An Angel Named João

Today we flew from Cape Town to Lanseria, a smaller, and therefore easily navigable airport close to Johannesburg. From there we drove a rental car to Mozambique…quite a drive, but the landscape is so absolutely stunning that even the four stop and go roadblocks did not phase us.

We had been told all sorts of horror stories about the border crossing, from people waiting in line for 16 hours to people having to pay $500 bribes to get through, and so we were well prepared and well armed. Well prepared in that we had done our homework…we had everything we needed in the car from reflective triangles to reflective vests and ZA stickers for the back of the car. Well armed in that we had asked many to pray for us…and we prayed especially for the Lord’s angels to go before us and to prepare the way.

The crossing on the South African side was confusing, but not a big deal. However, as we crossed over to Mozambique we were swarmed by people all offering to help us through for a price, of course. But as this just started happening, a car came up from behind and drove up next to us indicating that we follow him…which we did. The would be helpers begun to curse and swear at him. Who was he and wha did he think he was doing…robbing them of the joy of robbing these foreigners?

João turned out to be an angel in human form. Not only did he speak the language, but he grew up here and knew every detail of what we need to do. He went out of his way to help us get our visas and car papers and even called the Bishop to ask for directions to where we are staying tonight.

But then…wait for this…he actually took us there, driving in front of us all the way from the border into downtown Maputo…and he paid our Toll fees as well.

Coincidence? I think not. He had gone to South African for a medical check-up and was on his way home when he saw us being swamped…and he stepped in to help.

Hmm…isn’t that what disciple-making Jesus style is all about?

An Encouraging Note…

We just received this very encouraging note from one of our most recent trainees (see below). Part of the requirements for our trainees is that they a) identify at least one person they can disciple, and b) train them to make disciples. In other words, they have to train others as we have trained them, but over a longer period of time…in fact, however long it takes…until they produce a mature disciple who can make more disciples. Also, we leave them with a 60 Chronological Study of the life of Jesus to undergird what we have taught them regarding the method Jesus used to make disciples.

Hi, guys I have started the 60 days devotional and I am finding it deepening my understanding of who Jesus is and who I am in Him. I have also shared with a colleague and he has developed an interest. I am praying about the 2 others that I have identified and trust God as I start gently conversations with them. Warm Regards and God’s light be upon you,on your trip to Maputo.M.

Transparency culture…

In his book, “Work Rules! That will transform how you live and lead”, Laslo Bock writes about Google’s culture. The second cornerstone of their culture is transparency.

“Fundamentally, if you’re an organisation that says, “Our people are our greatest asset” (as most do), and you mean it, you must default to open. Otherwise, you’re lying to your people and to yourself. You’re saying people matter but treating them like they don’t. Openness demonstrates to your employees that you believe they are trustworthy and have good judgement. And giving them more context about what is happening (and how and why) will enable them to do their jobs more effectively and contribute in ways a top-down manager couldn’t anticipate.”

I couldn’t help wondering how this would work in a traditional management setting, or, more specific to our own church culture, in a traditional church setting. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “we’ve never done it this way before”, implying that any and every innovation is automatically doomed to fail, I would be a very wealthy man.

Previous generations did not embrace transparency as a culture. For instance, my mother had no idea how much money was in my father’s bank account…and yes, she did not have a bank account herself. In fact, my brother and I had no idea either until the day he died. He did it all himself and kept his cards close to his chest. Today, Louise and I have joint accounts and try to never do anything without prior consultation.

Hierarchical management systems tend to be more like my parents…the lower down the rung you are, the less you know. Boards meet behind close doors and make decisions employees are simply expected to implement. Budgets are closed books. Everything is controlled by a few…everyone is controlled…

Surely if we believe what Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you“, we, as His Body, would embrace a culture of transparency…

But are we ready to forego that feeling of power that comes from being the only one who is in the know?

We need to be. People are voting with their feet. In todays’ Google culture, operating in a closed system tells your people that you think they are not capable, or not suitable, or that you simply do not trust them. This is not a work environment or church environment people are likely to define as ‘home’ and they will move on…

Because she’s just that kind of girl…

Yesterday, something Bill Hybels said in a talk at the Global Leadership Summit took me back to my childhood.

I wasn’t a model child. My brother always said something went wrong when I started High School and got hooked up with the wrong crowd, but I think they just brought out what was deep down inside of me anyway. My behaviour was far from exemplary…and yes, I got progressively worse after going to High School, but maybe that had to do with finally understanding a lot of things that had already happened in my past. The anger that erupted somewhere between 7th and 8th grade was there all the time…bubbling, steaming, hissing…and when it all came to the surface, it wasn’t pretty. No one wanted to be around me…and I don’t blame them…I didn’t want to be round myself…I didn’t like myself one bit and it showed. I made people uncomfortable…

But there was someone who never gave up on me regardless of how irrational my behaviour became. She didn’t have to stick around, she just did because she’s just that kind of girl…she was loyal to a fault, blunt at times, but always honest and trustworthy. She never ratted on me or gossiped about me even when she could have won “cool” points with others who did. And when the Lord Jesus came into her life, she would not take no for an answer…she bugged me until I agreed to go with her to a Youth For Christ Crusade.

Georine knew me when I was at my worst. She knew everything single dirty secret of mine, every single private sin as well as every public sin I had committed…but she saw something in me no one else did…she saw something in me I didn’t see. And I owe her my life…so this short blog is to say ‘thank you’ to a person who is the embodiment of the God of Scripture…the one whose love never fails, never gives up, and never runs out on me (1).

She didn’t have to, but she did because she’s just that kind of girl…

Thanks Gerry…I will always be eternally grateful for your love and friendship.

(1) Songwriters: Brian Johnson / Christa Black / Jeremy Riddle
One Thing Remains lyrics © Music Services, Inc