The Day We’ve Been Looking Forward To For Months

2012 Haiti Trip 072Today has been a good day! For several months I have been looking forward to meeting Stanley and Davinsly, two young boys who are being adopted by two wonderful families in our church. We had that chance this morning.

We began the day with another fantastic breakfast at the World Wide Village home. We said, “good-bye” to Jane, our new friend from the Starkey Foundation, who has been in Haiti working with kids with hearing loss.From there it was off to Haiti’s version of a Home Depot.

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We went to get a sense of what building materials cost in Haiti. It was also an eye-opener to the reality that so much reconstruction is happening here. This would be a good reminder for us later in the day. I was amazed at the amount of Christmas decorations in the Haitian store, because we had been told earlier in the trip that gift giving and celebrating Christmas wan’t a big deal here. We would see lots of Christmas decorations throughout the day.

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From the hardware store it was off to the New Arrival Orphanage to see first-hand what we have heard so much about from Sara Lein. We were greeted by Dukens who shared about the work of the orphanage and school. There are about 40 students enrolled in the school associated with the orphanage, in two grades. Five of those students are orphans who live at the home. The Pearcy, Haroldson and Lein families had filled a suitcase full of gifts for the five boys, and the orphanage.

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When we walked into the classroom, I immediately noticed Stanley. His big smile and bright eyes were staring at us as we walked in. He immediately hid his face behind a book, and then came out behind the book, chucking. Dukens told the class that I was Miss Sara’s pastor. That is when I saw Davinsly on the other side of the room.The boys’ teacher was fantastic. And soon the entire classroom was up performing a rousing song for us.

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Both of the boys participated in the singing. They had big smiles on their faces as they sang and chuckled because the song was kind of fun to sing.We left the classroom and talked with Dukens a bit more. Since we had gifts for the boys, but not all of the students, we asked if the five guys who were orphans could be brought out of the classroom.It was so special to be able to present them with gifts from their families.

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Each of the boys’ faces lit up when they received their packages. There was such pride in their eyes as the looked over each one of the gifts. The families did a great job of putting together gifts that boys would love. From matchbox cars to superhero items, everything in the bag was a hit.

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Davinsly shouted, “Captain America!” as soon as he picked up his new superhero toy. The Pearcy and Haroldson families put together beautiful books for the boys. At first, the boys looked at the cover, and quickly moved on to the toys. Then, I took some itme to go through each page with the boys, and their eyes were riveted to the pages of the book. They LOVED seeing the pictures of themselves in the book. I know this is something that they will treasure as the days go by.

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When it came time for the boys to put their new gifts away, I followed Davinsly. He has a chest in his room where he keeps his precious items. He very carefully put away his bag with great pride. You could tell that he was so excited about these new blessings.

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Stanley placed his gifts on his bed, next to a blanket that I believe was made by our kids in Vacation Bible School.It was amazing to spend time with these guys. I was blown away at the quality of the care and the love that these guys are shown by their caregivers. There are some very good things happening at this school and orphanage. We were able to capture some video that I’ll share with the families when we get back into town.

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Both boys really lit up when I showed them their future siblings in the picture books. I think they understood what I was telling them about having sisters and a brother. They were genuinely excited.It was hard to leave the guys at the orphanage. A big part of me wished I could just bring them home to meet their terrific families. They are so precious and full of joy. I can only imagine how difficult it is to wait for an unknown amount of time to meet your sons and brothers.

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From the orphanage, we went to the school that Randy Mortensen considers to be one of the best in the nation, with the educator who he believes does the best job. The school runs from K-13, with 100% of students passing the entrance exams for the next grade. This educator is running teacher clinics throughout the programs World Wide Village Runs. While not a WWV school, this school has a close working relationship with Randy and the WWV team that is essential for the year’s ahead.

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After the school we had lunch at a hotel that used to be a Holiday Inn and Best Western. It was located in the region of Port au Prince that suffered the most damage during the earthquake. You would have never known this peaceful, beautiful and serene hotel existed behind the concrete barrier in front of it. I couldn’t believe my eyes when we walked in. This hotel served as a home base for foreign aid workers during the crisis. We went from lunch to the old presidential palace, that was destroyed in the earthquake and has since been bulldozed. The palace will be rebuilt sometime soon.

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We ended our day driving through the rebuilding city of Port au Prince. We saw the outside of the tent cities, where 400,000 Haitians still live some 2 years after the quake. I was stunned when I saw so many buildings looking like they could fall down at any moment. The trash and open sewage on the streets were heartbreaking. Our Haitian driver didn’t want to take us into the even worse section of town for fear of safety.We leave this country tomorrow. I will miss the people and look forward to returning some day in the future. God is doing good things here and there is hope in the midst of such continuing heartache. Pray for the people of Haiti and for discernment as our church seeks God wisdom on how to best make a difference. Thank you to all of you who helped Darrin and I get here. It has been a humbling and learning experience.I took over 150 pictures today and all of them are available on my Facebook page. Thank you for taking the time to read our experiences.

The Adventure Continues – Day 3 in Haiti

2012 Haiti Trip 003 We are in our third day in Haiti now and God continues to teach us new things about this wonderful country and the people who call Haiti home.
Last night we had a delicious Haitian meal of goat stew. The stew was absolutely delicious and the meat was incredibly tender. After dinner we had a team conversation where we debriefed our day. We spent a lot of time talking about global poverty and why aid hasn’t been the solution for most third world countries. We watched a fantastic video from PovertyCure about the failure of aid programs over the decades. If you’d like to watch it, I’ve included the video here:

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I woke up in the middle of the night last night with the start of a migraine. Anyone who suffers with migraines knows the importance of getting ahead of your migraine. I didn’t. I had no migraine medication with me and on our way to Luly, the city where we were to meet with schools and local leaders, I had to have the van pull over. My migraine got the best of me. I lost last night’s dinner and today’s breakfast on the side of the road. There was an old Haitian woman who happened to be walking by and she felt compelled to stand next to me during this little ordeal. It was so sweet. She couldn’t speak my language, but her eyes were full of compassion. One of the pastors would describe it as the most poignant moment of the trip for him so far. After this little adventure it was back to the van for our ride to Luly, and a little fishing village where Food for the Hungry is trying to work with local fisherman to help them improve their efficiency. You can see some of the yellow Food for the Hungry boats towards the back of this picture. This village located on the edge of the ocean was full of conch shells. World Wide Village has been asked to consider taking this program over from Food for the Hungry.

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From the fishing village we went to a local clinic that WWV helps run. We met a wonderful nurse whose grandmother ran the clinic for a couple decades many years ago. Her husband serves as the doctor. It was here that we heard about a way that international aid can hinder good in a community. This clinic has trouble drawing patients (they charge $5 per patient, plus medication) because American medical teams come once a month and offer free clinics. These clinics often misdiagnose the problems, or don’t have the medication to treat the problem so folks leave with Tylenol and vitamins. In the meantime U.S. trained Haitian doctors, nurses and pharmacists could be helping Haitians. It’s an interesting problem. I was impressed with the work that is being done here. I was also grateful to be able to receive some much needed Excedrin from the clinic.

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We then went to a school that is operated by WWV in Luly. This school has ample space, great teachers, a beautiful facility. When WWV built the school about $140,000 was poured into the project. I am amazed at what $140,000 can build in Haiti. God is using this Christian school to educate over 200 students. There is room for the school to grow to over 400 students. The children loved seeing our team and it was a beautiful day.Unfortunately, my migraine prevented me from getting to interact with anyone at the school. While our team toured the facility I took a nap in the van. By the time they came back the migraine was gone. Team prayer and some great medicine helped bring relief.

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After the school it was off to lunch. Randy Mortensen, the head of World Wide Village likes people from the U.S.A. to see the beauty of Haiti. So, he took us to the Wahoo Bay Resort in Luly. This beautiful resort was mostly empty today, but it is growing in popularity. A hotel room cost just $35 a few years ago. Now it costs about $140 a night to stay in one of the 24 or so rooms. We had a good lunch and it was here that we heard the earthquake stories of our three interpreters, who we have grown to love.

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I listened as they shared with tears in their eyes about what it was like to live through that devastating quake that took the lives of over 300,000 Haitians. They shared about family members who were lost and told me the story of jumping into the rubble to pull body after body out. One of the most interesting things they said was that in the month after the quake, 90% of Haitians turned to God. There was a national period of prayer and fasting that was called for. Churches were full. God was at work. And then, with tears in his eyes, Patrick told me that the people just forgot about God. He said that within a month spiritual lives went back to normal with apathy and some anger towards God. It reminded me of the days after the 9/11 tragedy in our own country. Churches were full in the days that followed. Our nation was unified. And then . . .Our country unified in the loss of 5,000 or so Americans. I can’t picture what it is like to lost 300,000 and see so many homes, business and lives destroyed.

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After lunch we began our drive back to Port au Prince. We had one more stop to make. It was to the original home that World Wide Village built after the 2010 quake. We met a wonderful family who have maintained and improved upon the WWV house. This house was built for $8400. I love the way that WWV builds a home. Haitians do the work, creating jobs for Haitian people. The homeowner pays for part of the home, taking out a mortgage. In the case of this home the homeowner pays $24 a month. This helps improve self-esteem and gives pride in ownership. There is much more that can be said about this. U.S. teams can work alongside of Haitians in constructing the homes, but it is under the direction and authority of the Haitians.

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From here it was back to home base. This meant another ride through the busy streets of Port au Prince, which is unlike driving I have seen anywhere else in the world. The sheer number of people located in a small space with no real traffic lights is an surreal experience. On our drive today we saw a motorcycle run into a a group of students (no one was injured), a motorcycle trying to get through a flooded street see it’s front wheel get caught in a storm drain that was missing a cover (and almost flipping the bike over and passenger almost thrown off), we saw dog run over, and countless close calls. Every day riding these streets is an experience!

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I’ll leave you with an odd picture. We think that this is dried sea cucumber, something that the people of Luly are exporting to China. The people of Haiti are trying to find any way that they can to break the cycle of poverty. I am excited about what the future holds for these wonderful folks.Tomorrow we will be heading to an orphanage where Darrin Geier and I will meet Stanley and Davinsly, two young boys who are being adopted by families at Woodbury Community Church. We will be bringing them some photographs and gifts from their families. Can’t wait to see them.I will post the rest of today’s pictures on my Facebook page before the night is over. Thank you for your prayers!

Great Day Meeting With Pastors

2012 Haiti Trip 008 It has been a good first day for us in Haiti. After what felt like a very short sleep, we awoke at 6:00 to the sound of dogs barking. After a quick and cold shower I took a walk around the property of the home that we are staying in. The home is leased by World Wide Village and serves as their base of operations here in Haiti. There are banana and mango trees on the property and from the rooftop there is a beautiful view of the mountains.

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We had a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and toast and then set off for our first day of ministry in the town of Williamson. Williamson is a community of about 60,000 Haitians where World Wide Village has a substantial presence. It is in this community where World Wide Village operates a wonderful school that is currently educating over 260 Haitian children ranging from Kindergarten-Ninth Grade. The school has grown by over 100 children this year.

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Such rapid growth has created a need for more supporters to come alongside the work of World Wide Village in this community. More students required hiring more teachers which translates to more that is needed to make ends meet each month. The students at this school are provided with two meals a day. I heard that some of these students come from backgrounds where the rice that they are fed at home is mixed with rocks to make it more substantial. There just wasn’t enough food for some of these children to receive a healthy meal at home. The feeding program provides kids with healthy meals.

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The students at this school have fantastic instructors. One of the things that I appreciated was that World Wide Village has partnered with a local pastor and church to make the school possible. All of the students receive a Christ-based education. WWV also works to ensure that teachers receive ongoing training.

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The pastor of this particular congregation has a big vision for his community. He wants to see the school continue to grow. He would like to open a high school within the next year. The picture on the left is the group of seven pastors from the States with this dear Haitian brother. He is a godly, capable, and faithful servant of the Lord.

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While touring his school, we also took a look at some of the homes next to the school that WWV has helped build. WWV is also working to help create income for the school through a chicken project which would allow the school to raise and sell chickens. This would also provide food for some of the students.On our tour, we met the dear woman on the left. She is 89 years old and lives with a grandson. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010, she was living in Port au Prince with her daughter. She was on some concrete steps in her home, walking downstairs. Her daughter was under the steps. The steps collapsed, killing her daughter. This woman has such a sweet demeanor about her, despite all that she had been through.

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After our trip to the school, we visited the House of Hope Orphanage. There are over 400 students at this school, with about 45 true orphans. The rest come to the school for an education. These are not orphans that will be adopted from Haiti. The church associated with this orphanage has an emerging relationship with WWV. This school and orphanage is located about two miles away from the school run by WWV.

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We were immediately greeted by eager children who wanted to spend as much time with us as they could. Their smiles and joy were infectious. A couple little boys grabbed Darrin Geier and my hands and didn’t want to let go.

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While at the orphanage we took a bit of time to listen to our Haitian friends share about their hope for their nation. Randy Mortensen, who runs World Wide Village asked them to share their dreams for the nation in ten years.Themes that emerged were the desire for better education, health care, a government that could be trusted, and infrastructure needs.

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From the orphanage we went to meet with another pastor in town. This young leader receives no support from any outside organization. He runs a concrete company to help makes ends meet for himself and the church he runs. He works with two smaller churches in the mountains as well.The church he pastors sustained damage in the earthquake and meets in Unicef and Samaritan’s Purse tents that have been put together. 250 worshipers gather each Sunday.

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We listened as this pastor shared his dreams for his city. In the next ten years the city is expected to explode in population. He dreams of a church of 5,000 worshipers. God has provided the land for him to build a large church. A foundation has been poured, and they will build as God provides.What became so clear as he spoke was that the greatest need for Haitian pastors is training. He would like to bring together 50 or so Haitian pastors for training once every couple of months for two years. Right now there is only one training that he knows of for his region and that comes only one time per year.

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There are lots of ideas that pop into my mind when we talk about what could be done here. In our church alone, God has provided many who could help with this type of training. A couple of other pastors on the trip have also resonated with the idea of training these pastors.The building on the left is the old church building which was damaged in the hurricane.

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It is impossible to drive through this country and not be struck with the awesome need that is here. Even though Haiti is the country that has more missionaries than any other, it seems like the needs are just so great. World Wide Village has chosen to focus their efforts on a couple of communities. In order to get to those communities we drive past so many more. Each community has need. We passed by the largest tent city in Haiti today. We saw some of the tragic results of promises that were made but not kept by Christian organizations. We saw people who had lost hope. But, we also saw the wonderful work being done by a select few that is making a big difference in the lives of the next generation of Haitians. God is at work in this nation. I’m looking forward to learning more tomorrow.I took over 150 pictures today, that I’ll post on my Facebook account later today.

Reflections on My Parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary

Cyndi's Pictures 748 This past weekend we celebrated my Mom and Dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary! What a special occasion. My parents hosted an anniversary dinner with many of their closest friends and family members. One of the couples was celebrating their 50th Anniversary on the same weekend!
As part of the celebration, I was given the honor of officiating over my parents renewal of their wedding vows. They each shared vows that were perhaps even more meaningful after fifty years of marriage than when they first gave them. No marriage survives fifty years without it’s share of challenges, disappointments, hurts, and pain. But, God has given my parents so many wonderful gifts over the years. Many of those gifts celebrated with us that evening.

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One of my favorite parts of the evening was listening as each of my siblings shared some thoughts about Mom and Dad. I was so proud of each one of my brothers and my sister as they shared what our parents’ marriage meant to them.When I spoke I had a chance to share something that I shared in a sermon that I preached many years ago entitled, “What My Parents Did Right.”I didn’t get a chance to share all 24 of these with the guests, but I wanted to share the complete list with you. Hope it’s a blessing in your life today.

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What My Parents Did Right
 1.            They were the same people at home as they were in front of other people.2.            They lived what they believed.3.            They loved each other and showed affection every day.4.            They went on dates.5.            They spent time with God.6.            They communicated and demonstrated their love to us every day.

7.            They prayed with us and for us every day.

8.            They listened before they spoke.

9.            They set boundaries and stuck to them.

10.         They stayed up until we came home.

11.         They took each of their children on a date at least once a year.

12.         They knew our friends and invited their families over to our home.

13.         They made our home the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights.

14.         They didn’t sweat the small stuff.

15.         They didn’t show favoritism.

16.         They made sure we had at least one vacation a year.

17.         They loved their parents.

18.         They didn’t fight in front of us.

19.         They didn’t embarrass us.

20.         They didn’t expect us to be perfect.

21.         They made sure that our family was involved at a church that ministered to their children.

22.         They always made time to bring us to church events.

23.         They attended our games, plays, events, etc.

24.         They invited missionaries, pastors, teachers, and Christian role models into our home.

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One of my favorite shots of the night.

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I never thought I’d get a chance to say this, but, “Dad, you may kiss your bride:)”

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I had to include a picture of my family with my parents. We are so proud of them.

We Made It To Haiti!

012Early this morning, Darrin Geier, Dan Schauer, and I left to travel to the country of Haiti. (Thank you Jim Nygren for driving Darrin and I to the airport at 4 AM!) We joined four other pastors from North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota to explore a possible partnership between Woodbury Community Church, World Wide Village, and the people of Haiti.
Those of you from Woodbury Community Church know that God has been doing some unique things in our church as it relates to this tiny island nation. It all began when God placed a burning desire on Sara Lein’s heart to do something to make an impact in the nation of Haiti. The island nation, which was already one of the world’s poorest countries, was ravaged by the devastating earthquake in which an estimated 316,000 people lost their lives, countless children became orphans, over 1,000,000 people became homeless, and over 30,000 commercial buildings were destroyed.For the past couple of years Sara and her daughter Breelynn have traveled to Haiti, to work with A New Arrival Orphanage and partner with the school that works with these orphans. They have also worked alongside a number of organizations that exist help bring hope and healing to the people of Haiti. Many of you have seen the beautiful jewelry produced by the women at the Apparent Project, or participated in the Kozefò  5K, which helped benefit some of the educational initiatives that Sara is working with through her school in Haiti.  One of the beautiful things that has come out of Sara’s work is the decision by two families at Woodbury Community Church to adopt sons from A New Arrival Orphanage! You will hear their story in our services on October 28th.You can read about Sara’s work in Haiti here. You can read about the journeys of our two families’ that are adopting from Haiti here and here.This Thursday we will have a chance to meet Stanley and Davensly, the boys that will be a part of our church family sometime in the next year or so! We can’t wait. We will be taking some video of the guys to share with their future families.

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We arrived in Haiti at about 4:30 this afternoon. We were greeted at the airport by our wonderful hosts and taken to the home that we are staying in for the next four nights. After a delicious meal we spent about two hours talking about Haiti, getting to know the other pastors on our team, and sharing why we are here.Tomorrow we will be travelling about an hour north of Port au Prince to visit with a number of pastors. We are going to learn from them. They will share with us about their country, the needs in their nation, the ways in which the Haitian church is trying to address these needs, and practical ways that we can partner with them. One of the things that came through loud and clear tonight was the need for Haitian pastors to be trained. As many as 60% of Haitian pastors only have a 3rd grade education. So, training is a challenge. I’m looking forward to learning from these men tomorrow.I’m hoping to capture some pictures of Haiti’s beauty tomorrow. This is a lush country and beauty abounds everywhere. The people are who immediately capture your heart. They are friendly, smart, have a great sense of humor and I can’t wait to spend more time with them.We are all operating on about 3 hours sleep, so I’m going to sign off for now. I’ll post more tomorrow.

Book Review – The Last Man by Vince Flynn

The Last ManThe Last Man: A Novel
The Last Man – Kindle EditionVince Flynn has done it again! The Last Man is an adrenaline packed thrill ride that has more twists and turns than the world’s great roller coasters. The book finds American assassin Mitch Rapp knee deep in a in conspiracy and mystery in post-Bin Laden Afghanistan.

When Joe Rickman, the CIA’s top head of clandestine operations in Afghanistan is kidnapped, a tsunami of epic proportions is set off in the various branches of governments and intelligence agencies around the region and in the United States.

Who was behind this coordinated attack and how to recover Rickman becomes the CIA’s top priority, for in the head of Rickman lies secrets that could cripple the clandestine operations of America and her allies.

What begins as a simple mission gets more and more complicated as Rapp and his team get further into the operation.

What makes this and every other Vince Flynn novel so good is the detail and realism that Flynn brings to the project. There have been many in the government, military and clandestine organizations over the years who have questioned where Flynn gets his information, because it is startlingly accurate.

Flynn’s novel shows some of the serious pitfalls in the U.S. government’s current policy of reintegration in post-Bin Laden Afghanistan. While reading my pre-release copy of The Last Man, from Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster,  the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya was brutally attacked. Flynn’s novel helps readers understand some of the current tensions in the Middle East, with a look at the Taliban, Iranians, Pakistanis, Afghans, Russians, Swiss banks, and the United States.

The Last Man is a welcome reunion of Mitch Rapp and our current day. Flynn’s last two novels, American Assassin, and Kill Shot, were essentially prequels to the story of Rapp, and a very welcome addition to the narrative. Fans of Mitch Rapp will enjoy seeing what the assassin has been up to and enjoy catching up with a number of favorite characters along the way.

The Last Man isn’t Flynn’s best novel, but it certainly a great read and a wonderful addition to the Mitch Rapp library.

As in all of Flynn’s novels the language is a bit rough with plenty of military bravado and assassin angst thrown in. The detailed descriptions of torture and assassinations may make some readers squeamish. All in all, The Last Man, is a great read that opens the eyes of readers into the complexities of the continuing war on terror.

I received a complimentary e-book of The Last Man, from Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster for purposes of this review.

Exercise Your Freedom to Vote This Election Day

american-flag-2aI wrote the following blog post for the congregation of Woodbury Community Church, where it is my privilege to serve as Senior Pastor.
On Tuesday, November 6, our nation will once again engage in an election. The freedom to vote is one of the things that makes our nation unique and frankly one of the reasons that so many of us love being Americans. As your pastor, I want to encourage you to exercise your right to vote on Tuesday, November 6. You are an important part of this system that we call Democracy.I want to assure you that no matter what happens this coming Tuesday, God will remain on the throne. No election result will surprise Him. No leader who comes into authority will be there without God’s ordaining. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”Our hope as a nation has never rested upon election results; it rests in the Lord. In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God revealed to the Children of Israel that the hope of a nation is Him. Healing for a nation comes when God’s people humble themselves, pray, and turn from their wicked ways. Here is the verse:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Elections are an opportunity for us to take a hard look at the direction of our country, the policies of our leaders, and issues on the ballot, and to take a look at ourselves. Election Tuesday would be a good day for us to examine ourselves before we vote – to see if there are things in our lives that we need to confess before God. Remember, biblical confession always means that we turn from our sins and to Him.

Do not waste the opportunity that God has given you to vote. Thousands of men and women have died to protect that freedom over the years. There are wonderful Christian people who will vote for Democrats and Republicans this election cycle. There are godly Christian men and women who will see issues from different perspectives. With all issues, it is important to check our perspective with God’s. If God’s perspective differs from ours, then we need to adjust our thinking. I know for some, there is a sinking feeling that you get when you walk into the voter’s booth, feeling like none of the candidates or voting issues are a good match to your faith.  When you feel that is the case, do what you would do in any such situation. Pray. Ask for God’s wisdom. And, obey His prompting.

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Woodbury Community Church draws folks from Minnesota and Wisconsin. There is no question that the most contentious issue on the Minnesota side of the border is the Marriage Amendment. There seems to be some misunderstanding about what voting “yes,” for the marriage amendment and what voting “no,” means. The marriage amendment states that, “the constitution shall be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in Minnesota.” A “no,” vote simply says that the constitution shall not be amended. Therefore marriage, in the future, could be defined by a judge or politician as something other than the union of a man and woman exclusively. Voting “yes,”  on the marriage amendment puts the definition of marriage as the union one man and one woman, (which has always existed in Minnesota) into our state constitution, so that the definition of marriage cannot be altered by a judge or politician.Elections are often times divisive. This election cycle has certainly proven that once again. My prayer is that elections won’t divide the people of God. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts on the upcoming election. I would welcome any questions that you might have. I know that some of you will disagree with me. That is okay. My love for you isn’t dependent upon you sharing my viewpoint on every issue. As a pastor, my foremost job is to model what it means to love God; even when loving him leads to an unpopular viewpoint. I hope you’ll exercise your right to vote this coming Tuesday, and I thank our God for the privilege that you have given me to be your pastor.In Him,Pastor Brian

*** Addendum

Many of you have asked me to share my personal view on the issue of marriage. I don’t think that the Bible could be more clear. God is the designer of marriage. Marriage was His idea. And, marriage is defined throughout Scripture and has been throughout history as the union of one man and one woman. Marriage has always been a holy covenant, made between two individuals and God. God has never and will never recognize the union of two people of the same sex. That is why you will find my signature among the signers of the Minnesotans for Marriage pastor’s letter: http://www.minnesotaformarriage.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/PASTOR-STATEMENT_PFM-Letterhead1.pdf.

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Leith Anderson is the President of the National Association of Evangelicals and was my former boss at Wooddale Church. In 2004, Leith wrote a prophetic piece entitled, Who Defines Marriage? which I have included in two or our newsletters. I would encourage you to read the following as it relates to marriage:Who Defines Marriage?Human history in every culture has defined marriage as the enduring and intimate relationship of a man and a woman. This definition has established the primary expression of a family. True, different cultures and chapters of history have encouraged and endorsed varying expressions of marriage but nothing like those in our generation who are proposing a redefinition. From newspaper headlines to acts of civil disobedience there is a movement gaining momentum to legalize marriage as a relationship between persons of the same gender.The issues are many and complex. Christians have historically insisted that sexual relationships outside of marriage are immoral and unacceptable whether they are heterosexual or homosexual. Those who seek same gender marriage are seeking to legitimatize sexual behavior forbidden in the Bible. One of the repeated arguments is for tolerance and the granting of the same civil rights to everyone.

Without tackling the political and legal issues, let’s go to the most basic question of all – who defines marriage? As Christians, we turn to the Bible as our authority. Quoting God in Genesis 2:24 Jesus said, “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:4-6).

Changing the definition of marriage does not change what God has said marriage is to be. Just because someone faces west and calls the sun on the horizon a “sunrise” does not change what it is. A sunset is a sunset no matter what it is called.

How should we as Christians respond to those who are trying to unbiblically redefine marriage? Positively—let us lift up and live out Christian marriage in our own relationships. Prayerfully—our first and most potent resource is to ask God to defend, uphold and strengthen marriages in America. Politically—we are privileged to exercise our rights as citizens to influence our country because “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Individual letters and phone calls are often more influential than public demonstrations although you may choose to attend a public rally. Personally—we must always exhibit the love of Jesus Christ to all others in our attitudes and behavior. Patiently—our generation is facing a long process of moral conflict, judicial disagreement and political haggling. Romans 12:12 gives wise spiritual advice that we “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

– Leith Anderson, President, National Association of Evangelicals, written for the Wooddale Church community, March 2004