It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything to my blog and I almost feel out of practice. Much is happening around Mosaic these days between the remodeling projects that are going on and the training of some key people who are committed to helping those seeking to navigate the immigration landscape. In recent weeks 3 of us spent 40 hours in class and then took 3 weeks to research and submit our answers to be certified as a Bureau of Immigration Affairs site to provide for those in our neighborhood seeking a green card or citizenship. Along with that I accepted a part-time position at Home Depot to supplement our income working 25-30 hours each week. Whew, we’ve been busy!
If you will indulge me for just a few moments I want to share my heart as it relates to a controversial political issue. Not quite 6 months ago I had the privilege of having breakfast with the Colorado Director of Refugee resettlement here in Aurora. In that conversation he shared with me the details of the issue of the unaccompanied minors that were crossing our Southern border. His concern for how to address their needs gripped my heart. The developments from such and influx of children as young as 4 years old (yes that’s what I said, 4 yrs. old) and finding them facing a legal system that adults have a hard enough time processing is overwhelming.
Again, please indulge me and consider what may be the Christian response to this need. Imagine if you will just how horrific life must be like in the countries of origin for these children that their parents would consider having their kids travel unaccompanied from places as far south as Guatemala to get to the United States seeking the hope of a “better life”. I have two grand-children and if their parents would even conceive this as an option I would do everything in my power to maintain the integrity of the family. For these parent this is the better option, God please help them. Imagine with me if you will if that were your kids or grandkids how gut-wrenching that decision must be.
I know that some of us are tempted to judge them and say how could they be so careless about their child’s life? Again, I try to put myself in their place and try to wrap my brain around just how difficult their situation is that it would prompt them to take such drastic steps.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14 (NIV)
Let me proffer a potential higher opportunity that if we are willing to embrace could have eternal consequences. The above verse has been quoted at many a child dedication service but I believe that there is a current application to this verse as we face this difficult opportunity of caring for these undocumented, unaccompanied minors that are flooding our borders. What if…God is moving an entire generation to our country for the purpose of our lovingly sharing his compassion and grace with them to add populations to His Kingdom? What if…in this generation, not unlike previous immigrant generations (our forefathers fleeing religious persecution, the Russian Jews fleeing communism, Southeast Asians fleeing governmental oppression, just to name a few), there are those who if cared for and encouraged could make our society a better place? http://www.murthy.com/famous-immigrants/ What if…these little children that are coming to us are the future hope of not only our society but the spread of the gospel back to their countries of origin and we miss it because fear?
I know that this is not an easy problem to fix and that we must seek to solve it but we must solve it through the compassionate love of God offering the hope of the gospel to those He is bringing to us. I encourage you to take a few moments and do two things in the following order. First, stop and pray and seek God’s heart as to how he would have you respond from your heart to these little children. Second, take a few moments and check out the following sites and gather some more information so that you can pray informed in the days ahead. What if…?
Lynnette and I were fortunate to spend the last week with our kids and grand-kids in Western New York over the Easter weekend. The primary motivation to go there was the event of my son Josh’s baptism. He has been a longtime follower of Christ but put off being baptized for various reasons. As I sat in the congregation with the family I reflected back on the reality that the sacrament of baptism hearkens back to the time when Jesus submitted to the will of God and was baptized by John, his cousin. Throughout the centuries people have been following in obedience to God’s call to go public with their faith by participating in the ancient rite. Josh was one in a long line of witnesses.
Witnesses: that word brings into perspective something that Lynnette and I would like to share and invite you to pray with us about. It’s a twofold prayer request. You may remember I shared with you a few months ago about our finances and that there may be a need for employment beyond the ministry of Mosaic. Well that time has come and here’s how you can pray. We know that if God so desires he can release resources that would fund us further down the road with what we are doing at the Opportunity Center on Dayton Street so that is option one. The other option is the potential of employment with an organization that has a proven track record of helping people move out of poverty into self-sustainability. This is where the term “witness” comes in. I have always said that there is no dividing line between secular and sacred in the Kingdom of God and I just want you to know that if I am employed by a not for profit organization I see that as much a “mission field” as what we are currently doing.
We covet your prayers and your thoughts as we seek to know what God’s will is in this effort to make a difference in the lives of those who live in Aurora. Thanks for reading and thanks for praying.
Love your neighbor…UGH!
Last evening there was a news story about a city council here in Colorado discussing the issue of having samples of DNA taken of dogs and their feces so they could track down those who are not cleaning up after their pets in city parks. Goofy right, not so fast, this is getting a little personal for me because within the last month I have had a neighbor take photographs of me “not picking up after my dog”, by the way I always pick up after Patches that’s what the little blue bags are for. Her plan was to submit them to the police so I could be apprehended.
Why do I bring this up? Sometimes it’s hard to “love your neighbor as yourself” (MT 22:39), but that is what we’re called to do. Neighbors are funny people, and don’t forget that you’re someone’s neighbor. My point is this, we have the privilege to love people who are different than we are and those are the neighbors that we are called to love. Loving them is a choice that we must make regardless of them being loveable or not. Here’s another thought to ponder. God currently is sending us new neighbors from all across the globe to get to know and love in the form of the immigrant and the refugee. For us to love them we’re going to have to get to know them.
I offer a couple of organizations that can help you begin to unpack the capacity to love those that are different than you. Both organizations are led by personal friends. The first is helping host a multi-ethnic conference this fall in Denver, CO, http://www.doyouknowme.org/events.html. The second is a new found friend who is originally from India and he organized a 7 week seminar that Lynnette and I attended early this year on loving the other, http://www.y360.org/training/. Check them both out and continue the process of learning how to love our neighbors.
I’ve got to run I have some dog poop to clean up.
Lost in Translation….
I had a interesting thing happen to me today that taught me a big life lesson at very little expense. As you may remember on Tuesday mornings one of my privileges is to share the good news at a local barbershop/soup kitchen. A small perk for that is that I get to know when they run their special $8.00 haircut promotion and I try to save a little bit of money on personal grooming. Yesterday was the day for a “trim”. Something else you may not know is that since my mom was combing my hair I’ve always parted my hair on the left so my usual instruction to the barber is to leave me enough hair to make a part. This is where the fun begins:
The owner of the shop, Maria, I’ve mentioned her before, came up to me while I was sitting in the chair and asked me how I wanted it cut. She then would translate to the barber for me because the barber spoke only Spanish. So the dialogue began and eventually the haircut started as well. All was going fine until I saw the barber change combs on the clipper and then proceed to move from front to back though my hair on top. At that moment the thought went through my mind, “new hairstyle”. She finished the “trim” and spun the chair around so I could see in the mirror to reveal a haircut that hasn’t been this short (check out the photo) since I surprised my mom in the 2nd grade with that buzz cut.
It’s starting to grow on me (pun intended) and this may not be the last short hair cut. Either way, haircuts do grow out and it’s no where near a permanent thing. Hopefully the life lesson will be. Here it is: how many times have my friends who struggle with the language barrier had to settle for something less than they were hoping for because they were misunderstood, in the market place, in the neighborhood, in the judicial system and unfortunately even in the church? Lord help me to again go the distance to make sure that not only your message is clearly understood but that those I’m relating to are understood as well.
All I lost in translation is a few strands of hair, others stand to lose so much more, God please help us. Amen.
One of the exhilarating being a part of a ministry that is committed to helping people better their lives in not only spiritual ways but tangible ways as well is how things just seem to happen organically with out much forethought. I know that I introduced you to Allan in my blog a couple of weeks back and it’s been a joy to see him moving with confidence among the day-laborers. He is now promoting the next organic growth that has taken place. We are helping day-laborers find work and Allan is sending these folks down the street to our building to meet with a couple of gals who are acting as facilitators by guiding individuals to places to find a job. One success story is a gentlemen I met the very first time we served coffee, his name is Juan (not really) and he met with the gals last week and the day after he got a job and has been working every day since. This is what it’s all about.
Organic step two starts this Sunday, the “Mosaic Mama’s”, yep that’s the name they gave themselves, start making lunches for the day-laborers so now we’re moving from pastries and sandwiches to a lunch for them carry with them to work that day. Organic momentum is building and we’re simply riding the wave. These days are similar to the early days of spring when you plant a garden and you start watching to see the plants popping through the soil, I’m not sure what’s going to bloom next. Fun times. Praise God for his favor.
Taking the gloves off….
This past Tuesday as Allen and I were sharing with the day-laborers it was very cold, below 10 degrees and as I observed Allen conversing with our friends down the street. I noticed frequently when he would introduce himself to these gentleman he would pull his glove off and shake their hand and offer them a sandwich. He quite literally was taking the gloves off. There is something to be said for the physical touch of a person that says I care about you.
It was a key component of Jesus’ earthly ministry. He never put up a barrier between those in need and himself, in fact he would break through those barriers on his own initiative, his life was a life of taking the gloves of to touch people in need. Let’s look at a few verses of Scripture that show us how he connected with people.
A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. Mark 1:40-42 (NLT)
The social outcast, leper was not too far gone for Christ not to reach into his life and heal him. The same is true for those who are in need of God’s touch and don’t even know it. Jesus went to the fringes of society in the nation of Israel and he encountered those who were not the most popular, people like immigrants, the poor, those who were most at risk in this world and he touched their lives. He still wants to make contact with them so they can experience His healing touch only now he does it through us who follow him.
A key component of our mission at Mosaic is that we are not only that we show up by being the feet of Jesus but that we are also his hands in the Aurora community. In a very real way that is what we are doing by offering a sandwich and cup of coffee to an immigrant day-laborer or helping a pre-school child learn Basic English skills before they start kindergarten. Our hands represent our capacity to affect change by doing something, taking the gloves off and rolling up our sleeves and getting involved by doing this we are transforming our community.
Your support financially and prayerfully enables us to take the gloves off and get engaged as we live out our vision for Mosaic.
Vortex to Void Back Again
The last few days Lynnette and I have been visiting our kids in upstate New York doing the things families do like helping wash the dishes, taking care of the grand-kids daily needs, and helping with some of the odd jobs around the house. With this “Polar Vortex” coming in one of the jobs we tackled last evening was to nail up some new weather-stripping around the outside door which has become pretty important considering right now it is -10 degrees out there.
It’s wise to take precautions against the cold but the event got me thinking about our friends who live outside, the homeless, the immigrant, those who don’t have a door to nail weather-strip to. How do they fend for themselves in weather like this? Possibly they are fortunate to have family who recognize them in a photo splashed across the wire service and they can return home (http://news.msn.com/us/man-reunited-with-family-after-cold-weather-photo). More than likely those who call the streets their home will have to make it to an overcrowded shelter or just get inside somewhere if possible. I know that we probably will never conquer the problems of homelessness and poverty in my lifetime but I do believe that the best place to start is to conquer the problem of the way we view the homeless and the poorest among us.
The problem for me is a heart issue. I believe God is in the process of overwhelming it with His compassion for individuals if I let him. The Psalmist David prayed a specific prayer one day when he realized he was in need of a heart change. He said: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NIV). I know that I need a pure heart, motivated by love and respect for people created in God’s own image and most definitely I need my spirit renewed and made steadfast to confront this huge problem of poverty and homelessness to keep from throwing in the towel. God help me to keep my eye on the prize to love one more to you. On that note let me close with one final thought.
We’re in the middle of this “Vortex” that without the hope of the good news leads to a “Void” in people’s lives. I know in my heart we can make an eternal difference and it’s not all that difficult. Jesus said it best when recorded in the gospel of Matthew “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV) As we go through these tough days may God open our eyes to those he loves and prompt us invest a small act of kindness of offering a cup of coffee to someone and in so doing introduce them to their Father in heaven.
During this time of year thoughts are drawn to being grateful for so many things and Lynnette and I are no different than most of the society as a whole in that we have been reflecting on the things we are thankful for. If you’ll indulgence us for a few moments we would like to share.
- We are grateful for a family who love us and for the health that God has provided them.
- We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of such a diverse team that stretches us in our understanding of cultural uniqueness.
- We are thankful for a place to serve where it is obvious that hope is needed and it is our privilege to share the hope we have in Christ with others.
- We are especially grateful to those who have partnered with is this last year both through your prayer support (the most important support of all) and your financial help which enables us to keep making a difference in the lives of others.
- Most of all we are thankful to God for his incomparable great gift, Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith.
Our prayer for you this week and the days ahead is that you will enjoy this festive time of year and be close to family and friends and that your heart will be filled with gratitude for his great love for us all. One last thought:
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. Philippians 1:3-5 (NLT)
Minnesota in November…WHY?
I know that at least in a cursory way I mentioned that Mosaic is moving into a great opportunity of helping people move through the immigration process. In order for that to be successful there needs to be some training which happens in Minneapolis next week. What I would like to do in this blog is to introduce you to an organization known as Immigrant Hope. Below is their mission, vision and values taken from their website.
Equipping churches to provide immigrants with the HOPE of the gospel,
HELP finding a pathway to legal residency, and a HOME in a church that cares for their needs.
Churches known in their communities as places of welcome and safety.
Christians sacrificially loving neighbors and enemies alike, for the sake of the grace they have received.
Strangers embraced and cared-for as family, given wise and law-abiding counsel, and introduced to Jesus Christ and his salvation.
• Great Commission – Making disciples of all people
• Great Commandment – Love of God fueling love of neighbors
• Great Companion – Relying on the Holy Spirit
• Great Community – Building up the local and universal church
• Great Compassion – Caring for the poor and oppressed
I’m thrilled with the privilege of entering into this learning experience and developing a plan for Mosaic to begin assisting people navigate the ever-changing landscape of immigration. I covet your prayers for these days spent learning and growing.
On a more personal level a week and a half after getting back from Minnesota in November I’ll have the opportunity of getting to know a group of guys in the neighborhood who are seeking to find jobs. These gentleman hang out less than a block from our building and our hope is to connect with them and work alongside them to make their lives better. Pray for Mosaic as we move into helping lives improve one step at a time.
Thanks again for thinking about me next week as I go to Minnesota in November, now you know why.
Hugs all around…
This last week I spent some time at DIA either sending a person off on a flight or waiting for someone to arrive. While waiting I did what I enjoy most, watching people. I couldn’t help but notice and allow my heart to be warmed by the reunions that were going on all around me. Grand-parent seeing grand-children, college friends renewing acquaintances, and lovers reuniting after being apart. Hugs all-around, I in fact gave a hug to my father-in-law and my wife as they both arrived from their respective flights. It was inspiring to see people running into each other’s open arms.
I got me thinking about two very distinct opportunities we all have to be either the recipient of the giver of hugs. My first thought is that for those who follow Christ we have the hope of one day running into the open arms of our heavenly Father who can’t wait to see us come home after this long life’s journey, don’t believe me read the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke chapter 15. Our responsibility is to offer this hope to all who have yet to understand how loved they really are. Let’s tell others with joy.
The second opportunity is a tad different in that we also have the privilege of being the open arms to the immigrants who are making their way to our shores with the hope of a better life. We need to embrace them with the love of Christ and help the learn how to adapt and function in this crazy place we call “America” so that new and better life can become a reality.
In an effort for Mosaic and myself to be better at offering true support to those who are immigrating into the country I will be attending and intensive training in Minneapolis, MN from November 18-22 (Brrrrrrrr!). Pray for me as I go so that I will be able to receive and retain what I learn as Mosaic seeks to help others by embracing what the Bible calls the alien and foreigner. Thanks again for your interest and your prayers and if I could I hug each and every one of you so consider yourself squeezed. God bless.