Improving International Relations: Lessons Learned from Sierra Leone


One afternoon, because we were so close to the boarder of another country, our team stood with one foot in the country of Sierra Leone and one foot in the country of Guinea. In one step, we brought two countries together.

We made the short drive to the border of the two countries during our time in Sierra Leone. Our pastor friends simply asked a question of the Sierra Leone border officials. Could five crazy Americans step over the line into another country, just to say we had been there? The border officials considered the request, then casually walked across an international geographical border to the Guinea border officials and presented our request. Request granted. It was a simple as that. We caused no problems, shook hands with border officials in both countries, took our pictures and went on our way.

The thought occurred to me. What if all International relations were that easy? The word relations is…after all…part of the word relationship. What if International relations were as easy as forming healthy relationships with other people in other countries? Could it be that easy?

I realize much more is at stake than just snapping a few pictures and relationships take more than one person willing to make them work, but I love to dream.

Praying some International relations improve today. Who is with me?

Using Your Influence for Good: Lessons from Sierra Leone


Throughout our time in Sierra Leone children swarmed us everywhere we went, especially Daniel and Jesse, the youngest two on the trip. Their energy and enthusiasm with the children was highly contagious. They became almost like celebrities in every village.

At one point Jessie admitted she felt guilty for attracting such a crowd. She didn’t want people to think she was seeking personal attention or fame. Daniel agreed with the sentiment.

That’s when the thought occurred to me. Popularity, wealth and power are not all bad. Being “famous” is not necessarily something to be avoided. It may depend on how and for what purpose it is being used.

What occurred to me is that Daniel and Jessie were attracting crowds of children, entertaining them with games and songs, and then leaving them to go to the next village. What they left behind, however, was their influence. Those children in remote villages in West Africa will never forget the love and attention they were shown by these two young adults. They will be running through the streets of their village singing “Jesus Loves Me” because of the experience they had with Daniel and Jessie. They will do push ups, because Daniel taught them how and they will recite cheers Jessie recited and they will laugh and dance…all because two people used their influence in positive ways.

Don’t shy away from the influence God has given you. If it is being used for His glory, rather than for your own, it can be very positive. If your motive and heart is pure, and the glory is pointed towards God, be thankful for the opportunities he gives you.

How are you allowing God to use the influence He has given you?

10 Things I Take for Granted: As I’m Learning in Sierra Leone

I’m so grateful for the opportunity this week in Sierra Leone. God has blessed us greatly, but there are a few things I know I won’t as easily take for granted.

Here are 10 things (and people) I won’t easily take for granted, thanks to my time in Sierra Leone:

1. Cheryl, Jeremy, Nate & Mary
2 My church and extended family
3. Air conditioning
4. Hot (or even warm) showers
5. Flushable toilets
6. High speed wireless Internet
7. Not having to sleep under a mosquito tent
8. Ice/Refrigeration
9. Paved roads
10. Knowledge of what I’m eating

Realizing even more how blessed we are as Americans!

What are you taking for granted these days?

(There will be more reflective posts and pictures to come. Internet is limited to a few minutes per day at this point.)

10 Things I’m Learning from my Time in Sierra Leone

In case you missed my earlier posts, I’m in Sierra Leone for a couple weeks. I will share more later, but wanted to give a quick update. We are here to teach and train pastors for Africa for Jesus and it has been an incredible experience so far.

Here are 10 things I’ve observed/learned the first few days here:

1. I take for granted warm shower and air conditioning

2. The African people love to worship…and they know how. When they pray, God’s Spirit is present.

3. Grilled goat meat is not bad.

4. Women (and a few men) who can balance enormous weight on their heads and walk miles…amaze me!

5. African people have huge hearts.

6. Temperature is relative. In the upper 80’s here some have on coats and jackets…while I sweated.

7. The hearts and desires of people don’t change much because of cultural differences.

8. The power of Christ to change a life is not limited by demographics or geography.

9. Children are precious at showing unconditional love. I understand more why Jesus encouraged the children to come to Him.

10. People are even more loving when they are shown love.

Can you identify with any of these from your observations of life?

Sierra Leone Here We Come


Tomorrow a group of five, including me, will leave for 10 days in Sierra Leone. We are going to support a church planting ministry called Africa for Jesus. We will meet people in remote villages, encourage them in their efforts, teach pastors and families, and share God’s love to the people of Africa. I’m excited.

I have traveled extensively doing mission work, but this will be my first trip to the continent of Africa. From the research I have done, this will be the most primitive setting in which I have ever ministered…and I’ve been to some rough places. I’m praying God uses this time to strengthened my faith. (I realize that is a scary prayer.)

Here is how you can help. I have some posts sporadically planned and hope to add some while I am away, but I will have limited Internet time. You can help by tweeting my posts as you are encouraged to do so. I hate to put work into a post and not be able to promote it properly.

Obviously you can pray for us and our families who are still here. We believe we are prepared and going to relatively safe areas, but as with any trip like this, there are always unexpected adventures. It would be great to know that we are being covered in prayer.

Will you commit to pray for our trip? I promise to update you as I can and share pictures from Africa, or if not, when we get home. Thanks and God bless.

Happy Father’s Day Challenge: The Nurturing Dad

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Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 NIV

Fathers are not usually seen as the nurturing ones in a family. When my boy’s get sick, they don’t want me, they want Cheryl. The Bible, however, tends to also place the father in a nurturing position. We are told not to “exasperate” our children, which means not to wear them out with correction, but to “bring them up”. That phrase literally means that we spend time with them on a regular basis and encourage them in the development of their character.  That sounds like nurturing to me.

The Bible tends to lay responsibility on the father to help set the tone or the climate of the home. A father, who is consistently harsh or is never satisfied with his children, will tend to produce children who lack the confidence to face tough situations in life. On the other hand, a father too quiet and passive to be intimately involved in the lives of children will likely lead to adults who cannot connect well with others, either in the workplace or in their own marriages and homes.

Fathers are often one of the best determinates of a child’s future success in life. If a boy never feels he meets his father’s approval, he may become either an underachiever or an overachiever, but he will likely never feel that he “measures up” in life. A girl whose father fails to affirm her will often seek that approval from another man, often in seeking inappropriate or less than ideal relationships. She may enter marriage unrealistically expecting something from a husband that he may or may not be able to give. I haven’t even mentioned the effects of an absentee or abusive father.

The biggest impact in the life of a child whose father never nurtures is that they often have a harder time realizing the nurturing aspect found in a loving relationship with a Heavenly Father. Without the model from an earthly father, they see God more in the role of Judge than of “Abba”; which is the Hebrew term for our modern “Daddy”.

I’m thankful for the grace and mercy of God that allows so many second chances for fathers who have missed the mark, but if we desire to be Godly fathers, we will strive to nurture our children in love.

For more thoughts on parenting, click HERE.

Happy Father’s Day!

What changes do you need to make this year to be a more nurturing dad?

Children Have Become Media Junkies


Our children have become media junkies. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a study of children ages 8 to 18, which found, not surprisingly, that they are consuming a astounding amount of media entertainment each day. Children now consume an average of 7 ½ hours per day or 52 ½ hours per week of media saturation.

Consider the average daily media consumption of U.S. children according to the study:

  • Listening to music: 151 minutes
  • Watching television: 270 minutes
  • Playing video games: 73 minutes
  • Talking on cell phones: 33 minutes
  • Text messaging: 90 minutes
  • Nonschool computer use: 89 minutes

Do you find these numbers surprising?
Do they alarm you?
If the numbers are what they are, how does this impact the way we attempt to reach this generation with the Gospel?

Your thoughts? Do we run from this part of culture, ignore it or embrace it?

Source: ON MISSION magazine Summer 2010, from Kaiser Family Foundation, February 1, 2010.

The Quickest Way to Grow Your Church

I remember not long ago getting an email from a woman in my former church. She had moved into a new neighborhood and instantly began to make new friends. She found out one particular family didn’t have a church, so she invited them to Easter services. The invitation seemed to fall on deaf ears. She was persistent though and invited the family several more times, but each time got no response. The Saturday before Easter the family sent her a text asking what time the services were for Easter. Long story short, they came, they loved it, and they will continue to attend.

Grace Community Church, continues to grow because people got excited about what happening in the church and brought their friends. That’s the short and the long answer. We continually thought through ways to improve upon what we were doing, but the bottom line remained that it was the people attending the church that were growing the church. (Obviously, God grows the church…I get that…but He uses people!) As people get excited about what God is doing, they bring people with them.

With that in mind, here’s a great question to ask if you want your church to grow:

Who are the catalyst type people in your church that if they ever get excited about your vision will bring others along with them to help implement it?

That’s how we planted a church. We looked for people who had influence within a circle of people; whether in business, in their social life, or in the community, to find a core of people to start our church. Then we invested in them and released them to lead in the church. Years later, even today after I’m gone from leadership, the church continues to invest in people with influence in a circle of friends.

Look for and invest in people who others follow and the natural system of multiplication will work for your benefit and the benefit of your church.

Aren’t you amazed…and grateful…that God chooses to use you in His work?

Men and Women Need Accountability in Marriage

I am tired of watching marriages fall apart.  One thing that breaks my heart is when two wonderful people allow temptation to overtake them and fall into sin, such as adultery or pornography.  I wish I could say it was rare, but it happens every day.   I have seen and believe that marriages can be fully restored from these times and even become model marriages after them, but the goal should be to keep either spouse from reaching this point.

While this is not a fool proof answer, one of the leading struggles I know of for men and women is when there is no one is involved or interested enough in their private affairs to challenge them as he or she starts to stray.  Most affairs, for example, don’t start in one day. They occur over time as a person’s guard is let down and they ease into the temptations that exist for all of us.

Here’s the bottom line of this post:

Men need to be accountable to a few other men and women need to be accountable to a few other women. They need someone with the freedom to speak truth into his or her life and challenge them in love when there are concerns.  As much as my wife tries and desires to understand me, she’ll never fully understand the heart and mind of a man; just as I will never fully understand her heart and mind.  This is true of every marriage.  (It’s also why more women responded negatively to THIS POST about how I protect my marriage.)

I have often heard it theorized that King David may have never given into the temptation with Bathsheba if he had still had the close relationship with Jonathan in his life.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly would not have hurt.

Men and women that don’t see this as an issue are only fooling themselves.  Quit playing games with your marriage and pretending you are stronger than you are.  “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Do you have accountability built into your life?  If not, do you dismiss the need, are you afraid to invite it, or have you not found the person to hold you accountable?

Cheap Date Night Ideas


Cheryl and I believe in date nights. We actually believe in date days and date weekends and date vacations. Obviously, with our children mostly grown, stretching dates over several days has become easier for us to do, but the point is we have made a practice of spending quality and quantity time together on a regular basis all of our marriage. It’s perhaps been a key to protecting and growing our relationship.

I often hear objections from couples that they can’t afford to go out much. I understand. Babysitting alone is expensive. One idea I know several couples do is to partner with other couples to share the responsibility of keeping kids while the other couple has a date night. Your children enjoy playing with other children and you get to have a date night without the expense of a babysitter.

As for the date itself, it doesn’t have to be expensive. The goal isn’t to spend a lot of money…the goal is to spend uninterrupted time together as a couple. I hope this post will encourage you to get creative in spending quality time together.

Here’s where you, the reader, can help other marriages.

What’s your cheapest and best date night idea?  What are some ideas we may not have thought about yet? Share your suggestions as a comment so others can learn from you.

Could your marriage benefit from some couple time?