Monthly Archives: July 2015

Legacy

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Cru logoOver the past week, I have been enjoying a vacation reminiscent of summer trips my family took when I was young, but unlike any that my wife and I have taken with our own kids. Starting out in San Diego, we have visited the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Parks, stopped briefly to walk through Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico at Four Corners National Monument, watched as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train began its slow trek into the mountains, and rode the newly-rebuilt Royal Gorge Aerial Tram a thousand feet above the Arkansas River in Colorado.

For the past few days we have been with my parents, a treat that only happens every couple years. Many of our conversations have been about church ministry, family, current events, and the staff conference from which they’d just returned. There has also been plenty of catching up on old friends (“do you remember…?” or “have you heard from…?”) and reminiscing about the adventures we had as a family or that my parents have had in the thirty-plus years since I (their youngest) left home. And the adventures have been many, but far more than mere adventure….

Next year, my parents will celebrate fifty years on staff with Cru (known until four years ago as Campus Crusade for Christ). Those years have taken them from their childhood homes in Michigan to live in California, Minnesota, Texas, British Columbia, Germany, and Colorado. But they have served even more broadly on four of the world’s seven continents: Africa (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, and North Africa, to name a few), Asia (Mongolia, Siberia, and China), Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, England, the Netherlands, and Russia), North & Central America (Canada, U.S., Mexico, Haiti, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Cuba).

And they have shared their faith in Jesus Christ more broadly still, with global ambassadors and diplomats, national presidents and prime ministers, business executives, college students, athletes, and military leaders. They have trained thousands of men, women, and children, whether through a Sunday School class with six teenagers or a Dallas Cotton Bowl stadium with 85,000; in a church with a few hundred adults or a dinner with dozens of international diplomats. Mom has taught hundreds in an international women’s Bible study and Dad has talked about Jesus one skier at a time as he rode chair lifts with strangers for forty years.

During many of the conversations with my parents the past few days, our daughters have read books or played games on their phones. But they have also heard the stories, the names, the challenges and blessings. And as they’ve walked through Oma and Opa’s condo, they’ve seen the evidences of these lives lived for God: memorabilia from their travels, gifts from friends, photos of family. And I think my girls have caught something of the legacy they are inheriting—a legacy of faith and faithfulness, of devotion and obedience, of love for God and people. My prayer is that they will see a similar legacy in my wife and me, even if it will look different than their globe-trotting grandparents.

Convergence: More Than Just A Shirt

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I want to tell you about three stories converging.

Story #1: In 1982 I graduated from Bonn American High School, aka The American School on the Rhein, in the capital city of what was then West Germany. During my four years in Bonn, my family met and became friends with the Liberian Ambassador and his wife, Dr. Zamba and Doris Liberty. When I graduated, the Libertys gave me a beautiful, hand-embroidered traditional Liberian shirt called a dashiki. To this day, the shirt is a treasured reminder not only of my time in Germany, but our friends and their West African nation.

Story #2: In 2008 I had the privilege of spending ten days in Liberia to work with pastors, a school, and a clinic. Just four years removed from a brutal and bloody civil war that had lasted roughly fourteen years, the nation was a wreck: 85% unemployment, hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons, and even in Monrovia, the capital, only about 15% of the city had electricity or running water. At the school we were working with, I talked with one of the teachers about the challenges of educating students in that environment. 

Story #3: You know the word: ebola. An epidemic that claimed thousands of lives in western Africa and struck fear into the hearts of America when aid workers who had become infected were brought to the US for treatment. But ebola did more than simply kill individuals; it also killed economies—like the struggling one in Liberia.

Convergence: Enter Chidegar Liberty, better known as Chid. He is the son of Dr. and Mrs. Liberty, who gave me the dashiki more than thirty years ago. Chid grew up in the U.S. but since traveling back to Liberia for the first time in 2009, has had a passion and a vision for the people of his homeland. He started a women’s sewing center to train and employ the women of Liberia, making high quality clothing for international distribution. But the ebola crisis shut down the factory and sent its employees back home with no income and little hope. But Chid, a hero if there ever was one, is back at it, with a vision bigger and grander than before. Now he not only wants to employ and train women, but also put school uniforms on kids so they can get an education. Simply called ‪#‎UNIFORM‬, the dream is simple: make the world’s softest t-shirt, sell it around the world, and for every shirt sold, give a school uniform to a Liberian child.

So far, more than 1,000 supporters have backed a crowd funding campaign, committing more than $200,000—enough to put uniforms on more than 8,000 kids. As I write, the campaign is in its final 40 hours.

What started for me as a gift shirt in 1982 is now coming full circle, as my support will put shirts on the backs of Liberian students so they, too, will be able to attend—and graduate from—high school. Who knows; maybe one of those students will grow up to be an ambassador to Germany and give a shirt to another young person.

If you want to join this campaign, go to tiny.cc/uniform; to learn more, check out the story on Facebook at tiny.cc/UniformFB. I hope you’ll join me in this!

Messy People

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For most of the past six months I have been delivering mail in the Bankers Hill area, about a mile north of the heart of downtown San Diego. My route covered about six square blocks of Class A and B offices and high rent apartments and condos. The businesses I delivered to were predominantly lawyers, dentists, and other professionals. 

Two weeks ago I moved to a new route covering about nine square blocks in the East Village. The differences between the two areas could not be more palpable. Now I deliver to low-income housing, homeless shelters, and day centers for the homeless. I see a lot more people but almost never any suits and ties. The cleavage I see now is far less likely to be a from a shapely woman’s low neckline and far more likely to be an indigent’s posterior. While there is some racial diversity farther north, here I am encountering people from all over the world. Last week I met a young girl and boy—maybe 14 and 10—who moved here from Baghdad two years ago. I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I imagined what they had experienced in their young lives. 

The route I’m doing now is longer: I rarely finish in much less than eight hours, compared to the six it took in Bankers Hill. It’s messier; I’m often greeted with the odor of urine—fresh or stale—when I stop to get out of my delivery van. But there is a refreshing realness to the people whose paths I cross every day. These people, by and large, are broken, but they don’t hide their brokenness. They’re messy, but they don’t mask it. Farther north, the brokenness and messes are masked by perfect manicures, nice clothes, and gated buildings. 

If I have to deliver mail for the time being, this is a good place for me to do it. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of serving the messy people for whom you died.