The Paradox of Leaping


    The final uprooting of our lives on Kauai continues as we prepare to be transplanted to Honduras. Meanwhile it has become apparent that many of our friends and family are regarding us with a mixture of marvel and incredulity. Others just think we are insane. How in the world could we leave careers that we love, our family, grandchildren and friends? What kind of nut job spends their retirement on an obscure missionary school in Africa and then moves from the paradise where darn near everyone in the world dreams of visiting one day to live in a third world country with zero income? “What are you thinking?” they ask. “Aren’t you afraid?” Well, yes and no. The truth is; most of the people we know don’t have a grid for this. After all it’s basically the antithesis of the American dream.
    There is a scene in the film “The last Crusade” where Indiana Jones finds himself pinned to a cliff and faced with nowhere to go but across a bottomless chasm or down. It looks impossible and the internal battle plays itself out in his breathing and facial expressions as he closes his eyes in preparation for the inevitable plunge to his death. “It’s a leap of faith” he says as the camera zooms and freezes on his foot suspended in mid air. Then wincing, he steps or rather falls forward only to land on solid ground as a land bridge to the other side mysteriously appears. That’s a pretty fair description of how the process of becoming a full time missionary feels at times with the only difference being that Indiana Jones didn’t have the assurance and peace that comes with knowing Jesus.
    I realize the last statement might seem a bit pollyannic as we born again Christians are prone to sounding when we attempt to articulate our experiences with God. I certainly do not mean to imply that I have transcended normal human emotion and weakness or that I have all my ducks in a row. It’s just that that explaining Jesus to someone who has never encountered Jesus personally is like trying to explain a double rainbow over mountains in Hawai`i to a blind Eskimo in the Arctic. Why in the world should he believe you. Believe me I know.
    You see I didn’t grow up in the church and I didn’t like Christians when I was young. In fact I persecuted them more than any atheist I’ve ever known until I finally met Jesus at the barrel of a shotgun and landed in jail. Instead I struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for over 20 years. I basically tried everything you can think of to get clean all the while struggling to maintain a facade of functionality that was finally torn away in an instant. I was in a blind drunken rage and definitely not looking for Jesus when I charged a guy with shot gun all the while screaming “shoot me!” All I know for certain is that he fired. I saw a blinding white flash of light and a thought that was more like a voice roared through my mind “this is the last time!” The deeper implications of those words are too much to cover here but suffice it to say that I did not get shot even though he fired at point blank range and I never had a desire for a drink or a drug again. My point here is that I am not special in any worldly sort of way. I know where I came from and I know where I have been. I know that I know within the depths of my soul that everything I am, have and have achieved since that last drunken day has happened in spite of me and not because of me. 
    But that’s not all. I have other problems too. In fact I have an orphan spirit that periodically rises up within me. I am ashamed of it. Missionaries are not supposed to have it. If you mention it, I will almost always deny it. But it’s there. It is rooted in a time filled with rejection and abandonment. It manifests as a voice that says “don’t you dare ask for…you are a burden; a loser and everything you touch turns to $#@!” It is a mindset rooted in a lie that is itself the root of addiction, poverty and failure. It forever declares that God won’t provide even though He always has. It is a proverbial “thing” that pins me to a wall like Indiana Jones with nothing left to do but take the next step or die. It is something that must be confronted with faith and the revelation of my true identity as a son of the Most High God even though I might FEEL paralyzed with fear. In the end it is the actions we take often in spite of what we are thinking and feeling that determines what we actually believe. Jesus said to “seek first the Kingdom of God and all His righteousness and all these things will be added onto you” Mat 6:33. He did not say to get all your ducks in row before you go. Remembering our previous steps of faith as we overcome fear within the context of obedience to the call of God can require a serious leap yet it is also the source of paradoxical provision. 
    I suppose I could write a more flowery, testimony of faith filled with inspiring prophetic poetry. Honestly I’m still pretty rough around the edges. I also recently read that the top reasons people are turned off by Christianity is that they feel shunned by Christians who seem fake and act like they don’t have any problems. That’s not to say that all Christians are fakes only that the rule of approach determines response is always in play. My audience is often composed of people who are completely turned off by the church. So sometimes it’s best to just keep it real. Apparently the Apostle Paul thought so too. (2 Cor 11:30) 
    At the end of the day I’m not much different from you. I’m certainly not better because I’m going to live in third world country. If anything I’m probably worse. I just happen to be blessed with the knowledge of my need, that God’s miracles in my life have been the result my most glaring weaknesses and that my Father’s blessings for me in spite of me are proof of His great and abounding love for me. I’ve found freedom in gratitude and obedience beyond my wildest dreams. I’ve found peace in the midst of turmoil, His strength in my weakness, provision in poverty. I know there will be bumps in the road. I know there will be days when I want to quit. Heck I might even die. Even so, I fully expect that in writing this; I am laying the foundation for a powerful testimony of God’s guidance, provision and miracles in our mission one day. It is in losing our life that we will gain it. Mat 10:39.
    Taken in its most literal form, the missionary walk is as fantastically paradoxical as it is adventurous. It requires ridiculous supernatural assurance and trust that transcends discursive thought and emotion and makes absolutely no sense in the natural until after we take the leap; a leap of faith that gets a little easier each time we leap. I highly recommend it. But only leap to where you are called.

Anatomy Of The Call

We purchased this charcoal drawing  from a Sudanese Refugee during a Power and Love conference in 2010.  It depicts Sudanese Children awaiting a visit from an unnamed  U.S. congressman who they thought was going to save them and never showed.

People need redemption.  Even renowned atheist Mathew Parris, understood this when after returning from a visit to his boyhood home of Malawi he stated:

“I have come to a conclusion that staggers me.  The impact of the missionaries with their message of Jesus Christ with its redemptive foundation seems to be the only thing that has effectively worked in order to change the hearts of some against the other in their antipathy and hostility towards one another – the redemptive aspect seems indispensable to the transformation of this. I find myself surprising myself in having to the say this.”  “I truly believe Africa needs God”.

Christians understand this.  The book of Romans says that atheists do too.  The hunger of one’s heart must change before anything else will. It needs to change in Africa, in the Americas and everywhere else in the world.
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People need Jesus and the fullness of  Holy Spirit. They need people to carry the message of their testimony. They need people to teach them and give them hope; people who will love them. In fact people need love more than anything else.  This is true regardless if one is living in a mansion in Beverly Hills or a card board box at a dump.  As it happens God is calling us into the dumps right now.  Who knows; he might even call us into Beverly Hills one day.

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But people also need to eat.   They need a place to live and rest, to work, to earn a living, to create, and communicate. People need a place to study and learn, a place to come together to worship and soak in the presence of God, a place that is safe and accommodating with the potential to expand; a place where anything and everything good can be done. A place that influences the surrounding culture with the love of God until the love of God becomes the culture.

Now we are going to Honduras. “Why Honduras ?” you ask.  Well I guess I could give you a monologue about why the 2nd or 3rd poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere needs our help more than the wealthiest; how helping the 3rd world to prosper solves issues like illegal immigration and makes the world a safer place as a whole. I guess I could rant about how the first world has heard the gospel message time and time again only to reject it.  But that’s really not it at all.  “Ok then why Honduras and not South Sudan?”.  Read on.

Cathy and I have testimonies galore of how God has spoken to us over the years. Suffice it to say that one of us usually senses a decision or a change needs to be made, then prays and gets a word or an answer. The other does the same often without knowing what the other is thinking or doing. It’s pretty amazing when we finally talk and find that we are both thinking about the same thing.  When we both get the same word or answer we act.  If we don’t then we wait.

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There were so many times over the years when we wanted to abandon what frequently felt like a fruitless ministry to inmates and addicts. Even so God had more for us to learn and every time the word was a resounding “no”.  Until last year that is when we both clearly knew that it was time to go to the nations.

Our plan was to move to Honduras in December of 2016.  Yet the Bible clearly states in Proverbs that we might make our plans but the Lord directs our steps.

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One day in September Cathy was on her usual prayer walk listening to a podcast as she was accustomed.  This one featured Rolland Baker on “IRIS AFTER HOURS” She then returned home and adamantly stated that “We can’t go yet. God has a work to do in our hearts.”
I listened to the same podcast; Google searched IRIS Global and learned about the Harvest School.  I then heard myself saying “honey they have a school. I think we are supposed to go.” “Really?” she asked. She didn’t tell me she’d already heard the same thing in her heart.  “Yes!” I said. “Let’s do it! The rest is history much of which you can read about on our previous WordPress blog posts.

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Africa was amazing and the need there was seemingly even more profound than in Central America. We thought we might not be going to back to Honduras after all. But we prayed. We asked God to show us both individually and together exactly what our next step should be. At one point while in a South Sudanese refugee camp in northern Uganda we thought for sure that God would call us there instead.  Yet by the end of three months the message was clear.
We were to return to Honduras as originally planned.

I’d like to say I know for sure why aside from loving our friends, God has us going back to Honduras; that we will be ones who bring the City of Refuge model to Africa one day. That would be very neat indeed. But that would also be several steps ahead. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about walking with God it’s that thinking about the second step while still engaged in the first frequently results in a fall.

Some might disagree but for us the anatomy of a call has more to do with “who” is calling and “when” we should go than it does with where, what, and how. That’s how faith works.  At the end of the day I’d rather be in the will of God under machine gun fire than apart from it on a beach in paradise.  That doesn’t mean some are not called to a beach in paradise.  Some are called to go.  Some are called to support those who go.

IRIS has the motto that “Love looks like something.”  It’s more than just an idea to them.  We would agree. Many people would say that going to Refugee camps in Africa looks more like love than does going to Honduras.  Right now, for us, love looks like a City. But it’s only because God has called us there. It’s kind of exciting that while we are pretty clear on the “what” and “how”; we don’t yet know the full story of “why”.  This is the anatomy of our call.

 

Post Note:

I realize the “S” word causes many discomfort and we do need support. But please apply the main lesson in this blog and only give what, where and when God calls you to.

Please don’t stop following us and praying for us simply because you are afraid we are going to bug you for money.  We won’t.  Giving should be regarded as an opportunity.  It should never be done out of compulsion.

If you would like to support us then please visit the Join Us Page on our web site grayhope.com

God Bless,

Brian and Cathy.

 

 

Moving to Weebly

img_2442Well it’s  official.  Our business, Gray Hope Productions on Kauai is now a thing of the past.  

We are now Gray Hope Missionaries on all fronts.  

We used WordPress while we were in Africa.

But now we are moving to Honduras and our blog is moving to our reconfigured website at

 http://www.grayhope.com/

Click on this link to check out our latest blog post

“The Anatomy of a Call”  

and then subscribe via Weebly.

We are moving at the end of February.   We’d love to stay in touch so please follow us.

Love and God bless,

Brian and Cathy

Growing Down in Uganda

It’s December 30th 2016 and we are boarding a plane from Amsterdam to NY. After three months in Africa we just spent four hours in an airport with wall to wall fine food, perfume and jewelry stores. There are coffee and candy and Tulip stores. There are liquor stores and clothing stores and cheese stores galore filled with Gouda blocks and Cheddar blocks the size of your head. There’s a place to take shower and a place to take a nap. There are toilets that flush with actual seats in private stalls with toilet paper mounted on painted walls. There are sinks that work, soap dispensers with soap and paper towel dispensers with paper towels. There is even a ventilated, glass room where smokers can smoke and one wall is made out of Heineken beer. 


We walked for a while just seeing the sites before stopping for breakfast. We found a Dutch stand and ordered gourmet coffee and muffins, the cost of which would feed a Mozambiquen family of four for week but who’s judging; right? I contemplated the mass of people in the Rhino refugee camp without water or food all the while sipping my espresso and swallowing the succulent cake. I wondered and prayed as I chewed, if the South Sudanese children we met in the camp and two babies in particular, were still alive and if it was wrong to be at peace with my own powerlessness apart from prayer. After all  wasn’t it Jesus who said the poor would always be with us? 


Boarding is nearly complete now and the stewardess is passing out earphones while passengers scroll through inflight entertainment options in search of something to take their minds off the indomitable task of sitting for hours in a cushioned seat that reclines. I just heard the “F-Word” for the very first time in three months. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I jumped in my seat even though the teenager behind me had employed it as a simple conjunction in an otherwise normal sentence. What am I feeling right now? I think ambivalent might be the word. I do believe our reentry process is officially under way.  


We have experienced a lot in the last three months and there’s lots to unpack. In case you didn’t know I’m starting to unpack right now and right here. So please excuse the seemingly disjointed thoughts as I write. Unpacking is rarely as sequential and organized as packing. Not to mention that some or all of the laundry might be, shall we say, less than clean. But as Papa Rolland Baker says, things are not always as they first appear, sometimes the answer is not “yes or no” but “yes and no” and the Kingdom of Heaven is upside down. 


 But I digress. 

We have experienced a lot in the last three months. Our team saw blind eyes open, the deaf hear, the lame walk and children doomed to die live. We have lived in a refugee camp and deep in the bush, preached the gospel to leaders and those in prison. We saw the miraculous multiplication of food. We have seen people come to Jesus in droves. 


We hugged  little Muslim children who threw rocks at us. We have helped to start businesses, plant a church, rescue orphans, pay for job training, taught videography to children, fixed a wheel chair, bought a wheel chair and put a new roof on a wheel chair ridden guy’s house. We saw machine-gun fire interrupted and countless lives saved when the machine gun miraculously broke in half. We helped save a baby, named a baby, furnished a nursery and handed out more soccer balls, bread rolls, cookies and flip-flops than we can possibly count. I have laughed and cried more and harder than ever before and sometimes simultaneously. In fact I sobbed so hard one day when Heidi taught that I literally thought I might die. There were other days when I was angrier and more frustrated than I have been in years. Still we have seen more of the world and built more relationships within more cultures in the last three months than we have in all of our previous fifty plus years. Yei God!! Yet missions is deeper than simply giving, building and doing things. I know it but can I explain it as I unpack? 

God really started a work in me, in us during Harvest School. We knew he would. That’s why we went. It was during our final outreach to South Sudanese refugees when an important part of that work finally came to a head.  


Nothing about the final leg of our African adventure had worked out as expected. I had planned to be a part of a proverbial Holy Spirit Calvary dodging bullets and ministering to child soldiers in a South Sudanese war zone. Instead I ended up wrapping Christmas gifts for 117 South Sudanese orphans in Uganda. 


Sure we taught a few kids how to shoot video.

 But I spent the rest of my time sitting with, hugging, singing and dancing with traumatized children to a point where I was starting to feel more like Mary Poppins than the Machine Gun preacher. But enough about me. 
The truth is these South Sudanese refugee children are by far the most patient, humble, gentle, forgiving, loving and spirit filled human beings I have encountered any where this side of heaven. It would have been entirely worth the trip if all we ever did was hear them worship and pray.  They have given up everything; parents, homes, friends and families to narrowly escape from a civil war with their lives and the shirts on their backs. And yet they have purposed in their hearts to forgive those who harmed them. Their one desire is for peace; peace in their country and peace in their hearts. They are incredibly resilient and independent. The older children care for the younger ones. They take turns doing laundry by hand as well as the other chores such as cooking and cleaning. They never need to be asked or supervised. They lead worship on their own. They compose skits and dances and teachings from the Bible on their own. Many times there was literally nothing for us to do on such a short term basis. So we sang songs with them and we danced with them. We laughed and played soccer with them. We ate food they cooked for us and celebrated Christmas with them. Yes we bought them a crazy amount of crazy gifts

 

as we westerners are prone to do.  

Even so we were not the proverbial calvary we had imagined ourselves to be. We were still students being taught and ministered to by those whom Jesus said we must become like. 


We were and are undone. 
Luckily we were able to do at least one thing that had a concrete impact. Sort of… I guess… Several of the kids at the orphanage are in their late teens and early twenties which means raging hormones create a need for discipleship specifically in the area of dating and marriage. 
One strength in this situation was that South Sudanese culture is quite prohibitive when it comes to public displays of affection even between a husband and wife. Therefore in a effort to honor the culture and avoid becoming a stumbling block Cathy and I intentionally maintained a respectable distance from one another when we were in public. Then the team scheduled some times whereby some of the married couples could speak into the lives of the teens regarding the topic of relationships and the opposite sex. However Cathy and I did not participate in these. We assumed (perhaps wrongly) that we were either too old and or our sorted pasts that included divorce might further complicate an already potentially confusing cross cultural topic. 


Ironically by the end of the outreach the kids reported being more impacted by our marriage than by anything else we said or did. They said they saw that Cathy and I “loved each other so much, always cared for one another, worked together and always had one another’s backs.” They said they want what we have one day. The Lord used our presence and who we are in Him to teach the very thing we purposed not to teach. After all marriage is supposed to be the model of Christ’s relationship with His Church. We got out of His way and He shined through us in spite of us. Yei God.

  
So what is the lesson in all of this? Well it will probably change a bit as I continue to unpack but maybe the point for today is the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God. Things are often not as they first appear and the deeper things of God are often only found within the smaller things of the world. 


We came to Africa to grow up, to have God do a work in our hearts, to mature in Christ so we could do more in Christ. Ironically we became less and in that less we became more. What we did accomplished we accomplished through our being and not our doing. 
It seems to me that Mighty Oaks of righteousness and any other tree for that matter all have one thing in common. They grow in two directions or they don’t grow at all. They also grow down first in order to form the root system needed to sustain them as they reach toward heaven. It’s worth thinking about as some of you endeavor to make America great again.
God willing we aren’t done. In fact we are just getting started. We still plan to do a lot of things and help a lot more people. We came to Africa and the Harvest School to learn. We came to stop for the one. We came to know Him better, to commit ourselves to becoming love, to operate out of intimacy with God and our identity in Him instead of the the normal life sucking striving of the secular world. We came to learn how to give what the world needs. We came to learn what love looks like.
People are not starving because others prosper and being rich does not make someone bad any more than being poor makes someone good. The state of the world is as it is because people don’t know Jesus. People don’t know their creator. As a result they don’t know themselves. It is simple but it’s deep. It’s deeper than we knew. It’s deeper than we know now. I realize some of you will not accept this. That’s ok. I won’t argue the point. I promise.  

Ultimately we came to Africa to offer our hands in compassion and were imparted the simplicity and love of a child. We came to grow and we did. We grew down in Uganda. 

I AM SHAMSI


It’s hard to believe our time in Mozambique is drawing to an end. The lesson has been so very simple but how in the world will we ever explain something that runs so contrary to normal Western values and thinking namely that as Surprise Sithole says, “relationship is more important than hard working”. The Mozambiquens understand it because as one youth explained “We live in a place where you can get sick at any time and be dead in a just few days.” 
The village of Namoto sits peacefully on the shores of the Ruvuma river about four kilometers from the Tanzania border. “Namoto” actually means fire and was the site for one of our “Bush Bush” outreaches. 
After ten and half hours on the road we finally arrived at the village of Namoto. There is no electricity there and the village was already asleep except for a 13 year old boy named Shamsi who stepped out of the dark to greet Cathy and me. Shamsi spoke Swahili and a just few words of English so it took some time for us to learn that Shamsi had recently fled his family of “another faith” in Tanzania to arrive barefoot and penniless in Namoto on the very day we met. Apparently his mother had recently died, his father was missing in action and he feared for his life. Several people did not trust Shamsi because his story seemed to change each time he told it. This was reason enough in the minds of many not to help him. But Shamsi would not leave Cathy’s side. Shamsi wanted a mamma and Cathy was the chosen one. Later the next day we went deeper into the village to invite people to the IRIS Jesus Film we would be showing that night. Shamsi witnessed a young man receive Jesus in Swahili and a he asked to receive Him as well. Everything seemed to be going really well. The only problem was that Shamsi was an illegal alien minor with absolutely no documents. This could mean prison for Shamsi and anyone harboring him if he were caught by Mozambiquen police. Shamsi was in effect a proverbial “hot potato” that no one wanted to touch. Everyone in authority within the village was completely freaked out and afraid they would be jailed for child trafficking. But later that night we met with the head pastor in the village. We squatted in a circle for about an hour while the pastor drew in the sand and told stories of how he had helped boys in similar situations. He assured us that he had favor with the local authorities and it would be “no problem” for him to take Shamsi in to live with him. Problem solved. Yay God! 
The next morning we jumped on the truck for the 10 hour drive back to Pemba. We had travelled about 5 miles when Shamsi suddenly emerged from the bushes and began running after our truck. Our hearts sank. Luckily another vehicle carrying a Swahili speaking pastor from Tanzania was close behind. They stopped and the pastor reexplained the plan to Shamsi before sending him back to the village. Obviously the language barrier had clouded Shamsi’s previous understanding but now everything would be fine. Problem solved. We returned to the IRIS base in Pemba and I gave a brief testimony regarding our awesomely successful experience of “Stopping for the one”. Yay God.
About a week later Shamsi showed up at the Pemba gate just as we were returning from visiting a family in the outlying village. He had walked/ hitchhiked for four days to find Cathy and me. We got him some food and water and not knowing what else to do, I brought the situation to the attention of the IRIS staff. They freaked out for the same reason that the Namoto village leaders had. “Is he impaired?” They asked as they organized Shamsi’s departure alone by bus back to Namoto. I could see the anger in Shamsi’s eyes. “That’s not going to work. He’s gonna bolt.” Cathy told them. “Don’t worry. He won’t bolt” a staff member replied.
The next morning Shamsi was outside our door, hungry and smiling and looking for breakfast. So we fed him our morning ration of bread rolls and brought him to church thinking it would be best to just take him straight to Heidi. After all she was the author of stopping for the one. Surely she would lay her life down and help this boy who had just come into the kingdom. “What? Who invited him here? How did he get the address? “Beats me” I said, “I don’t speak Swahili.” You’d better pray!” she said as I knelt beside her trying in vain to explain the situation. “We are in a lot of trouble! They could charge us with child trafficking, shut this whole base down and take us all to jail.” There I knelt, face to face with one of my all time spiritual heroes on the planet second only to Mother Teresa and Jesus himself, having “stopped for the one” and possibly destroying everything she and Rolland had given their lives lives too.
Ain’t missions fun. Yay God.

As Heidi likes to say, there are two reasons for being persecuted in the body of Christ. One is for the sake of righteousness and one is for stupidity. I have a lot more experience with the later. Needless to say I wasn’t feeling particularly righteous at that moment. I was kindly asked to remove myself from the situation while they investigated. Then the Harvest School staff obtained police permission to escort Shamsi back to Namoto. Where is Shamsi now? I have no idea. In fact he could be walking back to Pemba as I write. “This is pitiful!” you say. “Why are you even telling me this?” Bear with me.
To be honest I was angry. I was offended and disillusioned with Heidi and IRIS as a whole. Then I finished my tantrum. Did I really expect the IRIS staff to go to jail, to forfeit the current and future welfare of tens of thousands of people for the sake of one 13 year old boy? What would I say to them; “Sorry but you all have to go to jail and or die so we can help this one boy who couldn’t follow directions”? 
The reality in this life is that saying “yes” to the one usually means saying “no” to another. That we need to choose in the first place is a result of our choices not His. I was suddenly confronted with my own propensity to sit in judgment, positively and negatively, of all creation and subsequently upon God Himself. I realized that every time I am angry, depressed, offended or disillusioned, every time I slip into self-centeredness; every time I covet an alternative reality to what God has created I am actually condemning God. Gulp…
Instead of focusing on the character of God and acknowledging that his ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts; I judge God and others according to current circumstances when I should be judging both according to the character of God who is good and seeing Jesus in everyone. 
How easily I forget where I came from, that I am where I am today because of His mercy that so frequently manifested as pain in my life. God is good and He is by definition love. That means His “yes” is love and so is His “no”. 
We live in a universe that is literally composed of relationships. Believe it or not the goal is not to feed the poor, heal the sick, help widows and orphans or anyone else for that matter. It is not about fixing people or situations. Our purpose is to simply love God. But how do I love God? Well, we feed the poor, heal the sick, help widows and orphans and anyone He puts on our hearts to help. It’s a paradox. God doesn’t need us to save the Shamsis of the world and yet He does. He’s a “yes and no” God not a dichotomous “yes or no” God. No thing or situation will ever make sense apart from an intimate relationship with Him because that relationship is the goal. Everything else is fruit. 
That is what we came here to learn or part of it anyway. That is why we quit our jobs, left our home in paradise, left our loved ones, sold our stuff, went into debt and came to a diseased and poverty stricken country literally on the other side of the world. We came to enter the fire, to have our self-centered pride, delusions and frivolous fluff burned off our souls. We came as proverbial Marthas to learn the lesson of Mary, that our lives are but a vapor and “relationship is more important than hard working”. There may be some here who’s dross is fully burned off and have fully comprehended the paradox of loving. As for me I’m still working on it. I’m still burning. I hope and pray that Shamsi is too. Because at the end of the day I am Shamsi, sincere, hard headed and wanting my own way.

Teach a Man to Fish

Teach a Man to Fish

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Mozambique is country filled with mostly untapped oil and mineral wealth. It is also a place where nearly everyone goes hungry some of the time and many are hungry all of the time. In fact it is nearly impossible to find anyone who doesn’t know at least one person who has starved to death.


The villages outside of the IRIS base in Pemba are perfect examples of this desperation. It is no wonder that the gate outside of the Harvest School is a place where young 20 something year old men congregate to sell cheap hand made jewelry to missionaries and students from the west in hopes of simply eating that day. Not dating or playing or partying like their western peers. Just eating a bowl of rice or Shima and maybe just maybe a piece of a chicken leg. Others invent tragic stories they hope will be believed and result in some one giving them money. The stories may be fabricated but the tragedy is real. Unfortunately begging undermines the dignity of both the beggar and the giver and frequently results in resentment on the part of one or both parties particularly when the giver’s money runs out. It’s not that there is zero opportunity for economic growth in Pemba. It is simply untapped. Sometimes it is  just a matter of these young men not knowing how to access opportunity do to a lack of education, ignorance of work ethics and or how the world of business and employment works. Some simply need a leg up to get started and a few hundred American dollars can mean the difference between a life of abject poverty and the dignity that comes with being self supporting. 

It’s a bit ridiculous in my opinion if not completely insane to preach the current and popular Ephesians based “Christian identity motif” to a culture already demeaned by centuries of white colonization when a Mozambiquen man still feels the need to beg for a proverbial fish from a white man just to feed his own children. Feeding the poverty mentality within a given culture is the epitome of disrespect and not what Jesus meant when He told Peter “if you love me then feed my sheep.”  People need discipleship not just evangelism. 

When we first met Daniel he was selling Bibles to missionaries on base. I personally grabbed 25 before I realized that they were actually Gideon Bibles. I rebuked Daniel ever so gently explaining how selling Bibles that were intended to be free was not only wrong but also not good for him. “But papa” he began, “you don’t understand. I have no money to start my business and I have no money to eat. I need to do something.” “Hold on” I said “Tell me about this business.” “Papa I’m very good at cutting hair…” and he proceeded to tell me about his dream of opening a salon for both men and women in his village. (Hair salon?! I thought people were starving.  Well as it turns out  starving people are seeking dignity just like everyone else.) “I could make maybe 1500 Metacals ($20.50) per week” he said. So we proceeded to work out how much it would cost to get him started. 

As it turned out Daniel could get the required business license and build his salon for just under 600 US dollars. So he gave his remaining Bibles away and resolved to never sell one again and we started giving him money in increments. 


What began as a gamble quickly became a solid investment in Daniel’s future as he proved to be a man of his word in every way. Obviously we do not expect a financial return. That would not only be absurd but also illegal under Mozambiquen law. Our ROI comes in the form of the joy goes with helping another human being succeed and find dignity through empowerment. It is also a way to preach a Gospel that has teeth as we made it abundant clear that this was not about us.  Rather it was about the love God put in our hearts for Daniel. 


We are praying that God opens the door to similar opportunities in the future. Perhaps you’ll want to partner with us if He does. 


​​​​Be sure to check out Daniels short video https://vimeo.com/194167440

STUDENT ANOINTING


It’s been nearly a month since we left for Africa, the incredulous words of friends and family echoing in our ears.
“You’re doing what?!” “What will you be doing?” “That’s wonderful! What are you going there to do?”
What indeed.

The concept of anointing is derived from an ancient practice whereby Shepards would pour oil on the heads of their sheep to make the wool slippery. This prevented dangerous insects from getting into their ears and burrowing into their skulls which would eventually kill them.
Later anointing became a symbol of blessing, protection, and empowerment.

The body of Christ is filled with anointing. There is healing anointing and prophetic anointing. Anointing to teach and counsel and lead, to preach and intercede, to build and to feed. In fact there is an anointing to match near any need.
At the moment we are anointed for none of these. Instead we have been given a student anointing.

“What is a student anointing?” you ask. Basically it means we are back to knowing nothing. We are humbled. We are beginners again. Every morning we rise to sing and praise and worship God for hours on end with 250 students hand picked from 30 different nations all of whom have the most incredible, mind boggling testimonies of God’s miraculous power in their lives. We are then taught by some of the most powerful, layed down lovers and yes anointed men and women of God walking the earth today some of whom are young enough to be our children. The topics: relationship both with God and His children, honor, identity, and intimacy.  As it turns out being a missionary is more about who He is and less about what we do. As the amazing Pastor Suprise Sithole says “Relationship is more important than hard working.”

While the secular world continues to focus on endless climbing, competition and self promotion in order to achieve a sense of significance, we are learning to focus on relationship, giving preference to the other and dying to self.  Instead of learning yet another way to climb yet another ladder named success, we are learning how to go low. As Roland Baker wrote in Keeping the Fire;

“We not only go low before God, we go low before others. We do this by choosing not to seek favor with those who are influential or wealthy when we begin to cry out to God for revival in a city or a nation. We go first to those who have nothing and no food. We go to the poor, the destitute, the bruised, the sick, the widowed, the orphaned, the forgotten, the ostracized, the outcasts and the dying. We who behave as nobodies before God go to those who are regarded as nobodies by man.”

Water always flows to the lowest point. Going low means learning to swim or rather be carried in the direction of the living water flow until the day comes when 

“we, being rooted and grounded in love are able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that we might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Eph 3:17-19

It is the fullness of God that has powered IRIS from the start. We want this same fullness of God for ourselves. Not only are we willing but we earnestly desire to learn to go low. And so for a season we are anointed as students again, blessed, protected and empowered by a really great Father in Heaven.

Now on to Pemba for more revelation adventure and fuel for the low roads we will travel in the future.