Wednesday, December 31, 2008
... Sunsets are nice in the Florida Keys.
… Sunsets are more spectacular over water – especially with sailboats in them!
... When taking pictures on the beach be careful when you back up not to trip over a rock. (Especially when the only thing behind that rock are other rocks - which hurt when you hit your head on them!)
... It's good to have a wife who is a nurse!
… I now have 100 friends on Facebook!! (I feel special!)
… with this post I finish my first year of blogging – averaging one post per week!
… next year I hope to blog more, write more, coach more, teach more, lead more!
… the end of 2008 has been brutal financially!! I’m hoping 2009 improves–eventually!
… it is easier to get IN to financial trouble than it is to get OUT of it!
… I’m thankful that Kathy & I are now debt free – except the mortgage on our home!
… the USA is a great place to live – free elections, good roads, unlimited opportunity!
… God’s grace is so amazing that tomorrow he will give us all a new day & a new year!
I'm thankful to be alive and look forward to what tomorrow holds!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
During the last week of each year I like to review my personal journal and reflect on what I've experienced and learned in the past year. Here are some of the lessons I've learned (or re-learned) this past year:
1. Making the “tough call” is one of the most important roles of leadership!
I've known this to be true, but I have been reminded of the importance of this truth and re-learned this lesson this past year in making some of the difficult decisions in leadership that must be made by a leader. Even when it is not always understood or appreciated, leaders earn the right to lead when they have the courage to make the "tough calls" of leadership! It is often uncomfortable and unpopular to make the tough call - which is what makes it tough. If the leader is wise, these difficult decisions actually help the organization and the people they lead! Leaders must lead, especially when there is the need to make a "tough call."
2. Taking “calculated risks” is also important in leadership!
It is easier not to take risks, but it is not always better. We must take "calculated risks" in order to advance our cause. Leaders shouldn't take careless risks, but after careful calculation we must have the courage to take the risks which will move our mission forward. I was reminded of this lesson this year when we "launched" our new campus in the small town of Roanoke. This is a risky endeavor, but it is making an eternal difference. I was also reminded of this lesson when I took the risk throughout the year to invite people to step across the line of faith - at camp, in baptism, and in response to God's promptings in their lives! AND GOD SHOWED UP!
3. Simple is often better!
Several books that I read this year brought this lesson home to me, including the book I had our staff read, "Simple Church." The more simple we become, the clearer we become. A simple vision is clearer. A simple plan is clearer. And simple is often much more effective. Complexity is the enemy of effectiveness. This is true in the marketplace and in ministry! So this year I have attempted to simplify, corporately and personally. When we remove the clutter, we create margin and this leaves room for growth! Simple is in. I'm just a simple guy - so this is good!
4. Extreme Generosity honors God ... and God honors extreme generosity!
This lesson became more clear to me when I was able to attend a "Generous Church Summit" with Andy Stanley and about 200 other leaders in Atlanta this year. When we approach things with a scarcity mindset, we don't really tap into the heart of God. So we must "live it" and "teach it" to really "experience it." Our church gave away more money this year than any time in our history! When the Hunt Club Apartments experienced a devastating fire we cleaned out our Compassion/Benevolence Fund and gave every family who was displaced a gift card in partnership with one of our members who is the manager of the local Wal-Mart. We also gave away the first 10% of our Building Offerings to some of our partners in ministry to help them with their needs first! In my opinion, it was the best thing we did financially this year!
5. People will rise to the challenge – so challenge them!
As a pastor and a preacher it sometimes feels like you will "scare people away" if you push people too far - but more often than not, I probably don't push enough. I would say the messages that I preached which were best received this past year were the ones in which I made the most bold challenges. Whether the challenge was to "grow up" or "give up" - the greater the challenge, the greater the response. In February we issed a "Tithing Challenge" and had the largest offering month in our history! People love to rise to the challenge! Lord, help me to rise to become even more challenging!
6. I am not important–but Jesus is very important!
This lesson came to me in my own personal reflection on the death of one of our founding members and a saint of God, Lee Robbins. Lee and his wife Dee who preceded him in death were quiet but dependable. They were some of the most humble servants of God that I have ever known. Sometimes as a pastor/leader I mistakenly think that I need to be important - but then I'm reminded of people like Lee & Dee. They are my heroes in the faith. When I led the casket carrying Lee's body out of our church for the last time, I was weeping tears of sorrow and of joy. And I was reminded of this truth. Like John the Baptist said of Jesus, my resolve is that "He must increase ... I must decrease." I am not important.
7. The more I “get away," the closer I get to hearing God!
This one never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes it seems like my job is to be "in the office," but I continue to discover that when I only spend time in the office, I can easily lose perspective. When I "get away" is when I begin to hear from God! It is ironic that I have to get away from the church to hear from the Lord - this probably says more about me than the church. I just get so absorbed in the administrivia of ministry at the office. Whether it is for a personal retreat, a conference, or just a visit someplace else - I grow more in my role and in my soul when I get away!
8. Real Treasure is found in relationships, not real estate!
I've always know this was true, but it really came home to me this year when I spent time on the island of Hispanolia! In January I was in Haiti, and reminded again of the precious value of people. I'm humbled by the example of Tom Osbeck, my friend and partner in ministry. He has given his life to live among the people of this impoverished nation to be "Jesus in Haiti." Tom may not own much real estate, but he is storing up serious treasure in heaven! When my own daughter Ashley made the decision to move to the other part of that island and teach in the Dominican Republic I was reminded again of how much more I treasure my family than I do anything else in the world! I was a mess when she left, and while she was gone - there is nothing more precious in the universe to me than my relationship with my wife and my kids! Nothing!
9. Hard times are filled with needs & opportunities!
Whether it is in Haiti, the DR, or right here in the USA - when hard times hit people, there are great needs and there are great opportunities. One of the reasons I'm thrilled to have partnerships in Haiti, Kenya, and Burma is because we can make a big difference there - one life at a time. The needs are great - and we can't solve them all - but the opportunities are tremendous for the Gospel of Jesus Christ! The same is true as our country enters a difficult time of economic recession. In the mids of the hardships will be many opportunities to trust God and witness to the power of His presence in the lives of people! I don't enjoy experiencing any of the pain, but in the midst of these times there is room for great Kingdom gain!
10. In God’s Timing … All things are possible!
The election of Senator Barak Obama as the next President of the United States has been historic. I must admit that I did not expect to see this in my lifetime. The obstacles and the challenges have simply been so great for people of color in our nation. I am still troubled by some of the positions Mr. Obama has advocated and I am not confident that he will lead our nation in the direction that I think is best, but I am commited to pray for him and ask God's blessing upon his leadership. God is still soverign, and with God ... all things are possible!
I intend to keep learning in the new year - and I'm thankful for these lessons that have come my way in this past year. Lord, teach me your ways, I pray!
Monday, December 29, 2008
1. New Staff & New Kingdom Growth! (Winter & Fall)
Mark "Weaz" Hammond joined our team in February as our new Youth Pastor and has led a renewal in our youth ministry that continues to reach young people for Christ! This summer we found a dynamic Worship Arts Associate in Brad Thomas who is now leading worship and doing some dynamic video production for our minsitry! We also baptized over 40 people this year - that never gets old!!
2. Launching a new campus in Roanoke! (Fall)
After 20 years of ministry our church decided to give birth this year to a new campus in the great community of Roanoke. Our Campus Pastor, Randy Samuels is doing a great job leading our ministry team there. After maximizing our space with three Sunday worship celebrations in Fort Wayne, we are now a multi-site ministry! Our attendance has been up, and the number of people engaged in ministry is up, as we are reaching up in the love of Jesus Christ!
3. International Partnership Developments in Burma, Kenya & Haiti (Summer)
This summer we hosted the leaders of all three of our major international ministry partnerships. Dr. Morris Liana shared his burden with our church family for the people of Burma, especially those devastated by cyclone Nargis and our people responded VERY generously to this need. Our ministry partner from the Kayole St. John's UM Church in Kenya, Pastor Ososo visited Sonrise in September and again our church was very gracious. We were also able to host our ministry partners from Haiti this fall and sent a dental mission team to Haiti to assist in the ministry there.
4. Becoming a Teaching Church – Spring Forward! (March)
As our church has grown we have received an increasing number of requests for help from other church leaders and we have been given opportunities to share some the lessons we are learning in ministry. In March we hosted our first church leadership conference and we were encouraged by the opportunity to help some other churches "Spring Forward" in their ministry!
5. Simple Church – saying “no” to good things to say “yes” to the best! (Fall)
This summer our staff read the book, Simple Church together and in our leadership retreats this fall we made some important decisions to "simplify" our ministry by saying "no" to some of the "good" things we've been doing so that we can focus our energy and our resources on the "best" things! It is a hard thing to say "no" - but it is a strategic part of saying "yes" to God's best!
This past year has been one of great growth in our ministry at Sonrise. Towards the end of the year we had to make some "tough calls" as we face some financial challenges, but we are looking forward to even greater fruit in the coming year!
Sunday, December 28, 2008
1. Ashley’s Graduation from Huntington University (May)
Our youngest graduated with honors in Elementary Eduction which means both our girls are now out of college - so Mom & Dad got a pay raise!! (The kids are OFF the payroll!) We were able to pay off both of our cars and with the exception of our home mortage - we are now debt free! (And we're proud of our girls academic accomplishments!)
2. Ashley’s DEPARTURE to teach in the DR (August)
This was the biggest surprise in the year! In a serious "Leap of Faith" our Ashley Faith Buck decided to move to a third world country to begin her teaching career in a mission school in the Dominican Republic. I found myself having less "faith" about this than Ashley - but I'm proud of her - and admired her courage!
3. Trips to Haiti, South Carolina, Florida and the DR (January/October/November/December)
Kathy and I enjoy traveling to warm climates - especially in the fall and winter! In January Kathy visited her mom in Florida while Ashley and I were in Haiti. Kathy and I celebrated our October wedding anniversary in Charleston, South Carolina and we visited Ashley in the Dominican Republic for Thanksgiving. Now we are spending a Christmas vacation in the Florida Keys! (We are blessed to be able to travel like this - something we could not afford to do earlier in our marriage!)
4. Kathy begins teaching for IWU (October)
After nearly 30 years of nursing experience, Kathy entered the world of clinical instruction as an adjunct with Indiana Wesleyan University! She is a good nurse and now she can multiply herself by helping younger nurses develop their skills. Now our whole family is involved in teaching!!
5. Ashley’s SAFE RETURN from the DR (December)
After an exciting and challenging semester in the DR, Ashley returned home safely the Friday before Christmas and made the decision to continue her teaching career in the states! We're very thankful for that!! It was an awesome experience to live for half of a year in a third world country - and we are incredibly proud of her, but very relieved that she is safely back in the USA!
We are thankful for God's protection & blessing in this past year and we look forward to what the new year holds for our family!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
We made it back to Fort Wayne, in spite of an ice storm that cut off power for several days to thousands of homes in our community. (We were thankful to get power back in time to hold our church services on a very cold Christmas Sunday!)
After four Christmas Eve Candlelight Services we are heading south on Christmas Day for a family vacation in the Florida Keys! We're looking forward to some warm sunshine!
So ... from our family to yours ... Merry CHRISTmas!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
While I was at it, I've also decided to change the look of the blog a little. I may experiment with this some over the next few weeks as I prepare to begin my second year in the blogosphere!
So - feel free to leave your comments below ...
Monday, December 22, 2008
Even though it was one of the coldest, yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year!
Why? (I'm glad you asked!)
Because December 21st marks the Winter Solstice - which for me is less about the official beginning of winter than it is about the fact that this is the shortest day of the year - which means ...
... every day between now and June 21st will have more sunlight!!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Kathy and I are heading for Chicago to pick up our daughter Ashley at the airport!! (If her flight isn't cancelled - we're praying that doesn't happen!)
What a thrill it will be to welcome her back to the good "cold" USA!
(After five months in the heat & the hurricanes in the Dominican Republic!)
We did the same thing - at the same airport - a few years ago when our other daughter Stephanie was returning fom a semester abroad in Spain!!
We're proud of both of our girls - and their courageous forays in foreign countries - but it is special to a mom & dad to welcome their kiddos home!!!
Ashley posted the REALLY BIG NEWS on her blog yesterday! After much prayer and consderation, she informed the folks in Santiago (two weeks ago) that she would be concluding her service at the mission school there at the end of this week (tomorrow) and is planning to stay in the states after Christmas!!
We're grateful for the great experiences she has had in the DR - and thrilled to know she'll be home for Christmas ... AND the New Year!
So tomorrow is a "welcome home" party! I'm taking my poster board signs ... and my kleenex!!
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Five months ago she took a "Leap of Faith" and moved to the Dominican Republic where she has been teaching 6th grade at Santiago Christian School! She is amazing! While living in a developing country, she has:
... learned how to negotiate with taxi drivers in another language,
... lived in a very sparse apartment (little furniture/no AC/with bugs!)
... helped lead a group of high school girls with Young Life
... walked to the grocery & the gym (in the rain) on dangerous streets
... lived without a cell phone or a car! (character building!)
... joined a gym and developed workout friends in another culture
... learned to surf, jump from waterfalls, and dance the salsa!
... written an amazing blog journal of her experiences
... all while teaching a very active and diverse group of sixth graders in a mission school with limited resources!
I just want the world to know that I am the PROUD father of Ashley Faith Buck!
(I'm also very excited about picking her up in 48 hours at the airport to welcome her home for Christmas ... and the New Year!!)
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
(image courtesy of http://www.wordle.net/)
As we launch into the Christmas season, I am inviting my friends at Sonrise to join me in recapturing the "Wonder of Christmas" with a series of messages we launched this past Sunday!
Christmas really is a wonder-ful gift from God! I pray that we won't miss His PRESENCE this year as we celebrate this Holy Day!
Friday, December 05, 2008
... and it was grrrrreat!!
The temperature today is about sixty degrees less than when we left the DR - but I'm fine with that! The comforts of home are worth it - even at 20 degrees!
I've traveled in several third world settings - so I can handle it - and there are good things going on with good people in those places - and I am praying for them. I pray for my daughter Ashley and her fellow teachers in the DR. I pray for Mr. Blossum who is directing the Santiago Christian School. It is a good work they are doing. I'm glad the Lord has called them to this work - they are too!
I'm glad the Lord has called me to Fort Wayne, Indiana! I love this mission field! I love the variety of the seasons ... winter, spring, summer, and fall! I love the security we enjoy and the infrastructure which provides safe roads, consistent power, abudant food, clean air & water. We take these things for granted! I enjoy driving my own car. I enjoy knowing that there is a system of justice that is consistent and dependeable. I enjoy the freedom we have to pursue our dreams.
Some folks like to complain about a lot of things in our country - I think we should ship the complainers off to third world countries for a month - and if they still complain, send them back for a whole year!
I'm just very thankful to live in the good COLD USA!
Monday, December 01, 2008
After spending the weekend at the beach in Sosou (which is pronounced "Sah-sooh-ah") in the relative comfort of a resort hotel (with two pools and air conditioning) we took a taxi to the bus station for the bus ride back to Santiago on Sunday night in order to get back in time for Ashley to be at school this Monday morning! The bus ride was comfortable, although not all that clean - it was odd sitting in the bus station waiting area with a large group of Dominicans - but it was an inexpensive means of transportation - about $4/person - $12 total. (We spent closer to $70 for the taxi ride to the beach from Santiago!)
When we arrived at Ashley's apartment the contrast was stark for me - her apartment is clean, but very sparse. Most of the windows in her apartment building are covered with bars, the doors have multiple locks and an "screen door" that resembles a prison gate! It is a bit shocking to come home to - this is where my little girl lives!! Several of her neighbors have had things stolen from their apartments, one of the guys who teaches with them recently had his motorcycle stolen. To be honest, as a father, it just doesn't feel that safe!
This morning we got up early to join her at Santiago Christian School where she is teaching sixth grade. It is a good school - one of the best in the Dominican Republic we're told - but still farily primative by the standards we are accustomed to in the states. It is an "open air" campus, much like the schools I've seen in Florida. The school leaders and staff are sharp folks, but the resources they have to work with appear somewhat limited. The classroom desks and marker boards all are quite "well used" and many of the "typical" things available in the schools where Ashley's older sister, Stephanie teaches back home in Indiana are simply not available.
Kathy and I will be glad to get home later this week - even if it is a bit snowy & cold!
We've traveled to Haiti and Kenya together, so we've seen conditions which are worse - but this trip has been eye opening when it comes to thinking about living in those conditions over a long period of time. It makes me appreciate the work of folks like Tom Osbeck who is one of our partners in ministry in Haiti.
I'm impressed that my daughter has been able to live and teach in this kind of environment for the past five months - I'm very proud of her! But I'll be glad when she comes home!
(Read about Ashley's "Leap of Faith" in her own words here.)