Category Archives: Real Ministry

Choosing Kindness

As I’m easing my way into summer, I’m looking forward to writing more. To get reacquainted with my blog, I’m wiping away the virtual cobwebs with something I had the honor of sharing at my school’s baccalaureate a couple of weeks ago. The theme of the evening was the Fruits of the Spirit, and the students who put the service together had a different person speak about each fruit, connecting it to a physical piece of fruit. 

I was delighted to receive the task of discussing a quality that I believe in so much – kindness. 

 

It’s a human tendency to fail to see the beauty in the ordinary. We are attracted to flashy things that make bold statements. Trends draw us into them and make us lose sight of the things that seem common or dated.

It’s this very tendency that makes the fruit of kindness such a strong evidence of the Spirit’s work.

Sandwiched in the middle of the qualities listed in Galatians 5, kindness isn’t there to blend in. Rather, it’s there as a backbone for all of the other fruits. Its quiet strength speaks volumes, and it is completely content to go about its invaluable work, even when it goes unnoticed by others.

When I was thinking of which fruit I believed best represents kindness, I thought of the apple.

Much like kindness, one might argue that the apple is one of the most ordinary of fruits. There’s nothing flashy about it. It’s the fruit that people go to without really giving it a second thought, but at its core lies the tiniest, most powerful source of the life of faith.

We decide whether or not we like an apple by its skin. Each color embraces a distinct flavor that the consumer will either find off-putting or appealing. What’s fascinating about kindness is its ability to be pure in how it functions, in spite of how others view it.

Kindness doesn’t pay so much attention to the color of the skin, rather it realizes that underneath the skin, all apples have the same color of flesh. Kindness is the great equalizer. It’s the thing that sees what we all have in common and, as a result, pours out empathy on everyone around it. It understands that there is no point in judging because we all have a common need for grace. Grace can not be understood without kindness. Showing kindness is living out grace so that others see that it is possible, even though it’s undeserved.

The thing that is the most compelling about the fruit of kindness is the power of its tiny seeds. While the world might scoff at kindness and view it as weakness, in reality the small seeds of kindness that are intentionally planted understand their potential to change the world.

Much like the apple seed, when a seed of kindness is planted, it will often go unnoticed by those who pass by. It will even be trampled upon as it silently yet diligently sprouts its roots into the soil. Given time, the seed of kindness grows to provide a better world. A world with a tree that provides shade, a place for a traveler to rest while on a long journey, a place where children can climb and see the world from a new perspective, but most noticeably of all, it produces an abundance of fruit.

This is the beauty of what might have seemed just a simple fruit: it is most effectively accomplished in the ordinary. It can look quite different from one kind to the next, but on the inside it sees itself and others for who we really are. And it provides seeds that, when faithfully planted and tended, grow into one of the strongest producers of rest, joy, and nourishment – kindness.

Why It’s Imperative to Lean On

I watched her grade drop by the day. Another assignment not turned in, another excuse or knowing giggle when I talked to her about it.
After two years, she and I have learned to be real with each other about parts of our stories that we had carefully guarded, building a trust that suspended the judgments that had kept secrets that needn’t be secrets. I knew what it meant when she read book after book rather than write a paper. She was going into self-preservation mode, knowing exactly what she should be doing – making her story worth the pain she’d endured for years.
Bit by bit, she has begun to climb out of the darkness of secrets, but the pit in which she has dwelt for so long is a looming one that takes immense courage, faith, and strength to escape.
“You always make me write about the things I don’t want to think about,” she would claim time and again.
“On the contrary, my dear, it is your heart that is begging you to unleash your powerful story. To move past being enslaved to it, and to victoriously share hope with someone else.”
It’s true. The stories within us will eventually reach a point of no return. A point when we know it’s not meant to eat us alive even after we’ve convinced ourselves we are worth nothing more than the false names and claims the villains in our stories have repeatedly whispered.
And writing those stories we never wanted to live takes all of the energy right out of our souls until we actually begin doing the work of getting those words out for others to hear.
Then all of the sudden, we realize how much we need to lean on others to lead others, to lead ourselves, to hope – to victory.
When she refused to even read anymore, I knew there was something more – a new painful chapter she was living on her journey out of the pit.
I waited. I prayed. I waited some more until one day she told me her new chapter of uncertainty.
And we cried together, leaning on the Truth that binds our hearts together in hope.
It was during that conversation that I knew stories like hers are exactly why I need to work harder to lean on others.
Climbing out of pits created by tragedy, evilness, and grief cannot be done alone. We are meant to lean on others, especially when we face feelings that tell us that we are burdening others too much. Because what we believe to be burdens for others, actually end up being glimmers of purpose, necessary shifts in perspective, and the stuff that genuine relationship is made of.
While she walked away feeling a bit lighter by not feeling the weight of trekking her difficult road alone, I walked away feeling all the more inspired to lean on the incredible people who are begging to walk alongside me in life rather than allowing my own burdens to weigh me down.
Living the victorious life and letting freedom happen is an intensely personal journal many miles along the way, but it will never be accomplished without tried and true friends who stick beside us, especially when we try to push them away.
So lean on.
Walk on.
Purpose on,
and start by sharing your story.

Copy of -POP by kwesterf

Being Real

When you’ve been through a refiner’s fire or two, you come out on the other side changed. It’s impossible not to be different. Sometimes, even though you know that you are not who you used to be, you wonder if other people notice, too, or if they just think you’re crazy. 😉

The other night I got to spend some time with a dear friend of mine whom I’ve known  for nearly a decade. We attended church together when I was very much of the mindset that my purpose in life was to be the hardest-working, model church member out there.

That was when I believed that being faithful to God meant not only being at every church function, but serving at it as well. Why be in charge of one ministry at church when it was humanly possible to be a part of 3-5 at any given time?

That was a time in my life when I would have said and believed, “My identity is in Christ” but I did not yet understand that my identity was a balled up mess, woven into titles, expectations, and tradition.

This friend has known me through the unraveling of my identity. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, but she has prayed me through some extremely dark days. She’s a fellow lover of the beautiful stories that God writes with our lives and has been one of my greatest encouragers as I’ve grappled with how to share it.

As I once again wondered about my sanity while we talked, she made this whole messy process that I’ve been working through a bit more worth it by stating, “You are not the same girl you were five or six years ago, hardly even the same DNA. Now your story is real, and I can relate to you in my own mess.”

There was a time when I would not have considered those phrases a compliment. I’d have much rather heard someone say, “You haven’t changed a bit.” When your works come out as rubble in the fire, however, you have a different perspective. As I continue to sort through the mayhem of what remains after the fires God saw me through, there are times I wonder if it was worth it. Did I actually come out stronger or more chaotic?

I believe the answer is both. Because the truth is, I am still trying to find the balance in what was good about who I was before and what I need to let go of. A prime example of when the struggle was very real was just a couple of months ago.

I forgot to go help prepare a meal for the local homeless shelter because I was helping family. I cried the entire frantic trip across town in hopes that I wasn’t too late. I was. The grace that the sweet women I had unintentionally stood up extended to me was precious, but the old me swam intently to the surface begging for a chance to prove that I’m better than that. The new me, humbled and much more willing to receive grace told the old me to calm down and remember, “You aren’t defined by your mistakes. We all need reminders from time to time that we desperately need grace. In the end, grace is enough. It has to be.”

While we all appreciate people who are real and relatable, the process required to become that ourselves is no easy feat. If you find yourself in that process, let me recommend the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. She brings up some powerful points about the value of vulnerability, even in a culture that thrives on shame. I love the passage from The Velveteen Rabbit that she shares on pp. 110-111 of her book.  I hope you do, too.

   “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.””Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

How You and I Can Make a Difference

No matter how much I strive to have a grateful heart, sometimes a need arises in someone else’s life that makes me realize I’m taking something for granted. These things can range from freedom to health, family and friends to spiritual enrichment. If I’m not careful to think globally, I can get extremely comfortable and oblivious to the world’s desperate need for Jesus while I dust off (haha! who dusts?!?) my three bookshelves full of books that explain various Biblical topics or not notice the overabundance of church buildings I pass in any given trip around town.

That’s why I’m grateful that God is always keeping someone in my life who lives globally. The cocoon I’ve built around my sweet little family is great for building security for my children, but it will not benefit them if I don’t let them peek outside and see the souls in need in our community and the world. There are thousands of people who want to know more about Jesus every day. They aren’t rolling their eyes at self-righteous posts on Facebook or trying to figure out how many times a year they should make an appearance at the church down the road. They are searching for Truth, hope, an unfailing love, and they don’t have the luxury of picking which congregation or piece of literature is going to make them feel good or challenge them best.

One of the people in my life that challenges and reminds me to think outside my little world is my cousin Jordan. He didn’t set out to be a missionary in a foreign land when he began working towards his business degree in college. He simply went on a missions trip to the Philippines over Christmas break one year and came back changed.  A couple more short-term missions trips later, I remember meeting him for lunch one day as he was trying to figure out how to make use the talents God had given him to make a difference in the lives of these people on the other side of the world. They were hungry for change, but they didn’t know how to do it by themselves. His story inspires me to not pigeonhole how I do ministry to what my past experience or degree says I am qualified to do.

He ended up working with a fantastic organization called Convoy of Hope, which many of you have probably heard of. What you may not have heard about is one of their ministries called the Women’s Empowerment Program. For the sake of keeping this post from getting too lengthy, I will let you check it out on your own if you’re interested, but I’m in love with the mission they are helping women in various countries around the world accomplish.

WEP

Jordan had the opportunity to head up the pilot program in The Philippines. I want to share a letter he sent out to his friends and family after he got back to the states last month about a specific and urgent need for a church building. Since he sent out this letter, the need became greater as a typhoon brought a lot of destruction to the very city where these people are begging for a church.

Friends,
As many of you know, I spent January through July of this past year in the
Philippines piloting a Women’s Empowerment program for Convoy of Hope – a
global faith-based NGO based in Springfield, Missouri. The purpose of this
program is to target at-risk women (single mothers, low-income families, etc.)
and holistically empower them and their families to live better lives. This
empowerment includes an education in how to choose, operate, and manage
their own business and grant funds to get that business started. As a result of the
microenterprise education and grant funding over the past months, ten women
and their families have experienced a 258% increase in daily income and are
saving money regularly for emergencies and future business expansion. Women
also received extensive education in parenting and women’s health.

However, as you know, it is impossible to holistically empower a person without
addressing their spiritual needs. Most of the women and their families were
unsaved with many never having heard a presentation of the gospel in their
language. Thanks to a partnership with the International Mission Board, a
Southern Baptist missionary named Greg was able to share the gospel weekly (in
Tagalog) with a group of around 60 women and their families. After eight weeks,
seven participants, one husband of a participant, and two children accepted Jesus
Christ as their Lord and Savior and followed him in believer’s baptism in the
South China Sea.

The ten participants and their families – around 50 to 60 in all – continue to meet
in a house church where there is no separate area for children’s ministry and in
which there is literally no room for one more person. With additional
beneficiaries to be added at the end of this year, there will be no place for this
growing church in the community of Market View to meet. There is a great
potential for outreach in Market View if there is a place for believers to gather.

Following in the direction of the work the Lord is doing and in a move to
address a ministry need in that area of the Philippines, I drew from my personal
savings to put a down payment on a vacant lot in an urban poor area of Lucena
City. I paid a surveyor and architect to prepare primary plans for what a church
at this site would look like and cost. I did this not because it is easy or certain – in
fact, I absolutely do not have the money to see this project through on my own. I
took this dive of faith because I am 100% confident that the Lord will provide for
this need that He has brought to light.

I tell you about the steps I’ve taken not to bring praise to myself in stepping out
in this way. I just want you to know how much I believe in this work that the
Lord is doing; in other words, this is not just a whim that I have, it is serious and
necessary work that I believe enough in to have invested in myself. I have also
attached a funding proposal that details the background, plans, and needs of the
project.

I am asking you to come alongside the body of believers in Market View in this
work. One of the church members, Carmen, had the idea that we should daily lift
this need up in prayer, so if you would like to join us, we are praying daily at
11PM Philippines time – 10AM Central time. Set a reminder on your phone or an
alert in your calendar and pray that the Lord would continue to guide and bless
these believers and provide for their needs as they desire to reach out to their
community.

I used to be shy in asking for financial support, but I know that just as the Lord
works in the hearts of people to bring ministry needs to light, He is
simultaneously working in the hearts of people who have the capability to give.
If you have questions about this project, general questions about the church
planting movement in the Philippines, or would like to give, please contact me. I
would love to share more with you about what the Lord is doing and how you
can be a part of that work.

May all that we seek to do be Spirit-led.
Jordan

The Church's current location

The Church’s current location

Would you be willing to become a part of this exciting endeavor?

I have been praying daily for this church’s financial needs to be met so more can be reached and transformed by God’s grace. Would you consider joining me and people on both sides of the globe in prayer every day?

The financial need is great. They are in need of around $9000 by the end of the month. God can provide that, but the approach I’m taking is this: “What if God used me to help provide that?” I know I can’t make a significant dent in that kind of financial need, but God could still use a little bit from me and a little bit from you to work together to be the church and encourage people who are hurting in many ways right now.

I’m reminded of this description of the first church established after Jesus was on earth, and I feel especially challenged to follow this example.

Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” ~Acts 2:44-47

If you are able to contribute financially, or if you have a small group or Sunday school class who might be able to team together to make a contribution, please contact Jordan by email at <jordanleetaylor@gmail.com> or phone (417)839-3406. He can answer any specific questions you have, and has laid out the details in subsequent emails, so he is ready to receive your queries as well as encouragement from other believers that God is at work in this situation. Thanks so much for taking the time to read about one way God is doing a good work in this world that is full of heartbreaking, heavy news. He is still working, and He uses people like us to accomplish His plans.