Thursday, June 30, 2011

Update from Joplin

Few things excite me more than connecting with church leaders who really get what ministry is all about. When God presents an opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to a community in need and the church responds enthusiastically and immediately it's a beautiful thing to watch. Immanuel Lutheran Church and Martin Luther School in Joplin continue to amaze me. They are now asking how do we become partners in the rebuilding of Joplin for years to come. What ministry opportunities might grow out of our engagement with this community? Let's make sure we don't miss this chance to boldly proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ through acts of service, compassion and loving kindness.

It's a distinct privilege to sit in on meetings where big dreams grow bigger as the scope of God's providence becomes more and more evident. A relief center in the school gym becomes three semi-truck containers in the schoolyard, four semi-trailers on the front parking lot, a shower trailer right in front of the school. Now it's time to consider a more permanent location where relief, counseling, building development and full community engagement might be possible. And what about money...the perennial concern of some. One of the miracles that follows a horrendous disaster such as happened on May 22, 2011 is the outpouring of financial support to people in need. People may be reluctant to give so you can pay the church's electric bill but they are always generous when people are hurting and the need is painfully obvious.

So the church rises up. God's resources flow like a river swollen with the spring rains. Volunteers put in long, hard hours and God's glory shines in the darkness. This is the church. Gathered to be strengthened by God's Word and Sacraments then sent to be his presence among the people. We mustn't only gather and never go and we dare not only go and never gather. Tomorrow I leave Joplin but my heart remains with the people of this church and school who have found the full measure of God's grace in the wake of devastation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last Minute Openings for Kenya Trip

Good news for those wishing they'd signed-up for our medical/construction mission to Kenya. Two members of the team had to bow out this week so we have two openings available right now. Rooms are already reserved and the orphans and blind children are expecting us. If you are in a position to make a quick decision and can afford the cost ($2295 not including airfare), please consider joining our team. I can promise you won't regret taking this once in a lifetime trip to Africa! Call Lifetree Adventures at (800) 747-2157 and register today. If you'd like more information drop me an email at I hope to see you in Nairobi in August!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Church At It's Very Best

For the last two weeks I've had the privilege of being with some of the greatest people in the world. The staff at Immanuel Lutheran Church and Martin Luther School in Joplin, Missouri are true heroes. Located within the tornado zone where over 150 lives were lost and thousands of homes and many churches were completely destroyed, Immanuel and Martin Luther stands as a testament to what the Church is meant to be. A beacon of hope in the midst of crushing darkness. Pastor Gregory Mech, DCE Jason Glaskey and his wife Lyla, Principal Jeremy Schamber and his wife Kelli and other staff have worked tirelessly since shortly after the storm subsided to rally the people of their congregation and assemble the most awesome relief center I've ever seen. They are providing hot meals, a medical clinic, water & Gatorade, clothing, bedding, diapers, food, cleaning supplies and more to anyone who comes by their door. They are dispensing gift cards and cash to those in need. They are not taking names or making people fill out paperwork. They are being blessed by churches and denominational agencies from all over the country and they're passing those blessings along to those in need. They realize that they are in the perfect location to be the hands, feet and mercy of Jesus for just such a time as this.

It was a humbling experience to be in their presence. To see the smiles on their faces and the determination in their hearts to see that no one was turned away. They've turned their entire facility into one huge center of help and hope. And people come...every day, they come. Some just for a hot lunch and conversation, others for a mattress or clothes or a tetanus shot. Many come to volunteer and the team at Immanuel and Martin Luther find work for them to do and keep spreading the word to the city that if you need help they will provide it. This is the Church at it's very best.

The Church has a choice with each new day. And I'm not just talking about Immanuel and Martin Luther. I'm talking about the Body of Christ. We can see the need (which is usually less obvious than one quarter of your city being blown away...literally) and strive with all our energy to meet it in the name of our loving Lord Jesus OR we can close our doors, tell people to look elsewhere and see that we simply take care of those who happened to be around when the doors were shut. That's a choice many churches make every day. They insulate, isolate and vegetate hoping that they can hold on to the few, stalwart, aging members they have until they can no longer continue to function. Serving those around is just too scary and unpredictable. Kind of like a tornado. But I wish every church in America would look at Immanuel Lutheran Church and Martin Luther School to see what's possible when you ask this simple question, "How can we help?" and listen for God's answer. The resources come, the people come and His light shines in the darkness. I pray every church follows the example of Immanuel Lutheran Church and Martin Luther School without waiting for an EF5 tornado to move you.