Mission Trip Update 7/27-Pressing Need

We are growing very close to the departure date for the Zimbabwe project, and time is galloping forward.  Much has fallen into place, thanks to a gracious God and the help of many people abroad.  Many of  you and others have responded by joining my prayer and financial support team, in which I am grateful beyond words.  All the letters have been sent out at this time, and now we wait upon the Lord to provide all things necessary for His mission to be accomplished through our team in Africa.

Our trip actually begins from the port of departure.  Our team will assemble in Chicago before flying internationally.  Therefore, it is our own responsibility to get to Chicago.  My pastor has priced air flight tickets from Amarillo to Chicago and will need to purchase those tickets soon.  I am sharing this as a matter of prayer, fully confident in our Lord who will provide.   I need approximately $400 to purchase these tickets for my travel, above and beyond the money needed for the overall trip. I need this money in one weeks time, as well.
Please join me in this pressing need as you pray for the mission overall.  Also, continue to pray for more people to join in prayer and financial support.  Thank you.

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Mission Trip Update 7/10

What does it take to prepare for a mission trip like this?

I asked this same question, as this will be farthest I have traveled on mission.  There are four areas that we have been asked to begin preparing:

  1. Physical – We will traveling into the “bush”, which is a simple term for a very large area of Zimbabwe that is undeveloped and wild.  Their roads can be  nothing more than wide trails and homes nothing more than mud huts.  There will be much walking involved at “African Pace”, which means long distances and few to no breaks.  There will be food available, that we can eat, but often times we will not finish what we eat so that we can share with the children.  It will also be very hot during the days.  I am walking 5-7 miles per day in an effort to condition my body for the trip.  Many times, I will walk in the heat of the day, as well.  I am watching my food intake and drinking lots of water.  As well, there are a number of medical issues to prepare for.
  2. Spiritually – Sensitivity to the Spirit is vital in all situations, but especially on mission.  Walking closely to the Lord daily is a requirement, along with forming a prayer team.  I would like to invite you join my prayer team if you have not already.  You will get updates from now till the conclusion of the project, all that is required is a commitment to regular prayer.
  3. Mentally – Patience go a long way on mission trips.  I have to prepare now to deal calmly with stressful situations that may occur there.  I am also beginning to journal now as we lead up to the project.
  4. Emotionally – Fear/panic, home-sickness/crisis, pride/hurt feelings, stamina as all areas about which to be on alert.  A proper emotional description for the team members are Flexible – Team Player.  We will have travel and warm up/cool down days book-ending the project, but our days among the people will be intense as we minister from 6 am – midnight or later.

Other preparations include equipment, gearing, training.  For this Colorado mountain guy, I am struggling to gear appropriately for the trip as all my things are for cold weather camping and hunting.   Yet, I am confident that I will have all the right items needed for the project, and I appreciate your prayers in this regard.

Prayer Requests

  • As mentioned previously, please pray for our team members, their needs in regard to the project, and their families.
  • I have just started forming my prayer and financial base for the project.  Pray that God will raise the finances needed for my portion of the costs and for any items I will have purchase specifically for the project.
  • Pray for the hearts of the Tonga people we will be sharing the Gospel with.  Pray that their ears will hear and their hearts will receive.
  • Pray for our preparations, that we will be able to make all arrangements and be ready to go when it is time.

Thank you for your time.  If you are not a team member, please click here to find out how you can get involved.

The Big Picture – Orange Perspective

The Orange Conference 2012 has come and gone, and I have no disappointments or regrets. Never before have I met so many of the most innovative and sincere people, all in one place, all seeking the same goal. From the main stage to the breakouts. From the vendors to the volunteers. From the churches of 100 to churches of 10000, the conversation was the same. In the lunch line, on the lawn, around a great cup of coffee, projected on the screen…everywhere, the message was focused and clear.

We are all part of God’s Big Story and it takes Families and Churches working together to make positive change for future generations.

Lets break it down.

We were created to worship and have relation with God. Sin destroyed that relationship for all people. We tried to follow God’s laws, but failed every time. We were out of options and left with no hope of salvation. Then, Jesus bridged the gap. Grace fell like rain. Our relationship with God was restored. No one is excluded form this gift of life…they just have to ask. Children, youth, and their families, they all need to know about the love of a great big God, who is bigger than our circumstances. He is bigger than the struggles of a single parent home. Bigger than a hurting economy. Bigger than the bullies our kids face every day. Bigger than the special needs of our children. God Is Bigger!

Who is going to tell the next generation about God’s Big Story? Is it just up to the pastor to share it one day a week? Will it be the job of the missionary to take it to the whole world? Parents, is it your job to share with your children? Is it the churches job, or the families?

The answer is YES!

The answer is yes to all of the above and more. Not only does it take a pastor, but it takes a small group leader who pours their life into the kids or others in their group. Not only does it take a missionary, but it takes children, students, and families being invested into missions and being missionaries themselves. Not only does it take parents, but it takes Christ centered voices from others within the church body. The future generation will be better anchored to the truth and power of God’s Big Story when they hear it at church, when they hear it at home, when they serve within it, and when they see others do the same. I heard it best stated today, it is not about picking a great curriculum, it is about being a great curriculum. It is about rising above the circumstances and focusing on a big God that loves us more than we can even imagine.

What do you think it means to “be a great curriculum”?

One Thing I Am Convinced of More Than Ever

Gwinnett Convention Center opened it doors Wednesday morning to thousands of people, just like me, eager to bleed the Orange Leaders dry of information and resources in the areas of church, children, families, volunteers, culture, and more.  Over 60 breakout sessions were offered in an attempt to share as much as they could to equip ministry leaders to serve God and His people more effectively.

You may ask, “Where were you, Joel, in all this?

The choices were amazingly difficult, so I went with a theme – Social Media.

“But I thought you went to learn about kids and family stuff?”

You bet I did, which is why the breakouts I learned from are so relevant.  I am convinced more than ever that churches HAVE to utilize Social Media as an outreach and ministry to families.  Many churches are there, but exponentially more are not.  I’ll be the first to admit that our children’s ministry is just scratching the surface of the opportunity.  Many of our churches are still sitting back to see what really becomes of it all, yet the boat is leaving the dock.

Here is a video that Matt McKee showed during one of the sessions that really brought this to light.

So, what is the take away?  This is one of the game changers in ministry today.  Part of our outreach to Generation X and Y must included a strategy that involves both personal relationships and social media.  One without the other is going to make it increasingly difficult to engage our communities as our world becomes more and more connected.


Kenny Conley made these points in his session:
  1. Consumers want to know the truth.
  2. Consumers want to be involved
  3. Consumers want to interact/be social
He says Hollywood has figured this out by something called the Twitter Effect.  This happens when a movie has a amazing opening night, then tanks before the weekend is over.  This is caused by the people who went to the first night of the movie, but would then post updates and tweets that were negative.  No matter amazing the previews looked, it was the rapid spread of the reviews through word of mouth via social media that really determined the overall success.


I often wonder what Paul would have done if he had access to social media in his time.  Sure, with anything there are pitfalls and problems, but the reality is that we can no longer consider this a fad.  We have the opportunity to spread the Good News in a new way.  I believe that we handicap our churches and our ministries by resisting this cultural shift, or game changer.  Not only that, I believe we limit the effective spread of God’s Word.


Need help getting your ministry involved in social media? Is your church doing something unique in social media that you would like to share?  I want to hear about it, alright?

What is Your Trash Can’s Name?

I am not going to update on last night’s opening main session at the Orange Conference….yet. There really are no words to say that can describe how God wrenched my heart, so I will process a little more and share later. I am preparing to post about one of the “game changers” which consumed my pre-conference breakouts. That, too, will post in the near future.

However, I do want to share a story of a unique trash can I noticed while leaving the conference last night. Hang in there with me, ok?

The conference was pretty emotional for me, and super exhausting. I can’t remember the last time that I poured so much of myself into worshiping our King. At some point, I believe that the custodial staff brought out “Caution: Wet Floor” signs and placed them around me and my puddle of tears. When the conference finished, I moved slowly across the arena floor, and paused at every other step while hiking back up to the entrance. I was moving so slowly, I fully expected someone to come from behind me with a wheelchair and whisk me away to my car.

As people exited the building, a small army of custodians emerged from elevators and closets. With cleaning tools in hand, they began the huge task of restoring the facility to its original state. Leaving the elevator last was a young man pushing a gray trash can on wheels. It was a good, sturdy commercial trash cart, one that you would throw several bags of trash in before delivering it the the dumpster. As one could safely assume, it was nasty looking. Sticky remains of soft drinks doted the top, while the inside had its share of unknown stains. I have seen better looking trash cans, and I have seen worse. However, my thoughts on the condition of the trash faded quickly when I noticed something very peculiar. As I looked closer, there was a word written on the side of the trash cart. The letters were:

C – H – O – S – E – N

I immediately began to wonder who and why someone would write chosen on the side of trash can. Didn’t really make much sense, but I quickly dismissed it and continued on. Within seconds God stopped me in my tracks, opened up my eyes, and showed me something incredible.

He reminded me that I, too, used to be stinky and dirty, like that trash cart.
He convicted me of the times that I have treated other people like that trash cart
He helped me to see that even at my worst, I was still “chosen” by God’s grace He freely gives to all.

As Reggie Joyner shared last night, “Engage in a Gospel that transcends culture. Trust a God who’s bigger than your categories.” We are a mess, reaching people who are a mess, with the love of God. Let’s not hesitate to share and love. We will get messy, and that’s part of it.

An Eye from the Sky – Orange Perspective

There is something about being in an airplane that definitely changes your perspective.

I don’t fly much. If you were to see me right now, it would be pretty obvious. Just trying to complete this post is a challenge as I continually turn to glance over the great state of Texas and stare off into the fading horizon. I watch as whole communities slide past my window in mere seconds. What an amazing thing flight is! Now I know many others of you have had all you want of planes, tight schedules, and busy airports. You may feel differently, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did. Regardless, you have to admit that the world looks different from 25000 feet in the air.

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Is this how I have been viewing ministry to children and families?

Have I been so enamored by the developing concepts and big idea of a family based ministry philosophy, that I have minimized the individuals I am called to serve?

As I travel to go meet with 5000+ people whom all share the same passion and love that I do…
As I listen and absorb God’s message to me through some of the greatest leaders and innovators in the country…
As I think, process, pray, and discern God’s plan for my ministry and the ministry of our church…

May I discover how this ALL…

Will bring little Suzy to a greater understanding of God.
Will help Stacy raise her children without a father in the home.
Will encourage Cecil and Wanda as they care for their grandchildren while their daughter works two jobs just to get by.
Will equip Tom as he follows God’s calling on his life to teach in children’s church.

This is the challenge I pose for myself this week. Excited for great things!

Blogging Again…My First Orange Conference

Well, in preparation for my trip to Atalanta this week, I felt like it was time to dust off the blog.  I took a bit of a break while writing for StudentLifeforKids.  The series ended a while back and I have been pretty quiet…

UNTILL NOW!

God is doing so many great things in my life, family, and ministry that I just can’t keep quiet.  So, get ready to get a screen full as I begin sharing insights from my own walk with God in regards to life, kids, and family.  Not only will you hear from me, but I will bring you the best of the web as I share other blogs, stories, and news from around the world that impact you.

Which brings me to the week ahead.  My church has given me the privilege to attend my first Orange Conference, held in the amazing city of Atlanta.  This conference is comprised of the nation’s most notable leaders and innovators in the areas of children, youth, and family ministry.  I will have the opportunity to network with a host of men and women whom share my passion for the Lord and ministry to families.  The experience will be invaluable as I will not only grow personally and professionally, but will be able to communicate with you and others the same insights I will gain.

So, keep it tuned right here for updates and thoughts as the week goes one.  If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, I invite you to do that now.  I appreciate your prayers for me and my family while I am away. Thanks for the read and the opportunity to serve you through it.  God bless.

How “Big Brother” Plans to Become Mom and Dad

Me and politics mix about like oil and water.  Much of the time I show a real lack of enthusiasm or even apathy when it comes to legislation.  So, when something catches my attention within the political climate, it’s a big deal.

Such is the case with the Parental Rights Amendment.

This amendment is a preemptive change in the Constitution  to secure the fundamental rights of parents to know and to act in the best interest of their children.  It is necessary in regards to fairly recent changes in the United Nations and their establishment of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or better known as the UNCRC or CRC.  This treaty, presented as a way to help protect children, actually makes them more vulnerable and ties the hands of parents by giving parental rights to the government.

Can this really happen in America?  Many disregard it, most are completely unaware, but US courts are increasingly ruling in favor of children over parents. To reiterate, I am not a political activists by any means, but we must understand the real danger involved with proven trends in government to break down the family unit.

Please take about 35 minutes to watch the video below, it is well worth it.

 

 

Catch a Glimpse and Keep It Too

Have you ever put together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture on the box as a guide?

You start by finding the corners.  Next the sides.  Then, all the pieces in between.  It is strictly trial and error as you search diligently through a multitude of fragmented images looking for the one that fits, then the next.  Piece by piece the image is completed, celebrating every successful placement.  Then finally the picture is complete.  The frustrations, the struggles, the failures, it all passes away as you revel in the victory of the great accomplishment.

My mind was occupied with this illustration while praying in the sanctuary of our church recently.  The names and faces of many people were weighing heavy on my heart as I prayed for those I knew were struggling with issues at home, work, church, health, and life in general.  To be honest, my own family was included in the list of names as moving to a new community always presents it’s share of challenges.  I walked from row to row, chair to chair, balcony to main floor, spending time with my Lord.  I ended my walking tour of the worship center at the steps leading up to the podium.  While sitting there on the steps looking out towards the empty seats, my gaze was snatched by a glimpse of something I had never seen before.

Our sanctuary has beautiful stained glass windows arrayed on three sides.  The most spectacular of which is on the east side, rising several feet above the balcony.  Stunning as it is, the morning light impedes the impact of the visual aspects of our worship service.  Therefore, long, dark curtains hang over the windows to block the light.  Yet, while sitting on the steps of the stage, outside the sun began to rise to full strength.  Towards the apex of these great curtains, there is a small seam where the drapes do not flush together.  It was through this break that the sun charged in and produced a light greater than any in the night sky.  I sat in wonder as the light intensified and then began to wane.  For just a moment, I was given a glimpse of the presence and beauty of that stained glass window.

I can’t help but be reminded of times in the Bible where people were shown glimpses of Heaven and of God’s Glory.  Old Testament greats like Moses, Isaiah, and Ezekiel to name a few.  Those in the New Testament who walked with Jesus, witnessed His glory, recorded His words, even viewed the Heavenly realms.  All of these were given but a small piece of the great big picture of God and His Kingdom.  Like a jigsaw puzzle, the piece alone provided limited information about the big picture. Yet, it served a great purpose by offering tangible evidence of the big picture.

We all will face struggles.  You are probably faced with them right now.  Difficulties at work, financial strains, church conflict, and family issues can all act like a long, dark curtain, attempting to hide God’s plan for your life.  After a while, our negativity and feelings of doubt and hopelessness can lead to frustration and grief.  However, John 16:33 says to “Take heart!”  God has overcome the world!    The puzzle really will produce a complete picture.  There really is a beautiful, sun lit window behind that dark curtain. You can have peace in knowing that God is in control and has plans that will only prosper you, not harm you.(Jer. 29:11)

Let me share something that I have learned and relied upon for several years.  My family and I have been blessed to serve with people who are real encouragers.  They always provided a kind word or note of thanks in the times of struggle and in peace.  Although I  was very appreciative of their words, I would soon forget what they had said or misplaced the note or card they had given me.  On one occasion when I was feeling very depressed and frustrated, I stumbled across a wonderful note given to me several months earlier.  After reading the note, God lifted my spirits and my attitude changed immediately.  The note provided a glimpse of God’s plan and purpose for me.  I kept that note, and several more after it.  Anytime I began to dwell on the darkness of the situation around me, I would go back to my thank you cards and notes.  Each one would expose a hole in that dark drape and give me hope for God’s power and provision.

We should not get so focused on the bad in life that we forget to catch glimpses of the good.  God provides for us daily, in big and small ways.  All the glimpses will add together to point to the fact that He already has the victory, we need to rest and trust in Him.

Associate Pastor for Children and Their Families, First Baptist Church of Borger, Texas

I am excited to announce that First Baptist Church of Borger, Texas, voted this morning to extend to me a call  to serve as their Associate Pastor for Children and Their Families.  My family and I are honored and humbled to accept this call and serve faithfully as God empowers to reach the children and parents in the church and community.

Last night, we spent a few hours in a fellowship atmosphere where people within the church were able to introduce themselves and chat about anything and everything.  It was wonderful to meet many new  families within the church and discuss their hopes and expectations about the future of children’s ministry.  FBC Borger has an active membership of around 800 people, so it will take awhile to meet everyone and learn names.

This morning, we spent most of our time in the children’s area.  FBC Borger has just started using 252 Basics, a curriculum developed by the ReThink Group, or more commonly known as Orange.  I was introduced to this program in May when we came to visit my sister and her family.  The church they attend has been using the program for awhile, and I had asked to sit in during their Sunday morning children’s worship to get a taste of the action.  The greatest asset of the 252 Basics is the connection to home.  Equipping parents to be the spiritual leaders at home is going to be a priority in this new ministry opportunity, and I am convinced that Orange is on track to do this effectively.

I had the privilege of sharing my testimony and vision in the Main Worship Service.  FBC Borger has a beautiful sanctuary, and it was full of smiling faces and warm hearts.  After sharing, my family and I went back to be with the children in their worship.  The vote was taken after the morning service ended, and we were very pleased with an overwhelmingly positive result.  We then returned to the service where I was presented as the new associate staff member.  We thoroughly enjoyed meeting people afterwards as church was dismissed.

We have had the honor to serve at FBC Bayfield for almost four years.  We love this church and the people will always be near and dear to our hearts.  It is our sincere hope and prayer that God will lead Pastor Randy and the church to new horizons as they seek to minister to youth, children, and families within the Bayfield community.  We plan to maintain the many great friendships we are apart of, and are excited to see what God has in mind for the church.

Our schedule as of now is to pack a rental truck on July 14, travel to back to Borger on the 15th, unload on the 16th, and begin service on Sunday July 17th.  We are grateful for prayers surrounding this transition.  We are also appreciative of any help we can have in loading and unloading.  If you can offer assistance in this way, please let us know when you will be available.  We have not secured a home to live in, yet, but will try to find something by this Tuesday.  We ask that you also join us in prayer for this.

Thank you again for your prayers and support.  This has been and continues to be an exciting process as we have watched the hand of God move in our lives, the life of FBC Bayfield, and the life of FBC Borger.  We will continue to depend upon God’s hand as he leads in a new direction for these two churches and our family.  Praise be to our God, Soli Deo Gloria.