“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” The second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
These passages have had such a profound effect on my life. As I am sure they have impacted others as well. One of the ways I have been blessed to be able to pursue and live out this discipleship trait is through E3 Short-Term Mission Trips. Every year we have the opportunity to go on a number of short-term mission trips through the church. Whether you go by yourself, with your family or with your friends, these trips are a great opportunity to build relationships with others.
At E3 we believe lost people matter to God, and so we do everything we can to reach them with the good news about Jesus Christ. For the Church is not just a building, but a Revolution! A revolution of people going out into the world to be a difference!
Join the revolution this year by stepping out of your comfort zone and serving at:
- Porch de Salomon in Panajachel, Guatemala – October 1st – 8th 2016
- Much Ministries (Jubilee Clinic and school) in Gonaives, Haiti – October 8th – 15th 2016
- Good Shepherds Fold in Jinja, Uganda – June 14th – 24th 2017
We will be scheduling informational meetings soon about these upcoming trips. Please sign up for each of these through CCB.
Eric spoke about exploring, using physical location as an example; but personally I experience exploration more in ideas and art. In fact, I know of few greater feelings than first experiencing a movie, or picture, or song, that so overwhelms as to leave me completely, utterly, in awe.
Recently, that happened to me. It doesn’t happen often – anymore – but while working one day, I realized I had never properly listened to Sigur Ros…which, in certain company, is a travesty.
For a lot of people whose taste and music I like, Sigur Ros are one of the bands – one of those canonical acts who, even if you don’t like, you have to listen to. Hailing from Iceland in the late ‘90s, their strange blend of ethereal vocals, heavy guitars bowed like violins, and huge dynamics made them a very different version of “rock music.”
(if you’re curious, here’s their first song from their breakthrough album: click here.)
I’d listened to them a bit – a few songs on a few albums deemed essential – but that’s a very different thing than properly sitting down and taking a band in. So, while at work, I absentmindedly put on a Sigur Ros album whose very title lent it a kind of mystery: “( )”.
As far as I can remember, it was a very average, rainy day. But while working and listening to Sigur Ros’ nameless (and lyric-less) masterpiece, I found myself in one moment completely away from my desk, transported by the rain splashing the window and the sounds running through my headphones to someplace far, far away. Someplace cold, wet, and perhaps dark – but simultaneously vibrant, full, and powerful. I was, genuinely, in awe.
From a certain perspective, I glimpsed something of God while listening to that album.
That’s the power of awe and wonder – it reminds us that we are made in the image of something far beyond ourselves, something whose majesty and scope eclipses what we can even conceive. Wonder is, for me, the dull joy at comprehending how much larger everything is than you.
I’ve struggled sometimes with being a snob: usually a music snob, because I couldn’t afford to be a food, movie, or coffee snob.
But I’ve tried hard to reverse that trend in myself. I’ve wanted, as Community says, someone who “…likes liking things.” Or, to put it another way, I’ve tried to relate to people on the basis of shared likes rather than shared dislikes.
I think this is important, because “the snob” is an agent working against the force of wonder and awe in the world. The snob’s attitude is grounded in pride, and dismissal. By becoming self-appointed curators of excellence, they seek to control what yields awe.
Always be open to awe and wonder, in whatever form it presents itself. And always avoid seeking to control awe – the snob closes the world down, but the force of wonder opens it up.
Not to brag or anything, but I spent last week on the beach. My family has a summer vacation tradition, and each summer we meet in North Carolina for a week of basically hanging out and doing very, very little besides eating, reading, talking and being together. My parents, my sister and her family come down from Virginia, and we drive up from Tallahassee. North Carolina has always been our traditional meeting place because it’s almost in the middle and my mother is actually from there, so we have extended family there as well. This year was special because we’ve actually skipped the past three years due to weddings and changing schedules as our kids get older and go away to college and then enter the work force. We managed to coordinate (mostly) everyone’s schedule and come together.
I enjoyed the week also as an opportunity to put into practice some of the things we’ve been talking about on Sunday during this “Endless Summer” series. I took time to unplug from the world, and pretty much set aside my laptop all week. I went for a couple of runs while I was there, and I took regular naps. I basically focused on being present with my family, and resisted the temptation to think about the pile of work and the seemingly endless “To Do” lists that were waiting for me back in Tallahassee. And I was available for my “connection” time. We ate dinner together every night (with revolving cooking and cleaning responsibilities), and each night we took the opportunity to pray together, as well as to take some time to share what we were grateful for that day (we call this last discipline, “The Bowl of Joy”, and maybe I’ll tell you more about it sometime).
As our week came to a close (because they always do), I was struck by how peaceful and clear my mind was. This was what vacation, and *true rest* was supposed to feel like. I know that the “whirlwind” of ministry needs and organizational requirements was waiting for me when I rolled into Tallahassee and E3 (I got into town last Saturday night, and actually snuck into E3 at 5:45AM on Sunday, just to check on the “whirlwind”, even though I was technically still on vacation). The end result was, for me, that this stuff actually works. I feel rested and refueled (even if I occasionally have a sleep-deprived night or an exhausting day), and ready to run the next leg of the race. There’s a lot going on around here over the next 6 weeks or so, and I’m going to try and be at my best for it all.
This season has been all about the process of things growing—both in our ministries at Good Shepherds Fold in Uganda and in our personal life. The missionary kid school where I teach debated almost doubling its size next year, and Katie’s responsibilities have branched out to even diverse avenues of service. In our personal lives, we continued to construct our small home and prepare for the birth of our first child in August.
At the beginning of the spring, the teachers at the GSF missionary kid school were approached about the possibility about taking on students from the greater missionary community (up to 45 minutes away from us). There is a real need for quality Christian education in our area for many missionary families with older children, as there are few affordable alternatives to home-schooling. After months of prayer, pages of emails, and a lot of meetings, I’m excited to announce that the missionary school is growing by 7-9 students, a drastic increase for our school of 12 students. If I’m being honest, a growth of that size makes me both really excited and nervous; we already juggle a lot of different grade and ability levels (even within the same grade, students differ up to 4 grade levels in their subject proficiency), and adding 8 students is not so simple as it would be in the states. Still, we feel like God has led these students to our school, and I can’t wait to write about the relationships and ministry opportunities that He grows out of it. I have to keep reminding myself that God’s power is “perfected in my weakness.”
In Katie’s side of the ministry, both her staff and the number of kids she serves has grown. During the spring, she added Irene to our special needs program staff. Irene is super helpful, kind, and hardworking; she keeps the program facilities running/clean and fills any short-term roles that crop up on a daily basis. In addition to Irene, GSF added 1 special needs child to its toddler house. The biggest development in Katie’s ministry is that her program has become more self-sufficient, giving the space to take on additional responsibilities. She has been helping develop a remedial class for struggling students at the GSF primary school along with a Ugandan teacher. The Ugandan school is only in its 2nd (of 3) semester for its school year, but initial impressions of the program have been really positive.
The most dramatic area of growth have been in our personal life (if I can actually make the distinction given our lifestyle). Construction on our house began right before Christmas and finished June 1. Our new house will still be on campus but is much smaller (600 square feet) and gives us a little more privacy. The house we’ve lived in on campus for the past year is going to be converted for ministry use. At the closing banquet for the workers, many of the workers stood up and thanked Daniel (a fellow missionary at GSF in charge of construction) for teaching them “what it means to be a man” in the weekly bible study he led for them on authentic manhood. Absentee/abusive fathers are almost an epidemic in Uganda, and so I am ecstatic and hopeful to see how God uses this experience. Also during these bible studies, one of the Muslim workers came to know Jesus, and several more mentioned how they became more open to considering the Gospel as a result of working with Daniel on our house. The biggest personal areas of growth for Katie and myself have been as we prepare to welcome our son into the world in August. After a lot of prayer and conversations, we decided to deliver in Uganda and have been encouraged by the reactions of Ugandan staff at GSF that this choice is going to open up some new and unique opportunities for ministry.
I could talk about so much more since it’s been a busy spring, but I promised to only write 500 words, and I am currently at 607. Sometimes I feel like we measure God’s transforming work in Uganda in inches of progress (over many months); however, we’ve seen peoples’ lives (including our own) grow by feet. I feel exceptionally lucky that he chooses to use such flawed people to be a part of his work in Uganda!
Next Tuesday night, June 14, at 7PM E3 is hosting a FREE “Taste of the Summit”!
Many of you have heard us talking about the Global Leadership Summit lately-what a fantastic tool and experience it is for vision, challenge and growth-and this coming Tuesday you can have the opportunity to experience why the Summit is such a world class event for free. During this time, you will get to watch excerpts from the 2015 Summit faculty and discuss them in community, plus a full introduction to the 2016 GLS faculty.
I believe that everyone is a leader: everyone has a circle of influence, whether it is in a classroom, a business, elected office, or even a family. To that degree, we all owe it to ourselves, those we impact, and even the world in which we live to invest in our leadership, and to challenge our selves to grow our leadership as fully as we can. The GLS is simply one of the best tools out there for doing just that. Whether you are in ministry, politics, the business world or academia (as a student or teacher), please join us to find out just what the Global Leadership Summit is all about, because when a leader gets better, everyone wins: the Kingdom, our churches, our businesses, our city.
This month in E3kids, we’re learning about contentment. The definition I’ve been teaching and reciting all month is: deciding to be happy with what you’ve got. Deciding to be happy… This idea of happiness being a choice has always annoyed me a little. I’m a pretty sensitive person, easily affected by people and circumstances. When I’m unhappy, it doesn’t feel like a choice to me.
I’m naturally a pretty happy, optimistic human being. For most of my life, I viewed unhappiness, or any negative emotion, as something that was imposed upon me, an innocent bystander. Why would I choose to be upset, lonely or scared? I’ve done a lot of work to try to gain some stability in this area of my life, and much to my dismay, discovered that my former way of thinking was dead wrong.
It turns out, I can choose to focus my mental, spiritual and physical energy on things that keep me stable, healthy and even happy. The irony is that for a long time, I tried really hard to control people and things around me, instead of focusing on the one thing I actually have some control over, me.
So how does this play out in my day to day life? Recently, I was feeling lonely and isolated. I started to think through all of the reasons I was feeling that way. This part is tricky. It is so easy for me to assign blame to people and things over which I have no control. Of course, I’m legitimately affected by things outside of my control, however, I can only make choices for me.
I had to make choices that helped me feel more connected and less isolated from the people and things that I love. I chose to be honest with those close to me about my feelings. I chose to commit myself to spending quality time with friends and family. I chose to participate in community life here at E3.
If you’ve been around E3 for any length of time, you’ve heard about the value of things like growth groups, service and connexity events. There are so many opportunities to get connected to biblical community. The thing is, it’s a choice. Staying connected to community can get lost in the business of life if it’s not treated as a priority.
A few weeks ago, I danced around the CGA with some of my favorite kiddos to the tunes of Tom Petty. Last Wednesday evening, I shared heartfelt conversations and laughter with the ladies of SHE3. On Saturday morning I got to see our community come together to help our beloved Pastor Dan and his family move into their new home. On Sunday afternoon, I played kickball and ate watermelon with some of those same folks.
I paused at each of those events and just looked around and absorbed the connectedness and love I feel for the people I get to do life with. I could have found reasons or made excuses as to why I didn’t have the time or energy for any one of those events. I think that much like contentment or happiness, connecting with our community is a choice. So what will you choose? I choose community.
Me, well I spent the evening with members of the E3 Worship Team and about 100 of our closest friends, playing lots and lots of good music.by a guy named Tom Petty. The night was full of highlights, but here are just a few:
1. Since Petty is local-ish (grew up in Gainesville), it was surprising to hear people come up to me and say that they went to high school with him, or knew his sister-in-law, etc., etc. It brought a pretty personal angle to the evening.
2. Guitar solos, lots and lots of guitar solos. Seriously, though: Mike Campbell (Petty’s long-time guitar player and co-writer) is just a MASTER player, and I counted it a privilege to lean into his parts a little, and just play well-crafted parts for a couple hours.
3. Seeing people I don’t recognize. One of-if not THE-primary reasons we do these evenings is so E3 folks can invite their friends to a church facility to (hopefully) hear great songs played by masterful musicians At the end of last Sunday on May 8 I said, “Hey: invite someone to Cover2Cover because we like them more than we like you …” (seriously, who gives me a microphone?) I was joking, of course, but outreach is what it’s all about. It’s not enough for us to play ONLY for members of our community: our desire for events like this is that they be accessible to the larger Tallahassee community, and that they would be “low-hanging” evangelistic fruit for E3 folks.
4. Did I mention the guitar solos?
That evening, I told people to stay tuned, that the next C2C (planned for the fall) is going to be the best one yet, and is going to take the whole project to another level. So stay tuned and keep your eyes and ears open for upcoming dates and times.
But more than that, start praying for how you might use these events as opportunities to bring people to a faith community that prides itself on being a place where people can investigate faith., whether its through music, or “insanity” classes, or Sunday worship, or cycling teams, or great coffee.
That’s what it’s about.