Friday, November 30, 2007

Sitting in Munich

Well, I'm on my way home. I'm sitting at a airport restaurant in Munich, Germany. It is a very large and sterile airport but smartly decorated. It is not very busy. It is 1:31 am in Phoenix and 9:31am in Munich. My next flight is to Dulles, Washington Airport. That flight will be about 9.5 hours and then a 'short' 5.5 hour flight to Phoenix. I cannot wait to be home. After teaching on the second day, we have a very holy time with about 40 of the conference folks interested in organic church. The discussion was lively, holy and the whole group was in a learning posture. I was simply exhausted but was excited at what God was doing. I believe there will be a large church planting movement here in Ukraine in the future. The leaders here are ripe for something more meaningful than what they have been experiencing. They also want to see multiplication so their country will come to Jesus. That night, I could not sleep. I went to bed about 10:30pm and I don't think I got to sleep until 2:00am. I was up at 6:30pm and prepared for another long day of teaching, talking, learning and mentoring. After we were finished, we traveled back to Kiev to stay at Timmy and Kenyon Powers' home. I have not seen anything in Ukraine except the road from the airport to the conference center and back to Kiev - all at night! So that evening, we took the metro into the center of town and what an experience that was. First off, it was COLD, about -3 c. We got on the metro it quickly filled up. We were like Sardines in the car. The public display of affection was....obscene at times. Once we got of the metro, we had a long walk underground. Lined along the tunnel of many many people walking somewhere, were small vendors. Everything from fish to light bulbs to clothes to CD's to produce was available. Amazing! We were going to eat at a local restaurant, but it was closed and we settled for TGIF's. I was disappointed. As we were going back to the Power's home, I was handed a ticket asking me to get a bride and take her back to America. Ah, I declined (Debbie I love only you!). That night, again, I could not sleep but for about 3 hours. Maybe I'll catch some sleep on the plane, maybe not...I'll be sleeping most of the weekend. I'll write more upon my return and sleep at home!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Well we are back in Kiev. The last three days have been full of teaching, talking, eating, talking, teaching, learning and making lots and lots of new and fantastic friends. We had about 125 people at the conference to learn about Organic Church Planting Principles. These people are amazing. They love Jesus, they have endured much persecution and they want to win their country to Jesus. There are so many stories that it is hard to decide which ones to include. Let's start with the food... Ok, many of you may know that I have lost about 20 pounds the past few months by being on a low carb, high protein diet. You can through it out the window in the Ukraine! Lots and lots and loads of carbs is what you get to enjoy. Potato's in everything, noodles galore and bread, bread, bread everywhere. You'll notice I didn't mention much about meat, but we did have some sausage, fish and chicken. I didn't see one cow or beef while I was here! This morning I had a weird type of porridge. It was warm sweet milk and spaghetti noodles. It was not to bad, but it was weird. This evening, I had my first serving of borscht (sp). What better place to enjoy it than where is has its roots. It was very good. Deb, get a recipe! My translator for the week was a man named Maxim. Maxim is 29 years old and looks a lot like Tim Sprankle. He is a tremendous man who loves Jesus with all his heart. He took of the whole week to drive us around and translate for the conference. Our hearts became bonded together as worked together. His heart is pure and passion is on fire for Christ's Kingdom. Please pray for Maxim and his wife, Lana to continue to be used by the Lord here in Kiev. In part of my teaching, I use Rachel as an example of how anyone can pray for their neighborhood to come to Jesus. I share about her handicap and how we take walks and she prays for our neighbors. I then had two men come up to me and share that they had handicapped children and they felt a bond with me. It really moved me. We prayed and encouraged each other. We had folks at the conference from Russia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and of course, Ukraine. So the influence of ValleyLife Church and CMA continues to grow and go through out the world. It was the best Greenhouse Conference that I have ever taught. Sleep and Stamina...I'm exhausted. It is 10:22pm and I have to get up at 4:00am to get to the airport. I will write more about our trip this evening into town, it was fun.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Continuing to the Ukraine

I only have a few minutes before leaving for the conference center where I will teaching Organic Church Planting Principles. I left off last time in the Frankfurt airport. As we were being shuttled to the loading area to board the plane, I noticed that as we passed by the wing of the aircraft that there was jet fuel pouring out of the wing - not a good sign. After sitting in the bus with 50 people about 100 feet away from a very flammable situation - the fire department came and began to clean up. We were taken back to the terminal and about an hour later, we were allowed to board the plant once again. They assured us all was well, but you know that unfounded fears find their way into our minds. Anyway, I landed safely in Kiev, Ukraine. Passport control had long lines and about 45 minutes later, I was standing at the window where this young man asked me a series of questions and allowed me to pass. I found my very large suitcase full of warm clothes and headed out to a sea of people with placards everywhere. My name was not where to be found, but my host had met me last January and has a photographic mind. We took off for our place to stay. It took abotu 1.5 hours to travel about 15 miles or so. The traffic was worse that Los Angeles on a bad day. Amazing. Kiev has grown from 1 million people to 5 million people in the past 10 years. They are building 20 story condo's everywhere. The older condo units built under communism are so bleak, standard and blah and run down. I did not see much of the city, it gets dark about 4:30pm and sun up was at 6am. We ate some good food, good conversation and then off to bed. I actually got about 8-9 hours sleep and off I go. I will not be able to write until maybe Thursday night or not until I return. Thanks for praying for me.

Flying to the Ukraine

Sunday, Monday – November 25-26 The sun is rising! It is 7:45am here in Germany and I just ate a Hamburger Royal (that’s German for a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder – no cheese but lots of mayo). I also ordered a diet Coke (Coke light in Germany) and received a regular Coke, oh well. It is about 37 degrees outside and the wind is blowing pretty well. So far my travel has been excellent. I upgraded my seats from Phoenix to Chicago and from Chicago to Frankfurt to get aisle seats and more legroom. It was a good choice for $125.00. I was not sure I would make my flight to Frankfurt because I only had 35 minutes between flights and Chicago’s O’Hare airport is very busy. Thankfully, the flight was delayed about 90 minutes so I made it on the plane just fine – I hope my luggage did too ☺ I spent the flight from Phoenix to Chicago doing some last minute prepping for the week of teaching. The flight from Chicago to Frankfurt was about 7:45 minutes long so after settling into my seat and reading 1 Timothy 1-4, dinner was served. After eating some sort of beef and a salad, I took out my contacts and put on my glasses. I tried watching the movie, Transformers, but I lost interest and decided to put in some earplugs and eyeshades and dozed off and on for about 4 ½ hours. Amazing what 2 benadryl tablets will do to you. After deplaning in Frankfurt, I found my way to the Lufthansa ticket/transfer area to get my boarding pass to Kiev. As I walked through the airport in Frankfurt, I noticed that people seemed to be very subdued. Maybe it was the early hour of the day or was it the culture? I will not be here long enough to find out. It was very different than airport life in the USA. I’m very thankful that much of the world speaks English. I wish I spoke more languages than one and a paltry amount of Spanish. I did use my weak Spanish however. In Chicago, a Spanish speaking man needed to find gate 69a and I was able to help him – amazing how little Spanish I know but yet able to help someone. I’m grateful for that man’s graciousness as I hacked up his language. I’m going to go find my gate here in Frankfurt and get ready to meet the Ukraine. I’m excited, numb and missing home already. I hate traveling alone, but Jesus is with me. Here is a section from 1 Timothy 4 that spoke to my heart this morning, may God use it to speak to yours… “Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” 1 Timothy 4:15-16

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Leading and Following: The Art of Humility

I have been fly fishing for about 20 years now. I love the smell of the outdoors, the sound of a river carving its way through the wilderness. I love the challenge of finding fish who are interested in feasting and the work that is required to get up early, drive a good distance, put on the flyfishing uniform and then hike until your thighs ache. It is so worth it...especially when the fish bite and pole bends and the fight begins. Last week I went fishing with a newer friend who just happens to have been a fly fishing guide. In my 20 years of fly-fishing, I have only hired a guide one time - and then my friend actually hired him (thanks nameless friend). Having a guide is outstanding. It actually brings the river and experience to an even brighter level. I mean the guide knows the waters of that stream or river. They have logged hundreds if not thousands of hours on that river. They know the season, where the fish are, what the fish are looking to eat at that time of the year, month and even hour. They know the best techniques to be used on the river. Guides are overflowing with advice to help you improve your cast, to help you learn what you are looking for and to be an encourager when you do things well. Having a guide makes fly-fishing fantastic. Last week, my new friend the fly-fishing guide, reminded me of the qualities of a good leader. I mean this guy was confident about fly-fishing. He knew what he was doing and like I said, he really was free to give out the advice needed to help me improve. His confidence began to rub off on me and I started believing that I could actually do what he was instructing me to do. It made the experience very enjoyable. But this guy was not only confident, he was humble and gentle. We went fishing, not so he could guide me, we went as friends. But even though he was not 'on the clock', he took his time with me and even put off his fishing to help me, coach me and encourage me. This friend has a rare blend of confidence and humility. I told my friend that he had that rare blend. I also told him that I would like to have that blend and to imitate his leadership. That encouraged him. I also told him this leadership qualities really matched those that Jesus exuded in many ways. But all of that reminds me of one verse that I read this morning from the book of Phillipians, chapter 3 and verse 17. It is a really simple verse actually. Here is what it says; "Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us." Philippians 3:17 Here are two principles that just leap off the page at me regarding our being Christ followers: 1. As believers, we should be inviting others to follow our example of how we follow Jesus. Certainly that implies that we are actually making an effort to follow Jesus with passion, truth and perseverance. 2. We should not only invite others to follow us (mentor them), but we should also find those who will mentor us. Paul says in this verse to 'observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us." Do you have folks around you who you watch (observe) how they live out their faith? I have several mentors in my life who live near me, in other states and other countries. I have mentors whom I've never meant (authors) and those whom I see weekly. We all need mentors in our lives and we all need to be mentoring others. Both should be done intentionally, purposefully and regularly. We should follow the pattern of Paul but also the pattern of my fly-fishing friend. We should be confident in Christ and what He has taught us as His followers (whether we have been a Christ follower for a few days or many years) and we should be humble in how we help people. We should do so with consistency, patience, love, spreading hope and encouragement to those who are following after Jesus. In short, we should all be making disciples of Jesus Christ. You know, it happens by just living life together - or just be walking a stream and talking about our common passions. The moral of this article may just be to walk with a few others in life and show each other how to struggle and be strong in following Jesus. Discipling people can be that easy. What do you think?