Church Planting

Generating $31.6 Billion USD Annually

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Tonight, I will be going to our first meeting for a trip that I am helping to lead to Panama City, Panama!  July 29-August 6, hundreds of us will be helping put on an Anti-Trafficking Conference for upwards of 10,000 girls in the city.  Human trafficking is the second largest global organized crime today, generating approximately $31.6 billion USD each year (UN stat).  Trafficking for sexual exploitation alone generates $27.8 billion USD annually.  80% of trafficked victims are women and over 50% are children.

Panama City is one of the gateways to human trafficking in Central America.  It is estimated that 1 in 5 container ships that travel through the Panama Cannel carries trafficked girls in it (approximately 30 container ships pass through the canal each day).  If the estimation is correct, then a minimum of 6 girls is carried through the canal daily.  Incest is prevalent in many homes in Panama City and has become an open door for a culture of human trafficking, especially for sexual exploitation, to thrive in the community.  Panamanian girls literally do not want to go home at the end of the day.

Here's the good news though, Panama City officials want to do everything they can to make the city known for being a safe and life-giving place for these girls to grow up.  After all, it is being nicknamed "little Dubai" and something like 60-80 new hotels will be opened in the city this year.  The last thing they want to be known for is sex-trafficking.  So, the government officials have invited Gerritt and Tara Kenyon to host a conference for thousands of young girls in the city this summer.  I'm excited to be able to do what I can to help change the course of these girls' lives forever -- to help them know that they are loved, are valuable, and that their lives truly are worth more than simply the fulfillment of the sexual pleasures of those who do not value the life of a little girl as more than that.  And get this, city officials are going to foot the bill for the conference!  I don't know about you, but I would LOVE for this conference, and the way that Panama's government is responding to this heinous problem, to become an example worldwide for other countries to follow in suit.

If you think this is a problem that happens "there" and not "here," don't be mistaken.  If you live in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, we are in a HOT SPOT for trafficking.  For years, MN has been ranked in the top 10 states in the country for having the highest level of trafficking activity.  The UN estimates that there are 27 million slaves in the world today.  This is more than there have been at any other time in history.  The exploitation of human lives seriously has got to stop!

To find out more about the Panama trip that I am leading or to help support my financial costs for it, visit my Razoo Profile Page.

Headin' South

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And I'm leavin’ on a jet plane (any other closet PPM fans out there?).  The day has finally arrived.  Today, I am off to Dallas, TX for ARC’s AllAccess2012 (and to spend some time with one of my favorite aunts)!  There is much excitement and anticipation amongst the EA team and our church planters for all that is going to unfold this week!  We are looking forward to spending time with some of our church partners, and excited to make new connections in the crowd of 3,000+ that will be gathering at Gateway Church this week.  I even made a video in anticipation of it all. Check it out! [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxRZ5HnrG0I]

At AllAccess, we are going to launch my baby:  the Internship Xchange Program.  While I traveled across Europe this past Christmas and New Years, I kept thinking about how we have so many resources in churches across the U.S. that could potentially be really beneficial to share with churches in Europe.  One of the main resources I kept thinking about was people.  In the U.S., there are so many more Christians than there are in Europe, not too mention trained Christian leaders.  At Substance Church alone, we are currently training up 37 interns through the Excelerate Intern Program.  The majority of churches in Europe have 37 people.  So, why not invite some of these up and coming leaders to intern at our EA churches, where Christian leaders are still sparse?  Okay, we will!

Things in the US office are also coming along.  This past week we re- launched our website (www.europeadvance.org)

(we are especially grateful to Gina, from Sebastiaan’s church in Hilversum, Netherlands, who spent many many hours helping to design the new site!).  And we got a few packages in the mail:  our new business cards and Internship Xchange promo postcards!

Personally, I want to thank many of you for your prayers and support for my friends that have experienced quite the traumas in the past few weeks.  Yesterday, we launched a Tiedeman Recovery Fund website to begin to help raise support for Chris and Sara (the two that were in the awful car accident 3 weeks ago):  www.TiedemanRecoveryFund.com.  Chris will be having surgery tomorrow at the U of M and Sara remains at HCMC in critical condition.  The road to recovery is going to be a long one, but it's a road nonetheless.  Last week, I started the Couch to 5K in honor of Sara – if she could run a half-marathon last fall, the least I can do is run a 5K (I ran one before, but this time I’m actually going to train so I don’t hate the experience quite as much afterwards).

I've begun to read a fascinating book about the affects of WWI and WWII on European culture, but I will leave those interesting findings until next time.  Plus, I'm sure I will learn more as I read on the plane this afternoon.  I'm off to the homeland!

The Every Day Battle Field

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These past couple of weeks have been filled with preparations for the ARC AllAccess Conference (Gateway Church, Dallas, TX), which will be at the end of March.  Over 3,000 pastors and church leaders are already registered!  At the conference, there will be lots of opportunities to network with tons of outstanding pastors, hear some of my favorite speakers (including Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, and Craig Groeschel) and worship with thousands of others who are passionate about reaching our communities in real and relevant ways.  And, EuropeAdvance will be launching its new internship Xchange program!  Needless to say, we’re excited and gearing up for the great things ahead! In the midst of all these preparations, these past few weeks I have also been reminded of all the depravity in this world that my eyes have personally seen:  alcoholism, divorce, robbery, death, suicide, starvation and malnutrition in less developing countries, AIDS orphans, adult invalids left for the dead, the destruction caused by hurricanes and tornadoes, cancer, malaria, the aftermath of wars, racism, sexism, and most recently the horrors caused by drunk driving.  If you’ve ever wondered if we lived in an every day battle field, I assure you we do.  :)

I admit that there are times when the outcomes of the battle feel all together like too much to bear.  Every casualty takes a little more air out of my lungs…

But thankfully, thankfully, the darkness has not overcome the light!  Every day, there is a reminder that the Remedy has already come, and is here.  Last Thursday night at a prayer vigil for friends who had been hit by a drunk driver, I looked out at a sea of faces to see a community filled with people who had truly laid down their lives to care for and love our friends, and who will continue to do so day in and day out.  Yesterday, I joined good friends as they launched their new church in a community that longs to see the love of God revealed in tangible ways.  330 people attended the service and 31 people gave their lives to Christ yesterday morning!  Talk about a win!

I have decided not to try and understand God, nor our Maker’s ways.  What I do know though is that our Lord and Savior has sent us into this dark world to live out the Good News that hope and salvation is here, today.  I long for the day when heaven truly is a reality here on earth.  Until then, may each one of us, together, live out our God-given mandate to reveal the God of life, love, hope and redemption to a world desperately in need.

Development of an Office

These past few weeks have been so much fun and so busy! :) There are so many things that go into setting up a cross-cultural church planting ministry’s office halfway around the world from where much of the on-ground action takes place.  My time lately has been filled with countless conversations with supportive family and friends, meetings with experts on web design, social media, branding, marketing, support raising, vision casting, and much more.  I have been getting increasingly excited about the true potential for a great impact to be made in Europe through new churches! And then there’s the non-strategic part of life as a missionary. :)  This past weekend was one of those life-filled weekend with lots of quality meetings, and time with friends and family.  Friday night, I got to watch a couple of seriously well fought high school basketball games.  Sunday (I will go back to Saturday in just a bit. :) ) , I got to listen to one of my very good friends, and favorite pastors, preach to a packed out auditorium as she and her husband get ready to plant their church in two weeks.  Then it was catching up with one of my former youth from my Youth Pastor days (yep, she’s all grown up now and considering mission work herself…makes me proud). :)  And then a great cookout in the dead of winter with my family.  That’s just how we roll in Minnesota, it does not matter the weather, cookouts are always an option.

Back to Saturday.  It was filled with a couple of really inspiring meetings, and then dinner with family friends, which included a very poignant conversation that has been in my mind ever since.  These family friends have been neighbors to my parents for years and are immigrants from Kiev (located in the northern part of Ukraine, pretty much in the center of the country).  During a conversation with the wife, we were talking about the church that they go to here in Minnesota.  When I asked how it was different from her church in Kiev, she gave me a look that said, “They don’t even compare.”  Without much of a thought, she immediately said, “our pastor here shows us how the Bible speaks to us.  It’s about God, and us.  In Kiev, they speak in an old language that is not relevant and you can’t understand what they are talking about.  No one understands them.”  What if churches in Kiev, and the rest of Europe for that matter, could be filled with messages that people understand, that helped them know that this life is still about God and us?

This brings me to today.  It’s 7:45am in Minnesota and I just got off the phone with a close friend.  Overnight, her daughter overdosed on her boyfriend’s anti-depressants after the two of them got in a fight.  She’s currently in a drug-induced coma to let her body rest and regain its strength.  Hopelessness.  It’s rampant here in the States and across the pond.  I’m reminded of the 339 people in Europe who take their life daily…  What if every person in the world knew the kind of hope, and life purpose, that can be found in and through knowing God is still relevant today, and is for us, not against us?!

God's Response

Since the beginning, God’s desire has been that we would experience the same kind of life on earth as in heaven, in and through our relationship with God and our relationships with one another.  Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and life to the full.”  He was talking about our lives today, on earth. When Jesus was about to die, He said that it was better for Him to go away so that He could send the Holy Spirit who would live inside of everyone who believed in Him so that they could carry on the work that He started of establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  2 Corinthians 5:20 says that, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”

When Jesus lived on earth, He spent His time giving life to people, helping them connect with God in a personal way, freeing them from hopeless situations, healing them of their diseases and casting out evil spirits.  Jesus spent His life freeing people of everything that kept them from experiencing the fullness of heaven while on earth.  He is the definition of life, of hope.

God’s plan is that the Church would literally continue to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth today just as Jesus did.  Imagine what life might be like if everyone in the world had the opportunity to experience the power of a relevant and real God in their life through life-giving churches worthy of their cities!  This is God's desire.