• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

My friend Paul

My friend Paul went home to be with the Lord last week.  The deep groan of sadness that I felt when the news first came out, began to give way over time to reflection on the impact that this one brother had on my life. paul_welcome

As I ‘re-watched’ the videos in my head of the many times we had shared life and ministry together, three words or word images came to mind

Persistent challengePaul regularly put challenges out in front of you. The reason I started running marathons came about the day Paul called me up to announce he had an entry for me for the London marathon. I had never put my name in for the London marathon (a lottery system)!  Apparently Paul, however, had been putting my name in, along with his name and his son’s name, for three years until our names had been drawn!  Paul didn’t just challenge you in life activities, he challenged your capacity to believe that ‘God could do above and beyond what we could ask or think’.  He pushed you to believe that God could work among a resistant people group; that He could spawn movements of multiplying churches; that He could work in and through us to reach others for Christ.

Dogged perseveranceI cannot think of Paul without thinking of how he was constantly ‘moving forward’.  I still marvel at how he, a former wrestler, finished the London marathon in a very respectable time. He doggedly pursued the difficult tasks.  More importantly, he doggedly pursued God.  There was always that new thought, fresh insight that the Lord has laid on his heart and that he wanted to share with you when you got together in a meeting.  He not only shared, but he lifted you up before the Lord in prayer, and you could count on that when he told you so.  He kept driving forward to the ‘upward call’.

Amazing adventureYou never quite knew where Paul was ‘taking’ you when you set off with him.  One year, he decided to rent a boat on the Thames for the week long meeting of the Europe field directors.  After that ‘week on the boat’, we all said that we would never do that again.  However, his ‘adventure’ worked to draw us together in a way we weren’t expecting … and part of the proof is that we’re still talking about that infamous ‘boat trip’ to this day!  It wasn’t the craziness of the activity that finally characterized Paul, it was the context of grace he tried to create where you came to recognize the One in whom we put our trust and confidence, and who gave us the grace we needed to keep moving forward.

I will deeply miss my friend Paul.  I have missed him being part of my team for the past number of years.  Detlef got that privilege in recent years. And we are all better people for having rubbed shoulders with Paul.

I will not forget the impact that Paul has left on my life.

Don’t miss the opportunity to share with another how they have influenced your life!

The cultural bridge

A friend of ours was over for dinner the other night.  During the meal, he turned to us and said, “It’s really hard to always feel like a foreigner in this country.”  Yes, his home country is far away from here. However, he has lived in Europe now for over ten years.  Yet he still does not feel ‘at home’ here.

He has not yet crossed the cultural bridge.cultural bridge

‘Crossing the cultural bridge’ means that we adopt as our own the culture in which we find ourselves; drawing on all that is good in that new culture, building on all that is good from our home culture.  It is not an easy journey across that bridge and it doesn’t happen overnight.  We benefit from people encouraging us who have already made the ‘crossing’.  We profit from the insight and wisdom of cultural guides from that new culture.

It’s like the proverbial wooden swinging bridge across a ravine.  Your first thought is to back away from the bridge and start thinking of all the reasons why it is not worth crossing the bridge. Then a friend comes along and encourages you onto the bridge.  Things go fine until the bridge starts swaying, and your immediate reaction is to backtrack to the start.  However, the encouraging words and patience of your friend draw you across the bridge.  After what seems like an eternity you find yourself on the other side, sighing a great sigh of relief.

We have that same feeling of relief when we ‘cross the cultural bridge’. However, at times we may find ourselves backpedaling, backtracking to the bridge.  We can find ourselves being pulled back across the bridge, questioning the adopted culture in which we now live.

When you hear yourself regularly criticizing the culture where you now live, you may be backtracking onto the cultural bridge.

When you notice that all of your close friends are people from your home passport country, you may be backtracking onto the cultural bridge.

When you find yourself stumbling for words in a conversation with your neighbor because you haven’t given much time recently to the language, you may be backtracking onto the cultural bridge.

When you hear yourself often saying: “Well, in our culture, that would never happen because …”, you may be backtracking onto the cultural bridge.

A friend helped you get across the bridge. A friend and cultural guide can keep you from backtracking to the bridge, and can help you keep moving forward on the cross cultural path.