I’m a happy man sitting in a restaurant in downtown Richmond, Virginia where I like to eat and work. This month is my wedding anniversary. After 19 years of marriage, I might finally be learning something. As I was preparing to leave on a trip last week, I was reflecting with my wife about our anniversary this month and we agreed that this past year may have been the best, most transparent, healthiest year of all of our 21 years together. We have found healing in confession, forgiveness and new honesty, new accountabilities, new sensitivities, and a better commitment to construction and mutual benefit. After some difficult times, big mistakes, small mistakes, serious failures, and pains we have both learned some lessons and we’ve noticed that we are better and different than before. We’ve found new humility to learn from others. We found new value in therapy and counseling and talking about relationship (I’m particularly bad at that). We’ve also learned from some of the positive elements and times – there have also been successes. And this last year has stood out to us as a new and important milestone. In some very real ways, we see in each other newness. We are both so different from when we began dating in 1997. We aren’t the same as we were when we were 19 and dating or 22 and newly married. We’re also very different from when we were new parents and new ministry-leaders. And, because of some hard stuff and realizations we’re even quite different from only a couple years ago. We haven’t stopped growing. We’re not married and together because we’ve always felt warm and fuzzy about each other. We’re married and together because we haven’t ever entirely given up. Maybe some people have easier stories. There have always been good things about marriage for us – even when we were bad at it. But both of us can remember times when we thought it wouldn’t last. And I think this year has been the best because we’ve been able to admit more to each other, sacrifice more pride and make decisions fueled by something better than impulse and self-serving emotionalism. We’re married because we decided to be. I love my wife very much. Sometimes we have both had to choose the discipline of love for each other despite our feelings. Today we are known to each other better than we ever have been and I love her more than ever also. Today, loving is easy. That’s a good day. Together we’ve learned first-hand that love is something better and deeper than simply an emotional response.
We’re still growing and learning how to fix mistakes and bring goodness and healing to places where we’ve caused pain. I’m glad to be on a path that allows us to be open about that.
My wife is is the best person I know. She is an excellent mother to our children, a great friend to me and many others, and the best partner in life I can imagine. After 19 years of marriage, I know these things better and differently than I knew them before.
This was a brief entry I wrote for an advent devotional for an organization called Frontier Fellowship. I was asked to write under the title “The world is waiting for community”.
Once a week, my family’s little downtown apartment fills up with people who make me better. I need them. For nearly twenty years, we have hosted and made dinner for our friends and ministry co-workers every Monday night. As the ministry has grown, so has the Monday night dinner crowd. I love them. There aren’t enough chairs for everyone, so people sit on the floor. We eat and talk and it’s a happy chaos. My kids are usually entertaining a few people while everyone waits for me to finish cooking. Someone inevitably spills something. There are loud-talkers, shy corner-seekers, vegetarians, young people, old people, presbyterians, pentecostals, baptists, wine drinkers, teetotallers, students, teachers and artists. We love each other and we’re always getting better at it because we’re following Jesus together. Monday night dinner isn’t only a time to relax together. It’s a chance to spill things and be known together. It’s also an opportunity to extend invitations. There are often new visitors joining us for dinner. And so the group and the ministry grows. Meeting and eating together stirs us to love.
When I read about Jesus at a table with his friends, I think about Monday night dinner. Our group gathers because there are people in the world who haven’t had the opportunity to hear the good news about him. I want people in those places to be as happy as we are at those dinners. The world is waiting for community. Our ministry aims to invite people to our tables from the world’s least reached nations because we love. We train, send and care for missionaries because we love. Dinner together stirs us toward that love.
We need community and the world is waiting for community that loves. If our prayers and hopes are only for our own benefit, maybe they could be stirred up to bigger and better things. Invite others into your life and prayers. Hang out with them and be stirred up by them. Invite them to dinner.
Director – Hillside Missions Organization
Director – World Horizons USA
- Jesus is real and people are better for choosing that faith. Believe.
- The fruitfulness of some ministry can be measured by whether people come to follow Jesus as a result of its work. and there are other good and urgent things to be done as well.
- Life is hard and it’s good. Complain less, solve more.
- Real love inspires people to follow. Love first.
- Be about building team if you want a thing to grow.
- People need and work better when they have heard an honest declaration of the good in them. Encourage people.
- We’re not delicate. Work hard.
- Keep moving.
- Life is better when we invite people into it with us. Multiply the good in you.
- Christ and his love give us boundaries. Be constrained.
- You decide what you love. You don’t discover it. Be shaped toward the good.
- It is best to lead by inspiring people to follow, not by gathering authority.
- Dream big, pray often and live toward the accomplishment of those prayers. Carry the bigger vision as your own, because it is.
This month, James B. (a fellow staff Hillside Missions staff member) and I traveled to Canada, India and Los Angeles consecutively.
In Canada, members of World Horizons staff and leadership met with the leadership of the ACOP denomination. Together, we’ll be working to send more missionaries to places in the world yet to be reached with the gospel.
In India, James and I worked with a team to open the first on-field art gallery in our effort to build an art-as-mission ministry.
In Los Angeles, several members of our World Horizons team represented the organization at Biola University’s missions conference. Our conference display included out first pop-up art gallery.
The three week trip went great. As a result of the trip, there are new missionaries on their way to the field through our mission training internship, there is a new platform for disciple-making in India, new relationships with universities and ministries are in development for the multiplication of mission sending and I learned new things.
Here’s a list of some of the things I learned:
- The world’s largest dinosaur is in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada.
- A poutinerie is a restaurant that serves only poutine. (http://mybigcheese.com/our-menu/)
- Eston College may be small, but they’re aiming to do big things in the nations. (http://www.estoncollege.ca/)
- Canada is cold.
- The Indian holiday called “Holi” is my new favorite celebration.
- If you over-pay the neighborhood boy who collects the trash, he will always expect to be over-paid (and it’s still worth it).
- In order to start a popular art gallery in India, at minimum you need: white paint ($250), lighting ($200), cleaning supplies ($25), promotional flyers ($20), artists to present art they have made for good purposes ($?).
- Los Angeles loves tacos.
- Biola University will produce lots of missionaries to work among unreached peoples. (http://www.biola.edu/)
- In order to have a popular pop-up art gallery in Los Angeles, you need recycled pallets ($120), white paint ($50), nails and hardware ($50), artists to present art they have made for good purposes ($?).
- A 5 passenger car has room for more than 5 people.
- Raw beef works well as a sermon illustration.
- 5 Hour Energy Drink works well for at least 2 hours.
Interested in mission training, sending, art as mission or something else? Feel free to contact me. I’d probably love to talk to you.
I love road trips with our teams of staff and interns. We often rent big vans and drive to events for our organization. Here are some of the rules.
1. No human gaseous emissions.
2. No touching, lap-sitting, massaging, head-resting on/with a person of the opposite gender – unless it’s your spouse.
3. No headphones. Be with us.
4. The driver chooses the music.
5. No ketchup.
6. No chain restaurants. We will eat good food.
7. Garbage always goes immediately into a garbage bag.
8. No uninvited backseat driving.
9. No whining.
10. An arbitrary number of good-will points is awarded to those stuck in a middle seat.
- You are not your audience. Everyone does not think like you do. Don’t make bad assumptions.
- Rhyming or starting each point with the same letter doesn’t make your message more memorable. It makes it seem cheap.
- Avoid cliches always. (n.b. We should only get to use some version of “life is a journey” once in our life. Let’s assume you’ve used your chance.)
- We probably don’t ever need you to tell us how the dictionary or “Webster” define anything. Never use any version of the phrase “according to the dictionary…”
- Avoid using “you” when you mean “I”. (e.g. “When someone yells at you, you feel angry.” should probably be “When someone yells at me, I feel angry.”)
- If it’s boring for you to write or say, it’s probably boring for us to read or hear.
- Velveeta is not cheese.
- Don’t use more words when fewer will suffice.
- You can put cream and sugar in your coffee, but you’d be wrong.
- Inspire creativity in yourself by getting out of the ordinary routines. Fill your head with new stimuli and then create.
- Never read from your notes or recite your own words from memory while speaking. Talk naturally through your ideas.
- Never be the hero of the stories you tell.
- Find opportunities to reveal your passion and personality in your speaking. But don’t forget to be gracious.
Stuff I Like:
A good wine glass
86% dark chocolate
All-metal Parker Jotter pens
Reading to my kids
Friends at my dining room table
Stuff I Don’t Like:
Fast food restaurants
Low sodium soy sauce
Disposable plates and utensils
Velveeta and “American” cheese
the middle seat on airplanes
Pig brain tacos
Mint flavored desserts
Pets (yes, even yours)
Sentences with hashtags instead of words
Feel free to remind me if I missed something.
In the past 2 months, I traveled to Nigeria and Cambodia.
Both of these trips were for ministry and I am better because of them.
In April, 300 young girls were kidnapped from their school by a terrorist group called Boko Haram. As I learned and prayed more about this (and the many other abductions like it) happening in that country, I felt compelled to go. God gives me a love that makes my going unstoppable. In May, I went to Abuja, Nigeria.
I went to Nigeria not because I think it needed me, but because I was moved by the tragedy of the girls’ abduction & if I was one of the fathers, I would find some comfort in knowing that people loved enough to come from far away to stand with me.
I went there to love & learn. I think I succeeded.
Some of the things I did in Nigeria:
- I spoke, preached and prayed at 2 churches in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
- I attended and spoke at rallies in support of action to rescue the abducted girls.
- I met and prayed with the Governor of Borno (the state where the girls were abducted). I was also invited to return and travel as the guest of that governor to pray with families of abducted girls.
- I participated in a simultaneous prayer vigil event held and broadcast at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington, DC and a church in Abuja, Nigeria.
- I ate one too many snails.
- I got embarrassingly ill after eating chicken from a road-side stand.
The girls have still not been returned. As of today, It has been 74 days since the girls were taken. We continue to pray for their safe return. We’re also considering further action we can take.
One of the possible outcomes of the abduction is that the public outcry against Boko Haram would cause that terrorist group to be broken. That’s our prayer also.
In June, I traveled to Phnom Penh Cambodia because I was invited to help to plan and develop a program to train Chinese missionaries who will plant churches among unreached people in Cambodia.
The result of the trip is that there is a training program for Chinese mission interns now operating in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The program is modeled after the Hillside Missions internship program. More work is needed, but they are already up and running with 9 residential Chinese students. Awesome.
The World Horizons USA and Hillside Missions teams are now working to support this training initiative. We’re excited to see waves of Chinese missionaries making disciples in Cambodia.
Initially, John and Christa H. (missionaries with Act Beyond) had asked me to come to help them to discuss and plan for how to develop a mission training internship somewhat modeled after what we’ve built here in Richmond. Their aim is to train and mobilize Chinese missionaries into Cambodia (and eventually other nations). I have known and worked among Chinese peoples with the Harrills for about 12 years.
Samuel, a long-time Chinese missionary to Cambodia, and John H. have been working together with Chinese people in Cambodia. Samuel recently joined World Horizons as a field member. Jonny H. (World Horizons Cambodia team leader) is also supporting the development of the project.
In the long-term, the hope is that a multi-organizational collaborative training program for Chinese missionaries could grow in Phnom Penh.
I left Phnom Penh very encouraged. I believe that the time and resources are very right for this. I’m also encouraged by the collaborative prospect that this entails. We are planning a follow-up trip in October to continue to support the formalization of a mission training program there.
Some of the other things I did in Cambodia:
- I met with Hannah Look in Phnom Penh as she arrived to begin a 5-month externship as the final stage of her mission training with Hillside Missions.
- I ate Japanese food, French food, Mexican food, Cambodian food and Indonesian food.
- I spent time with old friends and made some new friends.
- I taught the 9 Chinese mission students
- I thought about tattoos