One Step Closer

Last Saturday, we took a big step closer to seeing our long-awaited container getting off to Kenya. We IMG_0865had 15 volunteers, most of them from Light of Life Rescue Mission here in Pittsburgh, show up to empty and consolidate the boxes in our four storage units. We then packed them on two trucks to take to the Light of Life warehouse. There we sorted them by color (they are going to six different locations in Kenya) on 17 pallets and then wrapped them in shrink wrap.

Now I am waiting for word from Missionary Freight Expediters of how much it will cost to ship a 40-foot container through the shipping lines with which they work. We are back to a 40-foot container instead of a 20-footer since it will be less complicated to pack a container with more space.

IMG_0874I spent $400 on Saturday on gas, tolls, and truck rental. When added to the $1,000 invested in boxes and tape, $500 on pallets and shrink wrap, and at least $4,000 on storage rental, we have invested about $6,000 so far in the project. I am guessing that it will require about $13,000 to ship.

That leads to the question: Is it worth it to spend all that money on used computers, 27,000 books, and boxes of educational supplies.

The short answer is yes.

Our partners in Kenya would never be able to find or pay for educational supplies. What worth can be placed on a young person leafing through a book and reading or seeing something that will change his or her life? What price can we put on a church having a community library to attract people from the community where the students can find a predictable environment to study, with textbooks and computers? We take for granted all those things, but they are rare in Kenya, and we are making a difference through the centers we have established. This container will only add to the impact we are having.

I am attaching below the fundraising letter I sent to my mailing list last week. I need your help to replenish my finances once this container is off to Kenya. If you have never given to my ministry before, this would be a good time to do so. Please read the letter and then give using Paypal on my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you and please pray that we receive a favorable quote on the shipment and that it clears customs easily. Thank you and God bless you!

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Cool Pictures

I received an update from Pastor Francis this week and a picture from Alice, so I am sharing what I got IMG_20180119_114551with you.

Dr. J,

We are grateful to God for everything.we have entered into the new month of February and we are all well. God has shown us mercy and has granted us another opportunity IMG_20180119_090212this new month without demanding for any payment. If it were that God was to charge us for the oxygen then we could be in huge debts. This is a new year and am trusting God for miracles. The children need a small parcel of land where we can start doing things in a more sustainable way as we continue feeding, educating and clothing them. Big prayer.
 
IMG_20180119_075802They are still using the mattresses on the floor so we need the small beds. Thank you for the continued support.
 
Stay blessed,
 
Pastor Francis
 
Alice didn't say much but her picture was from a school visiting day where Phyllis, Gladwell, and Obed IMG-20180203-WA0007are now attending, with your help. If you can help with the land or the beds that Pastor Francis mentioned, please let me know. You can make a contribution using my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you and enjoy the pictures! (Click on them to enlarge.)

Fear

We are children of Adam and Eve, whose first act after they sinned was to hide in the bush while God AdamAndEvewalked by. Why? Because they were ashamed and afraid. Shame and fear are our two enemies as we seek to live for the Lord and walk in His ways.

We can quote, "God has not given me a spirit of fear" but that does not mean we don't have fear. In fact, in my 44 years of ministry experience, I have found that I am afraid and so are you.

You may protest and say, "Not me!" I would still beg to differ. If you insist you don't have fear, there are three possibilities:

  1. you may have conquered fear once and for all.
  2. you don't recognize the fear because it disguises itself.
  3. you have shrunk your world so that there are no surprises, so that tomorrow is like today -- and why did you do that? Because you are afraid you cannot handle the new day.

I doubt very much that you have mastered fear as described in #1 above, but if you have, pray for the rest of us.

If you need more convincing of the possibility you suffer from number 2, ask yourself why you don't go on a missions trip, learn a language, go back to school, or start a business -- or any other idea you have ever had that's new and different than what you are doing now. Within five minutes, you can think of all the reasons why those things are not good ideas. All those reasons are fear-based. If you don't have the money, you are really thinking, "I am afraid the money won't be there when I need it, so better not make the commitment to go (or do)."

And if you have settled into number 3, what is the purpose for your existence? Is it to do what you are currently doing every day for the rest of your life with minor variations? Is that living or existing?

Jesus said that we would know the truth and it would set us free. It's important to know where the fear is in your thinking so you can be free, that is, if you want to be free. Because to be free is to risk, and risk causes fear, and fear, well, then we are right back where we started at the beginning of this post, children of Adam and Eve, hiding with them in the Garden bush while God comes looking for us.


The Bible Project

I am preparing to preach at ACAC on Feb 24 and 25, and I am also teaching two classes this term (Personal Development and the Psalms) at the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry. As I prepare for classes and ministry, I am utilizing the ministry out of the Pacific Northwest called The Bible Project.

If you are not familiar with this ministry, I encourage you to do so. They have produced short (under 10 minutes) videos, using animated white board technology, to give an overview of biblical themes and the books of the Bible.

They have one of the finest ministries I am aware of to help people understand and study the Word. And their material is great for all ages.

Check out their site. You will be glad you did.


Leadership is No Guarantee

"There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it." - Sir J. E. E. Dalberg.

It is dangerous for leaders to assume that just because they hold the title or office of leader, it somehow LeaderFollowerPic makes them smarter, wiser, or more talented than their followers. That is the essence of the warning in today's quote. When you begin to believe you are special and that holding a title gives you some unique insight or edge simply because you hold the title, you are in danger of becoming an ineffective leader.

The leaders in Jesus' day fell into this trap, and it caused them to miss the Lord because they thought they were smarter and wiser than everyone else. Look at these two examples of what I mean:

Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet) (Mark 11:29-32).

In the case of John's ministry, the people knew that John was a prophet while the leaders did not - or knew but refused to acknowledge his leadership. In another instance,

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet (Matthew 21:45-46).

Once again, the people had better and more accurate spiritual insight than their leaders.

Unless a leader has regular and consistent inputs, and by that I mean education, a mentor's voice, or a leadership development program, that leader will eventually begin to rely on his or her title or position or authority. When that happens, the leader will cease to lead and begin to exercise control over his or her followers to maintain his or her leadership position - and that is true whether we are talking about a business or a church.

If you are a leader, what are you doing to continue to develop and grow as a leader? You cannot answer that you are leading, for that will give you experience but not necessarily develop you, unless you ruthlessly and regularly evaluate (and have others evaluate) your leadership style and decisions.

If you are a follower, do you dismiss what you sense and think because your leaders don't agree? As we saw in today's two examples, leadership is not correct just because they are the leaders. You should not surrender your wisdom or insight simply because your leaders disagree, for there is no guarantee they are any more accurate than you are.

The next time you insist you are correct simply because you are the leader or  you back down from a position only because your leaders disagree, remember that leadership is no guarantee of correctness or superiority.


Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Thoughts

Today America celebrates a man who challenged the nation to live up to its stated value that all men are created equal. We can acknowledge today how far we have come or how far we have yet to go, but regardless of which perspective you choose, today is a day we recognize the efforts of a man and his followers who caused dramatic change in America.

I was 18 years old when Dr. King was assassinated. I was about as racially sensitive or aware as any typical white teenager, MLKPicso the events around his murder puzzled me, but I was absorbed in other things, like graduating from high school. Then six years later, I had my conversion experience and was almost immediately thrust into a world where I was working and worshiping with folks who were both black and white. I was still clueless, but I realized in those early days that if there was any hope for people to get along, the gospel of Christ was the only answer. More on that later.

In 1989, I moved to Alabama, the heart of Dixie, to work with an African American pastor as his assistant. To say that was unusual would be the understatement of the decade, for most people expected it to be the other way around, as evidenced by places of business that would always ask me first if they could help me, even if my black pastor entered ahead of me.

The white population in Alabama was mostly lukewarm to our relationship, but I thought the black churches would be more intrigued and interested. They were not. White churches were white and black churches were black and "never the twain shall meet" was the rule of the day, and often still is. It was sometime during my 11 years in Alabama that I read Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail and I was captivated by the excellence of the writing but also, more importantly, by the rightness of the message. That letter caused me to ask myself two questions: If I had been older and more "in touch" in 1968, would I have walked, marched or stood with Dr. King? The answer I came to was probably not.

The second question was a more important one: What could I do now that I was aware? I determined that, by God's grace, I would be an agent of healing and reconciliation wherever I lived or worked. Since that time, that value has guided my decisions of where I lived, worshiped, worked, and traveled in ministry. Only God can answer if I have been successful. As Mother Teresa said, God did not call us to be successful, just obedient. Time will tell if I responded to that second question properly or followed through with my conclusion.

Today, I am not interested in diversity. I have no time for tolerance. I want to see people of all races and cultures come together and not be concerned about who is right, but concerned about how to be reconciled. Toward that end, I continue to do what I can to bring about reconciliation. I have concluded that if it is almost impossible for those in the church to be reconciled, and we have the power of the Spirit and the word of God as allies, then there is no hope for any other entity to accomplish that goal - not government, legislation, meetings, training, or wishful thinking.

Reconciliation will require people to be transformed and then to walk out the terms and behaviors of reconciliation, even when it is not in their best interests economically or socially to do so. The Christian faith has the only answer to the problem that causes racism and oppression, which is sin caused by the Fall of man, and therefore the Church is the only one that can offer the remedy. So far, we have not done a very good job.

On this important occasion, I pay tribute to Dr. King, but really, my tribute contributes very little to his legacy that achieved so much and is still producing results. The best honor I can give is to recommit myself to be a source of reconciliation wherever God assigns me. By doing that, I will be making a small contribution to a very big problem, but perhaps God will multiply my efforts to touch people who need healed from the pain of the past and the hopelessness of the future. Today is a day to remember and celebrate what Dr. King taught and gave his life for; tomorrow is a day to get back to work to make it happen.


We Need a Breakthrough

First, let me update you on the ongoing saga of our container we are trying to ship with 3,000 pairs of shoes and 27,000 books. This past week, the shipping company from Miami contacted us again to request a picture of a printer we are trying to send over. Then two days later, they informed us that they must do another inspection of our warehouse, although this time it will be a remote inspection using an iPhone. They want to look at the bicycles we are sending along with a few other harmless items.

Besides this company's incompetence (we have now talked to 10 different agents in that company since UpakoLittlesAssemblySeptember 18, when we initiated the process), it seems that the Kenyan officials are requesting all this documentation. It is amazing that we are trying to donate these supplies, but so far have been unable to do so.

We must move the 750 boxes to place them on pallets for pick up, but we cannot do that until we can inform the new warehouse exactly how long those boxes will be there, and we can't know that until we get a firm word from the shipping UpakoKidscompany who must get permission from the Kenya government to pick them up. Confused? Join the club; we have been confused by the process since September.

On a happier note, school is back in session at the Dr. Stanko Academy UpakoPlayTimeand Pastor Francis sent these pictures this week (click to enlarge). My favorite is the one with the beaming young lady and a bewildered little one standing next to her in his (or her?) winter attire. This is a reminder of why we are trying to press through the bureaucracy and inefficiency to spend $15,000 to get this container over there, for we know what a blessing the resources will be to our UpakoClassroompartners.

Please pray with us that God will give us a breakthrough so we can get this stuff where it belongs. Also, please give toward the container shipment for I am paying warehouse fees every month while we wait for the pick up date. You can give through my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you and may the Lord help us help our friends!


A Beautiful New Church in Kenya

Those who have been to Kenya know Pastor Peter. He is one of the most gifted leaders we have NewChurchmet there (and there are many good ones) with a specific talent for building churches. We have visited the church he built for St. Michael and All Angels in Banana and marveled at what was accomplished as a faith venture, for Peter had little outside help raising money. He raised it brick by brick.

IMG_1450Last year when we visited Kenya, we toured a new church he was building in another area. The concrete was poured, the walls were up, but the church was far from finished. Over the holidays, Peter sent me pictures of the finished product and it looks amazing! Take a look at what the Lord has done through Peter and the people there.

We thank God for His help and for raising up Pastor Peter to spearhead the work of the Anglican Church in the area where his leaders have assigned him to serve.


Time is Running Out to Register for Israel

As you know, I am sponsoring a tour to Israel with an optional after-trip to Rome. There are 30 people JS Israel 2registered to go to Israel right now and 13 for Rome. This Monday, we have to release the seats we were holding for Rome and then on Tuesday do the same for the Israel leg of the trip. That doesn't mean you can't go after this week, it simply means you can go on a space-available basis.

This will be my fourteenth trip to the Holy Land and it never gets old. I have a great group already registered and would love to have you on the trip. Review the information in this link and then act fast to book the trip of a lifetime! Let me know if you have any questions.


New Book and Magazine Article

Late last year, I published a book I co-authored with my friend, Dr. Jim. Dittmar, titled A Leadership Carol: A Classic Tale for Modern Leaders. After that, our friends at the Hesselbein and CarolCoverCompany, publishers of Leader to Leader journal, published an article we wrote summarizing the book and the leadership model we described in the book. Our thanks to them for the space!

I am attaching a copy of the article for your enjoyment. After you read it, you can order an autographed copy (or two) of the book from the Urban Press website.

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