Tag Archives: mission trip

Eating fish heads (how God’s list of clean and unclean foods in Deuteronomy 14 matters to Christians, part 1)

29 Oct

What do you consider disgusting food?  Brussels sprouts?  Tomatoes?  Hot dogs?  Fast food?  Fish?  We all have our likes and our dislikes.

For me, some of the most disgusting food I’ve had was on mission trips.  In India it was some kind cow intestine or worse.  In Malaysia I had Tom Yum soup which is actually from Thailand.

I spent the whole summer between my junior and senior year of college on a missionary internship in Guyana South America.  Much of my summer I worked alongside a Guyanese pastor, helping to start a new church in a neighboring town.  Toward the end of the summer, he and his wife had me over for dinner, and they served fish.  Their menu choice was no surprise, as they lived on Guyana’s coast where fish are abundant.  Mostly the Guyanese men fished with nets, but also, amazingly, with their hands!  Nearby sugar cane plantations built canals throughout their fields, and they used the canals to float harvested cane to the processing plant.  The canals were a great habitat for many species of fish, including some that would find safety in the muddy walls of the canals.  My Guyanese friends would hop in the canal, get down on their hunches, and start rummaging through the mud.  I was blown away the first time I watched this, as they pulled fish after fish out of the water, seemingly by magic.

As you can imagine, I ate fish often that summer, including the meal at my pastor friend’s house.  For dinner, the family prepared one whole fish for us to share: my friend, his wife, their young son, and me.  I was the guest, and they treated me with honor.  In Guyanese culture it is customary to offer your guest the head of the fish because they considered it a delicacy to suck the eyes out.  I had so many cross-cultural experiences that summer.  I had foregone deodorant because many Guyanese did.  I tried learning their dialect and changing my accent to match theirs.  I had many new foods, fruits and vegetables.  But when it came to fish head, and especially the eyeballs, I just couldn’t do it.

Food is amazing, isn’t it?  It can be so good, and so bad.  I was amazed in Guyana, which was exceedingly poor, how they enjoyed rice and hot spices with every meal.  I grew to love their rice, curry and daal.  But I also missed my American favorites.  One time we traveled to the capital city for some meetings, and we visited a KFC, and I was so ready for fried chicken!  My Guyanese friends considered it a treat too, but afterwards some of them were ho-hum about it, and they said they missed their rice! Another time the missionary I stayed with made a delicious mac & cheese, and my Guyanese friends said it didn’t have any taste.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  You know what they were referring to?  Spice.  It had no hot spices in it.  To them, that mac & cheese was bland.

They had their idea about what food was good and what food was bad.  We all have our ideas of good and bad food, right? Did you know that God also has some ideas about good food and bad food?

As we continue studying Deuteronomy, we come to chapter 14, verses 1-21.  Go ahead and open your Bible to that passage. As you’ll see, this very unique chapter focuses on food.  For the people of Israel, God said food is either clean or unclean.  In other words, some food is good, and some food is bad.  But God’s menu had nothing to do with taste or preference.  Have you heard of the word “kosher”?  What is kosher?  Deuteronomy 14 is basically God’s menu of kosher food for Israel.  For the rest of the week, we’re going to see how God’s menu for Israel matters to us!

As we’ll see tomorrow, when God wants to talk about clean and unclean food with Israel, he starts in a curious place: their identity as his children.

How to stop treating people as projects, Part 2 – People of Peace & Missional Communities

7 Oct

Last week I introduced my sermon on Luke 10:1-24 talking about how we Christians can be guilty of treating people as our own little spiritual projects.  While I don’t believe that most Christians set out to make people into projects, in our eagerness to see people experience what we think is so amazing, namely, following Jesus, we can go overboard and treat those people as projects.

But they are people.  And we need to learn to treat them better.  So in Luke 10:1-24, Jesus teaches us a better way.  The story is that Jesus is once again sending out a group of his followers on a mission trip.  This time 72 of them, two-by-two, venture out to heal the sick, cast out demons, and tell people that God’s Kingdom is near.  We learn from Luke that they have a wonderful trip, and everyone is filled with joy.

Maybe it went so well because they followed Jesus’ teaching of the better way.  Maybe instead of treating people like projects, they put into practice the instructions Jesus gave them.  What was that instruction, that better way?

Persons of Peace.

Here’s what Jesus taught them in verses 5-7: “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”

Notice how Jesus describes the person. The person is open, receptive. It seems that God is already at work in their lives. On rare occasions we’ll meet someone like this in a passing connection like an airplane ride or a seat at a football game. But for the most part, they will be people we already know like our neighbors, co-workers, family members, or long-term friends.

I recently heard the story of someone who would pray for a person in their neighborhood for 6 months, then after six months approach them to see if they were a person of peace

Keep your eyes open for God to bring a person of peace into your life. Pray for them. Do you have a person of peace in your life?

When God is already at work in their lives, they are not your little project, but they are a person of peace.

Paul Mancioche recommends “the following steps where families can do this together:

  • Build predicable patterns of prayer & Bible, food and fun time as a family
  • Look for ‘people of peace’ (Luke 10:6) who feel called to join us
  • Invite them to orbit in and out of our rhythms
  • Disciple them to live in a way that passionately follows God, commits to community life and reaches out to others
  • Do this through shared lives and more formal times of processing together (which we call ‘Huddles’)
  • When they are ready, ask them to lead the same thing in their own homes

This is our 21st Century approximation of what we see Jesus doing in the gospels.”

Here’s how one church has implemented these principles:

Let’s be people of Jesus’ better way!

A Christian phrase that needs to be turned action – Luke 9:1-10

26 Aug

Last week I introduced Sunday’s sermon by talking about Christian phrases that need to go.  But there is one that we should keep, if and only if, it is more than a phrase.  You know that phrase “actions speak louder than words”?  It is true for so much of life, and definitely so when it comes to being a disciples of Jesus.  We live out our faith.

In Luke 9:1-10, among other things, Jesus wanted his disciples to learn dependence on him.

The phrase we need to turn into action is “Depend of God.”  It might not be on a mission trip, though those are good, but what does it mean it to depend on Jesus?  When we say “Depend on God” it should be so much more than a phrase that sounds righteous.  “Depend on God” should matter in really life.  In other words, we should be able to do actions that show we are depending on God.

How do we put ourselves in a place where God has to come through in order for us to make it, be cared for?

Is this only a reactionary, depending on God in the situations that happen to us?

Could it also be proactive? Could we do things that show that we are dependent on God? There will be times in life when we have no choice but to cry out to God, or when God must step in and rescue us. But what about when things are good?

Jesus once taught about depending on him.  To teach this he used a parable called the Vine and the Branches in John 15:1-8.  It is simple really.  A branch broken off from a tree will die because it is no longer connected to the life-giving trunk.  In our culture, an electric device will stop if disconnected from its power source.  Jesus was saying that this is a reality for his Kingdom people as well.  We must somehow be connected to his life-giving power, or we can do nothing, he said.

So what is the difference between a person who depends on his power and one who doesn’t?  I have a few thoughts:

  1. Does: Ample time spent in prayer, peaceful emotion during difficult life situations, unattached to material possessions and very generous.
  2. Doesn’t: Weak or non-existent time in prayer. Freaks-out during difficulties, focused on acquisition and ownership of material possessions, and not generous.

Which are you most like?

Luke, at verses 7-9, changes the scene and takes us into Herod’s palace. We’ve met Herod before. And in this section Luke tells us more about him including the sad fate of John the Baptist.

Herod has beheaded John. And Herod is confused because he is hearing more and more reports that a man like John has appeared on the scene. Has John come back to life? Has an old prophet come back to life?

Herod asks a question we’ve heard before. “Who is this?”

Remember the disciples on the boat when Jesus calmed the storm? “Who is this?”

It seems more people are asking the same question about Jesus. “Who is this?”

We saw over the last month that he is the one who commands the storm, who commands demons, and who even has power to raise the dead. Now today he is the one who transfers that power to others, to multiply his ministry, to raise up leaders. He doesn’t have to have all the power in his own hands. He is humble and willing to invest in others. But he wants his people do depend on him.

So this phrase we throw around: Depend on God. It is pretty important. Vital, in fact. It is imperative that we learn to depend on God. And there are some very practical things we can do to grow our dependence on God.

Go on a mission trip! Step out of your comfort zone. Give more generously, sacrificially. Spend more time in prayer.

Instead of saying it, show that you depend on God.

Cardboard box tower and a covered desktop – The Monday Messy Office Report – July 20, 2015

20 Jul

My Monday Messy Office Report returns!  I’m sure you were feeling incomplete without it…

Today two photos that show what I arrived to this morning:

2015-07-20 Messy Office 02

My covered desktop

A smallish church pastor wears many hats, and Picture #1 shows a bunch of them:

1. Three weeks worth of bulletin proofs. I’m part of a team from Faith Church that will spend 10 days serving in Kenya, starting July 27, so I’ll be out of the office and need to work ahead a bit.

2. An orange New Testament with the name of one of my kids’ friends written inside.  A group of Faith Church kids were hanging out in my office after worship yesterday!  I love that they love to hang out in here…but it can get a little messy.

3. Receipts and a credit card statement.  Gotta keep things in order.  Did you ever wish money would just go away?

4. A couple phone messages.  People to call back!  You should see my email inbox…

5. Minutes from various church serve team meetings.  Staying informed about how all various committees are serving in the church is imperative.

6. Reminders…a bunch of them.  It’s coffee break Sunday which alters the flow of worship and fellowship time and children’s ministry, so we want to make sure the volunteers have some notice about that.  Then there is a reminder to send a bunch of info to the Kenya team.  I hate to admit it but I’m at the point where unless I have reminder notes, those things could easily be forgotten.

7. A bill from a local organ company saying that our service plan expired…11 years ago! They were wondering if we would want to pay $700 to start it back up again?  I can think of another solution…

8. Men’s Retreat brochure.  Can’t wait!  Going to be another awesome weekend at Twin Pines, Sept. 25-27.  Want to join us?  Let me know.

9. Scripture Reader list. People from the congregation volunteers as readers in worship, and I need to get someone lined up for this coming Sunday.

And there is Photo #2:  Why do I have a cardboard tower?  Over the last month or so, packages have been arriving.  I didn’t order any of them, but they just keep coming!  In fact, as I was typing this the postman rang the office door with another package from Great Britain!  Can you guess what this is all about?

Cardboard box tower!In a week I will open the packages.

Can you figure out what they are?

Christmas in July?


Here’s a clue: It has to do with our Kenya trip!  Ok, I’ll tell you.  Our missionary friends in Kenya placed orders for items their school needs.  It would be expensive to ship them to Kenya.  But free for our team to bring them on the plane!  So we’re leaving room in our luggage to squeeze the items in.  I am so excited about the trip.  We could sure use your prayers.  And if anyone would be interested in sponsoring puzzle pieces, which is a trip fundraiser, check it out here.  We’d love to have over 200 pieces sponsored before we leave in a week.  If you want trip updates, just like the Faith Church Facebook page, and we’ll post new updates most days.

Now it’s time to clean up this mess!

Kenya, Men’s Retreat, Congregational Meeting – Monday Messy Office Report – 11/17/14

17 Nov

My office is tidy Friday, mysteriously messy Monday.  Here’s why:

Kijabe-Kenya11. Kenya trip stuff – I am super excited about this.  A group from Faith Church is planning on to take a 10-day trip in July/August 2015 to visit our Faith Church family members, Lamar, Janice & Donovan Stoltzfus, serving at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya!  Yesterday, after the events of the day which I’ll talk about below, we had a Skype info meeting with them, and it was great.  In my office I have the cables and camera we use to facilitate the call.  I also have a few leftover applications, which are due by January 1st, with a $250 deposit.  I want to thank Verna Miller at MTS Travel for all her assistance with reserving our air passage.  Most of all I want to thank Alyssa Stoltzfus who took a break from college to spend the afternoon with us and help answer questions, and I want to thank Lamar & Janice for a great call.  We love you guys!  And from what they shared, we are going to have a wonderful trip.  There is opportunity to serve at a displaced persons camp, at a church in the camp, certainly on the campus of RVA, and lots more.

2. Men’s Retreat registrations – I am also excited about our fourth annual men’s retreat going on at Twin Pines Camp this coming weekend.  We have a great group going along, and we’re excited to have Sandy Good of Live 10:27 Ministries as our speaker.  He is hilarious and has deep teachings.  The theme is Mighty Men of Prayer.  I can’t believe I’m saying all this nice stuff…he’s also my father-in-law.  There’s still room if anyone would like to join us!  Contact me, and I’ll send you a brochure.  We’re going to have a blast.  And Twin Pines is such an amazing place. We’ll have great food, lots of outdoor fun, sports, and great discussions.

3. Congregational Meeting stuff – We had our annual congregational meeting yesterday, and it was great!  We had an election of our very first Leadership Team.  Faith Church has been working on a governance change for years, and earlier this year we voted it in place.  A six-month transition took place, and on January 1, 2015, the new governance system, including the Leadership Team, will begin.  Basically we sought out biblical principles to guide us in creating a governance structure.  The Bible is wisely very flexible in that regard, but one clear principle emerged as it relates to who should be a leader.  That principle is that the most spiritually mature should lead the church.  So we implemented a process to select leaders by virtue of spiritual maturity, and God provided!  Congrats to all who were selected.  I’m excited about working with you, excited to see what God will do in and through Faith Church!

Now to clean up this mess!