Monday, June 6, 2011

Plan Your Work

I wrote a blog March 16, 2009 titled “Get to Work.” It was a summary of a book I read back then titled It’s Called Work for a Reason by a wild looking guy named Larry Winget. It was a way out there book with the primary purpose of disputing every leadership book and theory ever developed. Winget’s thesis was that people just don’t work anymore. I have to agree with Winget; for the most part.

As I said in my March post, “I’m a worker. I’ve always been a worker. My father instilled this mentality in me. I don’t know very many people that work any harder than my father and his brothers. They grew-up in a day and age on a small West Texas farm when you worked to make a living. You milked the cows before school and you drove the tractor until dark (while getting an education in-between). I know my life was far from difficult like theirs, but one thing my dad did expect was hard work. From nine to five he worked at a bank. So we primarily worked on the farm and ranch on the weekends and any time the bank was closed (Labor Day had an entirely different meaning in my family). In the summer we either got a job or we worked on the farm. Vacations pretty much amounted to a long weekend trip to Dallas to watch the Ranger’s play and a day at Six Flags.” So Winget obviously hit most of the right buttons with me.

I’ve always liked the saying “Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan.” But, like Winget, I’m not sure we are missing an extremely important component to in our strategy. Proverbs 16:9 reads “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” I’m a planner. If my wife actually read my blogs she’d have some snide remark to insert here. I’m detail oriented. Again, insert snide remark. I like to work on the details every step of the way. I still carry a day planner. And, I use a calendar on my iPhone. And, I use Evernote on my iPhone. You get the picture. However, this verse makes me think I may be taking the wrong approach, or at least forgetting a very important ingredient; PRAYER!

All my planning in the world obviously cannot make something happen. Now, at the same time I don’t think the right approach is to fly by the seat of my pants. You know, pray and then sit around and wait for a miracle. I had a customer once that believe he could just pray, hang out at the coffee shop, and farm through the windshield in his pick-up. Obviously he was wrong. Planning is important and I believe it is relevant to success. We just have to make sure to allow God to be an ingredient (the most important ingredient) and allow Him to enact the plan.

So, step 1) Pray; step 2) Plan; step 3) Pray; step 4) Work!

Aspire to new heights.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Re-Entry (Not for the weak at heart)

Last Friday I drove my kids to Ruidoso for the weekend, by myself. The "are we there yets" started before we'd even made it 20 miles. Crazy thing is, they've made this trip 10 times a year since they were born. They know we aren't there yet! But, I can't say much because I've been asking myself that very same question the past week after returning from my 10 day mission trip to Romania. All too often I feel like I’m stuck somewhere between here and there (maybe around Iceland or something), both mentally and physically. Re-entry can be so hard. Why do you think so much effort is made to perfect the space shuttle re-entry? Take the wrong angle, go to fast, or attempt in the wrong vehicle and all will end in a fiery mess.

Re-entry after a lengthy mission trip can be just as difficult. The first few days are oh so hard, almost like slow motion or like you are walking with concrete boots. It feels like you are pushing a van full of Romanian children up hill (all 30); like the lemons keep coming faster than you can make the lemonade! How dare our life get in the way of all this fun we’ve been having! To complicate things you can’t sleep, your appetite just isn’t what it was (probably due to the sudden absence of meat and potatoes), you can’t hold your eyes open past three in the afternoon and that darn cat just won’t stop smelling you (I mean do I stink or something).

Then there is the coma like absence the past 10 days. Life has moved on and we’ve been stuck in pause like a good TiVo machine (what do you mean Hines Ward won Dancing with the Stars. I thought they still had three weeks left). But when we push play there just isn’t enough hours in the day to catch up. You don’t get a two day pass for re-entry, a vacation from your vacation if you will. The kids want to jump on you NOW. The wife wants you to mow the grass TODAY (holly cow do I need more proof 10 days has passed). The hubby needs his laundry picked up ASAP. Your boss and/or co-workers are ready to give you your work back immediately. While you were off “digging holes” they were putting out fires! Half the things you put off in an effort to pack and get ready for your trip are now nipping at your heals like a Romanian goose.

So how do we cope. How do you get 36 hours out of a 24 hour day on as little as 3 hours of sleep? Unless you can get a Joshua size miracle at Gibeon and make the sun stand still you’re going to have to find another way to make it work. Somehow each day makes the process a little bit easier. We wake-up a little later each morning. The pile on our desk shrinks a little bit each day. Our farmers tan from the long days on the end of a shovel starts to fade. Life almost resembles some form of normalcy. Oh, but how to get back to "normal" without getting back to "normal?"

In Ruth 1, Naomi returns to Bethlehem after years of absence. Upon her arrival she is recognized by several locals. However, Naomi does not want to be recognized and she goes on to explain how different her life now is. In verse 21 she says, “I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty…” Ten days on the mission field will empty you. Much of which is probably in a good way. Like a good detox diet we've cleansed ourselves of the toxins in our body. But as we get home and things return to normal it's so easy to let these toxins back in. We've renewed our focus on the Lord. Our prayer life has improved (blame it on the Romanian drivers if you will). Our "me first" approach has gone by the wayside and we've developed more of a "HE first" approach. Now just to find that balance in our life. It's hard, especially when the demands of a job, a family, and the ever-present selfishness takes over. I must admit I took a 45 minute break on Thursday to watch an episode of Vampire Diaries. I justified it with being too tired to think!

Thank goodness for a long weekend. Thank goodness for a supportive wife and kids. Thank goodness for an understanding boss. Thank goodness for an understanding Lord. Aspire to new heights!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Derby Day

Saturday was the Kentucky Derby. By the way I picked Animal Kingdom to win (not bragging or anything). It was fun to gather around the TV with the family and cheer on our favorite horse. The show leading up to the big race was as much entertainment as anything. I found it humorous how many people flocked from all over the world to Louisville. There were 160,000 people dressed in their finest (and strangest), goofy hats and all! It was strange to me that so many people come to an event they care nothing about in a costume they’d never wear anywhere else. Most of these people don’t even know which direction the horse runs around the track! Aaron Rodgers in his giant sunglasses. Joey Fatone in that nasty white suit. And the hats, don’t get me started on the hats.

But, in full disclosure I started thinking about how many costumes we wear on a weekly basis. We wear our Sunday School outfit on Sunday where we get dressed up in our finest and put on our best behavior for good measure as well. Then we have our every day “copy room” costume where we dress like all our other coworkers and do our best to blend in with the IN crowd and never, ever stand out. We have our family costume where we try to be comfortable in our own skin and make our families proud of us but we would never be caught dead acting this way anywhere else.

I wish people loved horse racing year round. It is a great sport. However, in the same ways I wish we (me included) could just be who we should be, who He designed us to be, and who we know we should be 365 days a year. Our wardrobe would have a lot less “costumes” in it. By the way, next year I’m going to the Derby and I’m going to wear the powder blue tux I wore to Kacee’s college formal! See what kind of attention I get! Aspire to new heights.

If you get a chance please lift up our Red Page mission team leaving for Romania on Thursday. I’m blessed to be leading a wonderful group of 14.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Countdown

Let the countdown begin. March paved the way for the things yet to come with our basketball court in Romania. Many friends, both personal and of Red Page, contributed to the basketball court campaign. God blessed our time, our efforts, and answered our prayers. Now here we are, less than two weeks from our first summer trip; a trip that will see the culmination of the March Mania campaign by building the actual court.

Just last week the land work began. A few days ago numerous truck loads of gravel were delivered. Nets, hoops, and backboards have been purchased. Striping is in hand. The chain link fence has been delivered. Word is already spreading throughout our service area. Our Romania team has visited eight schools to challenge the kids to attend our camp/tournament/celebration on May 21. The bracket is in hand for all eight schools to play a little HOOPS! You know if you look real hard you can almost see HOPe in HOOPS!

Thank you to everyone for paving the way for this wonderful event. We are blessed to call you teammates. Looking forward to sharing with you pictures as the team builds the court. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Necklace

Last week one of my co-workers said, “I didn’t know you were involved in the church.” My first reaction was, “What made you think this?” (Yeah, yeah I know, sad, but follow me for a minute). I mean, we were in the middle of trying to get our bleach tanker to work. We were beating and banging and scratching our heads. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. We weren’t having any kind of conversation other than “hand me that hose” or “try it again.” He just said this out of the blue! I answered his question and we moved on.

It wasn’t until I headed home that it really hit me. As I thought more about our time together I was most taken back by the fact that we’ve spent two years together and this is the first time he’s felt compelled to ask me this question. But, before I dwell on this I first want to touch on what led him to ask me this question. Trust me, I spent three days racking my brain trying to figure out what I said or did to lead him to ask me this question. I know, sad, right? More on this later as well! Anyhow, it finally hit me. He’s a strong Catholic. While we were working on the tanker my St. Christopher necklace was revealed (Please, nobody tell OSHA). This necklace was a gift from a friend years ago when Kacee and I moved to Romania. Honestly, I don’t wear the necklace for protection. It has an entirely different meaning for me. I look at it as a symbol of the support we received from so many friends and family members while living overseas. I keep wearing it as a reminder that when we live in concert with God’s will, and family and friends support us, all things are possible.

What a relief I felt to finally realize why my colleague asked me this question. Or at least I thought it was a relief! Once I knew how he knew I had to live with myself for allowing a necklace to do my talking. How sad that my actions never gave away my faith, but rather a necklace. Oh how hard we work to keep our cover. And why? Are we embarrassed? Are we afraid we may do something to push them away? What if they don’t accept us? What if they don’t copy us on the office gossip? What if they don’t send us the dirty jokes? I’ll be honest and transparent. I have had, and still have, many of these fears. I want to fit in. I want to be liked. I mean come on Facebook doesn’t have a Dislike button for a reason! Our greatest, my greatest, struggle is to be who He wants me to be, not who the world says we should be.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you go get a cross necklace. If you think we need to “wear” our faith then you are missing the point. After all, should a necklace, tattoo, shirt, or bumper sticker give away our faith? Shouldn’t the “words of our mouth and the attitudes of our heart” be the real indication? All too often our actions lead others to believe we are not Christian. We are more likely to push people away than we are to draw them to Christ. I want people to know, not assume that I’m a Christian by my actions not my attire, not even by what I say. It’s easy to say something. It’s much harder to prove something. Be encouraged, we ALL have a long way to go in this department. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Give, Do, or Both?

The temptation for thousands of years has been to write a check, swipe a credit card, trade a chicken, or whatever method was used to pay for something, and let someone else do the mission work for us. Maybe this was due to a lack of resources. Maybe it was due to the lack of modern technology. Maybe it was due to a lack of transportation. Or, just maybe it was because they had more excuses than we do today. Whatever the reason, most Christians engaged beyond the borders of the US pre-twentieth century were missionaries. The 21st century has brought an entirely new approach. Short-term missions is all the buzz. Modern technology mixed with globalization and a renewed sense of call has led to a spike in the number of missionaries; if you consider a short-term mission trip participant a missionary. I do. And why not?

This shift still has not solved all our problems. The “harvest” is ready and the “workers” are still few. The temptation still exists to send someone else in our place. After all, God surely did not call ME to be a missionary. Or did he?

Look at what Jesus says in Luke 11:42, “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”

We are all called to give. I don’t dispute that. But, we are also called to do. “Faith without deeds,” after-all “is useless.” If we truly cared we would want to BE His hands and feet, not just someone that SUPPORTS His hands and feet. We are all capable of doing something, don’t think for a second you are not capable or qualified.

The more important question is: “Are you willing?” Take the initiative to give 10% of everything you have, both your money and your time! Lucky for you, or us, I’ve got just the place you can do both! Red Page is always looking for donors, short-term trip participants, interns, and long-term servants. For more information look us up at www.redpageministries.org. Blessings.

Aspire to new heights.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Great Start

It is always fun to look back and see God’s hand at work. Last Saturday we held our mid-year Red Page board meeting. It was a great time to reflect on the last six months and dream about the next six months. I’m honored to have wonderful friends that have joined this mission in an effort to see the people of Romania restored to the place God intended.

On the way to Dallas I found myself dreaming about the future. When I chose to make a career change in September 2009 I had no idea what the future would hold. My prayer; “that God would bless the relationships I have developed and my love for Romania.” And boy has He ever! Pioneer Drive Baptist Church blessed me and the people of Romania last June in a way I can never describe. Their willingness to say “yes” paved the way for so many wonderful things yet to come.

Now we find ourselves up to our ears in work. Careful what you wish for! With one mission trip already in the books in January we have a busy summer with teams in May, June, July, and August. Plans are already underway for another trip in October. Just last week we kicked off the 2011 construction year with the drilling of a water well and the delivery of construction supplies. Our construction team is already hard at work and eager to be joined by our mission teams this summer.

Thank you for your prayers, support, and participation. May God continue to bless the people of Romania. We look forward to the continuation of a wonderful year. Aspire to new heights.


Making friends at Winter Camp 2011

The joy of weekly children's meetings

Ovidiu and Adina with RPM
Ministry Coordinator Shelby Felton


RPM/HOJ Social Worker Adina Petric

2011 Construction Season Begins!

Monday, March 28, 2011

I Love Romania

This morning I read a Facebook post from our Red Page ministry coordinator Shelby Felton that brought back so many memories. Here is what she said, “Fervent knocking at door. Open door, man speaks, I don't understand. Man ‘barges’ in and takes seat at kitchen table. (ok?) Quick call to friend to translate. Turns out he's the mailman and has an envelope I need to sign for. Oh, ok. Proof of identity given, paper signed. I open door, expect man to walk out ... but wait ... he gives me a hug, double cheek kiss, and a smile and nod.”

Man I love Romania. One of the things I loved the most was their pride in relationships. All too often we as Americans get in such a hurry with our daily activities that we miss the opportunity to truly build relationships with people. Not in Romania. When our landlord would come get the rent he would come in and have a glass of water and visit. When we would purchase insurance for our car the salesman would come in our apartment, visit, drink a coke, and then do the paperwork.

People often ask me what drew us to Romania; after all I have worked in a number of countries. It obviously has to be the people. The people of Romania make what we do easy. The extra hours, long nights, stress and strain of raising financial support, all come easy when I think of the gratitude from my Romanian friends. That is the root of my passion. That is why we are so determined to build this basketball court in Susani.

Realizing the value of relationships in Romania, Red Page has committed to build a basketball court behind the House of Joy that will serve as a recruiting tool for children and their families. Starting May 13, a team from Texas and Arkansas will begin building this full length basketball court. The compilation will be Saturday, May 21, with a morning basketball camp followed by the very first Susani Invitational Youth Basketball Tournament.

House of Joy founder Ovidiu Petric describes the value of this court best: “Hundreds of children will be able to gather and play on our basketball court. They will be practicing sports while they learn the scriptures. The House of Joy will be a place for Sports and Scriptures! They can learn them together. Many kids will start running for Jesus because of this awesome opportunity they will find in Susani. We will organize sports camps to improve their skills, both with the Bible and the sport. We will also work to organize competitions with the public schools in our area right on this basketball court. Our hope is to model these competitions after the Upward Basketball programs in America. Kids will come from all 31 villages in our ministry area to learn the skills of basketball, and other sports as well. These sports will give us an audience with the children and their parents so that we can share about Jesus. In addition, we will have concerts, revivals, and festivals on our court. What a perfect place to interact with the children and youth. Everybody loves sports and these sports will allow us to form firm foundations that will lead to ending poverty in our villages.”

We know this court could not be built before we do the prep work on the grounds. In the same way we realize our ministry cannot serve 2,500 families without a little prep work. This court will allow us to build relationships, establish an identity, gain valuable trust, and recruit families to come from all 31 villages we serve to hear the gospel of Christ while having a little fun.

This week marks the final full week of our campaign to raise the $10,000 necessary to do the following:

  • Construction of a full length basketball court - $6,000
  • 100 new uniforms and basketball shoes - $2,000
  • Sporting equipment and Evangelical tools - $1,000
  • Event hosting - $1,000

As of today we have approximately $2,000 of our $10,000 goal raised. We are forever grateful to those that have made donations and pledges to assist in this great cause. As we near the finish line we ask that you consider how you might assist us in finishing strong. Aspire to new heights. Jon

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Technology Today

Saturday I found myself in my office sitting in front of my computer watching the Men’s NCAA tournament while watching the NASCAR Nationwide race on the T.V. and a horse race on my I-Pad. Occasionally I would flip the channel to the Women’s NCAA tournament. I also had Twitter open so I could keep track of the race and games from a different perspective. I don’t think this is what they had in mind when they labeled it “March Madness” but it was a little mad!

A few hours later I was able to watch the following video from my good friend Ovidiu on the grounds of the House of Joy as he requested prayers and support for the building of a basketball court in Susani.

video

Isn’t technology amazing? I can be half way across the world in Romania and never miss a call, text, or email with my smart phone. I can read my Bible on my iPad. I even read an article a few months ago about an app on the iPhone that will keep track of your sins so you can be better prepared to repent. However, in a world filled with technology there are still simple things that can have a lasting impact; things like a basketball court in the middle of a poverty stricken village.

No doubt technology could do a world of good and we have a number of plans that involve technology. But this simple basketball court has the ability to capture the attention of 2,500 families in a 30 mile radius. That attention can lead to lives impacted for the Kingdom. This court can provide a platform for programs, messages, and assistance that truly could end poverty in rural Romania.

Would you consider making a donation today? Every dollar counts. We can’t do it without you. Aspire to new heights.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Madness

This week marks the unofficial beginning of March Madness (NCAA basketball tournament) with the “First Four” play in games taking place this Tuesday and Wednesday followed by the first round on Thursday. I’d venture a guess that almost all basketball enthusiasts will find a way to be near a computer or television starting Thursday. After all, that is when the most exciting games take place in my opinion. I know I personally planned my travel schedule this week so that I can “work from home” Thursday and Friday! I even remember one semester while in grad school watching the games on a television at our feet while taking a distance education class! Maybe that is why they call it March “madness!”

This week also marks something special for Red Page. For the next three weeks we are going to make a concerted effort to raise $6,000 for the first basketball court in Susani. Starting May 13, a team from Texas and Arkansas will begin building a full court basketball court. The compilation will be Saturday, May 21, with a morning basketball camp followed by the very first Susani Invitational Youth Basketball Tournament! One might truly wonder the value of something like a basketball court. After all, aren’t there more pressing needs? Yes. Yes the needs are great. Yes poverty is overwhelming. Yes we need to focus on education. Yes we need to focus on completing the House of Joy. But, no this is a priority. If we are going to reach the families we must have a way to draw them to the ministry. January 23, 2010, I posted a blog titled “Run for Jesus” in which Ovidiu shared the value of competitive sports in Romania. Here is a short summary:

“During my visit to America I was extremely impressed how many people went to a high school football game in Texas. What a unique sport system in America where everybody has something to gain; values, morals, competitive drive, and sportsmanship. Everybody is a winner.”


“In Romania there are some sports that are popular, but people in general are not practicing sports as they do in the United States. In May we will build a basketball court on the House of Joy property. Hundreds of children will be able to use it and play on it. They will be practicing sports while they learn the scriptures. The House of Joy will be a place for Sports and Scriptures! They can learn them together. Many kids will start running for Jesus because of this awesome opportunity they will find in Susani. We will organize sports camps to improve their skills, both with the Bible and the sport. We will also work to organize competitions with the public schools in our area right on this basketball court. Our hope is to model these competitions after the Upward Basketball programs in America. Kids will come from all 31 villages in our ministry area to learn the skills of basketball, and other sports as well. These sports will give us an audience with the children and their parents so that we can share about Jesus. In addition, we will have concerts, revivals, and festivals on our court. What a perfect place to interact with the children and youth. Everybody loves sports.”

As you can see, the value of a basketball court goes well beyond 26 meters by 14 meters. A basketball court is much more than concrete, asphalt, two baskets and nets. A basketball court in Susani is a place for 2,500 families to spend a Saturday evening together. A basketball court is a place to learn about teamwork, competition, morals, values, life skills, and Jesus. This simple little court is a place to gain the trust and attention of hundreds of families living in rural Rumania in desperate need of a Savior and a little hope. According to UNICEF, “There was an estimated 2.17 million poor persons in Romania in 2009 with rural poverty double that of urban poverty.” The UNDP Human Development report estimated that “38 per cent of rural people were living in poverty.” UNICEF adds that “Some 75% of poor children live in rural areas, where the poverty risk is three times higher than for children living in urban areas. Children from poor and rural areas are more likely than other children to be abandoned, institutionalized, to drop out of school, and later to be found on the streets. Weaknesses in preventive and integrated community-based services, combined with poor family care practices and changing social norms and values have lead to these manifestations.” Inadequate social services, reflected in the poor condition of rural health centers, long distances to schools and poor sanitation facilities, also contribute to rural poverty. Estimates show that only 1 out of 4 village students will graduate high school. Now is the time to reach these children. Now is the time to impact these families. A simple little basketball court will give Red Page and the House of Joy the opportunity to learn more about these families in an effort to develop needs-based programs while gaining their trust and confidence.

The time is now for Red Page and the House of Joy to alter the course of history for thousands of Romanians living in rural poverty. This court is the logical entry point into the hearts and homes of these families. There are three ways you can join our team. First, you can pray for this ministry and the success of the basketball court. Second, you can financially support the building of the basketball court. Construction will cost approximately $6,000. Third, you can financially support Red Page sports programs. Your support will help purchase athletic gear, jerseys, shoes, and educational curriculum.

Our goal is to raise $10,000 by the time the Men’s (April 4) and Women’s (April 5) National Champion is named. Your gift will go a long way in helping us reach our goal. You can mail your donation to: Red Page Ministries, P.O. Box 53653, Lubbock, Texas, 79453 or make a donation online at www.redpageministries.org.

Red Page is a 501 (c)(3) and all gifts are tax deductable. Red Page Ministries focuses on grassroots mission-focused ministry as it works to transform Romania from the inside-out, one rural community at a time. The mission of Red Page is to break the cycle of poverty in rural Romania by empowering poor communities to self-reliance through social welfare, education, and rural development. For additional information you can email us at contact@redpageministries.org.

Aspire to New Heights!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Poverty: A matter of perspective

“We don’t have to have lots of money, possessions, or financial security to be rich.” – John Avant

Do you believe this statement? How do you define rich? Thousands? Millions? Billions? How about: No debt? Limos? Jets? Multiple houses? How about just a house? Or a car? Maybe three meals a day. Maybe just one! How about clean drinking water? Sanitation? An education? Clothes on your back? How about a smile! Or, even better, a Savior!!!!

Rich is just a matter of perspective.

The question is; “Whatever you have, are you willing to give it up?” 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” I’m pretty sure Jesus was not materially rich (at least not how we view it). However, he gave us his most valuable possession; his life. John Avant believes that, “One of the best evidences that we really believe in God is how we invest our money.

How do you invest yours?

“Oh the joys of those who are kind to the poor” Psalm 41a

According to Wikipedia.com “Poverty is the lack of basic human needs, such as clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter, because of the inability to afford them.” We founded Red Page Ministries out of our love for Romania and our desire to see her people restored to the place God intended. Our vision: to end poverty in rural Romania, one village at a time. The International Fund for Agricultural Development, a specialized agency of the United Nations has found that, “Poverty has a firm grip on Romania’s rural areas, where almost half (44 per cent) of the population lives. In 2003 the UNDP Human Development report estimated that 38 per cent of rural people were living in poverty, compared with 14 per cent of people in urban areas. Rural people are particularly vulnerable to the hardships brought by the painful economic and social transition after the collapse of communism. Low agricultural productivity is one of the main causes of poverty in rural Romania. And in rural areas there are limited opportunities for formal employment opportunities, partly because of minimum wage regulations, high payroll taxes and the rigid labor code. Inadequate social services, reflected in the poor condition of rural health centers, long distances to schools and poor sanitation facilities, also contribute to rural poverty.”

If that is not reason enough to get involved then I challenge you to think about the children. According to UNICEF, “There was an estimated 2.17 million poor persons in Romania in 2009 with rural poverty double that of urban poverty. The international crisis and the expected increase of food and energy prices have drastically affected Romania’s children. Some 75% of poor children live in rural areas, where the poverty risk is three times higher than for children living in urban areas. Children from poor and rural areas are more likely than other children to be abandoned, institutionalized, to drop out of school, and later to be found on the streets. There is a large percentage of rural children left behind by parents migrating to other countries in search of better job opportunities. Weaknesses in preventive and integrated community-based services, combined with poor family care practices and changing social norms and values have lead to these manifestations.”

Poverty is everywhere; that I do not deny. It’s across the street, down the road, and across the ocean. Finding it is not the problem. Responding to it is! In his thought provoking, action challenging book Radical, David Platt challenges, “Anyone wanting to proclaim the glory of Christ to the end of the earth must consider not only how to declare the gospel verbally but also how to demonstrate the gospel visibly.” Time to do some demonstrating. Aspire to new heights!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Daddy Day

Yesterday was a Daddy Day for me and my 2 ½ year old son. Granted I was a bit under the weather, but we still took some time to just hang. Mom and daughter went to church and we just laid on the bed and watched cartoons! I think he knew I didn’t feel good because he just cuddled up beside me and kept me warm. Mid morning we took a nap together and then we enjoyed an afternoon of NASCAR. He likes the loud cars. I’m proud!

Every child deserves a Daddy Day. There are 140 million plus orphans in this world. I honestly don’t know how many children are without fathers. This world is in desperate need for mentors, adoptive parents, and mission trip participants. I’ve been on a lot of mission trips to orphanages around the world and the women outnumber the men 8 to 1. I’ve also been a part of mentoring programs that can’t find men to volunteer.

This really is no surprise. Social ministry is not the only area we men are dropping the ball. We now live in a world where women are forced to take on the role of spiritual leaders in our homes. My fellow brothers, we have stood by long enough while the women are forced to carry the load. Every orphan or at-risk child I’ve come to know has been starved for a quality male relationship. Few can even recall a positive male role model in their life. Common guys, do something about this. It’s time for a Daddy Day. Aspire to new heights.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Value of a Life

What does just one life mean to you? What if it was your life or someone that was close to you? It seems those that value life the most are those that have lost a family member or had a near death experience. I’ve lost family members but not my parents, spouse, or a child. And, other than one or two unfortunate driving experiences in Romania I haven’t had a near death experience. However, as an adoptee I guess there is a chance I could have had one 36 plus years ago. That is why if I were to meet my birth mom I would simply thank her. She gave me life, in more ways than one. I guess that is why a statistic I read on Romania yesterday morning while preparing to speak at a local church hit me between the eyes. Take a look:

“Statistically, Romania has the highest abortion rate in the world. Currently 3 out of 4 pregnancies are terminated with abortion. In Romania, a country with the population of 23 million, it is estimated that there are about 800,000 abortions a year and this is probably on the conservative side.” Silent Voices

I’m not exactly sure what year those figures were gathered. I would hope the statistics used by an organization on their website would be fairly accurate and current. What I do know is this created a stir in me to research more. In all honesty the numbers were all over the place, probably due in part to the difficulty and accuracy in reporting. Another report by Life International found that from 1990 to 2003, there were more abortions reported in Romania than live births.

I will admit the research could be a bit shady or skewed one way or another. However, that does not change the fact that this is an extreme issue. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not sure I have any. I am far from an expert that can determine the reasoning for this trend. The only thing I know I can do today is pray. Maybe tomorrow God will show me or you something we can do.

As David Platt said, “God blesses his people with extravagant grace so they might extend his extravagant glory to all peoples of the earth.” Thirty six year ago God blessed me. Now it is my turn to do something to bless the 800,000 potential ME’s.

Aspire to new heights.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ro-Narnia - The King was enthroned

I cannot think of a more fitting person or blog to be my 100th blog! Ovidiu, I'm honored to call you my friend and ministry partner and I'm in tears at the success of our Winter Camp. What a joy it has been to read stories and look at pictures from this amazing camp. But, don't take my word for it, take Ovidiu's!

If there is any person that needs to take the credit for what happened during our recent camp it has to be Jesus Christ. He was powerful and active among us. His Spirit made us fall in love with Him. Right now as I write these lines I wonder if I am in love enough with my Savior Jesus; and the answer is of course NO. I am not in love enough with the most beautiful, wise, rich and powerful person in the universe: LORD JESUS CHRIST. But this Winter Camp helped me love Him more. I now admire His beauty and creation more than ever before. I found new way to contemplate His wisdom more while contemplating the beauty of His people coming together more often. I’m now more impressed by His power and amazed to watch Him bringing spiritually dead people to life.

Every person played a key role in this camp. To the person they all brought something special to this gathering. But the success of this camp was 100% a result of PRAYER that was used abundantly in its organization. Our time at camp was fully immersed in prayer…in powerful and passionate prayer. There were nights when we went to sleep only to awaken to the beauty of worshiping Christ. We told the teenagers that Christ is the reason for this camp. We told them that He is worthy of our undivided attention. Our connection was to heaven, not the internet or T.V. Our attempt was to disconnect from the burden of this world and to yearn for a connection with Him. And you know what happened? God gave us what we longed to receive: His fresh presence moving among us, overwhelming us, saving among us, convicting us of sin, loving us, calling us, invading us.

A girl that was born again during this camp was so powerfully changed that her friends were shocked. They were not Christians and they came to us asking us what we did to her! Our response; “We gave her the Word of God and prayed with her.” God changed her so radically and dramatically that when she went back to her room she completely deleted all the music that did not praise Christ. She put down her books and magazines and started to read from the Bible. Before the end of camp she too was witnessing to others.

We were blessed to have another young man born again during camp. His words were evidence of this change in his life. He said that before he came in the camp he was cussing hard, but after God changed his heart that night, he was shocked by the lack of desire to cuss anymore. He said, “I cannot cuss anymore, something happened inside of me, I want to love Jesus more and to worship Him more”.

A third person with strong evidence that she was born again started crying and she fell to her knees in prayer with two other teenagers and me. Though she was just 13 and the other two were 13 and 14 they prayed as though they were mature Christians. The pain for their sins was evident. The passion for Jesus was impressive.

I do not know how many people were saved in this camp. When I invited all to come and put their lives on the altar and become living sacrifices before God, I think almost everybody in the camp came. Though some did not exhibit evidence of their salvation we were blessed to see many reflect being born again. It is not all about a prayer or a hand up or a walk in front under the impulse of the crowd in a camp. It is about the new life in Christ that needs to be noticed.

God still saves in Romania and He does that in a powerful way and He is worthy of all the glory.

I was very impressed by the way God used the American team of 8 people that left their comfort and secure atmosphere and the Super Bowl to come and worship with us and to serve us for God’s glory. The Bible study teams in the morning were so special. They taught the participants how to worship, some even in English! Thank you Erin, Kimberely, Shelby, Lindsey, and Ronne; there were tears of repentance and passion in prayers worshiping together in these teams you led. The preachers in the evening offered a strong challenge for all the participants. “God’s Grace,” “The Encounter with God,” and “The Altar of the Living Sacrifice” broke our hearts and made us experience both the power of sanctification and of salvation. Thank you Jeff, Joe and Brian.

Red Page Ministries needs a special “thank you” for helping organize this winter camp. Plans are already being made for 2012. Many have said they will join us. You are welcome to join us, too. Please pray about it and let us know.

To God be all the glory.

Until HE comes

Ovidiu and Adina

If you have an interest in joining our team next winter, shoot me an email at jhogg@redpageministries.org. If you would rather join a trip this summer, it is not too late. Visit our website for more information. Aspire to new heights. Jon

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hide and Watch

My grandmother always had a great comeback for when I said I don’t want to do something. She would say, “Well then, you just go hide and watch!” Of course I never did and I wooed her with my grandson charm and she melted and gave me whatever I wanted. But, that is irrelevant for now!

This morning I was doing my daily Bible reading. I found it interesting that after everything the Israelites had been through they would still question God after he rescued them from Egypt. In this particular verse they were freaking because Pharaoh decided he didn’t want to let them go and was in hot pursuit! But, Moses told the people “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord recue you today.” Exodus 14:13.

What a valuable lesson we can still use today. God is at work. Don’t believe it? Then hide and watch! We, too, should not be afraid. Our God is the same God that rescued the Israelites. He’s the same God that parted the Red Sea. He’s the same God that sent His Son to die for our sins. He’s the same God that said “Go…and I will be with you always.”

But the lesson doesn’t stop there! In verse 15 the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!” God is at work, but He expects us to do our part. Sure, we can hide and watch and I believe He would still work. He’s not about to let us stand in the way of His Will. However, His true desire is for us to “get moving” and be a part of His work. This allows us to be a part of His blessing, not to just observe the act itself. We can’t pray for God to move in the world and then lock our doors and sit on our hands. Instead we should get off of those hands and allow them to be His hands; and offer our feet as well! We should pray and then be prepared for His answer.

So, I’ve got to apologize beforehand to my grandmother. Guess I’m going to have to do something this time. I can’t just “hide and watch.” I’m too afraid I might miss something! Aspire to new heights.

P.S. If you get a chance visit our website for posts, pics, and stories from our Winter Camp. You can also find more on our Facebook page.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Go, now!!!!

I’ve got an extra dose of the “go, goes” on my brain today. You see, the first “official” Red Page Mission trip is actually in Romania (and I’m not on it). Second, deadlines are fast approaching for our summer trips and we at Red Page are at full steam Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging, emailing, speaking, hosting, and whatever else is necessary to spread the word of our 2011 trips. This is where I put the sale job on you and direct you to our website to follow their trip this week!

As much as I’m on the go now you would think I’ve always been on the go. Honestly that is not the case. I grew up in a small rural town in West Texas. We left town to go to stock shows and Six Flags once a year! I was way outside the norm when I decided to move seven hours away to College Station for college. Outside of one ill advised trip to Mexico for Spring Break I had never left the US until I turned 25. When my dad invited me to Romania and Russia I had to find Romania on the map! Now I’m on my second passport with extra pages added in the back. God has blessed me and my family with wonderful opportunities to see the world.

My hope is not that Red Page will afford me more opportunities to travel to Romania or anywhere else for that matter. I love being in Romania but I still love being at home. I guess I’ve got the best of both worlds! My hope is that Red Page will provide hundreds if not thousands of Americans the opportunity to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. I know there are needs in our back yard and I challenge each of you to be just as involved in local and domestic ministries as you are international. But, I do hope you will go. Go somewhere. Go now.

Sure the temptation is to write your check and let someone else go. Don’t get me wrong, we will take the check! However, there is so much more to offer by going. Don’t lose sight of the fact that it will be a blessing for you as well. David Platt says, “…when God chose to bring salvation to you and me, he did not send gold or silver, cash or check. He sent himself –the Son. If we are going to accomplish the global purpose of God it will not be primarily through giving our money, as important as that is. It will happen primarily through giving ourselves. This is what the gospel represents, and it’s what the gospel requires.”

I’ve read through the Bible numerous times, and I know I’ve taken note, but for some reason this time through it really resonated with me how difficult Moses was to accept God’s call. Moses came up with multiple excuses.

  1. Who Am I? (Exodus 3:11)
  2. But they will not know who sent me. (Exodus 4:1)
  3. But I’m afraid to speak in public. (Exodus 4:10)
  4. I cannot do this, send someone else. (Exodus 4:3)

How many times do we come up with excuses when He calls us? That’s to say we were even paying attention in the first place to hear His call! Think of our responses:

  1. I’m sorry Lord, I didn’t hear you.
  2. But I’m scared.
  3. I would, but I’m too busy right now.
  4. But I’m not qualified.
  5. We cannot afford for me to go.
  6. My family comes first.
  7. I give money to the missionaries for that.
No doubt the list could continue much, much longer. However, we should find comfort in God’s response to Moses. “Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” Exodus 4:12. Author Gene Getz puts it this way, “God has provided each of us with certain capabilities and opportunities. He is aware, of course, of our environmental obstacles and roadblocks – for example, the problems we have faced in our family life. He knows our inherent weaknesses and the circumstances that are beyond our control. But at the same time, God wants us to use what we have at our disposal. He wants us to develop our capacities and use them to the fullest.”

Maybe our biggest issue is not the list above. Maybe our issue is sitting around waiting on our “burning bush experience.” We sit on our hands waiting for God to “call” us. However, as Platt puts it, “If there are a billion people who have never heard the gospel and billions of others who still have not received the gospel, then we have an obligation to go to them. This is not an option. This is a command, not a calling.” (You know that Great Commission thing! Matthew 28:19 - Therefore GO and…)

This is not a pitch for Red Page Ministries (though we’d love to have you go with us). I will save that sales pitch for another website! However, I do hope you will take it as a challenge to go somewhere in 2011. You will be blessed. Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Run for Jesus

I always love posting blogs from my friend Ovidiu. One reason is that my blog is planned for the week. Considering this is conference championship week, that is a good thing. But, more than that Ovidiu always inspires and encourages me. I'm honored to call him a friend and blessed that he is a part of Red Page Ministries. He is the heart of Red Page. I learn something from Ovidiu all the time. He has a huge heart and the ministry he and Adina are striving to build is being built on a solid foundation. Ovidiu loves sports. He also realizes the impact sports could have on Romania if that energy is captured for God. I'll let him tell you the rest of his idea; don't want to spoil it!

Recently I was writing an article on sports for a highly respected news website in Romania www.ziare.com. I was thrilled to learn they liked the article and they published it. This article was on re-launching sports in Romania based on the American pattern of implementing organized sports. This pattern consists of entry level sports, to grade school to high-school, college and even on to professional. During my visit to America I was extremely impressed how many people went to a high school football game in Texas. It is impressive the semi-self sustaining system through the tickets they sell and the commercials and the whole thing involved in the phenomenon. It is impressive to see the recruiting system: the college recruits from high school and the professionals from the college. I expressed the fact that in this unique sport system in America everybody has something to gain, values, morals, competitive drive, and sportsmanship. Everybody is a winner.

In Romania there are some sports that are popular, but people in general are not practicing sports as they do in United States. People are running for something. Some are running for their health, some for money, some for fun, and some even for glory.

We want to see the kids in Romania running for Jesus. In May we will build a basketball court on the House of Joy property. Hundreds of children will be able to use it and play on it. They will be practicing sports while they learn the scriptures. The House of Joy will be a place for Sports and Scriptures! They can learn them together. Many kids will start running for Jesus because of this awesome opportunity they will find in Susani. We will organize sports camps to improve their skills, both with the Bible and the sport. We will also work to organize competitions with the public schools in our area right on this basketball court. Our hope is to model these competitions after the Upward Basketball programs in the US. Kids will come from all 31 villages in our ministry area to learn the skills of basketball, and other sports as well. These sports will give us an audience with the children and their parents so that we can share about Jesus. In addition, we will have concerts, revivals, and festivals on our court. What a perfect place to interact with the children and youth. Everybody loves sports. Everybody likes to run.

Adina and I personally ask you to consider joining us in this marathon to finish the basketball court project. Start running with us and many people will be blessed because of that. There are two ways you can join us in this cause. You may choose to contribute financially to the construction of the basketball court or you may choose to travel to Susani personally in May to help build the court and host our first sport camp!

Let’s run for Jesus together. Until HE comes. Ovidiu and Adina<><

For more information on this trip, visit our website at www.redpageministries.org or shoot me a message. The deadline for application is February 7. If you are interested in giving financially to help build the basketball court you can give on-line as well. Thank you in advance for helping us start something that will surely change the life of hundreds of children. Aspire to new heights.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To Do List

Shelby Felton will begin her stint January 29 as Red Page Ministries’ first intern. Shelby will serve in Lugoj, Romania as Ministry Coordinator during which time she will assist with mission trip coordination, the development of an after-school program, creating family plans and case studies, orphan team development, and ministry communication. Please add Shelby to your prayer list. Watch Facebook, Twitter, and our website for weekly updates from Shelby. I wanted to post her first blog on my personal blog to give her some additional exposure. She will be a wonderful addition to our team. We are proud to have you Shelby. Aspire to new heights – Jon.

I love to make to-do lists, and even more so to cross off the tasks when done, thus building a nice record of my accomplishments. But what am I really accomplishing? While the daily or weekly lists are full of things that "need" to be done, most of the items center around household chores and errands to run. We all know there is more to life than floors to clean, groceries to buy, oil to be changed and tires rotated. Are the significant things of eternal value anywhere on the list? I admit that my list comes up shy at times, but I am reminded that there is a master list, created by the Master Himself.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

This verse is becoming more and more evident to me every day. It is with a future focus that my mind tries to conceive this concept, and struggles, but it is with hindsight that I find I truly comprehend.

When I was 17 years old God ignited a spark in my heart for missions and reaching the nations. That spark grew into a flame, but I couldn't wrap my mind around the vocational missionary concept, so after college I pursued a traditional marketplace career and filled my vacation time with mission trips and ministry activities. This seemed to be a pretty good alternative, but deep inside I wondered if I "missed" my calling. Well, I don't think I missed it; I just took the long way around. And God has used every experience up to this point to teach me, grow me, and shape me for what is now before me. And I am more aware than ever, that I am not the one making the to-do list.

Most people aren't all that happy with the recession we've recently experienced, but for me it was a catalyst. It got me off the outside track, that long-way-around path. I don't know that I would have ever mustered the guts to leave the so called "security" of my job with a steady paycheck, benefits, etc., but God worked it out through the vehicle of "workforce reduction". Along with many others I lost my job, but more than that I was released ... yes, released to pursue that calling deep within.

I still don't know how it is all going to work, and again I'm sure it will be in hindsight that I see what God has prepared for my future. I didn't know Romania was on my to-do list, let alone a 6 month assignment. My most recent mission trip had been to Venezuela and I absolutely loved it. I thought for sure that was where I'd be headed again for my 2011 mission trip.

As I sought God for my next steps, He began to weave in Romania. As a member of the Missions Committee at my church I felt compelled to attend an informational meeting in early October for an upcoming trip to Romania that was planned for Summer 2011. And only a few weeks after that the Romania partnership between FBC Euless and Red Page Ministries was again brought front and center. Within this new partnership was an opportunity for someone from my church to serve six months in Romania in an effort to plant seeds and pave the way for our summer trip. At the announcement of this significantly longer opportunity my heart leapt, literally! And as the details were further revealed I saw it as a perfect fit; my passion and my abilities were about to collide. And before I knew it, God had pulled it all together and confirmed this was the next step for me.

As a Susani based Ministry Coordinator for Red Page, I will draw on skills cultivated throughout my career as well as my experiences in youth ministry and on international mission trips. I am looking forward to working with Ovidiu and Adina Patrick, founders of the House of Joy, to invest in the lives of the children and families of Susani and the surrounding areas as they strive to end rural poverty in the 30 plus villages within their reach.

Also on the to-do list is to establish an after school program where I can offer free English lessons, build relationships with a local orphanage in hope of sharing the love of Christ through Vacation Bible School programs hosted by short term mission teams, and helping to facilitate future phases of the House of Joy construction project.

I am looking forward to accomplishing the things God has placed on my to-do list. How about you? Have you asked God lately what it is He would have you to do? We’ve got a place for you at Red Page. Hope you will join us.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fresh Start

Why is it we see a New Year as a chance for a “new” beginning or fresh start when God’s grace gives us that opportunity daily?

Each year we make resolutions as to how we will do better; to which we always start January 1. We resolve to eat less, work-out, go to church, read our Bible, clean-up our language, stop drinking, or stop smoking, all in an effort to have a new start.

About.com lists the following as the most popular New Year’s Resolutions:
  1. Spend more time with family and friends
  2. Get fit
  3. Lose weight
  4. Quit smoking
  5. Enjoy life more
  6. Quit drinking
  7. Get out of debt
  8. Learn something new
  9. Help others
  10. Get organized

The funny thing is that we usually make these resolutions, and many more, in advance. However, we choose to hold off until January 1 for implementation. We usually even go so far as to gorge ourselves with food the last few days, smoke an extra pack of cigarettes, go on a spending spree, or knock back the bottle just before we quit cold turkey (or is it start eating turkey?). My father-in-law has an interesting theory. He believes that if text messaging would have come before a voice cell phone that everyone would want to talk on the cell phone now! In the same way, if New Year’s was August 12 we would wait until the 12th day of August to resolve for change.

What a joy it is to have a Savior that will save us and forgive us any day of the year. I remember a few years back when we visited St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This beautiful church has “Holy Doors” that are only opened during a Holy Year (Jubilee), which occur every 25 years. On the first day of this holy year the doors are opened. It is believed that God shows mercy and forgiveness to those that enter through these doors. New beginnings are not reserved for the first day of each year and they are not reserved for a Jubilee by which we receive via entering a door. No, new beginnings are provided daily, hourly, even by the second through the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. They are not reserved for someone of a certain status. They are not even reserved for someone that strives to earn them. They are reserved for ALL of US if we so desire to ask.

This is a very difficult task for us to understand and/or accept. “Most of us believe in God’s grace – in theory,” says Brennan Manning, “But somehow we can’t seem to apply it in our daily lives.” Paul writes in Ephesians, “Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit” (2:8-9).

“Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.”

Brennan Manning

Good luck on your resolutions (if you haven’t already quit them) or fresh new start. Just remember who gave it to you! Aspire to new heights! Grace be with you.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Joyful Christmas in Susani

Over my 35 years on this Earth I've been blessed to spend Christmas in Romania on two different occassions. Between the snow, caroling, spending time with the fatherless, and relationship building these memories rank right up at the top of some of my greatest. I hate I missed this Christmas but I'm honored to pass on the stories and pictures to you from my good friend Ovidiu and his wife Adina. I hope you enjoy his reflection and pray you will join Red Page Ministries and the House of Joy as we strive to reach even more families next Christmas. - Jon

The white snow that covered Romania during Christmas made things look better. It gave us a feeling of purity. This Christmas the children in 7 villages were blessed with the joy of receiving a gift. Christmas is about the gifts, actually about the greatest GIFT of all: God’s gift for the lost humanity. God came in the world to show us the way to heaven. That is the greatest gift a person can receive.

Samaritan’s Purse gifts reached our villages, too and 160 children were blessed to receive a gift in the shoe box. These are the children that the House of Joy is working with in the last 6 years. House of Joy exists since 2009 but our work in the area started in 2004. The kids that live in these villages are loved by God and it was great we were able to show them His love through a little gift. The number of all these 160 kids is from 6 villages that have a bigger village over them where they also have a city hall to administrate them. We wish we had 1,600 boxes for 10 large villages and distribute them during December.

The children were brought to Susani for a Christmas program. We brought them by the vans of our ministry. When they arrived to Susani they sang about Jesus, they prayed, they heard about Jesus’ birth in our world. There were also lots of parents that came with their children. They were able to see what God is doing and hear the good news about His coming in the world.

Adina, my wife and the team of our disciples, around 15 people, helped with the distribution of the gifts from Samaritan’s Purse. They help the children learn verses about Christ’s birth, taught them new Christmas songs. The whole program was great and afterwards they received their Christmas presents. At the end everybody went home very excited. This was a great experience for the House of Joy team that we did not have before giving that many shoe boxes to so many kids.

By God’s willing we’ll give more presents this year in 2011 and the greatest thing that can happen during a program like this is to see the children and their parents receiving the GIFT that is eternal, that is a person, who’s name is JESUS.

Many Blessings for a wonderful New Year. Ovidiu and Adina Patrick