Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Place of Preparation

Greg Clark was running toward me. AT me. The football was descending in a perfect arc. I was prepared. My feet were planted. I was going to receive the kick. I watched the ball. I watched Clark. The ball falling and Clark running; both happened in slow motion. He was wearing a white jersey in practice that day. He’s number 44 this year, I remember thinking. Wasn’t Clark number 40 last year? He’s got those new cleats on. They’re really tearing up the turf. I’m going to catch this ball. Clark is going to flatten me. The ball made a THUNK! sound as I caught it. Clark’s helmet made a CRACK! sound as he plowed me down.

During preparation, time stands still

Time stands still when you’re waiting. Every single one of those thoughts went through my head while I waited for that ball to descend into my arms. To this day I remember Greg Clark’s number. Both numbers!

If you’re a missionary waiting to leave for the mission field, time is frozen. It’s like you’re in a science fiction movie and moments you’re walking through right now have stretched themselves into transparent worm holes. You’re watching people in the world around you whiz by. You see every acute detail, but, for you, time is warped around you; it’s dragging by.

Embrace it. This time warp is God ordained. The purpose: preparation.

If you are a missionary destined for cross-cultural ministry on a foreign field, time is standing still. You’re trying to sell your house. Your days on your “real job” (that’s what your dad calls it) are coming to an end. You’re beginning to put together a fund-raising plan. You’re crafting an elevator pitch about what you’re doing, where you’re going, and how God called you to this craziness. You just get there and get this new life started. But God has you waiting.

This is a time of intense preparation. Relax (crazy advice right now, I know). In your situation, this is normal. Be wise and prayerful and, like an athlete, be methodical with this time. In this season, you’ll be able to take in and process a lot more information than you realize.

The Apostle Paul relied heavily on word pictures of athletes and sports to illustrate the biblical principles he taught.

Runner and boxer

In Philippians 2 and Galatians 2, Paul writes about a runner in a race. Runners are always running so that when they race, they’ll finish well. The key: practice, training, and preparation.

In 2 Timothy 4 and 1 Corinthians 9, Paul talks about runners in a race, but he also tosses in images of boxing matches. Not only do runners run, but fighters fight. If they don’t it before the match, they won’t be any good in the match.

Listen up, missionary minded Christ-follower: if you’re not doing it now, chances are, you won’t do it later. This a time of preparation.

Free climber preparation

In this video, you’ll meet Alex Honnold. Honnold is a rock climber specializing in a discipline known as free soloing. Honnold and a buddy spend time together preparing the path that Honnold will later free-solo.

If Honnold falls, he dies. Ultimately, more time and relationship building is spent preparing for the climb than the actual climb. Watch as time stands still for Alex Honnold.

The runner and the spectators

In Hebrews 12:1, the author describes a runner running a race. In this example, however, those witnessing the event – your event – are who the author focuses on as if your race takes place in a sports arena. Those watching your life are on the edge of their seats. “What’s going to happen next?” Everyone watching you wants to know.

People are watching you now. But this is only the beginning. From here on out, you will be the subject of intense interest for those witnessing your life. God’s called you to this. The effort you put into preparation now will determine how the race is run. What’s your story going to be? Decide now before time speeds back up.

This blog post originally appeared on the Shepherd's Staff Mission Facilitators Blog.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Rewards and Challenges of Parenting a Special Needs Child

“Honey,” my mom would say, “Don’t stare. That’s not polite. No, don’t point.”
But I couldn’t look away from a child in a wheelchair. We all grew up politely looking the other way when we pass by someone with special needs.
Our lives were suddenly disrupted when a child with special needs came into our family. No one makes a plan to parent a special needs child. The child simply arrives and the day she does is tragic and life as you know it is redefined for you.
Our special needs little girl, our Allie, is really our granddaughter. Allie was born perfectly healthy to my daughter when she was nineteen and single. Her life, our lives, were suddenly overwhelmed the day Allie became a brain injured child through a violent event when Allie was ten months old. She was shaken and suffocated by someone that was watching her when my daughter was at work. Allie was in a coma for ten days. She emerged from her coma severely disabled. Her diagnosis is cerebral palsy and quadriplegia.
As a single mother, our young daughter was not able to care for Allie. My wife and I could not fathom the thought of our granddaughter going into foster care in her condition. It was not an option. We did what we thought anyone would do: we adopted Allie and became the parents of a severely disabled little girl.
That was nine years ago. I want to say we’ve become accustomed to parenting a special needs child, but we haven’t. Being a parent is never easy, and parenting a special needs child is often an exhausting, all-consuming existence. Days are scheduled, routine and packed with hands-on care beginning with medicines and getting her dressed and into equipment needed to keep her upright while we feed her. At nine years old, Allie is not able to do any of these simple tasks for herself and, most likely, never will.
The joys of school
The part of her morning that is most fun is when I roll her down the walkway to meet the school bus. She shrieks with joy and excitement every time I roll her down our walkway, slightly running, stomping my flip-flops to meet the bus. Allie and the driver share a good laugh when she rides the wheelchair lift up onto the bus. There’s an attendant waiting on the bus that gives Allie compliments on her ensemble as she straps her chair into place for a safe, secure ride to school.
Allie loves going to school. Allie is in fourth grade this year. At school, education revolves around using cause-and-effect devices for communicating, physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. School nurses administer mid-day doses of medicine. The phys-ed teacher straps her into equipment that helps her walk and, recently, ride a big tricycle. The teachers, nurses, therapists, administrators and other staff at Allie’s school have dedicated their lives to children with special needs. We’d be lost without them.
Continuous medical care
The school day is interrupted many times with routine visits to doctors. Allie has epileptic seizures that are managed by daily medication. So we see Dr. Reznick, her neurologist, every 90 days. Once a quarter, Allie sees a rehabilitation doctor, Dr. Cohen, who orders changes on her wheelchair, prescribes orthotic braces and refers Allie to specialists when needed. On a recent visit, Dr. Cohen noticed that one of Allie’s legs was not growing the same length as the other. She (Dr. Cohen) referred Allie to an orthopedic specialist and we learned that Allie’s right hip joint was migrating out of the socket as she was experiencing a growth spurt. Due to her brain injury, bones and muscle growth were not in sync. Bones growing faster than muscles produced enough tension on her muscles to pull her bones out of socket. Surgery was needed soon or her hip would dislocate.
This surgery is traumatic and invasive. The doctor has to break and and reposition the femur. Then he breaks the pelvis and reshapes the hip socket to properly receive the joint. A metal plate is fixed to the broken femur to add strength as it heals. Finally, muscles have to be lengthened. This is done through a series of cuts in her adductor muscle and hamstring. The hip and leg are immobilized for six weeks by a spica cast extending from her abdomen to her right heel. The cast includes her left thigh with a cross bar installed into the cast to hold her legs apart in a Y-shape.
The cast adds twenty pounds to her weight which makes her too heavy and awkward for my wife to carry. My boss, graciously let me work from home while Allie was in the cast to lend my wife a hand during the six weeks of post-surgery healing and recuperation. Family and friends rallied around us to bring us meals and help with household chores.
Allie had this surgery six years ago so we were semi-familiar with the work and care Allie needed. We pray that as Allie continues to grow, this will be the last time she has to have this surgery, but we may have to face this again.
family-2Bottomless love
This sounds like a difficult way to live because it is. Raising children–any children–is no easy task and taking care of them when there are special needs adds to the difficulty. We’ve had to reorder our lives. We don’t get to do many of the things we used to take for granted (wheelchairs don’t go places that don’t have smooth, wide paths). People don’t plan social gatherings around our routine so we miss those opportunities (to be honest, we love having a bullet-proof excuse to opt-out of tedious events).
As difficult, inconvenient and unconventional as raising a special needs child is, the rewards for us in our personal lives are deeply satisfying. There is a transaction of unconditional love that flows two ways between us in our relationship with Allie. We’ve discovered a capacity to love that is bottomless. When this is tested, we reach the end of the trial long before we reach the bottom of our love. Her responses to our affection are uninhibited. There is a shorthand — an encoded language — between Allie and her caregivers that the only way to decode is through spending time with her. Joy flows when the connection is made.
A man after God’s heart
One of our favorite stories in the Bible is about King David when he is moved to bless surviving members of King Saul’s family. David was loyal to King Saul long after his death and David craved an opportunity to prove it. Saul had a surviving grandson, Mephibosheth, who, as a result of an accident, was crippled in both feet. David cared for Mephibosheth and provided for him for the rest of his life. God often referred to David as a “man after God’s own heart” and while David’s shortcomings were many, this act of compassion is an example of goodness that pays dividends to David as the giver more than to Mephibosheth, the receiver. Parents of special needs children know this experience firsthand.

This article originally posted in the May 2016 issue of the Good News of South Florida.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wisdom bomb from Dallas Willard in his book: Renovation of the Heart

In one of C. S. Lewis’s more striking passages, he challenges us 

to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. . . . There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations— these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit— immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1973), p. 15.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Casa Bernabé

The need for rescuing orphans grows exponentially here in Guatemala. These needs change depending on the social crisis.

"Families are in danger of extinction. But the family is the most important thing the Lord has given us," says Edgar Sagero, assistant director, at Casa Bernabé. Casa Bernabé is an orphanage nestled on a mountainside on the outskirts of Guatemala City.

Edgar Sagero is a success story of the ministry that serves orphans, abused children, and their families.

"I never left!" Edgar says. He was rescued off the streets as a child, grew up at Casa Bernabé, and, now, he's a leader giving back and making a difference in a new generation of children's lives.

When a child is in crisis or reported abused, child protective services brings the child to Casa Bernabé. "The staff meets children on the worst day of their lives," Edgar says. "Only God can heal these kids hearts."

Lisenced Christian psychologists walk through the process with children brought here. Children are resilient and adjust to life at Casa Bernabé quickly. The 26 acre compound is a self contained little village with a school, a church, and several houses for children to live in with house parents.

House parents accomodate 12 children in a family environment. "We want to make them feel like they're at home; not an orphanage," Edgar said. "They feel like they're in a family with brothers and sisters."

The goal of the ministry is to work with families to reunite them with their children. Casa Bernabé takes families through practical and spiritual family skills curriculum based on biblical values.

Casa Bernabé teaches children a vocation like computer skills at the high school level. As children age out of the program, the ministry works to get them into higher education at the university level through scholarship programs.

Casa Bernabé is set up to host short-term mission teams. Email gcruz@crossinternatioal.org for more information.

This article originally appears on Cross International Church Connect.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


If you don't want your garden to grow weeds, one of the best ways is to keep it well stocked with strong, sturdy flowers and shrubs. If you don't want your mind and heart to go wandering off into the realms of darkness, one of the best ways is to keep them well stocked with wise and thankful themes, so that words of comfort, guidance and good judgment come bubbling up unbidden from the memory and subconscious. 

N.T. Wright
Paul for Everyone | The Prison Letters

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Cross International Church Connect: Hurricane Earl Disaster Relief in Belize

This is something we posted at CrossInternational.City Church Connect. As we've watched Hurricane Earl sweep through the Caribbean,  Central America, and southern Mexico, colleagues from Cross International have been on the ground in Belize connecting with ministry partners and coordinating relief efforts. Keep up to date here.
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Since we first asked for your prayers, Cross mobilized a team to connect with our long-term partners in Belize to survey Hurricane Earl disaster relief needs. In advance of this trip, we’ve ordered 15 pallets of prepositioned Vitafood and 19 Medical Missions Packs that will be airlifted later this week.
As our team drives around Belize City, the hired cab had to avoid the tin sheets and thatched roofs - the items that many houses are constructed from - that were scattered everywhere. All visible evidence of damage point to winds in excess of 100 MPH rather than the 80 MPH wind gusts reported in the news. Belize City is situated at and below sea level (in some places) where storm surge was well over six feet.

In addition to the visible evidence of wind damage, the odor of sewage in hurricane-borne water was overwhelming. Sanitation problems are everywhere including at a Cross International partner school that has been commandeered by local authorities as an evacuation center. Even the hotel our team is staying in has no water due to post-hurricane disruption.

We are very thankful that our ministry partners in Belize are collaborating with us to distribute emergency food and medical supplies in coming days. As stated above, 15 Medical Missions packs containing 5,700 treatments are being airlifted this week. Pray that the Lord goes before us as we plan through the logistics of emergency food and medical distributions.

What follows is the general composition of a Medical Missions pack:
  • Aspirin 325mg 500tab
  • Oral Rehydration Salts 1scht
  • Multi-Vitamins + Iron, Children's Chewable, Animal Shapes 250tab
  • Cephalexin 250mg 500cap
  • Acetaminophen 500mg,  1,000cap
  • Amoxicillin 250mg 100cap
  • Amoxicillin Powder for Oral Suspension 125mg/5ml 80ml
  • Acetaminophen 160mg/5ml, Children's 118ml
  • Silver Sulfadiazine Cream 1% 85gm
  • Hydrocortisone 1% Cream, Maximum Strength Anti-Itch with Aloe 28gm
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide 0.025% Cream 15gm
  • Cefuroxime Axetil 125mg/5ml Oral Suspension
  • Ceftin 100ml Multivitamin, Performance Multi Energy Formula 300tab
  • Vitamin D3 Baby Drops 400iu 15ml
  • Imodium A-D Loperamide HCI 2mg, Anti-Diarrheal 24cap
  • Dextromethorphan HBr 15mg
  • Robitussin Adult Cold Cough Liqui-Gels Ibuprofen 200mg
  • Advil 200mg 50tab
  • Ibuprofen 50mg/1.25ml
  • Infant's Advil Concentrated Drops 15ml
  • Multivitamin, Women's Prenatal 180cap

Causes That Get the Most Love

When international charitable giving is discussed in local circles, inevitably someone will say, "What about the needy and hungry right here in our city? Shouldn't we help them too?" That's not a question I disagree with or have a strong opinion about other than the poor here in the U.S. have much more access and infrastructure for responding for needs.
For international giving, infrastructure for aid also exists, but it is not nearly as stable as domestic charitable outreach. That said,  I found this article interesting. I rather than provided a link back because it's a report that requires a sign in. Click here if you're interested in signing up for a subscription to reports from philanthropy.com

International Aid Groups Get Most Media Attention of Nonprofit Causes, Study Says

Organization: Marketing firm M+R
Summary: The median number of media mentions in 2015 for large U.S.-based nonprofits was 93, according to the study. International aid groups led the way with a median of 261 mentions by news organizations, driven by major events including the deadly earthquake in Nepal and the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis.
Groups that battle poverty in the United States saw the least coverage, with a median of 42 media hits in 2015.
The weakest month for news coverage: January, for groups in all categories. This may be because nonprofits ease up on outreach to journalists following their all-absorbing year-end fundraising work, the study says.
The study was based on a sample of 40 nonprofits from the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of the 400 biggest charities. Researchers studied how many times those 40 groups were named or cited by 50 major news outlets including the Associated Press, NPR, and Fox News.

Analyzing Media Coverage

When groups assess their media strategies, leaders should look at what types of media are providing the most hits and if there are specific times of year when there are gaps in coverage, among other things, the study concludes.
Among other findings:
  • Poverty groups saw their media hits peak in November, including a slew of national feature stories on holiday bell-ringers.
  • Daily newspapers gave nonprofits the most coverage: They published stories mentioning nonprofits at a rate six times that of major broadcast-news shows and 16 times the rate of national magazines.
  • Nonprofit have a harder time scoring feature stories. Fewer than one in 10 media hits were features, while the balance were just mentions.
Send an email to Megan O’Neil.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Local Missionary Distributes Goods in Sudan and Ecuador

Internally displaced refugees of South Sudan's Civil War. Photo credit: Cross International

This article was originally published in the Good News of South Florida.

While we were packing to head to South Sudan to serve those in need, a 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador on April 16, 2016,” said Mark Mosely of Pompano Beach, FL, based Cross International where Mosely is director of Gifts in Kind (GIK). Mosely also serves as Co-chair for the Global Relief Alliance. While he was launching a project to respond to a man-made humanitarian crisis, a natural catastrophe resulting in human tragedy struck. Mosely juggled the management of GIK relief responses to two different disasters while in transit to and on the ground in war-torn South Sudan, the world’s youngest country.

GIK defined            
Gifts in Kind (GIK) donations are goods and services given as charitable donations rather than cash. It is argued that GIK giving provides market efficiency that cash donations can’t provide. For example, donated drugs help a charitable organization operate at a much lower cost than it would if it had to use man-power and cash to acquire medicines needed for relief operations. The donation of goods already at hand, especially during times of disaster relief, go much further than using donated cash to purchase the same goods at market prices. GIK are a significant, strategic component for organizations that have a long-term development aid approach as Cross International does.

History of War in Sudan

First civil war
Sudan is a country with a long history of war in the latter half of the 20th century, spilling into the twenty-first century. Conflict is ongoing today in regions of both Sudan and newly formed South Sudan. The first Sudanese Civil War began in 1955 when the predominantly Christian and animist southern tribes demanded more representation in the Muslim dominated government in the north. The south also wanted regional autonomy and shared control of profits pumped out of the oil-rich southern regions. The conflict ended in 1972 with a peace treaty that proved too weak and one-sided to satisfy the south.

Second civil war
In 1983, a second civil war started. Many geo-political analysts say that it is the same civil war separated by an eleven-year cease fire. In the First Sudanese Civil War that lasted 17 years, a half-million people lost their lives. In the Second Sudanese Civil War, the ugly consequences of the conflict were two million deaths blamed on war, disease, or famine, and four million homeless, displaced souls. The second civil war ended in 2005 in victory for the south resulting in a comprehensive peace agreement including South Sudanese freedom to vote for their own independent country in what is known as the 2011 referendum.

In 2012, fresh but brief conflict broke out between Sudan and South Sudan over management of oil regions.

Ongoing civil wars in Sudan and South Sudan
Since then, strife has not ceased. Ongoing conflict in Darfur in Sudan’s western regions continues. The United Nations has accused pro-government Arab militias of ethnic cleansing campaigns against non-Arabs. Skirmishes have spilled over the border into neighboring Chad causing instability along that international boundary as well. On December 15, 2013, a new conflict ignited over newly drawn international boundaries between North and South. Internally, in South Sudan, disputes over how oil revenues are shared has enflamed civil struggle that continues today ranking South Sudan number one on the Fragile States Index in 2014 and 2015, a list maintained by U.S. based think tank Fund for Peace.

The reality on the ground in South Sudan after decades of war is inadequate roads and lack of infrastructure. Basic supplies and medicines for relief efforts are difficult to acquire.

Cross International Outreach to South Sudan
A South Sudanese regional public health chief inspected the contents of a basic International Emergency Health Kit (IEHK) and was visibly moved with emotion when he met Mosely and his team at one of their stops on their tour. The chief hadn’t seen medicine in months. Several international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had pulled out of South Sudan with the onset of civil strife leaving the region without medical supplies for an extended period of time.

Emotional meetings like these were repeated on several occasions in the Western Equatoria region of South Sudan as IEHKs arrived. Mosely and his team delivered the precious IEHKs to ten different distribution centers on their relief tour through South Sudan. “We’re calling on all of our friends to pray with us for safety and success in this region of the world that is continually under pressure from disease, poverty, and famine, caused by continual armed conflict,” Mark said in communication while on the ground in South Sudan. “The arrival of this product and distribution will bring much needed relief.”

Delivery of goods and short-term crisis relief doesn’t complete the mission for Cross International. “Our primary ministry is working to empower local churches and church-based ministries over the long-term,” says Cross International President and Founder Jim Cavnar. “If you just engage for a few years, maybe something new starts, but will it last? Will it bring about a long term benefit? We’re equipped to provide resources that are invaluable to respond to disasters, but where we really shine is in that long-term commitment to the rebuilding process including housing, water supply, medical clinics, and the rebuilding of schools.”

Response in Ecuador
In Ecuador, repeated earthquakes have hit causing massive devastation in remote areas. “The death toll is 660, 31 people are missing, in excess of 27,000 are injured, 350,000 people remain in need, and some 22,400 are sheltered in 39 active shelters and 64 temporary camps,” Mosely reported to local leaders on a recent conference call. “We’re helping with resources through the health sector, providing enough medicines and supplies to treat 20,000 people for three months.

Cross International already has a number of ministries they’ve been working with for many years in Ecuador, South Sudan, and several other locations around the world. “The disaster phase will pass after a while,” Says Cavnar, “but the long-term needs will still be there, and that’s where our real commitment and strengths lie. We’re still in Haiti. We’re still in the Philippines. We’re still in the Dominican Republic. We’re still in Belize. These are all places we have responded to disasters in the past, but we’re still in those places helping with the long-term growth and development and recovery.

Last year Cross International provided about $100 million in aid in 22 countries. Their goal is to transform the lives of the poor both spiritually and materially. To learn more about what Cross International does and how you can connect with their mission, visit them at crossinternational.org.