Thursday, October 31, 2013

Claude has arrived!!

Claude has arrived in Tanzania, but has not been able to post because the internet is out. In the meantime, here is a picture from First UMC Mwanza.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How to Follow Me in Africa

The day is here. I'm going over my checklists, doing my last-minute packing, running to the store to get those last few supplies. In just a few hours I'll be headed to the Asheville airport.

I'm going to Tanzania to conduct a two-week training school for pastors in the Tanzania Conference of the United Methodist Church. While I'm there, I'm going to do my best to update this blog frequently. There are several ways you can connect so that you'll always know when I post something new:
  • Follow this blog by email. Go over to the right side of your screen and scroll down until you see "Follow by Email." Enter your email address and then click Submit. 
  • Join this site. Again, right side of the screen, scroll down, click on Join this Site. 
  • Sign up for a Twitter account at I usually send out a tweet whenever I write a new blog post. 
  • Friend me on Facebook. When I tweet, it posts on Facebook, so you'll see it there.
And then there's always the "Old Fashioned" way -- just check back here as often as you can! 

Now, if you'd like to contact me: 
  • Don't call me! Way too expensive...
  • Don't tweet me! I use Twitter to send stuff out, but I don't always check it.
  • Send me an email at or
  • Message me on Facebook. 
  • If you need to contact me really quickly, send me a text message at 828-545-2399. (Be aware that you may not hear back by that method, though, as it's more expensive for me to text you than it is for you to text me.)
In all of the above, be patient -- remember that there will be a 7-8 hour time difference between you and me.

OK -- back to packing. Hopefully you'll hear from me again very soon. Stay tuned! 

Tanzanian Flag

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Less Than 2 Weeks 'Til Africa!

My trip to Africa is less than two weeks away!

On Monday, October 28, I'll be leaving for Tanzania, where I will conduct a two-week training school for pastors in the Tanzania Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

This trip has been in the works for almost a year and a half. Now that it's here, I'm feeling all kinds of emotions. I'm excited about this dream of mine coming true. I've wanted to do significant work overseas ever since I was in college.

I'm anxious about preparations. There's a lot to do to get ready for a trip like this: get shots, get currency, get malaria medicine, get antibiotics, start finding all the little things I'll need like a flashlight and 3-ounce packages of toothpaste, etc.

And I'm still preparing my lessons! (And running out of time...)

I'm dreading the flight.  On Monday afternoon, I'll get on a plane at the Asheville Regional Airport. I'll make the short hop to Atlanta, then take a nine-hour flight to Amsterdam. After a two-hour layover there, I'll take another nine-hour flight to Kilimanjaro. (It'll be dark when I get there, so I won't get to enjoy a view like the one in the picture above.) After a one-hour layover there, I'll take another one-hour flight to Dar Es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania. When I get there it will be 10:50 pm in Tanzania (3:50 pm here) on Tuesday, October 29.

Time from wheels up in Asheville to wheels down in Dar Es Salaam: 24 hours, 5 minutes.

After spending the night in Dar, I'll take a domestic flight across the country to Mwanza. There I'll be met by Eric Soard, the United Methodist Missionary who gave me this wonderful invitation to join his ministry by teaching these pastors.

That evening (Wednesday) I'll preach at the worship service at the United Methodist Church in Mwanza. Eric and I will spend the night in Mwanza, and then the next day we will make the five-hour drive to Tarime, which is where Eric lives, and where we'll be conducting the two week pastor's school.

(Tarime is not on this map -- it's up in the corner formed by Lake Victoria and Kenya.)

You know what? As I describe all this to you, I'm getting excited again!

Once I get to Tarime, I'm going to do my best to give you regular updates on this blog. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Government Shutdown and Pro Sports Strikes

I tend to steer away from politics in my ministry. If you want to know my political views, I'll be glad to have a calm, friendly, give-and-take with you over a cup of coffee. But I don't believe in using my ministry platform to comment on political issues.

Why? Because my job is to lead people to Jesus, not to advance a political agenda. And I refuse to drive people away from Jesus by talking about political views that they aren't ready to hear.

SO, all that being said...I want to say something about politics. Sort of.

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know about the government shutdown. I'm not gonna tell you what to think or who to blame or how to vote in reaction to it...but I want to say this: It kills me that when something like this happens, it's not the ones responsible who suffer. It's the "little people"-- the poor...the vulnerable...the elderly...our veterans...the thousands of government employees who are sitting at home right now wondering how they're going to feed their families...the hard working men and women who run private businesses that serve government facilities (like the owner of the Pisgah Inn. That story has a happy ending, though).

Saturday I got an email from ABCCM, our local crisis ministry. They are about to be inundated with requests for help because of the suspension of the WIC program, which provides nutrition for women, infant, and children. They asked local churches to conduct food drives, focusing on the needs of this vulnerable population.

I have a good friend who works for the US Forest Service. Right now he's sitting at home, wondering what's going to happen.

I've been involved with military veterans through ABCCM's "Veterans Restoration Quarters." A few days ago I saw that veterans could lose their benefits because of this shutdown. That's just wrong. These people risked their lives and made great sacrifices for us.

It reminds me of all the strikes and lockouts that happen in professional sports. Athletes who make millions of dollars get into standoffs with owners who make billions of dollars. Meanwhile, vendors, shop owners, arena workers, and local restaurants go broke.

All so the players can make more millions or the owners can keep more billions.

Maybe I'm being unrealistic, but it seems to me that "big people" like politicians, pro athletes and owners could get to the table and work these things out faster. The longer they don't, the more "little people" are hurt.

And the Bible is clear that God has a special place in his heart for "the least of these." And that He gets upset when people in power don't use their resources to care for them.

I suppose there's not a whole lot you and I can do about government shutdowns and pro sports strikes. But we can make sure that we, as individuals and as the church, follow Jesus in caring for the poor and vulnerable.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
       --Matthew 25:40

Saturday, October 5, 2013

An Act of Terrorism Hits Close to Home

You probably heard about the Terrorist attack on Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. 3 days of terror. 72 dead. Over 200 wounded.

What I didn't realize until just now is how close to home this thing hits.

At the end of this month, I'll be traveling to Tanzania to work with a United Methodist missionary couple named Eric and Elizabeth Soard. I'll be helping them conduct a training school for pastors in the Tanzania conference of the United Methodist Church.

Today I checked out their blog and discovered that Eric and Elizabeth -- and their son -- had visited Westgate Mall only a few days before the attack.

In the blog post, Eric reflects on the attack from the perspective of Christian theology. You can read it here.  And while you're on their blog, learn more about Eric and Elizabeth's ministry in Tanzania. I'll be joining them there soon.