Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Deep Conversations: Why Don't I Do this More Often

Itineration is a whirlwind. I am here for ten weeks total and in that time I will be in six different states, speak at over 35 churches, and have who knows how many meetings. One of the results of this type of schedule is that I don’t stay in one place for very long. I am sometimes changing sleeping locations on a daily basis. While it is not ideal, I have been pleasantly surprised at the deep conversations I am still able to have around dinner tables, over coffee, and into the late hours of the night, or sometimes early hours of the morning. When we see our time with people as precious we tend to not spend much time on the superficial, but get onto topics that are important to us, our relationships, and our lives.

I wish that this was more often the case in my normal life. I do not know how much time I spend talking to people, all the while hiding what is really going on in my heart and mind, while they assumedly do the same. When we feel like we have time or we know that we will see people again tomorrow or next week we push off the difficult conversations and leave things unsaid. I have had a rich time so far and I hope that some of this time of rich relationship can carry over when I head back to Tanzania, that I can take more time to sit around a table, sip on some coffee, or delve into relationships that are significant to me. I have spent more time in conversation and relationship building than I do as I run around fulfilling my regular schedule in Tanzania. Others have also mentioned how the time is worth it because I am only in the country once every 2-3 years. What if we didn’t wait? What if it didn’t take a trip across the ocean to realize how important our relationships are and how we need to remember to set time aside for conversation, sharing, opening our lives up to others and allowing them to share their experiences with us?

I hope that people learn about Tanzania, the amazing people there, the great work that the church is doing, and even how to be the church in THEIR local communities. Most of all however, I hope that I remember the lessons that I am learning and that they go back home with me.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Under Construction

I just wanted to leave a quick note here...I am taking the opportunity of being in the states and having a good internet connection to update our blog, put up information on some new projects, and change the look a little bit.

I hope in the end it will be a better, cleaner space to find out about our ministry. If however, you come across a page with nothing on it or a random collection of pictures, just know more is coming. In less than a week everything should be up and running smoothly.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What I Found Coming Home

There is always some amount of anticipation that comes with returning home. It is a combination of seeing family, getting to eat some comfort food, and not having to think too hard when talking to people because you all share a childhood culture and language. One of the things I was kind of dreading though was what I was going to find as I spoke at church after church.

The church in America is in decline. Our denomination is dying. We are struggling. We don’t have as much to give as we once did. This is the message that I have been hearing in Africa, coming out of the North American church for the last two years. Yet I didn’t find a dying church.

Now I have only been back in the US for two weeks and only speaking at churches for one of

those weeks, though I did fit in 7 different speaking engagements in that first week. I didn’t find a dying church. If we want to say that just because a church has people coming to it does not mean that it is a fruitful church then we also have to admit that just because a church is losing members does not mean it is lacking in fruit. If public opinion is not good enough in one instance why is it in the other?

The United Methodist Church in the US has been dying for years, not because numbers are going down, but because churches were to inwardly focused. I don’t know when it happened, but when the highlight of the year for youth is a ski trip to the Rockies and not a local missions week than we should be able to easily understand what the problem is. Yet what I am finding now are small, financially strapped churches and large churches with big hearts coming back to their communities and again diving in to relationships with their neighbors. In this short week I have seen church plants in run down neighborhoods where other churches and even the boys and girls club have pulled out. I have seen small churches take on large ministries, driven out of a love for neighbor, even when those neighbors do not look like the current church population. I have seen ministries where a coffee shop turns into a place of community and conversation. I have seen college students gathering and discerning how their future careers fit together with their faith. If we are not basing our judgments on numbers or political influence but on missions, impact on individual lives, and the amount of love shown a community then I have to say, I don’t see a dying church.

Many blessings for the churches that have welcomed me this week and shown me a church that is alive, vibrant, and ministering to the community around it.