Into the Battle

battle-verse-2We never really talked about it.  I knew my grandparents had lived through the horror of the Second World War in Britain, but it was not a topic of much conversation in our family.  To learn more about it, I had to read the book that my Grandfather wrote called “The Foolishness of God” or Norman Grubb’s story of the founding of CLC called “A Leap of Faith”.  In both cases, however, it was not the difficulties or deprivations of the war that they focused on.  Instead, they highlighted the steady hand of their heavenly father leading the way to victory.  It is true that both books were written many years after the war was over, so that certainly had an impact on the way the story was told.

This week, a friend of mine unearthed some correspondence that shed a little more light on that dark time.  Ken Adams (my grandfather) was writing to Norman Grubb and said, “I can’t wait for this war to be over so that we can begin to expand by 10 or 20 shops!”  The year was 1943 and VE day was still two years away.  The bombing of London was still fresh on people’s minds and hearts and the fledgling little ministry called CLC was barely two years old.  In the midst of this Ken Adams was longing for the end of the war like everyone else, but not so that he could experience peace and quiet.  He saw things through spiritual eyes and realized that a different kind of war was also raging all around him and he couldn’t wait to take the battle to the enemy.  He was looking to go on the offensive.

“Being on a war footing” was the mantra of many Christian ministries during the 1940’s and 1950’s.  While the rest of the world paid attention to fallout from World War II and the growing Cold War between the superpowers, these ministries decided it was time for the gospel to be preached in every corner of the earth no matter how remote these places might be.  WEC International even had a magazine of that era entitled “World Conquest”.  It was during this same period that Campus Crusade (now Cru) and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Crusades were born and flourished.  New technology allowed the gospel to be broadcast on radio and television and the world grew smaller as planes could now transport evangelists to virtually any part of the globe.

Seeing the spiritual battle that was now growing in intensity, the leaders of CLC and new organizations like Operation Mobilization (OM) realized the need for refueling and new ammunition for troops on the front line.  Bibles and books were produced in many languages, young people went door to door with free Christian literature and gospel tracts were being printed and distributed by the millions.  New American publishers like Zondervan and Baker Books joined the ranks of stalwart British publishers in producing books for an increasingly literate world.  In one of the most important developments of that era, Cameron Townsend founded Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1942, one year after CLC.  It was clear that as people were coming to faith for the first time all over the world, they would need Christian literature to help them grow and mature as disciples of Christ.

Today, a world war is in a distant past.  I grew up in a generation that did not even experience the draft and has grown accustomed to an all-volunteer military.   The enemies of freedom have changed, grown more creative and utilize innovative tactics that are increasingly hard to predict.  That is also true of our ultimate enemy.  With the advent of the internet, communication has exploded and so too has sin and deprivation.  At the very same time, it seems like the church has forgotten who they are fighting and far too many battles take place with fellow saints with one theology claiming the high ground while shooting at brothers and sisters.

The devastation is all too clear around us.  Casualties pile up within evangelical circles while our enemy grows in strength.  He no longer has to convince people to choose other religions, he just has to assure them that believing “nothing” or a little of everything is the path to happiness and ultimate satisfaction.  In my world, this carnage looks like stores closing all over the place, publishers selling out and distributors shutting their doors once and for all.  It is time for a recognition of the real battle, a willingness to understand the tactics of the enemy and then a developing plan for taking the battle to our enemy once again.   While this will require creativity and innovation, it will also require humility, repentance and prayer.

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A Mountain in the Sea

dominica-mountainI had been warned.  The island I was about to visit would not be like any other I had ever seen, and I have seen a few.  Growing up in the West Indies, I had a pretty good idea what a Caribbean island should look like, but Dominica did not fit the mold.  As we began our descent in the small plane, clouds seemed to swallow us up and prevented me from seeing much out the window.  All of a sudden, I could see lush green forests climbing a mountainside and a mountain that was so tall it was covered in clouds.  How in the world was this plane going to land on a mountain?  With the wind currents swirling and my stomach beginning to churn I realized that this was going to be an interesting trip in more ways than one.  Fortunately, our pilot had had likely taken this route many times and expertly landed on the only flat space that was long enough for a runway.

After we cleared customs in the tiny airport and collected our bags, we found our van driver and joined three others headed to the capital city of Roseau.  Part of my original warning about Dominica was a reminder that the airport was on the other side of the island from the main city and that it could take a while to get there.  What no one could have prepared me for, however, was the trip over the mountain to get to the city.  I stopped counting the number of switchbacks early in the trip and simply prayed that my rumbling stomach would calm down.  Mercifully, one of my traveling companions was an experienced traveler to Dominica and was able to tell me a few things along the way a keep my mind off the harrowing trip we were taking.  In the end, we apparently arrived in record time, in just over an hour.  Not a moment too soon from my perspective.

This wild and beautiful island has many things to recommend it including three hundred and sixty-five rivers – one for every day of the year.  Inhabited but just over seventy thousand people, most live in houses clinging to the mountainside or in the capital city itself.  Interestingly there are even remnants of the indigenous inhabitants of the island, the Carib Indians, living in forest preserves dedicated for their use.  Given its location in the string of islands that make up the Eastern Caribbean, it has often been in the path of a hurricane or tropical storm.  These fierce storms with very high winds can be devastating and cause the rivers to wash people, houses and their possessions right into the sea.

In August of 2015, Tropical Storm Erika did just that, killing thirty people.  It was the deadliest natural disaster in Dominica since Hurricane David in 1979 and was a “gut punch” to the local economy and especially the roads system that went over the mountain.  Amazingly, by the time I arrived this past week, much of the repair work on the roads had been completed, but the effects on the economy were still impacting daily life.  Despite this, the people I met were resilient and hardly mentioned the storm at all, instead focusing on the future and what they could do to make things better.

Our CLC team has faced some storms of their own in recent years.  For a number of reasons, sales have declined significantly and the devastating storm only exacerbated the situation as people had little money to buy Christian resources when they needed to replenish the necessities of life.  In the face of this reality, I was delighted to find a highly committed team in a beautiful store located in the heart of the city.  They have made the best of a bad situation and purchased very carefully so that though they have a lot less products than they would like, it is a highly curated selection designed to meet the needs of their customers.

dominica-team

It is clear that they are still meeting important needs as several long term customers attested to the value of our store and its impact on their lives.  One local pastor made a point to let me know that virtually his entire leadership library had been purchased in our store and he relied on our staff for recommendations every time he came in.  Another person took me aside to share how God would often prompt him to visit the store and miraculously he would find just the exact book he was looking for and needed at that moment.  In looking at their meager resources this truly was a loaves and fishes story.  2017 will be a make or break year for this team, but I am confident that the God who helped establish this first CLC outpost in the Caribbean exactly seventy years ago this year will sustain and strengthen them for what lies ahead.  He is not finished with them yet.

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Christon’s Store

christonI didn’t think it was possible.  How could you be driving for two hours on a Caribbean island and still be on the island?  We had left the guest house near the airport in Trinidad and were headed to Point Fortin which takes some getting to.  As we drove along, I saw many of the familiar sites of my childhood on this most southerly place in the West Indies. The bamboo poles in many front yards still have Hindu prayer flags on them and funeral pyres still burn bodies for cremation along the ocean front.  Trinidad is a multi-cultural melting pot of peoples from Africa, India and even China.   Muslim mosques, Hindu temples and Christian churches dot the landscape and compete for hearts and minds.  This is a place of warm breezes and hot religion.

We pulled up to the small CLC store on the bustling main street in the town that is affectionately referred to simply as “Point”.  As we walked into the store we were greeted by the local staff and a young man I had not been introduced to before.  His broad smile would make anyone feel at home and he told me his name was Christon.  We quickly began talking about the opportunities and challenges facing this team and they shared about many things that God was doing.  Alice, the manager, made a point of mentioning a renewed interest in the occult among young people and I remembered how real spiritual warfare is on this island.  It was at that point that Christon spoke up and said, “But let’s not forget the blessing of having CLC in the midst of all this” and I could tell he had a story to share.

Christon had a troubled childhood and came from an admittedly dysfunctional family.  Despite this God got ahold of him at the age of nineteen and he became a follower of Jesus Christ.  Wanting to grow in his new found faith, he made his way to the CLC store and connected with Alice when she discovered that he had a unique problem.  While he desired to learn more about God and Christianity, he could not read, at least not very well.  Seeing the desire in his heart, she did not let this become an obstacle.  She started by reading to him from the Bible and little by little, she taught him to read on his own.  As grew in his faith, he did not keep it to himself and became a witness to many others of the power of God to change a life.  Today, Criston is twenty-eight, active in his local church and a part time helper in our store sharing his love for the Bible with anyone who will listen.

As we drove away along the long pot hole ridden road back to San Fernando I could not help but think about what life would be like for a nineteen-year-old in Trinidad who could not read.  So many other young men in similar circumstances have been drawn into the drug trade and with the high rate of murders on the island, many are gunned down in the prime of life.  In a very real way, God used Alice and that little store in a faraway town to transform Christon’s life and push back the darkness that consumes so many young lives.  Now Christon is helping other young people to hear about the power of the gospel to see that the occult is a short cut to death and destruction.  I can’t wait to come back in a year and hear what God has done through his surrendered life.

 

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The 7 Secrets of Highly Effective Booksellers

booksellerClara was a great bookseller and she was my mentor.  For my entire first year as a Christian bookseller, I had the privilege of watching her work and learning the art and science of highly effective bookselling.  One of the first clues that she was so effective was in seeing how customers treated her and at first I was offended.  They would come into the store and walk right past me and anyone else that was available to help.  Without thinking twice, they would always ask the same question, “Where is Clara?” or if they saw her in the store the would go right up to her and begin their conversation.  It did not seem to matter how much I learned about books or wanted to help, they wanted Clara.  After a while, I began to understand, Clara was much more than a worker in a bookstore, she was their friend, their consultant and very importantly their personal book recommender.  What she said mattered and quite often they would leave the store with more than one book or Bible to read and share with others.

Some years later, I was standing in the same store and a customer came in looking for me.  They ignored all the people at the front counter and made a beeline for where I was standing in the store.  Even though they could see that I was busy, they were willing to wait.  As I finished up what I was working on and looked at them, I could not help but think back to that first year with Clara and that I was now wearing her mantle.  With that in mind, I want to share seven secrets of highly effective bookselling that she shared with me.

  1. Great booksellers are avid readers. Clara could smell a fake reader from a mile away.  She would ask me about the books I was reading and suggest books that would broaden my horizon.  After I was finished we would discuss them and she could  tell if I had actually read the book all the way through or not.  While I had always loved to read, I now learned to read books outside of my personal preferences and that were more in line with the needs of our customers and a wider audience.  She taught me that book recommendations were serious business and that people were more interesting in know how a book had impacted me or someone else than just what the book was about.
  2. Great bookseller are curious. Not satisfied with just making book reading suggestions, Clara showed me how to do research in finding books our customers were looking for or might be in the future.  At that time, it meant reading publishers catalogs, reading book reviews in magazines and yes even looking things up on microfiche.  Today, it means reading blogs, doing on-line research and paying attention to book review websites.  I learned that my curiosity was directly connected to customer satisfaction with my recommendations.
  3. Great bookseller are good listeners. Early on, Clara taught me the power of being a good listener.  She would often let the customer talk for so long that I wondered if she could remember everything they were saying.  Inevitably, after this period of listening, Clara and the customer would begin walking through the store together and she would be headed to a particular book section.  It was amazing how often I would hear customers say, “Thank you so much, that is just what I needed.”
  4. Great bookseller ask good questions. Clara taught me how to ask good questions.  I stopped asking people if they needed any help and began asking what brought them to the bookstore that day.  I learned that Bible purchasing was a complex process and that asking what translation people wanted was the wrong first question.  Instead, I began asking if the Bible was being purchased for themselves or someone else and how they planned to use the Bible if it was for themselves.  This process of asking the right questions yielded far better results and many happier customers.
  5. Great booksellers pay attention to people and their emotions. I remember the first time that Clara’s opening question was not, “What brought you to the store today?”, but “Are you doing OK?”  She could tell by the person’s demeanor that something was not right and that they needed more than just a book.  How often I watched Clara listen, ask questions, pray with people and then and only then did she recommend a book.  Clara was far more than a bookseller to these people, she was a minister of the gospel.  Our store had become a sacred space for the time period that they were together.  For a few short moments of their day, it was holy ground and God met them in those moments.
  6. Great booksellers find solutions. It was amazing to me how many people came in asking for books or Christian resources that I had never heard about.  Without batting an eye, Clara would ask good questions and quickly determine if we had the item or not.  If we did not have it, Clara would recommend a store that did and even call ahead for the customer if they wanted her to.  If nobody had it in stock, Clara would call the publisher or manufacturer to see how quickly we could get it.  Special orders were the lifeblood of our store.  People knew that even if we did not have something, we would hunt it down and get it for them quickly.  They didn’t mind a second trip to the store and looked forward to seeing Clara again.
  7. Great booksellers anticipate needs and desires. At first I thought it was some type of magic trick.  Clara would often greet a customer and recommend a book before even listening to them or asking questions.  How could she do this?  Was she being presumptuous or was she just clairvoyant? Of course, the truth was that she knew her customers.  She remembered more than just their names, she learned about their favorite authors and books they had previously purchased.  Unlike Amazon, however, her next recommendation was not based on an algorithm, it was based on her deep knowledge of that person and Clara’s own extensive reading habits.  I loved hear people say, “How did you know I would like that?” or “That is exactly what I need”.

In training new booksellers, it is my greatest joy to experience that first customer who ignores me at the front counter and asked for them by name.  They have now graduated from the training class and are joining the ranks of professional booksellers all over the world who are making reading suggestions that just might change someone’s life.

 

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10 Important New Books for the Spring

jesus-terrible1. Jesus’ Terrible Financial Advice – John Thornton – (01/03/17)

So when I first heard that this book was written by a CPA with a Ph.D. in accounting and that it was being published by Moody, I knew it had to be on my spring recommended reads list.  And that doesn’t even address the great title.  John says this about the book, “Jesus’ advice ruined what I planned to write.” He and his wife—both financial experts—had cut their income by 80% to pursue more meaningful lives. Within six years they had two kids, were debt-free, went on several vacations, and doubled their net worth. John was ready to share the biblical principles that made this possible. But he couldn’t. After reviewing Scripture’s teaching on money—over 1,300 verses—he realized he had missed something big.  I can’t wait to read what this financial expert 41mv6tqbaml-_sx322_bo1204203200_has to say and what he discovered.

  1. This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel – Trevin Wax (03/01/17)

Trevin Wax is one of my favorite bloggers and a prolific writer.  His work has done much to shape the thinking and conversations of younger evangelicals.  In this new book he addresses the question of what will faithfulness to Christ look like in these tumultuous times.  How can we be true to the gospel in a world where myths and false visions of the world so often prevail?  What does it mean to be a faithful Christian when “post-truth” and “fake news” are constantly in the headlines?  By analyzing our common beliefs and practices (smartphone habits, entertainment intake, and our views of shopping, sex, marriage, politics, and life’s purpose), Trevin helps us see through the myths of society to the hope of the gospel.  This book will be a must read for anyone who works, lives or interacts regularly with millennials.  I, for one, need to be reminded of the one true story that changed my life and is really true.

51pxpxfdn-l-_sx326_bo1204203200_3. Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor – Kendra Broekhaus (02/28/17)

Kendra is a new voice, a younger author with an important message.  As a new mom, she tackled a really interesting question – how to collide ‘motherhood’ with mission.  In order to do that she prayed for thirty days “to maintain the joy of being wife and mommy amid the daily grind. To see the world through God’s eyes. To live intentionally. To build relationships and share Christ’s love with her neighbors.  Some days it led to actions the Lord gently nudged her to take. Other days it led to reflections the Lord gently whispered into her heart. Every day it led to a single word, one underlying theme that ties all thirty days – all thirty chapters – and their wide variety of topics together: giving.  These thirty days happened at an interesting transition point in her life.  She and her husband had just returned from being missionaries for three years in a foreign country.  I look forward to learning what it means to be mission-minded, no matter where you live or work, being willing to love the people closest to you, people we often overlook.

4. Standing in the Fire: Courageous Christians Living in Frightening Times – Tom Doyle & Greg Webster 41wylngibnl-_sx326_bo1204203200_– (04/11/17)

Tom Doyle is author of four previous books including the much talked about title, Killing Christians.  In this new book, he says that followers of Christ need to relearn what it means to stand courageously for their faith rather than merely survive in a climate of fear. Instead of motivating believers to action, today’s headlines appear to be paralyzing them. Standing in the Fire demonstrates the church triumphant through the lives of people who stood strong and didn’t run away in the face of overwhelming danger. These Middle Eastern heroes of faith fear God more than terrorist groups like ISIS. Supported by Tom Doyle’s commentary on events, the stories included show how these Christians are not living as victims, but victors in Christ.  I look forward to seeing how this book will challenge my faith in a world that seems more and more hostile by the day.

letting-go5. Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls – Dave Harvey & Paul Gilbert

Dave Harvey is a best-selling author of the book When Sinners Say “I Do” and board chairman of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF). In this new book, co-written with Paul Gilbert, Lead Pastor at Four Oaks Community Church, he deals with a really important subject. How can we believers best deal with loved ones who have strayed? Harvey and Gilbert share stories of pain and hope as they offer help to those coping with unfaithful marriage partners, prodigal children, and wayward friends.  They teach the reader how to offer grace- and truth-based guidance; discern the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation; and so much more.   In a time when so many families are struggling with these issues, this book is a must read.simplest-way

6. The Simplest Way to Change the World: Biblical Hospitality as a Way of Life – Dustin Willis & Brandon Clements (02/07/17)

I love the idea of a book written entirely about hospitality – a subject that is one of the least discussed spiritual gifts.  As a person committed to getting to know people at a deeper level, I am often challenged by the realities of a fast paced and busy life with less margin for hospitality than I would like. In reading this book, I hope to learn how to balance daily responsibilities with my desire to make a difference in the lives of others people. Looking at the information on this books, I was excited to see that Willis and Clements help you be hospitable even if you “don’t have enough space,” show you how to get creative in order to make an impact right where you are, involve your church community, and open up your life while still setting boundaries. For many people, the whole idea seems so intimidating and yet it is often one of the best ways to show the love of Christ.

way-of-the-dragon7. The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb – Jamin Goggin & Kyle Strobel (01/24/17)

Why do many modern-day churches lose sight of their true purpose? According to Goggin and Strobel, many leaders have succumbed to the temptations of power. Painting a rich biblical vision of Jesus’ call to strength through weakness, they gather wise insights from conversations with J.I. Packer, Dallas Willard, Marva Dawn, Eugene Peterson, and others. I can’t wait to dig into this book and read these conversations for myself as I have often wondered about these very issues and what can be done to return to a posture of humility in spiritual leadership.  Jamin Goggin serves as a pastor at Mission Hills Church.  Kyle Strobel is a professor of spiritual theology and formation at Talbot School of Theology and Biimperfect-discipleola University

  1. The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together – Jared Wilson (05/02/17)

This title describes me and most of the people that I know.  Too many discipleship books are written for clean, perfect people who know all the right Sunday school answers. The Imperfect Disciple is for the rest of us–people who screw up, people who are weary, people who are wondering if it’s safe to say what they’re really thinking.  In this new book, Wilson frees readers from the self-doubt and even the misplaced self-confidence they may feel as they walk with Jesus down the often difficult road of life. The result is a faith that weathers storms, lifts burdens, and goes forth to make more imperfect disciples. Jared is a well-known author, blogger and speaker.  His widely read blog, The Gospel-Driven Church is hosted by the Gospel Coalition.

watch9. Watch: Wide-Awake Faith in a World Fast Asleep – Rick James (01/01/17)

I just loved the cover of this new book.  In it, James says that “To be asleep is to be oblivious to being oblivious.” The danger of sleep is the danger of carbon monoxide: it’s colorless and odorless, and you’re anesthetized before you know it—before you ever hit the floor. And for the follower of Jesus, it’s just as dangerous—because the Christian who is “asleep” is spiritually unreceptive. If anything will be our undoing, sleep will. In this thoughtful, engaging, challenging book, Rick James dives deep into the New Testament’s teachings on spiritual wakefulness, calling Christ-followers to defy the darkness and remain awake as they await Christ’s return. Because being awake—continually in prayer, watchful for God’s will, expectant of open doors, cautious of sin, desiring to serve, eager to repent, continuously giving thanks, willing to witness, embracing of humility, overflowing with kindness, persevering in obedience—changes everything.  Rick James is the publisher for Cru, and has spent years in collegiate ministry.

10. Love Lives Here – Maria Goff (03/07/17) love-lives-here

Maria Goff is married to Bob Goff, best-selling author of Love Does.  Together they have done ministry in Uganda, Nepal and Northern Iraq to start schools for marginalized kids.  Given how much I appreciated Bob’s book, I was excited to hear the stories from Maria’s perspective.  She says that “This is a book about discovering what we really need. There are a lot of second-best options, but we weren’t made to live a second-best life. Finding what we actually need is different than what we are often offered. There are many books full of opinions, steps and programs. This isn’t one of them. This is about craving the things that matter. Things that don’t just work, but last.” In a life that may seem to be all fun and games with an endless supply of balloons, she shows how this life is also lived with intentionality, passionate purpose, and a little planning—all of which make a life rich in legacy. But she had to figure out the help she needed first in order to live the beautiful life God wanted for her and wants for us.

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Our One Thing

11403097_10152803544981261_8425750206336868906_nEvery family is different.  My family was different for lots of reasons.  We were missionaries, we lived overseas and we went to lots of different types of schools.  If, however, you asked us what was the one thing that distinguished us most in those formative years of childhood, I think we would all agree – it was that we did life together.  This was not just the result of being thrown together in strange circumstances in foreign countries, it was the result of the intentional efforts of our parents.  Whether we were building suitcase forts with blankets for walls or riding bikes, it was not OK to leave anyone out.  Our family dinners did not start until everyone was seated around the table and family devotions were an interactive experience with all of us participating in one way or another, even if we didn’t want to.  Family vacations often involved hours (and I mean hours) of board games and adventures together.  When my mother decided to start a neighborhood Bible study in our home, we were her little recruiters and we helped to lead aspects of these events as well.

Over seventy-five years ago my grandfather started a literature ministry that was a lot like a small family and they did life together as well.  In the early days, this meant that the workers actually lived together all in one big house and ate meals and shared their joys and sorrows together.  But, just like my family, the organization began to grow, and one day they had to leave the nest.  Some left to start the ministry in other towns in England and others went to start the work in far flung places around the globe.  Not surprisingly, these early literature pioneers and missionaries worked hard to be sure that the ministry responded to the needs of local believers and those seeking to understand faith for the first time.  Quickly, as the ministry grew, this meant adapting to local cultures and circumstances and ensuring that local people became a part of this big international family.  Today, CLC International is a huge family of people drawn from over fifty nationalities working to accomplish the very same purpose.

Like a lot of families, however, it is really easy to forget the past and imagine that the circumstances and situations you face are unique.  In the Bible, we are reminded how quick the people of Israel forgot the God of their fathers.  Today, our ministry is at a crossroad again.  In the beginning, we faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to start a literature ministry in the midst of World War II.   The giants in the land are very different for our generation, but in many ways they seem no less daunting.  So many big questions face us – Will people still be reading books in twenty years?  Will people still need bookstores?  In an increasingly secular world, can Christian books still be relevant and effective?  How do we meet the needs of people in emerging and developing nations when our resources are so limited?

As I have contemplated these questions lately, I have been driven back to a core distinctive of our ministry.  Despite all the problems we face, we still have Our One Thing.  We have each other.  We are a big global family made up of passionate literature evangelists and disciplers who have the same goal – to make evangelical Christian literature available to all nations so that people come to faith and maturity in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Nobody else has our global presence and purpose.  It is our unique calling and one that still excites me every day.

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Top 10 Reasons Why I am Excited About 2017

clc-antigua1. I will get to visit the islands of Antigua and Dominica for the first time in January.  These countries fall under my new responsibility as Regional Director for North America and the Caribbean. I look forward to being an inspiration and encouragement to our small local teams who serve so faithfully.

img_34602. Our team on the island of Barbados celebrates their 60th Anniversary in March and I get to join them for the festivities.  This island is near and dear to my heart as I spent my early teenage years growing up there and growing in my faith.  Pastor Willy Cuke (now deceased) had a big impact on me and was a direct instigator of my decision to surrender all of my life to the Lord Jesus Christ at 13 years of age.11200601_656997377764749_7351391215524212091_n

3. Our team will take part in helping to install a new Print-On Demand system in Sierra Leone this Spring.  This is culmination of many months of fundraising and working with the local team to get things in place to make it possible. Mark Ridenour will be travelling to help with the set up and training on the new equipment. This system could be a “game-changer” in making Christian books more accessible in this war torn and impoverished nation.

car-44. Dr. Tony Hart (a dear friend and member of the CLC USA Advisory Council) will be traveling to Liberia in June to host a training conference for pastors in the interior town of Ganta.  This is in direct response to a “Macedonian Call” that we received this past March when a similar week of training was done in Monrovia.  It is really exciting that the local CLC team, led by James Cooper, will be able to provide an extensive book table now that they have a new bookmobile and entire container of books that arrived from the USA this past yearafrica-study-bible.

5. This is a big year for the advance of the gospel in Africa as the Africa Study Bible will be launching for the very first time.  This unique study Bible with notes written by Africans for Africans will be made available in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Kenya early in the year.  The CLC team in Kenya will be the launch partners for this project which will likely result in thousands of Bibles being distributed all over the country.  We hope to have launch events in Liberia and Sierra Leone later in the year.

500th-anniversary6. 2017 is also the 500th Anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  I am so grateful to be part of a literature movement that exists, in part, because of those courageous events.  Today, we are making Christian books and Bibles available to people in over 50 countries so that they can discern God’s word and will for themselves and not depend on a priest or church to interpret it for them.

guayaquil-27. In September, our leaders from all over North and South America will gather in Guayaquil, Ecuador for a time of planning, fellowship and fun.  These events take place every two years and are deeply impactful in the life, health and growth of our ministry.  This will be my first time co-hosting the event with my South America Regional Director partner and to visit this coastal town.

8. Right after that event in Ecuador, I will be traveling to England to be the keynote speaker at the UK Christian Retailers & Suppliers Retreat.  This invitation came as the result of the publication of my first book this past year.  I had hoped it would be an encouragement to Christian retailers in the USA, but did not have any idea how it would impact people in other countries as well.

museum-of-the-bible9. In November, a wonderful new Museum of the Bible will be opening in Washington, D.C.  It will be located right on the historic “mall” where all of the other major museums like the Smithsonian are located.  This should be a fantastic place for people to discover the power and impact of God’s word.  Millions of dollars have been invested by the Mart Green family (owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel Christian Stores).  I can’t wait to take a group of our CLC USA team members to visit.

10. With Gerardo Scalante moving to Fort Washington and Amanda Lutes arriving later in the year (Lord willing), our team will be welcoming the International Office to be a part of our ministry here in the USA.  It has been many years since the last International Director, Bob Gerry, lived in the USA.  We look forward to a collaborative partnership and seeing how we can help each other to advance the gospel and our kingdom purpose of making evangelical Christian Literature available to all nations.

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