Change Is In The Air

This Sunday, I shared with Hope Church some changes that are being made in my life in regards to my ministry with The United Methodist Church, and I want to share some of that with you here.

Andrea and I have spent a great deal of time over the last 8 months talking and praying through our life, our priorities, and our goals. Part of the process was that my passion is with the local church. I love serving the people of the church and community and seeing them connect and grow in their faith. One of the difficulties during the past three years was that as a pastor and campus minister/chaplain I felt like to couldn’t do either job to the level that I wanted to. So last Wednesday, I turned in my resignation as campus minister/chaplain at Wesley College, effective June 30th. I have enjoyed my three years serving Wesley College. I can think of many great conversations, times of pray, and ministry here at the college. I am grateful for the many great students, faculty, and administration members who encouraged me during my time here.

While I resigned from Wesley College, I will continue to be the pastor at Hope United Methodist Church. We have been through a lot together over the past five years and I am looking forward to the next five (Lord, willing!). I believe that Hope is in the right place to be a vital congregation in downtown Dover.

In addition to Hope, I will become the pastor at Magnolia United Methodist Church in Magnolia, DE beginning June 28th. Magnolia Church is at the epicenter of a small but growing community just south of Dover. I am excited to get to know the people of Magnolia and to see how both Hope and Magnolia can make famous the name of Jesus in Kent County!

As you read this update, please keep me and our family in your prayers as we make this transition. Pray for Hope and Magnolia Church that we would be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus. Pray for Wesley College and their search for a new chaplain that spiritual growth and development will continue to be part of the Wesley College experience.

Posted in Ministry, UMC | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Praying Through the News

lightstock_49540_small_steve_lamotte

The other day, I had the evening news on. The kids were home, so the evening news on the TV is worse than not having the TV on. Abbie, our oldest, asks, “Why do you watch the news?” There are a lot of potential answers:

  • To stay up-to-date with what is happening in the world.
  • Because I don’t have enough negativity in my life

But the answer I gave Abbie was this: I watch the news so I know how to pray and who to pray for. Just then, a story about the recent earthquake in Nepal came on and we discussed how to pray: for the families of those who died, for the rescue workers, for the aid that would be arriving, and so on. We could watch the stories about the protest in Baltimore and pray for the safety of the law enforcement men and woman as well as the protestors. We could pray that those acting in violence would be filled with a peace that passes all understanding. We can pray that those experiencing injustice, racism, poverty would experience justice, reconciliation and provision.

The early church, when they heard Peter and John’s story of what happened fell on their knees and prayed. They did not, however, pray for safety in the midst of persecution. Instead, they prayed for boldness.

 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servant to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Acts 4:29-30

The early church prayed for boldness. The boldness to speak. The boldness to withstand persecution. The boldness to asked God to perform signs and wonders in order to point people to Jesus. As we live in a world with great unrest and injustice, we must follow the lead of the early church and pray for boldness. We must pray for the boldness to

  1. Listen- It takes boldness to listen- especially to those who are different than us. We must listen to others in order to seek understanding. In understanding we can properly advocate and act in concert with our brothers and sisters in need. I overheard a guy say, “I haven’t been following the events in Baltimore on TV” and then he proceeded to talk to his conversation partner for nearly 10 minutes on what he thought was the problem in Baltimore. When we listen, and put faces and names to the problems over the world, we realize that we can no longer rely on simplistic answers as these problems are very complex and nuanced. We must listen to those around us. This takes boldness to listen because our first inclination is often to speak.
  2. Once we listen, to God and to others, then the Spirit empowers us to SPEAK. But what the Spirit empowers us to speak is not our opinion on a matter. When we listen and understand, the Spirit empowers us to speak the word of God. We speak life, hope, and grace. We speak the name of the resurrected Jesus as the only hope for the world. We speak out against injustice and oppression and we speak up for the voiceless in our society. Most importantly, we are to tell people about redemption and reconcilliaation through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
  1. Pray for the Boldness to ACT: After this time of prayer, Luke records that the early believers were United; shared everything so there was no one in need, and tells us about Barnabas- whose name means encourager. The disciples acted by continuing to be united in their thinking. The acted by pooling their resources to care for the most vulnerable in their communities. This action led to Luke being able to write that there was no one in need! Barnabas sold a field and gave the money to the Apostles to use as they saw fit and led Barnabas to be called the “Son of Encouragement.” Do your actions encourage others? Do they help others consider God’s love for them? How is God calling you to act in regards to the needs of the world?

We live at an intersection of the past, the present, and the future. The past creates the conditions we live in today. We live in the consequences of our ancestors actions and our own. The past creates the circumstances of today. How we choose to live today, in the midst of those circumstances creates all of our tomorrows. Sometimes this intersection of time can leave us uneasy and even fearful. The events of life should not cause fear, but should focus our prayers. As our prayers come into focus, the Holy Spirit calls us to listen, to speak, and to act with the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ.

Posted in Bible | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Adoption Update: Malachi is Iron Man

IMG_4836

When we entered the adoption process, we chose the route of adopting a minor-correctable special needs program. When we adopted Malachi, we knew that he had a few minor medical conditions that were treated and are irrelevant after being in the states for the last eight months. What wasn’t on any of his medical files was that fact that Malachi is bow-legged. Our doctors wanted to see if they would straighten out with better nutrition. But after 8 months they actually look worse. Which led us to the orthopedic specialist at AI DuPont Children’s Hospital here in Delaware.

Malachi has Bilateral Blount’s Disease, which is a  growth disorder of the tibia (shin bone) that causes the lower leg to angle inward, resembling a bowleg. The disease is sometimes attributed to weight, small stature, and/or early walking. It is a progressive condition that will continue to get worse if not treated.

As of last week, Malachi started the most common form of early intervention- which is wearing leg braces in an attempt to curve the legs back inward to their proper alignment. By later this week, he will be wearing the braces for 8-12 hours a day. If the braces do not work (or bring enough correction) then there are some surgical possibilities for Malachi.

IMG_4825-0

I can imagine that leg braces are not fun at any age- but especially at an age where you cannot fully understand why you are having to wear braces! The first several days were quite draining emotionally as Malachi would cry and scream about the braces. He made a bit of a turn on Sunday and seemed to be more accepting of the braces and is walking some on his own. At this point, his braces are locked and he cannot bend his knee while wearing the brace- which does make walking difficult and getting up off the floor near impossible without help.

IMG_4828-0
If you have been around Malachi, you know how happy he is- and the reality is that he is still just as happy, even with the braces. Our prayer is that the leg braces that Malachi wears would be part of the healing process for his legs. So Malachi is the Bionic Man or perhaps Ironman, ready to save the world!

Posted in Adoption | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Week In Guatemala



Last week, I had the privilege of leading a team of students and faculty from Wesley College to Guatemala for a week of ministry. This was my second time in Guatemala working with Lauren Pupchick- a missionary and friend. Our team consisted of four Wesley College Nursing Students and two Wesley Nursing Faculty members. 



The majority of our time was spent at Saber y Gracias (Wisdom and Grace) Christian School outside of the city of Antigua. Two years ago, Lauren visited the church I pastor at and brought the school’s principal, Rudi, with her. Rudi is a great brother-in-Christ who has a passion for ministry, for his students, and for seeing transformation in Guatemala. Rudi’s story, along with the school, is one that I cannot do justice with on this blog- but it is a story you need to hear because God’s hands are throughout the story. Hearing Rudi’s story and how God is using the school to make a difference in the community was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

Our nursing students essentially taught health classes on fetal development (conception-birth), general nutrition, and dental hygeine. They did an excellent job of presenting the material in appropriate ways, adjusting to the different grade levels, and overcoming a language barrier. One of our faculty members who attended the trip grew up in Panama and was a blessing in her ability to translate and help connect with the students and staff.

DSCN3430

I had the honor of teaching two Bible classes on Wednesday. I taught on our adoption by God, as told by the Apostle Paul, and through the lens of our adoption of Malachi. The overall take away from the lesson (I hope) is that even when we feel adandoned- that God chooses us and invites us to be part of God’s Family- full heirs with our brother- Jesus. Wednesday evening, Rudi invited me to preach- which I did from John 4:43-54 on the Royal Official who sought out Jesus to heal his son. The take away was that we are to seek a relationship with Jesus. That faith moves us to put energy into our relationship with Jesus.

DSCN3473

On Friday, we met with a local doctor and was given a tour of his clinic and a larger clinic in the community. Let’s say that we shouldn’t complain about our hospitals here in America! That said, these doctors do what they do because the love their community and the people in them.



 Of course, there was a lot of fun throughout the week. Guatemalan coffee, trips to Anitgua, great food, coffee, erupting volcanoes, coffee, evidently an earthquake that none of us felt, coffee tour, Canopy tour, and more coffee.



 I will be writing more on the trip this week- and probably posting more pictures.

In the meantime, one of the greatest needs of the school is for people to sponsor a student. It cost the school $40/student per month to provide an education and faith foundation that can transform their lives and their communities. There are currently 52 students who are attending but who need sponsors (our team sponsored 8 children as a result of the trip). Prayerfully consider sponsoring a child in Guatemala. I would also be happy to answer any questions you have about the school or to tell you more about child sponsorship!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sweat Equity and Miracles

I am reading Mark Patterson’s book, The Grave Robber, which takes a look at Jesus’ miracles or “signs” in the Gospel of John. The tagline of the book gives away the purpose of Batterson writing: “How Jesus can make your impossible possible.”

In his chapter on John 4:43-54, Batterson writes,

“My point? Some miracles take sweat equity. Your effort doesn’t make them happen, but your lack of effort can keep them from happening. In the words of Dallas Willard, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action.” You cannot earn a miracle, but effort is part of the equation. You may have to hike twenty miles uphill, but your extra effort may be the catalyst for a miracle.

Are you willing to knock on 435 doors? Fill six stone jars? Hike twenty miles uphill?

Most of us follow Jesus to the point of inconvenience, but no further. We’re ore than willing to follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t detour our plans. But it was the willingness to be inconvenienced that defined the Good Samaritan. And that’s how he became someone else’s miracle. Most miracles don’t happen on Main Street. They happen off the beaten path, about twenty miles out of town.”

In the Gospel account, the Royal Official walked nearly 20 miles uphill to seek Jesus out for healing. The officials effort didn’t cause the miracle- but would it have happened if he stayed at home? Would it happened if he quit after walking 10 miles? The official was focused on seeking out Jesus- and in doing so put himself (and his sick son) in a place where a miracle could/would occur.

Are you in need of a miracle in your life? Rather than seeking a miracle- seek the One who is Lord of time and space and can do the miraculous in your life.

Posted in Bible | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Good News About Marriage

lightstock_56105_xsmall_user_769296

I am teaching a course at Wesley College called “Marriage and Families.” This is my first semester teaching and the class is a lot of fun. It is a mix of students who are psychology majors who may use the academic information for their career and students who are interested in learning more about relationships. It’s a bit terrifying when students tell me that they leave class and discuss what they are learning with their boyfriend/girlfriend- but much like a sermon, if people are talking about what was covered it’s a good thing!

I wanted to read something in the area of marriage and families and picked up the book, The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn. I had no clue who Shaunti is or what she does (she does  marriage conferences) before picking up the book.

The book is short, compact, and based of a lot of statistics, polls, and studies- but readable. Shaunti provides five pieces of good news about marriage based off her own research and digging deeper into many national studies. Here are the five pieces of good news according to the book.

  1. The actual divorce rate has never been close to 50 percent. It’s significantly  lower and has been declining over the last thirty years.
  2. Most marriages aren’t just so-so. The vast majority are happy.
  3. The rate of divorce in the church is not the same as among the non-churchgoing population. It too is significantly lower.
  4. Remarriages aren’t doomed. A significant majority survive and thrive.
  5. Most marriage problems aren’t cause by big-ticket issues, so being in a marriage, or fixing a troubled one, doesn’t have to be as complicated as people thing. Little things can often make a big difference.

While I won’t provide much feedback about her areas of good news about marriage I do think that figuring out the divorce rate is important. The text book I use in the course I teach states the divorce rate is around 50% of new marriages and that the rate goes up for each remarriage. My students were pretty discouraged about marriage because of divorce. They wonder, “Why get married if it’s just going to end in an ugly divorce.” We need solid research that can provide better insight on the actual divorce rate (rather than the projected- as according to Shaunti). As pastors and educators (and friends of people getting married) I want to be able to offer more hope than “there is a 50-50 change you’ll get divorced. Some of Shaunti’s statistics and interpretation show closer to a 30% divorce rate- (which means 70% of marriages are still intact- which is good news.).

While I am excited about what is written in the book, I do wish there was a way to quantify the research. Perhaps a peer-review article in a journal where research methods are challenged and affirmed. I am honestly a little skeptical about a book coming out of the Christian publishing subculture proclaiming that we’ve got it all wrong on our numbers about marriage and divorce. That said, if what the author writes is true- then it is good news! As leaders, educators, pastors, parents, and people in marriages and wanting to get married- we should encourage continued research that provides actual numbers about how marriages succeed and why marriages fail in order to help us help others (and ourselves) when it comes to relationships.

Skepticism aside, I think the book is worth a read if you work with couples who are getting married in order to have some insight on how some of the statistics have come about and offer an alternative to the “50% of marriages fail” narrative.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged | Leave a comment

Adoption Update: Malachi Moves Up

Malachi_Snow_Feb2015

It’s been a while since I’ve posted specifically on Malachi. We had a follow up appointment yesterday at CHOPS (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). Aside for waiting what seemed like forever to be seen- the appointment went great. I’ll give you some bullet point updates on the progress that CHOPS has seen since October 14.

  • Malachi had the diagnosis of “small stature,” but they got rid of that as he has jumped up in height, weight, and head circumference. His height was not even on the growth chart for his age in October- and now he is in the 15th percentile! Good news!
  • Malachi’s expressive and receptive communication are on par with a toddler his age. While this doesn’t sound that exciting, remember that he was beginning to learn Mandarin before becoming part of our family and learning English.
  • Malachi’s fine motor skills were at a 23 month old level (he’s 19 months) and his gross motor skills were, I believe, at a 17 or 18 month level. We think this was because of the way he handles stairs.

2015-02-18 14.11.17

We continue to be concerned about his legs, which are very bowed. There was some hope that better nutrition would straighten out his legs (especially in the case of rickets), but this has not been the case. We’ll be meeting with an orthopedic specialist in the near future about his legs. That being said, as bowed as his legs are they do not seem to keep him from doing anything–he is super adorable to see him run!

Much of this confirms what we have been seeing on a daily basis- that Malachi is a happy little boy who is attaching to his family and growing by leaps and bounds. Just the other night, he ate a whole chicken breast from KFC (minus the skin) himself. We couldn’t feed him dinner fast enough. His appetite has taken off in the last few weeks. He has also been sleeping much better (Praise the LORD!) and more settled at home.

Thank you to everyone who continues to pray for Malachi and for our family. It has been an incredible journey and we are grateful for your thoughts and prayers!

Posted in Adoption | Tagged , | Leave a comment