Monday, December 6, 2010

Piedras Negras

The San Antonio Border Ministries Board offered a challenge to the churches involved to donate 500 toys. The toys would go towards a few Christmas parties held at orphanages and Methodist churches in Piedras Negras, Mexico. Alamo Heights United Methodist Church committed to trying to collect at least 150 toys to send to the effort. Over the two weeks that we collected toys for this event we ended up collecting more than 190 toys!!! Thank you so much to this amazing community for making Christmas special for the children of Piedras Negras!

On Saturday, December 4, Wendy and Dave Meaden and myself set off at 6:45 for the two and a half hour drive into Eagle Pass. Once there we met up with the delegations from several other San Antonio churches and crossed the border into Piedras Negras. The first church that we visited was called Senor de Senores. We worshipped with the children and church members for several songs and then went into a back room to prepare the lunches that we had also brought for the kids. When all was ready we handed out toys and lunches and played with the kids. At the next church, San Pablo, even more children greeted us with smiles. They brought the team to the front and prayed over us before we had distributed the toys and lunches. Seeing each of those children with their eyes closed and hands extended towards us in prayer to our G-d warmed my heart.

Next we visited the church that AHUMC has been a long time supporter of, Aleluya Church. Unfortunately, the children in this area of the city were suffering from a chicken pox outbreak and we weren’t able to spend time with them. We did leave them their toys in the hands of Pastor Hector. Without the children there, we were able

to spend much time in conversation with Pastor Hector and the family that cares for the community at Aleluya, Flavio and Mari. These people are amazing! They are devoted to loving G-d and their neighbor and you can feel it in the way they talk and live. The cross ministry of this church is still running str

ong. If you are interested in supporting this ministry please visit

Lastly, we visited the House of Mercy orphanage and the missionary there, David Smith. They had just finished their December birthday celebration and the children were helping clean up. They received Christmas toys from us as well, but are waiting a little longer to distribute them. David expressed how deeply thankful that he is for all of the help that we at AHUMC have contributed to the orphans that he cares for.

The day was absolutely beautiful. Once again, thank all of you for supporting our neighbors in Piedras Negras. Even amid safety concerns that have prevented us from sending groups of missionaries to these locations, we have still been able to help these people spread the love of our Father. We are continuing to evaluate the situation in this town and look forward to the time that we are able to begin again to send missionaries to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Please pray for all of these ministries and for more opportunities for us to serve them!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fishing Under the Bridge

I recently listened to a radio program in which the hosts asked several visitors from third world countries what the most surprising and absurd thing was about America. The majority of the respondents replied that homeless shelters and assisted living centers for the elderly were among the most mind-boggling things that they had seen. People from third world countries could not understand the need for a soup kitchen.

On Sunday, a group of us went down to Haven for Hope, to volunteer in the kitchen and serve lunch. Kathie Love has led this ministry for some time now and started under the Commerce Street bridge across from the emergency SAMM shelter. The venue has recently changed due to the new Haven for Hope facility off of Frio St. We now spend time preparing the meal in Haven’s kitchen and then serving the residents in a Luby’s type serving line.

I stayed in the back during the serving time and let the folks that have not worked with people that are homeless before take the positions at the counter. My place at the fry station had a great view of the left side of the serving line. The residents began lining up at the doors about fifteen minutes prior to serving time. A few minutes later I saw a few of the folks usher up a very young man. This guy was about 18 years old and carried a cane. He was blind. He stood there, in front of the glass paned door with his head down. I could not figure out if perhaps that was just his typical stance or maybe he just kept his head down from a feeling of dejection. Then it dawned on me that perhaps he was praying… My heart had already warmed at the sight of the other guests leading him to the front of the line, and now my heart melted. When the doors were finally opened he stepped up to the lady at the register and handed her his ID with a subtle but noticeable smile. He moved down the line and I lost sight of him. His image is burned in my mind, and I can’t help but think that he has no way of knowing that that downward tilt of his head and soft smile had effected somebody so greatly. I prayed for him at that moment and am still praying for him. We served somewhere around 400 meals.

Where are we that an 18-year-old blind boy must spend his days and nights in a multi-million dollar homeless shelter? Are there really no other solutions? Why do we have homes specifically for the elderly to go when they have aged beyond the point of our own comfort? Should these folks not be in our own homes? We are caring for them and helping them, but is it in a way that takes some of their human dignity from them? I am not saying that these forms of aid and care should be done away with, I even ask you to support them. But please do pray about how we can make our own backyard a better world for its inhabitants. Ask G-d to show us how we can better love our neighbors.

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”
Matthew 25:31-40

To find out more about volunteering for Fishing Under the Bridge, please e-mail Ryan Jacobson.

To find out more about Haven for Hope and service opportunities at this facility, please click here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Holy Moments

Yesterday, I was on my way to The Foundry for an afternoon coffee and to get some work done while spending some time with the folks there.  As I exited 281 at Mulberry, I noticed a green SUV in the right lane with the hood up, door opened, and the hazards flashing.  I went around the SUV and like any good rubbernecker, craned around to get a look at the people in trouble.  In the grass on the side of the road were two young women and two young children.  They were sitting on a blanket and looked like they had been sitting there for a while.  I turned right...

G-d asked where I was going.  I said, "I guess to the next place that I could turn around and get back to them."  So that's what I did.  I pulled up behind the SUV and turned on my own hazards.  I opened the door and climbed out and walked around my car.

"Can I help you with anything or give you a lift to a gas station?"
"No, my sister's on her way.  It overheated and we think a hose broke"
"Well, I will never be mistaken for a mechanic, but I do have a cold A/C in my car.  Would you all like to just sit in there until your help arrives?"

The two young women and the two young boys piled in as I moved stuff out of the way.  We made a little small talk about where we lived and I looked at pictures of one of the boys spiderman toy that he was taking with his aunt's camera.

I talked about my recent travels and how much I loved a gig where my job is to do things to help people.
They asked me a few times, "Do you need to be somewhere or have something your supposed to be doing?"
"Nope.  The cool thing about my job is that this is part of it."
I thought to myself... this really is part of it! How awesome is that!  This is where I'm supposed to be and this is what I am supposed to be doing!

The two girls were very worried about my time, and I thought how nice it was just to be sitting and offering some comfort.  Their sister arrived and I helped push the truck up the road and out of the way.

Time, such an interesting thing.  I am usually a very task and goal oriented type of person.  Time must be spent and invested in some purpose.  This can quickly become a very unhealthy way to live.  It has been unhealthy for me before.  I have prayed a lot about it though and have been trying to learn more about sabbath.  G-d has helped me out in this, but I still have a ways to go.  I started reading a book last night by one of the most influential spiritual hearts in contemporary times.  It's called simply The Sabbath.  Abraham Joshua Heschel was a rabbi born in 1907.  He lived to 1972 and his writings are very highly regarded by Christians and Jews.  The Sabbath was originally published in 1951 and I only recently picked it up.  Because of my lack of time management skills, I have only just begun to read it.  The book is only about 100 pages long, but after I read the first three paragraphs for the fifth time I realized that the weight of the book is much more than it appears.  The language is not hard to understand, but the ideas and concepts while easily grasped are mind bending and the implications for our everyday life are astounding.

"Technical civilization is man's conquest of space.  It is a triumph frequently achieved by sacrificing an essential ingredient, namely, time.  In technical civilization, we expend time to gain space.  To enhance our power in the world of space is our main objective.  Yet to have more does not mean to be more.  The power we attain in the world of space terminates abruptly at the borderline of time.  But time is the heart of existence."

This is just the first paragraph of the prologue!  In the bible, the very first thing to be called Holy is a day.  It is not a rock, a mountain, a person, or even G-d himself.  It is a specific unit of time: the seventh day.  And this day has no influence from the material world.  It marks a ceasing of being engulfed by the material.  Time and space are inricately connected in our world, but the G-d who created and transcends both first designates time as holy and the designation of a holy place only comes at the request of misguided man.

Helping a few stranded motorists and taking the time out of my day from what I had intended to be doing taught me something very valuable.  I can use time for my own gain.  I could have been getting stuff done.  I, instead, sat for an hour in an unmoving car waving other cars past me and telling stories of how G-d has been helping orphans in Africa and how I was lucky enough to be involved.  I have no clue what those girls and the children are doing today and I didn't ask them if they had Jesus in their lives or even ask them to pray with me.  I do know that just the chance to share what G-d has done for me is amazing.  I do know that those people were touched by G-d's love and that I got to be part of it.  I know that that time was precious and holy even though I didn't get anything tangible done.  I rejoice in that, even though I feel somewhat uncomfortable sharing it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Back Home!

So, I am back in the States, finished with this summer's world tour. Recovery is slow. We had three more days in Israel since my last post. Places traveled were Mt. Carmel, Caesarea, and Jerusalem. The climb at Carmel is grueling but well worth it when you hear the faith lesson at the top about Elijah's fiery passion. Caesarea was yet another location that demonstrated the ultimate futility of living life like Herod. All of his architecture has crumbled, his riches are gone. The Kingdom of Heaven is still here. Jerusalem was amazing, and there was so much to see and learn. Hezekiah's tunnel, the pools of Siloam and Bethesda, the Western Wall, and the Mt. of Olives are just a few places that we visited.

So what is next? At AHUMC we will be focusing on both local and international mission. Fishing Under the Bridge and the Foundry are a couple of great opportunties for those of you who would like to impact the world in our own backyard. We will also be gathering information for future mission trips to Piedras Negras, Mexico and Los Guidos, Costa Rica. Please send me an email if you would like to be connected to any of these ministries or have any questions.

"Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?"

Isaiah 58:6

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Catching Up

Wow. It’s only been a few days since I posted anything, but the days are so full here that I feel far behind. You are just going to have to ask me about these experiences for me to really be able to communicate to you the learning and blessing that we are all receiving. Here’s a quick list…

Qumran – We learned about the dedication behind the transcription of the scripture. The people group likely here were Essenes who were extremely devout. Their faithfulness is amazing, but they are shut off from the rest of the world. A very tough climb!!

Ein Gedi – The desert oasis. David spent time here while running from Saul. The faith lesson was on the reality of living water in the desert and what it means when Jesus tells us that he is the living water. If you know Travis Wert, ask him about the awesome gift he gave us here! We are so proud of this young man!

Capernaum – Here we learn about where Jesus claims to derive his authority, or as the rabbis call it, smicha.

Korazim – Community!!! We study the communal way of life of the first century Jewish community that Jesus was a part of. The families were close knit and lived in what was essentially one home with a central courtyard

Bethsaida – Peter, Andrew, Phillip, James and John are from this tiny fishing village. We think of them as children and the potential that our own children have. We also learn of the dedication that they grew in and here the story of the martyrdom of Phillip.

Tagbha – a small spring on the shoreline of the Galilee. This is likely the spot that the disciples were fishing when Jesus meets them at the shore.

Gamla – Home of a group of Jewish zealots. Their story is powerful and sad. This is the passion that Jesus draws on. He calls at least one and perhaps two identifiable zealots to join his disciples.

Caesarea Phillippi – One of my favorite teachings. Disgusting worship of the pagan god Pan was centered here and Jesus proclaims that on this rock he will build his church. Inspiration and an invitation to go to the tough, hard, perhaps nasty places and show them some true love.

Jordan River – We learn of John’s baptism of repentance and the necessity to approach the world with wet feet.

Beit She’an – One of the cities of the pagan Decapolis. We learn to appreciate G-d’s created beauty and not our own faulty creations. We get a taste of the Hellenistic world that Jesus’ message seems to denounce at every turn.

Susita – Another city of the Decapolis. Here we discuss the absolute necessity of each of us telling our own story trough a study of Jesus with the demon processed man on the other side.

Mt. Arbel – Another very tough climb. We learn the power and importance of prayer, especially prayer guided by G-d’s own words.

Nazareth Quarry – A long walk from here to the next location. We learn of ancient boundaries, uncut corners, and a couple of tectons from nearby Nazareth.

Zippori – Another taste of the culture of Hellenism in this world. We also study the strange interactions within the Herodian family and how Jesus uses the present stories around him in his ministry.

Tonight closed with an awesome boat ride from the eastern shorline to our kibbutz on the western shoreline. The wind was blowing and the sea sprayed all over us. We were soaked and exhilarated by it.

Bless G-d for his awesome creation and his willingness to let us inhabit it. Bless G-d for the story he told us through his word, and the story tells everyday through each of us.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Time in the Desert

I have a feeling this may be a short post. We have been wandering in the desert for the last few days and it has been absolutely amazing. The trip has been eye opening and promise-fulfilling and I am pretty well tired. Not exhausted, but very tired.

Yesterday began in Arad, where we learned how ancient covenants were cut between two men. G-d made his covenant with Abraham and walked the blood path for his part of the agreement, and then walked through again for Abraham's part. That moment condemned Jesus to die when we failed to live up to our end of the bargain. Arad also has a smaller version of Solomon's temple. We learned the layout. The temple here is strange for a couple of different reasons. First, it is a temple to the Lord that is not the Jerusalem temple. This already should throw up a flag or two and questions should be raised why sacrifice and worship of G-d was happening here. The second peculiarity, and the much more alarming, is that two masabot, standing stones, were found in the Holy of Holies. The second stone is thought to represent Asherah as the Lord's wife. This was scary to think about as we stood there staring at the stones. Lunch was with a group of Bedouins and it was an amazing experience to feel the love and hospitality from these people that have next to nothing. The day finished at Masada, one of Herod's strongholds. We explored part of Herod's story and heard the story of the final days of the final zealots to fight against Rome 70 years later.

Today began at Timna. The place is stunning and imposing. We learned much of the Israelites wanderings and the 40 year road of recovering from centuries of slavery. We explored where we are still enslaved personally and communally and asked our Father to free as as he did his children then. Finally, we hiked down the Wadi Zohar. Again the terrain is breathtaking. We talked more about slavery, and explored more deeply the idea of G-d's overwhelming love and power and will to take people out of it.

The desert has been amazing thus far, and we still have a little more time in it. G-d dwells in the desert and it is his. When we experience desert times in our lives he is holding us, shaping us, and growing us. At the end of the desert is a promise. It could be the promised land as with the Israelites, or it could be something else deeply powerful and personal for us. It is a gift from G-d and a promise that we can trust will be good and would probably blow us away if we realized his true intentions and will for us.

Thank you, Father, for forming and defining us in the desert. We would not be who we are without it. Thank you for when we emerge from the desert. Thank you for your promise at the end.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

First Fruits in the Holy Land

It has been an exhausting travel time thus far. We should have been landing in Tel Aviv about three hours ago, but the delay in Charlotte prevented that. The delay was caused by bad weather in North Carolina and exacerbated by a few grumpy passengers. One was escorted off of the plane in Charlotte before we even took off and another was arrested upon arrival in New York. Add to these a number of commuters that shouted to be let off of the plane as we taxied to our gate and we were having a regular ole hootin good time. With how much I’ve been on planes in the last few weeks, I was somewhat annoyed by the fact that we would be missing some daylight in Israel, but knew that I wasn’t in control nor would I ever be so I might as well roll with the punches.

We entered the chapel in the New York airport for a quick word from Scott and prayer. We then moseyed over to the synagogue and were greeted by an enthusiastic rabbi. He gave us a very quick synopsis on the present reality of the Kingdom of G-d and the meaning behind the use of the word Holy three times so often in our text and exaltation of the Lord, as in Isaiah 6. “Kodosh! Kodosh! Kodosh!” is said to mean, Holy on earth, and holy in the heavens, and holy forever and ever. The man was articulate and passionate. Bless G-d for such a gift!

The company of folks on this trip are amazing and we will be returning with a lot of exciting new and deepened old relationships. Through the delay in Charlotte I can only imagine what the other passengers thought of us. We were able to preserve our joy and we let it ring pretty loudly at times. I hope that it resonated from us and into some of our fellow passengers. Smiles are abundant in this group as are random outbursts of song and prayer. Absolutely beautiful.

At the initial security checkpoint, I was the last one of our group through. I ended up surrounded by a number of the El Al workers for one reason or another and heard Scott from a few yards away say that I should share with them. I replied that I was trying to understand the Hebrew they were speaking and that every other word wasn’t quite enough. This brought some smiles to the faces of the rather young Israeli security team. They asked about my studies and the meaning of my necklace. I wear a pendant that has the Mogen David (Star of David) set around the cross. Perfect! I told them that I follow Jesus as my Rabbi and that I love to study the world in which he walked. I told them that as such, I greatly appreciated the life that our messiah led as a Jew in the first century world of Israel. I love the aspect of my faith that is found in these Jewish roots. I am just a wild branch grafted in, and try my hardest not to become arrogant at this favor from the Lord. The team around me smiled more, and I couldn’t tell if they genuinely appreciated my words or if they were just thinking, “What a na├»ve little Christ follower!” Either way they were kind and I pray that G-d blesses them. We finally made our way onto the plane to Tel Aviv. The plane lifted off at midnight New York time, much later than our originally planned 7:00 pm departure. Oh well. G-d will bless this trip and will pour out on each of us and each of you who have followed us in heart and spirit. He really has already begun.


We unloaded in Tel Aviv quickly and met with our Israeli guide and Scott’s fellow Ray Vaander Laan talmid, Tim Becksvoort. We got on the tour bus and headed to Gezer. We are asked the questions, “Who are you? Why are you here?” We will soon find out. There are dead stones in Gezer. Standing, yet the story they tell has been long forgotten. For us to be living stones as Peter tells us that we are, we need to tell the story: the story that G-d has told for centuries and the story that he is telling today through each of our individual lives and especially through our relational and communal lives.

Bless G-d for this beginning. He is good and his love endures forever.


Today started pretty early. Ben and I woke up pretty early and were able to take our time getting ready for the day. After breakfast we went down to do our morning devotional. We discussed ho G-d sometimes asks us to push an immovable rock. He doesn’t ask us to move it, but just to push. In this way something mundane and regular may be strengthening us for whatever purpose G-d has for us, and even when we may tire of the mundane task at hand.

We traveled first to Zorah, the birthplace of Samson. The hike was not too rough to start with. We discussed the mistakes that Samson made, the mistakes the tribe of Dan made in moving from this land of Shephelah. The comparison of the response of the perpetrators of these two sins has some real implications. Samson makes the hall of the faithful in Hebrews 11 despite his reckless and selfish life because of one small turn at the end. Dan, however, appears to be lost as they are left out of the sealed tribes in the book of Revelation.

From there, we made our way to Azekah. Azekah over looks the valley of Elah, the location of the famous fight between David and Goliath. We learned that David’s use of a sling was an everyday mundane activity for a sheperd boy, and how that activity became immensely valuable in the face of the 6 cubit tall Philistine. We made our way down into the valley and were each able to find 5 smooth white stones in the very wadi in which David found his. Ask me about all of the implications of the numbers used in this passage!!

The day closed at Lachish. We saw yet another result of what happens when a mighty man mocks the almighty G-d and what happens when a small man opens his heart to G-d’s will.

The day ended with a drive south into the desert. Upon entering the Negev, I could not help but to let some tears fall. The desert is where G-d defined his chosen people. Today G-d uses deserts in each of our lives to define and grow us. I have recently been in my own desert, and was overcome with joy at the transformation resulting from the experience, but also somewhat afraid of transformation is yet to come. We wander out tomorrow.

The final bit of the evening was blessed by a dip in the Dead Sea. Let me just tell you that it was absolutely amazing.

Bless G-d for quirky creations, quirky people, and the quirky situations that we find ourselves in. He has blessed us more than any of us will ever know.