Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ten years ago....December 31, 2000

Ten years ago was the best celebration of the end of the year I've ever experienced. My friend Kim and I brought in the new year with 19,000 other people in Urbana, Illinois at the Urbana 2000 Missions and Worship Conference. Few words describe worshipping with 19,000 people from all over the world and singing "Crown Him with Many Crowns" when the clock turned midnight. I would like to think that it was a small picture of what heaven will be like someday.
That weekend was life changing. I made a commitment to going wherever the Lord would send me and little did I know what the next ten years of my life would hold or where He would bring me. That weekend both Kim and I connected with a ministry called Carpenters Tools International. Little did we know where the Lord would bring us. ...

The following summer we both traveled on summer music missions teams and ministered to youth in Uganda (Kim) and Ukraine/Slovakia (myself). We gave concerts in orphanages, youth camps, churches and even to a prison in Ukraine where no ministries or organizations had been allowed to visit prior to our group.

A year later I graduated from college and took my two 50 pound suitcases to the Dominican Republic for my first teaching job--4th grade. Little did I know that I would spend four years of my life there and develop friendships with many Dominican and Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ. I now have a second family in the DR--with a 'niece' and 'nephew' who will graduate from high school in a few years. (both were my students in fourth grade..)

After four years in another country, I moved to Minneapolis and took another 4th grade teaching job. Coincidentally and providentially, God brought a Dominican pastor and his family to Minneapolis the same time that I moved there. And they happened to be a family from the same church that my family in the DR attends. Little did I know that two years down the road, I would be teaching their son at a different school.

After two years teaching fourth grade, I moved to an inner city school and began teaching 5th grade. I missed having diversity and other cultures at my other school and desired to be in the inner city setting. While this job has its challenges, I can honestly say that I love my job and it has caused me to depend on the Lord for strength everyday.

Little did I know that a year later I would move into one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the US with over 100 different languages spoken. My home is within a mile of my school and a mile or two from church.

As I was running today, for some reason I started thinking about Urbana again. I thought about all the missions organizations that were there, the speakers, the videos, and the worship. I loved the worship! The past few weeks have been interesting because it seems that the Lord has been putting global missions on my heart and reminding me to pray for the nations of the world. I still continue to read the book "A Hole in our Gospel" and am challenged by it. I often smile at how the Lord seems to weave conversations and people together at just the right time. Last week I had coffee with a friend and his wife who are involved in missions in Egypt and Africa. This week I have been communicating more with one of my friends (and former roommate in the DR) who has been serving in Sudan and I also got an update from my friend who is doing Bible translating work with Wycliffe in Chad.

When I was home for Christmas, I spent several hours one evening talking with good friends from high school, one of whom just was in Liberia for a few weeks. I love talking with them because they are very passionate about missions, ministry, and the Lord. I am curious to see if, how, and when the Lord brings them back to Liberia again. (Maybe next time I will go too..)

And this week I talked with my family in the DR. I used to go to their house every Tuesday for dinner and prayer. I miss that and I miss them. Perhaps a visit there soon would be good!

All this being said, the Lord's desire is for nations to come together in worship of Him. He longs for us to pray for the nations of the world, to be open to His work, and praise His name. The theme for Urbana 2000 was this:
Psalm 117:
Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

So as 2011 approaches, I am praying that the Lord would be praised around the world, that nations would come together in worship, and that I would have a heavenly perspective/vision of the world.

So join with me in praying for the nations and many missionaries around the world:

For brothers and sisters in Christ in Ukraine and Slovakia
For friends and family in the DR
For Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ
For my friend Larissa and her work in Sudan
For Joey and the people in Chad
For the mission work of Engineering Ministries International
For my good friends Kelly and April Crull and their church plant in Madrid, Spain
For Liberia and the orphanage and church there
For missionary friends in the DR working with Young Life
For the work of World Vision in Africa and around the world
For my friend Josh Davis and Proskuneo Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia

There is much to pray for...Who but the LORD knows what the year 2011 will hold!
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Somebody Else's Kids

It's Christmas break. I've spent the last few days on the couch with a nasty cold. But also spent the last few days doing a lot of reading. Some friends of mine have been reading the book The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns and mentioned how much it had challenged them. Coincidently, Richard is the current president of World Vision. So I picked it up and so far have been captivated by his stories and his questions of What does God expect of us? and What does it mean for God's kingdom to come?

To quote Stearns from a chapter I read today, "If we are honest with ourselves, we must simply admit that we have less empathy for people of other cultures living in faraway countries that we do for Americans. Our compassion for others seems to be directly related to whether people are close to us socially, economically, culturally, ethnically, emotionally, and geographically. But why do we distinguish the value of one human life from another? Why is it so easy to shut out the cries of these dying foreign children from our ears?"

These are somebody else's kids.

Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, prayed, "Let my heart my broken by the things that break the heart of God." In other words, may we care as God cares and love as God loves.

Reading this book brings me back to the Dominican Republic.

Living in the Dominican Republic changed how I viewed myself, the church body, and the world. I saw how large the body of Christ is and how beautiful it is to worship in another language/culture. I developed a better understanding of selflessness and the importance of enjoying people. I also was awakened to the reality of poverty and the injustice of the large gaps between the rich and the poor around the world.

Some of my favorite memories of the DR were visiting orphanages, bringing toys to kids in the barrio with my friend Bielka, delivering food to Haitian bateyes with local missionaries at Christmas time, and doing kids clubs with other teachers on the weekends. There were so many needs, so many kids and all many of them wanted was a little love and a hug.

These were somebody else's kids.

Now I come back to Santiaguito. I think he has a beautiful smile as all Dominican kids do! Santiaguito lives with his mother, 2 brothers, and 3 sisters. His mother is a housewife and struggles to provide for the family. They live in an area southwest of Santiago, the city were I lived. Their community has been affected by HIV and AIDS. Money that comes to support Santiaguito will meet his needs and also help with prevention and care programs in his community.

Santiaguito is someone else's kid.

There are lots of "somebody else's kids" out there.

"And if anyone gives a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

If you are looking for a good read, pick up the book---A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.
At the end of the book, it gives lots of suggestions of ways to help World Vision or to serve and reach out to the poor around the world.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Meet Santiaguito

It is now the dead of winter. Our last posts were from September before our marathon. It doesn't seem real that I ran 26.2 miles in October. All that training, all those miles and long runs and's over. It was definitely the hardest race I have ever run but well worth it. I know that now somewhere in Africa several villages will have access to clean water because of all the money that was raised through World Vision and the marathon.

Now another type of training has begun for a shorter race. This time with a different purpose--for one person-- a young man named Santiaguito. Santiaguito is 10. He lives in the Dominican Republic. He loves math and baseball. I would imagine that he plays baseball with a stick and a bottle cap with other boys in his community. Many Dominican boys love baseball and that's how they start to play. Santiaguito lives in a community that has been severely affected by the HIV and AIDS crisis. Because I used to live in the Dominican Republic, I have a special love for Santiaguito and this community.

In January, I will be running a half marathon in Phoenix with World Vision in honor of Santiaguito. By running that day, I will help to provide clean water, food, health care, and economic opportunity for Santiaguito and his community.

"And Jesus took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." Mark 10:16

Please join me in praying for Santiaguito and others who are being affected by the HIV/AIDS Crisis around the world.
If you are looking for alternative Christmas gifts, go to and search for their Gift Catalog.