Vuvuzela & Cultural Distances

Watching the World Cup this past week has introduced me, along with many Americans, to the Vuvuzela.  This small, inexpensive piece of molded plastic is the deafening noisemaker quickly becoming the soundtrack in my mind for the World Cup experience.  The droning sound is the audio backdrop while announcers call the play-by-play as the world watches (and listens to) this exciting tournament.

As I watched the first USA match I was quickly annoyed by the sound, so I lit up a Google search to find out what the heck was up with that buzzing on my TV.  It was immediately clear that I was not the only one aware of the noise.  FIFA had considered banning the Vuvuzela but had opted not to because it is a large part of South Africa’s cultural engagement with soccer.  Fair enough, but I still find the sound annoying…just sayin’.

With the World Cup being played out in South Africa, this brings back memories of my trips to Johannesburg, South Africa and Lesotho with World Vision.  It was impossible for me to not fall in love with the people there.  They are absolutely beautiful.  I was thinking about the Vuvuzela and how I just don’t get it and that has sparked memories of a couple experiences we had in Africa.  These experiences really exposed how our different cultural backgrounds affect the way we perceive and approach an identical situation.

There were two similar occasions on our trips where we identified a real hardship within extremely poor communities.  Our teams quickly assessed the need and worked out excellent solutions for assistance…at least from our “logical” western perspective.  As we presented our plans to local humanitarian leaders, we were shocked to find that they strongly disagreed with our assessment, not of the need, but of the remedy.  They were grateful that we cared enough to help, but cautious to follow through with the aid only in ways that best served the culture and community.  I completely missed it.

From my enlightened and educated perch, I had observed adversity brought on by desperate conditions.  My ignorance was completely evident in my failure to consider what mattered deeply to the people I wanted to love and assist, their cultural perceptions and reality.  I’m very thankful for the lessons I learned and the people who gently guided me through these sensitive situations.  My tendency is still to rush into assessments and offer up solutions, but these experiences have helped me to find pause and work to consider things from another perspective.

So while I’m not really a fan of the incessant blowing of the Vuvuzela throughout the entire soccer match, I’m definitely cool with adapting and appreciating it for the celebration it is within the African culture.  It’s exciting to see the global community rally around this event and observe competition and kindness exemplified through sportsmanship.

At our house we’re screaming GO USA!!!


Living Streams Worship ::: January 16-17/2010 Weekend Recap

I spent a lot of this week staying up on everything that has been happening in Haiti since the earthquake there.  It is amazing to watch people respond when we see our brothers and sisters underneath the weight of tragedy.  I’m struck by how quickly most people will rally together in the reality that we’re all connected in our human condition.  I’m also struck by the idiocy of some who would try to be a voice for Christianity and completely miss the chance to extend hope and mercy to people in their greatest hour of need.

I was watching CNN and saw a man who was trapped under the weight of a concrete building.  While his friends and neighbors worked desperately to free him as no rescue crews were there, a reporter asked him what was going through his mind.  The man said, “As I’m a Christian, I say ‘Jesus, my life….my life is in your hands.'”  I can’t imagine for a moment that the blanket condemnation and judgement issued every person in Haiti by Pat Robertson could have been more off the mark as this man, literally facing death, solemnly declares his faith and hope in Jesus.

I would be remiss not to direct you to a place where you can help.  I’ve worked with World Vision for over 10 years and know that they are one of the largest, if not the largest, groups on the ground in Haiti serving the disaster victims. World Vision has been working in Haiti for more than 30 years and has 800 staffers there….they are some of the first responders and you can help by donating and praying.  You can click on this link, or Text to 20222 and make a donation.

In our weekend services we also talked about the work going on in Haiti.  We prayed for the people there and had one of our Elders talk about the work Food For The Hungry is doing in Haiti.  It’s somewhat surreal to know there is so much suffering in our world while we continue to go about our usual routines.  Another reminder of how much we have and what we take for granted living here in the US.

Here is the set from this weekend:

Hosanna – G
Today Is The Day
– D
– A
I Surrender All – A
(Traditional Hymn)
How He Loves
– A (Saturday only)
In The Secret
– G (Sunday only)

Praying for Haiti –


The Hole In Our Gospel

The Hole In Our GospelI’ll be honest, I approached this book with a bit of an attitude.  Having worked with World Vision since 1998, I have read a lot about previous WV presidents, and heard many people sing the praises of these fine leaders.  I’m not really one who is enamored by people and their positions, and I expected this book to be a big Rich Stearns promo…my assumptions were completely misplaced.

Rich writes in a very conversational and accessible style.  The transparency in telling his story is powerful.  I was particularly taken with the way he honestly admits where he has missed it, and how he’s doubted God at times.  I was deeply impacted by the way God brought him to take his position with World Vision, and the character of a man to give up so much material and positional success to serve the poor.

Beyond a discussion of the statistics and great need in our world, I feel that Rich uncovers some truths in how the Christian church is missing part of our missional and faith mandate to share the whole gospel of Jesus.  The challenge to give more than just money, but to invest our time and our talents in serving the poor, the widow and the orphan is clear.  And the reasons to do so are far deeper than feeling guilty because we have more than people living in poverty; our motivations should be fueled by a passion and obedience to our calling as followers of Jesus.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in discovering more about the huge needs in our world brought on by poverty and disease.  It will also prompt Christians to consider where our priorities lie, and just how passionate we are about living out the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.

Publisher’s Info:

“Preach the Gospel always.  Use words if necessary.” – St. Francis of Assisi

It’s 1998 and Richard Stearns’ heart is breaking as he sits in a mud hut and listens to the story of an orphaned child in Rakai, Uganda.  His journey to this place took more than a long flight from the United States to Africa.  It took answering God’s call on his life, a call that hurtled him out of his presidential corner office at Lenox-America’s finest tableware company-to this humble corner of Uganda.

This is a story of how a corporate CEO faced his own struggle to obey God whatever the cost, and his passionate call for Christians to change the world by actively living out their faith.  Using his own journey as an example, Stearns explores the hole that exists in our understanding of the Gospel.

Two thousand years ago, twelve people changed the world.  Stearns believes it can happen again.

World Vision Artist

World Vision Artist AssociateI realized that I haven’t really taken the time in this blog to go into much detail about our work with World Vision.  I’ve been a World Vision Artist Associate since 1998.  When we tour, perform, and lead worship, we take time to talk about the needs of kids in our world who are vulnerable to extreme poverty and HIV/AIDS.  At our shows, or in services, we give our audience a chance to be part of the solution in reaching out to the widow and the orphan by supporting World Vision through Child Sponsorship.

God has been so gracious, and we’ve seen 2,500 kids sponsored over all these years!!!

Traveling with World Vision, I’ve been to Africa twice (Pam came along on one trip), and to Central America.  Witnessing the poverty in our world has changed us completely.  There are 13 Million orphans in Africa alone, because of HIV/AIDS.  The need is huge….but HOPE is bigger.

It’s also important for me to share that we aren’t out talking about World Vision to do an advertisement or plug an organization.  We are fans of World Vision because of how they approach their work, and the way they serve people in need.  We’ve seen first hand the impact child sponsorship can make, and how loving on kids through sponsorship helps them realize and actually believe they are valuable.  Most importantly, World Vision does this to share the love of Jesus with people all over our world.

Sponsoring a child, you will be making a real difference in the lives of real people.  If you have any questions about how this works, send me an email and I would be happy to talk with you.  If you are an artist and would like to represent World Vision in your shows, let me know and I’ll connect you with the Artist Associate office.

Please take time to CLICK HERE and consider sponsoring a child today!  Your generosity will change that child, and change you!!!

God Bless –


Her Excellency, Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika

Today, our staff had the incredible privilege of spending some time with Her Excellency, Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, Zambian Ambassador to the United States.  She was in Phoenix from Washington DC, speaking at a fund-raising dinner, and took time to talk with our staff and tell us her story.  What an amazing opportunity this was, and I figured I would give you an abridged version here.

Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika

Dr. Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika

Inonge is a Princess in the Royal Family of Zambia, and God has called her to represent Jesus in a secular world.  She accepted Christ to be Lord of her life at 16 years of age, and has dedicated her life’s work to sharing the love of Jesus to the world.  She talked about how many times she tried to do this with a bible in hand in “Christian Ministry”, but God always took her back to public service in politics and government work.  She tried to attend a Christian university, but couldn’t get accepted there.  She talked about how she felt for years that God had rejected her because she couldn’t get a “Christian” education.  Then several years later, while working for UNICEF and the United Nations, God told her she was evangelizing for Him in her work.  I love her message to everyone that we are called to evangelizing our world, wether we work in ministry or in the marketplace.

She talked about how HIV/AIDS has impacted her country, and the other countries in Africa.  There has been progress, but in Zambia, there are currently over 700,000 orphans.  The population of Zambia is 11.5 Million…so almost 10% of their country are HIV/AIDS orphans.  An encouraging thing she explained is that many churches are finally getting involved and really making a difference in caring for and bringing up this generation of kids living without parents.

Finally, Inonge talked about our responsibility as adults to build into children.  She said that “if we only invest in our biological children, and not the community, then when they go out into the community, they will adopt that life.”  The Bible says that we should raise up children in the way they should go, and that applies to all the kids we have in our community.  She also talked about the dynamic of community and village living, and how in the village you are everybody’s keeper.  And then, how many of the things that occur in our western society just don’t in their communities because everyone keeps each other in “check”.

Having worked with World Vision for 11 years, this kind of work and ministry is close to my heart.  I’m praying that God will continue to raise up people like Dr. Lewanika to serve the needs of the poor, and reach into the world with the love of Jesus.  I’m praying that God will be a Father to the millions of orphans in Africa and around the world.  I’m praying that I will make the most of every moment in this life, and use the opportunities I have to reach out to the poor, the widow and the orphan.