Friday, July 15, 2016

Take Action!

By now, most if not all of us have heard or read of the violence that has gripped this country and this world.  Men and women destroyed – some because of the color of their skin or their faith or lack of faith.  Others lost their lives because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time - at the whim of evil men.

The media fuels the furor with non-stop coverage while division reigns as people take sides and demand justice.  And, maybe you’re feeling what I’m feeling: we want to take action.  We want to do something!

What can we do?  What does God ask of His people?

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Notice the requirement: to act!  Emerson said: "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." Actions speak louder than words!

Do you want to do something? Then, be purposeful about ‎acting justly. In other words, seek justice on behalf of the lives of OTHERS!

Do you know of someone who needs your advocacy?  Someone who needs you to speak up for them?  Then, speak up for them.  Speak for justice with honor, speak with mercy, and speak in humility.

Do you know of someone who needs your mercy? Someone who needs you to forgive them and love them?  Then, show mercy! Show love! God isn’t asking us to feel like acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly. His requirement is for us to do this.  Make the choice. Take the action.

Do you know of someone who needs to see you walk humbly with your God? Someone who needs you to set the example?  Don’t be naïve. People watch and look for someone to demonstrate what it means to live a humble life before God. Show humility as you freely forgive and seek forgiveness. Show humility as you speak of others kindly – even if they’re not in the room.

We can do something. Every day.  What would this world be like if each of us would “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God?”

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Remembering to Pray


On Sunday morning, we awoke to the ongoing coverage of a national tragedy. As of this writing, 49 families lost a loved one, killed in cold blood.  53 other families are still waiting for their loved ones to heal and recover from life-threatening wounds.  Still others are wondering how they made it out alive.  All affected by this tragedy will never be the same.

And a nation mourns. 

Now is the time to pray. Pray for recovery – both physically and emotionally – and that all would feel the healing and comfort of Christ Himself.

Now is not the time for blame. Now is not the time for hidden (and not so hidden) agendas to take priority over the care required for the hurting.  Now is not the time to presume upon God whatever motive suits us. And, now is not the time to score political points for our preferred politicians.

There will be time for remedial action but in the near term, we have a healing role to play in our families, communities, and the world.  Christ-followers are to be ambassadors of reconciliation – not judgment, peacemakers – not know-it-alls, and above all, we are to be a source of Christ’s love rather than condemnation. 

And let’s not forget that, after tragedies like this, we have neighbors, friends, and family who are afraid – they need our assurance, care, and unconditional love regardless of their stance before Christ.

So, please continue to pray – and when we speak, let us speak the words that lift others up.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph. 4:29)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Sponsor a Child Today!

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In addition to having our children, my bride and I have enjoyed the privilege of sponsoring children internationally.

But, what does it mean to "sponsor a child"? 

Through the Church of God's Children of Promise ministry (www.echildrenofpromise.org), you and I have the opportunity to literally change lives through financial and spiritual means. For just $32 per month (about a tank of gas in the US), you can sponsor a child and immediately affect his or her life through schooling, clothing, food, and spiritual nourishment.



And, this is not just for the child but also his or her family, too. When a child is sponsored the ripple effect is dramatic.

In addition, sponsoring a child means establishing and developing a real relationship. Through emails, letters, gifts, prayers, and personal visits on mission trips, sponsors can play an invested role in a child's life that is so very fulfilling.

We have sponsors in our church who are individuals, couples, families, and small groups and classes. All are welcome to team up for this important opportunity.

If you are not sponsoring a child - or would like to sponsor another child - and you feel that God is giving you a nudge to change another life, consider these two boys pictured here - John and Roger. They live in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, and I am committed to finding a sponsor for each of them. 

If you are interested in sponsoring one of these two boys, please contact the church office (330-488-0366) or email us at info@eastcantonchurch.org.  We'll talk you through the process...

For other opportunities to change the lives of children, check out the Children of Promise website here.

Because of your obedience to the Lord's prompting, a child's life may be changed - today!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merry Christmas!

…Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:12b-13

Merry Christmas!

What do you want to accomplish this Christmas? Give the right gifts? Get the right gifts?  Just make it through the season?

Here’s an idea! Let’s just be different this year.   

How different?  Consider the quality of…

Compassion.  Let’s open our eyes and ears to those struggling among us.  By helping in whatever way we can, we show…

Kindness: putting others’ needs ahead of our own. Whether in listening more closely, smiling more often, or providing warm meals, kindness requires us to seek…

Humility. There is so much of “self” in the world, “self-serve” has a whole new meaning! And, when we’re humble, we show…

Gentleness: “Power under control”. Speaking words that lift up, not tear down. Taking actions carefully, not rashly, and for the sake of others.  All of these qualities require…

Patience. This may be the one we have to pray for the most.  Patience requires us to focus at the big picture and get our eyes off the craziness of the moment.

But, in order to be this different, we’ll need to…

Bear with each other and forgive.  When we do this, we demonstrate our understanding of our own forgiveness found only in the One whose birth we celebrate this season.

Which brings us back to making this season a…

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Holidays!


Merry Christmas!

For those uncomfortable with that greeting, maybe you prefer... 

Happy Holidays!

Either one works for me.  Why?

When someone says “Merry Christmas”, it’s as if she says,  “I'm celebrating the birth of Christ! I hope that your celebration is merry!”

When someone says “Happy Holidays”, it’s as if he says, “I'm celebrating the Holidays! I hope that your celebration is happy!”

Essentially, I believe these phrases are one and the same. Why?

What’s a holiday? It is a Holy-Day.  A Holy-Day is a Day set apart for Divine (that is, Godly) purposes.

In these Holy Days, we celebrate the first arrival of the Christ – the Son of God.

The plans for this arrival began at the very beginning.  After creating the world, God simply wanted to have a relationship with His creation: with you and with me – with the whole world.  He still does.

And although that plan was interrupted by the rebellion of those created in His image, God sent His Son to fulfill His plan to restore that vision and bring us back.

So, in this season, we set apart these days for Divine purposes, to celebrate and to share that celebration with others.

How can we do that?

We pay special attention to use words and demonstrate attitudes that are intentionally kind to those around us – to those we know and even those we don’t know.

These actions are not only kind, but can even be generous to these same folks. 

Quite simply, the Holidays - Christmas - is the time we demonstrate ourselves as the creation of the One who sent His Son so long ago to save us, to set us apart, as His own.

Therefore, if I am greeted by "Happy Holidays", I'm not offended. Because, in that greeting, the holiness of Christ is affirmed.  Only HE can make this time of year a season of Holy-Days - set apart to celebrate the love of the Father as He gave us His Son, Emmanuel - God With Us!

In this Holy Season, may your Holy Days be Merry, Happy, and Bright!

Happy Holy-Days!
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."Luke 2:28-32

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's not about the food or the pilgrims...

Today is the day which has been set aside by our nation to give thanks.  Organized declarations of thanksgiving have been a part of cultures for thousands of years.  So, we gather to give thanks to God, not to celebrate a simple pilgrim meal that happened long ago. 

Although not the first leader to do so, Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, made a proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1863.  After describing the "bounties" of harvest, new frontiers, and natural resources of a country still struggling in a time of war, the President goes on to say,
[These] are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
With all that is going on in our world today, these words seems so relevant and serve as a great reminder for us to focus on this: let our Thanksgiving not be so much about food, football, or even family but instead be in praise to the Father for His mercy and kindness as we ask Him for His forgiveness, healing, and restoration of our souls, our bodies, and our land.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Happy Veteran's Day!

Across from me hangs a uniform coat wore by my grandfather in World War I and now displayed in my office. It's hard to believe that it has been 100 years since the beginning of "The Great War" as it was called then.  More difficult to comprehend is the incredible loss of life that was the result for both sides of the conflict.

Dead:                  8,556,315
Wounded:         21,219,452     
POW/Missing:     7,750,945

Even after entering the conflict toward its end, the US lost over 120,000 lives, wounding nearly twice that number.

Why do I bring this up? 

In the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month in 1918, the Armistice Treaty was finally signed, signaling the cessation of hostilities between the Central Powers (Germany, etc.) and the Allied Powers (France, Russia, Britain, US, etc.).  Soon thereafter, communities, states, and finally the nation began to celebrate November 11th as Armistice Day.  Then, after World War II, this date was changed to Veteran's Day - a day set apart as "a celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good."

For those who trust the Lord for His provision in our lives, it is also a day to thank God for those who are willing to lay down their own lives so that others can have the privilege of living in the freedoms we so enjoy.
"No greater love has no one than this - that he lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13.
As Tuesday the 11th arrives, please take a moment and offer a prayer of thanks for those who have served and those who remain in the service - that they may be protected and brought home safe.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Returning from Uganda - 2014

After a 35 hour trip (from the missionaries' compound to the church parking lot in East Canton), we returned safely from Uganda.

Or, did we?

Although we Americans typically prefer avoiding risk, no mission trip is without it.  Sure, going to the grocery store includes risk, doesn't it?  But, traveling thousands of miles in the air, and bumping up and down along nearly a thousand miles of really bad roads, that's pretty risky.

Serving in a country that has less than adequate water treatment and availability, that's pretty risky.

Visiting the homes of real people with HIV, that's pretty risky.

Walking around the slums of Kampala, past young men high from opium as they make make fun of the 'mzungus' (white people), that felt pretty risky.

However, do you realize the risk we didn't take?  We did not risk Ebola.

There is no Ebola outbreak in Uganda. The outbreak that is ravaging West Africa is thousands of miles away from our friends in Uganda.  The closest we get to Ebola is in the United States - in Tallmadge or Dallas.

Even as we flew, we flew through a hub that does not fly into West Africa.

REPEAT: We did not risk Ebola.

Regardless of this fact, some of the team that served others in Jesus' Name dealt with some mild persecution. How?

There were children who were not allowed in school for a time because their parent served in a continent that is suffering from Ebola - a continent whose land mass is three times that of the continental United States.

One team member was only recently allowed to return to school - three weeks after our return.

Two of our number had some paid time off.  That's nice, isn't it?  But, would they have jobs at the end of their three weeks? How would they be received when they returned?

There have been friends who won't shake hands - or be in the same room with us.  They're convinced it's better for them - despite the facts.

As I consider this behavior and treatment, I'm sad for the team. But, I'm also glad for the experience.

From this treatment, we see maybe just the smallest glimpse of what our friends in Uganda see all too much after they were diagnosed with HIV (often through no fault of their own) and suffered the shunning by friends and family.

I've been to Uganda several times and the trip is usually over soon after we arrive home.

This one wasn't over so quickly. Not for three weeks (the incubation period for Ebola symptoms).

But, the three weeks passed.  And the next trip will come.

Until then, we're praying for our family in Uganda who deal with risk every day and must rely on the Lord's providence and protection.

We have a lot to learn from them.

I can't wait.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Go to Uganda: Fear and Faith? Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

So, we know we are supposed to go to the ends of the earth and for us, this means, Uganda.

But, why go now? Why take the risk?

This trip has been planned for nearly a year.  And, we believe, that God knew ahead of time that there would be this uncertainty around us - Ebola, ISIS, and so on.  Yet, His call did not waver.  In fact, many if not all of the team members can relate consistent experiences which confirmed God's direction and provision to go.

Still, given all that is swirling around us, is it unwise?

Let's consider the facts.  The media seem to be in full speculation mode.  This was heavy before we left (Oct. 3) and probably worse now. The facts, as I understand them, are:

a) It is NOT easy to get Ebola. To contract it, one must have contact with bodily fluids - blood, stool, saliva, vomit, and urine.  It was never in our mission plan to have contact with such fluids and, given the circumstances, we have been extra cautious regarding keeping our hands consistently clean with soap or hand sanitizer or both.

b) Africa is a very, very big continent.  Therefore, the West Africa Ebola outbreak is far away from Uganda - some 2500-3000 miles distant.  As a comparison, East Canton is closer to an outbreak in Dallas than Uganda is to West Africa.  What I suggested to those who didn't understand the scope of the continent is this: not going to Uganda because of the West Africa outbreak is like not going to Ohio because of what is happening in California (actually California is closer).  There's a lot of space between here and there.

c) After arriving here, we learned of a Marburg virus discovery (another Hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola) in Uganda. This is unrelated to the West Africa outbreak and, from what the local media reports, has at this point been contained.  This recent Marburg virus discovery has produced one death in a country of 35 million people. And, we did not travel in the area affected.

d) Uganda has already put in place health screening at the Entebbe Airport where we had to fill out a health survey (looking for symptoms, and recent countries visited, etc.) and have our temperature taken. Compared to recent reports out of Dallas, Uganda seems to take this disease seriously.

Okay, but what about the decision?

We relied upon three credible sources of advice/wisdom as we approached our time away: the CDC, the State Department, and our missionaries in country.  The CDC and State Department advised caution, but none of the three advised against coming to Uganda.  Our missionaries are still a bit amazed at all the fuss surrounding the media exposure of this disease.  Equatorial countries in Africa, including Uganda, have dealt with Ebola-like viruses off-and-on since they were discovered in the 60's. Uganda has typically handled this sort of thing well in the past - enough that they recently sent resources to West Africa to help contain the outbreak there.

(Moreover, even while we are here, the US Embassy knows of our location and communicates to us when important news needs to be delivered.  Still, we have received no news from them recommending that we should leave prematurely.)

While the approval of the overall trip was a leadership decision, each team member could always make their own decision whether they would go as individuals.  It was clear that this trip, started in planning nearly a year ago, wasn't etched in stone.  While we could have canceled it based in part on the wisdom of the credible sources above, each team member could decide not to go - and that would have been okay.  However, after spending nearly two weeks here, I asked each of the team - 8 of them - what advice they would offer someone making a decision for a trip like this.  The unanimous reply was: yes, please come to Uganda.

With all that said, this was NOT an easy decision - as a group or as individuals. I had my share of sleeplessness and spent plenty of time on my knees in prayer. Ultimately, after considering all the information offered by these sources of wisdom, I had to lay this before the Lord and ask: what is driving the decision? I felt that God's call last year for us to go hadn't changed and, ultimately, He would have to change the decision or protect us.  Because we return home tomorrow, the trip is not yet over. I'm praying for a good/safe trip back and a God-glorifying re-entry into the community.  I have warned the team that fear from others may come out in unexpected ways to which we'll have to respond with Christ's love.

So, at this point, based on the information at hand - including faith in the systems around us on this trip, if we would not have gone to Uganda, it would have been because of fear. And, we would have missed out on so many opportunities to grow in faith while blessing the very ones who He called us to serve.

I can say that the team is healthy - maybe a little tired, but healthy.  And, we accomplished the mission God gave us and then some. The villages we visited were encouraged - that they're not alone, that there is hope in the Lord, and He has encouraged them through a bunch of folks from Northeast Ohio, who before were strangers, but now are members of family.

Their family and His family.
...the safest place to be is in the middle of His will. - Unknown.

Go to Uganda: Fear and Faith? Part 1

Our recent sojourn in this beautiful land is almost complete.  We have traveled quite a bit - probably over 700 miles across the Northern portion of Uganda - through Lira, Gulu, Moyo, Arua, Nebbi, Murchison Falls Park, and back again to Kampala.  We have witnessed the beauty in what Churchill coined as "The Pearl of Africa."  The team has been tried, tested, blessed, and comforted as they encouraged and comforted others.

Many asked before we went and may ask again upon our return: why go to Uganda?  With all the craziness of viral outbreaks, terrorism, and so much more, why take the risk?

 Let's begin with a command.  Just before Christ ascended to heaven, He gave this command to His disciples: "And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

For the modern-day church, I believe that this command applies to us as we look who we shall serve (and be a witness to) in Jesus' Name. Our Jerusalem is our local community, Judea might be our region, Samaria could be our state or nation, and the ends of the earth is, well, far away.

For our church, Uganda and East Africa is our ends of the earth.

God convinced me long ago, not to ignore ANY of these concentric circles.  Thankfully, I think our church does a pretty good job reaching out to the local community - our "Blessings Exchange Clothing Giveaway", along with service in Refuge of Hope and other examples, gives us and our partners in ministry great opportunities to serve in Jesus' Name. Will we continue to expand locally as God leads us? Of course.

We have contributed to and will look forward to opportunities in the region, state, and nation.

But what this means is that when it comes to local and global missions, it's not an either/or - it's a both/and.

To the Christ-follower, service is not an option and becomes an opportunity to stretch beyond any man-made comfort zone into the faith-filled life in Christ.

Which brings us to Uganda. (Go to Part 2)
"For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor. 4:5)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Uganda - 4th Day, and an opportunity to change a life!

Today, some of us visited the TAPP offices in Murchison Bay (another section of Kampala) to watch how they create their jewelry.  TAPP teaches their clients a trade (like fashioning jewelry) so that they can earn a living and provide for their family.  Many times, an HIV+ person will lose his or her job when they've been diagnosed with HIV.  Turning to The Lord through TAPP, they receive encouragement and training, and above all, hope.

Some of us also visited the TAPP clients in the slums of Kampala, called Kasugo. These clients are lead by the TAPP Branch Manager, a lovely young lady named Generous (my bride Sherry is pictured  with her above).  The abject poverty we witnessed today was a strong contrast to the hope that we saw in the faces (and heard in the voices) of those who have chosen to put their trust in The Lord.  After we visited them, they met us in the small church there and sang, "Jesus is my Savior!"

The hope of The Lord has been a very powerful theme in this adventure. The people of Uganda need hope.  The people of Northeast Ohio need hope.  And, as the Psalmist says, "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him." Ps. 62:5

The remainder of us visited another Church of God site called Nampunge, just outside the city limits of Kampala. This site has a church building, a complete school - nursery through Secondary (High) School - with over 1000 students, and a small clinic.  Charlene Moore, one of our team, had the privilege of visiting the home of her Sunday School class's Sponsored Child.  In my experience, this is the only example I know of where a sponsor had this opportunity.  Thanks, Lord!

One last encouragement. You might wonder how you can bring hope to someone here from the United States. I've mentioned this before and I will each chance I get.

Sponsor a child. Maybe one of those pictured with Generous.  For the cost of a few fast food meals each month, you could change a child's life. Or, for a little more, you could change the life of a whole family. 

Don't think you can afford it? Here's a better idea. Don't think. Pray. If God is calling you to sponsor a child, He will provide the funds. Trust Him and discover the joy of changing a life.

For more information, comment on this post and weI'll get you what you need to take the step.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Uganda - TAPP visits

Yesterday and today, the team had the opportunity to visit Ugandans in their homes.
TAPP is Tumaini AIDS Prevention Program and helps HIV+ women and men (mostly women) live positively with this dreaded disease. We visited three of these clients.

Their ages were 26 to 30, two had two children, the other had three. One was pregnant with her third. One had a husband, yet he was detained in South Sudan after an accident broke both of his legs. The other two had no husbands.  Each lived in a home that was no greater than a 4'x8' room.

Yet each of them warmly welcomed us into their homes, ensuring we had a place to sit. We asked them questions regarding their family, their condition, and of course, their relationship with Jesus Christ. Each had been HIV+ over three years and each had come to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

On behalf of our church, we provided much needed staples like flour, sugar, rice, and soap.  We also provided gifts such as toys, kitchen supplies, lotions, dental hygiene items,  flip-flops, etc.

Our hosts were hard working TAPP leaders named Josephine and Asha.

Today we witnessed abject poverty.  But, in the midst of it we also experienced joy, thanksgiving, and hope.

In an effort to continue that hope, we purchased on behalf of the church several jewelry and other gift items handmade by these TAPP clients.  We'll bring these items home with us to resell to the congregation.  This is one more way that the church can support them - even from a distance.

We asked them what they'd like us to pray for - their responses could have been ours:
- For my kids to have wisdom.
- For my husband to get well.
- To provide for my family.
- To feel well again.

Please join me to pray for these three women - desperate for hope and the Lord's provision.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Uganda - Children of Promise

Kasubi is a place Sherry and I have been to many, many times.  As a school, it's filled with children (Pre-K through High School) and their teachers.  As the HQ of Church of God, Uganda, there are also the Church of God leaders who also work within the compound.

We arrived there a little later than we had planned after enjoying breakfast and sorting the 12 tubs we brought with us. These tubs carried our ministry items. Some of our team visited Jajjas (Grandmas) who care for their grandchildren because the children's parents are either dead or have abandoned the children.  I'll write about this team's visits with the Jajjas in another posting.

Knowing we would be meeting some of our sponsored children at the Children of Promise office at Kasubi, we were sure to bring gifts for them. Of the six children we were expecting, we met five of them today and will meet the sixth tomorrow.

In times past, I have not met the sponsored children (other than my own) because I was engaged in other ministries (like Leadership Development).  It was SO good to see the joy on these kids' faces as they opened their bags of goodies.  Gratitude was the prevailing attitude, for sure!

Including in the list, by the way, was three mattresses purchased by our own VBS kids!

If you're reading this today, and currently do not sponsor a child, I strongly encourage you to prayerfully consider a commitment to change a life.  I have met several adults who were raised as sponsored children who are making history for Christ right now - including supporting the sponsoring of other children.

When you sponsor a child, you give more than an education, more than food and clothing - you give hope. Speaking with a sponsored child - now adult - named Richard, he made this very to clear to me as he described child after child, living in the streets, without hope. Being a sponsored child gives hope.

When you sponsor a child you'll change a life - you'll give him or her hope.

For more information, please comment on this post with your email address and I'll be glad to provide it.

(PS: I'm unable to download photos at this time but I will soon!)

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Uganda - Arrival and Settling In

After nearly 30 hours of travel, we finally made it to Kampala, Uganda. Praise The Lord!

Entering Uganda, we were welcomed by a medical team that the government has put in place to
check the health of incoming visitors and citizens. We answered a short questionnaire regarding the countries we've visited and our current health condition. A group of nurses reviewed our questionnaire and took our temperatures.  Although it was an additional delay to a very long trip, I'm glad to see the government taking their usual precautions regarding the seriousness of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  Although the hardest hit countries are over 3000 miles away, Uganda knows how to combat this virus and shows it.

Immigration was smooth for everyone except me.  As we enter Uganda, our fingerprints are checked to make sure they match our passports.  Each time I've entered the country, I've had to have them tested repeatedly because the reader failed to read them rightly.  This time, the immigration agent sent me to another agent to check out why my current prints failed to match.  For about an hour, I waited wondering if I would be allowed into the country! Obviously, I made it through and they (I hope) fixed the problem for the next time. Believe me, I was praying for His favor to get me through this unforeseen obstacle.

I am so glad that our flights allowed the team to arrive in Uganda during the day.  They got an eye- and ear-full as we bumped along the road for over an hour-and-a-half, making our way slowly to the Stevenson's compound in the Port Bell section of Kampala.
This home really is a sanctuary for us. Tim is here while his wife Colleen is finishing some medical treatments in Canada (our church - and so many others - are praying for this sweet sister!).  The team they have assembled are just like they are: warm, kind, and always helpful. They have become my family, too. Christine, Lancy, Philip, Thomas, Michael, Moses, Sande, and so many others really add to our ongoing welcome, safety, and effectiveness in the ministry.

This morning, after a MUCH-needed rest, we enjoyed crepes, fresh fruit, and cereal for breakfast, before traveling to Kasubi to worship with the church there.  Kasubi, which you'll hear more about later, is the site of the Church of God Headquarters for Uganda as well as a school and a church. The congregation was mostly students from the school.

Again, we were warmly welcomed, and enjoyed the 3-hour service of worship, singing, dancing, and the spoken Word.  It was confirmed last night that I had the privilege of speaking this morning. In addition, the group sang (but did not yet dance) a few songs before I spoke from 1 Samuel 16: David was obedient and humble as he waited on The Lord and His call on David's life. And, He wants the same from all who call on Him.

Preaching here takes a while because after I speak a phrase or sentence, an assigned interpreter repeats the phrase in the local language (Lugandan). Before I spoke, I took a picture of the congregation and the choir so that you all could meet our new friends.

After services, we went to an Italian Restaurant and enjoyed a meal there, before going back to the compound to rest and have a quick call to our church in East Canton, Ohio.  I loved talking with the church and sharing the joy we felt from the services and our welcome here.

As I see God moving - in the team, in our Uganda family, and in our East Canton family, I'm more and more thankful when we choose faith over fear in our obedience to the Lord's call on each of us.

We will be staying in Kampala for a few days before going to the village area. Stay tuned!

And, keep praying!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mind the Gap

In the London Subway system, the Underground, curved platforms often cause a dangerous gap between the platform and the straight train car. Because of this danger, they use this phrase in print and in the verbal announcement: Mind the Gap!

Children in our church also face a gap.  This gap is the one that exists between someone else's faith, like a parent, and the development of his or her own faith. Some children cross the gap with no difficulties.  One day they are holding on to their parents' hands, relying on mom or dad's faith.  The next moment, they believe on their own, independent of mom or dad.

We see this illustrated in the story of Jesus, the Samaritan woman, and the people of her village.
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in [Jesus] because of the woman's testimony, "He told me everything I ever did." So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.  They said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world." John 4:39-42
As many in the village came to their own faith in Jesus, we want each of our children to come to their own faith in Him.  Believing that someone else believes is not enough.  Each must believe himself or herself that Jesus really is Who He claims to be.

Here at East Canton Church of God, we want each child to safely cross that gap! The gap may be when they move from elementary school to middle school, from middle school to high school, from high school to college - or any point in between.  And, this is more than just being aware of the gap. We have to develop a strategy to safely cross that gap!

In that strategy, we are seeking to call a pastor that will help us "Mind the Gap!" This is a role that will lead leaders of children and youth - our next generation - to consistently and effectively lead children from the Nursery to High School to come to their own faith and continue to mature as followers of Jesus Christ. Their eternity depends on it!

Calling a "NextGen Pastor" is a little different than typical approaches, but I believe that this is one more step that aligns us with the vision God has given us: that each soul in Northeast Ohio encounter the glory of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Go check out our web page for a full description of this important - and exciting - role!  Then, pray that our church - and every church in Northeast Ohio - Mind The Gap!