Learning It’s the Giver, Not the Gift that Counts

Grace-InstagramI sent both of my daughters to school today with five dollars in an envelope.  On it, I marked $1 for mom, $1 for dad, $1 for sister, $1 for dog, and $1 for self.

They are Christmas shopping at their school’s secret Santa Shop.

I know they will just buy junk.  It’s their only choice.  What else can you expect from a school fundraiser?  Or worse yet, what can you expect from a dollar?

They begged me all week to let them.  I did everything possible to put it off, hoping it would pass.  Until I began to feel like a horrible, Grinch of a parent.

My daughters are thinking little about the value of the gift.  They are excited for the opportunity to be a giver.

Neither will be able to contain the joy of giving.  I give them less than 24 hours before they beg us to open their gifts.

It happens every year.  They can’t wait until Christmas.  They want to experience our reaction, now.

I can’t blame them.  I was just as bad.

It was a Christmas tradition in our family to make the hour drive to a downtown Columbus department store for their secret Santa Shop.

So many memories.  As soon as you walked in the main door, a trail of reindeer paw prints led you to the Christmas wonderland.  Along the way, you passed the talking tree (my favorite).  You could stop for a visit on Santa’s lap.  It was magical.

At a certain point, parents were off-limits.  They sent you in a kids only shop with an envelop of money marked with amounts you can spend on each family member.  Everything was kid friendly.  The shelves were miniature.  Each section was marked by a dollar amount.  Even the cash register was built at kid level.

You felt like a big person.  Shopping all by yourself.  Walking out with a bag of gifts in nifty gift boxes clearly marked for each family member.

One year, my excitement overtook me.  I was so proud of myself.  I couldn’t even make it out of the store before spilling the beans.

I popped out of the store to quickly tell my parents, “I bought dad per-chume.”  That’s right, I said “per-chume” instead of perfume.

I still remember it, vividly.  It was a small, white bottle of old-spice.  Haha.  I remember taking off the lid and smelling it.

It wasn’t the gift that counted for my dad (and mom), it was the giver.

I’m sure he never wore the cologne other than the one time that I asked him to try it.  He wasn’t enamored with the gift.

He was filled with a deep feeling of love for me, his son, the giver.  He could care less about what I bought.  The joy of seeing me give was enough.

Learning that it’s the giver, not the gift that counts changes how you receive.  

You receive whatever it is with a gratitude that far exceeds the value of what’s given.  You are receiving love, which money can’t buy.

I needed this reminder from my kids this year.  I am not a god receiver.  I don’t like opening gifts for fear of disappointing the giver with my reaction.

Guess I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing.  The joy comes not from what you are receiving, but from who.

 

 

Learning a Story of Hope for Family Members Who are Lost

KeepHopeAliveHer husband and father to her children was lost.  Literally, he was missing.

No one knew where he was, what he was doing, or if he was okay.  He wouldn’t answer his phone.  All anyone knew was that he would draw money from his bank account from time to time.

It was longer than a couple days.  It was more like weeks.

She knew it was drugs.  Depression and addiction was getting the best of him.  It had been building to this point for several years.

Here she was, now.  Nearly hopleless.  Wondering if he would survive this bout.

She was sitting in the last row of the sanctuary after everyone else had left.

Her countenance was down.  She looked defeated.

I sat down in the chair in front of her.  Tears were flooding her eyes.  In between bursts of crying, she shared her story.

She told me everything.  How they met.  How many years they have been married.  How many kids they have together.  How he started using.  How much pain she feels.

He was lost.  She longed for him to be found.

Unselfishly, though.  She was less concerned about his responsibility to their home.  She was more unsettled with his safety.

Together, we prayed.

I was directing traffic in a busy parking lot when she brought the good news.

Thank you,” she said.  “Thank you for your prayers.”  

I listened.

“We found him.  He’s been in rehab for 30 days.  He voluntarily committed to 9 more months.”

She explained everything.  How she heard about the Marchman Act.  How she pinged him by his phone.  How his heart is changing.

There is hope for your family members who are lost.

Don’t give up.

God is light.  1 John 1:5  (NRSV)

Your loved one may be walking the dark, completely lost.  Like a searchlight, God’s love is looking for them.

God wants to find them and forgive.  Jesus sacrificed his life for theirs.

If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and his is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world.  1 John 2:1-2

Praying for your family members and mine who are lost.

I believe redemption stories are waiting to be told.

Can’t wait to hear your story.

 

Learning to Choose the WHY Behind Church Christmas Events

LOL 2015You know church Christmas events.  Christmas Cantatas.  Children’s Christmas musicals.  Candlelight services.

Christmas events are a given in the church world.  Some are nostalgic.  Some are tradition.  Some are innovative.  Others should have been laid to rest a decade ago.

No matter the variety, every Church Christmas event should serve an underlying reason “why.”

Knowing the “why” is more critical than the “how.”  The “why” drives the “how.”

It works by default or by choice.  You can focus on the “how” without considering the “why,” but it operates the same.  An unspoken “why” will drive it all, whether it is tradition or convenience or finances.

The event serves a greater purpose when the “why” is intentional.

Not every “why” needs to be the same for every church.  

Several “why’s” can be good.  Not any one is superior to all others.

You simply need to settle on the one you believe in most.  Choose it.  Don’t let it choose you.  Then, serve the “why” with passion.

Choosing a “why” for a Church Christmas event will produce stories worth telling.  

Conversations will turn from performance evaluation to emotional connection.  It will become less about what you can draw from the event, and more about the impact it has on others.

I know because I have a story to tell from Highland Park Church‘s Christmas event called Lights of Lakeland.  In it’s tenth year, Lights of Lakeland is an event that attracts over 30,00 people.  But, it’s not about the numbers.  It is about the “why” of leading people to love God and love others.

Here’s our story.

A young family has attended Lights of Lakeland several years in a row.  It has become a family tradition.  The whole family gets together for it.  Grandma and grandpa, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandkids, and cousins attend.

Every year they look forward to the experience.  It’s one of those things that put them in the Christmas spirit.  You know, like your city’s Christmas parade or colder weather or Christmas songs on the radio or visiting santa at the mall.

This year will be different.  Since last year, one of the children received a difficult health diagnosis.  He is sick.  Really sick.  It isn’t safe for him to be in large crowds.  Lights of Lakeland is too risky.

Wanting to keep life as normal as possible for him, his parents try something.  They email our church with a request.  Could you provide a way for our family experience Lights of Lakeland with our son without the crowds?

Yes.  We can.  We will.

The email was our first interpersonal connection with this family.  The second was our children’s ministry staff visiting the boy and his family in the hospital.  The third was the night they attended our church for the first time.

They are not church people.  Meaning, they were not leaving another church to attend ours.  Church was not a normal part of their life.

They have decided to give it a try.  They want to know what this Church thing is about.  They are ready to learn about God’s love and Jesus and how it can influence their lives.

And, this year, mom and dad will be volunteering for Lights of Lakeland.

Choosing the “why” behind our Church Christmas event is writing a new story for this family, and many more.  A story worth telling.  

Learning When to Laugh When I Feel Like Crying

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 1.02.28 PMYou never want a conversation to start with, “I’m not sure how to tell you this without hurting your feelings, but I thought you might want to know that…(fill in the blank)?”  

I didn’t hear those exact words, but they were somewhere in the ballpark of thought.

Okay, just tell me,” is the only response I can give at this point.  The other option is the torture of trying to guess.

“You know how you said the word “miracle” several times in your sermon?  Well, there were times when it didn’t quite come out most sophisticatedly.  Occasionally, you pronounced it “merr -ical.”  

“Not saying you need to change anything, just wanted you know.”  

I’m hearing this critique over the phone.  I may have wanted to cry, but it was no use.  No one was present to hug or console me.

It may have drudged up old memories from high school speech class.  Specifically, the time the teacher told me I delivered excellent speeches, but…  BUT, if I had any hope of succeeding at a high level then would need to lose my country accent.

It may have taken me back to the day when I attended college in Chicago.  Upon meeting me and having a short conversation, a person asks, “Where are you from?”  Not sure why he’s asking, I probe for context.  “Because you have an accent.”  This was not a compliment.

Upon hearing of my mispronunciation of “miracle,” I may have felt like crying.  I didn’t.

Instead, I accepted it as an opportunity to laugh at myself and invite others to laugh with me.  You know the old adage, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

Saturday night was the first time I delivered the message and received the constructive criticism.  The next morning, I was set to preach it three more times.  I was confident “merr-ical” would slip out again.

I opened each of the three succeeding sermons the same way.  I invited them to laugh with me at my “Southeast Ohio, Hillbilly” way of speaking.  Either way, the audience would probably laugh.

I gave everyone and myself permission to embrace me for who I really am.  I am small town boy from a humble family who sometimes (even oftentimes) isn’t proper.  We may pronounce it “crick” instead of “creek,” or “warshboard” instead of “washboard.”

The audience agreed though laughter.  This time, though, it didn’t make me feel like crying.  I felt accepted, supported, and loved for being me.

Learning when to laugh when you feel like crying can turn a negative into a positive.  

 God, give us the ability to laugh at ourselves more.  Transform our shame into an honest, liberating embrace of who we are.

Learning a Reason to Be Thankful: Jesus Becomes Unclean to Make You Clean

ThanksJesus is new in ministry.  He is just getting started.

Significant experiences for him so far include:  overcoming the devil’s temptation, rejection from his hometown, exorcising a demon, healing a woman’s high fever, curing diseases, preaching in the synagogue, and recruiting three disciples.  Impressive, yet only getting his toes wet.

With this on his resume, he ventures into another city.  A man with leprosy approaches him.  Jesus should have been concerned.  If nothing else, the wise thing for him to do would be to keep a safe distance.

Leprosy was a formidable disease in Jesus’ day.  Society was extremely fearful of the contagion.  Even the Bible spoke openly about it.  Leviticus 13 and 14 declares it a disease that makes a person “unclean “until a priest walks the diseased through proper ritual cleansing and can confidently pronounce it gone.

Until a leper is healed and designated clean, they are relegated an outcast.  Unfit for society.  A threat to humanity.  Human contact was forbidden.

Jesus should have known better.  Certainly, he recognized the sores all of the man’s body. It had to be obvious.

The leprous man humbly, yet desperately, approaches Jesus like a servant to a king.  Head bowed and eyes down, he begs, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.”

Bold move.  This is the type of scene you might expect body guards to step forward wielding swords.  “Back up.  Don’t take one step further,” they might say to the leper.  “Now, stand up straight.  Turn around.  Walk away slowly and never speak to anyone again.  Or else.”  

Not so with Jesus.  He explodes expectations.

Jesus defies culture and orthodoxy.  He stretches out his hand, touches the man and declares him clean.

That’s not in the priests’ ritual handbook.  You could call a foul on Jesus.  He isn’t playing by the rules.

He touched an “unclean” person.  As such, he is now also unclean.

Jesus is okay with it.  He shows no concern.  He is well aware of his actions and their repercussions.  To him, it’s worth it.

By touching this man (the first person to offer human contact for who knows how long), Jesus not only shows compassion; he makes himself part of the leper’s uncleanness.  Jesus becomes unclean so that the man may be cleansed.  Jesus enters into and suffers “uncleanness” in order to redeem it.  

For this, the man is thankful.

A miracle.  First, that Jesus has the power to heal.  Second, and maybe more importantly, that Jesus is willing to absorb our sickness in order to make us well again.

Speaking truthfully, we could all use a cleansing.  You (I) bear an ugliness that needs a cure.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful Jesus becomes unclean to make me clean.

Learning the Simplicity of Story

I grab any and every opportunity to learn about the nature and power and significance of story.  Today, I discovered a useful breakdown of the key story elements presented in a simple, accessible format.

The context is marketing.  I am not a marketer.  Still, I am intrigued by this unique perspective on story.

I am not sure how you might use it, or if you will.  If you discard it completely, that’s okay.  I didn’t want to pass an opportunity to share it with you.

Thank you Copyblogger for providing great content!

Here you go, enjoy:

The Amazingly Simple Anatomy of a Meaningful Marketing Story [Infographic]Like this infographic? Get content marketing training from Copyblogger Media that will give you an unfair business advantage.

Learning the Power of a Clear Vision

LOL 2015This December marks the 10th Anniversary of Highland Park Church’s Christmas event called Lights of Lakeland.  In a decade, it has grown to a point of attracting over 30,000 visitors.  A pretty big deal, if you ask anyone who’s put together a community event.

Why has it experienced such great success?  Clear vision.  From the beginning, the goal has been to create the city’s best family Christmas experience free of charge.  That’s right, I said free.  It is a gift to the community.

How is this possible?  Two necessities:  (1)  Team buy-in, and (2) Volunteer support.

The power of a clear vision is what brings these two groups together.  When people can imagine a specific, desirable future together, they will commit their energy to create something extraordinary.

It starts with team buy-in.

A leader with a clear vision inspires a team to buy-in to an idea.

Our team is bought in.  Our team starts working on building the set before Halloween.  Everyday for nearly two months they work hard painting, swinging hammers, climbing ladders, hanging lights, and organizing scenes.

The other part of our team goes to work recruiting volunteers at about the same time.  Close to three-hundred volunteers are recruited each night for six nights during two consecutive weekends.

Volunteers include:

  • Cast members (200 nightly)
  • Parking (40 nightly)
  • Electrician (4 nightly)
  • Food Service (20 nightly)
  • First Aid (2 nightly)
  • Shuttle Host (12 nightly)
  • Photographer (4 nightly)
  • Prayer station (12 nightly)
  • Overnight security (1 nightly)
  • General store (8 nightly)
  • Puppeteer (4 nightly)
  • Military scene (6 nightly)
  • Sound Engineer (4 nightly)
  • Greeter (40 nightly)
  • Security (2 nightly)
  • Photo orders (2 nightly)
  • Photo processing (10 nightly)
  • Costumes (8 nightly)
  • Sweet Shoppe (6 nightly)
  • Make-up Artist (6 nightly)

It rests on volunteers.

Without volunteers, the event would fall flat.  There is no way we could pull it off the live event with just our team.

A team who is bought into a clear vision will pass it on to their volunteers, who will then catch it for themselves.

This is true for us every year.  We have volunteers who donate their time all 6 nights.  That equates to be about 30 hours of service.

The power of a clear vision is the potential to accomplish more than the ordinary.  

Don’t believe me?  Visit Highland Park Church in Lakeland, FL on December 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13 from 6:30-9pm.  It’s our gift to you. 

 

Learning the Root of Hypocrisy

Kirra's Pumpkin
On my desk at work sits a small, decorated pumpkin made by my 8 year old daughter.  Yes, it’s two weeks past Halloween.  And yes, it is decomposing.  It doesn’t have a rotten smell, yet.  It is a bit squishy on one side, though.

She picked it up from our front porch on the way to church.  We were already running late when my daughters stopped me with a shout at the end of our driveway.  “Daddy, we forgot our pumpkins,” they cried out.  “It’s our special “pumpkin decorating” event at kids church.  We have to get our pumpkins.”

The significance of running late for church on a Saturday night for our family is much greater than most.  I am the pastor for this service.  It’s not as appropriate for me to slip in the back of the sanctuary two songs into the worship set.  I need to be there.  And, I need to be there an hour early.

An hour early has already passed at this point.  I am hoping to make it thirty minutes before the hour.  We rushed out of the house.  I am speeding out of the garage and down the driveway.  Blood pressure is spiking for all three of us.  That’s when my daughters remember the pumpkins.

I stop in front of our house.  “Hurry.  Hop out and grab a pumpkin by the front door,” I say.  My oldest grabs the smaller, more convenient pumpkin.  My youngest does the same.  Halfway back to the car, she turns around.  She marches over to our patio like it’s a pumpkin patch.  She sets the small one down and starts sizing up the bigger ones.

It’s obvious what she’s thinking.  She wants a big pumpkin.  To be exact, she wants the biggest pumpkin.  The one too big for her to carry.  She makes an attempt to pick it up.  Not happening, though.

I shout from the car, “Let’s go.  Pick up the small one.  We’re going to be late.”  If you’re a parent, you know what comes next.  She bursts into tears like it’s the end of the world.  I don’t have time for a fit at the moment.  I put the car in park.  I get out, run over to her, pick up the big pumpkin, and throw it in the back.  Off we go.

It all worked out fine.  I wasn’t too late.  The kids decorated pumpkins.  I didn’t lose my mind.

I can laugh, now that we’re three weeks removed.  It’s hilarious to see again in my mind’s eye my youngest daughter struggle to pick up the big pumpkin.  She was determined.  There was just no way.  She couldn’t do it.  Pound for pound, it was beyond her capacity.  Had I let her struggle with it very long, the result would have been a complete melt down.  To her credit, she did give it a try.

You are probably thinking, “What does this have to do with hypocrisy?”

Well, the root of hypocrisy is asking someone to carry something that is bigger than anyone can handle.  It is imposing on others a requirement even you can’t fulfill.

In Acts 15, some Jewish believers held major concerns about the conversion of Gentiles.  The concern isn’t so much that Gentiles are becoming believers.  The issue is defining what is necessary for the faith of Gentiles to be legitimated.

Those most concerned interrupted a meeting with church leaders to say, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5, NRSV).  It only seems fair to expect of Gentiles what has been expected of Jews, right?  Why make it any easier or discard ancient tradition?  Isn’t that dumbing it down and jeopardizing the integrity of God’s people?

The leaders meet to sort matters out.  Peter stands to plead his perspective.  He emphasizes God’s special call on him to share the good news of Jesus with the Gentiles.  He highlights God’s act of giving the Gentiles the Holy Spirit, just as God gave to the Jews.  “God does not make a distinction,” he submits.

Peter asks,

Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear?  On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”  Acts 15:10-11 (NRSV)

There it is.  The root of hypocrisy is placing a burden on others that you can’t bear.  

How can you avoid hypocrisy taking root in your life?

Regularly and honestly admit your own imperfections.

You will not get everything right all the time.  You will have moments when you make a mistake or fall short.  It’s okay, we all do.  Just admit it.

This eliminates the distinctions we make for ourselves.  It prevents you from elevating yourself to a status of moral superiority.

Avoid singling out certain sins.

Sin is sin.  There’s no scale.  One isn’t more depraved than the others.  God doesn’t spotlight one to the exclusion of others.

Singling out certain sins makes them seem more gross.  It is normally done to relieve a pressure you feel and displaces it onto others.

Give the same grace to others that God gives to you.

You can’t earn God’s love.  God forgives you despite your inability to get it all right.  Jesus didn’t patronize your imperfection from a position of perfection.

Giving grace to others acknowledges your common humanity with others.  We are in this together.  You need grace.  I need grace.

This eliminates the temptation to label sin.  Grace is less concerned about calling the sin out, and more interested in healing the wounds it has left.

Let’s all be honest.  I (You) can be a hypocrite.

The root runs deep.  You can dig it out and chop it up, but somehow it sprouts a new shoot again.

To minimize deep growth, regularly:

  • Admit your own imperfections.
  • Avoid singling out sins.
  • Give grace.  

 

 

Learning a Parent Fail Can Be Vindicated

My kids’ school strongly encourages students to participate in a half mile race.  It’s a weekend, city-wide event.  The motivation is an award given to the school with the most students represented.

It is a Saturday morning run starting at 8am.  Ugh.  I don’t want to do this thing.  I’ve tried all week to talk my daughters out of it.  I was unsuccessful.

On a weekend day when we should be sleeping in, we wake up at 7am.  We leave the house at 7:45am.  A feeling of urgency sweeps over all of us.  Did I mention the adults are running a Half-Marathon?  Well they were, and their route is blocking my every turn the whole way there.

I take several detours and eventually make it within the vicinity of the event.  I park in someone’s yard, halfway on the sidewalk one block away from the race.  We walk-run through wet grass toward the crowd of people.  I can’t find checkin.

It is now 8am.  We are redirected to a building at the top of a hill for checkin.  There are about 20 checkin lines all which are nearly 20 people deep.  Stress and anxiety levels are almost maxed out at this point.  My kids and I are positive the race will start without us.

Thankfully, the races are postponed. We make it.

Let me reiterate, the race is close to half a mile.  I’m wondering if grade school kids can handle this distance.  Now, my nerves shift to concern for my daughters ability to make it all the way around.

My Kindergartener runs first.  I spot her on the last turn. I recognize her pink hat.  She’s in 8th or 9th place at this point.  She is gaining on everyone.  She passes one, then another, then another.  When she makes it to me, which is about 50 yards from the finish, she is in third place.  I look at the guy next to me, who says, “Looks like she just placed.”

I am so excited.  She has no idea until I tell her.  Her eyes light up with an awareness that she gets a trophy.

Now, we have to wait until all the other grades finish their races.  11 races.  We wait.  The races are over and we still wait.  The MC announces awards will start in 15 minutes.  After what felt like an eternity, the awards begin.

The man with the microphone says, “third place for Kindergarten girls is _____________”  – Not my daughter!  He didn’t say my daughter’s name.  She has a devastated look on her face.  Immediately, I grab her hand to leave.  I am embarrassed.  I am sad.  I am mad at myself.  She’s in tears.  She wants an explanation. I tell her it could be my fault, “maybe I miscounted?”

Halfway to the car she says, “This is the worst day ever.  As a parent, I need to make this right, so I ask, “Do you want to get a donut?  You choose where?”  The donut proves effective in calming the emotions down a bit.

Finally we make it home around noon.  We’re climbing out of my jeep.  I remind the girls to grab everything out of the jeep to take into the house.  My youngest looks at her older sister and says,

“Yeah, get everything out of the car except a trophy😩”

In my book, I consider the whole experience a parent fail.  I told my daughter she won third place and would receive an award.  We walked away without a trophy and no explanation.

It took a couple days, but we put it behind us.  Then, a Facebook message surprised us all.  It was from an adult friend who completed the half-marathon that same day.  She was at the finish line just after Mya made her third place finish.  She was also there that night when I told others about my fail.

Her message said:  “Mya TOTALLY got 3rd place.”  Attached to the message is a screenshot of the online, digital results to the race.

Mya's 3rd Place

My fail was vindicated.  I wasn’t crazy.  I didn’t miscount.  Mya truly earned third place.  I can explain to her it wasn’t my fault.

That’s all I need.  I am not mad at the race officials.  I don’t expect an apology.  I am not looking for recompense.  I am satisfied with the opportunity to celebrate, once again, my daughters accomplishment without doubt.

My parents own an awards business in Ohio.  I called them right away to ask a favor.  “Could you guys make a trophy for Mya?”  Of course, they answered “Yes.”  They added, “We will make sure it’s the biggest one.”

I have been a parent for 8 years.  I have failed many times, and will continue to have other such moments.  I’m learning that there will be some times when the fail is vindicated.  You will find reasonable proof to absolve you from owning the blame.

I’m also learning what’s really important isn’t whether I fail or not, it is the example I show for how to respond.  My kids need to see in me what it means to recover from and work through difficult situations in a way that is healthy and transformative.

I pray for God’s grace to help me be a parent who provides a redeeming example.

Learning Different Ways the Church Can Be the Hope of the World


TurkeyCommunication with Brooklyn (my wife) two of the past three weeks have primarily taken the form of text or FaceTime.  Normally I bemoan the downfall of society thanks to these electronic devices we carry with us everywhere.  Seasons like these help realize the value of modern technology.  Without it, I would be waiting for physical handwritten mail (what’s that, right?) to slowly make its way home with news of her travels.

Brooklyn is fulfilling a calling she received from God as a teenager.  She is living the reality of a dream God gave to her when she was sixteen.  God told her, “You will travel the world to care for women, children, and orphans.”  Twenty-one years later, she is doing just that.

Her most recent assignments have taken her to parts of the world whose timezones are 11 hours and 8 hours ahead of Lakeland, FL.  Long flights (like over 24 hrs long) and sketchy shuttle rides have taken her to destinations most of us can’t imagine.  Meeting her there were hundreds of pastors and young leaders from countries all over the world.

Through her work, I am learning different ways the Church is being the hope of the world.  In one message she wrote, “I held a Syrian refugee today.  I held hands with a pastor who takes care of 5,000 refugees.  I am getting closer to the places where God cares for the orphan.”  Beautiful.  The Church is the hope of the world in places we only hear about in the news.

Over FaceTime, she told me stories of the way this pastor and his wife care for 5,000 refugees.  Knowing the refugees come from situations of scarcity, the pastors’ primary goal is to offer security for their most basic needs.  They want to give each person in their care 20% more resources than they need.  With God’s help, they are doing it.

In an email message, she sent me a video clip of a young leader singing a worship song in the style of his own native culture.  The message she typed explained the video.  He is a leader who created one of the most popular TV shows to air in his country.  It was picked up by a network equivalent to our MTV.  It ran for 40 consecutive days due to instant popularity.  The name of the show is “Ask Me Anything About Jesus.”  

She also told me about a young youth pastor who passionately serves the youth in her country while enduring less than ideal circumstances.  Her husband initially came to her country on a work visa.  It recently expired.  This forced him to move back to his home country for an indefinite period of time until he is granted permission to reenter.  For months now, she continues to faithfully serve her calling to youth in one country while her husband lives in another.

Most recently, she sent me message saying, “I was prayed over in Arabic Today.”  Below that, she attached a picture of a large group of young leaders from several different countries.  Next to it, she inserted a happy, smiley face emoji.

Brooklyn is helping me learning how the Church can be the hope of the world in different ways.  It doesn’t all look or sound the same.  God’s imagination for God’s people creates endless expressions of hope in our world.  I pray God uses this awareness to give others the courage to embody the hope of the world in their own unique way.