243 Days: What I am learning

Today is Labour Day in Canada. The first Monday of September and a long weekend holiday. As I sit in my library early this morning I am overwhelmed with joy at the thought that this is day 243 since Brenda’s cancer diagnosis.

Enjoying a walk on the Whiterock Pier
Enjoying a walk on the Whiterock Pier

Why joy you ask? Simple, Brenda is still with us and very much alive. We are enjoying life together and with our family. In a seemingly irrational manner, there is a new sweetness and depth to our relationship that we understand is perhaps counter intuitive given the circumstances.

We have had a series of good news reports from the oncologist of late. Word that five of the six lesions in her brain are gone and the sixth is in retreat. The mass in her lung has also shrunk and the cancer in her backbone remains in check. The latest scans show no further metastases – no further spreading of the cancer. So we rejoice in this news yet we are still living with cancer.

I can sure understand how the cancer journey causes so many patients and caregivers to suffer depression. It begins with a cumulative crisis of loss and anticipated loss. It is not just the fear of losing a loved one, but there are many other losses experienced along the way. Your life is changed. Things you used to do together, you no longer do. Patterns and responsibilities change. Your diet, sleep patterns, ability to travel, even your financial status all change with a cancer diagnosis.

As new medical appointments begin to fill your calendar it leaves little time for old relationships. People you find life giving are now inhibited from visiting with you because of your physical and emotional ability. Your ability to plan is thrown out the window as your physical stamina and the medical system now have a high degree of control over your schedule. These are all losses and we grieve these.

I have some moments when I catch myself getting caught up with the thought of being without Brenda. Theologically I understand that loss is not the central issue in my feeling sad and depressed, it is my unwillingness to let go. I am attached to Brenda. I love her and desire to be with her. I do not ever want her to leave me but a cancer diagnosis actually forces you to have to talk about ‘what if’ scenarios.

For friends who are not Christians and are in this kind of circumstance, I could see this being a very dark time. What seems like a completely empty life today morphs into an equally meaningless eternity. There is nothing to hope for and so the tendency would be to hold onto the memories and objects of the past. 

But as Christians we are called on to let go of everything that gives us security and cling to Jesus our Lord. Brenda and I know this in our heads, but we have moments when we get as frightened as anyone else at the thought of letting go. 

We become attached to our spouse, our family, our hobbies, our reputation, our ideas, our position, and our dreams. It is painful to think about giving them up ourselves, let alone them being taken away. 

The thought of loss can cause one to become hardened, and rather callous, towards the things we hold dear. It is our way of protecting ourselves from feeling hurt. It would be like me saying, “Oh I didn’t like sailing anyway, and we can sell the boat. I don’t care.” That would not be true. I’m fooling myself. I have great memories from our boat and I will miss her.

Yet central to the gospel is our willingness to let go of everything we cling to that we gain security from and to fully place our trust in Jesus. The closer we draw to God, the less prone to depression we are because fewer things can be taken away from us.

We are studying the book of Philippians right now at our church and in it Paul shares he has learned that in whatever state he finds himself, he will be content. How did he accomplish this? He shares that the things he used to count as ‘gain’ – the things he used to cling to for security – he is willing to let go of. All things were considered lost but for his clinging to God.

Early on in this journey I was praying and God called me by name and asked me to trust him – regardless of the outcome. Since then I have realized that I can trust Him and that life does not stop for our circumstance. I also have learned that there is a healthy sense of letting go of Brenda that I can embrace. It is in this process of letting go of Brenda and all the other ‘losses’ both perceived and real, that I am actually able to free myself to be fully God’s.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, after 243 days, I am coming to grips with the many losses we have already experienced. I am feeling free and trying to be content in our circumstances. But I still cry at the oddest times and without over spiritualizing receive this as part of the body’s natural recovery system.

I listen again for those words, “Carson, Trust me.”

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Brenda Pue: One Hundred and Forty Six Days

146 Days

It is amazing that we are 146 days into Brenda’s diagnosis. We have been so blessed by the love and support of our family, friends and our church and the Arrow Leadership network.

Brenda is doing remarkably well all things considered. I wanted you to see for yourself so here are two video clips. The first is a message that she recorded for a series of Arrow events across the country that had she been well she would have probably attended with Dr. Steve Brown and our friend Ken Shigematsu who was speaking about rhythm based on his best-selling book “God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God.” It was recorded one week after her diagnosis.

She recorded it to greet hundreds of Arrow leaders whom she has known personally over many years.

 

Best Easter Ever

Brenda has only been able to attend church once with me since January – and that was on Resurrection Sunday. While I was in the midst of talking to our congregation. Safe to say I was not at the top of my game as it was an emotional day for me.

My colleague, and Senior Minister, Darrell Johnson sidled up beside me – and you can watch what happened. He pointed out to the church that Brenda was present and invited her up onto the platform with me. She spoke for just a few moments – and it was powerful. We have felt such love from this congregation in the heart of this great city.

Caring Bridge

Brenda’s writing about her journey has captured the attention of thousands and touched many hearts. I have been collecting all of her entries and we are praying about publishing it in a book form for others who face (what the medical community call) terminal illness. What is interesting is the amount of peace we feel when we take just one day at a time.

Brenda’s latest entry can be read HERE.

 

When Life Changes in a Moment…

alignment

Have you ever had an experience where one bit of information completely changed your life?

That is how 2014 began for me. The first week of January we received a cascading amount of bad news in that our doctor had discovered a mass on Brenda’s lung. Rapid testing afterwards confirmed this was indeed cancerous and had spread to both the brain and lower back.

Since first suspicion, to diagnosis, to telling our family – the news is not getting any better. Our lives have been altered. One minute we were heading in one direction, the next moment we are redirected to an entirely new vector.

So, was God in the previous direction? Is he in the new direction? Answer is that God is in all of it. He is in every aspect of our lives.

What are we learning in this so far? Well we are learning again that He is in control – not us. We are also realizing how empty it must be for people who have no faith to help endure the stress of a diagnosis like Brenda’s. With faith comes community – a relational cadre of fellow Christ followers who live out what Jesus said, that Christians will be identifiable by their love for one another. We are startled by how many people are dropped off at the cancer clinic and sit there all alone throughout their treatments until the taxi picks them up again.

God is bringing comfort to us in many ways. Through the presence of our dear family and closest friends. Through expressions of love and concern from people around the world who are choosing to share in our challenge. Through words of prayer from those who really care. And through God’s Word and especially the Psalms right now.

So whatever you are doing right now, stop and ask yourself how much of your day are you investing in relationships. For the past two weeks Brenda and I have been together 24/7 making our way through the medical tests and the emotional exhaustion of repeating the story over and over to those who ask. In the midst of all this, despite lots of tears, there is an overarching sense of peace.

We are savouring each moment together and it is like we have been given new lenses to view the world around us. “Things” can so easily clutter our lives are just temporary. I can see this now as if a bright spotlight was shining on it. Relationships on the other hand last forever. If this is true then nothing can replace the time we spend investing in the life of another.

Our daughter by marriage, Kristin, established this website where Brenda can journal her journey with God right now. It also allows people who know and love her to write a comment in a guestbook. If you will linger for just a few minutes reading the comments left there you will see how this amazing faith filled woman I am married to has invested in and mentored the lives of hundreds.

Brenda inspires others to  move from focussing on things that are temporal and instead invest in those things that are eternal. How does she do this? By following the inspiring wisdom found in the Word of God

As the Bible says, “Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier. Give away your life; you’ll find life given back, but not merely given back – given back with bonus and blessing. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity  begets generosity. (Luke 6:37-38 MSG)

For the next while I am going to use my blog to allow you to join me on my journey alongside Brenda as her adoring husband, BFF and fellow pilgrim. Frequency will be sporadic depending on how things are going here, but the content will be authentic.

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We are hiring…

joinourteam

Director of Children

& Family Ministries

 

Our Church

First Baptist Vancouver, or ‘First’ or ‘FBC’ as we are known on the street, is a community that believes it is possible to live and love the way Jesus does – and we come together to help one another on this journey of becoming like Jesus. Located at the crossroads of downtown Vancouver a vibrant community congregates in our stone building.
 We are young, old, and in-between; rich, poor, employed and re-training; multicultural; families and singles; Bible scholars and seekers.

Granville Street
Just blocks from our door, the downtown of Vancouver is alive and vibrant, multi-ethnic and diverse.

Our neighborhood is surprisingly filled with many young families and our Children & Family Ministry is one of the most robust in our congregation. Engaging one hundred volunteers, we are a church deeply committed to family.


Overview

Children & Family Ministries is vital to the health of our congregational and community life at FBC and in our neighborhood. The new director will have primary responsibility for giving leadership to shape Sunday morning and mid-week children’s programs, ensuring that they are Biblically relevant to the contemporary family and for developing a family friendly congregational environment. Reporting to the Executive Director, this ministry leadership position is supported by both staff and volunteers. A strategic team, your  Ministry Area Team (MAT) will be established to be a support in this ministry area, and assist you with dreaming, strategic planning and assessment of existing programs.

The West End
First Baptist is right in the center of this cityscape, both geographically and in mission.

Key Responsibilities

In order to carry out this important ministry in our congregation and neighbourhood this position will include a number of key responsibilities in multiple areas including:

Leadership

  • Develop and work with a team of leaders who seek to integrate children’s ministries within a church family framework where parent involvement and spiritual leadership of children is a partnership between the home and church.
  • Screen, recruit, train, and nurture a large team of volunteer members who have a heart to serve children, in both leadership and support roles. Provides direction and supervision to volunteer team leaders.
  • Model Christian leadership and empower volunteers to fulfill their assignments.
  • Oversee administration needs of preparing and controlling the budget, maintaining database of volunteers, and preparing communication about the ministry.
  • Work with key volunteer leaders to select and implement user-friendly Biblical curriculum that reflects the values and vision of FBC.
  • Provide initial pastoral care as needed for children, staff, volunteers and parents and faithfully pass on information to the Pastoral Team for additional support.

Family Ministry:

  • Implement ministry and special events of importance to the family. Current programs include a Mid-week Parent Group, Family Connection Groups, All Church Family Camp, Soccer Camps,  Parenting Seminars, and Small Groups.

Children’s Programs (Birth to Grade 7)

  • Oversee our discipleship groups for children: Early Childhood, School-age Children, Preteen Ministry, Sunday weekly activities; mid-week children’s programs; baptism classes, summer programs, and special events.
  • Build and nurture contacts with our neighbourhood and community (for example: schools and the YMCA).

Pastoral Team

  • Share ministry information with the FBC pastoral team for the health and development of the church and represent the interests of children and families to the wider church body.
  • Engage and work collaboratively with the Ministry Area Team (MAT) for support, discussion and assessment of ministry programs.
  • Work collaboratively with the Pastoral Team.
  • Plan together with the Youth Director, to ensure smooth transitions to the youth program, and annual calendar planning.
  • Demonstrate commitment to the FBC Values and vision by participating in the life of the church (examples: worship service attendance, small group participation, staff devotions).

Qualifications

Education and Experience

The successful applicant we see as having the following skills and traits:

  • Bible College or University education appropriate to the position,
  • A godly leader of good character who has a vibrant personal faith in Jesus Christ.
  • A strong desire to see: parents become the spiritual leaders in their homes; and their children become fully devoted followers of Christ.
  • Strong organizational, communication and collaborative leadership skills
  • Ability to multi-task, delegate, team build, and provide oversight to many ministry areas.
  • Significant church experience would be an asset
  • Candidates must be eligible for credentialing as a licensed pastor with our denominational family, Canadian Baptists of Western Canada. Details regarding this can be found at (cbwc.ca).

Hours per Week: 40 (FTE)

Compensation: FBC uses a salary grid commensurate to the role responsibility, education & experience.

 Timeline: Accepting applications immediately

 Closing Date July 22, 2013

Contact

Please submit your resume electronically to employment@firstbc.org

 

Putting First Things First

ImageIn our downtown church we have a weekly email that goes out on Monday’s to those who work in the secular workplace, as opposed to homes, churches, or specialized ministries. It’s purpose is to encourage men and women disciples to see their work environment as their place of ministry- and this is a high calling.

Here was today’s message as we start the new year – CP

_____________________

I have probably given away thirty copies of the book “First Things First” by Stephen Covey. It is a definitive work on time management and explains that most people are driven by the concept of urgency. But to really effect positive change in our lives, we need to reorganise the way we spend our time; based on the concept of importance – not urgency.

You may be familiar with Covey’s four quadrants:

1. The first one represent the things that are both important and urgent for us to do (you need to do them now).

2. The second represent the things that are important, but not urgent (you can decide when to do them).

3. The third represent the things that are not important, but urgent (you should delegate them and not do them yourself).

4. The last quadrant represent the things that are neither important or urgent (you should dump them!).

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A great exercise for leaders at the beginning of each year is to do an inventory of all the things you have on your plate to do – then discern what quadrant they are in and act on them accordingly.

When Jesus discusses putting “first things first” He says “ ..seek first his kingdom and his righteousness..”. (Matt. 6:33) Seeking first His kingdom is to desire – as our very first priority of important things – to spread the reign of Jesus Christ. God’s kingdom reign begins in our hearts, then spreads outward to our family and friends, and then like ripples in a pond – to the ends of the earth.

As you start this New Year, take a moment to survey your personal realm:

  • Do you see evidence of Christ’s rule over your thoughts, your attitudes, your will? What do you need to submit to Him?
  • How well are you submitting to Jesus’s rule as you relate to the people around you? What needs to change?
  • How are you connected to the missionary efforts of the church to share the love and shalom of Jesus in our community and around the world? Besides giving donations, how can you get involved in spreading Christ’s gospel to the world?
  • How might you broaden your world view this year?

May God bless you as you seek the kingdom of God in every area of your life.

Blessings,

Carson

G’day Mate: Australia

Landing in the Land of our Cousins: Australia

(Following is written from journal notes I’m wanting to complete the trip blog with Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii)
Our flight from Thailand and Malaysia signaled a reentry of sorts. We landed in Darwin in the Australian Northern Territories. Although I have been in Australia many times – this region was different as evidenced in the people. They were young, multi-ethnic and well, a little on the ‘rough’ side. They made me smile.

The rather warm welcome we received at Australian Customs and Immigration was akin to meeting up with cousins. My customs agent even smiled and added, “So you’re Canadian eh?” as he looked at my passport trying to find a page where he could squeeze a stamp on.

It is true. Our countries are like cousins. Australia and Canada have been linked for the past century. Both countries share similarities in terms of their sprawling geographies and being resource-based. We are both former British colonies with a common history and guilt-laden problems associated with our native people. We have also become two of the richest nations in the world.

G’day Mate

Our son Jeremy and wife Shari lived in Perth when first married. In typical Aussie manner he was quickly given a nickname that shortened his name to simply ‘Jez.’ They love doing that and don’t really care what you think of the name they adopt for you. In the time our kids lived in Australia they developed ‘mates’ they are still in touch with.

I love this about Australians and I have many friends there I keep in touch with. I love their Aussie sense of humor, their ‘attitude’ of independence and what I might call their ‘sauciness’.

Now there are some people whom Australians offend. They find them arrogant and rude.

It’s important to understand the Australian psyche here rather than get all bent out of shape about this. The Australian culture is largely based on the premise that “anything goes” and “anyone is fair game”. Mate-ness is spread throughout the restaurants to the casual BBQ setting; the light-hearted work environment to the jovial yet die-hard sport rivalries in ‘Footie’ espousing a “no worries, mate” attitude. They are what we might call earthy, and forthright.

Becoming Fair Dinkum

As a mentor and student of leaders I have often wondered if beneath the seeming authentic bravado of Australians there may be an underlying insecurity that is embedded in the culture or their family history.

Most often a person or leader who’s first impression is one of being overwhelming, brash, bold – often sprinkled with a sarcastic style of humor – has some significant insecurities beneath all of that. How does one address this?

Well for Christian believers, it is by establishing your security and identity in being a child of God. This is something that a mentor or spiritual director can guide you in to break down old thought patterns and establish new ones. Once that is in place, we become comfortable in our own skin or “fair dinkum” is the Aussie expression for someone who is really genuine.

Accept or Tolerate

It has been said that Canadians accept you while Australians tolerate you. Outsiders can sense a bit of this in Australia. It is like they are checking you out. If you pass their ‘test’ (whatever that is) they can quickly move to calling you ‘mate’ with lots of warmth.

When Bob and I arrived in Sydney. We were met at the airport by Chris – a man we did not know except via email who was connected to Bob through the Parkinson’s world of relationships. He and his wife Pam hosted us for the week in Sydney and we left them feeling the warmth of relationship you would share with a close cousin.

As I am writing this I am also thinking of my close mate – Graham Johnston from Perth who is now with the Lord. He and I shared ‘mate-ness’ and I miss him greatly but will forever be grateful for all that we shared together. We even shared a name in that his son is named “Carson.”

Cousins are unique and our stay in Australia should be inspiring.

Northern Thailand: The Village and Loving Your Neighbor

THE LAHU PEOPLE

My niece Christina lives in Chiang Mai. She is a teacher there and speaks Thai fluently, which was a huge advantage during our visit there. She is married to Teerawood, a man she met while on a mission trip, who is from one of the hillside tribal groups called Lahu.

Many of his family members still live in the hills near the Burma border. These hills are sometimes referred to as mountains but for someone from Vancouver we will just try to stick with hills.

BURMA

In 1989, the military government “officially changed” many British colonial-era names. Among these changes was the alteration of the name of the country to “Myanmar“. Many countries in the world (including Canada) do not officially recognize the name and still refer to the nation as Burma, which is what I am choosing to do in this article.

Burma is one of the poorest countries in the world and has had a civil war taking place for the past fifty years. The decades of military dictatorship have basically destroyed the country’s infrastructure and leaving over 30% of the population of 50 million live in poverty. Burma under this regime has become the world’s second largest opium producer and the main producer of methamphetamines in SE Asia.

World Vision tell me that the country also has one of the highest HIV infection rates in Southeast Asia–more than 240,000 people are living with HIV and AIDS.

Foreign Affairs Canada advises against all travel to areas along the Burma/Thai border due to “clashes between the military and armed groups, ethnic conflict, banditry, and unmarked landmines in these areas which pose risks to the security of travellers.” Okay, that seems pretty straightforward. Sporadic fighting between military forces and armed resistance groups is still occurring along the border with Thailand and, tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced and are living, hiding or are in refugee camps

So, when Bob and I were asked us if we would like to go to ‘the village’ by the border we weighed the situation for about fifteen seconds and then jumped at the opportunity.

THE VILLAGE

It was almost a four-hour drive north of the city through stunning countryside. The lush vegetation, valleys, rivers and villages along the way were worth the trip of themselves. The jungle made me constantly think about Vietnam and how they could ever fight a war in jungle like this.

When we reached the village of Huay Kok Moo it was like entering another world. The village name translates ‘Pig Pen Village’ and derived its name because the people there literally keep their pigs in pens.

Everyone we met welcomed us warmly. They are not used to having too many visitors in this remote area. The mountains in the background mark the border to Burma and the close proximity made it clear why the people here are affected by the government struggles. At night you can sometimes hear the gunfire from near the border just kilometers away.

Our sleeping accommodation was on the second floor of a home building were the entire family slept together on the floor with mosquito nets over each bed. After getting our beds set up and dropping off our overnight bags we walked through the village on paths up and down the hills as the neighbors and especially the children stared and smiled. Usually built on stilts using split bamboo for walls and grass for roof thatch, most of these small houses have no running water.

Many  village houses are raised up on stilts and underneath are kept the family chickens and pigs. Inside you see a supply of bare-bones essentials: partitioned sleeping quarters with a mat for a bed and a kitchen of sorts with a wood-burning hearth on the floor. The kitchen doubles as a social gathering place for its inhabitants.

There is primitive electricity now in the village and a few satellite dishes set outside the huts making me smile just thinking about the positive and negative influence of television on this tribal culture.

Back at Teerawood’s parents home the women were busy cooking the evening meal. A number of guests had been invited to meet with us – pastors in the area (really the elders of the village).

The meal was greens and fruit picked from the garden or jungle, some chicken, pork, rice and garnished with some spicy condiments and hot local tea. For dessert we ate the most delicious pineapple and mango we have every tasted – picked just minutes before.

As we talked after dinner I observed a beautiful simplicity to life here in the village. The people are usually smiling, gentle and caring for their neighbor. These particulate Lahu people are mostly Christian having been reached by missionaries years ago. They know well the teachings of Jesus about loving your neighbor as yourself. Yet many of them are displaced themselves from Burma.

The war in Burma is truly a horrendous situation. Rambo notwithstanding, the stories have not been exaggerated. Torture, murder, systematic rape, villages burned down, men forced to carry heavy loads for days on end with no food or to “sweep” for landmines…it all happens. There are apparently over 100,000 Burmese refugees living in the jungle in camps on the Thai side of the Thai-Burma border. Agencies of the Thai government and NGO’s are helping to get them resettled but as soon as they are new ones arrive to take their place.

I wondered, “How do you love neighbors like the Burma Army and their execution squads?”

LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR

In Thai the word for village is หมู่บ้าน (pronounced ‘muban’).

When in Chiang Mai, Christina would refer to what I would have called subdivisions as muban. They were ‘villages’. The city is composed of neighborhood ‘villages’ and I love the image of this.

Our neighborhoods in Vancouver are actually like little villages – although we often don’t love and care for one another like they do here in Huay Kok Moo. I don’t have to live with the thought of a military force displacing me or forcing me to walk before them across roads or rice fields to clear mines. But we have a struggle of our own taking place in that I see clearly as a Christian leader in a downtown church.

We live in interesting, and challenging days being followers of Jesus of Nazareth in Vancouver. In one of Jesus’ central teachings, he commands us to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31). Yet we don’t know what to do when we don’t agree with our neighbor about something – especially something important, like our religious beliefs. And while we love our neighbor in “the village” by meeting physical needs and being kind, there is an overlooked, application of this passage.

To really to love our neighbor we actually need to stand up for the possibility of truth. We need to protect the endangerment of honest disagreement concerning the nature of reality.

Today a battle is raging in movies, television, newspapers and university classrooms concerning the nature of tolerance. There seem to be 2 competing definitions:
(1) False Tolerance: We can make no judgments at all about the truth of others’ beliefs.

(2) True Tolerance: We allow others the freedom to hold beliefs that we judge to be false.

If we cannot tell our neighbors or ourselves the truth about reality, then we cannot really love them. Because love involves seeking another’s highest good. We must fight false tolerance that seeks to intellectually bully our village into agreeing that every viewpoint (especially when it comes to religion, and morality) is equally valid.

We must speak up in love for the possibility of truth.

Loving our neighbor requires this.

Transformation of Kuwait

Kuwait City

I have come here really knowing Kuwait for one reason; it was a catalyst in sparking the Persian Gulf War of 1990-1991. Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait August 2, 1990 bombing Kuwait City to smithereens. In response to this surprise attack, President George H. Bush deployed American troops to Kuwait as part of a coalition force to beat back the Iraqi Army. But the damage had already been done. Kuwait City was in ruins. Iraqi troops set oil wells on fire, eliminated all resistance, and stole $700 million worth of gold bullion was from the Kuwaiti government.

Today, Kuwait City is a completely different place. With help from the US and other countries, they have rebuilt a new country and so much of the city has been rebuilt from the sand up.

Driving in Kuwait, the modern buildings of Al Kuwayt (Kuwait City) pierce the skyline proudly show casing the wealth of the nation. The architecture is outstanding. We could also see the palm trees and plush green landscape weaving through this concrete jungle, and sparkling blue water of the Persian Gulf encompasses the northern part of the city.

It is flat.

It looks like you are in Saskatchewan at harvest time for golden sand stretches to the horizon. (Well, it does but without the grass, rolling hills and trees.) The highest point in this entire postage stamp size country is 306 meters high.

The population of Kuwait is about 2.5 million. Most of them live in Kuwait City and of these, one-half are non-nationals hired to serve the Kuwaitis.

Transformation and Change

The people once lived as tribal nomads or as town dwellers but with the discovery of oil in the twentieth century, the traditional Arab culture of Kuwait advanced rapidly. Unlike most Arab countries, Kuwaiti Arabs enjoy a modern, industrialized society. However, I did witness how at times the old “Arab ways” and values conflicted with modern, urban life.

Kuwait is hot. The temperature remained in the low forties the entire time we were there. Bob and I are travelling with special clothing made for washing in hotel room sinks and drying over the shower bar. During our time in Rwanda it rained a fair bit and so drying our clothes became a three day operation. I did a wash in Kuwait, hung my clothes to dry outside and voila! Ten minutes later they were not only bone dry, but stiff also!

Islam and other faiths

The prophet Mohammed lived in the area, and it was here that he developed Islam as a new religion. Kuwait culture is now based on Islam, and it is the main religion in Kuwait. It influences architecture, clothing, food and other ways of life.

The Grand Mosque

While Muslims demand for concessions in non-Muslim countries like my own, Canada – non-Muslims are systematically persecuted, terrorized and ethnically cleansed from most Islamic lands. But unlike other Arab countries, Kuwait allows non-nationals to practice their own faiths. Today, eighty-five percent of the people here are Muslim and the remaining thirteen percent are Christian, and two percent Hindu, and Parsi followers.

The church

So in the heart of Kuwait City there is a church – by that I mean the body of followers of Jesus – who are living and leading well. I do not want to be too specific about the nature of their ministry so as to not possibly hinder their presence there, but I had the privilege of preaching at four of their twenty-four services on the weekend we were there. That is correct, twenty-four. (I think it is now up to twenty-eight). Bob also preached a one of the services and it was a very meaningful experience for us both. This is a church that ‘gives back’ when you preach. They are engaged, responsive and people of action. You get the impression they will take what they learn from this sermon and apply it next week where they live or work.

A ministry and marriage seminar was also held on the weekend for leaders of this large congregation and I was again impressed and touched by this group of people. I loved them and their leaders.

This is a church that has grown through multiplication. At the heart of it is transformation – they celebrate transformation in people’s lives. They have a very in-depth discipleship process as a key element of their church.

As I have pondered our fantastic time in Kuwait (including an afternoon on jet skis in the Persian Gulf) I learned something I am bringing home to our church.

Transformation is the key,
and obedience is the key to transformation.
And when transformation happens, multiplication always follows.

Long Obedience in the Same Direction in a Complex Neighborhood: Mumbai

Respect

I have a lot of respect for leaders who stay working in a business or organization for more than ten years. In order to do so they have built a tremendous trust account with their people, have adapted to the many changes that take place, and have re-invented themselves at least two or three times.

It is for these reasons that I was so delighted to spend time with a great leader – Stanley Mehta. He is, and has been, Senior Pastor at Bombay Baptist Church located at the southern end of Mumbai near the Gateway of India. He has been here for thirty-one years and is fifty-nine years old.

The British rulers, using Indian labor, constructed this architectural statement between 1913 and 1924. It was to commemorate the visit to India of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. The locals here refer to it as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai.

Interestingly, the congregation of Bombay Baptist Church would have watched this construction take place for the church was formed in 1896.

Complex Neighborhoods

Across the street from this charismatic Baptist church is the Imperial Mansion. In fact, within walking distance of the church are: homes of two of the wealthiest people in India (one of them in the world); a beautiful beach area frequented by Bollywood stars; and then less than fifteen minutes away is the underworld of the brothels of Mumbai.

This is a very complex community in which to ‘be the church’ due to the extremes of socio-economic cultures as well as a very diverse ethnic blend an languages spoken here.

The sanctuary itself seats five hundred people on plastic chairs that are stacked against the walls to use the auditorium throughout the week for other purposes. Today they have 4,400 attending on Sundays with services in English, Hindi and Tamil.

How do they do this? Well in 1987 they started training lay people in the church to minister in house churches and today they have over 25 locations for Bombay Baptist Church throughout greater Mumbai. With 70 staff and 65 committed volunteers it was easy to discern that my new friend Stanley is a great leader of people. Then when he let me in on his organizational structure that makes all this happen I was even more impressed.

Stamina and Giftedness

To stay put in a complex neighborhood situation like this requires stamina. In a formal role that demands you provide leadership, you’ve got to deal with the people thing. In fact, your impact, your effectiveness, and your performance depend on your ability to influence, work with and/or through others effectively. As obvious as this sounds, it is the primary failure of most leaders.

Stanley is not a failure. This man taught me so much in two hours I went away amazed and wondering how some of his strategies and methodology might speak into our church situation in downtown Vancouver.

What a joy to be with someone who is so committed over time. I am silenced just thinking about all that has been accomplished in his neighborhood.

So, just before leaving I mentioned to Stanley how moved I was by their commitment to the community (I have in my journal a list of all the services they do as a church in the city).

“Carson”, he replied, “Jesus told us that we are to be about loving God, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. In our churches we are good at loving God in our worship and our prayers. We are not very good at loving our neighbors.”

I was quiet on the drive back to the hotel as I drove by his people, his neighborhood, and ponder these words.