Banff-Jasper Adventure – 2

The Howe Ridge Fire overshadows Glacier’s vast beauty

As a theologian, I believe in eschatology, the study of the end,  Today I saw that in a different way. We ended our day driving Glacier’s Inside North Fork road to see what we could see before tomorrow’s big day on the legendary Going to the Sun Highway. What we dominated our view was the Howe Ridge Fire. The last thing in our day was the news that the fire has closed the west half of Highway. This is our third close up fire in two days!

There’s no chance it will open this morning. The fire fighters can’t get to it and the water drops have been ineffective. But all is not lost. We can go around the south end of the park and see the east side of the highway and then head on to Calgary tonight.

Cyndee meets her bear!

I am a fan of uneventful travel filled with God’s beauty – and that was our day. The biggest event of the day was the ladies skipping a rest stop, thinking they could make 71 miles over the pass only to discover that the promised rest stop was closed! So we stopped at Liberty Casino, enhancing our stop with ice cream and taco socks. We traveled around Flathead Lake and up the valley, going 70 miles per hour (well maybe a little more) on two lane roads. It’s Montana! We grabbed lupper (Huckleberry Pie for me! and Cyndee’s first view of a bear) before we checked into the motel in Hungry Horse, MT and ventured into Glacier.

The ethical question of the day also involved a potty stop in the Montana wild: To pee or not to pee — That is the question. Can you offer help for our perplexity and haudralic distress?

Banff-Jasper Adventure – 1

We are off on our Banff/Jasper adventure. It’s a place I have dreamed about for 60 years and now we are on the way. The day took us alongside two active fires, one in the Hood River area of I-84. The other was just blowing up beside the 395 freeway (we got baked as we drove by) going into Kennewick. It was driven by high wind and became huge as we drove through Tri-Cities.

Lunch with Nicole and Joy was a treat in between the two fires.

The biggest adventure was getting a room after I discovered that my Pinehurst reservations were in North Carolina rather than Idaho. No Vacancy was all I heard as I called place after place from wind blown table at the Travel Plaza. Finally I found a room and made a reservation at 4:51 pm (can we spell expensive??). We arrived at 6:30 to find the reservation was in corporate database, but not in the property computer. That began a half hour investment by Gillian, my new best friend, as she worked and worked to honor the reservation even though she had no rooms. Finally she cancelled a reservation where the credit card declined payment – but only after trying repeatedly to contact that person. So we have a very comfortable room for our first night even if a lot too much stimulation for my travel anxiety disorder.

Hungry Horse Montana and Glacier National Park tomorrow.

50th Anniversary Gathering

Our whole family gathered in the last weekend of July to celebrate our anniversary. We had already celebrated with our beach trip on March 22 – no one else was invited to that event! Our Friday night dinner included Ann/Jack, Liz/Tom, John/Shilrey (our and their spouses), Donn/Susan/Elizabeth/Michael, David/Samantha/Nicole/Joy and Cyndee (our children with our last name and their families), Christopher/Jonette/Katie (our sorta son and his family), Gelayol/Brian (our Persian granddaughter and her family- Griffen and Audrey dropped by on Saturday), Bethany/Jesse/Emily, Judah/Noah (our daugher and her family). It was a fun Lebanese feast of celebration. Donn, Lizzie, Michael, Ann, Jack joined Sherry and me in going to Cannon Beach on Thursday to suprise Cyndee on her birthday and see Mo’s, walk to Haystack Rock and see Ecola park. 

The climax was Sunday evening when many friends joined us at Grace to remember our wedding and fulfill Sherry’s desire to cut the cake. Somehow in the 5 days we had to plan our wedding back in 1968, we missed that. With the help of our biological grandchildren, we did that. The video is here.

Joy looks beautiful in Sherry’s wedding dress!
Lizzie models Sherry’s wedding dress

Uganda Summit Is Finished – More Work to Do

The Summit is finished and most of the participants have left. Those going to Congo have a very dangerous journey home so when I saw their team gathered to begin their journey, I spent some time praying with them.

Sunday was at a local church founded by Jumah Patrick, the MTS Africa director and Pastor Cosmos, one of the miracle stories of the MTS program. He had been hurt badly in pastoral ministry, going back into a fully sinful life for many years and got AIDS as a consequence. But Jesus reached him through a gospel message. He joined an MTS trauma healing session. Today has found the wife he abandoned, restored their marriage and is now part of the pastoral team of a church largely made up of people with stories like his. We got to hear some after the four hour church service.

Monday and Tuesday we will be doing a trauma healing training with the staff at the National Rehabilitation Center, which translates into the facility where all juvenile offenders go. It is not a Christian organization, but they have begged MTS to help their staff.

Internet is spotty here and time is very limited. There are more updates here. When I get back to the USA, I will fix the non-functional links in the other posts.

Uganda Summit – Day 2

Day 2 continued the pattern of gripping interactions with amazing people. Moses (in the yellow shirt) is a pastor from South Sudan. Because of the wars there, he has spent most of his life living in refugee camps – if you can call that living. At breakfast I asked him about his current situation. His home area is completely destroyed so he came to a camp in the Adjumani region of Uganda. They have lived nearly two years in a tent with a useful life of 6 months or so. Of course there are no more tents available so they do what they can to keep it together. He told me of his pre-teen life as he, his mother and brother were burned out of their home by soldiers, escaping into the bush with almost nothing. They would build hut under a tree, live there a few days, and then run again when the soldiers came. His mother would collect firewood to sell to by their only “meal” in the evening consisting of a small amount of grain. He and his brother would grind it with stones, cook and eat. His whole life has been in similar situations of extreme hardship. In the midst of all that he has a robust contagious faith.

Moses’ church used to meet under a tree, but more recently they have managed to scrape together canvas walls and a metal roof – a great blessing. There is also a school meeting there with a huge group of students, trying to learn so they can get out of the camps. It would seem hopeless but they find hope in Jesus and many are able to get education and move into one of the cities, where they send most of their money home for the family.

In the worship time we sang about stamping the Devil when he attacks (video here). It is Mama Iberia (my spelling) and the Congolese team leading so it is enthusiastic and full of movement. We went to Jesus loves me, Jesus loves you first in Swahili and then in English, which lost some of the enthusiasm in translation. (of course I put my camera away and joined in!).

But the song that brought a deep emotional response was when they were singing “Jesus has been so good to me – He has given me so much” The picture of Moses above was taken as he sang that song – man who is living in the extreme hardships of a camp. It is being sung by Mama Abia, who works astonishing healing with seriously mentally ill people in one of the worst war zones in the world. The robbers have broken into every house around theirs to steal and kill, but never her house or the clinic: Prayer Works! These are the ones singing the song with deep passion. It is led by Esther. She is the #1 student in her university class. Nine years ago her father gave them a Christmas “present” by abandoning the family, taking all their money to be the dowry for his new wife. Her mother worked constantly to get money to feed her and her twin brother. There was no money for school fees, so Esther sold her phone to start a business so her brother could go to school. Because she is such an outstanding student various people have helped her scrape up the $350 or so, a fortune here, to do a term at school. I could help but compare high schools in the US spending this much or more for a “promposal” where students will hire a mariachi band to invite a girl to the prom.

The Bishop from Rwanda told of the murder of his mother and brother in the genocide. He escaped by fleeing into hiding in the bush, running from spot to spot when it broke out. To this day he has no idea where his mother’s grave might be. By the gracious transformation of Jesus, he is now pastor of the people who murdered his mother. Who can do other than marvel at the power of Jesus.

These are some of the people I get to do the summit meeting with. They are the ones who do trauma healing in people living through this kind of traumatic life events. Amazing is not nearly adequate.

Uganda Summit Meeting – Day One

The travel from Portland to Entebbe was very long, made worse by my inability to sleep sitting on an airplane. But the layovers in Minneapolis and Amsterdam gave refreshing times to walk as well as get to know my team members. Arriving with all our bags gave us a feeling of great triumph! You know why I look a bit worn! My personal luggage would have fit easily into the red bag. The other three are all materials for the conference attenders.

We spent the first night at Banana Village, a delightfully rustic retreat center, south of Kampala. The highlight was watching the monkeys play. You can get a glimpse here. It was not as cute when they were chasing Steve and Celistia’s two year old granddaughter!

My moment of panic came when the adapter that connects my PC to the projector wouldn’t work which means much of what I was prepared to teach wouldn’t work. I tried everything I could, but no go. So I was in my room wiped out, needing sleep, and also needing to revise things. I did some and decided to sleep and do it more efficiently. Of course my head didn’t cooperate so I pondered until I finally got up about 3:00 and did some more revising. Then I set my alarm for 6 and slept soundly. I set up before our 7:00 am team prayer and everything worked (!!), but then it didn’t work right after breakfast. So I flexed and the teaching went very well.

I taught about four moods of Psalms starting with Psalm 3.

  • Lament: A cry to the LORD out of distress grounded in trust for who He is.
  • Praise: Proclaiming the worth of the LORD for who He is and what He does in both our adoration and in our service
  • Imprecation: Angrily begging the LORD to punish evil doers for the sake of justice.
  • Trust: Emotive celebration of the LORD’s goodness and faithfulness, believing He will act graciously

After I was finished, Celestia led them in a time of using the moods to express their own psalm. Then they shared them in their regional teams. I sat in on the small Uganda team and heard Emma lament the death of her parents – no one would tell her what happened to them. She grew up in loneliness without anyone to care for her.  Even though she was able to get her education and now can take care of herself the tears would not stop even as the praise went on. As we talked after the group broke up, she cried through the lament of needing the love of her parents or at least an explanation of what happened to them.

Jumah is the bishop over 32 churches in South Sudan. In the wars his area was destroyed so no one could live there. He told of men coming to the door, demanding money, and if there was none or not enough, the person would be killed. One day he was driving and saw what seemed to be a motorcycle accident. As he stopped to help, he realized that both men had been shot as they rode along. Had he continued without stopping the same would have happened to him. Now they live in the camps now with virtually no water or food and he supervises the churches there.

There is a conflict in the churches in his home area and they asked him to come help settle it. Someone spread the story that he was associated with the rebels, which is a death sentence. To go back would seem to be like committing suicide. He asked God for help. The people who started the rumor called him and asked him to come, saying it was all OK – which sounds like a set up to me. But he asked God and decided to go. He will leave the summit a day early to go. We pray the seeming change of mind will be true and he can help resolve the conflict rather than being executed.

The stories here are horrific, but their testimony of the reality and power of God is greater still. There are four more days to go.

Uganda Trip

In a few days I will be leaving for a short term ministry trip to Kampala, Uganda. This the first partner summit sponsored by Mending the Soul (https://mendingthesoul.org/). The team has invited two dozen of their most strategic African partners from the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Uganda to come to Kampala for the 5 day conference. We will be teaching and serving these amazing leaders for five full days. This conference will focus on teaching on a biblical theology of suffering and lament, biology of trauma, ministry to the traumatized, and self-care for care givers. Our team plans to offer individual pastoral counseling, individual and group prayer times, and receive ministry updates and conduct strategic planning with our partners.

We will be working with top leaders, most of whom oversee large ministries that serve thousands of people. This will be a most important time to strengthen front line ministry leaders and further equip them to train their leaders. After this conference we have the opportunity to train 25 workers at the National Rehabilitation Centre, the primary government agency that works with institutionalized street children and juvenile offenders. This is an incredible opportunity to bring Christ centered trauma healing principles to staff members working with one of the most difficult populations in Uganda, staff who have never received training like this.

This will be a very intense and full two weeks. We greatly need prayer support. In addition to me the team members are:

  • Jumah Patrick (trip coordinator and teacher)
  • Nora Poling (daily sharing her own story at both conferences)
  • Kelsey Hawk (teaching on biology of trauma and care for survivors)
  • Dr. Ethie Gebeyehu (team and conference prayer director)
  • Celestia Tracy (teaching and pastoral counseling)
  • Steve Tracy (team leader, teaching and pastoral counseling)

Our trip schedule is:

  • Jan 20-21—US team travels to Uganda
  • Jan 22—team preparation for conference
  • Jan 23-27—conference with 25 African trauma ministry partners
  • Jan 28—ministry in local church
  • Jan 29-30—training for Rehabilitation Centre staff
  • Jan 31—team returns to US

I hope to post updates on this site, assuming internet access is available. There will also be updates on the Mending the Soul site.

End of Summer

My summer included spending many hours in the recording studio doing lectures for the new version of our On Line theology classes. The ones I did a dozen years ago have gone through several format changes from the original tape with a lot of loss of quality. But I waited for the curriculum change to redo them. Teaching a camera in a dark studio is hugely draining, so I am glad it’s all done. Now I am deep in the redesign of the courses themselves. It is another very time consuming, detail intensive job with few satisfactions in the process. Glad it is nearing completion. Then I do two more courses in the fall and another (possibly three) in the spring. I don’t look to that with joy 🙁

A highlight of the summer was Sherry’s Mother’s memorial in Rison Arkansas at the end of July. I put pictures on my Facebook page. The gathering was all of Sherry’s family including her siblings and spouses, living uncle and aunt along with extended family, our three children and three of four grandchildren. We missed Sam and Nicole, who was just back from her honor band trip to Europe and didn’t feel like more travel. The graveside memorial with internment following was special because of the closeness of the whole family.

I did take some major satisfaction when Michael in all his barely four year old wisdom latched onto grandpa! Evenings in the pool were much fun and our final breakfast at Anne’s Country Cafe was full of laughter around Arkansas breakfast food. I think this will be the last such gathering unless it were to happen with Nicole or Joy getting married – and that’s still a few years away.

I did Derick and Vanessa’s wedding last night. Always fun do do weddings with some super special ones – August 10, 1991, July 3, 1993, May 11, 1996 to mention some. But this one will be challenging since both are divorced with six children between them. So relations with ex-spouses and blending families will take much godly wisdom – though watching the kids play last night gives a very visible hope!

Other summer highlights included the Bible Project planning retreat. It is amazing to me how that project has exploded. Being invited to the Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Congress still amazes me. Their history is anti-seminary (cemetery) so having me come as a plenary speaker and doing two workshops speaks of major change. We did the Daniel series at Grace which was super challenging. I had to delve deeply into hard stuff including the Seventy sevens and life lessons from the book. We are in Philippians now and that’s simple by comparison.

Sherry, Cyndee and I leave for Alaska on Tuesday. I’ll be teaching the cohort class along with Dan Jarrell at Changepoint all day Wednesday. Thursday I will teach at Alaska Christian College and then we will do a drift boat excursion in hopes of seeing wildlife including a bear for Cyndee. Friday will be fishing on the Prince William Sound. Saturday we’ll drive to Fairbanks via Denali to see North Pole and such, returning Tuesday and coming to Portland on Wednesday.

I will fly to Nashville on Thursday to do Erik Burnell’s wedding to Haley. It will be good to see all the Burnell’s there. Joel will be here for the fall to establish his residency. He’ll do a Bonhoeffer class at Western. To finalize our travel, Sherry and I will go to Kansas City to hang with Donn, Susan, Lizzie and Micheal before fall term begins.

I just realized that the comments section went away on my blog, apparently when the whole thing was hacked. I enjoy the comments and wondered why there were so few. Answer: there are only a few pages where they are possible. I think i have them turned on now so it’s possible to leave a reply but still have no idea why there is a big comments block on some pages, “Sermons I Have Preached,” “Marriage Divorce Resources” “Women in Leadership” for example, but only a “leave reply” on new posts and no possibility on older ones. Sigh!!

Seventieth Birthday

Today is birthday #70. It’s been a bit weird coming to today since I have this mental picture of my grandfather in pretty bad shape at his 70th and the ingrained cultural idea that this is when you leave your office keys on the desk and head out to the “rest of your life.” Psalm 90 says “The days of our years are threescore years and ten” and any more are “by reason of strength.” But I am more involved than ever in high level responsibilities at Western, in the church world as pastor of pastors, and at Grace. I stopped serving on ministry boards but then picked up The Bible Project board and it’s been a blast to see that ministry with its huge impact for biblical literacy.

Family Gathering in the Park

Today is also Chinese New Year which makes me smile with my soul connection to that world. The Chinese blessing banner around my office door is 10 years old. It still proclaims family as the place God works and that always takes priority. Some old favorite songs have to be listened to. A lot of Michael Card and Twila “Thanks for Keeping Your Hand on Me” and “How Beautiful.”

Later this morning I will go help a pastor friend with a woman who is in a very bad spot. It appears she is oppressed by a demon so the immediate message is “go call Gerry!” I feel the need to teach a biblical theology of spiritual warfare along with some techniques given the explosion of demonic films, songs, games, etc. in our society but it also means I get a lot of calls like this from pastors I’ve trained who need some extra help.

Salty’s on the Columbia is a very favorite restaurant so Sherry and I will watch the sunset from a river front table to celebrate.

Cancer Update

Back in September 2015 they found melanoma in a mole on my forehead. In November Dr. Wilson and team removed a big patch of forehead skin and the downstream lymph node in which they found a “micropresence” of melanoma. In January they removed the rest of the downstream lymph nodes, finding no cancer there.

bloodLast week I met with Dr. Wilson to review my recent CT scan. I now have medical confirmation of the widely held belief that there is nothing interesting in or on my head. That news gave me freedom to return to the Red Cross and donate blood, literally the gift of life, something I have been doing since 1972. Giving double reds means I only have to go through the hassles of screening and getting attached half as often. And I get to lay in a much more comfortable couch to boot! I am somewhere over 100 units donated. Want to come join me?

We discovered that hackers or spammers or someone had been using my website to do their stuff, so Ed Aw, an alum and friend from whom I buy web hosting, redid the whole site to kick them out and put up a lot of extra security. Now I get a weekly report saying that people from China, Russia, and all sorts of places try to access the site, all unsuccessfully I hope. The spammers and some challenges in getting everything reset did freak me out more than a bit which is a big reason for no posts for quite a while.

Travel is a bigger part of my life now. I was in Mexico for a weekend to help out with some controversy about Hebrew Roots and theonomy that threatened to divide their community. A couple of weeks ago I went to Fort Worth to teach church planters associated with Soma Sending. I taught until 10 pm on Thursday and departed at 5 am Friday to teach there all afternoon and hang out in the evening and then flew back after spending the morning with the folk. Quick trips are the order of the day with all I am doing here.

Evangelical Theological Society is next week so I leave Sunday morning for meetings on Monday and the conference Tuesday through Thursday and then fly back Thursday night.

There is some relaxing too: Sherry and I had lupper at Olive Garden this afternoon, just hanging out and enjoying being married.

nicoleNicole’s 16th birthday included a shopping trip to Portland with Hannah and Emily, her two best friends, accompanied by David, Samantha and Joy. Cyndee was also here for the weekend so it was a full house and full of fun. They had to record the beginning of the adventure for posterity. I wonder what will happen if/when Nicole or Joy leaves home for college. It is a big change but with today’s technology one can connect regularly which is very good.