Friday, August 10, 2012

What Time Is It and Where Am I? A Final Reflection

Well, I think it is Friday morning in Enumclaw - at least the sun arose in the east about 2 hours after I woke up in my own bed. But after leaving Johannesburg on Wednesday evening (South Africa time) and spending the next 25+ hours traveling home, the itinerary that I found as I unpacked my backpack said that we arrived in SeaTac Airport on Thursday, Aug. 9 at 1:20. So, I guess that has to be correct. But after traveling in 5 countries, and trying to keep track of all the time zones, it is all a little foggy in my mind. This, my final blog reflection on our group's mission trip to Zambia and South Africa, is the most difficult one to write. Being as tired as we are, I find myself being very emotional as I reflect back on some of the people we met, the miracles we witnessed, the blessings we received, and the marvelous mystery and beauty of Africa and its people. Where do I begin to convey not just words but underlying visceral and spiritual impressions of it all. One of the reflections we spoke about as we debriefed our trip at the home of John and Heather Witherow before leaving Johannesburg was that no matter how deeply affecting our trip was in our own lives, it would be impossible to make it come alive in the retelling. Already this morning, I saw people at the bank and at Starbucks who asked me about the trip. However, I knew they didn't have the time - or for that matter - the interest in hearing all about it. It would simply take too long and words would not do it justice. In spite of that disclaimer, the life of the Christian is always one of bearing witness in word and in deed. So I will do my best to provide a siumple summary of the sights, sounds, events, and feelings of the trip from my own experience. (Other members of the team likely would provide a different outlook; a unique perspective but I will let them tell that part of the story). The city of Dubai, with its opressive heat, glistening, extravagant hotels and skyscrapers and bustling nightlife during Ramadan. The large "Welcome to Zambia" signs that greeted us as we disembarked the plane, down the steps onto the tarmac of the Lusaka Airport. The strange, cringing sensation of watching cars coming at our bus/van on the wrong side of the road as we twisted and turned through the winding bumpy streets of Lusaka and Kabanana The joyful reunions with people with whom we have forged deep and lasting bonds of love - Goerge, Joy, Pastor John and his wife Thenny (and their children) Abel, Paul Bwalya, Naomi, Falidah, Rachel and Cappio and so many others The spontaneous, joyful, rythmic singing that erupts everywhere around - whether in church, or on a dusty field in front of the school The steady stream of people queued up to recieve water from the pump we had helped install; and the stream of people coming with sick children knwoing that we had with us a medical expert and medicines to treat various kinds of sickness and injury. The divine appointments we had prayed for becoming realities: Mwanhsa - the owner of the hotel where we stayed and an employee of the US Embassy being the answer to our prayers of providing benches for the school and scholarships for the students. Leymans and Angela - the sister and brother in law of Albert Mhlanga who came to the school to see what we were doing and promising to provide help in completing the classroom and toilet facilities we had begun; Naomi returning to the home and deaf school from where she had unexxplainedly disappeared; Falidah, the young woman who some of our team have been sponsoring in her school work; and so many others, too numerous to mention. Worshiping in Redemption Ministries Church in Zambia and preaching there to an amazingly gracious, welcoming and spirit-filled congregation pastored by John Mpanga; who along with his wife Thenny have given so much on behalf of orphans in their community - not only directing Healing Place School but also caring for 9 orphans in their own home. Working alongside church and community members to begin construction on a new sanitary toilet facility for the school as well as a new two room classroom building for the school. The smiles, hugs, receptiveness of the 323 some children; caring physically for them,teaching them about sanitation, and health education, physically caring for them and simply reminding them they are not alone in the world - there are those who truly care for them. The beauty, majesty, and amazing display of life at Victoria Falls and Chobe Game Reserve. The beautiful handcrafted art found at every market; The first of its kind in the area Pastors Leadership Training Conference that I was privileged to co-teach with Karl Teichert from OC Africa. Over 50 pastors from as far as 360 kilometers to attend. The press of people and the frantic concern of making our flight from Livingstone to Johannesburg; Not only preaching in United Reforming Church of Ennerdale (an amazing congregation serving missionally in the community near the Finetown Settelement) but being privileged to baptize 7 children alongside of Pastor "Wessie" Wessels. After church being hosted in the homes of church members. Feeding soup to children in Finetown at Mama Florina's house in Finetown, South Africa and knowing that this might be the only meal these children will have had for over two to three days. Watching it snow and feeling the biting wind course through my light jacket as I walked alongside Jabulile and Sylvia - two dedicated home care providers - and Pastor Vessie as to visit the homes of the sick and dying in Finetown. We visited a woman with HIV/Aids, a man with TB, a woman with diabetes, another young mother of two who is bedridden with the HIV/AIDS disease that is so prevalent throughout Africa but particularly there in South Africa; Sharing time with our friends and Mission Partners - Karl and Jenny Teichert and John and Heater Witherow(and their families of course. The sense of deep sadness as we toured the Apartheid Museum and read the accounts of how unjust and oppressive human beings can truly be to each other. The 25 hour trip home - ugh! The amazing team God assembled for this trip. Though incredibly different in so many ways, united by a sense of common faith, purpose and love; though most were sick at one time or another, the sacrificial efforts they put in to dig foundation trehches, mix concrete, meet new people, cram on a bus, endure the dusty bumpy roads; though tired extremely patient and forbearing with each other; though each having their own desires, being flexible enough to go with the flow and trust the Lord each step of the way The memories of how God worked throughout. My messages in both churches where I preached were based on the idea that believers are all living stones who the Lord is using to build up his church. Christ is the cornerstone as well as the mortar that holds each stone together. But in His grace and wisdom, he uses each different, unique, living stone to touch the world with love and mercy. We felt blessed to be a part of that reality in profound ways that transformed us and we hope blessed others. The amazing sense of support in prayer we felt from all our family, friends, church members back home who emailed us, Facebooked us, Skyped us, read our posts, viewed our pictures and most all prayed for us. You were all part of the team. Thank You, thank you, thank you. THere will be team reports at Calvary and at Rotary, and if you think you can endure, pictures galore. Just ask. Now for a short nap.........

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Hard to believe it but after 2 weeks and two days,; 3 countries, God only knows how many cold showers, and bottles of hnd Sanitizer; nearly as many "English Breakfasts;" worship at two very different yet African churches; 7 baptisms; 3 preschools; two community based schools; a women's sewing co-op; lots of Starbucks VIA coffee packs; 7 people down with colds; hot dusty, sweaty work mixing concrete; meeting an African community's chief; a Pastor Leadership Conference; and so much, much more, we are finally ready to board a plane and head home. After a good nights sleep (Judy and I got to spend the night with the Teicherts in their lovely home), we will meet at the Witherows for brunch and debriefing. Then its off to the Apartheid Museum for the afternoon and finally on to an Emirates Air flight that will carry us to Dubais and then on to Seattle Washington. In case you hadn't heard, it snowed yesterday in Johannesburg - a very rare event. There wasn't enough to cover the ground but the roofs of the simple houses in Finetown and Soweto were white. And we had the awesome, humbling privilege of walking with the home based health care givers in Finetown. The finely falling and blowing snow chilled our bones but our hearts were strangely warmed by the tender care these men and women give to the sick and suffering in the dirt lined streets of FInetown. I walked with Pastor Vessie, Jabulilu and Sylvia. We visited 5 homes - seeing illnesses ranging from HIV'AIDs infections, to TB, to heart disease to Diabetes. One of our team members had the sobering experience of knocking on one patients door only to be told by neighbors that the gentleman had died in the night. This is not an uncommon occurance that these selfless men and women encunter each day as they mnister in Christ' s name. I am not sure I could ever adjust and accept this on a daily basis and retain my sanity or my spiritual health. An expression we have often heard is TIA - This is Africa. And the realities of of uncared for orphans, poverty, illness, death, poverty, exploitation, corrupt and inefficient governments are every bit as much of the landscape of Southern Africa as are the wild game, adventurous safaris, charming rural villages, and mysterious history of the continent. I am not sure how our team will ever be able to process and syncretize the feelings, memories, experience and people that have been a part of the trip. Add to that the wondrous variety of fun, uninteresting, and tasty markets, restaurants, and sights and it adds up to something that is nearly impossible to grasp.. Don't ask us about our experience unless you really have some time and patience to listen, view slides and maybe even allow us to weep with fond and tender memories. Again we thank you for standing with us in this incredible endeavor. We are anxious to see you all - family and friends alike. Sawubona

Monday, August 6, 2012


Lusaka and Johannesburg - two large cities in Africa; a world apart. Each of then populated by over 4 million people - a mixture of European, Asian, Black African, and mixed races. Two cities with distinct class differences ranging from the extremely poor to the upper and middle classes. In each case white westerners live much more comfortable lives than their African counterparts.. One city - Johannesburg bustling with a very modern, western feel. Lusaka on the other hand lacking government services and infrastructure. The common things with each city are the rampant prevalence of HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, thousands of orphans, hungry people, and homeless. South Africa seems to us to be well ahead of Zambia. But it would be unfair to compare or quantify the level of need - it is beyond comprehension in both places. And throughout our mission trip we have discovered selfless people, dedicated to serving the poor, helpless and vulnerable in both places. We are overwhelmed by people like the, Witherows, Pastor Vessie and the people of the Ennerdale URC church. What impresses us more though are the people like Mama Florina and the dedicated cadre of caregivers that go out each morning to care for the sick and dying. It is the dedicated pre-school teachers in Finetown and the teachers of Healing Place in Lusaka. We are moved by the tireles desire of pastors and church leaders who are willing = no, compelled - to breath the very air of the people who live in their communities. That is to say, they desire to be the hands and feet of Christ proclaiming the Gospel in word and in deed to the people in need in their own communities/ Right now - two days away from heading back to our own homes and beds - we are on emotional and spiritual overload; trying to make sense of what we have experienced. Today's highlights were celebrating with the pre-school teachers of Finetown as they received their certificates of training and then serving those teachers lunch. We cried as Lovie and Ida hugged their friend Cherie who has walked with them in their caring for the sick. We prayed, asking God to set apart Mama Florina as she attempts to feed up to sixty children two times a week, send the caregivers out each day, and take care of 11 orphans in her own home, which even though larger, nicer and better equipped than others in Finetown or Kabanana, is still modest and challenging considering all she does. We served a simple, nutritious soup to about 20 children - a meal that may be their only meal for the day or even two days. We can't begin to thank you enough for the prayerful support that you are continuing to offer up on our behalf. Continue to pray that we would be vessels through which Christ's love can flow. We return home Thursday but a part our soul will always remain in Africa. We are grateful. We are blessed. We are humbled. Two cities - an overwhelming amount of human need.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


From the city of Livingstone to Johannesburg and the township of Ennerdale in South Africa. Even though it was rather traumatic affair trying to make the British Air flight to OR Tambo Intn'l Airport, we arrived safely, greeted by our mission partners John Witherow and Karl and Jenny Teichert. All our luggage arrived safely, we loaded it in a small covered trailer and headed for a beautiful garden surrounded lodge called Ferndale Lodge in the Randburg suburb. We are safely ensconsed in cozy, cabin like cottages that surround a beautiful swimming pool. (It's winter here so there won't be any swimming). Once we settled in to our rooms we hopped back in the rented van with John at the wheel and headed to the Witherow's for a meal of good old "take away" pizza and a helpful orientation on what we will expect while here. Most helpful...and just a little unnerving as we realized we would soon be plunged into a new culture, a new set of needs and new challenges. Sunday morning dawned under another glorious sunlit African morning. Ferndale Lodge serves the traditional "english breakfst" but this one was more extensive and more beautifully laid out than any we had experienced in Lusaka,. We discovered the woman who cooked it preferred to be called "nono" but it was yes, yes as far as the food was concerned. Sunday morning we worshiped with the some 800 members of the Uniting Reformed Church of Ennerdale. We decided this church was as close to Presbyterian as we might have ever imagined. Yet it also had a distinctive African flair. Once again we were honored to be seated in the front rows. Judy prayed, Cindy and Swampy were honored to participate in a foot washing ceremony. I preached and performed 6 infant baptisms. Cherie, Cate, Cindy and Judy all spoke fervantly about the people and the work God did in Lusaka to help illustrate the sermon point that we are all "living stones" in the church God is building throughout the world. The real highlight for most was to go to the homes of different church members where we were hosted at dinner. Ennerdale Township is considered a "colored" area. We felt that term to be derogatory as it would be in our country. Here, it is not. It is a carryover from the days of apartheid when different racial groups were divided into three castes or stratas of society: white (having roots going back to Dutch settlement and colonization); colored - the term referring to those who are mixed race and Indian; and non-white meaning the black Africans. Although Apartheid has ended, these groupings remain segregated in their communities. Our hosts - Jason and Kathy are a mixed race couple who have at least some Indian blood. We had a warm, wonderful time with an extended family. Our time at church and in people's homes was a moving, emotional experience. Once again we were reminded that our small corner of the world is so narrow. We were once again beautifully reminded that God is the Father of us all; Jesus is Lord over his church worldwide; and the Spirit is as work in vast, diverse, powerful ways outside our own experience. How easily we forget that in the comfort and daily lives we live in the States. After dinner, we re-grouped, put on warmer clothes and headed out to Rosebank Mall to see and shop at the African Market there. Dinner at Nandos - a South African chicken franchise specializing in peri-peri sauce (extra spicy to my liking), then back to our lodge for a night of rest, some Olympics viewing and a chance to reflect ont the day. Some members of our team continue to struggle with respiratory ailment. John Witherow has supplied us with plenty of cough drops syrups, kleenex, and the like so the infirm are hanging in there but sadly, probably not fully enjoying the experience as the rest of us are. Monday morning we will attend a celebration service honoring the Pre-school teachers of Finetown - a project that Heather Witherow and Jenny Teichert organize and lead in the settlement of Finetown - an informal, sprawling place dominated by ramshackle tin houses, great poverty, HIV/AIDs and wonderful people. In the afternoon we will walk the streets and meet Mama Fliorina who runs an orphan care center. Our minds and hearts continue to be expanded and stretched this trip. Processing it all is tough and besides the jet lag we will no doubt experience upon our arrival, we will need to respond hours - perhaps days reflecting, remembering and giving thanks. All of you, no doubt will be asked to endure our stories, pictures, and raw, deep-seated emotion. Pastor Vessie had me introduced before my sermon with these words. "Pastor Fred retired at the beginning of July, One of the famous farewell speeches he used was from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure: Be excellent to each other and party on in the Lord (He chose not to use party on dudes)." I close this entry with those words, Be excellent to each other and do celebrate all that the Lord is doing. As Tony Campolo says "The Kingdom of God is a Party," Join us in celebrating all the Lord is doing. In His Amazing Grace Fred

Saturday, August 4, 2012


I know it seems impossible for a preacher to be speechless but the past 10 days have left us all in that condition: some because of scratchy, sore throats and coughs; others because the things we have seen and experienced have left us not knowing what really to say. The intense poverty and need in Lusaka has been transposed with plush, luxurious accomodations at the Zambezi Sun Resort near Victoria Falls. The press of people, the squalor and the ubiquitous dust of Kabanana have become the majesty and beauty of the African Plain and the amazing variety of living things in the Chobe Game reserve. The simple meals of nsima, boiled cabbage and the occasional piece of chicken have been replaced by exquisite, culinary delights too numerous to mention. And the commitment to serving others, particularly vulnerable orphans and widows, seems remotely foreign from the current surroundings where we have been waited on hand and foot by men and women who no doubt have come to Livingstone to work and escape the very conditions we witnessed while in the neighborhoods of Kabanana. We will spend a long time trying to process the juxtaposition of these contrasts. We are grateful for all of the experiences we have had. It's just hard to put what is in our hearts into words. So I will end this post here and send more from South Africa which will be our home away from home for the next four nights before the long plane trip back to Seattle. Wishing you "mouka muili buengi" - Good day - and all of God's marvelous Grace. As they say in the Bemba dialect - lesa muzuma; eyonce. GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME. ALL THE TIME GOD IS GOOD.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Morning at the Zambezi Sun

The first slivers of morning sunlight are piercing the dark African night as we sit to eat our breakfast in a beautiful open air restaurant. I can hear the roar of the falls in the background and the air still carries the chill of a winter night. The team is just beginning to straggle in after our long day of travel and activity. Yesterday we arrived at the Zambezi Sun to the welcome of a group of dancers dressed in traditional tribal dress including spears, shields and headdress. Valets quickly gathered up our bags and took them to our rooms as we marveled at the mysterious beauty around us - Giraffes, Impalas, Kudu, Zebra and monkeys oblivious to our presence.Some members of the team headed out immediately for a 30 minute helicopter ride over the falls and surrounding geography. Judy and I did this trip on a previous trip to Zambia - it is spectacular. Ask us and we would be happy to show you our DVD. Most of the team went to a special park where they could "walk with lions and cheetahs. Judy being a cat lover anyway actually laid on the ground next to a purring cheetah cub and happily petted her, then took her on a leashed walk. Hating to overuse the word - It was SPECTACULAR. Ask her and I am sure she will willingly show you her pictures. Me? Well. I took a nap, a shower and watched a little Olympics coverage. Can someone please tell me what the point of Cricket is? It certainly seems to be popular here. Later that evening we feasted on a buffet of exotic food including Impala, Crocodile, and curried Lamb. After a fitful night of sleep for most, we are eagerly looking forward to our game drive and lunch at Chobe Game Reserve. This is all such a far cry from the poverty, need and suffering we were so integrally aware of in Kabanana. It is hard to process the radical difference between the two. Even though we are still in the same country it seems like a totally different world. I forgot to mention in last night's blog a request for prayer. Among the many ill and injured persons Cindy Ehlke - our resident team nurse - treated was a little baby named Joseph. He was brought to the school yesterday with an intense siezure that would not subside in spite of efforts to treat it as best as possible with limited resources. Both Pastor John and I prayed over him while the rest of the team prayed as well. Thankfully the mother was able to get the child to a hospital. However last night Pastor John received a call and heard the baby had not improved. Pray also for our team. I am not sure if it is the emotional and spiritual letdown after our intense week of work and ministry or if it is the pervasive dust and smoke in the air but a few of our team are wresting with respiratory illnesses of different kinds. Tomorrow we head back into the real world of mnistry among the neediest of God's people in Africa. We leave for Johannesburg and Finetown with a sense of uncertainty and anticipation - not really knowing what we will expect as we meet with families from United Reforming Church in Ennersdale, then HIV/AIDS caregivers and patients as well as the preschools our missionaries support. So our trip is ramping up again. We are anxious to be home but feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of this mission effort. It is a small drop in a huge sea of need but it is a drop and each drop has a ripple that expands out and multiplies. Thanks for prayers and interest. Tomorrow I hope to share some pics of our Safari in Chobe Game park today. If not here, look for my page in Facebook. Blessed in His Grace Fred

Thursday, August 2, 2012


imagine -leaving your small village on the outskirts of Lusaka and the small simple house you live in and seven hours later arriving at a posh tourist destination in Victoria Falls. Imagine - for years having as your sole food staple a dish called nsima (shee-ma)perhaps once a day, and then being confronted with any and every imaginable rich, extravagant and western food imaingable. Imagine - making a transition from sleeping on a thin mattress on a concrete floor to the luxurious comfort of a fluffy hotel bed. Imagine - after years of serving others selflessly, having someone - perhaps a tribal cousin - waiting on you hand and foot; carrying your bags, serving you food and coffee, asking you if all your accomodations are satisfactory.' Imagine - not having left the city of Lusaka for years and finding yourself all of a sudden transplanted right next to one of the most spectacular wonders of the world - Victoria Falls. Imagine - having lived in Southern Africa all your life and having never seen a giraffe or zebra only to have them peacefully wandering by right outside your hotel window. Such are the experiences of John and Thenny Mpanga. As a way of honoring them for all they have done for the vulnerable orphans in Kabanana, we have invited them as our guests to experience the thrills and comfort of the Zambezi Sun Restort - right next to the falls. Tomorrow they go with us on a game drive in Chobe National Park and will see elephants, warthogs, impalas, crocodiles, perhaps a lion and many other native species of their homeland - all of which they have never seen. I wish I could read minds because I know that this has been a day filled with unusual and overwhelming experiences. Their reactions to all this might very well be similar to the reactions that I - a middle class American - had the first time I set foot on the ground at the Lusaka International Airport. Foreigners in a strange land and culture. I am hoping that they will receive this gift as a gift; an honor to them. They are amazing people. I am blessed to know them. I am blessed to have them share this amazing experience with me as I was to have stood shoulder to shoulder with Pastor John digging foundation trenches for an addition to the school and sitting next to him in his church at a Sunday morning service and at the Pastor Training Conference. I know Judy feels the same way as she has shared in the classroom with Thenny - who also has an education in teaching and does an amazing job with very little resource. It is we who have been blessed and honored all week. Now it is their turn. I wonder what they are imagining as they experience all this.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Today is our last full day in Lusaka. I have so much to share and so many deep emotions I hardly know what to write this morning. However, I will start by saying thank you for your prayers and support. Africans have an expression - "GOD IS GOOD - ALL THE TIME. ALL THE TIME - GOD IS GOOD! In the bemba dialect they say leza muzuma. This has been true for us this week. God has been good. And though a few have been wrestling respiratory ailments, sore muscles, stiff backs and shoulders, we have been protected and blessed. While our hearts continue to be with family and friends, there wi.ll always be a part of us that remains in Zambia - the faces and names of children at the school who soak up love like sponges, the teachers at the school who serve without pay - just a bowl of nsima and boiled kale. I will be forever bonded with some of the pastors who attended the two day training conference I co-led with my friend Karl Teichert from OC Africa. Some of those men and women travelled over 350 kilometers (200 miles) and many of them walked from other locations in Lusaka just to be there. They were so hungry for fellowship and encouragement and training. They, like the teachers at Healing Place often serve their congregations sacrificially with no pay. I was honored to be among them and humbled that they felt I had something to teach them. I felt they have taught me more and I will always be grateful, They have asked that Karl and I return in May to do a follow-up conference. That is one to pray about. Today we will work most of the day laying block for the walls of the classroom and toilet building. Then we will bid sad farewells to the teachers, exchange some parting gifts, pray with the teacher, workers and children then return to our lodge to pack up for our long bus trip to Livingstone and Victoria Falls tomorrow morning. As a thank you to Pastor John and Thenny Mpanga, we are bringing them with us for a well-deserved vacation and rest. Our long time friends Chimwemwe and George Banda will also be with us. From past experience, the resort at Victoria Falls will be an extreme dichotomy to the poverty and need we have encountered in the Kabanana District. On Saturday we will fly to Johannesburg where we will spend 4 days visiting and ministering with the Teicherts and the Witherows in Finetown - the township where our 2010 team went and worked with pre-schools and AIDS hospice patients. When we return to Enumclaw, our hearts and minds will be full to overflowing with gratitude for our experiences here; the people we have met; and the ways our hearts have been touched. "Once Africa gets into you, it will never leave." That expression is so true, Our hearts will always hold the orphans, the teachers, the pastors, and the people who gather every day at the pump to get water. I have been blessed as have all our team. We realize we will never be able to replicate what we have experienced by showing our pictures or telling our stories. Prayerfully our lives will reflect the profound and life-changing things that we have lived the last week and a half. This morning's devotional was based on Philippians 4:13 which says "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." We depend on that, May you also realize the truth of that Scripture. Until the next post, I am grateful and relying on God's Grace Fred

Monday, July 30, 2012

Where To Help Sunday was a full day not just in our schedule but in the range of visceral experiences and emotions we felt. The day started with laughter when I admitted I had brushed my teeth with athletes foot medication rather than toothpaste. But the day picked up from there. We drove to Redemption Ministries Church where we worshiped with Pastor Mpanga's congregation. It was a wonderful time of worship and praise. I had the rare privilege of preaching (with the help of a translator). We remembered that as Christians we are "living stones" that are being built up into a royal house for the Lord and He alone is the one who holds it together in love. It does not matter that we are separated by language and miles, our team, this dear group of African Christians and all believers everywhere are the church and are called to declare the Light and Love of Jesus Christ / Then, after a wonderful good bye and pictures, it was off to the Arcades Mall. Every Sunday, there is an artisans market where people can buy from a huge selections of carvings, weavings, paintings, jewelry, and basketry. Oh yes, there is also a coffee shop there and a number of different places to eat. I went with our driver to the airport to pick up Karl Teichert who had just arrived from South Africa to help me teach the Pastor/Leadership Development Conference that begins today. We regrouped at the Mall and got back on the bus and headed once again for Kabanana where we visited another school and the women's' sewing co-op. Everywhere we have been, nearly every person we have met, every program and every school all need help. It is overwhelming! Sunday we visited the Village Steps/Kabanana School that Paul Bwalya directs. 70 children attend there and nearly all of them are orphans; either single or double orphans. Most weren't wearing shoes and many of them are being taken care of by guardians who cannot afford to feed them more than a small portion of nsima (pronounced shee-ma). It is a filling dish made from corn meal and is the mainstay of the local economy. The school could teach many more if they had additional space. It occupies a small house in a densely populated area. The children are taught in two small classrooms which were originally intended to serve as sleeping quarters. Teacher Paul and hiswife sleep in one of the small back rooms. Like every home in Kabanana there is no running water or bathroom facilities. All cooking is done on charcoal braziers or on small electric hot plates. We learned that a lawyer helped them use this facility free of charge and there is a small addition already started. Of particular note we saw Falidah - a young girl who several of the team have supported with scholarship money. She is a double orphan whose life was filled with despair but with this sponsorship, she has been able to go on the high school and is finishing her studies. It was quite a tearful moment to be reunited with her. The last stop was the women's sewing co-op where some of our women were fitted for dresses with fabric they purchased at the market. Tom was also measured (with the women standing on a stool to reach his shoulders) for a shirt. Finally we arrived back at our lodge to share stories, debrief and give thankful praise for the experiences of the day. However, the one haunting caveat hanging over all of us was the question of whether or not our presence and efforts was really making a difference. There are so many needs just in this one compound in a section of Lusaka Zambia. Muliply that times thousands and you realize the depth of need in Africa. Multiply that times millions and you realize that the needs of God's children world-wide are almost incomprehensible. Where do we help? What can we do? All we can do is one small part at a time - one changed life; one student sponsored; one orphan fed; one community provided with a school and a well.... In the large scope it may not seem like much, but here it means everything. To illustrate this, while we were at Paul Bwalya's school, we passed out green TRUE VALUE HARDWARE bags to each of the guardians and teachers. They were overcome with elation and gratitude - dancing; ululating (the African way of expressing joy) and tears. What a moment. I wish you all could have been there to see it. Thank you for helping make it possible by your prayers and support.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


"He is able to do far more than all we ask or think." A year ago another trip to Zambia seemed a remote possibility.. Tonight, hearts - though bone weary and emotionally drained - are amazed once again by the way the Lord choreographs his work in the world, For well over a year, pastors in this area near Lusaka have been praying for some kind of conference or seminar that would bring them all together. They serve communities where the needs are greater than we can possibly imagine and they work with few resources to not only preach the Gospel but take care of the flock under their care. For over a year, OC International, has prayed that God would open doors to come to Zambia to train and encourage pastors. Just over a month ago, a couple from Texas asked what they could do to help support this mission trip financially. In a whirling vortex of God's providential grace, these three divine impulses have come together. On Monday morning, Karl Teichert from OC International and I will lead a 2 day conference . Over 50 pastors have registered and more are expected. some are traveling great distances just to be together and to be fed. This is in no small part due to the sincere and sacrificial efforts of Pastor John Mpanga and his wife Thenny. The conference will be held in the small dirt floor church he pastors. There will be no electricity in the building and no running water. But a common faith and Spirit will unite us all in our sense of calliing as pastors. Here is another example of God astounding us and reminding us that we can make plans but it is the Lord who directs our steps. We are staying at the Lafe hotel. It is owned by the Duerwaarder family. The first two nights, a dignified woman came into the room where we were having our evening worship and debriefing. She heard of the work we are doing and she told her younger sister an aid de camp at the US Embassy. This powerful woman came and spoke with our group last night and was moved by the description of our passion for the children at HEALING PLACE. She said she wanted to come visit the school and promised she would take time out of h er schedule to come. She asked for directions but we gave her a phone number instead. Our diver didn't think it possible to find the school through the winding, congested streets of Kabanana/. We all assumed that, though a nice connection, nothing would come of it. At 1 o clock, a cab pulled up in the dusty field in front of the sole classroom building. And out steps this woman. She came just as she promised. After she had toured the school, talked further with our team, met the Mpangas and the teachers of the school, she was so moved that she would have benches for the classrooms sent right away. She also committed to helping employ 5 graduates from the school. the list of divine appointments continues to grow. And the children are the prize jewel of why we are hear. It was God's divine appointment that would provide for and send the 14 of us to this far land.. These children are a treasure yet over half the 320 students at the school have lost one or both of their parents. Their hope of having a better life is tied to a community that has safe water and a school that is preparing them to be leaders in Zambia, instead of forgotten, vulnerable children. We are honored to be here, to be used of God in this great divine plan. We have been blessed beyond words. And oh, in the mean time we have poured the foundation for the toilet block we will begin building and we have also dug and poured the foundation for a space that will double the classroom space the school now has. We have played with kids, helped repair the pump, helped in the classroom and so much more. It is amazing how much can be accomplished when we simply let God lead and direct us to his "DIVINE APPOINTMENTS."

Thursday, July 26, 2012


What does it mean to be blessed? That question has haunted our team this afternoon and evening. As we drove through the roads of Kabanana District - a very impoverished community north of Lusaka- we were once again overwhelmed with the poverty and human need. People rolling barrels of water; washing clothes in small wash tubs filled with brackish water'; men mixing concrete and making blocks; children running beside our bus , wearing dirty clothes and barefoot; and people walking everywhere make up the teeming human landscape that swirls in slow motion among the small shacks, vendor stands, taverns and ramshackle stores that make up this area. When we arrived at Healing Place School. the first person I saw was busa (Pastor) John and his wife Thenny After warm hugs and tears of joy, they began to show us around the property that is known as Healing Place. The two most obvious features (besides the excited children) were the completed classroom building and the water tower that supports the 3.000 litre water tank. Underneath the tank was a phalanx of blue water barrels waiting to be filled to serve a local family's water needs. A young girl was patiently drawing a small stream of water from one of he two spigots. The water was clear,fresh, and life-giving but hardly flowing enough to provide the needs of all those who will come to draw water. We soon found out that our first task would be to pull the300 feet of pipe out of the well and make repairs to the pump. That is another story all together. After a great deal of debate about how to fix it, and a welcome ceremony by the students that included poetry, songs and dance, the pump was fixed. Just in time to realize that a government enforced rolling blackout had turned of power to the area and so water could not be drawn until power was restored. Sigh! John and Thenny endure incredible obstacles. Not only do the shepherd a congregation that is growing and is made up of local people who have many needs, they have taken on main responsibility for the school and the well. That means sleeping in the well's guard house while their own children plus others they care for sleep alone in the family;s house about a half mile away. Such are the sacrifices they make on behalf of the entire community. Tomorrow (Friday) will be a difficult work day as we begin the building the toilet building. First order: moving blocks, sand and gravel from the piles where it now sits to the site where the 10 foot deep hole is. Then it will be mixing concrete and laying the foundation. And of course, don't forget the children. Which brings me back to my original question. What does it mean to be blessed? You see, one of the children - John and Thenny's son - bears the name blessing. He lives in a small 3 room house and sleeps on the floor. He has no running water. He wears the same clothes day after day and watches over his brothers, sisters and many of the other children. He has little of what we in America have and would call blessing. We often associate that word with financial comfort, peaceful secure lives, roofs over our heads, and abundant food to eat. If that is what it means to be blessed, then is this boy - Blessing - not blessed? His life and the lives of so many others who live in abject poverty would say God has blessed them and I cannot disagree. Blessing for us means prosperity, power, and possession. But Jesus defines blessing differently. Don't believe me - read the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who are meek, who hunger and thirst to experience God's righteousness, who are merciful; those who seek to make peace among others and who, in spite of difficulties "bless" others including those who persecute them and revile them. We have so much to learn from our friends here in Zambia; not the least of which is the lesson of knowing what true blessing is. I pray that when I am tired and hot and my muscles are aching from work and the intense sun is bearing down that I may be reminded of the many ways that I am being blessed by the lives of these sweet innocent children and by an inner spirit that we have seen in so many Africans. People like Chimwewe whose very name means "joy," by the young man Blessing or by George whose quiet, radiant faith shines through in all he says and does. These are the blessed. They are blessing us. Thank you Lord for this reminder of your reality. May it finds its truth etched in my heart as I remember the three toddlers perched contentedly on my lap as I gave them "horsey rides, the look of joy on Pastor Johns face as he greeted me and spoke with genuine thanks for all I had done for him. May I see real blessing in the lives of those who will line up for water today. May I in some way bless others as much as I am blessed. I apologize for the fact that blogger is not allowing me to post my pictures. I will keep trying but in the mean time, you can see some at my Facebook page or Lauren Hardman's

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Up in the Air

UP IN THE AIR Greetings from the top of the world's tallest building. Actually, they only allow tourists up to the 124th floor of the burjh kahlifa tower in Dubai. Nevertheless, the view is spectacular at night. The city of Dubai is truly a jewel in the desert. The temperature when we landed was only 108 degrees F with what I would guess to have been a relative humidity of 70%. Being situated right on the Gulf of Oman, Dubai is a virtual crossroads of trade, travel and tourism. After an exhausting flight of nearly 14 hours, we arrived in Dubai around 7:00 pm their local time. By the time we got settled in our hotel - The Copthorne. We freshened up a bit then hit the streets to see, hear, smell and experience all we could in our brief overnight stay. Activities varied: Some ate at a genuine Lebanese restaurant; two people skiid in an indoor ski area. Several of us went up the tower and in the process, also saw a beautiful enclosed aquarium teeming with a vast variety of beautiful fish and a stunningly beautiful fountain synced to authentic middle eastern music. Some toured the city by bus; others shopped. I think we all got to do everything we desired to do. We even got a few hours of sleep before rising to a continental breakfast and a 9:25 am flight to Lusaka. I had the privilege of speaking to a number of interesting people in Dubai. On the bus from the airport, Judy and I met a man from Toronto who was going to do business in Uganda. Standing in the check-in line at the hotel, another toronto resident shared that he actually had been born in Iraq and was returning to visit family. He had worked in the government under Saddam Hussein and had fled prior to the Gulf War. He spoke with gratitude for the changes which have taken place there. This morning on our flight to Lusaka (I am writing this in mid-air and will post later today if I have wi-fi) I am sitting next to a couple who now live in Zimbabwe and are returning home to Harare after a vacation. They are Presbyterians and said they would pray for the Word of God to be heard from and seen in us during our time in Zambia Without exception people seem genuinely interested in what we are doing and those who are from Africa agree that education and sanitation for vulnerable children is an important goal and a most worthy project. So even though we have spent a great deal of time "up in the air" in a very literal sense, we have not been up in the air with regard to our sense of purpose and calling. We are determined, excited and ready to get started. We are tired though. People are getting along well. At last nose count we were all still together as a team. When we arrive in Lusaka, we will get visas, collect or bags, board the van that will be our transportation for the week and head for the Lafe Hotel/Lodge in the Olympic district of Lusaka. We are excited to get there. We are tired of traveling - airline food, though abundant on these flights, is still airline food and leg space is no better on our airline than any US domestic carrier. The anticipation of the unknown adventures that lay ahead churn within us and will only be quelled once we arrive and make our first visit to the school. That will be tomorrow morning (Thursday here - Wednesday night in Enumclaw - a 9 hour difference in time). But spirits still resonate that what we are doing is important. And we continue to realize that we need grace, patience, love unity and strength. So continue to pray for us as we keep families, church, community back home in prayer as well. Colossians 3:12 - 17 reminds us all that "as God's dearly loved children, we are called to live into kindness, gentleness, humility, forbearance, forgiveness and most of all love which is the glue that binds those traits together in perfect unity. Paul concludes with this challenge that was given us at church over the weekend as we were commissioined. "WHATEVER YOU DO IN WORD OR IN DEED, DO ALL IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER THROUGH HIM." May that be in all we say and do. More to come when we land and get started. Trustingly, Fred (for the entire team) Post Script - We have arrived safely. George did meet us. We have had dinner, exchanged dollars for kwachas (4,800.60 K per 1 USD) and are now looking forward to sleeping in a bed to get caught .up on sleep.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Africa Team Schedule

Several people have asked to know what our schedule will be while we are away. This posting is simply intended to shed light on our daily schedule, although there are a few unknowns while in Zambia as we have a number of different commitments and projects while there. Africa time is much like time in Latin America - very laid back, requiring lots of flexibility and adaptation on a daily basis. SO HERE IS THE SCHEDULE: 23 July (Monday) Prayer Circle and Departure from Calvary prayer at 1 pm. (PDT) Emirates Air Flight #230 departs at 5:25 pm 24 July (Tuesday) Arrive in Dubais and overnight stay 6:55 pm local time Sightseeing to worlds tallest bldg. indoor skiing etc) 25 July (Wednesday) Emirates Air # 713 to Lusaka 9:25 am local time Arrive Lusaka 2:35 pm local time Staying at Lafe Hotel 26 July Healing Place School Project begins after welcome and introd. 27 28 29 July (Sunday) Worship with Pastor John and Thenny Mpanga Visit preschool that Village Steps sponsors Pick up Karl Teichert from Airport for Pastor Conference Visit Arcades Mall and market, shopping and dinner 30,31 July (M - T) Pastoral Leadership Conference with 40 - 50 local pastors co- sponsored with OC International and Karl Teichert Work Continues at Healing Place Health Ed Classes 1 August (Wednesday) Final Day at Healing Place 2 August (Thursday) Travel Day to Livingstone/Victoria Falls - Zambezi Sun Hotel 3 August (Friday) Safari at Chobe Game Park in Botswana 4 August (Saturday) SA #49 depart Livingstone 1:30 pm Local Time arrive Johannesburg 3:15 pm Local Time Dinner with John and Heather Witherow Accomodations at Ferndale Lodge in Randburg 5 August (Sunday) Worship at Ennerdale United Reforming Church (Fred preaching and doing baptisms Dinner in homes of Ennerdale URC members Visit to Rosebank Market and Dinner 6 August (Monday) Visit Finetown - Welcome Celebration, Lunch, Feeding program, orphan care, etc Dinner at Sitar Restaurant 7 August (Tuesday) Morning - visit with home based care workers Afternoon - lunch, visit preschools (three groups) 8 August (Wednesday) Brunch, debriefing with Witherows and Teicherts 1 - 4 pm - Apartheid Museum Emirates Air #766 depart Johannesburg 10:20 pm local 9 August (Thursday) Arrive Dubai 8:20 am local Emirates Air #229 depart Dubai 9:50 am local Arrive SEATAC 1:50 pm PDT Please pray for safety and health of our group each mile and step of the way. Please pray that we might be blessings to others; that the Lord would put in our way those people he wants us to minister to. Please pray for the Pastors Leadership Conference. OCI has been praying about beginning work in Zambia and has been waiting for an opportune time - this seems to be it as over 40 pastors will attend. Pray for patience, forbearance, adaptability, rest, and renewal for the team. Pray for John and Heather Witherow who are our main hosts in South Africa. They leave to come home for extended furlough and are packing up their house and belongings. Yet they are taking the time to share with us in South Africa and have done an amazing job preparing the way and making arrangements. Please pray for Ken and Suzanne Popp who will leave us in Livingstone to continue back to Zambia for a team build with Habitat for Humanity,Finally, pray for John and Thenny Mpanga who pastor the local church in Zambia and also direct the Healing Place School. Pray for Paul who runs the pre-school we will visit. Pray for the dear children - many of whom are orphans - that God would bring encouragement, faith, better health, and blessing to their lives. Bless you for your love, support, and prayers. IN GRACE Fred

T minus One Day

Anticipation. It is a strange emotion. On the one hand, there exists the worrisome details of what to put in the suitcase so it doesn't exceed the airline weight allowance; last minute details to arrange for someone to house sit; contacting banks; leaving emergency phone numbers; remembering to begin taking Malaria medication; etc. On the other hand, there is the expectancy of seeing new places and meeting new people; building team esprit de corps; eating airline food (ha!); experiencing a different culture; doing something in Christ's name that seems significant and life changing.... From one moment to the next my mind wanders from one detail to another and from one edge of that anxiety to the other. "Don't be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Easier said than done Last night at church, our team was commissioned. As part of that service we were asked if "we promised to serve the Lord with imagination, intelligence and lnove?" With confidence, I averred that I did. Yet after 25 plus hours of plane travel, a short night of sightseeing in Dubai, and the accumulated effects of preparation, will I (will we) be able to do that? We also answered that we would seek God's justice and peace, and represent Christ in everything we will do. Yes, I hope so; I pray that I will. know that on my own strength I will. God has uniquely blessed the team and this trip already. One of the great blessings is that right here in Enumclaw, there is a man who was born and raised in Kabanana - the very district of Lusaka Zambia where we will be working the first week of our mission. Albert and his wife Josephine have promised to make our team a traditional Zambian meal of corn meal (nsima) and boiled cabbage. They will, in addition to providing us lunch, help us prayerfully acculturate to Zambian culture and conditions. I have been deeply moved as I have talked to Albert and sensed his deep love and passion for the people from his home. His gratitude have humbled me. His passion has inspired me. Thank you Lord for giving us Albert to help show us the way. Our prayer as a team has been that the Lord would give us divine appointments. That is to say, that God would put in our experience the people, the places, the needs, the experiences the Lord would have for us. We don't know what those are but past experience has shown us that the Lord goes before us to choreograph the moments of this trip so that in everything we do, we will do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Tomorrow, (Monday) we leave. SeaTac airport at 5:30 pm. After nearly a year of prayer, planning, fundraising, and anticipation the moment of departure is now so close it is hard to believe. a young man named William Bordon committed his life to Christ earlier in the 20th century and set out for Mission work in China. While studying language in Egypt on his way, he contracted spinal meningitis and died. In the cover of his Bible were written, "No regrets, no reserves, no retreat." Lord, may that be my heart's desire and commitment.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

AFRICA - Here we come

One week from today, I, along with 13 other members from Calvary Presbyterian Church in Enumclaw, Washington, will have literally traveled to the far side of the world to arrive in Lusaka Zambia. It seems not only like a million miles away, it seems like a distant and alien reality to me today. Even as a newly retired pastor, I find that my life gets so caught up with details of my consumptive and busy life that the daily struggles of a young orphan school child carrying a "jerry can" with her family's water for the day; or of Pastor John who preaches in a church with dirt floors, cinder block seats and no instruments and who raises other people's children in a small 3 room house; or the scores of people by the side of Kabanana Road who sell charcoal, vegetables of small hand-crafted items seem incomprehensible at times. To make that disconnect seem even greater, this morning I had a doctor's appointment to remove a small "basal cell carcenoma" from my face - something that should have been done a few weeks ago but wasn't because I didn't want to sport a big scar during the festivities surrounding my retirement. I have pondered what to do with all the books from my library that I don't have further use for nor space in which to store them. Details of arranging for a housesitter; leaving itineraries and phone numbers for people, getting the grass mowed, stopping by Starbucks, packing, and hosting a guest who is in town as part of a group performing at CreationFest are not mundane activities by any means. But they pale by comparison to the concerns of our brothers and sisters in Africa. So after my Doctor's appointment, I stopped by to see a new friend - Albert Munanga. He is the administrative director for a local Senior Care Facility. He is not only from Zambia, he grew up in the very area where we will be working. Visiting with him - although he now lives a very American life - re-calibrated both our hearts toward caring for and praying for the people of Zambia. Seeing the longing in his eyes and hearing the passion in his voice as he talked of his homeland, and his family members who remain there, reminded me clearly that Kabanana, Lusaka, Zambia, and South Africa are real places, filled with real people. These are people who are loved by our Lord and who, in many cases, have deeper faith and joy in Christ than I do. They are also real people who have suffered from lack of safe water, malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Flesh and blood; body and soul; loving, hurting, caring folks. They have more to teach me than I have to teach them, no doubt. Yet, Monday afternoon, we will be on our way. The reality will set in and I will once again be asking if my - our - commitment to this project will really make a difference? As our team has prepared for this trip, many have asked me to defend such a high output of money to send a team all that way when the same amount of money might very well have done much more to feed the hungry or shelter the homeless. It is a compelling question. As I think about it, I can't help but remember Pastor John reiterating what we had heard from others: "Many people have said they would come help us, but you came!" Love incarnate; the Gospel enacted; Christ's hands and feet - frail, insensitive, bumbling, fearful, timid, but eager to be used. That is our team! All 14 have the heart to make this more than just a "vacation." It is a calling. We have been blessed and are called to seek - when possible - to be a blessing to others. That's possible by sending money, or a letter, or used clothes. But much more real in person. "God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son... (John 3:16) There is an African parable about a small boy who wanted to thank his teacher for the lessons learned and for her sacrificial efforts. He traveled a great distance by foot for the perfect gift - a beautiful sea shell shining with an opaque, nacre translucence. It was a fitting symbol of his love and gratitude. When the teacher received the gift, she was stunned. She knew they did not leave near any sea coast and it was evident that the boy had sacrificed greatly to find the shell and bring it to her. When she protested that he should not have taken such a long trip to find her a gift, his response was this: "It is no problem. The long journey is part of the gift." This journey, we pray, will be a gift to others - some we know; others we do not know. What we do know is that God has provided for us to make the trip through the generous prayers and financial support of many people. And we know also that God has divine appointments for us to keep. I think I speak for all of us when I say that the long journey is part of the gift and we make it trusting God's grace and provision every step of the way. Please keep us in your prayers as we travel and as we begin our work. THe team members are Cindy Ehlke, Cherie Murchie, Ronda Henry, Lauren Hardman, Dave Dietz, Terry "Swampy Marsh, Tom and Cate Underbrink, Ken and Suzanne Popp, Doug and Nancy Munsell, and Judy and me. Leaving Monday at 5:30 PDT, we will arrive at 2:30 pm Wednesday (Lusaka time - 10 hours ahead). We return home on August 9. We will worship in Zambia at Pastor's John and Thenny Mpanga's small church. We will also worship and share in the life of United Reforming Church in Ennerdale South Africa. We will administer some health care, play with children, build a sanitary toilet facility, teach health and sex education, and sponsor a Pastor Leadership Conference. In South Africa we will visit the Preschools and AIDS hospice in Finetown. It's going to be busy and tiring. It's going to be the experience of a life time. Here we come!

Friday, July 13, 2012

In Retrospect

It has been awhile since I last posted and now I am in the throes of preparing for another trip to Africa. We leave on July 23 and will be going once again to the Kabanana District near Lusaka Zambia to work among vulnerable children. Our project this year is to provide a more sanitary latrine facility, additional classroom space, health and sex education and community based school support for a preschool and for Healing Place - a school run by Pastor John and Thenny Mpanga. July 1 marked the end of nearly 15 years of pastoral ministry at Calvary Presbyterian Church. It was an emotional time - a bittersweet mixture of tearful goodbyes, unfinished ministry, and people that we have grown to love and care for on the one hand and joyful anticipation of a new chapter in life. As I look back over the last 15 years of ministry there are a number of things that stand out in my mind as vital details and profound memories. - Challenging a congregation steeped in traditional mainline Presbyterianism to step out of that box and engage the community and the world with a missional commitment - 3 mission trips to Mexico to build houses, 3 trips to Africa, 1 trip to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild after Katrina hit. I can recount nearly every detail of those trips; the people we met and ministered to; the jobs we accomplished; the team members; the funny incidents and stories; the heartwarming bonds of love and fellowship; the deep satisfaction of knowing that even if we hadn't made huge dents in the problems of the world, we had changed the lives of some forever - Along those same lines is the gratitude of knowing that over 275 people - from age 15 to age 70 - have participated in one or more of these trips or one of the many other mission trips our church has supported to Mississippi, New Orleans, New York, Boston, Jamaica, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico. - A group of folks that met every week in a local Ale House for Bible Study, prayer, laughter, tears, fellowship, food and more. I am also reminded of people like Thomas, Bonnie, and others who served us and watched us seek to live out the Christian life in a real world setting - Attending AA "birthday parties" with brothers and sisters who were celebrating months or years of sobriety and knowing that I had supported them in some small way. - Over 550 erudite, inspirational, biblical, applicable, life changing sermons preached - Person after person who either wrote a card, a note for the scrap book or who stood and spoke at the party. As I heard those comments and read and re-read the notes and letters, the thing that stood out so clearly to me about 15 years of ministry was not my preaching or my insistence on challenging people to step out into the world; not my Bible Study or classes on current topics; but on personal relationships. Mention of any of my sense of accomplishments was minimal. People talked about supporting them in their Christian life or encouraging them in some ministry. Someone mentioned a life-changing experience on a backpack trip and another on a bicycle trip through the Rocky Mtns. Some mentioned my support of music program, others spoke of things I had said or done. But most simply talked about having a relationship that helped them. Sometimes you don't know the effect your life may have on another person. And sadly, people don't take the opportunity to say kind things about the way another person has affected their life until they are leaving or they have died. I feel humbled and grateful that people were able to share with me and my whole family what 15 years has meant to them (and in some cases an additional 5 years in Renton, Maple Valley and 14 years in Las Cruces). I pray I didn't do anything or act in any way that held ulterior motives of self-advancement. I tried, I believe, to simply act as a "Christ-man" (a term my grandson Davis coined after watching the movie Courageous). In the course of that, God brought dear friends, co-workers, colleagues, accountability partners, and, in some cases, those who challenged, opposed, made me think more deeply about my positions int my life and thereby caused me to grow. I have not deserved the favor God has bestowed on me and my family. As the say in Africa, "God is Good - All the Time." As I look back, I have no regrets, only deep satisfaction mixed with a desire to keep pressing forward in some way. Retirement from professional ministry does not mean quitting the challenge of "living for Christ and bearing fruit." (Phil. 1:21) It simply means finding new ways of doing that. Judy and I decided to attend church last Sunday even though we didn't have to. Neither of us had any responsibility to be there, no sermon to preach; no program to lead, no question to answer; no complaint to listen to. For the first time in many years both Judy and I were able to sit in church and simply focus on God and let others worry about microphone batteries, time going over, sermon content. And through that we encountered God in a new way. Wow. That's what it is like to go to church to worship and not to work. I had no idea. So, we press on. Next stop is Africa. I guess I have to put on a leader hat again for a few weeks as this trip was planned before I knew July 1 would be my retirement. But we are excited to extend Christ's love in tangible ways and to know that though retired, there is lots to look forward to and not just fond memories to nostalgically remember. If you are interested I will be posting from Africa (maybe even from Dubais where we have an overnight stop)on this site. Feel free to read or comment if you wish. Gotta run now and straighten out some technical problems I am having with my email and computer. Keep the faith.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


"Go to the other side of the boatand you'll catch your limit!" I wish it were that simple but its usually not. I can be in the same boat, fishing the same exact gear, using the same technique as others - With rare exception I will be the one who doesn't catch fish.

After the resurrection the fishing disciples went back to their old fishing grounds. Having fished through the night, their luck was equal to mine. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Tired and discouraged, they were ready to pack it in when off in the distance, standing on the shore of the lake, Peter saw the faint silhouette of a person who was calling out to them - "Throw your net on the other side of the boat and you'll find some."

I have often wondered why would they have listened to someone they didn't recognize. But if you know anything about fishing and fishermen, you know that when your not catching, you'll try anything. So they did...they dropped the nets on the other side of the boat and they caught so many fish they needed help hauling them all to shore.
It was only when they got closer to shore that they realized that it was the risen Jesus who had called out to them.

It was a great, joyful moment. Peter, in typical fashion stripped down to his civvies and swam to shore to greet the Lord. Pure exuberance and unrestrained emotion. It all culminated with a fish fry and beach party.

Food is always and has always been a great way to celebrate and to draw close. No wonder the breaking of bread is sacramental. It does draw a person closer those sharing the meal as well as to the host. In another place, on a road to Emmaus, this same Jesus appeared to two disciples and only became known to them in the breaking of bread.

This story from John's Gospel is one of my favorite post-resurrection stories. I love it that Peter was overjoyed to see Jesus again. I love it that they got to enjoy a meal and the fellowship that goes with it. I love it because it involves boats and fishing. I love it most of all because at the Lord's suggestion, they decided to fish differently and for that step of blind faith, their efforts were rewarded...beyond all expectation and hopes.

That is what knowing the resurrected Christ does to a person's life. The Lord tells you to stop doing things in the same old way with the same old results that you have been using. Knowing Jesus should give us courage and faith to change; to not settle for the same old, same old.

A lot of people do not like change. Its difficult. Its not that the future is bad, its just uncertain and when a person is accustomed to doing things in certain ways, well, its just hard to recalibrate.

Obviously, as retirement nears for me, the Lord will be asking Judy and I to fish out of the other side of the boat and engage in new, different ways. Yes, I am retiring from serving Calvary. But I am a disciple of Jesus and I can't see not serving in some way - voluntary or otherwise. It is and will be a step of faith for us. Jesus Risen calls out though and asks us to do things differently. I'm up for it.

It will also be an important time for our church as this change occurs. For nearly 15 years with me as Senior Pastor, Calvary has graciously adapted to my weird ideas, big plans, and sorry jokes, you have kindly adapted, put up, responded to and shared in ministry with me. You have grown accustomed to doing things in a certain way. It would be easy - and perhaps natural - to slip back into a complacency, continuing to do things the way they've always been done. But that may not be the most effective way to do things; "to catch fish."

Now seems the perfect time for you to hear the call of Christ and go to the other side of the boat, try a different method, and do things just a little differently. That's what Jesus in risen glory calls us to.

And it's even more important in your personal life. After you've finished your Easter dinner, visited with family and friends, done your annual (or bi-annual) church thing, don't be content to go back to things the way they were. Step out in faith. Hear Christ's call. Know that in risen power and glory, the Lord is calling out to you to do things differently. If you just try it, who knows, maybe you'll be so blessed, you won't even be able to haul in the catch.