Karibu Nyumbani (Welcome home)!

We arrived in Nairobi to flowers and 84 degree weather. We were met by an

entourage of people to carry our bags and shuttle us to our lodging. We arrived at the guest house to team of people waiting to welcome us offer tea and a scrumptious meal – at 1:00am!

While I was there I preached to thousands of people. I was praised and applauded. I was told by a number of people that my words – spoken and written — had changed their lives. One young man repeated to me a sermon that I had preached a year ago. Another young man road a bus 10 hours to come meet me and sit under my teaching. Even before I left, plans were already underway for my return a year later.

Karibu nyumbani!

12 days later I arrived in United States to Sparky the dog sniffing my bags (and other stuff). I was delayed in customs because I had maize flour and tea in my luggage. I arrived in Chicago to 18 degrees and 6 inches of unremoved snow and ice from my driveway

No one met us with flowers. Only one person helped carry our luggage and that was because he happened to be coming to the church at the same time as we arrived. I came home to plumbing problems to be resolved (my basement flooded 2 days before I left for Nairobi), financial uncertainty, a list of unanswered phone calls, and a do list as long as my arm.

Welcome home!

I remember having a conversation with my daughter about these contrasting realities of my life and telling her that after the first scenario, it can be challenging to deal with the latter. The only autograph I’m asked for at home is the one I provide for a check. The natural tendency of the flesh is to gravitate towards that which soothes your flesh and strokes your ego.

When I come to face to face with these aspects of my life, I am reminded of one of my favorite Charles Swindoll quotes – “Christianity is just so daily.” How true of statement is that? For the most part, the Christian life is a grind-it-out-everyday mundane living with flashes of brilliance. On a daily basis…

…nobody applauds a mother for praying over her child while changing its diapers.

…nobody writes an article about a student who chooses to NOT cheat on a test or smoke a joint.

…nobody gives flowers to a business person who sacrifices profits in order to keep a promise to a client.

…nobody interviews the minimum wage worker who faithfully donates time and money to worthy causes.

“Karibu nyumbani” ushers me into a place of glory. “Welcome home” ushers me into a place of guts. The Apostle Paul writes about this two-sided coin in 1 Corinthians:

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

You see, everyone wants to climb the podium to receive the gold medal, but not everyone wants to descend into the trenches to do the dirty work that gets you there. We all want the toned physique of a finely tuned athlete, but most are unwilling to pay the price for the six pack.

The “home” in “welcome home” is where you practice what you preach; where you perform what you proclaim; where you process what you pray.

  • Home is where your character is forged, your faith in God’s promises are tested, your confidence in God’s word is tried, your integrity is exposed, and your resolve is resisted.
  • Home is where you lay awake at night questioning if you are in God’s will.
  • Home is where you practice patience with a stubborn, child, show grace to disrespectful spouse, or choose peace in the midst of the storm.

In the absence of practice, performance and process there is no power, authenticity or authority to what you preach, proclaim and pray.

It is the roots, not the fruit that makes the tree. The fruit is simply the evidence that manifests the tree’s identity. If you want to have a life that makes a difference, a life that brings glory to God, you will need to take care of home. Engage in the behind the scenes grunt work of prayer, meditation, discipline, forgiveness, Bible study/meditation/memorization that will give you the healthy roots that produce lasting fruits. If you want to have a life that is praiseworthy, serve your family, care for your friends, love your neighbors and handle your business with faithfulness and excellence.

In order to be welcomed home, you must first welcome home.

Jason P.

Kenya 2015 Update…Looking Ahead and Looking Back

On Wednesday, I met and had Bible study and prayer with eight remarkable young leaders for Kenya Youth for Christ. There are many story lines to talk about, but, let me share a few bullet points:

  • They have several schools with whom Youth For Christ partners to teach the “Worth the Wait” abstinence curriculum in the form of a life skills course. I met with the principal of one of those schools (Pumwani School for Girls) who enthusiastically shared the significant impact their ministry was having on the students.

  • Several of the leaders shared that they volunteered because of the impact the ministry had had on their lives when they were in High School.
  • The Pumwani School is across the street from an incredibly impoverished slum. Three of the leaders lived in this slum. They said that they work at the school because they want to be role models to the kids who see them in the community. It is their desire to instill the hope of Christ in kids who often have no hope at all.

That evening I had a reunion with several of the staff members – including the past and present National Directors –  who ran the inaugural Generation 21 Leadership Conference back in 2000. As we shared a meal together, it was wonderful to hear stories of lives that were transformed through this event. It was also great for me to hear how God had used “How Far Can You Go?” and my workshop on the topic, in significant ways. One story, which I heard for the first time, was especially funny and significant.

A recent high school graduate desired to attend G21, but could not afford the registration. He decided to volunteer to serve there just so that he could get in. Because my workshop, which was scheduled to have about 40 students, ended up having several hundred participants, I was moved to a tent to accommodate the demand. The young volunteer wanted to attend this session and came up with a clever way to do so. He was responsible for rolling up and securing the tent flaps to its roof. He “worked very slowly” in completing his task, staying on the roof for the duration of my workshop from where he listened to my presentation. It was the only workshop he attended for the entire conference. He ended up marrying the young lady who is the current National Director for Kenya YFC. 

YFC has been using “How Far…” in their crisis pregnancy ministry since that time. We are strategizing to figure out how we can raise the money to print and deliver a large shipment of books for distribution among the young people they serve. We’d appreciate your prayers to that end.

Kenya 2015 Update – G21 Roots That Bear Fruit

HFCYG_coverOn my first visit to Kenya in 2000, I spoke at the Youth For Christ Generation 21 Leadership Conference. For that trip, I raised the money to donate 1500 copies of my book, How Far Can You Go? Straight Talk About Sexual Purity. Since then, God has blessed me to be able to donate at least 45,000 more books to Kenya, South Africa and a French version for Burkina Faso and Togo  (West Africa). Since that time, the Crisis Pregnancy Ministry here in Nairobi has utilized How Far as a resource for their ministry in teaching students about abstinence. I was able to bring a few books with me on this trip. I just learned that on Wednesday I will be meeting with students who serve as abstinence educators in the local schools. Additionally, I will be visiting some schools where this program is being taught and getting a chance to talk with some students. As I did not know that this was going to happen, I am totally excited about this new development! I will also be meeting with YFC staff to see how we can further solidify and advance our partnership.

15 years ago, I was inspired to sow into the next generation of leaders here in Kenya. What a blessing it is to see that vision not only having roots, but wings as well. This is just awesome!!!

The Power of Respect: From Trash Comes Triumph

I recently watched a story on 60 Minutes that spoke eloquently and forcefully of the power that respect has to transform a person and a community.

Cateura, Paraguay is a deeply impoverished community that is built on and around a garbage heap. Most of its residents scrape out a meager living picking through the garbage, looking for items that can be sold for recycling. But a visitor had a vision of starting a music school for the kids to "lift their lives out of trash". The problem was that there were no instruments in Cateura. Amazingly, one of the residents has learned how to make musical instruments from items he found in the garbage. He made violins from oven trays, cellos from oil drums, and clarinets from drain pipes and house keys. Soon, there was an entire orchestra of children making beautiful music. In fact, the world has begun to notice and the orchestra is now playing outside of Cateura.

This story of creativity and determination is fascinating in and of itself. But for me the story within the story is the transformative impact of respect on the persons involved. Being a part of this orchestra raised the kids’ self-respect as it uncovered talents and value that lay hidden within them. It increased their respect for others as they embraced their responsibility to live cooperatively and interdependently with other orchestra members. Kids involved in the music program were swayed from bad choices as they chose the values of the orchestra over the negative values of the pervasive gangs.

Even parents and community members benefited. The grandmother of the lead violinist said that while people once humiliated them and derisively called them "trash pickers", now, they are "more civilized" and call us "recyclers". She goes on to say that "I feel that this is a reward from God that our children who come from this place, can play beautiful music in this way."

I conduct teacher, student, and parent forums in schools on the role that respect plays in personal and academic success. I teach that self-respect is the foundation on which stands all other forms of respect. It is impossible to want better for yourself if you don’t think you are worth better. It is impossible to appreciate and honor the value in others if you don’t honor and appreciate your own value.

Much of the anti-social, disrespectful behavior we see in our culture comes from people who are seeking to build themselves up by tearing other people down. But when we come to recognize and embrace our own value, we can begin to want more for ourselves and for those around us. The Cateura orchestra leader had the vision to see beyond the garbage and the hopelessness that it produced. His commitment to see value, uncover value, and give value set in motion the possibility that more people could do the same for themselves and for others.

 

The Recyclers: From trash comes triumph – 60 Minutes – CBS News.

 

Beating Down Bullying

What is bullying?

When I was a boy, we used to play a game called King of the Hill. One person would start out on top of the hill. In order to win the game and become King of the Hill, you had to push others aside, knock others down, and fight to get to the top. The person who was the strongest, the most aggressive, or who cared the least about hurting other people or about how his or her actions affected other people usually won.

This is a picture of bullying.

Everybody wants to be the King or Queen of some hill because everyone wants to be known and respected for something, everyone wants to be noticed for something, everyone wants to be valued and honored for something. The question is what will you do to climb your hill? When there are no limits as to what you will do to conquer your hill there is a good chance that you are a bully.

Let me stop here to define what I mean by bullying.

There is Physical bullying – physical threats or actions;

There is Emotional bullying – name-calling, teasing, insulting;

There is Relationship bullying – silent treatment, isolation/shunning, spreading lies or rumors about someone.

Bullying takes place in our homes, jobs, and schools. Bullying is done by children and adults, co-workers and bosses, spouses and friends. Bullying is done face to face and increasingly online via social media. Bullying happens when we fail to have respect for others.

Respect is recognizing and showing appreciation for another person’s worth or value – for who they are and what they do. Disrespect is just the opposite – it’s stepping into someone else’s space and failing to recognize and show appreciation for another person’s worth or value – for who they are and what they do.

When we regularly and intentionally show disrespect to others with the intent to do harm or to get the upper hand, that is called bullying.

One of the keys to stopping bullying is the bystanders. The website, Reachout.com, describes “bystanders” this way:

“Bystanders are very different from either victims or bullies mainly because they make a decision to stay on the outside of the situation. Whereas victims and bullies are directly involved, bystanders think that avoiding the conflict altogether is either the right move or the best thing for them personally. There are several things a person does, or does not do, that can make them a bystander:

  • Purposefully ignoring the event entirely;
  • Witnessing the event and choosing not to take the appropriate actions;
  • Witnessing the event thinking something on the lines of, “at least that person wasn’t me.”

While bystanders play a crucial role in stopping bullying, the potential for personal peril is a strong deterrent for involvement. A recent news story – Former Marine Brutally Beaten While Saving Teen Says It Was All in the Line of Duty – shows, however, that the sense of respect and responsibility for others can override those fears.

I wonder how I would respond if I found myself in this kind of situation. What about you?

 

Video Capture 3 Men Beating A Man Who Tried To Defend A Bullied Teen

 

All I Want is a Little Respect!

For the past 3 years I’ve traveled around the country talking with nearly 25,000 teachers, parents, and students about respect. I’ve been surprised to see how this basic human courtesy is so misunderstood and even ignored. I define disrespect as "coming into another person’s space and failing to value who they are or what they do." The culture of disrespect has significant detrimental impact in our educational system creating hostile, unproductive, and toxic work environments.

I recently watched a TED talk by Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, on the topic, Every Kid needs a Champion. She said that she once heard a colleague say, "They don’t pay me to like the kids." Her response: "Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.’” This talk is a call to respect and evidence of the power of the words, "I believe in you."