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Archive for May, 2012

Focus

Children at a rescue center school

 

 

 

 

I love this picture because these children have books and supplies and even back packs.  Many of the children that we deal with do not have any of these things.

Remember the partnerships that we have formed.  Concordia Lutheran Ministries out of Pittsburgh has established 1001 Orphans and we are working with them.  Concordia Gospel Ministries has donated some supplies.  Churches in Minnesota at Elbow Lake and Montevideo have had ingatherings.  Districts are working on building centers.

We tend to focus on the speed in which things happen or do not happen.  Some focus on the belief that we should do no mercy or aid work at all.  Others focus on something else.  I like to focus on these faces.

Jameson Hardy and James Wolf came back from a trip this week.  They saw work going on at Mawira and Harambee.  They had two others in their party that went up to Womba despite warnings not to go that far North.  They stayed in the homes of the locals.  They came back as Hardy reported “blown away”.  Jameson came back on fire again for the work that we and all of our partners are doing there.

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“We Get Sideways Sometimes”………part 2

“I agree Pastor Seter. Though the ‘foundation’ is strong, our super structure is weak and loose knit organization, glaring to an outsider, which we don’t realize.”  That was the comment on the blog “We Get Sideways Sometimes” posted on May 29th.  Mr Ravi my friend from India is a wonderful Christian witness, a fine churchman and a lay person and to me that gives him a unique perspective that I think all of us should think about.  I think about this a lot because I have the chance to talk with people (there are getting to be more and more of them) who have never had any connection to a church.  The proclamation of the Gospel and the message of Christ crucified for sinners is winsome and the “power of God for salvation”.  It is when we start talking about ‘structural issues’ that problems arise.  Structure is important.  The church as the body of Christ is a structure.  It is built upon the foundation of Christ and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.  All of that is important to remember but Mr Ravi’s statement that it is “glaring to an outsider” is important as well.  What have we added or subtracted from what God has brought into being that is glaring to outsiders who might want to come in?  What happens when a new convert sees power struggles and turf battles in a church?  How does our ‘mission talk’ and our ‘mission action’ measure up to a visitor?  For many of us up here in the North country, our churches were and are extended family operations, built and sustained by a few families.  How does that look to an outsider searching for a church home?

Mr Ravi lives on the cutting edge of the churches mission and “life together”.  He sees daily the impact of power struggles in the larger church in one of the most populous countries on the face of the earth.  He sees what partnerships can do in mission and ministry and he knows what they should not do as well.  We can learn a lot from his insights and I hope he shares more.

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“We Get Sideways Sometimes”………

I took this picture in my garden yesterday.  I tried to set this up with a good foundation and the base is buried deep.  That part is OK.  It is the piece where the building is connected to the base that has issues – it is somekind of a screw that seems to tighten and really doesn’t – not being mechanical I don’t get it.  Any way I thought there was an object lesson here.

Sometimes the church seems to be sideways or lopsided.  It seems to function not as the body of Christ but as a loose knit organization of like minded individuals who get along well as long as their minds are alike.  Throw in a difference of opinion or a perceived slight or an issue of power and we, as one of my friends likes to say, “get sideways with one another”.  The base and support is still strong.  We are still “built on the Rock” even though the steeples seem to be falling.  That’s when we need to work on that connection that keeps us all connected to the sure foundation.

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Defiant Comfort

I saw this at a classical radio stations website and thought it was pretty nice.

I am speaking at the Memorial Day observance at our  community later this morning.  Memorial day has always been evocative for me because of the memories that come flooding back and old conversations that I had with my Father and his brothers.  They were of the WWII and Korean War vintage.  It was their attitude that I found inspiring and a bit frightening.  It was inspiring because the were thrown into situations that they did not ask for and that they were afraid of but they also were willing and proud to go because they believed that they were ultimately cared for.  That is a Christian response and attitude.  I cannot fathom how an unbeliever might feel being thrown into those situations of life and death.  The attitude was inspiring to me because it shows the best of what this country can produce.  It is frightening because I wonder how much longer we can continue to produce it.

Anyway on Memorial Day we think of those that died in service and we honor their sacrifice and their devotion.  Matt Harrison in his book – ” A Little Book on Joy” has a great section on why we can be optimistic in the face of death and dispair and how we who are alive can look forward to a grand reunion with our loved ones.  Here is is

Luther has a delightful explanation of what it means that Jesus is the “first fruits of them that sleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Therefore death has already been deprived of his power, and he has but few more people left to slaughter; for almost all have already passed through death, and the time is near at hand when God will present us all alive again and cast death and hell under our feet. In short, our head, yes, our back and our belly, our shoulders and legs have already passed from death, and all the hold death still has on us is by a small toe. This, too, will extricate itself soon. Therefore we who have now reached the end of the world have the defiant comfort that it will be but a little while, that we are on our last lap, and before we are aware of it, we shall all stand at Christ’s side and live with him eternally (Luther’s Works, 28:120).

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Mary Okeyo Scholarship Travelers – Introducing Pastor Giddings

As promised we wanted to get the travelers and a short bio up on the blog – I think we have most of them except the host couple.  I can’t get gidding picture right now but I will have one soon.  Pastor Giddings writes………………
I will finally cross this off my to-do list and reply to the original introductory questions that were sent out as the trip planning emails first began to make their rounds. I’m not sure if we were supposed to include a picture per the instructions, but since I am so late I will attach one and ask you to notice who is smiling in the picture as well as who appears to be combatitive.
Name: Mike Giddings
Family:  My parents are recently semi-retired and live in northwest Iowa. I have two sisters, a brother-in-law,  and a nephew in Minneapolis and a brother in Kansas City.
Home: I currently live in West Fargo, ND and worship at Crosspointe Lutheran Church in Fargo.  I grew up in Iowa and Nebraska and was in St Louis attending Concordia Seminary prior to arriving in Fargo in July 2007.
Occupation: I serve as the pastor of Crosspointe Lutheran Church in Fargo.  After spending nixing my plans to go to law school and working as a juvenile parole office for a couple years and then a teacher for a couple years I took a job as a youth director which led me to seminary which led me to Fargo.  I started Crosspointe as a new church start and have been blessed to watch God grow the ministry during its first couple years in existence.
Favorites: Mangoes are coming back into season so they are my favorite food of the moment. I listen to all sorts of music and some talk/sports radio as well. I am currently am reading through John and Genesis in my daily devotions so they are giving me new favorite Bible passages each and every day as the Holy Spirit brings a new discovery each time I go through the Bible. My confirmation verse is Isaiah 40:31 and I just  got done preaching a sermon series on Matthew 11:4-5, I like Isaiah 43:1-3 for hospital visits, Proverbs 21:9 and 19 during premarital counsing so I don’t know that I can pinpoint just one.
Travel: I have traveled a stone’s throw into Juarez, Mexico in order to build a house and gone through enough of Canada to get back into the tip of Minnesota that is north of the Lake of the Woods (Pastor Seter, I have a passport now so we can go back any time!).  I have done various mission trips with  youth and college groups to Tennessee, West Virginia, and North Carolina and traveled to a number of other cities mostly in the south for various conferences and events.
Trip anxiety:  I would jokingly say my biggest concern is the potential of not having easy access to my morning Diet Mountain Dew and not getting the extended time in the shower that I typically use to wake up. My real anxiety is being away from Crosspointe for two weeks and making sure everything is lined up before I leave.
Trip excitement: I am excited to see the Lord’s work among a different culture and church setting. To see how the gifts of many faithful people here in our country have made the refuge centers possible and to see how the many faithful people of kenya are being used by God as pastors, teachers, church leaders, deaconesses, etc to proclaim the good news of Jesus. I am excited to worship the same God with brothers and sisters in Christ who live on the other side of the world and the other side of the equator. I am excited to see hope and joy on the faces of children and to hear the Word of God pour from their hearts off of their lips and into my ears. I am excited to see Kenyans that I have previously met when they were in the States. I am excited for the both humbling and the encouragement as well as the new perspectives God will bring into my life through these 11 days. I am excited because right now I have no clue what it will be like to travel through Kenya during our time there but, in a month’s time, all of that ambiguity will be filled in with our shared experiences.
Lasting trip gain: I still remember very vividly the night I returned from Juarez, Mexico. I was sitting on my dorm room floor at Concordia Seminary realizing that the space I had felt was so small over two years was the same size as the house we had just built for a large family.  I know I will be challenged with many of the same realizations in seeing the contrast in lifestyles between two cultures. I know I will gain countless new insights that will impact me as a pastor and as a person – a baptized child of God. I hope to begin and strengthen relationships that stretch beyond our country and I expect to return with a broader, deeper vision of God that will bring even greater praise for His goodness and glory.
Looking forward to meeting you all and sharing this great opportunity.
God’s peace and joy, mike
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Partnerships Again –

This blog was set up to try and inform people about partnerships that existed between the Minnesota North District and the North Dakota District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.   It is also meant to try to tell everyone of all of the different types of mercy activities that take place that may not go into a statistical record somewhere, but that nevertheless are undertaken by individuals and  by churches in response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Writing this blog has led me to look at all kinds of different ways people partner.

When I was in Denver at my nephews graduation I found this intriguing picture posted on the door of the elevator at my hotel. I thought it looked familiar and then I read the small statement that you can’t make out in this picture. The bison is supposed to be the world’s largest buffalo and it sits on a hill just outside of Jamestown, North Dakota. There’s an enclosure there that houses a pretty good sized buffalo herd. Not long ago a white buffalo was born and that caused quiet a stir among the Native American population in North Dakota. The point of all of this is that here is a Hilton motel in Highlands Ranch Colorado that supports through partnerships the refurbishing of a statue that sits outside of Jamestown, North Dakota. This got me to wondering how many of our partnerships support things that we may never think about?  How many of the things that we support in North Dakota and Minnesota North are supporting projects and programs that we would never think to support on our own? I’m all about checking out charities, and what those charities are doing with our gifted dollar.  We are trying to let people who contribute to Project 24, or the May Okeyo scholarship fund apprised of where their money goes and how it is used. That’s not always easy. We will try our best in the future to let everyone know who contributes to Project 24, 1001 Orphans or Mary Okeyo how those hard-earned dollars are being used.

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Graduation …………………..

I was going to try and call this picture “UFO’s over Redrocks” but I figured it probably would’nt work.  Graduation for my nephew was held in Redrocks amphitheater on a rather warm and sunny day.  I think we spent 4 hours there listening to 500 names being called and really only caring about one – my nephews.  It brought back memories of the last time I was there.  It was 1987 and I had taken the girls from Drayton church to the Youth Rally and one of the events was at Redrocks.  While there a storm came up as they will do in the foothills complete with lightening and hail and extremely heavy rain.  Everyone wanted to evacuate the place and as we went up the stairs to the buses on the backside the water was so deep and strong coming down the stairs, people were falling and getting drenched and there was a lot of screaming.  Meanwhile the lightening was pretty scary.  When we finally got in the bus and started back towards Denver we could see the lights of ambulances and other emergency vehicles coming up to us.

Back at the hotel I found out that Tom Brokaw led the nightly news with our adventure and my room phone had practically melted from the parents calling to see if their child was ok.  Anxiously waiting at home for the announcement of that one name that meant everything to them.  I spent the better part of an hour returning calls.  That was before cell phones and twitter.

Someone on the radio said something profound the other day.  He was talking of Doctors and nurses and how they needed to treat everyone as if they were special because to someone everyone is.  Treat people as special because to someone they are.  Everyone deserves to have someone who will sit for four hours in the hot sun to hear their name called.

We all may not have that in our familes and friends, but there is one who treats all of us as special because to him we are.  Christ died and rose again so that someday our name will be recorded in the book of life.  He  will read those names and he wants to hear our names read.  Everyone of us.

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God’s Math

 

186,000 miles per second is not just a good idea - it's the Law

The 10 Commandments are the moral Law and they get broken by thoughts desires, word and deeds.

God seems to have put a lot of ‘laws’ into effect in nature.  E=MC2 is one.  The Laws of Thermodynamics and Entropy are others.  The speed of light was considered to be a constant and a law and that nothing could go faster than light.  Now some scientists claim to have discovered particles that travel faster than the speed of light so perhaps even that law was meant to be broken.

God has been called the great mathematician.  The Bible is full of numbers and counting.  Several books in the Old Testament are basically about numbers and accounting.  So does God have a different kind of math?

Last Sundays lesson said that after the Ascension, the number of believers was about 12o.  Paul says that after the resurrection Jesus appeared to about 500 people.  Now I would assume that if you saw the resurrected Christ you would be a believer.  Yet about 1/4 of those who saw the resurrected Christ are mentioned in Acts 1.  I am surrounded by statistics that tell us that  of the number of members of a congregation about 1/4 of them attend church on Sunday.  About 1/4 of the members of a church give 90% of the budget.  If I solicit a gift for a project or a mission emphasis about 1/4 of those that I visit will actually give.  About 1/4 of our confirmands will remain with the church through out the years of college and young adulthood.  Jesus had 12 disciples but 1/4 of them were present at the more monumental events of his ministry such as the Transfiguration and the prayer in the Garden.

So we call it the 80 -20 rule.  80% of the work of the church is done by 20% of the people.  That is about 1/4.  Interesting stuff.  Wouldn’t it be nice if that were a law that we would all decide to break?

 

 

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“Crossings” Northern and Otherwise.

Holy Cross in Highlands Ranch Colorado

We started this blog because of the partnerships that existed between the Minnesota North District and the North Dakota District in so many ways that we never thought about and now that some of those are formalized it is fun to see how our paths continue to ‘cross’.

I went to the the graduation of my nephew and God child last week and I attended church at Holy Cross.  This congregation is Pastored by Rev. Skelton, who, if my memory serves, which it often does not, has a connection to Hankinson North Dakota.  It seems that half the Missouri Synod has a connection to Hankinson.  Pastor Skelton was gone on vacation and filling in for him was a retired Pastor by the name of Wayne Woolery.  Pastor Woolery I came to find out was a roomate of Ken Weinlaeder when they went to school at Seward.  Ken is the brother of Roger Weinlaeder who is one of the original Project 24 guys.  Woolery also asked me about Pastor Phil Hanneman who is a Pastor in Rugby North Dakota.  They are evidently friends so – Hello Pastor Hanneman.

My brother, who is the organist at Holy Cross, then introduced me to a women that obviously had been gone from the congregation for a while.  Her name is Denise Seaman and right now she is living in Cypress.  She is working with a mission called “Lutheran Radio – United Kingdom”.   I told her that I was on the Board of International Missions and she asked if I knew Brent Smith.  Brent is the Regional Director for World Missions in EurAsia.  I had a wonderful lunch at his home in Oberusel Germany a few years ago.  The partner church that is doing the Radio Work is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England and when it was constituted as an independent sister church in 1954, the first Pastors installed were the Rev. Norman Nagel, and the Rev. Louis Brighton who were two of my Professors when I was going to school.  Anyway Denise has a program on this radio station every Thursday called Songs of Hope.  Check it out at http://www.lutheranradio.co.uk/programme.php.

On a more somber note another connection was discovered during the prayers.  Rev. Gary Buss is the Pastor at Messiah in Grand Junction.  Gary was a good friend of mine while in North Dakota and the Pastor at Redeemer in Lisbon.  When he moved to Grand Junction he was the Pastor that buried my Uncle Howard Seter.  Gary is battling cancer so your prayers are requested too.

I mentioned that a former Pastor from Minnesota North and North Dakota is down the road from my brothers house.  Pastor Stoltenow is at Shepherd of the Hills in Centennial.  His associate Pastor is Greg Zillinger who was Pastor at Hannover North Dakota.  One of our Mary Okeyo Scholarship travelers, Mike Henke is from Hanover.  It is truly a small world.

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Colorado Connections

 So I am in Denver for the Graduation of my Godson Daniel and the room we are staying at has a neat idea.  Somehow they knew I have a bad memory and put this picture on the door along with the room number.  How they knew that I have a propensity for speeding tickets and would remember this I will never know.

Even here I can’t get way from the connections we share on this blog.  Just down the road from my brother’s house is Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church and the Pastor there is Brad Stoltenow.  Brad was in Deer River Minnesota and the Circuit Counselor there before he went to Bismarck.  The Pastor of  my brothers church has a connection to Hankinson I believe, but I have to check that out tomorrow.

 

 

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