Character and Quality Make Reliable Rehab Center

November 1, 2014

I like organizations that are led by men of character.  Robert Shryoc is one of those men and the Stonegate Center is one of those organizations.  It’s a Christian drug and alcohol rehab center for men located west of Fort Worth in the country.  Robert founded the center some years ago and continues as its CEO.  I had lunch with him a few weeks ago and was impressed with his world view and his attitudes toward treatment.  

He says that addiction is about impaired choosing.  The addict is a broken person who sees things in a distorted way and makes bad choices that make his condition worse.  Robert likes the Twelve Steps because they help a person gain (1) peace with God, (2) peace with themselves, (3) peace with others and (4) and enduring peace that comes from a transformed life from the inside out.

The program itself  works on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual issues that pertain to addiction and recovery.  A typical day there is structured from 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM but includes time to relax and reflect.  Robert says that real change happens IMG_0008in the context of real relationship, so community is very important at Stonegate.  I find that to be true in the personal counseling that I do as well.  Robert practices this with his organization as well, referring to specialists in the community and accepting referrals from other professionals in the community.

Another thing I like about the program is that it focuses on how to live a full and meaningful life beyond simply not doing the harmful thing.  In other words, let’s evaluate progress by the presence of good, not just the absence of bad.  It reminds me of the passage in Colossians 3:1-17 that uses clothing as a metaphor.  “. . . rid yourselves of . . .  and clothe yourselves with . . . “.

Perhaps these are some of the reasons the program has a 70% success rate.  I hope you don’t have a need for a recovery center, but if you do, consider Stonegate.  It’s a quality program run by a quality person of high character.


Counseling for India

September 1, 2014

Suresh 1A selfless gentleman with tremendous power to change the lives of other people presents a picture you have to experience to appreciate. I have recently met such a man. Suresh Bolem came from India to study counseling at Dallas Seminary. In a strange country (that would be us), responsible for a wife and two children, he seeks ways to make personal counseling accessible to those who have neither the money nor the time to take advantage of its benefits. I will be working with Suresh as he completes his 3,000 hours of supervised counseling experience required to get his LPC (Licenses Professional Counselor). But it won’t be all about what I can provide for him. I will be learning from him about the Indian culture in preparation for my teaching counseling to the Asian Christian Academy in January 2016. In the meantime, he needs financial support, job opportunities in the counseling field, and more connections with people in this professional community. Read his story below and see what you can do to support him.

 

I am Suresh E Bolem, a recent graduate of Masters in Biblical Counseling at DTS (Dallas Theological Seminary). My life and times are swamped with God’s grace, loaded and stamped with God’s mercy. Like Paul I say, “Whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me…” Like David I say, “Who am I Lord, what is my family that you should have brought me to this point?”

I was born in a Hindu family where multi-gods worship was ruled. Our forefathers were affluent and their income would put them distinctly in the middle class bracket. I chose to become a follower of Jesus Christ when He visited me in a special way. The world calls me a convert to Christianity. I have no problems with that, though I see my faith more as a relationship with God through Jesus Christ than as a religion. I am fiercely proud of my national identity as an Indian and I am completely at peace with my cultural identity as a Hindu. I met my wife Swarna in 1999 and we were blessed with two children (Bhuvan Tej & Nitin Tej).

I remember my faith encounter with God, it was a simple affair no miracles, no angels visiting. All I did was utter a deep human cry out to the creator God and His only son Christ Jesus. The encounter that I had shall not even attempt to understand, rationalize or explain. I simply accept Him who gave His life as a ransom for me. It is my faith. It is what I choose to believe.

It was my Mom, who was my inspiration behind my choice to serve the Lord. My mother, who used to go around the known families in our village sharing her testimony and good news about Jesus, was the inspiration for me to choose this path in my child-hood. It happened unknowingly but God out of His Sovereign-will designed my path to be His instrument.

When I accepted Jesus and repented my sins, I felt that something from another world came upon me and I knew I was totally a different person. My life took a different turn indeed a peculiar turn but a beautiful turn with Jesus in it that day in February 1998. I have experienced real joy and peace in my life through Him. The very moment I gave my life to the Lord, the meaning of God’s call into the ministry became clear to me. The reason I could understand God’s call was because I was now in right relationship with Him through Christ Jesus, the Son of God. I, then, had dedicated myself to the service of living God. Life has been wonderful as I’ve found the secret of its success thru Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

I started my M. Div., course in Southern Asia Bible College (an Assemblies of God School), Bangalore, India (in 2000), where I’ve began experiencing empowerment and infilling of the Holy Spirit. The next three years I lapped up God’s Word in a systematic form, hungrily. God used all my teachers to shape my life and ministry. During weekends, in those three years, I had a privilege to be a part of pastoral ministry at Whitehouse AG Telugu Church in Bangalore, India.

My first fulltime ministry assignment was with the Maranatha Veda Patasala (Bible School) in Hyderabad India, the year being 2003. I was called to be Bible Teacher for the Maranatha Bible School where I served as an academic dean for 3 years. I also served as an associate Pastor in Maranatha Visvasa Samajam (a Faith Community Church) in Hyderabad, where I used to lead the worship and also taught in the men fellowship. I lead a group of students to the weekend ministry, almost all parts of the state (Andhra Pradesh), for personal evangelism and preaching in open-air meetings, youth camps and conventions of churches. It helped me to understand different cultures and also got an opportunity to preach the gospel in different platforms.

I also wrote articles for Maranatha Messenger a Telugu monthly magazine, which sharpens my thoughts. Pastor Moses Choudary (Founder of Maranatha Visvasa Samajam), one of my spiritual mentors, trained me in the essentials of Christian writings. After three years of ministry with them, it became clear to me that my ministry would not be just teaching in a Bible School. So I moved out to pioneer a church and joined CBN-India an international organization for counseling ministry in the year 2006 to support the newly started church. This is entirely different and new ministry to me. God shown me people in different problems and placed me there to encourage the discouraged and despised, build the families and console the broken hearted, set captives free and to share the love of Christ. I’ve seen and observed the impact of the counseling ministry in and through the lives of the people.

God used me at different platforms of His service. It was counseling ministry that I have found God working underneath to transform the lives of the people in need. Without any counseling educational background God used me to touch many lives and that encouraged me to complete my Masters in Biblical Counseling at DTS recently.

Hope Counseling Initiative (HCI) at Colleyville Assemblies of God church is now providing mental health services and parental education by extending their service and reaching out to financially disadvantaged families, individuals including teens. Counseling is a very important service or tool used to help people to rise above their hurts and live a fulfilling life.  As a part of this service provider I see two major hurdles that have not been addressed so far. One of the common and major hindrances is COST in reaching out to people who need psychological services and counseling. On an ongoing basis many are unable to afford the growing industry cost starting between $80 – $300 per hour for counseling and psychological services. Second major hindrance for people unable to go through the help of counseling is TIME. In my limited time of experience, I have noticed people who could afford, are still unable to go for counseling due to the time factor. Before they can go for initial evaluation session they have to wait for more than a week or sometimes even several months. Addressing both the hindrances of TIME and COST for counseling and psychological services we have come up with the plan of attending to the families need beginning with the contribution from $5 per session based on house hold income and family size and we try our best in making appointments as early as possible (the main initial focus would be at Mid Cities in Dallas – DFW Metroplex). With all this said our plans will only be fruitful when you partner with HCI by supporting us financially. HCI relies on the generosity of those who understand the importance of counseling and willing to provide help to financially disadvantaged individuals and families. Without any hesitation I can say your support really does change people’s lives. I have witnessed and have been a part of change every single day and I encourage you to join HCI in changing people’s lives through your generosity.

 

I and my family [wife Swarna and Two boys Bhuvan Tej (13) and Nitin Tej (10)] are very thankful and looking forward for your partnership. I thank my God who inspires His people to extend their support to us that helping us funding to fulfill the task ahead of me. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart for your Christ-like kindness towards this ministry. Without your support it wouldn’t be possible to take such a challenging task forward to touch many lives. I pray that God would bless you and yours with thirty fold, sixty-fold and hundred-fold of blessings!

Suresh Family


Helping Teenage Cutters

June 15, 2012

When I look around the community for good people doing good things, I need look no further that to one of my previous Interns, Kristine Newton.  She brings her maturity and competence to the counseling room to help, among other situations, teens who are cutters.   If you are one of these teenagers or if you know one, you would do well to read this article.  I asked Kristine to write something to help us understand what’s going on that drives this behavior and also what can be done to help the teen move from despair to a more mature contentment.  Need help?  Call Kristine.  She’s good.

It seemed like a normal night, their teenage daughter, Alice had come home and said good night. She seemed safe and happy; Mom and Dad were relieved and began to watch TV.  Less than ten minutes later, Alice came down the stairs, face flushed, tears in her eyes and blood gushing down her arm. While her parents were relaxing, Alice had gone to her room and slashed her arm. She had been cutting secretly for over six months, but tonight she used a box cutter and didn’t realize how sharp the blade was. The cut was so deep it required a trip to the ER and six stitches. Alice’s parents were in shock, what in the world had she done to herself and why?!!

It is estimated that one of every 200 girls between the ages of 13 and 19 in the United States engages in self-harm of some kind; of those 70% cut themselves. When families come to my office, the scene normally plays out like this.

Two very anxious parents and one scowling teenager enter the room and sit across from me. The adolescent informs me, “I will not talk to you or to them!”  They either deny the cutting is serious or state that their parents are being overly dramatic. “After all,” the teen says, “It’s not that big of a deal; cutting just makes me feel better.”

“Makes you feel better?!! That is ridiculous!” the parents exclaim.  With desperation, the parents turn and give me a look that begs me to talk some sense into their teen immediately.

The weird thing is . . . the teen is at least partially right. Cutting is a coping mechanism that “works” for some people.  Scientists have studied the issue, and believe cutting creates a temporary high, similar to the way adrenaline works.  For most of us, this does not make sense.  How in the world can hurting yourself make you feel better?  Like other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol, outsiders can easily see the dangers, but the person engaged in it cannot.  Cutting is deceptive, destructive, and can be addictive; even though for a time, it helps relieve tension, reduce numbness and/or create a distraction from stressful life events.

While cutting may appear to “work” for the person using it, like drugs and alcohol, it leaves a bitter aftertaste, and is a dangerous illusion. Cutting can lead to unplanned medical expenses, trips to the ER and, infections which sometimes cause life-long health problems. At minimum cutting leaves unattractive physical scars, and never gets to the root of the issue. Emotionally and relationally, people engaged in cutting end up isolated from others, filled with deep shame and self-hatred, and develop incredibly effective skills at hiding reality from those closest to them.

It is important to note that while cutting may look and feel like a suicide attempt, or a cry for attention most times it is not.  This surprises most of us.  Many people who engage in cutting are not attempting to kill themselves; they see cutting as a way to deal with their pain, so that they can keep on living. While cutting is not often a suicide attempt, it can be a precursor to it, and those who engage in cutting are more prone to attempt suicide in the future.  Sometimes like our teenager Alice in the first paragraph, the cutting may lead to an accidental cutting that is much more serious than intended – even accidental suicide.

To help us understand some of the reasons why a person might cut, there are several characteristics that seem common. Most cutters have experienced more than their fair share of pain.  Many have been sexually abused, grown up with family members who have drug and/or alcohol addictions, or have experienced an extraordinary trauma in their lives. When we actually begin to hear their stories, it is often a wonder to us that they are still alive, and it is understandable that they are struggling.

A second characteristic is that they often feel they have become a burden to others, they feel isolated, and thus tend to deal with their problems without outside help or advice.  They believe others are sick of listening to them, don’t understand them and can’t or won’t help them. Therefore, rather than ask others, they take on the pain themselves and engage in self harm.  One client who ended up in the emergency room said, “I didn’t want to kill myself.  But I didn’t want to burden my mom anymore by telling her I was down, again!  I thought I could cut myself and deal with it that way.  But the cut was a lot deeper than I intended. Now I am so mad at myself, I was attempting to take care of myself, but now I have created more drama and cost my parents even more money because of the hospital bill.”

A final characteristic is cutters are very passionate, sensitive individuals who feel their emotions in vivid Technicolor.  God has given them a unique personality and emotional framework that has very sensitive receptors to the soft side of life.  Many times those who struggle with cutting are fun to be with, exciting to share struggles with, and often very compassionate with others. This places them on a very steep roller coaster ride. The highs are very high and the lows are almost intolerable! The downside: pain they feel at a high level and don’t know how to deal with it. They may try to tell someone they are hurting, but are blown off because others don’t experience the issue at the same intensity.

So what do you do if like the parents in the opening story, you have discovered someone you care about is cutting? Here are six suggestions.

1.  Trust.  Trust that God loves your loved one even more than you do! He loves to shine light in dark places so that He can bring restoration. Trust in His power, loving-kindness and timing to do what He has promised in your life and your loved one’s life.

2.  Don’t Panic.  My guess is that like the parents above, you would be a bit freaked out. That is normal. Don’t be shocked by your reaction.  It is very important to deal with the problem, but do so calmly and not in a panic. Remember, cutting is usually not a suicide attempt, but it is often a cry for help. Your panic could encourage more hiding, aloneness, and be a precursor to more not less cutting.

3.  Communicate love and care. Tell your loved one that you care about them, that you want to be supportive and that you want to see them get help. Do not scold, rebuke, or preach at this point, simply and clearly let them know you are in their corner and cannot be run away!

4.  Find a therapist.  I recommend finding a good therapist for your loved one. A therapist who is experienced in working with cutters is best. Therapy is often necessary not only to teach the cutter new coping skills, but also to work through the trauma that is at the root of cutting. Therapy also helps to educate the cutter of their sensitive emotional nature so they may see it as a blessing, not a curse, and to teach them to use that gift properly and well. If you are the parent, you should attend sessions as well. This is beneficial. It helps the cutter feel supported, and it will also help you. I know this may sound scary, but the therapist can not only help you know how to best deal with your situation, but also work through any doubts you may be having about your parenting skills.

5.  You find a therapist. Dealing with a cutter presents unique challenges; seek a counselor who can help you learn to react to your sensitive loved one in a new and godly way. Even if your loved one will not go to therapy, you should go! Therapy can help you deal with the situation when the person you care about does not want to change.

6.  Be a friend.  This is a time where your loved one really needs a healthy relationship. Listen when they need to talk, open the door to deeper issues, but don’t try to pound down the door. Make sure that you that you remember how to have fun with them! Don’t treat them like a project or a problem. And be patient. This behavior has usually occurred in secret for some time, a few sessions with a therapist will not make it go away. Like addictions, there may be periods of sobriety and then some relapse.

Kristine Newton, MA, LPC works with adolescents and adults at Heritage Counseling and Consulting, in the Park Cities area of Dallas. Through her earlier work at Heartlight Ministries, an inpatient rehab center for teens, and Metrocare Services, she has extensive experience working with adolescents and adults who have engaged in self harm.  To contact her, call 214.363.2345


Transform a Community

May 30, 2012
What do you do with a community so toxic with crime, drugs and poverty that the public buses wouldn’t go into it after 10:00 PM and the police would go in only with backup? A remarkable organization, “Behind Every Door”, brings hope to the community and dignity to the people.   Every door has behind it a valuable story.   Now, groups of young boys, ages 8-13, gather on Friday mornings for their “Real Men” goup meetings to learn what it is to be a real man.   Tutoring improves school performance.   Job training helps get work.  Even planting flowers helps the place look better.  The residents say, “Life is looking up.”  This is social justice in action.
In April, WFAA-TV (ABC)  did a short story on the Village Oaks community.  Click to watch.
Check out their web site too.   Great pictures.
And great stories on their blog.
It’s only 864 homes with 2000 residents, but imagine what could happen as other communities experience the blessing of caring relationships.  It’s amazing what can happen with good people set out to do good things in the community.  Consider supporting them with finances.  I think they’re worth it.

Good Counseling Comes to the Broader Community

May 8, 2012

Good counseling costs a lot of money.   But not always, thanks to Dr. Michael Leach.  He has opened Richland Oaks Counseling Center right in the middle of a multicultural area and commits to providing services that are

     accessible,

     effective

     and culturally responsive for all who participate.

Right across the street from Richland College near Abrams Road and Walnut St., “ROCC” provides easy access.

How does he do it?  First, he focuses on social justice rather than making a lot of money for himself.  That’s the kind of guy he is.  A highly trained and skilled therapist and educator himself, he opts to supervise doctoral students and master’s level students from Argosy University and other graduate schools in the Dallas area.

He holds to a vision of a community in which staff, clients and various community organizations join in supporting persons with mental health needs so that all persons have the opportunity, including the necessary services and supports, to participate, with dignity, in the life of the community, with its freedoms, responsibilities, rewards, and consequences.

So, here’s a good man doing a good thing in the community.  How can you benefit from this service?  Give them a call at 469-619-7622.  Check out their Facebook page by clicking here .  Then, give them a try.  Some cynics say about counseling, “What you want, you can’t afford and what you can afford, you don’t want.”  Here’s a refreshing exception.


Training, Not Just Teaching

March 22, 2012

Arthur & Olga Alard

I met an interesting couple who offer practical and effective leadership training in Africa.   Americans could learn a lot from them.

What are the chances that a Russian woman with a medical degree in Epidemiology from Moscow would meet a South African man from Cape Town and get married? Yes, they met at Dallas Theological Seminary where Olga was studying World Missions and Intercultural Studies and Arthur was studying Biblical Counseling. Now they have a three-year-old son named Pavel Arturovich Alard (Russian for, Paul son of Arthur Alard). What do people do with academic master’s degrees like these?

Arthur and Olga Alard are serving with Entrust and More Than A Mile Deep (MMD) in South Africa as missionaries.  They like to say, “We’re multiplying leaders for multiplying churches.”  The name of the organization stems from a Bible passage in 2 Timothy 2:2 which says: “And ENTRUST what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well.” The problem they faced with trying to train leadership in Africa loomed large from the reputation of spreading their work over a thousand miles wide but only an inch deep. But African church leaders have named their particular ministry “More Than a Mile Deep” because they have developed a program that results in deep roots that keep on multiplying.

MMD is a unique ministry because Africans have owned the development process and training and has being managing this project from the beginning. MMD learners don’t have to leave their ministry home base to receive training. Instead, MMD trainers take the training to the church leaders in their ministry contexts and facilitate the learning process with no more than 12 church leaders per group. The group is thus a co-mentoring group. They train the first generation of church leaders and the first generation church leaders become second generation trainers.  MMD’s Educational Philosophy is called Competency Development Learning. They don’t give exams, but instead assess the portfolios of each learner during and at the end of each course, tracking the progress of the ministry competencies which the church leader has developed through his/her involvement in real life ministry contexts.

Entrust and MMD offer an internationally recognized accredited, practical and quality program in partnership with the South African Theological Seminary – SATS.  What do they teach? SATS, Entrust and MMD are working on a joint project to write a new curriculum for social transformation in Africa, from a Biblical perspective. Included are courses such as Living A Practical Christian Life, Pastoral Guidance and Counseling in HIV and AIDS, Resolving Poverty and Divisive Ethnicity, Generating Sustainable Income, and Developing Business as Mission…and many more. That strikes me as very practical.

As missionaries with Entrust in South Africa Arthur and Olga are self-supported and rely on the financial support of partners. Checks can be made payable to ENTRUST with M128 on the memo line (not their names) and mailed to Entrust, PO Box 25520, Colorado Springs, CO 80936-5520.

Want to follow them on facebook?  Click here.


Don’t Forget to Remember Me

March 17, 2012

Emmanuel in Formal Attire

Emmanuel in My Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week I met a very interesting man.  He has a gift for poetry.  He thinks creatively.  He envisions wonderful plans.  He comes to the United States from Nigeria so he can study theology and Bible at Dallas Seminary.  Perhaps his most impressive impact, beyond his talent and his winsome personality, is his devotion to the Lord and his desire to spread the joys of the Gospel to young people throughout his home country of Nigeria.  He founded an organization called “GoldSpringsGold” through which he hopes to encourage others to embrace  the riches of knowing Jesus and spring forth with scattering those blessings all around.  Keep watching Emmanuel because he should be contributing to the future prosperity and dignity of Africa in the coming years.  I share one of his poems with you.

DON’T FORGET TO REMEMBER ME.                               By – Emmanuel Olorunnisola

I AM the Creator of everything.
I know the beginning before it even began.
I see the end right from when it all began.
I have everything under my control.
I give you the will and power to choose.
Don’t forget to remember me.

I love you with all of my heart.
I AM with you even when I seem far away.
I hold the world in my hands.
And I hold you in my hands too.
In all you think and all you do,
Don’t forget to remember me.

There will be times when things will go smooth.
And all you get will make you soothe.
All you lay your hands on will bring you wealth.
And you will always be in good health.
When everything is working out well for you,
Don’t forget to remember me.

The sun rises to wake up the morning.
The sun shines to make it a day.
The moon comes up to bring down the evening,
The stars shine to make it a night.
Whether it be daytime or nighttime,
Don’t forget to remember me.

Even when it seems you are all alone:
And there’s no one to hear your voice.
Even when no one stands by you.
Even when no one believes in you.
And everybody turns his back on you,
Don’t forget to remember me.

Whether it be sunrise or sunset.
Whether it be seed time or harvest time.
Whether it be good times or bad times.
Whether it be day time or night time.
Whether it be time of birth or be it time of death.
Don’t forget to remember me.

There will be times when you will have plenty:
And your cup will surely overflow.
There will be times when you will be empty:
And there is nothing left to grow.
There will always be such times as these.
Don’t forget to remember me.

In the season when the lake is frozen.
In the season when the flowers blossom.
In the season when the storm rages
In the season when the harvest comes plenty.
In any season that comes and goes by.
Don’t forget to remember me.

When you can’t understand what is going on.
When there are more questions than the answers you get.
When you can’t find a way out of all your troubles.
When all you ask is ‘why?’ and wonder ‘why?’
When things get out of your control, and you want to give up.
Don’t forget to remember me.

I was stripped naked to give you covering.
I was crowned with thorns to make you rule your world.
I bore the cross to make you cross over.
I shod my blood to give you life.
I gave up life to make you live.
Don’t forget to remember me.

In all you do and not want to do.
In all you think and not want to think
In all you say and all you hear
In all your laurels and in all your loss
Whether in all or in nothing at all
Don’t forget to remember me.


Youth in Ukraine

November 16, 2011

I met a remarkable young man who has a passion for young people in Ukraine.  Usually we hear about people after they have achieved some significant goal.  Chris Loux’s significance is not his achievement (yet) but his relationship to the Lord.  He is a work in progress and by reading his story, you get an inspiring insight into the transforming work of the Lord in a young man’s life.  He’s an American, a Gringo, who’s been to Ukraine twice.  Now he’s got a vision that infects others.

 

 

Okay, where’s Ukraine.  Geography lesson (that I just gave myself): check out the map!

 

 

Now give his story a read . . . and consider praying for him.

 

 

Two years ago I was asked to step in, at the last minute, and lead a team overseas to Ukraine to teach English to Ukrainian youth at a summer camp in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains. I had never been overseas and I had never been on a proper mission trip before. So, at first blush, I was inclined to say, “No.” However, there was a sense of adventure and a tug upon my conscience not to pass this opportunity up. So I agreed to lead the team and start the support raising process and training with my new team. My prayer was simple, “God, if this is meant to be, you will bring everything to pass. I trust you.”

My church back home has a long-standing partnership with Josiah Venture, a missions organization concentrated in Eastern Europe whose vision is to see the youth of that post-communist region affected and transformed by the Good News that only Jesus Christ can bring to the weary, the tired, and the lost. My trip in 2010 was no exception and we continued to partner with Josiah Venture to provide them a team to teach English at one of their many summer camps.

My experience in 2010 was nothing short of a revelation. Having never been overseas to experience what life, or Christianity, is like in another culture, I was unprepared for the divine surprise and adventure that was given to me in those seventeen days. For one, even getting to our destination was an adventure; we traveled on a train for over seventeen hours from Warsaw, Poland to L’viv, Ukraine with nothing but the trust that God would provide and allow us to arrive safely in L’viv. True to form, the Lord proved to be right there alongside us as we overcame language barriers and switching trains in five minutes and the many strange and peculiar characters we encountered along the way.

Josiah Venture’s model for English Camp is to empower the local church by providing them the resources necessary to host camps throughout Eastern Europe. God’s Design Church was the name of the church that we partnered with in 2010. They are a small church out of Lutsk, Ukraine whose numbers barely crest fifty. They actually only meet once a month corporately. The rest of the time they choose to meet in each other’s homes.

My first impression of the men and women of God’s Design Church was that they acted more like a family than a church. Ironically, that is the way that God would have us relate to one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout camp I was astonished by the love that was expressed in their interactions with each other and with us. Although an enormous language and cultural barrier threatened to divide us (only a handful of Ukrainians actually spoke English) the Lord worked to unite our hearts together in a display of Spirit-filled friendship that swooned my heart like nothing else.

I was moved so deeply by my experience in Ukraine that summer that, upon returning to America, I began praying for God to allow me to return in 2011. I believe that once you’ve tasted the sweetness of God’s fruit in foreign missions you will hunger for more. I was never convinced of the wonder of the phrase “God’s heart for the nations” until I was actually there, in another culture and another country, Read the rest of this entry »


Shaping the Destiny of Children Worldwide

September 29, 2011

Sheila Etonga is a remarkable person with an inspiring vision.  She wants to devote her life to shaping the destiny of children — orphans particularly.  In some of my other posts, (1, 2, 3, 4)I have expressed how central this care is to God’s heart.

Sheila is from Africa, Cameroon to be exact.  She is here in Dallas to get her Master’s Degree in Christian Education and to promote the work of Shaping Destiny.  Nothing half-baked about this woman of God.  Her thoughts are well worth your read.  Take a few moments to read this.  Then take a few more moments to sponsor a child.  You’ll be blessed.

“We have for once learnt to see the great events of world History from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the mal treated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled, in short from the perspective of those who suffer.  Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior.  Christians are called to compassion and action”. (Dietrich Bonheoffer 1942)

My childhood in Douala, Cameroon (Central Africa), was one characterized with the joys of a great education, great family bonds and the simplicity of a child-like existence.  I remember that during some of our Christmas celebrations we welcomed the orphans from an orphanage just a few miles away.  They spent this special day with us, a tradition that had become our way of life.  This was never done, to fulfill a call to compassion or action for the powerless and fatherless, but it was more, a natural compassion that my mother had for the least of these.

My heart now, several years later flows with this same compassion.  Compassion to change the destinies of children who have been marginalized for reasons outside of their control, children who might not get a chance to hear the gospel because in their communities they are invisible.  In this I know I have the heart of my heavenly Father (James 1:27, Isaiah 61:1-4).

It is this compassion that Shaping Destiny was birth. Shaping Destiny is a Christian Charitable organization founded to meet the needs of orphans all around the world.  Like a child who says to her father, “I am going to be a doctor one day”, we have the dream of taking care of over two million orphans in one hundred countries over the next forty years.  These dreams are lofty and bold, but so is our God.  This dream is not only ours as an organization, but one which God exemplified, when He rescued us from being orphans with no hope to adopted sons (Col 1:13, Eph 1:13).

Shaping Destiny exist as a grace arm to the orphans in any community, who are victims to the effects of HIV/AIDS, poverty, illiteracy and poor leadership.

Six years ago we began serving three children and now we serve 580 children and we just had two of our Shaping Destiny kids adopted by a lovely Christian family living in Waco, Texas.  They arrived in the United States on August 31st, 2011.  This picture shows Haly and Jude with their new family, the Leblancs in Waco.

That is why it is with great pleasure that I offer you the privilege of caring for the needs of orphans all around the world through the grace arm of Shaping Destiny.

How can you help?  Here is how,

To know more about us

Sponsoring a child/children

Find out what’s new in the Shaping Destiny world by checking our blog.

Medical students at Texas A&M join together wtih Kenneth Acha (founder and student at the time) to partner with Shaping Destiny

1/14/2013 edit — Sheila has started a blog of her own.  Check it out.  http://comfortnotes.blogspot.com/

 


Forgiveness — Essential to Nation Building

August 16, 2011

Can an established nation like America learn some things from a brand new nation like the Republic of South Sudan?  Can rich and comfortable people learn some things from poor people whose lives are characterized by suffering?  Can Christians who have been well-versed in the Bible learn some things from Christians who have very little awareness of the Bible?  To all of these, I say a hearty YES!  Here’s how.

Give some thought to the sacrifices involved in creating a free country.  Give further thought to the responsibilities involved in maintaining a country free.  Take a look at some pictures of South Sudan taken by the Boston Globe’s photographic blog.  They began their photo-blog with this quote:

“The world has a new nation. The Republic of South Sudan officially seceded from Sudan on July 9, ending a 50-year struggle marked by decades of civil war.”

I couldn’t help but notice the euphoria and joy that trumped their superficial poverty.  They have so little, but they have so much in their hearts.   They have a new country, but very little infrastructure.  What priorities do you give to building a strong, durable country?  This is what a new friend of mine has been doing.

I am honored to be able to call Dr. Celestin Musekura my friend and I invite you to follow his work.  He is the founder and president of A.L.A.R.M. (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries).

He started this organization in 1994 in response to a crisis of Christian leadership in Africa following the genocide in Rwanda.  He was born and raised in Rwanda and his family was touched by the genocide in that country.  So his book, “Forgiving As We’ve Been Forgiven” serves as a model as well as a guide.

What’s the greatest need in Africa today?   Dr. Musekura says that poor leadership is their greatest affliction. Many countries in Africa struggle under the rule of greedy and self-serving leaders, who see their positions as opportunities to amass wealth and consolidate power at any and all costs; stirring up tribal animosity, instilling fear in the masses through murder, displacement and rape; and rendering democratic processes ineffective through injustice and corruption.   I think we can learn a lot from watching how these African people free themselves from tribal factions to enjoy a higher level of unity.  Nothing can empower this kind of unity more than our unity in Christ.  When I look at the fragmented church in America, I see the need to learn from our African brothers and sisters.   Here a just a few quotes from his book that address the role of Christian forgiveness in achieving this freedom.

“We cannot simply forget.  But when our memories have become a burden, the practice of forgiveness does invite us to learn how to remember our pasts differently.” (p. 92)

“I’ll never forget sitting across from Celestin and hearing him say that his mother was being cared for by the people who killed his father.” (p.97)

“Our unity will triumph over our diversity and become the hallmark of our authenticity.” (p. 104)

ALARM is committed to equipping men and women in east and central Africa to answer the urgent call for servant leadership in the church and in hurting communities. Through a biblically sound, culturally relevant and needs-based leadership program, ALARM trains pastors, church lay leaders, women, youth, civil society leaders, local government officials, military chaplains and tribal elders in the biblical principles of servant leadership, good governance, mentorship, appreciating diversity and community initiatives. Using a ‘train the trainer’ teaching approach, ALARM is developing leaders at the heart of African communities who are equipped and empowered to effect change where it is most desperately needed. In this way, ALARM is providing essential skills and tools necessary to help move Africa from bad leadership to servant leadership; from dependency to self-sufficiency; from fatalism to aspiration; from abject poverty to abundance and economic prosperity.

To learn more about ALARM and to make a tax-deductible contribution, click on the logo above.