We said yes again..
April 2015 I started a new job coordinating ministry development in Africa for Children's Hunger Fund (CHF). 6 weeks into the job I was off to Uganda & Rwanda teaching bible study methods with pastors from all over both countries. By the end of summer I had a renewed passion for the nations, the Word of God, and the Church.
“CHF changed my life and my family tree.” As I opened up speaking to special guests at the President’s reception for the grand opening of Poverty Encounter last Winter, I couldn’t help but be overjoyed. Smiling ear to ear it hit me, CHF took the boy who grew up 15 minutes from the ocean, but rarely went, overseas. Multiple trips to Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia.. stops in Paris, Dubai, Frankfurt, Brussels. Facilitating ministry in Ghana, South Africa, Ethiopia. Developing new relationships in Liberia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique. “CHF changed my life and my family tree,” now that I’ve gone my wife and kids MUST go. In fact I’m hoping our first trip together will be to Lusaka (Zambia) in not the too distant future. #TheNations
As years went on I transitioned into Domestic (US) ministry development where we work with local churches engaging the poor. This is where teaching principles of gospel-centered mercy ministry increased 10 fold. Before I came to CHF I enjoyed teaching, but it didn’t happen often. Working with ministers from San Diego on up to Fresno, over to Phoenix and Denver meant that there were 100s of ministry teams engaged in compassion and care ministry that they sought CHF out for training and resourcing with. This afforded me tons of teaching opportunities, which have only fanned into flame a God given gift for studying, understanding, and instructing others in God’s word. #TheWord
No matter the place, CHF works with and equips local churches. As a non-profit para-church organization it’s important to us to support the work of God’s ordained institution for reaching the world, not supplant it. In each and every one of the near 30 countries across the world in which CHF works, our #1 distinctive is “elevate the church.” This is what drew me to CHF to begin with. Before I was ever on staff I helped coordinate a class on urban ministry at the local university and would arrange field trips throughout LA to various non profits and orgs. Each year I saved the best for last, as students turned in their final exams -an ethnographic research paper, we headed off for one final site visit. You see along the way, these students would all draw that same conclusions about the complexities of urban ministry. As we evaluated the effectiveness of things like an incarnational approach to discipleship and evangelism there were always strengths and weaknesses of each ministry along the way. Time and time again students would be wow’d by soup kitchens and shelters run by Christians across the city, but perplexed by the detachment from the church. In every town, with few exceptions, missions and centers everyone knows the names of would be doing great ministry but fall short of the single most important reality. And then there was that December field trip to CHF. “We deliver hope✔️ to suffering children✔️ by equipping local churches✔️✔️ for gospel centered mercy ministry.” On this night a semester‘s worth of reading and research came alive as students saw a ministry situated only minutes from where they lived, with a global impact, that had been otherwise invisible and unknown prior because we “elevate [equip and encourage] the church.” In a given year CHF will receive and distribute 80-100 million dollars in resources and support to those in need through local churches. Not one recipient visits our international distribution centers, instead members of churches we partner establish relationships with those in need and visit them with support CHF (secretly) provides to the church. Whether food, finances, or furniture CHF gives these items freely to churches who then serve the needs of their community prioritizing declaring and demonstrating the gospel of Jesus Christ. #TheChurch
As you can see Children’s Hunger Fund has played no small role in influencing my ministry. More than the programs, many of the people I worked with have shaped my life and ministry indefinitely. Among those with the biggest impact are Dave and Lynn Phillips who founded the organization 27 years ago in their garage in an act of faith and obedience not unlike the one I feel God calling me into. It was humbling to walk them through the unveiling of their dream come true at Poverty Encounter for the first time and see the tears of joy and gladness shed, as they stood in awe of the Lord’s faithfulness to them across 3 decades. All because they said yes and keep saying it, even when it’s to the [seemingly] impossible.
And so here we are. We said yes again.. last month I resigned from my station at CHF. As I’ve grown in a passion for all of the above, it only made sense that God flung a door wide open for me to give myself to the work of advancing these Kingdom agendas full time. As of July 1 I’ve taken on the the role of Lead Pastor at Seed Communities - soon to be renamed Arise Ventura. Pray for us as we replant and relaunch the church in September. Its exciting. It’s time. And it’s [seemingly] impossible.