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Well That’s That

“Well That’s That” is a slightly satirical look at ourselves and what’s next. It’s about living and what we’re going to make of it. Ultimately, it’s about in who and what you personally place your hope and trust. The song is not in any way a political statement for or against one candidate or another, one party or another, or one issue or another. Not even close. Regardless of if and how we may have voted, regardless of who lives in the white house, we each have an individual  opportunity to make a difference every day. Long after we cast a vote, we put on our shoes each day and walk out into an uncertain life deciding how and if we will love better, build better relationships, care more for our spouses and our families, our neighbors, others in need, and those different than ourselves. We choose if we live in fear of things we don’t understand, or simply can’t control – each day we decide if our words will lift others up or tear others down. Now we get to pick up and move on just as we did yesterday, or a year ago, or 10 years ago, and deal with all the things being human throws our way. It’s a brand new day.

 

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The Spirit of Poverty

Sending meaningful financial and human resources to faraway places like a small Batwa village in Burundi, Africa not only makes us feel good – it also changes us.  I’ve twice now visited this, one of the poorest places in the world.  Over the past three years I’ve come to better understand myself, my views on poverty, love and grace, how I listen to others, and how I can better impact my local community.  In addition to meeting some immediate physical needs, these outreach efforts can bring dignity, peace, hope and spiritual healing to those we partner with. After three years serving our friends in Burundi, I’ve learned that despite severe material poverty, there exists a deeper “spirit of poverty”.  The 140 families in the village of Bugenuzi, (our friends with whom we’ve committed to partner and journey with) share something very profound with you and me.  They long for healed relationships. They long to know God. They long for healthier marriages, dignity and trust from others, a future and purpose for their children, peace, security, to trust and be trusted, to be understood and respected – to love and be loved.  They cry and hurt over the exact same things we do here in the west. And in that way we all share in the same spirit of poverty. In fact it has little to do with material wealth or lack thereof. Reaching out internationally gives us a glimpse into other cultures and value systems and by doing so gives us a better glimpse into our own brokenness and need for love and forgiveness.  Sharing the Good News and being Jesus to others is a universal calling whether we do it locally, regionally, or globally.

Reaching out internationally gives us a glimpse into other cultures and value systems and by doing so gives us a better glimpse into our own brokenness and need for love and forgiveness. 

 

Note: The Chapel partners closely with an amazing organization called Harvest Initiatives who are committed to providing holistic care to people and training to indigenous leaders in Burundi, Africa. As of August 2016, the Chapel has sent three teams to assist with building houses, help train pastors and distribute food to children and adults. But it’s Harvest Initiatives that nurture vision and strategy, maintain staff, and provide daily developmental support in Bugenuzi. In 2012 and 2013 our village experienced an average of 72 deaths per year (6/month) of children under five due to lack of nutrition and basic medical attention. burundi-3  As a result of our partnership with Harvest Initiatives, there was only one child death in 2015 and none so far in 2016.  The long term strategy is to nurture and develop a self-sustaining community where outside aid and resources are no longer necessary. Generosity changes everything!

So how do you define poverty?

In a recent meeting I was challenged to think about how I view poverty.  So I thought I’d throw it out to you to weigh in on.  What is poverty?  What do you think of when you think of someone in poverty?  What do you think are the characteristics of individuals or communities experiencing poverty?

Heading Back to Africa

Today I’m very excited (and a little overwhelmed) to find myself making preparations to return again to Burundi, Africa in late August.

Initially, I wasn’t planning on going back this year, but the opportunity arose and some recent developments cleared the way for me to consider joining this 2016 team.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a team mission to a Ba-twa village of Bugenyuzi.  (Google Burundi Africa and the Ba-twa)  here to view the video we produced in 2013 and learn more about this amazing villageIt was kind of an exploratory mission to help build shelters, teach scripture, serve children, and was our church’s first introduction to the people and to learn how we might better serve them over a longer term.

Since then my church, The Chapel, has partnered with an organization in Burundi called Harvest Initiatives.  Together we coordinate various support and efforts exclusively for this village.  Developments including advances in food security for young children, ongoing construction of shelters by the villagers, education and health/ hygiene training have all flourished within the context of love and sharing of the Gospel.

Similar to our first visit, one of my responsibilities is to film and bring back updates and stories. In addition to helping with construction of shelters, my desire is to return with more than just images of poverty.  My goal is to capture life stories of joy, struggles, growth, hopes and dreams as spoken by the actual voices as we look into the faces and eyes of our friends on the other side of the world. My heart is to help you get to know these souls as more than just some distant people in great need.

Most importantly I like to ask you to please be praying for our team of 8.  For our safety, discernment, and most of all that we reflect God in all that we say and do. And that we bring the love and hope of Christ to these wonderful friends.

And, if you feel led to financially assist me and our team, you can do so by returning the bottom portion of  This pdf form  with a check for any amount made out to The Chapel(I know the due date says June 20, but anytime within the next 2-3 weeks would still be very helpful.)  Mail to: The Chapel 4444 Galloway Road, Sandusky, Ohio 44870.

Please join me on this journey and check back for updates and monitor our progress in August.

Blessings.

-gary

A Really Joyful Update (June 2016):

A little over one year ago, I received what I can only describe was a gracious gift, a miracle.  In December of 2014, I survived a Subarachnoid Cerebral Hemorrhage (ruptured brain aneurysm).  Not only did I survive, but the incident was classified as a non-traumatic stroke which, as I understand, means that it produced no negative ongoing medical or physical deficits. From what I’ve been told, the survival for this type of episode is very low and with a positive outcome like this is statistically quite rare.

After just three weeks in ICU (following an emergency brain surgery on Dec. 4, 2014) I was discharged directly to home and was able to fully participate in our son’s wedding just 25 days following the episode.  No step-down unit and no rehab was indicated.  And after about five additional weeks of working from home, I was cleared to drive and returned to work full-time. In fact, over the past 17 months, I’ve not so much as taken a Tylenol for a headache.

UPDATE June 2016: Health wise, this past year and a half has been relatively uneventful – with the exception of a non-emergency 2nd surgery last June 2015 (that was needed to do additional repair) and a few followup brain-scans necessary to monitor healing and progress.

This week my neurologist said confidently that from here out, he expects to only perform annual scans for the purpose of “monitoring for long-term developments”.  He went on to say that I do not need to consider this aneurysm when making day-to-day decisions regarding activities of any kind, and that “I can go on and live my life normally”.

He went on to say that I do not need to consider this aneurysm when making day-to-day decisions regarding activities of any kind, and that “I can go on and live my life normally”.

Needless to say, my wife and I are pleased beyond words and thanking God for this undeserved gift of life, mercy, and grace each day.  I wake each morning excited about whatever future that I have left, and expectantly listening for God’s voice regarding my purpose and whatever comes next on this journey.  It’s all good.

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged and prayed for us during this unsettling time.  Thanks for your love and concern, your kind words and listening ears.  My prayer today is that sharing our story somehow brings hope or encouragement to whatever difficulties or heartache you may be experiencing. We pray that whatever you may be struggling with that you discover, or draw closer to, the God that created you in His image and loves you beyond words.

-gary

Well that wasn’t quite what we expected to hear (May 2015)

May 2015: Here’s what things looked like five months post surgery.  Things seem well, feeling great.  People we talk to are still surprised that I’m alive and I’ve gotten quite used to getting up, driving, working full-time, and generally feeling great for the past four months (almost as if nothing happened).

That Friday I had what was a standard followup to the coiling procedure that was done to block-off future blood flow to the aneurysm that so suddenly threatened my life back in December of 2014.

Sure we braced ourselves a little for the possibility of some unexpected news, but overall I became quite confident that all was well and the hardest part was far behind us – and this exam was just a routine activity.

I laid in the recovery room waiting for the Dr. to stop by before sending me home.  When he arrived I asked (over-confidently) “well, was it a success?”

Seriously He replied. “Well, that depends on how you define success.  If by success you mean we got thru the procedure, then yes. ”  He then went on to report that unfortunately the surgery back in December was not totally successful and that the aneurysm appears to be reforming.  What this means is that we need to do the surgery again in a few weeks.  So in June 2015 there was another surgery which included additional coiling and the addition of a new, somewhat experimental, mesh stent to help bypass the aneurysm in my brain.

Six months later, In December 2015, a follow-up angiogram procedure indicated that all was stable and healing and that additional surgery was not indicated. So far so good!  They’ll follow-up again in June of 2016 and re-assess.

Video interviews re: suffering

My wife Marge and I recently had the opportunity to sit and share with Pastor Bill Schroeder at The Chapel in Sandusky, Ohio about a recent crisis and what we’re learning as it continues to unfold.  On December 3 (2014) I experienced a sub arachnoid hemorrhage (brain aneurism) that almost took my life. Below are three short videos that became part of a 3-week message series called Beyond Me/ Lifted by God.

Interview Part 1 from “Questions in Suffering”

“… and that’s what prayer looked like for those first hours and days. It was more like God are you there?”  -marge

Lifted By God – Gary and Marge interview part 1 “Questions in Suffering” RT = 09:30 from The Chapel on Vimeo.

 

Interview Part 2 from “Purpose in Suffering”

 “… and that’s the thing, if someone’s going to have the final word in my life I’m glad it’s God …because that’s a heart that I can trust” -marge

Lifted By God – Gary and Marge interview part 2 – “Purpose in Suffering” RT = 08:20 from The Chapel on Vimeo.

 

Interview Part 3 from “Comfort in Suffering”

“… it’ was people coming along side and loving”  -marge

Lifted By God – Gary and Marge interview part 3 “Comfort in Suffering” RT= 07:40 from The Chapel on Vimeo.

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