Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Monday, January 29, 2007
Last night Steve visited an open men's 12 step group with several of our key male leaders. It is a unique and very satisfying foray into healing men from the ravages of intentional and intensive Soviet emasculation. Our good friend Yevgeny came by and led Steve by Metro and footsteps to the church that sponsors so many of the Recovery programs. Steve enjoyed the time and shared several new bits of good information with the guys. Then they returned to the hotel where we packed and prepared to leave for home.
Our team and the participants have a hunger for healing that exceeds almost any group I have ever seen. They have to work so hard to even participate that they are often exhausted when they arrive but still they work hard to change. Please pray for our team.
One footnote. Yesterday we met with the heads of a Denomination that has ten schools and seminaries around Russia. They asked us to prepare a training curriculum for all ten cities and send teams to teach the students there. The man who shared the details was severely persecuted for his faith and was denied a college education because he was a Christian. His grandfather was shot and killed because he refused to recant. Now the family leads their group's push to educate and train thousands of pastors and church leaders. WOW! May God bless them.
We are coming home today.
Then I clicked on the Cincinnati Enquirer and took a look at the traffic cameras located out near my house in Symmes Twp. The temp was about the same as it is in Moscow but the traffic was sparse compared to what the people face here in this city of 14 million. (Traffic was stuck for hours last week during the first real snow of the season. Thousands of people entertained themselves with text messaging each other and the local radio station for traffic news. One guy was struck by the Christmas decorations that are still up and proclaimed, "What are you people doing leaving those decorations up this late?)
Sunday, January 28, 2007
The need for EQ in this nation cannot be overestimated. You may remember that the Communist Party strictly forbade the Church from educating its members in piety, love, kindness and compassion. In fact, the Law of 1929 was a direct attack on the core values of human caring as set forth in the Bible and God's family for the past 4,000 years.
In an earlier post I mentioned that in 1999 Mr. Gorbachev sent his Ambassador to Norway to the Norwegian Bible Society to ask for a favor. He asked that they print and distribute free several hundred thousand Bibles in Russian. "Why" they asked the Ambassador. "Because we have found that the Bible's message is critically important to the development of caring among the people. As a result of Atheism's worship of no-god, all that is lovely and beautiful was also killed.
The wonderful pastors and lay Christians who have graduated from our training are bright and beautiful light houses of love, sensitivity and compassion in a country devastated by evil for 70 years. Pastor Anatoly, seen here with Steve and Anya planning the retreat, has preached, taught and modeled God's emotional responses among his people and they are catching the vision of showing their community the way of the Spirit. Pray for him and his wife and team as they share God's light in a dark world.
Steve, Galina and Brother Yevgeny travelled to Ramonskoe Saturday to teach Anatoly's people about the biblical approach to male-female relationships. They had a great time with lots of laughs and learning's about conflict and caring. The is Christian EQ in action.
We are reproducing in Russia the programs we developed around the USA. Thank God we learned how to train lay pastors, small group leaders and lay counselors at CHPC and Upper Arlington. God graciously gave us some terrific people to practice with and on so we can offer the Russian Christians the wisdom we developed back then.
This is the primary way to bring evangelizing, healing and church growth to a hurting world.
As we read the various stories about the good, bad and ugly characters that fill the pages of scripture we cannot help but notice they are filled with emotions. Sometimes these emotions result in acts of kindness and caring but at other times the result is harmful to themselves and to others. These good emotions are called, "The fruit of the Holy Spirit."
It is obvious to me that the bad, ugly and damaging emotions of humans do not originate with God. They are contrary to God and contrary to God's will. They are what we call, fleshly or sinful in nature and God is holy and without sin. So, we can have some feelings that are right and holy and some that are wrong and unholy.
Most of my professional life I have worked to help people transform their unholy and unhealthy emotions into feelings that are pleasing to God and man. This was the focus of my 1975 doctoral dissertation and several books that came from that work. Here in Russia we are happily carrying the same call of God with great results in the lives of leaders and their flocks.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Friday, January 26, 2007
One of the most amazing things we observed this week is the way so many of the team has implemented their understandings into their own lives. For example, we heard several testimonies from the team about how they have looked carefully at their family histories and saw patterns of dysfunction that flowed from generation to generation. In each case, they took action to prayerfully seek healing from God for that pattern and are now experiencing the peace that comes from reconciliation.
The family life in Russia was devastated by the policies of the Soviet system. The result is divorce, alcoholism and domestic violence at alarming rates. Thank God that He has revealed ways to heal the family tree and break these patterns for future generations.
These testimonies have convinced me that I need to intensify my efforts to teach people the benefits of family of origin work. I want to show them how to bring Christ's healing flow into their troubled places. Please pray for our friends in Russia as they spread the gospel to others.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Pavel is telling us about his good news. Natalia, Yerina and Natalia getting ready to fight the weather.
One such association was called, by my loose English translation, The Association of Evangelical Churches, and it gathered about 120 new churches into its fold. There is a variety of theological persuasions and types of churches. Some were established with the help of American or other missionary societies. Many grew up as a result of God's sovereign work in bringing people to Himself who then sensed a call to minister to other new believers. Few have any pastoral or leadership training.
A high percentage of the members are Reformed and Presbyterian and they are the very first people I have met over here who are from that persuasion. Galina has ministered to several of them personally and with their congregations. For the past two days, Steve and I along with seven members of the Life ways Team, had a seminar for some 20 members of the group at their seminary. They loved the fact that I understand their theology and were very open to receive our teachings.
The churches here are very fragile. The barriers to growth and ministry are so numerous and foreign to us that it is hard to explain what we actually do and teach. For example, it takes some of the participants over two hours by train, subway and bus to get to the seminary. They are often so exhausted that learning is a challenge. Yet, they listen intently and were extremely responsive to our approach. Our team did a marvellous job with testimonies and teachings.
At the end of each training session we ask for insights from the participants. With one exception, every leader shared a key learning and made a decision to take steps to change their behavior. This was a great blessing for us and them. Pray that God will show us and them how we can support the Association as it plans better training and support for its pastors and leaders.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Every Wednesday night in March I will be teaching people how to do a genogram and come to a better understanding of their "Family of Origin". This class will be very interactive, lots of fun and deliver a bunch of healing.
I did not begin to really understand myself, let alone my children, parents and siblings, until I had completed four or five generations of my genogram. The genogram is quite simple to construct but it can reveal a lot of old patterns and how they are able to affect me and my offspring now.
I am planning to involve the group in "Family Sculpting" and developing "Family Maps". These are dramatic ways to see how the family changes when a big event occurs. So, I am hoping to see you with me at the groups on Wednesday evenings. Call the VCC for more information.
(Hurry and make your plans. I may never teach this again!)
Steve and Olga doing a role play to show how family relationships can be healthier. We have certainly seen a lot of healing take place as a result of our ministry. It is obvious that the only hope for a great future in Russia lies in the churches learning how to be healing communities.
We get to teach 25 Pastors this week so please pray for us. Olga and her husband Sergei are very active in their church and are set to lead a "Teleios Team" in the near future. Lay people who know how to care and counsel and set up 12 step groups are critically important to this nation.
Monday, January 22, 2007
Friday, January 19, 2007
Gary with Mathias and Carie who run three hostels in Prague. One is next door to this interestingly named Italian place. Carie is from San Diego and Mathias from Germany who met at church. This is truly an international city.
On the left Gary is buying a local delicacy called, TURDLO. It always makes me laugh to say it. It is finally getting cold here so it seems more normal to walk around the city or take a tram.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
The Passport company had trouble getting the letter so they called and said, "Send more money." It sounded like my son when he was in college. So, Saturday came and the Visa arrived but no letter of invitation. I am in a panic for Monday is my flight to Prague and it is a holiday. I called Galina to see if she can get one to me but they say, "Ours will not match the one registered by the Passport company.
I called and I called but nobody answered. I was nervous. However, they called me back just before I left for the airport and said, "The letter is in the fax." I went to the office and it was there. Panic over. Prayers answered. No money back because of there mistakes. OK, I am just glad to be in Prague with a Valid Visa for Russia.
My flight was late out of New York. Remind me next time to avoid New York. But, Czech Air made up the time and we got in to Prague at 8:00 AM. PTL! The people cheered when we landed. I joined them even though the flight was smooth and the crew was excellent.
Craig Springer was there to pick me up and we had a great time sharing today. More on that later. Now it is time to sleep. I have meetings and a teaching tomorrow.
Prayers and praise needed. Thanks!
Sunday, January 14, 2007
In my last post I mentioned the research by a Dutch professor who has studied various cultures and tried to analyze them according to several key characteristics such as Individuality, Masculinity and Submissiveness. Because each of us varies on these characteristics the whole community can come up with greater insights and decisions when we learn to cooperate and listen to each other.
This will be my first ministry trip to the Czech Republic and I am excited about learning how to relate with them so we can share the gospel more effectively. Part of the learning can only come by trial and error but I hope to avoid the major errors by preparing in advance of my trip. That preparation led to the discovery of the Dutch prof's web site.
We know that the former Czechoslovakia is one of the least evangelized nations in Europe so the opportunities are great. I expect to see many conversions in the near future as a result of the movement to plant churches in Prague and reach the general public. I am visiting Craig and Sarah Springer to help them design effective ways to touch the people in Prague.
My strategy is to first build up the church and its leaders. Most of the efforts by Westerners to hold "Evangelistic Meetings" failed in the Eastern Bloc. Few of the people who came to such meeting in the Nineties are uninvolved in the church today. There was too little follow-up. They did a lot of street witnessing, preaching and tracts by Christians from the USA, Scandinavia and Germany, but not much fruit. Those who started with the Lord soon fell away because there was no fellowship, teaching or trained leaders.
I don't do open air evangelism. I am not as skilled and gifted as the local Russians. As a Chinese Christian said, "Please tell the Americans we love them but we do not want or need them to teach us about evangelism. We are experts in evangelism but we do not know much about discipleship. Tell them to send us trainers and teachers."
I can't speak the language or follow up with pastoral care. However, the local pastors, counselors and mature lay people have the needed skills and desire to do all those things. So, we train them how to do pastoral care more effectively.
It is also very costly to send large numbers of Americans to evangelize overseas. Even when we go build a school or church it costs a lot of money. That money can often be better spent by giving it to the local Christians who then hire poor people from the church and community to do the construction. National Christians need to be seriously consulted before we suggest any type of ministry "for them".
No nation wants to be told what to do or how to do it. Especially when they can do it better than we. So, the first lesson is to listen carefully to their needs, their desires and their requests. An acrostic I like is AS I GREW: Always Spiritual, Inviting while Genuine; Respectful; Empathic and Warm
Genuine by knowing yourself and what you are thinking and feeling. When we are unaware of our own inner life we can react with frustration, anger or frenzy rather than peace, love and joy.
Respectful of all persons, giving them and their nation, religion, culture and family honor.
Empathic Listening that works hard to understand the ideas and feelings of others.
Warm Caring that indicates you are interested in the other person.
Cross cultural ministry is hard work and requires self knowledge, understanding others and the understanding of a culture. But the work pays off with friendships, influence and spiritual advances. We always follow the B.S/B.S. Principle that says: Build Solidly/Build Slowly for the work needs to stand for centuries.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Take a look at these two graphs from a Dutch Professor from over 100,000 IBM employees around the world. USA is on the left and Scandinavia the right. The web is
The far left Triangle is Power Difference or how Submissive people are. The USA is a little higher. The second is Individualism and both are high but the USA is the highest in the world, scoring 91 out of 100. The third is crucial to why so many Europeans find us unlikable. It is Masculinity and we are very high but they are very low. They see us as "Cowboys" with guns and big talk. When we say that we will "Kick terrorists out of America" they cringe and want to "negotiate". They saw Saddam's capital punishment as awful as his murders.
Most media folks have never studied the psychology of perceptions nor have they looked seriously at the large differences in people cross culturally. Whatever our cultural is seems to be THE ONE RIGHT WAY all cultures should be.
Will Rogers was asked after he returned from a tour of France what he thought of Paris. He mused for awhile and replied, "They have the smartest people in the world. Every one of them, even including the children, can speak a foreign language." Rogers was pointing out that Americans see every other language and culture as unnatural.
While Europeans are much less Masculine in preference than Americans, most Middle Eastern Muslims are even more Masculine. They see America as "The Great Satan" because of our loose sexual mores, alcohol and drug consumption, disrespect for parents and leaders as well as God. Why do they hate us? Because of our "sinful ways and our lack of courage". That makes both evangelism and foreign policy quite a challenge. They ask, "Why would I choose a religion and a government that promotes immorality? We punish sinners but you coddle them."
When I travel and minister overseas I always listen a lot. I try to understand the local culture and how to communicate accurately. For example, most cultures are much quieter than we in the USA. We speak loudly and laugh like donkeys to quote a man from Europe. We tell people how they should run their lives and countries and we seem to know it all. They cannot get the good news of Christ if its meaning is distorted by my clumsy style of talking and laughing.
At a retreat in Norway Steve was teaching and I interrupted him to tell a story. This was our natural and normal style of being a tag team and helping each other out. However, since I was the "Boss" my interrupting was seen as very rude and crass. Both Steve and I had a lot of explaining to do. It was a terrible faux pas on my part.
Please pray for us as I go to Prague for a week and join Steve in Moscow for ten days. We need the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job. One of the key values in the Eastern bloc is PATIENCE and that is not an American or a Sweeten virtue. (Steve is much better than I.) We are going to be very busy so we do need physical, emotional and spiritual strength.
January 15-20 Gary to Prague
January 20-30 Steve and Gary in Moscow
Here is part of what the reviewers said about it.
Christopher Hedges, the former Times reporter,... has a new book out with the hauntingly ambivalent title, "American Fascists -- The Christian Right and the War on America." Contributor Rick Perlstein reviews it in Sunday's book section and finds it unconvincing:
"Hedges was a longtime foreign correspondent, for The New York Times and other publications. But he writes on this subject as a neophyte, and pads out his dispatches with ungrounded theorizing, unconvincing speculation and examples that fall far short of bearing out his thesis."
By not quoting from Hedges book, Perlstein was kind. The Los Angeles Times assigned its review to professor Jon Wiener, who delves deeper into Hedges' text and unearths disturbing quotations suggesting the "liberal" Hedges has an authoritarian intolerance for opinions he disagrees with.
Here's an excerpt from Wiener's unfavorable review of "American Fascists.""Nevertheless, Hedges concludes that the Christian right 'should no longer be tolerated,' because it 'would destroy the tolerance that makes an open society possible.' What does he think should be done? He endorses the view that 'any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law,' and therefore we should treat 'incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal.'
Thus he rejects the 1st Amendment protections for freedom of speech and religion, and court rulings that permit prosecution for speech only if there is an imminent threat to particular individuals."Hedges advocates passage of federal hate-crimes legislation prohibiting intolerance, but he doesn't really explain how it would work. But does this mean that Hedges favors prosecuting Christian fundamentalists for declaring, for example, that abortion providers are murderers or that secular humanists are agents of Satan? He doesn't say."
As I work with Evangelicals it never occurs to me that we are a threat to any body's freedom. We can barely round up ten ministers to attend a free lunch to discuss evangelism let alone enough "Right Wing Nuts" that could take over the country. But Mr. Hedges is absolutely sure we have great power to coerce the government. He thinks that George W. Bush is in our pocket.
I am not sure if you all see those fears as ludicrous as I do, but these kinds of people need to see a professional therapist for their paranoia. Take your medication, sir. We who "Run Evangelical Christianity" cannot even make our own members obey us let alone the President and Dick Cheney.
For thousands of years anxious people have found reasons to fear harmless individuals and groups. The Jews in Europe were murdered by paranoid people who placed all kinds of weird behaviors onto God's Chosen People. Are the media moguls similar in their suspicions? I don't know about the big guys but Mr. Hedges and some other reporters sound like they would certainly take away our freedom of speech and assembly.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
In some ways we could say that no two people have the same culture so mis-communication and mis-understanding is actually more common than clear communication and clear understanding. Do you remember "Cool Hand Luke" played by Paul Newman? He was a prisoner who tried over and over to escape only to be brought back by the guards in a bloody mess. The famous comment was, "What we have here is a problem in communication!"
Many of us have returned from Christmas holidays with family members in tatters to say, "We have a problem in communication." But how can that be? We grew up in the same house with the same parents. It is hard to imagine how different people can be and how challenging it is to communicate with others, even family members, without deep misunderstanding.
The more we add other layers of culture, gender, marital status, experience, education, race and religion the greater is the likelihood of misunderstanding. For example, I am heading for Prague and then on to Moscow next Monday. I have been thinking and praying about ways to teach and minister more effectively and one thing stands out in my mind: "Never tell the people in Europe what they "SHOULD DO!"
Europeans dislike Americans because they perceive us as: Loud, Booming, Aggressive and Arrogant Know it All's. They particularly dislike our"Cowboy" image. So, Bush is hated because he speaks plainly, aggressively and forcefully about war and peace.
They also dislike Preachers, Missionaries and Christian Workers who are forceful, aggressive and loud. So, I know we need to be gentle, caring and speak softly. We must not laugh openly or draw attention to ourselves. We need to dress conservatively and be very, very patient. In other words, not very American.
Pray for Steve and me as we venture forth once again into the genteel areas of cross cultural ministry. There are many traps and land mines so we need the wisdom of God and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Tom wrote this piece as a letter to the editor of the Mt. Vernon Register News today. I am not responsible for Tom's comments or his views so don't sue me.
To the Editor:
Yesterday I (drove) over to St. Louis to catch a flight to Phoenix. I have flown many times out of dozens of airports around the country but this was the first chance to watch the Transportation Administration in action as an observer instead as a participant. I, of course, couldn't go past the security check as I didn't have a ticket so I watched the process from the "sidelines" so to speak.
The first thing that I noticed was the number of TSA personnel present. There must have been 20-30 people in the TSA uniforms, this at 7:00 pm on a Saturday evening in a nearly deserted East terminal at Lambert.
Another thing was the fact that most were reading some sort of newspaper or magazine. It didn't seem that any of these "defenders of freedom" had any interest in stopping some bomb toting terrorist, it seemed they were more concerned with the latest sports scores or what The Donald and Rosie had to say about each other.
There were probably 5 passengers at the security check point waiting to go through and each and every one of them had to remove their shoes, coats, hats and empty their pockets. Now, one incident of a man trying to light a bomb in his shoe about 4 years back and we are still taking all footwear off, including open toed sandals.
One of the TSA employees came up to me with a tube of toothpaste and gave it to me and said: "Your wife had this in her luggage, it is 3.2 ounces and she is only allowed 3 ounces". I dutifully accepted the contraband and hastily exited the airport for fear of a major strip search and having to remove my shoes, socks, bra and garter belt.
It would seem that the patients have taken over the asylum. I can send a 400 pound package through airfreight on the same plane without so much as second glance from the TSA but can't take a 3.2 ounce tube of toothpaste with me. I have scratched a hole in my head trying to figure this out but to no avail. Does the term "Swallow an elephant but choke on a gnat" ring any bells?
Now Tom may not think his trip down the Rabbit Hatch was very beneficial but I disagree. On January 15 I fly to Prague for a week and on to Moscow for ten days. You can rest assured that I will not try to take any big tubes of tooth paste with me.
- First, it took place in the midst of the morning worship service.
- Second, the worship was absolutely dynamite. In fact, Grace Community normally has great music and worship but it was special today. The intensity and freedom of the worship teams and the response of the people, leaders and the Ordinand, David Fields, made everything come together in a deeply Divine Day.
- Third, the people and the leaders seemed to genuinely love David, each other and the people ate Grace.
- Fourth, the congregation was very excited and thankful to have David as the new Pastor.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
This is a big weekend. David Fields is being Ordained to the Gospel Ministry at Grace Community Church in Mt. Vernon. I have provided some "Oversight" and counsel to the Elders and Pastors there for many years. Now we are launching not only David but a new era in ministry for that region. I am also transferring my "Mantle" so this ends my responsibility but not my love for the church.
Tom Smith has been Pastor for at least ten years and Grace Church has provided much of the reality of its name for many people. The preaching is rich, the worship powerful and the healing real. If you are therabouts, come and see what God is doing on North Route 37 and you will be blessed.
Friday, January 05, 2007
There is a great article in today's Wall Street Journal that you can access online at the following address http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/ It is written by Sam Schulman and takes to task the so called "New Atheists" whose shallowness in thought and thoughtfulness is apparent. They are reduced to calling believers jerks. Rather than dealing with the real problems associated with their faith in no God the well educated but ignorant men simply attack us with thinly veiled anger and frustration.
My friend is what one would assume to be well educated. He is a lawyer but obviously missed some of the classes on critical thinking and the use of nuance in debate. I remember him as a good friend and, like the rest of us in adolescence, confused. However, he was not especially rude or haughty as he seems today. That must be the result of losing faith in God and depending only upon himself.
When we read the essays and books of this new class of haughty atheists we are reminded of college freshmen living together in a dorm having a discussion after attending their first class in philosophy where the prof asked such penetrating questions as, "Can God make a rock so big that He cannot lift it?" He would then use that verbal paradox to destroy the underdeveloped faith of the new students.
While finishing my B.S. at Southern Illinois University I had a roommate who was in this dilemma. One day at lunch he said in all seriousness, "What if we are not real? What is all this life is an illusion and we do not exist? That there is no God and we are deluding ourselves?" He was near tears as he sat depressed at the table unable to eat his mashed potatoes.
I reached across the table and pinched him rather hard on the arm and he screamed in pain while drawing back his hand. "Why did you do that?" he asked in surprise. "It was all a dream and did not really happen," I replied. He was dazed for a short time and then said, "Oh, I see. It is real." and started to eat his beef and gravy.
I am shocked that a lot of the most popular atheists are thinking at about the same level as this guy. They have little of the finesse of humility of the older sort who asked the same questions but answered with a depressed state that they just couldn't muster any faith but were sad about it. In fact, one dismisses the concern by many Christians who wonder if research on unborn babies is a slippery slope similar to what Hitler led his scientists down by saying, "Their concerns are obscene." His ability to understand and articulate the opposition's philosophical point of is breath taking.
So, if the opposition is reacting to God at such a visceral but intellectually dishonest level I don't think we have to worry about a revival of unfaith in the world. This is especially true when our side is producing multiplied millions of bright, committed well trained thinkers. Jerry Falwell, one of the men considerd to be a chief jerk among all of us jerks, has developed a university that has a world-class debate team. One that is superior even to tose at Harvard, Yale and NYU. The atheists should never underestimate a godly, Spirit-inspired mind.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
In the last post I mentioned that Jens-Petter Jorgensen was on our Life Way Ministries Board as an International Rep. He and I met while at a 1983 Leaders' Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. The above photo shows Jens-Petter with the Bishop of Southern Africa sitting outside a cafe in Nairobi. That Bishop was overseer of between 30 and 40 million Believers in his church. (He said it was hard to keep track of everyone so the count was approximate.)
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Front and center are Jim and Dawn Donovan who hosted us. Behind Jim is Jens-Petter Jorgensen, International Rep from Oslo, Norway. Behind Dawn is Steve Griebling, a colleague and friend for many years. The couple is Jim and Cyndi Wineinger. They are seated in front of a beautiful Nativity arrangement by Dawn in her wonderfully appointed and peaceful home.
Go to http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/februaryweb-only/32.0c.html where you will find an interesting interview by the author. Charles Marsh, a Professor at University of Virginia, wrote The Beloved Community, to reveal the truth about history.