Monday, November 24, 2008

Farmington update

I had a good trip to Farmington, MO immediately after our Sunday a.m. services. I gassed up the car and grabbed a burger at Sonic before heading out toward St. Louis on I-70. Yahoo maps had estimated the travel time at 4 hrs, 42 minutes for the 300 mile trip, and they didn't miss it by much. I didn't stop at all on the way and made it in 4:35. I was trying to get there early enough to check in at the motel and also get by church early enough to check on my Powerpoint presentation, etc. Having left town right at noon, I managed that just fine.

The church was launching their Lottie Moon Christmas offering emphasis and the first part of the program was dedicated to watching some of the DVD presentations from the IMB that promote this year's offering. We watched a couple of episodes featuring Gabriel from Ecuador, an indigenous church planter in the Andes Mountains who miraculously was delivered from a mob intent on burning him after having doused him with gasoline. He fearlessly preached the gospel message and the angry mob disappeared. Several of those who heard him trusted Christ and became the nucleus of a new church.

Afterwards, I shared about the BGCM's partnership with the Guatemalan Baptist Convention, giving just a bit of history about how that relationship evolved and what we've been doing in the area of leadership training in the western part of the country for the past three years. I shared some pictures of that area since the church is putting together a team that will go in April to Quetzaltenango, the city where our training events have been held. Thus I was able to show photos of the hotel where they will stay as well as of the city. They are planning on conducting a VBS, doing some evangelistic outreach, and offering some leadership training seminars as well. It looks like they will have 12 or 13 team members going which is a really good-sized group.

Following the service itself, I met with the team that is going and answered specific questions they had relative to cultural issues, ministry opportunities, etc. It was a profitable time I believe for them and I certainly was encouraged by their enthusiasm and excitement about going. The church has taken previous trips to Belarus but this will be their first international trip to Latin America.

The return trip took closer to 5 hours as I got caught in traffic heading in to work in St. Louis. Otherwise, it was an uneventful trip and I got back in time to grab some lunch and then go make hospital visits. Tomorrow morning I'll visit the care centers and catch up on some emails, etc., before we head toward Texas tomorrow evening for Thanksgiving with my mom. Our oldest son and his family will also be there so I'm looking forward to the holidays together with them and hopefully with my brother's family as well. Don't know if I'll find time to post anything while I'm gone, but might manage a quick update.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Impressed with Rodney Hammer

Today was my first opportunity to meet Rodney Hammer personally. As you might or might not know, he was recently selected to serve as Director of Missions for the Blue River-Kansas City Baptist Association which is the local association to which our church relates. Rodney resigned as a regional leader with the IMB, at least in part I think it’s safe to say, over disagreements with the Board of Trustees' new policies regarding baptism and the practice of a private prayer language. He didn’t allude to those differences today, as the forum was a meeting with 7 pastors and the associate director of missions at a local church to talk about his vision for the association and some strategic planning processes he has initiated to help evaluate where the association currently is and where it needs to be heading.

He said a number of things that resonated well with me. Things like he’s not so concerned about increasing attendance at the annual associational meeting or maintaining a bureaucracy, or even holding meetings just to meet. His passion is to assist churches to be on mission and fulfilling the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8. It’s that kind of a compelling vision I believe that can help overcome apathy on the one hand and partisan politics on the other when it comes to associational relationships.

Given our size, our church is one of the top 3 financial supporters of the association out of some 130 churches in the Kansas City, MO area. (There are two additional associations in the KC metroplex area—the Clay Platte Association which includes the churches of northern KC, and the Kansas City, KS association which includes those on the other side of the state line). Our associational involvement in recent years has included among other things participation in a “Free Garage Sale” that consisted in giving away stuff donated by church members to needy families, and providing meals each month for women and children in an inner city homeless shelter. I haven’t had that much direct contact in my role as associate pastor with other area pastors, but I trust that Rodney’s presence will facilitate that more.

One of the things he mentioned today that piqued my interest was a couple of leadership and visioning training conferences coming up early next year in January and March. I hope to be able to attend these and prayerfully our entire ministerial staff will be able to participate as well. The overview Rodney shared sounded like some really solid biblical principles coupled with strategic planning. Here's a link to the association's website and the information about the conferences.

Improbable Finishes

Anyone who has watched much football at all down through the years, especially highlights of college football rivalries, has witnessed some rather bizarre and improbable finishes. One game that always seems to appear on such a collection of wild endings is the November 20, 1982 game between Cal and Stanford. With future Hall of Famer and Super Bowl winning quarterback John Elway in charge, Stanford drove down for a field goal to give them a 20-19 lead with just 4 seconds left to play. Because the Stanford fans had flooded onto the field before the game ended, a 15-yard penalty was assessed, forcing Stanford to kick off from their own 25 yard line.

In a wild play that resembled rugby more than football, Kevin Moen of Cal scooped up the kicked ball at his own 46 yard line and then proceeded to lateral the ball backwards to a teammate, just before he was tackled. Four more laterals would occur before the ball found its way back in Moen’s hands and he scrambled the last 25 yards into the end zone, having to weave his way through the Stanford band that had come onto the field to celebrate their victory prematurely. Moen crossed the goal line for a touchdown, colliding in the process with a trombone player. Despite his great success as a professional NFL player, the loss meant that Elway never played in a college bowl game. He would laughingly joke later that he wished the band had practiced their tackling skills.

In the same way that football games can have totally unexpected endings, life itself can present us with some unanticipated curves and detours along the way. When those challenges suddenly appear, it will be our faith, sustained and nurtured by years of walking in fellowship with God that will see us through. Because those surprises can’t be predicted, it’s important to cultivate a deep-rooted faith every day through the disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other Christians.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Immediately after the morning services this Sunday, I'm going to hop in my car and head east on I-70 in the direction of St. Louis, turning southward on the outskirts of the city to head down to Farmington, Missouri. What takes me there you ask? The First Baptist Church of Farmington is planning a mission trip to Guatemala in April of next year and they've asked me to come and speak on Sunday evening about the BGCM's partnership with the Guatemala Baptist Convention. I'll also be sharing some very practical tips with them about planning for their mission trip experience. The church has engaged in overseas missions trips previously, having taken their adult choir to Belarus and sending teams to that country as well. To the best of my knowledge, this will be their first missions trip to Latin America.

I had a 45-minute conference call with their pastor and missions leadership team the other morning and I'm thrilled to hear about the make-up of the group going. They will be working with the Primera Iglesia Bautista de Quetzaltenango on a variety of projects including VBS, evangelistic outreach, and leadership training. I'm excited to see another BGCM church become directly involved in our partnership with Guatemalan Baptists.

The trip to Farmington takes about 5 hours as we're on opposite corners of the state from each other, so I'm going to have to make good time to get there for their 6:00 evening service. I'd appreciate your prayers for my travels and the time together with the church helping them as they plan and prepare for the mission trip. I just received another email from the pastor of the host church in Guatemala this morning and they're super excited about this opportunity to partner with Farmington for a week of missions emphasis. It's a tremendous blessing to be a part of what God is doing through partnership missions with the BGCM.

Our church is also actively engaged in planning a second trip to Guatemala this coming February. Several of the folks who went with us last year are planning on going again. The Guatemalan people are such gracious hosts and the country is so beautiful that it draws you back again and again like a magnet. I've lost count of the number of trips I've made there now, but I think it's either 7 or 8. I'm slated to go three more times in the first 7 months of 2009. Thanks, too, for your prayers for each of these trips and the impact they will have on developing national leaders and reaching people for Christ.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Thanksgiving Cartoon

I'm indebted to our church's financial administrator for pointing this cartoon out. It was just too funny not to share it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Inspirational Hero

In this post I’d like to introduce you to one of my heroes. When we first moved to Argentina in 1988, a veteran missionary told me about a church that needed some help because its pastor and his son, the music director, had been killed in a tragic automobile accident. I wound up serving as pastor of that church for three and a half years. The pastor’s widow, Doña Laura, was hoping to start a new church in her neighborhood. By God’s grace we were able to begin a new congregation there and complete a building for them before coming home on our first furlough.

Doña Laura wasn’t through though with her desire to help begin new churches. She and the daughter of a neighbor began a home Bible study in a neighborhood on the eastern side of Mendoza (a city of one million residents). I recently received an email from Doña Laura’s daughter who told me that this Bible study continues as a church.

Furthermore, she told me that Doña Laura had recently received an invitation from a military commander to begin a Bible study in his home in a city some 45 minutes west of Mendoza. She cannot ride on the public buses any longer because it’s difficult for her to climb the steps, and renting a car would be financially impossible. For that reason, she’s made arrangements to ride there with her nephew twice a month to lead the Bible study. Doña Laura is 88 and a half years old. Her daughter, the wife of a pastor in southern Argentina, said that her mother is an inspiration to all of them. She has been and continues to be a hero in my life as I’ve witnessed her faithfulness to God down through the years.

I think the Lord wants us to finish our lives well, and Doña Laura certainly is an outstanding example of one who is doing that with His strength and guidance. May we also run with perseverance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Must-Read Blog

For quite some time now, one of my favorite bloggers has been a young 20-something graduate from Truett Seminary in Waco. Emily Hunter McGowin currently lives in southwestern Ohio where her husband serves as student minister on the staff of a Southern Baptist church. Emily's posts are always thought-provoking. It would be well worth your time to read back through her archived posts to be blessed by her spiritual maturity and insights into the Scriptures in some of the sermons and Bible studies that she has shared.

I wanted to direct your attention though to her latest post which I think ought to be a must-read for all evangelical Christians who are concerned with the well-being of our nation and who have expressed misgivings about the outcome of the recent presidential elections. Her post transcends partisan politics and points to where our ultimate faith and trust as believers must be placed in these days. I urge you to click on this link to read her post.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Trunk or Treat

I've been rather swamped with stuff lately but wanted to give a brief update on our church's Trunk or Treat event this past Friday night. We had a good number of members in the parking lot, passing out candy out of their decorated car trunks, and inside our Family Life Center, there were a host of games and activities for the kids to do and receive candy prizes. We had one of the big inflatable jump houses as well a lot of other traditional booths. I mentioned in a comment on another blog that we have a world-class artist in our congregation who has been commissioned to do paintings for the likes of Disney, etc. He and his wife volunteered their time as they did last year also to take digital photos of the kids (with their parents too if desired) dressed up in their costumes. These will be sent to them as a free gift and also supplies us with some contact information for follow-up.

We had over 500 children through our facilities during the 2 hour event. One of the highlights was the participation this year of a new ministry that is based out of our church--Word on Wheels. It's a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who meet twice a month at our church for Bible study and then usually go out to eat, ride, or just fellowship with one another. This group volunteered to grill and give away free hotdogs to those who came to participate in our Trunk or Treat. They had their bikes on display and some were even passing out candy out of their saddlebags. It was a great experience and our church really pitched in to help by supplying candy and manpower to make the event happen.