The Scandal of Forgiveness

I am humbled by a moment that I did not expect to ever be a part of in my life.  Today a woman that I have been working with in South Africa told a story about an interaction that she had with a school principal.  I had given a talk about forgiveness the day before and this diligent and amazing woman went to the schools to follow up on the impact that our collaboration with SCORE (the organization that we are working with) was having.  She said that the principal of the school in this township (a fancy word for the areas that many Black South African’s live in) immediately asked “who is this man with no legs that the kids are telling me about?”

Then what she said would have shown me to be crying if my face was not already moist from the sweat of teaching basketball in 100 degree heat.  She said that the principal was curious as to how a man could possibly forgive a woman that was responsible for his leg being amputated.  What she said next involves some interpretation but essentially a comment was made that Christians are required to forgive.  The kids told the prinicipal that!  Additionally, after I talked about forgiveness yesterday, a man that I had never met before wanted to come and talk to me about the message that I had given in broken pieces through an interpreter.  

I was humbled for a couple of reasons, the first is the fact that God would prompt those children to take the message of forgiveness back to thier school and tell their teachers about it.  I am most humbled by the fact that God used me and the team that I am working with to bring a message of forgiveness to a group of people that are 25 years out of an era of Aparthied.  This policy that is one of the darks spots in the history of human rights, a policy that still has repercussions that are playing out today.  God allowed me to bring a message to a group of people that have had more atrocious things happened to them as a group and probably individually than I could ever imagine.  I pray that the simple message of forgiveness that I shared about the small thing that happened to me could have just a small impact in a township in South Africa that is still experiencing immense difficulties.  

Additionally, I have to make sure that I mention the amazing people that I am working with, both with my American team through Proclaim!, but also the team of South Africans (SCORE) that I am working with.  God has truly blessed this township with a group of amazing people that will be doing incredible work well beyond my time here to change the lives of people through sport, community resourcing, and the gospel.

New Places, Same Faces

It is very comforting to step off a plane in a continent that you have never been to before after a 30 hour sojourn to see two faces that you recognize.  Carey and Holly were right outside the gate waiting for me when I arrived in Cape Town South Africa.  As my first foray into the Southern Hemisphere I have to say that I feel less upside down than I thought I would.  Every globe of the world that I look at shows this part of the world pointing toward the floor, this might possibly be an incongruity that I will have to explain to my 4 year old daughter.  

There is something that exists in mission work that I truly enjoy, well two things really.  The first is the emphasis on flexibility.  For anyone that has gone into cultures unfamiliar to your own, you can appreciate the fact that you have to go into uncomfortable environments with an open hand ready to deal with whatever curve balls are thrown your way.  When working with people from different countries and cultures for a common purpose we have to realize very quickly that while we might agree on the goal, the strategies and measurements of success might look different.  

I worshiped at a church in Vietnam a few years ago that might have been one of the greatest worship service that I have ever been kicked out of.  Well it’s the only one that I have been kicked out of, but that is another story.  The great thing about this church is that the only two things that the people in that room shared in common was a love for Jesus and the English language.  That brings me to the second reason I love mission work, it has to be stripped down to its essentials in order to transcend culture.  None of the cultural trappings that tie up so many that try to live out their faith in a homogenous culture.  The picture that comes to my mind is one of a missionary that is trying to pack the lightest bag that he can in order to be able to travel as far as he can as effectively as he can.  He is not going to pack more than I absolutely necessary, and I don’t think that any of us should.  Oh, to live a faith that is stripped of the baggage that I try to shove into the bag only to break the zipper.

How Did I Get Here (Or There)?

I just wanted to let you all know what I will be doing over the next few weeks so that you all can be praying for me, and so you don’t scratch your head when you see posts that are coming from another country.

I will be leaving for South Africa next Wednesday to do mission work with Proclaim! International.  I am very excited as I will get a chance to do many of the things that I love: coaching, teaching, preaching, leadership development, maybe a little worship leading.  This happened pretty quickly and I was not sure whether or not it was going to work out, but I eager to go and see what God has in store for me there.  Please be in prayer for me if you could.

I have to confess that I am am not sure that I had anticipated having the opportunity to be able to do mission work on four different continents when I was younger.  I have to confess that I did not think that I would have visited four different continents when I was younger.  It has been a lesson for me in how to adapt to different cultures, climates, and governmental systems.  As someone that grew up in a very monolythic culture in Wyoming I can honestly say that the growing curve has been steep but enjoyable.

I will try to use this blog to post journal entries, photos, and videos so please bear with me as I attempt to learn how to make this page work for me.  I will also be posting on my Facebook page and Instagram if you are into that sort of thing.

Pray mostly for my wife as she will have to deal with my four wonderful children in the time I am gone.  I have never been away from home this long.  She is a very loving and capable person, but four wonderful kids are still four kids.

Fear and the Flying Leg

Some of the stories that I tell here on this blog page are stories that I have told and retold over the years.  The stories may be less true than they once were because as I get older the need to make myself into the hero seems more important to me.  The backlash effect of that of course is that I am falling into the “Glory Days Syndrome” also known as the “I Used to be Great Syndrome” or by the lesser known “If I Hadn’t Gotten Injured I Would’ve Gone Pro Syndrome”.  This story is not about my one time or enduring greatness, this is a story about experiencing someone’s weakness that ended up displaying my weakness.

I spent many of my summers during and after college working at Christian camps in Wyoming and New Mexico.  I served as an archery instructor, mountain bike instructor, rappelling instructor, and rifle range instructor (I would say riflery but my auto correct keeps telling me that is not a word).  My very last summer working at the camp in Wyoming saw me spending up to 6 hours a day above any sort of shade teaching people, children and youth specifically, how to rappel.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, I taught people how to walk backwards off a 30 foot wooden cliff.

This particular day my associate and me had been up on the tower in the morning and had to go back up for an afternoon session.  Jeremy and I had moved past the point in the summer where we appreciated all the sunshine we were getting and were now to the point of trying to get people up and down as quickly as possible.  Into our lives came a boy that I will call “Mike”.  I would like to say that I changed the name to protect the innocent, but honestly I either forgot or blocked his name out of my memory because I might still be a little angry with him.

In order to go down the tower you have to go up the tower, which requires that each person climb a 30 foot cargo net.  Mike showed some apprehension at this point, but so do many of the kids that go up the tower.  In other words, Mike did not display any sort of abnormal apprehension at this point so we encouraged him that he was safe and he proceeded clumsily up the cargo net.

Jeremy and I then proceeded through our normal spiel which was a devotion about trusting the rope and not your brain that was telling you that this was not safe and how that was analogous to trusting in God and not leaning on your own understanding.  Following the devotion we would show people how to put their gear on and then how they were going to get down.  This is when things started to get interesting because I remember Mike slowly working his way to the back of the tower.  He was doing what most people do when they feel danger.  They distance themselves as much as they can from the thing that threatens them.

Mike had watched a few people go over when we asked him to get on rope.  I walked him through the various instructions, made sure his gear was safe and then I asked Mike to turn around and face me.  This was not something that Mike was prepared to do.  He did not want to turn his back to the thing that threatened him, the wooden ledge.  At this point things started to unravel rather quickly.

Wait, you might have taken that to mean that the rope unraveled quickly, it did not, it fact the rope did not go anywhere at this point because Mike was not going anywhere.

Mike had a panic attack, he told me that he was going to puke, then he told me he couldn’t do it, then he tried to run to the back of the tower to sit down (still on rope mind you), then he told me he was going to, well, defecate right there on the tower.  Mike was not ready to rappel that day.  So we move to phase two which is to have the other instructor walk backward with Mike to the ledge and start down with him.  Normally if we can get people over the edge, they go the rest of the way pretty well.  It is the first step, that transition from vertical to horizontal, that puts most people into some form of panic.

Phase two did not work and more promises of things coming out of Mike’s body were made.  So we moved on to phase three which is to ask Mike to go sit down while we get the rest of the kids down the tower.  Even during this phase Mike was freaking out, which did not help get the rest of the kids down.  Phase three is to scrap our desire to help Mike through his fears and get him down the tower.  So 2 hours after Mike came up the tower, we asked Mike to climb down the cargo net.  This was not amendable to Mike, so we tried to get him to rappel again, which was also not amendable to Mike.  Mike had one proposal to make, which was not amendable to anyone else, and that was to make the tower his permanent home.

Three hours into this stand off we were finally able to get Mike off the tower.  Jeremy and I were hot, both physically and emotionally.  Mike’s fears and what they had manifested had taken every bit of our patience and love.  We packed up our gear, walked away from the tower, and headed back for our bunk.  Halfway back I dropped my harness on accident and in my anger I kicked it with my fake leg.

My leg flew off and hit the bunk house.  All I could do after I had landed on my butt outside the door was to lay there and laugh, what else was left.  Fear can debilitate and exhaust every one of our resources and the resources of people around us.  I wish I had more patience with Mike that day to help him figure out how we could help him conquer his fear, that really was the point of why we did rappelling at that camp in the first place.  Faith to overcome fear.

Fear and the Mud Puddle

As many of you know I my family and I are now the proud farmers of 6 ducks.   We used to have 7 but I managed to kill one (well it died, but in order to protect the hearts of my children I will not divulge the rest of that story).  This has been an interesting addition to our lives as my kids learn about farming, about the difference between fertilized and unfertilized eggs (great way to start a birds and bees discussion), as well as dealing with death.  I told my children before we went and bought the ducks that we would not be taking extraordinary measures to heal the ducks.  I found out that my youngest talks very matter-of-factly about Hazel’s (yes she had a name) death while one of my sons takes the death deeply to heart.

Lately though I have found that free-ranging our ducks has taught me a great deal about human behavior.  This is a lesson that I think that all of us know but I need to be reminded of lately.  We got ducks for several reasons:

First, because everyone else had chickens and I wanted to be unique.  Second, because they are better egg producers than chickens and are supposed to be more hearty.  Third, and the reason that we looked at it in the first place is because our yard has a big pond.  The pond is a seasonal pond, but in the winter it is the size of a basketball court (or a hockey rink) and is very deep.  We thought that the ducks would love to have this huge, well protected pond to themselves and the few wild ducks that use it.

Here is the problem; they won’t go in it.  They have had multiple opportunities as they wander around our yard they have come within feet of the shoreline but they are more comfortable on the ground than in the water.  One day I tried to set two of them in the pond and they shot out of there so fast that you would have thought the water was boiling (it wasn’t).

So one might think that they don’t like water, as though ducks could ever not like water.  They LOVE water, they splash in their pools everyday, they make a mess out of their water trough, and they will go sit in any puddle they find.  In fact, they will walk around our house and sit in the puddles in the middle of our road before they would walk 20 feet to get into our huge pond.  For the ducks the answer to why this is would have to come down to two things.  The first would be how they were raised.  They are almost a year old and we did not take them out into the pond when they were ducklings.  This is partly due to the fact that the pond itself was only a mud puddle up until about 2 months ago.  This also is partly due to fear, a mud puddle is small, controllable, and friendly.  The pond is huge, deep, and full of unknowns.

How often have I avoided the amazing things that I was built for because it was unknown or because I felt scared.  There is no doubt that those ducks would love that pond, and I hope that I can get them to turn the corner.  Ducks were made for ponds not puddles.