Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cancun Project is Moving Forward

I am writing this post on the flight back to San Diego from Cancun, Mexico. Gayla and I spent a week here working on our plans for building a campus on 12 acres that has been donated to Amor. Monday, January 14th, we arrived in Cancun and were joined by All Nations Seminary President, John Lee, who flew in from his Seminary in Juarez, Mexico.

Gayla(left), Gilberto(center), John Lee(right)

Gilberto, our Cancun benefactor, met us at the Cancun airport and we proceeded to spend the next two days discussing and working through our vision for a campus set in the heart of the Yucatan jungle, yet just 12 miles from the world renouned, Cancun International Airport. This was a first being that neither Gayla and nor John Lee have had the opportunity to meet Gilberto much less see our Cancun project in person.

We visited the actual campus site after a short one and a half mile bouncy ride through the jungle on the newly cleared path. I say path because it’s the only way I know how to describe the barely cleared dirt, mud, and limestone course we take through the heavily overgrown jungle vegetation surrounding us at all times. Once we finally reached the entrance to the campus we could see a cleared area in the jungle ahead of us with a lone tree still standing in the middle. This tree has a lot of significance to us. Why the workers who bulldozed the 2 acres before us that is designated for the campus parking lot, no one knows. All we know is that every time we have visited this campus the tree draws our attention and from the start has been were we stand and pray for God’s blessing and guidance for this endeavor. We have come to call this our “prayer tree” and seeing it standing proudly in the middle of this jungle clearing seems to remind us that God is continually watching over the campus. We are also mindful that this tree signifies the prayers of all his people who are lifting this campus up to his Glory.

The Campus Prayer Tree

As our meetings came to a conclusion on Wednesday as John Lee quickly caught a flight to Puebla, Mexico, we all came to the same conclusion that God had exciting plans for this campus. John Lee is going ahead and starting an extension of All Nations Seminary in Cancun. The campus will now take on a broader context of being a place for training and educating many facets of Christians leaders and servants. This may include separate but cooperative entities on the campus such as the Seminary, a short term mission training facility, a team training establishment run by the Center for Courageous Enterprise, and an Appropriate Technology Center.

The seminary is a vital part of this ministry considering how John Lee again expressed how seminaries all over Mexico are struggling to survive with many closed their doors. Fuller Theological Seminary has recognized All Nations Seminary as one of the most successful models of a seminary in Mexico. Gayla and I will be spending nearly a week in February at the All Nations Seminary in Juarez, Mexico to continue working on the plans for our future partnership in the jungles of the Yucatan.

To South Africa With Amor-The Nov. 07 Advance Trip

I can't believe we are less than two months away from undertaking of first official Amor mission trip to South Africa. It seems like just last week that we were in South Africa in November on our first planning trip for the March 2008 trip. I am going to post a several blogs in this series about South Africa, but right now I want to update you on our November 08 trip.

We arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa on November 6th and spent the first night at a Inn that our host Humphrey had located. It was quite a nice place, feeling very authentic with straw roofs, animal decorations, and other exotic accommodations. We decided to look at some other housing arrangements since this place was nicer and more costly than we needed. We visited a Nazarene Conference Center that had several "rondawels", or round houses with thatched roofs. The Conference center was a perfect place for our team to stay, especially when it only cost $10US a night per person.

Its amazing to know that we were seeing South Africa just 12 years after Apartheid ended and just 12 years since Mandela was released from 27 years of prison. Downtown Johannesburg was a city only occupied by white people up until 1992. Now the blacks have moved back in and are running businesses.

During our week in Joburg (nickname for Johannesburg) we had countless meetings with church leaders, civic leaders, and Christian businessmen. We met with the CFO for the Housing Department to discuss the availability of funding for house building projects, and the various governmental issues we need to deal with. The churches we visited were in or around the Johannesburg area. We had one opportunity to build up to 100 homes on a lot owned by and adjacent to a Church. What we finally landed on was a community located four hours by car, just southwest of Johannesburg. This community is called Kimberley and has a population of over 300,000 people and looks quite similar to the communities we work in Mexico. The land if flat, and rather arrid. Its more rural so the homes located in the slums have a fair amount of land surrounding them; giving us enough room to build a double wide home.

The key factors for us working in Kimberley were the immediate response that the community leaders gave us and the swift invitation to provide some funding to build the homes. We sent a team to Kimberley and met with more than a dozen of their leaders and presented our proposal which include the style and type of homes we build. They were very open to our format and requested a formal proposal from us for them to decide upon. We then toured several of their communities, meeting with people living in the community and personally seeing the circumstances of their poverty. Their homes were so much like those in Mexico is was amazing. Dirt floored shacks, with walls of old metal and wood siding, and metal corrugated roofing or tarps. There was no running water or electricity to their shacks.

We have decided on this trip to focus on building ten homes in Kimberley because the community could quickly support us bringing a team of 100 people from Wales and England. The community is small and could act quickly. There is also the issue that this community is more rural and not densely populated like many urban slums. Kimberley has often been called the "calm city' due to its "out in the country" atmosphere. As a matter of fact, when we drove down Main Street in downtown Kimberly I though for a moment that we were driving down a a Midwestern community in the US.

The needs in South Africa are great with 7 million households living without adequate shelter. It is estimated that 72% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa live in slums and without intervention could rise to some 100% in some states. We count it a privilege to have this opportunity to share God's love and share of ourselves with the people of South Africa.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Some Interesting Reads During My Travels

The last couple months have been full of traveling for me. South Africa in November, Austin, Texas for the holidays, and I just got back from the Yucatan, Mexico this past weekend. I have a lot of writing to do to catch up on what Amor is doing in South Africa and in Cancun. But for now I would like to mention some books that I have read while all this touring has been going on. That's one of the advantages of travel when you are flying is that you can often find some time to get some reading done if you want to. I happen to carry a laptop with me everywhere I go which always has several downloaded eBooks on it. My rolling travel case always has a book or two in it as well. I normally have abouts five books I am reading at any time. Too bad I can't actually read them all at the same time. I'm not that good, but I can go back and forth between them very easily. I may not be ADD, though many people think I am, but according to the latest leadership personality test I took, the Enneagrahm System, I am "scattered" at times. We'll have to explore that one some more at another time.

So, here are the books I just finished this past week:

1. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. One of our board members mentioned this book a while ago and then our management consultant "Buddy" bought it for all our leadership to read. Powerful book on what the present and future is becoming as we enter what the author describes as the "conceptual age". In a sense its a "how to book" helping us prepare for this coming age. The book provides six aptitudes that the author feels are essential for relevance in this future: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning. In my library... this is a must read!!!!

2. What Type Of Leader Are You? by Ginger Lapid-Bogda. I found this book by accident wandering around my son's books store at the University of Southern California. I often enjoy just browsing through bookstores, especially university bookstores for new books and to see what people are reading. I have taken a lot of personality tests over the years such as , DISC, Myers Briggs, and TKI. They are often powerful tools to understand our strengths and our weaknesses as well as how our various personalities work in conjunction with other peoples' personalities. This one was very insightful, even after having taken all the previous tests. There are nine Enneagram Types described in this book and it gives you amazing insight into how we view things and function. You can use the book to find your style but it looked a little bit too time consuming so I went online at the Enneagramin Institute. For ten dollars you answer about 144 questions in about 40 minutes. The results should prove very interesting to anyone and this book and the other resources at the Ennegramin Institute should give anyone ample resources to dig even further.

3. Lifehacker by 'gina trapani'. This book was a spontaneous buy at a bookstore going out of business. I couldn't resist buying a $24 book for $10. I had already heard about this book in a book I am currently reading discussing blogging. It sounded interesting enough since I was intrigued to see how someone who was writing a blog about "technology tricks to turbocharge your day" turned it into a book. For the record, this book is for the "technically savvy" person who is looking for ways to save some time. It explores time wasting areas of email, repetitive tasks, creating digital to do lists, shortcuts for the web, and the one I enjoyed the most, security. This is a book you would probably keep on your shelf as a reference book. Its also one of those books you can get overwhelmed with, considering all the information the author throws at you. I consider the ten bucks I spent worth it just for the password tips the author gave.

Want to know what books I am reading now? Ok, I give in.

1. Living Life, a Journal for Spiritual Formation and Reflection.
2. Blogging Heroes.
3. Revolution of Hope by former Mexican President Vicente Fox.
4. Class, Race, and Inequality in South Africa.
5. Hyper-Border: The Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Border and Its Future.

OK, I have written enough about this. I have got to get back to reading some more great books. Talk to you later.

Read any good books lately? I would love to hear about them.