Coming Back To Yehoun

IMG_5230I’ll never forget the first time I visited the village of Yehoun in Burkina Faso. It was in 2007, and it was my first trip in the West African Bush. I was so excited to see the people and the culture and completely paranoid that I was going to be bitten by a poisonous bug or reptile. Good times!

The missionaries we were with, Pete Brokopp of Envision Culture, and John Arnold (now partnered with Envision Culture and the non-profit I direct Engage Burkina) took us to this village to show a film and present the gospel. They told me I would get to speak and present the story of Jesus to people who had never heard it before. I had to speak through two translators to get to the language the tribe spoke.

It’s amazing how bright a projector on a white screen outside on the West side of the ‘Dark continent’ actually shines. People walked for miles and miles to see what was going on. Underneath a beautiful moon we experienced people drawn to faith for the first time.

What my friends didn’t tell me was the first time missionaries had come to the village of Yehoun to share the gospel they were chased out with machetes. I wasn’t looking for machete’s. I was looking for snakes. Over time the African leaders that we partner with and resource continued to go back into that village and share the change that had come to their own life because of faith in Christ. Change began to come to Yehoun.

We put Yehoun on the schedule for a trip I was on in November 2012. It was my first time back to this remote village. Like I did on my first trip I road on top of the Land Cruiser we were riding in. I love being up higher to look across the landscape and see the mud brick huts full of people who need to hear the gospel story.

We pulled into the same field that I had spoken in some 61 months earlier, and I was overwhelmed with what I saw. There stood a church building. It’s a temporary building, but one we help villages build until they can afford to build their own. Five years earlier a handful of believers had been meeting under a tree. Now close to 200 gather in this simple structure they showed us with great pride.

The next day a drilled well was put in that village right near that church. It is a well that anyone can drink from whether you are Muslim, Animist, or Christian. It is clean water for all.

I can’t wait to go back to Yehoun.

Paul

Reckless Apathy

heart-fence-csWhenever I hear the statement “Everyone is just one step away from a bad decision that will absolutely destroy their lives” it always makes me ask questions; Seriously? Everyone? One step away?

I know what any communicator who says this means. Most often I have heard this statement apply to making a moral mistake in the area of sexuality. The problem is I’ve never met anybody who spontaneously combusted into jumping in the sack with someone other than their spouse. I’ve also never met anyone who has come to the end of themselves in financial ruin who did all that credit damage at one time. People don’t become alcoholics after the first drink. Before anyone makes a decision to take a step across a harmful line there are the steps up to the line. By my observation, before the stumble and fall, there are a series of choices where you begin to open yourself up to being tempted in the first place. Although, I have come to believe that the most damaging choice of all is to disregard all of these thoughts, live every day as what appears to be a passive follower of Jesus, and just do nothing.

In Proverbs 4:23 Solomon says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Another translation says it this way, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Be diligent. Be alert. Be watchful! The worst thing you can do is nothing. There’s a lot of good emphasis in Christian culture right now on ‘Do something.’ Do an act of kindness. Do something for your neighbor. Do something for the poor. Those are all great and I completely agree, but the first thing for a follower of Jesus is to DO SOMETHING… about your heart. Every day. Every moment of every day, guard it, defend it, strengthen it, saturate it with truths from God’s word, and soak it in prayer.

To be a passive believer in Jesus and do nothing is to be as reckless as the guy who walks into the strip club. It is a reckless apathy that plagues a culture of Christ-followers who want to sit back, play nice, and wait for the sweet by and by.

This post was prompted by some thoughts I had while listening to Pastor Brian Bloye teach on guarding your heart in the ‘Simplexity’ series at West Ridge Church . To listen for yourself go here.

Paul

 

 

Parents Just Don’t Understand

In 1988 I was 12 years old and rocking a spike just on one side of my (formally) blond head. The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff gave a whole generation of pre-teens and teens a mantra for at least a season; ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’. Fast Forward nearly a quarter of a century and everyone who used to jam to this song in their ‘jams’ are starting to have teens of their own. Now we are the ones who don’t understand why our own kids don’t understand how much more incredibly cool and sophisticated we are than our own parents were.

Starting this Wednesday, January 16th at 7:00pm at West Ridge Church our Student Pastors are hosting a two-week teaching series on the relationship between students and parents, called “We Are Family”. We would like to invite you to attend with your student to hear what God has to say about this very important relationship. After the worship service our Student Pastors will be having a time for parent Q&A as well as some follow up conversation from the service. Also, students who bring one or both parents two weeks in a row will have their name put in a drawing for half price RUSH 2013!

You can follow Todd Hampton (High School Pastor) and Brad Chandler (Middle School Pastor) on twitter by clicking on their names. Middle School and High School groups will be kept separate. If you have kids in both groups you will have to choose which one you like best, or which one has changed the color of your hair the most. It’s your call.

See you this Wednesday!

Paul

Listen

BLESS GraphicI would never be described as a woodsman. There’s some soap in my bathroom right now that is supposed to have a ‘musk’ scent. Why someone would want to wash their hands and have them smell like they just rolled them through the forest floor I’ll never know. However, I did go hunting once. I actually thoroughly enjoyed sitting 30 feet up in a tree on a 10 degree morning at 6am replaying images of the original “Red Dawn” movie in my head.

I had an experience that day I’ll never forget. This statement is going to sound a bit contradictory. The more intently quiet things were, the louder things became. In one moment I was startled by what I was sure were the claws of a puma climbing down the tree to attack me. After several minutes of looking around I discovered the piercingly loud scratching sound were two leaves rustling against each other. After shaking off the embarrassment I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I can’t even begin to describe how loud this was. It seemed to have the decibel level of my 7 year old talking right in my ear and trying to tell a secret (He hasn’t quite mastered that yet). With the distractions removed I heard something loud and clear I otherwise would never have experienced. If I had been hurried or distracted I never would have heard this symphony of leaves.

If you really want to BLESS someone, you have to be willing to listen to them. Listen to their perspective. Listen to their point of view. Try to understand where they are coming from before you try to make yourself understood. Put your phone down. Close the laptop lid. Lean over the table and listen intently. If they make comments like, “I don’t believe God cares”, or “What difference does it make?”, or they say something that you disagree with every fiber of your being, just listen. Learn their concerns, learn their values, learn their spiritual condition by listening. Before you jump to any conclusions, or before you allow yourself to be heard, listen.

Of course, this is not an end unto itself. It is only part of the process to BLESS. But it’s a very valuable one, and the thing that is easiest for me to skip. Begin with prayer, and listen.

Still Learning,

Paul

More Generosity To Come

Currently, West Ridge Church is in the middle of a great series called The Generosity Experiment. Each week we have been asking folks that attend to add $1 to their giving to demonstrate what can happen when we are all generous with our time, our talents/gifts, and our treasure. We have a great story to tell this Sunday of how we have been able to be generous this week.

Here’s a look at what happened last week.

The Generosity Experiment

I just had a neighbor drop by who said she couldn’t make it to Church this week because she will be with some family out of state. She left us an envelope to bring with us on Sunday. She didn’t want to miss being a participant in our series that starts this weekend. Check it out.

What Am I Doing?

Some people around West Ridge Church have noticed my title change, and a couple of other guys too on our church staff. Pastor Brian Bloye referenced the change in a service in August. This has led people to ask the question; ‘What is it you do again?” Like all Pastors I only work one day a week, 🙂 but here is what I will be doing. This is long for a blog post. It’s a little self-indulgent, but its my blog so humor me.

 

Since the Summer of 2007 I have been the Local and Global Outreach Pastor at West Ridge Church and the Director of Engage Atlanta when it began in 2008. Like many people on our staff I have had the opportunity to wear different hats. The life of the church the last couple of years has required a little extra out of many of us. During this time it has been clear that only so many hats fit on one head. Even a melon as big as mine. Pastor Brian and the Leadership at West Ridge have given me the opportunity to pray over what hats to wear, and I have understood God to be calling me in a bit of a different direction.

 

Going forward I will be serving West Ridge as the Pastor of Ministry and Leadership Development. What does that mean? It means that I get to work with the Ministries at our East Location (Family Ministries and Groups) and help set them up for success. Leadership Development is a new piece that will focus on creating a culture of Leadership Development among our ministries and help to create a clearer pathway of spiritual growth for our volunteers. I continue to be a Pastor, Leader, and Shepherd at West Ridge and serve the congregation towards becoming more fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

 

Kevin Dunlap will be the Director of Outreach for West Ridge, Engage Atlanta, and Launch Atlanta. Formerly Kevin was the Administrator for West Ridge. I have known Kevin and Stephanie and their family for over 10 years. Global Missions is a huge part of his personal story. When Kevin sees the poor and the hurting his heart goes out. He has volunteered his own time (not vocational staff time) to serve in the Local Community over the years. He has a gift for seeing the plans of other leaders, like business entrepreneurs and Church Planters, and helping to make them even better than what was proposed.  It’s a blessing from God to transition the leadership of this work to a friend who has the capability of taking this light years beyond where I have had it.

 

Being a part of Local Outreach, Disaster Relief, and Hope For Christmas has been a thrill. Serving and praying with leaders in Global Outreach has stretched and grown me personally like nothing else. It’s been a privilege to be a part of Engage Atlanta and the Community Makeover and helping to pull that off every year. I’m not yet done with non-profit work. One other quick thing I want to share for prayer and clarity.

 

When we filed Engage Atlanta’s non-profit paperwork in 2008 we included the opportunity for other churches to give to our work in Burkina Faso, West Africa. For a while this has been a subsidiary of Engage Atlanta, called Engage Burkina. As the work in Burkina has grown churches, businesses, and individuals from all over the country have been giving to help pull off wells, churches, classrooms at schools, sponsoring children, and other humanitarian aid. It has grown to the point of needing to be its own entity.

 

For that reason we have pulled Engage Burkina out from under the umbrella of Engage Atlanta and it is now its own non-profit, with its own board, accounting, etc. I am playing the role of Director of Engage Burkina as a separate non-profit. This non-profit started because of the work of West Ridge Church and the leadership of Brian Bloye. West Ridge will continue to partner and drive initiatives in Burkina through the Global Missions office and leadership of Kevin Dunlap, but may not partner with everything Engage Burkina is doing. Bottom line is that if you want to get involved in Global Missions at West Ridge, including coming to Burkina, Kevin is your ‘huckleberry’.

 

The rest of the leaders at West Ridge give me the freedom to work on Engage Burkina as a secondary role to what I do at the church. I am very thankful for that.

 

This change actually took place months ago. We thought it would be better as leaders to incubate things for a while and make a slow hand off. We all treasure your prayers and your partnership going forward.

Paul

 

Don’t Miss This

**Sent to the volunteers at the East Location of West Ridge Church**

As I have reflected back over 15 years at West Ridge and think about the journey ahead I wanted to share with you one recurring thought that I have felt God communicate to me over the years; Don’t Miss This!

It’s been awesome being a part of a church where God is moving and watching the lights come on for people week after week. We have seen people who were broken, alone, and confused be restored in ways that only God can do. I believe that for all of us who work on the ministry together, that it’s possible to work really hard, and still be a spectator. What I mean is that with so much going on around us, it’s easy to let God’s work in others just ‘bless my heart to pieces’, and miss out on the change He wants to bring about in my life.

Don’t miss the personal relationship that can happen when you devote your own self to prayer.
Don’t miss the growth that can happen when you love and read God’s word for yourself and not just to teach to others.
Don’t miss the life change that can happen by being involved in a small group.Don’t miss giving God full reign over your finances, and making Him a priority in that area.
Don’t miss allowing God to fill you back up as your worship Him privately and corporately.

If these things are not true in our own lives then ultimately we burn out and leave the church feeling beat down. More importantly, we miss out on the relationship that Father God wants to have with each one of us. That is something you definitely don’t want to miss!

May we learn to love God, grow in faith, serve others, and share Christ personally, so that what we do together can be an accurate reflection of Him!

See you Sunday! Don’t forget to introduce yourself to just one other person that you don’t know. You never know how God might use you to allow someone else to take the next step on their journey!

Everyone Belongs,

Paul

More Prayer Thoughts

The last several weeks we have been in a prayer series at West Ridge Church. We have been going line by line through Matthew 6 in order to study what Jesus actually said about prayer. We have offered some great opportunities for our folks to engage in prayer, including a 30 day guided reading through Psalms, highlighting our prayer blog (which is always available), and our groups Pastor Rodney Hunt has made some great resources and thoughts available to our Small Group Leaders. You can view and listen to the series  including yesterday’s message from Brian Bloye. As he mentioned yesterday our church is really going to the next level in what we are learning and how we are engaging prayer.

Over the years I’ve written a few things about prayer in moments where God was teaching me specific lessons. I have been reminded of many of them over the last several weeks. I thought I would make them available in the hope that it would encourage someone else today to go to the next level in prayer.

Praying Scripture
When You Don’t Know What To Pray
Listen
Be still

If you live in Northwest Atlanta don’t miss the last week of this series at one of our three locations. We have a great prayer and worship service planned that brings together what we have been learning most recently.

Everyone Belongs,

Paul

A Little Something Extra (For Africa)

Each of our three locations at West Ridge Church are getting the opportunity to meet John and Betty Arnold right now. They are our next missionaries to Burkina Faso in West Africa. Like all of us their story and calling are unique and provide inspiration to others. They began their tour at our Cartersville location on April 15th, will be sharing at East on April 22nd, and hanging out at West on April 29th.

God has allowed them to raise almost all the funds they need for personal support, but they have a few other things that we wanted to invite everyone to help out with.

John and Betty will be setting up a house and new team center in Burkina Faso so that all of us can take turns going to see them and be a part of transforming this country. They have registered for several household goods that will help them be more successful, and all of you be more successful, when you go to West Africa. They have registered at Target and Walmart on their gift registries. You can go look at what they have registered for by clicking on the links below.

Click here for Target and here for Wal-mart

As you might imagine Wal-mart, Target, and Home Depot haven’t exactly made it to Burkina yet. It’s really important we help them get as many of these things as possible before they leave. We need these items by May 6th so that they can be put into a shipping container headed out over the Atlantic.

If you live in Paulding County they have also registered at Home Depot in Hiram. That list is not available on the internet, but they can pull it for you in the store. If you are a man or woman who loves tools go have a look and purchase something. Then when you come to Burkina you can use your tool to help build a church, school, repair a well, or help in some other way.

If you are planning to bring things back to a location of West Ridge contact the Missions office or drop things off on Sundays between now and May 6th.

You can follow John and Betty’s journey at engageburkina.com/blog and at facebook.com/engageburkina

Everyone Belongs,

Paul