5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 1)

The first thing every church should and must do is work with Compassion International.

I am coming off a weekend where Compassion International, once again, has impacted our church in such a way as to make us more compassionate, more generous, more unified and much closer to the heart of God.

What church leaders wouldn’t want that to happen to their church?

When we pray the prayer Jesus taught us, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, Compassion assists in helping that prayer come true.

The definition of “compassion” is “to feel deeply about something that needs to get fixed, and then being willing to do something about it.”

Many times we feel deeply about something in our world, but that is not compassion. It is only when we are willing to do something to change it, do our lives begin to define compassion.

Compassion International not only brings to us the awareness of the difficulties children experience living in extreme poverty, but they provide practical, effective avenues in participating in taking away those difficulties.

Child sponsorship connects a child to a sponsor who will write letters and pray for him or her, but more importantly it will connect the child to a local church that assists the child in a holistic way.

From making sure they get and stay and thrive in school, to food and nutritional needs, to helping with medical issues, to providing life-saving antiviral drugs that fight the HIV virus, to insecticide treated mosquito nets that prevent malaria, to safe water filters, to building a safe community full of healthy relationships.

On top of all of those amazing things, the child is introduced to a relationship with Jesus and a local church who oversees the local compassion program, who offers them salvation, eternal life and a relationship that will shape how they view the world for the rest of their lives.

Families at the church I go to have sponsored over 1200 children from all over the world. It has affected us deeply. Think about it. We are one church. And as I always say, “We are not a rich church, but we are a generous church.”

One church has impacted the lives of 1200 children, plus their families.

We have sponsored a Child Survival Program in Haiti where pregnant mothers get medical attention and new born children are given the medical care they need to develop into young healthy children who can be sponsored.

The Child Survival Program is run through the local Compassion sponsor church.

Just this last weekend, the families at my church purchased nearly 900 safe water filters at $55 a filter. That’s about $50 thousand in one weekend! They will give 900 families safe water for life.

Once again, these water filters will be distributed through the local Compassion church where pastors and church leaders will give the filters to families and begin to build on-going relationships with them.

What is great is that the local church in that country, not my church, but the local church will get all the credit for helping children, mothers and families, and ultimately when the local church serves its community, God gets the credit and that is the whole point.

And that is the genius and gift of Compassion International.

It has helped my church live out the true definition of “compassion”, it has made us more generous with our time, talents and treasures, it has unified us and better aligned our hearts towards God’s heart whose passion and deep love for the poor we are called to emulate.

My family sponsors 6 children, 3 from Africa, 2 from Mexico and 1 from Haiti. It is the best investment we have ever made!

They say there are 138 million Americans who call themselves followers of Jesus.

Compassion has a little over 1 million children sponsored.

Imagine how the world would change if every American who calls themselves a follower of Jesus sponsored just 1 child.

That would mean 138 million children around the world getting medical, educational, social, relational and spiritual care!

Those 138 million children will grow up and change our world!

Imagine every church in America growing in compassion, generosity, their lives uniting and their hearts beating in closer sync with God’s.

That, my friends, sounds like Jesus’ prayer coming true, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven!”

Every church should and must work with Compassion International.

If you want to know how you can work with Compassion you can email me, burkeyk@gvcconline.net or go to their web page http://www.compassion.com

You might want to forward this to your pastor and church leaders.

Check out tomorrow as I will write about the second thing every church should do.
It’s a pretty big challenge, but it leads to even bigger blessings.

A poem and challenge to the local church

Distractions everywhere, doubters abound
Change the world? That reasoning is not sound
My face slaps reality, visions take back seat
My watch ticks fast, challenging great feats

I’m told be practical, I’m told to chill
I’m talked off my soapbox, told to stand still
Busy with mundane, busy with tasks
Children are dieing, our backs to the facts

Conversing about the day, waiting for weekend
2 days to do nothing, yet many die before weeks end
It seems strange to talk about my shallow fun
While food’s missing in ground scorched by sun

Religion in the big lights, inaugurating the next star
How do we entertain them, we have to raise the bar
While churches woo the converted, the all-ready convinced
There is a world giving up, believing God is “past tense”

We will win with arguments, we will win with laws
We will win with theology, we will win pointing flaws
Debating with bumper stickers, politicians bold and cunning
The TV preacher says we’ll get rich if we give him money

We proclaim salvation, we say we believe
Then why do we pick sides, asking others to leave
Good overcomes evil, love wins over creeds
Our hearts need transforming, touching those who bleed

Grace is messy, we all need the same
Cathedrals too clean, finding others to blame
It’s time to get dirty, it’s time for heart break
No more empty words, and a faith that’s fake

Time to serve the poor, it’s God’s investment plan
Time to open our doors to the homeless man
Time to live with less, so that children are blessed
Time to give our all, so that the world will know the rest

What Does God Think About Prayer?

One of the most counter-intuitive moments in scripture is when the children of Israel are trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea.

The people are panicked, angry at Moses for getting them in this mess, yelling at him, asking why he had them escape just to die, telling him they would rather be slaves in Egypt than slaughtered in the desert.

It wasn’t a great “leadership moment” for Moses.

On top of them being angry, Moses gives some advice and guidance that seems right initially, but he gets it totally wrong.

He tells them, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today.”

Sounds like good advice and great faith, doesn’t it?

We hear this advice all the time.

“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will rescue us from this sad world.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will take care of the poor.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will bless us and give us the desires of our heart.”
“Don’t be afraid. Stand still and the Lord will take care of our needs.”

This was God’s response to Moses’ advice to, “Not be afraid. Stand still and watch the Lord rescue.”

He said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Quit praying and tell the people to get moving!”

Now I grew up in church and I never heard one sermon where the pastor told us to quit praying.

In fact it seemed like all we did was pray.
We prayed for Jesus to come back.
We prayed that evil people would get their due.
We prayed that we would  not get stained by an immoral world.
We prayed for who would become president.
We prayed that God would bless us financially.
We prayed that other denominations would become holy like we were.
We even prayed for people less fortunate than us.
We prayed, went home for a week, and then came back and prayed again.
We prayed often, with eloquence.
Our church would have won a prayer contest.
We even had a chapel called the “House of Prayer.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for prayer.

Prayer is where I gain my intimacy with God.
Prayer is where I get the power to live.
Prayer is where I gain wisdom.
Prayer is where I find peace.
Prayer is where I experience rest.
Prayer is the foundation to my life in faith.

So why did God tell Moses to quit praying and get moving?

Well, here is my theory. And I think it is a pretty good one.

Many times prayer is an excuse to not do something that we know God has already told us to do.

There are many things we don’t have to pray about.

Serving the poor.
Caring for orphans.
Taking care of widows.
Being a father to the fatherless.
Feeding the hungry.
Sheltering the homeless.
Clothing the naked.
Forgiving our enemy.
Rescuing young women and children who have been sex trafficked.
Fighting injustice.

These are things we don’t have to pray and ask whether it is God’s will or not.

In fact, it is possible to actually pray more while moving farther and farther away from God.

God spoke through the prophet Isaiah once and said, “When you lift your hands in prayer, I will not look at you. No matter how much you pray, I will not listen…See that justice is done—help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows.”

This may be blasphemy, but I would like to challenge the American church to pray less and do more.

Get out of your prayer meetings and go help someone.

Leave your worship services and feed someone.

Stop talking about the poor and invite the homeless into your services.

Stop building bigger buildings and spend more money on local and global missions.

Stop looking the other way and sponsor children in poverty stricken countries. (www.compassion.com)

Cancel your women’s teas and your men’s breakfasts and rebuild a widow’s home or mentor a child who has no father.

Stop praying for blessings and help those who God has asked us very clearly to help, because that is where the blessings are!

I believe that God is saying today, “Stop asking me for more things, stop asking me about my will, I have made it very plain what I want you to be doing.” (Read Isaiah 58, Matthew 25, James 1:27, Psalms 82)

I think He would go on to say, “And while you are doing those things, pray! Pray hard, pray often, and I will give you the strength and the wisdom and courage to shine your light and “storm the gates” of poverty and hopelessness and loneliness and the world will be drawn to Me and the world will know that I am love.”

What happened when God told Moses, to quit praying and get moving?

They experienced a miracle.

May the church do the same!

Share with me what you think about this topic after reading some great quotes about prayer and action:

Action without prayer is arrogance, prayer without action is hypocrisy. – Jose Zayas

Action is the normal completion of the act of will which begins as prayer. That action is not always external, but it is always some kind of effective energy. – Dean Inge

Witness the fact that in the Lord’s Prayer, the first petition is for daily bread. No one can worship God or love his neighbor on an empty stomach. – Woodrow Wilson

About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation. – Will Rogers

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. – Søren Kierkegaard

Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish. -Author Unknown

I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. – Frederick Douglass, escaped slave

Practical prayer is harder on the soles of your shoes than on the knees of your trousers. – Austin O’Malley

Before we can pray, “Lord, Thy Kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My Kingdom go.” – Alan Redpath

Call on God, but row away from the rocks. – Indian Proverb

Prayer begets faith, faith begets love, and love begets service on behalf of the poor. – Mother Teresa

4 Things You Should Do Every Day

These 4 things, if you do them every day, will raise your level of joy, lower your level of stress and frustration and raise your level of purpose and significance.

First, learn to GIVE THANKS every day.

We think that once we experience joy, then we will be thankful, but the truth is, when we are thankful, joy is the byproduct.

Being thankful does not necessarily change our outside circumstances, but it does change our attitude and our perspective at how we look at things.

Experts say that practicing regular gratitude can change the way our brain neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns.

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”

Show me a person who practices gratitude, and I will show you a hopeful and joyful person.

Show me an ungrateful person, and I will show you someone you want to avoid.

William Arthur Ward wrote, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you?”

The psalmist wrote, “Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”

Make a list of all the things you are thankful for. Read them every day. Thank God for them every day. Tell the ones who are on your list how thankful you are for them. Read Psalm 100 every day.

Second, learn to practice CONFESSING YOUR SINS to God daily.

We were not made to carry the weight of our mistakes.

It robs us of energy, it leads to depression and it can beat down our souls.

David wrote in the Psalms, “When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable, and I groaned all day long. …My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

Our bodies were not designed to hold on to sin.

Confession is God’s gift to us.

David goes on to say, “Finally I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. … And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone”

Another part of confession is having someone in your life who you can share your sins with. This person is someone who is safe, confidential and wants what is best for you.

In the New Testament James wrote, “When we confess our sins to another human being, it brings healing to our minds, hearts and bodies.”

Practice this confessional prayer from Psalm 51 each day:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Third, learn to CRY OUT TO GOD every day.

We all have fears, dreams, frustrations, questions and hurts that are swimming around in our soul.

Holding on to them can lead to all types of strange emotions and dysfunctions.

It is cathartic to tell God every day how you are feeling and what you are thinking about.

And you don’t need a filter with God.

You can tell God everything! The good, bad and the ugly.

It is interesting to me that David who was known as a “man after God’s own heart” wrote a lot of the psalms which I consider the original blues.

David in one moment was telling God how great He was, and the next moment was yelling at God for abandoning him.

One moment he was thanking God for his faithfulness, the next moment doubting if God would come through during difficult times.

I encourage you to read the psalms and learn from David.

I encourage you to talk to God more honestly throughout the day.

Tell Him your fears, frustrations and dreams.

Find a secluded, safe place to be unfiltered with Him.

Watch your energy and clarity increase.

C. John Miller says, “Honest prayer unmasks your real need and puts you in the presence of a rich Christ who wants to meet you as you really are.”

Fourth, I would encourage you to be a DEFENDER OF THE POOR every day.

Psalm 82 instructs us to, “Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.”

You can do this in large and small ways.

The key is to look for opportunities.

Jesus said that offering food, clothing, shelter, water, fighting for justice and visiting the sick and imprisoned is where you meet Jesus.

Imagine what your life would look and feel like if you met Jesus every day.

No wonder Jesus said that we are happier and more blessed when we are giving rather than receiving.

He also said that what we have been freely given(Grace), we should in return freely give away(Grace).

I encourage you to try these 4 things every day for a few weeks and see how your life changes.

I would love to here your responses!
Just hit the “Leave a Comment” button and feel free to share.

It Is Time To Decide!

One day a hopeless alcoholic named Bill W. makes a choice, “I will not take another drink. If it kills me, I will not.”

He has made a thousand promises before, but this time he decides, “Whatever it costs, I will pay. However I have to rearrange my life, I will rearrange my life. Whatever help I need to get from beyond myself, I will get. I’ve decided.”

That one choice led to the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous and has changed the lives of millions of alcoholics.

Henry Nouwen was at the top of his profession: “Everyone was saying I was doing really well, but something inside me was telling me that my success was putting my soul in danger. I found myself praying poorly, living somewhat isolated from other people, and very much preoccupied with my ego and self-image. I woke up one day with the realization that I was living in a very dark place. In the midst of this I kept praying, ‘Lord, show me where you want me to go and I will follow you, but please be clear and unambiguous about it!’ Well, God was. In the person of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche communities for mentally handicapped people, God said, ‘Go and live among the poor in spirit, and they will heal you.’ So I moved from Harvard to L’Arche, from the best and brightest, wanting to rule the world, to men and woman who had few or no words and were considered, at best, marginal to the needs of our society. It was a very hard and painful move.”

Nouwen went on to say, “It was hard, but over time I re-discovered my faith, I regained my soul, and I discovered a joy and a peace and a contentment that was no where to be found in my previous “successful” world.”

One of Nouwen’s most motivating quotes was, “When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope”

Choices. They shape us and make us.

One of my heroes in my life is a guy named Dave.

Dave had retired early from a successful career and was living the comfortable, American retirement dream.

Yet God was going to ask him to make a decision.
“Will you live the rest of your life, comfortable and safe, or will you take an adventure of a lifetime, that will be anything but comfortable and safe?”

On a short term mission’s trip to Baja Mexico, Dave encountered a church that was trying to feed children breakfast every morning before they went to school.

The Mexican government had closed down a Tijuana garbage dump, covered it with a couple of feet of dirt, and divided the land into lots, and sold them to the poorest of the poor.

This is where the church existed.

If a child is born there, and lives there his entire life, their life span is somewhere around 35 years.

The toxins are deadly. You cannot grow food there.

This church was trying to feed children with limited resources and a few volunteers.

They needed a leader. They needed someone whose heart was being called by God to make a radical decision.

Dave, who knew very little Spanish, who knew very few people, who knew not how hard this would be, moved to Tijuana and began to lead and build up the breakfast club.

A few years later, 300 plus breakfasts are being served daily, children are being helped to enroll and stay in school, families are connecting to resources and the church, a lunch program has started, medical attention has happened, families are getting their very fragile homes fixed and hope is beginning to flood this toxic valley.

Children now have an advocate and Dave’s plan is to get them educated and move out of these closed garbage dumps and live productive lives.

All of this, while finding out that God loves them and has a plan for their life.

Here is an excerpt from Dave’s latest blog:
—————————————————————————
Maribel’s Story:

It was a number of months before we ever met Maribel… It was her children Armando and Ariana who first captured our hearts. They would show up at the Breakfast Club and could easily eat several portions each morning.  So we would send some food home with them during the week.

As time went on, we were able to find out where they lived and went to visit. They live in one of the worst sections of the Canyon. In order to get your vehicle there, you have to drive through a cemetery covered in refuse, broken glass and smoldering fires. This is where they burn items in order to get the metal out of it to recycle it for money. This was why the kids were always covered in black soot when we saw them in the mornings.

And this is where we first met Maribel. As I shook her hand, I noticed her arms were completely blacked all the way to her elbows. Her hands felt like broken concrete. Her house had caught fire and burned while preparing a meal. They had made a make shift shelter out of old sheets of plywood with a tarp for a roof and a cloth over the door opening. It was only about 4 foot high, so you had to get on your hands and needs to get in. This was their home….


We invited her to come down to the Breakfast Club each day for her meals and some food to take home as well as some clothes we had at the Church. When she did come to visit, there happened to be a visiting Pastor there who heard the story and took them to the store to get some items and had one of his team members drive up and build them a small house with a real door and window in it.

Slowly, over many months, Maribel came to visit us more often and eventually asked if she could help clean up after the breakfast. She knew that we all went to Church service each Sunday and one week, I felt someone tugging on my shirt sleeve. And there was Maribel, with clean clothes, her hair done and both of the kids in tow.

Today, Maribel is one of our most active Church members. She is one of the cooks for the Breakfast Club, she attends every Church service, she helps with every community outreach project the Church is involved with and helps lead the NA group meetings which are held every night.

—————————————————————————
C. S. Lewis once said, “The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important.”

I was recently flying out of Heathrow Airport in London on a 747 and I have noticed that when a 747 starts to take off, there is a point of no return, a speed threshold at which the pilot is powering up and at that moment the plane either has to take off into the air or face a certain crash on the ground because it’s going too fast to stop.

There are tens of millions of Americans sitting in pews or padded chairs (or in Green Valley’s case, plastic orange chairs) weekend after weekend, hearing sermon after sermon, and they have been sitting on the runway for years.

Some have been revving their engines for years but have never taken flight.

Has there ever come a point in your life where you made a complete, whole hearted, unreserved, without hesitation commitment to your creator and His Son, Jesus Christ, and said, “God, I’m going to decide to live my life the way You want me to live it.”

I don’t know how long you’re going to live. You don’t either. But choose to make it count.

I love what Wes Stafford, President of Compassion International says about his travels: “I go to parts of the world that are hurting and broken and I ‘comfort the afflicted.’ And then I come home and try to ‘afflict the comfortable.’ And I have to try to love them the same way.”

Bill Hybels challenges us with these words, “Life is too short and the world too compassion starved for you and I to keep subsisting in situations that drag us down and curtail our potential to help advance the Kingdom of God. There’s too much at stake. Eternity is at stake!”

Your choices make you and shape you.

It’s Time To Decide!

Read more of Dave and the Breakfast Club at http://breakfastclub.vpweb.com/default.html

Throwing Stones

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamott

Many of us have felt the emotional sting of being judged.

A high school girl feels the rejection of not fitting in the “in crowd.”

A divorced person feels the shame of married friends looking at her like she is a failure.

A person of Arab descent, feels the looks of people all around him as he sits in an airport waiting to visit family.

A single mom struggling to make ends meet, her car 15 years old, clothes not the latest fashion, she notices that when she is in a crowd, she seems to be invisible.

A man struggling with addiction, has lost his family and messed up his career, is afraid to talk to anyone about his issues, for fear of being judged.

We have all felt the sting of being judged.

It is a sting that stays with us far after the judgment has been rendered.

You may feel that sting right now.

Jesus said, “I have come to save the world and not to judge it.”

Jesus knew the sting of being judged.

Jesus once spoke, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgments you give are the judgments you will get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.”

Have you ever judged someone because they were different than you?

Please be honest with this question.

I do not want lightning to strike while you are reading this.

A couple of years ago I was working on a weekend message at a coffee shop.

As I was working on a message that I am sure had to do with the love of God, I saw from the corner of my eye a young man walk through the doors that was tatted up, wearing skinny jeans(ouch!) and a very tight tank top.

He came strutting in like he owned the place.

I do not have an issue with tattoos, but I did not like his body language. Plus his jeans made me hurt.

I instantly identified what this kid was all about.

He was a pompous, insecure, “life is all about me” kind of guy. You could just tell.

That all came to me during the 30 seconds I looked at him standing in line to get a cup of coffee or for him probably a frappuccino.

I quickly got back to my message about God’s love.

About 5 minutes later I noticed someone standing real close to me.

I tried to ignore this someone because I was putting together a message about the love of God.

But it got a little awkward, so I looked up, and standing there was this skinny-jeaned, frappuccino loving, arrogant punk.

Great. Now what?

Before I could say anything he gently put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You are the pastor at Green Valley aren’t you?”

I didn’t think it was a trick question, so I said, “Yes I am.”

In my mind I was telling him to please hurry, I have to get this sermon on God’s love done.

He smiled and said, “I want to thank you so much for all your church does. I have lived a pretty rough life, and I found Jesus and acceptance and recovery at your church.”

He then started getting emotional, and I started feeling like a complete idiot, and he finished with, “And now I am starting to volunteer with high school students at the church helping them get on a good path, so they don’t have to experience what I have experienced.”

He thanked me again and walked off with a smile on his face.

I tell you that story to show you what a spiritual giant I truly am.

You and I were made to be in the life-saving business, not in the judging business.

The Apostle Paul once said, “Accept one another.”

Those 3 words create a very powerful sentence.

To accept someone means to be FOR THEM.

It does not mean to approve of everything they do.
It means to want what is best for them, no matter what they do.

Judging is the opposite of accepting.

A great example of Jesus accepting someone was when a woman who was caught in adultery by the religious “peeping tom” leaders wanted to kill her with stones.

They said it was Moses’ law and they needed to obey the law.

Jesus said, “That is the law, so why doesn’t the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.”

No one could throw the stone(judge), because everyone had sinned.

Let me ask you a question:
HAVE YOU EVER HELD A STONE IN YOUR HAND?

I think of myself as a pretty compassionate person, but I know I have.

Maybe that stone is:
A judgmental thought or comment about another race or culture.
A self-righteous attitude towards those who are involved in a destructive sin.
Gossiping or belittling someone who has a different political or theological view.

FACT: The energy you use holding on to the stone begins to drain the ability to love out of you heart.

It’s hard to be in the life-saving business when your heart is empty of love.

Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”

The scriptures say Jesus was a friend of sinners.

They liked being around him and longed for his company.

Meanwhile, legalists found him threatening and morally soft.

The legalist separated “loving God” from “loving people.”

THEY THOUGHT IT WAS POSSIBLE TO LOVE GOD and THROW STONES.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the judgmental, the self-righteous, are in that danger.”

Jesus said “Let him who is without sin among you throw the first stone.”

What might a family, community or our world look like if nobody were to pick up a stone?

You have any stones you need to let go of?

SHARE WITH ME SOME OF THE STONES YOU HAVE HAD TO DROP IN ORDER TO JOIN JESUS IN THE LIFE SAVING BUSINESS.

SHARE WITH ME WHAT YOU THINK OUR WORLD WOULD LOOK LIKE IF NOBODY PICKED UP A STONE.

People’s Answers to Simplifying their Lives

These are some of the responses from my blog “I HAVE A QUESTION. I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR ANSWER!”
I will continue to post more answers as they come in.

LORI
“Live simply so that others may simply live” Mother Teresa

“This is a spiritual principle that cannot be explained, only lived and experienced.”

“My husband retired a couple of years ago and we thought we’d have to reduce our giving due to reduced income, but decided to give the same amount for a couple of months, and we seemed to have the same amount of money left! It’s crazy, we’ve actually increased our giving, and now sponsor 7 Compassion children (but you know, there’s still space on the refrigerator for more pictures…)”

“When you tell God you want to be able to give to help others, HE changes your desires, and makes a way for it to happen, and brings you great joy.”

PAULINE
“I would like to simplfy my life and make it as honest as possible. Working through the 12 steps in celebrate is helping me with that and with your encouragement I will try harder.”

FORREST
“We have had the phone ring for more work 15 minutes after we prayed, cars that just kept on going even after they should have died, lived on a $500 dollar food budget per month……with a family of 10……..no, not a misprint…$500.00 for 10 people!”

TARA
“After traveling to Africa people often I ask why I like going there so much (not exactly a vacation hot spot . It is hard to explain, but in the land of such extreme poverty, disease, climate, religious bondage, life is simple. Instead of feeling anxious I feel at peace, I feel useful rather than useless, instead of rushed I know I am living exactly in God’s timing.”

ANN
“I do sponsor a Child in Africia(David) and hope he is blessed. I know I am. Especially when we get his letters.”

“We are learning to live on what we have, and help when we can.”

“This is what a Church should do help the people who can not help themselves, that have no voice and no hope, not only financially but in action and emotionally.”

CHERIE
“Every time we have needed Him, He has shown up for us. As a family, we have been through some unbelievable circumstances where we saw “no way out”.

“We have tithed faithfully, even when we felt fear about financial circumstances. I refuse to give in to that fear, because He has proven himself faithful to us, over and over.”

“It makes us feel like we are helping………compassion kids (when you really SEE the difference that SMALL amount of money makes in their lives, it’s like “I can do without this Starbucks every day).”

“When we serve at the Senior Centers, when we rake leaves in a mobile home park, when we help an elderly person navigate the supermarket, even, for me, at work……..the love of Jesus Christ can shine through me, in the way that I treat my patients, and co-workers.”

“Live a life in FULL VIEW, because He sees, even when others do not. Not like “geez, I HAVE to do this, or I’ll get in trouble”, but more like “Lord. I want to honor you”.

PAULA
“Lately, even though we make less now than we ever have, God has put in on my heart to not only give my 10% where needed but more, and with a little fear but lots of faith I have said okay and He is faithful. We have all we need.”

“There’s a sense of true love and family when people help each other and share what they have, even if it’s a cup of coffee. And my 5 year old prays at every dinner for Ines, our compassion child, that she has a nice dinner. He’s been doing that for a year. It warms my heart.”

TIM
“Responses to your questions from your blog.
Question 1. Basic cable $9.95 next step up almost $100.
Question 5. James 4:17. Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins. Ouch.”

Matthew 25 34-36 “And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, 36 I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.” Matthew 25 40 “Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.’

These are just some of the responses from my blog,”I HAVE A QUESTION. I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR ANSWER!”
Would love to hear your response.

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

You Have To Go Out, But You Don’t Have To Come Back

On Nantucket Island, there is a little museum devoted to a volunteer organization formed centuries ago.

In those days, travel by sea was extremely dangerous. Because of the storms in the Atlantic along the rocky coast of Massachusetts, many lives would be lost within a mile or so of land.

So a group of volunteers went into the life-saving business. They banded together to form what was called the Humane Society.

These people built little huts all along the shore. They had people watching the sea all the time. Whenever a ship went down, the word would go out, and these people would devote everything to save every life they could.

They did not put themselves at risk for money or fame, but only because they prized human life.

In fact they adopted a motto that said: “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.” Not a great recruiting slogan is it?

These were people who would risk everything—even their lives—to save people they had never met.

But over time, things changed.

After a while, the U.S. Coast Guard began to take over the task of rescue. Eventually, the idea that carried the day was, “Let the professionals do it. They’re better trained. They get paid for it.”

Volunteers stopped searching the coastlines for ships in danger. They stopped sending teams out to rescue drowning people.

Yet, a strange thing happened: They couldn’t bring themselves to disband. The life-saving society still exists today. The members meet every once in a while to have dinners. They are just not in the life-saving business anymore.

Two thousand years ago, a band of rag-tag followers of Jesus began to meet regularly to pray and strategize how they could rescue a ship-wrecked world.

It was a calling they took seriously.
Their motto was, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”

The writer of Acts wrote as they embraced this slogan that “…they(the church) added to their number daily.”

Followers of Jesus were known as people who would adopt abandoned children, serve the poor, fight and die for justice, and stay in plague-filled cities to care for the sick, while others fled to safe places.

Rulers and governments were intrigued, confused and threatened by the willingness to give their life for others.

The early church left a permanent mark in the secular history books of the day.

What will history write about today’s church?
It was willing to go out, but it did not having to come back?
Or, it was judgmental, exclusive, irrelevant, fearful, turned it over to professionals, no longer in the life saving business but kept having meetings?

Peter Drucker says “It’s the human propensity to start with a clear vision and to get it muddied up along the way. It’s just kind of what happens to human beings in organizations.”

How badly the church is missed in our culture.
Yet there seems to be a church on every corner.
How can the church be missed when it is all around us?

The prophet Isaiah said that when the church is busy with meetings it becomes powerless.

The churches power comes from caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, fighting injustice, and protecting widows and orphans.

The impact of the church is not predicated on frequency of meetings and the eloquent nature of its rhetoric.
Its impact is not determined by a nice, accessible location.

The impact of the church has to do with its willingness to lay its life down for a ship-wrecked world.

When the church begins to re-live the motto, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back”, it will become relevant once again.

Let me share with you the Green Valley Life-Saving “Dream”.

The Green Valley dream is a dream where those who are hurting, hopeless, discouraged, frustrated or confused can find love, acceptance, guidance, hope, encouragement and forgiveness.

It is a dream of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in our community and beyond to the world.

It is a dream of thousands of people growing together in spiritual maturity through learning together, serving together, loving together, laughing together and giving together.

It is a dream where our love for one another would attract people to Christ.

It is a dream where people will look at Green Valley and say “Wow, church is a good thing!”

It is a dream where every person uses their time, talents, passions and resources for God’s purposes so that we honor God, by giving him our all, by giving him our best.

It is a dream where we continually reach back to invest in a new generation of children and youth who are our future leaders. It is where we look beneath the surface of their lives and see God’s gifts and potential in them.

It is a dream where we will serve the poor, take care of the sick, and love those who have walked down the wrong paths of life because that is where you actually meet Christ.

It is a dream that we will keep simple. LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE. And we will allow no other issues to get in our way.

It is a dream where we will constantly put ourselves in situations where we can’t do it ourselves, so that we will have to trust God and see him do amazing things.

It is a dream to never play it safe, but actually believe that God came to seek and save the lost. And actually believe that God told us that we must lose our lives in order to save them.

IT IS A DREAM THAT GOD LOVES.

It is a dream where He says, “Make yourself fully available to me. Fully available in your worship, talents, passions and resources. Fully available to love one another, forgive one another and serve one another. Make yourself fully, wholly, unconditionally, unreservedly, unashamedly available to me and I will blow your socks off with the miracles that I want to do.”

God says today, “Dreams do come true!”

The Definition of Courageous

The definition of courageous is “not deterred by danger or pain; brave”.

I met a truly “courageous” person when I traveled to New Delhi, India during the summer of 2011.

Her name was Surinder Kaur

I was there to help raise awareness and money towards fighting human trafficking.
Specifically, underage sex trafficking.

She was there to stop underage sex trafficking even if it meant giving up her life.

Human trafficking has become the third largest illegal trade in the world, behind illegal arms and drugs.

In New Delhi sex trafficking is a growing industry where young girls are being held as slaves to make huge amounts of money for brothel owners.

It is an atrocity that is hard to describe.
It is an injustice that many are still ignoring.

Underage girls being sold into prostitution because of poverty, greed and pure evilness.
The younger the girl, the more money they make for the brothel.

I took a photographer with me and walked through New Delhi’s largest red light district—G.B. Road–home to over 2000 prostitutes, many who are underage.

While walking the road you can look up and see young teenage girls beckoning you up to their rooms, hoping for business, hoping to suffice the anger of their madams when business is slow.

Many of the young girls were holding babies.

It was the most emotionally nauseating walk I have ever made. The spiritual darkness was so heavy it was hard to breath.

Seeing western business men and local men in their forties, fifties and sixties walking into those buildings made me want to throw up.

There was an impulse to grab them, shake them and ask them if they were proud of what they were doing.

My guide could tell how much I was disturbed and told me to pray. Pray for the girls. Pray for the police. Pray for India.

After the devastating walk, my photographer and I met this woman of courage, Surinder Kaur.

She was the local police chief, known as a Station House Officer, and she was new to the area. She had just received the International CNN Hero of the Year Award for fighting sex trafficking.

Her first impression was that of beauty and grace, not of tenacity and courage. But we soon learned that those things are very powerful together.

As we sat down in her office, she told us that the police station she was now in charge of had existed since 1954 and the police chiefs over the years had been men who were bought off by the brothel owners.

Surinder was the second woman police chief and while the first one was intimated to fight, she said this was why God had created her, to fight injustice, to stand up for children.

She had set up a make shift bedroom attached to her office so she could be on call for these girls.

“I do not want any underage girls working here. They are children. My goal is to shut this district down.” Kaur told us.

Since becoming officer in charge of G.B. Road two years ago, Kaur has rescued over 100 minor girls. Before she was there, only 4 or 5 girls had ever been rescued over the previous 5 decades.

She told us that, “In the past, everyone knew the police were involved with the brothel owners…so no one passed information to the police. When I got here, I took the challenge. I developed trust with the public. Now we are working together.”

She went on to say, “It is an everyday challenge filled with physical danger, death threats and wondering who has taken a bribe and who can you trust. The hard part is that it is not illegal for women 18 and older to be prostitutes, but many are underage and most are illegally trafficked from other parts of India and Bangladesh and Nepal. My focus is minor girls. My mission is to rescue them all.”

A few weeks before we arrived, Kaur and her team had raided a brothel on G.B. Road after being tipped off that minors were working there. They rescued 9 girls. 5 were under age, one was 10 years old.

Since the 2 years Kaur has been working the G.B. Road, they have arrested 27 brothel owners, a number unheard of before she arrived.

Some good news on this very dark subject is that rescue efforts are becoming more common in India as awareness goes up and police make them a priority.

Books like “Half the Sky” are raising awareness about human trafficking. http://www.halftheskymovement.org/ @half @NickKristof
An organization like International Justice Mission is rescuing children all around the world. @IJMHQ http://www.ijm.org/ @garyhaugen

The police have also become more sensitized toward prostitutes and are now seeing girls as victims rather than criminals.

Kaur told us, “Why would a girl want to be rescued and then prosecuted as a criminal. That is why girls won’t reveal their real age. Once they know that they will be treated as a victim, they are much more willing to be honest about their age.”

Just before our time was done, Surinder told me something that made me smile, while putting a chill down my spine,

“When I started here at the G.B. Road station, I went to all the brothels and told the madams that I wanted to talk to the girls. I told the madams that they could stay in the room while I talked.”

Then Surinder Kaur, this beautiful, 50-something Indian woman looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Ken, I put my phone number up on all the walls and told the girls that if they wanted to get out to call me and I would get them out immediately. And then I looked at the madams and told them, ‘And if you take my number off the wall, I will kill you.’”

Looking into her eyes, I believed her.

“Rescuing children has become my life’s calling,” Kaur told us, “It is this century’s demand that we have to change.”

Sadly, since my visit, Surinder Kaur has been transferred to another area of town, far away from the G.B. Road.

Hmm? I wonder why?

Courageous: “not deterred by danger or pain; brave”