Just Because

poetry slamIt used to happen a lot. When I managed a Christian bookstore, every local author and musical artist saw me as the gatekeeper to a missing ingredient in their career. That missing ingredient was the ever elusive spot on our store shelves and hopefully a book or CD signing. At first I was resentful of how often these conversations took place and how much time it took to explain our process for handling these requests. Our store just didn’t have room for every new self-published book or newly recorded CD and I was supposed to be spending my time providing resources that people were actually looking for. Besides all that I hated having to say no so often.

Fairly quickly, I realized that I needed to do something about this deluge of local “talent” or it was going to drive me crazy. We needed a forum to make it possible for us to celebrate the artists in our community and not just treat them as a frustrating interruption in our daily routine. As I began to get to know people in my city and to hear their stories, I was overwhelmed by the diversity of talent and their desire to share this with as many people as possible. I also realized I could not do this on my own. It was out of this frustration that the “Gospel Poetry Slam” was born. Secular spoken word events were happening all over the city, but no one was really providing a space for Christian artists to share their talent.

With the help of some friends from a local gospel music recording and distribution company, we opened our doors on Saturday evenings once a month for an open mic night that would become a signature event for our store. With very little store staff (often just myself and one other person), we provided the space for the event to take place, allowed my friends to host and facilitate every aspect of the evening and something remarkable happened. People began paying a small “cover” charge just to get into our store after regular hours to attend this event and often to perform. It was incredible to see the talent that existed and was often overlooked. On any given night, there were musical performances, poetry, spoken word, book readings, comedy routines and lots of fun. We always allowed the performers to feature and sell their products if they had just published or recorded their material and people would regularly buy these books and CDs.

Today, I no longer manage a bookstore on a day to day basis, but I still value the power of a generous spirit. It never ceases to amaze me how we can so quickly evaluate another person on the basis of their ability to help us. This even happens in the church. We meet someone for the first time and find out what they do and immediately start making mental calculations about how valuable they could be to us and our objectives. If they are not an “influencer” or worse they want/ need something from us, it is amazing how quick we find a way to end those conversations. As a person who considers himself an influencer, I can be the “chief of sinners” in this area and have to constantly remind myself of Jesus’s example. He often seemed to choose the worst possible people to connect with if he was looking to build his platform and improve his reputation. Instead, he intentionally hung out with outcasts and very needy people who regularly took more than they gave.

It occurs to me that Jesus would not have made a good client for a modern day talent agent. He always seemed to choose to focus on people that made the disciples cringe. If he wasn’t eating with tax collectors and prostitutes, he was healing the unclean and untouchable. His motto seemed to be “just because”. Wherever he went he looked on people with enormous compassion and just because they needed to be fed, he fed them; just because they were sick, he healed them; and just because they were sinners, he forgave them. He did not make cold calculations of their value to him nor did he put barriers between himself and the crowds. He walked among them, called for the children to be brought to him and ate at their tables. This week I look forward to experiencing a few of those “just because” moments myself as I allow Him to guide my steps. Who knows what may happen?

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10 Great New Books for the Fall

Year without a PurchaseThe Year without a Purchase – As a missionary on a tight budget every year, this book caught my attention. The Year without a Purchase is the story of one family’s quest to stop shopping and start connecting. Scott Dannemiller and his wife, Gabby, are former missionaries who served in Guatemala. Ten years removed from their vow of simple living, they found themselves on a never-ending treadmill of consumption where each purchase created a desire for more and never led to true satisfaction. The difference between needs and wants had grown very fuzzy, and making that distinction clear again would require drastic action: no nonessential purchases for a whole year. No clothes, no books, no new toys for the kids. If they couldn’t eat it or use it up within a year (toilet paper and shampoo, for example), they wouldn’t buy it.

Filled with humorous wit, curious statistics, and poignant conclusions, the book examines modern America’s spending habits and chronicles the highs and lows of dropping out of our consumer culture. As the family bypasses the checkout line to wrestle with the challenges of gift giving, child rearing, and keeping up with the Joneses, they discover important truths about human nature and the secret to finding true joy. The Year without a Purchase offers valuable food for thought for anyone who has ever wanted to reduce stress by shopping less and living more. Gaining by Losing

Gaining by Losing People are leaving the church J.D. Greear pastors. Big givers. Key volunteers. Some of his best leaders and friends. And that’s exactly how he wants it to be. When Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission, he revealed that the key for reaching the world with the gospel is found in sending, not gathering. Though many churches focus time and energy on attracting people and counting numbers, the real mission of the church isn’t how many people you can gather. It’s about training up disciples and then sending them out. The true measure of success for a church should be its sending capacity, not its seating capacity. But there is a cost to this. To see ministry multiply, we must release the seeds God has placed in our hands. And to do that, we must ask ourselves whether we are concerned more with building our kingdom or God’s. In Gaining By Losing, J.D. Greear unpacks ten plumb lines that we can use to reorient our church’s priorities around God’s mission to reach a lost world. The good news is that we don’t need to choose between gathering or sending. Effective churches can, and must, do both. As an elder in a church that is wrestling with these issues, this is on the top of my “must read” list.

Openness UnhinderedOpenness Unhindered – Rosario Butterfield’s debut book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, was one of the most important books written in the last decade. It is she described how she, as a leftist professor in a committed lesbian relationship became a confessional Christian. This new book is a follow up designed to answer many of the questions that people pose when she speaks at universities and churches, questions not only about her unlikely conversion to Christ but about personal struggles that the questioners only dare to ask someone else who has traveled a long and painful journey. Dr. Butterfield not only goes to great lengths to clarify some of today’s key controversies, she also traces their history and defines the terms that have become second nature today—even going back to God’s original design for marriage and sexuality as found in the Bible. She cuts to the heart of the problems and points the way to the solution, which includes a challenge to the church to be all that God intended it to be, and for each person to find the true freedoSongs of Jesusm that is found in Christ.

Songs of Jesus – Tim Keller has done it again. Responding to what his readers have been asking for, he has written year-long daily devotional that will likely become the best-selling resource in its category. The Songs of Jesus by Keller offers inspiration every day for an entire year based on the Book of Psalms. Each day readers will encounter a fresh, inspiring lesson from one of the most beloved books in the Bible. Few authors have the loyal audience that Tim Keller has. Penguin has sold more than two million copies of his books. His publisher suggests that many fans have been waiting for him to write a daily devotional in the tradition of Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. This is particularly interesting in light of the strident critique that his wife Kathy has written about Jesus Calling. I for one can’t wait to use this resource for 2016.

The Biggest Story

The Biggest Story – In The Biggest Story, Kevin DeYoung—best-selling author and father of six—leads kids and parents alike on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ’s death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth. With powerful illustrations by award-winning artist Don Clark, this imaginative retelling of the Bible’s core message—how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden—will draw children into the biblical story, teaching them that God’s promises are even bigger and better than we think. Having looked at this book, the artwork is stunning even though it may be a little avant-garde for some families and children. I am excited to see how Kevin helps kids see how all those classic stories of the Bible connect to Scripture’s overarching message about God’s glorious plan to redeem his rebellious people.

The Soul of Shame – One of my current favorite authors is Dr. Brene Brown. Her TED talks on vulnerability and shame Soul of Shameare among the most watched of all the TED talk videos on YouTube. I am excited to read this new book by a Christian author on the same topic and am grateful to my book loving friend Byron Borger for the recommendation. In this book, Psychiatrist Curt Thompson unpacks the soul of shame, revealing its ubiquitous nature and neurobiological roots. He also provides the theological and practical tools necessary to dismantle shame, based on years of researching its damaging effects and counseling people to overcome those wounds. He says that, “We’re all infected with a spiritual disease. Its name is shame. Whether we realize it or not, shame affects every aspect of our personal lives and vocational endeavors. It seeks to destroy our identity in Christ, replacing it with a damaged version of ourselves that results in unhealed pain and brokenness. But God is telling a different story for your life.”

7 Women7 Women – In his eagerly anticipated follow-up to the enormously successful Seven Men, New York Times best-selling author Eric Metaxas gives us seven captivating portraits of some of history’s greatest women, each of whom changed the course of history by following God’s call upon their lives—as women. Each of the world-changing figures who stride across these pages—Joan of Arc, Susanna Wesley, Hannah More, Maria Skobtsova, Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, and Rosa Parks—is an exemplary model of true womanhood. Metaxas is one of the best biographers of our time and wrote one of my favorite biographies of the last decade about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I am particularly excited to read this book to see what he has to say about Corrie ten Boom whose books are still published by CLC and is one of my spiritual heroes.

Onward – I love the concept for this book and the balanced approach thatOnward Russell Moore takes to an incredibly important topic. In his description of the book he says, “As the culture changes all around us, it is no longer possible to pretend that we are a Moral Majority. That may be bad news for America, but it can be good news for the church. What’s needed now, in shifting times, is neither a doubling-down on the status quo nor a pullback into isolation. Instead, we need a church that speaks to social and political issues with a bigger vision in mind: that of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.” He summarizes these thoughts with the intriguing phrase “Keep Christianity Strange”. In conclusion, he says “The signs of the times tell us we are in for days our parents and grandparents never knew. But that’s no call for panic or surrender or outrage. Jesus is alive. Let’s act like it. Let’s follow him, onward to the future.”

H3 LeadershipH3 Leadership  – In his new book H3 LEADERSHIP: Be Humble. Stay Hungry. Always Hustle., Brad Lomenick shares his hard-earned insights from more than two decades of work alongside thought-leaders such as Jim Collins and Malcom Gladwell, Fortune 500 CEOs and start-up entrepreneurs. He categorizes 20 essential leadership habits organized into three distinct filters he calls “the 3 Hs”: Humble (Who am I?), Hungry (Where do I want to go?) and Hustle (How will I get there?). These powerful words describe the leader who is willing to work hard, get it done, and make sure it’s not about him or her; the leader who knows that influence is about developing the right habits for success. Given his effective leadership of the Catalyst Conferences, I am looking forward to seeing how this book may impact my own approach to leadership going forward.

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A 15 Minute Walk to the Cross

mont royal crossWe had just finished looking at a breathtaking view of Montreal when he asked the question. Do you want to take a walk to the cross? My Canadian friend and CLC colleague was referring to a huge cross that sits atop Mont Royal and is an iconic image in the city. I asked him how long it would take and he said about 15 minutes. How could I say no? Our small group began walking up the path together. As we made our way up the road in front of us, I could not help but find this journey a bit ironic. In a city known for so many things like hockey, maple syrup and the French language, I did not expect to find a giant cross overlooking it all. While I was certainly aware of the long history of the Catholic faith in Quebec, I had not expected to see this symbol of the Christian faith standing in such a prominent location. Secularism seems to be the dominant religion these days and the cross is a stark reminder of another world view. Like many things about our faith, I wondered how many people view it as a relic of the past and how many still held on to it as relevant for today.

I was in Montreal for the release of one of our new books in the French language and was excited for our author and for the local CLC team. This day was the culmination of a lot of hard work and much dreaming in the previous months. While Quebec may still have a large population of self-identified Catholics, many are nominal and see the church as a cultural heritage as much as a religious faith. Just like in France, evangelicals have struggled to get a foothold in this part of the world and protestant churches tend to be small. Our ministry has worked to equip the local church with Christian books and Bibles for over 60 years and has been a vital resource for pastors and leaders in the community.

A few years ago on a trip to Montreal, I discovered that French Christian books are priced much higher than the same books in English. After asking questions about why this was, I began to experience significant “holy discontent” with the status quo. For far too long, good Christian books had been priced so high because of the way that books found their way from France or Switzerland, where they had been published, to Quebec. The distribution system was set up to make it nearly impossible to have lower prices. Something had to be done.

Our team in France agreed to take a risk on translating and publishing one of our recent English best sellers and gave the team in Montreal the rights to get the book printed locally. This helped avoid all the shipping, distribution and taxation costs that affected the pricing of all their other books. In addition, our local team could produce as many or as few as they needed by utilizing print on demand technology through their local printer.

As the group gathered that night to hear Matt Mitchell discuss his book, Resisting Gossip, you could sense the joy in the montreal book launchroom. Something was beginning to change. Christian books could be produced more affordably and price did not have to be a barrier to access. As Matt talked about gossip, he pointed out five different types of gossips that he called “the gallery of gossips”. He reminded us that each type of gossip – the spy, the grumbler, the backstabber, the chameleon, the busybody had a gospel antidote. At the end of the talk when Matt took time for questions, one person commented on how good it was to know that the gospel was helpful in every area of life including our problems with gossip. While this is only the second book that CLC Canada has produced, I hope it will be the start of new era in Christian book production and publishing in the Quebec. I am praying that this breakthrough will make it just as easy for a seeker to find and purchase a Christian book in the future as it was for me to find my way up the path to the foot of the cross. Maybe this small step will pave the way for a day when many Québécois will see the cross as more than just symbol from the distant past and embrace the God who died on it in their place.

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One Big Family

MiamiTraveling to to Miami these days is a lot like visiting another country. It is affectionately known as “the capital of Latin America” and Spanish is the first language of many of its citizens. This week, I had a family reunion of sorts in Homestead, FL which is just south of Miami. I was meeting with my CLC brothers of sisters from all over South America, the Caribbean and Canada. Like many family reunions it was a lot of fun and overwhelming at times, but really worth the effort. These special events happen every two years in the life of our ministry and have been memorable every time I have been there.

Like any big family, we like to share stories and this week was no exception. I was asked to host the “reporting sessions”panama member where each country gives an update on what has happened in the past two years and what we should be praying for as they plan for the future. Each group was supposed to take 20 minutes for the presentation. By the second night, I knew that I was in trouble. We only had one more reporting session to go and we still had five countries to still scheduled to share. These were not boring Power Point presentations. Instead they were heartfelt times of sharing what God has been doing in our region and no one wanted to skip the details. Who was I too interrupt the flow of the stories being told and the celebrations of God’s faithfulness? We often ended the nights after 10:30PM and some people “kept the party going” by meeting in smaller groups to tell stories they had not gotten to yet.

venezuelaAs if often the case, some parts of the family had a pretty tough two years. Nowhere was that more evident than in the stories shared by our team in Venezuela. Despite incredible financial hardships in the country, our team has been able to keep ten stores and a wholesale operation going to supply the needs of a desperate nation. One of the core values of CLC is the principle of sacrifice. When you can’t buy toilet paper, toothpaste or cereal in the grocery store, everyday living becomes a practical sacrifice. Many young professionals have left the country in search of work elsewhere and violence and insecurity are on the rise. The country is a tinderbox of political turmoil and ripe for revolution. Somehow, our brave leaders have kept 34 people employed and the doors open in ten lighthouses around the country. I don’t know how they do it. Only a life sustaining and miracle working God could make that possible.

One of my favorite stories of the week came from our team in Trinidad who have suffered a terrible loss this past year. They lost their longtime leader, Marlene Ramroop to a sudden and highly unexpected heavenly homegoing. In God’s providence, a dear friend of Marlene’s, Sandra Robinson, who was CLC’s accountant, agreed to take up the leadership mantle on an “interim” basis. At the gathering this week, Sandra announced that she is now excited to drop the word “interim” from her title and she made one of the most dramatic presentations of any country that attended. In only three short months since Marlene has been gone, the CLC team in Trinidad has rallied around Sandra and are in the process of renovating every store with new paint in some really vibrant colors. To our great surprise, she even announced that they will be opening a new store in their sister island of Tobago later this month. Sandra is full of ideas and vision and her dynamic leadership is a real tribute to Marlene’s legacy of faithfulness service.

point fortin

At weeks end, we finished on a high note as we had our “night of fun” with every one assigned to a team that had to put on a skit, sing a song or do a dance. While none of the groups would have been candidates for “America’s Got Talent”, there were some remarkable performances. In my group, we had a young man who had lost his mother in the last month. He sang a moving tribute to her in Spanish and there was hardly a dry eye in the room, even amongst those of us who did not undregional directorerstand the words. Not surprisingly, my CLC brothers and sisters from Latin America were not shy about dancing or singing and we all had a lot of fun. It was certainly a great way to end our time together.

During the week, I was elected to serve as Regional Director for North America and the Caribbean starting in June of 2016. This followed a decision to split our region in two again as the work in South America has grown so fast in recent years. At our final meeting together, we were asked to give feedback on whether we should continue meeting as one big group in the years to come. I was delighted that there was a unanimous consensus to keep us together despite our language barriers. I was also strongly encouraged to learn Spanish as that is apparently “the language of heaven”.

americas team



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Broken Trees

forbidden driveIt was a a beautiful Saturday in Pennsylvania. The heat had diminished and the humidity was mercifully lower than it had been all week. It was time for a walk in one of my favorite places in Philadelphia – Forbidden Drive. This whimsically named path is a great walking trail right next to the Wissahickon Creek that meanders for over five miles from Chestnut Hill all the way down to the Schuylkill River. On this particular day, I had the joy of strolling with my wife and parents to see what might be around the bend as we walked and talked together. Sure enough, I was not disappointed.

Just as we arrived, parked the car and began to walk over the bridge to the start of the path, we noticed something special. Right at that particular part of the creek, a local congregation had decided to hold a baptismal service. My mother, always one to show her appreciation for public displays of Christian activity, stopped at the top of the bridge to watch what was going on, chatted with someone taking pictures and got a thumbs up from the pastor in the water for quoting scripture loud enough that he could hear. Only in my family.

As we began our walk, I noticed something had changed on the path itself. At various points along the way, I saw the remains of huge trees that fallen earlier in the year. My wife reminded me that we had had a particularly bad ice storm this past winter that fell on top of wet snow and brought down trees all over the city. What remained now were the sawed off trunks on one side of the path and debris on the other side. The path was clear and passable, but these trees had done some damage. Many parts of the fence that lined the creek had been broken badly and were not yet repaired. I wondered how long it would take to get these fixed and how much money it would cost.

It struck me that these trees were a metaphor for the human damage that I had been reading about all week and even fallen treeexperiencing in some personal conversations with friends. A group of hackers had recently publicized the names of people who had interacted with an adultery facilitation website called Ashley Madison and trees were falling everywhere. One Christian researcher predicted that over 400 pastors were going to resign this past Sunday as a result and several key Christian leaders were making on line confessions during the week. You could almost hear the limbs breaking as the lives of those affected were being uprooted all over the country. It was a catastrophe waiting to happen and all it took was an ice storm created by a determined group of programmers.

When these things happen, it seems that so much focus is given to the high profile people that are caught up in the sin and scandal. We often forget those that are broken and damaged when the tree falls on them. So many marriages destroyed in one week. So many kids who found out that their mom or dad were not faithful. So many churches reeling from decisions made in secret that were now out in the open. Those responsible to deal with these situations are often quick to exert church discipline required by these types of infidelities, but can be far too lax in providing support and care for the broken people that are lying all over the ground.

It seems like Jesus was pretty concerned about these same types of situations when he was here on earth. Of particular concern to him were widows and orphans and those affected by the direct effects of family disintegration. It is quite telling that after challenging the religious leaders of the day to cast the first stone at the woman caught in adultery, he tells her to go and sin no more. He is concerned about both hypocrisy and the fallout of sin. I think he was probably concerned about that woman’s family too. I wondered how many other Christian leaders and regular congregants would be in deep trouble if their internet habits were put on display for all the world to see.

As we were finishing our walk together I was reminded how blessed I am to have two parents that have demonstrated fidelity to one another for my entire life. I am sure that their marriage has had stresses, but they never gave up on one another. My heart is heavy this week for the families of those who have not been so fortunate. May we who have watched this storm take place be reminded of our own frailties, our own tendencies to make similar unwise choices and the fallout that could occur in our own lives. While we mourn these events, I pray that we will show special love and care for the victims of this sin and deceit and not allow them to be the forgotten debris on the side of the path.

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War Room – The Review

war-roomI remember it like it happened last week. I was looking for a good movie to watch and decided to give this new movie about a football team a chance. My “cringe meter” was on high alert as this was a Christian movie and I was so used to being disappointed and even embarrassed by the quality of the production. To my great surprise, the movie, Facing the Giants, was excellent and just as good as many of the Hollywood produced movies that I had seen in the past. In a great irony, our ministry was the publisher for the pastor whose church made that movie and I didn’t even know it at the time. Not long after that we published a book called Prepare for Rain that told the story of Sherwood Baptist Church and why they had chosen to produce movies in the first place. In the years that followed, the Kendrick Brothers (both of whom were Associate Pastors at the church) went on to produce the highly acclaimed films, Fireproof and Courageous.

Today I had the joy of taking my parents to watch their latest project entitled War Room and once again I was not Prepare-for-Raindisappointed. In fact, it may be my favorite movie so far. For those who have not seen it (spoiler alert – I will be discussing some of the plot points), this movie is about the power of prayer and its ability to transform relationships. The lead actress (Priscilla Shirer – Tony Evan’s daughter) playing the role of Elizabeth Jordan did a great job portraying a successful real estate agent whose marriage is in trouble. In the movie she meets a woman named Clara who is a real prayer warrior and discovers that Clara’s favorite room in her house is her prayer closet. Without giving in to obvious formulaic choices, the movie demonstrates that prayer is a part of real spiritual warfare. God is at work throughout, but simply praying does not make everything perfect again. Bad choices have consequences and prayer is not a magic formula for winning in every circumstance.

For me the most powerful element in the movie was the emphasis on identifying our true enemy and understanding prayer as a key part of our spiritual battle plan. In a pivotal scene, Clara challenges Elizabeth not to see her husband as the enemy despite what he may have done to her and their marriage. In an extraordinary scene, Elizabeth speaks directly to Satan as she walks through her house reclaiming each room in the name of Jesus and making it clear that she is going on the offensive spiritually. She creates her own prayer closet and begins to take everything to the Lord in prayer. The movie also does a magnificent job of conveying the reality of grace and forgiveness as key components in God’s battle plan. I really enjoyed watching the portrayal of real repentance and accountability in the life of her husband and what true brokenness can look like.

At a time when we as evangelicals are so prone to fight each other and to see “ungodly” people around us as our enemies, this movie is a needed corrective. For far too long it has been out of vogue to talk about Satan for who he is – our very real, but also very defeated foe. Instead, we have bought into so many of his lies and deceptions and chosen to fight the wrong battles. Even as I write these words, I am convicted of my own complicity in creating the wrong battle plans for my family and ministry. Interestingly, many other people around the world understand the stakes all too clearly despite the darkness they embrace. Spirit houses, idols and temples for gods and goddesses are just window dressing for satanic worship and a vague attempt to ward off the evil effects of the spirit world that is a daily reality.

I highly recommend this movie and hope that millions of people will see it around the world. May it be the start of a new move of God in our generation?


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Chiang Mai – God’s Gateway to Asia

IMG_2056I knew something was different the moment that I opened the curtains in my hotel room. On my previous journey to Thailand, I had stayed in a guest house in Bangkok and did not see much out my window but other buildings close by in that crowded city. This time I was in Northern Thailand in the city of Chiang Mai and the difference could not have been more startling. Within easy view of my window was a breathtaking scene of beautiful mountains and a sprawling but modern city.

While both cities had tropical temperatures and lots of humidity, the contrasts continued for my entire trip. The biggest difference was the oppressive spiritual warfare and extreme sexual perversion on display everywhere I went in Bangkok. In Chiang Mai, there plenty of was evidence of the highly sexualized nature of Thai culture in many massage parlors and dance clubs with obligatory girls on stools out front, but it was far less “in your face” than in Bangkok. In addition, the transgender population was not nearly as obvious and certainly not as celebrated.

Chiang Mai is an old city (founded in 1296) that has been reborn. It is the largest and most culturally significant city in IMG_2062Northern Thailand and is now the gateway for gospel growth in all of Asia. Its name actually means “new city” and that is certainly true for those involved in Christian ministry in this part of the world. Following the inclusion of Hong Kong into mainland China in 1999, many Christian organizations moved their operations to Chiang Mia which is quite strategically located for travel to India, China and all other parts of the Far East. It is not hard to understand why this city has been such a magnet for growth and development in the great commission community. Over and over again, I experienced an amazing level of friendliness and superb service from the local people. They welcome foreigners from all over the world and have made their city a place worth visiting.

IMG_2148Nothing defines Chiang Mai quite like the Sunday Night Market that overtakes many of the streets in the old city every weekend. Vendors set up stall along both sides of the street and local musicians perform right in the middle of the road. As we walked down the street, it seemed like the mass of humanity and market stalls went on forever. Despite the crush of people, I never felt unsafe and enjoyed the incredible variety of items available for sale. The Thai are wonderfully creative and extremely hard working. The other night markets located all over the city have to be built up and torn down every single day. People travel from all parts of the world to experience this open air celebration of arts, crafts and food.

A network of supportive institutions have developed in Chiang Mai to enable the growth of the Christian ministries that call this city home. Its medical care and hospitals are so well respected that missionaries will travel from all parts of Asia for maternity care and the birth of their children. Two excellent Christian counselling ministries provide much needed help for people struggling with any number of issues from marriage problems to interpersonal conflict on small teams. Grace International School has over 500 children enrolled from a variety of missions’ organizations and provides an excellent education. Guest houses and high quality hotels abound for rest and relaxation for people coming in from closed access countries and some of the hardest places to live in the region.

As a result of this inviting and supportive atmosphere, several thousand expat missionaries and NGO workers have IMG_2143moved to Chiang Mai. In addition, it is the “go to” place for major organizational conferences. These conferences bring in thousands more kingdom workers who fill the hotels and meetings rooms. SAM (Southeast Asia Marketing) provides logistical and organizational support for these mega-events and hosts an average of two per month. Several large English language international churches provide a home base for missionaries in transition and Christian workers that are not working in the Thai language churches that abound.

CLC has a store located in a strategic part of this important city IMG_2170and is in its own process of rebirth. This summer, Don and Betsy Veldboom went to Chiang Mai for eight weeks to help supply books for two huge book tables for other missions’ organizations that were holding conferences. They are planning on moving to the city full time in January of 2016 to help re-invigorate CLC’s English language book department that has been languishing. During the last two weeks I was able to work with them and experience the demand for Christian books and particularly materials in English. It was a delight to meet our local team – Yongyut and Moham – who have done an excellent job of meeting the Thai language book needs and have an extremely positive reputation in the local community.

As we were getting ready to leave the Sunday Night Market and look for our Songthaew (the most prevalent means of IMG_2161local transportation for small groups), we came across something that I will never forget. In the midst of this throng of people, a group of Thai believers had set up on the sidewalk and were singing worship songs at the top of their voices. As we passed by, we noticed that it was primarily comprised of men who were singing their hearts out. We stopped to chat and discovered that they held this outreach event every Sunday night and were able to connect with hundreds of people each week. What a blessing to see the result of gospel advancement in this highly Buddhist nation as Thai nationals had taken up the baton and were doing great ministry of their own. Not surprisingly, they were delighted to learn that we had gospel tracts and booklets available for distribution at their local CLC store. God is on the move in Chiang Mai and it is our privilege to provide resources to enable this expansion to grow even further in the years to come.

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