Monday, April 7, 2008

It's all About Perspective - YMInsights Series

One of the things that I get to do a lot of in my ministry is travel. I love to travel, in fact I was curious the other day so I did some calculating, and realized that, I’ve been to 15 countries and 34 states in my lifetime.

I also realized that the majority of these trips were for the purpose of ministry. Ministries such as, building projects, evangelism, discipleship, basketball camps, speaking, training, youth programs, leadership development and encouragement, to name a few.

God has really blessed me in terms of ministry opportunities that, with His life changing power are going to make a difference in the lives of people for His Kingdom, and to me that’s what it’s all about.

I recently had a conversation with a former student of mine that reminded me again that it’s about perspective in life. You see, the world says that in order to be happy, and experience success one needs to have a lot of stuff, you know…Money, Power & Fame. The only problem with that is you can’t take any of that with you when you leave this earth.

The conversation I had was so encouraging to me as I realized that this student really understands that to experience God’s kind of blessing, we need to live counter culturally.

He told me about a recent trip that he had taken, where he had an opportunity to tour some pretty amazing places in Europe, and had a ton of pictures of things that most people would love to see in their lifetime. Places that have incredible historical value, and structures that have stood the test of time, and are simply breathtaking to behold. As I listened to him talk, I admit I was a little jealous, as the places he said he visited were places I’ve always wanted to see and experience as well.

He then said something that totally amazed me, and made me stop and thank God for His work in our hearts, minds, and perspectives. He basically said “You know, all that traveling and sight seeing was great, but all I came back with was a really cool photo album…when I sat and compared my photo album with my friend’s photo album I changed my perspective about what really matters.”

He went on to tell me that his friend had recently returned from a missions trip to Africa, where she was used of God to meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs of children in God’s name. He said that every picture she showed him had a lengthy story attached to it. A story of what God was doing in their life. He told me that as he sat there and took it all in, He realized that all he had were stories of buildings and places that will someday pass away, and she had a treasure box of children whose lives will never be the same because of Jesus!

He gets it…It’s all about perspective!

On my recent trip to Kenya, I had some perspective shaping happening in my life as well. Below is an excerpt from a series of articles I’m working on called “Three Weeks in Kenya…Being The Change”

This excerpt is about things I saw, feelings I had, and things I was processing as I began my ministry of teaching, preaching, training and Leadership Development in Nairobi, Ruiru, and Limuru, Kenya.

To help with the context…Willis was my driver, Sylvester is the Youth Pastor that I worked with in Ruiru, and the BTL was the place I stayed for about a week while in Ruiru.

1. On the way to Nairobi I saw lots of beautiful rolling fields of coffee plants, flowers and other kinds of agricultural farms that are so critical to the survival of the Kenyan people.

2. It was pretty peaceful along the way as we took a road that isn’t traveled much because it used to be in such bad repair that nobody likes to take it, but Willis was so proud that he knew a short cut that no-one else knew of (I’m like that as well, When I lived in DC I used to drive into the city and get lost on purpose so I could find a way out that no-one else knew…I know I’m twisted, but it was fun…I tried that once in NYC but the thrill wasn’t there anymore when I ended up somewhere in the South Bronx!...I took the train after that…Another time when my youth budget was low I tried that again and just called it an “Extreme Destination Unknown Youth Extravaganza” or something like that, the kids finally realized I didn’t have a plan when we ended up at Sam’s Club just in time for the free samples…hey it was cheap, and fulfilled the purpose of fellowship…so it worked!)

3. One of my friends wrote me an e-mail prayer that really struck a chord…he prayed that God would really allow me to feel the pain of the people and “taste the salt in their tears”…that’s a pretty tough thing to pray for but is really at the heart of what I would like God to do...on the way to Nairobi today and around Ruiru He did just that…Here’s a few things that moved me today…

4. Kids everywhere just wandering around aimlessly (like sheep without a shepherd)

5. Old woman carrying huge piles of hay, wood, fruit etc. with children on their backs on the way to a market where they sit and hope that someone will stop by and buy something…with what?

6. I thought to myself, these people have nothing? I kept thinking of the words to a song called “Boulevard of broken dreams” all day I couldn’t get it out of my mind (actually the same friend who wrote me the e-mail and I used to think about that song when we walked the streets of Pittsburgh from our cushy hotel room about 6 or 7 blocks to a Youth Conference as we passed broken person after broken person on the way…interesting).

7. A huge Hindu temple… very fancy, very ornate Mahogany I suppose…I’m sure it cost millions to make and right in front of it along the road is shanty after shanty filled with people just trying to survive…I can’t judge people’s hearts but the gap between very wealthy and very poor seems to be extremely wide here…

8. I remember thinking the same kinds of things the first time I was in Kiev and saw the huge ornate cathedrals with their solid gold domes surrounded by people begging for food…I was just struck with the importance of God’s church reaching out to the less fortunate and making it a priority to not be all about building kingdoms on Earth, but rather be about building God’s kingdom in the lives of His people.)

9. Tons of make shift houses fashioned with whatever people could find…Tin, scrap wood, straw, cardboard, wrapping paper etc. – I’ve been to Mexico a bunch of times and helped build houses for people who have nothing…If the people I saw today had a house like we built in Mexico (12x16 tool shed basically) it would be like a huge mansion to them.

10. I Had lunch and rested at BTL while Sylvester & Willis went into Ruiru to try to get the water company to open a line to the church so they could have water in the church’s tank for camp…think about that, they had to make a special appeal for water so the campers could wash, the mothers of the church could cook, and the campers could h
ave something to drink…man that broke my heart to hear that.
11. I Went back to the church to greet arriving campers, I spoke briefly with Pastor Christopher and asked how I could pray for him…he asked for wisdom as he deals with the amount of deaths that the church has experienced lately (he said they’ve had 5 people die in the last 2 months in his church!)…he said the people are very sad and hurting and he (like a good Pastor should)…feels their pain and is trying to help them through it.

12. I met a lot of the teens as they arrived and basically hung out and watched them play basketball and tried to get to know as many as I could.

13. One of Sylvester’s youth leaders and also one of his YP students at KBTC named Lincoln sat next to me (we were right next to the “Be The Change” tree), and started asking me questions about, the Bible, Youth Ministry in America, God’s plan for our lives, basketball, movies, girls, stereotypes, peer pressure, God’s call to ministry…you know important topics to a teenager/young adult…It was so cool for me to just sit and talk one on one with a guy who has been so impacted by his Youth Pastor’s ministry in his life that he wants to go and train to do the same thing as him…

14. I had some serious flashbacks to my “Be the Change Tree’ conversations with my Youth Pastor when I was his age...I was reminded again at how mentoring is so needed in youth ministry!

15. I was reminded of the times when I would sit and talk with skaters at our weekly outreach event called Hang Time…They would come up with all kinds of questions about God, Christians, The Church, why we built a skate park, welcomed hundreds of them each week into our church when they were kicked out of every other place they tried to skate, and give them free pizza.

16. I loved being asked why we did it for free because it gave us such an opportunity to give the priceless answer…”Because God’s love for you is free”…It was a tool in our toolbox to reach students for Christ and as I sat there by the ‘Be The Change” tree looking directly at a basketball court full of teenagers I thought to myself “there’s a tool in Sylvester’s tool box, and I’m sitting next to a guy who came to the church because they had a hoop! And look what God is doing and is going to continue to do in his life and the lives of others!” WOW, that was an incredible moment for me!
17. I could go on for hours about the things we talked about, but the bottom line is here’s a guy whose life has been changed by God and has been built into by a dedicated Youth Pastor, and who wants to impact the lives of others with God’s love…that’s what it’s all about!

18. As I sat there talking with Lincoln I began to wonder when the evening program was going to start and when I would have an opportunity to give the opening challenge and overview from God’s word…it was beginning to get dark and Sylvester came over to me and said that campers were still arriving and he didn’t want me to have to travel back to BTL at night as it can be dangerous, so I’ll just do an overview in the morning and then give both of my messages and part one of the leadership seminar tomorrow afternoon.

I came back from that trip, a totally different person. God really used the sights, sounds, smells and everything I experienced to help solidify my belief that it really is all about our perspective.

I don’t know about you, but I need to continually sharpen my focus so that my perspective is in alignment with God’s perspective. It’s not about stuff, it’s about lives, lives that have been changed by the Power of Jesus!

So, as I keep traveling, and sharing that good news from NY to Nepal and everywhere in between, my prayer is that my perspective would stay sharp as well as those with whom I come in contact with.

It really is all about Perspective…GOD'S PERSPECTIVE!


  1. Hey Brent, Think I might know a few of those former students of yours?

  2. You sure do!! I'm so proud of them...I know you are Big Time! Great job!

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