Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reeling and Rolling On

This weekend was so packed, so rich, so energetic, that I find myself sitting at the computer on Wednesday still wondering how to write about it.

A local church, Open Table Community, decided to replace its yearly retreat with a "Core practices weekend." This time was dedicated to engagement with each other and with the local community.

Most people have to do work like mine for years before they find others who buy into the same vision and are interested in both partnering in and reproducing it. Open Table clearly invited Ruthie and me to link them with the community, and several volunteers decided to either help with the afterschool program or move toward creating their own programs.

Now, aside from having two excellent new partners helping the kids with their homework, we are discussing ideas for computer classes, fitness clubs, and a community food co-op. We'll see where it all goes, but we've seen a lot of action from this group. They aren't just talkers.

I think people are generally empowered by looking at our work here. They see that this life of love, hospitality, and service is not only doable, but that it is often rewarding and enjoyable. I hope that we can see more of those who dream of helping others have the courage to stick their necks out and do it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Into a Home

Back in the old days, before a hoard of untamed children overran our apartment, we had seperate rooms for study/office work, sleeping, and movie viewing.

Now we have just one room of private space. We've been keeping things in piles or jammed into our closet for a while, but we recently decided to hunt for affordable ways to make our little space more homey.

Enter IKEA. First, we found a shelf and desk combo on sale that fit perfectly in our corner and consolidated DVD storage, book storage, and office space. My friend Jonathan led the effort to build it, and it transformed my work space:
Second, we found a set of CD shelves that mount on the wall, which is great because we have a shortage of floor space. They cost $5.99 each, and three provided more than enough room for my little collection. I organized my music and stored it like so:

Finally, we went to Goodwill and found a small couch that, unlike the futon we were using, didn't leave bruises on the butt and put the legs to sleep:
Thanks to these bargains and time spent on recent Mondays, we've been able to make this little mission apartment into a home.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Village Gathering at NAMB Headquarters

Thanks to the North American Mission Board for hosting a village gathering. It was a great time despite the torrential rain. To illustrate:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rain on the Burning Heart

Here is something I can tell you from the trenches: Relationships are the weakest link in any ministry.

To some extent, you can protect against sex scandals or substance abuse or even financial greed, but when pride moves in, when trust falls apart, when love cools off, ministries fail quietly, and it is tragic and ugly.

I've been watching my friendships these days with a wary eye, because no one is immune. We must care for our love so tenderly. I don't want to go into too much detail, but I heard a story from a friend recently that was very familiar. A ministry was up and running, lives were being changed, the gospel was taking root, and then a small offense turned into a battle for territory.

Then the people being reached suddenly became weapons. Long-standing friendships were used as leverage, and damage was done that will not be undone.

I've been praying a lot about love lately. The world is meant to identify us by our love. We are so careless with it sometimes, and when it is lost, the damage to our testimony and to our lives is irreversible. To my friends and ministry partners: we must live in love and drive out the pride, fear, lust, greed, and corruption that keeps us from it.

It is the easiest thing to let go of, and the hardest to repair. When rain falls on the burning heart of our union, we must fight to keep the embers burning. There is no higher call upon us than love.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Back to Biz

My dear readers, we have much to catch up on.

I started my day with three meetings. First, I got together with Bob Mulloy, who will be helping me teach English to some of the men in the community. After finishing with Bob, I met my friend David Park downtown to observe a food co-op in action. David and I are plotting ways to get a co-op running for the families here at Huntington Creek.

Finally, at lunch, we got to meet Marlene Haller from Movers and Shakers, a ministry that helps furnish homes for immigrants and refugees.

After that, it was back to the apartment/ministry center to run the afterschool program. I was in charge of the story today, so we read a book about a kid who gets an alligator in the mail. We had a great time reading it together.

Of course, everyone had to finish their homework first:

This shot is an older one of Jennifer going to school with one of the guitars that Ruthie's aunt donated. Because of this donation, Jennifer has been able to join guitar club and start learning this instrument.

Here's another one of Junior trying to smile and hide his teeth at the same time:

Jennifer and Vanessa have become like part of our family. We let them in last week to borrow a few movies.

Here's a few shots of the kids eating chicken noodle soup. We feed all of them a hot meal every time that we run the afterschool program:

Well, if you're still reading, thanks for sticking with us. More to come tomorrow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day Off?

I realize that I have not blogged about our actual ministry activities for a few entries, and since today was our day off, a bunch of non-ministry-related stuff happened which was thoroughly enjoyable but which I will not blog about for fear of exhausting the goodwill of my readers and making this one-sentence blog entry even more of a run-on than it already is.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Whenever I watch a movie, I log in to my Netflix account and give it a star rating. One star means I hated it, and five stars means I loved it. I reserve five stars for the very few movies that blow me away.

Tonight, after a rough day for both of us, Ruthie and I kicked back and watched The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Roger Ebert does a great job of reviewing it, and I doubt too many of my readers come here for movie reviews, so I won't say too much, but I gave it a whopping five stars.

It was also interesting to see it after having seen Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Both movies borrow from this one repeatedly in pacing, style, set design, and even a latin phrase (sic transit gloria).

I'm not one to say that movies are going downhill, because there always have been duds and gems, but it's a thrill to stumble upon masterpieces that deliver a kick in the teeth from a long-gone era.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It Ain't Over Till the Fat Lady Outruns You

I've been mildly sick for about two weeks now. I just feel tired and stuffed up most of the time. It's probably because I haven't gotten used to all the germs that the kids bring in with them.

As a result, running has been a pretty ugly thing lately. When I think I'm getting better, and I hit the trails again, I feel exhausted at the point where I normally feel warmed up and ready to roll.

Yesterday, I was climbing this hill ever so slowly, hoping I would die so I wouldn't have to finish the run, when I heard footsteps pounding beside me. I saw this runner go sailing by, and he looked back over his shoulder at me.

My first thought was, is this guy really looking over his shoulder at me as he passes me? Is he gloating? What a jerk.

It turned out it was an old friend of Ruthie's and mine from back in our pre-moody days. We started chatting about recent developments in our lives, and I realized that he was slowing down for me. Feeling embarrassed at my snail-like pace, I sped up a little.

The route I run is pretty hilly, but there are two long climbs right at the end that are difficult even on my good days. We chatted most of the way up the first climb, but I had to spit out one or two words at a time, catch my breath, then try to finish the rest of the sentence.

By the time we were two-thirds of the way to the top, I knew that I was out of my league.

"I'm probably going to walk at the top of this hill," I told him, "so don't feel like you need to wait for me."

At the next cross street, I bid him farewell, strolled into the grass, and heaved. It was pretty gross. After catching my breath and walking back onto the trail, I watched this heavyset woman chug up the hill past me.

I thought this was a pretty interesting story, but now that I'm at the end of it, I think some of my readers will be searching for some kind of a moral, so here's one that works, if you need that kind of thing: trying to keep up with others can cost you the run. Don't compare.

And actually that lesson has all sorts of obvious implications for ministry and social work which I won't even get into. The main thing is that I tried to fake like I could run fast, but I ended up throwing up and watching a fat lady outrun me.

Also, this might mess up the moral, but I'd like to say that it was worth the talk I had with this guy.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

To Our Readers in Timbuktu

To the reader sitting in Timbuktu who really digs the blog but cries herself to sleep every night on her native-made Timbuktu pillow (she apparently is a big supporter of local business) because she can't receive our newsletters,

Rejoice! Our newsletter is going out today and tomorrow, and you can even get it in Timbuktu at no cost. Here's why: The thing is going out via e-mail.

You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll wish that Timbuktu was closer to the United States so that you could come over to our house and give us a hug and tell us how inspired you were when you read this beautifully-designed, heart-breakingly well-written masterpiece of a missionary update.

Anyway, if you'd like to get a copy and you haven't recieved our previous ones, just drop me an e-mail at and let me know you would like to be added to our list. That goes for our readers in Costa Rica, The Philippines, Canada, and the US of A too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Labor Day Getaway

After a thrilling first two weeks of homework help/feeding/bible lessons, we were excited to have my friend Jonathan come down from Chicago and check out our new lives. He dove into our activities here, helping us manage the demands of complicated ministry and family situations.

Here he is playing accordion for Jennifer and Vanessa:

We got out of town for the weekend, camping at Elijah Clark State Park with our friends Josh and Margaret, Jonathan, my brother Eric, and his friend Gordon. The only group activity was a rousing game of mini golf on an aging course. We spent the rest of the time lounging, feeding the fire, conversing, and making music together.

Although the end of the weekend brought with it a new set of pains, stresses, and opportunities, I am thankful that we at least had that time to get away and recharge. Now it's back to the tasks at hand: