Thursday, October 25, 2007

In the Presence of Goodness and Forgiveness

During a recent visit to San Diego from South Africa, Bishop Lazarus, Pastor Abel and I had the pleasure of meeting with one of San Diego's most respected pastors- Bishop George McKinney.

Pastor Abel(left), Bishop McKinney(center), and Bishop Lazarus(right)

Bishop McKinney is most known as the founder and pastor of St. Stephens Church as well as for his amazing work on racial reconciliation. He is also known world-wide as a speaker/preacher and author. The church that Gayla and I were a part of starting in our home in 1989, Community Christian Church of San Diego (now known as Fairmount Community Church) was blessed to have had one of Bishop McKinney's right hand pastors as well as his long time devoted friend, Pastor Charles Clark.

I felt it was important to tell you about this, especially as it relates to how our recent meeting began. If you recall in a previous blog that I wrote about Bishop Lazarus, I discovered only recently that I had seen him some ten years ago in South Africa. Bishop Lazarus was the first black pastor who ever shared the pulpit of a white pastor in South Africa after Apartheid was dismantled. This world class event occurred at the Global Conference on World Evangelism in 1997 in Pretoria, South Africa. Gayla and I were there with more that 5,000 delegates from all over the world.

Bishop Lazarus was present at the very opening of the conference- when the lights were turned off. We heard sounds of a distant drum. Then the song of a local African. Then a drum. Then the call of a native bird. Another drum. And then a huge lion roared. And the lights came back on. Before us on the long stage was a black African dressed in an elegant white robe. He proceeded to stretch out his arms and say, "Welcome to South Africa." Shortly thereafter a white African pastor and Bishop Lazarus shared words of reconciliation, forgiveness, then tears, and then a huge embrace. All to the standing applause of 5,000 delegates. It was a moment in our lives we will all never forget.

Bishop McKinney and Myself

I have shared all this to prepare you for what happened in our meeting in Bishop McKinney's library recently. Bishop McKinney came into the library to meet with us and when he sat down Bishop Lazarus proceeded to apologize to Bishop McKinney for what he said was, "The reason you are here and not in Africa." He said that it is widely known, that African families and neighbors had sold and abandoned their relatives during the slave trade that enabled the slavers to ship them to the United States. Bishop Lazarus said that he was there to say, " We are sorry for what has been done." There was barely a pause when Bishop McKinney leaned over close to Bishop Lazarus and said. "All is known, and all is forgiven."

This was another moment in time I will never forget. The power of God's grace and reconciliation is an amazing and humbling thing to see in action. It was not all that different the day Nelson Mandela was released from 27 years of prison during Apartheid and shared a message of forgiveness and reconciliation. As Nelson Mandela himself once said, "If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness. "

As we embark for South Africa in nearly a week, these meetings and experiences have been keen reminders that God's love and grace are essential ingredients of our vision for Africa.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Amor Headquarters Opened After Fires

Amor Headquarters in San Diego re-opened today after fires in San Diego forced it closing last Monday and Tuesday. Four of our team member's families were in mandatory evacuation areas and they have all now been able to return to their homes.

In relief, much less celebration, the Amor team held an all team lunch at Headquarters today.
While we enjoyed the all team lunch, the skies above continued to be full of smoke and dust from the fires that have now turned their direction eastward, away from the communities surrounding the offices of Amor.

While the numbers of San Diegans still evacuated from their homes is well over 300,000, much of San Diego is getting back to a somewhat normal rhythm. The latest statistics on this fire are:

  • 512,000 people evacuated
  • 375,000 acres burned(470 square miles)
  • 1,300 building destroyed
  • Estimated 1 billion dollars in damage

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Amor Headquarters Remained Closed

With 513,000 homes evacuated in San Diego, a second day of closure for Amor's headquarters as instituted today in light of the Harris fire that has been threatening the communities just east of the office. This afternoon the fire reports are looking much better though most communities east of the Amor offices are still under volunteer evacuation. There has been very little wind at the office, which is good news, though our Ranch in eastern Tijuana is not so fortunate. High winds there continue to knock over trees, tip over water tanks, and damage the wood bathrooms. In a cell phone report from Amor Team Member Forrest Fowler just recently, there is no sight of fire at all from Rancho.

An amazing satellite photo below shows the ongoing fire and smoke activity we are facing in San Diego today:

Fires Nearing Amor Family's Homes and Amor Headquarters

Here are some pictures I took from my backyard in San Diego last night around 2am- after a neighbor woke me up to say, "the mountain is on fire!!"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Amor Headquarters Closed Due To Fires

San Diego has been declared in a State of Emergency. Over 250,000 people have been evacuated in San Diego due to fires that have ravaged well over 100,000 acres. According to the news, its only going to get worse. The fires are zero percent contained.The Mayor of San Diego has asked that people stay off the roads and not use they cell phones unless absolutely necessary.

While Amor's Headquarters is not in any immediate danger from the fires, some of our team members have been evacuated from their homes.

We have no groups in Mexico at this time. The fire most concerning to Amor is the Harris fire that is burning north of Amor's Rancho (main camp), in east Tijuana. The fire is currently burning west in the direction of Chula Vista and San Ysidro, which is where Amor's Headquarters is located.

Satellite photo showing smoke plumes from San Diego fires

For frequent updates about the fire and Amor's ministry locations look
at the "What am I doing" section at the top left of this blog. You can
go directly to this blog at or click
"Scott Congdon's blog" on the front page of Amor's blog at

Saturday, October 20, 2007

VeggieTales and Amor

Phil Visher, founder of VeggieTales, was the general session speaker at last night's National Youth Worker convention in San Diego. Amor has a booth in the trade show area and is leading daily trips of conference participants to Mexico to build a home.

I attended last night's general session to catch up on all things 'youth work' and to hear Phil speak. Phil's story has caught Amor's attention as I recently gave our entire Amor team copies of Phil's newly released book, "Me, Myself, and Bob".

Phil's story is about a small town boy who becomes a huge success. He was thrown out of bible college because he flunked chapel to go on to become fiercely sought after by Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, and the likes for his "dream comes true" story. He made his first animated film at the young age of 8 and at the pinnacle of his success sold 50 million children's videos.

People were saying that he could be the next Walt Disney. "That sounded pretty good," said Phil. His company soon reached 200 employees. Right about then is when everything went wrong. To handle the incredible growth of the company, Phil had hired a team of executives that it was soon discovered couldn't get along. The President of two years left after Phil told reminded the executive team of the Christ-based purpose for their being.

Then the finances started struggling at VeggiTales. Layoffs ensued. From a high of 210 employees, the workforce was slashed to 180, then 140, down to 100, and then 65. One morning only 13 people showed up for their staff prayer meeting.

Phil had been praying though this entire process. "God could have rescued us, but he didn't!" said Phil. Everything that had built in the last 14 years was sold off as a result of the impending bankruptcy.

A pastor once told Phil how the stress of daily ministry had gotten to him so much that he laid in his bed for nearly 9 months. "If this is what its like working for you," said the pastor, "then I don't want to do it anymore." That's when Phil realized that we have to ask: what's more important to you? Your dreams or God? Phil eventually realized that he had to "let go of everything", so that God could say, " Now I can use you." "Anything you're not willing to let go of is an idol, that's sin", said Phil.

If you don't know what God wants you to do, wait on him. Walking with God on a daily basis is the truly the most important thing. When asked what the 5 year vision for his newest project was, Phil responded, "To be in the center of God's will." Phil now spends from half an hour to a full hour each day in prayer, in the word, and waiting on God's will.

In closing, Phil stated, "The most important thing is not what I can do for God, its to make God the most important thing."

I highly suggest you get a copy of Phil's recent book, "Me, Myself, and Bob" and get a copy of the 2007 National Youth Workers Conventions general session talk by Phil.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Julian Wisdom

Gayla and I had lunch today at the Julian Cafe & Bakery, home of the famous Julian Apple Pie."
Definitely finger licking good. And we didn't have chicken!

What made the visit inspiring were some quotes that caught my eye in the cafe. I think you'll enjoy them like I did:

  • "God never makes us conscious of our weakness, except to give of his strength."
  • "To see God's hand in everything, makes life the greatest adventure of all!"
  • "There is no better exercise for strengthening the heart , than to reach down and lift up another."
  • "You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day -- by the deeds that you do, by the words that you say. Men read what you write, whether faithless or true, what is in the gospel, according to you."
Looks like we fed our tummies as well as our souls!!

PS. The apple pie is......words can't describe. You have to come up and get one yourself some time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


No, its not the movie- VERTIGO. It was me last week in New Mexico. I'm not sure what brought it on but maybe a lot of air travel didn't help. In case you are wondering what "vertigo" is, its typically an inner ear syndrome that completely throws off your balance. I woke up one morning last week at 5am, in the dark, with the room spinning like crazy. I tried to stand up and get out of bed, but that was a bad idea. I was then laying on the floor. Not having any clew what was going on, I crawled out of the camp trailer I was in to the front porch for some fresh, frigid air. I thought maybe I was dizzy from a gas leak or maybe even carbon monoxide.

A lot happened in the next two hours, leading to me ending up in a bed in an emergency room over an hour away in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Hooked up to an IV with my head still spinning and my stomach rolling, I was wondering what was going on. After spending nearly a day in the emergency room, I was released around 4pm with the explanation that all my vitals were normal and that I had "vertigo". I couldn't drive, walked quite unsteadily, but fortunately the medicine they prescribed took away the ill feeling.

The good news is that after recovering at the home a great friend in El Paso, I managed to get on a plane last Thursday to fly home to San Diego. I had an unsettling, dizzy/ill spell just one hour before the plane was to leave however . Just at that time I got an email on my cell phone from, of all places, South Africa. It was from Pastor Abel Govender saying, "We are in prayer for you at this time and trust that the Lord will continue His healing and favor upon you. " I felt a wonderful peace fall upon me and the dizziness and illness passed. I was able to board the plane and I soon found myself landing in San Diego.

What a roller caster ride last week was. Actually the last two weeks. I started in Indiana, then traveled to Ohio. I flew home on Friday and flew to Texas on Sunday. I then drove to New Mexico and then this adventure started.

I had all kinds of great meetings in the last week but the time I had hoped to spend updating my blogs and answering emails ended up being recovery time. So, stay tuned for catch up posts.

Oh, one more thing. If you have every had a "Vertigo" experience I would love to hear them. Just comment to this this post.