Archive for January, 2010

Haiti Update — Depot Set-Up

Container Loaded for Shipment

It’s beautiful to see a plan come together.  Here’s the latest on the work Granada is doing to assist the people of Haiti.  We have partnered with GCA (Great Commission Alliance) to open a supply depot outside of Port-au-Prince. The goal is to have a place outside of the chaos of the capitol to store and distribute relief supplies.  The first container is all sealed and has been delivered to the ship for transit to the Dominican Republic.  It was packed by hand to make the most of the space.  We will have two people meet the ship in Santo Domingo and get the container through customs.  I will be going along with Mario Trevilla.  We will ride with the truck to the border crossing and into the country the next day.

Inside the first container is a crane made especially for this site.  It will be assembled at the depot and used to lift containers off the trucks as they come in. It is our goal to then follow this up with one container each week.  The key for making this work will be setting up the supply and the distribution routes and process. Right now the key issue is safety and security.

In the process of planning this work many people from different churches, businesses, and ministries have come together.  Also, you, our Granada family, have been generous to supply food and financial resources.  The whole operation is a testimony to the unity of the Spirit and the generosity of the people of God. Thank you for being part of this.

Of course, this is only the beginning.  The needs in Haiti will remain for many months and years.  As the situation changes we will keep you informed.  Beginning Feb. 7th we will once again be collecting foodstuff and other items for yet another container.  You can help by buying something for others as you shop for yourself.  The GCA site provides the list of items we will be receiving.  See: http://gcanet.org/foodcollection.html

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25

In all this I would ask you to pray for our safety as we travel, and for the message of hope in Jesus to go out with every meal and bandaid.  The Haitian people need hope, and the door is open to serve and love them.  We will be doing our best to provide updates in the days ahead.  Thank you for praying and giving and sharing.

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Granada Multi-Campus?

Back in late October 2009, Granada opened a campus out in the city of Doral.  We’re not the first church to move in this direction.  John Piper and Tim Keller both lead churches with multiple campuses.  Christ Fellowship has also adopted the multi-campus strategy and now operates in a number of locations in Miami-Dade County.  Fellowship church boasts four campuses in Texas, and one here in Miami.  At last count, over 2,000 churches in the U.S. have multiple campuses.  So why are churches moving in this direction?  First, churches are finding that they can reach a limited number of people from only one location.  Yes, some mega-churches have exploded with growth during the last few decades, but these churches are also learning their limits.  John Piper saw his church reach its limit with multiple worship services, and a facility over-crowded.  The church leadership managed this growth by renting space so that people could gather and worship with a televised message from Dr. Piper. Redeemer Church in Manhattan went to multi-sites in the early days of the church for a different reason.  Their goal wasn’t to gather more people but to bring their ministry to more communities in their city.  Rather than have people come from all over New York to one community.  The desire was to go into the different communities of the city.

…we sent our services out into different locations so that people could worship closer to where they lived. People can become more deeply involved in the community and can more easily bring friends if they attend services in their neighborhood. This was an ‘anti-mega-church’ move, since huge churches create a large body of commuters who travel long distances to attend church. We wanted to resist this tendency and root people more in their locales. –Tim Keller

Doral City Hall

The plan of Redeemer better reflects the goals of Granada.  We don’t have mega-church aspirations, but we do desire to serve the communities of our city.  For us, the mult-site approach allows us to plant a new work without all the expense of doing a church plant from the ground up.  How so?  Rather than bringing in new leaders, we can use the existing network of leaders we already have.  Rather than trying to duplicate ministry, we want to use what is already here.  This allows us to move into new neighborhoods and get ministry going much more quickly.  This is what our city needs.  We remain the most under-churched city in the southeast and one of the top under-churched cities in the nation.  Our goal is not to get everyone in town to come to one location, but to see the gospel move into each community.  This is what is so exciting about being in Doral.  This is a different community than the Gables.  The leadership, the needs, the opportunities are quite different.

In the same way, our goal is not to broadcast video to different sites in our city.  We want to see preaching that fits each different community. Henri Rojas is preaching in Doral in Spanish.  His messages track with our Coral Gables campus, but they are meant to be applied to Doral, the culture and people who are there. In the future, we envision worship and preaching also in English in Doral, but that campus needs to track with the needs and opportunities of the new community.

Haiti Update

Dave McCloud, our Serve the World team leader, asked me to post an update on our relief efforts in Haiti.  The situation changes moment by moment so I will make an effort to pass information on to you so that you can pray.   Please check back here periodically.

Everything is unfolding pretty quickly.  For example, I just got off the phone with one of our members flying to Haiti tonight to provide medical assistance. Some of Granada’s doctors will be covering extra shifts here in Miami to cover for those who have already gone down.  We need to thank God for the way people have come together to serve the Haitian people.

What is happening with the food and water collected at Granada?  These supplies have already been collected, transported to a warehouse here in Miami, put on pallets, and prepared for containers. I heard details today about the shipping of the containers.  While the docks at Port-au-Prince are being restored one-by-one, there remains a bottleneck for food and supplies getting into the country. Containers will arrive much more quickly if sent through the Dominican Republic and then brought across the border by truck.  The trip for the containers to the DR is three days from Miami.  The truck trip to Haiti is estimated to be less than 6 hours. We plan to have someone from Granada meet the containers in the DR and ride with the truck into Haiti.  Marcel Baptiste and Brian Kelso, two of our sister church pastors, will meet the truck from the Haiti side of the border.  A warehouse and distribution center has already been established outside of Port-au-Prince so that these supplies can be taken safely into the city and provided to those most in need.  Plans are also being made to convert empty containers into safe living-quarters once they have been emptied.

What is happening to money given to this effort?  These resources are being used for medicines, additional food, and other supplies to be added to what has already been given.  As we hear more about specific needs, those resources can be used to secure what is needed far more quickly. For example, a sister church has secured and staffed a clinic just outside of Port-au-Prince.  We will want to help provide the supplies they need to treat victims.  Having these resources will enable us to move more swiftly to meet these needs.  All of this is clearly a cooperative effort.  Many churches, ministries and businesses have joined hands to provide assistance.  I marvel at how God has opened the door for new relationships through the crisis.

When will teams be going down from Granada?  Yes, they will.  Arrangements need to be made in Haiti for teams to serve and we want to make sure the teams will be safe.   Right now the work is still rescue and recovery and providing emergency relief.  As the renewal and rebuilding phase begins we will be much better equipped to send teams. Keep posted for these opportunities in the days ahead.

What about adoptions?  The Haitian government has sent mixed signals about sending orphans to Florida.  We have been told that as many as 10,000 orphans will arrive.  It remains to be seen how many children will be allowed to come to the U.S.   We are coordinating with a ministry in Broward County, 4 Kids,  for screening for those who are interested in welcoming a child into their home.  You can find their site where an application can be completed at:  http://www.4kidsofsfl.org/

Finally, those who know the situation in Haiti well expect a severe shortage of food across the entire nation.  Why?  In the past, food has flowed into the country from the capital, Port-au-Prince.  This supply has been cut off for some time now.  Shops across the country have already reported shortages.  Within the next two to three weeks, this will become a major crisis for the entire country.  Let’s pray together for peace for the people and wisdom in how to respond to these needs for food.

Thank you for praying, for giving, and for sharing.  We thank God for the hope that we have in Christ and the message of his mercy and the love he has given to us.

18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5

Questions

Typical Haitian Neighborhood (pre-earthquake)

Today’s Miami Herald featured an article about a Haitian woman with questions for God.  The article entitled This Believer Now Asks: God, why? was tucked away in the Disaster in Haiti section of the paper. Nadege Charles, a Catholic believer, wrote the article first-person sharing her lament and wondering why God saved some and did not save others from the deadly force of the tremor.  I was grateful to find this article in the Herald, and to see that people are taking their questions and grief to God.  Believing in God does not mean being more polite when things happen.  It means being more honest.  As a man told me last week when he confronted me, relationships require honesty and that sometimes means confrontation and conflict.  This has always been true with believers and God.  The Bible is filled with accounts like Charles’ of probing painful questions for God.  The prophet Jeremiah experienced such pain in his dealings with God that he dared to say:

5 He has besieged me and surrounded me
with bitterness and hardship.

6 He has made me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.

7 He has walled me in so I cannot escape;
he has weighed me down with chains.

8 Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.

9 He has barred my way with blocks of stone;
he has made my paths crooked.

10 Like a bear lying in wait,
like a lion in hiding,

11 he dragged me from the path and mangled me
and left me without help.

12 He drew his bow
and made me the target for his arrows.  Lamentations 3

God didn’t strike down Jeremiah.  Actually, Jeremiah’s words reflect the heart of someone very close to God.  His words are not an offense to God.  They reveal the nature of the stormy relationship that God has always had with his intimate friends.  Teresa of Avila once said to the Lord, “Lord, you would have less enemies if you treated your friends better.”  The book of Psalms, the hymnbook of the Old Testament, is filled with questions directed to God. The model questioning song is Psalm 13:

1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

This challenges notions that the worship of believers is solemn or tame for that matter.  I believe this psalm does not reflect a moment in worship but the way that we process our grief.  We can’t get from the first words, “How long?” to “I will sing” in the scope of a few moments.  The way begins with confusion and questions and fears and mourning.  The goal is not politeness or even coherence.  The first step is to get our feelings out into the open, and to direct them to God.  It will be ugly, and raw but real.  We hunger for such honesty with God, and moments like these should not be rushed.  Often the feelings that take the longest to surface can help us the most.

The second movement involves a calling upon God to act.  Based on what we know of God’s mercy we call for him to answer, for him to respond.  We plead and petition.  Sometimes, we challenge God.  We implore.  We beg.  Our longings find their voice in  these requests to God.  We don’t want just answers.  We want God, and we expect him to do as he has promised.  We expect him  to act as the God we know him to be.

The third movement requires us to continue to assert our dependence on God.  The Psalmist knows he has no other hope.  He pledges his trust before God answers, before God responds. This step requires us to cling to the character and promises of God.  This must be done before the matter is resolved, before we are satisfied, while we continue to grieve. Trusting is a choice the believer must make.

Finally, we find a song to sing in honest worship.  We know nothing of the tune for the lyrics of Psalm 13.  Does the singing of worship end with an unresolved chord?  Or, is it triumphant?  We just do not know.  What has your experience been?  This week I remain in the first of the movements of this great song.  God longs for communion with us, even with all our questions and grief.  One thing that can be said about David. His enemies drove him to God.  The events of this past week have done the same for me.  Have they for you?

Help for Haiti

This week we’ve all been grieving.  News of the earthquake in Haiti sent aftershocks here.  Not physical aftershocks, but emotional ones.  Granada has sent a number of ministy teams to Haiti in the past year.  I personally visited Haiti twice in 2009.  (Check out blog entries from earlier this year:  https://dwcarson.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/haiti-taking-a-look/.)  Haiti is a country that seems to have missed a century of development.  Many Haitians live along the fringe of existence unable to eek out a decent living and seemingly without hope for the future.  Few children receive a decent education, and many people battle to have ample food for each day.  This makes this tragic earthquake all the more grieving to us all.  Yesterday I heard many people ask, What is our church doing?  What can I do now to help out? And, why did this happen to people who were already so beaten down by life?  I’ll try and answer each of these questions and will also keep you informed as the work unfolds.  First, here is some background.  Granada established a partnering relationship with GCA (Great Commission Alliance–a mission agency of a sister PCA church in S. Florida) for ministry in Haiti in 2009.  The work involved support, light construction and spiritual leadership among a number of churches and orphanages in and around Les Cayes (Haiti’s fourth largest city, located on the southern coast about 100 miles from Port-au-Prince).  This area of the country experienced light to moderate damage from Tuesday’s earthquake. But, these relationships provide a means of providing the most direct support and help. How can we help?

View of Port-au-Prince

What Granada is Doing and How You can Get Involved Now

1.  First, pray. The first days are the search and rescue days of the operation.  People trapped in buildings are still being freed.  Also, medical teams from the U.S. and many other nations are arriving to assist in treating the injured.  Pray for these teams who are working around the clock to save lives.  Also, during these first days assessment teams are measuring the damage and working to set response priorities.  Two pastors from our presbytery are already there on the ground helping in the work.  Another will soon be arriving.  Transportation and communication continue to be the most significant challenges to bringing help.  Let’s unite to pray for the people of Haiti and for the rescue efforts. One of our members, Sandra Medor, has family in Port-au-Prince.  Please pray for them, and others we know who live there.

2.  Give.  While many people have indicated a willingness to go to help, this is just not possible right now.  Lack of food and shelter makes accommodating visitors more difficult than ever. There will be a time for this as the response develops in the days and weeks ahead.  Right now, our best response is to give financially. Funds can be given through our church for this effort.  These resources will be directed to the people we know best and can help most.  We want to see how family members of our church members can be helped (as some of our members have family in Port-au-Prince). We also want to see how we can work through GCA to help sister churches and their members.  You may direct gifts to the church.  Please make out checks to Granada and mark them:  Granada Haiti Earthquake Relief.

3.  Help fill containers with food.  Granada will be helping to fill two containers (20 cubit yards each) for transit to Haiti.  Space has already been secured on ships for these containers.  We’d like to gather food staples–dried beans and rice first.  Our plan is to have someone from Granada on site when these containers arrive so that food can be distributed where it is needed most.  The parlor at Granada will be a collection point for these items.

4.  Going to Help.  If you would be interested in joining a team to assist in Haiti, please contact our Serve the World Team leader: David McCloud. (davemccloud@bellsouth.net)  He will be able to provide you with information about how you can get involved here and also join a team to Haiti.

What are we to think about this?

When natural disasters strike, religious people are tempted to draw straight and direct lines of responsibility.  (You may have heard comments about the voodoo practice of the Haitian people as an explanation for the events of this week.)  Of course, we are searching for answers and want to be able assess blame.  We do this because we believe God has reasons for allowing disasters to happen.  We think we understand his reasons, but scripture warns us against thinking that we can know the mind of God.  The Bible tells us that life is not fair but God always is.  It tells us that God’s ways are beyond us and that we see through a glass dimly.  Our vision is hazy and our understanding falls short. We struggle when we don’t have answers because we know life is not meaningless, but we also do not know the meaning of it all either.   Instead of blaming or speaking for God, we are commanded to respond in love and compassion to those who are hurting.  We are commanded to trust ways we do not understand and outcomes we can’t see or fathom.  What we do have to rely on, and where God speaks most clearly to us is in the sending of Jesus. In sending Jesus, God shows us that he knows our pain and that he loves us and has sent someone to bind up our wounds.  Even more we see Jesus taking our wounds upon himself.  God doesn’t stand at a distance, but he hurts with us.  In the end he becomes the victim showing us just how great his love is for us.  Christians who understand the gospel know that none of us get what we deserve. God gives us favor we don’t earn and a place with him we cannot achieve.  It is this gospel that causes us to love others, and to see ourselves in those most hurting and broken.  We love because he first loved us.

33Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
36For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen
.  Romans 11

How We Treat Each Other

The movie Amazing Grace tells the story of the abolition of slavery.  This was the mission of William Wilberforce a Member of Parliment.  When he became a Christian, he adopted two missions.  What was the other? The reformation of manners.  He considered each of these goals equally important to the future of his country.  In those days (late 18th and early 19th century), the people were profane.  They treated each other very poorly.  There was little courtesy and the veneer of civility in Britain had worn thin.  Wilberforce recognized that to make for a good people, their attitudes toward each other needed to change.

It has been said that today we need a reformation of manners.  The cover story of an edition of USA Today was titled: Excuse Me, But…Whatever Happened to Manners? The article cited the growing rudeness, and even harshness of American life and bemoaned the way we treat one another.  One study noted that 89% of Americans think civility is a serious problem.  This study was done more than a decade ago and most think matters have only gotten worse.  So why is this important?  Why did Wilberforce consider civility so important?  Why should we? Community depends on respect.  The neglect of civility leads to a collapse of community.  The way we treat each other betrays the way we think of each other.

When we look at Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, we are shocked at the way he treated people.  He showed respect for people despite how they treated him.  He recognized and respected authority even though he was a much higher authority.  He did so even when he was not treated fairly.  He did this all the way to the cross.  In this he set the example for us.  Why did he do it?  First, people, even at their worst, bear the image of God. They have intrinsic value that we cannot begin to measure.  When we show disrespect to people we are disrespecting the God who created them. Second, he loved people.  He treated people not as they deserved but based on what his death would enable them to become.  He saw beyond the sin of the adulterous woman and showed her respect.  He saw beyond the confusion of he demoniac and treated him with respect.  He could see beyond the foolishness of the disciples, and he treated them with respect.  When people mocked him and spat upon him and rejected him, he treated them with grace and courtesy.   He could do this because he had come to die for them.

Now applying this is the tough part.  It means we have to show respect to people who have hurt us, to people very different from us, and to people who do not respect us.  All for Christ’s sake.  We do this because this is the way the community of Christ comes and grows.  What would happen in Miami, our city, if we people began to show each other respect?  Wilberforce’s movement brought an end to slavery in Britain.  His mission to reform manners never reach a conclusion.  It remains to this day, and you are part of it.

Who Do You Need?

In the 2001 Ocean’s Eleven movie we overhear two characters discussing who they’ll need to do the job.  They’re planning a sophisticated heist and need just the right people to pull it off.  One the characters says:

Off the top of my head, I’d say you’re looking at a Boesky, a Jim Brown, a Miss Daisy, two Jethros, and a Leon Spinks, not to mention the biggest Ella Fitzgerald ever.

Leonard Sweet opens his book 11 Indispensable Relationships You Can’t Be Without with this illustration.  His point that he works out in his book is: The real meaning of life is not a journey question or an arrival question.  It’s a relationship question. Yes, your journey and your destination are both important, but there is another question that is more important: who do you have with you?

This year our church will focus on building community, strengthening relationships…who we have with us on the journey.  Jesus was concerned with the who-do-you-have-with-you question.  He carefully selected his disciples to be with him:

He [Jesus] appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him… Mark 3:14

Who do you have with you?  David had Jonathan.  Though the son of the king, Jonathan became the loyal friend who encouraged David when life (and his father) was closing in on him.  Each of us needs a friend for the journey, someone we know who will always be for us.  We need someone who’s support strengthens our hand.  David also had Nathan the prophet of God in his.  Nathan confronted David when no one else could or would even though it might cost him his life.  We too need someone on our journey who will tell us the truth we do not want to hear. We learned in worship yesterday that we all need a Zacchaeus. He’s the reject in your life that reminds you that you are not so great yourself.  His/her presence reminds you that God loves the worst, and so when you are at your worst you can know he loves you.

Who do you need with you on the journey?  Do you need a true friend?  A confronting prophet?  And, how can you be the person who goes on the journey with someone else?  How can you best serve the people around you with the gifts God has given to you?