Monday, July 23, 2018

A Crown for a Bishop and a boy

One of the participants in our recent workshop in Ghana shared this story that her mother had told her when growing up:

Once upon a time, there was an important Bishop of a Church who oversaw a great number of churches.  Working for him was a young man, who started to serve the Bishop as a young child.  This young man was tasked with bringing the Bishop his food, washing and ironing his clothes, shining his shoes, and running general errands.  The young man was not quick in his work, but he was very thorough and careful.  It frustrated the Bishop at times that tasks would take so long but he couldn't complain about the outcome.

One day, as the Bishop and this young man were traveling to a nearby parish, their car was hit and they were both killed.

Upon arriving in heaven, both were received with great joy and ushered in to receive their crowns.  The Bishop was presented his crown first - beautiful and elegant - and he humbly accepted this on his head.  But then the crown was brought out for the young man, and to the Bishop's great surprise, it was even grander than his own.  
Unable to contain his surprise, he asked for clarification.  "As the Bishop who has spent his life serving and building the Church, equipping leaders and saving souls, I'm surprised that my crown is smaller and less grand than the young man who was simply polishing my shoes and ironing my clothes.
 Can someone explain this to me?"

Jesus, looking tenderly at the young man, decided to let the young man share thoughts that he hadn't been invited to share while on earth.  He asked him, "When you were serving the Bishop by ironing his clothes and polishing his shoes, can you tell us why it often took you a great amount of time?"  

The young man looked up uncomfortably, glancing over at the Bishop, and then looking Jesus fully in the face, replied.  "I knew the importance of my job.  I was ironing the clothes of the man who would be introducing people to you, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  I was polishing the shoes of the man who would be carrying the message that could bring salvation for eternity to those who listened.  I wanted those shoes and those clothes to be a reflection of the perfection of who you are so that when they saw them, they could see a glimpse of you."

Colossians 3:23:24, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

What a powerful story to give your children.  A reminder that our work has a much higher purpose than earthly masters, money, or self-achievement.  It is the Lord that we are serving while working, reflecting a portion of who He is, as image-bearers and co-creators with him.  

Monday, July 16, 2018

Cameroon in Conflict

Lydia is a businesswoman from the Northwest portion of Cameroon, an Anglophone (English speaking) area.  Since 2016 it has been caught up in a conflict between the Anglophone and Francophone (French-speaking) Cameroonians.  Lydia is Anglophone.  She and her husband have a 22-year-old biological son and three adopted children ranging from 18-23 years old. 
Lydia was forced to close her business on Mondays starting in October of 2016 by those opposing the French dominated government.  All businesses were forced to close as a sign of protest by the Anglophone forces.  Recently they added Tuesdays as well.  Those who disobey and open their business will be attacked.  The loss of two business days has had a significant negative impact on her business.
When you add to that the insecurity and fear of being out in the streets where these forces are roaming, business is negatively impacted even more.
Sixty-five villages have been razed and burned to the ground since this conflict started two years ago.  The complaints of the Anglophones are genuine; with only 25% of the population, they tend to be disadvantaged at every level of leadership.  Villages continue to be invaded by the Anglophone force, where various leaders are being kidnapped in an effort to control the area.  Thankfully, they are not killing people, but people are forced to flee when they invade.  Many of those who lost their homes are living in the bush.
Lydia is very afraid for her son.  The Anglophone force is recruiting young men to join them.  “Recruiting” might be a generous term.  Those who have sons who may be considered old enough to fight are afraid for them.  Lydia’s son graduated from university and is now hiding in their home in the Northwest, while they try to get him accepted for a Master’s degree in a university in Europe or Canada, where he can be safe.
More than 500 soldiers of the Cameroonian army have been killed by the Anglophone Forces, but only 50 of the English Defense Force have been killed.  When asked why the numbers seem lopsided, it is explained that the Anglophone forces are believed to be protected by a spirit who won’t allow them to die.  In response, the military is now asking for help from the spirits as well. They are tying a red rope on their guns to break the power of those spirits of those shooting at them.
Yet Lydia travels many miles to attend the training we held in Yaoundé.  She told me that her heart is “weeping with joy” for the message she heard.  She loves doing business and apparently does it very well. To hear that it is a good and holy calling when done “as unto the Lord” touched her heart deeply.  She has felt guilty doing business and wondered if she should leave it to go into “full-time ministry?” She now recognizes that her work can be an act of worship and it can be her parish and place of ministry.  She left our training renewed and invigorated to do her business with God as owner and be intentional to help other business people see their work as an act of worship.  She is planning to attend our next training to be a trainer for Discipling Marketplace Leaders.
I told Lydia I would be praying for her and her son.  Maybe you will join me?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Quick Note

Dear praying friends,

It has been a busy week of teaching at the ECWA Seminary with 27 students in my class.  Some are bishops.  Some are pastors.  Some are civil servants.  Some work with international or local nonprofits.  Some are in business.  Some are Baptist, Christian Reformed, ECWA, Catholic, Lutheran, and others.  They are taking Integrity and Finance as part of the degree, Masters in Organizational Leadership.  It's always a fun class to teach, with some tough dialogue about the challenges of ethics and integrity in the day-to-day lives of people struggling with temptations, especially for those also struggling with poverty and a lack of hope in the system.

On Saturday, we were able to lead a workshop for another of our students, a bishop of a Lutheran Diocese in Abuja.  His church has 1200 members and is a beautiful building.  He had just under 100 pastors and church leaders in attendance and it was a good day to continue to share the vision of the church being the people of God and not the building.

Today (Sunday) I leave Abuja for Jos, to teach a two-day microbusiness training.  Dr. Walker will head to Kaduna with Dr. Gaga (our partner) to do a two-day training for about 100 pastors and church leaders.  Please pray with us for these two events.

Jos has quieted down in this last week, for which we are thankful.  For three days, the Christians will fast (Monday-Wednesday) and pray for peace in the Plateau State.  If you feel so led, please join them.  There is so much anger and stress relating to this long-time struggle between the Fulani herdsman and those who live in the path that they travel.  Conflicts, murder, kidnappings for ransom, extortion, and hatred/fear are an all-too-frequent occurrence. One pastor confessed that she had been preaching on how we need to love our neighbor while knowing in her heart the anger and unforgiveness she holds in her heart towards those causing so much strife and hurt in this country.  There is a deep fear that Christians are going to be annihilated.  Words fall short in these times of deep despair, especially from outsiders.  We know that the church has often grown significantly during times of persecution, but that is little comfort.

We cry out to God for peace, for strength, for perseverance, for reconciliation.  We pray for the Church to rise up, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to forgive, to love, to point all towards the light of Christ.
The Lutheran Cathedral which we were privileged to speak at on Saturday.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Problem or Opportunity?

One of the things we like to teach is that we don't have problems, we have opportunities.  God has given us the potential by being made in His image, as well as through the resources of this world and through the body of Christ, to take these opportunities and find ways through them.

Nigeria is currently the 7th largest country in the world by population.  The largest are (in descending order) China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, and then Nigeria.  By 2050, they predict that Nigeria will have passed the USA to be the third most populous country in the world.  Problem or opportunity?

Lagos is a city of 22 million.  It passed Cairo to be the most populous city in Africa in 2013.  By 2050, 72% of Nigeria will live in urban centers.  Problem or opportunity?

Nigeria has 28 million businesses.  Twenty-two million of those business have no employees (microbusinesses).  In high-income countries, small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) who have between 5-500 employees provide 60-80% of the jobs.  There is a significant lack of SMEs in Nigeria and therefore a significant challenge with employment.  Problem or opportunity?

Nigeria just passed India to have the highest number of people live in extreme poverty.  While much of the world reduced the number of people in poverty in the last twenty years, Nigeria increased.  It is reported that 2/3rds of the population in Lagos lives in slums.  Problem or opportunity?

We believe that the Biblical perspective is that p
eople are not the problem - they are the solution. Made in the image of God, people are creative, have been created to work, and are problem-solvers.  The slums may have a depth of richness because of the people there, that is greater than the oil reserves.  But they need the capacity to grow and learn, and they need the opportunity to work as God has intended.  Perspective is so important.

To be in a city of 22 million is somewhat staggering.  To consider how such a mass of people move, work, travel, and communicate is difficult to get our head around.  In many ways, it is a country unto itself.  People in Lagos tell us (relating to DML), "If you capture Lagos, you capture Nigeria.  If you capture Nigeria, you capture Africa."

While in Lagos, we heard testimonies from pastors who have implemented Thirty Days in the Marketplace in their church.  They reported:
  • Total paradigm shift by the church as work was recognized as a act of worship and business was recognized as a calling.
  • A portion of the group trained in Lagos
  • One pastor shared how much he personally was changed by the process of teaching this as it relates to his perspective of why we were created and how essential it is to disciple people in the workplace.
  • Bible studies were held regularly on how to do our business as a mission.
  • New accountability is taking place in relationships relating to how we do business.
  • As prayer walks were done by the church in the communities, strongholds were identified and prayed over.
  • New souls have been won as a result of this ministry.
  • Some pastors reported an increase in giving as a result.
  • Business members have been anointed and commissioned by their pastors.

    Assemblies of God leadership team
We are encouraged by this.  When people begin to see their work as worship, it changes so much.  From Lagos, we moved to Ibadan for the first time to do a two-day workshop for pastors and church leaders, as well as a workshop for business people.  Yesterday (Sunday) we moved to Abuja where we will teach at the ECWA seminary until Saturday and then have a DML workshop with the Lutheran Church where one of our students serves as the Bishop.  

Following this, Dr. Walker with our partner Dr. Gaga, will move to Kaduna to do another two-day workshop for pastors, with an expected 100 pastors in attendance.  I am to go to Jos to do a two-day microbusiness training for one of the churches who has completed the Thirty Days in the Marketplace.  However, Jos has had a significant
Ibadan DML Team
amount of violence with over 200 killed, demonstrations, and a curfew has been put in place.  We are hoping that things will calm down in the next few days, otherwise I am being advised by our partners not to take the risk, as the roads into and out of Jos are a key trouble spot.  Please pray for peace!

And while you are praying, please also pray for Cameroon.  We are to go there after Nigeria and news reports are that Cameroon is moving towards a civil war between the English-speakers and French-speakers.  Our trip there in January was postponed for that reason and it had appeared things were improving.  Where we are going is quiet and peaceful, so we will still go, but some of the leaders will be coming from that area.  Please pray for their safety and for the Church to rise up in this time to be promoters of peace and helpful solutions.  There are opportunities in this too if we have the courage, compassion, capacity, and competence to find them!
Some of the leaders trained in Ibadan
Great Quote

Attendees capturing the info on their phones

Rev. Johnson, from Ghana, teaching from his vast experience in doing Business as Mission for more than 25 years.  But he is now a firm believer in Church-based Business as Mission and is joining us on the road to help train and mentor fellow pastors and business persons.  We thank God for him!
On a church wall in Ibadan