Archive for the ‘community’ Category

I used to blog prolifically about my mission trips. I’d post stories, sometimes daily, about what was happening during our outreach. Lots of pictures, along with detailed descriptions of the desperate conditions of those we went to serve.

Of course, I’d tell the stories of what God was doing as well, but it was almost like I needed to set the scene (poverty, disease, injustice) to really show off His work. And maybe justify my journey?

The stories I shared were true–but honestly, I am not sure they were honoring to the people we served. I don’t think they’d be thrilled to read about themselves in the somber hues I painted them. And that really bothers me . . .

I do have one story to tell about our recent trip to Cambodia, however.
The purpose was mostly missionary care–we went to love on our friends who serve in Phnom Penh. But part of caring is witnessing what they do. So we spent quite a bit of time following our friends around to get a feel for their daily lives of ministry.

One day, we got to visit a small village not far from Phnom Penh. Every Sunday, a dozen or so young people from our friends’ church head to this community after worship service. Most go by “moto”–(motorcycle or moped)–to share the love of Jesus with the Buddhist villagers. The Cambodian pastor takes a small group of youth to go with him to evangelize, while others stay behind to play with the local children or pass out food and hygiene items.

Temps were approaching 100 when we got to the village, with the kind of humidity that makes it hard to breathe–let alone move. I decided to tag along with the pastor and followed him and a small group of students as he visited with villagers who were taking a siesta in the heat of the day.
There were no doors to knock on, as most folks were taking refuge in the shaded open areas underneath the houses. Men swung in hammocks, women scolded children playing in the dust, dogs hunkered, panting, in any bit of shade they could find–everyone conserving energy on this sweltering day. We were a welcome diversion.

The pastor shared the gospel in every home, eliciting lively discussion with the Buddhist occupants. It was all in Khmer (language of Cambodia), but the students kindly translated for me, delighted to practice their newly acquired English speaking skills on this eager foreigner. (most of the students came to know Jesus through an Engish class taught by our missionary friends).

As we took our leave of the first home, I asked (through my translator) if I could pray for the family. The pastor–and the women he’d been talking to–thought it was a capital ideal. One woman needed healing, another needed work, a third asked for peace for herself and her family. After a short prayer, I sat next to the woman who wanted peace, swinging my white legs as we sat side by side on the bamboo platform below her house. She’d seen Westerners before but was still fascinated by me–or at least my skin–and picked at a few moles and freckles on my arms as if she was trying to erase them.

As if she knew we were sisters underneath our skin.

Through my translator, I learned we were the same age, although I just celebrated my fifth grandchild while she already had six great-grandchildren. I asked if I could take her picture and she laughed and said yes–but only if I put it on Facebook! We chatted a bit longer as I played peek-a-boo with one of her grandchildren, leaning into her like we were old friends. Finally, we hugged goodbye and our little group set off in the hot sun to the next house.


The young woman who’d been translating for me fell in beside me as we picked our way through the dust and debree.
“Have you been to this village before?” she asked, overcoming her shyness to make eye contact.
“I haven’t,” I told her. “But I’ve been to many villages like this one in other countries. It feels like I’ve been here before.”

Even as the words left my mouth, I realized I wasn’t referring to tangible similarities between this place and villages I’ve visited in India, Africa, Indonesia, Mexico and Alaska (although similarities do exist). It was the connection I felt with the women, the shared humanity, that made the village feel familiar.

I used to be struck by our differences as I traveled to other countries. But now I’m more aware of how we’re all kin, broken and beautiful, full of hopes and dreams and prayers for peace. All in need of a Saviour, hearts beating in unity under our skin.

I hope this story honors my new friend. And maybe she’ll even see her picture on Facebook someday :). I will continue to pray for peace for her and her family . . . the Peace that passes all understanding and longs for every heart to rest in Him.


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So, my friend Lisa and I have been developing a clothes closet type of ministry at Parkrose.  Lisa (who is very cool and peppery) works with homeless youth in Clackamas county and has experience in such things.  We’ve gathered bags and bags of gently-used clothing and blankets, painted the designated room with hip, happy colors and are waiting for racks and shelves to be installed.

We are good to go–except for the fact that we gave away ALL of the clothes and blankets this week!

My Native friend, Chief, told me on Sunday that a fire swept through his reservation that weekend, destroying at least 20 homes.  Without a second thought, I offered him our entire inventory.  Chief gratefully accepted and emptied out our closet.

The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the Name of the Lord!  How awesome that we were able to bless others in their time of need!  But now we need to restock . . .

If you live in the area, could you take a moment and go through your closets–and pull out the clothes/blankets/shoes you don’t need or wear?   Your donations could wind up blessing a local high school student or family–or folks from the White Swan reservation!

We also need a name for this outreach.  We are open to all suggestions!  Email me or leave a comment if you have clothes to donate or ideas for a name!


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So, after publishing my last post, I decided a little background info might be helpful for those who don’t know the whole story.

We left Abundant Life about 2 1/2 years ago to serve with a much smaller congregation.  Even though we made great friends there, it was not a good cultural fit for us.  We left that group in June 2009 and have been having and “out of church” experience ever since.

Not that we ever stopped attending services–Greg  actually preached in various congregations on the average of twice a month.  He “filled the pulpit” for 6 weeks at a wonderful church in Walla Walla, Washington–they asked him to come and be their pastor, but God just never gave us peace (and Danielle got slightly hysterical every time we mentioned moving).

So we stayed put, Greg working happily at his non-profit organization.  When he wasn’t preaching, we visited different churches in the area, trying to find a community of believers where we fit and felt connected.  We loved The Well, the church Danielle and Krispin attend in north Portland, but we really felt we needed to attend a fellowship in our own community.

This past June, we decided to go back to Abundant Life. It occurred to Greg and me, almost simultaneously, that our closest friends–the people we did life with–fellowshipped there.    Abundant Life folks came to our parties, invited us over for dinner, made us laugh, prayed with and for us,  loved and supported our daughters and walked with us through hard times.

In fact, we were at dinner with George and Ann–after they’d come to the hospital to pray for Danielle and her unborn baby–when George brought up the idea of Greg coming back on staff as the Parkrose campus pastor.

And it just made sense, in that crazy-cool, God-kind-of-way!  And after several weeks of seeking and prayer, we accepted . . .

One of the questions I asked God during our time of seeking was this:  “Can a highly-organized, mega-church support smaller, organic communities?”  Just watching our different church friends doing life together for the glory of God provided the answer I sought.  Abundant Life isn’t about the building or the programs or the music or even the preaching . . . it’s about the families and friends and small groups who are intentionally trying to follow the Lamb, being His hands and feet–and heart–in their communities.

I’m really excited about the book our small group (led by the Powells) is studying--Radical, by David Platt (subtitled, “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream). Platt challenges believers to live life according to Christ’s example, rather than conforming to the prevailing culture.  I’m looking forward to walking out what we are learning in the context of community.

And, I’m really, really glad to be home . . .

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I find it ironic that I’m writing this post on 10-10-10.  If you are a student of biblical numerology (what numbers mean in the bible), then you know that 10 is the number of God.  It represents perfection, completion, fulfillment.

If I were to rate today, I’d give it a perfect 10!

Today, our time of transition–our wandering in the spiritual desert–came to an end.  Our journey isn’t over, of course, but our season of waiting and watching has passed.  God has answered the cry of our hearts and given us community again.

He brought us back to Abundant Life!

Starting Nov. 1, Greg will pastor at the Parkrose campus.  So, even though we’ve reconnected with our old church family and friends–our ministry with Abundant Life will look a bit different this time around.  We are excited to become a part of that little flock and have the privilege of serving the Parkrose community.  There was such an undercurrent of passion and love there today–I can’t wait to see what God has in store!

The day only got better!  To celebrate our homecoming and the general goodness of God, our whole family (including Greg’s folks) got together for dinner.   As all 10 of us (hmm, there’s that number again) held hands around the table, Greg’s dad thanked God for his abundant blessing upon our lives.

To which we all gave a hearty “amen” before devouring the 10 steaks Greg grilled for us.

What a year 2010 has been!  We married off our last daughter, fell in love with Africa,  became grandparents, made a lot of new friend  . . . and discovered there’s no place like home!

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transition:  the act of passing from one state or place to the next

I realized this week that we’ve been in transition for over a year now.   In terms of housing, ministry and community we are still “passing from one place to the next.”

That’s a long time to be in transit.  In fact, I got downright cranky about it a few days ago.

“What am I supposed to do while we’re waiting ?” I whined to Greg one evening.  “I need to feel connected!  I need community!”

Greg, who is a really wise man, answered me with a question:  “Didn’t you mention recently that God told you to run?

“Um, maybe,” I answered, surprised that he remembered.

“Then while we’re waiting, I think you should run . . .”


Why, you may be asking, would the Lord of the Universe tell a 54 year-old woman–who hates running–to start sprinting?  What possible purpose would that serve?

I honestly  haven’t a clue, but I’ve felt His prompting for several months now. It started with a running book loaned to me by a friend.  A book I offered a polite “thank you” for and promptly shelved.  Didn’t Debbi know I hated running?

But on one of our weekend treks to Walla Walla, I finally read “Born to Run” and found it absolutely fascinating.   In fact, I became a little obsessed with running.  I researched funky running shoes.  I rented Chariots of Fire. I watched YouTube videos about proper running techniques.

But I still wasn’t motivated to actually run.   I was honestly a bit fearful of injuring  myself at my advanced age.  🙂

During my daily Bible reading, however, verses about running started popping up.  From prophets outrunning chariots in the Old Testament to the father racing to meet his prodigal son in Luke, I discovered the scriptures are jam-packed with jogging verses.

God really got my attention on my birthday.  When I read Hebrews 12:1:  “Run with endurance the race God has set before you,” it seemed to be a challenge issued from on high.

So I laced up my running shoes and began to cautiously shuffle around the block, torn between the fear of hurting myself and scaring my neighbors.   I really wanted to run, but starting at my age made no sense to me.  Without a clear sense of purpose, it was easy to find excuses not to run.

Until my husband brought it up this week.

Emboldened by his encouragement, I ran all the way to the community garden yesterday (OK, it’s only a mile and mostly downhill), hoed and weeded for 20 minutes, then ran/walked back.  As I trotted toward home, I asked the Lord to explain a few things to me.

“Lord, I think I get that You want to teach me stuff through running–like perseverance and endurance.  But one thing still confuses me–what does running have to do with waiting?’

Before I completed my next stride, it came to me:

They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Well, alrighty then. I shall run!

So, the next time you see a determined, middle aged woman jogging around Clackamas, smile and wave.

It’s just me, waiting . . .

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I can’t stop thinking about gardens.

Community gardens, to be specific.
I don’t know why–I have no gardening experience. Our property would not support a garden. And I’ve murdered every houseplant I’ve ever owned.

But still, I’m fascinated by the concept . . .

And I’ve noticed it’s not just me. The guy who fixed my water-heater yesterday stopped in to say that he’d decided to convert a portion of his small farm into a community garden.

“I want to help folks at church and in the neighborhood be better prepared for the lean days ahead,” Harry explained.

I just discovered that the Vineyard church in Boise, ID, runs a community garden dubbed the Garden-O-Feedin. Here’s a snippet from their blog (http://www.letstendthegarden.org/):

The vision of the garden is to supplement, with healthy organically grown vegetables, the pantries of those in need. Two benevolent farmers markets are held each week, Wednesdays and Saturdays under the garden arbor.

In 2007 the garden produced and gave away over 20,000 lbs. of produce, feeding approximately 1281 families, representing around 4108 individuals. Not only does the garden feed those in need, this year we’ve started holding classes to educate it’s volunteers and the community about gardenings value to the enviornment and the many differen’t ways to enjoy meals with garden produce.Wise water usage,organic methods of soil and crop development, pest control, composting and the benefits of mulching are some of the classes planned for next season.

I love it! I wonder if there’s anything like this in the Portland area?

The village we visit each summer has a community garden. Spread out along the banks of the Yukon, the garden is one of the most scenic spots in the village and I love to hang out there and chat as the locals plant and weed and swap the latest gossip. Even brother Bob, the Franciscan lay priest who organized the community garden, lets down his guard a bit when he’s digging in the dirt. He’s not always friendly to visiting evangelicals, but he’ll lean over the fence and visit for a bit, rubbing sweat from his brow with his grimy hands.

Even though I’ve not yet experienced it, there’s something about a community garden that seems, well, communal. To sow and to reap together sounds almost spiritual to me. And then to enjoy the fruits of your labor and share the bounty with the hungry in Christ’s name–I can’t think of a better example of communion.

We are having dinner with friends this week who started an organic, family-run farm this past year. They had no prior experience, but stepped out in bold faith and the Lord has blessed their endeavor. I’m excited to see what they’ve accomplished–who knows, maybe they’ll even let me hang out and plant a seed or two this spring.

So, I’m not sure where this is heading. But the Lord has planted some interesting seeds in my heart . . .

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