Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Plan of Action for the Mission Impossible

Last part of this story series … (Some figures recently corrected and updated ...)

I can’t use his name, because this blog goes worldwide, and we’re concerned for his personal safety.

So let’s just give him a good ole’ American name: Joe. You can take my word for it that Joe exists and that he has come up with a plan of action for the Mission Impossible in West Bengal, India.

Joe is the person with whom Quest Community Church has partnered.

Here is the way that Joe plans on bringing the good news about Jesus to a hostile area of the world, according to John Musick, who heads up our Global Team:

Usually with missionary efforts, a church will pay to send one of their own – an American just like them – to the foreign country. Just for fun, let’s hypothetically say that Quest decided to send Brent, me and Neil over to West Bengal and start up this effort.

John Musick did the math for me. At a minimum, it would cost the church $70,000 per year. That would include a salary, health benefits, living arrangements and schooling for our 6-year-old, he says.

Now let’s look at the plan that Joe has.

Joe is using locals – people who have just become Christians – to spread the news about Jesus. Our church sponsors each person so that they can do this full-time. As I wrote in the last blog entry, that amount comes to $60.84 per month per person, or $730 for 10 people each month, or about $7,300 per year.

Now look at what these 10 people can accomplish: They know the language. They know the culture. They know the communities. They know how to get around. In short, they are ahead of any learning curve.

What if we expanded this 10-person team to 400 people?

That would amount to $24,336 per month, or $292,000 per year.

Yes, that cost is much more than sending said American family. But remember – there are 400 PEOPLE, not one guy and a wife and kid, and they already know what they need to know to get this thing off the ground as quickly as possible.

John tells me that after year one, they would go on a sliding scale where they would be increasingly responsible for more and more of their own support. After four or five years, they would be fully supported by the believers and local churches they plant.

There are five things you can do to help Joe: 1) Pray for partners who will help with this problem. 2) If you’re from Quest, you can strengthen the fellowship with the folks in West Bengal – get involved with Global and find out how you can help specifically. 3) Pray that Joe will be able to recruit more first-generation Christians to do this task. 4) Empower new believers by helping them become self-sufficient with your contributions. And 5) Help Joe locate training programs for various trade skills so that people can become employed while working on ways to share their faith.

Joe would like to see 20 percent of West Bengal come to Christ by the year 2020.

Is it doable?

Does it seem like a Mission Impossible to you?

It did to me, but then I had to remind myself … I’m not the One who has the power to make it so. And yet … I know the One who has the power to make it so.

Will you pray with me for West Bengal, India?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Secret Weapon to Solving Mission Impossible

Part 2 of this story series.

You may be asking yourself, as I was when I heard about the daunting Mission Impossible, “How would one person be able to reach thousands and thousands?”

It seems … well … impossible.

As I sat in the Global Team meeting absorbing the numbers of souls and what this means for eternity, I began to feel hopeless. “There’s no way,” I thought to myself. “Even if we can sponsor 400 people, there’s just no way they can do it.”


But then our team leader John Musick outlined what can happen when one person steps forward and shares the message of God’s love.

See, in the United States, where we have an abundance of churches and opportunities to hear about Jesus, we don’t really see the types of miracles that occurred in the first century church – at least, not in great degree. We have ample chance to hear and understand. So we don’t really need the miracles. They are something we ponder from Scripture, but most of us don’t really see the same types of marvels as done by Jesus and His disciples in the book of Acts.

However – in India, it’s very different.

In a country where many have never even heard the name of Jesus spoken, God is working through His emissaries to perform the same types of things that happened 2,000 years ago. On this side of the globe, we don’t hear about this very much, but it’s happening, John said.

People are coming to know Christ through dreams and visions of Him.

People are being delivered from evil spirits or are being supernaturally healed. Those who have been lame for years are walking. The blind are receiving their sight.

One woman in particular has a healing gift. She does nothing but keep her home open to the sick. She prays over them in Jesus’s name, and they are healed.

And in another area, the state of Orissa where many persecutions have been taking place recently, missionaries are working solo. They share the message. Then, thousands of people accept Jesus in one fell swoop.

In one case, a missionary received a request from a community to come and preach. He was concerned that he might be walking into a trap. So he told the community leaders that he would only come if he received a signed petition from the residents. They returned – with scores of names. When he went and preached, hundreds came to Christ.

These stories are endless, John told us.

What we can know is that when we trust God, He becomes the secret weapon to the Mission Impossible. He can do anything. He can use one person to reach thousands if He wants.

And He is. He’s doing it in India, right now.

But wait – there’s more. Tune in tomorrow to find out how Quest’s partner in India is organizing the effort – and what you can do to help.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mission Impossible – Possible in West Bengal, India?

Part one of this story series …

From outer space, you can see exactly how far it is from my house in the woods of Kentucky to the city streets and countryside villages of West Bengal, India.

The place is on the exact opposite side of the globe.

And the differences in the numbers of people and their need to hear about Jesus’s love are just as vast as the miles that separate us.

Why do I care about West Bengal, India?

Well I’ve recently started attending the “Global Team” at Quest Community Church. Our church has launched a partnership there with some new believers.

Believe me – they need all the support and prayer they can get. They are currently engaged in a Mission Impossible that rivals anything Tom Cruise did in those movies.

Take a look at these numbers.

West Bengal is 85 percent the land size of the state of Kentucky.

Kentucky has 4.2 million people. West Bengal – 89 million people.

Did that make you suck in your breath? Just wait … here’s some more:

Kentucky has 33 percent evangelical Christians – or, just about one person for every three.

West Bengal is 72 percent Hindu, 23 percent Muslim … and as for evangelical Christians? There are fewer than 1 person per every 1,000. Yes, I meant to write the word, “fewer.”

In Kentucky, we have 8,460 churches.

But in the Howrah District, which is next to the looming city of Calcutta in West Bengal, there are 20 known churches – and there are 4.2 million people.

You see the problem.

Quest pays the living expenses for first-generation Christians to do full-time missionary work in West Bengal – this is so that they don’t have to have a regular job and do their evangelism on the side.

We’re supporting 10 people.

Guess how much each person costs per month?


Yep, that’s right. That covers their food, shelter and living expenses.

So in total, we’re looking at $7,300 per year to support 10 people in West Bengal to do the Mission Impossible.

Not only is the population a major issue, but these brave souls are also having to do their work in perilous conditions. They have to meet in house churches and move from home to home because of fear of persecution. They also go into villages on the outskirts of cities, and who knows what they might find in each village?

The folks in India would eventually like to recruit 400 people to do this work.

But let’s put that 400 in perspective: If you divide up West Bengal into "blocks" of people, one block contains 200,000 people. There are 400 blocks with no Christian presence. So … the goal is to have one person to cover each block – or, one per 200,000 people.

See what I mean?

How can it ever be done?

But wait – you won’t believe the other side of this story.

Tune in tomorrow and I’ll tell you how the Mission Impossible can become Possible.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sour Coffee Cream, A Sour Customer & A Lesson in Humility

Part 2 of this story series.

Last week.
Global Coffee Café
Quest Community Church.
Lexington, Kentucky.

It was finally time for me to start my training at the Global Coffee Café at Quest Community Church, and I was beyond excited. For months I’d prayed about whether to do this, and now I was finally taking a step and jumping in with action.

To get me started, the team put me on whipped cream duty. My sole job … was to spray large piles of whipped cream atop smoothies and specialty coffees, then look at the person’s name on the cup and call for them to pick up their order. All the while, my whipped cream partner, Debbie, gave me tips about how the entire service line operated, from the cash register, to the barista machine, to the acronyms for each drink, to the final step in the process – the whipped cream on top.

I was having a blast, chatting away with Debbie, smiling at the café customers and calling their names, welcoming the church newcomers and of course … going to town on those smoothies with one can of whipped cream after another.

Then … SNAP.

I was whirled back in time to 1986, to my job as a popcorn shoveler.

“Excuse me, Excuse me!”

The voice was sharp, edgy, angry. It jarred me subconsciously, so much so that my finger pressed down harder on the whipped cream tip, and the sticky white stuff spilled over the edge of the lid.

I looked into the eyes of an older woman, who was very pointedly glaring at me. “What had I already done wrong?” was my first thought.

“Hi! Can I help you?”

“You certainly CAN. Look at this!” She shoved a tall coffee cup under my nose. In the middle of the hot drink was a tiny white swirl, the tell-tale sign of sour coffee cream. “This coffee is SOUR. Look at that! Do you see that? Do something!” She spat out the words, all the time pushing the cup forward, to where I thought she was about to dump it on my shirt.

“Sure! I’m really sorry. This is my first week, so let me find out where to find you some new cream.”

I turned to my trainer, who then pointed me to the crew supervisor, who turned around in surprise. “I’m sorry,” she said to the lady, “We thought that cream was okay when we put it out this morning. We’ll get some new cream for you.”

While we waited for the new cream, I asked the lady what type of coffee she had. I dumped her cup, found a new one and went to the thermos marked decaf. She watched me as I filled it.

“Not to the top! Not to the top!” she barked. “I don’t want it near the top! I need room for my cream!”


I backed away and gingerly handed her the cup, afraid that if she grabbed it too hard it would knock out some of the hot fluid. With one hand she took it, and with the other hand, she picked up the thermos containing the offending cream.

“Here,” she said, “Get rid of this. This has the bad cream. Never put that out again. You can’t put out sour cream for people!”

The crew supervisor reappeared with a fresh carafe, apologized again, and the lady filled her cup to the top, then left without another word.

Before I turned back to my little whipped cream job, I stood statue-still. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. And I was right back in the movie theater again, that 21-year-old college senior working hard for her tuition, trying hard to please people and feeling like I had just been beaten up as a servant.

Then … HE spoke to my heart.

“This is what it’s all about,” He said to me.

“What, Lord?”

“Being a servant. It’s easy to love people who love you. It’s easy to love people who are polite. It’s not easy to love people like that, is it?”

I realized, no, it wasn’t. But He kept at me.

“But that’s what I call you to do,” He said. “Love them. Love all of them. Be a servant to them. Will you willingly be a servant? Will you be joyful about serving them? You can lead many like her to Me.”

He was standing there, right there with me in the Global Café at my elbow, whispering in my ear, waiting for me to tell Him that I would be willing to do what He had done – to serve those who did not love as He loves.

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, and WITH JOY. Yes. Thank you for the opportunity to do this. I am so excited and thankful for it!”

My heart had changed!

I saw that no longer was I feeling like an oppressed child – I was a strong daughter of a King, a King who served His servants, a King who asked me to serve along with Him. I no longer needed the approval of others to feel self-worth, because He gave me all that I longed for, all the value I ever needed.

And as for those who would bark out orders, who would treat me as a lesser person, who would be angry and impatient … well … all they needed was some love.

Because after all … that’s what He had done for me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Popcorn, Macchiatos and a Trip Back in Time

Summer 1986.
The local Cineplex.
Manchester, Connecticut.

I am 21.

It’s the summer before my senior year in college, and I’m working hard to make enough money to cover tuition in the upcoming year.

I am working seven days a week. Yes, seven.

From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., I trek over to a D&L Department store, where I straighten racks of clothes and ring up sales in the infant department.

Then I rush home between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to change into black stirrup pants, a white shirt, a navy blue vest and black ballet flats – my uniform for the concession stand at the local Cineplex.

I work from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., sometimes to 2 a.m., shoveling popcorn.

On the seventh day, my day off, I work in the obituary department as an “intern” at the local newspaper.

That summer, I have a total of one day off to myself – on the 4th of July. Other than that, I am folding infant clothing, writing about dead people … and shoveling popcorn, shoveling popcorn, shoveling popcorn.

It is the popcorn thing that I can live without.

When I first took the job, I thought it would be a lot of fun to work in a movie theater. As an employee, I could see any movie I wanted for free, plus … I just love the atmosphere of theaters, especially the aroma of buttered popcorn. I soon learn, though, that the smell of butter permeates my hair, my clothes. I rip them off as if they’re burning my skin when I get home and jump into a hot shower before greeting my pillow. I can’t ever escape the smell of the popcorn, always in the pores of my skin, always lurking in the strands of my thick hair, no matter how many times I wash.

But this actually isn’t the part of the job I hate the most.

What I really hate … is the attitude of most customers.

They are rude. They are condescending. They look down at me and bark the order for their popcorn, then shove their wadded dollars into my waiting hand. Some actually snap their fingers for change as I count backwards in my head to make sure it’s correct.

I soon learn that I can please all customers by doing one thing that none of the other popcorn shovelers are doing – I coat the bottom of the cup with butter, fill it halfway with popcorn, coat the middle with butter, fill it the rest of the way with popcorn, then coat the top with butter. People watch me at work. They jump lines. They wait in my much longer line because they know they’ll get this special treatment.

And they are nice.

They are always nice. They offer me tips. They smile. They are patient for their money.

I learn another thing from this summer … I hate being treated like a servant. I will do anything so that people will not treat me that way. I hate feeling like a lesser person, like someone whose worth is measured by how much butter they are willing to spread on a cup of popcorn.

I hate it.

Last Sunday.
The Global Café Coffee Shop.
Quest Community Church.
Lexington, Kentucky.

It’s been 23 years since I have filled the role of “servant.” I have purposely avoided any type of job that would put me in that position again, because the memory has been that bad.

But lately, I have noticed at Quest that people who work in the coffee shop have a unique opportunity to spread joy. They are all volunteers. They happily serve up lattes and smoothies to waiting lines of people – some of whom haven’t darkened the doorway of a church for years.

At Quest, people are welcome to bring their coffee or smoothie into the service. The place is set up … well … like a movie theater, with movie-theater-quality seating and even cup holders. I noticed early on when we first started attending Quest that newcomers immediately relaxed when they were grasping their coffee cups. They smiled when they were offered free drinks in the Global Café, just for coming to church. They smiled even bigger when they realized they could bring that drink right into the sanctuary and sip it as the service progressed.

I also liked that in the coffee shop, the baristas could learn the names of the newcomers. Just like in Starbucks, they wrote the name of each customer on the cups, then called them by name when the order was ready. Bam – instant introduction, instant connection, instant friendliness, instant warmth.

The more we attended Quest, the more I wanted to be one of those coffee people.

When I shared this with Brent, he literally scratched his head. “But why?” he asked. “Those people work really hard behind that counter. Why would you want to do that?”

I thought about it. “Well,” I answered, “I feel like I have this gift for being hospitable and making people feel warm and welcome. It’s just my thing. The coffee shop is perfect for me.”

So last week, I started my training as an official Global Café coffee girl barista.

And you won’t believe what happened while I was there.

Tune in tomorrow for the next part of the story … and to learn about the important lesson that pierced my heart.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The “Hoo-How” and the “Way”

Brent didn’t want anything special for his birthday yesterday … just a grilled steak dinner and a cake.

But I still wanted the night to have its own special magic … so I picked up cheap decorations to give the “party” a Hawaiian theme.

When I came home, Neil immediately spied the colorful leis peeking out of the white plastic bags. He ran over and gingerly pulled at one, then sucked in his breath.

“Oh!” he shouted. “What is this?”

“This is for a luau.”

“What’s a Hoo-How?”

“A loo-ow,” I answered, enunciating the consonants. “It’s like a party you have in Hawaii.”

“And what are these flower necklaces?” he said while simultaneously picking up streamers, party horns and paper plates covered in surf boards and palm trees.

“These are called, ‘leis.’”


“No. Le-le-le … leis.”

Neil puckered his lips and tried again.


“Close enough.”

Two hours later, the motor of Brent’s car hummed in the driveway.

“It’s him! Hide!” Neil yelled, ducking behind a stone chimney in our living room.

The door opened, and Neil jumped out. “Surprise!”

He ran to Brent, his little hands gripping a lei, extending it forward.

“What’s this?” Brent asked, taking it and placing it around his neck.

“It’s for you! It’s a WAY!”

“Great! And what is this party we have going on here?”

“It’s a Hoo-How. It’s from Hawaii!”

Brent smiled and hugged Neil. “Great! Thanks!”

So … why am I telling you this little story at the Christian Safe House?

Just to make one point.

Neil knew what he was trying to say. He is still trying to conquer the art of pronouncing his Ls, which trip from his tongue like Ws. But he still gets it. If you ask him to write out “lei” and “luau” and give him the correct spelling, he will write the words with Ls, not Ws.

This got me thinking …

How many times have I been in conversation with someone over a Scriptural point and misunderstood what they were trying to say? Maybe they knew exactly what they were trying to communicate, but they were expressing it in a way I did not recognize or appreciate.

Lately I’ve seen and heard from various Christians and friends who get very angry at others because of how they interpret their viewpoints.

Do we really understand each other? Do we want to understand each other?

If that person is espousing a point of view that you feel is in error, how do you respond? What is the correct way to preserve unity and at the same time gently teach them?

It’s easy to get angry with each other, especially over doctrinal issues. What type of face does that present to the world, though?

Let’s look at the situation here yesterday as an example. If Brent had reacted to Neil by saying, “You little idiot – it’s not ‘hoo-how’ and ‘way!’” what type of effect would that have had on our child?

In the same way, let’s take a step away from our pride. Let’s love each other as Christ loves us – as dear children who are still learning to communicate His love to others in the way that He intends.

What about you? Do you struggle with this?

How can I pray for you?