Unity and Honor

24 06 2013

Jesus’ prayer for his followers was that they would be one so the world would know the truth of God’s love (see John 17:20-23). Unity in the Church was of utmost importance to Jesus. That’s why at Quest we believe unity is worth fighting for.

Unity is easy when everyone agrees and when everyone gets along. However, unity is oftentimes elusive in the church especially in the midst of vast diversity, difference, and even conflict. Therefore, the way we treat one another when we disagree becomes a pivotal factor in determining whether unity within the body will be preserved. This Sunday at Quest I shared a biblical principle which I believe, if we all learn to practice, will not only preserve unity in the midst of conflict, but will lessen the intensity of conflict before it even arises. That principle? Honor.

When you honor someone you are speaking heaven’s language – you’re treating that person with respect and giving them value. You’re elevating them – lifting them up. Dishonor conversely is our culture’s language. When you dishonor someone you are devaluing them. You’re lowering them in an attempt to raise yourself up. In short, Honor = Love + Humility.

A pastor friend of mine summarizes the Bible’s teaching on this subject calling it 360° honor. 360° honor is all encompassing.

  • It begins with honoring God – humbling yourself to follow his ways rather than your own
  • It also includes honoring those above you – your parents, authorities, elected officials, church leaders, etc.
  • 360° honor also requires honoring those beside you – your spouse, coworkers, brothers and sisters in Christ, etc.
  • Finally, 360° honor involves honoring those you perceive to be below you – the less skilled, your subordinates, the least, last and lost.

If you dishonor those above you, beside you or below you, you ultimately dishonor God.

Of course the question always comes up, “What about the person who is dishonorable? Should I honor them too? What if they’re clearly wrong or they disobey and dishonor God?” David gives us a compelling example of honoring the dishonorable in both 1 Samuel 24 and 26 when he refuses to kill King Saul. I believe it is God’s way to honor even the dishonorable. Of course honoring someone does not mean agreeing or submitting to abuse or allowing yourself to be victimized, but rather giving respect, dignity and value to people in the midst of disagreement.

And yet oftentimes we will choose the dishonorable route. We’re tempted to:

  • Slander and gossip – tear people down behind their back
  • Use sarcasm or “snark” as a passive aggressive attack
  • Hold onto an overly critical spirit – second guessing other’s actions and regularly thinking “how you would do things differently if you were in charge.”

These actions are dishonorable and they undermine the unity of the church and therefore the mission Jesus gave us.

The truth is, we’re all dishonorable people. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ – the honorable one who out of love humbled himself unto death in order to lift up the dishonorable, you and me. And when we receive the grace Jesus offers, he not only washes us clean of dishonor, he gives us the power of his Spirit to reflect his honor through our lives. And to the extent that we do, the Church will be one, and the world will know of God’s love and want the Jesus we profess.

Why Christian Community?

18 06 2013

This Sunday at Quest we experienced a powerful story of Christian community at its best. It was a story of a Quest home group coming around one of its own to not only meet several very practical needs, but to love, support and encourage her through the tough work of healing from past shame, guilt and fear. It was a beautiful story. It was a redemptive story. It was a story that caused me to fall more deeply in love with The Church.

What’s more, this story was eerily similar to the experience of the Acts 2 church: They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. (Acts 2:42-47 – The Message)

At Quest we believe in the power of Christian community. Here are three reasons I shared on Sunday why Christian community is so important for any follower of Jesus Christ:

  1. So you’re not alone. God’s Word is clear – It is not right for man to be alone (Genesis 2:19). You were created to do life together with others. You were created for dependency. You were created for relationships. Practically speaking, this life is full of joys and sorrows, and your Christian community surrounds you in both to support you and celebrate with you. However, if you’re seeking out community simply so you’re not alone, it will fall short of “Christian community.” That leads us to #2 and #3
  2. So you become more like Jesus. It’s in Christian community where you best experience sustained life-transformation – transformation from your old life to your new life in Christ. You and I need others to help us grow to know, love and follow Jesus wholeheartedly. In Sunday’s testimony we heard how the home group lovingly encouraged their member to face her fears and to deal with her feelings with guilt and shame rather than run away from them. The group didn’t do the work for her, but they came alongside her to help her become more like Christ. You can call it accountability, support, or encouragement, but whatever you call it, it’s powerful.
  3. So the world can see Jesus. Most of us are plagued with a self-centered, individualistic view of things. So most times when we consider our Christian witness in the world around us, we think individually. But the truth is, in the early church, it was the witness of the Christian community that compelled those on the outside to WANT Jesus. If you don’t believe me, re-read Acts 2:42-47. If you still don’t believe me, read Jesus’ prayer in John 17 (especially vs. 20-23). Christian community done right draws people to Jesus. And isn’t that what our mission from Jesus is all about?

Maybe it’s time for you to step into Christian community. Or, if you already are, maybe it’s time to make your Christian community reflective of the earliest Christian community. And if you do, then watch out world. You’re about to encounter Jesus.

I Love The Church

11 06 2013

Every year at our Annual Conference (a gathering of representatives from nearly 900 United Methodist Churches in the southern 2/3rds of Illinois), we have the unfortunate responsibility to vote to close one or more churches. Although couched in language of “having fulfilled its mission,” and “leaving a legacy” through the sale or donation of church property, I can never help my heart from breaking. This year we voted to close two churches whose ministry had slowly dwindled and died out over the years. The vote is always a formality and the moment could easily be missed, but I always find myself grieving. I love the Church.

As a pastor of a church, I oftentimes hear about people’s previous encounters with the church. Most of the time, I hear painful stories of conflict leading to disillusionment or irrelevancy leading to apathy. It’s been my experience that every congregation is filled with people who have felt wounded by another congregation. Of course, many people who have been hurt simply leave the church altogether. This too breaks my heart because I love the Church.

• I love the Church as God envisioned it because all people are welcome.
• I love the Church because it’s made up of messed up people who have witnessed the miraculous.
• I love the Church because it’s a community that does life together – the highs and the lows.
• I love the Church because despite our differences we’re united in Christ.
(In fact, Quest is experiencing this first hand through the graciousness and hospitality of Grace United Methodist Church who is now sharing their home with us. We’re stronger together!)
• I love the Church because we’re all equal at the foot of the cross.
• I love the Church because Jesus loved the Church enough to lay down his life for her.
• I love the Church because even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

But more than any other reason, I love the Church because the Church is the body of Jesus entrusted with the mission of proclaiming and living out the hope of the gospel. As Christ’s body, the Church is called to be broken for one another and the world, but in turn will be resurrected to new life both now and eternally. You see, in the end, no matter what way you slice it, The Church is ALL about Jesus. That’s why I love The Church.

Yes, I love the Church, but truth be told, I also love my church, Quest. I love the welcoming nature of our church. I love the commitment to sacrifice in order that people will encounter Jesus. I love that we’re united around the purpose of sharing the extravagant love of God with all people – in our community and around the world. I love that we have fun together, but we also challenge one another daily to become more like Jesus. I love that even when there is conflict, we honor and respect one another. Oh there are countless reasons why I love Quest, but most of all I love that YOU are a part of Quest. The Church after all is people, and you make my church special.

I flat out love the church and my church. Throughout this month, it’s my prayer that you will fall more and more in love with your church, the Church of Jesus Christ, too.

One Month to Live

4 01 2012

December 21, 2012 is the day the world ends according to the ancient Mayan calendar. Around Quest we’re not waiting. On December 31st, dozens of Questers committed to living the next 30 days as if they only had One Month to Live. Really, you ask? Isn’t that a bit morbid? Maybe, but the best way to live every moment to the fullest is to embrace the reality that life is short. In Psalm 39:4, David prayed, LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away. David understood that only those who grasp the truth of their eminent death will be in a position to truly live.

What about you? When others look back on your life, will they say that you lived life to the fullest?  Will they be able to look at your life and agree that you took hold of Jesus’ words in John 10:10 when he said, I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. Will they say you faithfully lived your one and only “dash” (representing your life; the punctuation between your birth date and your death date on your tombstone)?  What will be revealed when you stand before Jesus and the books recording your life’s deeds are opened (see Revelation 20:12)?

The goal of Quest’s One Month to Live is not to depress you or freak you out.  Rather, it’s an opportunity to be confronted by the truth that life is short, while we still have time to do something about it. It’s an opportunity to reorder our lives around what matters most. And the best part is, we’ll get to do it together as a church community. Together we can begin to live out the dreams God has for us – dreams of greatness (see Ephesians 2:10).

So how do we start? I encourage every Quester to do two things: First, make every effort to be at each of our worship gatherings in January. Together we’ll learn to live a “no-regrets” life, revolutionize our most important relationships, embrace God’s mission for our lives, and begin to live every moment with eternity in mind. If you missed our New Year’s Eve service, you’ll want to listen online to get caught up. But just as importantly, I’m asking every Quester to participate in our One Month to Live Challenge. Here’s what the challenge entails:

  1. Every day do something that invests in your spiritual life.
  2. Every day do something that serves or benefits someone else.
  3. Pray this prayer every morning: God, I make myself available to you.  Use this day to change my heart so you can do the great things you have always dreamed of doing in my life.

I believe with all my heart that if we take this challenge seriously, if we begin to reorder our lives around what matters most, then these next four weeks can and will change the next four decades of our lives and the lives of those around us. Embrace the dreams that God has for your life. Begin living as if you only had, One Month to Live.

Reflections on Joe-Pa and the Penn State Tragedy

10 11 2011

Yes, I may be “quest pastor” but I am also an avid sports fan.  In fact, sports can be one of my vices!  So when the sports world makes headline news and involves such heartache, I feel compelled to throw in my two cents.  Here are some of my reflections on the entire scenario:

  1. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, seriously, get your head out of the sand.
  2. As a sports fan, I am very sad to see Joe Paterno exit the college ranks in this manner.  Without a doubt, 2 weeks ago, I would have said he was the greatest college football coach ever. He had the most Division I wins (a great trivia question will be, “What team did Joe-Pa defeat in his final game?” and the answer would be, my Illini) of all time, won two national championships, and until 2 weeks ago his Penn State program was impeccable in a sport riddled with NCAA violations.  As a sports fan, I would be marching with the numerous Penn State students in his defense.
  3. As a father, however, I am outraged at this entire tragedy, and the fact that it has only recently had light shed on it is in itself is even more outrageous. When you witness child abuse, especially sexual abuse, it is a NO BRAINER. It must be reported – immediately. In his defense, Paterno did not witness the abuse (a sexual encounter between 50+ year old Jerry Sandusky and a 10 year old boy), but it was communicated to him in some form or fashion. And although he reported it to his superior, he never followed up, never took measures against the accused to keep him off of Penn State grounds (Sandusky was in fact, Paterno’s longtime friend) even when he was seen with another young boy. I have two kids. I don’t live in constant fear, but after this incident, I am more fearful of the atrocities that COULD be committed against them at such a young age. Atrocities that could affect them forever. He could have done more. As a father, I know it was right for J0e-Pa to be held accountable and to be fired.
  4. Finally, as a pastor and follower of Christ, I find myself feeling compassion across the board here:
  • For the victims – The ongoing pain and trauma that is caused by sexual abuse are immeasurable. It literally ruins a life. In this case, many young men were affected forever. There is hope. There is healing. But not without more pain and hurt and baggage that can be passed on for generations. The question these now young men will be asking is, “Where was God in all of this?” It breaks my heart. God most often works today in and through His people. If the Penn State brass are God-fearing people (it would be a big assumption), then it’s obvious that God’s people failed to protect the powerless in this case.
  • For Michael McQueary – the then grad assistant who witnessed the molestation. I can imagine that instantaneous moment of seeing a superior (Sandusky, although retired at the time was a LONG TIME defensive coordinator under Joe-Pa and revered around the football complex) sexually abusing a minor. Nobody asks to be in that position. Nobody directly prepares for being in that position. And in this case, McQueary failed. He failed to defend the defenseless. He failed to stand up to a superior in the face of fear of reprimand. He took the easy way out. I’ve taken the easy way out at times (never anything even remotely close to this), and I know the guilt that comes from it. I bet he wishes he would have responded differently – not because of the backlash – but because he failed to do what was right. Sometimes, you only get one chance.
  • J0e Paterno – I don’t know Paterno’s character. Until the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard nothing but great things though. He has used his legend to make a difference in the world and I’m not going to question everyone’s previous revere for him. But this goes to show that it only takes ONE failure to bring everything crashing down. One choice can ruin your life and the lives of many others. When you’re in a position of power and influence, the stakes are only magnified. The responsibility is great. Paterno failed in this case, and he will forever be remembered for it. But I will not throw a stone.
  • Jerry Sandusky – The perpetrator. The monster. It would be easy to hate him. The pain he has caused cannot be measured. He deserves the worst of the punishment that is headed his way. At the same time, I am always tuned in to what creates a monster. What abuse was done to him? What baggage and pain was passed onto him from previous generations? Sin repeats itself. Things did not start with Jerry. And unfortunately, they won’t stop with him either. I find myself grieving for him; for the abuser he’s become. I hope he finds forgiveness in the cross of Christ.

In the end, I’m thankful that the Penn State trustees made the tough calls. Enabling ongoing child abuse by not directly confronting it and condemning it must be quickly and swiftly dealt with. Firing Joe Paterno was necessary. Let me just say this in closing. You can’t prepare for it, but there are defining moments in each person’s life. The folks in the Penn State story made poor choices in the defining moments that were thrust upon them. Prepare your heart NOW in the little things so that you prove yourself trustworthy in those defining moments. It takes everyday, ordinary obedience to prepare yourself for those moments. Don’t miss yours. But if you do, turn to Jesus and find forgiveness in him, and PRAY that your failures don’t leave a horrible wake behind them.

Are You a Christian Atheist?

2 11 2011

The moment I picked up Pastor Craig Groeschel’s book, I realized how simple and yet profound its message would be. Furthermore, I knew I had to find some way to create a message series around it at Quest. The title of the book? The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as If He Doesn’t Exist. Even as a follower of Christ for the last 21 years, I was challenged and convicted by this book and I quickly realized that I am a recovering Christian Atheist and I pastor a church full of people in the same boat. Not only that, but I’m convinced that everyone who considers himself or herself a Christian struggles to fully center their lives around the message and call of Jesus Christ. So the question becomes, if you’re a Christian, what areas of your life are you living as if God doesn’t exist?

Are you trying to follow Jesus, and even doing many things in his name without truly knowing him (Matthew 7:21-23)? Or could it be that you call yourself a Christian but struggle to receive God’s love for YOU; something that the founder of the Methodist Movement, John Wesley, experienced for the first 35 years of his life. Or maybe you say you believe in God, but your actions suggest that you don’t really believe in prayer. Is it possible that you’ve received God’s forgiveness, but you yourself are unwilling to forgive someone in your life? If so, you’re slipping into Christian Atheism (Matthew 18:21-35). Or how about this – do you call yourself a Christian, but you’ve never really experienced lasting life change? Could it be that you are a follower of Jesus, but when push comes to shove, you put more trust in money? Maybe you say you love God, but if truth be told, you’ve never really told anyone who isn’t already a Christian about your faith. Or maybe you’re reading this and you say you believe in Jesus, but you don’t want anything to do with His bride, the Church. Or maybe, if you’re like me at several points in my faith journey, several of these describe you.

Regardless of what symptoms of Christian Atheism you exhibit, the truth is, we’re all a work in progress. Condemnation is not my goal. Rather, as a group of us recently discovered in our Christianity Explored class, it is better to find out the truth about ourselves while we still have time to do something about it! And the truth about ourselves is this: we have a problem. The problem isn’t just that we’re doing a poor job following Jesus. The problem is much deeper than that. We all have a heart problem. None of us is good enough to fix ourselves on our own. Thank God that Jesus came for the sick and not the healthy (Mark 2:17). The key is for you and me to recognize that we’re sick. When we pretend that we have it all together – when we pretend that everything is okay – when we fool ourselves into thinking that we’re better than we really are, then we not only miss out on receiving grace from God (because we don’t think we need it), we also give a false impression of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It’s never about meeting a certain standard or following a bunch of rules. Rather, following Jesus is about recognizing our tremendous need for his love and being transformed by receiving his grace.

So if you, like me, are a recovering Christian Atheist, take hope. Recognize your shortcomings and don’t hide them. Acknowledge them and surrender yourself once again to the love of God that will meet you where you’re at and take you places you could never go on your own.

Quest Church – the best kept secret in Champaign-Urbana

20 10 2011

So, I often tell people that, “Quest, the church I pastor, is the best kept secret in Champaign-Urbana.” Then I quickly follow up with the statement, “And I HATE it!” Of course, I don’t hate the church (who would want a pastor who hate’s their church?), I hate the fact that Quest largely remains a secret in our community. So, in order to change that, let me tell you a few things about Quest that you should know about:

First, what are the reasons we’re a secret?
1. We don’t have our own building. We have chosen to be a “nomadic” church until it becomes financially and strategically responsible to move into our “own” facilities. But, that decreases the likelihood that the average CU resident will know about us.
2. We’re only 7 years old – That’s right. Quest has only been in the community for the last seven years. In that time we’ve made alot of connections with the community, but we’d love to make more!

Now, why we’re the “Best Kept” secret:
1. We follow the best that life has to offer – Jesus told his followers that he came to give them life abundantly (John 10:10). We are learning to believe and experience that truth more deeply everyday.
2. We’re an authentic community – We’re basically made up of 175 adults (largely 22-35), and another 50 kids (largely 0-7), but that’s not what makes us special. It’s our desire to be straight with one another and talk about things that matter, encouraging and supporting one another in our faith quest. I love how real questers are.
3. We are a part of God’s movement to change the world AND our community – Our faith community is the most generous and self-less group of people I know. Who else would build a church building for brothers and sisters in Christ in war-ravaged Liberia before ever considering building a building for yourself? Questers. I’m so proud of the work Questers are doing around the world providing clean water and in our community serving the least the last and the lost in creative and dignifying ways.
4. We’re fun – “Church is boring” is a common reason I hear for not being a part of a faith community. I agree for the most part. But Quest is anything but boring. Weekly we encounter God with zeal. We have so much fun relating the teachings of the Bible to everyday life. And we laugh alot along the way.
5. Everyone is welcome – this might be the best of all. No one is turned away overtly or covertly. We don’t care who you are or where you’ve been. You’ll find a God who loves you AND people who love you. If you’re a long-time church goer, cool. If you’re seeking, it is a safe place to check things out – no strings attached. If you’re young, you’ll find alot of folks like you. If you’re more seasoned, we have alot to learn from you (but you might want to bring some ear plugs – our music rocks). Regardless of who you are, we want you, and we’ll prove it. That’s a pretty awesome secret…

So help me out. Help make Quest a former “best kept secret” in Champaign-Urbana. I’d love to meet you and tell you more about how you can connect to Quest.

Peace, Andy

God Can

3 08 2011

I first studied the book of Nehemiah near the end of my seminary education while reading the book, Visioneering by Andy Stanley.  I vividly remember reading about Nehemiah’s boldness and willingness to risk everything for the vision God had given him in our “on call” room as a hospital chaplain.  I asked God to give me that kind of courage and more importantly, a vision worth risking everything for.  A few months afterwards, I was appointed to start a new church in the Champaign-Urbana area.

Nearly nine years later, Quest is approaching her seventh birthday and we’re studying the book of Nehemiah for the first time as a church family. Over the years, God has given us a vision to reach out to the unchurched people in our community, and over the years, Questers have sacrificed significantly in order to do so.  We have experienced ups and downs which remind me of some of the obstacles and opposition that Nehemiah faced when rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  Some of our biggest obstacles have revolved around being a nomadic church – that is, a church without permanent worship facilities which not only serve as a tool for more creatively sharing Christ’s love through worship, but also serve as a consistent visible reminder of our ministry in the community.  Despite those obstacles, Questers have united together around the vision of sharing the love of God with our community.  And as a result, over 200 people of all ages now call Quest their church home, and over 50 people have surrendered their lives to Christ, forever changing their eternal residence.  Furthermore, God has used Questers to make a lasting impact in our community and around the world. God has been so good to us!

But God is not done with us yet.  He has given us a big vision which will require us to be stretched time and time again for the sake of sharing his love with more and more people.  Just yesterday, a mentor of mine reminded me that, “If God’s call on your life seems manageable to you, it isn’t God’s calling.”  That’s so true.  God has invited us to be his hands and feet.  He has given us a task that is impossible without him.  The more faithful we are, the more challenging the task will seem, and the more we will have to depend on God.  That is how God molds us and shapes us into wholehearted followers of Jesus.  Certainly, following God is not for the faint of heart, because God has never called us to play it safe.

Over the last several months, Quest’s leadership team has discerned God’s leading us to become a more visible presence in the community by moving our office location to a highly trafficked area on Windsor Road, a stone’s throw from where we worship at Next Generation School.  The purpose of this move is to connect with more people in our area and invite them to experience the love of God in the Quest community.  On some levels this move seems daunting, even risky.  It will increase our monthly expenses significantly.  But where we can’t, God Can.  All he calls us to do is be faithful to his call and be willing to risk everything for his vision.  Please pray for Quest!  We are in the middle of an exciting time where God is giving us the opportunity to risk our comfort for the sake of reaching out to people who are far from him.  Amazingly, that is what I prayed for God to do nine years ago in a hospital room!

An Amazing June at Quest

6 07 2011

June at Quest was an amazing month. So much happened in such a short period of time. I’d love to share some of the exciting highlights. Please continue praying for what God is doing in and through us!

  • First, Rev. Albert Barchue from our partner district in Liberia spoke at Quest on June 5th and spent most of the month with our church family.  I can’t begin to express the God-pride I have in Questers for all their generosity and hospitality. Questers gave over $7,000 to the work of God in Liberia in the short time Albert was here and the new relationships Albert established with Quest and other churches in our district will certainly bear fruit in the coming months and years. Praise God!
  • Not to be outdone, our ONE Worship experience with Restoration Urban Ministries on Pentecost Sunday, June 12th was nothing short of a glimpse of heaven. I was privileged to share God’s Word. Keep praying for Questers and all Christ followers in our community to not only preach, teach and learn God’s Word, but to LIVE God’s Word everyday through acts of humble service to those “like” us and “not like” us.
  • Then, while I was blessed with a couple weeks of vacation, the rest of Quest was blessed with wonderful preaching and teaching from Rev. Gary Ford and Rev. Danny Cox.  These two “elder statesmen” in our United Methodist conference have had a lasting impact on me and Jeremiah respectively.  I was privileged to be able to hear them each preach at Quest this month.  I hope you were too.
  • The last week of this month was our 4th annual mission trip to Red Bird Mission in Appalachia.  I heard from the 10 Questers who went that this was not only fun and community building, but life changing.  You may want to prayerfully consider going on next year’s Red Bird Mission Trip to be held from July 1-7, 2012.
  • I also wanted to share with you that I, along with over 20 Questers completed a 9-month journey through the Bible at the end of June.  The ending of this Disciple Bible Study was bitter-sweet for me.  I learned so much and so thoroughly enjoyed weekly time with the two groups.  I was also blessed to see them grow.  Now for me it’s on to planning for more outreach and discipleship opportunities in the Fall.  Please pray for these Questers to continue to grow in their walk with Christ and reach out with the gospel to others.
  • Finally, I wanted to share with you that at our Annual Conference session (which I asked for prayers about last month), I was elected to represent our conference as one of six clergy delegates to General Conference (the highest decision making body of the UMC).  I was not only honored, but humbled to be thought of as a worthy representative.  However, I covet your prayers as this will be a demanding task culminating at next year’s General Conference held in Tampa, Florida from April 23-May4.  Please pray for me, my family, and the broader United Methodist Church.

As you can see, June was an amazing month. I can’t wait for the REST of the summer!

A Visit from Liberia

6 07 2011

Here is part of a journal entry of mine from January 13, 2009:  “This was a day I hope I will never forget as long as I live.  Surely, I experienced a bit of the joy of heaven.”  This was the day that I was able to visit the Wayzon United Methodist Church in Liberia.  In 2008, Questers raised enough money to build Wayzon’s church building, dig a well, support some pastors financially, and send numerous children to school.  Rev. Albert Barchue, the District Superintendant of our partner district, traveled with us to the Wayzon church.

I will never forget how they met us in the road.  Here is some of how I described it, “It was like something out of a dream…the people were all in the street waiting for us.  The first thing I saw was a sign that said, “Thank you Quest UMC,” and an old man dancing.  We got out of the van and the crowd surrounded us with hugs – especially the old man – who Albert told me bawled when he heard the church would be rebuilt.  It was his last hope before he died…When I spoke, I shared how seeing broken lives breaks my hearts, but God can take broken lives, just like broken buildings and make them new…I told them that the people of Quest are simply people whose lives had been broken, but are now made new, and out of our love for God, the one who made us new and loves us, we want to share that love with others.  I asked them to do the same.”  Reflecting on it later, I wrote, “It was the most amazing 60 minutes of “ministry” I can remember.  I am so blessed to be here.  I don’t think I will ever be the same.”  Writing about Albert that same evening, I wrote, “He feels like a lifelong friend already.  The partnership and camaraderie I feel with him goes beyond words…I would love for him to come to the US and stay with us for a while.”

Well, over the last two years since that day, Albert and I have stayed in contact, Quest has sent many more thousands of dollars to Liberia to dig wells (6 more), support pastors and sponsor kids going to school.  And, by God’s tremendous blessing, Albert was able to spend nearly the entire month of June in our area.  Albert shared a powerful message from God about the Greatest Commandments (Matthew 22) on June 5th – a day I, along with other Questers will not soon forget.  Then Albert was able to spend the next three weeks traveling around our district sharing about the work of God in Liberia.  I shared a tearful goodbye with Albert before he left.  He was overwhelmed by the blessing of God he experienced through the Quest family. He was forever grateful. Thank you, Questers and friends of Quest, for your prayers and sacrifices for God’s ministry both in Champaign-Urbana, and around the world.  I am so proud to be your pastor.