The Trump Administration’s killing of these two men on January 3, regardless of their offenses, is evil, going against God’s command: “thou shall not kill” and Jesus’ command: “love your enemies.” It also threatens to plunge the United States and the Middle East into a major war leading to far more death and destruction.
As we hear critiques and defenses, and brace ourselves for retaliatory violence and retributive counter measures, let us consider Jesus’ seeing Jerusalem and weeping over it, and practice something like this ourselves, remembering his highly relevant words:
“If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.”
Jesus could see that his own people were rejecting him and his way of being Messiah through giving his life in selfless love. Jewish religious leaders and Roman authorities would soon collude to crucify him. Jesus warns his people of the consequences.
“For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”
Jesus’ warning came to pass in 70 CE, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem.
Now we’re witnessing a similar dynamic. Trump and his supporters, and so many others who choose power and violence, become blinded to the things that make for peace. Jesus’ warning of destruction is prophetic critique: “those who live by the sword will die by the sword.” We have already seen too many deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else the United States has intervened militarily.
Now it is urgent (as it has always been) for followers of Jesus to publicly choose him and his way of suffering love over threats, sanctions and violence. Followers of Jesus are his ambassadors, called to embody his life-giving love, so clearly stated in the famous John 3:16-17.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
In our travels around the world Gracie and I regularly encounter people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and other Muslim majority countries. Today I sat on a nine-hour flight from Seattle to Frankfurt beside a man from Egypt and Gracie sat beside his niece. We had good conversations about faith and politics, and Gracie prayed for his niece’s ears that were in great pain. We exchanged emails and he even invited us to visit them in Egypt.
Though we are US Passport holders, we see our primary identity as citizens of Jesus’ Kingdom. As ambassadors of the Kingdom of God we must differentiate ourselves from our country of origin and its policies, bearing witness to Jesus, Prince of Peace.
I long to see fellow Christian brothers and sisters be more fully given over to their baptismal, heavenly identities, distancing themselves from leaders and policies that do not reflect Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not come to judge the world but to save the world, and we are called to join him in his mission. We long to see a movement of intercession and peacemaking grow, that will effectively address world and local hot spots.
I have witnessed the power of prayer as we have interceded for violent offenders in our community over the past years. In one case some gang members declared war on the local police department, engaging in a prolonged shoot out. We began to intercede for the shooters- that none of them or the police would be killed. While one of the police officers lost his eye site, a tragic outcome, the shooters were apprehended without loss of life. The main shooter has become a follower of Jesus in jail.
More recently a young man brutally shot and killed another young man in our town. I put out a call to prayer that he would be apprehended without loss of his or anyone else’s life. He was soon arrested without further incident. I have met up with him several times and he has surrendered over his life to Jesus. Both men will now have the opportunity to serve as ambassadors for Christ in the Washington State prison system.
As Donald Trump vows to bomb 52 Iranian sites should Iran retaliate against US targets for killing Suleimani, I invite you to join me to pray and work for peace. I also invite you to pursue the renewal of your mind through regular Bible study. Check out the first volume of 13 of 52 Bible studies I’m publishing, Guerrilla Bible Studies, Volume 1, God’s Surprising Encounters, available here.
Gracie and I recently returned from a visit to Honduras, where we lived from 1982-1988. Andrew Lewis, our newest Tierra Nueva colleague accompanied us. Tierra Nueva’s Honduran pastor David and his wife Esperanza hosted us for a busy week visiting families and home groups in Minas de Oro and a number of the surrounding villages.
Tierra Nueva’s ministry in Honduras started out in 1982 as a sustainable farming and health education program, with the objective of helping farmers produce abundant yields on small, steep, and impoverished plots. The program was highly successful, involving thousands of farmers. However, regional wars supported by the US increased instability, and free trade agreements benefitting N. American farmers undercut Honduran markets, leading to a massive exodus from the countryside to N. America.
It was heartbreaking for us to witness the exodus of people beginning in the late 1990s, to Spain and the USA, which has only increased—and we are really seeing the impact of that migration now. At that point we decided to help small coffee growers produce for the specialty coffee markets. Tierra Nueva started a coffee farm in 2008, which has been producing increasingly high quality coffee, offering employment to many locals in a very poor and remote mountainous region.
On this trip we were struck by the new home construction in larger towns and even in small villages, all done with remittance money sent home from Spain and N. America. Many people told us that these remittances are keeping the country afloat at a time of extreme poverty and social chaos (Honduras has the third highest murder rate per capita in the world in 2019, after El Salvador and Jamaica).
Thousands of men and women from our region have left their children with family so they can migrate in search of work. We heard many tragic stories of marriages falling apart, of people becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol or losing their lives en route to the USA or through accidents. We heard of others who ended up in immigration detention or in North American jails, finally to be deported back. Many children have grown up in Honduras without one or both of their parents, with huge impact. Many shared with us how they are convinced they must seek a viable future in Honduras. But this is extremely difficult.
Choosing to stay in Honduras may well mean sacrificing dreams of enjoying many of the basic comforts and conveniences we take for granted in N. America. Now that most villages have electricity, everyone is aware of the vast array of desirable consumer products and the allure of the American Dream.
Functional advertisements for migrating to N. America are visible to all in upscale houses and nice cars acquired with money earned by hard working immigrants living abroad (see photo below). Subsisting in Honduras may mean not being able to afford putting your children through high school, since secondary schools are in larger towns, requiring people to cover their kids’ room and board they cannot afford.
International coffee prices plummeted this year due to over production in Brazil, causing many growers to abandon their harvests. Global heating is taking its toll on Honduras’ agricultural production. In 2019 it has only rained two months, rather than the usual five. This devastated the corn harvest in a way that will lead to widespread scarcity in 2020. The politicization of public sector employment means anyone with a high school degree or above cannot find a job if they do not belong to the governing political party. This blocks half the population. Unemployment is at 80%. A rural laborer earns $5.50 per day.
We talked to Memphis, the 23-year-old daughter of a close friend we’ve known since she was a little girl. Memphis found work in a sweatshop (Maquila) in Honduras’ second largest city, San Pedro Sula. She works from 6pm to 6am, four days on, four days off, making $120 per week. She lives in a dangerous, gang-controlled neighborhood, where she must navigate with extreme caution on a daily basis. She told us that thousands of young people like herself work in sweatshop-type clothing factories.
Many consider it safer to risk the treacherous overland journey through Guatemala and Mexico to the United States in hopes of earning higher wages, than living in gang-controlled slums and working in the maquilas in San Pedro Sula, which is currently the murder capital of the world.
We were deeply encouraged to talk with many of the adult children of our original Tierra Nueva agricultural trainers and health workers, who have decided to stay in their villages and raise their families. David’s daughter and her husband run a mobile butcher operation, selling meat to villagers. Another promoter’s son, Noe, has a three-wheeler taxi that he uses to transport customers to and from the smaller villages surrounding their town. Others grow coffee or corn. One runs Tierra Nueva’s coffee farm and mill.
David’s son Wilson earned a decent wage, working for a large palm oil plantation on the North coast of Honduras, an area of increasing violence due to drug trafficking. When his wife’s 20-year-old son from a previous marriage was murdered, they decided to relocate. They are now happily settled into a mountain village, and oversee Tierra Nueva’s specialty coffee farm.
We visited the coffee farm and met and prayed together with a group of twelve or so young adults who were picking the first round of this year’s harvest. Tierra Nueva’s coffee farm provides work for 30 people for the three-month harvest period. Coffee pickers can earn between $8-12 daily, depending on how much they harvest. The farm provides regular employment for 3 full time workers 6-8 others who maintain the farm throughout the year. Consider ordering some highly rated and delicious Tierra Nueva Farm Coffee through Fidalgo Coffee Roasters here, and help provide jobs.
David focuses most of his attention on pastoring people in extreme poverty, Tierra Nueva’s top priority since 2008. Each day we visited families that he pastors on weekly rounds, leading Bible studies, listening to their stories of the challenges they face and praying for them. Check out this December 16 video interview with David here.
In the midst of all the struggle and difficulty God’s love and power was clearly evident. We saw God healing hearts, minds and bodies on multiple occasions. One such example is an older woman named Doña Rosa.
Gracie, David, Andrew and I prayed for Doña Rosa, who hosts a weekly Bible study at her shack on the outskirts of town in one of Tierra Nueva’s Hogares en Transformación (Households in Transformation). She lives with her two daughters and ten or so grand children up a steep trail on a mountainside. She asked for prayer for healing of a painful tumor on her breast, that had kept her from sleeping and was suspected to be cancerous. The day after we prayed the tumor ruptured, her skin went back to normal color and all her pain and swelling left.
In one village where there’s been a lot of family feuds and vengeance killings we prayed for family members grieving the death of their father, who was shot and killed a year ago. One of his sons feels called to serve his community, and is one of the young leaders that David is raising up.
David feels that one of the top priorities in the following year is training people in inner healing prayer and trauma therapy. We hope to return to offer this training sometime in 2020.
Tierra Nueva Honduras needs new supporters to cover the $1,075 monthly budget to keep the ministry moving forward. This money covers fuel and vehicle maintenance costs, refreshments, and a modest salary for David, which allows him to visit households, lead Bible studies, train new leaders, oversee and maintain the coffee farm, and pastor Tierra Nueva’s church in the village of Mal Paso. We also need $7,100 for coffee farm improvements for 2020. If you feel led to give, donate online here. Otherwise send gift earmarked “Honduras” to address at the bottom of this email.
Last week I rediscovered good news together with inmates in the call of Gideon in Judges 6. We began by reading Judges 6:1 with four men, in what would become one of the most unforgettable jail bible studies of the past 25 years.
“Then the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord gave them into the hands of Midian seven years.”
I describe how the sons of Israel were God’s chosen people, but according to Judges 2:11-12, they were worshipping other gods and rejecting the one and only God—which was what was considered evil in the Lord’s sight.
“Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them.”
“There were lots of higher powers that people prayed to back during the time of the Judges,” is there still some of that going on today?” I ask.
“Yeah, there’s money, drugs, casinos, all kinds of things, and even other gods” someone says, and I add in political leaders, parties, nation.
At this point in the discussion the jail nurse shows up with meds, and three of the four men excuse themselves, telling me to wait as they’ll soon be back. I chat with a young black man with dreads from inner-city Chicago, who tells me he’s never been into God. I invite another older black guy over who’s busy writing in his journal. Soon the others return and we continue with a larger group. A Mexican American guy who’s just come out of the shower joins us at the table right across from me.
“So let’s check out more closely what God actually does here?” I suggest. “Can we re-read Judges 6:1 and see if God punishes them for doing evil?” I ask, trying to bring the others into the story at the same time.
The men expect re-reading Judges 6:1 will confirm the common view that God punishes offenders.
But they have no trouble seeing that the Lord’s “giving the people into the hands of Midian seven years” is like letting them experience the consequences of their actions.
“It’s like if you drink a fifth of Vodka, you’ll have headache,” right? Does God give you a hangover?” I ask.
Everyone agrees that God doesn’t give you a hangover. But maybe God lets us experience the consequences of drinking too much, so we’ll maybe learn from the pain and avoid worse troubles in the future.
In this case, it is the Midianites, not God, who punish them—like prosecutors, judges, the State of Washington, Department of Corrections probation officers, bill collectors and addictions punish our jail population now.
We read in the next two verses how the “power of Midian” gained the upper hand over Israel, causing them to make hideouts in the mountains—caves and strongholds.
“Have any of you ever been a fugitive, having to hide out from law enforcement or enemies?” I ask.
A number of men reminisce about alluding law enforcement or people to whom they owed money, hiding out in the mountains or in far-flung corners of our county. But here they are, finally caught. We read on about more foreign details: how the Midianites came on their camels like locusts, raiding their crops, stealing their sheep, oxen, donkeys– devastating everything they’d labored for.
Let’s see what happens next, I suggest, inviting someone to read Judges 6:6. Someone reads:
“So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the Lord.”
“So what do the people finally do?” I ask.
“They cry out to God, like a lot of us to here in the jail when we’re in trouble,” someone says.
“But that’s being a hypocrite, he continues. “You can’t just cry out to God when you’re in trouble and expect him to help you. You gotta be serious about him all the time,” he says, stating the common view.
“Well maybe we can, and it’s okay,” I say. “Let’s see what God does, whether he gets down on them, judging them or calling them hypocrites.”
Someone reads Judges 6:7-9
“Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the Lord on account of Midian, that the Lord sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery. ‘I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land.”
We talk about how in response to the people’s cries God sends a prophet- a fellow human being who speaks for God. I ask the men what the Lord is like based on what the prophet says about him.
People’s hearts seem to warm towards God as they see that he only talks about how he’s saved them from troubles in the past, liberating them from their oppressors and even giving them their land.
“Have you ever been saved from a near-death experience?” I ask. People nod and they all have stories. “Maybe it was God who saved you. Let’s check out Judges 6:10 and see what God says next.
”And I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed me.”
I share how word-for-word the Hebrew does say “but you didn’t obey, but rather “but you didn’t listen to my voice.” I ask if any of them have had impressions that they shouldn’t do this or that—which they paid attention to and avoided trouble—or ignored and suffered the consequences.
“Yeah, I mostly have ignored God’s voice,” one of the men confesses. “A lot of us have,” he said, including the others, who didn’t deny it. “And that’s why we’re here,” he concluded.
We read on in Judges 6:11, how the angel of the Lord came and sat under the oak tree while Gideon is harvesting wheat in the wine press—out of sight from the Midian raiders. Someone reads verse 12, which states the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him: “the Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”
I continue talking about how the angel of the Lord, God’s messenger, isn’t judging Gideon or anybody, but the opposite. The angel comes in humble, sitting under an oak tree where he’s working. The angel calls him out for his positive qualities- affirming him as a courageous warrior. Let’s see how he responds.
“Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
I ask if any of them have ever felt like Gideon, wondering where God’s been during hard times, blaming him for abandoning them.
“Yeah for sure,” says the guy to my right. God did nothing to keep my uncle from dying. And now another uncle just died.”
I share how Gideon’s words are a kind of prayer called “complaint,” which we can do. They were leaning in at this point in the Bible study, and two new men had joined the table and were getting up to speed. Let’s see how the angel responds to his complaint, I suggest.
When one of the men read Judges 6:14, it looked to me like darts were going into hearts.
“The Lord looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?”
I looked around the table and could feel we were at a critical point. “Here the angel puts it back onto Gideon: “you’re the man to liberate the people! Have I not sent you?”
Right at this moment I could feel excitement around the table. Then suddenly the Mexican American man who’d been leaning into the discussion’s eyes rolled back into his head and he let out a cry, rising up and flying backwards, hitting the cement floor behind him full force. When I saw him laying there convulsing, I ran to him and held his head, speaking healing and freedom over him in Jesus name. The man continued to convulse, and inmates began yelling for the guards and pounding on the doors of the cell block, screaming for help.
I continued to pray, until six or seven guards came bursting in, yelling for the inmates to go into their cells and shut their doors, and telling me and another man who was helping him to get away from the man. By the time the correctional officers had gathered around him his convulsions were mostly over and he was opening his eyes, but blood was coming out of his mouth.
Faces were plastered to the cell windows as an officer ushered me out. I offered to go to accompany the man to the hospital, but they wouldn’t let me.
The following Thursday I led another Bible study in the same cell block to inmates in the upper tiers. One of the men from the lower tiers where we’d had the eventful Bible study asked me what Scripture we’d been reading when the guy had the seizure, and I passed him a photocopy of Judges 6. He looked like he was afraid to read it, but said he wanted to.
A week later this past Sunday morning I was able to have a one-on-one visit in the jail with the man who’d had the seizure. He told me that he’d never had a seizure before, and that at the hospital the doctor had said he was lucky to be alive, since his scull was fractured and he had internal bleeding. As I listened to him, “Santa Muerte” the Mexican occult figure (Saint Death), kept coming to mind.
“Do you have any experience with the Santa Muerte? I asked.
“How did you know that?” he asked me.
“I told him I didn’t know, but was only asking as the name kept repeating in my head.
He told he that a few weeks before while in the jail he’d gotten desperate and had called a woman who’s really into Santa Muerte, asking her how he could pray to her. He recounted how she’d told him he needed to be really serious about it, and suggested he get on his knees every night at midnight and pray. He’d been doing that for a week or ten days before the eventful Bible study.
I asked him if he felt he had a call on his life, like Gideon—to be a liberator of his people. He told me that he did, and that before he was arrested he had led a change group that included Bible study and conversations about God. As we talked he became convinced that there was a direct connection between what had happened and his praying to Santa Muerte. He shared how this experience was a real wake-up call, and he wanted to know what I thought he should do.
I told him about how Jesus had conquered the power of death, which is called the last enemy in 1 Corinthians 15:26. Praying to death is like praying to Jesus’ enemy. He felt convicted about this and agreed to confess this as sin, ask Jesus for forgiveness, turn towards Jesus and renounce Santa Muerte. He prayed a beautiful prayer of surrender and we prayed for his pounding headache to go away.
I am amazed at how relevant the book of Judges continues to be, as people continue to come under the power of false gods today, and Jesus continues to recruit today’s new Gideons into his liberation movement.
On a Sunday in early October, Mike Neelley and I went into Skagit County Jail together for our weekly services. Five men gathered around a stainless steel table cemented into the floor. We began with a prayer and then I passed out photocopies of 2 Timothy 1:6-14.
I invite someone to read the first verse:
“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
I offer a brief introduction by stating that God has gifts for all of us– spiritual gifts. These gifts are different from natural abilities, like being artistic, perceptive or a good communicator. Spiritual gifts are distinct from learned skills like carpentry, welding, or auto mechanics. They include healing, prophesy, identifying evil spirits that afflict people, faith, and many others.
“Maybe some of you already know of a gift God has given you,” I suggest, looking around at blank faces.
“Or, maybe some of you still don’t know if God has given you a spiritual gift, and you’d like to receive something.”
The men seem to resonate with this option. I go on to share how these gifts enable us to become actively involved in God’s liberating work in the world,
I share how exercising a spiritual gift, like praying for someone to be healed or sharing a prophetic impression requires faith, which means taking risks. I ask someone to read the next verse:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline.”
Hearing these verses in the heart of the jail, with the TV blaring a football game suddenly made me feel vulnerable. I think I was then and there experiencing the kind of fear or timidity we’d just read about. The next verse seemed to expose and directly address the underlying issue:
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling.”
We talk about how natural it is to feel ashamed to believe in God’s liberating actions and of Jesus himself. You can feel like a fool believing in an invisible God.
Yet in the face of this Paul writes as an inmate himself, urging people not be ashamed. After all Jesus has saved us, and we need saving. Still when we respond to his call we do enter into a kind of suffering, which the apostle acknowledges. But Christ Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
Suddenly I remember that the men hadn’t seemed aware that they had received a spiritual gift. I suggest that Mike and I would love to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal each person’s spiritual gift, and that we could gladly ask God to give new gifts.
The men all seemed eager to for whatever was going to happen next. Mike and I looked at each other and began to go for it, taking turns to speak prophetically over each man around the table.
Each man seemed to soak up the words of affirmation that Mike and I offered, agreeing with the gifts that we identified or spoke over them. We could see new hope ignited, there in this place of bleakness where negativity, harsh labels and curses abound.
Only one man joined us in “P pod”—a Mexican American guy with stars tattooed on his cheeks, barely visible under long curly black hair parted in the middle. He is a man of deep conviction, born of suffering through years in prison.
Mike and I were moved by how easy it was to identify people’s spiritual gifts in the jail setting, and how precious and welcomed God’s perspective is among those who feel downtrodden.
We wrap up our time with each group by encouraging the men to step our in faith—fanning into flame their gifts. We encourage them to not let fear paralyze them, but God’s power, love and disciple.
Paul’s final words seem the perfect charge: “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”
Mike and I find ourselves being deeply encouraged by this Scripture and our experience with the men. I share this message at Tierra Nueva’s service that day, and the work continues.
For further reflections on the gifts of the Spirit, read “Guerrilla tactics: signs, wonders, justice and mercy,” chapter nine in Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit.
This past Thursday evening in the jail I was struck by the high level of both human suffering and openness. In one pod where everyone was in lockdown the correctional officer allowed men in the upper tiers who were interested in a Bible study to come out and meet with me.
As we talked I learned that most of the seven men were the ages of our children—28, 26 and 24. The youngest man was 22 and oldest was 34 followed by 31. I talk about the blind man’s cry at the entrance of Jericho: “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me!”
The men look weary, but soak up my encouragement to cry out to Jesus like the blind man, and dare to believe that he will stop and listen to them.
I ask the men what they would say if Jesus asked them: “what do you want me to do for you?”
They say things like: “keep off of drugs,” “success in my court,” and “help for my family.” One particularly soft-spoken man says he can’t imagine asking Jesus for anything for himself as he feels so unworthy. Another man says he wants to believe but finds it really hard to have any faith. As I pray for the guys I want to hear each of their stories. But the entire lower level of cells is full of men needing attention.
The lower level of this cell block is made of gang-involved men, most of whom I know. I spend the next 30 minutes going from cell to cell, talking and praying with guys through the cracks in their cell door.
A number of the men were alone in a cell with four bunks. I was struck by the barrenness of their setting and their loneliness and vulnerability. I slip a copy of my new book, Guerrilla Bible Studies: Surprising Encounters with God, under one man’s cell door. He asks me if Gracie can visit his partner in the woman’s pod, who was just sentenced to 18 months in prison. We pray for her and the six kids she’s leaving behind.
In cells were there are several inmates, the men gather around the crack in the door and share their sorrowful requests. I pray the men’s requests, and for the Holy Spirit to fill their cells, and bring them comfort. Three of the cells had only Spanish-speaking men, whose faces seem marked by deprivation. They are particularly humble and moved to tears to be ministered to in Spanish.
I leave the pod around 9:30pm, feeling jet lagged after having returned earlier in the week from three weeks in Beirut, France and Belfast. “Should I visit the mental health pod?” I wonder. I think of one young man I know who had been healed last year of paralysis and pain from a crippling gunshot wound. I missed seeing him and thought he might be in the next pod, and decide to go see.
The moment I enter the pod I am greeted by Isaac, who says loudly: “whoa that’s crazy Bob, I was just telling my cousin about you, and he’s really open to God.”
He introduces me to his second cousin, who has a large 2 tattooed on each cheek. Five or six young men gather around a table with me and we talk. I ask about the meaning of 22, and am told it was 22nd street, where it appeared most of these men normally lived.
Isaac was coughing like he had the last time I’d seen him, and I ask him about it. “Oh it’s nothing, it goes away,” he said, brushing it off. I ask him if it was related to his gunshot wound, and he said that the bullet had in fact penetrated his lungs. I suggest that we pray for him before the night was over, and he says that’d be cool. Then a young gang-involved man with facial tattoos named Chris pulls up his pant leg and shows me a wound that was starting to scab over:
“The police sicked their service dog on me,” he said. “When they took me to the ER (emergency room) the nurse asked if I was in pain. I told her my whole life is in pain!” He reminds me that we’d talked for over an hour a few months back when we’d run into each other in the train station parking lot, saying that this conversation had meant a lot to him.
A young man beside him said a police dog had bit into his scalp, but that all the pain had gone away after he’d received prayer.
At this point I was so moved that I stood up and asked if I could just go around and pray for each of the men. They agree and I go around, putting a hand on each man and blessing them, praying whatever came out on their behalf—for healing, comfort, success in their court, and the love of God to find them…
I sit back down and asked Isaac’s cousin about the special meaning for him of the 22 he’d tattooed on cheeks.
Isaac, who himself has 22 tattooed over his left eyebrow, explains that 22 helps them remember Fabian, a young man who died after shooting himself accidentally in the head back in 2012. Isaac pulls up his shirt and shows me how he has his friend’s name and the date of his death tattooed in cursive script on his back. Each of these men, all under 26, talked with fondness and sorrow about their fallen friend. I noted their sadness and said that it was important they know that Jesus shares their grief and sees and knows their pain.
At this point they began mentioning others who had died, at first using their gang names (Random, Little Mister, Trickster, Locs, Creepy, Midget…). But when I ask if I could write down the details to commemorate them, they give their friends’ actual names. They mention by name twelve young men, who had died of drive-by shootings, heroine overdoses, car accidents, a heart attack, and from being shot in the face.
Naming their fallen friends and me writing them down seems to bring some noticeable comfort, even as the reality of these tragic deaths left me deeply grieved by the weight of sorrow that afflicts these young men, warehoused in our jails and prisons.
I think of how God heard the cries of his people enslaved in Egypt and I’m so glad this is the Father we worship. I feel a special closeness as I read Exodus 2:23-25.
“And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them” (Ex 2:23-25).
I find comfort in many of the Psalms that tell of God’s heart for prisoners.
“For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his who are prisoners” (Ps 69:33).
I pray Psalm 79:11 now as I think of them: “Let the groaning of the prisoner come before you; according to the greatness of your power preserve those who are doomed to die.”
I wonder again what it means that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jesus and comes upon us to bring freedom to the prisoners, and liberation to those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18).
The crisis in Syria has been on my heart in a new way this past week, when Gracie and I were in Beirut, Lebanon. We were part of a team that offered four days of training in evangelism and prayer appointments to 65 Syrian Christians who came over for Damascus.
We were deeply impacted by the humility of these Syrian believers, who have gone through devastation on so many levels. Everything that could be shaken has been shaken, and yet a vibrant faith remains, visible in a thirst for God and eagerness to learn more.
One woman told how over 13,000 bombs fell on her city over the past nine years, but only 100 were killed (a small but still horrific number considering the number of bombs). She attributed this to her faith community’s constant intercession. She said that there are many testimonies of people deciding suddenly to walk away from a particular place that was subsequently hit by a bomb. She said many came to believe in God due to widespread stories of protection.
We met people from Aleppo who saw their city destroyed by the fighting. It seemed everyone had lost people they knew or had family that lived abroad as refugees- some 2 million of which are in Lebanon. We visited a Lebanese Christian outreach to Syrian refugees near the Syrian border that brought education, clothing, food and medical care to thousands of vulnerable people.
On the last evening of our time together I felt led to apologize and repent as an American citizen for the US’s role in the upheaval in Syria.
The US invasion of Iraq, the arming of militias in Syria and the US arms industry have all contributed to so much death, and destruction. The US President’s decision to pull out US troops from Northern Syria happened while we were there, deeply worrying everyone as Turkey immediately invaded. We met a Kurdish couple studying theology in Lebanon who were deeply troubled—feeling the betrayal and concern for the safety of their families and community.
Many of the people were crying as I apologized, and as the other Americans in our team joined me to express our disagreement with our government’s past and present actions. The next day one of the Syrian leaders expressed her community’s appreciation for our apology.
Now is a time for followers of Jesus to differentiate ourselves from our nation’s policies, since we are first and foremost ambassadors of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. We must be fully aligned with the God who protects and not with agents of death.
While I am not an expert on the Middle East, a few big questions come to mind as I watch events unfold.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia are two nations that have purchased billions of dollars of arms from the United States and Western European nations. Saudi Arabia’s attacks against Yemen using weapons purchased from the USA, the UK and other European nations have resulted in widespread civilian deaths and a humanitarian crisis.
Turkey’s Air Force has been supplied largely by the USA. The United Stated provides 60% of Turkey’s arms—including the 2,400 Main Battle Tanks and over two-thirds of Turkey’s more than 3,600 armored personnel carriers that are being used to invade Syria now (read more here). Germany, France, Spain and Italy have also been actively supplying Turkey with weapons—as well as Russia. These weapons are now being used against the Kurds, a longstanding enemy of Turkey.
Turkey has an authoritarian leader who is responsible for many human rights abuses, read more. Currently the United States has nuclear weapons located on Turkish soil, an additional vulnerability and pressure point to please the Turkish leader.
The US and Western Europe have used the Kurds as front-line troops in the war against ISIS, leading to the death of some 11,000 Kurdish fighters. Now the United States has abandoned them, and is giving Turkey what it wants—a green light to take control of Northern Syria destroying or dispossessing the Kurds of any kind of homeland.
The US President himself says his concern is bring home US troops, something that at face value looks like a positive step—except that in this case the troops were a stabilizing presence in Northern Syria that should have been gradually withdrawn with alternate measures in place (see this article). Already there are over 130,000 new refugees who have fled the Syrian-Turkish border area, and many deaths.
But since Turkey is one of the United States arms industry’s big customers, and a longstanding site for the US President’s personal business dealings, is the President’s green light to let them invade Syria and sudden pullback of US troops aimed a keeping this past and present customer happy and compete with Russia for arms sales? Current talk in the US Senate about sanctions against Turkey must be carefully examined, as critics argue they are politically motivated and could be much more effective.
The United States arms industry is one of the most powerful global forces, bringing in billions of dollars into the US economy, and contributing to violence and oppression. Now is the time to challenge weapons manufactures and our government officials who support them (see this blog).
Followers of Jesus should be especially clear that our nations’ economic interests are not our highest priority. Jesus directly names Mammon (money, wealth) as a god that must not be served.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (Mammon)” (Mat 6:24).
The Apostle Paul wrote: For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim 6:10).
Weapons manufactured in the United States, Europe, Russia and anywhere else they’re produced are contributing to the death of people all over the world, fueling conflicts leading to present and future refugee crises. Jesus makes a clear statement to his disciples regarding his commitment to life: “the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Lk 9:55-56). As followers of Jesus let us stand in agreement with Jesus and challenge our government and weapons manufactures as we bring comfort and concrete support to the vulnerable.
For our entire adult lives Gracie and I have ministered in settings where our race and nationality have identified us with power, privilege and oppression. These past years since Trump has been president have been especially difficult for Americans ministering across lines of difference.
We just returned from having offered our Certificate in Transformational Ministry at the Margins in Stockholm. There we engaged with many Swedish ministry workers working with refugees, and we had course participants from Pakistan, Iran, Eritrea. As we prepare to minister to Syrians in Lebanon, we reflect on Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Following is an excerpt from my book Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit.
Jesus embodies God’s mission to save Israel and the whole world. The Gospels tell us how Jesus goes behind enemy lines, right into Roman-occupied Israel and into hostile communities and subcultures. There he preaches, teaches, heals, casts out demons, and recruits disciples. Jesus never leads an actual Bible study, but in this chapter we’ll look at how he engages the Samaritan woman at the well personally through Scripture, her tradition, her community, and her own story, empowering her and calling her to new life (Jn 4:7–45). This contextually sensitive, transformational encounter is one example of what I’m calling a guerrilla gospel encounter or guerrilla Bible study.
John’s detailed account of this empowering interaction provides a template for revolutionary encounters with God’s Word on the margins, which we can apply to similar contexts today. Jesus’ racial, ethnic, and gender profile establish him as a representative of the oppressive Jewish status-quo, which would traditionally exclude the Samaritan woman. Yet Jesus finesses this unequal relationship to bring good news to this excluded people.…
As an itinerant missionary, Jesus comes in vulnerability and need, embodying his instructions to his twelve disciples in Luke 9: “Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that city” (vv. 3–4). Though Jesus enters the mission field of Samaria without food or water, he’s in hostile territory, and so he keeps a respectful distance rather than approaching the Samaritans’ homes and saying, “peace be to this house,” as he instructs the seventy in Luke 10 (quoted above). Jesus seems to recognize the woman as a functional doorkeeper to her community, and so he engages with her from a position of functional inferiority.
As a representative oppressor to the Samaritans, Jesus models how we might prompt people’s hospitality in hostile situations. He asserts his vulnerability when he commands the woman to give him a handout— a posture that reflects guerrilla combatants. Counter-insurgency manuals used in Central America during the 1980s describe guerrilla combatants as “fish” and those who host them as the “sea.” Oppressive governments often tried to eradicate the guerrilla movement by draining the “sea” through the destruction or relocation of villages. Jesus is proactive, even aggressive in his dependence upon local hospitality. Confident that the Kingdom of God is better than anything this Samaritan woman and her community have ever known, Jesus risks his dignity to bring peace into a story of entrenched division.
At first glance, Jesus’ command seems rude—unlike the angel of the Lord, who calls Hagar by her name and asks her about her life. In expressing his need for water, Jesus is not polite, nor does he emphasize his own agency, as Abraham’s servant does with Rebecca when he says: “Please let me drink a little water from your jar” (Gn 24:17 emphasis added). It may be that Jesus is deliberately provoking offense to expose the prejudice and underlying hostility in his potential hostess.
Jesus invites the Samaritan woman to show hospitality to an unwelcome stranger or enemy by serving him a drink, a scene that evokes his parable about God’s judgment of all the Gentiles (ethne) in Matthew 25 (v. 32). In Jesus’ parable, those who give a drink to the thirsty are blessed by his Father and inherit the kingdom (Mt 25:34-35). In the story of Abraham’s servant’s search for a bride for Isaac, the servant’s proposed and realized sign that he’d found the right virgin was the maiden’s offer: ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’ (Gn 24:14). The Samaritan woman falls short in both cases.
Jesus comes to Sychar as Abraham and Jacob’s descendant to bless the city whose inhabitants Jacob’s sons once massacred and to fulfill God’s original charge that Jacob would be a blessing to all the families of the earth: “Your descendants will also be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gn 28:14, emphasis added). Jesus seeks to break down the barriers of separation between himself and the Samaritan woman, who is the potential person of peace, thereby opening the way for the city of Sychar to receive him so that he might heal the historic division between Jews and Samaritans. In this way, he further embodies his instructions to his followers in Luke 10:
“Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (vv. 8–9).
However, the Samaritan woman does not give him a drink of water. She doesn’t provide the needed hospitality. She’s wary of Jesus and keeps him at a distance, revealing that she’s street-wise in dealing with outsiders, especially men. Maybe she’s interpreting his forwardness as presumptuous, a sign that he’s looking for other favors or wants to dominate her. Maybe she’s cautious about serving a needy man, which could lead to a co-dependent relationship she’s deliberately avoiding,
Instead of giving Jesus a drink, the woman questions him directly about the racial and gender barriers that separate them: “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” She calls Jesus on his illegal behavior concerning both Jewish-Samaritan and male-female communication, “for Jews have no dealings with Samaritans” (Jn 4:9)….
Jesus does not respond directly to the woman’s hostile question. He remains silent about the racial, ethnic, religious, and gender barriers between them. Though he does not deny that he’s a Jewish man breaking the rules, he doesn’t apologize. Nor does Jesus defend his Jewish heritage, drawing from Scriptures showing Jewish gender or cross-cultural sensitivity,60 offering Israel’s best face as an apologist for God’s chosen people—which are also his people. While Jesus doesn’t present himself as a sensitive man whom she should trust, he also doesn’t shake the dust off his feet and give up on the woman or her community.
Instead, he practices a kind of enemy love in response to the Samaritan woman’s refusal to give him (her enemy) a drink by offering her an opportunity to receive a gift from God. But she must ask for it. Jesus describes this gift in a way that makes it seem distant as well as irresistible. With total confidence in God’s gift, his own identity, and his capacity to offer the woman new life, he says: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4:10).
To continue reading, you can purchase Guerrilla Gospel: Reading the Bible for Liberation in the Power of the Spirit here
Now Available: Check out The People’s Seminary’s Online version of the Certificate in Transformational Ministry at the Margins.
With joy I announce the translation from French into English and publication of Daniel Bourguet’s recent book On the Banks of the Jordan: Encountering the Mystery of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, The People’s Seminary Press, 2019—now available on Amazon. Daniel Bourguet was Gracie and my professor and continues to be our friend. He has written over 25 books, many of which are becoming spiritual classics. Below you will find a short excerpt from this inspired and timely book, which I highly recommend.
The Divinity of Christ
In my eyes John is a contemplative, which to me means approaching him with great respect. His gospel is the fruit of his contemplation, maturing in his heart over dozens of years. I am only going to discuss here its relation to the divinity of Christ, but this is an immense topic since the whole of the gospel, from beginning to end, revolves around just this theme…
“In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was God” (1.1).
“The Word was God”: what for John was the meaning of “Word” (logos) — which I make sure is capitalized along with “God”?
The same phrase is taken up again in v 14, where we read: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John speaks here not of an idea but a person: “he lived among us.” The following verses go on to give us the name of this person: Jesus Christ (1:17). In short, the Word who is God became the man Jesus.
We discover that for John, the name “Jesus” was the name he received at his birth, his name as a man. Before his birth John refers him to as “the Word,” specifying that “the Word was God.” I believe that John is here clearly stating the divinity of Jesus from before his birth, before he became flesh.
Did Jesus lose his divinity when he was born? Surely not, and the whole of the gospel shows us that his divinity is unseen, hidden in his visible humanity, right up to the point when Thomas was enabled to see it.
It is thought at times that Christianity has deified a man, a man so extraordinary, so magnificently human, so perfect, so holy, so exceptional that we have made a God of
him. The divinity of Christ would therefore be a production of the first Christians, a work of the Church. If this is so, it would mean taking a man for God, making a man into God, and this would be pure blasphemy.
If this is not the case, it might also be thought that it was God himself who made Jesus a God, perfect man that he was and corresponding so completely with God’s desire; thus God crowned him, deifying him to sacralize his merits. This is all just as wrong.
The truth is that it was not a case of a man becoming God but of God becoming man, and this is what John says: “The Word became flesh.” This means that the Word who is God became flesh, which is to say, a man. This is not the exaltation of a man but the abasement of God.
When John writes “the Word was God,” using the imperfect tense in relation to “the beginning” to tell us that the Word was already there “in the beginning,” this is a way of saying that he was already there before the beginning of time, that is, for all eternity. The Fathers had a wonderful way for saying this: “in the beginning without beginning,” a mystery beyond our understanding. The divinity of Christ is like that of the Father, without beginning, from all eternity.
In introducing his gospel with the expression “in the beginning,” John was wanting to return to the opening words of the Bible in Genesis. There is nothing we can say about anything that took place before “the beginning” because the Bible says nothing about it and it is beyond us. This is the absolute mystery of God
The opening of the gospel presents Christ in his divinity with a certain solemnity:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . It was in the beginning with God.”
The purpose here is not to call us to delve into the mystery but to celebrate it in adoration. To John, Christ’s divinity was not a preliminary hypothesis which had to be demonstrated and proven; no, it was an affirmation which there was no point investigating because it was a conviction that lay at the heart of his faith. His gospel simply lays out the nature of this conviction as a celebration of mystery and faith. Moreover, this is just what he says to his readers at the close of the episode with Thomas in a statement we are to receive as the conclusion of the gospel as a whole:
“These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that in believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). This is a matter of faith and this faith is to be celebrated. (p. 41-43)
You can order On the Banks of the Jordan here.
I have often led Bible studies on Jesus as the Good Shepherd, who lays his life down for his sheep. In these increasingly insecure times I’m noticing that people are more in touch with their need for protection. Mass shootings in Texas, ICE raids in Mississippi, hurricanes in the Caribbean…
“Jesus describes himself as the door of the sheep pen (John 10:7), and all who came before him as thieves and robbers,” I summarize in a recent Bible study.
“Who or what are some of these thieves and robbers today?” I ask.
People mention politicians, drug dealers, addictions, prosecutors, judges, temptations, law-enforcement and other forces they experience as predatory.
Jesus says something that either shows he’s naïve, talking about something else, or believes that the sheep can in fact discern. He says “but the sheep didn’t listen to them.”
Yet we see that people do listen and fall prey!
But the inmates on Sunday afternoon and our Tierra Nueva faith community members later that same day feel seen by Jesus when they hear this. Many of them are really tired of their lives. They know and readily admit that people and forces they’ve listened to must be resisted if they’re to experience newness of life. They recognize their need to pay attention to someone who really is out for their best interests. But do we? If so, who might this be?
As we read what Jesus says about himself in John 10:9-11 I can see that these words alone seem to sooth the people’s tired spirits.
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, s/he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
People are moved that those who enter into safety through Jesus are free to come and go out. Jesus is not about control.
We also talk about how hired hands will flee when they see the wolf coming. They don’t care about the sheep. But who are these hired hands?
I think of myself in my inability and sometimes unwillingness to respond to all the needs I see around me and in the larger world. Are “hired hands” anyone other than Jesus himself? I wonder. I know that I do not want to be considered a hired hand!
It does seem true that when we put our trust in people they will eventually disappoint us. Yet Jesus is recruiting others to join him in his shepherding ministry, embodying his compassion, love and care to a needy world.
I think about the growing numbers of people here in the Skagit Valley who are being ravaged by addictions to meth and heroin. When someone is ready for treatment it is rare to find room in the local detox facility or an available bed in a drug and alcohol treatment center. It is easy for the public to shrug and blame the addict—ignoring these sheep. In the face of increasing overdose deaths, who will pursue the addicted, announcing and showing God’s kindness, healing and protection?
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in Mississippi chicken processing plants have created a lot of anxiety amongst immigrants across the country. People without papers imagine being arrested, deported, leaving their US citizen children stranded.
In our community the grueling work in meat-packing, fish-processing and poultry-processing plants is largely done by immigrant workers. They’re some of the only people willing to put in the long hours and hard work for low pay. Yet they are being scapegoated, blamed for taking jobs at a time when unemployment is at an all-time low. As ICE steps up workplace enforcement raids, who will offer relief and protection?
Jesus critiques shepherds that are mere hired hands- unwilling to follow his lead in laying down his life for his sheep.
But who are Jesus’ sheep, and what might this salvation he describes look like?
Jesus says of his sheep: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”
This appears to mean that no one else can judge who belongs to Jesus. The relationship is sacred and personal. Jesus goes on to add:
“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
My take on this is that followers of Jesus, whomever they are, are representatives of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Everything we do must be in alignment with his protective, abundant life-giving, life-laying-down action (and not with predatory powers!). Making visible the love of Christ will “bring them also” (these “other sheep”- whomever they are). And Jesus is confident that “they will listen” to his voice.
I get a sudden inspiration as I am preaching at Tierra Nueva to place chairs in a semi circle against the front wall of our sanctuary. I leave an opening in the circle and tell how shepherds in ancient Palestine would sometimes sleep at the door to protect their sheep at night.
“So Jesus describes himself as the door,” I summarize, and Jesus says, “if anyone enters by me they will be saved.” He even says that he lays down his life for his sheep. Let’s read John 10:28-29 to see what else he offers.
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
“Maybe some of us are not sure we know Jesus or that he knows us. Or we are feeling a special need for his protection and salvation,” I say.
I invite people who want to affirm their desire to know and be known by Jesus to come up through the entry into the circle of chairs representing the sheep pen. I invite anyone who wants to know God’s salvation and protection more fully, to come forward.
People stream into the circle—and we open up an exit space at the back. But most want to take a seat. I call for help from our other Tierra Nueva pastors and faith community veterans and we pray for everyone while our worship team plays a final song before communion.
We tasted the abundant life that Sunday and I feel compelled to keep announcing it. May we work to more fully embody the shepherding ministry of Jesus in these turbulent times—not shying away from complex issues like immigration, mass-incarceration and addiction.
To hear this sermon “Finding Security in Jesus, the Good Shepherd,” click here.
It has been a while since Gracie and I have sent you an update about our lives and ministry. We are doing well, enjoying the weekly rhythms of life here at home: Tuesday morning Tierra Nueva staff prayer, Bible studies in the jail and prison, Sunday evening worship, prayer appointments and advocacy. We feel very blessed- amazed that we have been able to continue forward in the face of big challenges.
This past year 2018-19 (we organize ourselves according to the academic year) we completed six Certificates in Transformational Ministry at the Margins. This has meant offering three separate, four-day trainings in these six locations: Glasgow, Bristol, Paris, Rabat (Morocco), Vancouver, and Wellington (New Zealand). Some 210 front-line pastors and ministry workers have completed our training in these six places—as well as many students I teach at Westminster Theological Centre.
We are deeply grateful to God that we were able to accomplish this during this past year. There has been a continuous threat that I’d have to start chemotherapy since being diagnosed with follicular lymphoma last July. After the first four months of treatment with a clinical trial drug the tumor had actually grown by 18%. Since December, though the tumor has shrunk by 65.5% and I’ve been feeling great!
So Gracie and I are moving forward with our calling—which will continue to keep us here at home 2/3 of the time—and on the road offering our trainings 1/3 of the year.
We describe our calling as “bringing the best to “the least”— referring to “the least of these my brothers/sisters” that Jesus calls people to attend to in Matthew 25:45. Through our trainings we seek to make Jesus Christ and his infinite wisdom know in the places of greatest need and darkness. The places where we teach are diverse and the participants vary greatly, even within the same groups. Some are illiterate and others have graduate school diplomas—though most are somewhere in between. But one thing they share in common is a strong commitment to serve the most broken and needy people.
Our CTMM trainings are designed to equip ministry workers in Word, Spirit and Street perspectives (see video description of this here). There are many places where liberating Bible study, empowerment and gifts of the Holy Spirit and advocacy/justice are separated— but we are committed to bringing these critical dimensions of faith together.
We are deeply impacted by descriptions of Jesus going out by the seashore, with all the people coming to him, and he was teaching them (Mark 2:13). Bringing Jesus’ teaching to the margins requires deliberate effort of going outside the church- to the seashores of our time: workplaces, recovery houses, streets, homeless shelters, prisons. We love Jesus’ response to scribes and Pharisees who criticize him for receiving and eating with tax collectors and sinners: “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
We seek to do this through our work here with Tierra Nueva in Burlington—where we develop everything we bring out to the world. Through The People’s Seminary we bring this out to the larger world in specific ways.
We are nearly finished preparing a series of four volumes of Bible studies which we plan to start publishing in September under the titles Guerrilla Bible Studies. The first volume includes twelve Bible studies designed for use with people who have no exposure to Christian faith. The following twelve are for new Christians, followed by two volumes that take people further along in their journey of faith.
We have new CTMMs planned for 2019-2020 in Stockholm (Sweden), Lausanne (Switzerland), and Mumias and Malindi (Kenya)- with requests that are in process for Siberia, Casa Blanca (Morocco), Cape Town, and Hamilton, Ontario. Our highest priority now is equipping other trainers so courses can be offered without us. This is already happening in Kenya, where my brother Andy is currently offering two CTMMs with African teachers we have trained.
We value your prayers at this time—for continued shrinkage of the tumor and complete healing from lymphoma before my next July 31 CT scan. Please pray also for success in completing Guerrilla Bible Studies, translation of CTMM manuals in Russian and clear discernment about how to train and mobilize more trainers.
If you feel called to contribute financially, here are the options.
1) Online E-giving through: https://secure.egsnetwork.com/donate/5C7582D0-5705-4EF9-ABB5-F1DB00D9447B
2) Sending checks earmarked “Ekblad Support” to Tierra Nueva, PO Box 410, Burlington, WA 98233
3) Donating via PayPal through: http://give.fivetwo.org/give.tierra-nueva.org/
Thank you for your support and prayers! Please let us know how we might pray for you as well. We would love to hear from you!
Bob and Gracie Ekblad
Founders and Senior Leaders