Missionary Training Week

This week our mission board had its training week in Jefferson City, Tennessee. This time is for missionaries to come together and talk about some really practical aspects of missions as well as spiritual refreshment.

We talked about prayer letters, how to write them, and what the importance of the prayer letter is. We had a pastor come and share with us what he expects from missionaries. The neat thing about his time with us was that he used to be a missionary. He was able to say “I understand you. I know what you are going through. But here is what a pastor expects from you and here is why you should comply.” It was really beneficial. We also had sessions taught by our bookkeeper about how to keep the proper paperwork in order. She shared with us the new tax rules for 2009.

Some of the more spiritual lessons were on overcoming anger and depression. These sessions were taught by a medical doctor. While he did concede that sometimes depression can be a medical condition, he taught us from the perspective that it is often a spiritual problem that results from a loss of hope in the future. He used Psalm 42 as his basis. However, when he talked about anger he simply stated that anger was wrong and wicked.

There were a couple of sessions about holiness and forgiveness towards others.

I taught a few sessions on technology and why to use it in the ministry. I did not get into the “how” as much as I was trying to explain what tools were available. I focused on open source offerings talking about compatibility within OpenOffice.org and compatibility in general. I was asked to run most of the presentations through my computer. We popped in CDs and USB drives that were loaded with PowerPoint presentations as well as various media. My Linux machine was seen in good light as there were very few issues with something not looking quite like the presenter expected. Mostly they were small formatting issues that the general audience did not even notice. I was glad to show them that they could save hundreds of dollars in software by looking at open source tools. Two of the missionaries are considering investigating Linux more thoroughly.

One evening in the conference we went to a lake and had a big picnic. We played on a Sea-Doo and pontoon boat.

There were new and old missionaries at the training school. I think there were 13 or 14 couples represented. Four of the couples are new missionaries who have not spent a term on the field yet. The rest of us were either home temporarily or returning to the field after an extended stay at home. It was good to interact and share with one another.

Great week, but busy.

David and Flora Hartsfield

I spent some time with my friends the Hartsfields today. They have been part of my life for 29 years. Their retirement party is this weekend and we are able to attend.

Bro. and Mrs. Hartsfield came to Odessa, Texas to take charge of our Christian school at the beginning of the 1980-81 school year. They moved to Odessa from Little Rock, Arkansas with their 3 children. Bro. Hartsfield is now 70 and I turn 40 this year. He has been a part of my life for 75% of my time on this earth. The Hartsfields have had more direct influence at different times on me than they do now, but the indirect influence has continued for these many years, and will continue into the future.

I can’t say that they are perfect people since I know human nature and the Bible would say otherwise. But, they have been consistently faithful to their beliefs and have instilled a deep seated desire in me to do the same. Bro. Hartsfield has always been a disciplined and consistent man, and while that may not have transfered into my life completely, it has been a joy to see someone who essentially is the same man I met 30 years ago.

Recently I heard a sermon based on the book of Third John in the Bible. The pastor mentioned a character I have never really studied. But as he talked about Demetrius I immediately thought of Bro. Hartsfield. The verse is 3 John 12: “Demetrius hath good report of all men, and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; and ye know that our record is true.”

Demetrius was well spoken of by men. Bro. Hartsfield has a great personal testimony. Today in Mr. Ramirez’s shoe repair shop I mentioned the retirement party to the owner, who I knew to be an acquaintance of Bro. Hartsfield’s. Mr. Ramirez said some incredibly kind words about Bro. H. Every person that Bro. Harsfield met in business or personally became a quick friend. Bro. H. conducts himself in a way that causes you to want to get to know him personally. He has always been well spoken of by men.

Then the Bible says that Demetrius had a good report from the truth itself. According to God’s Word Demetrius lived a holy and right life. Anyone who knows Bro. Hartsfield knows that just being in his presence causes others to think twice about their actions. Not because Bro. H. is going to preach at them, but because they know that if it is an activity in which he would not participate, then it is because the activity probably violates the Bible or a Biblical principle in some way. While Bro. H. does plenty of preaching, he is not one to raise his voice or lose his temper. He is one of the most fun men to be around because you know that in his presence is an opportunity to have clean comedy, games and activities.

Thirdly it says of Demetrius that the apostles spoke well of him. These were men who had been in the presence of Jesus Christ himself. They knew perfection and they still spoke highly of Demetrius. While I have seen people say horrible things about our school and turn away from the teachings of the Bible, I have not met anyone who would speak to the fact that Bro. H. and his wife were not genuine people. The people who know him best, his family and co-workers, also speak highly of him.

I will miss seeing the Hartsfields on a regular basis, but I know that the impact they have had on the lives of the many students who have passed through the school is tremendous. I am just thankful that I can be here for the retirement party and take part in this special event. It is great to be able to honour a family that has been such a blessing to so many.

A startling realization

Today we were privileged to spend time with my best friend from my teenage years. He is a pastor in Oklahoma now. I met him when I was about 12 years old and he became my youth pastor the next year. We had a great relationship with one another. He is almost exactly 10 years older than I. While we have not been able to spend as much time with one another as we would like through the years, we still love each other’s company.

There is one unique thing about him and his ministry. For some reason he tends to attract retarded people and folks with mental handicaps. I am not being mean, that is just a fact. He currently works a second job outside of the church driving a bus for the adult special ed program in the city.

At least 10% of the congregation this morning were mentally handicapped people. This attraction is not because he seeks out the handicapped; he gets just as frustrated with them as anyone else. While he loves people in general, he has not made an effort to build a special needs congregation.

But they are attracted to him. It is humorous to see how this works.

I was pondering all that while listening to him preach today. Then the startling realization hit:

What does that say about me?

Review: Mentoring and Modeling

While in the office of a pastor friend of mine I saw a book by Dr. John Goetsch. Dr. Goetsch and I had a relationship about 15 years ago through our previous ministry when we worked at a camp. I asked my pastor friend if he had read the book because I was curious as to whether or not Dr. Goetsch was a good author. My friend had not read the book on the desk, but handed me a book from his bookshelf that was co-written by the same author and said it was good.

The book is titled Mentoring and Modeling: Developing the Next Generation by Dr. Mark Rasmussen and Dr. John Goetsch. I am not sure exactly how I would define mentoring, so I had no prejudice as to what the book should contain.

Not until I got 2/3 rds. of the way through the book did I start to understand what the authors meant by that word. Their definition could easily be called “a good teacher.”

I thought the book was well written. It was very practical towards the end of the book. They moved from theoretical teaching to practical application. It was in the practical application section of the book that it became clear as to what was meant by being a mentor. They gave great tips on how a teacher could change their attitude and actions in the classroom to help their students move forward.

There were a couple of things I did not like about the book, both of which could probably be helped by having a professional editor look over the material. There seemed to be an inconsistency in the layout of the book. Sometimes the authors had some long quotes that apparently were supposed to be block quotes in the book. They ended up just being paragraphs that looked like the authors’ own words. It was hard to know where the quote ended and the writers were speaking again.

The book lacked the chapter titles at the top of the pages. While this is certainly not necessary, it is helpful in a book like this. The chapters dealt with specific principles. Looking up at the top of the page to get a reminder of which principle you are studying each time you picked up the book would have been helpful.

I was impressed with the authors’ general style. As I said, I knew Dr. Goetsch several years ago, but had never read anything by him. He (along with Dr. Rasmussen) is a great writer.

The book itself had some good reminders for teachers on how to engage their students and pull them into the lesson. It also talked about how teachers should look for teaching moments. With practise these moments can be found all around you.

This was definitely a book for teachers. I read the book because it was offered to me, but if I had picked it up looking for tips on being a good mentor, I am not sure I would have found what I was looking for. While I agree that teachers should be mentors, this book seemed to be specifically for teachers in a classroom. I don’t have a clear definition in my head as to what I think a mentor should be, but certainly a mentor is not limited to 4 walls and a chalkboard.

I have started to see the difference between books that go through a large publishing company and one that is put together by a smaller outfit. If this had been run through a larger organization it probably would have something about teachers in the title and the formatting would have been more consistent. In the notes I wrote about the book as I read it, I jotted this down: Well written, poorly presented. I don’t think I can improve on that simple statement for this book.

Dr. Goetsch is a great preacher and writer. I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. I just hope that the production quality improves.

Mentoring and Modeling, Dr. Mark Rasmussen and Dr. John Goetsch, Revival Books, 2000, 192 pages.

Alumni Week

This has been a week of getting together with old college friends.

We rescheduled a meeting a couple of weeks ago and were needing a place to pass a couple of days in Pennsylvania. I called Dave, a college friend, who pastors in the area we wanted to be in to see if he had a missionary house/apartment at his church. We had trouble making the connection. When I finally got in touch with him and confirmed that he had a place we could crash for a few days we were only 15 minutes from the church. Dave has been at the church for 9 years as the pastor. He allowed us a chance to put up our display table and let me preach his Wednesday night service.

Sunday AM
Knowing that I would be in Michigan for a couple of other meetings I called a friend from college who pastors near one of my scheduled meetings. Unfortunately Mike was going to be gone the weekend we had free, but he allowed us to be in his church and present our work. Mike has only been at this church about 9 months. We will be seeing him later this week as we drive back through the area headed south.

Sunday PM
One of the meetings in Michigan we were most excited about was with our friend Bruce. He has been in this church about 6 years but we got to know him best when he was an associate pastor in Florida. Bruce’s wife and my wife were suite-mates in college. Bruce and I had several classes together and many mutual friends. It was great sitting and talking with him and his family after church tonight. We ate some great pizza and reminisced for a couple of hours.

There was a time in our ministry when we seldom ran into guys from our college days who were pastoring churches. I guess as they get older they move from being youth pastors and associate pastors into the driver’s seat. I am excited as I think about the many more meetings we will have in the future with former college friends.