Monday, November 24, 2008

Fall 2008 Update

Let me start by telling you a story:

Some 40 years ago, at an elementary school in Indonesia, a third grade teacher asked each of her students to stand up and tell the class what it was that they hoped to do with their lives; that is, "What would you like to be when you grow up? When it came to his turn, one young lad stood up to say, "I want to become President of the United States."

That 8-year-old lad's name was Barack Obama.

This story hit home for me, as the somewhat surprised full-time caretaker for another young lad, who we'll call Alex. The years between 8 and 10 years of age are crucially formative for the self-identity of young men and help to set them on their life-long course.

Alex is attending to the challenges of the fourth grade, has signed up for basketball competition, and is progressing very well in his martial arts class, where he has joined the junior drill team. Truth to tell, assisting a fourth-grader has been challenging to me also, as Alex brings home what seems (to him, at least) to be a mountain of homework on nine different subjects assigned by a team of three home room teachers—not to mention music, library, and gym. At home, he prefers to exercise his expertise on tracking down internet-provided hints for playing computer games, but with firm guidance will set to his homework with a will and is determined to do well in school. He followed the presidential election closely, and has pictures of President-elect Obama and his family posted on his bedroom wall.

Someone once said that your ministry assignment is the people that God puts in front of you. I have wondered why God gave me all that training in street evangelism and street ministry before giving me the assignment to be a full-time foster parent. But my friends here continue to encourage me to stick with my assignment. And on the other hand, God seldom consults with me about what kind of training I think I need.

The street ministry tasks given to me last year on the hurricane-ravaged coast of Mississippi gave me the opportunity to provide firm guidance to a dozen troubled men, pointing them toward what God was choosing for them in place of the snares of the Enemy. Each man was touched in some way, but no success story is greater than that of Church Army Gulf Coast graduate Van. When Van came to us he was broke, homeless, living under the Gulfport pier, and addicted to crack cocaine.

But now he is doing wonderfully in his role as chief cook for the rebuilding efforts of the Free Church of the Annunciaton in New Orleans. He has been welcomed enthusiastically by the community and is relishing the role of being one of a beloved member of the extended church family, while he cooks for dozens—and even hundreds—of volunteers who come to help New Orleans rebuild from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Katrina. Fr. Jerry Kramer posted his photo in their latest newsletter, which I'm sharing with you here.

Continuing with Church Army work, my proximity to the world headquarters here is allowing me to help the National Director prepare and edit a major envisioning document for the training of candidates who will plant "Bases of Evangelism," most notably exemplified by the Church Army base in Branson, Missouri. A Base of Evangelism is defined as a self-replicating community of faith where the least are reached for Jesus and drawn into the life and mission of the church.

I will also be helping to edit an envisioning document for a new province within the Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches being prepared by my Bishop, Alan Morris. It will be led by three bishops and will provide strategic support for the rapid multiplication of churches in Pakistan and China. With over 2,000 churches and growing, there is a critical need for leadership training, and for new indigenous priests and bishops.

Despite the title of this post, Autumn as a weather phenomenon here in Pennsylvania is long gone, flashing by in the blink of an eye. The banks of the Ohio River are no longer spashed with color but draped in drab winter browns, and we have already had our first inch of snow here, with night temperatures down into the teens.

Thank you all for your prayers, and for your contributions.

I will try to keep you all posted with my activities in this space, with an update at least quarterly.