Mobilization & the Noble Sport of Curling

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Curling

Sweeping Someone’s Path to the Nations

By Shane Bennett

Check me if I’m wrong on this, but I believe only one sport involves something being thrown, shot, hit, or swatted, after which the players extensively manipulate the course of the object. None but noble curling.

You’ve seen it, right? One person slides a giant rock down the ice while two more people crazily sweep a path before it? Of course it’s far more subtle, sophisticated, and, if you’re into curling, more beautiful than that. In fact, curling is known as “chess on ice.”

So how about curling as also a great metaphor for mission mobilization?

For the sake of brevity, I’ll overlook some of the most obvious possible parallels… that missionaries’ heads can be as hard as rocks! That many popular missions destinations are so crowded we have to knock others out to stay there?! That Canada has won more curling championships than any other country. (O Canada!)

No, here’s what I’m thinking: A curling team or “rink” consists of four members. The one calling the shots and coordinating the effort is called the “skip.” Let’s say we’re actually praying the way Jesus told us to pray in Luke 10:2, asking “the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest,” and our Skip, the Lord, actually says yes and does so.

The stretch of ice between the launch and the bull’s eye is long, slippery, and fraught with obstacles. Mobilizers are like sweepers, receiving instruction from the Skip and sweeping faster and slower, lightly and vigorously, all to end of helping the stone arrive at its most strategic point.

Last month’s Practical Mobilization column talked about how to find potential missionaries in your midst. This month, let’s think about the influence God may have us use to help them as they go. How do we sweep?

I assume you know people who overdo it. We—I mean they—assume they “know God’s will” for someone else or speak and act as if the thing they are doing is pretty much the only thing God is into these days.

It’s important to note: The Skip calls the shots! It’s the Skip’s job to see the whole ice. The sweepers implement the strategy of the Skip, not the other way around.

Here are four ways in which we “sweep” laborers into strategic points in the harvest.

1. We encourage prospective long-term workers to persevere.

Most valuable things are hard to do. Preparing for career-level, cross-cultural service carries many normal challenges, plus the oddness of pursuing your career in a hugely different place with a new language and without tons of models. These days there is growing stigma on people who assume others should also believe things they believe. And if you raise support to do this? Yikes.

Sweep. “Keep at it.” “I’m with you.” “You’re going to kill this.” Sweepity, sweep, sweep.

2. On the other hand, sometimes they need to slow down.

A wise mission mobilizer knows when to go all yellow light on a candidate. This is hard for me, but you see a few people or a cute couple spin out and hit the wall and you may think, “Let’s don’t be cavalier about this.”

It may be time to offer more prayer, advice, and help in spiritual development. Perhaps basic discipling. This early investment pays out in long-term effectiveness.

3. A good mobilizer helps prospective workers wrestle with strategic decisions.

A good sweeper helps the rock follow the right path to the right destination. Again, under the guidance of the Skip, we help people consider where they might go and with whom.

If, like me, you’ve grown up in a western culture that specializes in individualism (“I think, therefore I am” and “What’s God’s will for my life?”), it might be particularly important to consider the “go with” parts of the equation. Whom do you go with in terms of spouse, church, team, and agency?

I don’t know every missions agency. There are a gazillion of them. And I’m a little biased toward my org, Frontiers, and Missions Catalyst’s publisher, Pioneers. But I like to imagine that I can objectively help people think about where they might fit. With a list of options longer than you find at the Cheesecake Factory, it’s nice to have a friend who’s familiar with the menu.

We can also help find training and mission experience for people as they respond to God’s launching. Take someone to their first Perspectives class if they haven’t been before. Help them think about a training internship like Launch Global or TOAG. Advocate for appropriate scouting and vision trips to potential locations.

4. And finally, smooth the ice of support raising.

Feeling adventurous? If the Skip instructs you to do so, you could buy their house or take care of their student loans! Maybe buying them a copy of The God Ask (or lending them your copy) is more your speed. Introduce them to people who might share their vision and significantly fund them. And always, pray and encourage perseverance.

Conclusion

Jesus said to ask the Father to send out laborers. I assume he did so knowing God would say yes. So, fellow sweepers, let’s grab our brooms afresh, listening carefully to the Skip’s commands and get some rocks on the button.

» Share your thoughts on this article on our website or Facebook page. Got this from a friend? Browse the archives and subscribe!

Curling image: Medyr/Fotolibre. Creative Commons License.

Subversive Mobilization: Invite a Muslim Family Over for Thanksgiving

Live in or come from America? We’ve got a big holiday coming in a couple of weeks. As I told readers of my weekly Muslim Connect email, Thanksgiving might be the easiest time to take a risk and invite a Muslim family to dinner. Gratitude is universal and pumpkin pie should be! If you’ve been feeling a nudge that direction, now is the time to make the invitation.

» Questions about how that might work? Post them here. If you do invite someone over, I’d love to hear how it goes.

Who Will Go? | Practical Mobilization

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goers

Who Will Go? Six Things You Can Do to Find Potential Missionaries in Your Midst

By Shane Bennett

Imagine this scenario: Your pastor stands on the stage Sunday morning and says, “Everyone point to the most missions-minded person in the building!” Do they look at you? Are fingers pointing your way? The odds may be pretty good if you are a Missions Catalyst reader.

Here’s why I want to paint that picture in your imagination: I suspect there are people in your fellowship whom God has in mind to serve his kingdom in a strategic, cross-cultural way. And I have a hunch that you may be an instrumental part of their activation.

If there were people at your church God was calling to long-term service overseas, how would you know? What might you do?

1. Pray.

Since this is always God’s work before it’s our work, prayer leads the way. Try this: Set a daily alarm on your phone for 10:02am. When it goes off, take a moment to pray in line with the instructions Jesus gave in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Ask God to raise up workers from your church. Then listen for any nudging he gives about particular people. Pray for your pastor, staff, and missions leaders. Pray for particular individuals in whom you see long-term potential.

2. Search among the servers.

This is a little dicey, I know, because most of us operate with a scarcity mentality. (It’s not just me, is it?) I’ll never forget my former pastor saying to me, as God began a fresh global move in our church, “You can take whoever you want, but don’t take Brenda!” Brenda was his personal assistant. And, you guessed it, she was the first to move to Central Asia with her family!

Fact is, few people step into overseas work from sitting the pew and nothing more. Faithful service leads to more faithful service. The future long-term workers at your church are presently engaged in vital ministry. As God calls them out, there will be loss—for them personally and for the programs they’re serving.

I see no way around this. So we must tread carefully, leading with humility and empathy, never implying that “real service” is missions.

3. Launch some intro events.

This is the church equivalent to a fisherman chumming the water. Sponsor a cool event, or start a helpful study and see who shows up. The Embark Study from Frontiers is a crazy simple intro to God’s work among Muslims. Crescent Project’s Bridges program either as a seminar (which I would love to do for you) or as a small-group study with DVDs can help normal people shed their fear of Muslims with a little bit of knowledge and some comfort-zone-expanding homework.

I’m sure you can find similar intros bringing biblical insight but focused on reaching out to other populations. The idea is to provide a baby step of information and activity.

4. Take people to visit a Perspectives class.

Still hands down the best missions mobilization education going, Perspectives has been a huge factor in many long-termers’ stories. This week I’m kicking around Catania, Sicily with a great team of people exploring longer-term investment. Perspectives is a common and significant thread in the lives of most of the group.

Once people have a taste of the course, they’re going to want to attend. Lobby your church to fund a handful of scholarships, then invite people you choose to use them. Even better, consider hosting a course at your church! Enlist those you have your eyes on to help you coordinate the class.

5. Take a little excursion.

A tour of a local Hindu temple or a day at a refugee apartment complex will help potential goers get their feet wet. It will also provide a small chance for you to consider if you have your eyes on the right people. Brief forays like this can lead to longer domestic and overseas trips, building cross-cultural capacity and smoothing rough edges.

6. Connect them to people who can place them.

One of the best gifts a mobilizer can give to a potential goer is connection and open doors to people who can help them. You have some idea what organizations excel in given areas. You have a sense of what pitfalls and biases to be aware of. A timely introduction to a team leader or agency staff might significantly accelerate the process for a would-be goer.

Conclusion

Fair warning: Put these things into practice and you’ll run the risk of people saying about you, “God loves you and [your name here] has a wonderful plan for your life!” I don’t much care for that statement when it’s applied to me, but I’m not going to simply sit on the couch to avoid it.

Most of us are designed by biology and guided by our faith to operate best in community. And that means in part that we do better with trusted friends who encourage us, who will say, “Yes, I believe this nudging you’re feeling is from God.” Or, more radically, “Have you ever considered kingdom work in an unreached culture? I see potential in you.”

You don’t know God’s will for a particular person, but you have a sense of what he’s up to in the world. If you think someone in your church could play a part, take a risk and let them know.

» I’d love to hear what you’ve done to help people in your church become goers. Would you take a moment right now and share your good ideas and practices? Posting a comment on this Google doc will make your thoughts available to us all.

7. Bonus Tip

Here’s a final way to find long-term cross-cultural candidates at your church: Make them from scratch! Build them from a young age. Bring your kids to work with me and some refugees next year in a US city.

Granted, there’s enough hurricane clean-up to keep most of our youth groups busy for the next 18 months. Should God give you grace for it, though, I’d love to talk to you about a week-long, well-led, local-church-partnered short term that blesses refugees and equips your kids to tell stories of Jesus to people from all over the world, even the world two streets over from their house.

Yikes, I guess I do have a wonderful plan for your life!

» Learn more.

Jesus and His Passion for a Big Kingdom | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeJesus and His Passion for a Big Kingdom

By Shane Bennett

Driving Merchants from the Temple

Driving of the Merchants from the Temple, by Ippolito Scarsella.

If God’s job is to make his sheep fat and happy, he’s not too good at it. I think about believers in the Caribbean and the US suffering the effects of Harvey and Irma today, Mexicans dead in a massive earthquake, and Christians persecuted in the Middle East. Not to mention potential believers like the Rohingya of Burma who are fleeing for their lives in the hundreds of thousands.

If his job is to radically remake everything, I wonder why he’s so slow about it. Realizing, however, that the fundamental unit of the “everything” getting remade is the human heart, mine and yours, I sadly acknowledge I’m part of the slowness.

Alongside the long list of things I don’t understand and the timing issues I don’t get, one thing seems pretty clear in the Gospels: Jesus inaugurated and relentlessly lived into a vision of a certain and vast kingdom of God—a new reality in which outsiders become insiders, evil is pushed back, justice becomes the norm, and as N.T. Wright brilliantly summarizes, God “puts all things to rights.”

God’s job, then, is to bring about that kingdom. Jesus, by the way he lived, the things he said, and the places he hung out gives us both a framework for what the kingdom looks like and a model for participation in it.

I’m particularly encouraged and re-centered by some of the key biblical ideas highlighted in the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course regarding this:

1. Jesus called himself the “Son of Man.”

While this carried messianic allusions for his Jewish listeners, perhaps it also provided accessibility to non-Jews. At least it lowered some of the walls of exclusivity raised by Jewish-specific titles like Son of David and Rabbi.

2. Jesus hung out with outsiders.

Matthew tells us Jesus went and lived in Capernaum, fulfilling scripture (Matthew 4:12-25; Isaiah 9:1-2):

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

This also put Jesus nearer to the nations. While messiah-seeking Jews could come up from Jerusalem to encounter Jesus (as Matthew says they did), Gentiles found him teaching, healing, and driving out demons right in their own back yard! The presence of the kingdom of God had come even to them (Matthew 4:24-25).

3. Jesus gave Gentiles access.

When Jesus cleansed the Temple, or as I like to say, “wreaked havoc on the holy hangout,” he was not teaching us that Girl Scouts can’t sell cookies in the foyer and realtors should leave their business cards at home on Sunday morning. Instead he was rolling back a situation that prevented access to God by Gentiles. He re-opened a path for the glory God deserved and wanted from the nations (Matthew 21:12-17; Isaiah 56:7-8). Can’t you just hear him shout it?

“For my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.”
The Sovereign Lord declares—
he who gathers the exiles of Israel:
“I will gather still others to them
besides those already gathered.”

4. Jesus passionately advocated for care for outsiders.

We see him in action healing a Roman soldier’s slave (Luke 7:1-10) and driving out demons from the daughter of a foreigner (Matthew 15:21-28). We hear his words of scathing rebuke (Luke 4:24-26). Were there not widows in Israel? Were there not lepers in Israel? Yet God had sent the prophet to foreigners!

5. He worked long and hard to build global, kingdom understanding in his disciples.

I particularly love how Jesus agrees to spend two days in a Samaritan village (John 4:39-41). Poor disciples! Jesus was leading them into the very places they promised their moms they’d never go! This is such a cool model for us to both go and take others into important situations that are beyond our realm of comfort.

Our Response

What can we do to grow in alignment with Jesus on this? How can we see and live out the kingdom he envisioned? The answer could be as big and diverse as the cosmos, but here’s one thing that hurts and one thing that should be fun:

First, realize that we may have more in common with the religious leaders Jesus was smacking around than the outsiders to whom he showed such lavish kindness.

It’s possible this is just me and not you, but give it a little thought. If you’re reading Missions Catalyst, odds are you’re an insider to the things of God and to the current Christian culture. Our enemy would love to build a mindset in us in which we thank God for our special status and cluck our tongues at those gays, Muslims, liberals, etc. who are outside looking in.

Second, give up on this generation and focus on the next!

I’m kidding. Let’s not give up quite yet. But I want to invite you to build kingdom-minded kids by sending your youth group with me next year to connect with refugees. It would be a little bit like when Jesus took his guys to hang out with the Samaritan woman and her village. Let’s spend a week in a US city, learning about the refugee situation, connecting with a local church, working hard, and authentically serving an unreached refugee community.

Sound like a step in the right kingdom direction? Let’s talk.

» You can also comment on our website or Facebook page.

Memorial for Hall-of-Famer Bill Dickson

Good people pass from this life every day, most without the recognition they merit. May that not be the case for Bill Dickson, a long-time Global Mapping International staffer and member of the broader community of people working hard to complete the Great Commission.

Bill Dickson died in a car crash on August 2. He worked in the background of a growing movement, logging hours that were long, challenging, and largely unsung. LightSys, the organization with which Bill most recently worked, issued a press release about his life. Here’s an excerpt.

Bill is best known for his pioneering work using database technology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and digital publishing for the cause of global mission. Bill was instrumental in supporting hundreds of organizations globally in their use of technology in the early days of the digital era. Some of those included the International Mission Board, World Vision, Lausanne, COMIBAM (the Latin American mission association), The CoMission (an effort to engage the former Soviet Union when the Berlin Wall fell), MANI (Movement for African National Initiatives), and many others. He also helped create the digital versions of products such as Operation World, Peoples of the Buddhist World, the North American Mission Handbook, Operation China, and The Future of the Global Church.

His passion for missions can best be summed up in his own words:

“I believe that we have an enemy who likes to muddle communication and confuse efforts to take news of the Kingdom to the ends of the earth. I believe that good research, done cooperatively, is like turning on the lights in a dark room, and that instead of stumbling over each other in the dark, Kingdom workers can develop trust and begin moving together with clarity and purpose.”

Thank you to people who financially and prayerful support people like Bill. Their work isn’t flashy, but strategic almost beyond measure.

» Read or post memories of Bill.

Helping Kids Help Kids at School

America is going back to school. Little munchkins are buying notebooks, boarding busses, and beginning a new year of education, fun, and tribalism. Cliques are forming and re-forming in the primordial ooze of public schools. Some kids are wooed, others cautiously invited in and too many are overlooked, marginalized, and excluded.

You went to school, right? Were you the same color as most of your classmates? One of my friends, a tall, fair, redhead, arrived for the first day of ninth grade in her new school to find a classroom otherwise entirely filled with students of Pakistani descent. Her teacher arrived, noticed her, and said, “You must be the new girl!” She replied, “How’d you guess?” It’s a challenge to be different.

Thousands of variables affect group formation and insider/outsider status in our kids’ schools. As followers of Jesus, maybe we should be concerned about them all. We should definitely take pains to keep kids from being mistreated because they happen to be Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim. In fact, maybe we should encourage our kids to extend a hand to such kids.

What can your little Jesus kids do about this? In ascending order of social riskiness, they could…

  1. Keep their cute little mouths shut! Simply don’t join in when kids are being made fun of for the color of their skin or the religious situation they were born into. (They’ll do what they’ve seen at home!)
  2. Sit by the kids no one wants to sit by. Talk to them. (“I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”)
  3. Invite those kids to into their group. “Sit with us.” “Be on my team.” “Do you have a group for the project yet? Join ours.” (As a bonus, overlooked smart kids will help your kids’ grades!)
  4. Defend them before the “popular” kids. (This is gonna leave a mark!)
  5. Invite them to dinner at your house! (Stock up on halal snacks!)

Are there Muslim students at your school? Download this one-page primer for your kids. Take a quick look before you give it to them because you may want to yell at me, “Dude, what are you? 100 years old?” If you want to amend it for others to make it better, let me know. Or simply adapt it for your kids; you do know how to cut and paste.

If, during the first couple days of school, you’ll simply greet the mom in the burka or say hey to the dad with the odd name, your kids may get the picture and behave the same way. Unless they are thirteen, in which case they will just do the opposite of what you say and do!

» Other thoughts about this topic? Comment on our website or Facebook page or email Shane.

Subversive Mobilization: Baby Steps

A guy came up to me after church on Sunday to mention a talk he’d heard recently that helped him think about Muslims in a significantly new way. He said he felt an openness to engage with them he’d not known before. Furthermore, he was a sharp professional and north of 60 years old.

This encouraged me that mobilization has value and that by God’s grace and providence, Christians of all ages can be open to learning new things and taking new steps.

So I have this question for you: What are some of the baby steps believers might need to take to begin to connect with unreached peoples? Can you give 90 seconds to the cause by clicking below and sharing a “baby step” that comes to mind?

» Access and add to the list. Thanks for lending your wisdom.

(If you’re thinking, “Don’t call them ‘baby steps’ because that is super patronizing,” I’m with you! I just haven’t settled on the right name yet.)

Ten Lessons for Mission Trip Leaders | Practical Mobilization

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10STM Lessons EtnaBy Shane Bennett

This morning, the Rome airport was like an obstacle course of groups young and old, all wearing matching T-shirts, polos, or hoodies. The young lady next to me on the plane somehow managed to appear after the door was closed, crushing my dreams of a free middle seat. She’s heading home from Rome and off to Thailand in a couple of weeks. It’s short-term mission season.

There are a hundred snarky, patronizing, or arrogant things to say to denigrate short-term mission trips. But if you know me, you know I’m a big fan, particularly when they’re done well. Leading two teams to Catania, Sicily this month reinforced ten quick lessons for me.

1. Think ahead.

This probably only applies to the percentage of you who share my weakness in this area. Briefly: Don’t wait until your money runs out to go exchange more.

I was getting scarily lean on food cash for my team of 33 last week, so I went to the post office to change more. After a fair wait, I was informed that I needed the other post office! Then, after a fair wait there, the dear lady told me, “No. You can’t change money today. Come back next month.” What?!?

Turns out next month (Monday, July 1) was just around the corner, but you know, I needed the money then. I took a quick dart down the road to a private exchange office, and my hopes were dashed to find their sign put away, the lights out, and the proprietor literally locking the office door! Hearing my plea and seeing my distraught face, he consoled, “We are always open for tourists.” I took a hit on the rate, but the team ate!

Since this story is a little embarrassing, let’s just keep it between us, okay?

2. Get prayed for.

I asked for more prayer for this team than perhaps any other I’ve led. I shared my apprehension at the team size and ask people to pray for success. I’m cautious about assigning causal relationships between prayers and results, but you be the judge: We drove four huge vans with nine people each for seven days, crawling through the tiny streets of Catania. When we turned in the vans this morning, we paid for one parking ticket and were charged for one scratch.

Miraculous? You make the call! I smile just thinking about it.

3. Delegate.

I was hugely blessed to have a co-leader on this team. Nate covered bases, picked up slack, and basically helped the whole effort succeed. We also enlisted four people to input receipts generated by their sub-teams every day. So as I type, just hours after bidding the team adieu, 95% of the receipts are already entered into our expense report.

Yep, the missing 5% are mine. I am so glad it did not all rest on me.

4. Communicate often and well.

This team was huge! The nearly-daily pre-breakfast leader meetings went a long way to keeping everyone on track, in sync and happy.

5. Communicate, 2.0.

This team and another group earlier this spring both used an app called GroupMe to keep their teams in touch. A message entered once in the app flies out to everyone in the pre-arranged group. GroupMe banks on everyone having a data connection, charged phones, and sufficient cell coverage. When that was in place, it was super helpful.

6. Connect with the local church.

If your short-term team is going somewhere in which there is no local church, good on you! We need more like that. If, however, there is a local church and sufficient humility on the part of your team, connecting with them can shower blessings all the way around.

We experienced this as our team collaborated with a local Sicilian church to put on a “day away” for migrant boys living in a couple of asylum seeker facilities. The church opened up their rustic retreat facility, providing a cooler, outdoorsy venue to escape the city. We provided a bunch of bright, smiling faces to hang out, kick soccer balls, eat, and chat with the two busloads of boys who made the trek.

7. Take measured risks.

Midway through the day away, we loaded everyone up and rolled our nine-vehicle convoy up Mount Etna, whose claim to fame is being the “highest, most active volcano in Europe.” Someone had donated money to pay for the buses; I could imagine how cool it would be for the boys to look down on their new city from 6,000 feet up and I knew the break from the heat would be nice for everyone. But oh, it felt risky. My fears ranged from the mundane to the outrageous: What if their shoes are insufficient to protect their feet? What if lose one of the boys? If they fall in a crater maybe?

Everyone’s risk tolerance is different and I’m not suggesting you go rogue on God. But sometimes we need to push it a bit. In this instance I’m glad we did.

8. Engage with people along the way, even Muslims!

I continue to be delighted at the openness our short termers in Sicily experience as they engage the Muslims we are serving there. Where we find common language capacity, we almost always find willingness to laugh and talk and reconnect. This might not be the case everywhere, but on the off-chance things are trending this way, let’s keep initiating.

If you’re thinking, “No Muslims where I’m going,” I’ll concede the point (but I’ll bet you a bottle of malaria pills there are Muslims in the airport along the way).

9. Prioritize debriefing.

As schedules sometimes do, ours evolved to the point that we debriefed pretty late on our last night in Sicily. (It’s possible there was some lack of planning as well. See lesson 1 above!) There are many high-quality resources to help debrief, so we have no excuse not to. It’s not a good trade to do one more ministry activity when it means bouncing your processing time off the schedule.

Since I’m a pretty simple guy, I usually just ask three questions:

  • What did God do to you? (or say “in you” for more sensitive souls!)
  • What did God do through you?
  • How does this experience fit into the rest of your life?

10. Prep a response to “How was your trip?”

The final debrief assignment we worked on, when people were feeling pretty tired, was thinking about how to answer the question they will be asked a dozen times their first Sunday back at church, “How was your trip?”

As I see it, you’ve got about 30 seconds to respond to this. Aim to tell one thing God did; tell it in a provocative way and in the form of a brief story.

What’s a lesson you learned from a short-term trip this summer or before?

Comment on our website or through Twitter or Facebook or email Shane.

 

 

 

 

Walking in the Weeds | Practical Mobilization

Missions-Catalyst-no-tagline_largeRamadan, Refugees, and the Power of Walking in the Weeds

By Shane Bennett

Ever wonder what the coolest city in the world is? You’re going to know in less than three seconds: Catania, Sicily. Surprised? Me, too, but I’m shooting you straight. Although there is a slight chance I may be biased, inasmuch as this city, where I am off and on again this summer, has my heart. It’s a fascinating city at its core and is now home to a burgeoning population of migrants and asylum seekers from East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East, and pretty much everywhere else.

I’m writing this month from Catania and want to float out three quick topics for you chew on. Wait—it being Ramadan and all, let’s say, “mull over.”

1. Ramadan, Halfway Gone

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here in Sicily the sun rises early, burns hot, and hangs out late. Faithful Muslims don’t eat until the sun sets at 8:15pm. If you stop eating at 5am, that makes for a long stretch. Of course in some places the days are shorter; I suppose there’s no whining this year if you’re a Muslim in Cape Town.

Regardless of where they live, faithful Muslims are giving it a go this month (May 26 to June 24), exercising self-discipline, trying to honor God, and excelling in good works, charity, and gifts to the poor. I imagine you’re likely already praying for Muslims and the Muslim world this month. If you’d like a brief aid to prayer, shoot me an email, and I’ll send you a one-page Ramadan Prayer Outline.

God told Israel through Jeremiah that if they’d seek him, they would find him (Jeremiah 29). Scholars brighter than me might disagree, but I hope we can lean into that promise and apply it to Muslims this season: To the degree they’re honestly seeking God, may they find him in fresh ways.

2. Refugees, Like Never Before

This afternoon I played Jenga with some guys from Guinea-Bissau, Gambia, and Egypt. They’ve all fled persecution, abuse, and economic deprivation in Libya and/or in their homelands. As I write, two of our team members are leading a late-night discovery Bible study with a young guy from Senegal.

Christians now have an unprecedented opportunity to connect with Muslims from many of the most challenging places on the planet. We’re living through an epic shift in humanity which opens doors of staggering breadth for Christians, offering us a chance to act like Jesus toward people who have never experienced such and to extend Jesus’ invitation to follow him to those who’ve never heard it. What are you doing to engage this opportunity?

Of course, none of us is asked by God to do everything. But to the degree to which God is inviting you and me and our churches to this effort, let’s dream big, show up early, and work hard until the sun goes down.

If you speak French, Arabic, Bengali, or Italian, I’d love a chance to buy you all the cannoli you can eat right here in Catania! We feel like we’re wading knee-deep through Luke 10:2 right here, and our city is only one small part of the current global refugee situation.

June PM Pic

3. The Power of Walking in the Weeds

Finally, can I remind you of something you already know? Nothing will expand your view of the world like talking to someone very different from you. I know it’s fun to cheer with like-minded friends and have long conversations with people who agree with you; it’s good to hang with your tribe. But it’s also really good to get off the smooth path and into the weeds from time to time.

We were walking home late last night after celebrating Geralyn’s birthday at dinner. She’s the lone African-American woman in our group. We were carrying left-over pizza and hoping to give it away to some hungry people on the way to our vans. We passed some Nigerian guys prepping to sleep on the sidewalk and found out they were Christians. This, and their hunger, made them good candidates for our pizza, which was laden with pork.

As we shared it with them we talked about the road that led them to this place. Deep in the conversation someone mentioned it was Geralyn’s birthday, and then an amazing thing happened: They proceeded to sing Happy Birthday to her—from their pallets in the streets of downtown Catania, Sicily, hands greasy from leftover pizza. You just don’t get that in Suburb-istan. It will be a long time before Geralyn and the rest of us forget that birthday song.

Since most of us have had these moments off the beaten tracks, let’s be the best cheerleaders to provide such experiences for others. In fact, let’s actually take them along.

  • This Sunday after church, invite a couple people to go with you on their first trip to an Indian restaurant.
  • Grab some buds and spend an afternoon in an ethnic neighborhood.
  • Start planning now for a late fall or early spring trip to a place that requires a passport and a plane ticket.

And take care. When you get off the paved paths, there are thorns, bugs, and snakes. But few worthy adventures come danger-free.

Until next month,
Shane

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