Lesson #6: Distance=Perspective

It???s important to get away.?? When I plan my year, the first thing I put in my calendar is vacation.?? The second thing I put in my calendar is professional development and mission trips.?? It???s important to get away.?? Distance equals perspective.

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In our last blog I referenced a quote from Robinson Crusoe I read on vacation last year.?? And here???s another.

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???Thus we never see the true State of our Condition, till it is illustrated to us by its Contraries; nor know how to value what we enjoy, but by the want of it."

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In its context, Robinson Crusoe is longing for his old life.?? And this life he longs for is a life he despised at the time.?? It was not until his old life was taken away that he actually appreciated it for what it was:?? A blessing.

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What does this have to do with New Orleans??? Just this:?? distance equals perspective.?? Every time I go away I gain perspective on my life here at home.?? Every time I go away I appreciate my life here at home more.??

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New Orleans is great.?? Connecticut is my home.?? I???m glad to be home.?? Construction is great???you get a real sense of accomplishment.?? But I???m a pastor.?? And I???m glad to be a pastor.?? We visited a church Sunday morning.?? The service was great.?? But it wasn???t St. Paul???s.?? I???m glad to back at St. Paul???s for worship.

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Distance equals perspective.?? We don???t appreciate what we have until it???s gone.?? And rather than going our wholes lives not appreciating what we have, I choose to intentionally go away.?? I choose to intentionally and temporarily remove myself from my context to gain perspective.?? And when I come back, I appreciate what I have.

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Mission trips are a great way to re-gain perspective.?? Mission trips are a great way to re-gain a sense of gratitude for the life we have.

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Distance equals perspective.?? Gain perspective.?? Go away.?? Go on a mission trip.?? And you???ll be grateful you went.?? You???ll be grateful when you return home.?? ??


Lesson #5: Blessed or Cursed?

Last year after Christmas, I went on a three week trip to New Zealand and Australia.?? On the trip I read Daniel Defoe???s Robinson Crusoe.?? I was expecting pure escapist fun.?? And then I read this famous quote???

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"Upon the whole, here was an undoubted Testimony, that there was scarce any Condition in the World so miserable, but there was something Negative or something Positive to be thankful for in it; and let this stand as a Direction from the Experience of the most miserable of all conditions in this World, that we may always find in it something to comfort our selves from, and to set in the description of Good and Evil, on the Credit Side of the Accompt."

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In this quote Robinson Crusoe is debating whether he is blessed or cursed.?? He miraculously survives a shipwreck in which everyone else dies.?? Essential goods wash up on the shore. So he is blessed.?? But then again????? He is all alone on a desert island.?? He is seemingly doomed to live a long life of isolation apart from any human contact.?? So is he blessed or cursed???

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Crusoe decides to consider himself blessed.?? But it is a decision.?? It is a choice.?? And the choice saves his life.??

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What does this have to do with New Orleans??? Plenty.?? We spoke with homeowners who lost everything???and like Robinson Crusoe consider themselves blessed.

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Blessed to be part of this great city.?? Blessed to call New Orleans home.?? Blessed to still live in New Orleans.?? Blessed to be part of the rebuilding.

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Blessed to meet people of faith.?? Blessed to meet strangers who care.?? Blessed to have groups like ours come and help rebuild their homes.

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Blessed or cursed??? Crusoe lost everything and yet chooses to consider himself blessed.?? We met homeowners who lost everything and yet choose to consider themselves blessed.

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I was reminded of this quote from Robinson Crusoe in the homeowners I met.?? Blessed or cursed???

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What do I consider myself??? When I face loss, terrible loss in this world, do I give up, lose faith, lose hope and consider myself cursed by what I???ve lost??? Or do I persevere, keep faith, choose hope and consider myself blessed by what I have?

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Blessed or cursed??? What am I??? What are you??? What are we as a church?


Lesson #4: People Work with People

One of the highlights from our New Orleans trip was getting to know Derek Lecakes, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Niskayuna,New York.?? Derek is an impressive fellow.??

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Derek led us spiritually.?? Through his prayers and brief scriptures for the day he consistently reminded us of the spiritual nature of our work.?? And he led us spiritually by his example.?? Derek asked us to be patient and flexible and no one was more patient and flexible than Derek.?? The good folks of Emmanuel Lutheran have a wonderful example of following Christ in their pastor, Derek.

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And Derek led us practically.?? He coordinated over forty volunteers over seven cites.?? He made sure we had all the tools we needed.?? He checked in with the homeowners, checked in with the team leaders.?? He was the last to bed and the first to rise, making sure that everything went as smoothly as possible.

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I know Derek would prefer to swing a hammer himself than chaffer novices like me around.?? But Derek happily served the servants making this trip possible.

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People work with people.?? Organizations don???t work with organizations.?? Churches don???t work with churches.?? People work with people.??

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People work with people they know.?? People work with people they trust.?? People work with people they???ve built relationships with.

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I feel privileged to have worked with Derek and the folks from Lutherans C.A.R.E.?? I look forward to working with them again in the future.?? Missions work is about people working with people.?? And Derek and Lutherans C.A.R.E are great people to work with.????


Lesson #3: Mission Forms Community

At the airport Friday, as we were awaiting our flight home, I asked our group to share highlights from the trip.?? And there was a common thread.?? There was a common theme.?? There was a common aspect.?? Nearly all the highlights were relational.

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The dinner we shared together Tuesday evening as a group.?? The relationships we formed with one another.?? The relationships we formed with people from upstate New York and Arizona.?? The conversations we had with home-owners.

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Very few of the highlights had to do with the actual work we did.?? But it was the work we did that brought us together in the first place.?? Mission forms community.

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The group of forty we were all part of was quite diverse.?? We were not all the same age.?? We were not from the same place.?? We were not all part of the same church.?? We were not all Lutherans.?? And I had some interesting theological conversations which resulted from people realizing I???m not a Lutheran pastor!?? They were gracious yet curious.

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But we all shared a common mission: to rebuild homes together in New Orleans.?? We were all there for the same reason.?? We were all there to serve Jesus Christ through serving the people of New Orleans.

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Mission brought us together.?? Mission forms community.?? We remember the relationships.?? But it was our common mission which formed our fellowship in the first place.


Lesson #2: Mission is Word and Deed

I did not share my faith through any words on our mission trip to New Orleans.?? Very few of us did.?? But it would be a mistake to think we didn???t proclaim the good news of the gospel.?? We did.?? We simply let our actions speak.

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There is a lot in the Christian faith that rubs people the wrong way.???? When we proclaim that Jesus is the way to the Father???this turns people off.?? It???s too exclusive.?? When we proclaim NT sexual ethics (if single, celibate), this turns people off.?? It???s too unrealistic.?? When we proclaim there are two eternal destinies for human beings (heaven and hell), this turns people off.?? It???s too judgmental.

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This is nothing new.?? Jesus rubbed some people the wrong way as well.??

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And proclaiming the gospel through deed isn???t new either.?? Jesus says:?? ???let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.???

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There aren???t many groups still helping the people of New Orleans.?? The church is.?? And sometimes the best witness we can offer this fallen world is simply doing the good works Jesus calls us to.

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Some of the homeowners were dumfounded as to why we were there. Why we traveled thousands of miles to help people we didn???t even know.?? Why we took time off from our jobs and our families to rebuild homes.?? Why we cared.

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There is a lot in the Christian faith that rubs people the wrong way.?? Rebuilding homes in New Orleans is not one of them.?? And when we do the good deeds Jesus calls us to we shine a light on the goodness of the God we serve.

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Mission is both word and deed.?? It always has been.?? It always will be.?? I was reminded of this simple truth during our New Orleans mission trip.

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