Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Exciting Afternoon--Fire.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Dreaded Call

Jacob called me this weekend and said, "Dad, I have had a wreck."

I jumped on the motorcycle and rushed to where he was. The two cars were still in the intersection, with the guy's car that hit Jacob all crumbled up. He had t-boned Jake, hitting our front left tire. Both of his fenders, his bumper, grill, radiator, fan and hood were folded up.

The police where there, and they called the department in charge of transportation, Transito. When transito came, we had to all go to the police station.

Jacob has an American License, which isn't recognized in Bolivia after three months. This meant that he was driving illegally, and that even though I have didn't apply in this case.
Things were looking bad.

I think God for my good friend, and the director of our mission, Dave Shipster. I called Dave as soon as I saw how bad the cars were and the police. Dave called our mutual friend Antonio...who knows all things Bolivian (thanks Antonio!). The three of us where there at the station with Jacob.

I was just letting them do the talking. It was not looking good. Jacob, a foreigner and teenager, driving without a legal license or insurance (which is the law), turned left in front of a Bolivian man. What was going to happen? How bad was this going to be?
Then, the police asked the other man for his license and insurance. Guess what? He did not have a license of insurance either.
At this point, it could have really gone South, when suddenly the officer looked up at us and said, "It would probably be best for everyone if you went outside and worked this out yourself."

So, we went outside, and agreed upon a way to pay for the damage. I would pay 75% and he would pay 25%. I felt this was fair because it was Jacob's fault technically, although the man did run a red light and was speeding. Jacob did turn left. It was also fair because we could more easily pay our 75% than he could pay his 25%. So we took my car out of the equation. He only had to pay 25% of the repair cost for his car. I would pay 100% of mine, and 75% of his.

I told Jacob afterwards that it was more than coming to an agreement over a wreck, there was also a 'help the poor' to consider.

Bottom we took our cars to the garages to get repaired. The police charged me 200 bolivianos as a fine, and no one went to jail or the hospital. All in all, not bad for an uninsured, unlicensed accident in a foreign country.
Seriously, this is one of the reasons we chose SIM as our mission. They have your back. Thanks Dave, thanks Antonio...and we have learned our lesson.

Now...time for the money. :(

Leia Mais…

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Great Mission Trip Opportunity

This is a shot of my friend Nate. Nate is a Jesus and for Jesus. He lives here in Cochabamba with his wife, Cindy, and soon to be first born child.

Here is what Nate does. In Cochabamba, there are tons of orphanages. These orphanages struggle to pay for food and buy diapers. They cannot afford to make any type of major purchase.

Because of this, there is a huge need for furniture. Babies share cribs, don't have beds, chairs, tables, or other things that we would consider just basic necessities.

So, Nate raises money to purchase wood, and provides the labor for free. He not only provides his labor, but he also hires kids who live on the street to work for him. They have a Bible study there at the office, and are paid a little bit that gives them money for food. It is a pretty cool operation.

Nate just built me a bed. (see Denise's blog for photos) When I tried to pay him, he refused the money, but did say this. "If you know of anyone wanting to take a mission trip and help build beds for babies, let me know about it."

So, here you go. This is a great opportunity to do hands on missions...a little outside of the box of what we usually consider missions, but it meets an incredible need. Get in touch with me. I will put you in touch with Nate. You won't regret it.


Leia Mais…

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Need A Good Dentist?

Leia Mais…

Almost Gone.....Someone Call A WAAAmbulance

I just have to say it.

I am sad.

I just opened my last bag of Starbucks coffee. When I was in the states the last time, I brought back 25 lbs of Starbucks. I have been watching it dwindle and dwindle.

I refuse to drink Nescafe. It is a moral decision for me.

I simply do not like Bolivian coffee....just my messed up tastebuds.

Looks like I am about to become a tea time guy.

Talk about multi-cultural.
All joking aside, this is a real bummer for me. Starbucks coffee is my favorite, and drinking a hot cup of coffee in the morning, and then sipping on one in the afternoon is not only relaxing, but it is a small taste of what used to be home. Many times I remember meetings at a Starbucks, a conversation, or an event...that roasty smell of Starbucks is a mnemonic aide. For me it is more than just a cup of coffee.
Is that corny? In missionary training they told us that we would be surprised at what, after everything settled down, we actually longed for back in the States. Starbucks. Who would have thought?
Oh well. Time for a nice cup of tea (said with a British accent)

Leia Mais…

Say It So They See It

I just received an email from a friend and teacher in the States complementing me in response to my previous article on preaching, teaching or changing lives. They asked me how to improve preaching with creativity.

In response to that, here are three weeks of Leadership Lifters that I wrote for an internet mailer that goes out to pastors all over Latin America. These are in English, and I am not going to try and edit them to make them 'fit' one article.

I hope that they help my friend who wrote me, and also anyone else.

Pluse, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that any teacher or preacher get and READ VERY SLOWLY, this book. Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive And Others Die by Chip Heath.

So, without further adeu, here are my three articles which later became a seminar for a pastor's conferece here in Bolivia, se llama "Say It So They See It".

Say It So They See It—Part One

Have you ever been bird hunting, or seen someone shoot a bird? One time I was with some friends, and we were hunting doves. My friend had brought a large gun with him, complete with a few shells that were much too big for dove. My goal was to eat, but his goal was to kill. In the mid-day heat, with the sun beating down upon us, we came upon a bunch of doves, and they took off in flight. We were so close that we heard the chorused coo-ing of the doves, and even felt wind from their wings as they took off. My friend took his gun and shot. He hit one dove in midair. This dove vanished from our sight. Where it had been there were feathers slowly coming to the ground, being carried by the wind in various directions. I picked one up and looked at it, but I never found the rest of the bird. He had blown away so much of the dove that not only was there no corpse, there was not even blood on the ground.

Why do I share this gruesome story? As communicators, one of the most important things for us to do is to take God’s Word and the truths/principles that we have learned and teach them to others. One of our greatest frustrations is when we know that we have something really good, but after our presentation, we are confident that we didn’t hand it from our heart to theirs. However, somewhere after leaving our lips, the truth was shot out of the air by the enemy like that dove in mid-flight. Small amounts of feathers may have drifted to the ground for our people to pick up, but most of the meat vanished. We leave behind little else than a small hint that once there had been something good—but it was gone. People came to church with the goal of eating, but our preaching only killed the meat.

I believe that many times this happens because of how we present the truth. We say things so that they can hear them. This sounds like what we want to do. You have probably been told this before, “Speak so that you can be heard.” I have what I think is a better way to communicate.

Say It So They See It.

Look at how Jesus taught. He would tell stories, use parables, and take advantage of object lessons. He did not simply take three verses of the Scripture, find four points to say about it, and in a linear fashion start at the beginning and go to the end. He spoke in word pictures. When He said something, the truth was always riding in the passenger seat of a picture. The picture would stick in the minds of the hearers, and as they saw it again, they would also see the truth in the picture. When I was discipling the man that took over as the Sr. Pastor of my church after I moved to Bolivia, I had a question that I would ask him after he preached. I would say, “What did they see?” I never asked him what he said, or what they heard. I wanted to know what he made them see in their minds. When you remember your childhood, school, village, or family…do you remember sentences or scenes? You remember smells, sights, feelings and sounds. You remember what your mind sees.

How do we say things so that people see them? Here are a few ways to start:

Imagine that you are ‘seeing’ the Bible story…that you are there. For an example let’s use the story of the crippled man being lowered into the room through the roof. Close your eyes and imagine, much like your four year old child does with a toy. The room would have been dark, crowded, and smelled of body odor. The people were bumping into each other because there was no room to sit. The Pharisees were murmuring under their breath. You could not understand them, but you knew they were not happy. There was the constant shifting from one foot to the other, and moving to look through the gap between the people in front of you. Then, there was a scratching noise on the roof, and suddenly a beam of sunlight from a crack in the ceiling pierced the darkness. People took their eyes off of Jesus and looked up at the light that had suddenly grabbed our attention. We saw fingers enter into the crack and peel back more of the roof like the outside of a banana. Dirt clods were falling into the room, hitting the crowd on the heads and shoulders. People shoved their way backwards into the rest of the crowd…although there was no room to do so…in order to not be hit by the falling chunks of roof. You could see sticks and straws that had been used as reinforcement bars when the mud was wet. The hole became bigger, and suddenly a face appeared in it, silhouetted by the sun. Dust filled the room and people coughed as they tried to clear their throats after breathing it in. Some men were blinking hard and rubbing their eyes because of the dust. The hole slowly grew as not even the Pharisees spoke. Then, when it was about 1 ½ * ½ meters big, the light was totally blocked out for just a moment. A bundle of something was being lowered into the room. It took a few seconds before we realized it wasn’t a bundle of something, but someone. There were gasps of astonishment, and then anger as we recognized the insubordinate beggar that we so often ignored…etc. I wrote this briefly, but notice something that was unplanned. As I wrote this example, I accidentally started writing in the first person. I said, “We saw fingers…”” If I were teaching this passage, I would do all that I could to take the imaginations of my hearers on a time journey and deliver them into that room.

Freely use body language. This truth has been driven home to me in a brand new way since I have moved to another country where I do not yet know the language. I have discovered that many of the things I want to say, and want to understand, can be conveyed with a few words accompanied by body language and hand gestures. In our current example, when I say that everyone looked up, look up at the ceiling and point at the ‘crack’ appearing in it. Accompany your description with actions that illustrate it. Rub your eyes, squint, clear your throat, look around, back up and ‘bump’ into someone behind you as you make room for the paraplegic man to be lowered….etc. Don’t just use your voice to say things for people to hear, use your entire body so that people can see what your voice is saying. Kneel, stand, walk, squat, point, look, wave…the combination is endless.

Next week I will share a few more ways of how to ‘say it so that they see it’, but why not start implementing these two in your very next message?

Say It So They See It—Part Two

Last week we began to try and change the way that we preach. Before I preach, I ask myself, “What are they going to see?”, and afterwards I ask myself, “What did they see?”. This is indeed a paradigm shift from focusing on what is said and heard to concentrating on what is seen and felt. However, I believe that this is the way that Jesus taught, and also the way that we best learn and remember. Jesus would point at a swallow flying in the air, and after everyone looked at it outlined by the sun, squinting to get a better view…He taught about God’s love for them. They would never see a swallow again without remembering that they were loved by God. He picked up a child and with the cute little girl/boy in his lap, He taught about having that kind of faith. Read through His teachings and underline how many visuals that He used. He spoke words that were seen. How can we say it so they see it? Last week we looked at two things:

Imagine that you are ‘seeing’ the Bible story…that you are there. God gave us an imagination…we must use ours before we can utilize the imaginations of our hearers.

Freely use body language. Studies differ on the exact amount, but the truth is that communication uses more than just words. Our words alone account for about 10% of total communication. The other 90% is carried by tone, volume, hand gestures, facial expressions and body language. We know this, and we talk to each other like this, but for some reason when we stand up to preach, we focus on the words instead of the 90% that communicates. Saying it so that it can be seen involves 100% of the communication principles.

Ask yourself questions about, and seek to engage, all the senses and the emotions. As you tell your story, or the Bible story, ask questions about all five senses. When reading a Bible story, what was the temperature like? What did the people feel? What did they smell? What did they hear? What did they taste? Where they standing, sitting, or walking? Where they rested or tired? Where they happy, sad, or angry? Try to identify specific things that you can use to help the truth be seen, heard, smelled, felt and tasted. For example, if you are preaching on Jesus being the bread of life, bring fresh baked bread (or better yet, if your church has a kitchen enlist a volunteer to bake some in the morning before the message) to church. As people enter, give them a small piece of bread with their bulletin. Hopefully, the smell of the bread will permeate the auditorium, and most of the people will have the taste of bread in their mouth. I was preaching on Jesus being the Good Shepherd, so I downloaded from the internet the sound of sheep bleating and played it over the sound system, and used a photo of a sheep pen (once more from the internet) as the background of my slides. Any church that uses a sound system and powerpoint can do this with an inexpensive wire. The people not only read that we were sheep, they heard sheep and saw sheep.

Use volunteers to illustrate the truth. Once more, look in the Scripture at how often Jesus used a person, either directly or indirectly, to communicate His Truth. I have discovered that as soon as I enlist a volunteer (usually a teenager) I have the complete attention of that volunteer, their family members, friends and peers. Everyone watches the volunteer. For example, if you are speaking on the blind leading the blind…set up some plastic chairs as obstacles and get two teenagers as volunteers. Blindfold both of them, and then tell one of them to lead the other one through the chair maze without hitting a chair. Then take the blindfold off of the leader and let them do it again. In the sermon, refer to the chairs as theological heresy, popular opinions, error, life situations, etc. We tend to listen to the advice of people just as confused as we are instead of following the only one that can see clearly…Jesus. I believe that this is one of the most effective means of communicating, so allow me to share one more example of how to do this by sharing something I did as the end of this week’s lesson. I was teaching on Hebrews 12. The first sermon of the series was focused on setting the context and on verse 1. After explaining the context of a sporting event, I challenged three of the most athletic young men in my church to a race. I placed a large bag of M&M candies at the other end of the auditorium, and asked the crowd who would get there first. Then, after everyone chose one of the three men and nobody chose me, I said that I would increase the prize and if any man could beat me I would give the winner $10 USD. I had everyone’s attention. We lined up, but right before the starter shouted, “Go!”, I stopped. I had 15 people stand up, and I took their chairs and stacked them in a haphazard fashion all over one young man, and then tied them to him. I then took 10 meters of rope, and tied the other man’s legs together, tied his hands to his ankles, and wrapped the rest of the rope all around him like an Egyptian mummy. I blindfolded the other man, and put him facing the wrong direction behind the other two. Then the starter shouted “Go!”, and I ran to the other side of the room and got the candy. I asked people to identify reasons that I won, and that someone who no one thought could win ended up beating everyone. After they gave all the reasons, we went to the text. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2) The entire church was an illustration of this passage. The people were the cloud of witnesses. The men were the runners. One did not lay aside every encumbrance. The other had sin easily entangling them, and the third could not fix his eyes upon Jesus. I was able to run with endurance and finish the race because I was free of encumbrances, sins, and was able to see the finish line. For the rest of the message, and the entire six week series, I would refer back to this illustration, and I kept the rope, blindfold and stack of chairs on the stage with me. Now, doing this meant that I spent about 10 minutes of a 45 minute sermon on this one, what appears to be ‘silly’, illustration. But let me close with this question. Do you think that the people present understood the point of the text? Do you think that the people I used in the race will ever read or hear that passage again without remembering that day? Isn’t that the point of our preaching? We want people to understand, and remember, the truth of the Word of God.

Say It So They See It—Part Three

This is our third week of seeking to change our manner of preaching from an academic focus on words into a real life medium of communicating truth. The diagnostic question to keep asking ourselves is “What did the people see when I taught?” How can we say it so they see it? So far we have looked at:

Imagine that you are ‘seeing’ the Bible story…tell others what you see.
Freely use body language.
Ask yourself questions about, and seek to engage, all the senses and the emotions.
Use volunteers to illustrate the truth.

This Week’s Lesson

Use objects from everyday life to illustrate the truth. Jesus had a way of using everyday objects to point to everlasting truth. I can see Him holding up a loaf of bread as He spoke of the Kingdom of God being like yeast, or pinching a mustard seed in between His fingers in another illustration. He probably had a stalk of wheat, or pointed to some, as He spoke of the wheat and tares. Look through the teachings of Jesus, and see how many historical illustrations apart from the Bible He used. I can only think of one. The rest of His stories, illustrations, parables, and lessons incorporated contemporary, tangible items that His hearers encountered in their every day life. They knew about sheep, goats, fields, taxes, soldiers, and parties. They had oxen. They saw birds everyday. These are the items that Jesus used. I recommend whenever possible actually having the item in hand as you speak. For example, if you are teaching about prayer, have a stick of incense and light it. If you are preaching on abiding in the vine, have a bunch of grapes and some dead branches. If you are talking about the body of Christ being many members…borrow a child’s doll that you can remove the arms, legs and head from as you illustrate how worthless we are as individual parts and how much we need each other. Be creative. One time in Africa I noticed a broken tractor in a village of poor farmers. The tractor was being used to provide shade for goats and a roost for chickens. As I spoke, I asked if anyone knew of that tractor. Then I talked about how happy everyone was when the tractor first came to the village. I called to memory the amount of land that it could farm, the lives that it could provide for, and the hopes that it represented. I asked what happened to the tractor. The owner did not have the ability to maintain it, and now it was powerless and instead of being covered with the dust of the field, it was covered in chicken dung. The application was this. When we give our lives to Christ, we are filled with so much potential and power. Yet, if we do not maintain our growth through dependence upon Him and personal disciplines…our lives slowly become a broken down vessel of what could have been. I drew this out much more. Afterwards, a man came to me and said that everyone in the church passes that tractor everyday on the way to the fields, and that they will never forget what I had to say. You can also use sports equipment, household appliances, or tools. Anything that your audience can connect with can be an illustration.

Use actions to illustrate the truth. If you can somehow act out what is being taught, then do so. This requires creative thinking. For example, if you are preaching on the “ask, knock and seek”, you could have someone begin knocking on the door (side door) of the church as you speak. Do not even look their direction, just keep on speaking. They could continue to knock, harder and louder, until someone finally got up and opened the door. At this point, you could stop and ask the person who opened the door why they did so. Whatever their answer, you can incorporate it into the truth that if they opened the door just to stop the knocking…what will our Heavenly Father do for us if we keep on knocking on His door? People remember what is done more than what is said.

If possible, use graphics to illustrate the truth. If you are in a church that uses a data projector or television screen and some type of slide software (like PowerPoint), then you can and should use photos to illustrate what you are saying. Photos can be downloaded from the internet via an image search. If you are preaching on the Israelites in the Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3), do a search on that passage and subject. I did one and found a painting of the story that was perfect. Teaching on Jonah? Find a background of stormy seas and download a sound track of wind and thunder. Telling a story? Find a graphic. You can not only use backgrounds that match the sermon, you can use photos that illustrate that particular story in the message. One time during a sermon on Elijah and the Widow…in order for us to understand what she was feeling, I downloaded three images of starving children and pointed out that this was what her child looked like as she cooked her last meal for Elijah. I asked what mom present would have done what she did? The image worked more than any description I could have given.

Use music, songs, drama, etc., during the message. Be creative. If there is a song whose lyrics illustrate, or complement your message, let the worship team or an individual sing the song. Plan ahead to give them a specific ‘cue’ as to when they should start singing. Dramas can be introduced, or appear spontaneous. They can engage the audience, the preacher, or each other. They can be funny, serious, or emotional. They can answer or ask questions. I believe that drama during the message is better than drama before the message because it can be used to emphasize a particular point as well as give a ‘break’ from the speaking.

The previous three weeks I have shared eight different ways to help people see what you have to say. I have shared some examples of things that have worked for me. Feel free to use them, but more importantly, pray and allow God to bring your own creativity to the surface. Remember, the goal is not to speak, it is to communicate. Communication happens when the person hearing you fully comprehends what was said. Use every method that you can think of to make that happen.

In Jesus,


Leia Mais…

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Before And After

Dad, I have a great idea! You drive the motorcycle and pull me behind it on the skateboard. This is going to be a blast!

Maybe it wasn't that good of an idea.

Leia Mais…

Dia De Peaton--The Day Of The Pedestrian

Every year in Coch, they outlaw driving for a day, and everyone takes to the streets to play. Here we are today.

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Preaching, Teaching, Passing Along Truth; or changing lives?

I have had a great time in the past month. The international church here in Cochabamba is a church that has a very specific target audience. They are seeking to minister to and reach the English speaking community of Cochabamba. Because of this, they have their services in English. The man that usually does the Sunday morning teaching is in the States for a few months, so they asked me if I could fill in and preach for six weeks.

It has been a blast! Preaching in English is so fun. I love it. I have also received several great compliments, the main one is that the children like my preaching because of my illustrations and stories that make the Bible come alive.

I love hearing that, and I hate hearing that. I love it because it makes me feel good and encourages me. I think that I am doing a good job. I hate hearing it because of what it is NOT saying. By saying that I make the Bible come alive, the implication is that: The Bible isn’t alive; or, other preachers kill the living Bible.

The first one is simply not true. The Bible is alive! It is the living and active word of God. It is exciting, emotional, and dynamic. It is the inspired, inerrant and eternal Word.

The second thing….well I believe that it is a fact. Most of us preachers simply take the vibrant word of God and make it into one of those old sixth grade film strips…change the picture when you hear the beep. BORING. The Bible is not boring, but we make it seem like it.

I have several preachers that read this blog. Listen to me please. Your job is not to ‘preach’. It is not to ‘pass along truth’. It is to teach and preach the truth in a way that the person hearing it: wants to listen, can understand it, and knows what to do with it. We are to teach God’s word, not so that people can receive more information, but so that we can cooperate with the Holy Spirit in life transformation.
The same is true in our family devotions, personal and group Bible studies, and every situation in which we open the Word. Apply it! Live It! Love it!

Leia Mais…

Seeing The Growth

Having moved away from friends, and going a couple of years without seeing them, I was shocked when I came face to face with them once more. Not with the adults, but with the kids. It is incredible. I left children and came back to discover young adults. Kids had grown from young teens who were about 5’2”, to being 6’ or more with facial hair, deep voices, and muscles. I could easily see the growth, but their parents really didn’t realize the change. It was there, like in my kids, but it is one thing to see a child grow a tiny little bit every day, to seeing a two and a half year change in one swoop.
I thought to myself…this is how it is with spiritual growth in our lives. Sometimes we may think that we are not growing, when we really are. It is just that we are growing a tiny little bit…almost unperceivable to us, but it is there. Here is a good test. Look at your faith, your trust in Christ, your spiritual dependence upon Him, your knowledge of God today, and don’t compare it to yesterday, compare it to last year. Can you see a difference? You should be able to.

Leia Mais…

More stuff from the 25th party--if it loads :)

Leia Mais…

Another Try On The Holmans Singing At 25th Party

Leia Mais…