Wednesday, November 18, 2009

new blog site


This site has moved to .
I am trying a new look and format. Hope you will catch up with me there.

Please be sure to update your news reader and / or RSS feed to continue receiving my latest posts.

See you at

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

Friday, October 30, 2009


I know I am in the middle of my "Church Learning a Foreign Language" series. I have my next post ready for Monday and it is full of some great links and ideas from a person who is a language coach for overseas workers here in Europe.

Learning language is important. However, another aspect of living overseas is being able to adapt to the culture. I have seen people who have done well in learning a second language really struggle in adapting to another culture.

Last night we went to Herbstmesse in Basel.
It is quite a BIG event. I read where it has been going on for almost 500 years. It is like going to a county fair but in an urban setting and it is totally spread out all over the city. I love the giant Ferris Wheel in front of the church. It is quite fun. I did not see the livestock or petting zoo. I did not see the "Fairest of the Fair" contest. I doubt they have one. However, there are a lot of food options. Check out this link.

But it is an important part of the city life in Basel during this time of the year. It is an important cultural event. We have been every year that we have lived here and love it. I must admit it costs quite a bit per ride (the exchange rate is not friendly to us right now) so we do not do many rides but the kids love it and it is chance to hang with their friends and a chance for us to try some yummy food.

What are the events you should go to in your city? How important is your presence there?
What do you learn about the people when you go to these festivals.?

Can learning be fun? I think so.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Start Up Ideas for Language Learning, part one

Here are some ideas about a few ways your church can get started learning a foreign language. Grammar and vocabulary are important. I love being able to say this. I hear this all of the time from my German teacher.

First up...

If you have an extra room in your church why not set up a computer lab or learning center? You can make use of such products as Rosetta Stone in the language of your choice. There are plenty of software packages around. I have enjoyed Rosetta Stone in Spanish and German.

Buy multiple copies of Rosetta Stone and make them available at your church for people to check out. Be sure to let people know about this option and but plenty of copies to go around. I would suggest putting a time limit for how long they can have the software checked out.

Do a google search and find a few online language learning tools that you can promote to the people trying to learn a language. Ask someone to be the resource person for your church in this endeavor.

Go online and find out if there are language learning schools in your city. One church found a site where they could learn Italian located in their own city.

If there is an University or Junior College in the city find out if you could hire a professor to teach a class for a semester at your church or better yet encourage your people to enroll in a class at the university or Junior College. Offer some scholarship funds for people completing the course work.

Find out if you have a few language experts in your church and see if they will become tutors for your students.

Encourage your college students to take classes in the desired language.

Promote the idea amongst your college students to go to a country and do a study abroad program for a semester or two. They will not only learn the language but they will also have ministry opportunities while there.

Same suggestion but for people who have retired and can take several months to study abroad.

What are some other ideas?

Next Up .. Putting your language learning to practice in your own community.

Monday, October 26, 2009

TCFL - Teaching Churches Foreign Languages

The Idea

I mentioned before about a conversation that I had with a church leader about his desire to see his church learn another language.

This thought has grabbed my attention so I thought what would I do if I pastored in the states again. Perhaps if any church needing a pastor reads my blog it would take care of that possibility but here goes the thought.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) is a program that many universities and language schools have throughout the world. I guess our new institute can be called TCFL (Teaching Churches Foreign Languages) Okay, so that was bad. I really do not have a institute but this is the idea. How can a church learn a foreign language?

I guess before we get to the “how” we need to look at why would we even consider such a thing.

Many churches today that I work with have an interest in reaching a particular people group with the gospel. They have been going on short term trips all over the place and I hear quite often they are tired of being spread out and they are ready to focus their efforts.

As they think about the “going” implications they also realize that in many cases those same peoples live in North America and often in their own cities. They begin to think about how can they connect with them in their own community. Therefore when they are putting together their mission strategy they are thinking both where they are and in other parts of the world.

They are also saying that they feel the Great Commission belongs to the church and that they need to be doing more and outsourcing missions less. They want to be involved strategically.

With this being the context one key aspect of cross cultural missions is how do you have an incarnational presence amongst the people? Language obviously is one element of that. These churches are thinking "how can we be better prepared?" If it is one person or a family then they normally arrive on the field and start language school for an amount of time until they can become proficient in the target language. What needs to happen if you do this for an entire church?

Here are a few foundational points that I think are very important if you are really serious about TCFL.

Vision of leadership - I believe key leaders in the church have to have the vision to see this as important. I think if they are trying to learn the language and using the language themselves it will go a long way in creating ownership of the vision to the people. Some how the church has to constantly put this vision before the people on a regular basis. More ideas on this in another post.

Time and Resources- The church has to find some ways to put this into the two important value checkers: their calendar and their resources.

Think Small Groups - One of the best places to start is with the small group structure of the church. Perhaps it is with the first groups going out locally or internationally.

Committed locally and internationally- It is important to be trying to find ways to minister to the people in that language group locally. So this means the church needs to focus on the group(s) they are wanting to work with.

Identify your language talent in your church. Chances are you have some people in your church that are fluent other languages. Discover those people and the languages that they speak and start working with them.

I will post some ideas on how to see this happen soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

language learning

I heard today in a seminar that 56 percent of all Europeans can converse in two languages.
11 % can converse in three languages.

This is really amazing to me. It was a struggle to learn Spanish for me 8 years ago. Now I am trying to learn German but finding it very difficult. I do not know when I can make it to three.

We really want to see the church as missionary. We work with a lot of North American churches who are interested in finding ways to have an incarnational presence on the mission field. They want to be prepared when they come over on short term trips.

I have been thinking some about a conversation that I had last week with a church. They are wanting to have a presence in an European country. They are struggling with how can they do this and not know the language. They know they can use their English on occasion. Many Europeans speak English but they also know that in many cases in order to get to a deeper conversations they need to learn the heart language of the people.

They are exploring ways in which they can learn a second language as a church. Not just one or two people in the church or even the mission team that may be coming on a short term trip but they are wanting to emphasize learning a second language as a church so the Lord can use them both in the states and abroad.

I like this idea.

What do you think this could look like?
Any ideas that you can share about ways to go about this?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Working in Europe

As you may know I am involved in a couple of missional networks. This week I have been working quite a bit on the Skybridge Community.

In reading a post by Grady Bauer on MissionalSpace it reminded me again why we need networks of marketplace people and study abroad students, artists, etc.. living out their lives incarnationally abroad.

The Skybridge Community is one such network that exists that seeks to identify and equip marketplace workers in Europe for effective missional living.

Here is a little more about what we want to see happen.

Discovery: Identifying and engaging marketplace workers and students in North America and Europe for these purposes.

Sending: Strengthen ties to a church in North America who will “adopt” the individual / family who is working and living missionally overseas.

Equipping: Equipping these people for evangelism, discipleship and church planting within their natural circles of influence in their workplace and daily lives.

Community: Creating healthy support systems throughout Europe where “Skybridgers” can have community and support.

What do we hope to see as a result?
We want to see people coming to faith in Jesus Christ and discipled. We hope to see new churches being planted throughout Europe as a result.

Our network is growing.

We typically have four different types of people who join Skybridge Community.

  1. Churches in North America who are looking to adopt a worker in Europe.
  2. Church Planting teams or missionary teams in Europe looking for people to partner with as they engage their people in Europe.
  3. People who are already working in Europe.
  4. People who are looking for jobs in Europe.

The last category is our most popular and it can also hold the biggest challenge. It can be tough finding a job in Europe.

I ran across a site today that you may want to check out.

Please feel free to tell others about this network. We really want to make a difference in Europe. We hope that the Skybridge Community will be used by the Lord to see the peoples of Europe come to know Him.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Do you ever have a verse that just keeps coming to your mind?

I was in a place not too long ago where I read the below verses and I cannot get them out of my mind. In fact I wrote about it last week.

8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. Romans 1:8

I have heard some amazing stories from people who are planting churches in some hard to reach places. I am compelled to pray for these people and to find ways to support and encourage them. I hope you will as well. God is truly moving in some powerful ways.

Quite frankly I hope I do not forget these stories anytime soon.

I picked up a book last week that if you get the chance to read you should. It is a different story about a country we read and hear about a lot in the news. Iran: Open Hearts in a Closed Land by Mark Bradley. It is a quick read but powerful. Grab a copy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Europe Link

I get the privilege to travel to a lot of places.

I do enjoy seeing new places.

I enjoy having cups of coffee in various parts of the world.

I like studying the new cultures.

I like meeting and talking to people from these places.

It is really more than just my enjoyment.
I go to these places to get a glimpse at what God is doing.
I hope my talks can help encourage workers who are there. More times than not I end up being way more encouraged and blessed than what I have to give. God is truly doing some amazing things in the world.

Though this past month I have been able to go to new places most of the time I am in Europe.
I want to pass a long a glimpse of life and ministry in Europe. I hope you will check out this site but also go there often.

The idea is that new content will come on the site daily. If the Lord has put upon your heart a certain country, city or people group in Europe simply find that tag on the blog and click on it. You will find prayer requests, opportunities for ministry and quick facts about that country.

Here is the link !


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Surprised by Encouragement

Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. Romans 1:5
A few months ago I was invited by my good friend David Putman who is one of the pastors at MountainLake Church near Atlanta and also the co-founder of to join a small team on a mission endeavor. Our team was to train and encourage some house church planters.
I like to be prepared for trips such as these so I had put some time in praying, studying and writing out some training sessions. I really did not know what to expect. It was my first trip to this part of the world. I knew just a little about the people attending this school. I knew they were going to some very interesting places to plant churches. I have heard about their work and some of the powerful ways the Lord has been using them.

After the first day of our teaching during our quiet time and prayer time as a group the Lord really spoke to me on these verses.

Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world. God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son. Romans 1:8,9

I felt an extreme privilege to be able to teach some of the things that the Lord has taught me over the years to this group of people. I hope that I was able to bring some encouragement and help to them in their ministry.

What I know however was that they encouraged me greatly. I received so much more than I gave. They were a blessing to me. Their lives serve as a testimony to the way the Holy Spirit gives boldness in our witness.

One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. Romans 1:10 - 12

Thursday, October 1, 2009

It's football time in Portugal Part two

Here is the next part of "Football in Portugal" from Brady in Lisbon.

Fast forward a year and I have a few other workers helping coach. We decided it
was time to start a Bible study with these guys. So each Thursday night I
would invite everyone on our team to my house for a Bible study. We had 5-10
guys almost every Thursday for about 9 months. Then we moved so we moved our
Bible study to Chili's. During this time, we would watch American football
games on DVD and conversations with the guys on the team. We had two great
conversations with Bruno M. and Bruno D. Both shared their anger towards God
and the "church." Bruno M. shared that he would rather be dead then ever
live a life like ours. But both of these men continued to come to Bible

In June, we had a football camp and had a church from Aledo, Texas come to
Portugal with former UT and NFL player, Dusty Renfro. During these 3 days
these volunteers poured their hearts into the guys on the field and shared
their faith non-stop. The Portuguese players loved Dusty and the team and
thought the world of these guys. The last day Dusty suited up and hit these
guys and then stood up in front of them - with blood running down his arms
and legs and shared his faith. This was the first time these guys had ever
seen a "though guy" talk about Jesus this way. He had them all pray and you
could not hear a sound. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever
witnessed in my life. I had not seen God work like this before.

One month later one of our players gives his life to Christ and is baptized
in the ocean. A week later another player (Bruno D.) saw the video and asked
if he can be baptized too. This Sunday, Bruno D. was baptized and attended
church for the first time since he was 9 years old. Another player, Tiago,
has asked to be baptized this week as well. Bruno M. has prayed the prayer,
but is not ready to give his whole life to Christ yet - but he is close!

If you would have told me a year ago that these 4 guys would accept Christ
as their Savior, I would have laughed at you. Bruno M. has been married for
4 years and leads one of the roughest lives I have ever seen. Tiago broke
his cousin's arm with a hammer because he broke into Tiago's house. Bruno D.
well, he is the craziest of them all. As He does with all people, God had a
plan for these guys from the beginning. As for the park where I first
encountered these guys, they had never practiced their before nor have they
ever practice there again. God had a plan for these guys. I have been so
blessed to be a part of their lives. To see what God has done in the last
few weeks is unbelievable!

See a cool video about their ministry here.

Interested in football in Europe?
Check out this website.

Interested in living and working in Europe check out Skybridge Community.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Football Time in .... Portugal

One of my favorite things to hear each Fall is "It's football time in Tennessee". You have to imagine that in a loud and Tennessean accent. This is what the announcer screams over the microphone as the Tennessee Vols come out to the field. Well, this post is not about UT football. We have to think about other things during these rebuilding years. smile.

Have you ever heard of this? It's football time in Portugal? It has a cool ring to it. A few years back John Grisham wrote a book called "Playing for Pizza". It is a novel about an ex-NFL quarterback who plays football in a small town in Italy. American football in Europe is not the most popular sport but you are now seeing teams pop up in a lot of cities.

Over the next two posts I am going to tell you about a guy who plays football in Lisbon Portgual.
Take a quick glance at a team video.

Here is the beginning of Brady's story.

My role in Portugal is to take care of all the financial and logistical
items for a team of workers. This includes visas, housing, cars, insurance, taxes,
etc.. in Portugal. When God called us to go to Portugal I viewed myself as a support person and really wanted to do everything I could do to free the people who are great evangelists to do their work, without having to worry about budgets.

About a year on the field, my family and I were watching the Houston Texans beating the Cowgirls, and we decided to go grab dinner. While we were waiting for the restaurant to make our sandwiches, we went for a walk. We rounded the corner and found a football
team - full pads, playing AMERICAN football. I walked right up to them and
asked if o could play.

They offered me a tryout the following week. A week later I was on the team and a month later I was the starting QB. Two months after that, I was the offensive coordinator and month after, that I was the head coach. During this whole time I viewed football as a great tool to
learn the language - God had not shared with me that he wanted me to use
this as His tool to witness to these men.

More soon!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

conversation in a Taxi

One of the guys who went with us on the Jet Set was Marshall.
Great guy from Houston.
His parents are very well respected workers that served in Europe. Marshall spent some of his days as a youth in Barcelona but I will not hold that against him. smile.

I hope you will take a look at this video. You can get a feel for how one participant processes the information. One really cool thing is that as we are trying to understand a new culture at the same time we often process what this means at "home".

Each morning on a Jet Set we have a few hours of conversations.
We spend time praying.
We talk about some of the impressions the Lord is giving us each day. We pray for each of others and the ministries that we see on the ground.
We also pray for the people we met the day before as we go about the city.

Our next one is coming up in May 2010 to London and Paris with Ed Stetzer and Daniel Montgomery from Sojourn Church in Louisville.

After our debriefing time we normally have some pretty cool conversations about some practical ideas about missions. This trip we talked about the person of peace, oikos evangelism or what we call tribes, mapping the city, working with other partners, etc...

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Church as Missionary

In many ways our end game at Upstream is to help the church think and act as a missionary. Though we are finished with this trip the conversation continues with these churches. Many of them have us back to their places where we can start engaging in a conversation with their church.

Our next trip is to London and Paris in May of 2010. Check out our site at for the dates and the initial application.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Meaning of Life

One of the things we do on these trips is meet people who have a wide variety of ministries. I was really struck the other evening when we went downtown to an area where there are a lot of single mothers just trying to survive. Many are without hope.

Take a look at a story of someone who finds hope.

My desire is that God will use these posts to create in you a desire to help people who are often overlooked.

Maybe it is in your neighborhood.

Maybe it is in another part of the world.

More soon.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I have learned some lessons this week.

We normally line up some guest speakers who are from the country we are visiting. One day during our trip, we heard a guy talk about presenting the gospel. He used "EvangeCard" which is a type of tract. I am not a real big "gospel tract" user. I normally do not use that method of evangelism. I normally focus on getting to know a person relationally and then sharing the Gospel within the context of the relationship. I try to let the person know that I am a Christ follower early in our relationship and this will at times set the stage for spiritual conversations.

At the end of our time that day, he challenged us to go out and talk to some people. As we finished the time and people left the room he asked if I would go out with him for a while. What do you say?

So we took off and went to a near by section of town. He was the translator but he wanted me to engage in a conversation with an older gentlemen setting on a bench. I looked across the street and saw a group of people playing basketball and I thought to my self this is where I need to be talking to people. This is much more in my comfort zone.

I know in the context where I serve most of the time you need to hang out some before you talk. I raised my objections and he told me that I needed to understand his context some. He said "you are in this country and these people here actually respect you as an American most of the time. They will listen to you. They may or may not accept the message but they will listen and talk to you".

I still did not believe him until about 10 seconds later when he led me over to this man to talk. I started the conversation with a hopeful "do you speak English?" He did not but luckily I had my friend who was able to translate for me. Sure enough I asked if I could share something with him and he said yes. I spent the next 10 minutes talking to this man and he responded favorably. I did not do a good job with folding the card the way it was suppose to be folded but luckily I had help and I tried to focus on presenting the gospel message. I was especially excited at the end when he told me he knew where he could go buy a Bible and my new evangelist friend invited him to his house church this weekend? I feel better that there was some follow up to this conversation and I can only pray and hope that life change would continue to happen in this man's life.

Several things that I learned from this.

I needed to trust the cultural guide who was helping me in this situation.

I have had the opportunity this week to talk with several Taiwanese people and all of them have been quite friendly and open to talking about spiritual things.

Obedience is important. Again, I am not a tract type of guy but I knew in my heart I was suppose to go with this guy. I am glad I did.

Taiwan seems to be a receptive place but the receptivity is seems to be about being open to spiritual conversations and not so much making decisions to follow Christ on the spot. I am still processing this but I think it takes time and the trust of a significant relationship.

This is my first time in Asia. Without a doubt it has stretched my thinking regarding contextualization amongst other things.

more soon.

The Temple

When I visited the temple today I saw many rooms with gods in them.

We heard this from a worker here.
“People become what they worship.”

When I saw the gods on the altars here it was very apparent that people worship idols. As you walk down the streets you will see many of the buildings that will have one room or apartment that is open on the outside and that is the place dedicated for the god of that building or the small temple for that building.

You can get a picture of what these verses are referring about as you live and observe people in cultures similar to this one.

Psalm 15
1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us 
but to your name be the glory, 
 because of your love and faithfulness.
2 Why do the nations say, 
"Where is their God?"
3 Our God is in heaven; 
he does whatever pleases him.
4 But their idols are silver and gold, 
 made by the hands of men.
5 They have mouths, but cannot speak, 
eyes, but they cannot see;
6 they have ears, but cannot hear, 
noses, but they cannot smell;
7 they have hands, but cannot feel, 
feet, but they cannot walk; 
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
8 Those who make them will be like them, 
and so will all who trust in them.

However, while very apparent that many worship objects made with hands here I think about the idols that we often worship where I live in Europe or in the states. I think about how we can have as our idols our jobs, companies, possessions, family and many more.

What do we become?

Anything that takes first place instead of our Lord becomes an idol. The obvious idols here helped me to recognize some more hidden ones in my life where I live. I think of Matthew 6:33 and give a honest look at what do I seek first?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taxi's and Temples

Half of the challenge in an urban environment is how do you get from one place to another?
On these trips we do a lot of:

and even riding a bus

Sometimes though it is easier if you are in a crunch to cram into a taxi but it can be dangerous.

For some really good insights on our trip take a look Rodney Calfee's blog.

We were on our way to a temple the other night. Here is a great clip about Taipei and some of the religous beliefs here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dead Women Walking

Last night we went to a completely different part of the city.
We went there with a couple of workers from OMF. You should check out their site and learn more about their ministry here.

We visited a ministry center, temple, a night market and an area of prostitution. Check out this book called "Dead Women Walking".

Here is a video I took last night.

It is about two ministry centers that are side by side. One is a restaurant and the other is a second hand shop. We went shopping and then we ate at the restaurant. Good food. I was impressed.

Their ministry is geared to single mothers. They provide opportunities for affordable housing, food and opportunities to sell items in a second hand store.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hungry Ghosts

Yesterday morning we split up and went to various evangelical churches. For an excellent post on one person's observation of our church visits next a look at this.

Later on as we were walking yesterday (which by the way we walk a lot and I love it) we went by stores that had small tables placed out front with food and drink placed upon them. They are set out for "hungry ghosts" to come have a drink and some food to satisfy their spirit. These are for people who have died but lived an unfinished or incomplete life so they are called "hungry ghosts". I found this quite fascinating and disturbing at the same time. The spiritual darkness here is quite apparent. As we continued to walk around yesterday afternoon to various places we would see quite a few of these sites.

We also walked around and would see neighborhood temples. They were quite small but a place where a person could come to a altar.

We see two forms of religion here that are quite prevalent; Buddhism and Folk Religion. We will see more of this as we move around the city. Tonight we will talking to a person who will be explaining to us about some of their local beliefs.

More soon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The City - First impressions

We arrived last night. It was a long night and day of travel but I am here safely and thankful for the journey. Learned much about the city from my airplane ride as I sat next to a very nice and talkative guy from here. I simply enjoy learning about one's culture. I pulled out my language sheet and he was helping me pronounce words. Wow. I thought German was hard. Both languages are painful to me. smile.

Several first impressions.

The city is densely populated. There are 22 million people who live on the island and many live in this city. Wow. Even on a Sunday morning here there are plenty of people out and about.

I think one out of two people here have a motor scooter. They may be a stretch but it does not seem like I am off by a lot.

They love tea. It seems to be free flowing. I am enjoying a cup this morning. Not too bad! HOWEVER, I was able to get my Starbucks City Mug last night. There are plenty of Starbucks here and to my surprise 7/11 stores. No Big Gulp for me though.

The people enjoy conversation. Maybe I have been fortunate but I have had several good conversations with people here.

Okay. I have only been here 12 hours and I have much to learn. It is time to get outside.

More Soon,

Friday, September 18, 2009

Connecting Flight

Sitting here in the Amsterdam airport waiting on my plane. I only have about 4 more hours til take off. This is the point of arrival for us when we moved to Spain. Our connecting flight to Madrid was from here. Many memories of entering a new culture here. I remember two things rather vividly.

Most people here talk at least three languages. I am amazed at the Dutch. They are great at languages.

The second thing I remember is the playground they have for children. It was a lifesaver for our 6 year old at the time. I do not remember the Starbucks being here but I am thankful for it today. smile.

I was thinking on my flight up here about something that Roger Greenway said in one of my classes some years ago at Trinity. It was a class on urban missiology. He was asked about what are the important strategy steps to understand a city and develop a church planting strategy for that city. He gave us 20 steps but he said the most important is to know that you must wear out two pieces of leather;

your shoes
your bible

May that be so this week as we travel.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Final Preparations

In a few days I will be going to a place that I have never been before. The adventure side of me gets really excited about it. I love to go to places that I have never been. I love seeing new things, learning new cultures, eating new food (well, most of the time).

I like adding to my Starbucks City Mug collection. I know that is silly but it is a habit that I started some years back. I hear that I will be drinking more tea than coffee there but that is okay.
I like learning new custom rules and hearing new languages. At times I like trying to speak them.

But I also know that this crossing of cultures does not come without a challenge.

Language and cultural adaptation does not come easy to me. My teachers in Spanish and German over the last 8 years would echo that statement about language. But when I find myself doing this I know:

It stretches me.
It expands my worldview
Some times I just get over stimulated with all of the new information, sights, sounds and language.

After it is over I am usually very thankful.

I read this article from Almost M the other day. Incredible insights as we cross cultures. It is a three part series and well worth the read. It was one of the reading assignments that I gave the group. I hope they read it. smile.

Please take the time to follow along on my blog over the next week and also on these blogs and and others. If it means something to you feel free to tell others about it. You can also follow me on twitter at LarryMcCrary or TheUpstreamC

We will be going to Asia and learning about their worldview and beliefs. We will be writing and recording some things along the way about our journey.

Pray for us. Stay in touch.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Back from the roadtrip

In many ways being able to be on the road these last weeks was a dream come true for me.
I could write a realllllllllllllllly long post about all of the places where visited but you can actually check out

And while I am thinking about it be sure to visit our blog as we go on our next trip to Asia in the coming weeks. We are going to do a virtual vision trip of sorts. So stay tuned.

Here is why our road trip was so cool for me.

One of our dreams as we started The Upstream Collective was to work with young churches ....
We want to help new churches to start to think and act globally from day one. We try to do this as we write, speak, consult, etc..

If I had one "do over" in my church planting life in the states it would be that very thing. I waited way too long to have our church plants get involved internationally.

I kept thinking:
maybe in a while
we need to be a certain size
we need to be more mature as a church.

I had plenty of reasons.

So this summer as we were able to speak with quite a few churches who are young in their church life AND many are exploring ways to take the gospel outside their own local context. If we can help you do this or if you know of a church that has that kind of interest please let me know. Feel free to point them towards our site or get on our free e-newsletter where we try to highlight ways churches can be involved.

If you are a church planter you may want to consider what my good friends David Putman and Shawn Lovejoy are doing at They have a coaching network and one of the elements of their coaching has to do with "Going Global".

Mission Opportunity in the U.K.
If you have a student from Oklahoma and want a significant ministry opportunity this summer in the U.K. you should check out this site but you need to do quickly. They have a deadline real soon.

Check out iGo Global website for other opportunities. I consistently hear great things about their work.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Top Five Food / Drink spots from the Tour

Coming off our tour with I decided that I needed to give a shout out to some of the best places where I ate. Of course we journaled about some other things on our blog and you should check it out for sure but I also like to eat some local food and drink some local coffee.

Here are my top five. All of these could be number one. If your favorite did not make the list please do not be offended. Maybe next time. smile

Andy's Frozen Custard - - My friend Lane Harrison at Lifepoint Ozark took me for my first and second Custard. We were only there two days. Probably the best custard in the world. I would eat way too much of this stuff if I lived there. It is good!

Bongo Javas - Great coffee in the Belmont University area - PLUS I was able to enjoy it with some great friends and my daughter. The best coffee is always enjoyed with others.

Java Joes in Lebanon. Our friend Michael Carpenter of Matthew's Table took us to their coffee shop. Great coffee - PLUS they let me make a double shot cappuncino. I must say I am pretty good at this and could work there some day.

Sam and Andys in Farragut, Tennessee. I always go by there for my Pastrami on Dark Bread. Best deli sandwiches in Knoxvegas.

BBQ - Anytime I am in Alabama I have to go to two places for yummy BBQ: Jim n Nicks and Golden Rule

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Packing List, Part Three

Still on our Upstream's mini tour this week. Today we are in Lebanon Tennessee just outside of Nashville. We are doing one of our "About Europe" meetings with several area pastors, mission leaders and business people. I hope you will check us out on our blog at

Here is the last of the packing list for a short term mission project. I am sure there are other things to be packed so feel free to add to the list.

The Intangibles

7. A blessing for your host / or people you may be working with while overseas.

In some cases you may be working with a missionary team, a national church or church planter. I always have enjoyed when the volunteer team comes over and blesses us. I know this may sound self-serving since I am a missionary (smile) but you can really be an encouragement for people on the field. Idea: You may want to ask them if there is something that they would like to have from the states or just surprise them with a goodie. It does not have to be a lot. The thought really does count. The other idea is to pray for them and with them during the trip. This is a huge blessing to the workers that live on the field.

8. A smile. When we moved to the field we made a family covenant to smile at the people we met. That sounds really silly but it goes a long way when you are trying to connect with a person. Think about the times you have met people and they were not smiling. Were you impressed? I think everything changes with a good smile. Idea: smile

9. An “ I will try it” attitude. People that come over and do a good job seem to have an “I will try it ” attitude. Ministry in another country can be a challenge. Everything seems different. The food looks, smells and tastes different. Ideas: Seek out restaurants that are not part of American fast food chains but go to where the locals go. Be a “foodie”! While you are preparing for your trip take public transportation and eat at an ethnic restaurant in your city to get out of your normal patterns.

10. A few words that you can speak in the heart language of the people – I will be the first to say that I am not a language expert but I try to always say a few words in whatever country I happen to be in. Language is so important in cross-cultural ministry. You may or may not be fluent when you come on your trip but if you can try to learn some basics it will go a long way in your time overseas.

I am certain there are other things that you should pack. Feel free to add to this list. I wonder what we would put on a list of things “NOT” to pack?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Packing List, Part two

Last post I put started my list of ten things to be sure to pack when you go on a short term trip.

Here are some more important Items to take with you on your trip

4. Three - Five Bible stories that you can tell in Basic English. Don’t underestimate the power of the Word. I think if you can find few short Bible stories that mean a lot to you then you will be ready for opportunities the Lord may give you to share how God has transformed your life. Idea: Practice telling these stories to your family or your small group before you coming. They will be quite impressed with your ability to do Bible storying.

5. Your story. I think it is important to be able to tell your personal story of how God changed your life? Can you do it 2 minutes or less? Idea: Use Basic English and cut out the big religious words. You will most likely be communicating to people who speak English as a second language or using a translator. Either way time is important and people understanding you is vital. I have found it might be a good idea to write this out first.

6. Some photos. People love to look at pictures. They are great conversation builders. Try not to show off your “ American stuff” but they love seeing your family, vacation shots, etc.. Idea: Put together a small photo album or put the pictures on your ipod. Think about ways you can communicate your story as you show pictures.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Packing List

I have worked with a lot of volunteer teams in the last 8 years living overseas. Most of them do a tremendous job. As I think about these groups that do well I see several things in common for those who do well. I am going to break these up in three different post for your reading enjoyment. :)

They pray a lot before they come


They prepare a lot before they come


They seem to pack these things for the trip

Don’t forget to pack:

The Obvious

1. Your Bible – Trips can be a great time to hear from God. I know you will be experiencing some long days but try to make some time to read the scripture each day before you go out. I like to recommend people read the book of Acts while they are on a mission trip. Idea: I have heard of some people who give their bible to a person that they really connected with at the end of the week as a gift.

2. Your Journal – I think it is great to write something each day about your trip. What is God teaching you? What is He showing you about the people? How does this apply to the place where you live? Idea: Write down some specific actions points that you can do once you return home. Chances are there are many people groups who live around you in your own city.

3. You prayer supporters back home – You really need good prayer support when you come on these trips. My challenge to each group is to have at least 7 people committed to prayer for them each day. Ideas: I have seen people create a prayer calendar for each day that they are gone. I have seen people blog about that trip as they go and put prayer requests up. I have seen people create a google group for their prayer supporters which offers more security since it is password protected. The point is to enlist friends, family members and your church to prayer for you specifically for this time.