Thursday, April 14

Father, forgive us …


This afternoon I took part in A Walk to Remember as a part of Rwanda Awareness Week photo (2)on our campus. As I silently walked around campus with the other participants, God spoke to me about the Church in the US – our lack of awareness of the needs of our world and the self-centered and inwardly-focused nature of most of our lives and faith.


I wondered how many students on our ministry or people in our churches know …


… of the genocide in Rwanda – that within their lifetime (1994) and over a period of only 100 days, 800,000 to 1,000,000 people were brutally killed because of the tribe to which they belonged. That is the numerical equivalent to approximately three Sept. 11 attacks occurring every day for three months.


… that each year more than 2 million children worldwide are exploited in the global human sex trade? That 600,000 to 800,000 victims are annually trafficked across global borders? That 14,500 to 17,500 of those are trafficked into the US?


… that 27 million men, women, and children are held as slaves around the world?


… that unclean water and lack of sanitation kill more people each year than all forms of violence, including war? That 90% of the 42,000 people who die each week as a result of unclean water and lack of sanitation are children under the age of five?


… that there are conflicts going on not only in Libya, but the Sudan, the Ivory Coast, Palestine, and other parts of the world?


… that an average of 171,000 Christians are martyred for their faith each year?


My guess is that most Christians in the US are unaware and uninterested. We have other things to worry about. We have conferences and camps to plan and Bible studies to prepare. We have “family life centers” to build. Plus, the Razorback Red/White game is this weekend and it’s on ESPN! We don’t have time or an appetite to hear or think about those who are suffering or the injustice in our world. We don’t want a faith that is aware. We want one that is comfortable and that keeps us entertained.


photoAnd, to be honest, I have often been the same way – wrapped up in my ministry and programs and plans. But thankfully God has placed students around me whose hearts and vision are often bigger than mine. He has given us Ines, a student in our ministry from Rwanda who spoke at today’s walk. She and the other Rwandan students on our campus are reminders that these aren’t just numbers, but people with families and hopes and dreams. God has given us a group of students who have a heart for those who are being trafficked and meet each week to pray and seek ways to raise awareness and funds to combat the problem.


It really isn’t my goal to make you feel guilty. (OK, maybe just a little bit guilty.) I really want to move you to action, to cause you to pay attention and look beyond yourself. We live in a world of hurting people. Some are close to you, but many aren’t. Yet they are people created in the image of God, many of whom are your Christian brothers and sisters. So read the paper with a prayerful attitude. Get a copy of Operation World and pray through it. And remember this words of Jesus:


“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”   Matthew 25:27-40

Tuesday, April 12

Leadership Lessons from SWAT


Over Spring Break, while the rest of our staff and many of our students were working in New Orleans, I spent time visiting with former students in Tulsa and Little Rock. One of the rewarding things about campus ministry is seeing where your alumni wind up and the ways they find to serve the Kingdom of God. During that week, I got to visit with ministers, college professors, an architect, an attorney, a nurse, an accountant, a NCAA Div. I head coach, a software tech and Sergeant in the Army Reserve, a banker, a financial consultant, missionaries, and the Central/Eastern Europe director for Heifer International. These are men and women with whom I spent a lot of time during some of the most important years of their lives. Some came to Christ while at the UofA. Others developed spiritual values and maturity. I performed many of their weddings. And though our time together during their student years was relatively short, each of them (and hundreds of others) left a mark on my life.


The most unusual visit, hoSWAT 3wever, was with a former student who is now the commander of the Little Rock SWAT unit. When Tim heard I was going to be in town, he invited me to go along as they served a warrant on a narcotics dealer. I was able to meet the team, sit in on their planning, ride along with them during the raid, get a “tour” of the home and drug stash once the scene was secure, and listen in on the debriefing after it was over.


I was reminded of an important lesson as I watched Tim lead his team – the importance of planning, preparation, and review even with something that you have done over and over again. Though the SWAT unit is trained for hostage and/or barricade situations, there are fortunately only a few of those a year. So they help the police force by securing scenes so that the narcotics officers can safely serve warrants and shut down narcotics operations. Last year, the SWAT unit served 220 narcotics warrants! Though they have done this type of thing hundreds of times, the time they took to plan and prepare was significant.


They had maps of the neighborhood and photos of the house. They knew how many doors and where they were. They knew how many windows and where they were. They knew where the bathrooms were. They knew how many people were usually around during that time. Their eleven man unit knew exactly who was doing what job – who was using the battering ram, tossing the flash-bangs, going right and going left. And even though the operation went smoothly, there was a thorough debriefing after they returned to headquarters. Each officer reported on what he had done and any problems that occurred.


The lesson is even with something you have done hundreds of times, you need to make sure that you and your team are focused and prepared. Why? One reason for the SWAT unit is that they were entering into a potentially dangerous situation and they needed to be sure that everyone was sharp and focused. Though our leadership may not be in an arena that is physically dangerous, we should believe (especially in ministry) that every event, conversation, service, or study is spiritually significant. We need to be sharp, focused, and prepared for that.


Another reason for good preparation is that it prepares you to deal with the unknown. When the SWAT unit enters a situation, they don’t know exactly what will happen. How many people will be there? Will they have weapons? Will there be children? How will those being arrested react? Because of the exact preparation, the unit is better prepared to deal with any situation. They know which of their team is doing what. Who will be going where. They know where their people will be. That knowledge removes a lot of questions and uncertainty. Good preparation on our part makes us better able to be flexible and respond to the needs or opportunities that arise unexpectedly.


A final reason for focused preparation is that when you are doing something that you have done over and over again, it is easy to relax and not work as hard in preparation. When that happens, things get forgotten. Assignments get dropped. Problems develop. We need to approach even regularly occurring events with an attention to detail that won’t let us slide by with a half-effort.


Two side notes: 1) SWAT team members don’t eat donuts. They drink protein shakes. 2) The one question I never resolved was what is the appropriate thing to say to a handcuffed drug dealer who is laying on the ground as you step over him? “Excuse me?” “Nice house?” “Dude, you’re busted?”




One more baseball recording that I should have mentioned a couple of weeks ago: If you haven’t heard Garrison Keillor’s story “Babe Ruth Visits Lake Wobegon”, you need to. He is a gifted story teller and this story about Babe Ruth and the Lake Wobegon town team is classic.

Wednesday, April 6

Random Links: Japan Moved, Airline Prayers, Diet Coke, Small Animals, and Great Athletes


Here are a few things that have been sitting in my inbox. Hope you find at least some of them interesting …


According to this report on CNN World, the earthquake that hit Japan last month actually moved the island nation eight feet and shifted the earth on its axis. That sounds incredible! Does anyone have any follow-up on that?


Let’s just say that if you are going to be praying out loud in another language on an airplane, it is probably a good idea to give the flight attendants a heads-up.


Diet Coke has just passed Pepsi in soft drink sales, making it number two behind Coke. Now if they could just make a Diet Coke that tasted good and wasn’t feared to be bad for you.


Here is a list of ten of the world’s smallest animals. Which would you want to take home?


Finally, here is a list of the greatest pro multi-sport athletes of all time. There is lots of room to agree and disagree in this area. For instance, where’s Bo Jackson? I believe he out-classed both Brian Jordan and Deion Sanders as football/baseball athletes.