Friday, March 23, 2012

En route

The picture is Julie and me somewhere above Siberia, en route to Japan, then to Manila, then to Iloilo. Took it while most everyone on the flight was sleeping, at least back in our section of cattle class. Here's what I wrote a little earlier than this photo:

I don’t know when I’ll be able to post this, but at the moment when I’m writing these words, I’m in the air over Barrow, Alaska. I have no idea what time it is; it’s probably early evening in Minnesota, but it’s 7:45 am in the Philippines. I’ve been awake since a little before 5 am. Julie is snoozing to my left, and a few rows back Julie C., Sharon, and Vic are either sleeping or working through their Alpha talks.

There’s not a seat open on our 747. I looked around just after we got started and thought, figure an average of $1200 per seat, and start adding it up. At least 60 rows of seats lettered A through J. Maybe not quite so many in the business class up front. Say at least 550 people on this plane? Wow. That’s a lot of money.

It is costing us a lot of resources to do this. Many of you reading have provided, and provided so generously, out of your own resources to make this possible. You know we are so grateful to you!

I had a conversation with a man about a year ago who talked about orphanages in the Philippines and feeding the hungry. We tried to set that up for this trip, but it didn’t work out. He pretty much ridiculed the idea of bringing a team. Just go yourself, he said, and you can spend the cost of those extra plane tickets on more food! I can see his logic.

The only way this trip makes sense -- the only way any of this amazing adventure is reasonable -- is if our coming as a team is God’s design for this trip. And I firmly believe it is. In the economy of the kingdom of God, I suspect that five Americans taking the time and money and energy and effort to come to the Philippines is going to carry some weight. My hope, my prayer is that when we get back to the States, that a critical mass of church leaders in the central Philippines will have a vision for starting Alpha through their local churches. To do that, they will need to have a team, not just one excited leader.

For the record, I was one lonely excited leader about Alpha for a long time when I first heard about it. It took a lot of time and a lot of energy to try to translate my eagerness and passion for this new ministry into something that a team of leaders could get behind. I’m guessing that a team of experienced Alpha leaders can communicate the need for a team to lead Alpha in a way one lonely leader could not do -- no matter how passionate he might be.

No, it doesn’t really make sense. We could send DVD’s and books. We could provide funding for the Philippines National Alpha Office to do some local training. But I don’t believe those things would have the impact that our team going to Iloilo will have. I am already seeing the impact on Central -- on present and past Alpha leaders; on the wider congregation; and on the community of Elk River, who lined up a week and a half ago outside the Pizza Ranch to support this trip. We’ll also see the impact on the Filipino church leaders, and eventually on their churches, if they grab hold of Alpha as a tool for evangelism and discipleship. And if this idea of Global Alpha Training takes off at Central, we may see the birth of an ongoing ministry of Alpha leaders traveling to other parts of the world to train church leaders to start Alpha courses.

So the only way this whole adventure makes sense is if we -- the ground crew and the flight crew -- have experienced something through Alpha that goes beyond simple economics, beyond pure rationality. If we have been touched by Jesus, filled with his Spirit, and drawn into a new kind of Jesus-focused community as we have experienced Alpha and led this simple ten-week course, then it makes sense for us to go across the world to invite others to experience what changed us.

This has always been the story of Christian mission. Jesus gets a hold on a group of people and transforms their lives. They explode with his Spirit and his presence and they have to go and tell others about it.

So in that way, it makes perfect sense.


  1. It makes perfect sense to me, too, Jeff. I'm thinking about "our" team often since waking up Thursday morning...praying for your safety and health and the same for the families you temporarily leave behind...for the receptiveness of the Filipino church leaders...and for us to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit lead! It's an ongoing prayer over the next ten days. Please remind the rest of the team how much they are loved and supported. Katie J - one of your ground crew :-)

  2. MISSIONS is costly ... ask Father God in Heaven what He contributed :-)

  3. Katie, I will pass this along! Thanks to you and so many who have been such an important part of this trip, and through your prayers continue to be so!

    JR, you understand exactly. We love because he first loved us!

  4. Is loving technology and what that means to be connected to you and your ground crew. These blogs and the postings on Facebook are priceless. Truly makes it worth all that effort to fundraise, bake, hug, laugh and love your Alpha Team.
    xoxox Heather