Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Great Night with Lee County's Bravest

Isn't it amazing when you set out to bless someone and in the process you wind up receiving far more than you gave?

Last week at Cultivate we split into small groups and went to local fire stations to thank the firefighters for their service and sacrifice on our behalf. We had balloons, discounted Valentine's Day candy and cards. Our goal was simply to surprise them with a small act of gratitude, and to provide our whole team with an opportunity to grow in gratitude. Going into the night, I had modest hopes that the firefighters would be available and pleasantly surprised, and that our students would engage with the activity in a very different, and perhaps intimidating context.

Long story short, I was blown-away by the graciousness and hospitality of our local fire crews. Each group returned at the end of the evening with stories and pictures of tours, of sitting in fire engines, and of firefighters who went way out of their way to make our students feel welcomed and appreciated for coming. One fire crew even gave the group that visited them $20 to go buy Love Boat ice cream! (If you don't live in Fort Myers, Love Boat is the best, period.)

The event served as a reminder of the power of both gratitude and hospitality to turn strangers into friends. There are many social and cultural boundaries between most of the local firefighters and most of our students. Yet, we saw how a small act of gratitude received with genuine hospitality can create an environment in which normal boundaries and normal life can be interrupted and something far more beautiful can appear.

Thank you fire fighters of Lee County! Your service, and your hospitality, are appreciated!
The Iona-McGregor fire crew wins the silly pic of the night contest!

Ready to roll...

The flotation device was a nice touch...

We also surprised Shari, the Pine Manor Center Director

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Welcome to the family Greg!

Readers, today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Gregory Greene! Greg is a local missionary who has faithfully served in Dunbar and central Fort Myers for years and is now looking to capitalize on his experience and network to launch Greene Harvest Ministries. I connected with Greg through our friend Permon Thomas, and was thrilled to hear Greg's excitement for gathering neighbors who are searching for God but believe church is for "other people." Furthermore, Greg is servant who is focused on seeing others join into the mission. He  understands the call to equip and empower more ordinary people to both follow Jesus and serve Jesus by extending that call to others in mission. After hearing Greg's heart and sharing our story we agreed that Greg would be a good fit with Burning Bush.

Welcome to the family Greg, and we are looking forward to seeing God use you in big ways in Fort Myers and beyond!  

Monday, February 18, 2019

What are Burning Bush people trying to do?

I've been asked several times recently what Burning Bush people and communities do. It's a good question. If you are familiar with contemporary churches then you know that there are all kinds of Christian groups out there... small groups, life groups, service groups, youth groups, marriage groups, worship groups, and the list goes on.

So what exactly is it that we say makes our communities (what we call our groups) "Burning Bush Communities?"

Well, I like to say is that Burning Bush Communities have GRIT.

That is, we are (or strive to be) people who:

We make it our job to go to and be with our neighbors who God sends us to. We don't ask the people we're called to serve and bless and reach to come to us. We do our best to step into their world and establish relationships where they are comfortable.

Our second task is to reveal the Kingdom of God wherever we're sent. People don't need to attend a church service to have the Kingdom revealed to them. It's the job of disciples to make known the power and love of Jesus in the places they inhabit and serve.

We invite those whom we love and serve in Christ's name to learn the ways of Jesus with us. That is, we invite them to the discipleship journey. It makes sense that the people who build relationships with their neighbors and reveal the Kingdom to them are the ideal people to help disciple them.

Turn loose
Finally, we release the disciples who are serving alongside of us or who developed in our communities to pursue the callings that God places upon them. God is always calling and sending more people to share His good news, and it's our job to make sure that we facilitating that process.

So there you have it. A Burning Bush Community is one that is trying to have some GRIT. And while we have a long way to go in this process of becoming gritty people and groups we are thankful to be on the journey.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Thanks Tre!

Last week we had the pleasure of taking some of our students from Cultivate to a drug and alcohol awareness program put on by local police, first responders, and local drama students. The program was a four act performance following fictional students from a party to arrest, courtroom, and hospital. It was an impactful performance, as our students took in the hard realities of lives broken by bad decisions.

However, we left the program talking about the biggest surprise of the night: Tre Boston of the Arizona Cardinals, and graduate of North Fort Myers High, was waiting for us at the end of the program to encourage the students and share a bit of his own journey! The impression made on me, and I think our group as a whole, wasn't so much all the content that Tre shared (though he shared good stuff and gave Jesus credit, which is always a good thing in my book), but rather his enthusiasm and obvious delight to be with the students. Frankly, the message of no to drugs and partying is so often given from a threatening or reprimanding position that it's simply tuned out. How refreshing for our students to hear the message from someone who they could both identify with and who spoke as cheerleader for them. What a difference it makes to hear the truth from someone you believe is in your corner! Which perhaps is a good reminder for all of us: do the people who we lead and encourage and hope to build up believe we're in their corner?

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Growing Family

One of the funny things about following Jesus is that sometimes you beat your head up against the wall repeatedly trying to make something happen, and then, as soon as you throw up your hands and release it to God, He makes it happen. Those moments are precious; they are both humbling and joy-filled.

Recently, I've experienced this pattern anew. My hope and prayer when we launched Burning Bush was that we would grow as a network of local missionaries. (When I say local missionaries I mean men and women who are intentionally living on a mission to reveal God's love and Kingdom with their neighbors who are hurting and disconnected from the church.) I knew that in the long run it was our job to develop local missionaries, but it would really help us get going if we had a core of them to start with. The problem was, I had no idea where to find those people. I talked to all kinds of ministries, pastors, and churches, but I didn't get anywhere.

Eventually, after the head-banging had produced nothing but headaches, I got the message that our job was just to lead the people we had into mission and stop worrying about gathering other local missionaries. And so we got busy, and the headache went away.

And then, seemingly out nowhere, God started bringing local missionaries our way. Three local missionaries joined us in October and November, and then three more joined us in January. We're actually starting to look like a network!

Today, it is my honor to introduce you to one of our new teammates, Permon Thomas. I met Permon through the Pine Manor Community Center, where he leads a weeknight ministry in the community kitchen for guys who are recently out of jail and prison. Permon was incarcerated himself, came to faith in prison, and is completely on-fire for loving incarcerated men and helping them make life work when they get out. Permon also has a heart for equipping others, and we are working on a plan for him to launch a discipleship and missionary training ministry to complement his ex-offender ministry (which is more basic, and focused on integration in society). So, welcome to the team Permon! We are blessed to have you on board!  

Permon participating in the work to give some ex-offenders the right to vote in Florida.

Baby Steps into Mission: Presence, Part 2

Faithful readers, I apologize for the long delay in getting this blog up. Between summer vacation, official cross country practices starting...