA students...he is so proud of his school and now has 1052 students registered as the school continues to attract new students who were unable to get an education before...we even talked about a library and computers someday soon...Caleb and I then got a chance to lay a few bricks on the walls being built for the expansion that will triple the school size and give teachers a place to live in the community...we dug a hole last year and next year two new grades will be added as the school grows...and we also saw a maternity wing funded by WA that will allow children to be born right in the village rather than making a 7-8 mile walk during labor to the PMTCT clinic in Zamtan...

We listened to the students sing the Zambian national anthem before we started to leave...there were hundreds of hugs, high fives, fist bumps, and words of I LOVE YOU shared between children and our team as we left this village...the tears shed by several are just a reflection of the relationships God has invited us into...how remarkable to be deeply changed in a couple days by these people and this experience...

For me personally, it was a day of reflection in many ways...as I leave Wheaton Academy, I have an email and cell phone and facebook list of so many friends...so many students are now my friends and might remember a phrase or two I once said...and along with their stories, my legacy at WA is inextricably tied to the scene I saw when driving up to a rural Zambian school this afternoon...it is one I would have never imagined, but one I think is just about perfect...the chance to travel here with my students and colleagues and to watch together what God has done and will do, Lord willing, is something so unexpected, so profound, and so much about the Kingdom of God invading our hearts and a nation and people unknown by much of the world...with great confidence, my friends in Kakolo said we can't wait to see you again soon...somehow, I think they know better than me what God might have in store...

Overwhelmed by the love of God at the end of this day along with our crew here in Kitwe, CHIP

p.s. I will most likely not be able to blog for a few days...the community we are visiting next is a little more remote...we will spend tomorrow traveling and then hook up on Wednesday with my closest friend in Zambia who leads World Vision's work in the southern part of Zambia...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday in Zambia

In Zambia, Sunday is a day of rest and worship for the most part...we had a chance to do some of both while also spending time in the village...we went to a community wide church service in a spot outside in Kakolo...the service featured beautiful singing by an African student choir in robes and we had a chance to both sing and dance as we participated as well...they even sang Come Thou Fount of Every Blesing in bemba, their native tongue this morning...there is an immense reverence towards God in this nation as I think so many people see God daily meet their immediate needs, often in very tangible and surprising ways...as they sing and pray, there is so clearly an intensity in the worship and words spoken and sung...one of the local pastors spoke from Psalm 100 and talked about the reality of the unity of the body of Christ which we celebrated together in this worship service...His words spoke to how only God could have brought us together and how deeply they valued our relationship...His reminder to thank God often for all the good things He gives us carries great meaning in a place where from our perspective they might on the surface level need so much more to feel content...

Playing baseball on Father's Day in Zambia was something I was looking forward to all week...baseball is something I have done and loved all my life, and it is very much connected to my dad who played baseball in college like I did...and it is being passed on to my little guy Trey who watches baseball highlights on my phone every morning when he wakes up...so when one of my good friends and WA grads brought baseball to Zambia, it became one of my favorite moments on the trip to play the game I grew up loving with new friends who just embraced it a few years ago in a culture that had never seen it before...I am like a kid in the proverbial candy store standing on that soccer field at shortstop in an African village...

Nevertheless, evidently we taught the Zambians too well as the Americans went down in the game featuring their country's pasttime 21-20...lots of runs on both sides, and a grand slam from the old guy and a homer from a soccer playing girl was just not enough! Looks like the Americans will not produce a win in their athletic endeavors in Zambia this year, but I think we are all just fine with that...

ELEVEN Random Observations after the first week of our trip...

*Small kids are often hurting the worst in these communities, as being small denies you food and other things...many stomachs are distended from malnutrition in the children under 5 as you walk the dusty roads of the village setting...

*The village community always thinks we'll keep coming back...they just assume our friendship will continue because it is past the point of jsut surprise visits now...I'm not sure how to tell them I am leaving WA and that a group from WA most likely will never come again...part of the pain and questions when you enter into relationships, even with people in Africa...

*We are besieged by children...they literally pounce on your students when they see the bus coming...some run out a mile or so to welcome us and run following the bus back to the village...your students are pouring out the love of Jesus to His children seeking and drinking in that love from them...

*Power of music is real...there is such a bond instantly as we sing and chant and dance together...hundreds of children were singing and clapping a song taught to them by a student just a few minutes ago as we drove away this afternoon...

*Belief in a real and different future is real in this place...they can and do dream of doing significant and splendid things with their lives, just like we do...and perhaps some of these new buildings and programs can stoke that fire for the future...

*There is a joy and amazement in being part of other cultures...you learn so much, evaluate your own culture, and feel so much richer in how you can think and feel and understand after being immersed, even for a few days, in a dramatically different setting...

*There is great reward in serving the poor...the benefits often far outweigh any financial and time and personal sacrifices...we will come away filled up in our spirits after our time with those at the most risk in our world today...

*The ability to give and receive love is so deeply ingrained in us...it is so evident when we are asked to do so and gladly respond here...oh, how we want to tap into and release that love when we come home...

*Our resources can change life dramatically here...I still am amazed at the change the Zambia Project has and will brought to this community, in comparison to others we see, and in how they talk about the future...

*This is a country filled with beautiful and talented people, much like ours...it's just that so few of them have the chance to be recognized and highlighted and rewarded in ways like our culture and media does...

*God is at work in and through your students...I often wish you could see what they do and hear what they say on these trips...they believe God is at work here and they are excited to join Him in this place and those He invites them to in the days ahead...

We are off to the best pizza place in Kitwe for dinner and a good night's rest before our final day in this area tomorrow...Happy Father's Day from us all!

CHIP

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day #1 in Kakolo Village

I still remember the first time five years ago I drove down this dirt road and saw the huts and brick homes that make up Kakolo Village, the community which sees Wheaton Academy and its students and teachers as its friends, its brothers and sisters, and so much more now in 2009...

This time when we drove in children of all ages came running out of their huts and did the now infamous chase of the bus into the center of the village where we stop...one boy named John who I gave a soccer ball to almost 4 years ago yelled out Chips Harbor, which one of the community leaders has dubbed me, and the students laughed and were blown away by the warmth and energy of the reception we receive...

We immediately went into a beautiful building called the GOOD NEWS CLUB funded by funds raised during the 2007 school year at WA which we officially opened as the place in the village where all the children from all the churches can come to hear about the person and love of Jesus, and study and learn the Scriptures...several children read from their Bibles and recited memorized verses for us and we offered great hopes for how God would be at work in this place in the lives of the next generation of Zambia...

We also had the chance to help commission a new church in the village with a beautiful roof (they are a huge deal here, especially during the rainy season...) and listened to a spectacular worship choir of Zambian students...many of the older members of the community shed tears of joy at how the faith would be passed on in this village community...

As a gift we received a live dove, a symbol here of new life from Scripture and of the promise of the future...gifts of animals are common and incredibly meaningful as they are some of the most precious possessions a family may have...we gave this gift later to a World Vision staff lady named Maggie who has recently lost her husband to AIDS and is herself living with HIV daily...

We also had a chance to visit two microfinace clients in the village who run small shops from their loans given by World Vision's HARMOS division and they are now able to support their families and create economic development in the village setting...it is a strategy that so deeply empowers the poor and lets them become self sustaining and proud of what they can do as business owners...

I also had a chance to spend time with Monica, a 5th grade girl who our family sponsors...for most of the millions of sponsors, it isn't possible or likely to meet your child, but this is my third visit with my quiet and bright Zambian friend...I love delivering gifts from my kids to her and now will pray for her as her mom is away from their family taking care of her sister who is very ill...

And finally today, we played the long awaited soccer match at Kakolo Village..they built a field for us to play on together as a thank you to our school community 2 years ago, and these matches are most definitely some of the most prized moments in my life...the community turns out in great numbers, a man does play by play on a megaphone, and they always know if we have won or lost the last time we played...this sport has drawn us together in a remarkable way and given us a common love that allows us to build friendships from that place...unfortunately, just like the Zambian national team today, we fell 2-0 to a better team!! Maybe we will do better when we play baseball tomorrow, which was brough to the community by a former WA student who lived in the village a couple summers ago and is now known affectionately as the Father of Baseball in Zambia...

This village is a very special place...a place I love deeply and a place that always loves us back...every time you step off the bus and walk anywhere, you always have children holding both hands and often have others trying to climb onto another limb or two as well...the love of God connects us physically and spiritually despite coming from such different homes and life stories...we can't wait to worship in a community wide church service tomorrow morning outside in the beautiful African sun...we hope your Sunday will be brightened as you pray for us and think of us dancing and singing and listening to God speak on the other side of the world...

Every student and team member sends their greetings and love back to you...CHIP