by Ryan Thurman
1. The Antioch Network Board is sending us: As President I will be serving to help develop the International team
2. Europe is part of our history: Noleen was born there and served in France, Switzerland and Ireland before we were married. I experienced a powerful call to mission work while serving in Croatia in 1995. I lived and served in Bosnia for a year. Since being married Noleen and I have spent the past 13 years in and out of Europe supporting George and Hanna's ministry of Reconciliation and helping develop Antioch Network in Europe.
3. It is the right time: For the past five years we have been praying about timing. This year we have experienced God's release and blessing to go. Practically our kids are at a great age to adapt to the challenges as well as be able to take in and appreciate the life-lessons and rich experiences that will abound. We also sense this assignment with its different roles and locations will be a gift to our family after ten intense years of living as inner-city missionaries.
What We Will be Doing
1. Developing the Antioch Network team in Europe: This will take us to Germany, Austria, Italy, Malta, and Turkey
2. Helping connect the emerging Antioch Network hubs: In Germany, Rome, Istanbul, and a potential new one in Malta
3. Attending Wittenberg Reconciliation meetings in June 2016 and provide on-the-ground planning for the sixth and largest meeting that will take place November 2017 commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation
4. Offering ourselves and the principals we have learned from establishing Apprenticeship to Jesus in Phoenix to the ministries being birthed in Rome and Malta.
5. Working with refugees: We are hoping to also connect and partner with different refugee ministries that we have connections with in Croatia, Malta, & Turkey
Want to Learn More? Join us for an upcoming dessert:
+Thursday March 31st 6:30-8:30pm at our house (1215 W. Monroe St.)
+Tuesday April 12th 6:30-8:00pm at Don & Genie Street's house (7113 N. 23rd St.)
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you will be coming to one of these desserts!
by Ted Wueste
After resurrection, there is peace
Strivings can cease
Breathing can slow
After resurrection, there is peace
A peace that surpasses understanding
A peace that calms my fears
After resurrection, there is peace
All things are made new
The promise of hope is real
After resurrection, there is peace
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
Ted Wueste is a friend of A2J and you can access more of his writing by clicking this link: http://desertdirection.com
By Daniel Malakowsky
In November of 2013 we got a call from our good friend, Amber E, that an invitation we had given her 6 months prior to join us in living in intentional community to love and serve our neighborhood was something she wanted to embrace. Our plan had been to convert our detached garage into a studio apartment, but our architectural ambitions were ambushed by those pesky zoning laws and city ordinances that forced us to resort to a plan B. That meant more people were needed so we could lease another house in the neighborhood. Fortunately for us our friend and longtime A2Jer, Shannon, was up for the challenge and together with these two women we formed a prayer group and began praying for the space.
God moved and a home opened up just a few houses down and by June of 2014 both gals were there with the hope that the third room would soon be filled with another awesome lady. That hope was met when Carly, an east coast gal moving to Phoenix to teach, decided to join us in this grand adventure of learning of how to love well and do this ‘fullness of life’ thing Jesus talked about. My secret ambition, except it wasn’t secret because I told them all about it, was that these three, single ladies would draw some really godly men and we would hit that critical mass needed to develop the foundations of cultivating long-term change in the community.
I had dreams of outreach and mission, transformational relationships with our neighbors, Bible studies and prayer times that simply allowed our new found friends in the neighborhood to encounter the living hope that we came into the presence of every time we gathered. Well, we never got there. Instead what we found was that we were all in incredibly difficult seasons of transition and finding ourselves anew and that our greatest mission would not be our neighborhood, but how well we stood with and loved one another. Career changes, broken dreams, changing relationships and networks of friends, burnout and fatigue…it seemed like around every corner was another challenge for us to enter into with one another.
On top of that Carly’s mom kept Skyping in and praying with the ladies and apparently God really listens to her prayers. The desires for marriage, for a family, for a shared life with someone who would covenant themselves to them, well that began getting prayed for and within a few weeks it seemed as though each gal was engaging in a new relationship that we all knew was probably ‘it.’ Soon these guys started hanging around and eventually bent their knees with rings in hand, and next thing I know we were planning weddings. Instead of creating an anchor of hope for our neighborhood it seemed as though God had different plans and wanted us rather to be a launching pad into the new seasons he was calling each of these women into.
In January of this year I had the privilege of marrying Amber and her guy, Anthony, an incredible man who has not just blessed Amber, but all of us in the community. A week later I was emceeing (you can call me DJ Danny Dan!) the next wedding as Carly committed her life to Sean, another incredible man who has become a blessing to us. This summer will be the final wedding as Shannon marries another Sean, once more another incredible man (sometimes I jokingly shake my fist at Carly’s mom’s prayer as it was answered really well!).
This past Saturday we watched Amber and Anthony drive off after helping them pack the rest of their things as they had held down our community house after the other gals moved out. I stood with my children playing outside and felt the sadness of knowing that once more we would have to hold open hands towards the Lord in the call to live in committed community in the proximity of our own neighborhood. I couldn’t help but feel grief and sadness knowing that, while community living is a sacrifice and requires work, it is also a blessing that opens your eyes to what is possible in friendship and in Christ.
We have been in this neighborhood for nearly 9 years now and I looked around and wondered has anything even changed since we have been here? Is the neighborhood better because we have been there? How many people have we still not connected to, shared our faith with, and opened our hearts and home too? For a second I wondered openly before the Lord if we had failed him. This was our third attempt to build and cultivate this work in the community and once more we would be on our own again, not a thriving community, but a worn out and tired family that is growing into its own new season with little league, school projects, job transitions, etc.
Then on Easter morning I woke up and while hiding eggs for my children, I remembered. I remembered the friendships and relationships and how God’s love had touched us. I remembered Dan and Jessica, our friends who first invited us into this adventure and whose season was short in this specific work, but whose lives are a blessing to all they encounter. I remembered Amber H and her brief season with us, a critical moment in her own venture into finding herself and eventually her healing as the gift of her story and life is now touching so many lives. I remembered Darlene and her family, her brothers Sammy and Lito, how much fun we had and how we got to stand with each other in a very trying season.
I remembered Anna and the two years she shared our home with us. How the Lord worked in all of us to grow us, to mature us, and to create more fruitful love in each of our lives. I remembered guitar lessons and prayer, hard conversations and shared meals, times of study and times of laughter. I simply remembered.
We love quoting the Proverb that while a man makes his plans, the Lord directs his steps. What I am not sure we love is actually living it. For 9 years I have had my plans for this neighborhood, and for 9 years the Lord has directed our steps. I don’t know what this next step is leading to or where it is going, but I do know I can look back and see his hand in every relationship and every season.
So did we fail? I think that question begs the wrong answer. The work of God is not the success of our programs and assignments. The work of God is the renewal of our heart’s in Christ as we learn to eternally belong to him and one another in love. Remembering has shown me that God has been faithful to produce that ‘success’ in us and all those we have been privileged to share this journey with.
Is our neighborhood the same? No, because we are not the same and neither are those who have taken the risk of joining us in going deep with God and with one another. You can’t always see that change, but you sure can feel it. It rises up from the depths of the soul and impacts every relationship we will have from here on out. It’s a change we carry within us.
As we step into another season of the unknown, we do so with the memory of God’s faithful hand working in and through us. We step into a future that is formed through our past. We step into the unexpected blessings that those directed steps hold. We step with open hands, a gracious and faithful God, and a love we are only now beginning to understand.
by Jeff Skeens
One of the gifts I’ve been given from the construction world is that I understand it takes time to create something beautiful. And that ‘time’ includes lots hard work, sweat, many mistakes, sometimes broken bones, blood, busted budgets, mental toughness to keep the vision in mind when all you see is a mess, and the willingness to keep at it, to do it the right when things get difficult, and not cut corners. I have many terrible stories of what cutting corners does in the construction world… just go out to a new housing suburb and ask a homeowner what issues they have with their “new” home. Good work, beautiful work, takes time and commitment to do things right.
With many jobs I work on, there is demolition that has to happen before we can start actually ‘building.’ Whether it’s digging the footer for a stem wall that is going to hold the bearing load of a building, jackhammering out old concrete and rebar to build something more functional or more aesthetically pleasing, or tearing out walls, ceiling or floors for a remodel. The homes or buildings where demo takes place becomes a dusty mess, full of hazards and is in need of strong labors to tear out and haul off all the junk that is no longer necessary.
It takes this…
To get to this…
To get this...
In life, this struggle is the same. We all want the beauty without the work. We want the resurrected life without the death. We want healing but not the pain. We want the finished product, but not the long journey of demolition and clean up to get to the point where you can actually start building again. We want to live in peace, and run from disorder. We want to ignore what’s broken. We want to cut corners. This is a human desire. I don’t know anyone, who in their right mind, loves pain and waiting a long time for things to become whole. But not loving these things does not mean we can dodge them and expect the beauty we long for.
You see, this work is hard because if forces us to deal with that which we are afraid of: exposure of our shame, ignored trauma and loss, an invitation to grieve, asking others to help us haul off the junk that's been demolished... This work is hard because it invites us into the truth of the way things really are, and to ‘willingly’ move into our shame and grief seems like a death wish at worst, and stupid at best.
But it is precisely the digging into the shame and moving into the grief that is what creates the beauty. It's the asking for help and recruiting strong laborers to help with the heavy lifting. But remember, it’s the ashes covered over the forest floor that brings about a plush forest in years to come. It’s the work of sitting in your pain long enough to die to the old ways that have kept you numb isolated, and without passion and intimacy for years. Death must be at work within us for beauty to ever surface in the purest sense.
So here’s to the hard work of creating beauty when there is no clear vision of what it will look like once we get there. Here’s to sitting in our pain (not completely on our own though) long enough to die, and in the tomb of grief, in time, it will turn into a womb. And once again, you will be invited into the pain as you will labor to give birth to the hidden beauty waiting to be revealed.
This is an invitation for the revolutionary, the visionary, the one who is not happy with the way things have been, for those who are not willing to cut corners, and move past the comments that are meant to keep you from feeling and dealing with what's really going on under the slab. May this encourage you today to stay the course, and as Mumford and Sons puts it, to not succumb when the world is wrapping round your neck. Find your broad-shouldered beasts and invite them in to your shame and grief to share to weight and pain of this journey towards beauty.
by Jeff Skeens
I’m a contractor. That is to say, over the last 20 years of my life, one of the main ways I have financially provided for my family has been via construction jobs. I started out as a framer/roofer, then started laying tile, became a journeyman bricklayer, got into all other types of floor covering, then got into small scale general contracting work. It has been a nice trade to have when I’m in the middle of life transitions, as I am now. It also serves as a great platform for life lessons.
A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law approached me about a plumbing issue he had with his main sewer line. It had been backing up and overflowing into the shower/bath tub… shit doesn’t always flow downhill, especially when underground pipes disintegrate. This was their problem. They had a plumbing locator come out with a digital “snake” that could go down in the main plumbing drain with a camera to see what the problem was.
Years ago, plumbers replaced an old 4″ drain with new ABS pipe. The problem was, they stopped 4′ short of the city main, thinking the old pipe was good enough since it still looked like it was in good shape. Well, years later, the downhill ascent of the messiness of our lives came to an end at this residence. The locator marked the ground where the pipe was, and gave us a depth of 6.5 – 7 feet, and a range of a few feet wide of where it “could” be.
The answer: hand dig over 6 feet down, find the pipe where the new meets up with the old, and then chase the disintegrated pipe to the city main and replace it with new ABS pipe. It’s a crap shoot (pun intended). I agreed to help out my brother-in-law since he was having a hard time getting a plumber to commit to remedying the problem, even though I was totally nervous about accomplishing this feat in a days work. I headed out there with a helper named Red. He’s a little younger than I am, and was eager to get after it for the day, but I didn’t tell him that this was going to nearly take our lives today… I wanted to keep his spirits up!
So we got to the job and stuck our shovels in the dirt and went for it. Hour after hour, we would dig, then widen the hole and create steps so we could actually dig, shovel the dirt out, and climb in and out of the hole. The deeper we got the narrower the pit got, and the more the oxygen around us seemed to absorb into the walls of dirt around us, instead of our lungs receiving the refreshment. It got to the point where we would switch digging every 10 minutes. I never told Red, but I was discouraged when we got to the 6.5′ mark and couldn’t find the pipe.
Eventually after digging around we found the new pipe fitting at the very corner of our hole. If we didn’t widen the original hole by 6″ at the beginning, we would’ve missed it altogether, because the old pipe had disintegrated and we could not see where it was. At this point, we new roughly where the city main was, so now we had to tunnel our hole toward the alley, and pray that we would hit the main. Now I am thinking this one day job is going to turn into two days or more, and we will possibly have to get a permit to dig in the alley and rent a back hoe, etc… this was not going to save my brother-in-law money like I wanted to.
There Red and I were, tunneling a dirt hole that had turned mildly muddy from the “watered-down toilet papery poopy” water coming out of the main sewer line. We were in the “shit pit!” Literally! This was one of the hardest days of work I’ve had, and I’ve had some hard days. The physical pain of digging, the psychological battle of trying to decide if we dig 6″ more to the left or go 6″ more to the right was wearing me down, and Red wasn’t as excited about getting after it anymore at this point. Finally, I was in the pit and started yelling out, “Mercy, mercy, mercy!” Red looked into the pit and was wondering what in the world was going on. I finally broke. I told him, “I’m done… I don’t think we’re going to find this stupid pipe.”
So I got out of the pit and he started digging, crying out for mercy too, in his own way. It seems that this is all we can do sometimes when we get into the pit, and we come to the end of what we have brought to the table. Two grown men, begging for mercy, weary and feeling a sense of powerlessness to change our situation. Pathetic, I know! This is typical to how life gets sometimes though, when we are worn down with nothing left to give. Crying out for help never seems to be a good answer until you’re at the bottom of the “shit pit,” then, that’s all you got.
So we kept taking turns digging. Finally after a few hours of tunneling, I was in the muddy pit, crying like a poor school boy, complaining about everything under the sun, and then I heard a high pitched “DING!” That was it. I hit the main! I busted out in an old hymn, “All creatures of our God and king, Lift up your voice and with us sing…” Red was laughing at me, and my sister-in-law was in her house and heard me singing and then came out on the patio and joined in with me and started singing… “Alleluia! Alleluia!…O praise Him! O praise Him! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
We hit the main! We can fix it. We can make the smell stop and flow get back to the way it’s supposed to be. Mercy showed up and offered relief, and Red and I knew, we couldn’t have done this alone. We needed each other, the breaks, the mental and verbal encouragement, the knowledge that someone else is there and they care about this problem too. Oh how we need this type of lesson to speak to us in the midst of the craziness and relentlessness of life.
If you’re down in the pits, cry out for mercy! It’s okay to cry out, even as adults. Sometimes we find ourselves in the pit, and need others to be in it with us, to cry our for mercy with us, to share the load with us, to sing with us when relief comes. This is a picture of why we need one another in life. Don’t go at it alone. Invite others into your journey. Be vulnerable. Be available. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Cry out when you’re in the pit of despair. And if you’re sitting with others in the pit, cry out on their behalf. We need each other.
-by Ryan Thurman
Artist Fritz Eichenberg created this piece in 1951, believing the fact that Jesus walked with the "least of these", those most of society thought were outcasts, worthless. As the title clearly points out, in Jesus in the Breadline, Eichenberg portrays Jesus as a homeless man, and when you think about it, if Jesus came during the era of breadlines, He probably would have been standing in one.
On Sunday I was on my hands and knees in manure and dirt trying to get my front yard ready to plant Spring flowers and vegetables. Noleen was out of town all weekend and I was feeling a little burnt and lacking patience with my kids as they were energetically trying to help but not doing it the way I wanted them to. At the height of my frustration Ray walked by, he is a friend who has been homeless for many years. I hadn't seen him in a few months and instead of jumping up and embracing him with a hug I gave him forced cordial greeting and after a few distracted pleasantries I invited him to stay and have a drink with me. He kindly declined, as I have had time to reflect on this exchange, I am sure that he knew that my outward offers of hospitality were not genuine, because my heart lacked true space for him to enter into, as I was focused on the task at hand and on my own shallow suffering. I missed Jesus in that moment.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. -Matthew 9:36
Most men lead lives of quite desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. -Henry David Thoreau
When I look around it appears that our society is falling apart at the seams, so many people are harassed and helpless in need of a guide in these troubling times. Jesus was moved by compassion when he saw this in his time and we who follow Jesus are to be likewise moved in this same way. Henri Nouwen defines compassion this way: Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. The crowds around us do not need our pity nor do they want to become our project they need the love of God expressed through us going to them and entering into their lives. We cannot settle for simply inviting them to church or some other christian event because for most there are way too many barriers. We have to go to them and love them as God loves them without condition and without strings attached. The world is waiting for safe, strong and selfless guides to rise up and point them to Jesus who alone can reconcile them to God and to their fellow man. Ours is an age hungry for the healing of broken relationships. But do we see the suffering around us or are we too distracted? And if we do see do we the the heart to feel? “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the suffering" Although I missed experiencing Jesus in my friend Ray on Sunday, this does not define me. I accept that I am in process and always in need of God's grace and mercy. So today I will drink deeply from the living water that can refresh and revive my heart and pray that God will set my heart free from lesser things so that it may be set aflame with love for Him and my fellow man.
God of every human being, in a world where we are bewildered
by the incomprehensible suffering of the innocent,
how can we be witnesses to the Gospel?
Enable us to manifest the compassion of Christ
by the lives that we live.
-Brother Roger (founder of Taize)