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In July 1967, when I was seven years old, I woke up on a bright summer’s day to find that the city of Detroit, just an hour’s drive from my home, was on fire. Police had raided an after-hours club where a group of African American men were celebrating the return of two GIs from Vietnam. An altercation broke out. The situation escalated. A full-scale riot ensued.

FERGUSON, MO/USA-  AUGUST 15, 2014: Group prays at the site of d

As a child I knew nothing of the causes and barely understood the events, but I saw pictures in my parents’ newspaper and on evening news. It was like watching a nightmare, black-and-white images of Black and White people killing each other. After five days there were 43 dead and some 2,000 buildings burned.

And then, thank God, it was over and life returned to normal. Or so I believed.

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A short-term mission trip is an intense experience in many ways. And that’s a good thing. Leaving home, being immersed in another culture, and learning to work as a team creates a perfect storm of stress that can be a prime setting for spiritual discovery, if you’re open to it.

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Although there is much debate about the effectiveness of short-term efforts, I see a great value. In fact, I think every pastor should lead a trip at least once. You learn things on a mission trip that you just won’t get any other way.

One of those learnings has do do with the big question not just for short-termers, but for all missional work: “What are we doing here anyway?”

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As a seventh grader, I was the greatest football player in the world, and I knew it. There was no organized team, but I played in my backyard every day, by myself.

Football and passion

I would hike the ball to myself, throw long, arching passes to myself, make impossible, diving catches by myself, then run for a touchdown, high-fiving myself in the end zone.

I was unbeatable. Not even I could stop me.

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Once in awhile we find a chance to do something of unquestionable importance. These opportunities lift our lives out of the ordinary routines of everyday life and allow us to experience meaning and purpose in a direct way.

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That’s why I’m going to Haiti in September 2014, and I’m inviting you to come with me.

World Vision has reversed its decision to allow the employment of gay Christians in committed relationships and reaffirmed its prior policy that it will employ only celibate single people or those who practice fidelity in a heterosexual marriage. (Comments on their previous position are here.)

This saddens me, not because I endorse homosexual behavior in any context—I affirm that God created sex as the unifying, creative act between a man and woman, even though most people don’t use it that way.

I am saddened by what this episode reveals about the state of the church. There is deep division and great anger over the question of homosexuality, and confusion even among some of our brightest leaders on how to respond to the cultural challenge.

It is unfortunate, too, that Christians will likely be perceived as angry bigots by our own neighbors, and that gay people have been told once again that they are not welcome in the church.

Team, we can do better.

On the positive side, Jesus is alive, it’s a beautiful day, and we’ve all got good work to do.

Every leader is a story-teller, and every church is living a story—whether they realize it or not.

The story you tell about yourself rises from your vision for the world, and it largely determines the way people respond to you. You are enacting your perception of a larger conflict, a story of either victory or defeat.

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The good news is that you can choose your own story. Here’s how.

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If you’re thinking about entering a doctoral program, I’ve got news for you. You probably won’t finish. Most people who begin a Ph.D. or similar degree never hear the word doctor in front of their name. The attrition rate is around 50 percent.

There are good reasons for that, and most of them apply to projects other than completing a doctorate. Finishing a book, sailing around the world, graduating from college, and even being married are all harder than they look.

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You have to count the cost before you begin.

The good news is that you can beat the odds and be successful in this. You can do this if you can say yes to all six of these questions.

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