There is no passing or failing in our program

It is impossible to fail our program. There is not an A to F grading system because the Christian training world view is counter-intuitive to secular systems (1 Corinthians 1:25). I supervise the work, but I do not put a student in an A or F category.

I have to ask, “Who am I to grade another person; what do I know?”

Especially in light of Jesus placing the widow woman with two copper coins at the head of the line and the rich blue bloods at the back of the line (Mark 12:42). And then He said the first will be last and the last will be first (Matthew 20:16).

Paul followed up when he talked about the hand or eye not being any better than the foot (1 Corinthians 12:15). Or something like that. Truly His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

As we collectively spend time around the cross, we are humbly aware how similar we are (Romans 3:23). There is neither Jew or Gentile or smart or dumb (Galatians 3:28). Therefore, a person who flunked out of high school and the post-graduate with honors are the same in our program.

It’s not about a grading scale at all. It’s about the student fulfilling the preordained, God-given capacities that the good LORD has graciously given to them. Everybody is a jar (of clay) (2 Corinthians 4:7) that is to be filled with goodness and knowledge (Romans 15:14) so he or she can care for other people. I am not the person who determines the capacity of the jar or the boundaries of people (Acts 17:26). I’m not the person to determine if the student has a so-called small or large jar, pristine or dented jar.

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” – Romans 9:20 (ESV)

My job is to come alongside each student, according to who he/she is and how God has made them to help them become all the LORD has shaped them to be (Genesis 2:7). Perhaps a student goes through our program and it becomes apparent that formal counseling is not their thing. That is perfect. Their goal is not to be anything but the person the LORD has equipped them to be.

Regardless of who you are you will be equipped according to the LORD’s good purposes for you. As to whether a student (1) stays in the program, (2) disciplines themselves through the program, (3) receives supervision with humility, or (4) honestly tries to do the work is between them and the LORD. My job is to honor the LORD by doing my best to serve them. They, like me, have to determine if they are going to give it their all–whatever that may be.

Christians do not “grade” Christians on a pass or fail system (Philippians 1:6). What have any of us received that was not given to us (1 Corinthians 4:7)? We are patient with all people (1 Thessalonians 5:14), while counting others more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4) because we are aware that even our best goodness is unrighteous goodness (Isaiah 64:6).

Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further. – Job 40:4-5 (ESV)

It is on the student to humbly, diligently, and practically work out what the good LORD has (and is) working into them (Philippians 2:12-13). And that is how you “pass” our program for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

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On seeing invisible things

The essentialness of “seeing what is not clear” so you can care for those within your care responsibilities.

When you are caring for someone, whether that person is your husband, wife, child, parent, friend, neighbor, workmate, etc., you must lead them by giving them more than what they have already presented to you. This is a huge thought that will require careful analysis.

To lead them is to give them something they have not already presented and/or something that is not clearly perceived by them. It is asking the LORD for the gift of analysis (discernment) to see beyond what has been presented.

How well am I being illuminated by the Spirit of God to help this person see what they cannot see?

To lead is to go beyond — to see beyond what is presented or what can’t be seen is something to pray for.

It’s like looking at the problem, but rather than focusing exclusively on the problem you’re looking around it, over it, under it, through it, and beside it so you can see what is not visible. This is illustrated in the book of Hebrews 11:27.

By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Moses saw the problem — his imminent death — but he was able to find a solution by seeing what was invisible.

A constant prayer: “Dear LORD, help me to see what I cannot see.”

Marriage, parenting, discipling, and friendship are leadership contexts where we have to see things that are invisible to the person we are called to care for. Then we help them to see those things. Typically, the main thing a person does not see is the LORD.

May Moses instruct us.

The most effective spouses, parents, and friends are the ones who can do this well. This means the first two commandments — love God and love others — must authentically transcend all other loves, esp. our love for and allegiance to ourselves.

The next phase of our business

The past five months I have trained myself in how to podcast. It began about six years ago when I started listening to podcasts as my personal and primary means for content consumption. Currently I have about nine or ten podcasts that I listen to. Some of them come daily (Mon – Fri), while others come weekly or randomly.

The podcasts I listen to are eclectic, meaning some of them are religious, while others are about sports, technology, social media, and human interest. Besides being entertained or inspired, I am also being educated about various matters such as how to podcast, how to interview, and podcast styles.

My podcast mix changes somewhat regularly, in that I will listen to one pastor or one guru about this or that and then change to something else. I listened to Mark Driscoll for a year or so to try to understand him and why he was so popular. I listened to John Piper for a year or two to be encouraged and edified.

The past few months I have listened to the PodcastAnswerMan podcast to learn how to podcast. It has been incremental learning that has led to our first official podcast launch last week. I am excited about this new phase of our ministry. I have no idea where it will go, but I’m sure it will go to some good places.

We have converted one of our rooms at home to an office/studio, which is glorious. To have my space to create, w/o having to travel to our main office is a big deal. Like with everything we do, it is always a work-in-progress that will look dramatically different a year or two from now than what it looks like today.

It is amazing to me to watch what the LORD is doing with this work. On July 3, 2008 I wrote a blog post. It was probably 500 words or so. I’m not sure. I had no idea where it would go, but I did ask the LORD to take it somewhere good, which He has done. I’m stunned by what He has accomplished.

There have been a few times where there were no new ideas forthcoming and I would think “this is it”–there is nothing more to do, other than to maintain what we are doing. And then the LORD would give me a new idea, and off we would go to a new phase. That is what is happening now.

Podcasts have been slowly taking over the audio broadcast space the past ten years. The scope and power of traditional radio has dramatically changed during this time. It is similar to the publishing industry in that eBooks are more popular than hardback books.

The LORD has taught me many things the past few years and maybe the main thing is to continue to redefine ourselves, meaning we must be regularly changing in order to keep up with where the people are. Our chronology has been something like this:

  1. Our first blog article in 2008.
  2. Full time blogging around the first of 2009.
  3. Created a Membership Site at the end of 2009.
  4. Hired out our 3rd generation website to be built by someone other than me in 2010.
  5. Hired a web team in 2013 to create a more intuitive website.
  6. Stopped counseling full-time in 2014 to devote exclusively to leadership development.
  7. Began audio articles in 2014.
  8. Started podcasting in 2015.

This short chronology misses out on so much. Today we have nine counselors counseling for us. There are three editors helping to take our content from articles to eBooks. We have a person putting our eBooklets on Amazon as Kindle content. We have a web team keeping our content user-friendly.

My main job today is to feed the machine, which is our website. Through webinars, infographics, written content, audio articles, podcasts, Mind Maps, public speaking, and limited consulting.

The pain the LORD has allowed in my life is coming together, being shaped and moved down a specific pipeline that is feeding a lot of people. This brings more joy to my heart than I could describe. There is no way to explain the disappointment, discouragement, and depression in my life. There is no way to explain the idiotic and stupid things I have done.

Through it all the LORD was developing a plan to share His good ways to others. This is what podcasting means to me. While I learn how to do podcasting well, I am praying for the next thing He will put in my mind for exploration, development, and launching to others for His fame.

Memories from the field

Salida

Here are a few of our special memories in random order…

Where is the salida?

I “discerned” from my travels the word restroom meant salida. It seemed everywhere I went the word salida was always around a restroom. The word actually means exit. I was at a restaurant on Saturday night asking a worker where the salida was. I was standing in the exit when I asked him.

He politely pointed toward the door. I wondered what he thought about a guy standing in the exit asking where the exit was. When he pointed out the door, I was confused. The door led out to a plaza where hundreds of people were milling around.

This did not make sense to me, so I threw down another word from my vast restroom vocabulary by asking where the toilet (toe-lay) was. And I spoke louder because if you talk louder to someone who does not understand you, they will be able to understand. He pointed in the opposite direction, toward the restroom.

I eventually did find the restroom. What a great way to learn Spanish. I did muse, though, how this is just like home: if you have to use the restroom, you go outside.

Fanning flatulence

During one of our teaching sessions I noticed one of the missionary wives fanning herself in a way that unmistakably meant her husband had passed gas. Of course, I could not let that go without drawing attention to it.

Her husband happens to be lactose intolerant and he inadvertently downed some milk, which caused immediate flatulence. Within seconds the smell had wafted its way to me as I was teaching. They were sitting the closest to me.

The wife was embarrassed and the husband–a man after my own heart–seemed to be okay with it, as though he was a pro in such matters. The whole room was bursting in laughter. In all my teaching life, that was a first. I laugh even now as I write this. To be with a group of folks who do not take themselves seriously and can give themselves over to hearty laughter is a beautiful thing.

Toothless salesladies

Going to the Anaconda Restaurant and the La Jungla Zoo in a low-riding boat was fun. The highlight was probably hanging with the toothless old ladies selling beads on the dirt streets. They had no inhibition about soliciting anyone and they would not take no for an answer.

I did not want their bracelets, but I did want to give them money, so I did. I gave three of the ladies a piece of money. They wanted to give me a bracelet for the money, but I would not take it. Once they found out the money was gratis (free), they then proceeded to sell me something.

I could not understand a word they were saying and they had no clue to what I was saying. I then begin laughing at them and calling them selfish. They laughed with me. I told them how I couldn’t believe what they were doing and how they should be grateful to receive money from me and should cease from persisting to sell me something.

It was all in jest because they could not understand a word. Even as I “rebuked” them, they were smiling and waving beads in front of my face. I asked Kyle to let them know–in all seriousness–that I wanted to give them money to bless them and it was not necessary for them to sell their wares. They could sell them to someone else and double their profits.

And what did they do? They smiled and persisted on selling me some of their bracelets. In a way it was totally charming. In a way it was sad because of their poverty and desperation.

Happy little girl

The compound of Mission Tec is out in the jungle where all the roads are hard and dirt unless it is raining. Then they are sloppy-muddy and dirt. Because we were closer to the sun, being near the equator, the heat was extremely hot and muggy. It was kinda like stepping into a sauna–something some people do on purpose to sweat.

In Pucallpa the entire day and night was a muggy, hot sauna. Therefore, I called our walk outside the compound our “sauna walk”. David, Mary, Lucia, and I took a sauna walk one day to checkout the village. During this walk there was a little girl who was about 5-years old trailing us, hoping to receive something from us.

My kids made a bunch of the now popular loom bracelets before we left for Peru to give to the missionary kids and anyone else we met. I happened to have one around my wrist and offered it to this little girl. She was happy and grateful to receive it.

This bracelet was in our business colors so I began to tell her to go tell all her friends about our business and to get them to become members of our site. You know, like John 4 where the woman at the well left her water pot and went into town and said, “Come see a man…”.

Like the ladies selling me their bracelets, she did not understand a word I said, but was ready to smile and go on her way.

I told my children about this rendezvous with God and the girl and how it blessed her. My children were pleased to know this. I also told them it probably made this girl’s year to receive such a nice gift as a .50 cent loom bracelet. I can still see her happy, sweet face.

More memories forthcoming…

Teaching missionaries

Peru Mission Tea

I began teaching first thing Monday morning. The daily routine was breakfast from 7:30 to 8:00AM. The folks gathered at 8:30 for a time of worshiping through singing. After the singing time each couple had a time to share their specific ministry and prayer needs. Then we would gather in groups to pray for about 15 minutes about those needs and other personal requests. From there I would teach. Usually my time was from about 9:30AM to 10:30 or 11AM.

We would take a break or Mike, the director over the entire ministry Peru, would give an update about the ministry, needs, dreams, and practical matters. Some days I would teach twice. It went like this:

  • Monday – I taught on an Overview of how to help people. The second session was my version of the Three Trees.
  • Tuesday – I taught on the Fear of Man.
  • Wednesday – I taught on Parenting, the role of Fathers.
  • Thursday – I taught on The Doctrine of Repentance. The second session was Biblical Decision Making.

Nearly all of these sessions were peppered with questions from the team. This also happened after each session. It was one of my many highlights. The team was one of the most humble and hungry group of Christians I’ve met. They could not get enough. Oh what joy.

After Monday, the LORD graciously moved the hearts of the folks and they gave me extra time so I could teach longer (more than the hour per session, which was originally slotted) and they also gave me an extra teaching slot from what was originally planned. The people were so gracious to do this. They scrunched up their update time to make room for more teaching–a mercy from the LORD.

The people were hungry for the training. They asked a lot of questions. They also laughed a lot. A LOT. We laughed all week. These Christians do not take themselves too seriously and are okay, ready, and desirous to laugh. So we did. It was fun. They got almost all my humor and the humor that did not get was even funnier.

All of them spoke English. There was one couple Kyle translated for, which blessed them. They spoke English, but needed some assistance, especially with some of my quirky sayings. Kyle was challenged to keep up because he was going from Redneck to English to Spanish. Kyle is British, so there were four world views coming together for the glory of God.

Kyle also made a sign-up sheet for all of them to pick a slot to spend private time with Lucia and me. These were “counseling” sessions where we spent time getting to know each person on the team. They were some of the best times–moments where we got to know each person in real ways. Each of these sessions were about 90 minutes. We laughed and cried and talked.

They were just as hungry in these counseling sessions as they were in the teaching times. Their humility was convicting and encouraging. They wanted to learn as much as they could. Several of them were asking for extra time and we ended up not able to fulfill those requests because there was no time. If I was not teaching, I was counseling. We went from 8:30 in the morning, up to 11PM at night.

The four things I did all week were sleep, eat, teach, and counsel. There was no time to swim in the lake or do anything else. This was by design and it was a complete joy. I told them I would sleep next week because it was imperative for me to be wasted this week. I was.

You need to slap your head

Bananas and Rice

Putting on the whole armor of God in Pucallpa, Peru includes soaking yourself in mosquito repellant. They hang in swarms. No matter where you are there are mosquitoes. All the little missionary kids seemingly have knotted legs from multiple mosquito bites. One of the mercies from the LORD is I have none. I have been wearing long sleeve shirts the whole week. I’ve had a few bites, but not many.

Lucia chose short sleeved shirts and lots of repellant. I adjusted my thinking by pretending I’m in the world’s largest sauna. When you go into a hot box (sauna) you expect to have lots of unremitting heat and endless sweating. We Americans do that on purpose. Thinking like I’m in a sauna has made it easier. It’s just a 24/7 sauna so walking around in the heat, which is bad enough, with a long sleeve shirt has not been as bad with this slight mental adjustment.

It has helped my week to not be bitten by mosquitoes. It has not stopped others from slapping my head though. I would inevitably be talking to someone and they would reach up and slap my head, killing a mosquito that had landed on my noggin. Sometimes a person would say, “You need to slap your head.” It took me a while to understand what they were saying. Eventually one of us would slap my head.

Another common occurrence are the tarantulas. It’s not unusual to walk outside and see a tarantula. There was one just outside the home we were in. There was a baby one attached to some steps we were walking up, heading to a meeting. The tarantulas are harmless. They won’t bother you unless you do something aggressive to them. They will let you hold them, rub them, enjoy them. If they do become aggravated by someone they flair out their hair, from what I’ve been told, and put off some kind of poison that makes you break out in a rash.

The LORD was gracious to allow us to see a sloth on the property, on the ground. From what others have said you hardly ever see a sloth on the ground. They are typically high up in a tree and you observe them from a far. The one we observed was by touching, rubbing, and videoing. That was cool. I will be putting a video on YouTube from that. They were clear that event was an anomaly. Thank you LORD.

On Wednesday we hopped a boat to go the the Anaconda Restaurant that was across the lake from where we were. We had three low riding boats, the kind you may remember from the movie The African Queen. It was one of those “congo type” boats where you could hang your hand over the side and drag along in the water. The restaurant was in a town, the name of which I do not remember. Lot’s of dirt roads and lots of toothless old women with scores of bracelets hanging around their wrists, hoping to sell their wares.

From the restaurant we hopped the boats again and went to the La Jungla Zoo, which is not like a zoo you’ve been to before. Some of the cages you could open if you wanted to, though you would not do that. I think you could open most of them. We walked on a raised platform path that kept you off the ground. All the animals, which were all small animals, were elevated to the level of the platform so we all were on the same level.

We walked along this platform “path” as it snaked it’s way around in a jagged kind of loop back to where we began. Along the path, besides a zillion mosquitoes biting you all along the way, was an anaconda. For an additional 10 soles you could hold the big snake. I could not resist that. It was super cool to have him/her wrapped around my neck and slithering around my arms.

This is really an amazing place where souls live who need Jesus. We are not in Kansas anymore and it’s quite evident. One thing for sure is how the people are no different from me. They just live in a different kind of place.

Mission Tec

Mission Tec

Mission Tec is an extension of Kids Alive International–an organization setup to rescue orphans and other rejected kids. Mission Tec was established by Cristina Thomas’ dad, who is a second generation missionary. Her dad, John, was born to parents who moved to Pucallpa from New York back in the thirties. They gave their lives on the mission field and John took over.

John earned a drafting degree and worked for a while for Boeing. He knows how to build and built the buildings on the Mission Tec property, including the house Cristina and Kyle now live. John owns an apartment in Lima, where we stayed after we arrived and will go back to before connecting to fly stateside.

John also built a large lake a few minutes from Mission Tec, where his desire is to build homes around the lake. He also built two children’s homes on another site, which is about 6 months from opening to house children. They own a lot of property there where the homes are and have the room to build many more homes for children. They plan to build a dining hall too. In addition to the two homes that are on site, there is a tool shed that also gives access to the water tower above.

When I use the word “homes” I’m talking about small houses. The children’s homes are real nice for Pucallpa standards, but they are real small for our standards. I don’t think there is no home over 1000 sq. ft. The Thomas home would be an exception, since it was built by Cristina’s dad. It may be 1500 to 1800 sq. ft. I saw another home that was bigger, but nearly everything is “hut like”. They are small square wooden boxes that may have two rooms in them. The children’s homes are made out of brick. These are really nice compared to the norm.

All of the work in Pucallpa is just one extension of the Kid’s Alive work. There is also a work in Lima and a few other places in Peru. I think Mission Tec folded into Kids Alive years ago and now they operate under their leadership. There are several homes within the brick walls of Mission Tec where nearly all the missionaries live. There are a couple of families who live outside the walls–walking distance. There are also other missionaries in other parts of Pucallpa region who are not part of Mission Tec or Kids Alive.

The locals treat the Mission Tec team nicely and with respect. They do not bother the two children’s homes on the other property, though those buildings are not filled yet and no one is on the property, other than occasional missionaries who come in for short stays. In light of the crime and deep sin in this area, it’s a surprise the people don’t break in to steal and vandalize.

The government is also favorable to Mission Tec due to the good work they are doing. The sex and drug issues in this area is beyond belief, e.g., rape, incest, every group of siblings having multiple fathers, whole families sleeping in the same room and participating in all the activities that a normal couple would do (intimacy). It’s a sin infested place where poverty is rampant.