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.

Download LeaderToLeaderArticle


A New Year in Kenya

Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed a blessed holiday season and that you have started 2018 full of faith and hope. Thank you for your faithful support as the year ended, which enabled us to continue our support of those we love in Kenya. I stayed in touch with our Kenyan partners throughout the holiday, and have sent school fees to Each One Touch One and Mary at Upako. Then I sent support to Pastor David in Bomet, paid the teachers at Upako (along with a Christmas bonus) and sent a small gift to Pastor Peter and his family. Now I am wrestling with the shipping company over the container, but unfortunately have nothing new to report, so keep praying for a breakthrough.

I received the following updates from Kenya. First, let's read what Pastor Peter wrote:

Dear Dr. John

Here in Kenya we are all well and looking forward to Christmas time. The library continues doing well in empowering student and I know when the computers arrive we will modernize the computer section and continue in cataloging all the books. Karen school performed best in this year standard Eight Exams and many will join good secondary school. We are looking forward to 2018. The music school is perfect and we have excellent student who are doing amazing work. The widows are busy in farming, bead work, and in the salon, and we thank God for them. Finally my family and ministry are well and God has been faithful. To all our supporters God bless for your tirelessly sacrifice and commitment.

Pastor Peter

PhyllisObedGladwellThen here are some pictures from Alice of three of the youth we are supporting with school fees (there are six total) along with her report on the latest developments at EOTOO. In essence, with so many of the children off to school, Alice has closed down the orphanage that she has had since 2009:

Dear Dr. John,
 
We want to thank God who has brought us this far and hope that he will see us through 2017 and into 2018. We thank you too for staying close to us as a friend and doing the best you can to help fulfill important matters in the EOTOO children's lives.
 
Rose did inform me that you sent through her some kshs 40,000 a week ago to add on another 40,000 that you had sent earlier. I would imagine it is Sophia fund money. Kindly correct me if that is not the case. All in all, l wish to thank you for responding to our request positively.
 
I did send e-mail out to contacts that have been assisting EOTOO financially and sometimes in PhyllisAliceObedkind expressing the difficulties we face trying to raise funds  for rent and my fears of not opening the home for the year 2018. Only one 'donor' - who is not still active - responded like they would communicate. One other lady was willing to team up with somebody else to put one boy in boarding school. It looks increasingly that we may not open the home in January. It is sad but hasten to count my/our blessings that we have received since 2009 your immense contribution included.
 
What l wished to ask is, were l able to stay with Joseph and Javerson in my rural home as they conclude their Primary Education (Std 8), would you supplement me with the purchase of the food that l have to buy from the shops like sugar,  flour, cooking oil, etc? Joseph is willing to relocate to the rural areas. I have not been able to talk to Javerson. For Joy and Elvis, their stepbrother wants to know upfront whether l would see them thorough secondary school. I am trying to get Jane and her brother Ngige in another children's home.
 
Sorry for being this long with my message.
 
Regards,
 
Alice
 
I am sending another $600 today for Elizabeth's school fees, and I know other needs will emerge as the year begins (Alice asked for help above with food for some of the children who now live with her). Please continue to remember their cause and send a contribution using my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you and God bless you for helping the poor in their hour of need.
 

Thoughts of Kenya

I have abandoned any hope of shipping the container this year, and I am not sure what the holdup is. PeterChurch3We had our inspection (we had to pay for that this time) and have talked to everyone we needed to contact. We just can't get any response or movement! Meanwhile, we continue to pay monthly storage, and the weather is not getting any more conducive to packing. Therefore, I am holding off putting any more pressure on the company until after the first of the year when we have plans of moving all the contents to a warmer storage unit where it can be put on pallets, wrapped, and prepared for pickup. I have given it to the Lord and I will focus on happier things.

PeterChurch2First, Pastor Peter has completed his latest building project in Kenya and it is a fantastic building as you can see from these pictures. We have decided to deliver the container when it finally gets to Kenya to Peter, who has graciously agreed to host it and coordinate its distribution while our friends at Clarence Matheny Ministries move into their new ministry home.

Then we received this update from Pastor Francis at Upako Center and the Dr. Stanko Academy:

Dr. J,

As I prepare a better report for the good work and support you have given to our community touching on the needy lives here, let me highlight on the activities at The Dr. Stanko Academy where the grace of God is dancing in low places.

A brief report on what is going on at Dr. Stanko Academy in Nairobi.

We provide care to 25 orphans who have nowhere else to call home. They are between the ages UpakoFaculty of 3.5 and 17 years. The children stay at the Centre where they receive food, shelter, education, and spiritual guidance. This year we have managed to feed and keep them mostly on 2 meals instead of 3 with money donated from Rev. Dr. John Stanko and friends and with money generated from the bricks project .

Community  low cost school for the needy.

Dr. Stanko Academy operates on a rented premises made of iron sheets-we have class rooms for early childhood development, junior primary and senior primary, office, girls bedroom and UpakoVanKidsboys bedroom, a kitchen and pit latrines. There are 148 pupils attending school here including the orphans apart from Mary who is sponsored in a private mission school by Dr. J. We have 11 teachers working with the children, 5 of them receive their monthly pay from D. John while the rest get what we have for them locally.

Sanitary towels

We have continued to supply sanitary towels to girls in 7 schools within the area and 406 girls are beneficiaries .This has seen the girls attend school throughout the term without being absent because their monthly problem is taken care of by weep project under the care of John Stanko III.

IGA-Bricks project

This year we have made and sold 18,200 bricks. The money is helping in feeding the orphans and taking care of daily activities at the school.

Pastor Francis

Christmas is only two weeks away, and I would like to bless our partners with a Christmas gift. Will you help make that possible? You can give through my website using Paypal or a credit card, or by sending a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882 and I promise to forward every penny I receive to our friends in Kenya.

Thank you for remembering the poor at Christmas time and may God bless you with the joy and peace of the season!