by Tom Smith
Recently, my wife and I went on a date to a local restaurant with a Mediterranean flavor. We chose this place because the theme was all Middle Eastern from the name, to the decor, to the menu, even to the wait staff's dress. We weren't disappointed. Upon entering they asked us, "Is this your first time?" We said, "Yes." Then they offered a traditional height booth with bench seats or a curtained booth with benches much closer to the floor with embroidered cushions. The curtains were draped to look like the entrance of a tent. The table was a large, circular brass platter. It was all very cool. When our waitress came she knelt and offered to pour warm, scented water over our hands to wash before eating. We said, "Sure!" It seemed like part of the evening and we wanted to experience the full meal deal. We ordered the sambusa appetizers, lentil soup, mango juice, roasted lamb, rice, salad, bread, and Turkish coffee and Arabic tea with a pastry and ice cream for dessert. We had a great time enjoying ourselves. About halfway through our meal our waitress came to check on us and I decided to greet her with a traditional Arabic greeting, "As-salaam alaikum." Literally it means "peace to you" but generally is a polite hello. She asked me to repeat myself and I thought I'd messed it up. So I said again, "As-salaam alaikum." She did not offer the expected response but declined and said instead, "I am a Christian." Many Arabic-speaking Christians use the standard greeting but she didn't. Here's how the rest of the conversation went back and forth between us. We started, then she answers, and so on. "Where are you from?" "Syria." "Wow, Syria?" "Yes, we have a beautiful country. We had a beautiful country." "We're sorry." "When did you come to the States?" "About three years ago, but I've been working here for a little over a year." "Do you still have family in Syria?" "Yes, extended family. I came here with my mother and brothers." "What is the name of your village?" "Why, do you know something about Syria?" "Not really, I just think your village is special to you and I'd like to hear its name." [She told me the name but I can't remember.] "It's a Christian village in the western part of Syria. They are okay." "We're glad to hear that." "Have you ever been to the Middle East--Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria?" "No, we never have but we were Christian missionaries in Kenya in a Muslim village for over ten years." At that point she excused herself to take care of some other customers and we returned to finish our delicious dinner. After dinner, we ordered dessert. When she brought it we asked her, "Is there anything we can pray for you about?" She hesitated, shook her head "Yes" but then choked up. She put a finger on her upper lip to stifle a tear and couldn't continue talking. As she turned to go she said simply, "Everything." Of course, everything in her world (and ours) needs prayer. But her 'everything' is the future of her country, the safety of her extended family, her village's security, and the changing world attitude toward Syrians generally. In the current discussions about refugee policy (which refugees are safe and which are not), I found it easy to have an opinion because I did not personally know a single Syrian, Christians or Muslim. But when policy becomes personal it changes my thinking and I choose my words more carefully. Most importantly, I begin praying. When we got in the car on the way home, we prayed aloud for this lady. Our waitress is one specific person out of the tens of thousands who have fled the Syrian civil war that began four and a half years ago. But we met her. She served us. Her story touched us. And we prayed. I hope you pause and pray now too.
by Tom Smith
What is a Feasibility Study? A feasibility study is conducted to determine the viability of an idea. It considers 1) the financial cost of implementing an idea; 2) contra-indicators that might prohibit implementation; and, 3) the risks/rewards should the idea go forward. The recent Feasibility Study conducted by IMF and Frank Wood included all of the above. The purpose was to consider ways to upgrade, remodel, or build on our current property. The ministry vision is to better connect people to Jesus and each other. The findings? Costs are significant but not prohibitive. Local zoning laws and building codes are favorable. Inherent risks are related to our willingness to change our methods. We will not do anything that would compromise our biblical message and mission. The study saves us time, money, and heartache later by helping us to pre-sort what is feasible. We are healthy and positioned to change for greater ministry effectiveness, if we can go forward together. Sorting “plan be” from “plan not-to-be” The feasibility study gives us a starting point, not an ending point. “Don’t expect one alternative to “jump off the page” as being the best scenario. Feasibility studies do not suddenly become positive or negative. As you accumulate information and investigate alternatives, neither a positive nor negative outcome may emerge. The decision of whether to proceed is often not clear cut. Major stumbling blocks may emerge that negate the project. Sometimes these weaknesses can be overcome. Rarely does the analysis come out overwhelmingly positive. The study will help you assess the tradeoff between the risks and rewards of moving forward . . ." http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wholefarm/html/c5-65.html The study must be evaluated carefully to eliminate scenarios that don’t make sense, and to explore the most promising ones more fully. We also will gather input from end-users; those people who spend the most time in the nursery, kitchen, classrooms, etc. Some assembly required We are assembling a project team including at least one elder, one deacon and 3-5 people suggested by the church congregation. They will report to the elders who will report to the congregation a way forward to implement “plan be.”
by Tom Smith
The New Testament has a total of 260 chapters. If you read three per day you will easily finish in under three months. Why not join with others and plan to read the entire New Testament between January 01 and April 05? Begin on New Year's day and finish by Easter. Attached you'll find a copy of a reading plan that you can print to keep track. Chronological NT 3 month plan
by Tom Smith
Thinking about doing is something I do alot. I think about making a phone call. I really don't use the phone that much. I think about making a personal visit. I actually do a fair number of these over coffee, but I think about doing a lot more. Do you find yourself thinking about doing something only to not do it. Here's a tip. When the thinking exceeds the doing, doing even a little counts. On Christmas Day after breakfast but before our family feast, I thought about going on a long bike ride. I never did get the long ride in due to a number of factors. But I did go for about a 30-35 minutes ride and was glad I did. I read a tip for new bicyclists that said that "consistency is key." They said a weekly ride of only 15 to 20 minutes is enough to keep your body acclimated to the bike. Are you kidding me? Only 15 to 20 minutes? I thought "I can do that" and I did. You need not do a lot of thinking about it, but you do need to do a little bit of doing. Thinking about a long prayer time of uninterrupted communion with Jesus over a cup of tea or coffee with an open Bible? Do a little bit of praying and reading now, when you finish reading this short blog post. Thinking about writing a long newsy letter to a missionary overseas? Write a postcard. Thinking about having a spiritual discussion with a neglected neighbor? Say hello and ask about their day next time you are putting out the trash or mowing the yard and see them. Thinking about a romantic getaway with your wife over a weekend in a tropical paradise? Plan a week ahead and go out for a meal at a local restaurant without the kiddos. Whoever said "the thought counts" has given false solace to those who think about doing. In such cases, the thought counts for nought. The doing counts. James 1:22 says, "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."