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World Water Day 2013 (Engage Burkina)

paul at the pumpToday is World Water Day! This day was started by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) 1993 to draw attention to the fact that one in eight people in the world do not have access to clean water.

In Burkina Faso last 1 in 3.4 children die before the age of 10. For this little country in West Africa, AIDS and Malaria are real problems, but even more so are malnutrition and water born illnesses. Since 2008 we have been working with Pastors and Community Leaders in this country to try and provide clean water to as many people as possible. We have been doing this with a combination of drilled wells and hand dug wells in the poorest, most remote areas of this beautiful land.

The season when the water table is at the point that we can drill or dig new wells is from December to June. When this season is over we will have had a part in seeing 180+ wells be completed in this country. We have provided ongoing maintenance and repairs of existing work to keep clean water flowing in the communities we are investing in. We are really just getting started.

You could help us in some very simple ways. Very few people know where this country is, and it does not get the attention from NGO’s that other countries do.

1. Spread the word. Get to know us on Facebook and Twitter and share and retweet the work on Engage Burkina.

2. Create your own fundraiser on our Crowdrise page. My friend Dean Plummer is about to launch his idea of using the Boston Marathon to raise funds for Clean Water. There is also talk of a Crossfit Fundraiser, and your truly is going to do some cycling to raise some funds.

3. You can make a donation in any amount on any given day on our website. You can go here to donate, http://engageburkina.com/donate

Still Learning,

Paul

Broken Down Jesus

The Well at Fin

The Well at Fin

Around three years ago the Student Ministry at West Ridge Church partnered with Engage Burkina to put a drilled well in the village of Fin in Burkina Faso. It’s a big village and is very important to the work we are doing to spread the gospel to people who have never before heard of Jesus. I’ve pumped water from that well. I’ve drank from it. I’ve prayed with Pastor Ezekiel and his wife. West Ridge Senior Pastor Brian Bloye and his wife Amy have exchanged gifts with this Bush Pastor and his family, and Brian has visited. Then our team hears that the well is broken down.

People in the village have been told that followers of Jesus brought water to the village. The well came from Jesus because He loves them and wants them to experience His living water. When a well breaks down so does the message. What we have here is a case of ‘Broken Down Jesus’.

There are thousands of wells all over West Africa and the rest of the third world that are broken down. Many of them were drilled by faith based groups who helped meet the needs of people in dire need of clean water. That doesn’t communicate the truth that there is a God who desires to have a personal relationship with people. It communicates that God was here once. Then he left and never came back.

As Christ-followers when we lose faith, hold onto bitterness instead of practicing forgiveness, and demonstrate outwardly that there is no real difference in believing in Jesus versus anything else, the message your life should communicate breaks down. We have to allow God to repair us so that we can be useful again. None of us want those who are seeking to see a ‘broken down Jesus’.

The village witch doctor and Fin has tried to use the broken down well to draw people to his message.

When I’m wearing my non-profit director hat, I’m not content to know that money that was spent by a donor or a partner is now being wasted.

So we fix the well. It’s a $1,000 repair. We will take the opportunity to upgrade some of the material in the well, and we will demonstrate that Jesus wasn’t just here once and then he left. He’s still present. He’s still here. These people still matter. Jesus is not broken.

Paul

To find out more about Engage Burkina and to give to our effort to bring clean water to one of the poorest countries in the world, go here.

Learning From The Dreamer

“I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope.” (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.)

Dreams can truly inspire. Dreams that paint a picture of how the world should be can change the direction of millions. Shared dreams can create revolution.

When Dr. King shared his dream with over 200,000 on August 28th, 1963 it was a truth he believed from a place down deep. He had been speaking about ‘the dream’ for several years. He owned it. But when he went away from his prepared speech to “Tell them about the dream” (as Mahalia Jackson implored him to do) he illuminated the dream that had been in the hearts of millions of people and he discovered this dream was shared. It is shared because it came from our Creator. He planted that seed. It’s His dream for how the world should be. And the Creator’s dreams are unstoppable. It is a vision of a reality one day to come. The kind you are invited to actively participate in. The kind you want to be a part of.

If you have never taken 17 minutes of your life to watch ‘The Dream’ speech I would invite you to do that, and ask God how you can share in and live the dream.

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

A Beautiful Gift

The non-profit I direct is experiencing a tremendous month of generosity as individuals give the gift of water for Christmas. Some are doing this in honor or in memory of friends and loved ones. But Engage Burkina does more than just water in coming alongside the people of Burkina Faso.

IMG_1170I was in Burkina in mid-November with some Pastors as part of a partnership trip with Compassion International. Along with our team members John and Betty Arnold we were able to present several people with a gift they needed most. In West Africa, there is a rare disease attributed to malnutrition causing people to go lame in almost ‘all of a sudden fashion’. In one of the poorest countries in the world where personal transportation is a premium and public transportation is non-existent these people are forced to crawl around on the dusty streets. Our partners on the ground with the Christian and Missionary Alliance have developed a solution. It’s a bike. It’s not a traditional bike, but one that can be pedaled with your hands. These bikes give dignity, and hope to people largely overlooked in an overlooked society.

IMG_1178The man in the picture crawled many miles (who knows how far in advance) to join us on this day. As part of the presentation to each recipient of the bike we would actually lift them, place them on the bikes, and have a word of prayer. It is truly a powerful experience to know you are meeting someone at their most basic level of need.

One of the leaders on this trip, Kim Harris (Leadership Strategist at West Cobb Church in Marietta, GA) shared this story, and we received a letter from someone giving a bike for this Christmas season. I thought it was truly a beautiful gift.

“Dear Engage Burkina, I am enclosing a check for Engage Burkina in memory of my husband, “Daws” who went to heaven this past July. He died after a long and physically devastating disease in which he gradually lost use of his motor skills. For the last two years he was totally dependent upon his wheelchair. When Kim Harris showed slides of the handicapped people with their new pedal-propelled bicycles I knew that I had found the perfect Christmas gift for my beloved husband! After 45 years of marriage, I knew his heart as well as my own and had he still been with us he would have wanted to give, in Jesus’ name, a gift of joy and independence to someone who needed assistance to walk. In Jesus love, Margaret”

If you want to give a gift this Christmas you can do so by visiting the Engage Burkina Story page by clicking here.

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.

Christians Blew The Election

mel gibson conspiracy theoryLet’s begin with full disclosure. I’m a Pastor at a Local Church. I’m not the Senior Pastor, but I still can’t endorse a candidate. It’s over now, so I’ll just tell you where I stand. I’m Pro-Small Government, less taxes, and less regulation. I think a President should pass a balanced budget. Heck, any budget at all would be a good start. I’m not a fan of government controlled healthcare for lots of reasons, but I wouldn’t throw all of Obamacare out the window. I don’t understand why we don’t thoughtfully harvest the energy resources in our own country like every other country on the planet. I understand the ramifications of the direction I believe our country is taking more than I will say here because I will sound like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. I love politics, and I love my country. I love Jesus, and His Bride, the Church. But Christians blew this election.

It has become more than a little unfortunate to see and hear the reactions of people who call Jesus their Savior as it applies to this year’s Presidential election. Many of the ones who voted for the Republican candidate are now fully on their way to spontaneous combustion. After they get done lashing out at everyone they will move into a state of depression. Angry, sulking, and without a tribe is a tough place to be.

In all circles, not just evangelical ones, people have used social media to attack their friends and neighbors over this election. I’ve not seen one post of anyone attempting to thoughtfully persuade someone with the heart of an issue. Just people who want to be right, and who want to WIN at all costs. Here’s the problem, when you equate your Christianity with your politics, and you live in a country that is divided approximately 51-49, you do more than express a different political view. You basically just sent half the country to hell with the inference that they have to choose your politician as much as they need to choose your Savior.

Do we really want to dilute the Gospel message of Jesus and bring it down to the level of American politics?

An openly Democrat neighbor came to our door last week, and asked if everything was good between their family and ours. Evidently, she had just attacked everything that even smelled Republican (oddly enough it’s the same smell as a Baptist Church Fellowship Hall on Wednesday nights) with a facebook rant that used some words I frankly don’t know the definitions of. Why did she ask? Because she knows we are Christ-follwers. Because we have talked politics, and she knows where we stand. Can we still be friends? Yes. Can we have a difference of opinion about politics? Yes. The only thing I am digging my heels in on is that there is only one path to get to God and it is through His Son Jesus. We can discuss that in a loving and meaningful way, but there’s just no room for waffling and tolerance with that one.

A large portion of evangelical Christianity has just ostracized themselves from the opportunity to share the greatest (and only real) message of Hope and Life Change in the history of all mankind by rushing to defend one half of an imperfect political system. It’s more than just a little short-sighted, and the eternal ramifications are much more important than the future of the American dollar.

Some mistakenly say that if Christians had just spoken up louder then their guy would have won. Ironically, the louder the Christian rhetoric gets the more people run the other direction. Our rants are not speaking to people’s hearts and our lives are not displaying a message of Hope that would otherwise be admirable and attractional. The message of Jesus is challenging enough. To try and demean people into listening is enough to cause people to run away from Him never to return. To the 1600 ordained Men and Women Pastors who thumbed their nose at our government, endorsed a candidate, and declared ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday’ a few weeks ago, please stand up this Sunday and let people know that there are communities of Christ-followers who care more about eternity, the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, than anti-colonialism. Our arms are wide open and we are willing to start extra services to welcome the people you have alienated, and to let them know that God’s love is bigger than disagreement on a political worldview.

If you are a Christ-follower and your boldness about your politics has now gotten in the way of your credibility to be able to share the Gospel then you blew it. Plain and simple. Take responsibility and you can earn back the trust necessary to carry every important message in your life forward.

Still learning,

Paul