Wake up! Breathe deep! There are treasures we must find!

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You are far more amazing than you’ll ever realize
Much more greater than the world’s pack of lies

People won’t appreciate your hard work. Work hard anyway
Sleep deep, dream well, for tomorrow will quickly become today

You can live fully alive, or you can live waiting to die
One is risky and fun, the other is safe and a lie

Today move from the victim’s role to the role of creativity
Victim’s look for blame, while other’s risk new activity

Move from finding someone to blame to finding someone to extol
Move from finding someone to judge to finding someone to know

Try something this week that is out of your comfort zone
Even when the crowd runs to safety and you are all alone

Being relevant takes more risks, creates more ups and downs
It’s more difficult than popularity, which is easy to be found

Judging others has to do with low self-esteem and holding a grudge
My job is to offer grace to those the world has already judged

I spend my time creating my own caste arrangement
Though we are far more the same than we are distant

I want to save the world, but I’m having trouble saving myself
My focus is on others while I’m struggling finding my own help

700 million dollars spent on Valentine’s for our pets
While children die for lack of 10 dollar mosquito nets

350 million spent on pets at Halloween
While 55 dollars gives families water that’s clean

93 percent of Californians don’t go to church, lack of hope
I’m spending too much time trying to please the 7, lack of scope

God’s biggest desire is to have our presence
I talk about his goodness, though it’s past tense

I need his mercy, but I leave it behind
It’s new everyday, yet it bleeds out my mind

Grace turns quickly to rules, morals and obligations
It turns into committees, methods and gyrations

We pack God in a box, in our minds it’s a clear history
We have lost all the awe, we have lost all the mystery

Faith is called faith, because we cannot see
Yet we preach that less doubt leads to maturity

I say, the closer I get to my creator, the less I know
Big words, eloquent prayers, it’s all about the show

Faith is calling out, it’s doubting while believing
Everyone wants it, yet still everyone is leaving

A better understanding of God takes a world view
Compassion grows while walking in another’s shoe

I pray that God doesn’t dress like a politician
I pray he doesn’t gossip like a beautician

I hope He laughs at my vain attempts to be perfect
I know He cries and  heart breaks when he sees injustices’ evil effect

God says that he is close to broken-hearted man
He also says, when we love them, we love him

Righteousness is more than morality and being right
I’m thankful because I don’t look good in white

A widow’s mite is worth more than a portfolio on Wall Street
I waste more money in a day, than Africans earn in a week

I am told not to live on guilt, yet I wrestle with much affliction
My struggle is daily and good, for it is leading to healthy conviction

I am thinking that we have just scratched the surface of potential
I am looking for a new storm of grace, drowning us in its torrential

Fear comes not from God, it comes from another kind
God give deep love, sustaining power and a sound mind

Wake up! Breathe deep! There are treasures we must find!
In the words of C.S. Lewis, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

From Every Tribe and Every Nation…a few thoughts from Africa

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From every tribe, and every nation
My faith transcends denomination
Culture, colors none the same
Redemption comes in Yeshua’s name

Stuck in my view, its far too narrow
My earthly eyes see too much sorrow
Babies die and mothers weep
Big men lie while others sleep

Told tough times lead to deeper faith
I still avoid them like the plague
Addicted to teaching, binder full of notes
The harvest is plentiful, but my actions remote

White, yellow, brown, red and black
There is no shade that God lacks
Transformation, it’s a lifetime journey
Humility is key to eternal learning

I’m looking for joy so I can be grateful
But joy doesn’t come until I am thankful
With crippled feet I run the race
Mud knee deep, carried by Grace

Prejudice rampant, wars rage
Holy genocide litters history’s page
Religion rules, picking the chosen ones
Ignoring the words “whosever will may come.”

Overwhelmed by conditions
Missed opportunities, lost positions
Challenges daily, endurance a must
Searching for strength, faith and trust

Heroes all around, they’re just hard to see
Quietly walking with God humbly
Africa, Asia and unknown lands
Extending love as God’s own hands

Leading is vision, I must give it away
Strategies come and go, but deep values must stay
A new generation, called to invest
The Body too small, we need the rest

I want all the answers, a path that is clear
A path that is easy with nothing to fear
But my sights too short, and patience, I’m far from it
Faith means building the bridge while I’m walking upon it.

We bless the poor but the poor are already blessed
When I’m serving the least I am truly at my best
New beginnings start with a broken heart
Stupid poverty ends when I do my part

The church is asking “what’s the next fashion?”
Fighting injustice is God’s great passion
Theology debates, they lead to deep fraction
Loving one another is our call to action

I desperately need an eternal view
It gives me the courage to do the things I must do
Opportunities all around me, there is power in His name
He gives sight to the blind and strength for the lame

I desperately need an eternal view
Embracing the temporary is our cultures cue
My life is on loan, it is not my own
It’s not about great feats, but the seeds that are sown

Male, female, Jew, Samaritan and gentile
Grace is pervasive, it starts with a child
The greatest among us was born in a stable
The Good New is for all, the weak and the able

Will we be exclusive, just another sect
Or will we serve our neighbor, gaining their respect
Will we love the orphan, the widow and those who fall
Will we be known as restorer of cities and re-builder of walls

Africa, a Rock Star and the Power of a Child

My journey to Africa started with a rock star from Ireland telling me the church had missed the point.

While the Christian world was arguing over who was going to heaven and who was going to hell, Paul Hewson, a.k.a. Bono, was reminding us that thousands of children in Africa were dieing everyday from preventable diseases such as malaria, cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery and even HIV.

Jesus came to preach “Good News” to the poor, and yet His bride, the church, by its apathy, was telling the poor that the “Good News” was not for them.

Mr. Hewson promptly kicked my butt by reminding us that in the final judgment Jesus would not be asking us about how solid our doctrine was, how pure our thoughts were or what side of the political isle we were on. No. He would be asking us about how we treated the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the imprisoned, the poor. That was it.

No caveats. Pretty clear and simple. I was sitting there wondering how we had complicated it and missed the mark so badly.

But how was I supposed to help Africa? Where could I start? The ONE campaign was one way, and it was a good way, but I needed something more long term, more hands on, I needed something I could get our whole church behind.

I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel, but I also wanted to make sure we got involved with an organization that was having a huge impact in defeating poverty and had opportunities for anyone and everyone to be involved.

Compassion International fit this template. A holistic organization that helps the poorest of the poor with education, health care, social skills, community, introduction to the local church and most of all, a relationship with Jesus.

And best of all, through the child sponsorship program, anyone and everyone could participate.

From students to senior citizens, everyone could sponsor a child and save a life. And not only save a life, but propel a life towards being the leader of change in his or her community.

So now we had to decide where in Africa did we want to work with Compassion?

Green Valley has always had a philosophy to go to the most difficult places, so I called Compassion and asked them, “What African country would you recommend our church get involved with?”

The answer was, “We are just starting in a new country called Burkina Faso, and we would love if your church would focus in on it, since it is such a poor country and people tend to focus on east Africa or South Africa, and this is a forgotten region.”

My response was, “Burkina Fa…what?” I had never heard of it before, so I had to go to a map. Burkina Faso didn’t even sound like an African name. Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia were all familiar African names, but Burkina Faso?

They said it was a very poor country that was wide open to the hope to child advocacy. So we said we would pray about it before our big Compassion sponsorship weekend.

Just after that conversation, a team from my church flew to Washington D.C. to work with some inner city ministries.

We decided to visit the Burkina Faso embassy to learn about the country.
Driving down Massachusetts Ave in the northwest quadrant of Washington D.C. can be very impressive. The architectural brilliance of the Japanese and British Embassies helped create a harsh reality of how poor the country Burkina Faso was.

We drove up the street, to a narrow two story “row” house made of brick, tucked away, only to be seen by the small Burkina Faso flag waving above the weathered front door.

As we entered the building, the lobby had a few misplaced pictures on the wall and wooden floors worn and faded. There was a waiting room next to the lobby filled with unalike chairs and furniture.

We went upstairs to meet with a representative and they ushered us into a board room that was simple but functional.

The people were so kind and very surprised they had guests.

We told them that we were getting ready to invest in 100’s of children through Compassion International’s sponsorship program in their country, and asked what were the main things we should be praying for?

The gentlemen and his assistant seemed startled by the request. They told us to pray for enough rain, not too much, not too little, just enough so that their crops would be plentiful this year, and to pray for those infected by malaria and other diseases, and to pray for the families that were living under the weight of extreme poverty.

We prayed together, and as we were saying our goodbyes, the gentlemen pulled me aside and said, “Thank you so much for coming here, we have never had anyone come into the Embassy to pray for us. I am a Christian, and I am so excited about your work with Compassion, I will be praying for you and your church that you will be blessed by blessing my country.” I will never forget that kind, hopeful smile.

Funny how things go, I had just heard of the country Burkina Faso, and now God was giving us a huge burden and interest for the country.

Later that day, we were eating at a restaurant in China town, in downtown D.C., and as we were getting ready to leave, the busboy at our table said, “Thank you for coming, have a nice day”, with a very thick African accent.

We walked out the door, but something inside me told me to go back in and ask the young man where he was from. I walked back in and asked and the young man said, “I am from Burkina Faso.”

Tears filled my eyes as I smiled, shook his hand and told him “God bless you and your country.” He smiled and said very sweetly, “Thank you, my country is beautiful and very much in need of God’s blessings.”

I walked out on to the busy streets of D.C. in amazement about how God works. I had never heard of Burkina Faso a few weeks before, and I had certainly never met anyone from there and within one day, I got to pray in its embassy and meet someone from there “randomly” at a restaurant.

God certainly has a way of showing us what we should be involved with.

A month later families from our church sponsored about 400 children from Burkina Faso and Bono’s kick in the butt was in full swing. (Today, we have about 600 children from Burkina Faso sponsored and over 1200 children worldwide.)

Since then, I have been to Burkina Faso twice to see many of the Compassion projects and churches in the capital town of Ouagadougou.

I got to spend time with the 3 children my family sponsors from Burkina. Lionel, Issouf and Larissa. They are more beautiful than you can imagine.

Words seem to fall short when trying to describe the impact Compassion is making. I knew that Compassion helped children, but never could I imagine the lengths and depth to which it reaches.

We saw children being able to go to school because of the resources Compassion offers them.

We saw tutoring and continued education at the after school project sights.

We saw simple health care and education as well as serious life saving HIV drugs helping mothers and children live.

I sat in dark, stifling hot hut of a mother and sponsored child, both who were HIV positive and fully alive because of the HIV drugs that were provided by Compassion while educating them on how to take them.

We saw micro-financing for families in the program that allowed greater profits as well as business education for sustainability.

We saw clean water being brought into projects and villages along with education about water and the importance of washing hands before meals.

We saw thousands of children who had been introduced to the love, Grace, hope and redemption of Jesus.

Compassion is walking the talk, investing and creating a powerful future for the next generations.

One of the most impacting days was when a few of us walked into a very poor Muslim village on the outskirts of Ouagadougou, where several Muslim families had children who were sponsored by Compassion. We brought large bags of rice, cooking oil and soap for many of the families.

They proudly showed us their clay huts with tin roofs. We saw one room homes that housed simple open fire kitchens while sleeping eight. Even with a large language barrier we could see their gratitude and excitement to show off their dwelling places.

Just before we left one of the mothers stopped me and asked if we could pray for her son because he was sick. Her son looked like he possibly had malaria. He was lying under a shade tree in the 100 degree weather, with a blanket covering him, shivering from the effects of this life threatening mosquito bite.

We knelt down and with deep respect prayed for the young man. We prayed for the village, for the mothers and for the families.

When we were done praying we opened up our eyes, and about 20 moms had lined up with their babies and children for us to pray for them.

Muslim mothers who knew we were Christians, asking us to pray for their children. Chills went down my spine and I knew this was one of those divine moments that all you can do is smile, be obedient and take it all in.

All of these events were not accidents, but God’s divine plan.
We just must listen closely to his voice and to his clues.

I have been back to Africa many times since and as Burkina Faso is experiencing the blessings of Compassion, we are now working on child advocacy and strengthening of the church in the neighbor country Niger, so that Compassion can eventually enter there also. I will write more about that later.

Africa is a beautiful continent. Smart, beautiful people who do not need our pity, just an opportunity.

With education, health care, and spiritual development these children will change the face of Africa.

If you have never sponsored a child through Compassion, I would like to encourage you to do so today.
http://www.compassion.com

Compassion International: High integrity, holistic impact, enduring vision.

Thank you Mr. Hewson for kick-starting God’s miracle work in West Africa. Thank you for waking the church up.

For more information about how Africa is changing for the better check out:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/opinion/sunday/africa-on-the-rise.html?_r=1&smid=tw-share