Charles Rich III

Charles Rich III, [1966 – 2012]

The events of the last several days have rocked our world and changed our lives. No one here will ever be the same nor should we pretend that we ever can.  Life has a strange way of reminding us what deep down inside we already know to be true but often forget. When we open ourselves to others, when we let them into our lives and give them a place at the table of our heart, we should expect their parting to cause pain and tears. Grief is the price we pay for having someone to love.

When their parting is premature and unexpected, the pain is all that more intense and we feel like we’ve been thrown into another world we are not prepared for. Grief is a reminder that we are not in charge after all. Yet we must somehow find our way through The Valley in which we find ourselves. I have looked for answers this week and found few. I’ve tried to find the right words and came up empty time and time again. So when I don’t really know what to say, I write something down hoping that in all this there is a nugget of truth and a bit of comfort.

There’s a lot I remember about Chip, about their trips to Pennsylvania from Colorado for Grange Fair, about dressing in kilts for a wedding, a reception at the Brown Palace Hotel, Stuckey’s restaurants, George (the dog), park ranger, and so many other bits and pieces that make up the mosaic in my mind. But it’s really what Chip left in my heart that continues to roll around today. In my opinion, Chip was the best of us all and brought out the best in us all. He possessed a unique, optimistic, energetic spirit that was always so gentle and inviting he bridged the gap the miles created.  He made friends everywhere he went and I can’t imagine him without a smile, a twinkle in his eye or the gentle word on his tongue.

Chip didn’t have character to offending anyone, it just wasn’t his nature to be demeaning or demanding. Although I suspect as a prosecuting attorney there may be one or two who will take exception to that. We lived apart for most of our lives, yet whenever he was in town or our paths crossed at a wedding or a funeral, we could pick up just like it was yesterday. He was never pretentious, pompous, arrogant or rude. He epitomized the gentleness, grace and authenticity we all needed in a friend and we longed for in our own lives. With Chip, there was no hidden agenda or hypocrisy, he was genuine. I know that there are still many questions that remain unanswered but today I also feel there are many things about Chip I want and need to celebrate.

So if you will bear with me, let me begin…

  1. I want and need to thank God that Chip was part of my life at all. They say you don’t get to pick your family, so I’m grateful God picked Chip to be a part of mine. I suppose he could have been in many other families, but he was in mine.
  2. I thank you God that Chip brought love and untold adventures to my Aunt Jan and Uncle Chuck and especially for being a big brother to Mike and Jen. The adventures they shared together are beyond my ability to tell, but part of me is a tad envious.
  3. I thank God that Chip saw the best in us all, held no grudges and somehow made us all better people just by being there.
  4. I thank God that I am who I am today because of the bit of Chip that continues to bear fruit in my life.
  5. I thank God he lived with integrity, faith and love. Never forget that!
  6. I thank God that Chip had such a gentle, compassionate spirit who felt our pains deeper than perhaps we knew and who seemed to walk in when others were walking out.
  7. I thank God that Chip gave me my first cousin-in-law, Deb.
  8. I thank God that Chip was an amazing father to Kate and Ellie. I particularly remember him dancing with them at Mike and Jen’s wedding. He radiated love in his smile, his embrace and his actions.
  9. I thank God that in a world marred by arrogance, privilege and pain, Chip lived a different, better way. I will always remember that.
  • I thank you God that you are God and not me. Just as You gave Chip to us as a gift we treasured and loved, we now return your child back to you. We trust his soul to your care, until the time we will join him.

Since you’ve gotten this far, there are three favors I would like to ask of you…

 

  1. Please don’t ask “Why?”

 

As a personal favor I beg you don’t demean or even trivialize Chip life by thinking you can in any way understand the depth of his spirit. We don’t. We can’t. No one does. We cannot reduce anyone’s life, the sum of their relationship, experiences, fears, and joys to a nice neat little package that we can look at and comprehend. This is an eternal question that God does not answer for a very good reason.

In the Book of Job, Job suffers horribly but does not curse God as he is encouraged to do. Instead Job struggles to understand and wants to ask God ‘why’ these things are happening to him. “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul,” [Job 3:20] But God never answers Job’s questions because what we need is bigger than the answer, we need hope. The answer Job receives is a personal encounter with God’s majesty, grandeur and power. If you look for answers you may find them, but they will be cheap substitutes and come at the price of hope. 

The ‘why’ questions will tear your soul apart and leave you bitter, angry and with a dim, skewed memory of the joy we were given in Chip. The depth of a person’s soul, their struggles, their dreams, and even their life belongs to God alone and as my family is fond of reminding me, I’m not God and neither are you. My soul and yours is beyond the limits of my understanding. You might as well ask why the universe exists.  It is, therefore, to God, the infinite, incomprehensible, pure radiant light, purity of Love and Purpose that we must yield the unknowable and the unanswerable questions that press on our hearts.

Chip was always a deep well of emotion and feeling for which we are grateful. I saw the face of God reflected in his eyes, expressed in his optimism and the tenderness with which he cared for his family. I will not, therefore, tolerate having that memory diminished with an endless string of pointless questions that lead nowhere. Every life must take its own path, perhaps not the one we would prefer, but a path marked by pain and joy, mistakes and wisdom, redemption and faith.

Instead I believe the most important question we should now be asking each other is “What now?” In his book, The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck begins with a statement he says is the beginning of all good mental health, “Life is difficult.” Reject this basic truth, he says and you’re sure to find yourself on the road to depression, disillusionment and despair. We are vulnerable people, we are all getting older, we’re all showing the miles and we all have grief we’re trying to deal with. What we should be asking is ‘what now’? How can we love one another better, deeper, with more honesty? How can we get past the superficial pleasantries, the games and posturing and embrace one another because of our shared need? The events of the last week have become a megaphone for the pain we all carry around beneath this veil of skin. But though we hear it, will we listen?

 

  1. Please don’t dwell on “What if?”

“What if…” — I had been there, done that, seen that, said that? What if I had been there. What if I had been a better friend, cousin, co-worker… Again, these questions are endless, destructive and meaningless questions that consume our energy but never have answers. They are however, like a rocking chair when confronting grief. They take up a lot of energy and give you something to do, but they never really get you anywhere. What they really do is reinforce the notion that someone is to blame and that someone may just be you.

This grief is the worst! Not only is our loved one gone, but perhaps we’re partly to blame. How many people carry around a crushing weight of guilt because of what might have been. Many people do not recover after a death partly because they really can’t forgive themselves and must punish themselves. We punish ourselves by cutting ourselves off from others, from happiness and from life. In many respects, it is a cancer that will slowly devour you. Recognize it for what it is, a lie!

This is not from God and therefore not worthy of our time. They are instead incredibly destructive questions. They will leave your soul in tatters, broken and bleeding and ultimately alone in the dark. They create scars no one ever sees but you feel constantly. They whisper evil thoughts in the dark recesses of your mind late at night, and they drive a wedge in many healthy relationships. Life is far too complicated to imagine all the “what if” scenarios. We all want to play ‘god’ but we’re not very good at it, and will fail every time! I plead with you to be vigilant against this horrible form of soul-cancer. When we do battle with these questions they consume our strength, our hope and our memories, leaving us only recriminations, resentments and regrets. So, when you hear these questions begin to be raised in conversations, put a stop to it. Don’t let them get a foothold. Go on the offensive and fight to keep what is good, honorable and worthwhile.

  • Don’t be afraid to say “Thank You”

‘Thank You’ is an expression of gratitude for a gift you neither deserved nor expected. It expresses genuine humility and an appreciation for what has been given. It shifts the focus from scarcity to abundance. It values the Giver and the Gift and accepts the love with which they are offered. It is the open palm rather than the closed fist. “Thank you for the time we’ve had,” rather than be miserable what you didn’t have.

I have always found that the best healing comes through the doors of gratitude. Our ability to see not just the loss, but the blessings. It focuses not just on what might have been, but it embraces the reality of what is. It releases the anger, resentment, bitterness and despair so that is can be replaced with joy, peace, wisdom and hope. Thank you that we have been loved so well and so deeply for so long.

So let us give thanks for the people in our lives (living and eternal), thank you for the struggles we face that remind us we are spiritual beings on a journey the end of which we struggle to understand. Thank you for the love we receive despite failure, faults and foibles.  Thank you that we are able to be loved by others.  Thank you that despite the seemingly endless days of sorrow, grief and sleepless nights, the Promise of God is for an eternal dawn.    

“Say not in grief that he is no more but say in thankfulness that he was. Death is not the extinguishing of a light, but putting away the lamp because the dawn has come.”


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Zimbabwe Day 6

Day 6: During breakfast we were able to visit again with Rogers, and also with Justice.  He is a student at Africa University and was a former resident at Fairfield Children’s Home.  Breakfast is the same each day…eggs, stewed tomatoes, bread and porridge. Porridge tastes much like cream of wheat, and is eaten with brown sugar.  A couple of mornings chicken gizzards were offered, but we passed!
 
I was able to check blood sugars and blood pressures on the moms.  Two of the moms have diabetes and hypertension.  One every was well controlled, the other had a blood sugar over 400!  I was alarmed and planned to talk to her after I checked all the other women.  She left for a shopping trip in town, and I did not get to recheck her until hours later.  Her blood sugar was still 360.  I asked to see her medications.   For my medical friends…she was taking a sulfonylurea I did not recognize, and glucophage for her diabetes.  Amlodipine, lisinopril and hydrochlorthiazide were being given for hypertension.  She insisted that she was taking her medications.  I gave her some diabetic education and advised her what to eat for her dinner along with drinking plenty of water.  I told her the signs and symptoms to watch for.  I suspect her blood sugar is often this high, and will advise her to go to the local hospital/clinic to get further treatment.
 
Several women from our church family at home had made yarn caps for babies.   Jeff and I had the joy of giving these to the mothers and newborns.  There were seven new babies, only one was a boy.  Two of the babies had been born this morning.  All the women and babies stay on a ward together.  Since women live far away from the hospital, they come to the hospital weeks before their delivery dates.  Currently 60 waiting mothers live in a facility built for this purpose.  This space is overcrowded!  A new building is being constructed to house more waiting mothers.  The hospital delivers 80-100 babies a month.
 
I spent much much of the rest of the day taking pictures of the children individually.   We have a Polaroid printer that prints wallet sized photos.  We give a printed picture to each child and mother.  Taking pictures and making sure to get everyone is a challenge!!  The children are in school, out playing, visiting another house.  It is amazing how well they take care of one another.  The children care for the little ones…even preschoolers watch out for the babies.
 
Jeff went back to Old Mutare to try to find more materials for projects.  He was able to get a water pump for the hospital, metal to repair storage building roofs, sealant for the roof and valves for water leaks.  Steve was able to look at beds stored in one of the houses that are in need of repair.  A water storage tank was checked…it needs a new part and hopefully we can obtain this.   Steve checked the mill that could be used to grind corn..if this can be repaired the corn could be ground on site and this would not be an extra cost to the mission station.    He and Jeff have spent a lot of time looking at the water supply for the hospital and the children’s home.  If we can get needed supplies, Steve can teach employees what needs to be done, and they can often complete projects after we return home.
 
It it was another blessed day.  Please continue to pray that we can obtain supplies.

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Zimbabwe Wednesday

Hello!  I’ve had difficulty accessing the website to continue the blog.  On Wednesday we attended chapel services at Africa University.  Rogers, the student on scholarship from the West Virginia Annual Conference, joined us.  The student choir provided beautiful music…I love the drums and the African rhythms.  The message was about Ruth.
 
After this Steve went to Old Mutare to work and Jeff and I stayed behind to tour the University.  Wesley was our tour guide.  The University has around 1500 students, and has the largest first year class this year.  They have had students from as many as 33 African nations, but currently students represent 22 countries.  At graduation all the flags are flown.  We saw the classrooms, hostels (dormitories), library, and archives.   The University is doing amazing research on malaria and is one of the few facilities in the world permitted to breed mosquitos for research.  The hostels are being remodeled, and the new ones  look nice.  It was surprising to only see 2 showers for 15 girls.   Also, laundry is done by hand.  They encourage study abroad, and I am sure that hand laundering clothing would be a challenge for many!!
 
In the afternoon I spent more time with children and mothers at Fairfield.  I continued to do some health assessments and rechecks on mothers with elevated blood sugar or blood pressure.    I spent some time just playing…passing a ragged, partially deflated ball and devising a bowling game out of broken tongue depressors stuck in the dirt.  I started to take pictures of each child.  We have a small printer, and are able to give a wallet sized photo to each child and mother.  
 
When I was with one mother, she was called and said she was going to get chicks.  I joined her, and this turned out to be the time some chickens were removed from the coops to be butchered for the briaa (cookout) we were providing for Fairfield the next night.  This brought back childhood memories of butchering chickens at my grandparents…a task I did not like.  Somehow all those chickens just disappeared and I never saw them killed.  I know one was under a basket on the porch of one of the homes, with a rock on top to keep it from escaping.
 
Jeff returned to town with Cecillia.  Sheet metal was needed for repair of storage buildings, and they went to a junk yard for this.  Jeff said it was quite an adventure!   It is so difficult here to find basic supplies needed, and it requires multiple trips to town going to many different stores.
 
In the evening we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Larry and Jane Keis.  Larry is originally from Iowa.  He is the agronomy professor at the university.  Jane was born in Zambia and has lived in Botswana and England.  She teaches English as a second language to many of the university students.  We went to LaRochelle–a place originally owned by an English couple. Jeff and others who had come to Zimbabwe before had lodged there.   Although it was dark, we strolled the gardens closest to the buildings and they were beautiful.  It was too dark to walk the path Jane said I saw lined with roses and lavender.  I am sure I think is lovely!  I had bream for dinner…a local fish that is delicious.   
 
The Keis shared some fascinating stories.  Snakes can get into homes…and once a spitting cobra was in their bathroom!  Larry removed it with a very long stick!!  Jane once saw a black mamba in a field.  The snake is able to raise the front of its body up…and she said it was as tall as her.   She backed up very slowly and finally the snake went to the ground and slithered away when it no longer felt threatened.  The black mamba bite contains a neurotoxin that paralyzed the diaphragm and can kill in 15-30 minutes.  Larry said several people survive this each year with bystander mouth to mouth and transport to the hospital to be put on a ventilator until the neurotoxin wears off.  I cannot imagine encountering one of these snakes!!!
 

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Zimbabwe 2018 Day 4 & 5

Sunday October 28, Day 5

 We attended the church service at the Old Mutare Mission church.  The service was 2 1/2 hours long.  The choir had been to a chorale competition for church choirs and won first place out of almost 200 participating choirs.  The music was beautiful.  The sermon was in Shona, and interpreters helped us to understand.  Two young ladies had just returned from a conference on empowering women, and spoke to the congregation briefly about it.  There was a lot of singing, and dancing, and everyone actively participated.  It was a blessing!

 

 After the service, we were invited to lunch, along with a family that had just joined the church.  The church treated us to a sandwich, cake and a soda.  The hospitality is amazing here.  

 

 In the afternoon we went to Fairfield.  We set up one of the solar cookers we had purchased and brought with us.  We started with heating water, and it worked well.  We are going to cook potatoes and try making bread later in the week.  The cooker attracted several people who were curious  what it was.

 

 Jeff and Steve met with the two maintenance men to discuss possible projects for the week.  I played with children during this time.  There were several students from Africa University known as the “Fairfield buddies” who had come to play with the children.  They played group games and brought the children chips (French fries) and an orange soda.  Several of the children came over to me and were content to hold my hand or lean against me.  Two young boys discovered my phone and quickly discovered a tennis game I had and started to play.  

 

 Monday October 29, Day 5

 At breakfast we saw Rogers, a second year student a time Africa University who has a scholarship from the WV United Methodist church Conference.  He just happened to be wearing a WVU shirt he had been given by a mission team In Kenya.  An awesome young man with a touching story.  He is studying agriculture and plans to return to Kenya to farm.
 
 We then met with the Vice Chancellor of Africa University.  The University is adding courses with a plan to eventually add a medical school.  Students attend from all over Africa.
 
 Next we met with the hospital administrator of Old Mutare mission hospital.  She faces incredible challenges.  There are frequent power outages lasting as long as three days.  There are several problems with water supply.  With the current inflation in the country and the shortages it is difficult to find food to feed the patients.  When we met with the nursing matron we discovered that I have as much or more medical supplies with me than they have in the whole hospital.  I plan to donate a otoscope, ophthalmoscope and pulse oximeter given to me by my nurse practitioner co-worker Tammy Crookshanks.  I will be able to give them 2 stethoscopes, a blood pressure cuff, thermometer, blood sugar meter with lancing device, strips and lancets, gloves, alcohol swabs, and hand sanitizer.  It is so sad that they have so little supplies.
 
 In the afternoon we went to Old Mutare to shop for supplies for several projects.  On the way I saw two primates along the road…I am unsure what type….but it was amazing!!  The car barely made it up the hill, so the first place we stopped was an auto repair shop.  Luckily it was a simple fix with a new spark plug.
 
 We treated Cecillia to lunch.  The guys went to hardware stores looking for the supplies needed for their work, but there were many things they could not find.  Cecillia and I purchased some medicine for one of the children, then went to grocery stores.  The first store had no bread, flour or cooking oil.  Right now these staples are difficult to find, and everything is very expensive.  A snickers candy bar was $3.19.  A box of tissues was $7.15.  We were able to find some flour at the next store,  but still no cooking oil.  Both of us purchased a small bag of flour, since the limit was one.  We purchased baby formula, and Cecillia had to plead with the store manager to buy several cans…since the limit was one.  The check-out lines were very long.   There is a gasoline shortage and many gas lines.  Several gas stations are out of fuel.
 
 Please pray that we can find supplies to do repairs needed.   Pray for the economic crisis to resolve.  Please pray that we can be Jesus’ hands and feet.  
 

 “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”  Proverbs 3:27


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Zimbabwe Mission Day 2

Day 2
 
On Friday October 26 we awakened in the Bronte hotel in Hurare, ate breakfast and prepared to be picked up by the combi driver at 9 am.  The driver did not arrive until noon!!  It was a 3 1/2 hour ride from Hurare to Old Mutare, with no stops.  Our driver needed to return to Old Mutare as quickly as possible in order to pick up children from school.  On the drive we saw cows meandering across the road, goats grazing.  Many children of all ages were walking home from school in their school uniforms.  There were roadside stands selling carrots, watermelons, bananas, peaches,  apples and tomatoes.  The landscape is dry right now, but there are trees that are green.   We saw very large cacti and some trees with beautiful purple or red  blooms.  It’s a frequent surprise and shock since everyone drives on the left side of the road, and the stearing  wheel is on the right.  Since Jeff was riding in the front left I kept wanting to tell him to get on the correct side of the road!!
 
We finally arrived in Old Mutare and started by stopping to visit Cecillia in the office.  She is the administrator of Fairfield Children’s home.  She had purchased ginger beer for us, a nonalcoholic drink that Jeff and Steve have enjoyed in past years. We walked around so I could see the hospital, waiting mothers homes, Fairfield children’s home, and other buildings on the Old Mutare United Methodist mission site.  
 
Since it it gets dark around 6 pm, we joined another mission team from Indiana on a small bus to travel the mile to our lodging at Africa University.  We are staying in the Ubuntu center, housing designed for visitors.  The accommodations are very nice.  It looks like an American hotel.  We had dinner in the center dining room with the Indiana mission team.  The Indiana church conference has sponsored scholarships for 24 students at Africa University.  They are here to connect with those students.  We still haven’t been able to have a hot shower here…but we have clean running water and we are blessed.  We were very jet lagged at this point and went to bed early.
 
Day 3
 
We had breakfast at the university dining hall.  Scrambled eggs, bread and porridge…which seemed like cream of wheat.
Cecillia picked us up to go to Fairfield.  
 
Jeff and Steve spent much of the day working on a 1949 Ford tractor.  The tractor has not been in working order, and when the guys visited in 2017 they took the carburetor back to the states.  A man from Mineral Wells, Mark Sampson, rebuilt the carburetor and we brought it back this year.  The guys discovered that there are other problems with the tractor, and will continue to try to get it fixed.
 
I started my day by helping Cecillia in her garden.  Corn, tomatoes, onions, greens, okra, peppers were all planted.  She also has 3 chickens and several rabbits to help feed her family.  I met her daughter and grandchildren.  Camilla ran to me when I first went into the house and gave me a big hug.
 
I was able to do check ups on most of the children in 4 houses today.  They all seem healthy and are running and playing.  I love their names… things like Blessing, Rejoice, Faith, Overcome.  I let each child and adult listen to my heart and their own hearts…  I loved the frequent looks of wide eyed wonder and the smiles.  One of the greatest joys was being able to give Nyasia, one of the mothers, a new blood sugar meter and blood pressure cuff.  She has diabetes and hypertension.  If she goes to the hospital it costs her $4.00 to have her blood pressure checked, and $8.00 to check her blood sugar.  She was so thankful and appreciative.  
 
We walked the mile back from Fairfield to Africa University.  There’s a type of succulent here, also aloe that grows wild and I see 1-2 foot in diameter. We saw 2 creatures we thought might  be chameleons.  We stopped at the home of Larry and Jane Kies for a short visit.  He teaches agronomy and she teaches English at the University.  He loaned me a songbook in Shona , the native language, to take to church tomorrow.  When he picked up the book a 2-3 inch tree frog jumped out.  He was startled… I am thankful it did not hop out on me!!!
 
After dinner we enjoyed a concert of several choirs at soloists at the University, a short distance from where we stay.  Such praise and excitement for Jesus!  Dancing and shouting!  The theme was to let Jesus be in the drivers Seat of our lives.  That message resonanates all over the world.  God is good.  I will take so much more home from the blessings I receive this week than I could ever give these beautiful people.  I am welcomed with hugs and hospitality everywhere I go.
 
“There I see no passion to be found playing small-in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”.  Nelson Mandella
 
 
“And now abide faith, hope and love, these three.  But the greatest of these is love.”  1 Corinthians 13:13

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Soul Listening

In the movie Gladiator, the dying emperor Marcus Aurelius, asks Maximus, “Why are we here? 

Maximus: “For the glory of Rome” 

Marcus: “What is Rome, Maximus?” 

Maximus: “I have seen much of the world, and it is cold, and dark. Rome is the light.” 

Marcus: “Yet you have never been there!” 

Maximus believed in the glory and nobility of Rome, despite having never seen it. He led men into battle for a vision of world he had never been to but believe could be. He had a whisper of what life was meant to be. 

Where did that come from I wonder? 

All good adventurers learn to listen to the wind, that still small voice that moves inside you, a voice that can’t be rushed, controlled or debated. It can only be embraced. It whispers of a world without careers, competition or criticism, where your dreams flourish, adventure is the norm and beauty is all around. All our heroes, great art and beautiful music are but remnants of that far off country. Yet few remember or pay attention anymore. Your activities and your life, is not about you and your comfort! This can be the hardest lesson we ever learn. Our lives must point to a purpose greater than our own well-being that pushes us to stretch, grow and risk. People will rarely embrace your self-interest, but they will follow you when your story connects to some great dream, a noble calling or a grand adventure. “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” C.S. Lewis 

Soul Listening Take 5 minutes and sit absolutely still with your eyes closed. Let the voices in your brain slowly go silent. Don’t try and say anything, think anything or conjure up feelings you think you should have. Just feel the rhythm of your heart beat and the steady pace of your breath. This is the beginning of life.  

Take 5 minutes and just smile. Force it initially if you have to, but feel the warmth and happiness of God’s Presence fill you up. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14


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Journey to Zimbabwe

Day 1
 
8000 miles from home.  Tonight we are staying at a hotel in Harare, the capitol of Zimbabwe.  It was a long journey, and we are thankful to have arrived safely.  We will be picked up in a “combi” in the morning for the 4 hour drive to Old Mutare.  
 
On our 17 hour flight from Washington DC to Johannesburg South Africa there were people of many different races and different languages.  Sitting next to me was a United Methodist pastor who currently lives in Oklahoma!  He is originally from South Africa and was going home for a visit.  Even more amazing–he and Jeff will both be attending a global missions conference in Atlanta Georgia in December.  I did not begin to talk with him until the end of the trip, and wished I had initiated a conversation earlier.   
 
I initiated a conversation with with the young man beside me early into the second flight from Johannesburg to Hurare.  He was going home to see his family, and had not been home in 5 years.  His brother was picking him up, and he was surprising his parents.  He said he was anxious.  A modern day prodigal son come home?  I pray he has a wonderful visit with his family.  
 
Interesting observations from the day…there’s no coffee stands in the airport in Johannesburg!  There’s complimentary insect repellant lotion at our hotel!   When we arrived in Hurare there were few lights, and it is a big city.  The airport was dimly lit.  The electric here is unreliable….we take so much for granted!   
 
Thank you you for your prayers.  I can feel them.  Our journey will continue tomorrow!  
 
God is good!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Taking Spiritual Selfie

One of the most bizarre activities of today’s popular culture is taking a “selfie.” Since the introduction of smartphones that come with dual cameras, people have been posting pictures of themselves on their social media doing all sorts of weird (and sometimes incredibly inappropriate) activities. All that is needed is to hold the phone-camera at arm’s length, aim the lens at ourselves, smile, and snap. You’ve got A Selfie. An image in time that announces to the world, this is the ME I want to be. The ME I want you to see. It is the ME with a painted-on smile that hides the truth and advertises, ‘Hey everyone, look at me. Aren’t I wonderful. Isn’t my life wonderful.” But is it true?

OK, now let’s imagine we could use this amazing technology for another purpose, to take a Spiritual Selfie. A glimpse of our soul as it really is, unvarnished and brutally honest. Would you want to take one? Would you want to share one?

What would you see, what do others see? Are you excited by your spiritual life, who you’re with and what you’re doing? Are you smiling, crying, exhausted, asleep or afraid? Are you laughing, loving and leading others to a joyful life? What is in your background shot? Family and friends or are you sitting alone and afraid? What is that one thing you praise God for? Where are you in your own spiritual journey?

OK, so that’s where we are, but that’s not where we have to stay. If you don’t like where you are, then change it. But the truth is, if nothing changes in our daily life, then nothing significant is likely to change in our actual life. The key to significant spiritual growth is to develop good spiritual habits. Spiritual disciplines include worship, study, prayer, generosity, service, fellowship, and fasting. Paul wrote, “Make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by- day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing!” Romans 13:11-12

Blessings, 
Steve

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What Kind of Church is This?

The following question posted on Facebook recently:: “What is your church known for in its community?” Within a few minutes of being posted, many responses came forth. After sifting through all the comments and criticisms of church, three patterns began to emerge…

 
About one-half of the churches are known for ministries that require the community to come to the church itself. Great preaching. Incredible worship services. A friendly church. Great events at the church. How our members care for one another. You get the picture. These are all great responses, but they require the community to come to the church. If community members do not set foot on the church’s campus, they will never know about the ministries of the church. For the majority of the churches, the idea of community ministry is “you come to us.”
 
About one-fourth of the churches cited great ministries in and to the community. Partnering with schools in the community. Serving the community with food and clothes. Medical and dental ministries. Ministries to families, parents, and children in the community. The list goes on and on. It was exciting to read how many churches demonstrate their love for their community by actually going into the community. The focus was “we come to you…”
 
About one-fourth of the churches said they were known for negative reasons. Preacher-eater churches. Congregational fights and splits. Legalism. Unfriendliness. One church leader said his church was known for two murders that occurred a few years apart on the church site. Ouch. The focus was “we come for ourselves…”
 
Of course that makes me wonder, how would people in our community describe Mt Pleasant and how would we describe ourselves? What do you think?
 
 

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KidsHope 2018

 

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Why Mt Pleasant?

The Three Most Important Questions

(1) Why Jesus?
(2) Why Church?
(3) Why THIS church?
Why Mt Pleasant? Of all the churches, charities and community organization, why do I HIGHLY recommend checking out Mt Pleasant United Methodist Church? Well…
 
It’s all about Jesus. There many organizations that appeal to the needs, wants and desires of a consumer culture, and to be honest some churches do too. Not so here! People here expect to be challenged, confronted and changed by the life of Jesus. Thomas Merton once said that “If you find God with ease, perhaps it is not God you have found.” Our purpose is to know the Real Jesus not just the socially acceptable version because the Real Jesus makes us a better human being! This church is about becoming more like Jesus!
 
We are a joyful bunch! Have you ever been to a church that was so stuffy and stiff that even the songs refused to be joyful?  Not so here! The spirit is so alive it awakens the soul to God’s Presence. It’s not at all uncommon for someone to be so moved by the Spirit that they share a deeply personal story of brokenness, healing and renewal with tears of joy. It’s liberating! Someone once said the laughter is good medicine. If that’s true, then we’re the healthiest people around! Sunday worship isn’t a burden here, it’s a gift because church is celebration of life not a requiem of the past.
 
We have a creative character that thrives on big dreams. I find that some church are becoming so frightened by future trends, financial hardship, and an aging population they have forgotten what “Immanuel” means and are hunkering down in survival mode. Not so here! People here know they have been called by God to face the future and they’re up to the challenge. It is the challenges we face, the mountains that we climb, the controversies that we confront that push us to live beyond our fears. We believe that if it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you. The greater the challenge the greater the joy we experience in overcoming it. We have a Big God doing big things and we want to get on with it. Faith makes all things possible. Love makes them easy, and we love what we’re doing! So bring it on!
 
We are a generous church. While getting the everyday bills paid takes careful planning and sometimes requires doing things ourselves, we will not sacrifice or scrimp on the mission, sharing Jesus beyond our walls. We do not allowed fear to overcome faith, doubt to drain our determination or criticism to kill our commitment. We overflow with generosity when we feed more than 100 children weekly or 30+ families from the food pantry monthly or rebuild lives after a flood. Being known as “The Generous Church” however, is a huge responsibility. We will never stop reaching out as long as there is one person who needs the love of Jesus Christ and a shoulder to lean on.
 
We are a church filled with opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. Henry David Thoreau once wrote that “most people live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with a song still in their heart.” Not so here! People are engaged in learning, loving and leading others to Jesus. We see ordinary people doing the most extraordinary things with passion and purpose. Study groups gather to feed the mind, grow relationships and stir the spirit. We build faith partnerships of mutual cooperation and responsibility as we grow together. Luke captures this experience best, “were not our hearts burning within us as he opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 We have so much for which to be thankful in this church – so much to lift up in grateful praise, and so much of God’s blessings to release to a skeptical world. It’s hard to contain my enthusiasm! But it is in our thankful response to these blessings that makes
This Church the perfect place to use your time, grow your talents and invest your treasure in order to change the world and yourself.
Why this church? Because we’re changing the way people think about church, and themselves!

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Bible Study

 

Join a Small Group

The Gospel is a very dangerous idea. To see how much of dangerous idea, we must consider it’s impact on the world. There is nothing simple or safe about the Gospel. Jesus did not get crucified because he was a nice man. This is what we invite you to discover for yourself the dangerous Gospel in real life.
 
 
 
 

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The Lord is Sufficient for all of our needs

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3 Areas All of Us Struggle to Trust God With

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It’s Time for a Comeback, next Sunday at Church!

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Temporibus autem quibusdam et aut officiis debitis aut rerum necessitatibus saepe eveniet, ut et voluptates repudiandae sint et molestiae non recusandae. Itaque earum rerum hic tenetur a sapiente delectus, ut aut reiciendis voluptatibus maiores alias consequatur aut perferendis doloribus asperiores repellat.


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