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Blog – Renita

  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Church Today...

    Writing on Sunday, April 14 from Hawassa, Ethiopia, about a five-hour drive from Addis Ababa, situated on a beautiful lake.  Our DML Coordinator for Ethiopia, Yoseph, was to preach at one of our partner churches but he decided to stop at a park on our way to church.
    And then a funny thing happened...We stopped at a park to look at the lake and suddenly were surrounded by monkeys and storks.  Before I knew it, the black and white monkey in the photo jumped on my head in order to get better access to the food in my hand.  Having owned a monkey when we lived in Liberia, I wasn't completely taken aback.  But he was heavy.
    And then a memorable thing happened...Yoseph and Sitotaw then proposed that we go for breakfast on the side of the road - with fresh fish that was just caught that morning, fried on the side of the road and eaten with your hands.  It was delicious.  And it reminded us of what the disciples ate with Jesus after his resurrection - fish and bread.  And Paul Soper, who joined us in Ethiopia this past week, reminded us that when Jesus told the disciples to cast their net on the other side of the boat, and they caught 153 fish, it was symbolic of fishing for Gentiles instead of for Jews - 153 fish is a very specific number and it is believed to be the number of different kinds of fish that they were aware of at that time.
    And then an inspirational thing happened...When we finally got to church, we found that the service was going to include a wedding.  It was beautiful, fun and special to see.  But the highlight was listening to Yoseph preach.  He is a gifted preacher.  He is funny and entertaining, yet profound and inspirational.  We didn't understand everything he said as he preached in Amharic, but it didn't need translation to see that the crowd of 2000 people was hanging on his every word, laughing, engaged, shouting Amen, and being fed with the Word of God.  It was so good to see and hear.


    It was a very full and very good day.

    On Wednesday, we drive back to Addis and Paul leaves that night.  On Thursday, I will fly to Bhar Dar, northern Ethiopia, for meetings with our partners there.  I will then fly home on Friday night.

    It will have been six weeks since I left, seven weeks since I saw my husband Michael as he was on a trip before I left.

    I only will be home for three weeks before heading out again to Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, and Ghana.

    I hope you found joy in your day today as well!

    Sitotaw, Renita, Paul, Yoseph:  Photobombed by storks.
    Surrounded by storks - they really are not the most attractive birds...
    Cute little guy was at least polite enough to climb on the car, rather than on me.
  • Beauty in Addis Ababa

    Addis Ababa is a beautiful city of close to four million people, sitting at about 8000 feet above sea level.  It is a city of beautiful people, lovely views, great food, and cultural richness.  Ethiopian people seem to love Ethiopia (maybe that sounds obvious but there are many people who don't like their own country).  We have heard a number of Ethiopians tell us that if they were given a chance to live anywhere in the world, they would choose Ethiopia.  That tells you something about this place.

    Last year witnessed some amazing changes in Ethiopia, with a new prime minister who is allowing for freedom of speech, has brokered peace with Eritrea, and has given the whole country hope for the future.  Additionally, a new female president was brought in last year, and women represent more than 50% of the government.

    But no-one would say that Ethiopia is perfect.  No country is.  Although Ethiopia is set to have one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, this reality is in part true because they are starting from such a low level.  On the Human Development Index, Ethiopia ranks 173 out of 189 countries.  The per capita income is $783 (compared to the US which is approximately $31,000).

    Only 4% of the population in Addis Ababa are Protestant, while 82% are Orthodox Christian.  To say the Orthodox faith varies greatly from the Protestant view of how we are to live and worship would be an understatement.

    Predictions are that Addis Ababa will be a city of more than six million in the near future.

    Addis Ababa is a city with more than 100,000 homeless people, and at least 18,000 of those are children under the age of eighteen.  People can be seen sleeping on the sidewalk everywhere, every day.

    One of the many reasons for this high rate of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing for those moving to urban areas from rural ones.  Additionally, safe housing with basic needs such as running water and electricity are also in short supply.  According to one study, 75% of the total population in Addis is living in overcrowded or dilapidated structures.

    But another key reason is the lack of jobs and the high unemployment rate.  As we often say in DML, we need to train job makers, not just job seekers.

    One of DML's partners in Ethiopia is an organization called Kibir (http://www.kibirconsultants.org), which means "glory" in Amharic, who is doing just that - creating job makers.  Kibir is working in a number of different areas, and they took us to visit one special partner this past week.  A businessman, in his mid-thirties, who owns a construction and a catering company, felt the call of the homeless on his life.  He decided to start a ministry that would daily feed breakfast to the homeless youth and lunch for homeless adults.  While we were visiting, about 20 pre-teen and teen boys were there for breakfast.  About 80 adults show up for lunch daily.  Showers are provided, as is a laundry area where they can wash their clothes.  The gospel message is shared at every meal through a full-time pastor who has now worked in this ministry for six years.  The work is very challenging especially with the youth, Pastor Jeremiah shared, as it can take years to develop a relationship to the point where they will change their living situation.

    Kibir is now working with this ministry to provide business training skills to the participants in this program.  Pastor Jeremiah pointed out that many of the homeless adults have a business or are even employed full-time but are still unable to afford housing.  Kibir hopes to help them increase their earnings by teaching the DML business training to them.  Misikir Aliku is the National Coordinator for Kibir and speaks with great excitement about the connection from working with churches, to training business members, to their potential impact in the community.

    From the 27 people trained in their first training with this ministry for the homeless, 15 people came together, pooled their individual loans of 3000 birr (about $100 USD) and started a car wash.  The government even gave them land.  This car washing company is running well, with mentoring and consultation provided by Kibir.

    Some of the Principle Objectives of Kibir:
  • To see disciples of Jesus loving our neighbors and showing God’s goodness through our behavior as His people within the marketplace/workplace.
  • To see many more business people in Ethiopia prepared and sent by the Ethiopian church to tell people of Christ and share his love, recognizing their God-given skills and experience in business. 
  •  To do all this in a manner which will serve the local church and honor Christ. This is business with integrity and excellence. In particular, we would want to express the work as the single body of Christ, while recognizing our diversity of backgrounds and emphases. 
  • This is just one story of many that I heard from Kibir as it relates to the impact they are having.  Kibir is one of the beautiful parts of Addis.  In March, they trained 23 new trainers for the DML program.  We are blessed to be partnered with them!  Please pray for them and for their ministry as it grows!
  • Heart-breaking and Back-breaking

    On Saturday morning, I worked with my students on their income and expenditure analysis and the budget that they formed for their family (we work on both personal as well as organizational/church budgeting).

    One pastor showed me his budget, which wasn't balancing, and we looked for options of where he could reduce expenses to help his budget balance.  I noticed he had about $33 in his food budget for the month and asked him how many people that was supporting.  He said six people...and added that it wasn't enough.  Not an option for cutting expenses.

    Another pastor had 50% of his income going to rent. No wonder it was difficult for him to balance his budget.

    Three of my students aren't working - they are all adults in their late 20s to early 50s - and are trying to survive on about $100/month.

    Very tough to make ends meet.

    Not only that, but a key difference between African budgets and American budgets is the number of lines for generous giving.  In the US, we usually have one budget line for gifts and offerings.  In the budgets I use here, there is a line for tithe, a line for offerings, a line for family contributions, a line for community contributions, and a line for giving to the poor.  And there is usually something filled in for every line.  One student had 10% for tithe, 36% for family contributions, and about 5% for the others.  Over 50% of his income was given away.

    I finished working with the students on their assignments and left my classroom to go back to the guesthouse.  On my way out, there was a bazaar going on at the Evangelical Theological College with lots of different arts and crafts being sold.  They were closing up and so I quickly stopped to pick up a few gifts to take home with me and then rushed to the van.

    On my wayback to the guesthouse, I realized that what I spent on gifts - without even thinking - was about the same amount that the one pastor spends on groceries for a whole month for his family of six.

    Ugh.

    That sick feeling crept in again.

    What was I thinking, buying those gifts right after working with these challnges?  What can I do?  How is this fair?  Where is the justice?  I can help some of them out for a month or two but then what?  And what about the conversation we just had in class about how aid can create dependency?

    They weren't complaining.  They wanted to figure out how to be stewards with their resources.

    I hate poverty.  I hate the struggle that so many have to go through every day to survive. I hate how slow progress is in addressing poverty, the opportunity to work and provide for themselves, and for people not just to survive but to thrive. The selfie I have posted here is from Mount Entoto (just outside of Addis) where woman after woman is seen walking down this mountain with this huge pack of wood on their back.  Where there was a guard rail to keep cars from going over the mountain, they would take the opportunity to rest their load.  Backbreaking work.  And my guess is that the profit is very small.

    We had just watched a portion of the Poverty Cure in the class, where Mohammad Unus says, "Human beings are not animals.  Animals are the ones who go around and look for food all day, and then get tired and sleep, and the next day begin in search of food. Human beings are created for a much higher purpose - to take care of the whole planet and take it forward."

    While China and India have seen millions of people come out of extreme poverty, Sub-Saharan Africa has actually seen an increase of people in extreme poverty. Watch this clip from the Poverty Cure, which is one that inspires people so much across Africa when we show it.


    Yoseph Bekele (right), a DML trainer Tafese, and myself on Mt. Entoto, overlooking Addis.  One of the older Orthodox Churches in Ethiopia, on Mt. Entoto.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church represents about 43% of Ethiopians.  There are many challenges in this faith, for which there is a need for ongoing prayer.  Ethiopia has an amazingly rich history, being the first African nation to recieve both Christianity as well as Islam.

    Yoseph is doing amazing work as the Business as Mission coordinator for the Kale Heywet Church.  He drove us up the mountain in his car which he rolled three times just a few weeks earlier and yet walked away without a scratch.  He was able to repair it but it is having some issues.  If you would like to contribute to his car repairs so that he can continue to get this word out to 10,000 churches across Ethiopia, please go here and follow the instructions for giving.  
  • "I had to come to Africa to hear an American woman speak about 'Work as Worship'!"

    This was a quote from an El Salvadorian woman who joined the ICM-USA team to do some work in Kitale, Kenya.  She has lived in the US for twenty years and joined our workshop for the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) on Friday morning.  She was amazed by this message which had eluded her in the church.  It's amazing to see how God weaves His people together from different walks of life, in different parts of the world!
    As I mentioned last week, we had the privilege to present the message of Discipling Marketplace Leaders to the ACK Kitale Diocese (Anglican) this past week.  This diocese has 62 parishes, with each parish having about five churches, and a total of 97 priests.  This is about three hundred churches with approximately 4000 members.  The Diocese voted unanimously to accept DML as one of their ministry partners as it became clear that we would help them achieve various aspects of three of their main goals:  spiritual, societal, and stewardship.  It was an exciting time with these priests who interacted with us with great enthusiasm for the message.

    The Right Reverend Dr. Emmanuel Chemengich, pictured with Dr. Walker, is the Bishop of this Diocese.  Prior to becoming the Bishop, he was the first African head of ACTEA which is the accrediting body of theological education in Africa.  Prior to that, he was the principal of Africa Theological Seminary, where I have been teaching since 2013.  So we go back a ways. Not only is he a wise, godly man, he also has a great sense of humor.

    Bishop Chemengich gave the Commencement Address at the ATS graduation on Saturday and he said a few things that I would like to reference here.  He reminded the graduates that the first person they must lead is themselves, and that requires self-discipline.  He defined "self-discipline" as doing what you NEED to do even when you don't WANT to do it.  He reminded us that most marriages, pastors, leaders, businesses, etc, fail mostly because of a lack of self-discipline than any other issue.  It is critical that we learn this.  He reminded us that having a good start (good education, a loving family, etc) helps, but a good finish is dependent on self-discipline.  To have a good finish takes courage, and he reminded us that you will never see courage in someone who is comfortable.  To learn courage means you will be uncomfortable.  This was a good message not only for the graduates but for all of us.

    We also had the privilege of giving out Africa Study Bibles to all the priests in attendance from the ACK.  Below we have some pictures of the Bibles being given out by Dr. Walker as well as Rev. Dave Champness (President of ICM-USA).  Again, we are so thankful to those of you who donated to this!  Allowing people to study the Word with notes that were designed for their context is of great importance.  Not having that is like people from North America reading a Study Bible that was designed for China.  It doesn't really fit.  We pray that this Bible will be a blessing to those who have received it!

    I am now in Ethiopia where I will be for about four weeks yet.  We start by teaching at the Evangelical Theological College, and then will go into a training of trainers for DML, followed by some workshops.  Thank you for your prayers!




  • "Church begins on Monday...

    "Church begins on Monday...Sunday is garage time."

    This is a quote from a Kenyan Marketplace Minister.  This is one of many analogies that we hear about the need to change how we define the Church.

    She went on to describe that Sunday is the day for the vehicle (ourselves) to be refueled, have oil changes, or minor repairs.  But being the light of Christ begins when we leave the building and become the Church scattered, shining the light in places of darkness, which desperately need the light.

    Others say that church is like a cell-phone recharging place.  If we don't turn our phone on after recharging, if we don't use it, what good does it do?  We can come back and recharge each week when the Church gathers, but we need to actually use the phone during the week.

    Or church is like a warship rather than a cruise ship.  The purpose of the warship doesn't take place on the ship - it is where-ever the war is being fought.  Soldiers come to the ship for rest, healing, fellowship, and for new orders.  A cruise ship's purpose of rest and fellowship is found on the ship, but the ship ceases to exist for customers as soon as they step off the ship.

    And so on.

    Bishop Berrings, myself, and colleague Steve KennedyLight bulbs relating to this were going off this week with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, where the Senior Bishop, Bishop Berrings, called his five bishops together from the various regions of Tanzania, along with some other key leaders in the church to hear the message of Discipling Marketplace Leaders.  And now they are ready to disseminate this throughout their denomination. We thank God for this open door and positive response.  We also met the head of this denomination who oversees the work throughout Africa and he too was very interested in seeing this in other countries as well.

    Recently one of our faithful prayers of DML had a vision while praying about this work.  He saw Christ hovering over the Marketplace, beckoning us to come.  As we prayed about this and asked God to reveal His message to us in this vision, it became clear that at times we feel like we are bringing Christ to the Marketplace.  But He is already there.  He beckons us and invites us to join Him, with arms wide open.  In DML, we say that Christ has redeemed the Marketplace and we are to reclaim it, but we (or maybe I) sometimes feel like there is such darkness or abandonment of the Marketplace by the Church that we actually need to bring Him there.  And of course, that is not true.  We need to continue to look (and we do find!) for where He is already working and join Him in that work.

    We also need to remember that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  If we had to bring Christ to the Marketplace, that would be a heavy yoke.  But when we are invited to join Him where He already is shining the light, it is much easier.

    May God continue to grant us wisdom and discernment to find those partners in the faith, to grow the light of Christ in the Marketplace!

    I am now in Kenya, where this week we will have the opportunity to present this message to about 100 vicars from the Anglican Church of Kenya, Kitale Diocese.  We are very excited to be able to present each of them an Africa Study Bible.  Thanks so much to all of you who contributed to these Bibles - I know they will provide great meaning to these pastors as they minister the word of God!

    The bishops, pastors and church leaders in Iringa, Tanzania
    View from the 12-seater plane - Tanzania is a beautiful country, with more animals per square mile than any other country in the world!
  • The Brevity of Life: A Little Too Close for Comfort

    I landed in Addis Ababa at around 7 am on Sunday morning, after a 14 hour flight from Chicago.  That plane was quite full and fourteen hours is a long time to be in such close proximity with so many people.  You hear stories from people as you wait to board, as you stand in line, as you wait to take-off, when you land, and when you de-plane.

    Once in Addis, all of us in transit headed wearily to our next gates to wait for our next flight.  The same woman, who had pushed by people getting on and off our plane, was pushing ahead again.  What was her hurry?  The young man who shared that he had put his life contents in storage to spend one month in Kenya to see how it worked out strolled to the gate with the young woman he had been talking to - I don't think they were together though.  The mom with the very busy and very cute little two or three year old daughter (who spent much of the flight squealing and laughing - which is SO much better than crying) hustled to the gate as well.

    Gate 8 was the flight to Nairobi, Gate 9 was my flight to Dar Es Salaam.

    Right after they had boarded for their flight to Nairobi, we were called to begin boarding our flight.  Once we were all on the plane, we sat and waited.  And waited.  We were told that we would be waiting for about 45 minutes.  I thought it a bit strange as I didn't see a line of planes waiting to take off, and we were staying right in the place where we had boarded - not taxiing up the runway to get in a queue.

    But we finally started moving and I did my best to read another paper for my dissertation before catching a few winks.

    Once in the airport in Dar Es Salaam, my phone began buzzing.  I love that my phone knows enough airports that it just automatically connects (as I'm always on airplane mode when I travel and have to rely on Wifi).  After clearing immigration, I waited for my luggage and checked my phone.

    Breaking news from BBC:  Ethiopian flight from Addis to Nairobi crashed and there are no survivors.

    I immediately felt sick.  I had just seen those people.  Just stood next to them.  Just talked to some. Just overheard some of their conversations.  And now, they are dead.  Gone.  Pictures from the crash site show absolutely nothing left from this plane that was less than four months old, and had only been airborn for this particular flight for about six minutes.

    And then the thought occured that it could have been my plane that crashed.  The plane that crashed had just flown in from South Africa that morning.  So this wasn't a regular back and forth flight.  It could have just as easily been assigned to Dar Es Salaam.

    And I start thinking about Michael.  And my kids who have already lost their dad.  I have never feared planes - I actually enjoy turbulence as its a bit like a roller coaster ride - and I would be happy to go down in a plane (as opposed to the slow decline my poor father is experiencing).  But I would have an issue with leaving my kids parentless for the rest of their lives.  Or Michael as a widower.

    As I drove in the taxi to the guest house, I had to keep telling myself to stop thinking about it or I was afraid I would have to tell the driver to pull over so that I could be sick.  Once in my room, I let myself think and process and grieve.

    I'm now thinking that we were waiting to take off because the news of the crash was getting to all pilots and maybe they had to wait to rule out terrorism before letting more planes fly.  (In hindsight, I'm a little uncomfortable that we only had to wait 45 minutes...)  I wonder if the flight attendents knew and had to keep a brave face, knowing their colleagues just died - or whether they were not told.  It seemed to get out on the news pretty quickly.

    And I think about those families from 33 different nations receiving this news with horror, unbelief, and fear.

    And then my mind shifts to the team of people that are joining us in Kenya in this next week, many of whom will take that same flight from Addis to Nairobi, and some of whom will be coming to Africa for the first time.  

    The brevity of life.  We all know it.  We all lament it when we hear of such tragedies.  But every now and then it hits a bit close to home.  Close enough to create some discomfort in the heart despite the logic in the head.

    We recognize how quickly life can just be over.  We know that to live is Christ and to die is gain.  We know that we have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.

    The sound mind reminds us that Ethiopian Airlines has a very good track record of aviation safety.  This plane was only four months old (that is troubling for other reasons) - this was not negligence.  Love says that we continue to do what God has called us to do despite the risk.  The power of God reminds us that He is in control - we are to be obedient.

    Please pray for the families who lost loved ones as well as the team that will be traveling from the US to Nairobi this week.  And please pray for the investigation team that is going to be looking into why two new Boeing 737 Max have crashed shortly after take-off in the last five months.  Answers will make us all feel a bit safer about traveling.
  • Replication...and a request for Africa Study Bibles

    On Saturday, I leave for a longer trip (six weeks) to East Africa, starting in Tanzania, then to Kenya, then to Ethiopia.  It feels like I just got home...in part because in some ways I did just get home, but also there was a good amount of travel while I was home these past three weeks.

    As the schedule for DML continues to intensify and the requests from churches and schools grows, it can feel overwhelming at times to try to figure out how we are going to replicate ourselves so that we can build capacity in local leadership and not have to respond to each request.

    And then I get up in the morning and find a couple of dozen pictures from our partner in Ethiopia, Yoseph Bekele, of the many churches and pastors that he has been speaking, teaching, and preaching to in the last few weeks.  And it is so encouraging, because I know that he is SO much more effective than us in that he speaks Amharic and there is no need for clunky translation.

    Then I get up another day and I find a dozen pictures from our partner in Liberia, Lisa Travis, who feels so led to speak about DML that she has gone beyond Liberia to Sierra Leone to teach a number of groups there.  And I see the smile on her face as she teaches and have heard from her about the need that DML meets in her heart in serving the Lord, and it makes me smile.

    So let me share some pictures with you from both Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.

    And you can join us in thanking God for protecting Yoseph's life - he sent me an email with pictures on Wednesday in which he had rolled his car yet emerged without a scratch.  The subject line of his email?  "It is God."

    One of the groups Yoseph spoke to recently in Ethiopia.
    I love to see the DML materials in Amharic.  But we also use nesting dolls to illustrate the point about how we are discipled toward family and membership in the institutional church, but not toward how to be the church in the workplace or the Marketplace.  I love that Yoseph has turned the dolls faces away, just as we do when we teach it.  
    Another large group of people getting the message that Work is Worship!
    Yoseph is in the center of this group that he recently trained.
    His car, which was able to protect him, as he uses it to serve the Lord.And now some pictures from Sierra Leone:

    This woman is pointing out which maize is able to glorify God, as we remind ourselves that we are to preach the gospel to the whole creation.  I love Lisa's smile on this picture as she seems to be thoroughly enjoying teaching.
    Lisa teaching in Sierra Leone.
    Lisa with one group in Sierra Leone.
    Group work and Bible study is an important part of our workshops.  We need to ensure that what we are being taught is Biblical!Lisa with another group in Sierra Leone.

    I do have a request:  On March 21 and 22, we will be working with the Kitale Diocese of the Anglican Church of Kenya, with about 80 pastors.  We have been asked by the Bishop if we could bring Africa Study Bibles for each of them and we are looking for people who might want to contribute for one or more Bibles. This Bible, printed by our friends at Oasis Publishing, has study notes focused on the leaders in Africa.  Most of the notes were written by African scholars to help leaders see Christianity with fresh eyes. 

    I would like to invite you to join me.  Our target is to raise $2,000 for 80 Bibles ($25 per Bible and includes shipping and handling).  There are two options:  
  • First you can send a check to ICM, PO Box 129, Monument CO 80132 and include a note that it is for "Discipling Marketplace Leaders - Africa Bibles - #609045.
  • The second option is to go to here and follow the prompts.  Please select Discipling Marketplace Leaders in the dropbown, and in the comment box put in "Africa Study Bible".
  • If/when you donate PLEASE drop me a note telling me how much you donated.  This is very important for tracking purposes.  Below is some comments about the Africa Study Bible:
    God's Word through African Eyes.
    The Africa Study Bible brings together 350 contributors from over 50 countries, providing a unique African perspective. It's an all-in-one course in biblical content, theology, history, and culture, with special attention to the African context. Each feature was planned by African leaders to help readers grow strong in Jesus Christ by providing understanding and instruction on how to live a good and righteous life:
    • Over 2600 notes explain the Bible, inspire readers to apply truth to everyday life, teach Christian values and doctrine, and more.
    • "Touchpoints" and "Proverbs and Stories" give African perspective on the Bible and also show parallels with African wisdom.
    • A narrative timeline highlights God's work in Africa.
    Thank you for your consideration and for being part of the team:  teaching, training, and discipling leaders!
  • Muddy Water

    This past Friday was the second Work as Worship Retreat, put on by RightNow Media.  While I was disappointed that my church decided not to participate, I was thankful that across the country more than 11,000 people participated in many local churches.  I'm additionally excited that RightNow Media is partnering with Discipling Marketplace Leaders to replicate the Work as Worship Retreat in the countries where we are working in Africa in May of this year.  It is a great event to explore the concept of doing work as an act of worship, and it then opens the door to go from that event to the next step with people in discipleship.

    Francis Chan started the day talking about watching people washing clothes in muddy water or even drinking muddy/murky water.  He reflected on how that muddy and murky water must be doing something or people wouldn't be using it.  Somehow it is cleaning the clothes.  Somehow it is relieving thirst. But that water can't be doing all it could do, were the water to be clear.  He was comparing it to his teaching, which is like muddy water, as opposed to hearing directly from the word of God, which is like clean, pure water.

    I felt that way about many of the speakers of the day.  And also about myself.  Much of what we do is presenting muddy water.  It can do some good - it can accomplish something - but nothing like the penetrating word of God.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." (NLT)

    And that is what I love about the message of DML.  This is not a new message or our own ideas but it brings us back to what God intended in the beginning.  We present it through the medium of muddy water, but we point to the pure water of life that will cause people never to thirst again.

    1 Corinthians 3:4 says this though:  "For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another says, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere human beings?" Paul is pointing to something greater within each of us who have agreed to follow Jesus.  He is challenging us to understand that we are not to behave like mere humans, as we have been given the Spirit of God which exists in and through us, manifesting to speak to the common good.
    1 Corinthians 12:7 reminds us that "to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."  To each one.  Not just to those who work in churches.  Not just to those who work in Christian non-profits.  To every person.  We are to remember that we are to demonstrate the spirit and power of the Living God, not acting as mere humans.  We are not to do this with arrogance however, as 1 Corinthians 1:17 and 2:2 says, but with fear and trembling.

    Francis Chan also shared the story of when he started his first house church and watched it grow from 10 to 20 people, from 20 to 50, from 50 to 100, then to 1000, then to 2500, then to 5000.  As they reached capacity in their building, growth began to slow down, to maybe 100 people per year.  He said this about that time:  "People were coming to church but just sitting there.  And it was costing a fortune to have them just come and sit there.  I had a sales force of 5000 and we were making 100 sales per year.  If I was in the workplace, I would be fired because I'm a terrible sales manager.  I'm spending a fortune on running this church for 5100 people but I'm not getting a return on my investment."

    I read recently that in the last twenty years, the institutional church in North America spent $530 billion dollars on itself and didn't increase the percentage of Christians by even one percent - some even argue that the percentage is decreasing.  Globally, the percentage of Christians in 1970 was 33.4% and by 2018, it was 33.0%.  Now, just as the population in the world has grown, the number of Christians has grown from 1.1 billion in 1970 to 2.4 billion in 2018.  (By contrast, the percentage of Muslims in the world grew from 19% in the 1970s to 27% in 2018.)

    A return on investment in the church.  Members as part of the sales force of Jesus Christ.  Can we talk about such terms with the institutional church?

    I think we can and I think we need to.  The message received on a Sunday morning needs to be turned into application and transformation throughout the week, otherwise it is simply information.

    What would happen if churches were more intentional about discipling people to do their work as an act of worship?  I am talking about real discipleship - not just preaching on the topic once or twice in a year.  Many pastors and church leaders say they do this for their members, but many members I talk to do not agree.  It is rarely reflected in official programming of the church and even more rarely reflected in the budget (which is where the church's real commitments can often be seen).

    Churches spend a lot of time helping to develop our personal relationship with God and with others, both of which are very important.  But our relationship to work and the creation was part of the curse as well and the workplace is where we spend most of our adult lives.  This relationship needs to be restored.  Christ has redeemed it - we need to reclaim it.  To not speak to this issue in our churches in an intentional way is causing a great gap and lost opportunities.

    Muslims have figured out how to integrate their faith and their work.  There has not been the same dichotomy between what is sacred and secular.  For Christians, it's not too late for us to begin doing this more intentionally as well.

    We may do it with muddy water.  We should do it with fear and trembling.  But we should also remember that we are not "mere humans."  We have the capacity with our muddy water to point people to the Living Water.
  • A Tribute to Bob's Mom, Lucille Cain Reed Mosher

    As I travelled home from Cameroon on Sunday and Monday, I received a text message that Bob's mom, my mother-in-law of 29 years, was not expected to live long.  She had been given two weeks to live before I left for West Africa, and my prayer had been that she would last until I got home.  I got home on Monday night and on Tuesday morning drove through the snow/ice of a winter storm to Cadillac to see her.  I had the priviledge to sit by her side until she passed on Wednesday at noon.  It was an honor to sit with her, sing to her, read to her, pray for her, massage her feet, and wet her lips.  She was unconscious the whole time but I was told she could still hear.  In some ways it felt like a divine appointment that I was able to get back in time to have that precious time with her.

    As the family has decided to just have a visitation service for her, I wanted to share my thoughts about this woman and decided that since this blog has been like a journal for me, I would share it here.  Maybe someday my grandchildren will want to know about their great-grandmother.
    I met Lucille in 1990, the year Bob and I started dating and married.  At that time, Lucille was married to her third husband, Keith.  Her first husband, Bob's dad, died in a house fire when Bob was three.  They had four children together.  Her second husband was Bob's uncle and they had two children together.  Her marriage to Keith lasted more than 25 years.
    Lucille was a bit of an enigma to me.  She was a very giving person - always making pies and cookies for people, helping to rake their yards, mow their lawns, shovel their snow.  She loved garage sales and was always picking things up for her kids and grandkids, or for neighbors and friends.  It was Bob's belief that because she had received so much after the house fire and her husband's death, that she wanted to give back.   I think it was just also a part of who she was and it helped define her.  But despite her love to help, she was not your stereotypical loving, giving person - not one for much flowery emotion or sentimental conversation.  She was a very no-nonsense, direct woman (if you knew Bob, that's where he probably got it from), and absolutely disliked talking about deep issues or emotions (and if you knew Bob, you knew that drove him nuts).  Her favorite response when asked about her thoughts or feelings on things was "I don't care."


    Often, if we pushed subjects to deep issues, she would quickly begin crying.  Bob believed that was because she kept burying emotions without processing, and so it didn't take much prodding to get to the underlying emotions that were there.  I was privileged to do an interview with her when I was working on my MSW and I learned things about her that Bob had no idea about.  For a few minutes, I was able to lift that curtain to see the complex woman underneath.
    Her faith was also a subject of debate between Bob and I.  She certainly was not a fan of "institutional religion" but Bob thought that she might have a private faith.  She acknowledged a belief in God but didn't go much further from what we could see.  Again, as she wouldn't entertain discussions of a deeper nature, it was difficult to have a good understanding of where she stood.
    When Bob died, I wanted to do for his mom and stepdad what he would do if he was still alive.  And, even though I was in Africa much of the time, I tried my best to help out and visit as much as I could.  When I spoke to her on Tuesday, I shared what I thought Bob would say if he was there.  As I did, a tear came out of her eye.  I would love to think that she has now met up with Bob in heaven and that they are doing some catching up together.

    Hannah and Noah lost their grandmother on Wednesday.  I hope they haven't lost their connection with their dad's side of the family.  Please keep them in your prayers as they process this loss in and of itself, along with the possible complications.

    Keith, Lucille, and Bob - maybe all three in heaven, catching up together.
    Lucille with five of her six children (2005).  Her daughter Brenda had passed away the year before (2004), and Bob died five years later (2010).  She is survived by four children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
  • Frustrated Eagerness

    "I want to tell you how this has changed me.  You need to hear the details."  She said this to me with an urgency, while sitting on the edge of her chair.  "The message that my work can be worship has been startling and invigorating at the same time.  I have taken it to my staff and they too are changing.  We had never even thought about the environmental bottom line before and now all of us are involved in caring for the environment.  But more than that, I want to teach churches about how to do better with their administration and finance.  They measure eve rything by the Great Commission, but do they not think that they will be held accountable for how they handled the money of the church?  They have not been trained in this and there is no accountability or responsible planning.  Can I use your materials to help train churches in my city?"

    She went on for about forty-five minutes with her ideas and her excitement.  She had been has been involved with Discipling Marketplace Leaders since July of last year but her understanding and her commitment to the message is deepening.

    She asked, "Are you okay with DML being used in this way?"  I answered, "This is not material that belongs to DML.  This is a Biblical truth from Genesis 1 and 2.  We don't own this.  This is for all of us, from our Heavenly Father to all of His children.  You should use this in the way that you feel called."

    She is the owner of a microfinance bank in Cameroon, with four branches in large cities.  She told me the story of the almost $50,000 she had to pay to be registered with the central bank, having to submit and resubmit documents over and over for whatever reason they could find to reject her applications, until she finally had to hire someone to do it for her.  She has no receipts for the $50,000 that she has paid.  But she can now do the work that she believes God has given her, to be salt and light to a people who are hurting and struggling in a difficult environment.

    Her home is in a city that has been closed due to a strike and she cannot return home until February 15.  All businesses have been forced to be closed for these two weeks.  She told me about the army trucks heading into her hometown while she and many others left prior to the strike starting.  News of shootings and killings trickled back to her each day while we were in trainings last week.  The stress of what is happening is just under the surface of the passion she feels in wanting to move forward with her calling.  Friday morning, news came to us that there were many arrests of Anglophones in Yaounde (where we were) as the trial of one of the separatists was getting under way at the courthouse.  Tension rose in the group, but especially with her.  She wants peace but also resolution.

    The tension of the "now, but not yet."  We see the potential to live out an aspect of the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," but we have to continue to deal with the fallen will of people around us.  We get excited to do our work as an act of worship, and then we are frustrated by those who prevent us from even going to work.

    Romans 8:21-23  ...With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.

    Here is a video that was put out last week about the struggle in Cameroon with the separatists.  It is a good video to watch to give an understanding of the challenges and how we can pray.  Thank you for reading and for praying.  We appreciate your support!