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Archive for November 2010

Short-term team heads to Mali to work with Sababu

Remember to lift up in prayer this week a short-term mission team CCC is sending to Mali to work with Dusty & Julia Reynolds in their Christian business called Sababu.

Part of the Reynolds dream for this business is to create a different kind of business – a business that will shine brightly as it represents Jesus Christ. Part of the way they are doing this is by providing amazing benefits to their employees. So the team of 9 that will leave for Mali this Friday, December 3rd, will be doing a couple of different things.

First, Jim Nichols, Brian Smith, Dave Price, and Dennis Wheeler will be providing business and management training for the key managers and supervisors. In addition to this, they will act as one-on-one mentors for these managers to help them become the best leaders they can be.

The second part of the team, Dr. Jim Simmons, Shyla Schmidt, Ali Holtrop, Tom Ezell, and Shelly Nichols, will work with the employees and their families to provide medical checkups and basic medical care. They will also document their medical history so in the future when they see Malian doctors they can take their medical history with them. We take this for granted in America but this is unheard of in Mali. In all, they anticipate seeing 125 to 150 people during their time in Mali.

The Reynolds have turned this business over to the Malian leadership, as planned, and will begin the next phase of their project here in Omaha starting in 2011, where they will become the sales and marketing arm of Sababu here in the US.

Immediate Prayer for China Orphanage

I want to encourage everyone reading this to please take a moment and lift up our partner orphanage in China in prayer. Since this is on the Internet I will be somewhat vague, but God knows the details anyway so your prayers will not be any less effective with fewer details.

In summary, the orphanage is being made to move by the government and they have been looking for land for a long time. They have found a suitable piece of land at a reasonable price and are in negotiations to get that land. However, here is the latest from our contact in China:

The land negotiations are progressing slowly. We are not getting full, straightforward, and complete answers to questions we have concerning the legal status of the land. Please continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our investigations.

I encourage you to stop, drop, and pray right now that God’s will would be done in this situation.

The Spiritual Practice of Simplicity

Tomorrow I have the opportunity to help launch a new series at Christ Community called Soul Care. I’m excited to serve people like you and me who might just be a little too busy for our own good. We’re going to focus on three areas during this series. Simplicity, Sabbath and Silence.

When it comes down to it, Simplicity is a learned practice like all the other disciplines. Once we get the right idea of what we’re aiming for, it has to actually work in daily life. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount to get our priorities on track first. Choose where your treasure will be (heaven is a better option than earth). Choose who you’ll give your ultimate allegiance to (God is a better master than Money). Keep your spiritual vision clear (materialism mars your spiritual perception).

In her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Calhoune give us the following outline of spiritual practices and processing questions (I’ll only have time to mention a few in my message):


  1. Assess the things and activities that keep life complicated – work to simplify them.
  2. Set priorities that flow from loving God above all else.
  3. Downsize possessions.
  4. Cut back on shopping and discretionary spending.
  5. Eat simple foods!
  6. Enjoy simple pleasures that require no expense.
  7. Remove distractions and preoccupation with things.

Spend some time reflecting on questions like these:

  1. In what ways are you susceptible to the entitlement mentality of our age?
  2. How has the “more is better” mentality shaped you?
  3. Do you envy those who have more things or more opportunities than you?
  4. How much of your identity is wrapped up in what you own?
  5. Who are you without your possessions?
  6. What is it like for you to give away something that you still want and like?

Here are a few Spiritual Exercises she suggests:

  1. Ask God to help you speak the simple truth.
  2. Uncomplicate your life by choosing a few areas in which you wish to practice letting go. Clean out a room, closet or your garage.
  3. Intentionally limit the number of your choices. Do you really need 6 varieties of breakfast cereal? Hundreds of TV channels? Four tennis rackets? Etc. Does it feel freeing to give up choices or does want or envy surface?
  4. If someone admires something of yours give it away. Find out just how attached to your things you are.
  5. Make a list of every gadget you have in your home from the dishwasher to the lawnmower. Which could you share? Which could you get rid of an not really miss?
  6. Where have you complicated your life with God?
  7. Practice giving no excuses, no apologies, no spontaneous yeses. Discern what you truly need to apologize for.

You won’t see that in Nebraska

Dusty Reynolds and I drove from Sikasso to Bamako and noticed the following rhinos you won’t see in Nebraska…

  • Dusty asks for directions and the man draws a map in the dirt with his finger
  • A sign that reads “1000 franc fine if you pee on this building”
  • a woman carrying 100 pound of millet… On her head!
  • slowing down for a herd of goats crossing the street.
  • a guy on a moped driving with one arm because his other is carrying a full size mattress!
  • streets with no name… Every street
  • you won’t see a goat in the back of a motorbike in Nebraska… Maybe in Iowa, but not Nebrasks
  • the baobab tree with thick trunks and branches and few leaves, this desert tree looks like it was built upside down with roots sticking up in the air
  • hanging meat in open air markets… Yummm… Want some?
  • bathrooms at the gas station consisting of hole in the floor, and no TP. And you thought the quickie mart was bad!
  • when another car hits you, he just smiles and waves you on around…


I was attacked last night… By the vicious Malian Blister Beetle! While I slept, he crept in my bed, snuck up to my neck, and secreted his acid along the back of my neck. You can see the battle scars when I get back…

What’s really happening in Mali

As a church, we have been focusing on the Mali hospital, an awesome ministry that is making huge inroads. this week, though, I have been at the field forum, where all of the missionaries in the whole country come together to refresh, pray, process, strategize, and listen to great Bible teaching.

What I am learning here is the breadth of the ministry that is going on. I found out that there are nine radio stations that do Biblical teaching in the local language of Bambara. Occasionally, they even play more hip music like the Newsboys and Thousand Foot Krutch.

This ministry, which I call ‘The Air War’, prepares the way for the people on the streets. These people are church planters, nurses, those who work with prisoners and prositiutes. In addition, there are emerging Malian pastors and nurses who are taking the word of God to the villages and the streets. This is “The Ground War”.

The hospital is an amazing addition in this context. Outside of radio, Malians have almost no contact wit Christianity. Then, rising out of the dust, on a bumpy dirt road, emerges a 9 building hospital. The construction standards of the building are clearly Malian, but done with a level of excellence that is rarely seen in Mali.

When you walk in, you know it is Christian, because of the obvious Cross and C&MA logos. The check in procedure orients you well. While you wait. A Malian Pastor gives a message about Jesus. While people wait, a Jesus video in Bambara plays, then a health video, then another Christian video. While inside, you receive care that is far beyond anything in the area. Whether it is a C- section, malaria, or anything in between, the care is excellent and low- cost, even by Malian standards.

Imagine if that is your primary exposure to Jesus. He loves you so much that he sends people across the world to save your life or your babies life. It makes you want to listen more closely to the radio programs. The good news message of the video matches the love that is shown. It is all very compelling.

The next step is very clear. Train up young pastors and nurses who will be able to take advantage of the wave of momentum and build churches. It definitely reconfirmed to me that the Double Your Impact strategy that we have outlined with the Malians is the right one. May God amaze us with his goodness in Mali for this generation and many to come.

One generation will praise your deeds to another, and tell about your mighty acts! I will focus on your honor and majestic splendor, and your amazing deeds! They will proclaim the power of your awesome acts! I will declare your great deeds! -psalm 145:4-6

The Proposal

smiling Malian (to mark): Your daughter is beautiful! May I ask to marry her?

Mark: (laughing with distrust) Oh, she is much too young!

Smiling Malian: I am very patient.

Mark: (thought bubble) and I am very scared…

Smiling Malian to Caysie: Would you like to be a missionary in Mali?

Mark: (thought bubble) just say no…just say no….

Caysie: Oh yes, that would be fun

Mark: (thought bubble while dragging Caysie away) I’ve gotta train this kid better…

The Celebration

Unless You are here, it is hard to describe this celebration with words. Thirty Malian women in matching vibrant attire become the choir that, along with a great drummer, electrifies the environment. They sing for about two hours because everybody is late. People excitedly mill around. Hospital officials usher special guests from building to building teaching them about the accomplishments and the dreams.

School has let out so that the students might catch a glimpse of the important officials from Koutiala, Bamako and Omaha. Pomp and circumstance are at an all time high. People are seated correctly, shake hands in the proper order and give speeches with the correct protocol.

The Mayor speaks. Then Daniel Thera, the Malian leader who directs the Hospital. Mr. Thera asks the Minister of Health for two key favors (in front of everyone!). First, for tax-exempt status on all utilities. Then he asks that the dirt road between Koutiala proper and the hospital be paved and lit. (just imagine being nine months pregnant, in an emergency, being pulled on a donkey cart along dusty, potholed, bumpy steeets in the dark!

Then I get up. I talk about Jesus, like I always do. I tell them the story of a crazy church in Omaha… A place many have never heard of. I tell them about how Christ’s love has compelled us to sacrifice so that others might have life…just like Jesus. I tell them that his kingdom is one of justice and love. It is a kingdom where mommies matter to God, where babies matter to God, where they matter to God. And I bless them and pray to Jesus to dedicate the buildings (something that rarely happens in Mali).

The minister of Health follows and he promises to look into the paved road and tax exemption. Everybody celebrates. We cut the ribbon and enter the building.

A wonderful Malian dinner follows. Sitting next to an English speaking diplomat, I pray for an opportunity to talk about Jesus. Gratefully, the conversation turns to spiritual matters and we talk about Christ and our respective spiritual journeys. We exchange email info and I pray silently for Gods Word to take root.

After 7000 babies safely being born, I am reminded of God’s power to redeem a broken world…and his power to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Thanks CCC for taking this Journey of faith. Your faithfulness is paying off all over the world.

Hospital Dedication Timeline

70+ years ago – R.R. Brown visits Mali to make friends and share gods love.

50 years ago – CMA sponsored nursing care begins in the bush of Mali. Nurse midwives deliver babies in tribal areas without medical care.

10 years ago – vision for a hospital with full medical care for pregnant moms and babies is born. It is to be a tangible expression of the love of Christ in the middle of a Muslim community.

5 years ago – Christ Community pledges One million dollars to see the vision become a reality.

2 years ago – I visit the work for the first time, putting a roof on the fifth building. we dedicate the ground for the next three, and three largest buildings.

1 year ago – the 5000th baby is safely born.

4 hours ago – Nearing completion of the final building, a celebration commences. it is attended by The Malian minister of health, a representative from the U.S. Embassy, the mayor and some pastor from Omaha. hundreds join the formal affair and thousands gather outside the gate to welcome the diplomats and enjoy the festivities.

Great Problem, Wrong Solution

Purgatory featured large in last week’s launch of our newest Gathering series The Seven Deadly Sins. We let 14th century poet Dante Alighierie be our tour guide as we “worked our way up through Purgatory”. According to popular Christian spirituality in the middle ages one was never sure about going directly to heaven after death. You could avoid hell through the ordinance of last rights. But there was never complete assurance that among the following mortal sins, a worshiper would be free enough on the occasion of his death to ascend to heaven without first purging his soul:

  1. Lust
  2. Gluttony
  3. Greed (avarice)
  4. Sloth (acedia, discouragement)
  5. Wrath
  6. Envy
  7. Pride

So to advance to heaven-worthiness, one would have to complete a circuit of purifying exercises that may take up to hundreds of years to complete.

Pictured above is the penalty for the lowest level of purgatory (pride). In order to sufficiently humiliate the proud soul one must ascend this phase of purgatory with a large boulder on his head. You can only imagine the other 6 levels and their corresponding penalties.

IF you had the good fortune of thoughtful relatives who survive you, though, you could have your time in purgatory cut short. Thousands of years could be shaved from your sentence for the mere price of an indulgence.

Dante’s depictions are gripping! Especially if you can get a hold of some Gustav Dore art! Sin is indeed dangerous and graphic in damning effects. There’s only one slight problem. Theologians of the middle ages allowed church praxis to slide into an entirely unbiblical and ineffective mentality of payment for sin.

Come join us this week as we try to set the Seven Deadly sins straight with some biblical insight. Sin is toxic. But the cure is more potent still. Make your way to Gathering and catch Week Two as we invite pastor Walt Hooker to join us and help us see WHY all sin (not just the seven deadly ones) is bad and what the cure really points us toward.