Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Back from the Houston Ministry Adventure

We made it!  15 brave souls from around the world converged in the third largest city in the United States to explore mission and ministry.  We came to serve, share, learn, and to expand our vision of how God loves to work in the world.  The group represented ministry leaders from the United States, South Korea serving in Dallas, South Korea serving in Nepal,  Japan, Estonia, Mauritius, Singapore, Liberia, Romania, Columbia, and Zambia!  What a blessing it was to share time with the cultures of the world!

Each year our adventure includes many of the same ministries with some new experiences peppered in to keep everyone moving forward.  This year, we experiences a joyful surprise by visiting the Lanier Theological Library for the first time.  What a gift to the world!  Check it out at www.laniertheologicallibrary.org.  It is a hidden gem!

On the other end of the spectrum (on the same day) we shifted from the quiet and ancient beauty of the Lanier to enter a much more difficult setting.  We moved from a place of study and reflection to the chaos and confusion of the streets.  We worshiped in the dark under a large tree with the folks from Houston Street Reach and Youth With a Mission.  For years they have been faithfully building relationships with children and adults who live in the darkness of the inner city streets.  Some members shared water and snacks with folks who were sleeping under the  freeway while others worked with youth who are locked into prostitution, drugs, and destruction.  Others sought to build relationships with people from the transvestite community that lives in secret and struggle. I can promise you this, there was no shortage of people to encounter!  Midnight came all too soon.  Check out www.joewilliamsministries.org and www.ywamhouston.org.

Personally, after seven years of leading this ministry immersion, the key turning point events always seem to be the same.  I am always challenged by the missional life style of Jim and Betty Herrington (www.harborchurch.com or www.faithwalking.com).  I am energized by the positive and chotic climate of Mercy Street recovery community.  (www.mercystreet.org) And I am always blessed by the calm, clear, biblical approach of Chris Seay and the people of Ecclesia (www.ecclesiahouston.org).  This year, the people of Ecclesia are literally lining up to sign up to get a series of body art tattoos that will create a stations of the cross exhibit for Lent!   And check out Chris Seay's new book called A Place At The Table if you want to expereince a 40 day Lenten journey with the poor.  I am challenged and changed because I sit with these people.

Pastor Rudy Rasmus always has a word that encourages, shocks, and transforms my soul.  Rudy and Juanita have demonstrated a long and faithful walk with the Lord in a very difficult situation.  Drop on at www.stjohnsdowntown.org to get a quick look at the extensive ministry they have created.  But you really need to open the door on the corner of Gray and Crawford to experience the real blessing.  Take time to do it, you will be blessed!

Oh, one more thing (maybe two!) that brings blessing to my soul.  Have you ever worshiped in five separate settings, under five different leaders, in five unique worship styles, in less than 24 hours?  What a blessing!  And...we were served the Lord's Supper in three of the five settings!  Contemplative and quiet, loud and choreographed, raw and energetic, soft and reflective, along with an AA meeting on steroids with a preacher and a band.  That is the heart of the Houston journey that will refresh your soul, add question marks galore, and lift your spirits to soar at new heights.  It is good to worship the Lord!

My thanks to our church planting friends, the folks who feed us, the people who lead us in worship, the pastors who teach and inspire, along with the journey of living life together in a van.  Peace to you all.  We may never meet again, but there will be another group, and you will be inspired to create your own experience in the city of your choice.  Start planning it today!  Peace!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Houston Experience

For those who will be taking part in the 2012 edition of the great Houston ministry immersion...Welcome aboard!

Our journey will start with Faithbridge UMC and a conversation about church planting.  From there we will experience Pastor Jonathan Williams and the Wilcrest Church.  It is an incredible ministry that is thoroughly multi-cultural.  Then it is off to The Woodlands UMC where we will see a large complex congregation in action under the leadership of Dr. Ed Robb.

The Lanier Theological Library will provide insights into private resources for in depth study.  Next we will literally hit the street with Joe Williams and Houston Street Reach.  We will worship at the street church and then spend the evening (and early morning) in ministry to folks on the streets of the Montrose.

Saturday finds us at the Power Center and the ministry of Windsor Village UMC with Pastor Kirby Jon Caldwell.  Amazing!  But if you think that is good, wait until you get to the Kingdom Builders Center and the Corinthian Point housing development.  It will open your mind to entrepreneurial ministry and leadership.

Dr. Jerry Webber will help us understand the contemplative traditions of spiritual formation at Chapelwood Church.  From there we will be ready for Mercy Street.  A worship setting for folks who are in recovery.  Mercy!  What a blessing it will be to share a late evening sandwich with the Mercy Street team.

Then Sunday rolls around!  Lakewood Church and pastor Joel Osteen is first on the agenda.  The largest church in the USA.  The music will blow you away.  From there we will find an incredible contrast with Pastor Rudy Rasmus and St John's Downtown where we will worship with homeless folks in an inner city setting.  St John's is a unique ministry that literally reaches around the world!

Dr. Jim Jackson will provide teaching about his new discipleship model and the fine art of raising funds for mission and ministry.  That kicks us into the evening with yet another worship service.  This time it is with a young adult ministry called Ecclesia under the preaching of Pastor Chris Seay.  Ecclesia is changing the world!  No fooling!

Now for a real blessing, we will have breakfast with Dr. Jim Herrington and hear his family story of inner city missional ministry.  Every time I hear the story I am encouraged and challenged.  This one will be a real blessing.

We close out the journey with a one-on-one conversation with Chris Seay.  Don't miss the New Testament translation called The Voice!

North American pastors and church leaders and international Christian leaders alike will be blessed.  We will be 17 strong so there will be plenty of time to interact.  Buckle your seat belt, catch an early nap, and get ready to roll!

See you there!