Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I’m blown away by the attitude of one particular person from my new church. She and her family don’t have much in the line of material things. They collect bottles and cans for deposit and use the money to buy food for themselves and their animals. Often she will come in praising God that she found five dollars worth of cans or was able to get her bicycle across a normally busy highway as if the seas had parted for her.

Today, during a phone call, she was talking about what she experienced as she shoveled snow yesterday. She realized that when she moved the snow, it was no longer beautiful the way it was when God moved it. “Only God can truly enjoy the beauty of the snow and move it so that it still glistens. That’s what I was thinking about the whole three hours I was out shoveling snow!”

Me, I have to have a snow blower to clear my 50' driveway. She’s out shoveling, for three hours no less, and praising God and learning from Him in the process. I come away thinking I’m missing something. But I think if I keep listening to this Godly lady, I might just catch a bit of her humble heart.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Do Right - Stay Left

There won’t be bumper stickers.

I’m starting a movement. I don’t know how many will be moved, but a few would help.

It started with a personal inconvenience and has moved on to change the way I drive. I’m talking about drivers who clog up the right lane at four lane intersections. They plan to go straight through the light and eschew the left lane because there are more cars in it in favor of the right lane that has fewer vehicles in it precisely because of the right turn on red law. So, there they sit, blocking the lane while car after car stacks up behind them impatiently running their right turn signals.

I’m proposing a national movement of courtesy that simply says “Do Right - Stay Left” when going through on at four lane traffic light. However, there won’t be bumper stickers, because every now and then, I forget myself and I am the clod who clogs up the right lane.

(For my friends in Lansing, you can thank the turn from Waverly Rd. (South bound) onto Saginaw Rd (West bound) for this public service announcement.)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tree by Rivers of Water

On Friday we were down in DeWitt packing up pictures & such and patching & painting walls where they used to hang. I also took my kayak down to bring north. It was a gorgeous day and I took a break in the afternoon to take the boat out for one more float on my beloved Looking Glass River.

The water was very shallow and slow, so it wasn’t spectacular kayaking, but very pleasant. I chased a blue heron down the river. He would fly off and then wait for me around the bend, repeating the process four times. I could get quite close if I spotted him early and coasted in. There was also a kingfisher that I saw several times skimming the water, picking off bugs and a half dozen large snapping turtles sunning themselves on logs.

As I floated along I looked back a dry tributary and saw a tree whose roots were exposed by earlier heavy rains and had lost the battle with gravity. It was a huge tree, very tall and probably two to three feet thick. It had grown large by being by a nearly constant source of water. But it hadn’t put roots deep enough to support itself, because it didn’t need to to get sufficient water and nutrient. Life was too easy for its own good. When the heavy rains came and the torrents washed away the supporting earth, it became easy prey to the wind.

Psalm 1:3 talks about the person who is like the tree planted by rivers of water. He prospers and bears fruit. I guess the counter point to that is to not get secure and lazy in my supply. God has blessed me abundantly and it is easy for me to draw from the wealth of spiritual riches he has provided. It is equally easy for me to take the supply for granted and only go deep enough to support what I need for daily living, but not enough to stand serious storms. So, I want to go deeper than I seem to need. I need to seek more and more of Him and get firmly rooted. Because the storm is sure to come.

What’s Happening?

It’s been a long time between entries. That means one of two things: a) nothing’s happening or b) life is nuts. That’s right students. You get an A for the day - the answer is b.

The move to Traverse City is going well, but consumes a lot of time. We have been coming down to DeWitt to stage the house and keep the lawns and such up. With each trip a little more of our life moves north. We were also stopping by the hospital or hospice with each trip to see our friends Don and Sandy.

On August 22nd, Don’s struggle came to an end. God’s amazing timing came into play. A year ago I accepted the wedding of Wes and Catherine, a neat young couple, not knowing that I would be moving to TC. The wedding was originally scheduled for July, but because of his training schedule, it got moved to August 22nd. Because of this, Marcia was with Sandy during Don’s last moments and I was able to be there shortly after. Don and Sandy have been great friends and we miss Don greatly. A couple weeks after, we were down to Lansing again and as we pulled onto the Lake Lansing Rd. exit, “We should meet Don and Sandy @ Applebees” went through my head before I had a chance to stop it. Ugh. Those are the times grief really bites me.

Don’s funeral was scheduled for Wednesday, the 26th of August, so I went into the office on Monday to get the week started. Lori Barclay, the volunteer church secretary, was doing an amazing job of catching me up on things. I was so impressed on how well she was catching on to how I wanted things done and did things with such excellence. A real delight to work with and quickly becoming a great friend. She was to come in that morning and around 10:30 I wondered where she was. A short time later, her husband Pete called. Lori had dropped him off at work early that morning, went home, lay down for a nap and never woke up. She was only 48 years old. A stunning loss to her family and her church and community. Her funeral was on Friday of that same week. Two friends in less than a week. A loss I’m still trying to process. Please pray for our friends, Sandy and Pete as they try to walk from day to day. I can’t imagine what they face each morning.

The following week was the DALMAC ride. This is where I ride my bike from Lansing, over the Mackinac bridge and on to the far eastern tip of the upper peninsula in five days while camping in a tent and call it fun. And it was and it was just what I needed after the rush that has been our life since we got the “why don’t you send your resume” call back in May.

The weather leading up to the week of DALMAC was less than stellar. Cold, windy (directly out of the north) and rainy. The week of the ride was gorgeous - cool (a bit chilly in the a.m.) but sunny each day with light breezes that helped almost equally to hindering. The route changed a bit this year and took us over some new hills and through some beautiful country.

I beat the wall, but it wasn’t pretty. The wall is a short hill outside of East Jordan that goes up to 22% - the steepest paved road in lower Michigan. It is preceded by a long slow climb out of East Jordan that saps the strength out of your legs before you make the turn and start the climb. After last year’s failure, it was not going to beat me again. That is, until I actually had to take it on with far less training than the previous year and a fair amount of additional weight. About half way up I had to stop. I stood there astride my faithful yellow and black racing bike panting and cursing (preacher style - no profanity, of course) my lack of ability. After a couple minutes I began to feel better and a plan came to mind. I walked the bike over to the other side of the road, pointed down hill and got going enough to clip into the pedals and then turned back on the beast. It wasn’t easy and this is NOT the recommended way to ride hills, but I beat it!

Every other time I rode the wall, there were crowds of people standing at the top, cheering. This year, hardly anyone. I think it may have been because of the change in route. There was an added hill called “five tears” hill. It is a hill that goes up and over a ridge leading in to East Jordan in five tiers. The first of which is longer and higher than the wall by quite a bit but only at 17%. There were a lot walkers on that one as well and it took a lot out of people and probably sent many on the alternate route around the wall.

My best funny story from this year’s trip happened only a few miles from home. I was riding into Kalkaska with another rider who had picked me up. We were getting to know each other and having an enjoyable chat at about 20 mph on the flat, wide shoulder along 131. There was a fair amount of traffic, but the shoulder gave plenty of room. So, we really didn’t expect to hear the air horn coming from behind. We initially thought it was an exceptionally loud truck horn, and then I thought “Gabriel!”. It would seem like one would hear a freight train coming. There is a set of tracks that runs parallel to 131 about 20 yards to the east of the road. The train was coming to an intersection, so he had to blow the horn, but I’m sure the engineer was enjoying the moment. I loved John’s response: “I guess I’ll be buying new shorts in Kalkaska”.

Now we are getting into more of a rhythm with the new church and our life in TC. Marcia has been hired in as my secretary and it is great working together again. She does an amazing job but the big disadvantage is that both of us are learning the people and the church. This week’s big challenge has been trying to find out how to get into our AOL email account. Lori was the administrator and no one else seems to know the password or the answers to the password hints.

Last Sunday I preached the “Pace of God” message and ended with challenging the church to take time to give God room in their lives. I committed to putting my hands in my lap and taking a deep breath at each stoplight this week and giving a word of praise. It’s Saturday morning as I’m writing this and I have had 59 opportunities to practice that this week. It has been an exceptionally relaxing week in so many ways. I think I’m going to keep this practice up. It has actually been disappointing on a few occasions when a light turned green just as I was coming up on it!

It didn’t hurt the week that on Tuesday we got a call that we had an offer on the house in DeWitt. It wasn’t a great offer, but not awful either. Our realtor recommended a counter offer and we did that. Wednesday was silent but on Thursday morning we received the call that our counter was accepted. We will lose a chunk with closing costs and price, but not as bad as many people. Chances are good that we will be able to make it up on the purchase in TC. Now we can start looking seriously.

As I reflect on the last two of the paragraphs it occurs to me that, once again, God comes through when I am teachable. When I give up the tension of minor things over which I have some control (my response to traffic lights) He gives relief from the major stressor - selling the house and lots of travel back to Lansing. Thanks, Lord. I’m trying to listen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Life is So Much Easier

I’m reading through the Bible in two years in my daily devotions. I’ve done the one year plan and always feel rushed, so when I found my Bible program allowed a two year plan I decided to give it a go. Much better.

However, right now, I’m reading through Leviticus - inspiring. Lots of blood and discharges and uncleanness until evening. The program also takes me to the New Testament to the book of Mark, so I am getting some reading that is a little more digestible.

Interesting contrast today.

I was in Leviticus 16, the day of atonement and I was thinking about how much easier things are today, especially as a pastor. I can’t imagine doing all the things the priests had to do in those days to make atonement for sins. Then I went to the book of Mark and my reading is from Mark 2, the story of the paralyzed man let down through the roof.. I run across this verse:

Mark 2:5 (NIV) When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

What a contrast! Bring this animal on such and such a day and kill it in this manner and sprinkle its blood here and there and don’t do this, because you will have to start all over again or “Son, your sins are forgiven”.

No wonder the religious establishment was upset. Their business depended on complicating things. Jesus made it simple. He made it personal. He made it real.

I’m going to go contemplate how I’m complicating things so I can have a job now. See you later.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Moving Story

Marcia and I are in the process of making the move to Traverse City a bit at a time. We started at Journey on August 1st, but are still in the process of selling the DeWitt house. So, we are living with our son, Kyle and his family while we sell and start and look for a new home, once the old one sells.

To take care of the DeWitt house we are going downstate on our days off, looking after things (lawn, hedges, dust furniture) and bringing a load of stuff up. Last week (Aug 2-3) we borrowed a tow vehicle and enclosed trailer from friends to bring up the freezer, washer and dryer and whatever else would fit. Monday turned crazy and we rushed almost the whole day, not getting away until 6 pm. Earlier that morning, when I picked up the trailer, my friend Gale, almost as an after thought said, hey, I’ve got the spare in the back of my truck. I didn’t have time to get it replaced, it has a chunk of tread missing, but if you had a flat, it might let you limp into somewhere safe. So, I picked it up and indeed, it had a chunk of tread missing about 8 inches long and 3 inches wide.

Spent the week working, never gave a thought to fixing the spare, why would I need it? We headed back to DeWitt on Sunday (Aug 9) and were looking forward to a much more relaxed weekend. According to Gretta (our Garmin), we were to arrive around 5:45 p.m.

Everything was going along great. I keep watch on trailer tires and wheels because they can go bad quite quickly. Just north of Clare I checked the driver’s side mirror to see that the tire was soft. We were only three miles out of Clare, so I kept watching, Next thing I know, it’s not just soft, it’s flat and floppy. Pull over – way over and pull out old baldy. No problem, only three miles.

Problem. It’s Sunday evening. No tire suppliers open in Clair. Nearest Walmart is in Mt. Pleasant. We set Gretta for back roads and limp toward Mt. Pleasant @ 45 mph. The tire is showing a bulge on the inside but we make it. Whew.

Problem: Walmart doesn’t sell that size. They suggest Tractor Supply. They have a tire, wrong size, already mounted on rim. $104.00! We decide to limp as far as possible and then park it in a safe place, lock it up and come back Monday with a new tire.

Miracle: We set Gretta for back roads and find a delightful route on very good secondary roads through the farm lands. I keep watch on the tire, we keep praying. Shepherd passes, Forest Hill, Alma, Eugene, Middleton. Finally Maple Rapids Рwe are within 25 miles of home! As we cross M-21 on DeWitt Rd, just outside St. Johns, it lets go. We are less than 14 miles from home! Plus, there is a church with a large empty parking lot right there. We pull in, disconnect and finish our trip. We arrive in De Witt in time to see some of our friends in our HomeGroup. Laughter and chocolate cr̬me pie make everything better.

Life is an adventure. You never know what will come. On this particular weekend, things didn’t go as we had planned, and yet all the while we were driving on that tire, I kept waiting in expectation for what God would do. Would we make it all the way or would I come across a front yard with a trailer tire chained to a tree with a for sale sign on it? Or, would it get us close enough to home and go just where I could find a safe place? The latter as it turned out. As we were crossing M-21 I saw the church and thought, if it is going to go, this would be a great place. I looked back, and it was gone. I literally drove about 200 yards on it flat. Thank you Lord, for taking care us us and for eyes to see that you were doing so.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


With a major turning point coming in our lives, I began to reflect on the past and being analytical by nature I began to figure some things out. What got me started was leaving West Michigan District after 31 years of ministry. I wondered, how much of my life have I spent in the WMD? A: 55.4%. And, how much of my total ministry to date? A: 88.6%!

Then my mind turned to more important things. How much of my life has been spent married to Marcia? A: 64.3%. I remember at age 40 thinking that I had then been married half my life. Now it is well over that and it truly does get better with age.

It started out with a flirtation in the library at Owosso College, a first date, meeting the parents and getting past the big brother. I remember our first separation, when she went to Spain with a class trip. It must have been during that time that I realized I had something pretty special, because after that trip, the relationship deepened.

Over the years we have had a lot of laughs and we added some yesterday. It was our 36th anniversary and we had a great time just being together. We’ve gone through some really tough times, and there are surely more ahead. But if I could go back to those early days and start over again, I’d go back to Owosso, apply for a job in the library, so I’d have the chance to do it all again. If she’d have me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Leaving WMD

First off, WMD is West Michigan District of the Wesleyan Church. It dawned on me this morning that I have spent well over half my life as a pastor in this District. We moved here in 1978 to pastor a small church in Battle Creek and have been in four other churches along the way: Jackson Central, Berkley Hills and Lansing Faith.

It’s been a great run. We’ve raised three children and had the support of the District when there were tough times. We’ve made great friends along the way and learned more than seminary could have ever taught us about leading churches and loving God’s people.

We have been through three district superintendents in our stay here. Each one brought unique things to the table. Vaughn Drummonds (he of white pants and white shoes) set the standard by drawing excellent pastors into the district. He did this in large part by making sure the churches were taking good care of the pastors and providing well for them. In the long view, it is what set WMD up for the kind of success it has experienced. Thanks, Vaughn.

Ron Kelly was a friend before he became our DS. He remained a friend and support as Marcia and I went through some of the darkest days of our personal lives. He also led the district through some transition years. I watched him grow as an administrator and learned from him as he led through dealing with some difficult people and situations. His administrative skills grew to such a degree that the denomination snatched him away to serve as general secretary. (Miss you Ron and Tana!)

Then came Mark Gorveatte and a whole new level of energy was infused into the district. Mark raised the level of excellence even further and made sure that our pastors and churches were healthy. Mark is known for church planting, but what gets overlooked is the effort he has put into trying to increase the health of established churches. Once again, I’ve learned a great deal from Mark and consider him to be both mentor and friend. We will miss he and the WMD team.
In our 31 years here in WMD we have tended to step into churches that were tired and needing renewal. Now we are moving to the NMD to continue that same kind of service. Journey is a great church with an amazing core of leaders. It is our prayer that we will be able to see the church renewed and vibrant once more. Please keep us in your prayers as we begin this next leg (and probably finishing stretch) of our Journey.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Life is Nuts!

Life is nuts! In a couple weeks we will be moving to Traverse City to begin the next phase of our lives as lead (solo) pastor at The Journey. It was just two months ago that I polished up the resume and sent it off to the North Michigan District as an act of obedience. It was unbelievable how fast things progressed from there. On June 14th I preached there and on Monday the 15th they extended the invitiation and we accepted.

Now we are in the process of selling our house here, looking at houses in TC, packing, and trying to finish well here at Faith. We love the people here and are going to miss them terribly. I am also going to miss the comaradarie of a church staff until Journey is strong enough to begin taking some people on.

In addition, we are enjoying having our Kiwi family with us this month. Today we celebrated Raegan's second birthday at the park by the lake (I'm going to miss that, too.) The whole family was together and it was a very enjoyable afternoon. Of course, to make it even more interesting, we received a call that the realtor is coming to show the house tonight. So, I'm done here and heading home to help get the house show room ready.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


The last few days of Poets, Prophets and Preachers are done and I’m sitting on my deck reflecting on my take aways. It was a profitable couple days, since I will soon be returning to preaching on a regular basis after a three year hiatus as a staff pastor. I won’t give too much on content. If you want more specifics, a few others took very good notes and are available @ Apparently, those bloggers disobeyed the “no laptop” rule or are outstanding note takers and have a way of transcribing very quickly. I, on the other hand, am a spineless conformer.

There were several things that struck me as odd about the conference; the aforementioned technology ban, the choice of songs for worship which were highly contemporized ancient hymns, and guided imagery and controlled breathing seminar by Shane Hipps on Tuesday afternoon.

However, I resonated with the heart of the speakers and regained focus on several preaching issues that will prepare me to return. I especially enjoyed Peter Rollins and his hyperkinetic presentation of seemingly random thoughts that challenged my heart nearly as much as the mind. I can see why he makes the institutional church nervous, but it needs to be kept on its toes. As an unexamined life is not worth living, an unquestionable church is not worth being part of either.

One last disturbing observation. Nearly everything Rob Bell taught to this new generation about sermon preparation, I learned from John Maxwell and his cohort a couple decades ago. They havereceived new labels, but are essentially the same lessons: Study hard, dig deep, collect thoughts and ideas, plan well ahead. I guess that should give as much comfort to the old guard of the “pulpit” as it probably unnerves the emerging generation. Some things don’t really change all that much, they are just reborn.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Clickity-Click and Glare

I’m taking in Poets, Prophets and Preachers in Grand Rapids this week hosted by Rob Bell and Mars Hill church. I thought it would be a great tune-up for me as I return to preaching and an excellent chance for my new Mini 9 netbook to shine. But apparently, it shines just a little too brightly.

I love taking notes, but my hand writing in indecipherable once I do, so having a small, light computer with really long battery life sounded great. Toward the end of the first night while the announcements were presented which included a celebration of lanyards (?) we were told that we could not use laptops during the session because of the glare off the screen and the distraction of the clickity-click sound.

I might have thought that Bell and Co. have joined the ranks of the new Luddites, but this is a conference that includes a session on How Technology Shapes The Sermon. It seems like such a disconnect between who they are and serve (a highly tech savvy generation) that the reasoning sounds tinny. It sends me wondering why they really object to my taking notes on a laptop. What I find most disturbing is hearing such a thin and disingenuous feeling reasoning coming from a group whose buzz words include “authentic” and “honesty”. Any thoughts?

BTW: I will revert to my palm today – (small glaring screen and no click)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pride Parade III – Return of the Bigots

For the third year in a row, Faith Church has been showing the love of Christ in a very unusual place (for an evangelical church). We were at the Michigan (Gay) Pride Parade which ends with a rally on the capital lawn. Due to a family commitment in Traverse City, I couldn’t be there, but we have some great leadership in the Christ In Action (CIA) team.

Last year was fairly peaceful because there were no churches protesting the rally. This year they were back in full force. Notice the photo of the protesters; you will see the police moving them across the road. In the second photo is Pastor Brandon Bruce standing in pretty much the same place.

Our team went over to the protesters to give them water as well only to be called “phony Christians”. That actually helped with the outreach as the parade participants saw that we had at least one thing in common, the bigots don’t like us. It opened the door to better and more conversations.

When Pastor Brandon shared the results of the event with the Faith Church family, he said, “We were right where we needed to be. We were there neither condemning people nor condoning their actions. We were simply sharing the love of Christ, no strings attached”.

I love being part of a church that cares about broken people, no matter which way they are bent.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Small World or Big God?

A few weeks ago, one of my favorite couples here at Faith Church finished up @ MSU and made a move out to Vancouver, BC.  Brennan and Ashley Westerman had been part of one of my small groups and on the worship team.  They also got me hooked on kayaking and were involved in several CIA events.  On their last Sunday I asked, “Have you got a house lined up?”  They told me they were going to be house sitting for a couple who were going on the mission field for one year.  During that time they would find an apartment or house for the future.

Then the last week of May, we had the pleasure of having Jim & Penne Koch of My Father’s House, Jamaica with us for an extended weekend.  We’ve had a relationship with them for four years, but have formalized that relationship into a partnership this year.  Jim and Penne are going to spend this coming year doing more fund raising, but to have the freedom to do so required having someone who could act as house parents in their absence.  Enter Dan & Jennifer Rennert and their four children.

 The eldest four members of the Rennert family went to Jamaica for a week’s visit at the end of the summer of 2008 to meet everyone at My Father’s House and see what it is really all about. They had found MFH on the web and God was tugging at their hearts to get involved.  They decided to take the year, beginning in the summer of 2009 to help at My Father’s House!

 The week after Jim & Penne were with us, I got this e-mail from Brennan. 

 Hey Chris!

A VERY crazy thing happened....

We're in
Vancouver now, and we met with the people whose house we'll be renting.  We've known that they were leaving for a year to be missionaries...we found out exactly where they're going and what they're doing.

Okay, here's the punch line.....

They're taking over My Father's House in
Jamaica!  We couldn't believe it!

I'm just assuming it's the same place....can't imagine there would be more than one with the same name.  So that's pretty nuts.  They said the normal leaders are leaving to do some fundraising, and only coming back when groups come in.


 I related that story to someone and they said, “It’s a small world”.  Yes, I suppose it is, but I think this one can be chalked up to a Big God. 


Remember to pray for Jim, Penne, the Rennerts and Brennan and Ashley.  

Friday, March 6, 2009

What (else) I Did on My Vacation

Our trip to New Zealand and Bougainville was full.  If you've followed along you've caught up on much of what we did.  However, no trip to NZ is complete for me unless I catch up with some of the people who first took me there.  The Churches of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand.

It was great to connect with several of the church people we have gotten to know over the years here.  The first Sunday we went to Papakura to visit our dear friends Edgar and Judy Hornblow - yup - that’s really their name - they are the coolest people you could ever know.  

When we first visited Papakura in 2002 they were meeting in a doublewide house converted to be used as their church.  They are now building an enormous ministry center that will include two video venues to use as outreach to the community, they have an early childhood development center in place and the new gymn also includes a first class rock climbing wall.  (Faith church, we may want to redesign our new building!)    : )    

In the video below, Edgar takes us on a tour of the new Papakura building: 

The message that day was brought by a young woman name Jo.  She spent 3 months at Kentwood Community Church and is following a call to ministry now that she is back in NZ.  We were blown away by the message she brought - it was powerful, well constructed and well delivered.  I got a chance to see her again the Sunday before we left - It is encouraging to see what God is doing in this country.  As I sat in the Papakura church on that Sunday morning I was so moved by what God has done in seven years.  Our partnership with NZ in the West Michigan District (Rockford is Papakura’s partner)  has had an impact that continues to go on and on.  This was affirmed again and again over the next several weeks.

Our first contact with New Zealand were Richard and Jane Waugh at the East City Wesleyan Church (partner with Kentwood Community Church).  It was great to see them again and spend a fair amount of time with them.  The church is in its new facility which was also only a dream when we first met.  We got to worship with them on the morning of the last Sunday in NZ.  Richard and I always have the most stimulating conversations about what the church could be in the future.  He is one of my favorite people in the world.  

I got invited to meet with the national missions board and share some of my experiences in Bougainville.  Mike Yates (Shore Grace church) is the head of the team and another West Michigan partner (Watermark).  Bougainville is one of the key places New Zealand Wesleyans are reaching out to and is having a great impact.  Kathy Clifford is a missionary from NZ, splitting her time between Northeast India and Bougainville.  She is a great asset to the kingdom.  I had the privilege of meeting with her a few times and getting my missions worldview tuned up.  

I was also able to spend several hours with one of our Faith Church missionaries, Brent Dongell.  Brent is doing great and told me that he really feels like he is beginning to get into the rhythm of life in New Zealand.  You can tell by hearing him talk and by how others are responding to him that he is having a great impact.  He is filling the youth group gap at Cession Community Church (partner with Lowell Impact) where Brett is lead pastor and Kristen is the catalyst behind children’s ministry.  I asked Brent if the children’s ministry would be fueling the youth program in the near future, but he said that the families are largely young and so there are very few even upper elementary kids.  So he really is building the youth group out of unchurched kids - Go Brent!  Go God!  Brent is also leading small groups at Cession.

Cession is doing well.  Their band is awesome (Brent sang in the worship team our last Sunday there - I have video!).  There are several new families since we last were here, they’ve begun a Sunday morning service and are introducing an alternative Friday service once a month beginning this week. Brett does a great job preaching and there are several others who are very capable leaders and speakers in the church.  Brett’s forte is developing and empowering new leaders.  I’m so very proud of my family’s church and what God is doing there.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Good to be "home" but this is weird

I'm really glad to be home and connecting with friends and family here.  Using the word, "home" as a segue, here's a weird video that one of my friends put me onto:  ENJOY!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Back to Michigan

Six weeks.  It sounds like such a long time, yet goes by so very quickly.  We are aboard our flight from Auckland to LA as this is being written.  It was a great vacation and mission trip, and I have a mix of feelings about coming home.  I will miss my New Zealand family and friends we leave behind.  There is always a sense of loss and grief with our departure.  Yet, there is an anticipation of seeing our family and friends in the US and getting back to “normal” life.  While it is impossible to be in more than one place at a time, it is very possible to have your heart in more than one, or in this case two places.  I am leaving some of my heart in New Zealand and Bougainville as I return home.  

If you have been following along with my adventures in B-ville, you haven’t heard much about life in New Zealand, so I’ll take this day to catch you up.  To the shock of many, I didn’t get much bike riding in.  There were several reasons: I wasn’t in great shape for the hills they have around here; There were lots of projects that needed attention around the house and also giving time to help Marcia with the kids so she could do some projects as well; but the reason I haven’t told Marcia yet was that the first Saturday I rode, there was a car-bicycle accident that I came upon shortly after it happened.  The rider was laying in front of the car with a broken collar bone and the bike was midway under the car.  The group of riders were going through a round about and the car didn’t give way.  The rider should be alright, but it affected me more than I expected.  I don’t think it will slow me down back home, but it will make me cautious.  

The projects around the house kept me busy as well.  It seemed like there was something to do almost everyday.  Brett and Kristen have bought a really nice home that is about 20 years old.  It’s probably about 1,800 square foot three bedroom ranch.  However, it hasn’t had anything done to it since it was built, so a lot is out of date and seriously needing maintenance: enter Marcia and Chris.  

Marcia had a nearly daily project of “clean kitchen - do laundry - help Rhys pick up toys.”   She also did quite a bit of painting.  The lounge (living room) is quite large (18 x 24) with a nice crown molding that was painted a silver grey and the walls were done blue gray with a dark taupe grey accent wall.  She painted that room while I was in Bougainville and then did the dining room with the same theme the last full week we were in NZ.  It was a challenge to paint while the two children were either having naps, in bed for the night or otherwise distracted (where I came in from time to time.)

My first project was removing a really 80's chandelier over the dining room table and replacing it with something much more contemporary.  We made the mistake of letting Rhys seeing the project in progress.  Rhys doesn’t handle change well, in fact, he originally was not planning to move with the rest of the family from the apartment to the new house.  While I had the fixture down and bare wires hanging out of the ceiling, Rhys came out, observed the damage and said, “I don’t appreciate it when people destroy my roof!” to accent his displeasure, he later came out and said, “This makes me very angry!”   I expected it to be a very long six weeks.  Fortunately, other projects were more warmly received.

Before leaving for Bougainville I put two more light fixtures up in the lounge which really updated the look in there.  Then we began work on the guest bath and toilet (two separate rooms) - very common in NZ.  The wall paper was a yellow vinyl that was curling up on the edges.  The idea was to remove the wall paper and paint.  Unfortunately, the builder had wall papered over raw drywall board, so removing wall paper also removed layers of the underlying board as well.  We tried our best to do as little damage as possible, but even after patching as best one could, the walls are still rough, but not too bad.  I also had to replace and repair trim around the base of the shower.  Building is really different in New Zealand.  They make great use of MDF (multi-density fiberboard - aka dense paper) in the trim.  After being exposed to water for 20 years, the trim was swollen and really nasty looking.  It has been replaced with real wood that should last a bit longer.  

Another part of the project was replacing aged flooring.  We went to the lumber yard and found a really nice looking self adhesive vinyl tiles.  They look like dark granite tiles with lighter grey grouting and really are pretty convincing.  The best part was they were on closeout and so we did the floors of both rooms for about $70 NZD (or about $35 US).  It took me a full day’s work to get them in, but the effect was so dramatic it was really fun.

After the paint and flooring were in, both rooms looked so much better, but we also wanted to update some of the fixtures with a more modern, nickle plated or chrome.  They found a nice towel bar on line and had sharp looking handles for the cabinet.  The big surprise was trying to find nickel or chrome hinges for the cabinet doors.  We looked literally everywhere.  They are not to be found in New Zealand.  We will buy some - probably at Lowes or even Meijer and have them ready to take back with them on the next trip.  It was unbelievable how much time and energy went into searching for something so simple.

After I returned from Bougainville, the next big project was repairing the deck.  They have a very nice deck that is 15 x 18.  However, it too, showed many signs of neglect.  Some boards had broken down so much that there were holes right through them.  I spent a day in the sunshine powerwashing the deck.  Several more weak boards showed up.  When all was said and done, 36 linear meters of new boards were required.  Brett and I went to the lumber yard to get the boards and found out that the deck was made of an Australian wood called kwillia.  It is very beautiful with a tight grain and costs $7.50 a meter.  Pine was $1.50 per meter and won out.  Bringing the 6 meter long boards on top of the Honda van was quite a process but after they were stained and installed the deck looks much better and is certainly safer.  Rhys helped me with the deck and it was a lot of fun.  To remove the old boards, we had to pry them up bit by bit using a claw hammer and a couple large screwdrivers.  As I would lift the board with the hammer, Rhys would put the screwdriver in the gap so I could move the hammer and begin the process again.  He also collected nails for me and helped me so much.  We had fun and later walked down to the market to buy an ice block (aka popsicle) as a reward.  

There were several other smaller projects, but we sure kept busy - going home to rest?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Homeward Bound

Saturday, February 7, 2009

We went to bed around 11 and had to be up @ 4:30 to catch the PMV (Public Motor Vehicle) down to Bukatown.  So we were up very early, dressed and finished packing in the dark and were out to the road by 5:15.  The stars were out when we first got up and very beautiful, but I could see some clouds moving in to block the view.  A few minutes after getting to the road it began to rain.  We waited under an overhang for about an hour and 15 minutes before our 5:30 ride came @ 6:45.  

A PMV is a flatbed truck with short side rails.  Planks are laid across the rails and then there is a canopy frame work overhead with a tarp attached to keep out the rain and/or sun.  There were 6 rows of planks on the one we flagged down.  (The PMV in this photo is not the one we used - it actually is much nicer and ours had a canvas/tarp roof, but no sides)  

We bid our friends in Tanamalo goodbye and climbed aboard.  I sat in the middle of the truck and was greeted by the scent of unwashed bodies, “fresh” fish wrapped in taro leaves and other pungent odors.  The great thing about smells is that you quickly grow accustomed to them and they blend in.  

The plank we were sitting on was about 5 inches wide and polished smooth by innumerable buns sliding all over it every day over several years.  This made staying in one place a bit of a challenge, further complicated by the lack of anything to hang onto.  So I set my feet solidly, arranged my center of gravity and held on for a two hour+ ride.  The roads get proportionately worse the further you get from the government center (some things are the same no matter where one goes). So they started out as abysmal.  There has been quite a bit of rain during these two weeks and so the combination of constant traffic and wet roads have led to further deterioration.  In other words, it was a very long ride.  We were thrown side to side, up and down and forward and back as the PMV tried to avoid the worst the road had to offer.  

The passengers were interesting also.  It wasn’t long until the truck was fairly full.  Some were still drunk from the night before.  Two young girls got on and one was busily chewing away on her betel nut.  I got an education in how they add lime to the betel nut to get a stronger narcotic reaction from the nut.  

The passing scenery was very interesting as we traveled along.  The countryside is breathtaking.  A drop off into the ocean on one side and the jungle encroaching on the other with coconut palms all along the way.  At one point I leaned over to Jeff and said, “I’m having a ball!”  It really was a great experience.

We arrived safely (but sorely) in Bukatown around 8:30 a.m. and were taken to the Kuri Lodge where we had a breakfast of four! slices of toast with butter or peanut butter, sausage (aka - hot dog), baked beans and two runny eggs, chased by instant coffee which I tried to improve with a creamer that refused to dissolve.  However, the view was magnificent - over looking the channel and the barrier islands, we sat on the veranda and watched boats go back and forth.   The water was amazingly clear and the most beautiful aqua color.  Fish of several types were easily visible.  
While we were there, Dudley, the pastor in Bukatown came to sit with us and keep us company.  He was a very entertaining guest.  He told us many things about the days when he worked in the mines as an assayer (chemist).  He said that at that time he lived just like we do, houses just like ours with carpet and air conditioning and food like ours - T-bone steak....wait a minute, Dudley, you lived better than we do.  

He told us many stories and filled us in on some of the on going controversies the people of Bougainville face.  I asked him if he knew what the name of the island was before it was named after a French explorer, but he didn’t know that but he did have a great one about how Buka island came to be named.  The explorer, Bougain, came to the island and saw two women fishing on the reef.  He asked them in English, what is the name of this place.  One looked at the other and said, “What did he say?”  Which in the local language is “Buka?”.  And so the explorer wrote down, “this place is called Buka.”  

After staying at the lodge until 11:30 we made our way to the airport.  Checked in - security was interesting as they went through our bags and then used a hand wand on every passenger.  We waited around in the airport until about 2:15 and then a quick flight into Port Moresby.  We didn’t stop on Raboul this time because the airport was shut down due to volcanic ash.  

After a quick check through with our luggage, we were in a cab and back at the mission house that has two controls on the shower.  Wow - a hot shower feels great after two weeks.  Dinner is soon and then off to bed and another day of travel tomorrow.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Finishing Up

Friday, February 6, 2009

Today we finished up classes.  The last three messages were preached and the guys did a pretty good job.  Jairus hit a home run with his and pulled himself up to an A- So I ended up with two A’s one A-, a B+ and two B-.  Not bad and I think it was a fair reflection of their work.  I met with each of the three students and had a good exit interview with each of them.  

Part of my coming here was to see if this is something I could do and would like to do in the future.  The answer is,a yes.  I gained confidence as I gained experience and really enjoyed being with the students and learning more about this place. Jeff is talking about seeing if I can come back to do it  again and I looked at the curriculum for the Church History and Spiritual formation classes.  I could also teach a Bible class without too much difficulty.  

I spent tea time with Nathaniel Sulis who is the national outreach director.  They do preaching in the markets sometimes and are talking about doing a revival where the speaker would go from place to place and have a special program.  Another opportunity for experience here, although I am more of an encourager than and evangelist.  We shared several different ways of doing outreach and I explained servant evangelism to him.  I also took him into the library and we went over the better books in it.  Most of them are pretty old: Master Plan of Evangelism and Out of the Salt Shaker were newer books.  I’m going to pick up a copy of Servant Evangelism and send it over for him and one of the Library.  

In the afternoon I finished scoring the grades, took a brief nap and then spent a bit over an hour with the interviews.  After that I went to help Jonathan with the door and table he was building.  Because he was working on those things, I did some of the rough prep for dinner - peeling kaukau and getting onions ready.  I also made a pot of coffee with the last of our store.  I’m looking forward to a good cup when I get back to NZ.

After dinner we went up to the classroom for a final meeting, took some photos and ran the videos of the guy’s preaching.  Several giggles, as they watched each other.   

Our final entertainment was watching “Glory Road”.  It was much more meaningful to Jeff and I since it was set in the US in the mid 60's.  A sad but glorious movie.  Jeff had never seen it and was very impressed.  One of my favorites.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What a Coincidence!

Thursday, February 5, 2009 

Today was the first day of preaching.  It went well.  Japeth, the youngest of our students was first to go.  He had never preached before today.  When he started out, I was blown away.  This clear, concise voice came out of this young man.  Each word well spoken.  He is clearly gifted to speak.  His content was good for one so young and though there were issues with eye contact, being tied to the notes and hand gestures, the over all impression was very favorable.  

Raymond was up next.  He had a great theme and illustration, but really missed bringing it home.  It wasn’t an awful message - I’ve preached far worse, but it just fell short of what it could have been.  He also was not prepared to speak when it was time, he was still filling out his forms for the observers.  This provided a teachable moment to talk about being ready to preach and not being distracted by last minute details before the sermon starts.  

Moses, though hard to understand at times, clearly hit a home run with his message.  The content was clear and right out of the text.  I found almost nothing to criticize.  He did a masterful job of bringing out the best in the story from Daniel 1.  He got an A for the sermon and for the class as long as he finishes up his practicum.  

After class, I worked on getting ready for the afternoon meetings and then relaxed for just a couple minutes.  Rev. Joe and Rev. Nathaniel (the District Superintendent of East Buka) showed up and asked if I could help them.  It turns out that the President and Vice-President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB) will be coming to church this Sunday.  Joe will be doing the preaching and they will then tour the college facilities after.  

Joe and Nathaniel needed to write a letter to both men letting them know they had accepted the invitation to have them present this Sunday.  They wanted help typing the letters and it also involved recreating their letterhead and updating it.  We had already printed the letters and were getting ready to send them when we discovered the address still said N.S.R. P.N.G. - (North Solomon Region - Papua New Guinea) the old designation for Bougainville before gaining autonomy.  This would have been a very big gaff since the fight for independence.  Fortunately we caught it.  They also needed a program printed up, so I did that for them as well.  

I finally got a late lunch and then it was time for my three interviews with the men who had preached that morning.  I really enjoyed my time with each of the men.  I showed a video of them preaching to each of them, and gave them their grades.  

Once finished there, I went to help Jonathan with some wood working.  He is building a table for the laundry room and a screen door for the flat.  I’ve been helping him by being an extra pair of hands.  I also took some more photos of things around the area - animal and human.  

It has been a long trip and I am ready to get back to Marcia and the family.  I miss them, but I will miss Bougainville also.  This morning I came across Marcia’s study notes for her Bougainville presentation for WKFM from 2001.  In it she mentions to pray for a community leader who is trying to overcome betel nut habit.  His name is Ezekiel - Yeah, that would be chief Ezekiel who I have come to love and who is free of the habit, and whose son, Lesly, is one of the star
 students in the class.  Then there was a story by Frank Midivane, the former missionary here, about a boat trip they took.  In it is mentioned the church secretary, Dudley (see photo) - who I have also met.  He is now pastor of the church in Bukatown and former National Superintendent.  Who knew I would meet all those people or be here when she studied that back eight years ago.  What a coincidence!  (Funny how many of those happen to those who follow Christ, isn't it?!)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Dream of Abdul

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The meal and the birthday party were very enjoyable.  The chicken was very good!  Cooked with noodles over rice it was quite enjoyable.  I tried the fish, but out of courtesy to those who really like fish, gave up a major portion of mine to others (I am so considerate!)  We finished with coffee, tea and Milo (like ovaltine) I introduced them to mocha by suggesting chocolate in the coffee.  They tried it, but didn’t seem overly impressed.  However, since I had introduced it, from now on it will be called Michigan Style coffee.  

Whatever I ate, must have really set me off, however (this bit is written the next day).  Last night I had the most vivid dreams I’ve had in a long time.  Something about an Islamic messiah who was being raised from the dead, but instead of a tomb, it was my camping tent in the back yard.  It got stranger than that, but you get the idea.   I think it was the spirit of the chicken haunting my dreams.  

The rest of the day has gone well despite the strange rest overnight.  I finished up my lecture section of the class and tomorrow come the sermons.  Three Thursday, Three Friday.  The men turned in their outlines and I must say I was very favorably impressed, especially with the ones by Japeth, Raymond and Moses.  The three that preach tomorrow.

In the afternoon I helped Jonathan gather lumber and then rip and plane it down to size for building a screen door for the flat.  We had a good time working together and the wood is beautiful.  It has a mahogany / teak quality to it.  Very beautiful.  I also made the walk down to the store with Jeff later in the afternoon.  All in all, a fairly relaxed day.

A joke from last night told by Lesly: 

There was a man from the highlands of PNG who had the traditional hole through his nose for keeping a bone in it.  He had the bone out, just the hole.  A fly was buzzing around his head and kept passing through the hole in his nose.  The fly did this several times when the man had enough.  He waited for the fly to come toward the hole again.  Plugged one side of his nose and blew his nose through the other nostril.  Then he said to the fly, “Do you think I am your shortcut!?    

This, apparently is uproariously funny to Bouganvillians.  It is, admittedly much funnier when told by Lesly and acted out rather than put on paper.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

World Famous in Bougainville

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

This morning started out with a nice compliment.  Joe told us before devotions that he had heard from the wife of the President of the Autonomous Bougainville Region that her husband had heard that they had a very good preacher at Joe’s church on Sunday.  The President had heard of the topic of trusting in God instead of our own strength and wanted to come hear it this Sunday.  It won’t be happening because we are on our way back to New Zealand that day, unless, of course, the President pulls strings and won’t let us off the island.  (Just kidding).  

The new president is a strong Christian and has just taken office.  Still, to be noticed by someone of that stature is quite an honor.  Apparently, someone from the church here works in the parliament house and was talking about the principle of the message on Monday.  While this is a great honor, at the same time, I couldn’t help but think, “Who am I that anyone would notice me or what I have to say.  Only because the Lord has blessed me with the possibility of doing the things I get to do.  How the Lord has led!

The class went very well today.  The topic today was delivery of the message.  I felt like the teaching was right on target with what I needed to tell the guys and they were very engaged.  Jairus came in late because he has a bad tooth that is causing him a lot of pain.  Raymond also had a migraine today.  Today is also Lesly’s 29th birthday, so he was a bit distracted, but it still went well.  

We have been invited to Lesly’s birthday party.  They have killed a chicken and Jonathan has pulled enough ingredients to make a couple small cakes - banana cake of course.  We are bringing along the fresh fish and rice we were planning for dinner.  So it should be an interesting experience.  Details tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Appy Noon!, Monday, February 2, 2009

There was a big storm last night.  Wind, heavy rain.  Didn’t know if I should be worried or not, but we are in a strong building.  The trees were blown around a bit and one of the students said that people would make a lot of money today by going around and picking up coconuts that were blown off.  So, it’s not all bad.  The ground is well watered and everything will be growing rapidly.  A couple of the children were out collecting mushrooms very similar in size and shape to our white toadstools.  These are edible so they may be similar to the Portobelo mushrooms.  

After class Jonathan and I went down to a store about a kilometer to the west.  We had a pleasant walk, stepping around mud puddles and a new crop of dead toads in the road.  We got close to the store and found a pond just loaded with toads in the heat of passion.  (Enough details).  We shielded our eyes and passed by to the store.  

The little enterprise was just one room tacked on to the end of the house but fairly well stocked with everything from potted meat to ready to wear.  The store owner was very friendly and the children in the area came around to check out the tuntalala (white men).  The people are very nice and we are always greeted with bong bong! (Morning!) Or So Hasa (hello) or Che bong (good evening) or Appy Noon! (Good afternoon).  

After we got back Jonathan tried his hand at coconut shelling.  It wasn’t entirely successful, but   we did get to the meat of it (lost most of the milk).  It is really good and makes a nice snack for between meals.  

Jeff and I are missing out on the Superbowl.  Jeff is missing it more than I since he’s from Ohio and still a Cardinals fan.  It does bring home the remoteness of this place when I can’t get on line to find out what the score is.  I miss missing out on the new commercials more than the game, but we’ll both catch up when we get home.  

Our entertainment this evening was a little less enjoyable, but more important by far.  We watched the documentary “The Coconut Revolution”.  If all is to be believed, the BRA were totally in the right and the cause very just.  I think that was mostly true, but the documentary seemed a little too good to be true.  However, Jeff was quite impressed by it and said it opened up his eyes to many things he had not known before about the conflict.  It was very powerful.  I had watched about half of it back home before coming.  They were very resourceful in overcoming the blockade and the leader, Francis Ona said the blockade had forced them to find their own resources and resourcefulness.  

Go to: or Google "Coconut Revolution" to watch the video (almost an hour) 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday in Bougainville: February 1, 2009

A new experience.  Preaching in Bougainville.  The clouds cleared out for the first time in several days and it was a very warm morning (and I have to dress up!).  

Church was fun and interesting. Several different things going on and both Pidgin, English spoken with the local dialect thrown in from time to time.  The singing was typical of island singing, ragged beginning as one person starts it out and people join in a few at a time, but by the second verse, the harmonies (and dissonance) are in full bloom and it is wonderful.  The Wesleyans in Bougainville do not use instruments because that is what the Pentecostal churches do and we won’t be as worldly as they.  There is a push among the young to introduce instruments and so there is tension in the church over how worship music is to be used.  Sounds way too familiar.  

When it was my turn I got up to speak with not a little nervousness.  Stepping into something strange is always a bit scary.  I shouldn’t have worried.  God was right there to help.  I should 
mention here that one of the things I have been stressing with the men in class has been the importance of prayer for the preacher.  Ten minutes before class was to start, I gathered with the students and had them pray for me.  It was a very special time.  They are good men.

The message went well.  I told the story from 2 Chronicles 20 where a choir defeats an army.  The choir sang just before I got up to speak, so it was very timely and the people seemed to be with me throughout.  I had to speak very loudly, so my voice is a bit tired tonight.  Fortunately, I only had to preach it once, instead of the usual 4 times I would at Faith.   

After service there was “refreshment” which is really Sunday dinner.  It was good and the foods
 are familiar by now: kaukau, green vegetables, baked pumpkin, there was a fish and a chicken dish that I passed by and lots of rice.  The greens were a bit different than I had had and were quite bitter.  Otherwise, it was very tasty.  I am becoming a big fan of kaukau - the white sweet potato they have here.  The flesh is very similar to the consistency of boiled potatoes, but had that hint of sweetness so they can be eaten with nothing added and be quite enjoyable.  

When I arrived for refreshment, one of the women in the choir - a very outgoing sort - said she was sorry that she had kept her sunglasses on top of her head when she came forward to sing.  I joked with her that I thought she had four eyes and needed them and everyone laughed very loud.  Then I let her know I had not even noticed, but it did not matter.  The choir was good and we had a good day of worship.  

Chief Ezekiel showed me the drums they use for celebration and for communication with other villages.  They are very large, made out of logs.  They are dug out but only have a small slit open on the top through which all the material must be removed.  The Chief told me it takes many months of work to make these drums.  There were three there, each larger than the next.  They really follow the four part harmony pattern with these with the smallest being the highest and so on.  The bass drum was not there - Chief Ezekiel said it was what we would call a “woofer”!  (See yesterday's entry for a photo of Ezekiel and the drums)


Saturday, February 14, 2009

More Culture Lessons: Saturday, January 31, 2009

A hard working Saturday in the morning.  We had class today to catch up from starting on Tuesday.  It was strange and made it feel like Friday.  I taught the last section on sermon structure and received their first major assignment on the text, proposition and purpose of their sermon.  Mostly they did very well.  I had two that I needed to have improvements completed.  Mostly they were very good and I was able to find positive things in each of their assignments.  

After class I talked with Lesly for a while then came down to the flat.  Jeff introduced me to
 Ezekiel Roman - Lesly’s dad and the clan chief.  It was good to meet him - a very intelligent and strong leader.  He works with co-op of farmers to help raise the standard of living on Buka Island.  We talked about many things and I learned a great deal about agriculture here on the island.  Their biggest cash crops are coconut products, mostly oil and copra (roasted coconut) and cocoa.  They send most of their cocoa raw to Samoa to be processed.  He would like to have a processing plant here on Buka, but there is the problem of finance and a greater problem of reliable electricity.  He estimates that the cost of setting up a plant would be about 2 million kina (something just under $700,000.00 USD).  It would allow them to give the farmers more for their raw cocoa and still make more profit for the processors.  Shipping would cost less also.  He
 said the processing plant on Samoa should be here because Samoa produces something like 5,000 tons of cocoa per year and Bougainville produces 80,000 tons.  I’m sure that part of the reason they don’t have it here yet is that the country has been politically unstable.  There are also some issues of culture to consider.  If one clan gets ahead of the others, the others will sabotage the first to bring them back in line with the rest.  The genius of the co-op is that all benefit, therefore no one needs to feel left behind.

(The picture is of Ezekiel Roman showing me the tribal drums.  Each takes 3 to 4 months to make.  He is holding up his hand to show the size of the largest drum which he called, "the woofer".)

After I spent time with Ezekiel, I went over to the office and finished off the message for Sunday and printed out enough copies for the students each to have a copy.  My hope is that they will see the things I have been teaching them in action and be able to understand better by example than they would by pure lecture.  Because of this, I had to be very careful in writing the message to follow the homiletical rules I have been teaching - what a pain!  I haven’t intentionally  written a proposition, purpose and transition statement in years.  But, on Monday we can use the message as a teaching tool.  Anything to help the team get better.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Telling Time in Bougainville: Friday, January 30, 2009

This morning was a fairly quiet morning.  Up around 5:30 had a shower, devotions and caught up on my blog from yesterday.  Breakfast with the guys and then off to class.

Today was chapel and I was surprised to see Alex being the one to bring devotions.  He did ok but his lack of experience showed.  It was brief, but also gave me some material for helping explain things later.  I also found out that I need to find the right words for people to understand what I am saying.

The first indication of it was when I was telling the class that we could take a break and start again at nine ten (9:10).  They all looked at me blankly and I tried again with ten after nine.  Someone got it and said ten past nine and then they all got it.  Seems simple, but if you are working in another language, it would be very difficult and nuances would make a difference.  Later I was teaching about a proposition statement.  Lesly asked the difference between a proposition statement and the theme.  I’m sure there are some differences, but not enough to count in this situation - it is now called the theme and they are all moving forward more easily now.  Then we got to the purpose statement and that became, “goal”.   Having the right word is so important here.  

Did a lot of resting today - it has been raining quite a bit, so not much chance of going out to explore. I did stop over to the student’s kitchen to see how they cleaned out and shredded coconut.  A really ingenious way using a bench with a round metal protrusion off the end that is serrated.  It works very well but still looks like plenty of work.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bougainville Update: Thursday, January 29, 2009

A full day.  The class went very well as I shared various types of preaching with the men.  Rev. Joe gave me a very good example in the devotion time and it was useful for tying things together.  The examples seemed to help the men connect, but it was not the only benefit; several times as I was sharing truth while sharing the example, the Spirit of the Lord settled down upon us.  They really connected when I shared the story style of preaching.  It was fun and lively and we are beginning to connect with one another.  

During my morning break, Rev. Joe came over and we talked at length.  It was a very good give and take.  He taught me much about the culture and students that was helpful to understanding.  He also shared several things with me about the struggles they face here and how he became national superintendent at such a young age.  He is very capable and is a tremendous asset here on Bougainville.  At the end of our time it was amazing to me how much our problems are alike though we have very different cultures.  

Most of the students had not made much progress on their inductive study, so in the afternoon study hour I spent 10 minutes with each of them.  It seemed to be good study and we shall see today if it made any difference.  Today begins the study of a proposition (big idea) statements.  

Jeff and I took another short walk after study and before dinner.
  It was a bit cooler (not cool) but considerably more comfortable today.  The jungle areas here are very dense.  Jeff says that if anything is left alone for a year or so, the jungle takes it back over.  When we got back, Alex and Lesly were working on the garden plot.  They are growing all kinds of interesting vegetables including broccoli and bok choi.  Lesly’s sister went to agricultural college and has passed her knowledge on.

Jonathan created another masterpiece of a meal last night.  We are eating far better than I imagined we would.  I took a picture of the meal just because it was so nicely presented and was quite tasty.  We had canned beef over rice (better than it sounds) kaukau - a sweet potato that is more white than ours and not as dry, various veggies as a garnish and the mystery spinach/asparagus bush that we have had most nights.  There was pineapple and mango for dessert - the tropical fruit here is amazing and will ruin me for ever eating mangos from Meijer.  

I decided not to use the message from Daniel on Sunday since Moses is using chapter one from Daniel for his sermon. So I will be writing a new one this week.  That will be better anyway.  So I worked on that for a while last night and then went to bed.  

Saw another cockroach last night when I got up to go to the toilet.  He was really fast.  And large.
  I had to be really careful where I stepped because even though I could see where he was, he moved so fast I almost had him run across my foot before I could pick it up for the next step.  GROSS!  Our friendly household gecko is getting more comfortable with us apparently, because he seems much more free to chatter in the middle of the night.  We have one large one as far as I can tell, and several really tiny ones.  It is more and more likely that the thing I had run across my neck the first night was one of these.  Jonathan saw one with a tail missing.  Could have been from being snatched up and thrown across the room.

lukim you behain  (see you later!)