Passing the Baton

passing batonThe most critical part of a relay race is the baton pass.  Just ask my husband.  He ran the third leg in the 4×100 yard relay at Wheaton College.  Over forty years later, their team still holds the school record.    Races are won and lost at the baton pass.   The key to this race is the amount of time that the baton spends in the exchange zones.  The quicker and smoother the pass, the better the race.  Good teamwork is essential.  This isn’t only true in track.

This week I finish my leg as Director of Disability Ministries.  I am pleased that I am able to pass the baton to candidate Julie Clemens.  Julie and I have spent the last two weeks together getting ready to pass the baton.   Julie and I have known each other for nearly eleven years.    I remember the first time I worked with Julie.   She offered to help out at the STARS Bible classes during the church Summerfest.  Julie jumped in right away and did the craft.   Remember the life size cardboard figures of the STARS complete with the armor of God?   That was Julie making my vision come alive.    During the nearly four years before they went to Bulgaria as missionaries, she volunteered in every area of the STARS ministry.   You could always find Julie, Lance and their two girls at Friday Night Fun.

In Bulgaria, Julie worked to help the treatment of people with disabilities on several fronts: she developed training programs for the staff of social homes, she worked in home-based therapy with several non-governmental agencies, and she developed and taught practical training programs for Occupational and Physical Therapy students in Angel Kanchev University in Ruse.    We would often Skype, and we talked about having high school students from College Church go to Bulgaria and have a cross-cultural experience related to disability ministry.  We worked closely together to make this happen in 2008.  She organized aPicture 035 a week of ministry at a residential home for people with disabilities in Kyustendil.  Julie and I led a team of 6 high school students who organized a special Olympics type program for the residents.  It was so well received by the administrator of the home, that she called in the local TV station and they filmed our activities and interviewed the students.   Because of the relationships that Julie had built, on the last day we were able to share the gospel by using the colors of the Olympic rings.   Julie knows that disability ministry must be relational.

A good baton pass also takes practice.  Julie and I have already practiced this baton pass.   When I was getting ready to go on sabbatical, I knew that I wanted Julie to fill in for me.   We are like-minded and have similar styles.  She has a passion for working with people with disabilities and desires to see them integrated into society and the church.   This wasn’t easy in Bulgaria, but that didn’t daunt her.     While I was on sabbatical Julie led the ministry well, and when I returned she told me how the ministry could be improved.

While I was on sabbatical, my friend Stephanie Hubach, Director of Special Needs for the Presbyterian Church of America,  asked me if I wanted to go with her to Bulgaria and encourage the church to do disability ministry.   I was sorely tempted.   However, I said, “I think you should take Julie instead.”   And she did.   Julie joined Steph’s team and had a wonderful week of ministry.   Her skills, established relationships and language ability proved to be indispensable to the team.   When I told Steph that Julie was the candidate to take my place as director, she exclaimed, “Great choice!”

Although Julie and her husband, Lance, thought they would be returning to Bulgaria, the opportunities there closed for them unexpectedly.   Unexpectedly for them, but not for God.  Many circumstances came together to bring them to this place at this time.  You can hear more about their story on July 13 when Julie will be sharing her story in the morning services.  That evening Pastor Moody will be interviewing her and Lance in the evening service.  Following the service, there will be opportunity for you to spend time with both of them.    Our congregation will vote on her candidacy on July 20 right after the 11:00 a.m. service.   Be there to cast your vote.

I look forward to a smooth transition and seeing how God will use Julie in this next leg of the race.



Time for a Story?

Dawn and BenjiFrom the moment I arrived in Orlando, I saw God’s hand in arranging the STARS Make ‘m Smile Trip.    When I went to the car rental place, my agent Mary asked why I was in Orlando and I shared that the STARS were here to participate in the Make ‘m Smile festival to celebrate people with disabilities.   She smiled at me and said, “Do you have time for a story?   Forty years ago I was an aide in a hospital and we took care of a little boy named Benji.   At times he wasn’t expected to live, but he did and we became very attached to him.   Then one day we came to work and he wasn’t there anymore and no one could tell us where he went.   I always wondered what happened to him.  Then about 5 years ago, I went to the tea room at the Russell Home for Atypical Children.   The tea room helps support the wonderful work at the Russell Home, where they care for people with disabilities and don’t charge them anything.  While I was there, I looked over and saw a man.  I asked, ‘Is that man about 40 years old and is his name Benji?’   They answered yes, and I had a wonderful reunion with Benji and found out how God had been faithful to him all these years.”

I replied, “Our team is going to the Russell Home!”   Mary said, “Really? Please go and see Benji and tell him that Mary said hello.”  We did that and much more.  We met Benji and many more of the residents of theMES Russel HomeRussell Home. The STARS performed their chimes and drums for the residents of the Russell Home, and then they went and gave them their instruments and had them try playing them.  The STARS exuded the kindness and compassion of Christ to these residents.    We were incredibly encouraged by the love and faith of the Russell family that founded this home.

God really smiled upon the STARS Make ‘m Smile trip. I have never heard the STARS sing and play better than they did on this trip.   Their faces exuded the joy of the Lord.  Musical directors, Make 'm smile performanceSara Klopfenstein and Kristin Knosp Visconti, put together a phenomenal program.  Over 25,000 people attended the Make ‘m Smile Festival in downtown Orlando on Saturday, June 7. The STARS sang and played percussion instruments with great enthusiasm.   Marie Kuck, of Nathaniel’s Hope, was an incredible host and we were blessed by the outreach that this organization has with families who have children with special needs. 

On Sunday, June 8, the STARS sang in the Calvary Assembly church in Orlando.  After the worship service, a man gave us the following note, “Thank you for coming.  Hearing the STARS sing the song, Take Me As I Am, was very meaningful to me personally.”  Although the STARS received a number of standing ovations, all praise goes to God who went before us.

Our theme verse and prayer for the trip was Psalm 67:1, “God, show us your favor. Bless us.  May you smile on us with your favor.”  God did exactly that!

Summer Celebration 2014

Summer Celebration is this weekend, June 14 and 15, at College Church. We look forward to welcoming Stuart Briscoe who will be preaching Sunday morning, June 15, at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m., and Sunday evening at 6:00 p.m. For a full list of events, click here and watch the video below. Join us as we celebrate the start of summer at College Church!

Sermon Video: The Righteousness of God

The video from this weekend’s sermon, “The Righteousness of God,” from Romans 3:21 in “The Gospel of God” series is now online.

Romans 3:21 is one of the great texts in the Bible, and my prayer is that the confidence and hope of this passage will permeate through us all to God’s great glory.

You can watch the sermon here. Discussion questions about the sermon are available by clicking here.

The Gospel of God #29, The Righteousness of God

This weekend, the sermon comes from Romans 3:21 in the series “The Gospel of God” with a message entitled “The Righteousness of God.” Watch a video preview:

Sermon Video: Questioning God

The video from this weekend’s sermon, “Questioning God,” from Romans 3:12-20 in “The Gospel of God” series is now online.

This passage has at its heart Paul’s articulation of how it is that people can be shown their profound need of Jesus and His gospel. Its aim is to cause us to wonder at and appreciate and believe in the gospel that Paul has announced back in chapter 1 verses 16 and 17.

You can watch the sermon here. Discussion questions about the sermon are available here.

The Gospel of God #28: Questioning God

This weekend, the sermon comes from Romans 3:12-20 in the series “The Gospel of God” with a message entitled “Questioning God.” Watch a video preview:

Pastors and Their Kids

Barnabas Piper recently interviewed me for a blog series about pastors and their relationships with their children. You can read the interview here.

Sermon Video: Authentic Spirituality

The video from this weekend’s sermon, “Authentic Spirituality,” from Romans 3:9-11 in “The Gospel of God” series is now online.

This key passage in Romans provides us with a main point in Paul’s argument, and also with a foundational aspect of authentic spirituality today.

You can watch the sermon here. Discussion questions about the sermon are available here.

Interview with David S. Dockery

The following article was written for Evangelicals Now and published in their news publication for May 2014. In it I interview Dr. David S. Dockery, newly appointed president of Trinity International University:

dockeryWhat do you love about Trinity?

I love the mission of Trinity International University, which is to educate men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning. I love the stellar faculty members at Trinity who are committed to that mission. I genuinely admire their scholarship and their commitment to teaching, even as I love their dedication to students and to the work of the church. I love the staff at Trinity, the people who shape community, serve the students, and carry out the high calling of what I often call the hidden curriculum. I love the support and guidance that comes from the members of the Board who give of themselves for the good of Trinity. I love the heart of the students at Trinity, both undergraduate and graduate students. I am looking forward to getting to know all aspects of the university better in the days to come. I love Trinity’s intercultural and international commitments, expressed in the institution’s investment in the life and work of the global church. The list of things and people that I love at Trinity is long, but I will stop there. I am truly grateful to be a part of such a special institution.

What are the opportunities you envision for Trinity?

Trinity’s numerous opportunities are tied to the institutional strengths, many of which are listed above. There are many opportunities that are likewise associated with the challenges noted below. There are key opportunities to help shape Trinity’s expanding identity and influence in the world of Christian higher education. I think there are opportunities to help ensure Trinity’s ongoing commitments to evangelical faithfulness, to academic excellence and intellectual seriousness, to cultural engagement and service to the church, and to the enhancement of campus community and constituency involvement.  I am excited to think about opportunities to help the divinity school focus on its distinctive calling, even as we work to strengthen and expand the work of the undergraduate program. We have many opportunities, I believe, in the world of graduate programs, including ways to help the Trinity Law School mature and develop. I think that there are great opportunities associated with three of the centers at Trinity, the Bioethics Center, the Carl Henry Center and the Jonathan Edwards Center;  I believe that all three of these have incredible promise. We will trust the Lord to guide our steps as we prioritize our collaborative efforts to work together to address these many good opportunities that the Lord has provided for the Trinity community.

What are the challenges that you see for Trinity?

Trinity faces some of the same challenges that almost every other private college or university is facing at this time, things like the need for enrollment stability, revenue enhancement, finding the best and wisest ways to use technology, and other similar challenges that we share with our friends in the world of private higher education. Trinity certainly has not been exempt from the enrollment and revenue challenges over the past five or six years. Now, Trinity must prioritize enrollment management, student retention, services to students, and resource development. Likewise, Trinity must continue to address matters associated with faculty and staff development in order to help us pursue Christ-centered excellence in all that we do each and every day. Moreover, Trinity faces some rather unique challenges that are associated with its distinctive structure, a structure that includes a large divinity school, a smaller undergraduate program, and underdeveloped graduate programs, including the law school. In addition, Trinity has the challenge of serving and resourcing extension sites in South Chicago, South Florida, and Southern California. I personally think that each one of these challenges should also be seen as special opportunities for the university at this time. We are excited about finding solution-oriented ways to address each one of these challenges, trusting the Lord to grant us much wisdom and discernment in all of these matters. We certainly will need God’s help, blessings, and favor for the days ahead.

How can others pray for Trinity?

As I just mentioned, we need God’s wisdom, help, grace, favor, and blessings for the days to come. Please pray that the Lord would grant to us a sense of coherence in our identity and work, a sense of collaboration across the campus that would result in a new synergy in our shared efforts, and a team of administrators, faculty and staff who are working together shoulder-to-shoulder to advance the wonderful mission of Trinity International University. Please pray that the Lord would send us the right students, that he would expand our resources, and that he would grant us unexpected blessings for the calling that is ours. We must all come to a place of recognizing anew our sense of total dependence on our good and great God for his provision for Trinity. Please pray that we all would be found faithful in our leadership and our stewardship of the institution, working together to advance the gospel with which we have been entrusted, working together to advance a distinctive Christ-centered approach to higher education for the glory of God.