Saturday, October 6, 2007

What God Did On Conference Day 3...

[I started writing this before passing out from exhaustion Friday night, so the "today" references are speaking about Friday when in regard to the conference. Some of what I say here is strong. It might step on some toes. I'm giving you fair warning! I'm so excited about how God used this "Hallway Encounter" to change my thinking about missions and my behaviour as a missionary. I'm wanting to challenge others to re-think their thought and behaviour patterns as well!]

What a week! The conference is over, and all who attended are left to try to process and absorb all of the teaching. As a volunteer my time was split between attending the conference sessions and manning my station...I was assigned to be a cashier at the upper Resource Station. I never did make it in to any of the sessions today...(I could have, but I felt like I was supposed to be out at my post the whole time) , but I'll be getting the CDs (which I just realized I never picked up after the event, because I was still working) AND the DVDs (which will be mailed to me probably in December.)

Now that I got all that out, I want to focus on how AMAZINGLY God works. I was so brought under conviction and to a deluge of tears earlier today. It was one of those divine appointments that Pastor's been teaching about.

Next to our Resource Station, was a booth that was set up by The Land of a 1000 Hills Coffee Ministry. The ministry is an outreach to Rwanda. What they have done is partnered with the people of Rwanda who grow coffee, and employed many of the poor, the widows, etc. at a very good wage...higher than what they would normally make, and they provide an outlet for those people to sell their quality products at a fair market value price and actually be able to support themselves.

One of the gentleman who works with them was standing there talking to one of the conference attendees. I was next to them pouring creamer into my coffee...minding my own business, and not prepared in the least for the paradigm shifting changes that God was getting ready to put in motion in my life in the next couple minutes. I'm tearing up even now as I think about it. Because I was positioned right next to the two men, I overheard their conversation. Boy, talk about "positioning yourself for change", Pastor!

The coffee man was sharing about when Americans go over to Rwanda (and other countries, as well) to "help the people" with their missions projects. We go over with our missions projects, our plans, our agendas, our programs, etc. And we say we want to make a difference. Now here's the part that started to really get my attention... Yet those same people will go to the markets, the souvenir places, etc. and try to talk them into charging Almost Nothing for their products. [Now he wasn't saying that it was wrong to bargain with them so long as it truly provides a win-win situation, so listen to the whole thing before you get offended!]

We who come from our society of affluence and the land that has sooo much...we get to a place where the people are just trying to survive, just trying to provide enough money to feed their families...and we'll talk them down from $5.00 to 0.50-cents and feel so good about ourselves. Yet, we may have just robbed them of the very opportunity to feed their children that day. [As I share this, the tone I'm using is actually a little stronger than what the coffee man was using. I'm conveying it the way it hit me.]

Some might say, "They didn't have to sell that item to me. I didn't force them to take my offer." Well, that might be true, but since there was no other guarantee of any income coming in, you may have been their only hope. If they didn't sell to you, there might not be another sale that day, or enough sales that day to support them. The man's point was that if we say that we're really interested in helping them, then why don't we treat them like the Word says.

I've gotten off his words a while back and I'm preaching now...I can't help it. As the man had been speak, my conversation of just 20 minutes prior to that flashed through my mind, and my heart broke. I had been talking about Sales to another Resource Center Volunteer. "Somehow" I had started talking about Uganda and our marketplace experiences. You know, "I was able to talk them down to...!" As I thought back to that the Holy Spirit brought such conviction on me, and the tears wouldn't stop.

The Word says about workers that, "the laborer is worthy of his hire," and tells us to, "not muzzle the ox." About the poor, he says, "He that has pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord, and him He will repay." Those of us from Valley Word who went to Uganda in February went there with a sincere desire to help the people. That's why we worked in the hospital and toiled to build the Chicken-Fish Pond Project. So that we could "Teach a Man to Fish." Yet, how would it be for THOSE people once they raise chickens, fish, eggs, and crops from the project if the buyers would only pay them far less than what they were worth, and maybe even at a loss to the sellers? If those were the only buyers, the chicken sellers couldn't say "no." What would they do with their chickens then?

There's no way that I can convey how all of what I've attempted to put into words has affected me and my mindset (1) as an ordinary traveler and (2) as a missionary. I re-read it, and it's so inadequate in conveying the impact that encounter had on me. In talking about it later that day with Pastor Doug, a pastor who I met there at the conference, he echoed my sentiments. He shared a story from the years he spent in South Africa as a missionary. He said that one of the most embarrassing experiences he'd had was when he had taken a visiting church group with him to the market area before they returned home.

The people who sold things in the market were the people to whom he'd been ministering and with whom he'd built relationships over a period of time. One in the group, a pastor as well, came up to Pastor Doug at the end of their shopping experience and bragged about how he'd gotten the seller to come down from the original price in Rand to a MUCH LOWER price in Rand. Basically he had talked the person down 80-90%. Pastor Doug turned to him and said, "Congratulations! You've just succeeded in taking the food out of the mouths of that person's children today! Enjoy your trinket!"

I want to challenge everyone out there who reads this. We can have our cute little slogans, like teach a man to fish, etc. But we can't empower him to do that if we want to take advantage of him in our marketplace dealings with him. If your boss walked in to you and said, "I don't want to pay you what you're making (or what you're worth). I want to get a bargain! I'm only willing to pay you half of what you're making now!" How would you react? Wouldn't be a pretty sight, I'm sure! Let's learn to empower people and allow them the dignity of earning an honest days wage for their work. My life will never be the same...I hope I've at least caused you to think about what I've shared.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Continuation of LIVE BLOGGING from Catalyst 2007

These are raw notes, probably with spelling errors, formatting issues, etc., but it's what I can get down in print during the speaking.

Pastor Sunday Adelaja from the Ukraine. Founder and Senior Pastor of the largest Evangelical Charismatic Church in Europe.

Launching something Feb 8th to take back the US for the Kingdom of God. Do Church in a new way and go out and engage every area of culture/society: media, business, workplace, marketplace, politics, music, etc.

Speaker: Rick Warren

Stop praying, "God Bless Me," and start praying, "God help me to do what You are blessing."
Where is the Kingdom of God? It is wherever Jesus is King.
What is the Kingdom of God? God's people fulfilling God's purpose on God's planet for God's glory.
If you want Jesus to come back, just get out there and start sharing your faith. Because the end will not come until the Gospel has been preached to all people.
If you want God's blessing in your life you must get with God's agenda.

How would you feel if someone said to you, "I love you but I hate your wife."? Or, "I love you, but I hate your body."? You'd be offended.

God wants you to learn to love the real church, not the ideal church...with all it's failings and shortcomings.

The only thing that's going to last on this earth is God's family. The heavens are going to pass away. The earth is going to pass away. It's His family, that he created for himself that's going to last.

God to Moses: What's in your hand Moses? "A staff." Something that was dead became alive. Then when he picked it up again it was a stick.

When God asks you a question, it's not for His benefit.
Whenever God does a miracle it is to teach a truth.

The staff represented Moses' identity.
1. Represented who he was.
2. It represented his income or possessions. (They didn't have stocks, they had flocks! :D)
3. It represented his influence.

I want you to lay it down, your identity, your influence, your income and I'll make it alive. And every time you pick it up into your own hands again it will turn back into something dead again. From that point on it is no longer called Moses' Staff, but "The Rod of God!"

What is in YOUR hand? Your personality, your education, your position, your finances?

What did you do with my son, Jesus Christ? I hope it's that you made Him your Saviour, Lord, Master...we don't have a snowball's chance in hell without Him.

What did you do with what I put in your hands?

Forever changed and challenged by a church of 50 people in Africa "that was doing more for the poor than my Mega Church in California." That Pastor would walk 1.5 hours to the Post Office in S. Africa where there was internet, download Rick's sermons, then walk back 1.5 hours. He told Pastor Rick that HE WAS THE ONLY TRAINING he'd ever had! That challenged and brought tears to his eyes.

Purpose Driven Life..."I figured if 'it's not about me' then the money (10's of millions of dollars) wasn't for me either.

The spirit of Affluence vs. the spirit of Inflluence. Money vs. Fame. 1 Corinthians 9. Paul refused to take wages.

Stopped taking a salary from Saddleback Church. Added up all the money he'd been paid as a salary over 25 years, saved "$1000's of dollars not buying socks!" :D Became Reverse Tithers...give 90% and keep 10% to live on.

Designed a bumper sticker: "Tithe if you love Jesus, any fool can honk!"

Psalm 72 What did Solomon pray for and WHY? The Purpose of Influence is so YOU CAN SPEAK UP for those WHO HAVE NO INFLUENCE!

It's been 500 years since we've had a reformation in the church...the first one was about Creeds, the Second one needs to be about deeds. Not what the church knows, but what the church does! The arms and legs of the church have been amputated, and all that's been left is a BIG MOUTH!

1. ___________________
2. Corrupt Leadership. Don't let SERVICE become ServUs!
3. Poverty
4. Pandemic diseases. 500 million people will get Malaria this year...why do we still have that disease when we know how to get rid of it? 30,000 kids die every day of preventable diseases,
if we don't care we are saying that they can all just go to hell. Care for poor, educate the people, healed the sick, equip the next generation... [I missed a good part of this...he talked too fast]

"If we don't go out into the world where they are broken and hurting and pick up the cross...then I doubt our Christianity."

Live Blogging from Catalyst 2007, Day 2

Conference day 2. Live Blogging from Gwinnett Arena, Duluth, GA.

Speaker: Andy Stanley

The word Power...has become a new 4-letter word among leaders.
If you're in leadership you have power. You must use it in a way that glorifoes God.
Question: What do you do when it dawns on you that you're the most powerful person in the room? Confrence setting? Counseling session? Board of Directors Setting?
This is the moment in the life of a leader that shapes the character of a leader!
Youn have no idea how many people God wants to influence through you! You're fear of power might be the very thing that makes you a prime candidate for God to use you!

John 13:1-8, 12-17

1Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He now showed the disciples the full extent of his love. F65 2It was time for supper, and the Devil had already enticed Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to carry out his plan to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.

What's your next move when it dawn's on you when you're the most important person in the room? What did Jesus do? He took off His robe, the symbol of His Authority, and leveraged His power for the sake of the others in the room...he stunned His disciples and made them uncomfortable at His place of humility!

6When he came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, "Lord, why are you going to wash my feet?"

7Jesus replied, "You don't understand now why I am doing it; someday you will."

8"No," Peter protested, "you will never wash my feet!" Jesus replied, "But if I don't wash you, you won't belong to me."

12After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, "Do you understand what I was doing? 13You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and you are right, because it is true. 14And since I, the Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. 15I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master. Nor are messengers more important than the one who sends them. 17You know these things—now do them! That is the path of blessing.

Jesus was saying, "There's coming a time when YOU will be the most influential person in the room, and this is what you need to do! In my moment of GREATEST RECOGNITION OF POWER...I took off my symbols of power and decided to leverage my power for the good of the people in the room."

The disciples GOT IT, they got the message in the upper room.

What's your next move when it dawn's on you when you're the most important person in the room?

You look around and leverage that power for the sake of the other people in the room! If you do anything other than what Jesus did...if you leverage your power for yourself, you're saying that you're greater than Jesus. And you're operating out of an actual weakness!

You HAVE TO ASK YOURSELF, "How can I leverage the influence that I already have for the good of the people in my sphere of influence?" As you do, you will also grow in influence. Doing this will define who you are, what the character is, of your leadership. I'M NOT GREATER THAN MY MASTER. I'M NOT GREATER THAN MY SAVIOUR. And if HIS first response was to humble Himself and leverage His power for the good of those in the room with Him...then who am I to do anything less?

Catalyst 2007 Conference Labs Highlights

WOW! What a day this has been! I'm here in Duluth, just outside Atlanta at the Catalyst 2007 Conference. There have been various Labs all day long, and, oh my gosh, they've been great. I don't have a way to share all that I heard, but I'm going to share a nugget from each lab.

The first one that I attended was called Intercultural Competency. One of the points that the speaker made was that we can't achieve an intercultural environment in our churches "just because we should," or because, "we'll look better," or because, "it would be nice." The only way we can achieve that is by realizing that we NEED an intercultural environment. She stated that if we aren't creating an environment where people are needed, feel needed, and there would be an empty hole if they weren't there, then people won't stay! If you say you want Hispanics or Asians in your church, do you really mean it? Are you reflecting a need for them to be there? And what are you doing to reach out to that ethnic group to draw them in? Any music geared toward them? Any speakers geared toward them? She made so many good points and challenged the listeners to the max!

The next Lab I attended was on Catalytic Thoughts that Catalytic Leaders Think. The speaker was the leader of the Axis Group at Willow Creek Church...a very large, growing church. One of the first questions that she asked the couple thousand listeners was, "Who is the most difficult person that you lead?" My immediate thought was, "myself!" And, lo and behold, that's what she said next. "The most difficult person that we lead is our self, and the most important person that we lead is our self!" And if we aren't leading out of a life that's overflowing with the life and vitality of God, we can't bring about change in other people's lives. There was so much that she went on to say...I wish I could just post all of my notes (but they're not real legible to most normal people :D ).

Then there was the Lab on Change Without Compromise. I don't even know where to start to share what that speaker said. I guess I'll echo his statement that, "Jesus was a walking Defining Moment, and He always called for transformation!" God is all about CHANGE. And he went on to say that when we have the attitude that CHANGE is a 4-letter word, we're actually going against God. There is one thing that CANNOT CHANGE, and that's the message, BUT the METHOD HAS TO CHANGE TO MEET THE AUDIENCE! One thing he said was that, "If the people cannot understand the truth [because of the way it is communicated] then it is irrelevant to them. In order for a truth to be relevant to someone, they MUST UNDERSTAND IT!

Well, it's late, and I have to get up in 3 1/2 hours. There's so much more to say....I'm at my CouchSurfing Hostess, Amy's, house right now. It's been awesome, because she spent 3 months in Israel this past summer and I've had a chance to look at pictures! :D :D Anyway, bed is calling!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

On the Road Again!

Well, I don't have time for a long post (Go ahead, say it...Yeah, right! You don't know what a short post is!), but wanted to update everyone who cares...I'm on my way to Atlanta for the Catalyst Conference [], and I'm EXCITED! And, I'm in a weird mood, as my writing style, I'm sure, will reflect.

In typical Bird fashion, my trip didn't start out exactly as planned...What should have been a routine tire rotation before leaving Roanoke ended up being a 6 1/2 hour long process of getting a CV Shaft installed, and then...after breaking down on the off-ramp coming off of I-581 onto Orange Ave...realizing that the parts place sent them the WRONG PART.

Well, that shouldn't have been too big a deal, right? --oh, I seem to have gotten ahead of my story! Well, as I said, the car broke down on the off-ramp, just as I was merging onto Orange Ave. The LOUD GRINDING NOISE kinda gave me a hint that SOMETHING was wrong. Uhm, that doesn't sound too good...and then the fact that after a couple of jerking motions the axle froze...well that wasn't too good either. Even in my tired state I had a clue that something wasn't quite right!I called the shop (Merchant's Tire on Franklin Rd.) and after being lulled by their hold music I got a live person who offered to send a tow truck for me.

In the meantime, my best friend, Debbie, showed up to make sure I was OK (friend's are awesome!) and after about 20 minutes, 6 police officers in 4 squad cars also dropped by and protected me and my poorly positioned car from traffic. It was funny at the time, because there were so many of them that showed up...I kept thinking, "I hope no one from church drives by and thinks I'm being arrested or something"...yeah, tired minds think weird things! :D Well, the tow truck showed up (and so did another good friend..thanks Shelley!), and brought me and the Kia back to the shop. I sat down to wait...again.

Now the plan had been to be in Atlanta by 7pm Tuesday Night (you know...strange area..daylight...etc). I was going to look up my CouchSurfing host (Amy) where I'm staying Wed-Fri night to meet her in advance. By 12:15 I was getting the feeling that I might not make my plan happen...At some point after that I had a chance to ask the nice man (who seemed to have bad news for each customer) what the status was on my car. It was then that I learned that they were still waiting on the RIGHT part. It seems that every CV Shaft that was delivered was a repeat of the first incorrect one! The accuracy of their parts providers just exudes confidence in them!!! NOT!

Still...I had to laugh, as I am right now (at 5:10am in my hotel room in Statesville, NC multiple hours late for my 8:00am workshop in Duluth, GA. Only 5 hours away...I digress...) it was all very comical to me the whole time it was happening. That, of course, comes from the fact that when things start to happen I try to run to God first and trust in Him as my source (I think I've heard a wise man say something about that a time or two recently...thanks Pastor!). Well, several CV Shafts and several hours later, I finally rolled out of the Merchant's parking lot. It was only 3pm by that sweat! I still had about an hour or so worth of running to do before I could leave Roanoke, so I didn't actually leave town until close to 4:30pm. So much for making the Atlanta International Hostel for the night. Their Check-In Desk closes at midnight.

One fact I forgot to mention earlier is that I'd only had 1 hour sleep Monday night...go ahead, make that sarcastic comment. I know you want to! Anyway, by 4:30pm I wasn't the most rested person. I downed a bottle of the 5-hour Herbal "Keep You Awake" Stuff. Uhn-huh, sure! By the time I got to Statesville, NC my body was saying STOP! NOW! Which I did. Which is why I am here. I tried to log on to the free WiFi when I got here to send "a couple quick e-mails" (yeah...I know...), but it wouldn't let me online! Funny (yeah, Lord, funny!) when I got up at 2am it let me on without any problem...OK, so I needed the sleep.

Well, I've put in an hour and a half of work this morning and need to shut up and get on the road. So I'll update you all later on. Love to all my family and friends! Sandi