Saturday, November 13, 2010

David C Cook Announces Winner of the True Religion Missions Trip Scholarship


Megan Boudreaux from New Orleans, LA, has been selected as the winner of the True Religion Missions Trip Scholarship. Palmer Chinchen, author of True Religion, and David C Cook, publisher of True Religion, sponsored the $1000 scholarship that was awarded to Megan on November 8, 2010. The award will be applied to a mission trip Megan will be taking to Haiti with Hope for Haiti on December 5-10, 2010.

Megan, a native of Lafayette, LA, believes God placed so much compassion and love in her heart at the age of seven when her father passed away. Megan is a graduate of Tulane University and has been on many mission trips including Honduras, Uganda, Ukraine, Mexico, and Haiti. Megan has worked in Haiti and planned medical mission trips for a hospital in Baton Rouge. Megan’s first impression of Haiti was, “It was unlike ANYTHING I had ever seen before. I knew I had been blessed with a burden for orphans and children.” After spending time in Haiti and having the privilege of loving these children and seeing Jesus in these orphans’ beautiful eyes, Megan knew that Haiti is where God wants her to be. As Megan says, “I’ve been forever changed by the children of Haiti.”

You can learn more about Megan and her work in Haiti on her blog at http://blessedwithaburden.wordpress.com.

About True Religion by Palmer Chinchen: True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth examines the idea of living a life sacrificially poured out for Christ. Chinchen believes that those who are willing to give their lives away to change the world will find their own lives changed forever through that process. He challenges believers to love the Lord with all their mind and soul, with all their strength and heart, and as this love is poured into the work of Christ, believers will experience God moving them in a unique direction that will carry them into new and exciting areas of service. For more information, visit: www.truereligion.com.

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, Co, with offices in Elgin, Illinois, Paris, Ontario, Canada, and Eastbourne, UK, David C Cook resources are published in over 150 languages, distributed in more than 80 countries, and sold worldwide. For more information, visit www.davidccook.com.

Audra Jennings
Senior Media Specialist
The B&B Media Group

Friday, September 24, 2010

AMERICAN JESUS

When I was in college a friend named Bob, at Cal Baptist Univ., flew to Liberia for the summer. He was 6’6”, a Rock Stark basketball player, had hair down to his shoulders, and a beard… the Liberians immediately dubbed him American Jesus. Everywhere Bob traveled that summer playing basketball the crowd chanted the same thing, American Jesus.

I was flying back from Virginia last week, reading Michael Frost’s Untamed, when this line jumped off the page, “If Jesus came back to earth and walked into an American church… I think he would be pretty surprised.”

The statement has made me think much about the American church and the things we value. Strangely, we are about a lot of things that Jesus was never about.

Then this somewhat amusing thought hit me… what would Jesus be like if he really was like many American Christians?

American Jesus has a lot of nice things:
And that’s pretty true. American Jesus wouldn’t mind materialism. He likes a good cause but at the same time he makes sure his garage and back yard and side yard and closets have nice things, a lot of nice things. That’s how Jesus would live if he really was an American, but he does give 2%.

American Jesus is mildly devoted to his cause:
Don’t get me wrong, American Jesus likes God. He likes the church. He likes sunny Sunday mornings and lunch out after church with his family. It’s all a very pleasant experience. And the hope is, he can put in his time on Sunday and have the rest of the week to pursue what he’s really passionate about… a promotion at work, respect in the community, a new car, golf, shopping, and vacations in California.

American Jesus likes I-Mag:
If your church in America is serious about God, you better order an I-Mag projector. Because right now every church that’s worth beans has I-Mag. I-Mag is short for “Image Magnification.” With a couple of cameras in the back of the room, an image of the person on stage is projected onto the big screen… 5 or 10 times their actual size. It used to be that only football coliseums and NBA arenas had I-Mag. But today, it seems that every church with more than 50 people has I-Mag, because American Jesus likes really big things.

American Jesus is running for President:
I sense a message is being broadcast that if you are a true Christian in America, you will align with a particular political party; or at least Jesus would. We all seem to forget that when Jesus first came on the scene in the middle east, he said he was not here to run for office. But that was way back 2,000 years ago, I’m quite sure that today American Jesus would run for President.

American Jesus boycotts Disneyland… but not Las Vegas:
American Jesus is mad about a lot of things, that’s why so many Christians spent so many years boycotting Disneyland; while they held conventions in Las Vegas. But here’s what a lot of people want to know, what is American Jesus for? We know what he’s against, but what is he most passionate about? What makes his heart beat fast? That’s what everyone wants to know.

American Jesus looks caucasian:
I’m not sure where the idea came from that Jesus would not look like he was from the middle east. Maybe it was the pictures of him we saw when we were kids. Because Jesus looked caucasian in the picture of him holding sheep, that hung in my Sunday School room; and that is what he looked like in the stained glass windows in the old sanctuary. Or maybe we think like that because we all have this idea that Jesus will look a lot like me.
. . .

The good news is, Jesus looks like God; Jesus is not an American.

And even better, the Bible says Jesus is for people from every country on every continent on this planet: “And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.’" Rev. 5:9-10

Saturday, July 17, 2010

MEET MADDEN

This is Madden. I’m guessing Madden is about six months old. I met Madden when I was walking through the Chimpampa village in Malawi with high schoolers from The Grove, going hut to hut distributing mosquito nets. Madden was sitting on his mothers lap, on a bamboo mat, in front of their mud hut. I thought Madden was awesome.

Madden is why we keep giving away mosquito nets in Africa. You see, every 30 seconds a child in Africa dies of malaria. The net we left for Madden really might save his life. That’s the hope.

This is Moses. I’ve known Moses for quite a few years. I ran into Moses when we were back in Malawi last month, it was really good to see an old friend. But Moses’ story is quite a bit different from Madden’s. Moses is why I first started asking people at The Grove to give nets away in Malawi. Moses had baby twin daughters, about Madden’s age. They both contracted malaria. And before he could tell me or anyone else who could help… they died. I didn’t even know they were sick until Moses asked me if I could help pay for their coffins.

Every time I return to Malawi I give Moses a hand full of mosquito nets -- even though it feels WAY too late -- I know he has three more children who need the nets. I really wish I had nets to give away when Moses’ tiny girls needed them.

But it’s not too late for Madden, and all the other toddlers in Malawi. That’s the hope. That’s why we keep giving away nets in Africa.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

LOVE IS BETTER THAN WAR

I spent the last two weeks bouncing and sloshing across Liberia's rugged roads, with our team of 29 from The Grove, to four of the country's largest cities, Yekepa, Ganta, Buchannan, and Monrovia. The message we carried, the message I preached was LOVE IS BETTER THAN WAR.

War messed up Liberia for 15 years and everyone in Liberia is ready for something better, something new: that's why we carried the message that the love of Jesus Christ is so much better than the bitterness of war.

I spent my second day in Liberia in Karnpleh, a town near the Ivorian boarder. Karnpleh is where the war started. Karnpleh is where Charles Taylor recruited his first boy soldiers. So Karnpleh was the town we chose to start THE LOVE LIBERIA PROJECT, and it was in Karnpleh that we began telling all Liberians why Love is Better than War.

Hit play and let Scott Erickson tell you about our day in Karmpleh:

Friday, June 18, 2010

7 DAYS IN MALAWI

After a week in Malawi with The Grove’s team of 63 people, I just flew up to Kenya to meet up with our other Grove team that is headed to Liberia. As we waited for our connecting flight one of them asked me, “What are some highlights from your week in Malawi?” I love that question. I’ll share a few highlights with you:

Watching a new tin roof replace a widow’s dilapidated thatched roof was a highlight. When I showed up with our construction team to look at one of the widow’s huts that needed a new roof, even I was surprised at the condition of the roof. A few pieces of tattered plastic and a thin layer of thatch was supposed to keep out the rain… but it was full of holes. The guys took turns going inside because they couldn’t believe how much sunlight was coming through the gaping holes.

The next morning we returned with a pick-up full of lumber and tin. By that afternoon the small mud hut had a shiny new roof over the heads of a widow and her seven children. That was a highlight.

Pulling bright new colored t-shirts over the heads of 300 village kids was a highlight. Just before leaving for Africa, The Grove’s t-shirt printer had a fortunate misprint… he had misprinted hundreds shirts and didn’t know what he was going to do with them. I told him, “Let me buy them off you really cheap, and we’ll give them away in Malawi.” He was glad for the offer. So Saturday, when our team held a VBS for hundreds of children in the Chimpampa village, the kids showed up in the one outfit they owned: ragged, torn, dingy shirts, shorts, and dress. It was so fun to watch the expressions on their faces when our team began to pull bright purple, yellow, blue, and red t-shirts on every kid. The dusty village filled with color.

Hearing the stories of our people was a highlight. Every night, for a week, when we came together for dinner I got to hear the compelling stories of our people’s day. One young mother bubbled, “My afternoon with the high-school girls playing net-ball (a Malawian version of basketball only played by women) was the best experience of my life.” Another said, “When we showed up to paint the orphan girls’ bedrooms, we didn’t expect them to help, but they all came in and painted with us. It was the best day ever.” Three ran up to me one evening and exclaimed, “We spent the day taking mini-busses (public transportation) around Lilongwe buying 500 new plates and cups and spoons for all the kids in the feeding program… and together we are sponsoring three children from one family so they can eat every day too!”

Watching our women give giant bags of maize to widows was a highlight. One of our teams is spending their two weeks loving widows whose husbands have died of AIDS. Veronica and the team brought with them from America gifts like dresses and shoes. But on Friday they bought a bag of maize for each widow. A bag of maize doesn’t cost much to us, but it will feed one family for two to three months. It’s the Malawian staple. Without maize people die in Malawi, literally. Watching women from The Grove pull huge bags of life-giving maize through the doors of small mud huts was a beautiful highlight.

Having my twelve-year-old son ask if can give his shoes away was a highlight. In all the years I’ve been doing short-term trips to Africa, this was the first time my sons have been able to go with me. It was good. It was especially good when my twelve-year-old whispered to me, as we loaded up the van after our first day in the Chimpampa village where practically every child goes barefoot, “Dad, I brought two pairs of shoes with me, can I give one away before we leave?” I love it. He’s heard his dad’s passion, but now his heart is bothered. That was a great highlight.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I JUST WANT TO SAY THANK-YOU


Wow.

I am so humbled and impressed by the heart of everyone at The Grove.


This past Sunday, Mother's Day, is a Sunday I'll never forget.

If you were present, you already know that at the end of each service we invited people to walk up on stage on Mother's Day and take home the picture of a child who had no mother, and sponsor them; kids from Haiti, Liberia, and Malawi.

We hung a hundred profiles over the stage. We had received 132 profiles but I thought if we had 100 kids sponsored in one day, that would be amazing; and to be honest I wasn't quite sure 132 kids could be sponsored in one day, so we left 32 kids in a box... plus we ran out of room on our wire clothes lines.

At the close of the 8:00 service 28 kids were taken home on Mother's Day. We were all thrilled. I was hopeful, I thought maybe by the end of the third service they might all find a home.

But when we invited people up during the 9:30 service the stage was flooded. It seemed like every family present came to take a child home. When the stage cleared 70 more kids were sponsored! Just 2 profiles sill hung... they looked lonely.

Eric must have thought the same thing, because he ran down the aisle from the back row, jumped on stage, and grabbed the last two.

I loved the applause.

Fortunately (due to my lack of faith!) we still had 32 profiles left to hang for the third service. Those were gone in a heartbeat.

Thank you. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you for the sacrifice you will make every month to help feed these kids.

Thank you for loving a child on Mother's Day who has no mother.

Jesus' brother James said, "True Religion is to love widows and orphans." Thank you for living that way. Your religion really is true.

Grateful,
Palmer

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'M SICK

I’m sick.

I’ve just finished reading a New York Times article on the tragic murders of an albino mother and her five-year-old son in Burundi, who were killed by witch-doctors for their body parts. (New York Times, May 8, 2010, Burundi: Albino Mother and Son Are Killed.)

This is possibly the most senseless crime I have ever heard of.

About ten years ago belief spread in East Africa that eating the body parts of an albino will bring fortune and success. So witch-doctors and medicine men began hunting albinos. Since 2007, 71 albinos have been killed in Tanzania alone. Tens of thousands have gone into hiding. The entire notion is completely absurd – BUT IT’S NOT BEING STOPPED.

Here in the United States we are rightfully angered when people are biased against because of the color of their skin. But if mothers and five-year-old boys are dying in Burundi because of their skin color shouldn’t we all be outraged.

The killers must be brought to justice so that a message is sent loud and clear that no person anywhere will die because of the color of their skin.

One small step forward I am taking is to write to the President of Burundi to offer to help, in whatever way needed, stop this atrocity.


AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF BURUNDI, PIERRE NKURUNZIZA


Dear President Nkurunziza,

I write to you with a sad heart, saddened by the tragic murder of a Burundian mother and her five-year-old son.

I write to say these killers must be brought to justice. And I write to encourage you to pour every possible resource into protecting the lives of the marginalized albinos in Burundi.

I know that you are a man of God. I know your heart is good. So I simply write to implore you to seek justice for the albinos of Burundi.

I write on behalf of Christians everywhere to say, Please stop this senseless crime. I do not write to place blame or to judge, I write to encourage action.

I also write to offer the resources of every Christian in my country who cares about justice. I write to offer means to help educate a population that killing albinos is the worst kind of crime, the most senseless of crimes. Albinos, like all of us, are created by God, in His image, and they are loved and prized by God – it’s just that their skin is a different color. And only sheer ignorance would cause anyone to believe that there is magic in their bones.

I offer the recourses of every Christian in America who cares about justice to help shelter and protect the albinos of Burndi.

I write to offer to partner with you to rescue those who’s very lives are threatened because of the color of their skin.

May God’s great hand of blessing be on your life as you continue to lead with wisdom.


Respectfully,

Dr. Palmer Chinchen

Friday, April 9, 2010

TODAY IS NOT TOO SOON

As I write this sitting on a plane headed for Santo Domingo, I’m looking out the window watching the shadow of our 737 skim over the brilliant green water of the Caribbean, and reading a USA today article titled, “Too Soon for Service Trips to Haiti, Colleges Told.”

I’m on my way to Haiti. But our 737 packed with spring break college students leaving the U.S. to serve will go as far as the D.R.. The dozens and dozens of students on our flight will never make it to Haiti because they, like so many others, are being fed lines like, “Too soon for Service Trips to Haiti.”

If today is too soon, then when will the day be right? What greater disaster must a nation suffer before the time is right? The article states that the C.I.D.I. (an ominous sounding acronym for the Center for International Disaster Information) is advising volunteers to “wait until conditions are better to serve... at least one year,” it suggests.

What tragic irony. How will conditions ever get any better until people go and help make it better?

The article implies that volunteers and college students will use “valuable resources” in Haiti that can be better used by someone else. That statement would be funny if it weren’t so sad. I’ll bet cash money the person who made this statement at the CIDI has never set foot in Haiti. Believe me, I’ve been there. Even in Port au Prince there’s enough bread and bananas and goat (yep, our last team had goat in Port au Prince) to feed college students.

This same kind of reasoning is what vexed me when buildings came crashing down in
January. It took five days of sitting and watching and assessing and evaluating before our government felt it was “safe” enough to allow earthquake rescue workers into Port au Prince to begin digging through the rubble for survivors. FIVE DAYS! I was sick. We should have had people there in five hours. Literally.

Sean Penn is a stud. He’s in Haiti right now yelling for America to get down there and get people out of the mud and rain. He’s built a camp for 45,000 Haitians who have lost their homes. I caught him on CNN this week. He said, “Get down here or people will die!” He’s right.

I hope you see what I’m saying, wherever or whatever the need, circumstances will never be perfect or perfectly safe. But go anyway. That’s when you’re needed most.


*To view Anderson Cooper's interview with Sean Penn click HERE

Saturday, March 13, 2010

ROSETTA'S TENT

Ten-year-old Deannzi greeted us with a bright smile as she stood in front of her broken home. She pointed us through the rubble to where we could find her Aunt. video

I told some of you that when I was in Port au Prince, just after the tragic earthquake, I met a young mother of three who was living under bed sheets, in front of her crumbled home, that sat collapsed on two of her family – turning their concrete home into to a rubble tomb.

Her name is Rosetta. I’ve had a tough time forgetting about Rosetta. I don’t think life gets any worse than when you end up living on the dirt in front of your broken home full of sorrow.

Late yesterday afternoon, as the hot Haitian sun went down and the air cooled I stopped to visit Rosetta with Tom and Matt and Rich. She’s still living on the dirt. I thought she might be and I knew that when the rains come her bed-sheet home will become a muddy pit, so I brought Rosetta a tent.

As we put the tent together it looked small. Target labeled it a “6 man” tent – it’s not that big, I wished it was bigger.

Rosetta smiled. She was gracious and grateful.

I sure wished the tent was bigger.

She said since the earthquake crumbled their home on January 12th no one from anywhere has stopped to give them anything. Deannzi’s father asked if we had another tent, they were living under bed-sheets too. We did, so we set up another tent for Deannzi’s family. As we finished putting up the tents Rosetta warmly thanked us again; I still wished the tent was bigger.
video
I guess I had wanted to do something bigger. The team of 19 from The Grove was a mile away building a new dorm for orphans; that felt big. The Grove is building a 12,000 sq. ft. gym for African Bible College in Liberia; that feels big. This bright green tent, dwarfed by slabs of broken concrete piled high behind it, looked small.

The lime green, “6-man” tent was the biggest one they had at Target, but I know I could have found a bigger one if I had just tried harder. I really wished I had looked harder for the biggest one I could buy. But I thought I was busy and didn’t have time.

After we said goodbye to Rosette I told Tom I wished the tent was bigger. Tom said he thought the tent was good. He said, It’s better than the dirt that will turn to mud when the rains come, plus the brilliant green tent seemed to really brighten Rosetta’s day.

He was right, it was good to see Rosetta smile.

I guess I say all this to remind all of us – remind me – that sometimes the world’s trouble seem so daunting that we begin to believe that my effort will be too small to matter, what I do is “just a drop in the bucket.” So at times we choose to do nothing – rather than something small.

Tom’s words reminded me that God has a way of using our small efforts too. Because isn’t it true that God uses one person to touch one life at a time.

So maybe on some days it’s okay to do the small things that are good.

Because on some days maybe God wants to sprinkle heaven just one drop at a time.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

WAR IS NOT GOOD


Neah is one of the African Bible College students I spent time with in Liberia this past week. During the civil war Neah escaped to Cote d’Ivoire to live as a refugee and complete high school at a school aptly named “Grukarsen” -- which means, “War is Not Good.”

And it isn’t.

This past week I experienced firsthand why war is not good. War is not good because it leaves soccer players with one leg. While meeting with pastors in Ganta to plan our summer Love Liberia Project, one of the things we talked about was soccer. Everyone seemed to have a different opinion about who the team from Arizona should play, where the match should be held, and how it should be promoted. When with sudden authority Russell spoke up. “Listen, I’m the football (soccer) player here and I know football in Ganta better than anyone. Let me plan the event.” That was it, everyone agreed the responsibility was best his, they all new Russell was Ganta’s soccer aficionado. The painful irony, however, is that Russell has only one leg. A rebel bomb stole his other leg that let him run and score.


Do you see why I say war is not good?

War is not good because young women are raped by angry men. Welcoming us to nearly every town and city on our 800 mile trek through Liberia was the same large, rusting metal sign with the blunt message STOP RAPE. During 15 years of civil war, rape became a preferred weapon of many fighters. Some say the young men forgot rape was a crime. Women across Liberia are still healing from the scars. War fills my heart with rage when I hear that beautiful women are raped. War is not good, war is tragic.

War is not good because small boys attend school wearing nothing but blue flip-flops. We stopped in the remote, dusty town of Juarzon to make sure we were driving down the right jungle road when kids, on their way to school, gathered around the jeep to chat. Some wore blue and white uniforms. Some had on mismatched shirt and shorts. A few wore only the blue shorts with no shirt. But one small boy wore only blue flip-flops. He held a copy book in one hand and a grubby pencil in the other, but that was it. He wore no clothes. He smiled and waved as he went one his way. You see war has left Liberia poor. Some families remain to poor too buy their children clothes for school.

That’s why war is not good.

War is not good because the Grand Devil is dancing again. When we visited my childhood home, deep in the Sappo Rainforest, hundreds of Christians gathered to welcome my family back. But during my father’s speech, when he began to quote scripture, he was suddenly interrupted by beating drums – the Grand Devil was coming. It was Jesus versus Juju.

In the jungle it has always been the juju of the witch doctors and Grand Devils verses the truth of Jesus Christ. But during the horrible years of civil war juju spread wildly. The Grand Devils promised rebel fighters and boy-soldiers magical protection from bullets if they would participate in their ceremonies and make a sacrifice – sometimes human. Liberia has always been a Christian nation but juju became the faith of war.

And now, as the message of Jesus Christ is again being carried back to the cities and into the jungle, the Grand Devil is vexed. His power is threatened because Jesus is back.

You see war and anger and tribal dissention has fractured Liberia. That’s why the church I lead, The Grove, is returning to Liberia this June to lead The Love Liberia Project. Our people will travel the country and spread the word that The Love of Jesus is good, so very good. It’s better than anger, it’s better than bitterness, it’s better than revenge, it’s better than war.

War is not good.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

DÉSOLÉ


While I was in Haiti this past week I said désolé often.

In French, désolé means sorry.

When I say I’m sorry to people in America they look at me a little funny and say, “It wasn’t your fault.” But growing up in Africa sorry said it all. When someone was hurt, when someone was melancholy you would simply say sorry.

To say sorry in Liberia is to say, I empathize -- I share your pain -- I hurt because you hurt – you do not hurt alone.

Nobody should have to hurt alone.

In Malawi when someone is in sorrow they are never left alone. When tragedy comes the furniture is taken out of the house so that people can come in. They come and sit on the floor. They sit for hours. No one says anything, your presence says everything, I’m sorry and you are not alone in your sorrow.

I don’t think God meant for us to be alone when life really hurts, that’s why I said désolé so many times in Haiti.

Our English word desolate comes from the French désolé. Desolate is a heavy word, we use it when we are deserted, abandoned, alone, or absent of joy. Maybe its most weighted meaning is, devoid of comfort.

That’s why I said désolé in Haiti. I simply wanted the beautiful but hurting people I met to know they were not alone in their pain.

As our team of doctors and nurses worked at field hospitals (literally on the grass in fields), at clinics, and at orphanages, I first wondered in what ways could I help? I’m a doctor – of philosophy – but that doesn’t help when someone needs a leg set or a wound dressed.

But when I met the Haitian boy Kevin with the amputated leg, without thinking much, the word désolé just came out. Haitians speak French (French Creole), he smiled and said, merci.

Across the dirt road from the orphanage where we delivered food sat a pile of broken concrete that used to be a two-story home. I walked over to see if anyone was in the bed-sheet tent in front of the pile of the rubble. A young woman in her twenties was living there. Her story hurt my heart. She and twenty other family members are sleeping in front of their crumbled home. Some sleep between the crevices in the slabs of concrete. Two of her family are still buried in the rubble.

What do you say when you hear that? How much sorrow can one person take? The only words I really had were, “Je suis très désolé” – I am so very sorry.

Driving through Port-au-Prince a colorful Haitian bus pulled in front of us, in huge, bright letters were the words, Sorry My Friend. The bus said it well. Désolé mon ami

Leaving Haiti we stopped to deliver meds at a field hospital. As we come up to rows and rows of Red Cross tents that sheltered hundreds of recovering patients with amputations, crush wounds, and broken bones, I noticed that a teenage boy, probably 19, was laying alone; on a bare mattress, under a tree that shaded him from the setting sun. Four large metal pins extruded through his skin as part of the external bone fixator that immobilized his tibia.

The field hospital was doing a supurb job but it felt strange that a patient with critical injuries be left alone under a tree. So I walked over and asked, “Êtes vous d’accord?” (Are you ok?”). He said he was doing fine. So I just sat down next to him and practiced my French -- and said désolé mon ami.

Friday, January 15, 2010

THE DAY WE BECAME A GENEROUS CHURCH

When Sebastian walked into my office with a great big Jim Carrey smile and a giant zip-lock bag of change, and announced that it was his birthday I thought we might become a generous church.

Sebastian said, “Pastor Palmer, today I’m eight years old and I’m bringing you $108 dollars for mosquito nets for kids in Africa.” His dad explained that Sebastian had been collecting change for months and wanted to make the delivery on his birthday. It was a great moment. As he handed me the bulging bag of change, he said with resolve, “Next year, on my ninth birthday, I’m bringing you $109.” I love it.

At The Grove we talk about living generously, living simply... so that others can simply live. I’ve always hoped this would become our culture, part of our DNA.

In September we challenged our people to leave their shoes at church and go home barefoot, so that their shoes could be given away to people in Liberia who had no shoes. We dubbed it Barefoot Sunday. My sons told me this was a bad idea, they said people will not come to church that Sunday.

On Barefoot Sunday The Grove was packed – my sons were wrong. On Barefoot Sunday more than 2,000 pairs of shoes were left at The Grove. On Barefoot Sunday I thought, maybe we’re become a generous church.

Three weeks before Thanksgiving we put 180 empty boxes in the lobby and asked people to take a box home, go shopping and fill it for a family’s Thanksgiving dinner... and include a turkey. All the boxes were gone before people arrived for the third service. The third service people grumbled that they had no boxes to fill.

We put a hundred more boxes out the next Sunday. Those all disappeared as well. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, as I stood and watched a refrigerated semi fill with 280 boxes of Thanksgiving dinners for families in need, I thought, we could be on our way to becoming a generous church.

A month before Christmas we told the people of The Grove that this Christmas we would take our church’s first ever Christmas Missions Offering. The project we chose was to rebuild the gymnasium at African Bible College in Yekepa, Liberia that was destroyed during the civil war. We needed $50,000 -- in one offering – on one Sunday! The amount was staggering. Frightening. Audacious. It would take a miracle, I told the people of The Grove.

On December 20th our people gave to help rebuild buildings and lives in Liberia, but instead of giving $50,000 they gave $110,000, and I thought, we just might be a generous church.

This Sunday, today, a couple stopped me after the second service and slipped a hundred dollar bill in my hand and said, “Please give this to someone who needs it.” I said, “I will, I have no idea who, but I promise I will do that.” After the third service a young man stopped to say hi, I knew his wife had just lost her job and life was tight, and it hit me, today they need this hundred dollars more than anyone I know. So I slipped the bill into his pocket and said, “A generous person at The Grove wants me to give this to you.”

Today I realized we are a generous church.
Generosity really is a part of The Grove culture.
I try to live that way.
I hope you will too.