Missions According to Children

First AidAfter six months of start up, Pete Brokopp, my boss has finally moved to town.  We’ve been busy trying to get ready for our first teams to come to Atlanta so we can teach them what we know about missions in your own back yard.  To make this happen we’ve been working on contracts for our facilities, renting apartments, our team is buying houses, getting internet set up.  The list of administrative and seemingly busy work type things that need to be done goes on and on and sometimes it’s hard to keep our perspective.

The other day I was off running our window cleaning company and Pete was giving a tour to a perspective team.  Pete had dropped off his kids at our sites apartment.  Pete’s son, Sammy, set off to find the soccer field looking for a pickup game.  His daughter, Charity, went in search of kids to love.  Pete went about his work.  The first call Pete received was from his daughter.  “Can I go into these refugees’ house?  There kids invited me in?”  Charity’s mission was one thing only, find people to show love to, and it gained her entry into a home.

The next phone call Pete received was from Sammy.  “Dad we need band-aids.”  Sammy had found the soccer field.  Sammy had also found a boy with cuts all over his legs and had no intention of just letting that go.  When Pete arrived later with the band-aids he watched and equally incredible thing take place.  Sammy taught the boy how to put the antibiotic cream on his cut and how to use the band-aids and sent him on his way with supplies to change the band-aids later.

Both of Pete’s kids met incredibly practical needs on their own.  We have identified teddy-teddy-bear-association-ill-42230friendship with an American as the felt need in Clarkston and Charity is on a mission to befriend every refugee child she finds.  Friendship leads to opportunity to share Christ’s love .  I need to learn from Charity how to befriend those I’m working among.  Sammy set off with the goal of playing soccer and ended up with an opportunity to help someone who didn’t have the resources they needed.  I need to learn from Sammy to be ready for my agenda to be changed.

My story doesn’t end with lessons to learn, it ends with an opportunity.  Pete, Dan (our church planting team leader) and I ended up in the apartment managers office.  He described to us the black mold that grows in many refugees apartments.  “They don’t clean it, they don’t know how bad for you it is.”  We quickly asked if we could hold classes for adults teaching how to clean and prevent mold.  What a simple why to meet a need in our community.  We realized there are more opportunities in Clarkston than we knew, and it took two missionary kids to show the missionaries to open their eyes.

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  envision-atlantaPlease consider sponsoring a first aid kit or cleaning wipes or helping cover part of the cost of travel.  Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

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T-Shirt Theology

As I was going through my t-shirts the other day and I noticed one I hadn’t wore in a while.  My “W’s” t-shirt.  Now if you don’t know who the “W’s” are, you missed out.  They were a ska/swing band back in the late ‘90’s when Christian ska was at its height with the Supertones and Five Iron Frenzy.  But that’s not the point of the story.  I remember exactly where I was when I got this t-shirt.  It was a Christian music festival called Kingdom Bound held at Six Flags Over Darien Lake.  I haven’t been there since 2000.  That makes this t-shirt at least 17 years only.  That’s absolutely incredible to me.  I’ve worn this shirt to the beach, played soccer

Brian W's Shirt
 

18 year old Brian wearing what is now almost an 18 year old “W’s” shirt

 

and basketball in it, I’ve worn it to class, worn it on dates, and probably used it to clean up a mess or two.  The screen print is starting to fade and peal, it’s not quite as soft as it once was, but it’s still wearable and it doesn’t have a single hole (other than the neck, arms, and waiste)!

It’s got me thinking, why do so few things hold up?  Why is it so hard to create things that last?  People spend lifetimes building what won’t last.  Mass fortunes are squandered in a generation.  Companies are mismanaged and fall into bankruptcy.  I don’t know about you but I have a burden to build something that will last.

1 Corinthians 3 says:

“9 For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward.”

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A still very wearable “W’s” shirt 17 years later

 

I read a lot of hope into this passage.  The God of all creation, who created you and me in his image, has called us coworkers and called us to build and create as he pours out his Spirit on us.  But again, how do we know it’s something that will last and not just another heap of garbage?  We start with the foundation of Jesus and we choose our materials wisely.  The way to build something that will last is through Jesus, isn’t that why he told us to pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done?  Then on top of that foundation you build with things that hold up against the fire like truth, justice, and wisdom.

 

Go out and get building the Kingdom!

 

 

 

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  envision-atlantaPlease consider giving being a partner with me by donating to the cause be it small or large, every bit helps.  Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

The Detriment of My Perfectionism

I’ve know for a long time that perfectionist get less done than the average person.  They spend almost as much time on the last 5% of a project as they do on the first 95% (to be perfectly accurate this will very from project to project, just know if you are a perfectionist that you get less done =) ).  When I first learned this I decided I wouldn’t be a perfectionist, that I would just stop when a good job was done and not waste the extra time.  This served me well (sort of, plenty of arguments have been made to the opposite) for many years, why study to get an A when you can get a B without trying?  Or if your boss only wants you to go to X why bother going all the way to Y and Z?  And so in that moment I decided I was no longer a perfectionist.

I was saving time daily, success!  More importantly I was also eliminating stress from my life by stopping short of the hardest part of a project.  To be honest there wasn’t stress because there was no effort.  I can now look back at my life and see I came up short of where I could have been over and over.  My perfectionism really came in the form of not trying for fear of failure.  What was the point in starting if you weren’t going to be able to finish?

So how do you move on and grow if you have a similar problem?  The start of my treatment has come in the this form: 1 part self examination, 1 part coaching, many many parts praying.

Self Examination: A good look back at your life looking for behavior patterns goes along way.  I can see where I wouldn’t push myself once things got hard in sports.  Math was the same thing, I didn’t have the drive to practice on my own.  I’ve lived with the stigma that failing (call it not getting things right if you want) was bad.  The truth is it shows opportunity to learn and grow.

Coaching:  Being coached and mentored has helped me move from identifying areas of weakness to growing as a person.  My mentors have shown me where my goals have been to big and where I need to break them down in to smaller peaces and to celebrate the wins along the way.  Recently I’ve been working on trying to be more organized, my desk has been an incredible mess the last few months.  My mentor told me to pick part of the desk to start with, something that I could take action on in the next 24 hours.  I chose to destroy all deposited checks that were on my desk.  I gathered them up and burned them.  This small win motivated me to clean the entire desk.

Praying:  There are lots of things people can do on their own, but if I’ve got the Holy Spirit it would be a shame to not ask Him to join me in everything.  While I was praying through my perfectionism a verse came to mind.  “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10.  nathan-anderson-99010Did you catch that last part?  “The Lord rejoices to see work begin.”  I’ve had it backwards the whole time.  I’ve been so focused on not being able to finish something I haven’t started things.  I needed to repent (change my mind) and see what things look like from God’s perspective.  I bet it’s a little like a father being excited that their son is trying to do something for the first time!  Yes, God loves to see things finished well.  BUT HE REJOICES to see the work begin!

 

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  envision-atlantaPlease consider giving being a partner with me by donating to the cause be it small or large, every bit helps.  Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

If I’m honest…

The NBA playoffs are one of my favorite sporting events to follow.  Unfortunately for me most of the teams I follow are from the west coast and therefore play much later at night.  This means that I’m either very tired each morning for nearly two months, or (as is almost always the case) I go to bed before the games even start and wake up wondering what happened.  I sometimes find myself anticipating checking the scores, wondering what it will feel like to see the outcome in my favor or against.

A question struck me this morning, “Why don’t I have the same excitement for reading God’s word?”  If I really believe that this book I carry around is full of God’s promises and his answers for my problems, why and I not as excited to check that every day?

In many ways I’m hesitant to share that I often don’t get excited about reading my Bible.  I’m a missionary and hope to be ordained by the end of 2017 after all, I’m sure there is some rule against sharing this weakness.  But, I’m also sure I’m not the only one who struggles with this and if we can start a conversation maybe we can learn to grow together.  For me it starts with asking the question, “What do you want me to learn today?”.  After all we are supposed to be God’s disciples and disciple means “learner”.  Can you imagine that God wants to teach you something?  The God who created the Stars, the Earth and all that lives on it, thinks you are special enough to want to teach you something.  That’s an exciting thought!

My friend Jim is a youth pastor, and an excellent one at that.  His wife taught him a tool that he is now teaching his youth, allowing them to be more engaged with their Bible reading.  The tool is called “Lucky Charms”.  Heart Star ArrowIt’s simple and yet very effective at personalizing your Bible reading time.  Have you ever been reading and you see a verse that makes you pause?  You know there is something deeper there, it feels like the verse(s) is speaking to your heart?  Maybe there is something more to this and you suddenly have the urge to stay there and not move on yet?  That’s a “Heart” verse.  Jim would tell you to draw a heart near it (I suggest red pen for all of these so it stands out) that way it’s easy to come back to and spend more time on it.  You may also want to memorize your heart verses.  As you continue to read any time you find something that makes you say, “Aha” or “I get it now”, those are “Star” verses, draw a star next to these verses.  Finally when you read something and it’s giving you direction draw an “Arrow” near the verse (I also suggest telling someone and asking them the keep you accountable).

Even if you don’t use this tool in your Bible reading, having the thought that God wants you to be daily learning from Him should be exciting.  It’s something I want to grow in and I hope God continues to develop it in me.

 

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  Please consider giving be it small or large every bit helps.  Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

Hidden Spaces

 

Hidden in places people tend to avoid are people and smaller spaces that will change your life for the better.  uncommongroundscolor3logo_1Places and people who would leave us incomplete had we never seen or met them.  I wrote this originally in my note book while sitting in Uncommon Grounds Cafe in Aliquippa, PA.  Paintings hang on the walls from local artists.  It is alive with conversations from the fifteen or so people utilizing the space, and music praising the name of Jesus  play in the background.  The Quip is a town in western PA, that in my experience is unfairly avoided by the surrounding towns.  A town with a reputation for violence and drugs.  However, it is a town that taught me to receive love.  A town that reached out to me while I was jobless.

This Cafe was built for this purpose.  The idea was to create a place that can help people heal by first allowing them space to be wounded.  So, being broken from poor decisions and hopeless and jobless I started coming to the cafe and would leave a little better than I showed up.  I cant tell you how many times I came to the cafe to try to do some work to justify my existence.  I would scrape together a dollar so I could buy a cup of coffee and have enough change left over for a refill and end up being given a meal that was “accidentally” made twice.  The operator, having seen my brokenness but also my pride, must have known it would have been too much for me to take a free meal.

While being back at the cafe, just passing through, I was moved almost to tears because of the love I was shown.  The beginnings of healing started there.  You never know how a little gesture of love will help someone.  Uncommon Grounds is part of my inspiration for creating jobs and education programs.  The cafe gave what it was made for and now it’s my turn to give what I was made for.  And so, any success I may have moving forward will always be shared with Uncommon Grounds.

“Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.”

– Jesus

Thank you John Stanley and Uncommon Grounds

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  Please consider giving be it small or large every bit helps.  Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

Yes you have to love the racist too

My role with Envision Atlanta provides me with a lot of opportunity to meet and interact with people from all over the world with out even leaving the metro Atlanta area.  I get to meet Asians and Africans, Middle Easterners and Europeans, North and South Americans and the occasional Australian.  Atlanta has such a wonderful mix of culture, 761 people groups.  Food from everywhere in the world, it’s amazing.  Well, I think it’s amazing.  It turns out not everyone does.

I rarely tell people I am a missionary, people tend to feel guarded when they encounter clergy or those they feel are “religious”, so I try to head that off by saying I work for a non profit and let people be their unedited selves.  I was in an antique mall with my wife one day.  I had a speaking engagement that morning and we were enjoying the rest of the day together seeing what we could discover.  The Christian radio station was playing and the store was very peaceful.  The owner of the store asked me if I was from the area and I told her I was passing through after speaking that morning.

“Do you do that a lot?  Speaking to groups?” She asked.

“Not really,” I said, “But I would like to do more, I really enjoy the opportunities when I get them.”  She then proceeded to ask me what else I did for work.  I began to describe my work with Envision Atlanta and the incredible diversity in the area.  “You can get what ever ethnic food you want form anywhere in the world in Atlanta.”  There was a pause as I stopped talking and kept looking at random things in the shop.

“I don’t care much for ethnic food,” she finally said before pausing again, “And I don’t care much for refugees either.”  She then went on to describe how her town had been “taken over” by immigrants and how she felt she needed to take her kids out of school.  Every time I tried to add to the conversation she would cut me off and continued to tell me everything she didn’t like about non Americans.  I finally just let her talk, knowing she wasn’t going to let me speak into the conversation.

When she stopped finally I jumped in and said, “I’m looking to Heaven where there will be people from every tongue, tribe, and nation represented.”

“I guess so” she said somewhat annoyed.  My wife and I decided it was probably time to go with one of those looks to each other that married couples get after a few years of marriage.  I told the owner that I hoped her business did well and we left.

I had managed to not over react to the own as she said some things I felt were fairly awful.  What I didn’t realize was happening inside me was growing anger and hate for this woman.  It was at this point the Spirit of God started to speak to me.

“Where you not full of hate once?  Did I not love you despite this?  Do I not love that woman just as much as I love you and didn’t I call you to love those whom I love?”

The Lord was showing me that there is no reason not to love someone.  We are all sinners and only able to be saved through Jesus Christ.  Bias, bigotry, and racism are not excuses for living in anger toward someone.  Hating those who hate only makes you a hypocrite.

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  Please consider giving be it small or large every bit helps.  I am currently looking for another 25 partners to give $25 a month to keep my work going. Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

Proud to be a window cleaner

For much of my life I didn’t care what people thought of me.  At least that’s what I told myself.  I hid behind the “I don’t care what people think” mantra.  One day I woke up and realized that I did in fact care. I looked around me and saw people my age who had started businesses, started not-for-profits, and were pastoring churches.  It felt like I was way behind.  All that time of pretending and trying not to care had lead to inaction and wasted time.

My view of life began to change from where can I get pleasure to how can I become successful not realizing that success is just as much of a trap.  After all, what is success?  If left undefined success is just as much of a trap as pretending not to care can be.  If only I had realized that success is really just doing your best where you are.  Dollars shouldn’t define success, nor should titles or the car you drive.

I worked in a job I thought was beneath me for three and a half years, embarrassed when people would ask what I did for a job.  It took time to start to redefine what success was to me.  I had to decide to work above my pay grade, to always be adding more value that was asked of me.  I started listening to podcasts for people trying to develop themselves and trying to get out of my comfort zones.

Through some injected enthusiasm from my soon to be boss and support from my wife I ended up quitting that job.  I jumped in to a new position with a missions organization where I get to mix business and missions.  My first development is a window washing company.  I wouldn’t have always been able to say it, but I can today.  I am proud to be a window cleaner.  I’m proud because with some help I got to create a business that one day will employ people.  I’m proud because it’s a way to meet people out side of the church.  I’m proud because it’s a building block for whatever is coming next.  It’s not a job that’s beneath me it’s a job that can be as big as I want it to be.

At some point you have to decide that you aren’t afraid to be compared to the person next to you because we are all on different journeys.  That doesn’t mean we don’t look to others form inspiration and motivation.  It just means that you keep getting up and doing your best where you are and take a risk every now and then.

 

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  Please consider giving be it small or large every bit helps.  I am currently looking for another 25 partners to give $25 a month to keep my work going. Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

What new beginnings look like.

This basement may not look like much, but it may be the future home of Envision Atlanta.  It’s the basement of an apartment complex in Clarkston, GA.  You may see water damage and a mess.  I see a bunk house and class rooms, a staging ground for future work and a metaphor of the kingdom of Heaven.New Beginings

The apartment complex this basement is in  is owned by two Muslim Iraqi brothers.  They have offered to rent this basement to Envision Atlanta for $1 a month.  Yes you read that right, $1 dollar a month.  But how could such a mess even be worth that?  You can see there is water damage, clearly it floods.  And what you can not see in this picture is that you have to walk down a slope to get to the one entrance.  My list of projects that needed to get done before we could even think about renting this space was:

  1. Get the flooding fixed.
  2. Have stairs and side walks put in.
  3. Have a second entrance put in.

These are not easy fixes and they aren’t cheap fixes.  I wasn’t the only one who thought of these issues for the building.  The men potentially leasing us the property thought that these were issues also.  Before we could even bring up these issues they offered to fix them.  God has gone before us and he has picked this building for us.  These Muslims men rent a similar basement in another complex to our friends at Global Frontier Missions and they have seen that neighborhood change.  They’ve seen disturbances go down and people willing to rent for longer because their living situation is a little bit better.  The renters now have hope that another Christian organization will have a similar affect on another complex.  And you know what?  We are hoping they are right!  Isn’t it just like God to take a broken down mess and turn it into something that gives life?  I know that’s what he’s done with me!

Stay tuned for updates as we transform this space into something beautiful.

 

 

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  Please consider giving be it small or large every bit helps.  Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

Why I joined Envision

Like many Christians I lived nominally for many years, never sharing my faith for fear of offending someone.  I rarely opened my Bible and prayed only when I needed something.  God felt distant, far away, and uninterested in the everyday happenings of my life.

Things began to change back in 2012.  My wife and I were living near Pittsburgh and had a friend in Atlanta who was getting married.  We decided to make a week out of the trip rather then just a weekend.  My in-laws were speaking at a College of Prayer event so we attended that.  During one of the sessions there was a call for repentance and I felt I needed to repent for something that had happened to me when I was 14 and repent for the lies I had believed since then.  It was amazing; I encountered the presence of the Spirit in a way I had never before.  I felt free!  A half a life of living in shame was gone!

In the fall we moved to Atlanta so my wife could take a job as the children’s ministry director at a church.  The next spring we attended the same College of Prayer event and something amazing happened again.  There was a call for people who felt called into ministry, maybe for the first time to come forward and to be prayed for. My feet started moving before my head knew what was happening but as my mind caught up I knew I was in the right spot.  I didn’t know what ministry for me would look like but at that point it didn’t matter.

I spent the next three and a half years trying to figure out where I fit into ministry and even trying to figure out what ministry even was.  Eventually I began to realize that God had given me a heart to pastor but I didn’t know what that meant.  I  entered the licensing and ordination process with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  I applied for a job at a local church and didn’t get it…then another, and another.  I didn’t get it, isn’t this what i was called to?  Why was my path running into dead ends if God had told me I was a pastor?  I began to pester my wife with questions about church.

“Why does outreach mean we are asking people to come in to church?”  “If being in church is so important, why are we so worried that people come to our church and not just happy they are going to a church?”  “If we believe that the gifts of the Spirit are for everyone, why aren’t we teaching people use them and giving place for them?”  “Why does the Bible talk so much about widows, orphans, poor, and foreigners so much but we don’t seem to talk about them in church?” And on and on and on…

What I didn’t realize was that God was relieving to me that His place for me wasn’t in a traditional role as a pastor but something different.  Enter Pete.  One day Pete Brokopp showed up at our church.  He had been scouting a town called Clarkston for a new Envision site.  I was part of a group invited to have dinner with him and he shared his vision with us.  As you may have guessed his vision was the answers to most of my questions.  Not only that but there was a position that looked like it was made just for me.  I get to use my business degree as a way to help our church planting goals.  I get to mentor and to help raise up leaders and to pass on what has been given to me.  What seemed like a dead end has become a new chapter in my life.  Please keep praying there is much work to be done!

 

 

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  Please consider giving be it small or large every bit helps.  Click here to discover how you can partner with me.

 

Don’t get lost in the business

I was sitting next to an experienced missionary named Steve.  We were waiting for the program to start and I couldn’t help myself.  I had to ask, “What is one piece of advice you would give a new missionary?”  I hate to waste learning opportunities where there are people who have gone before me and have done what I am trying to do.  I try to be respectful of their time and not be too pushy.  He hesitated and I though maybe he just wanted to sit and not talk before he had to go on stage.  To my delight he responded, “Does it have to be just one thing?”  “Of course not!” I eagerly replied.

“Don’t get lost in the business” he said.

How relevant for me.  I’m the head of the business development team with Envision Atlanta.  Business is my business and how easy would it be to get lost in bottom lines, and flow charts, and business cards?  How quickly we can we loose sight of what our main focus is supposed to be?  My business is Jesus and always should be.  But, through Jesus I get to start businesses so that I can employ refugees, and missionaries, and fund the other work of Envision Atlanta.   I want to be like Jesus who said he only did what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19).  It is so easy to get caught up in what we think we are supposed to do rather than seeking what we aught to do.  Every good thing we do can become a hindrance to our work if it starts to overshadow the One who gave us good work to do.

The saddest thing about my conversation with Steve was that I forgot the second piece of advice he gave me.  Every day we have a chance to learn and I only got half of what I had opportunity to receive.

 

 

As an Envision Missionary I raise my own support in order to do the work I do.  I receive no salary unless people like yourself give.  Please consider giving be it small or large every bit helps.  Click here to discover how you can partner with me.