Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bennie is Famous!!!!

Our very own Bennie made the South Bend Tribune today in a front page article "Mentor loves boy's endless energy!" Mike Pozzi was Bennie's mentor last year through the South Bend school's Partner Up mentoring program. Mike is looking forward to reconnecting with Bennie this fall when the program gets back into full swing. My pray and hope is that Mike will notice a difference in Bennie - a positive difference from Bennie and his twin brother Kennie participating in SonCity Summers. From Bennie's involvement in SonCity Kids this summer. And, hopefully he will be able to participate in SonCity After-school staring next month at MC3.

Amy Kring, coordinator for SonCity After-school and SonCity Summers has been meeting with Angela Buysse, Bennie and Kennie's principal at Madison Primary Center. If everything goes as planned we will be expanding SonCity After-school to include LEAP tutoring and Wilson Lipps learning techniques that are tailored to address the specific needs of every child. Teachers from Madison will be working with our volunteers at SonCity After-school to help Monroe Circle kids to achieve their academic best.

We need more Mikes, we need more Amys, we need more Angie Buysses, we need more committed people to grab a hold of kids like Bennie and hold tight because if we don't then we will get more of what happened last night at Southeast Park ("Shooting leaves 1 dead after celebration in park") Good and evil exists in South Bend and today it shared space on the front page of the South Bend Tribune. I believe it is our mandate from God to move evil off of front page center and replace it with more stories like Bennie's.

What Wakes Me Up at Night....

I don't know what keeps you up at night but for me it has become the practice of infanticide in several remote villages and towns in southern India. As some of you know from reading previous posts we just returned earlier this month from Tamil Nadu so for the first few days I credited my sleep deprivation to "jet lag" but that usually subsides after 3 to 5 days. Three weeks back and it is still going strong.

What I have learned over the years is this is when God wants to talk to me. Not in an audible booming voice but through reading the Bible, searching the internet, reading, praying and listening to his directives. I think it might be because I have a difficult time with rest and taking the Sabbath - if awake I want to be always moving, doing something, going somewhere. So, God uses that 2 AM to 5 AM time to wake me up and have me listen to him.

Now in India the practice of taking the life of a baby (primarily baby girls) called infanticide is not only not condoned but against the law in India but it still occurs. Trying to find out the exact number of deaths is extremely difficult but in one town it has been estimated nearly 200 baby girls are either drowned or poisoned shortly after birth each year. Add to this another 1500+ children abandoned in the first few years of their life and you begin to see the pandemic challenge.

I realize it is extremely easy from afar to judge the decisions of parents living in a third world but with their limited worldview understanding this seems to them to be if not the best the only option. However, one alternative that is now beginning to be viewed as acceptable is to leave your baby girl at a "community cradle" in the hopes that she will be placed in an orphanage. Unfortunately, there are still many challenges with the present orphanages and adoption agencies that rely on the flow of babies.

So there it is. That is -as Bill Hybels discribes it - my holy discontent. Not sure what role GCC will play in all this but I do know we, as a church we are having great impact with many churches in that area. What I do know is God starts to intersect people and organizations in my life that for no other reason are crossing paths for such a time as this.

The visual God gives me is of a meteor shower. The kind that you see when you are camping high in the mountains and far, far away from any "city light" that may filter the view. Meteors like our very own Jill Ulrich who is the Deputy Director for International Justice Mission and is stationed in Chennai, India. Meteors like Raj and Prema who now work directly with us in India. Meteors like Sinduh and her family that live at the epicenter of where infanticide is commonly practiced. Meteors like Larry and Francis Jones of Feed the Children that shared they would share all they have learned about starting and operating an orphanage in Kenya. Meteors like Andrea Welch and her legal mind that when you talk to her about this issue a fire burns in her eyes that simply says "not on my watch will I do nothing!"

What is going to happen. I don't know. But I do know it must be a holistic approach. Because dawn is quickly coming and it is time to wake up!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What an Interesting Breakfast Meeting

This morning I had the pleasure of having a breakfast meeting at Uptown Kitchen with LaPhonso Ellis. We have a mutual friend in Bob Dunbar and he arranged the meeting. LaPhonso grew up in St. Louis and played his college ball at University of Notre Dame and spent eleven seasons playing professional basketball retiring in 2003.

Phonz and Peter Parros started Ten Talents Productions. This cartoon is a flash-animation, multicultural, action-adventure series that features ten angles disguised as teenage superheroes. The names of the ten heroes each reflect Godly virtues.

Kidz of the King is based upon the popular comic book series created by Reggie and Dionne Byers, currently published by U.M.I. The Byers created Kidz of the King when they recognized the need for children to learn life lessons that are not necessarily being addressed by many existing television shows and most other forums of media.

Since Kidz of the King is rendered and targeted toward kids (ages 4 to 12) living in inner city environments and deals with real issues they deal with every day I was extremely excited to learn more and see how we might incorporate at MC3 and SonCity Kids.

How fun is this!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


This is a copy of an email that I received from LeRoy King. Just 8 weeks ago LeRoy and his small group started the Gathering at MC3. The Gathering was designed to be a small group setting but with 65 adults and 20 kids (not including volunteers) showing up on this past Tuesday I think God is really up to something amazing.

Tuesday, August 19th Gathering:

MC3 "Gathering" is going through the "Source" series. We began
with the "Power Above You." What a special night it was. Our
guest started lining up at the door before 6pm. Once the doors
were open, you just knew it, was going to be a good night. The
atmosphere was charged with electricity. Was it because they
were anticipating my usual entertaining and well thought out
talks? Was it that they somehow knew that Mark Beeson will be
funny and engaging when he tells his "Judo Boy" story? Or, was
it the, soon to be devoured, Egg rolls, stir fry, and soup thing-a-ma-jig?
Umm, Umm, Umm.

The doors opened. The door men, the check-in lady,
waiters/hostesses/whatever we need them to do volunteers were
greeting and seating the guest while Jazz music is lightly
playing in the background. Another group of volunteers are
making magic in the kitchen, and the those working with the kids
are somewhere pulling their hair out. The drinks and appetizers, Egg
Flower Soup, is distributed to the seated guest while name tags
are being handed out.

A little later, after concluding my welcoming spill, I was about
to pray when "it" happened. A volunteer raised her hand, "This
man right here wants prayer for depression, his name is Paul...
Yeah LeRoy, I need prayer to...Hey LeRoy, pray for my
ex-husband he has cancer." Another volunteer pointed out a lady
in a lime green T-shirt, "she is asking for prayer." Wow, real
stuff. And we prayed.

After a short introduction, we showed Mark Beeson's "Judo Boy"
story. They laughed and applauded when Mark finished his story.
I led them in an activity. Then we stop for our dinner break.

As I was talking to some of our guest during the dinner break, I
heard someone call out, "LeRoy! Mr King!" Yes. "We did not pray
over the food!" "I didn't include it in the opening prayer?" The
whole room shouted, "no!" So I prayed over the food. After
everyone said "Amen," they applauded. Wow...

The second section of the evening started with the Man on the
Street media, "Who has Authority over you." Afterward, I did a
short talk, then we showed some more of Mark's message. And boy,
they got right with Mark.

"...Lift your eyes higher still!" "That's right!" "There are
prosimate powers, but there is a higher power" "Amen!" "If you
look to yourself...then your god is a wee, little god!" "YEAH!,

It was great. When Mark message ended, they applauded again. (I
just wanted to say that they responded to my talk in the same case anyone was wondering...umm...I'm just

I prayed...then we played the "My King is..." DVD. They really enjoyed
the presentation and they began singing with the GCC band at the end
of the DVD. But what happened next I did not expect.

While the "My King is..." DVD was playing. One of the guest came
up to me and asked if they could give their testimony. I could
not tell if she was a man or women. Most of her body was
disfigured. "What's your name," I asked. "Teresa." When the DVD
ended she began telling us how that a few years ago, she was
blown out of the window of her apartment due to a stove gas
leak. She began to sob. The crowd responded, "...go ahead
Teresa...that's okay...take your time Teresa." Teresa composed
her self and stated that she has had several surgeries, and she
has a few more to go. She recently moved back to South Bend to
be with family and friends. She said that this was the first
time they had seen her since the accident. She concluded by
saying that God has been there for her and she gave him the
glory. I didn't expect this... Several of our guest and
volunteers gave Teresa a hug, thanking her for sharing her
testimony. What a powerful night.

Oh yeah, you remember the lady in a lime green T-shirt? One of
our volunteer couple took her outside to pray with her and they
inform me after the event that she wants to get baptized. Woo!
Wee! (If there are people from the Gathering who would like to
be baptized, is there a way that we can get them to GCC? I'm
just thinking outloud!)

Remember Lula with the broken car window? She has attended the
GCC's Sunday service for the last two weeks. This is the first
time she has been at GCC. She is also making plans to attend the
mid-week services as well. Praise God!

Ike Randolph Visits MC3

Indiana's Executive Director of the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives visited the Community Center today. As Jack Magruder and I walked Mr. Randolph through MC3 and shared your stories with him he just keep saying "this is remarkable." Over and over again he would shake his head in agreement with our vision and mission.

He shared that he believed it was the role of federal, state and local governments to help facilitate the faith community in bringing the great commission to peoples and communities living on the margins.

As we opened up the photo book of stories to share with Mr. Randolph it struck me that next month will be our One Year Anniversary when MC3 reopened its doors to the community. To think last year at this time there was no cafe, no after-school program, no GED classes, no Life Basics, no SonCity Teens, no Gathering, no Prison Transition ministry, no summer program for the kids, no STARs program, no employment opportunities for people like Demond, Roy and Peewee. All we had was a "beachhead" that was held down by great leaders and committed volunteers serving at SonCity Kids and the Food Pantry. And because of their faithfulness we can see how we built on their foundation and it also gives us courage to follow Jesus into deeper waters of opportunity.

It was remarkable to tell story after story on how God is leading the way and allowing dedicated people like you to bring God's Kingdom from Heaven to Earth. Way to go team!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Excuses

I met Dr. Jim Blechl last summer when he and his future son-in-law came down to MC3 to help with the construction. Because it is just who he is I did not know that Dr. Jim was one the managing physicians at the South Bend Medical Clinic for several months. Then last fall he and his wife Barb began to volunteer once a week during the SonCity After-school program. Then he began to serve on our programming team for MC3. But then he and Barb agreed to lead the medical team to India this summer and I got the privilege of eating, sleeping and doing outreach with Jim for almost two weeks. I know its not the water (because you can't drink it) but going to India causes friendships to form and deepen at an exponential rate - we became more than friends and he became a person that I want to model my life after.

So, here's a guy that runs a successful practice, is a managing partner in a growing medical clinic, has a wonderful relationship with his wife, has a son that will be a graduating senior in college this year and has a daughter that recently got married. The definition of western success regardless of any metric you might use. Jim could have given any reason not to volunteer and engage with people living on the margins. We would have accepted his response of "I'm sorry but I just can't..." with quick acceptance and little judgment but that's not the path Jim has chosen to walk. He builds margin into his hectic life so that he can serve, so he can hear what Jesus is asking him to do and then do it. The best way I know how to describe Jim is that he loosely holds onto life so that he can enjoy it and find pleasure in all he does where many of us try to hold on so tight that we end of strangling the very joy we are so longing to find.

I first met Melinda this spring when she walked into our first India team meeting and shared she wanted to go to India with the Conversational English team. Melinda is a vibrant young women who can light up a room with her quick smile and charming personality. Her faith is new and fresh and freely shares that she is not a seasoned Christian but wants to follow Jesus whole-heartedly.
Now, over the years I've had the chance to lead a lot of people on mission trips to Haiti, Mexico, Central America and India and I have seen robust young men turn into whinny 3-year olds after a few days of having to endure the elements of a third world setting. So, here's Melinda - never been out of the country, just starting her faith walk, 5'3" and not much more than a buck ten drippin' wet.
My first thought - this could get interesting and at the very least we will have some great stories to tell! Reality. She never missed a beat, pounded down what ever India dish that was given to her, was engaging with our host Indian families, rolled out her mat and slept on dirt floors, didn't even flinch when she walked into the Indian squatty potty and relished the opportunities when swarms of grade school children would drag her around the school courtyard. Without a doubt - Melinda had and will continue to have lasting Kingdom impact.

So you will have to forgive me if excuses sound very empty when someone says they can't serve because their life is just too busy or that they have so many business responsibilities that they just can't find the time because I will think of Dr. Jim. When someone excuses themselves because of their age, sex or how long they have known Jesus I will see the joy on Melinda's face while serving in those dusty, hot India schools. If someone truly wants to walk with Jesus and develop a servant's heart they will find ways to develop the courage to take their very next step. Jesus is ready and the world awaits.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tony Snow's Testimony

This is a brief exert from Tony Snow's testimony. Tony was a journalist, the press secretary for President Bush and a political commentator but most importantly he followed Jesus. Most of us are blessed with good health. We don't take the time to focus on the purpose God has given to us - somehow we believe we have forever. We don't hone our skills, we don't set our path, we simply spend way to much time simply floating down the lazy river we call "life." Tony's passing should be the wake up call for the rest of us. The morning is anew, God has a plan for each of us today. Question is - will we listen and obey?

God bids us to choose:
Do we believe, or do we not?
Will we be bold enough to love,
daring enough to serve,
humble enough to submit,
and strong enough
to acknowledge our limitations?
Can we surrender our concern
in things that don't matter
so that we might devote our remaining days
to things that do?

Monday, August 4, 2008

My Indian Daugher

You have already met Jill in a previous post. This past week I was in India with a team from Granger Community Church and we had the chance to catch up with Jill. Jill is working in Chennai India for International Justice Mission as their Deputy Director at which she is doing one phenomenal job. But, more importantly, she is our adopted daughter (though not legally) and we are her Indiana parents.

When we caught up with each other Jill began to cry uncontrollably which in turn cased me to start crying and we just held onto each other for several minutes. Jill has been in Chennai since the first of the year on the front lines of injustice and 9,000 miles away from the people who love her the most. She is a very strong women that loves Jesus but many times that does not make it any less lonely.

If you know Jill. Pray for her. Send her an email. Chat with her on Facebook. Or if you are up for an adventure travel 9,000 miles away and take her out for a cup of coffee.

Say what... we need more room, already!

The Gathering

Yep, it's true. The Gathering (Tuesday nights at MC3) has already reached capacity after a little more than a month of meeting. LeRoy King and his team are doing a phenomenal job. Last week they had over 50 people from the neighborhood attend and an additional 15 children. Challenges: More chairs and tables, acoustical damping, space for children, did I mention we needed a budget just to name a few. Reality: It will be exciting to see what Jesus is able to do with "our few fishes and loaves!"