A True Gentleman

Today Rev. Dr. Moody Yap turns 85, on the same day he celebrates his 60th wedding anniversary. Today he should be having a party but instead he has spent the last few days sitting next to Jean, his beloved wife as convalesces in a hospital bed.

Rev. Moody Yap

Rev. Moody Yap

However, as I talked to him I was amazed with his calmness and serenity. I asked him to explain the secret of his composure.

He went on to speak of his relationship with his wife in the present tense. He said “I will be with her soon so I just want to encourage her as passes on”. He reminisced of his experiences over the previous decades and gave me a sense of great hope for the future. This man has been a leader of leaders. He has planted churches among Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese and English speaking groups.

He told me how at the age of 32, he left a prosperous business in Hong Kong in order to serve full time in church. He went on to study Theology and then in 1995 he was one of forty who gathered to write about evangelism for the next millennium. While there, he took issue with a three word phrase “Other faiths also” these words would have contradicted the claim of Jesus in the Gospels, he said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

He was the only Asian in the group but he stood and shared his grave concern. Less than 6 supported him but they were enough to force a secret vote. After the numbers were tallied it was clear that many more felt the same as Moody but did not dare to voice their opinion. The controversy ended as an agreement was crafted explaining that any one who seeks truth will encounter Jesus.

This man is one who is to be admired and follow as a servant of God. I’m honored to have spent a few hours getting to know him.

Loving our Neighbors

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” These opening words of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens reflect the many realities we face in the United States.

Our recent visit to Ocean Beach, CA, gave me a glimpse of some of these best of times, ages of wisdom, and epochs of belief. We were invited by Clayton and Jessica Connolly to meet some of their friends with whom they serve in this cool, relaxed beach-side community.

Clayton and Jessica introduced us to amazing Ethiopian food

Clayton and Jessica introduced us to amazing Ethiopian food

The Connollys are a family devoted to each other and their neighbors. They serve locally in their community to solve problems face-to-face and with individual people. Their home is open to anyone to come and share life with them; the small 800 square foot home is often a busy hive of activities.

More than 60 people responded to the invitation and shared stories of the amazing ways that people are encountering God in the local bars, tattoo parlors, and New Age Fairs. One such way involves inviting passersby to come in for a spiritual reading which often ends up in prayers for healing and deliverance. A prayer room has been established along local shops to meet people needs everyday.

In Ocean Beach

In Ocean Beach

It was evident that these folks have a clear attitude of humility that acknowledges that we don’t have all the answers and that it is okay to identify our own doubts and fears. One of the participants explained how the spiritual landscape is being leveled as those who follow Jesus recognize themselves as being just further down the road then those who are yet to follow.

The folks we met here are committed to identifying needs in Ocean Beach and finding ways to meet them. Those who benefit become an expression of community and also are part of fresh entrepreneurial models of business.

People are seeing their needs being met. They are gathering as communities and businesses are being established, which enables sustainability, unlike the more commonplace model of starting churches, which require member donations to operate.

Good friends learning from each other

Good friends learning from each other

A few days after our gathering, Clayton reported that Stasi, an Episcopal minister and our host for the gathering, said “You want to be a big deal for God? Go down. Not up.”

Stasi said that when these words were spoken, she decided to decline the job she’d been offered at a church. “It was my first honest-to-goodness, titled-and-paid ministry offer. It was the first rung on the ladder of clergy success…and I realized I just didn’t need it”

Stasi explained “I have rarely felt more free or excited about the ways God is using me. I simply have too much kingdom work to do to take a job at a church right now. God’s blowing apart all the boxes I thought my gifts and passions fit me in, and instead inspiring me to work that is simple & satisfying because it flows right out of me with no effort at all.

This is what it means to take a leap of faith. As I said in Sunday’s sermon, “Even if we don’t land, we shall mount up with wings.

Our first graduating class


The business women of Pertiwi

These 14 ladies have worked hard, been careful how they manage their resources, and been faithful in paying back their first $100 loan, then their $200 loan, and now after a good year of effort they are receiving their third and final loan of $300. Their achievement is quite special and sets them apart as models of entrepreneurship among our community of 1,138 members.

For this special occasion, we had with us Sacha Huijsman a Micro Lending expert from the Netherlands who pointed out that a MicroLoan enterprise such as ours is usually developed by institutions and not individuals. She encouraged us by affirming our best practices procedures.
It is all about people who truly care for others. Our founder Ibu Sora cared enough to reach out to those who were different than her, yet shared a common need to live in dignity and raise their children to be people that do good.
I had the privilege of meeting Ibu Marcona of Desa Katang Rejo. She decided to use her first loan to support her husband’s vegetable

IMG_3979 - Version 2

Ibu Marcona to my left with the black hijab

business. It was a good investment and she was able to pay her loan on time.

While working with him, she noticed that there was an opportunity for making Tempeh, a healthy soy bean snack that everyone loves. She started selling it to resellers who loved her product. She applied for and received a second loan of $200. The additional cash enabled her to make about 1 kilo per day. Her Tempeh was so good that soon, she had demand for up to 6 kilos per day!
She now has received her third loan of $300 and she will continue to grow her business, employing a couple more ladies to increase her production. Ibu Marcona is but one example of the 14 stories these ladies lives represent. Her two children are going to school and have the blessing of eating well and living healthy.
Our dream is to see our current clients grow and fully develop their skills and business acumen. In doing so, their families gain dignity and respect for themselves as they are lifted from the endless poverty cycle. In turn, they enhance the quality of life and the economy of their communities, creating a more just existence for all.
We have 1,000 new ladies ready to start this process. Each one of them needs $100 to start their business and change their lives.
We aim to raise $100,000 to make this happen. Will you join us and give through Next Step? Your gift will be solely used for the ladies of Medan.

Hope for Greece

PhilemonPhilemon is driven by a passion to see his native Greece functioning again as a nation where people live in harmony and support each other towards a common well being.

However, the nation faces staggering challenges, for example the unemployment rate stands at 27% percent while 65% of young people ages 15-24 did not find work this summer. 

Greece is currently one of the main gates to “freedom” from the turmoils created by the crisis in Syrian and ISIL. The official number of foreigners living in Greece is 800,000 but this number does not include the estimated 200,000 undocumented migrants

A response to the crisis is embodied by Golden Dome, a neo-Nazi party which is increasingly making itself known as it gains representation in Greek politics and the European Parliament. 

The crowded community of Kypseli, Athens

The crowded community of Kypseli, Athens

In spite of severe limitation of people and money, Philemon and his Streetlights team endeavor to meet these challenges by making their presence known in the Kypseli district of Athens, also known as one of the most densely populated communities in Europe.

The squares of  Kypseli are the stage where Streetlights connect with young people and create spaces where their creativity and talents can be harnessed for the benefit of the community. As people tell their stories, they encourage tolerance and acceptance.

They also run a used clothes shop which has become an income generating center as well as a place to help their customers understand what they are doing to bring a positive message. 

Philemon and his team are passionate to open new avenues of service. They have explored many possibilities but found the best ideas as they meet neighbors and ask them questions seeking to identify solutions to their own problems. An innovative solution was found in Hydroponics. Philemon says “there are lots of empty floor spaces in so many buildings and these can be used to grow food!”. The team has started growing food and they plan to make Hydroponics a regular practice in the community.

Philemon is one friend who understands that dealing with the root issues in society start right people are at, in their local “village”.

Join Philemon and help Streetlights bring life to Greece.

We value people

Budiman has lived a hard life. He sleeps in an open space at the bus station. His job is to help people find their bus. His salary comes from tips weary travelers give him, he earns about US$3 a day, just enough to eat and drink.

IMG_3182When I met him yesterday, he was wearing a clean shirt and his hair was well groomed. He was happy and was interested to tell his story.

Life has been even harder for him, he recently came out of jail after a long prison term. Before that, he experienced a rough time in the streets of Jakarta.

His new life began when he met a group of folks who befriended him and began to help him think about his past choices and helped him express his dreams.

We recognize Budiman as a man of peace at the bus station. His desire is to make life work in this difficult environment and our role is to empower him to make this work.