Monday, May 14, 2012

My Nazareth: Kensington Part I

I was always taken back and sometimes slightly offended by the reaction of someone from another country when ever I would describe where I was from back in the states. Not that they were disgusted but the fact they didn't believe places of poverty, violence, and pure darkness existed in the states. That the mighty rich and powerful United States had also been a victim of sin and its destructive ways. You don't understand how we are perceived until you have lived away from the states. For most outsiders we are either the all perfect "Christian" nation or Satan himself. I never depicted to my friends that the US was a horrible place but that there were truly suffering people were I was from. That my neighborhood still today is one of the poorest, deprived, unsafe places in the country. We need Jesus as much as they do. But I didn't want to say it to prove how tough I was but to prove how mighty God is. That even in a seemingly hopeless situation, God is the difference between true purpose and a meaningless life. Jesus was thought of as lowly and insignificant because He was known as a "Nazarene." As Nathanael famously said hearing of His arrival from Phillip, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"(John 1:46) I want to tell you of my home, my Nazareth.

Kensington Ave.
Kensington is famously known for the 1976 film "Rocky". It was where the "Italian Stallion" lived in the movie. Other films have used our neighborhood in part because of its rugged, blue collar, stereo typical inner city rough look. Unfortunately, the stories of hope are as unimaginable as a Hollywood script. The blue line elevated train runs right through Kensington as it's iconic "click clack", and screeching breaks occupancies the soundtrack of a busy neighborhood in Philly. Under the train is a network of shops with an unusual number of Pawn shops and bars.There are no parks for kids to play in. There are a few plots of land with monkey bars and slides. Our neighborhood library is known as "needle park," a frequent drug pusher and user spot. The landscape is made of mostly of old abandon factory buildings, crumbling row homes, and empty lots where a business or homes used to be. On every street corner there is either a Chinese kitchen, Pizzeria, or Dominican mini-mart. It is home to a large population of Irish Americans, Hispanic Americans, mainly Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, African Americans, Italian Americans, and Polish Americans.
One of the countless abandon homes.
The early mornings is the quietest, as people rush to work and parents rush their kids to school. The homeless population have to get up off the streets and start their day, along with the prostitutes, who for the most part are done at that time of the day. As the afternoon sets in the streets become busy, especially Frankford, Allegheny and Kensington Avenues. This is also when the drug dealers wake up and post up on their corners like a Buckingham palace guard. To be fair there are plenty of honest people working their small businesses, shops, or booths. By night time Kensington becomes a different place of activity. The ambulance and cop cars probably have driven a divot into the streets as much as they frequent this neighborhood. The darkness does not invite the best of what our neighborhood has to offer. The sirens become more frequent and the helicopters hover over the sky like mosquitoes on a hot summer night. The intersection of Kensington and Somerset was number one in a list of the cities' top ten recreational drug corners according to a 2007 article in Philadelphia Weekly.[1] Philadelphia in general has 25% of its population living below poverty level and Kensington is at 50%.[2] The local news stations always have crime story and every other day Kensington is involved. In 2011 Philadelphia had the undesirable honor of once again being the most dangerous "big city"(over 1 million people) in the country. A large percentage of these crimes done in the North Philly section, which would include most parts of Kensington.[3] Right now you might be saying, "Can anything good come from Kensington?"

Police investigate a fatal shooting of four-year-old boy in Kensington.[4]

Part II of this three part blog will be coming soon as I look into what Kensington once was and I explore what is God's heart in restoring what was once lost, in my personal experience and point of view.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Got Your Inspiration Right Here!

Since I stepped on the international mission field  back in 07', I noticed a growing practice among my peers. In its self it is not bad or harmful to the individual believer. Though the need for fresher prospective is needed from time to time, it can not replace our mission which it's self is more than sufficient as our inspiration. I am talking about the gospel. The mystery that is ours as believers to reveal to the world and teach to its recipients. (Matt.28:19; Col.1:25-27)The practice that I am referring to is the need to read the newest inspirational, radical, loving, captivating, selfless christian book to become filled to do what Jesus commanded. I know they all mean well and their hearts are to point people to God but the early church had a big problem with people trusting in more the philosophy of others over the gospel. There I said it.

I must always address those who don't know me very well who are reading this. No, I am not the guy who hates the church. It's to the contrary. I love the church and its heart that beats for Jesus. I only try in every way to keep a Christ-centered prospective on things. With the spreading of the gospel and its responsibilities that follow, as our duty to God through love. No, I do not despise education. I love to learn. I read about History for fun. I'm in Bible school right now and hoping to earn a TESL certification someday. Again I am not anti- anything dealing with christian literature, I just try to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Who doesn't have their favorite Christian authors? Chambers, Piper, Lewis, Eldredge are some of my personal favorites. But I have always been weary of those believers who float around an idea trying to bring themselves to a place were they can get excited again about their meaningless, boring, directionless lives in Jesus. Isn't the Word of God, Love of God and it's message to the world enough? How about the function of and our relationship with the Holy Spirit? This past Saturday I had the privilege to share the gospel to a family member at our local Chick-fil-a. In reviewing to him the basic truths about our salvation, justification, regeneration, sanctification,(any other -tion you want to add) through believing in the gospel message I was reminded of how amazing is our life as believers in Jesus Christ.

Look at some of the scriptures about the gospel. Romans 3:23, "all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God" and as a result the "wages of sin is death"(Rom. 6:23a) We are not even suppose to be holding any hope but "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord"(Rom.6:23b) Eternal life given to us who have no business in eternity, for free. Romans 5:8 should cause your heart to over flow because it says, "But God demonstrates His own Love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God shows His Love for us by physically getting involved with the process of coming down to earth to die for a people he created, who killed him, and deny Him as creator and savior. If any person genuinely receives this to be true and puts their faith in and believes that Jesus died for our sins and resurrected then we are saved.(Rom.10:9-13) Romans 5:1, "There, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 8:1, "there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I now can have a peaceful relationship with a Holy God whose wrath would still be on me had it not been for the spilling of Christ's blood.(Hebrews 9:22) There is nothing that can separate me from that Love. (Romans 8:38-39)

This truly moves me to live my life for Him. I don't need anything else. This is all made possible because of the Father's love, Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection and the Holy Spirit's presence in me.

So here are my questions; Is the gospel not enough? Is the Bible not current enough? Does the Holy Spirit not have a place? Are you afraid to share the gospel?

I was inspired this a morning when I read the Apostle Paul's letter in 2Thessalonians 2:13-17,"But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ..."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Three Educations

If your new to the chapters of my life you have to understand that it was not all given to me from the beginning. It's not about poverty in the financial sense but more in the area of opportunity. I also am not one to cry about my circumstance or blame my environment for what happens in my life. The concrete jungle has it's lions prowling. In order to know how to handle life there you must enroll into the school of survival. The world will tell you it's own system through education. A systematic, full proof way of life, right? And then there is the Kingdom of God.

Everything I will say is my opinion and not fact for all. I could never fully explain the difficulty of a childhood in any ghetto, but one thing is sure, that the hood will educate you. In a broken home there is a large portion of your childhood in which you are encouraged to work it out your selves. A right of passage into what your parents had to do them selves, to live in the ghetto. No one taught them, so why would they feel they have to teach you. I am not talking just about driving a car. I am talking about all the aspects of life and with the added difficulty of living in an environment where people are mostly mad and feel like everyone owes them something. You become your own professor. The streets are your classroom. The "code of the streets",  and people are the text books. Someone hits you, you hit them back. Easy. What if I don't want to hit them back. But you want everyone to think your a punk? You can't do that. Once you allow one person to dominate you the others around will see. When the world you know is all about seeming or being HARD, you can not survive by becoming soft. So soon your language follows. The way you walk and carry your self. This is not judgement, it's understanding. We work for what we get. But trust me it would take me until my young adult years to finally realize the many advantages and blessings that there are to growing up in such an environment.

I also enjoyed learning in school. I was a really good student. Being good in school, is not cool in the hood. I excelled in Science and Math like most boys. But I had a love for History as well. I loved learning where things came from and where they began. I was an honor roll student right through to high school. Not normal for all kids in my neighborhood. Was I smarter? No. I realized the importance of an education and it was free. I had a knack for obtaining information and being able to apply it to life, even at a young age. I really believe the grace and gifting God gave me where the most important thing to my success in education, but it was also the attitude I carried with me from growing up in the hood. No one was going to do it for me. I didn't realized how blessed we are in America for having a decent education for free, until I visited poorly educated countries. And they have to pay for it to.

My life had a grace. As I grew up learning from the school of hardknocks, and the school system, I also began to believe in the Kingdom school of teaching. Three ways of learning. As I walked in Christ shoes, I saw the contradictions  in the way I was raised, to the way the school taught, and finally to what God teaches. The hood taught that I had to look out for me and I am due certain things because I am master of my life. But no one owes me a thing, but it's I that owe my life to God out of love. So I became a servant. The schools taught me that man created everything and we evolved from chance. That we are limited by rules and theories. God showed me that He wonderfully and purposefully made me. God made the laws of the earth and even spoke it into existence. I became a student of God.

Now as I am again blessed, this time with the opportunity to gain a college education, I realize the importance of learning. But there are important attitudes to carry, like perseverance, gratefulness, toughness and I would thank the hood for that. It takes hard work, discipline, and integrity to learn anything.  I would thank my Education for that. I am taking Bible at Liberty University starting next week. To be able to use my hood smarts, in an education setting to learn about God is incredible. I am thankful again to God for giving me a heart to learn, live and love. But how many people can say they learned from growing up in the ghetto? There is no money that can buy that education.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I keep it real, MAN

Originally this was going to be long and personal, but God just spoke to me and said, "not all of your story is for everyone to know." I will respect this word.

What I do want to share is this incredible obvious but lost or ignored way to bring people into God's heart. That is to be "real." Where I am from, to be real is to be vulnerable, not just truthful. Real recognizes real. As I turned this post personal, I will tell you that this is what I have been missing in my relationships with men and in turn with women. I say that because God has been healing me of incredible spirits of shame, brokenness of heart, and restoring my view of God as Father.Through authentic relationships with brothers and sisters. Most of my adult Christian life has been ruled by Christian do's and don'ts. Some of us are aware that rules do not bring life or freedom. But because we are far from being real with one another maybe because of insecurity, sin in our own lives, shame, or fear of men; we have lead each other into fear based relations. Fear isn't in the formula for love. Yet this is the seed we are planted from when we are young Sunday school students.

Do not read on if your scared of real heart or experiences.

In my mind what I did equaled God's value of me and how much he loved me. That was communicated to me through relationships I had with other Christians. For example, if a man stood in front of your normal bible believing church and declared he had a sex addiction, even people struggling with said addiction would look at him like some lost soul who was never saved. But will anyone ever comfort him and walk him through it? You would like to think so. We acknowledge the sin and don't consider the heart. What if the guy would go on to say, he was molested as a child, and grew up with out a father and so was confused. But when fear is sowed in shame keeps these things in. Not a chance to share that. People just don't care how you got there. They care that you sinned. Our church in general is too scared to handle these problems. There is no place to be real. Unhealed people are too insecure in their imperfect walks. I know because I was one. Too busy running programs, and not running after God's heart to heal hearts. We can tell you how to run a church but not show you how to be a church. The other half of Jesus' model was that he walked through life with people.

Let me get personal.

My struggle in trying to find what a man of God is, was made a lot more difficult because there were no honest vulnerable men showing me how. I saw perfection and rules. Surface level functions without loving relationships. It took me, 24 years to finally meet a man who considered my heart and what kind of a man God wanted me to be instead what he didn't want me to do. If those you look up to and disciple you are vulnerable and honest and show them selves as people struggling, and unsure at times, wouldn't that freedom cause you to open up. Because that kind of freedom lives in healed people. And a healed person can do amazing things in God's kingdom. This truly didn't happen to me until I met REAL men.

I recently attended a Men's retreat. I was skeptical. I knew only three guys there. I had been to retreats like this before. Maybe some cute little sermons would be preached and a guy would cry. Nope. Just honest testimonies, 11 hours of silence with the lord, and some man time. It started with the vulnerability of the leadership. But also knowing the men leading it, it allowed me to trust the process. And knowing that the men also cared and loved the other men in the room deeply, created a safe atmosphere for freedom. We were in the presence of healed, vulnerable, confident, unafraid men of God. I can't share details because of confidence to the other men who where there but the Holy Spirit healed hearts, broke chains of addiction, shame was lost, sins were confessed, and freedom was real to us. Did it mean these guys would never mess up? Probably not. What it did mean is now we had a small army of men who would fight with us. That wouldn't judge but would encourage. There is a difference when a man looks you in the eye and says you can.

In just a little time, some of the most dramatic healing in my life has occurred. No special speaker, or step program. Pure real honest relationships. But to be honest I had to allow God to do this. I had been running from my self. I had been subconsciously trained to never show my faults because it would mean I wasn't God's. Even sins that had been committed against me. My Christianity was defined on how much I could keep inside. God wants it all. Thank goodness for that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yo, It's good to be Home

Home is where the heart is. My heart was longing to be with family and friends. But especially to reconnect with God. That is where my heart lies. It wants to be with the father in old and new ways.

So being in Philly for the first month and a half since coming back from Thailand was good for my soul. I didn't do a whole lot per say. I just was. I talked baseball with my brothers. I wrestled my nephew and threw him up in the air. I watched Dora the Explorer with one of my nieces, and tickled and chased the other. I ate my mom's cooking and watched boxing with my step-father. I blew out birthday candles and got caked in the face(a family tradition). I visited my dad. I helped out my sisters and sister-in-law when I could,  tried to love on my sisters, who all are expecting, the best I could. I ate cheese-steaks with friends. Watched basketball with old mentors. I went on a rode trip with my brother. We visited the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Basketball HOF, and visited Boston. I went to a Flyers game, and Sixers game with my brothers. I did things which I missed the most.

And while I missed them the most, I missed being Philly just because. The culture, the food, and the attitude. Jew eva eat a wadder ice? Did you ever eat a water-ice? Probably not. But if your ever in town ask someone to point you to a Rita's. Oh yea, we got soft pretzels, Tasty cakes, hoagies, crab fries and cheese-steaks of course. To many things to eat so take my word for it. You won't be going to far to hear about our favorite sport teams. If their losing or winning you will here about it some where. You see team gear on every other person. Philly has a bad rap for being horrible fans. That's far from it. We have the best fans. We're just horrible to everyone else and any other team, especially any from NY. The history, the sites, it all was good to see. I visited Will Penn, in City Hall. Walked to the Art museum and ran up the steps. And of course I said hi to Rocky, but at the bottom of the steps. It was good to be a tourist to my own city for day. It's the "City that loves you back", at least that's what they say.

And now I am in Kansas City, MO. Looking forward to getting readjusted to life in America for a while. I'm looking for a part time job. In hopes that the Lord blesses me with a car. I will be wanting to enroll in online bible school, and get my certification in Teaching English. All that will come but I need to reflect on my life the past couple of years. To learn from my mistakes. To take joy in the victories. To let God speak to my heart. I'm in no rush but Thailand is still in my heart. I missed the people I know in Cambodia too. But for now I'll enjoy what God wants to do. I've gone fishing, rock climbing, and may be go camping soon. Doing things that my heart desires. I will be seeking God for vision to guide me in the next part in my life. The overall message of my time in the states so far is that I am, God's beloved son, and he is glad to have me home for a while.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting out of the Front Lines, to Come Back for More!

Psalms 144:1 Blessed is the Lord, my Rock, who Trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.

Richard Winters: That night, I thanked God for seeing me through that day of days and prayed I would make it through D plus 1. I also promised that if some way I could get home again, I would find a nice peaceful town and spend the rest of my life in peace. - Band of Brothers

In my time in Cambodia with HPC(Hard Places Community) and Pastor Rob and his family, came a critical, humbling, and hard reality. I am burned out. I can not serve healthy at this point anymore. Worn out from battling against evil spirits. Because against flesh and blood is not the kind of battling I have been in. Against temptation, anger, loneliness, pride, selfishness, depression, hopelessness, and emptiness. I must have watched 15 war movies in my time in Cambodia. (Don't worry I read five whole books as well.) Their was something inside that was hungry for that imagery. I mostly watched the highly acclaimed World War II miniseries, Band of Brothers. It is based on the book, which are true accounts of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army.(" The division suffered 1,766 Killed In Action; 6,388 Wounded In Action; and 324 Died of Wounds during World War II." - Wikipedia) 
Those men have my respect for the rest of my life. Most men who survived after D-Day and beyond never wanted to leave their brothers in battle. Even when they were injured and shot, they would rush back into battle. Why I mentioned this is because I feel I've battled long enough and need to heal my wounds, be retrained, re-energized,  to be deployed back out fit for war. So by the end of the next month I am hoping to reach the States for a few months of "peace." I will be going through some training, processing, planing, education, support raising, and just being with people I love.

2nd Lt. George Rice: Looks like you guys are going to be surrounded. 
Richard Winters: We're paratroopers, Lieutenant. We're supposed to be surrounded. 

If your a pacifist your probably not enjoying all the war metaphors. But I am only lifting up my JEHOVAH-NISSI my banner in battle so that JEHOVAH-SABAOTH who is leading his Army, is glorified. But honestly looking at our lives in Christ, pictured in a war setting helps me to focus on the gospel and our role as the church. If you were out in battle knowing someone is out to kill you would you lose focus? Maybe if your scared. Armies are disciplined well run units on a mission. They have counted the cost. You have probably heard a sermon or two using this imagery. I have heard it more used with men. Is there a reason? Of course, we are at war. God is war like. Please don't stone me yet. Part of his character is war like. The last battle is not gonna be a tickle contest. One of his names is, the Lord of Armies! God will one day destroy his enemies, and so for the time being we are in the battles that are leading up to the final one, to end all wars. It helps to keep me sharp.  But over the last 6 months my guard has been down. I have slipped in some areas. I began lashing out on the same people I came to love on. It's like I have been stuck alone in a bunker out of ammo, fighting a rushing enemy from all sides. I have been hit and I can only lick up my wounds for so long. I thought in my pridefulness, that if I can tough it out I would survive and be great for God. How can I do that if I am not even listening to God or loving God? I need my squad. I need to be pulled out no matter how much I think I can take.

Richard Winters: How'd it go? The drop?
Cpt. Nixon: We took a direct hit over the drop zone. I got out, two others got out.
Richard Winters: And the rest of the boys?
Cpt. Nixon: Oh, they blew up in Germany somewhere... Boom.

 So coming to my second year serving in Thailand I had been running into, culture shock, stress, feelings of depression, and having no guidance. I have people here. Good friends who love Jesus. But it's like when the Troopers landed on D-Day, a lot of soldiers were dropped in the wrong drop zone. Some got completely lost. Some died on the way down under heavy fire. This is the way I have felt. Alone with no squad of my own. I wanted to find my commanding officer. But I was stuck. Many times looking for someone who understood me and could give me some encouragement. Being the crazy soldier for Christ I am I trusted in the Lord of Lords to guide me. God has been more than good. He has carried me through. I have learned another language. He has allowed me to tell others of his name. I have never gone hungry and always a place to sleep. Things have been real rough at times, but I didn't sign up for Disney Land!

Ronald Speirs: We're all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there's still hope. But Blithe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function. Without mercy. Without compassion. Without remorse. All war depends upon it.

When we take risk things will happen. I have always thought that one does not know they are in a battle unless they step up to the line. That's when the enemy sees you. It's like the light on a lamp post deal Jesus talks about. They fire at you because of a threat to what they are trying to accomplish. You have declared your self in battle. Now some of us might not like to fire back. That's ok. I try to, respect true pacifist. Maybe your the medic on hand. Maybe your the communications man ready to call in the heavy guns.
The difference is that some choose to do that from the safety of their homes, or their church building. Now that I can not agree with. John Piper says it nicely,"If we walk away from risk to keep ourselves safe and solvent, we will waste our lives." In my view it's the equivalent to those barking CO's ready to chew down a lower ranking soldier to some how justify his rank, but never having ever been to battle himself. I didn't plan on being out here alone. I took the risk. God called me out. I forgot what life could've been in America. That life was dead. I was dead. Excuses are for civilians. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. Fear is just a word.

Richard Winters: These men have been through the toughest training the Army has to offer, under the worst possible circumstances, and they volunteered for it.
Richard Winters: You know why they volunteered? Because they knew that the man in the foxhole next to them would be the best, not some draftee who's going to get them killed.

God knows the plans he has set before me. And so I trust in this next phase of my life. Still I have the desire to come back and share God's gospel with his love. But I want to and need to be at my best. Emotionally healthy, physically fit, spiritually sharp and Lord, willing healed and spirit filled. I respect real men who have died for just causes on the front lines. It takes heart to go, courage to stand, and strength to get up.

Mike Ranney: "Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?" Grandpa said, "No... but I served in a company of heroes".

"The military is the Maginot line in the battle of the sexes, the final remaining bastion of institutionalized masculinity and the last place left in the civilized world where characteristically male traits - aggression, risk taking, courage, and strength - are respected and valued." - Kathleen Parker, from her book "Save the Males"
2Ti 2:3Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What do you expect?

I don't know where this might hit some of you. I guess it's like any of my rants in that I just like to ask the questions. Sometimes I have my own answers but this is not particularly for me. It's for those who have been giving faithfully to those who are called "missionaries." I personally I am thankful for those who believe in a great God that can take an imperfect hood kid and turn him loose on the world. Anyway I have always had to battle with living life basically on the donations of people. I did not grow up that way. I appreciate things that come my way. I believe in working hard for the things I get. I did not have a silver spoon in my mouth or could I afford to buy one. So trying to hang on the past four years of my life where I have lived off less than half of what I made in a year in the states is hard, to say the least. But my main point or question is, what is expected of me being a supported worker of God? Now I think people need to be held accountable for sure. By whose standards? Should every penny be scrutinized? Is there room for people to spend on cup of Starbucks coffee, or go out to watch a movie? Do supporters have the right to dig in to my life? Should I pressure my self to perform?

I don't know I have never supported a "missionary" before. I have personally felt and some I have witnessed, that churches or in some cases, individuals, or even missionaries have put pressure on missionaries because they support them financially. Again this goes without saying that there may have been reasons for some of these pressures missionary boards, churches, or individuals have put on people, who serve God out side of their country. But they are pressures. Are they valid? This does not speak of all people.

Counting how many I saved.
This is one of the first revolutionary ideas in my life as a Christian. My worth with God does not depend on how many people I got saved. Because none of us can save someone. I thought I read and believed in only one man who could do that. I can't count how many short mission trips I have been on, or heard groups who come back from one and share how many people they saved. How could you tell? They raised their hand in a tent, they said a magical prayer, they walked up to the preacher at the end of the sermon, they came to church next Sunday, someone laid hands on them, some of them fell when they laid hands on them,etc. I did every method I think several times before I was convinced. Without getting to much into it, we are all in a journey that is going somewhere with God. Everyone will be surprised about who will end up in Heaven or not. We can be accountable to the calling of God in our lives and our interactions with others. And the rest God handles. This one is not fair to expect someone to answer. And if you do, how many did you get saved then?

All the good things you do, smile.
Sadly I was once guilty of these things too. You know the great photo of the missionary holding the AIDS baby. A shot of the servant helping pass out food during a natural disaster. The saint aiding the homeless. God's heart is in it. They are good, and with the right attitude God gets the glory. But these are things you can capture on film to exalt God or exalt yourself.  I personally work in an environment where the people are already exploited. So you won't be seeing a lot of photos from me with the people I love here in Thailand. I remember in one of my trips to Swaziland, an AIDS affected country. This country already being over populated with well to do people, had even more people taking exploiting shots of helpless children for there well to do campaign. This one day having been in a particular village for months these foreigners came in, for 15 minutes took their shots, even one with a kid holding a sign that said "Please help", then drove away. My good friend, who was a native, turned to me and sternly said,"this is not a zoo." Exactly. How would you feel if people ran around taking shots of you in your most helpless moment? Or even more invading, if someone took pictures of you in your sin? Like some who have come here go on outreach to a bar and say to the women, "I know your are selling your bodies" or, "I am a missionary". And now let me take a picture with you so that people can see that I talked to a prostitute. Now pictures are, a very good way for supporters to see what, or who you are talking about. They are great for raising funds and awareness. I just don't think it's fair to demand it in every situation. You never know what type of work a person is in and taking their word is enough. I know we want to share stories, but what begins to happen is that you start to feel protective of people you minister to and don't want to share their life to millions of strangers. Besides, there are many things you can not capture with a photo. Like the building of a relationship in Christ.

Are you teaching them the right way to becoming Christian?
I think this one takes a lot of understanding from a western prospective. Again I was once ignorant of other cultures, and how God has created them uniquely to worship him. I once had communion with watermelon and soda once in a rural village. Did they miss out on what communion is? Maybe missed out on what the bread symbolizes to the Jews maybe, but the point is this is what was available, but their heart was to remember Christ. So take that situation and try to imagine the many Christian rituals, traditions, and what not, that we hold dear and try to replicate them in a situation like lets say, a third world, war torn country, where your dead if someone smells a Christian. I was always told that baptism was a public display of following Jesus. A heard a story from a seasoned church planter in South America, who after leading a young man to Christ, had him publicly display his faith. He was the only believer. He then got alienated by the village. Then one day they grabbed him and killed him. Not different from other stories of faith and persecution. This was not a hostile to Christian area. It was a ignorant read of culture. But the church plater learned a lesson. If I had him baptized inside he may have still been alive planting churches today. There are many things that will not go line by line by our western church rule book. You begin to realize how much we have added and don't necessarily need, in a reproducible church. This may be way over some of your heads. Maybe you think I am blaspheming. I was once asked If I planted a church who was going to pastor it? Because I wouldn't be qualified from a American seminary, or neither would any of the villagers, so I guess God is not allowed to have a church there. People will always have things to say, but God does not come in a box and neither does his people. Church is mentioned three times in the gospel. An assembly or gathering in the Greek. Let's start there before we put the walls up, the stage, monitors, guitars, pulpit, collection plate, etc.

There are more I have seen made God's humble workers turn into stressed business people. What should I show you? What do you want to know? Can I take day off? I wonder what Jesus did? I start and begin everyday with God. Pray for me, support me anyway you can. I don't want to pressure you in the same way.

Much Love.