Sunday, May 25, 2014

Spiritual hunger 5/5/2014

It is May 5th at 9:35.  I'm about two miles west of Odessa, MO sitting on the side of the freeway in the shade.  It's not a very hot day, which is good.  As I have been reflecting on conversations I've had with people along the way I have started to notice a theme that is emerging.  I don't even know how to explain it yet, but I see a problem. The problem I see is that people care so much about the physical needs of those in need, that they forget about their spiritual needs as well.  They think the answer is to throw money at the problem.  Even this morning as I am walking between Bates City and Odessa, I met a gentleman with a similar hypothesis.  That if we send enough money to all the countries in need, then no one would ever suffer. He literally said. "If Bill Gates and Apple and Starbucks and all these major corporations gave half of their profit or something like that to organizations overseas, then we could solve the world's problems".  The idea that if their physical needs are met, then the world's problems would go away is just completely wrong.  The Bible says that man will not live on bread alone, but by the Word of God (Matthew 4:4).

Matthew 4:4

New International Version (NIV)
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

In fact, I'm reminded of a story where there are these two guys and this sick man and they carry him to go see Jesus. Jesus is in this house and it's completely packed out.  They thought, there is no way we are going to be able to get to see him.  So, what they did was they tore the tiles off the roof and they lowered the man in through the roof.  They lowered him down to see Jesus and the first thing Jesus said to him was, "Your sins are forgiven."  (Luke 5:19)

Luke 5:18-20

18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

He deals with the spiritual matter of the heart first and then he heals him; and then he takes care of his physical needs.

Luke 5:22-25

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God

  What I think sets Uzima apart from a lot of organizations or a lot of different humanitarian efforts, is that we/they care for the entire child; the entire person.   We take care of their physical and spiritual needs at the same time, but our main focus is on nurturing their spiritual needs.

 I was speaking with a lady at a restaurant called Hot Pot Cafe in Blue Springs, MO.  She was telling me a story about how she was helping out someone by paying their rent and buying groceries.  She said something really insightful, "You know, it seemed like they were always looking for the hand of God, but not the face of God."  That kind of struck me. I have never heard that before. I thought of my own needs. I don't want to be always looking for a hand-out from the Lord instead of a relationship.

 This is my point. I am a firm believer that you need to deal with both the physical and spiritual malnutrition when it comes to helping those in need.  You need to provide for the physical needs, but first and foremost the spiritual needs. An emphasis, I believe, on the spiritual needs.

A final thought. I think that when we just go overseas or we go on a mission trip and we just take care of their physical needs as in, we build them a house, or we give them food, we reduce that person to a one dimensional person.  That they are just matter.  That they are just a culmination of physical desires and needs and it's not based on the total character, the total person; mind, body and spirit.  Uzima, Needle2Square, our total purpose is mind, body, spirit with a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE emphasis on the spiritual aspect of a man.  There is a hunger within a man that is much, much stronger than an appetite for food.  There is an emptiness that food can't help.  There is an emptiness and a hunger that's more than just the stomach, it comes from the spirit.  There is the spiritual hunger that we need to feed.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dinner Party 5/4/14

It is May 4, about 1:02 p.m. and I am walking.  I think I am in Grain Valley, MO which is east of Kansas City, MO.

I love to tell about the unique things that happen to me on the road.   Here is a funny one!  On my way to my starting point for this year, I had to stop by the bank to take care of some business.  When I got to the bank, I was driving around the parking lot to find a place to park the truck and tie up LeeRoy.   What I did not know was a guy had been following me in his red truck.  I parked and  jumped out to head into the bank. I was greeted by a gentleman in his late 50's named Mike.  He introduced himself to me and immediately started telling me he was having a supper club party and wanted my goat there. The party was going to have a western theme.  He had hired a country band and wanted to get a horse just to come hang out at the party.  He told me it was impossible, no one was just gonna bring a horse to his party. To be honest, to me, inviting a horse to your party seems a little strange, unless that horse is Mr. Ed.  But, whatever, to each his own.  So, to him it was destiny just to see a goat riding around in the back of a truck. He explained to me that the party was on Saturday and he would do anything to get LeeRoy to be a part of his event.  I told him what I was doing and Mike said he would make sure to give me some time to speak.  You know me, I answered not just yeah, but hell yeah!  We made a plan for him to pick me up the next day wherever I was on the trail.

On Saturday, I walked about ten miles and ended up on this back highway called AA. What I find so interesting is sometimes you run in to the most random, I don't want to say the word trashy, but just a dive bar in the middle of nowhere on some old highway.  I was stopped at the Ranch House, however, they spelled it R-A-U-N-C-H House (really).  I sat out front for about 45 minutes while people came out and took pictures.  I handed out cards and even collected a few donations.  When Mike arrived, we loaded up quickly and headed out.   We drove back to his house and on the way, he tells me that he hasn't told his wife about this.  He says it's going to be a surprise to her.   In the back of my mind, I am thinking, "This probably won't be a very fun surprise for her."  I'm sure she is going to be confused. "Why would you want this crazy guy with a goat that you picked up from the side of the road to stay at our house."  So I was nervous to meet Diane, however, she was so gracious.  She is an English teacher that seemed to be well-read (duh).  Mark Twain is her favorite author.  My adventure was right up her alley.  After our introduction, they showed me to my room.  I gotta say it was a lot nicer than sleeping behind a random building the night before.   I jumped in the shower and got ready for the dinner party. While the band was setting up, I started introducing myself to some of the guests.  Before I got there, I was thinking it was going to be about eight or ten people but it ended up being way more.  It was about 60 people and they ranged in age from about 30's to I think one was in his 80's.  Most of them were retired teachers.

We sat down and had a beautiful meal; chicken wrapped with bacon, pork-n-beans; oh it was so delicious.  The whole thing was incredible.  It felt like out of a movie; a big willow tree at the end of a deck; bigger than most.  All the women were drinking wine and the men were drinking beer.  The women all sat together at one table and were talking about the latest grandchild, whose next child was to get married and all the hot family gossip.  I was sitting at the table with all the men and there was a scintillating conversation about one of the older gentleman catching a raccoon in his attic.  "I spent $500 catching that damn thing and the little dickens tore a hole in the roof."  He ended up driving it out to the woods and releasing it to the wild.  As I am sitting at this table with old men mostly in their 60's and 70's I thought to myself, "Is that what I am going to be talking about when I am old; coon catchin'?"

 The band started playing while we were eating and more people started showing up and I'm like, man this is a lot of people.  So I started getting excited while I am waiting for my chance to share.  Me, feeling like an outsider, my thought was charm and disarm; I gotta be funny.  I want to make sure and inform them, but this isn't the place to be explicit with all the gruesome details of the slums.  I want to try and put my A game together.  I should probably have my A game every single time, however, sometimes people just want entertainment.  Anyways,  I start out with some jokes to soften them up.  I entertained them for a bit and then I get into some facts of what I am doing.  I had five minutes that turned into 15 and they loved it.   I got done and I started handing out cards.

THIS IS WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING ... there was this blonde girl in particular who was my age. She really took an interest, or so I thought. Here's the thing.  When a woman comes up to me and she says these words in that kind of really passionate, emotional voice, "Oh I just have such a heart for Africa." I automatically know that she has ulterior motives. I have a term for these kind of women. Gypsy Witches.  What's a Gypsy Witch you might ask... well let me tell you... It's a cross between Yoko Ono and Hillary Clinton.  She will break up your band and try and rule your world.  She will find a way for you to get in trouble.  She will seduce you.  Strip you of all your dignity and take your manhood.  She is a black widow of sorts; or a praying mantis that will EAT YOU.  In the past I used to think that they all dressed a certain way. And yes the most obvious ones do... buuuut there is an even sneakier kind that are really hard to identify.  They have learned how to blend in with those who truly care.   They have copied the genuineness of people that truly care and know how to put on a good show.  I will give you a few tips on how to separate the gypsy witches from the rest.

Tip # 1
Watch out for the ones that say any variation of this. "I was so touched by what you said.  Will you come outside and pray with me?"  Don't ever fall for this one... the goal is to get you away from the herd so they can devour you.

Tip # 2
The look.  Now this is one that is not easy to escape.   The look of adoration can make you feel real good and safe and in control.  But the truth is, you are prey and she is the one in control.  It's much like the Alligator snapping turtles that use their tongue like a fishing lure to seduce their prey right into their mouth... then with one bite, eats them!!!

Ok, back to the story.  The blonde girl.  She says, "You know, I just really would like to hear more about your story."  THEN she says, "I have such a heart for Africa and for orphans."  And yes, these are all classic Gypsy Witch tactics.  Normally I would have seen right through this.  But we weren't in the normal Gypsy Witch environment.  I didn't think much of it.  I said, "Well, yeah I would love to tell you more about the story, but I want to greet everybody else and hand out these cards."  And so about 45 minutes later, I get a chance to talk to her again.  We talked for a few and I honestly thought that maybe I had her pegged wrong.  She asked me if I would ride with her to the grocery store to get something for the party.  ANOTHER classic Gypsy Witch move.   Separate from the herd.  I say, "Yeah, sure, I'll go." I KNOW I KNOW.... you don't even have to say it... I get in her car and she starts driving horribly.  I mean, absolutely horribly; almost hitting the curb, almost running into other cars and I keep grabbing the safety handle on the car thinking, "Oh my goodness,"  I can't tell if maybe she is drunk or just a terrible driver.  She is acting completely normal.  She is talking clearly, she doesn't look like she is intoxicated or anything.  I don't know what's going on.  So, I finally ask her, "Are you okay?  You are kind of driving erratically.  You're kind of freaking me out."  I asked her, "Are you tipsy or drunk or something?"  And she just looks at me and smirks and just says, "I'm fine."   I'm like, oh no, this isn't good.  I'm thinking she probably is a little drunk.

Ok now, here's the deal,  music can take my attention off anything.  From time to time I'll be talking to someone and in the middle of a word or deep important conversation a song will come on and I'll stop mid-sentence... it grips me- I have to focus on it. I just get into a groove, a vibe, sometimes I even dance.

Let me paint you this picture.  I am literally freaking out about this lady's driving when this song I never heard before comes on.  Artist : Disclosure, the song was Latched.  I literally stopped.  I stopped caring about the bad driving.   I start asking, "Who is this?"  We put the song on repeat, turn it all the way up and now I am having the time of my life.  The song is going... I'm deep into it.   All the windows are down.  By the fourth time through the song we are both singing at the top of our lungs and dancing like crazy.  All of a sudden  I snap out of my trance and realize we keep passing store after store so I asked her, "What store are we going to?"  We end up pulling into a neighborhood and into her driveway.   This is the exact thing I am trying to avoid on the project; awkward stuff like this.  I planned on staying in the car, but she wouldn't let up, "Come in, come in, come in."  I did have to go to the bathroom, so I agreed.  We go into her house!  And I'm like, OH NO the Gypsy Witch has me!!!  Oh this is not good.  She filled up a paper bag with something. I assumed it was alcohol; I could hear the bottles clinking together in the bag.  We got back in the car and headed back.  Clearly, whatever she had last drank was hitting her pretty hard and she was having trouble getting back to Mike's house.   She was speeding.  I stopped talking to her and turned up the music trying to escape from the moment.  I thought to myself, "If I am going to die in a car crash, I might as well be rocking out to some good jams on my way to heaven!"   She clearly doesn't know where she is going.  She keeps driving around in circles.  She is going extremely fast and I am telling her please slow down, slow down.  And she just says, "I am just doing that to mess with you."  I say, "Well, it's messing with me."  She pulls into a lane that has cones blocking it off and in front of us is a sign that says NO TURN" that is blocking the road.   I yell, "You can't go this way!  Stop, stop, stop, you can't go this way!"  So she just plows over the sign and knocks it over.  I make her pull over the car immediately. "Hey, hey, hey, pull over, pull over right here, please."  She pulls over the car. I confront her, "Look, can I please drive?"  And she says, "No. I'm good."  I said, "Please let me drive."  She says, "No, no, no. I'm good.  Don't worry about it."  I GPS where his house is and it's only a few blocks away.  I'm like, "Okay, please go slow.  In all seriousness, I am not kidding you, I will get out.  I will get out of this car."  She says, "Oh, don't worry.  I'm good."  We drive the few blocks back to Mike's house.  She is getting so close to parked cars that the mirrors hit, but don't break.  The whole time I am telling her, "Watch out" as I am grabbing the wheel.  We pull into the drive, I get out and I run away from the car.

Now here is the icing on the cake!  In my two years of doing this project, there has been one quintessential line that has defined the worst of the worst when it comes to the Gypsy Witch.  If you say this to me, I know what your intent is and depending on what kind of mood I am in, I probably will make fun of you.  Before the party ends, I am sitting in the back listening to the band play a slow ballad. She sits next to me at the table and she hits me with it,  "Do you ever get lonely on the road?"  I literally laughed out loud; so loud that everybody looked at me and I totally interrupted the mood of the soft song that the band was playing.  

The party ended, she left, I felt good.  Felt good that she was gone.  So, that's my story with that.

The next morning I got up and Mike and Diane had breakfast and coffee.  They took me back to where they picked me up.  He was such a gracious host.  I had such a good time.  People had donated to the project from the night before that heard me speak so it was really just a beautiful time; other than that car ride.  There is a silver lining to this crazy car ride.  The song that we jammed out to is at the top of my play list and I literally have listened to it over and over again; it's my new favorite song.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bench Mark

The benchmark of success is not how many countries we reach.  It truly isn't just how many kids are in our orphanage.  There are organizations that thrive on that.  They thrive on the fame of "look at how many kids we saved".  They thrive on the fame of "look at how many countries we have reached."  That's not us.  The benchmark of success for our organization is how faithful can we be to the call that God has given us.  The benchmark of success for our organization is look what God has done through faithful people.  It is not just how many kids we save or how many kids we have in this home or how many orphanages we have started or how many countries we have reached.  It is about faithfulness to God, faithfulness to the call and that's it.  God didn't say you are going to reach hundreds; God said you are going to help those in need.  God didn't say you are going to go to all these countries; God said you are going to feed the sheep.  The reality is, people want these huge callings in life to show that they have been mightily used for the Lord.  Our benchmark is not so you can think how holy we are or how much God's presence is on us, its not about that.  If God gives us very little ministry, we are going to be faithful to the end of that ministry; nothing is going to stop it.  Nothing is going to stop us.  Obedience and faithfulness is the benchmark for our ministry.  That's what is successful to us. That is what we are going to do.

 I want to quickly answer a question about why a goat and what I know now compared to what I was thinking in the beginning is completely different.  How I would have answered that in the beginning of this project was I was looking for a pack animal and looking for a friend to come along with me, but the reality is I didn't really have a reason.  I just wanted an animal; I wanted to bring an animal and a goat is a sturdy animal; they are self-sufficient, they eat what is along the side of the road.  It was a convenience decision for me.  But what I now know, being two years into this project, is this was God's profound grace and influence in my life that I couldn't even see.  What I now know is that God was setting Needle2Square apart from other ministries.  You know when I first started looking into organizations and raising funds and how to do that, I came across a couple of websites and I came across a couple of YouTube videos that bummed me out. There was this phrase that was being said more often than not and the phrase was "competing for the charity dollar."  Those words, that phrase scared me because that is not what I want to do.  I don't want to compete for the charitable dollar.  I don't want to compete for other people to donate to Needle2Square instead of other organizations.  I don't want them to donate to me and not to another organization.  I am not going to compete.  That is not my heart.  The Lord always knows what He is doing.  My problem was... How do I set myself apart? NOT to compete but to at the very least to be noticed. It was almost feeling like David and Goliath; among the sea of other well-deserving projects.... LeeRoy is all the difference.

 I think it is important to note that I had no idea what I was doing at the beginning of this project.  If I would have known what was to come, I probably, and I know people say this often, I probably wouldn't have done it; I would have done it differently.  The reality is, I was weak.  I was the wrong person for this job if you were to ask anybody with any kind of wisdom.  I was the wrong person to step into this place and try and run an organization.  I have very little administration skills, very little.  I have no college education, really.  I went to school, failed most of my classes.  I went for four years off and on and wasted a lot of my parents' money.  The reality is though, the Lord put me here.  A thought I often question him about.  The one skill that I think the Lord has blessed me with is the ability to articulate a message.

I am not trying to put myself down. I really want to point to Jesus.  So, what I have  been learning is that my weakness is what is setting this apart. If you were to somehow evaluate on a chart, a pie chart "oh he has this much integrity, he is this much smart, he is this much whatever," my pie chart would be 90% dummy and about 10% funny; that's it!  That is all that is on my chart; that's all I got going for me.  But in that is the most beautiful thing I think about this project.  In that mess of a person is where God gets all the glory; and He gets it all.  Only by God's mercy and grace has this organization not fallen thus far. I am not the right guy for this job.  You know when I think about that last statement, that I am not the right guy for the job, I start to think of every other story of success that I know.  Every other story of church planters, missionaries or just anything that I can think; other peoples' stories.  When you hear them talk about their story, some crazy journey, they always start out with the disadvantages.  You never hear a story like "It was always easy. I was just talented  No struggles, no difficulties just smooth sailing."  Every single story of consequence, every story I can think of in my head, of anybody that has done a crazy amount of things for the Lord or has been used mightily in some way, always their stories start out with the disadvantages.  Their stories always start out with what was not right.  "I went to this town, I knew nobody, I had no money, I had no opportunity, I had a stutter when I talked, I don't know the Word very well, I'm not very good at articulating the message, I didn't have a college education, I didn't have the money or resources, I didn't have the time, I was not good enough. I had no talents."  That is how every story starts out.  So when I think about that right now, I feel like I am in good company.  What I want you to understand is that I hope that is the beginning of your story.  I hope what happens in the beginning stages of whatever the Lord is calling to you always pushes you to the foot of the cross saying "I can't do this, I need your help, please Lord you are going to have to make something happen here."  That is where I am on a daily basis.  "I cannot raise this money by just walking across America with a goat.  I can't make this happen Lord.  You are going to have to do something.  You are going to have to do something only You will get the glory for, that is all about You, has nothing to do with me.  I can't do this Lord."

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dad 5/2/2014

You know, May 2 is the day that my father passed and this walk isn't about him in any way, but it was a way that I could kind of, you know, remember him.  Let's see, it's been 22 years now, I think.  Yeah, 22 years since he has passed and I feel kind of guilty today because I didn't think of him much.  I know that I'm busy and I got a lot going on and all, but I don't know, I guess I just, I miss him.  And I love him, I do.  Maybe this is what it's like, just 22 years later you start to forget.  I don't know.  I've been busy, you know.  And yes, I have whatever, "daddy issues," I keep saying that.  Maybe I shouldn't talk about it anymore, but, I don't know.  The memory definitely isn't as fresh, that's for sure.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

May 2, 2014

It's 8:02 p.m. and I am just on the east edge of Kansas City and I'm actually behind some kind of abandoned building. Laying down on my sleeping pad. I can feel the cold bricks of the building on my right arm. I love to lay down on the ground and look up want the sky.and through the trees. There's something about looking at the world in a different angle. Anyways  LeeRoy and I are kinda doing some urban camping; hiding out.  We are gonna stay here tonight.  I am waiting for the sun to go down completely so that I can pull out my sleeping bag and head to sleep.  I'm kind of in a vulnerable spot.  People can see me. One thing I have gotten good at is hiding in plain sight. There is a church just beyond the edge of these trees just behind this abandoned building and I can see people driving in and out of the parking lot.  Today is May 2, 2014 and it's interesting to be back on the road again.  Lots to talk about.

I think the first things first. the Falk family; Loren, Jenny, Caleb and Riley.  Man, what a blessing they were.  Most of you guys probably don't know this, but I stayed with them for much of the winter in Silver Lake, KS and it was an incredible time.  We became legitimate family.  Like we are legitimate family.  And that's really cool to be able to say that.  I could write a whole novel on just hanging out with them and all the cool things we did; playing pool, coffee time.  Coffee time was the best part of Falk family fun.  Falk family fun, ha!  At night we would sit in the living room, all of us, and Jenny would make coffee for us and we would have coffee before bed. We would have bible study and pray together.  It was pretty cool.  I enjoyed it.

We got a late start today.  I started, obviously, at the Nelson Museum, downtown Kansas City.  I had to run some errands before I got here and yeah, it started out pretty well.  Immediately when you walk with a goat, it's right back to the swing of things.  People taking pictures, talking to you, asking you all kinds of questions.  So it took me a while just to get a small amount of miles.  I only got eight miles in today.  That's okay though.  I'm okay with it.  LeeRoy and I enjoy hanging out.  You know, we took a break today kind of by this little hideaway place where it was just me and him and no one was staring at us or paying attention to us and so we were just kind of hanging out, I was itching between his horns and he was rubbing his face on my knee.  We were alking and I was telling him,  "I think this is the year, you know.  I wanna finish this year."  I would like to.  He just kind of looked at me as if to say, "Whatever, I am down with whatever."  It's just cool to have my faithful friend back and to be spending time with him. I am a lucky guy to have such a sweet goat.  Ha!

To kind of rewind the story a little bit.  Just two or three days ago I spoke at the Rescue Mission in Topeka, KS; the homeless shelter.  It was an incredibly humbling experience.  You know, I got there and my heart wasn't necessarily ready to speak.  I think I was mainly focusing on preparing to walk and I wasn't focusing on what I had to say necessarily.  So, I definitely didn't have any expectations on anybody giving.  We did some worship and I could hear them singing and my heart started to soften as I listened to them sing. I started to sing myself and I just kind of got to this place where I was excited.  I wanted to be there.  I wanted to share with them and I started to want to do a good job.  Not that I ever don't want to do a good job.  I guess sometimes I don't necessarily feel like doing anything; I don't know.  Anyways, it was BEAUTIFUL.  I got up there, started sharing, telling stories and ya know, I would make a point and they would start clapping.  The whole room would just start clapping and I remember thinking like, no one has ever clapped for me before.  They usually just sit there and stare, ya know.  So I started telling some jokes and kind of feeding off their energy and we just had a great time.  You know, I never once petitioned them or asked them for money, but the guests, the people that are staying at the Rescue Mission, gave more than most of the churches.  I am literally saying most; most of the churches that I have spoke at and I can't even tell you how humbling that is.  How WILD that is.  I mean it was shocking and at the end they got in a line; there were 20 people in a line waiting to  talk to me and ask me questions and tell me their stories and how it moved them.  It was such a blessing to hear them and hear their stories too and to see them give.  I mean, I just, I am honored.  I can't even believe how amazing that is.  I am not trying to downplay other churches that haven't given or I don't want to be like that guy that, I don't know.  It just was beautiful, just was beautiful.  I love to be a part of that kind of stuff.  Just makes me want to do better; go harder. I want my life to be marked by giving.