A Mini-Resurrection


By the time you read this, a refugee family of seven from Afghanistan will be safely settled in their new home in Dallas, Texas.

Over the last week, a Catalyst Group from KPUMC has been hard at work getting a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in north Dallas ready for their arrival. Oscar Brown and Mary Ann Climer went shopping for furniture at some resale shops and found a beautiful dining room set, couches, and other assorted pieces. Mary Ann found housewares at Goodwill, and bought fresh groceries to fill the refrigerator and pantry. Bev Sladek and I made up the beds, put contact paper in the kitchen shelves, and put books and toys out for the children. Sally Climer had a meal prepared for their arrival last night (Wednesday).

I think of the preparation work as especially appropriate for Holy Week. During these days in which we observe the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, our church has been working on behalf of a family which has suffered much in the preceding years. We know very little about this family, except that they are from Afghanistan, have five children — four boys from the age of 13 to 6, and a two—year old daughter. We also know that the father had worked alongside US Special Ops forces, and for that reason, his identity must be kept secret as much as possible. We don’t know yet what they have experienced over the past seventeen years — since the US began military operations in Afghanistan — but we can safely assume that things became untenable for them to stay.

And even though we can also safely assume that they are Muslims, I would like to suggest that their arrival in the US is a kind of Easter moment for them. They are about to experience a sort of mini-resurrection, a chance for them to start again. Here in Dallas they will be able to enroll all their children in school, find meaningful employment, and begin to dream of the future.

That’s what Easter is about, isn’t it? In the resurrection of Jesus, we have the perfect symbol and guarantee of the possibility of new life. What our refugee family from Afghanistan is experiencing right now, is something that you and I can experience as well right now.

New life, setting aside the past, repentance, leaving behind old ways of being and thinking — all of this is possible because Jesus has broken the power of death and sin. We don’t have to remain mired in the muck of the world’s dysfunction. We are renewed and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be “resettled” into a new place, a safe space that we recognize as home.

Come home to Jesus this Easter. Come home to yourself.

Mapping Our Way in Missions


    I heard a (newer) member of the church say recently that she felt like she had grown closer to God since joining our community. That was music to my ears; one of my primary goals as a pastor is to foster spiritual growth. I am committed to helping each one of you to grow in your relationship with God.
    But she followed that remark with the observation that she didn’t really know how to get involved with any of the church missions. She was unclear about how to take that step.
    I understand her confusion. We have lots of mission projects, but they are a bit disconnected and disparate.
    Over the last couple of years, our church has taken significant steps in becoming more and more mission-oriented. We have been slowly reorienting our gaze outward rather than inward. We have fostered a number of new ministries through the formation of Catalyst Groups; we have bolstered the work we do with some long-standing organizations, like the Hillcrest House and The Well; and we have continued supporting other United Methodist projects.
    All this mission energy has been good for us. But it has also been a little disorienting, as this young member expressed. Some of you have complained to me that it feels like we do a little bit too much, that we have our hands in too many different projects. Others have said they would like to go deeper in their particular ministries, lack the tools and resources to make it happen.
    This spring, I will offer a class after Wednesday Night dinners to reorient our sense of mission. This class is open to all, and it will be the only class for adults on Wednesday nights, because I would like as many of you as possible to attend.
    I’m calling it “Mission Action Planning,” or MAP, for short. I've constructed it as a kind of primer on mission work. I'll talk about why mission work is important for the church, as well as what to do and what not to do when helping people. Some of the lessons are more theological and Biblical; others are more sociological and psychological. We’ll meet for 12 weeks, and you’re welcome to attend all or any particular session. I’m planning to cover the following topics:

What it Means to be a Missional Church
Being Present: Learning to Be in the Mission Field
Building Relationships: The Core of Mission
Cross-Cultural Competencies
Beyond “Helping”: Learning to Do Justice
Decolonizing Mission
Embracing a Missional Theology
Practicing a Contemplative Spirituality
Short-Term Trips/Long-Term Results
Releasing Outcomes
How to Form a Catalyst Group
The Role of the Mission Committee

    Some of the material might sound familiar to those who have been through Catalyst Training, and there will be some overlap. However, I’m adding new material, and changing much of what I have already taught. Plus we’ll have some guest presenters. You’ll find this to be a helpful refresher course in “how to do mission right,” as I like to put it.    
    The first class takes place after dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 6:30 pm, and will last for an hour. Please come and participate as we “MAP” out our missions, and learn how to effect creative change in our world.