Monday, September 16, 2019

News from Discipling Marketplace Leaders

This week is an exciting week for us.  Both Dr. Walker and Emeline Nde, DML-USA staff, will be coming to Grand Rapids as we will be doing a professional video shoot of our two-day workshop for pastors and church leaders, that can be reproduced for our teams in Africa.  They have been asking for this for a long time, and we have a number of copies of videos that were done on-site but the quality, especially sound, has not been good, so we are going to do the "real deal" this week.

Additionally, we are having a "Meet and Greet" on Thursday evening for friends of DML to hear the exciting things that God is doing to grow, build and equip His Church in Africa through DML.  If you are in the Grand Rapids area and would like to join us, please email me at renita@disciplingmarketplaceleaders.org for more details.

The opportunity to share these stories comes on the heels of the DML East Africa Regional Meeting that just took place on the Nile River in Uganda, with our teams from Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya (the teams are in the boat that is pictured).

Hearing them share their stories, their ideas, and how God is working with them to share this message AND the DML method, was inspiring for the teams.  At this particular meeting, we not only had our five teams from four countries, but we also had key denominational leaders from the four denominations that we are working with join these meetings.  This ended up being a very good investment, as the picture of how to implement this ministry became much clearer during those days together.

As the Church grows in Africa, and as the population and economy grow in Africa, we believe that Africa has the potential to fulfill the Great Commission IF it can unlock its members from the building, to be the church every day of the week in the Marketplace.

Enjoy some pictures from our teams, and thank you for praying and supporting this ministry!

Uganda DML Team, with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God reps.

Tanzania DML Team, with Full Victory Gospel Ministries reps.

Kenya DML Team, with Anglican Church of Kenya reps.

Ethiopia Teams, with reps from Kibir and the Kale Heywet Church

Monday, September 9, 2019

A Life Without Despair is a Life Without Hope

I heard this phrase recently and it made me stop and think for some time.

Can you wrap your head around this concept?  A life without despair is a life without hope.

No despair - no hope.

We like hope.  We don't like despair.

Can't we have hope without despair?  Not real hope.  Not deep hope.  Maybe superficial hope.  "I hope it doesn't rain today" kind of hope.

But hope for change...for the world to be a better place...hope for people to understand the real meaning of grace and mercy...hope for healing...hope for relief...the deep hopes that come from pain in the soul.

What are the longings of your soul?  When was the last time that you differentiated between your superficial human longings and the deeper desires of your soul?

It makes me think of Ruth Haley Barton's book, Sacred Rhythms, and her description of the conversation that Blind Bartimaeus had with Jesus.  Jesus had a habit of asking people deep questions like, "What are you seeking?" or "What do you want from me?"  He was going after spiritual hunger, reflected in the honest reflection of the person being asked.  This particular story and question comes from Mark 10:46-52:
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Barton invites us to imagine (just for a few seconds) being Bartimaeus and thinking through how you were going to get the attention of Jesus.  What words would you use?  What emotions would you feel?


Then imagine that Jesus turns to you, looks you in the eye, and says, "What do you want me to do for you?"  What would you say?  What answer would you give?

We may need to peel back a number of layers to get to the bottom of what we really want from Him.  It may take some honest reflection and soul searching.

A life without despair is a life without hope.  What are you hoping for?  What drives it?  Where have you been and what have you seen that drives both the despair and the hope?  And how do you take both the despair and the hope to answer the question Jesus asks, "What do you want from me?"

That is your story.  That is the uniqueness that is you.  I'm sure many of our answers would be different but in some ways, I would guess that they may point in a similar direction.

As I wait for news about my health, I consider something a friend said to me this past week.  He said, "I pray for health for you or something better."

I like that.  Maybe that is what I would say to Jesus...at least for today.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Some Not-so-good News and Some Good News

First the not-so-good news:  since being released from the hospital, I have continued to have one medical issue or another come up, leading me to cancel my trip to Uganda for the East Africa DML regional meeting.  There are some big questions about the underlying causes of my medical issues and I have some upcoming appointments where doctors hope to look closer to see if this continues to be a fall-out from the "perfect storm" of problems I had when hospitalized or something more serious.  We are praying it will all turn out to be nothing in the end.

I'm disappointed not to be able to meet with our teams from Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Kenya.  This is a once-a-year meeting where we get to share and learn together, pray and encourage each other, break bread and laugh together, and look at best practices and new opportunities for continuing to equip the church to be the church every day of the week.  There were some exciting new components of the ministry that we have been developing that I was hoping to share with the team, and I in turn also get a lot of renewed enthusiasm as I hear stories and the creativity of our partners in the field.  But Dr. Walker will be there and I'm sure that they will have a very productive and God-filled time.  This may even allow for greater ownership of this ministry by our teams with my absence.

The good news is that Dr. Walker was able to have a successful time in Malawi doing a two day
DML workshop with the World Renew Southern Africa team, with members from Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique.  It seems there may be invitations coming DML's way to work further with the synods of various denominations in Zambia as well as Malawi.  We thank God for these seeds that have been planted and look forward to seeing what He will do in the next weeks and months as the seeds look to take root.

Please pray with us for these seeds, as well as for the upcoming regional meeting in Uganda.  Not only will our implementing partners from each country be in attendance, but key leaders from three denominations who are implementing DML throughout their denomination will also be in attendance.  We desire to see continued ownership at a denominational level and we pray that this time together may allow the Holy Spirit to continue to encourage us to find the tools necessary to reclaim the Marketplace for Christ.!

Monday, August 19, 2019

DML Testimonies from Uganda and Ethiopia

Every quarter, our implementing partners send us reports of the work that has gone on relating to Discipling Marketplace Leaders in their specific region or country.  Some of those numbers tell us that in the first half of 2019, more than 1100 pastors in eight countries were taken through the DML workshop and more than 500 businesses were trained to do their work as an act of worship, as well as other basic business skills.

Included in the report that we receive quarterly is a testimony or two from either a church pastor or a businessperson about how this ministry is impacting their life.

I would like to share two stories with you this week:  one from Uganda and one from Ethiopia.

From Uganda, this story comes from Pastor Henry Obondo:

After the Business as Mission class taught at the Africa Theological Seminary in Tororo, Pastor
Henry organized a training in his church (Divine Destiny Church).  According to Pastor Henry, learning that Jesus was a businessman and that work was a holy calling had a great impact on the church.  The congregation had a change of perspective and are now challenging themselves to invite God in their daily routines, as well as carrying out their work in a godly way.

Pastor Henry recounts the story of a widow in his church who used to beg for money to take care of her children.  After learning that work is a good and holy thing, she became more committed and zealous in her business, selling traditional pots, because she saw it as partnering with God.  Today she can buy school supplies for her children and is in a better position to even financially support the work of God in her church.

Silverfish
Another testimony from this church relates to two women, whose husbands were drunks.  These women had quit their jobs because of criticisms that the work they were doing was "carnal" rather than serving God.  After attending the DML training, these women took back their jobs selling "silverfish."  Today they are sharing the gospel at their jobs, supporting their families without stress and they are even able to contribute to the church.

Pastor Henry also expressed his excitement at the way DML is empowering his members.  He testified of how he had always given money to his church members for business investment, but they just kept experiencing losses.  Now, with the training DML is providing, these members are being empowered to do business profitably, for the glory of God.

Ethiopia - How good customer service and setting the right boundaries are impacting businesses.

Taju Lila is a businessman who lives in a town called Mizan Tepi, which is about 700 km from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.  He is one of the DML trainers in that town.  He has given this testimony:
"Before this DML training, I had been providing services to many people daily.  And because my business was in the capital city of that administrative zone, I had the opportunity to meet a lot of people.  At first, I had more customers than any other businessperson in that area.  But the way I handled fellow Christians and people with good behavior versus the way I dealt with others, was completely different.  I did favors for the people I loved and ignored those I did not love.
 "My competitor was a Muslim merchant whose shop was close to mine.  He did not have as much capital as me, and when he started he had very few customers.  But he treated all of his customers with great courtesy and always had a smile for them.  After five years, his business had grown five times bigger than my own.  Today he is a wealthy and well-respected businessman in the city.  In the meantime, my business was declining.
"When I began taking the DML training, I began to compare myself to that Muslim man.  All of a sudden, I realized that my problem was in customer handling.  My weak customer service approach made me unsuccessful in business.  People even told me that I used to discriminate between Christian and non-Christian customers.  Of course, I didn't consider myself a servant of all customers.  But after attending this training, my attitude on customer relations was absolutely challenged and changed.  I started to see every customer with a different perspective - as equal and deserving of the same excellent service.  This has made me competent, successful, and created an opportunity to meet many customers and share Christ with them.  Also, this training helped me to teach, challenge, and help other Christian businesspeople to have better business practices.  I am grateful to God for DML and I want to thank God for providing me with this golden chance."
Our goal is that we do our work as unto the Lord, with the purpose of helping people flourish - all people, not just the ones we like.  I love that this businessperson caught on to that and is realizing the fruit of "loving his neighbor" in terms of being able to build relationships and share his faith.  May we all do our work as an act of worship this week and help people to flourish wherever we serve!

Morning Dedication

In all I do this day, 
In all I think and say
Father, be with me all the way.

In all my work and all my deeds,
In all I learn,
In all my needs,
Christ, go before me,
The One who leads.

In all my work as I do my best,
In all that puts me to the test, 
Spirit, help, and grant me rest.

(David Adam, "Power Lines")

Monday, August 12, 2019

Jesus, First-born Son and Second Father

August 9 would have been the 65th birthday of my late husband, Bob Reed.  It's been almost ten years since his death, and it's difficult to not wonder what life would have been like for me, for Hannah, for Noah, and for many others, had he not left so soon.  But lately, I've been thinking about his death in light of the life of Jesus and the death of his own earthly father.

Mark 6:3 says, "He's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon.  And his sisters live here among us."

Joseph is not mentioned in this verse.  The last we hear of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, was when Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem at the age of twelve.  After that, Scripture is silent about what happened to him.  Many speculate that Joseph died shortly after he is last mentioned.

I wonder how old Jesus was when he lost his father.  I think of Hannah and Noah who lost their father at the tender ages of 15 and 14.  Was Jesus around the same age as them?

He was the oldest son with quite a number of siblings.  In North America, that doesn't have much meaning, but the rest of the world still understands what that means.  It means you are responsible for your mother and siblings.  In Nigeria, the oldest son is called the "second father."  If Jesus was the oldest, and let's guess he might have been 15 by the time of Joseph's death, there were at least four brothers and maybe an equal number of sisters younger than him.  That is quite a number of mouths to feed, and I'm sure he shared that responsibility with his mother.

The way that he was likely to do raise the money to care for the family would have been through the family business, the carpentry shop. By the time Joseph died, I would speculate that Jesus was well-versed in the family business.  He would have understood the craft, having grown in "wisdom and stature."  He would have probably learned how to not hit his thumb with a hammer and how to pull splinters from his hands.  He would have learned the art of supply and demand.  He would have learned customer service.  He would have learned how to deal with the competition. He would have understood sales.  He may have had to repossess a table or two from those who didn't complete payment.  As "second father," he would have had to teach his younger brothers the trade as well.

I've wondered why Jesus waited to start his ministry at the age of 30.  Could it be that he was waiting until his younger siblings were all independent and cared for? Is it possible that the wedding of Cana (where his mother played the role of the host) was possibly his last sister and the turning of water into wine a celebration of the successful launching of all his siblings, freeing him to launch his ministry?

With all this wondering, I then understand better the significance of Jesus on the cross, looking down on his mother.  In one of his final acts, he cares for his mother by asking for John to carry on for him, as a son.  What a close relationship Jesus must have had with his mother - losing Joseph, raising the other children, struggling with a family business...the relationship with the oldest son in this context must have been very close indeed.

It makes me think of the day after Bob died with new wonder.  I will never forget that day, as Noah told me, "Mom, I think it's time we move on."  I've chuckled at this comment over the years, asking if it would be okay if I at least had 48 hours.  But as I've considered Jesus and the relationship he had with his mother, this comment from Noah has taken on much more significance to me. This was not a statement of insensitivity - rather it showed his desire to step in to be a caretaker and help his mom -  to try to get her to stop crying.  I had to fight to NOT let him take care of me.  I wanted him to still be a "normal" teenager (whatever that means).  But that instinct was there in him and showed up consistently over the years.

When I think of Noah's instinct, it makes me even more keenly aware of the emotions at the cross between Jesus and Mary.  It makes me choke up if I let it.

But more than anything, it makes the passage from Hebrews 4 all the more significant.  We have a High Priest who understands our troubles.  He understands what my children went through in losing a father.  He understands having to raise and provide for children - his siblings.  He understands working with his hands and running a small business.  He understands the depth of relationships between a parent and child.

So we can come boldly to His throne.  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!
Hebrews 4: 14-16 (NLT)   So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.  This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.  So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Brief Health Update

Just a brief blog today. I am thankful to report that I was released on Saturday after eight days in the hospital.  I was admitted on July 27 with malaria and a fever of 104 F (40C) and then developed pneumonia while there.  Once they cleared those two up, I had a fever that remained at around 103 F and migraines that continued for the entire stay.  They conducted many, many more tests and found that I had another parasite happily multiplying in my body, as well as another bacterial infection.  In the end, I had five diagnoses given:  three primary and two secondary.  The three primary infections seemed to have all come from my last trip to Nigeria.  I had wonderful care and am thankful for the doctors (my primary doctor on the floor was Nigerian, which was a God-send!) and nurses who diligently cared for me, not to mention my husband, children, and family.

This is the second time I had malaria in about four months, in a year that has had a number of illnesses.  While I can talk about finitude and rest and while I can talk about protocols for prevention of malaria and infections related to food/water-borne diseases, my children and loved ones have let me know in no uncertain terms that there seems to be a systems issue here:  my body is reacting to the stress in my life and my immune system is not behaving as well as it should.  So I need to take this under further consideration.

In the meantime, as fever raged in my body over those days, I reminded of how many of our brothers and sisters in many countries do not have access to the health care that I was blessed to have.  While this was a very expensive malaria for me in the end, it resulted in a number of findings that will allow me to be healthier moving forward.

I will continue treatment over the next couple of weeks but should be able to steadily return to work.  Thank you for your prayers.