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Join me! Live Church Online Events in England & Ireland

LifeChurch.tv Church Online events in England & Ireland June 2013

LifeChurch.tv Church Online events in England & Ireland June 2013

Willow Creek UK & Ireland is partnering with Lifechurch.tv for a special regional event. As Lifechurch.tv’s Church Online Community Pastor, I am honored to share about the global reach of Church Online and how a partnership might play a part in local church mission in the UK. 

Come and join with other leaders in your region and explore the opportunities that a partnership with Church Online presents. You will be inspired by what you hear!

June 3 Stafford, England
June 4 Scunthorpe, England
June 5 London, England (SW11 1EJ)
June 6 Bracknell, England
June 7 Bangor, N. Ireland

For more specific details on the events in June, check out http://willowuki.eventbrite.co.uk/.

What is Church Online?

As long as there is even one soul hurting, Church Online will be a place to encounter God and people who care through:

Global Reach. Church Online reaches people who live in countries without the freedom to worship Christ, people who don’t live near a LifeChurch.tv campus, military families stationed abroad, those searching for answers online, and millions more. In 2012, 4.8 million unique visitors in more than 220 countries and territories attended Church Online at LifeChurch.tv.

Shared Experience. There are more than 50 experience times at Church Online that share worship, a community pastor, and a powerful message delivered by Pastor Craig Groeschel just like at a LifeChurch.tv location.

Real Community. Church Online at LifeChurch.tv is a community of people all over the world experiencing God and connecting with one another like never before in history. People from all walks of life experience church together in real-time including live chat and one-on-one prayer with a passionate volunteer.

Changed Lives. You can change the life of someone you know who lives far from a your physical location or isn’t quite ready to walk through the doors. Invite someone you know to attend a Church Online at LifeChurch.tv service at live.lifechurch.tv.

Join the Team. By accepting people where they are with love, incredible life change happens every week. That’s only possible because of the hundreds of volunteers with a passion to serve. This is your chance to be a global missionary in a digital world. Details at http://churchonline.lifechurch.tv/volunteer/.

Lemonade International: The Least of These in Guatemala

This week while on the Lemonade International trip I heard more than once that the people of La Limonada are forgotten and among the least of these. They are people whom, were Jesus will walking this earth, He would’ve spent time with. Jesus isn’t here in person, but I know a lot of you reading this blog carry His Spirit in you.

Last week in America Mackenzie asked me to turn up the volume when a certain song came on the radio. I admit I hadn’t listened to the lyrics too much until that point when I’d heard the songs previously. When I stopped to listen I realized the words refer to what you and I are called to do.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_cQXROe4dQ

Sponsorship of a child through Lemonade International provides them Monday-Friday education, Bible classes, toothbrushing at school, vitamins, and relationships with passionate teachers who teach them not to embrace the gang lifestyle that is so prevalent in the La Limonada community. A full monthly sponsorship of $70 provides for the child as well as for school expenses to serve the children, but half-sponsorships (in which you pay $35 and share the fee with another donor) are also available.

An open letter to my kids: Guatemala follow-up

Our kids in Guatemala this week

Our kids in Guatemala this week

Gosh, BC and Mac, it can’t be easy being our kids. Your dad and I can’t explain why both of us are so passionate about collaborating with people in other countries around the purpose of advancing the gospel. There’s no easy answer to why we are so pro-adoption. It can’t be fully understood why adventure is often part of our lives. Except that God created us this way, united us, and now He’s multiplied our joy to have you two along on our journey of faith and obedience. Every international friend we have is also an ally to both of you. Each time we invest time or money in a cause near to our hearts we do it for God’s glory and to see if we can’t pencil out a path for each of you to explore. God is using our family’s story to develop you. You are already gifted leaders and your education and development are a key focus of ours.

Today it’s only a little visible, but I believe God is at work revealing to us tiny pieces of the grand puzzles that are your lives’ purposes. This week in Guatemala you saw pain and poverty like most adults never see in their entire lives. You asked questions, offered prayer, and accepted the confusion that these circumstances bring. You gave hugs, offered smiles, and courageously trusted us to lead you each day despite the smells, sights, and sounds you were confronted with. I loved seeing you introduce yourselves to new people using broken Spanish. You watched teachers wash blood out of the road in front of a school following a crime and never asked to go home. You took a leap of faith by joining Dad and me on this trip and wound up being sad about leaving after such a great experience. Blake and Mackenzie – you are not complainers; you are are grateful…and watching you this week makes my heart swell with joy.

Who knows? One of you could be an artist, the other an activist. Perhaps one of you will invest your gifts in the local church or a global mission? It might come to pass that you’re entrepreneurs. We won’t dare make the plans for you, but we aim to expose you to all God offers us. Over time we will see the light within you both growing ever brighter until you’re engaged in living out your passions just like Daddy and I do.

My sweeties – if you are so blessed as to raise children someday, please take them along with you on the journey. Watching them follow you into God-sized dreams with trust will bless you immeasureably, just as your willingness to pursue our dreams together as a family has blessed your Daddy and me.

I love you like crazy cakes,
Mom

La Limonada: History in the Making

Sitting with Community Representatives today in La Limonada at the Mandarina Academy

Sitting with Community Representatives today in La Limonada at the Mandarina Academy

“What if the Church, meaning those believers that make up the Body, were aware that what they have is God’s and were willing to give it away should God so desire? Think of the tremendous need that could be met all over the world!  Today, take a mental inventory of what you have and ask God to show you how you might be a better steward of those things. Ask him if there is anything you can give so that others may have.” - an excerpt from the YouVersion reading plan “The Heart of God Towards the Poor and Suffering” by Convoy of Hope.

I’ve experienced being called by God to a specific region before. There have been times in life where God’s clearly shown our family something to do or a place to go. It’s clear God’s not called our family to live and serve in Guatemala, but we love this country and its people. Because God has not led us to be on the front lines of the incredible work Lemonade International is doing, our family is committing to provide financial support to this organization. I really shouldn’t call it an organization, in fact, because it’s a sea of committed people whose hearts we love. We have hugged, cried with, and prayed for the staff, volunteers, and residents of La Limonada. I have seen nothing in Guatemala like Lemonade International in the 7 years we’ve studied this country and its history that’s made such an impact in what I consider to be a population in dire need of redemptive relationships, education, and godly examples in the country.

Today our team witnessed history. A group of local university students and people from Lemonade International gathered some of los presidentes (some of the presidents, or leaders) from the various barrios (neighborhoods) of La Limonada to discuss peace and collaboration among their community. I caught myself gasping when barrio leaders who have previously identified themselves as foes called each other by name, shared their dreams for unity, and agreed that they want to see peace and advancement for the youth in La Limonada. The group does not have money to throw at plans for change, so they agreed to join forces to share their combined stories of the history of La Limonada. They have the history in common even though the poverty and violence among them has grown considerably over time. This history book they’re creating is something that everyone in the 10 different barrios (with a combined population of approximately 60,000 to as many as 100,000 people) can read to learn more about their neighbors with whom they currently fight. There were no raised voices. There were no weapons. There was only hope and respect…and even laughter.

What you must know is that this meeting happened on neutral ground – in one of the Lemonade International academies. This is a safe place where leaders from barrios at odds were willing to come. We sat in the academy’s library as gigging children ran past. I heard the faint sound of kids in the classroom above us singing. And I believe that these community leaders heard the same sweet voices and were reminded that they need to collaborate for the future of the children in their violent barrios.

This would not have happened had Tita and her team not walked across gang territory lines for the past 15 years to form relationships. Had Lemonade International not built schools in the La Limonada community, where Guatemalans living outside the La Limonada community won’t even step foot, we’d likely never see this meeting of the minds come to pass. It was a beautiful thing to witness and the best example I’ve seen of relationships built over time turning into generational change in an area where no other organizations are willing to go due to the threat of danger.

If you’re like me and not called to be on the front lines with the incredible team of Lemonade International, would you consider supporting them financially? Please click on the sponsorship banner to learn more.

 

 

 

 

Guatemala Day 2: I Can’t Fix It

classroom

One of the first little disagreements Chris and I had after our wedding was about the use of the word “clean”. He’d say he “cleaned” the house but it meant he’d tidied things up. No cleaning products, mops, or cleansers were involved. :)  Nearly 13 years later he still teases me by using this word when it’s clear there’s more work to be done and only the surface was being scratched.

I am amazed at the work God is doing through Lemonade International and Tita’s team. But I can’t shake the sights and smells and sounds that surround us. There’s still work to be done and I can’t fix it. All that being said, when I look beyond the trash all around as we walk through La Limonada, I see people. People like me. I watched a mom kiss her son’s chubby cheeks today just like I do to my own kids. I saw a husband praise God for a job, just like our family gives all glory to God for our employment. I’ve often said that growing up working in my parents’ business was as good an education as university, and today I met a shoe maker who’s raising a son to learn the craft just like my dad taught me so many things working by my side.

The Lemonade International team are building relationships in a community that’s arguably among the toughest to penetrate in the world. There’s an invisible line of trust wrapped around them by the residents of La Limonada. You can almost see it when we’re visiting residents’ homes. They light up when they see people from The Lemonade team.

Today I saw a bigger picture of the redemptive work happening in La Limonada. I learned that some mothers of children in the La Limonada academies are involved in small groups of entrepreneurs who gain financial planning, accountability, and mentorship to start businesses. We met women who are providing consistent meals in their homes, paying cash for repairs and improvements to their homes, and raising children with the example of hard work and development in their homes.

woman in Guatemala City

We met a former gang member who so badly wanted to clean up his life (and not just tidy things up a bit) that he used a razor to remove his tattoos from an arm and his face. (You cannot generally get a job in Guatemala City if you have tattoos because they identify involvement in a gang.) He’s been employed and drug free for a long time now, proud to provide for his family. As I listened to him share his emotional story with our team in his home, I saw his son walk into the house. I had no idea this former gang member is dad to a kind little boy who’d greeted me in one of the Lemonade academies earlier this morning. I saw first-hand that the Lemonade academies’ influence is spreading into homes. It’s amazing to connect the dots in this community as the hours pass.

Family by family, the Lemonade academies are impacting families. They provide required parenting classes once a month to the parents of students who attend the academies. They do home visits regularly to pray for the single moms, former gang members, abuse victims, and widows raising the next generation in La Limonada.

Seeing the combination of beauty and barrenness here is the only thing more uncomfortable than admitting I know I can’t fix it. I believe God is at work restoring La Limonada, cleaning His beloved Guatemala by the development of each relationship Tita, the Lemonade International academies, and the micro- enterprise team builds. It’s a true labor of love.

Please join our family in helping the indigenous leaders of Lemonade International, who work alone with great passion and courage in this valley, by sponsoring the education of a child in La Limonada. Our support lets them expand their ministry to more children who make up a key part of Guatemala’s future. Learn more by clicking on the banner below.

La Limonada Visit: Day 1 Stories

Playing at La Limonada Today

Playing at La Limonada Today

Last night we sat around with our #LIbloggers team to become better acquainted and listen to the Lemonade International directors, Bill and Tita, shared their hearts about the time investment they’re making in the La Limonada community. I was amazed to learn that Lemonade International is the only organization dedicated to serving only the people in La Limonada, a 1 mile by 1/2 mile settlement in a valley in Guatemala City.

Today I experienced probably every emotion I can imagine. We were witness to stories here of people in this densely populated community who experience different types of tragedy on a regular basis. To say all of these stories is a lot to take in would be only scratching the surface.
We greeted and observed so many children today in the Lemonade International academies – they were singing, played games with us, smiled from ear to ear, and hugged us. You would never guess some of these children walked into their school this morning past the scene of a crime. You’d never guess that many of these children have witnessed things I couldn’t imagine surviving. Everyone was grateful to be alive, to go to school, and never complained.
In between school visits, we stopped into the homes of people in the La Limonada community to whom Tita and her team minister regularly. I sat in the one room home of a woman who had major surgery placing pins in her arm after being shot next to her brother-in-law this past January. He died. Less than two months later her husband died. Just 12 days ago she gave birth to a beautiful little girl who look like the referral photos we have of Mackenzie at a young age – gorgeous face, big brown eyes, and a head full of dark hair. I held this baby and cried today. I thought about Mackenzie’s broken story and this newborn’s already difficult start to her life. I looked at this new mother, her brothers-in-law, her sister-in-law, and her mother-in-law with whom she now shares a home. They were smiling through their pain. They welcomed us warmly and we had a good conversation. Before we left, I had the opportunity to pray for this family. They asked for nothing – they simply wanted the community and spiritual advice and support that Lemonade International team provide each week. The people of Lemonade International are building relationships that are breaking down gang lines.
Moments later we were ushered into the home of a woman who is paralyzed from a gang shooting. She is only 31 and many of her siblings have died. She is raising nieces and nephews on her own. This woman told us a story of extreme illness that made my stomach turn, yet she shared she is grateful because one of her nieces is a sponsored child in the Limon academy, meaning she is educated (gets a Bible lesson every week day, gets to brush her teeth, takes a vitamin, and receives the love and support of a community of teachers who are passionate about investing in young children in this urban slum so they don’t grow up to choose the life of being in a gang).
By day’s end, I wanted to cry. I feel a great pressure to convey how much hope there is in this community despite what is visible to someone who doesn’t take a second glance. I wanted to cry for the similar situation Mackenzie’s birth mother Telma was in when she chose to put her up for adoption. Everyone in La Limonada has difficult choices to make…choices you and I cannot likely understand. The education and relationships provided to sponsored children at the La Limonada academies can prevent today’s elementary aged children from even facing some of the difficult circumstances their parents are facing today.
What blows my mind is that – on the arms of the Lemonade International team – we are safe. I cannot express the peace that rests in the Lemonade International locations. Everywhere we walked today, we were greeted with warm holas and smiles. We heard stories of children enjoying their school work and staying in school beyond grade 6 (which is not common in the La Limonada community). We met licensed psychologists who work full time to help the children in these academies process the symptoms of growing up where they live. We saw a classroom of children ages 11-12 working on a Bible lesson about forgiveness following the recent crime in front of their school.
Perhaps most overwhelming was listening to a woman tell us in her home that she is most blessed because her children are sponsored to be in school. She’s a widow, is caretake for her ill sister, and has 4 children and 1 grandchild. There is a small store (“tienda”) at the front of her home on the street that is her only source of income. Were her children not sponsored, they would’ve stopped being educated after 6th grade. Today her daughter dreams of being an accountant. After we prayed for her and her family, she told us she prays we are all blessed. How incredible!
If you’d like to make a difference in the future of a child in La Limonada community by investing in this generation of school-aged children, please click this banner below to learn more.

Get to Know the Lemonade International Bloggers

Get to know the #LIbloggers

Friends on this blog…I want to introduce you to the new friends our family will meet in Guatemala. Please take a moment to follow them on twitter and be sure to search for the #LIbloggers hashtag next week to follow our journey.

Prayer Needs: The 2013 Lemonade International Bloggers’ Trip

Our sweet Mackenzie represents only a small portion of how wonderful Guatemala and its people are.

Our sweet Mackenzie represents only a small portion of how wonderful Guatemala and its people are.

Our family leaves for Guatemala Saturday, and we would appreciate your prayers. To put it simply, this trip is among my “what matters most” for 2013.

  • Safe travel for all of the bloggers
  • Unified group (I have a hunch we’ll be making some great friends in the short amount of time we’ll be gone.)
  • That we would honor the La Limonada community by the time we spend together and the blog posts you will see come out of our shared experiences.
  • For all of the La Limonada children to be sponsored next week (see their precious faces by clicking on the banner to the right.)
  • For health for us all (no food allergy reactions, migraines, or digestive issues)
  • That God’s favor and protection would surround our team
  • For each of us to become more like Jesus, changed by our time spent in the La Limonada community

This journey began in 1995, when I first knew I wanted to adopt a child. It continues as Chris and I seek opportunities to expand our kids’ global perspectives and dive into the awkwardness of spiritual and financial poverty with them. I truly pray the blog posts from this trip compel action resulting in all of the La Limonada children being sponsored, but I know even more can happen. I hope my desire for each of the La Limonada children to live in safety, have meals every day, receive an education, find employment, and live in a healthy community is something that grows even more deeply in my heart and is transplanted into the hearts of my children.

Oh, poo. Am I supposed to be happy crying about this trip before we even board the plane?

Simple Packing for International Travel

Packing for International Travel
Packing for International Travel

This week our family is packing for our first international travel as a family in 3 years. (We used to live in Europe and have been to South Africa and Latin America, too.) This weekend we leave for 8 days in Guatemala, spending about 4 days visiting Lemonade International’s amazing programs in the La Limonada area of Guatemala City and the rest of the time will be spent in the capital and in Antigua meeting with people we’ve connected to through various ministries. The most personal part of this journey will be introducing our daughter Mackenzie to her gorgeous birthplace and its people, from which she was adopted over 6 years ago.

Here’s what I am packing to keep it simple on our trip.

Clothing

Short sleeve shirts – 5 *
Long pants – 2 **
Shorts x2
Closed-toe shoes
Sandals

Accessories

Earrings (no expensive jewelry)
My laptop and power cord (to blog about the trip)
Sunscreen
Hat
Pajamas – 3 pairs
Anti-diarrheal medication
Gluten-Free snacks
A little cash
Passports (and copies of passports)
Reusable water bottle to fill with filtered water each day
Toiletries

* I have a few unnecessary t-shirts and plan to leave some of them behind to keep my minimalist closet in check.

**I hope to have the opportunity to wash our clothing and hang it to dry in the hotel on day 6 of our trip. 

WANT MORE? I have some other posts on packing and travel if you’d like additional help.

Minimalist Packing for Women (Travel) 

Low-Stress Travel

Dana ByersAbout the Blogger: Dana Byers and her family are passionate about adoption and online ministry, and they sold nearly all they owned in 2007 to live a mobile lifestyle overseas and expand online ministry practices globally. She’s the author of “The Art of Online Ministry” and lives in Oklahoma as the Community Pastor for LifeChurch.tv Church Online. All opinions shared here are expressly her own.

Gluten Free International Travel

Packing: Gluten Free International Travel

Packing: Gluten Free International Travel

You probably know by now that our family leaves in 4 days to participate in the 2013 Lemonade International Bloggers Trip. I am eager to share with you how hope is rising among the largest slum in Central America. I can hardly wait to meet my fellow bloggers on this trip. And I am nearly speechless at the opportunity to reintroduce our daughter to her home country, of which she has nearly no memory.

But I admit I am hesitant. I’ve been gluten free two years this month, and being glutened (i.e. accidentally ingesting gluten) is not a fun experience for gluten-sensitive people like my son and me. Here in America, I’ve adapted to a lifestyle of carefully monitoring what goes into my mouth so I don’t become ill.

It is very fortunate that Bill, the founder of Lemonade International, reached out to me a few weeks ago to ask for a list of gluten-free foods I can consume so we may have them in the home in which we’ll stay. I will also carry with me some pre-packaged items (like the GoPicnic pictured above) should we find ourselves in a restaurant where they can’t confidently answer the question “¿Hay gluten en estos alimentos?” (Is there gluten in this food?).

I’ve eaten in several different countries, but not since I was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity. How do you manage to find gluten free items when you travel abroad?

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