Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Backstory to the 1200 Club

In Jake’s words…

I remember February 2013 like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my office at Kingdom Courts organizing rosters for another basketball tournament when my phone rang. My caller ID showed the name Tim Day. It had been years since I talked with Tim and I thought the call was quite random. Tim is also an elder at Cornerstone Church so we had passed by each other from time to time within the church, but it had definitely been a while since we had talked outside of the cordial hello.

Tim was calling to tell me that Cornerstone Church was preparing to do a one time free will offering and that they would be giving all the money away. Tim also informed me that Cornerstone was prepared to give Kingdom Cares International a portion of those funds. He had no idea what the amount might be, but he did give me a couple of stipulations. Tim told me I was not allowed to just sit on the money in the bank account and with that being said he asked if I had any immediate needs and/or projects that the funds could be used for. I don’t believe Tim knew me real well at the point in time, but God is always laying projects on my heart so my immediate answer was of course we have a project (even though I had no idea at that time what we would do with extra funds). The conversation basically ended with “Ok that sounds great - we will be in touch!”

Over the next couple of months I did not hear much from Tim or the church as the free will offering had come and gone. Then in May of 2013 Tim decided to call me again and inform me that Kingdom Cares International would receive $40,000 from that free will offering. Just writing this still gives me goose bumps. Then he once again asked me if I had a project we could use the money for. Over the months in between the first phone call and this phone call God had clearly spoke to me about what we were to do with the funds. God was telling me to use the funds to build the first Kingdom Cares International Mission Center in Asikuma, Ghana where we could care for the most needy and orphaned children in this community.

There was one small problem. The vision that God laid upon my heart was a $200,000 project - not a $40,000 one. I believe I may have left out a few of those details for Tim as I just went with the flow and said we were going to use the funds to build the first ever Kingdom Cares Mission Center. The one thing God has taught me since 2008 is that if we are going to truly live a life for Christ then we have to walk by faith. David Platt in his book the “Radical” puts it this way, “We know we are doing something for God when we are in major trouble if He doesn’t show up.” The reason God asks us to walk by faith is so in the end He will always receive the glory and not the individual that God is using.

In June of 2013 when those funds were received by Kingdom Cares I knew it was time to walk by faith and pray like I have never prayed before as I would REALLY need God to show up on this one. We took the first $40,000 and purchased the land, hired the construction team, and started in on the foundation without one clue where the other $160,000 would come from. Over the next few months every time we ran out of cash God would lay it on someone’s heart to donate or a random check would show up in the mail and at a snail’s pace the project would continue. Over and over and over again, God would allow the account to hit $0.00 and then He would provide just a little more.

In the months after that first gift I would be out telling people about what Kingdom Cares was doing and how we are building this mission center in Asikuma, Ghana. Everyone’s first question to me was after it is built how are you going to meet the monthly operating cost? The truth was that I had no idea how we were going to meet the monthly operating expense (let alone actually get the mission center built)! I just knew that God was telling me to take the next step and he would work out all the details. This is where the rubber meets the road with an organization that believes in what the Bible says as absolute truth. In the world of business - with people who have resources - this ideology makes no sense and does not seem like something that would be smart to invest in. With that being said I received a lot of handshakes and compliments on what I was doing, but not a ton of outside financial support. However, I knew what the bible teaches on how we need to walk by faith and how God uses the foolish things of the world to teach the wise! I just prayed that this would become a reality with my walk as there were many nights I woke up at two in the morning wondering what in the world was I doing. I was just so thankful that during this time God’s voice was so was clear to me that I had no choice but to continue to follow the Lord’s prompting and continue to walk by faith.

Now let’s fast forward to a cold November night in 2013. It had been a long night of training at the Kingdom Courts gym and I was down to my last session of the night. As I was training God began to speak to me once again. The idea that was planted on my heart was so clear. God was asking me to start something called the 1200 club. The 1200 club would be where people could give $100 per/month for Kingdom Cares International projects and on-going operations for things like the Mission Center. I wrestled with God that $100 was just too much. Organizations like World Vision only ask for $35 per/month to sponsor a kid. $100 was certainly out of the question. I even asked God if we could just do the 600 club…$50 per/month…much more doable for people. I continued to get the same response back which was NO. I felt as though God was saying to me that I want it to be a number that when people commit to it, that it will be a step of faith into an organization that walks by faith. I believe that God does not want Kingdom Cares International to just be a place where some cool things happen internationally for the Gospel, but a place where God can use and teach others to walk by faith. With that being said I was done arguing with God and was willing to follow where the Spirit was leading.

On the way home that night I called Doug Vander Weide and laid out the 1200 club vision for him. Doug always supports my crazy ideas and gives me encouragement when I need it and it was no different that night. The next morning I woke up feeling a little crazy, but I have also gotten used to that feeling as this is a regular occurrence in my life. That morning I skipped my treadmill time at Anytime Fitness and rushed to our offices. I announced to my staff that in December we were going to host the first annual Kingdom Cares International breakfast where we would officially announce the 1200 club, and hopefully raise some additional funds for the Kingdom Cares Mission Center because the account was back on zero. Alex looked at me like I was crazy and I believe Todd may have added in that December is only a few weeks away. I guess I thank God for Ankeny Rental & HyVee catering because we pulled off that first breakfast!!

As I continued to wrestle through the 1200 club idea God told me to put the names of all the people who participate on the wall as you enter the Kingdom Courts facility. We were just going to put up one small section but God once again said, “NO, I want you to fill the entire wall” and that He would worry about the details of filling it with names. I told Greg to head to fast signs and get this wall designed and what the name plaques would look like. I praise God everyday for being surrounded by people who just say, “ok,” while I know in the back of their minds that they have to be thinking I am working for a crazy guy!

I still remember when the silver back drop of the wall was installed. It was installed without one name on it; yet I was confident in God’s voice telling me that in due time that wall would be filled with names. We kicked off the first breakfast and slowly some names were added to that wall. In March of 2014 God blessed us with a large gift that finished the mission center and names continued to be added to that wall. For over a year as I ran my training sessions on court 2 (purposefully so every night I could stare at that wall) I would see names slowly added, but would also stare at the big wall with the portion of plaques where there were no names. There were no names on the big wall for 364 days. During those 364 days there were many times that I wondered if I was losing my mind!! Then as only God would do it, the night before the 2nd annual Kingdom Cares International Breakfast the first wall had reached fulfillment at 54 names and one lone name was added to the big blank silver canvas on the second big wall. Since December, we have added 6 new names to that big empty wall with 5 new names in production to be added in the next week or so. As I stare at that silver canvas every Tuesday & Wednesday evening, I am reminded of the promises that God made in my life in 2008 when He began to teach me to walk by faith. I am reminded of June 2013 when we received that first gift from Cornerstone Church. I am reminded of that cold November night when God clearly spoke to me about getting people involved through the 1200 club. I am reminded about how God faithfully saw us through in the building of the mission center. I am reminded of how there are orphaned children now with their forever families. I am also reminded of the work yet to be done as one by one the empty spaces come to be filled.

Today I want to invite each of you to possibly take that step of faith and come alongside what Kingdom Cares International is doing and become a part of the 1200 club. God can do awesome things with our lives, but often he asks us to take the first step of faith so that His glory can fully be seen.

To become a part of the 1200 club please visit http://www.kingdomcares.org/donate/ and once on the form select Kingdom Cares, select recurring gift, and follow the steps from there.

Thank you for considering supporting our mission!

Jake

Sunday, January 25, 2015

We Need 10

The operating costs for our Kingdom Cares International Missions Center and recently completed adjoining school have increased by $800 per month just over the past week.


This comes as we have welcomed 7 new children into the full-time care of our mission center last week...

as well as confirmed how we will navigate the daily and weekly operations of the school. Upon our arrival home from our recent trip, the school was completed and saw its official enrollment day last week on January 19, 2015. Over 100 children were enrolled...





Here is an outline of the program and costs for the school in excess of the general educational curriculum:
  • Each student will receive lunch Monday through Saturday at the school (each student enrolled - other than those staying at our mission center - pays Ghc 1.50p for enrollment) 
  • We will introduce extra-curricular activities on Saturdays for the school children. They will learn how to do beads, weave kente (traditional African cloth), make bags, and how to print on T-shirts. This is to help the children learn to support themselves as they grow. There will also be sports and games provided. 
  • We will have 7 teachers for the week days and 3 teachers for the extra-curricular activities. 
  • The classroom teachers will be paid 200.00 Cedis (Ghc) each per month. 
  • Extra-curricular teachers will be paid 50.00 Cedis (Ghc) each per month. 
  • Two women will help cook lunch for the students and will also help to bathe the children at the mission center and wash their clothes. 
  • The cooks will be paid 200.00 Cedis (Ghc) each per month. 
In summary it will be a projected total of 1,950.00 cedis each month to run the school.

[In case you are wondering, 3.27 Ghana cedis is equivalent to 1 U.S. dollar]

In addition to this, we are also in need of about $200 more per month to cover the increasing costs of the food needs for the children staying at our mission center as more and more keep being welcomed in.




In light of all this, we are looking for 10 new donors to become a part of our 1200 Club.….of course more would be gratefully accepted! The 1200 Club is a 1 year commitment to donate $100 per month to Kingdom Cares International so that we can continue to fund and move forward with our projects such as that detailed above.

If you would like to become a member, or feel led to give a one-time donation, you can do so online at: https://kingdomcaresinternational.cloverdonations.com/kingdom-cares-mission-center/ [Note, in order to become a 1200 Club member select recurring donation on the form]

Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Moments of Impact - Ghana Trip January 2015

How do we find hope in a broken world?


We hope in knowing that one day God will return and fix it. Every longing we have for things to be made right is really our longing for heaven. When it will be. Until then, the fragrance of Christ in us is the comfort meant to intersect the world’s raw and broken parts…the beat down and left for lost parts….the ignored, the overlooked, the set aside parts. Grace. It doesn’t self-protect. It doesn’t coward in the face of suffering. It doesn’t hold back. It abundantly pours out. It wildly chases down. It always leaves us in a better condition than it found us in. Ambassadors of grace, of comfort, of hope…as we ourselves have received, so then we pour out. This is our assignment. This is how the world hangs on until His coming.

***

The remedy for apathy is to sit knee to knee with a soul, to look another human in their eyes, and hear their story.

When we selfishly shield ourselves from encountering suffering, from entering into another’s pain, we short change the cycle of His grace. HIV threatens to rob the lives of this mother and son. But passivity brings an equal threat to my own soul. To numb myself against the aches of this world will ultimately smother His light…the inactivity causing my heart to atrophy, to callous, to grow lukewarm. A deep type of bravery is this: to sit and be still with another in their suffering knowing you cannot even offer a solution, nothing to fix it….but can only, simply allow your heart to bleed with theirs as they walk through the valley. It seems not enough. I stand at their side - quiet. She is one of a hundred faces I have seen today. But something about her son reminds me of mine. And the thought of her plight being my own takes me over. They are dressed in their Sunday garments. But it isn't Sunday. They dressed up just for us...as if to offer us their best...all that they can. Now, will I do the same? As the tears well up, I realize it's here...bending low with another...choosing to make my heart available to help shoulder the burden of their load...this is where the heart breaks, spills open, COMES ALIVE. This is how apathy dissolves, how darkness is pushed back.

***

Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. |Luke 22:24-26|


In Ghana, you cannot separate the spiritual from the physical. If you desire to make a spiritual impact, you must first choose to reach out and make a physical impact….meet a physical need. One piece of our trip was visiting two separate villages in which our friends Nick and Typhanie and their non-profit, The Move Project, have dug three water wells to bring the communities clean water.


There are hundreds of water wells that have been dug in Africa but in reality equipment breaks down, things go wrong, the villagers are not taught how to maintain the pumps. Many wells sit broken and defective because of lack of follow up and no relational focus. Nick and Typh are in for the long haul. This will be a committed, ongoing relationship between The Move Project and the communities of Tsipasi and Gbanabey. This trip we were blessed to be there to support the beginning chapter of their partnerships with these communities.

Women carrying their water from the clean water well in Tsipasi, Ghana.


***

I could not have ever imagined a more beautiful, peaceful, joy-filled place for the needy in Asikuma than our mission center...now in full operation. This was my first time visiting it in person. It is perfect, warm, comforting...a retreat away from the harsh village life.






















***
Will you stop for just one? "It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for...the masses." -Dag Hammarskjold, UnitedNations-


***

The breathtaking beauty of the shore of Cape Coast seems almost to be a masquerade from the heavy oppression and darkness that suffocates this city.


Just a short walk from the cleansing, rhythmic ocean waves sits the drug house...the place where the addicts hide, the prostitutes live, and the enemy manifests himself inside souls and behind doors. Our once Saul-now-Paul guide, Claudius, leads us back to his ministry...to the very ones that he gets ridiculed and chastised for tending to. "Don't mix with these people," the townsfolk say to him. "Do not involve yourself in doing anything for them." But these are the ones that his heart cannot forget, because their chains are all too familiar. "One prayer I always pray is that God will make those who hear my voice not to rest until they find salvation." He pursues them as God pursues us. And Jesus' voice reigns louder than the Pharisees. "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." So we go up the heavy stairs. We breathe in the burdens and the lost identities and the pleading eyes that beg to be freed from the prison of addiction. And it's here that I know it more. It shouts loud and wild through my veins. What the Pharisees miss. Right now in this jacked up, messed up, drugged up, roughed up, darkness. This is where I am to be FOUND because His presence is NOT BOUND to a church and to the cleaned up and the high up. It's right here. Right here is HOLY GROUND.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Jesus Wept

“Janel, what do the scriptures mean when it says, ‘Jesus wept’?” His soft question broke into the quiet air on the porch and hung expectantly.

That verse. Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the entire Bible. How could I have known that those two little words would lead into creating one of the biggest impacts of my entire trip. Knowing what had unfolded in Evans’ life just months prior, I knew better than to give him a surfacy answer. There was something deeper to be uncovered here.

“Well, let’s look it up,” I offered. I flipped to the concordance, found the verse reference…John 11:35. We opened up to John chapter 11: The Death of Lazarus. I began to read him the scriptures…

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days… 

Yet…He stayed where He was two more days. The words don't seem to fit.  And in His delay to come to the rescue of His friend, the great Healer, it seems, missed His cue. Lazarus dies. And Jesus’ words about this sickness not ending in death seem to fall to the ground. Unfulfilled.

On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days… 

And the questions are brewing. The thoughts, escalating…

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 

Her words sting in the moments.  Heavy words. Familiar words. Isn’t this the wondering cry of all our hearts when bad things happen to us? Lord, why didn’t you show up? You could have protected him from dying…why didn’t you? Do you not love us? Have you forsaken us? You could have stopped this from happening….if only You had been here…

I pause and look at Evans. This account is not just a story to him. It is his own. The sting of death arrived tragically at his family’s doorstep just months earlier, and now, he is suddenly fatherless…the man of the house at age 14.…left to make his way in the shadow of death’s aftermath.

I stare at the red words that come next. Bright red words that seem to shout and stand out and wave their arms frantically as they plead for attention on the page. Words of life. Healing. Answers.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

I’m starting to see it now. This is why Evans asked me his question. The Lord has led him to this scripture on purpose.  This is how he'll come to know.  This is how he'll come to know that it wasn’t that God didn’t love him…that’s not why his father died...

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. 

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 

Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 

It wasn’t that God had forsaken Evans and his family. No.  That's the lie, the accusation of the enemy.  Our enemy who wants us to believe that God has pulled away from us....

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this many from dying?” 

The lies and accusations will always be offered to us, and will always be easier, less work to believe.  We must hunt for truth.  Sometimes, His glory, His blessings come to us in disguise.

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 

Sometimes, it's only when you stare death in the face that you see how it can be a teacher.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 

I read the words in red to Evans. They dance out of my mouth.  I feel it coming.  How when you are in the presence of Jesus, death never has the last word. And scripture too is alive and becomes your own story told.  I smile and know it...our thoughts aren't standing at Lazarus' tomb anymore. We are at the grave of Evans' father.  I tell Evans how it's here, right here, that God wants to give Evans the answer to death, just as He wanted all those gathered at Lazarus' tomb to know too.  I tell him how all of our bodies are going to die one day, but there is One who can bring us back to life...who holds death's keys.

Then I ask him. Point blank. “Evans, do you believe this?”

Without even a moment of hesitation he gives a confident answer of faith, “Yes.”

I want to leap out of my chair. I sense the power of the moment. I feel the demons fall back, their accusations that God has forsaken us falling to the ground, shattering. Somehow I understand it….that this moment for Evans is to be celebrated. Like one whose eyes had just been opened. I start talking fast and tell him about getting him a Bible and about the Holy Spirit coming to dwell inside of him and then I hear it. The words roll in like a soft wave inside me. “Believe and be baptized.” 

I pause and seem to interrupt myself, “Have you ever been baptized?”

“No,” he answers.

Swiftly I say it, and out loud so as to hold myself to it, “Okay, well, once we get to Cape Coast you can be baptized! I will baptize you!”

I will? I will!

I erupt into an explanation of baptism and how it is an outward demonstration that symbolizes what has just transpired in his heart. He smiles and nods in understanding and when I ask him if he wants to be baptized, again, there is no hesitation, “Yes.”

I am wowed, and His words ring true. It is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.  Even in the valley of the shadow of death He opens our eyes and we see His glory pass by.

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”




When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.


Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kingdom Cares International Mission Center

Jake is just finishing out a trip to Ghana right now and I wanted to share these photo updates he has taken of our Kingdom Cares International Mission Center! Since 2009 it had been our vision to build a home in Ghana where vulnerable, neglected, voiceless, orphaned children could be cared for, educated, and given opportunities they otherwise would not receive. Last year our church, Cornerstone Church of Ames, helped to initiate our vision by gifting us $40,000 to begin construction on the home. From there God has kept the donations coming in jaw-dropping style as He is becoming rather famous for doing! The full vision of the project is to develop five acres of land into an entire youth complex that will include the children’s center, a school, and a recreational area that will have a soccer field, basketball court, and playground. For now, we are focusing on Phase I – the children’s home aka mission center - which will also house our long-term missionaries on staff. There is also a little section of the home reserved for short-term missionaries and for when our family visits. :) The mission center is on track to open this August! Many of you have asked me about individual child sponsorship. We did try out a sponsorship program for a 1 year trial period, but decided it was not the most effective strategy for how our organization can best impact the community. It has since been replaced with the 1200 Club which you can find more information about here: http://www.kingdomcares.org/donate/1200-club/  Donations from the 1200 Club fund projects just like this one. Pretty goosebumpy to see this vision coming to fruition…

Exterior view


Zoomed in view of front porch


Living room looking out to front entrance


Hallway to children's rooms


House Mother's room


Kitchen


One of the eleven bedrooms


They left a palm tree for me in the landscape :)


View from front porch looking out to the rest of the land God has allowed us to purchase


Water bole hole has been drilled!  Electricity goes in this coming week and then we will have running water in the entire mission center!


Our God-fearing full-time staff member, Wisdom, helping to prepare the land surrounding the mission center for farming.