A day off the gird.
No Media (Telephone, TV, Computer, etc.)
It was a blast and I felt refreshed, focused and renewed.
Since I am feeling weary and heavy burdened (Matthew 11:28) I thought I would come to the Father without distraction.
So I am going to get away.
Truly, get away.
I am retreating for a day or 2.
Just me and my Bible.
I look fw to a time of rest with the Lord.
What does rest look like to you?
Except you'll notice that today it's 9 questions. That's right! This is the Super-Sized edition of the 5 Question feature.
Today's guest is Wess Stafford. From the poor of Africa's Ivory Coast, to President and Chief Executive Officer of Compassion International, Dr. Wesley K. Stafford — Wess — has maintained one simple belief: God's children are priceless resources. To that end, Wess leads Compassion's efforts to break the cycle of poverty for children everywhere.I had the pleasure of chatting with Wess Stafford over the phone recently. This interview is an edited transcription of that call.
1. You were the son of missionaries, but you didn't have the easiest childhood, correct?
That's fair to say. In a nutshell, I think I was very privileged to be born into and raised in a missionary family. Every year of my childhood was split between two locations: one of them was the worst of times, and one of them was the best of times: It was pretty much mission policy back in those days that all the missionary kids in West Africa were required to go to a boarding school. In large part, to get them out of the way so the gospel could go forth.
Being away from your parents for nine straight months-- It was about seven hundred miles away; it took about a week to drive it, and we stayed there from March until September.--Being away from your parents when you're only six years old was tough enough, but the really sad things was, the people who were put in charge of us didn't go to Africa to take care of missionary kids; they went to Africa to save the lost. They didn't make it, either linguistically, or cross-culturally, or something. But ultimately, instead of being fired, ('cause you can't fire a missionary--they bring their own financial salary across the border,) they were given the least important thing there was to be done. And that, as it turned out, was to go take care of other missionaries' kids'. Well, they weren't called to do that, they weren't trained to do that, they didn't want to do that; nobody held them accountable while they did that.
As a result, about a dozen grownups absolutely took out their rage on us kids (there were about 50 of us.) And we were abused for nine months in any way a child can be abused. We were scared to death of God, and we knew that we were little sinners in the hands of this very angry God, and there was no sense of the love for God, just fear. Emotionally, it actually came to the point where I wouldn't look a grownup in the eye, and I wouldn't speak except in a mumble, and hope I wouldn't be hurt, 'cause anytime I engaged with a grownup it always ended up in a beating of some sort.
So at age six if you'd have looked at me… We ran into one of my teachers a year ago, and my wife asked this teacher: Did you see in Wesley, this little tiny boy, any evidence that he would grow up to be the leader of a huge ministry? And the teacher stood there for a while and it was an eternity, and she finally said, No, I really didn't. And she told the truth. There was no evidence. All of us kids were like hunted little animals, we just avoided grownups. Any contact with grownups ended up with either shame or pain or both. So we were emotionally just crushed. Physically, it was run very strictly. When I was nine years old and they taught the math class how to average stuff, the most reoccurring thing in my life I could think of to average was, How many times do they beat me in this place?
I kept a little tally under my pillow for several weeks and then I did the math, and I was being beaten seventeen times a week. Sometimes to the point where you could hardly walk. Many of my friends, I actually risked my little life to help pick them up and carry them back to their rooms. You cannot believe the physical abuse. And then Rick, and I don't talk about this a whole lot, but the sexual abuse. Any time Satan has free reign, this is one of his favorite tools, and he was just having his time up there. The very grownups who were reading us our Bible stories, after the generator was off and the dorm was dark, were going up and down the halls molesting little children. Even the older kids who had been victims themselves turned into predators. It turned out that it was a very dangerous place to be a little child, for the very people you should have run to for help were the ones who were hurting you.2. You mentioned the best of times. How did those shape you?
The best of times was this wonderful village that I got to be raised in. My sister and I were the only white kids for a day's drive in any direction. The village had a saying, it takes a whole village to raise a child, so everybody thought they owned every kid in the village. I was one of those kids- wrong color skin, mind you, but I was one of those kids that everybody loved on and poured into. I never fell down and hurt myself without some African swooping in, picking me up, drying my tears and sending me on my way. They taught me what they taught their kids.
I really learned everything I need to know to lead Compassion's Worldwide ministry around the campfires of a little African village-- all the things that really mattered. Oh, you can learn about management and all that stuff, but stuff of the heart, the real quality stuff, I learned there. Like joy, and love, and hope; that time is your servant, not your master; that people matter, things don't; how to give, how to receive; why God gives strength: it's not for you, it's for others; why God gives courage, not for you to be the best, but for you to be there when others are frightened. All of my heart foundation I owe to the poor in that village. Sadly, I was only there for three months of each year, and it was an oasis of love and of restoration, and the building back up of really damaged little boy from the rest of the year. And that was the hard part, was the rest of the year.
3. So how did you get involved with Compassion International?
So when I think about the poor, frankly, I don't think downward at all, I think upward. I tell staff around the world that they need to earn the right to even be around these people. The worst thing about poverty is not all of these circumstances, the worst thing about poverty is the message that all of these circumstances eventually bring into the heart of a child, that says, "Give up. You're not going to live; nobody cares; nobody's coming to your rescue; give up." Well, ironically, that's the same message that abuse is sending: "Give up. Nobody cares."
And so, you know, the twin paths of my childhood actually led me to the ministry of Compassion. When I came to America when I was fifteen, half my boyhood friends had died, in fact that's where the book starts is when I first arrived in Manhattan. But one of the first days in America, I saw people walking along the sidewalk carrying grocery bags. And being a pretty good hunter, I backtracked them, you know, where's that stuff coming from? And I walked inside, and I saw all of this food! It hit me like a ton of bricks: Nobody needs to starve. There's plenty of food. And next door to the grocery store, attached to it, was a drug store. And I asked one of the people inside, "What's all this?" And they said, "Well this is all medicine." And I realized: There's plenty of that, too. My friends didn't need to die, there's plenty of medicine, there's plenty of food. And I went out on the curb of Manhattan, sat down and I just sobbed. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. The childhood full of abuse and loss because of poverty. And because it was Manhattan, nobody stopped to ask me, you know, "Are you okay, what are you crying about?" And after my tears dried up, I began watching people walk by. And I became more and more angry: what is wrong with these people? You have all of this and you don't care. And I went into a huge rage, that lasted through my high school years while we stayed in America.
After I'd lived in America for about seven or eight years, and gotten to know this place and the language in this place--I spoke four languages as a little guy, and English was my weakest--but once I got to understand it, I thought, It's not that they don't care. These people really don't even know. It's like it's happening on Mars and not on their own planet. And I realized at that point, somehow now, I have lived at both ends of this bridge. I know both cultures, I know both languages, I know the hearts of both ends of this bridge. Somehow in my life I've got to serve as a bridge between these two worlds because they need each other. And when I had understood that in my heart as a sense of my calling, I stumbled onto a little thing called Compassion.
Compassion was in a 7-11-sized office in Chicago. What they were doing was linking children in poverty and their families and their little churches to people in America, or Western Europe or elsewhere. I realized You know what? That's exactly my calling. And I threw myself in--that was thirty-four years ago,-- into this, and I have fought with all my heart ever since then. If it hadn't existed when I came along--it was already twenty-five years old when I came--I would probably eventually have had to start it.
4. Why do you fight so hard for kids?
When people ask, "Why do you care so much?", the response is, "I care so much because it's a personal calling. I have felt poverty, I have felt abuse; I know the message that it speaks into the hearts of children, and I know how important a voice of hope is in these little kids' lives. That's why sponsors are so important to me: way more important than the money that they send, is their prayers and the letters that they send that lift up these children, saying "Don't give up, I'm watching you girl, I'm believing in you: Don't you dare give up." I could have used a letter like that at the boarding school. And so here I am, all these years later, in the sweet spot of my calling, in the sweet spot of my heart, and I've had a front-row seat to watch what God can do.5. How many kids are being sponsored right now?
When I began, the budget here was about ten million dollars, and we had about twenty-five thousand children and twenty-five staff. Here we are, a few decades later, and we have 1.2 million children. The budget this year is almost 600 million dollars. I've had a front-row seat to watch what God does when a ministry does something so close to His heart, and honors Him with what it does.
6. So you work with local groups in each location, correct?Every local group is a local church, yes. Compassion does not touch the life of a child except through the local church in their village. We try to maintain a pretty low profile, we don't want to write Compassion on our vehicles, and Compassion t-shirts-- we want that church to get the credibility. We want the people in that community eventually say to the Christians in that community, "Why do you care? Why do you care about our children so much?" It gives the Christians in that church, the pastor and the rest of them, the credibility, having lived the gospel, to now speak the gospel. Which is kind of a backwards way to how most missions try to do stuff. But we start with the actions.
7. Compassion provides more than food and clothing though correct?
Oh yes. Our product, if you will, is child development, or child discipleship. When the Lord said, "Go into all the world and make disciples and teach them to observe all things I have commanded you?" Well, "all things I have commanded you" throughout the scriptures, have everything to do with why people are poor. We are commanded to take care of our environment in Psalm chapter 8, "You put all things under his feet, all sheep, oxen, the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air, the fish of the sea." How do we relate to our environment? And environment is a big part of why people are poor.
We're taught how to take care of our own physical well-being. If you want to learn how to dig a latrine, for Pete's sake, Leviticus teaches you how to build a latrine. How to wash, what to eat, what not to eat, that's a piece of what it's about. The importance of studying hard and excellence, and the importance of working hard, and the dignity of work. How do you relate in an unjust society? Do you just give up or do you shine like light and have the flavor of salt? So what we do with the church is a whole range of activities and services to support these children that allow them to discover their value, which is why a sponsor is so important and why the Christian community is so important: to speak into this child, "You matter. You matter to God, you matter to me, I want to know what you're thinking, I want to know what you're dreaming."
So the children get fed: it's not because it's just a nice thing to do, it's because the children need food in order to achieve the rest of their developmental goals. So we feed them: 1.2 million children a day. We put water in their communities if unsafe water is what's keeping them from reaching their potential; we help them with their schoolwork, we pay the fees,-- you know sometimes the 12 dollar uniform to go to school, in these countries, is more than these families can handle, so the kids don't go to school for want of twelve lousy bucks! And then of course, moms and dads usually are illiterate, so we have tutors at the church projects, where the kids not only go to school, but they excel in school. And healthcare: both preventative as well as curative. We do open-heart surgeries sometimes to save the life of one of these little ones we've given ourselves to. And ultimately, living out the Gospel in such a way that they have the opportunity to accept Christ as their Savior.
8. So kids are coming to a relationship with Christ?
438 children come to Christ every single day. I know that because last year it was over 150 000 children. And the thing that excites me is that's at the knee of their pastor, or in a Sunday school class under a mango tree somewhere. And the rest of the job is the discipling of them to understand God's love and to reach their God-given potential. We have 2 million people who have graduated from Compassion's program in the last 60 years. They are now scattered across society. They are teachers, they are doctors, they are lawyers... We've got kids in Haiti who are senators; we've got kids who are judges in Uganda, kids who are medical doctors; hundreds of thousands of them have become pastors. That's the beautiful thing about working with kids, is that they grow up. And if you have built the foundation right, then they turn around and bless their nations.
9. How easy is it to sponsor a child?
So many of our sponsors say, "You know, I have a five-year-old daughter that I want to grow up having a compassionate, caring heart, and I don't know how to teach that in our society. She doesn't learn that hanging out at the mall, or watching television or messages out of the movies. She doesn't even learn that from the little lectures I give about what kind of people are we. She learns about that from our sponsor child; she learns about that when we pray at night, the letters we receive from that child. And by drawing pictures at the kitchen table for her little sister over in Uganda. We keep a jar on our table where we collect the 38 dollars a month, and some of that is my daughter's allowance, so she is actually involved in this other little girls' life, so I love having a sponsor child who is growing up alongside her."
Compassion is big enough now that you can say, "Okay, I want a little girl: I want her to be five years old, I want her to be from Mexico, and my daughter has a handicap, so I would like a child like that." It's amazing what you can do with that--you should try it--just go to Compassion.com and search around. At this point you can pretty much find what you're looking for, and I often tell people, choose a country where they might visit. Does your church have a relationship with people in Guatemala? Then choose a Guatemalan child, 'cause someday you might be able to go to visit them. Choose a country you can go to, because if you can get to the country where your child lives, Compassion will bend over backwards to get you face to face with your child. It's good for the child, it's good for the sponsor, but it also lets people know, I could check them out if I wanted to. And one of the things about Compassion is that its integrity is absolutely impeccable. We think if you lack integrity, you lack everything. Last year over 4,000 sponsors wen overseas to see their sponsored child.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Wess.
If you haven't already, please make sure you go to Compassion.com and sponsor a child today. You can also click on the Compassion link on my sidebar. And remember that while the cost of living is rising dramatically at home, $41 can still provide a full month's worth of sponsorship for a child in poverty! It really is great 'bang for your buck!'
I love that verse and saw it illustrated this past week in my son's life. He is now 15 months old. Two recent incidences have brought this Scripture to mind. The first happened Sunday. My wife and I always pray together as we are preparing to start church. On this Sunday, as my wife prayed for my message, my son wandered into the room and stopped in his tracks with his eyes fixed on his mom. I have not seen him this still before but he watched and watched with a small grin appearing on his face.
When my wife finished her prayer, we looked at my son who both signed and spoke the word, "More." We asked him, "Do you want us to pray again?" He shook his whole body in the affirmative, (He hasn't figured out he only has to bob his head.) Again we prayed, again he asked for more.
My wife then asked if he wanted to come pray with us and he ran into our arms and held our hands as we prayed.
This morning during family devotions, he did the same thing when we prayed. He wanted us to pray and pray. We switched to praise songs after a bit and his smile grew wider as he watched us intently.
Our prayer is now that he grows in this desire for the things of God.
Today's guest is cartoonist Cuyler Black, creator of Inherit the Mirth. Cuyler grew up in Ottawa, Canada and had his first regular, albeit short lived, comic strip, Ollie the Alligator, in a local weekly newspaper. At 17 his second strip, Furtree High, was in the Ottawa Citizen and lasted 6 1/2 years. After graduating with a degree in English Lit, Cuyler acquired a Bachelor of Education and taught high school English, History and Special Education, while continuing to do freelance illustrations and part-time youth ministry. Returning to comic strips, Cuyler produced a new syndicated strip called The Swan Factory. He ended this strip after 2 years to focus on full-time youth ministry. In 2003 a new cartoon creation that he had begun on the side was taking more of his attention and in 2008 became his full-time work. Inherit the Mirth, combines Cuyler's love of cartooning with his Christian faith. He currently resides in Danbury, Connecticut.
1. How did you get started drawing cartoons?
I've been drawing ever since I could hold a Crayola. My Dad would bring home scrap paper from the office and I'd draw, draw, draw. When I was 10, I had a weekly comic strip called Ollie the Alligator in a local paper, after a journalist at a party my parents threw was shown my cartoons. I lasted a few months and then got bored. When I was 17 I gave it another shot with a high school strip called Furtree High that was accepted by the big local daily paper, The Ottawa Citizen. I don't know how long they thought I was going to last, but I'm sure they thought it was a good PR move to give a local kid a chance. The comic ran daily for the next 6 1/2 years, right between Garfield and Blondie. I ended it after university, to try something else. While I was teaching at a high school, I began yet another strip, this one syndicated, called The Swan Factory, about a health club. It ran for a couple of years in a dozen papers. No one now would likely remember it. I ended it in order to pursue full-time youth ministry, moving from Canada to Connecticut in 2000.
2. What led you to start Inherit the Mirth?
As a youth minister I saw greeting cards for sale in Christian bookstores. I thought they were all pretty much the same -- often sappy, sentimental, with a Bible verse attached. I wondered why there wasn't much, if any, humor? I decided I'd try to create something along the lines of cards that had a "The Far Side meets the Bible" tone to them. Inherit the Mirth was born. I printed up a bunch of cards and began selling them at a stationary store owned by a friend, right next to the church I was serving. They sold well, and so my friend and I did prototypes for a few other products -- a calendar, magnets, mouse pad, posters -- and exhibited at the National Stationary Show in New York City in 2003. Inherit the Mirth caught some attention and as a result, a few licensing agreements were signed with various established manufacturers/distributors in the Christian market. That was the beginning of building the brand.
3. I see people chuckle at your cartoons, at least the ones I have on my wall at work. What kind of responses do you get to your work?
I like to think of my humor as being playfully reverent, or reverently playful. I love God. I'm excited to help emphasize an often under-appreciated facet of His personality -- His humor. I always pray that He'll keep me within boundaries acceptable to Him. When it comes to having some fun with folks like Moses or Noah or the disciples, for example, I see them as fair game for some affectionate laughs at their expense because they're human like you and me, with flaws and foibles. When it comes to Jesus, I\ll use Him in my cartoons but never make fun of Him. The humor will lie somewhere other than at His expense. And speaking of Jesus, I believe that much of His ministry involved a core message of "Hey, people, lighten up!"
5. Your company is growing and you have given people an opportunity to fund-raise using your cartoons. How does that work?
Inherit the Mirth has a fundraising kit that can be sent to any church or organization looking to raise cash for their particular project. Usually it's youth groups that participate in the program, looking for something other than the same old candy bars and Christmas wreaths that get sold. Kids love to sell Inherit the Mirth stuff because they find it funny, which motivates them that much more.
Thank You so much Cuyler!
Well there you go. Make sure you check out Cuyler's cartoons at Inherit the Mirth. You won't be disappointed, and you just may laugh out loud!
To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.
Thomas Nelson has provided me an extra copy of a book I recently reviewed here. Now it can be yours:
Pujols: More Than The Game by Tim Ellsworth and Scott Lamb is an exciting book that takes you behind the scenes and let's you into what makes Albert Pujols tick.
This book is described as: A powerful story of the athleticism and strong faith of Albert Pujols, one of the all-time greatest baseball players.
It's definitely true. I enjoyed this book immensely. That's saying something for a diehard Yankees fan. Author Tim Ellsworth dropped by this blog recently to talk about the book. You can read that here: 5 Questions with Tim Ellsworth.
So how do you win? Leave a comment here about baseball, faith or baseball and faith and your name/contact so I can contact you if you win. One winner will be randomly selected on Monday morning.
By the way, if you are a baseball fan looking for a baseball forum to chat about the game, I highly recommend Baseball Nation!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.
Ever since I found my identity in Christ this has become my life verse.
Unfortunately, I haven't been living it! Stress was piling up, I have been letting it ear away at me and finally, this past week I had a meltdown...at 2 am!
I should have looked at the warning signs...Sarah asked me if I had prayed about the situation causing stress and I replied with an honest, "No!" Two weeks later and I still hadn't prayed about it. It took the meltdown and Sarah bluntly pointing out that i was not living out of my identity before I realized what i was doing...trying to solve the problem myself.
Long story short...I confessed my sin, prayed about the situation and within 3 days God solved a 2 month old problem.
Yesterday I was reminded of this verse while listening to my John Waller CD...
Here is the song that reminded me of Gal. 2:20
Today's guest is Tim Ellsworth.Tim is the co-author, along with Scott Lamb, of the book, Pujols: More Than the Game. Tim is the director of news and media relations at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. He is also the editor of Baptist Press Sports. Tim has written countless articles illuminating the interaction between faith and sports. He and his wife, Sarah, have three children—Daniel, Emmalee, and Noah.
Now, without further delay, my interview with Tim Ellsworth:
1. Why did you want to tackle Albert Pujols as the subject of your newest book?
I'm a lifelong Cardinals fan, so I've obviously been cheering for Pujols since he joined the team in 2001. He's obviously one of baseball's all-time greats, so that in and of itself made him someone that Scott Lamb and I wanted to write about. But his story goes much deeper than just his accomplishments on the field. Scott and I have known for a long time that Pujols is a devoted Christian, and that devotion to Christ fuels his charitable efforts with children who have Down Syndrome and with the impoverished in the Dominican Republic. All of those factors combine to make him a compelling subject.
2. Was there anything about Albert Pujols that surprised you when writing this book?
One of the recurring themes among those we talked to was how authentic Pujols is -- that what you see is what you get, and how he's the same person now, after years of sports celebrity, that he was when he was an unknown. That probably was the most surprising thing.
3. You mentioned in your book about how Albert Pujols has an accountability team around him. How important is accountability in the Christian walk?
4. You have written a lot about Christian athletes. Do you feel that Christian athletes receive more scrutiny because of their faith?
This is a complex question. Yes and no. In one sense, Christian athletes should receive more scrutiny -- because their lives should look drastically different from those who don't claim Christ. So if their lifestyles don't match up with their profession, chances are they're going to hear about it. That's not to say that we as Christians should blast a Christian athlete for every misstep. Just because they're Christians doesn't make them perfect, and none of us would like to have all our shortcomings proclaimed to the entire world.
In another way, I don't necessarily think Christian athletes receive more scrutiny. We've all heard the cliches that Christian athletes are soft and can't be as competitive as others, but I don't buy that, and I think those who promote such thinking are really ignorant of the facts. Pujols and many other top-notch Christian athletes (Kurt Warner, Tim Tebow, Adam Wainwright, etc.) are strong evidence to the contrary.
5. What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope ultimately that they'll be drawn to Jesus Christ -- because as great of a baseball player as Pujols is, he's still just a man who suffers from the same affliction (sin) that we all do. Pujols needed a savior and found that salvation in Christ. And I hope people will see in Pujols an example of how new life in Christ should result in such fruits as generosity to others and compassion for those in need.
Thank You Tim!
Well there you go. Make sure you check out Tim's book and you can also check out Tim's blog. You won't be disappointed.
To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.