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my bricks

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This will be a bit of a ramble. I’m flexing my ‘stream of consciousness’ fingers starting…now.

In the daily hustle and bustle of a newsroom, it’s easy to overlook the non-emergency things until they become emergencies.

Some of you might even be thinking ‘been there, done that’…and I find myself taking shortcuts to speed up the things that I have to get done in order to get other things finished.

There are some days I go home and fall into bed exhausted and while drifting off to sleep I find myself thinking “Can’t call it a day yet! I’m not unconscious!  I still have to…..ZZZZzzzzzzzz.”  We joke about this in my family…we’ve even given it a nickname: ‘dooobee’—as in ‘do a lot’ and  ‘busy as a bee’.  In the story of Mary and Martha, I totally ‘get’ Martha.  As a kid, I was always mad at Mary. ‘C’mon! Come help get this meal together! It’s not fixing itself!’ And when she didn’t move, calling in the reinforcements and asking Jesus to get her off her hiney…only to have Him side with her??   I was bafffled. (We’ll get back to this later)

The reality of it is that there are too many times I fall into the Israelite’s way of thinking: I am the sum of the bricks I made today.  You do that too many times, and you start to believe it.  There are a lot of bits in the Bible about rest…it even starts early in Genesis with God setting aside some critical time to REST.  Yet much of His creation is frenetic with the doing, and lost in the ‘being’…which is what happens when you rest.

In the quiet of rest, you can actually hear things.  You can hear our Heavenly Father telling you what a beautiful child you are…or maybe He might be whispering that answer to the question you keep asking (like a toddler: ‘now? now? now? how about now?’).

How do rest and bricks travel down the same road of thought?  I’m not really sure they do.   The bricks can create a false sense of worth, which leads somebody like me into thinking I have to keep producing in order to be valued.  Rest helps me re-new…and I can understand worth far better when I’m being spoken to by our Father through the Word.   Ah…Mary and Martha.   Mary understood knowing Christ.  If she knew His voice and understood what He was saying, it was much easier to obey.  Martha understood the doing end with her servant gifting.  As those gifted this way know, it’s very easy to take on too much and then stress over the details, even if it was originally meant to serve Christ…not being able to BE with Christ prevented her (and us) from the depth of relationship we sought in the first place.

This has to have a conclusion…so I’ll wind up by saying take the REST seriously.   We are not the bricks we make because our worth was summed up in the death and resurrection of our Savior.  Just sayin’.

 

 

 

 

On the air with Janet Parshall

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I had a great time this afternoon with Janet Parshall on her broadcast called, “In the Market” on Moody Radio. I always enjoy my time with her. And, I know why.

Janet is the kind of woman who appears to be very passionate about what she does. Because of her passion, she studies the issues she talks about. She doesn’t ask insignificant questions, she asks probing questions to get passionate answers to encourage the church to do something about it.

Sometimes I wish I had a two hour show to talk about the issues facing missions and evangelism around the world. More importantly, to talk about issue that will motivate Christians to do something for God.

If you didn’t get a chance to listen to our conversation tonight (Tuesday, Sept 14), you can. Listen to it at http://podcasts.moodyradio.org/IntheMarketwithJanetParshall/2010-09-14_In_The_Market__hour_01.mp3.

Heading To Russia

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It seems like it’s been a long time in the planning process, but I guess it really hasn’t been. Today, at 1:42 our team of 21 is heading to Saint Petersburg, Russia for a ministry trip to orphans in the former Soviet Union.

We’ll travel from Grand Rapids, Michigan with Way-FM and Mission Network News listeners to the historic city was there are thousands of orphaned children who need love and a Savior.

Our goal the next nine days? To share Jesus through vacation Bible school, games, crafts and a lot of fun. I’m told we’re going to teach the teens how to line dance. That ought to be interesting. LOL

You can come here to find pictures and videos. I may actually update my personal blog (because it’s easier to upload photos and videos), but I will provide a link from here to the blog. If you’d like to bookmark it, go to http://gregorysyoder.wordpress.com.

Pray for us!

On the Air with Janet Parshall

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I’ll be on the air with Janet Parshall today on Moody Radio. She’s hosts ‘In the Market’. She ALWAYS asks great questions. My prayer today is that God will use both of us to encourage Christians to get out of the pew and do something for God. We have many issues to discuss today:
1. Pakistan floods
2. Ramadan begins tomorrow
3. Afghan medical team execution
4. Kenya Constitutional referendum

Lots to chat about, not enough time to get it all in, I fear.

Greg

Urbana ’09 – Day One

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December 27, 2009 is a day many missions minded individuals have been looking forward to for a long time. It only happens every three years. I’m talking about InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Urbana ’09 Student Missions Conference. It’s been the largest student missions convention in North America for decades. This year [for the second time] it’s being held in St. Louis, Missouri.

The conference got started just like ever other Urbana I’ve been to — with praise and worship and an incredible challenge to set the ton for the week. This year’s conference is called, THE WORD BECAME FLESH, taken from John 1. Listen to this audio story here in mp3.

Urbana ’09 Opening Session Story

In the mean time, enjoy the photos, too.

A young man worships God during first session at Urbana '09

Young man at Urbana '09 worships during opening session.

The Urbana '09 Worship Team leads the 16,000 people in worship.

The Urbana '09 Worship Teams leads the crow of 16,000 in worship.

The stage at Urbana '09 in St. Louis, MO

The stage at Urbana '09.

We made it to Santiago

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Got up this morning at 3:30 am so I could catch a plane to Houston, TX and then on my way to Guatemala. Everything went as planned — until the airport.  I parked in the long term parking, but there was only one shuttle bus working — so, I rode around for 20 minutes picking people up before I was dropped off at the terminal. But, since I’m one of the leaders — it wasn’t good to be late. We all made it, though.

However, all went south when we got to Guatemala.  As you know, we have a team of doctors and nurse with us to do a medical mission in Santiago. However, the customs officers had other ideas. They found all of the drugs we had to treat the sick, and took them. They told us we needed to have an import/export license in order to get the drugs into the country. The group we’re traveling with has never had this happen to them before. So, we’re wondering what’s going to happen. We’re told we can get one — but it’ll take three business days. That means we won’t get the drugs until Wednesday at the earliest. Please pray that God will change the hearts of the customs agents to allow the meds to get through so we can help the people.

A few of us had to stay at the airport to figure out the prescription issue, so we left the airport after the main group. We left the airport and traveled a number of hours by bus to Santiago. It was a wet drive. Very cloudy.  We arrived a little before 7:00pm. We ate dinner. What was on the menu?  Yep — chicken. You’ll find that will be the most common food we eat here. All kinds of chicken — chicken salad, fried chicken, baked chicken, boiled chicken, chicken soup — and fries. Tonight’s dinner was GREAT!

Well, not much else to report. So, I will call it a night.  I will post pictures and video tomorrow if we have a good internet connection.

Pray for us. We feel like we’re following God’s will, but we also feel forces that don’t want us here.

G

pics from uganda

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church in ugandamom overcome with emotion at how much she has benefitted from Compassion Internationaldancing in churchlearning a tradebabies in child survival project

learning how to make basketslearning how to embroiderLDP students telling their stories

it’s gonna be really hard to get these pictures id’d correctly.  here goes:

from left to right:

1) picture of a chapel at Child Survival Project UGCS27 Kitimbwa CDC/UG611

2) a mom who was sharing how Compassion International has helped her and introduced her to Christ.  she became so overwhelmed sharing her testimony, she cried.

3) dancing in church…I know. how awesome is that?

4) this same mom is learning how to sew so she can learn to tailor and help support her family better.

5) the moms in this at risk area are learning a lot of things, including how important it is to play with their babies and letting the babies play with each other.

6 and 7) many of the moms have learned a crafting trade so they can make goods to sell at a market.  one mother learned not only how to market her ability, but how to save enough money to buy a pig.  a pig can fetch a good half year’s salary in this area, so she’s learning how to save, invest and build up her business.

8 ) these are just some of the students in Compassion’s Leadership Development Program.  they are the cream of the crop from the sponsored project areas–kids who excel academically and who can handle college-level material.  the LDP program is not automatic for a sponsored child–it’s a high-level program that takes the best in Compassion International’s child programs, sends them to university and trains them to be servant leaders.  of the 300 LDP students attending university in Uganda, Uganda Christian University is educating 153 students.  there are several  attending other public univeristies and at least three studying at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Il…

these pictures represent the ministry, vision and future of Compassion–primarily, they aim to build the kingdom of God.  The Gospel is open and often repeated…and for every child that accepts Christ in Compassion’s projects, leaders say at least 10 others also come to Christ through their faith walk.

…all with the help of a sponsor and $32 a month.

uganda

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Red dust covers everything in Kampala, Uganda.  When it rains, the red earth becomes brick-colored mud and it gets into everything.

As the team from our sister station, WCSG, Compassion International and MNN visited project sites, we tracked it everywhere.  There was a notable difference between our footprints and those of the people who lived in the villages we were visiting.  For the most part,  our footprints were the outlines of shoes. The throngs of kids and some of their parents we visited were barefoot.  A few people had shoes, but they were the rarity.

Why did that strike me?  I felt really gross when we got back to our hotel after a day of trekking through the bush.  I could wash off the mud.  The people whose homes we’d just visited could rinse, but for the most part, the next time they stepped outside of their home, they’d get dirty again…except that was their way of life.

That difference alone was a stark contrast.  The village we visited yesterday was less primitive than some.  Subsistence farmers can eke out roughly $11 a month…stretched to five mouths to feed.   The people we met had a home.  They had a roof, walls and a floor.  One had furniture.  There were three really worn out toothbrushes and a cracked mirror hanging off the front door of another house…whose kitchen was essentially a lean-to in the yard.

Yet to see their faces, they were so happy Compassion International had taken an interest in them.  Before Compassion began their project in Kitimbwa (about 66 km west of Mukono), the infant mortality rate was high.  Few children, if any, got a chance to go to school.  Mothers and fathers struggled not only with their marital relationship, but also with raising the children.

After Compassion launched the Child Survival Program, basic things like hygiene, nutrition, pre-natal care and infant care were taught.  Mothers were encouraged to play with their babies to help them develop.  Mothers began getting together for play sessions.  They were also given the opportunity to learn a trade so they could earn some money to help lift the family out of poverty.  Once a child gets into the CSP, when they turn three, they can get into the Sponsorship programs.  From there, children get food, medicine, love and given the chance to go to school.

Most importantly, these people, once wallowing in poverty and hopelessness, were exposed to the Gospel on a nearly daily basis.  They heard it, they saw it in action with the Compassion staff, and then some of them felt it.  As we spoke with the project directors, we were told that for every Compassion child that comes to Christ, ten other people also come to Christ because of the reality of the transformation they see in that child’s life.

For the staff we spoke with, that transformation is the driving force behind everything they do.

But, kids grow up.  They age out of the school system, and then what?

Compassion International has introduced another program for the best and brightest of the sponsored children: the Leadership Development Program, or LDP.

Once accepted into the LDP, the sponsored student can go to college.  As we’re told, many of them are excited about getting their law degrees, or social work degrees with the express purpose of continuing that transformation.  Some go back to their villages as part of Compassion International.  Others take change outside of their villages and hope to advocate for families in a court of law.  Still others are making a definite footprint on a national level in government.

It’s so exciting to see how $32 a month can give a child such hope.  It’s even more exciting to walk step by step with them and see where their footprints lead.

On Thursday, I will meet with Misac, a little boy my family is sponsoring from one of the project areas near Kampala.  He shares the same birthdate as my son.   I am so excited to share the hope that we have invested in him.  I asked one of the LDP students I met this week, Joseph, to record a quick encouraging word for Misac. Their stories are very similar, and I thought that for Misac to hear that someone was like him at his age, to know that he can rise above his circumstance, that God is moving powerfully through boys like this–and I realize it’s like the story of loaves and fishes all over again.

God takes so little and creates so much for His glory…

some pictures

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i’m going to post some pictures of the people i’ve met and worked with, and of the children who blessed me this week.

these pictures will be from several different orphanages, but they are mostly in the chronological order of when we visited–since i’m having a little trouble trying to get them to download, if you don’t see anything, just know i’m working on it.

that’s it for now…i’m pretty beat.  i’ll post more pics later after they upload.

size 2 shoes

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it has been an intense week in honduras, every day filled with hundreds of kids, vacation bible school, shoes and more activity.

there is so much need that i find myself pulling back a little because i’m so emotionally drained as each kid comes into my room and there’s another with a story that is so desperate.

as a team, we’re the hands and feet of christ in these neighborhoods and it’s tough.  all this week, we’ve seen the most at-risk populations of San Pedro Sula.  We’ve seen the teen girls and their babies, the 34 babies in the state-run orphanage with 1 adult caring for them, the HIV children who are shunned, and a huge range of children who are in a facility because their parents aren’t able to or are no longer alive.

my son is the age of some of these kids.  my heart breaks to see them and only touch them briefly in our time at their facility.  we’ve been going at such a breakneck pace that there has been little time to process anything, let alone really feel it.  in my head, i have a job to do, and i’m going to do it.

today,  we visted the las brisas community project.  many of the kids who were there are from the river communities.  there is a proper name for them, but essentially, it’s a slum community living at the rivers’ edge. the houses there are scavenged from old metal, cardboard and what ever other materials they can find to create a shelter.

there is no running water in any of these homes, and the power they do have is pirated off the main lines.  the children often do not attend school.  many are covered with lice, lesions, suffer from severe foot fungus, and suffer from other health issues. without help, these kids are likely to repeat the cycle that has them living in these harsh circumstances.

according to frances azzad, buckner international’s adviser to honduras, her church decided to step in and help break that cycle.  with their financial and manpower assistance, they’ve created a community project and school specifically for these river children.

it was at this school that our team met the kids in person.  dozens of children, younger siblings in tow, came eagerly for the festivities.  while one team did a bible lesson, another did a craft, or played a game or took them to our room for shoes.

our room  was a green tiled room, not much bigger than a 10 x10, if that.  we had shoes for roughly 80 children in rows, alphabetized by first name, and socks on a bookshelf ready to be paired with the shoes.  three tubs of soapy water were ready to wash feet.  the first of the children came in, and within minutes, one of our team members turned to our trip director and indicated a case of athlete’s foot so severe, that if she were in the united states, she would be taking this child to the hospital for treatment.

at least 6 children had already had their feet in the same water, and our concern was spreading the problem.  we decided to  stop washing feet, and concentrate on matching the kids with their shoes.

the system had been to trace a child’s foot, write his name on the cutout and match it to a shoe. all that had been done before we arrived, so we thought it was a simple matter to find the shoes and give them to the kids.

not so.  many shoes were simply far too big for  the child.  in one case, a mistake had been made and boys were assigned girls’ shoes.  we told everyone to come back later after everyone got their shoes and we would try to swap shoes that were too big with ones that were too small and see if we couldn’t fit the kids better.

key point: we thought.  there is no way to describe the excitement of a child receiving  his first pair of shoes ever, or getting a new pair for the first time in several years.  many of the kids had gotten so used to wearing shoes that were too small, that shoes that fit properly were deemed ‘muy grande’ (too big).   even if they were actually a couple sizes too big, the kids didn’t want to let go of them and promised to grow into them.

then came a  little guy whose eyes sparkled as he came through the door.  he was barefoot, and by the width of his feet, we guessed he had never worn a pair of shoes before.  he was roughly 7 years old, and his smile was peppered with the empty spaces that comes with that age.

he sat down at a desk and we tried to fit him with his shoes.   they were several sizes too small.  he tried to convince us that they fit, but we told him that we would get him some shoes that fit better.  he did not want to take them off, and he didn’t want to leave.  after much persuasion, and promise, he finally did go, and he carried is misfitted shoes with him.  (we told all the kids to keep their shoes that didn’t fit and we would try to put things right after all the kids got their assigned pair)

all he needed was a size 2.  of all the shoes we were piling, we did not have any size 2 shoes in a boy’s style.  i began to worry that we would not be able to keep our promise to him.  he did come back a couple of times to see if we had anything ready to exchange, and each time we turned him away, his face got longer and longer.

at the end, i admitted defeat.  i knew that frances would be back later with more shoes to fit the kids, but i felt like this kid really needed it this time…our door was open now. i asked God to provide–just so that this boy would know that something as simple as shoes was in His power.

a couple of kids came back with their not-quite-right shoes, and we did some swapping out back and forth and the next time i turned around,  there was a single pair of boys sneakers in a size 2 in the box.    and there he was.

we cleaned off his muddy feet, put new socks on them and got the shoes on.  he got up and walked around, then went outside to test them a little more…it was obvious he had not worn shoes before because he was placing his feet very carefully one in front of the other.  the next thing i knew, he had taken off his shoes and was walking arouund in his bare feet again.

i thought ‘shoot. i thought those would work.’  One of our translators told me he took them off to keep them clean because it had been raining, and he wanted to keep them nice a little while longer.   off he went.  i thought that was the last i would see of him, and i wondered what the seed planted would look like in a few years.

as our team prepared to leave, we were surrounded by a swarm of kids, hugs, shouts, waves and general chaos.  i felt a kid at my side, looked down, and there he was, hugging the stuffing out of me.  he said ‘may God bless you for what you’ve done.  thank you for my shoes.  no one has ever done this for me before.’

i knew then, that, with the help of the local believers who have invested themselves in children like these, there will be a different community by the rivers’ edge in the not-too-distant future.  it has God’s fingerprint all over it.