The past week has been a busy one. In the span of seven days I feel like I’ve been around the world. The hectic pace just did not stop. In so many ways I saw God at work. Let me share a few.
Monday is meeting day. From pastoral staff meeting to student ministries meeting to senior high staff meeting, this day is a busy one. In the past few years of working at Wooddale Church I have seen God use this time in so many ways to shape my week, challenge my thinking, and inspire me. Last Monday was no different.
Thank you God for the privilege of working with men and women who love and honor you.
On Monday night Cyndi and I split duties. I took Christopher to his first ever baseball practice, with little brother Zachary in tow. Cyndi took Breanna to her first ever soccer practice with brother Jeremy in tow. What a great night! I was so worried that Chris wouldn’t be able to hit the ball, or that he’d miss the fly ball. He did great. I’m told that Breanna fit in just fine with soccer. She knows so many of her teammates and is loving the game. After practices two groups of Schulenburgs converged on Coldstone for ice cream.
Thank you God for healthy children, family time, and challenges that you bring us in life.
Wooddale is a teaching church. That means that I have many opportunities to interact with church leaders from around the world. On Tuesday I met with Pastor Mike Grecco from Crossway Community Church in Melbourne, Australia. I took him to Bilimbi Bay Restaurant in Eden Prairie. It’s become one of my favorite spots when people come from out of town. What a wonderful lunch! Mike is the Executive Pastor of Crossway Church, and it was so exciting to hear what God is doing in this vibrant community of believers in Melbourne. Crossway’s student ministry is at a crossroads and I was able to share some ideas that Mike is planning on taking back to Australia to implement. Many of those ideas are things that have come after years of hard work, frustration, and then seeing God work to do incredible things.
Thank you God for Your Church around the world; that we as Americans don’t have it all figured out, and that you are moving in new and unique ways each and every day.
Wednesday is always my favorite day. There is something so special about the community that takes place on Wednesday nights when 150-200 teenagers gather together in Wooddale’s gym to worship God. But, this Wednesday was extra special. We began the day at 8:15 a.m. with the Wooddale Pastoral Staff Retreat. Our pastoral staff takes four retreats a year. This retreat took us to Minneapolis and St. Paul to visit the “First Churches.”
Stop one was the historic First Covenant Church in Minneapolis. This church is beautiful. It is located across from the Metrodome, where the Twins and Vikings play. Being a historic downtown church means that you have stained glass, balconies, seats for 2000 people, and an attendance of around 200. The 1970’s were tough on downtown churches. Suburbia changed the downtown church, and now many struggle to survive. First Covenant has an annual budget of around $1,000,000. $400,000 of that is raised through parking lot rental fees to people going to ball games, or working downtown. The pastor of First Covenant is a godly man. He has not lost his vision of seeing God work through his church to reach Minneapolis for Christ. Gentrification (for a discussion on gentrification see http://members.lycos.co.uk/gentrification/whatisgent.html) is changing this urban neighborhood. There is hope once again that this church will reach masses of people. For now, this large building is inhabited by about 20 different para-church ministries ranging from Prayer Transformation Ministries to a ministry reaching India with evangelistic crusades. Several churches use First Covenant as their home base as well. Spanish speaking churches, an Ethiopian fellowship of Christians, and more!
Our second stop was First Baptist of Minneapolis. This church has an amazing history. With capacity of more than 2,000, First Baptist also reaches just a fraction of that. There are between 300-400 worshippers on Sunday. This church once housed Henrietta Mears famous Sunday School class of over 400 women. This was before Henrietta Mears moved to California. Youth ministry owes a great deal of debt to this woman of God, who had a vision for reaching students long before churches were reaching them. She had a huge impact on the lives of Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Torrey Johnson, and more. She founded Hume Lake Camp, the largest Christian Camp in America, and was influential in the launch of Campus Crusade for Christ. I had been to this church several times before, and didn’t know this about the church. Although, I’d played basketball in the gym that used to house her class. The gym has a unique sloped floor that was designed for that class. It’s tough to play basketball in, but it must have been an amazing gym to teach in.
Billy Graham also had an office in First Baptist. He officed there while serving as President of Northwestern College. The College also met there.
First Baptist has a new, young pastor who had been the Senior Pastor for four days when we arrived.
Our third stop was First Covenant Church of St. Paul. We first dined for lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant in St. Paul. While at the restaurant we were told that we would have to park across the street from First Covenant Church because of the funeral procession for slain St. Paul Police Officer Gerald Vick. (This has been a huge story in the Twin Cities. You can read about it at http://news.minnesota.publicradio.org/features/2005/05/11_scheckt_vickfuneral/). The Mexican restaurant was fantastic! I love authentic restaurants, with ethnic music playing on the Satellite Radio. It was awesome. Before the trip we were told that the Minneapolis Churches were more conservative, and the St. Paul churches were more liberal. I was pleasently impressed with the depth of spiritual life at First Covenant of St. Paul. There is a zeal for evangelism. The Hmong community is alive in St. Paul. 20% of the church are Hmong people. You can read about our thriving Hmong Community at ( http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/11643899.htm). The school across from the church is 70% Hmong. First Covenant wants to do all that they can to reach this community.
Our last church visit was to First Baptist of St. Paul. This is a liberal church with a very intersting history. It was fun to see what is happening at this church. A daughter congregation has started there and meets on Sunday nights. They have created their own songbook, with songs that are unique to their spiritual experience. The thing that struck me most about First Baptist of St. Paul was their heart for the poor. The pastor wore a button that said, “Poverty is a Christian Issue.” It was indeed an interesting day.
From there, I went back to Wooddale where about 75 parents showed up for our annual parent meeting. Then it was off to The Garage. I walked in while it was in progress. It was awesome to walk in to a room with so many students worshipping God. God spoke in an incredible way when I felt less than prepared to teach. I spoke on the man who was blind from birth, and many students responded in meaningful ways. We released our Garage Worship CD after that, and sold about 60 of our 100 copies.
Phew! What a day.
Thank you God for your work in the city — for the Body of Christ in it’s many forms. Thank you for diversity and the lessons that we can learn from each other. Thank you for the historical faith of our forefathers and the faith of the generation that is on the rise.
Thursday began with my monthy supervision meeting with Ken Geis, Wooddale’s executive pastor. From there I went to the Eden Prairie Police Department for my chaplain meeting. What a fascinating meeting. Scott Neal, the City Manager for Eden Prairie (You can read his Web Log here – http://edenprairieweblogs.org/html/scott_neal.html) spoke to us about the new businesses coming into Eden Prairie, and plans for a new school at Grace Church (www.atgrace.com). Then we met with two Drug Enforcement Agency officers. They spoke to us about the current drug crises in the Twin Cities. I found out that Twin Citians are rather snobbish about their drugs, and prefer the more expensive, pure drugs. We held a number of different types of drugs that had been seized in previous raids. These guys have a tough job, and I was reminded to pray for them.
I took the rest of Thursday off to be with my family. We had a great day.
Thank you God for the men and women who protect us. For a family that so far has been spared the pain of drug abuse. For the help that you offer those stuck in addiction, and for your incredible grace.
Cyndi and I had a chance to have a breakfast date and to shop for birthday invitations for Zachary’s fourth birthday party. From there, Cyndi went to an event at Zachary’s school, and I served Hot Lunch at Calvin Christian (www.calvinchristian.org). I love seeing my kids when I serve hot lunch.
Then it was off to Wooddale to prepare for our Operation Guatemala El Salvador prep retreat. I cashed an expense check, contacted trip leaders, talked with the youth pastor at our host church (Park Avenue Church http://www.parkavechurch.org) and got things ready for the retreat. What a great trip. Our students were divided into three teams. We put them on city buses in Eden Prairie and Edina, and made them find their way to one of three restaurants. Our teams went Big E’s Soul Food, Salsa a la Salsa Mexican Restaurant and Safari Restaurant. (http://www.bigesoul.com/; http://www.digitalcity.com/twincities/dining/venue.adp?sbid=117383452; http://www.startribune.com/stories/456/5110004.html) I ate at Safari’s. It was a Somalian food resturant with some of the best food I’ve ever had in my life. No meal was over $9, and we had great conversation with the guys who work at Safari. A young adult from Wooddale’s twentysomethings ministry has connected with the guys at Safari. It was a great time. The Somalians who work there are Muslim, and it was great to build bridges around the cultural and religious spectrum. Somalians always serve bananas with their meals, and you are supposed to cut it up and eat it with your food. So, I mixed my banana with my steak, and you know what? It was incredible. I’ll definitely be back.
After dinner, our kids had a tour of Minneapolis with Chris Brooks, President of Urban Reclaim (http://www.urbanreclaim.org/). Chris and I have been friends for a couple of years now, and I am always in awe of the way that he serves the inner city. Chris shared his passion for seeing Minneapolis and St. Paul transformed with the Gospel of Christ. One thing that he spoke about that touched our students was the lack of youth workers in the urban context. North Minnepolis is the most dangerous part of our city. In North Minneapolis there are dozens of churches but only one full time youth worker. We have five full time youth workers at Wooddale Church alone. I was convicted.
We ended the night with a screening of the film Hotel Rwanda. No other film has convicted me as much as this one. It is the story of a new hero of mine named Paul Ruesabagina. You can visit the film web site at http://www.mgm.com/ua/hotelrwanda/intro.html. Our students were struck to the core at the Rwandan genocide. Over 1,000,000 corpses were left in the wake of the genocide that took place just eleven short years ago. As Americans we largely ignored the problem. The screening ended at 1:30 a.m. and we went to bed.
God, may we never lose site of the vision that you have for the city. May our quest for more be replaced with a desire to minister to those with less. May you be glorified in your church and in those who call themselves your children. Help us see others in the light of Jesus.
The retreat was far from over as we awoke early on Saturday. Breakfast was at 8:00 and then we listened to students share their reports about the countrys of Guatemala and El Salvador. We heard about the 35 year civil war in Guatemala that resulted in 200,000 people “disappearing.” We heard about governments, militaries, soccer, Quetzal birds, papusas, economies, Catholicism, and more. It was a great morning.
We were originally scheduled to go to Starring Lake Park in Eden Prairie from 10-2 to practice our ministry for Guatemala. God had other plans. A downpour sent us back to Wooddale Church to allow our basketball, childrens, medical, mime and service teams to practice on our church site. We didn’t know it at the time, but a Somalian basketball team has been using Wooddale’s gym to practice for an upcoming tournament every Saturday from 1-3 for the past few months. Our coach asked their coach if our OGES team could practice against theirs. They were thrilled for competition, and our basketball team had a chance to connect with about 20 Somalians. There are 200,000 Somalians that have relocated to the United States, about 40,000 of which live in the Twin Cities. We will be playing them again on June 4, in a church with a gym, so that the Somalians can invite thier families. We’re praying that this relationship will develop further.
Our retreat ended at 2:20, and I was home by 3:20, on time to take Breanna to a Twins game. I served as a parent chaperone for this event. It was so nice to be able to spend the time with my daughter. I was one of the only parents at the game, and Breanna still isn’t too old to let her dad sit by her. What a great night! The Twins lost, but I won! It was fun to get to know some of Breanna’s friends. I drove a van with five junior high girls to and from the school, and then we drove a bus to the game. One of the boys wanted to start the wave, and so I helped him get it going. After several tries, we made it half way around the stadium.
Thank you Lord for the Somalian people. For a nation that is coming to our doorsteps. For time with my daughter. For baseball and the Minnesota Twins!
We woke up early on Sunday, and prepared for the drive to Oakwood Church (www.oakwoodonline.org) in Waconia, MN, where I was preaching for the fifth time this spring. Oakwood is a daughter church of Wooddale Church that is in search for a senior pastor. We have enjoyed every week we’ve been at Oakwood. Oakwood normally meets at Waconia High School, but a bomb threat at Waconia High School (http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=96935) forced the church to meet in their tiny ministry center this week. It was nice to meet in a smaller church. It reminded me of my days as a child worshipping at Fox Valley Bible Church (www.fvbc.org) when it was in a small chapel. I preached my sermon called, “When You Still Haven’t Found What You’re Looking For.” It was a good morning. Many in the congregation were moved, and it was so nice to have the opportunity to share with them.
Cyndi and I put a turkey in the oven before we left for church, and we had a Thanksgiving like feast with our kids for Sunday dinner. It was a great meal together.
After a busy week and a turkey meal, I needed a nap.
On Sunday evening we went to Grace Church to see the children’s musical American Ideal. Several of Breanna’s friends were in the play. The message of the musical was that life should be all about God and not about us. Using the television show American Idol as the model for the musical, the play did a great job of pointing out just how egocentric most of us live our lives. It was a great night.
Lord, help me to remember that it’s all about you. Thank you for children. Thank you that children can teach adults lessons that sometimes we miss. Thank you for your patience with us. May all that we do be all about you.
Until next time . . .