Wednesday, November 18, 2009

new blog site


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I am trying a new look and format. Hope you will catch up with me there.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

First steps in a new culture

This weekend we had some dear supporters come in for a visit for the weekend. It was such a refreshment and encouragement for us to have them around for a few days and to show them our life here. Plus we got to see a pretty cool castle in the middle of a rain storm. Made us feel we were back in the day.

Inevitably when we talk to people about our life here the question comes up about how are we received in this European context? What are some important first steps?

Let me tell you a little about my experience. First of all, I grew up in the South. I planted and pastored churches in the South. After about eight years of church planting, I joined the staff of a large denominational mission agency for North America in the area of church planter assessment.

In 1999, I began traveling a lot outside the South, and my worldview changed immensely. (I was never able to get rid of the Southern accent though.)

When the Lord began to lead us toward overseas missions, I started asking myself how can I make a difference there? I am just a normal American guy who has a heart for God and, I want to follow Him and tell others about Jesus. How would I be received in another country?

I remember that we talked about this as a family before we moved to Madrid in 2001. We felt there were several things that would help us connect with the culture there – but we knew that being an American would not be one of them. We knew many people have their own ideas about what being American means and often they are not positive.

As we entered into this new culture, we always tried to be aware of three things. We tried to model and teach this to our children. I think these can apply rather you are living overseas or if you are simply visiting as a tourist. Here they are.

1. To make eye contact and smile. Check out this really good post on making friends.

2. To try our best to speak the language of our new culture – to make an effort, even if it was only a word or two. People appreciate that, even if it is incorrect grammatically. Obviously the longer we lived there our friend’s expectation of our language ability grew so this means we have to be constant students of the language.

3. To be humble. I must admit being humble was not a hard thing to do once I tried number two on the list; 5-year-olds would remind me how badly I spoke! But many people naturally think Americans are loud and arrogant. We wanted to break that stereotype and at the same time reflect the attitude of Christ.

Why are these three things important?

What would you add to the list?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Life after college

A few weeks ago I was able to lead several teaching sessions for a group of new missionaries here in Europe with imb. They have been on the field for less than a year. This is a time where they can reconnect with some people whom they were in pre-field training with at the beginning. It is also a time for refreshment, encouragement and teaching.

This was the second time this month I was so encouraged by people who have dropped what they were doing or planning on doing and followed the Lord's direction. You can read about the first trip here. I was able to go with a good friend David Putman with

Back to my teaching time at this missionary conference. There are a special group of young people within this group of new workers that I especially admire. These are young men and women who after college come to serve 2 - 3 years on a church planting team. They do some amazing things and have some great stories to tell about how God is working in their lives and the lives of the people they live among.

One thing that I am so impressed with these Journeymen (this is the designation that imb uses for this program) is that they could be getting started with their careers or working on another degree or even getting married. None of those things are bad things but instead they have put those things on hold to go serve the Lord overseas for a couple of years. As I look back at my early years I wish I had considered such a program. It was not even a bleep on my radar screen at that time.

So here is a shout out to the Journeymen . Thanks for all you do. You are making a HUGE difference.

Keep up the great work!

More soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I like this verse from the Apostle Paul.

making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:16

When I think of Phillip who was told by the Lord to go south on the dessert road he did not know what opportunities he would have. We see in scripture that he obeyed and went south and as a result the Lord directed him to a chariot with an Ethiopian official. He is able to help the guy understand scriptures and was invited in to share the Gospel. He made the most of the opportunity.

I also think of Levi (later known as Matthew). We see in scripture where he was busy doing the tax collecting thing and Jesus came up and said come and follow me. He immediately got up, left what he was doing and followed Jesus. Again, I see an opportunity and I see a person making the most of it.

I think when we are faced with an opportunity from the Lord there is a sense of us needing to obey that leading. However, I know how I live. I know that I live pretty closely to my calendar and schedule. I am guilty of putting one thing on top of another.

This is why I am writing about margins. We need to have some margins in our life in order to have time for those special moments that the Lord orchestrates or presents to us. I find when I live without margins that I am simply not as open to interruptions. But if I can plan some margin in my day then I often find the Lord giving me some unique ministry opportunities that often lead to spiritual conversations.

When I find myself going from one place to another then I often do not have time to talk with the store clerk or person on the street, etc. I do not see many days where my calendar is completely blank but I am trying to do better at the way I schedule my day.

more soon.

Monday, November 9, 2009

El Presente

This morning I was enjoying a nice run in the cold and in the rain. A average day in the Forest.
When I do not run with other guys I normally do the ipod thing and run with Spanish music.
Don't ask me why. It makes me run fast. Not really.

This morning I was listening to Julietta Venegas and her relatively new song El Presente.

I love the lyrics and one line grabs my attention.
It says: "El presente es lo unico que tengo" which translated by me means: "The present is all we have". As followers of Jesus we do have a future hope.

But I also know that I sometimes live my life in the past thinking back to the things I could have done, should have done or hyper evaluating my life or just simply get marred down in the past.

However, the greater tendency for me is to think about the future. What lies ahead? Where will I live? What will I do? Where will I go visit? What will our ministry be like next year? etc..

What I have found and was reminded of in a weird sort of way this morning on my run is that I need to do better at living in the present. I need to enjoy the moment. One of my huge take aways by living in Spain was that I think they do a great job of living in the present. Whatever they may be doing at the time is the most important thing. Most other things can wait.

But me, I am always thinking of what is next? My next appointment. My next phone call to make or tweet to write or facebook status update to post. I think the implications for me are significant. It enriches my marriage, my parenting and my friendships to live this way.

I also believe from a missional perspective that if I live my life in the present then I am more likely to be tuned in when the Holy Spirit leads and guides me to be in conversation with someone or to go to this place or do this thing instead of always thinking of the next big thing.
When I am always thinking ahead I rarely leave enough margins in my life to have a divine appointment. But that is another post in the future. smile.

More soon.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

language learning, the final chapter

If you are reading this and you are a pastor or worship leader then I want to ask your forgiveness on the front end. Seriously. I am not a pastor nor a worship leader though I have been a pastor before. I have never tried this nor even thought of it til now. I know that Sunday comes around every 7 days and your weeks can become quite full. The last thing you want is for someone who is currently not doing this to try to suggest some new ideas for worship. Thus, this is my asking forgiveness on the front end. Maybe some day I will pastor again. If I do I think I would possibly try these out.

Our idea is how do we help our church learn a foreign language?

Here are my "what if''s"

What about getting a translator and have your sermon translated into another language one Sunday? Warning: If you typically speak for 30 minutes you would need to cut down how long your sermon would be since the translator repeats every word you say. smile.

What if the worship leader could teach the church a worship song in the desired language? This would take several weeks but I bet after a few weeks you would be surprised how well the people do. I have heard "Shout to the Lord" in at least 8 different languages so it the words are out there. Be sure to have the slides done correctly in the other language.

Read the scripture in another language. Print it out in English and the other language.

Have the prayer in a different language. (I am not talking about tongues. smile)

If you have a printed worship bulletin what about identifying some key words in another language?

Hola - Hello
Guten Tag- Good Day
Oracion - Prayer
Amistad - Friendship

Find ways you can introduce vocabulary words to your church. Perhaps with having bi-lingual posters or banners.

Play background music from another language or culture in the foyer or community areas of the church.

What if you did a little of this each week? In other words don't just do this on a mission emphasis Sunday but do this for an entire series or make it a part of who you are as a church.

The BIG thing that we must realize in language learning is that most often it is a life long journey. We have to be learners!

Do you have other ideas that we could try?
Have you tried any of these?

more soon!

Monday, November 2, 2009

language learning

I recently spent some time talking with Sarah Perkins who is a Language and Culture Resource Specialist for IMB, Europe. Thanks Sarah for your work on this and for passing it along for others to use.

Here are some of her ideas and some great links. This can be helpful for new workers coming to the field BUT I think there are some great ideas for churches who are wanting to be prepared to have an incarnational presence on the field whether that is a one week trip or sending long term teams. Here you go!

Language and Culture Preparation Before Field Arrival

Some Suggestions…

Read about cross-cultural expectations and adaptation.

  • American Cultural Baggage, by Nussbaum
  • Cross Cultural Connections and Cross Cultural Servanthood, by Duane Elmer
  • Culture from the Inside Out, by Alain Cornes
  • Figuring Foreigners Out and The Art of Crossing Cultures, by Craig Storti

Become familiar with principles and methods related to language learning.

Begin language learning now.

  • Take classes at a local university
  • Hold language classes at your church and taught by a qualified teacher

Some practical suggestions:

  • Learn at least the following things before arrival in the country:
    • Alphabet (if other than Latin-based)
    • Basic greetings and leave-takings
    • Basic expressions of politeness
    • Numbers
    • Basic expressions needed for shopping
    • Basic expressions needed for ordering food and drink
  • Learn about the country (history, current events, important people, worldview, etc)
  • Read the newspaper online
  • Listen to music in the target language
  • Locate speakers of the target language for conversation groups (such as language teachers in the local schools and universities)
  • Follow the progress of a national sports team in the country where you are going