The Church Has Left the Building!

While sorting through the bundle of mail pieces last week, I came across a church advertisement from my sister’s church in Southwest Detroit. Occasionally I would receive something from Triumph Church mainly because I financially supported the ministry and believe a movement of God is stirring the souls of Detroiters. In the booklet of scheduled summer performances and worship themes, I came across a month-long sermon series for July entitled “The Church Has Left the Building” – REAL Ministry is Done Outside the Building. For my readers who are from the Millennial age, you may not get the gist of that statement; allow me to explain.

The tag line “The Church Has Left the Building” is a cliché used when the late American singer and cultural icon Elvis Presley departed the stage after performing before a live audience. Because he became so widely popular back in the 70s – concerts goers wouldn’t accept the idea that he was done with his scheduled performances. They would look for more of him – wondering if he would reappear from backstage to do another encore song. Usually after a few minutes, an announcer would signal a statement over the P.A. systems – “Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the Building!” The statement of course is to inform everyone to go ahead and leave the facility.

So much for the cliché…now back to what I wanted to write about!

Instantly I assumed where Sr. Pastor Solomon Kinloch might be heading with this series – it has the interpretation of being loaded with commissioned based teachings. This incredible minister of the Gospel has an expressionistic way to elevate God’s word to provoke you to ‘go and do!’ This series is scheduled to be delivered for the month of July – great timing for people to hear, decide and be challenged to do!

As I wait to hear more about this series, I reflect on the many other ‘go and do’ opportunities that are available during the summer. One of my mission trips will include Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Last year, we took a small team to the country and make assessment on whether we join another mission ministry there. Here is a small piece of my personal journal of Haiti last year:

The mission focus last year was more of an assessment trip – to see if we would begin a partnership with an existing ministry already on the grounds of Port-au-Prince. Christian Revival Center’s “Mission 2 Haiti” ministry was led by Pastor Freddie Hebron of Savannah, Georgia. A gifted African-American Pastor who spent the last 17 years traveling to Haiti, greeted us at his mission home. Pastor Hebron was there in January, 2010 when the earthquake struck the city.

He has established a network of pastors to work together in the core region of Port-au-Prince – some 25 pastors in all! The mission was and still is to build more schools for underprivileged children. He took us through several poverty-stricken communities. Once we left the country, our mission team prayed about the opportunity, began to share our collected notes, voiced our thoughts and prepared to join his effort this summer.

And while we welcomed the New Year with great enthusiasm, God had another plan for Pastor Hebron. The third weekend in January, he traveled back to the states from begin in Haiti for two weeks (a late Saturday night arrival). Given that he was tired from the travels, he managed to deliver a sermon the following day at this church. Later that evening, he said to his wife “I’m not feeling well, I’m going to bed.” He died in his sleep…

Our Haiti team traveled to Savannah a week later to join others in the home-going. Many church ministries both local in Savannah and churches as far as Mississippi came to support the family. There was a feeling of uncertainty as people wondered if the Mission 2 Haiti will go forward. For seventeen years, Pastor Hebron pretty much did ‘everything’ in Haiti; there was obviously no “second-in-command” person to take over the mission. His wife of almost 25 years stayed devoted in their community food-bank in Savannah. The couple has four adult girls who had their own careers beyond the church ministry. NEVER-THE-LESS, the spirit was so high during the celebration service – the empowerment of God presence told everyone that we must move on! The atmosphere was so evident to go forth and continue what Pastor Hebron worked on.

God willing, we are planning to return to the “Pearl of the Caribbean.” In the next two weeks, we’ll be confirming our team and begin training. I’ve been praying that you would be joining us this year. I know your heart is to reach the lost and teach the found. The people of Haiti need our help – I’m asking you to consider this wonderful opportunity to spread your love to others.

Let go people and do some good!

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The Pressure to Find Purpose In Perilous Situations

On a balmy Saturday morning (last weekend), I triumphantly marched through the thickets of farm grass toward the most challenging event I’d ever experience in decades.  At the request of my best friend, I signed up to participate in a 5K Mud-Crusade Race!  Yes, imagine the scene of a quasi-triathlon environment of cross-country running, over-coming water challenges, and mastering several muddy obstacles.  The event’s website asked this question to interesting candidates:

“Do you enjoy testing your mental and physical limits to see how far you can push them?”

Well…I wasn’t eager to say ‘yes’ right away, but I felt moved to take the challenge.  The place of the event was held on a huge farm just outside of Atlanta.  The man-made race course was built on a cow pasture and portions of the race patterns weaved in and out of tree covered areas.  You can feel the excitement of others ready to get their ‘mud’ on!  Before our run wave time of 9:30 a.m., my friend’s work colleagues welcomed me to their team, which was called “The Mile High Group.”  In our brief interaction, I attentively listened to some of their previous mud race stories and was encouraged by the support of completing the race as a team….well….maybe that was all in my head.

Two minutes before the signal of our race time, we wiggled our way toward the middle of the pack.  The blast of the siren startled everyone and we began the race speeding down a long slope like wild gazelles in the Serengeti of Africa.  Upon the horizon was our first obstacle – a 10’ wooded wall barrier.  Of course, the challenge was to jump upward against the wall, hurdle quickly over and jump down.  Your truly mastered it fairly well with the help of my team’s encouragement.  Leading up to the fourth obstacle, we face our first watery/mud infused obstacle.  You may view the actual race course in the embedded YouTube link below to get a sense of what I had to go through.  After achieving that obstacle, my clothes, shoes, socks were soaking wet – feeling like I’ve gained ten more pounds while running.

http://youtu.be/NTIl-3jEgBU

Nearly three-fourths the way in completing this course, I survived the crossing of a large stream of water that was ‘thigh’ high in some spots.  At that point, I felt completely exhausted and with no more energy to move further.  I eventually became ‘the’ last runner of “The Mile High Group.”  And while I could hear the recurring support chant of – “Come on Jerry, let’s keep going!” – the team grew farther and farther away from me.  Feeling overheated and barely able to walk, a medic cart from a distance sped closer to investigate the situation.  The driver asked me a question if I needed attention and I said “I may need to go to the Medical Tent.”  The person looked at me puzzled and said “Well Sir, you’ve already completed three/fourth of the race; you’re almost at the Finish Line?  Don’t you hear the music in the background beyond these trees?

I became insulted of the mere fact that he would rebut my request!  I wanted the medic to follow MY instructions.  My facial reaction toward him had the look of either one of three sitcom characters:

1)      The evil ‘fish-eyed fool’ look of Aunt Esther (Sanford and Son); or

2)      The ‘bigoted’ look of Archie Bunker (All in the Family); or

3)      The ‘serious-I’m gonna-beat-your-Butt’ look of James Evans (Good Times)

Instantly and kindly, I bartered with him by saying – “I just need to sit down on the seat within the cart for a minute.”  He agreed; in seconds he told me he was going to walk down the course path and see if anyone else needed medical attention.  So he left me all by myself in the golf cart while other runners ran past me.  The pressure simmered in my mind – do I simply quit or should I risk my health to complete the course?  Minutes went by and my friend came back to see if I was okay.  He obvious thought something had happened to me.  The outer crust-hardcore of my being voiced out to him saying “I’m alright, just go on and find the rest of the team…I’ll be fine.” But the inner-soft feeling of my being mentally said “We need to finish as a team dagnabit!”  He left to join the rest of the team.

Alone and with no one to continue to sing the chant “go ahead Jerry, you can do it,” thoughts of encouragement started to activate my brainwaves:

1)      “Winners never quit and quitters never Win” by Vince Lombardi

2)      The passage of scriptures found in the Old Testament where King David left alone in a cave had to encourage himself.

3)      The charitable organization that would receive proceeds from this race – Semper Fi Fund – an institution to support our wounded troops and their families.  I couldn’t give up on them.

4)      The 400+ blog followers who read positive/encouraging principles I share every week.  I couldn’t give up on them as well.

5)      The statement from the medic driver – “Well Sir, you’ve already completed three/fourth of the race; you’re almost at the Finish Line?  Don’t you hear the music in the background beyond these trees?

6)      The famous British track Olympian – Derek Redmond – came to mind.  We all remember the visual of him in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games where he tore his hamstring in the 400 meter race.  Unable to complete the final lap, he made that heroic attempt to run on one leg.  And while the race was over, he forced himself to cross the finish line.  Emotional as he was, his father broke from the audience stand to join him on the track…they both cross together.  He certainly was my hero while sitting in the golf cart.

The last thing that increased my adrenaline further was the witnessing of a group of ladies dressed in black leotard pants and red tutus!!!!  Happily prancing passed me and possessing a jovial spirit – I had no choice but to get up and complete my purpose to cross the Finish line!  Slowly I arose from my cart seat and made an agreement to my body – that I would just walk the rest of the way and complete the remaining obstacles.  It took a little bit of time for me to get to the Finish line….BUT I MADE IT!

It always seems impossible until it’s done!” – Nelson Mandela