Posts Tagged ‘healing’

Near the end of 2011, I wrote about our African friend who had escaped from an unbelievably intolerable existence. That story is here. In short, our friend, Susie (not her real name, of course), had married a Polish mercenary in Liberia. This man, with a history as a wife beater, brought Susie back to Poland, where she lived   in his unfinished home, frequently with no heat or electricity, and with a growing pile of garbage in the garage, since he never paid any bills. He continued to beat her and do other awful things to her, but a number of factors made it difficult for her to leave.

However, as you can read in the linked story, she was able to leave, and find refuge in our church building. We organized legal assistance for her, a Nigerian friend helped her get her immigration status squared away (her husband had lied to the authorities in her name), and other friends have helped her figure out how to make it on her own. Although life is still difficult for her and her daughter, she feels free, finally, and no longer must live in fear.

Which is not to say she isn’t still afraid, sometimes. As with most victims of domestic violence, the simple thought of her husband can bring feelings of dread, and panic. However, we can see growth here, too. Thank God for his healing power.

When I first wrote about Susie, her husband had been in jail for 3 months, but then had been released. In Poland, a person can be sent to jail for up to 3 months, while an investigation is conducted, simply on the request of a prosecuting attorney. Now, my American sensibilities think this is unfair – but it didn’t stop us from being very grateful for it! However, after the 3 months were up, he showed up right away at our church building and began harassing Susie again.

He would follow her as she walked their daughter to school, cursing and insulting her. He regularly tried to take the daughter out of school, and once succeeded. Thankfully, he brought her back after a couple of days, but he tried everything he could do assert some sort of power over Susie. Once, he pushed her down in the street. When we went to the police to make a report, the officer in charge told me that such things are  allowed in Poland. Evidently, you can hit someone once, without being charged. (No, I didn’t ask the officer to step outside – pretty sure that rule doesn’t apply to hitting a police officer . . .)

One time, he came to the church, saw Susie outside, ran up and starting hitting and choking her. Thankfully, our building caretaker saw what was happening and called the police. The police made the daughter (who was 7), tell what her dad had done to her mom, but didn’t arrest the man. These kinds of things continued for about a year, until the prosecuting attorney did some follow-up investigation, talked to us again, as well as the director of the school, and had him put back in prison.

Along the way, we have seen God intervene over and over. Both times that he was imprisoned, it came as a surprise – but a welcome one. We have seen how a number of Poles have sacrificed to help her – even risking retaliation from her husband. God has worked through all of these people. And I get a kick out of telling them so, since a few of the most helpful don’t really want all that much to do with God! But God is using them, too!

At the same time, though, we have seen some of the uglier parts of the Polish system. Some of the police have treated Susie with disdain, partly because she is black, and a woman, but mostly because she can’t speak Polish. During the first criminal hearing, a translator for Susie was not supplied, and she ended up agreeing to something that would have hurt her case. However, when another friend of ours informed a journalist, and organized some observers from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights – somehow all the records from that first hearing had been deleted from the computer. . . This was good for Susie, but certainly raised some questions in our minds!

Today, Kaye and I were supposed to be witnesses in the next criminal hearing. Our testimony is pretty significant, since we were the primary witnesses to the beating that preceded the police intervention that finally began the criminal process – after a number of other beatings that the police responded to, but never initiated an investigation. And of course, we have been witnesses to the husband’s continued harassment, stalking, and violence.

But – Susie’s husband is in a mental institution, under observation. So, the case has been delayed, again. However, no one from the court told us. No – the court secretary phoned a Polish witness, and asked her to tell us, and Susie. Oh, well.

Please keep praying for Susie, and for us – especially Kaye, and for all the people helping Susie – her lawyer, friends from church, a kind lady from Family Services, a nurse who has helped immensely, and of course for Susie’s daughter.

McNeal, Reggie. A Work of Heart: Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 2000. 224 pp.

Sometimes when and where you read a book means almost as much as what is in the book. Although the what in Work of Heart is pretty significant, the time and place in life when I read it made the book so much more valuable.

I was in the middle of my lowest point ever in ministry. Thinking strongly about packing up and “going home” back to America. But we had committed to being part of a Luis Palau evangelism outreach with several other churches in town, and as a part of that, we rented a couple of rooms in the center for a prayer vigil leading up to the campaign. We always had someone there, on duty, while people came and prayed. I needed something to read during my shift – so I picked up this book that my supervisor had given me a few months earlier. Am I glad I did!!

Reading this book, during a time like that – a low point, but also a spiritual retreat time – made the message much more meaningful, and allowed me to work through the questions the author includes for personal growth.

Here are my three best thoughts in the book:

1. The call we are discussing as a heart-shaping subplot in the leader’s story is the specialized and specific setting aside by God to some special lifelong task in His kingdom. . . The call is not invented, it is revealed. . . The point is this: it is tough enough to serve as a Christian leader with a call. Without it, the choice constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. (98-99)

I had struggled with understanding my call to Poland. I thought I was to come as a church-planter, but church-planting was so tough, and I, at least then, gave up after the first failure. Meanwhile, some elements of planting a church had no appeal for me. I think I had tried to invent a call – but based it more on a need, than on the way God had gifted me. This book was extremely helpful, beyond even the chapter on call, in helping me come to grips with this. It led to a crisis, where I almost left Poland, but we needed to go through that to come to an assurance of God’s leading.

2. Commonplace: Discovering that the ordinary is extra-ordinary. Habits: look for God, keep learning, say yes to God, stay grateful. (175-186)

Seeing God in the commonplace was probably what helped us survive the crisis we faced. When my ministry partner had an affair, when our church plant fizzled, when the dollar dropped by 50% – all at the same time – some of these reminders here helped us survive, and eventually see God’s leading.

3. The reflection questions from the conclusion. I worked through all of these, reflecting on most of them with my wife, and they really helped me see myself, my world, my heart and my call. (188-192)

            As I mentioned, working through these reflection questions was so helpful. I had never done anything like that, and I’m so glad I did. I’m very grateful to my supervisor for giving me this book, and I would have to say it was one of the most positive influences in my life – ever. I’ve shared ideas and questions from this book with Polish leaders that I mentor, as well.

Personal follow-up note: I had a class with Dr. McNeal at Columbia. During a break, I told him that this book had saved me in ministry. His response? Not just “thanks” or “praise God.” He said (without really knowing me) “you are worth it.” I got a lot out of the class, but to be honest, it’s those four words that I will remember the longest.

You can buy a revised version of Work of Heart here: Work of Heart at Amazon


McNeal, Reggie. Get a Life!: It Is All About You. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group. 2007. 179 pp.

Dr. McNeal is one of my favorite authors, so I’ll be reviewing a few of his books in my blog. To be honest, I am definitely not objectively critical toward his books, and my reviews will undoubtedly reflect that. In each review I’ll share a few insights from each book, and what impact it had on my life.

The books centers around five key questions that we need to return to frequently throughout our life:

1. Why am I here?
2. What is really important to me?
3. What is my scorecard?
4. What am I good at?
5. What do I need to learn?

For me, the three best, most insightful ideas in the book were:

  1. Passion distinguishes people from the pack. People with passion stand out from other people who are involved in the same work or activity without it. For the latter it’s just a job or something they have assigned to them. For the people operating from passion, it is an expression of who they are and what makes them tick. (page 12)
  2. Talent matters. Developing a strengths philosophy begins with a clear and honest assessment of your talent. This is the flip side, the antidote, to the philosophy of self-imposed mediocrity through trying to achieve “balance” in your strengths.(page 102)
  3. The single best strategy to avoid dying before you are dead is to practice lifelong learning. If you want to get a life, the learning needs to be intentional, guided by what you want to accomplish. . . Specifically, this learning quest will help you make your next move, knowing how to get to where you want to go in life. (pages 131-132)

As I read this book, I realized how much passion was missing from my life. I had already struggled with burnout and boredom, and tried to deal with it improperly, instead of dealing with the root issues. I was not living from my strengths.

I especially was not maximizing my talents. In an effort to be humble and servant-hearted, I had downplayed some natural leadership gifts. I felt guilty about preaching, and enjoying it, because American missionaries are supposed to have the nationals do that. Of course, multiplying leaders must be my task, and humble servanthood is the heartbeat – but I was expressing both of those values in unnecessary ways.

This book was one of the primary prompters for me to go back to seminary (Columbia International University) Just beginning, at age 41, with family and ministry pressures, was a significant victory. Now, God and my professors willing, I’ll finish this spring, and I’m already looking forward to a Ph.D.

I had two copies of this book, but I gave both away already. However, Get a Life! is available here: Get a Life! at Amazon