Tuesday, December 25, 2007

a Venezuelan Christmas

This is the first Christmas that our family has ever experienced here in Venezuela. The main festivities are on the night of the 24th instead of the day of the 25th. The tradition is for everyone to wear a new outfit that they have never worn before on Christmas eve. So we got all dressed up and then had supper at midnight. Unfortunately, Marcus didn´t take a nap during the day so he fell asleep at about 10:00 and didn´t want to wake up when it was time for the party.

After the meal we took turns opening our gifts and then went to bed at about 4:00 in the morning!

Here instead of Santa Claus, the kids believe that baby Jesus brings them their Christmas gifts. So, Ovidio, Naty´s brother took some of Gaby, Marcus and Veronica´s gifts and put them in the manger with baby Jesus and they went to get them on Christmas morning. Naty and I slept in until 10:00!

The weather today was spectacular so we washed a lot of clothes and I took Naty´s dad´s bike and did some serious mountain biking. I´ve never gone on hills quite like the mountains here. It was about 80 degrees and beautiful! I was praising God for his creation the whole ride.

pics from venezuela

Monday, December 24, 2007

the rest of the story

Our family is finally all together here in Bocono, Venezuela at Naty´s parents farm. The internet connection here is slower than dail-up so I´ll have to wait to post pictures later. Rosanna and I had a safe trip to the Andes of Venezuela and I thought I´d share some of the journey with you.

My friend Jim took me to the airport in Columbus at about 5:00 on Friday evening thinking that my plane was to leave a little after 7:00. Welcome to holiday travel! The plane never left until a little after 9:00 PM and I arrived in Fort Lauderdale at midnight. Rosanna, Naty´s sister, picked me up there and we went to her place in Miami. Rosanna lives with another family there and I was able to get about 2 1/2 hours of sleep before leaving for Miami International Airport at 4:30 Saturday morning. More long lines! I have never seen an airport so full. We got checked in and had time for a cup of Starbucks before heading to our plane. The 767 plane was totally full as well.

We arried at the airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela (by the coast, north of Caracas) at about 11:00 and after waiting in the immigration line for an hour, passed through customs (a total joke since they don´t even look at what you have in your suitcase!). We were looking for Rosalinda, a friend of Rosanna´s who was supposed to pick us up, but we never found her! (as it turns out, she was there but we somehow missed each other and since her cell phone wasn´t working we had no way to get in touch with her) In the end we decided to take a ¨taxi¨(late 70´s Crown Victoria, in major need of some new shocks with no signage of taxi licensing anywhere) up to Caracas. Our taxista was a really nice Colombian man (angel with skin on) who was patient enough to take us to the bus terminal to buy tickets, wait for us there and then take us to a restaurant to finally meet up with Rosalinda and her eight year old son Moises. I have never seen Caracas so full of traffic like it was this trip. One thing that makes it even crazier is that Chavez has made it very easy for people to buy motorcycles and there are cycles EVERYWHERE! They go in between the cars and drive all over the sidewalks too! It´s LOCO!

The restaurant was nice enough to not only welcome us but our six suitcases/duffle bags as well. After a great meal which included steak, caesar salad, arepas and freshly made white cheese (I love it!) Rosalinda took us to Dayana and Carlos´s (other friends of Rosanna´s) house. I helped Carlos set up his blog and we enjoyed some great Chilean red wine while we hung out there until Rosalinda came back at 8:00 PM to take us to the bus terminal to catch our bus to Bocono.

Words can´t describe the experience at the bus terminal and since we didn´t take any pictures you´ll just have to put up with my very brief description. Let me just say there were lines and people EVERYWHERE! People were bumping into you about once or twice every minute because the place was so full. When we finally got through the line and out to our bus at 9:30 when we were supposed to leave we found all of the passengers just standing around and no one was boarding the bus. Very strange. We soon found out that our bus driver was being detained by the police because he had gotten into an argument with an officer on his arriving trip and the police were going to put him in jail! In protest, none of the bus drivers from the Las Delicias bus line (the bus company we were traveling with) was going to leave the terminal until the police released their driver! So there we were standing outside surrounded by buses, exhaust and people for a little more than an hour! Just as I was telling Rosanna, ¨I think the passengers just might start a protest too.¨People started chanting ¨Queremos viajar!¨(We want to travel!) at the top of their lungs. Fortunately a few minutes later the driver showed up! Thank you Jesus! We were soon on the bus and 11 hours later we were in Bocono where Naty, Gabriela, Marcus and Gustavo (Naty´s dad) picked us up at about 9:30 yesterday morning. It was so great to be able to see them again!

Last night we had a birthday party for Gabriela with lots of little friends that live near the farm here as well as her cousin Veronica who has been able to be here with Gaby and Marcus at the farm for the past week as well.

Today we are just hanging out and getting ready to celebrate Christmas tonight at midnight with a big meal and presents afterwards. It´s a far cry from a white Christmas with rain off and on and temperatures in the upper 70´s, but we are loving it!

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers, I´ll be in touch again later in the week.

Friday, December 21, 2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GABRIELA!

Gaby turns six today and my only wish is that I could be with her to celebrate. I think we are going to have a party for her on Sunday after our family is all together. I'll put pictures up later.

i'm off

After school today my friend Jim is taking me to the airport and I'll be flying to Miami. I should get there at about 9:30 and will be staying overnight there with Naty's sister Rosanna and then we will both be flying to Caracas, Venezuela at 7:30 on Saturday morning. We should arrive in Caracas at about noon and then catch a bus to Valera later that evening. We will bus through the night to Valera where Naty and her parents will pick us up early Sunday morning. We'll then travel 2 hours by car until we get to Bocono and the Briceno farm. Lord willing!

Please pray with me that all goes well and we can travel safely with no complications over the next two days.

I'll try to get some posts and pictures of our travels on the blog as soon as I can.

Monday, December 17, 2007

more from michael frost

If you regularly read Alan Hirsch's blog The Forgotten Ways then you may have already seen this. His blog is where I first saw these videos of Michael Frost, and if you liked the vids, you'll want to subscribe to Hirsch's blog, It's filled with gobs of stimulating conversation.
This is a wrap-up talk given at the same conference where Frost says that to be missional we need to practice: proximity, presence, powerlessness, and proclamation as Jesus did. I finally had time to watch this yesterday and was challenged. I hope you are too. Enjoy!

fresh from venezuela

Here is the one picture Naty has been able to send me from Venezuela so far. The internet connection is so slow that it took about an hour just to get this one picture!

She said this was on the first day and Gaby and Marcus were in culture shock! It sure looks like they are fascinated!

I'll post more photos when I can.

good pickin'

This weekend I got the new CD from CrossRoads Gospel Grass in the mail.


CrossRoads is a blugrass band from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia that my good friend Lynn Fox is in. The CD not only provided some good listening, but I got out my guitar and tried to play along. I'm not too good at bluegrass pickin' but it was fun to try!

If you click on the logo above you can get to the band's website and hear a few cuts from the CD. You really ought to just go ahead and order the CD from Lynn though becuase the best songs aren't at the web site.


Thanks Lynn for the music, keep up the good work!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

on new turf

There is a reason why Jesus sent out his disciples (Luke 10 & John 17:18) and keeps sending us into the world. That's where the Kingdom is enlarged, not in the church. The church is His already now he needs the church to press into the world and sow the seeds of the kingdom onthe soil of the world where they haven't fallen yet. To do that, we can't stay where we are. If you want to surf, you have to catch the wave and go along with it. (not that I have any experience) In the same way we have to keep moving where God is moving.
We have been praying for this to happen here in Columbus, for God to lead us where He is working. I think we are starting to see it. Here are some stories to share what I mean.
Our house church has been meeting at our house for almost two years now. We've had a great time, we've grown, even divided/multiplied and commissioned one couple to keep planting house churches in their neighborhood. All very good things. Then just in the past two weeks we had a few things happen that seem to be showing us that we need to move on, move out to where God is working.
Luis and Laura are a sweet couple from Ecuador who are friends of Maria's that she invited to come to our house church. They have been coming for about the past three months, to our house. Then a little over a month ago they had a baby and since it is cold, they don't want to take their baby out any more than they have to. So we had church at their house a few weeks ago. Then this past week we asked them if we could just start meeting at their place every week so they wouldn't have to take their newborn out in the frigid weather. They also mentioned that they had some neighbors that might want to come to the meeting. Well when we met on Friday evening, their neighbors not only came but they brought two other families with them! So, our house church practically doubled in size in one night! The one couple came specifically because their 5 month old daughter has a blood infection and they wanted us to pray for her. (Which we gladly did!) Keep praying with us that she is healed completely.
I've been reading about how if we want to start a church planting movement we have to get out on other people's turf and the new disciples will bring others to follow Jesus as well. Now we're seeing it get started.
I also met tonight for a Bible study with two men from Honduras and one from Mexico. Our friend Antonio from Honduras has come to our house church occasionally but it is difficult for him to come on Friday nights because of his work schedule. I asked him if he would like to get together on Saturdays and he could invite his roommates to join us. So that's what we did tonight.
Last Sunday we also met with another family that knew that we did house churches. The mother called us up and explained that they are Catholic but she knows that her family needs more of God. She then asked us if we could come over and talk with them a little bit about what our church is like. We had a great time sharing supper together and are looking forward to getting together with them again when we all get back from Venezuela in January.
One more cool God sighting from this past week and then I need to wrap this up. On Tuesday I had one of my students meet me at the library to work on a writing project that he hadn't finished. When we were getting ready to leave he called his mom to come and get him but she said she couldn't because his older brother was having a seizure! I told him that it was no big deal for me just to take him home. As we got closer to their apartment, I felt like God was telling me that I needed to go inside and pray for his brother. So, I asked my student if it would be OK if I went in to pray and he said it would be. When we got inside his brother was laid out on the floor and wasn't moving. The seizure was over, but he didn't have the strength to even move. I then asked his mother if I could pray for him and she said that would be great. So we knelt on the floor and put our hands on him and prayed for him. After praying he started to move a little but still didn't get up. I went home and kept praying, wondering what would happen.
On Friday after school I went back to their house to help my student out with his computer. His They told me that after I left his brother was able to get up and eat something and then they helped him go upstairs to his bedroom, something that he has never been able to do after one of his seizures. He usually just sleeps on the floor where he is. Their mother told me she was very grateful for the prayers because they worked! Praise God! If he hadn't prompted me to go and pray, I really don't know if I would have done it.
So what do all of these things have in common? They happened on new turf. God's Kingdom comes when we obey and live the gospel in the world and don't just talk about it in the church.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

multiplication or bust

I've been thinking and praying about multiplication of our house church for the past month or so and I think I need to spill a little bit of my thinking out here to see if anyone has any ideas for me.
I re-read Neil Cole's Organic Church book again a few weeks ago and have started into The Forgotten Ways again. My thoughts were also solidified by this post on Guy Muse's blog.
I love our house church, but we aren't looking outward enough yet and since Naty and I are the leaders I think that is our fault. We need to set the example and be reaching out so that others in our group can see what we're doing and do more of it too. There is an old adage "you can't lead someone somewhere you haven't been yourself" and I think there is probably some truth to it.
In the past few weeks we have had some doors open to share with others who are not Jesus followers yet and they have opened their doors for us to come in and share Jesus with them. For now it has just been sporadic but hopefully in the future it can mean the reproduction of churches in their homes.
I've realized that to be church planters you've got to get away from Christians. Most modern Christians have bought into a very egocentric gospel, now that is an oxymoron if there ever was one, but that is what they believe. They want the gospel and church for what they can get out of it. How good it makes them feel. How do you get people to stop looking out for themselves and start looking at others? I think Paul said "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Phil. 2:4) Our consumerist materialism has us trapped into looking out for "Numero uno". (I am so sick of that Verizon Wireless commercial!) But this mindset has trapped the church as well!
So, God help us! We are thankful for the new people that we are meeting and we want to keep sowing seed into their lives in the next weeks and months. We have already commissioned Aram and Debbi from our group to start new house churches in their neighborhood. Who knows, but maybe we will soon need to send ourselves out to plant new house churches as well. Whatever the case may be it's multiply or die baby! It's true for humans and it's true for churches.

a few saturdays ago

Here is a fun video from a few weeks ago that I forgot to post sooner.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

worth watching

This is a video of Michael Frost breaking down what Missional Church is. He's one of my favorite authors and this presentation says almost everything that church needs to be in order to see the Kingdom come. Make the time to watch it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

latest happenings

This past weekend was a lot of fun here at home. We had church Friday night,worked around the house Saturday and had a CNM prayer night Saturday night. Read, rested and had fun Sunday. On Monday morning I had the surprise that my school was closed for the day so I got to stay home and played guitar a lot with Marcus.We prayed with other CNMers for Aram and Debbi on Monday evening, we are part of their MST as they prepare to go to Kenya. Then tonight (Tuesday) we had impromptu church with Luis, Juan and Antonio.We started out with soup, arepas and talking about Latin American politics and then the topic changed to Jesus' parable about the boss who paid his workers all the same wages even though they worked different amounts of time. Great discussion. We then all prayed for each other before our friends departed. Now that is what I call real live church. No program, just Jesus and his people.