MAWLing

MAWL is an acronym for Model – Assist – Watch – Leave. As we work through living life as an intentional witness, and as we learn skills/tools that we want to use in engaging the harvest, be thinking about “down stream.” How can we pass along the skill set that people need while doing our best to ensure it remains potent and well done? MAWLing plays a major role in this process. Or, should I say, a balanced MAWLing strategy plays a major role in this process. This is an important distinction because often times we do one part of this process well and the others end up lacking. Here’s some ideas on keeping it balanced.

Modeling – Jesus gives us the best example of modeling in His time on earth, as it is that life-on-life discipleship where we show those we’re discipling what we do and what we expect them to do. As you look at Jesus’s life, you see Him modeling what he wants the disciples to do, even chastising or correcting them when they get it wrong. In Matt. 17, Jesus casts a demon out of a boy that the disciples were not able to cast out. He chastises them, and then corrects them. In Luke 8, we see Jesus at work doing His thing. In Luke 9, he sends the 12 out to do what He had just done with them. In Luke 10, He sends out the 12 along with 60 others. The modeling principle colored all that Jesus did with His disciples. It’s important to note here that Jesus hasn’t pulled them into a sterile classroom setting and given them practice reps in the skill set and then sent them out. Too often, our modeling isn’t real modeling. We seek to instill a skill set in the sterile environment of a safe training setting, which is really teaching. And while this teaching may be enough for some skill sets, others require us to get out there and get our hands dirty with people, modeling for them rather than simply imparting a skill set. The intangibles come through in that real-life setting. Many church planting coaches are now seeing that where there’s a problem or obstacle with indigenous work, the modeling element has either not been done well or will serve as the tool to break through the obstacle.

Assisting – I often hear, “Oh, I could never do that. You’re the expert/professional/pastor.” That’s the perfect time to say, “Come on, we’ll go together. And if you get stuck, I’ll be standing right there to help you out.” There’s just something about having that presence with us in times of need, that confidence that someone’s got your back if things go south. And our presence can be that calming factor for those we’re MAWLing. This is one of the two weakest points in our MAWLing process overall. In John 4, we read that Jesus was receiving pressure because He was doing so many baptisms. And then John gives us almost a side note: although Jesus Himself wasn’t doing the baptisms, but His disciples. He was there with them, standing beside them, being associated with them, and no doubt helping them figure it all out. Let’s face it; you guys are awesome! And in your competence, you carry an attitude of being able to get the job done. And, sometimes, it’s almost natural to step in and “take over” what could be a touchy situation. After all, we want to win people. We want to equip people. And, we are competent, capable people. But there is something to be said for the teachable moment that comes through hardship. That discovery process can be short-changed because of our capabilities. Jesus let His disciples struggle; even fail (see Matt. 17 above) to impart what they needed. Don’t be too quick to jump in. But to jump in means we need to be there with them, standing by them and providing the nudges that will bring them through.

Watching – This one seems straight forward, right? We stand back and watch them do. But it’s at this point that I want to shift the paradigm a bit by asking the question, “What are we watching them do?” Are we watching them perform a skill? Or are we watching them assist someone else in learning that skill? There’s a huge difference here, and it’s this difference that’s making a big impact on the movements happening around the world. It’s in this watching-phase that, as Jeff Sundell says, practitioners have found the sweet spot! So, think of it like this:

Person 1 (you):        M         A          W        L

Person 2:                              M         A          W        L

Person 3:                                          M         A          W        L

Getting to the WAM seems to be breaking through the problems of passing DNA on to the 3rd Generation, giving DNA the best chance to make its way downstream. Here’s what I mean. You, as a discipler, have been Modeling for someone a skill set that’s necessary for their maturing. And, of course, you make that shift to Assisting them as you work together with that skill set. But what we often miss is that they should have someone they are modeling with, too. This is where person 3 comes in. Once person two has the skill set, your task becomes watching them assist person 3.   For example, if John has been sharing with Mike, and Mike decides to follow Jesus, John wants to model for Mike how to read & learn from the Bible. At some point, John wants Mike to be modeling that for someone else while John helps Mike. Mike begins modeling Bible learning for Chris with John’s help. At the point that Mike begins helping Chris, John is now free to watch Mike as Mike helps Chris. Only when Chris starts modeling the skill for someone is John free to take a step back and let the process roll. In doing so, we’re instilling a skill set into the fourth generation!

Leave – Notice in the above example I didn’t say John was free to leave. I think this step is often misunderstood. Leaving in this process means taking a big step back and letting the process roll, and not that you leave them and never make contact again. The reality is, there may be questions, problems, obstacles, or who knows what which require your help. And if you leave, you’ll not be available to offer that help. The key here is to allow them to wrestle and struggle for the solution without your direct and immediate intervention. But even Paul spoke back into the places he’d “left” to deal with vexing problems that reared their ugly heads (sloppy worship practices, circumcision, and legalism, just to name a few). But his direction in such things was more prescriptive than directive. He readdressed the theology behind the sound principle, often with very strong language, trusting them to take what he’d prescribed and applying it to their setting. So, in essence, leaving isn’t really leaving at all. It’s handing ownership over, not abandonment. Think of this as Jesus telling the disciples that they will be His witnesses, and that He’s going away, but He would send a helper to guide them. He didn’t really leave. His coaching, His leading just took on a different look.

Berlin’s Coffee Shops

My daughter recently attended a music camp in Berlin with concerts every night of the week.  So, being proud parents, we decided to take a week of vacation and be there for every concert!  Why not, right?  Having a concert to attend every night meant that we needed to find something to do with our days, so I had an idea:  let’s visit at least one Third Wave coffee shop each day.  Rather than do an extensive explanation of what “Third Wave Coffee” is, I’ll reference Elizabeth Childer’s well written article, “Third Wave Coffee: A History.”  Read up, if you’re intrigued by this.

Berlin has some of the most popular coffee shops and roasters in all of Europe.  So, with brochure in hand, some recommendations from coffee aficionados, we began our “Third Wave Tour” of Berlin.  I decided that, if I’m going to compare the shops, I needed to try the same things in each.  That meant espresso and a flat white at each shop.  Just a note:  I’m presenting these in the order they were visited, and not in the order of preference.  I’d visit every one of these shops again.

Berlin Kaffeerösterei

Berlin KaffeeröstereiFirst stop was on Sunday, when my son and I stopped off at the Berlin Kaffeerösterei.  It was jam packed with people (a good sign).  It conveys a “step back in time” atmosphere that reminded me of a 1920’s coffee shop.  Not being a fan of coffee, my son ordered a huge chocolate shake (Eis-schokolade).  I ordered a shot of espresso and then a hand-filter coffee.  As my son devoured his drink, I assumed it was great.  My espresso was good.  I couldn’t quite place the roast.  It was a middle-of-the-road shot, nothing to write home about.  However, the hand filter was another story.  I really enjoyed the hand filter Brazilian.  It tasted natural, and left a lingering flavor in my mouth; well balanced and enjoyable.  And rather than brewing it for me, they brought the components to my table, instructed me on timing, amounts, etc. and let me brew it myself.  Being a coffee nerd, I almost enjoyed that aspect of it as much as the coffee itself.

The Kaffeerösterei has a speciality shop attached where you can view roastings, or pick up a HUGE variety of coffees, teas, and more.  They also offers a wide assortment of cakes and pies.  I had the lemon pie, which was delicious!  My only regret is that, my bent towards all things lemon took me to a bad pairing: Brazilian coffee and lemon pie.  Had I gone with something richer, like a rich chocolate cake, I think I would have been happier.  However, all in all, it was a great little shop.

The Barn

The Barn

Next up was The Barn, arguably Berlin’s most well known shop and roaster.  Had we arrived 10 minutes later, we wouldn’t have been able to stay.  There’s seating for around 15 people, and that’s IF you want to sit shoulder to shoulder with the people at the next table.  Rain and cold forced us inside, where we found a corner that was comfortable.  But I definitely didn’t get the vibe that you would come and stay for a while.

The shop is small, but the coffee is not!  The espresso shot was perfectly pulled.  It lingered.  Sporting a nice crema, it was heavy and smooth, earthy, buttery.  And the flat white presented the perfect balance of espresso and milk.  We also tried some of their baked goods; the custard tart.  They, too, tasted rich and complimented the espresso well.  Being The Barn, we had to buy a bag of beans!

They offer a vast assortment of beans that are sure to please every variety of coffee drinker.  We picked up a bag of the Mwembe, which I’ve already had three or four shots from.  A little slice of heaven:  fruity, bold, forces your mouth to water by a direct attack on the glands in your mouth… Mmmm.

No Fire No Glory

No Fire No Glory

Our third cafe was No Fire No Glory.  When we embarked on this journey of coffee tasting, we hadn’t even heard of this cafe.  Which is a tragedy because it was absolutely amazing!  Spacious, warm, inviting, we felt at home before we’d even ordered.  Offering an abundance of seating, both inside and out, we didn’t have to figure out where the three of us would fit.  The eclectic decor said, “Come, stay all day if you’d like.”

The espresso was a bit more earthy than that of The Barn.  It was pulled well, and had the tell-tale indicators that a well-trained barista was behind the bar.  It didn’t linger, but popped, eliciting an “ohhh yeah” response from my taste buds.  I enjoy it when I can taste the earthy notes of a shot, and this was a shot that I enjoyed.  The flat white was much stronger than usual.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d ordered extra shots or if it was just so.  But I found it very enjoyable to the point of thinking maybe I should order a flat white with an extra shot.  It may have just been the strength of the roast.  Either way, it was a great beverage.

Am Ende der Welt

Ende der WeltOn to our fourth stop, Am Ende Der Welt (at the end of the world).  And it was!  We traveled to the section of Berlin known as Wedding to visit this shop.  We almost walked right past it!  When we walked in, we were greeted by an urban-minimalist decor:  lights hanging by wires, “unfinished walls,” aged wooden floor.  My wife, an interior decorator type, loved it!  If the chairs had been more comfortable, she would have given it three thumbs up!

The coffee was great!  My shot of espresso was more to the fruity side, which is the way I like it, than our first shops.  Again, expertly pulled, it was greasy (and that’s a good thing) and coated my tongue and mouth.  It was smooth and a hint towards the sweet side.  The flat white was also good, with the difference from the others being the espresso.

My wife ordered a chocolate croissant, and with the first bite, said, “Ooo, now THAT’S good!”  Which, at the time of day we arrived, was surprising!  Usually, later afternoon pastries taste like, well, late afternoon pastries.  But this was fluffy, warm, buttery, like a whole stick of butter was used in each croissant (again, to me, a good thing!).

Buena Vida Coffee Club

Buena VidaThe last stop on our tour was Buena Vida Coffee Club, which is actually in Potsdam.  Buena Vida was not in our brochure.  I had posted in our FaceBook group “Third Wave Wichteln” that I was going to be making a tour of coffee shops, and asked if there were any that weren’t in the brochure that I should visit.  A guy in the group recommended Buena Vida.  But, being in Potsdam (outside Berlin), I had written it off as “too far.”  Some friends suggested giving it a try because Potsdam is a beautiful city worth seeing, so we added it to our list.  I am so glad we did!  It was the greatest surprise of our tour.  I didn’t know it at the time, but the guy in FaceBook that recommended it was, in fact, the owner, Patrick Berger.  The shop had plenty of seating when we arrived.  However, being centrally located in the shopping/touristy district of Potsdam, it quickly filled up and was buzzing with activity.  This was another shop that communicated a warm “come and stay” atmosphere.

We didn’t order food at this shop, but went straight into the coffee.  My flat white was just the way I like it:  bold, robust.  When put to the sniffing test, I could taste the roast as it lingered between mouth and nose.  It was an Ethiopian espresso with that dark and seductive Africa flavor.  I decided to order a Syphon Coffee instead of espresso for two reasons:  first and foremost, so my 14 year old son could watch the process; and second to see the master in action!  The only draw back was that, had Patrick not been there, I would have had to pass on it since the other baristas don’t know how to work the syphon.  Kudos to them, though, to say, “Sorry, we don’t know how.” rather than serving something sub-par out of inexperience!  Fortunately for me, Patrick was in the house, and served up a Kenyan Syphon coffee that blew my socks off.  With the first sniff I could tell that it had been mixed to the gram perfectly.  After the first sip, I looked at Caryn and said, “I can taste vegetables.”  She laughed at me since I hate, HATE vegetables, but this was something different.  As I let the sip roll around in my mouth, I tasted the earthy, almost sweet pea flavor of this african coffee.  It was light, pleasant, and not overpoweringly earthy.  Needless to say, Buena Vida in and of itself is worth the visit to Potsdam!  We will be back!

All in all, we enjoyed every one of these shops.  We felt like we were touring living art exhibits, where the baristas were performing and creating for us.  Thank you for your art and dedication to excellence.

Going Forth

“Go forth from your country…” -Genesis 12

We are experiencing a little of what Abraham must have felt as God uprooted him from all he knew and sent him to a land of strangers. If you haven’t heard yet, The Bishop family now resides in Hamburg, Germany, where we are hoping to make strides for the kingdom.

I still remember my first trip over seas. It was to Kenya. I was 31. I’m not as old as Abraham was, but older none the less. Right now, I’m sitting in a London airport and thinking through what God is doing with our family. I see my kids sitting next to me and can’t help but think about how different life would have been for me if I’d engaged in God’s work at their age. Now 11 and 9, these two have sensed God’s call on them to the nations, and have pursued it on 3 continents. Considering all they’ve left behind, I wonder how it must be for them! They truly are leaving behind everything they know for the sake of the call, living as “sent-out ones.”

One of the things we’ve tried to do through this whole process is to nurture that sense of obedience in them. For some families, the kids are a part of the calling by virtue of having to go where their parents go. But we made this a family decision, asking them to express what they felt God was telling them, and giving them a say in this. My hope is that, through out their lives, they would pursue God’s calling for them, no matter the cost. And I pray daily that it could be said of each of us what was said of Abraham in Genesis 25:8, “Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life.”

Can you find satisfaction in knowing you did what God called you to do and let that be enough?

A Cup Half Full?

Today’s post is mainly for me as a sort of cathartic moment. It’s been ruminating in my brain for a week, trapped amidst the busyness of preparations to go. So, thank you in advance for for your gracious understanding of my need to write and process.

Many of you know me, and know that I’m a pretty optimistic person. Sometimes it gets me into trouble that I assume the best of people and situations, allowing me to be blind sided by bad situations. Here of late, though, I’ve been seeing the events of our life as a series of “lasts.” I.E. my last meal at Chick-Fil-A, my last Disciple Now, my last Nooma Ride, my last Sunday at THF, my last Belt Test at CrossPoint, etc. But it hit me this morning that none of these events are necessarily the last of anything! Not any more than they could have been my last on any day of my life. And even if they were, I’ve been seeing this wrong. The ending of a chapter simply means the beginning of the next! As I sat with some of my friends this morning (who happen to be former students of mine), I realized that they will not stop being my friends or former students. And just because it will be 4 years before I get to ride with my biker friends here, it doesn’t mean I won’t ever ride with them again! It just means that I’ll have a whole new batch of stories to share with them the next time we ride, as I’m sure they will, too! We will still be able to share in the victories of the faith, the trials of life, and the sorrows of heart-break with those we call friends.

Our departure for Virginia Monday only marks the end of a chapter in our lives. But it also marks the beginning of a new chapter, with new characters and adventures. Today I am making the appropriate changes in my thinking to again see the cup half full instead of half empty. We aren’t saying “Goodbye.” We are saying, “Stay in touch and we’ll see you soon!” Know that each of you are loved and cherished by the Bishop family! Sincerely, you have been such an integral part of our lives, how could any of these things be the last we would share? I’ve been bothered by calling our time with you a “chapter” because it really feels like a book!

One question we’ve gotten a lot lately is, “What are we going to do without you?” And while I know that really means “without Caryn,” I think you do what you’ve been doing with us here! Strive for excellence! Walk with Christ! Laugh often! Give generously! Share completely! Live life to the fullest! And keep on changing the world! I KNOW you have made our lives better, richer, fuller. And, I hope that our investment in you has been a positive thing. But even more so, I hope it’s something that will be paid forward. As you make life’s journey, you’re not alone, and you’re not without us! Now, make our joy complete by having Christ’s heart for your world!

Peace,
Jase

Asia Is Around The Corner


It’s almost here! In October, my entire family, along with some friends who are as close as family, will be heading back to our city in East Asia. I am excited about my family going with me. It will be all three of them’s first time out of the country. And what a GREAT opportunity for them to be a part of changing the world. I’ve asked them to tell me why they want to go, and here’s their responses:

Jeremiah (my 9 year old son):
“I want to go because I want to share Jesus with some people. I want to see what it’s like there and see what people do. I hope we will reach lots of people and that they will start spreading [The Gospel] with their friends.”

Cayla (my 7 year old daughter):
“All my life I’ve known Jesus wanted me to go. I was 5 years old, I think, when I felt like God told me to go there. I’ve been waiting to go ever since.”

Caryn: “I want to go with y’all for the same reasons you want to go. I want to share the Hope with others that they otherwise wouldn’t know about.”

Have I told you her story? When she was 5 years old, while riding her tricycle in the driveway, God called her to Asia. She came to me sobbing, unable to breath, as if something horrible had happened. After I got her calmed down, she said to me, “I’m gonna miss you and mommy!” and started crying again. When she finally calmed down, she told me she was going to miss us when she is in C**** telling people about Jesus! Not only was it the moment of her calling, but God used it to call me, too. He used her to set things in motion in my life going to East Asia to prepare the way for her to go. And now, 2 years later, she can barely contain herself that she gets to go AND she doesn’t have to say goodbye to us to be able to go!

Here’s where you come in: For our family to go will take around $8k. It’s going to take even more than that in prayer support. If you’d be willing to help with prayer, finances, or however God leads you, would you drop me an e-mail at Jason@journeylubbock.org ? We have to get the ball rolling on Passports this week.

Thanks in advance for helping us follow Cayla’s calling!

Day 4: Surprises

Today was not nearly as full of different activities as the other days, and yet I am more exhausted than any other day so far.

When we awoke this morning, the weather was too foul to go out, so we hung out at the hotel and journaled for half an hour. Then we headed out to meet a few of our friends. We had invited 3 or 4 people to go with us to Bi Jia Shan, The Natural Land Bridge. It’s a beautiful place on the coast (JZ is a coastal city) where you can walk to this mountain/island when the tide goes out. You have about 2 hours to get there or you’ll need to rent a boat to get back.

Surprise #1: The size of the group. When we got to the bus station to meet our group, the 3 or 4 had turned into 7, making 11 of us in total. When we got to Bi Jia Shan, and saw that it was 40 RMB ($6.50) per person to get in. Then it’s another 10 RMB ($1.60) per person to get a boat and another 10 RMB ($1.60) per person to climb the mountain. When it’s all said and done, to take this large group to the mountain would have cost $150! So, we decided to go exploring instead. We hiked through someone’s yard and actually made it down to the beach for some breath-taking scenery and fun pictures. As we hiked, we actually made it into the park, but were told by some attendants that we would need to go back out and buy tickets! We opted to head home instead and share a meal.

Surprise #2: The Conversations. During our exploring and our lunch, we had the opportunity to share much with all of the students that came with us. One thing we taught them is how to add “Your Mom” to the end of anything anyone says and make it into a joke! That was a hit! We also got to share things of lasting importance with them. Some of them are people who have already become family to us. Some are considering it. Two of them were friends who became family to us on our last trip here, but had not yet gone swimming in our family’s tradition. We are encouraging them to do that, as well. It seems like times like this always wind down with no one wanting to actually leave. We all just sit, knowing it’s time to go and no one actually leaving. As we left the restaurant we told our friends we would see them again before we leave.

Surprise #3: The Change In Topic. Now, on a trip like this, it feels like we eat, eat, and eat some more. We left lunch to go back to our rooms and get cleaned up so we could meet some other friends for dinner! We ate light and then headed to the home of some friends where we were going to talk about marriage and dating relationships with a group of young adults.. It was supposed to be an hour long meeting, but it went 4 hours! By the time it was done (which was when I began this update) I was exhausted. Instead of talking about relationships, it became a detailed conversation about how to become family and why everyone needs Dad. The topics ranged from the here-after to present help in trouble to how could Dad love everyone and have plans for all of us. It was GREAT conversation. But it took a LOT of active listening. When the evening came to a close, our friends were teetering on the verge of becoming family, making it a very productive night. It would be great if you would spend some time talking to Dad on behalf of these new friends.

Surprise #4: We Are Almost Done. As for us, we are exhausted, but elated. I think our body’s clocks are finally on local time. We hit a groove with what to order at local restaurants, and we have an idea of what we are working towards with our friends. The next part of the trip is the “sweet spot,” so to speak. Unfortunately, tomorrow is our last full day! It seems like it always happens that way. We will make the most of it, though. We have a lot to do in the next 48 – 60 hours! yarP for us!

Day 2: High Places

Today is the day that is usually spent getting acclimated to the time change and getting familiar with the culture. So, to off set jet lag and to experience the culture, we went for a hike. We went to a local mountain park called Bei PuTuo. It is a beautiful location that seems to have grown around a Buddhist monastery and several shrines. I shot some cool video. While we were there, we hiked up to some of the shrines, which are built on the peaks of mountains. The belief is that these places are closer to the heavens, so you are closer to the spiritual world. In the old part of The Book, Father tells His children to go into the land that He has promised them. But He tells them to “tear down the high places” as they go. At first, it’s just something you read. But once you get here, you see the high places and see people using these high places to try to appease the spirits of their ancestors. They offer fruit, incense, and even burn money at times trying to ensure that their dead ancestors are happy. I’ll post some video of the high places when I get home. But it sure puts The Book into a different light to stand in those very places we are called to tear down. And I had a thought while I was standing there. “What if I did tear it down? What would happen?” I realized that if I physically destroyed this spot, the locals who use it would only rebuild it, and probably rally around the incursion upon their faith. So, instead, I spent time talking to Father about it, and spiritually tearing it down, so to speak. My heart was moved today by the amount of effort and futility that is spent in the pursuit of gods who are sub-par and cannot help you. So, will you join me in talking to Dad about helping wandering brothers and sisters to find Him and His light? I don’t doubt for a minute that the enemy answers the prayers of these seekers in ways that keeps them mired in their false beliefs. Our calling is to tear down the high places, and I think that begins with speaking to Dad about them and the people drawn to them. But it also begs the question, “what are your high places?” What are the things you rely on to get a better life? Before we can tear down the high places in the lives of others, we must first tear down the high places in our own lives. Do you rely on your charm, wit, personality, money, influence, appearance, etc. to build a better life for you? To those that now follow The Way, The Truth, and The Life, our only source of strength and help should be Him. In relying on other things, we are building high places in our lives! Tear them down.

One of the cool things about today was that instead of hiking down, we discovered a zip line that went across the valley and to the parking lot where we parked. SO, I decided I would do the zip line. It was a blast! I was smoking across the top of this valley attached to two cables! But the even more surprising thing is that LINDSEY said she wanted to do it too! AND SHE DID! It was amazing. I’ll post that video at some point, too!

From there, we had 2 amazing meals, some near death experiences in the taxis and bus, and a pretty usual day in this country of over 1 billion people. It’s just a little bit past 10 p.m. here, and I have to be p-walking at our park around 6 a.m. so I’ll end the update here with a request: talk to Dad about the many people we will get to visit with over the next 24 hours. College students all the way up to senior adults, we have many chances to show them all about the family business. So be sure to yarP for us!

An Observation From East Asia

Having just returned from my 3rd trip to Asia, the greatest observation that stands out to me is that The Word is spreading there. One my first trip, I got to be involved in a new convert’s observance of ba9tism, or what we call a swim party. On my next trip, I got to participate in an outreach that was sponsored by that student where we met 35 – 45 students, and out of whom 3 or 4 came to faith. During my 3rd trip, while we were sharing with new students, the ones who came to faith on our last trip helped us share, and had been sharing their faith on their own while we’ve been gone. It was very encouraging to me to see that the kingdom is not just being paid lip service. These new friends take it seriously, and understand that this Good News isn’t just for them. Thanks to students like my friend pictured here (whose face I blurred on purpose!), the Good News is being taught to many.



Some Thoughts

I am sitting in Houston International Airport (or Bush Int’l, as it is now called), and it is 4:30 in the morning.  The rest of the team is sound asleep on the floor around me.  Someone had to stay up to watch the luggage, right?

Anyway, I wanted to put this down before I forget it.  The biggest thought or lesson I am bringing home from our Asian experience is that there are MANY people from our country who love God and have answered His Call to go to the corners of the world.  They sacrifice holidays with family.  They sacrifice their favorite foods.  They sacrifice television and radio that they can understand.  They live humbly and serve selflessly.  In some places, like the place we were in, they even have to maintain a low profile and work in secret.  Too often I take for granted what I have here in the States.  I can speak the name of Jesus without repercussions.  I can gather with my local church and lift up songs.  I can pray for and be prayed for openly.  I can engage in the work that Christ has called me to without worrying that it might cost me the chance to stay in this country.  I can share with people here without fear that they or their family could be imprisoned or killed if they say “yes” to Jesus.  And yet, there are days when I feel alone, stifled, like I’m the only one who gets it.  That’s not true here, but for our friends in foreign lands, they are alone, stifled, and they know they will remain so.
So, here’s to my heroes.  For all of you on the front lines, who give and give and give, who sacrifice and work to advance the kingdom at risk of peril, loneliness, and discouragement; THANK YOU!  You are an inspiration to me, and a constant encouragement to push harder, reach farther, and to never give up.  May God bless you with His presence and with the opportunity to see the fruit from the seeds you sow.  And know that you are in my thoughts and prayers daily.
And to all of us in open countries who feel like we’ve got it tough…maybe we do.  But it’s nothing compared to what our friends overseas deal with daily.  So lift your eyes up and get to the task.  Let us run with endurance, knowing that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.  Strive for the prize.
J