Starting Oct. 7, 2017 Jo Anne has been blogging on Russ’s Leukemia journey at:

Caring Bridge is tailor-made for posting health updates to large groups of caring and concerned friends and family. It saves her hours of time otherwise spent texting, making phone calls and sending email.

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Discipleship & Teachers

. . . if we just have conferences to reach teachers, but don’t follow them up with discipleship, then the momentum eventually dies out. If we prepare each teacher to reach other teachers, and help them become multiplying disciples then the movement will spread from heart to heart, day after day, year after year, city after city, as God uses them.

Pretty insightful words from a public school teacher in Siberia, Russia. She understands something many of us have forgotten. We get very fixated on our ministry methods and activities without stopping to consider if what we are doing is reproducible. Do we train trainers who will train others, or do we chose the easier route of simply sharing information that we hope will be helpful one person at a time?The first step is to make sure our materials are transferrable. That is to say, anyone who learns the curriculum can likewise teach it to another person. √ Check. All of the International School Project (ISP) curricula are written that way. But our teacher friend from Siberia was talking about something much deeper.

She wants to see people’s hearts transformed so that they become multiplying disciples. I also think she instinctively knows this is an intimate process that involves a personal relationship with another Christian, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

I (Jo Anne) have been transitioning into the role of working with the Director of Discipleship for ISP. Joi and I have been friends since the 80’s before either of us became moms. Our job is to expand the kind of discipleship our Siberian friend talks about into every country where ISP conducts training conferences. Joi and her family lived in Russia for many years and she is using what she developed there as a model for the rest of the world.

ISP has hundreds of volunteers who serve as small group leaders for the teacher’s training conferences in 20 countries. Part of our vision is to train these volunteers in the principles of multiplying discipleship so that they are imparting those ideas during their small group sessions.

Click Here to read the ISP newsletter on discipleship.

I’ve been thinking about writing this letter for awhile now, but just couldn’t figure out how to summarize the last 50 days.

Late on September 30 I got a call from an elder at my mom’s church. Mom is 82, and was recovering from major surgery, so I assumed he was concerned for her. Instead, he told me that my brother was in serious condition, and had been moved from the local hospital to another one 90 miles away. I flew out early the next morning, and didn’t return home for another 5 ½ weeks.

My sister met me at the airport and we went immediately to the hospital. As we arrived, the staff hurried to tell us that my brother was crashing, and we had only one hour to decide on options regarding his treatment prior to death. It was not what I was expecting. Luke was with us for 5 more days and on Monday, October 5 he went home to be with the Lord. I wish I could say it ended there, but it didn’t.

My mom was very fragile. At one point, while Luke was in the ICU, she was downstairs in the emergency room. We really worried that we may lose her too. After my brother passed we returned home to help Mom, but my sister Jamie was also battling serious pain and some other hidden symptoms. Jamie never seemed to rally. Twelve days after Luke passed she was rushed into emergency surgery. The doctors were “concerned.” I asked them to define “concerned” as I had just lost my brother and my mother was very fragile. I learned that “concerned” meant she could die, but that they felt they had caught it in time. She had yet another surgery, and remained in the hospital for 2 more weeks. I am happy to say both Mom and Jamie are on the road to recovery now.

God’s word says to give thanks in everything. Sometimes it is hard to feel thankful when we experience the realities that come from living in a broken world, but even in the midst of those awful weeks, I can say I was thankful that:

1. I could sense God’s presence every step of the way, giving me grace, strength, patience and mercy beyond what I know to be my own.

2. Luke lasted long enough for his children to fly in from Texas. The day after they arrived he rallied and even though he was limited in his ability to communicate, it was apparent that he could hear what each of us had to say and he made it apparent of his love for each of us. God gave us closure.

3. God provided overly and abundantly through a beautiful hospice center that not only took exceptional care of Luke, but cared for the 10 of us, his family, including a 6 week old grandson. The first night there, the closest available hotel was over an hour away. They provided a place for us to sleep.

4. The body of Christ surrounded us with their love and prayers. Amazing prayers and answers just when we needed them. They also provided meals, household help, car care, errand running and hospital visits. As if all that was not enough, they added beautiful flowers and regular words of encouragement.

5. I have a God who holds me in the palm of His hand through the good times and the hard times. I am thankful that I never walk alone and that God has given us one another in that process.

For 31 years we, together as a team, have sought to share the Gospel message with others so that they, too, can experience a relationship with God as they walk through life. I am thankful for you – your generosity and faithfulness in this endeavor!
Yours in His service,

Sometimes it feels like a high school student can’t impact society, but I am learning not to believe those lies.Our church youth group was helping with a children’s Bible club for inner-city children in New Orleans over Spring Break. That is where I met Dante and his two sisters. The sisters were very talkative, but Dante wasn’t. He didn’t smile much and he mainly talked through his sister, or shook his head. I learned that he was five and was in preschool.

After a while he finally started to talk on his own. I then realized that Dante had a speech disorder, and no one could figure out what he was saying. Most people probably give up trying to understand him, but I know how frustrating it is not being able to communicate because I had a speech disorder when I was younger. It is so maddening when people pretend to know what you are saying, but really don’t have a clue. I was determined to be able to communicate with Dante.

By the end of that day, I was beginning to understand some of what he said. With patience and teamwork throughout the week, Dante and I eventually learned how to communicate. Once he knew I truly understood him, he was all smiles and happiness. We were buddies that week and he never left my side.

I now know that giving of myself has touched the life of another, and hopefully has a ripple effect in the community around him. Did that one week transform his life?  Probably not, but it will leave a lasting memory for both of us.

Hopefully, Dante has come to realize that people want to know what he has to say even if it is difficult for him. He needs to persevere and eventually he will find someone who can understand him.  For me, I am changed by knowing that in a small way, giving of myself and persevering to understand, I gave a voice to a little boy and brought a smile to his face.

Pray for Amy as she seeks God’s guidance for the future.

Amy is on the hunt for a college for next year. She has one very promising prospect, and will be traveling there this weekend to learn more. She wants to find a degree program that complements her gifts for working with children. Teaching is the obvious first choice, but there may be other avenues to pursue as well.

Our Global Technology Leaders are gathering next week in Manila, Philippines to hone our leadership skills and to find new ways of using technology to support people who share the Gospel.

I was given the topic of “How to Lead With Information,” but I’ve decided nobody gets motivated to work harder or work smarter by looking at pretty charts or by reading amazing statistics. Instead, a good leader uses data to find and recognize those workers who are helping the organization succeed.

So What About Ministry Workers?

My executive coach suggested a book, 1501 Ways to Reward Employees. I was a little skeptical at first. After all, doing ministry by building into people’s lives is a lot different than building widgets. What I found instead was really refreshing!

They want to be relevant. 

People, no matter what their job, really need to know that someone notices them and notices their efforts. Having meaningful choices for how you get the job done only matters if someone else notices.

It is very rewarding to share the Gospel and to see someone’s life changed for eternity, but behind the scenes is a whole lot of hard work going on to make that moment possible and that hard work needs recognition.

So my goal is for each leader to find culturally appropriate ways to recognize hidden workers whose efforts are directly contributing to successful ministry work.

Pray that my colleagues in Manila will find fun ways to reward and encourage our fellow workers.

I’m sad to be leaving Thailand this morning, but I need to get home too. This is the first day our delegates will have a chance to do some flood relief work. There is some heavy lifting and transport needed for salvaging materials out of a flood zone to use elsewhere. I guess they will be using some sort of military vehicle for transport through 2 meter deep waters. Next week our Thai staff will be using the rubber boats we brought to transport food and medical supplies into flooded areas.

Since first coming to Thailand in 2003 I have come to have a deep respect and care for the Thai Christians. Since the tsunami in 2004, Jesus’ people in this country are becoming known for their loving kindness, courage and willingness to share what they have and what they know with people in need. The depth of their faith has been wrought through hardship and careful attention to God’s word and I admire them.

If you’ve every visited the scene of a crash or seen pictures of one from overhead you always notice a pattern to the debris field. It starts with skid marks and ends with a pile of debris. That is what the entry way of our house used to look like. We’ve recently declared a path from the dining room back towards the front door to be a debris-free zone.  Why is it that when we come home we immediately drop all the stuff from our day and head straight for some form of relaxation or electronic pacification?

I had to think back over my emotional habit patterns as well. Do I come home and afford my family the same courtesy and politeness I show to others, or do I dump on them all my rotten, pent-up frustrations?  And what about my relationship with God? Am I respectful in my greetings and supplications, or do I just dump my frustration on Him first?

Now I fully appreciate the need for a safe place to relax and be real with each other and with God, but how I enter that place makes all the difference in the world.  There must be room for both candor and politeness. In our family, each of us has a place out of sight and away from the front door where we can dump our stuff. Our relationships with family and close friends need to have a place where we can relax and let loose a little, but it doesn’t have to be the first thing we do.

I’ve also noticed in my quiet time with God each morning and as I approach Him in prayer throughout the day it sure helps if I can greet Him warmly and with a loving heart before I get to the hard stuff.

So, what doe the debris field look like at your house?

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (Psalm 11:3 NASB)

Two things collided in my living room this morning as I was trying to pursue God’s Word and got distracted by a wall posting on Facebook. Following my path of reading one Psalm each morning, I came to chapter 11, verse 3: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” Not paying attention, I let the mouse pointer wander off the edge of my electronic Bible and before I knew it I was falling face first into the Manhattan Declaration.

My intentions had been to finish the Psalm and then move to Corinthians to consider Paul’s advice on showing love and avoiding divisiveness while living in an immoral culture. Instead, I read a carefully worded and well considered declaration of how we might do this very thing in our own culture today.

The Manhattan Declaration is a Christian manifesto on the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage, and religious liberty. Energized by the phrase, “no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence” I signed document.

I didn’t just sign the declaration, more importantly I read it carefully.  I was reminded to, “have compassion for those so disposed [toward immoral conduct]; we respect them as human beings possessing profound, inherent, and equal dignity; and we pay tribute to the men and women who strive, often with little assistance, to resist the temptation to yield to desires that they, no less than we, regard as wayward.”

It is one thing to quietly show loving kindness and respect for all people in our daily activities, but what happens if society becomes so corrupt that our love of God and our perspective on human dignity is misconstrued to the point that it is said to be the opposite of love and kindness?  I often feel like the world tries to tear us apart and pit us against each other and against God. We get accused of attitudes that just aren’t true.  We get called names and then begin to treat each other as if what the enemy said was really true. Grrr!

Radical love and tenderness together with radical strength and determination is my answer.  How can we who are called by God’s name do otherwise?  Even if it results in ridicule or prosecution I will love boldy, care deeply and always choose to believe that my brothers and sisters in Christ are with me and not against me.  Seeing my name together with nearly half a million others is a good reminder.  Likewise, making a public statement in an age where my my name and my words might be noted for future reciprocity make it very real.

I felt solidarity with those from ages past who taught that, “just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself. Unjust laws degrade human beings.” (Words from Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

Tomorrow I will get back on the path with the Apostle Paul to follow his advice on how to demonstrate love to the people of this world and to live in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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I’ve lately been thinking a lot about prayer and it relationship to God’s word. Many years ago I became familiar with the practice of praying through scripture.  Since I also memorize portions of the Bible, I turn many of my favorite Psalms into prayers.  Hold it! That idea wasn’t mine to start with.  It is how the psalmists meant them to be used; heart-felt conversations with a loving father.

Some of my favorites are:

Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee. Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Thy law. Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Thy ways. Establish Thy word to Thy servant, as that which produces reverence for Thee. Establish my footsteps in Thy word, and do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.  (Psalm 119:11, 29, 37, 38 & 133)

and Psalm 101

Also, more and more as I study scripture I am having a conversation with God. His words are living and active, speaking to me in the present, as if He where there in person. So, I am speaking His words back to Him in prayer and reading His words as if hearing a conversation.  The old delineation between “prayer” and “studying the Bible” are getting more blurred.

P.S. I was raised on King James, but now enjoy the New American Standard Bible, which maintains the older English practice of using “Thee,” “Thy,” and “Thou” when referencing God.  Quaint, old habit, I know.

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