The Land They Call Holy…

“Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and the one you will find in the land they call Holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you.” – Jerome (347-420 AD)

It’s easy to miss – among all the city life, the politics, the ethnic and religious tension, among the sunsets and mountain vistas, even among the holy sites and ancient ruins. With all that beauty and history and tension that is Israel, it can be easy to miss the signs that point to something greater than the place itself. It’s as if the land is whispering, inviting us into the story that unfolded among its hills and cities.

If the land itself whispers, it is beckoning us not to itself, but to what was revealed here: nothing less than the very glory of God. Here God’s glory was revealed not by mountain vistas or sunsets over the seas. No, God has revealed His glory in the person of Jesus (2 Cor. 4:6) – and this land bears testimony to His life and His ministry.

Still jet-lagged, Kristin and I returned yesterday (Monday) from 10 days in Israel with my DMin cohort. From the weather and the food to the teaching and the ancient sites, this was an amazing experience! I hope to walk through some of the highlights site-by-site in the coming weeks. For now, however, here are a few images that we managed to capture from our time in Israel!

Scenes from Caesarea Maritime, where Peter preached to Cornelius (Acts 10) and Paul was imprisoned (Acts 23-25). Clockwise: Herod’s aqueduct; the ruins of Herod’s palace; the ancient theater.
To the far north (Golan Heights) for Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-28; top) and Dan (site of a rival temple, bottom right)… then to the Sea of Galilee for Capernaum (synagogue, bottom left) and Magdala (the Magdala Stone, bottom center)!
A breath-taking wealth of treasures! Clockwise: Sea of Galilee (looking towards Magdala), Megiddo (an ancient altar used in pagan worship for over 2000 years), Sepphori (a city neighboring Nazareth, which likely provided carpentry work to Jospeh and Jesus), and the remains of an ancient fishing boat (roughly 1st century) outside Tiberias!
Traveling from Galilee to Judea, we moved south through the Decapolis (its capital Scythopolis, right), down the West Bank and to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity (left).

Jerusalem is simply too much for words.
Clockwise, Herodium, the Western Wall, the Garden Tomb, and Joffa. In addition to all the amazing sites, the teaching by Scot McKnight (left) and Joel Willitts (right) made our time truly exceptional.

Sad News

As some of you already know, Kristin and I recently – just before Christmas – learned that we were expecting another baby.   Because of the timing, we made an effort to tell many of our friends and family while we were in the States over the holidays.  Sadly, we learned last week that the pregnancy has ended in a miscarriage.

It has been a difficult week, but – all things considered – we’re doing well.  Kristin is feeling better, and we’ve been able to have some quality family time over the last few days.  Life is fragile, and so we’ve held Sofia a little longer and little closer this week – thankful for a happy, healthy little girl.  God’s grace continues to sustain us.  Please pray for our family as we continue to heal from this loss.  Thanks for your prayers, and thanks so much for being a part of our lives.

Friday Photos – 30/1/09

January has come and gone.  Time really does go by quickly.  Wow!  Another Friday, another batch of photos from our life and ministry here.  Enjoy!


An Afghan friend and I… and, before you ask, no, I don’t know why I was making such a funny face


A teammate, Tasha, handing out rice and beans

dsc06197Beans for the little ones…


beans for the big ones.

1 Post, 2 Points

Emergency ShowerEvery Thursday we offer showers to about sixty men.  Two by two, we slowly work our way through the long list of those waiting.  Most of these men sleep in the park or are squatting in a building without water, and rely on this weekly shower to feel human (not a hyperbole). While there is clearly a great need for this ministry, it is not my passion.  In fact, for me, these days just seem to drag.  Really, the shower ministry is made up of 100 little chores done over and over again: call number, take ticket, remind patron that the hot water is on an eight minute timer, give towel, turn on hot water, squeegee the bathroom floor, tell patron his time is up, call next number… repeat… repeat… repeat (x 30).  All the while, after we’ve taken sixty men, we’re turning away people at the door – men with sad stories and desperation in their eyes.  It’s a long day.

But last week, the shower ministry was worth every repetitious moment.  Why? Two reasons: First, God used the time waiting (sometimes over two hours!) to change a refugee’s life.  Second, He used another refugee to do it! One of the refugees from the Nest – “S” (perhaps you remember him from THIS post) – offered to help us at the shower ministry.  We told him, “Okay, just sit in the main room, make sure no one starts fighting, and talk to any guys who feel like chatting.”  “S” is a gifted evangelist, and God used him in this moment to share the gospel with a fellow Afghan refugee.  After talking for nearly an hour, this man – whose wife had just brought home a Farsi New Testament last week – decided to follow Jesus.  God works – sometimes even in the midst of what I might find mundane!  Please pray for this new brother and his family.  Also, please pray for “S” – that God would continue to use his gifts and his boldness for the Kingdom.

Prayer Update – January 2009

Our Praying Friends –

We’ve been back in Athens for two weeks now, and finally feel back to normal (relatively speaking).  Would you pray for us this week?

1 – It’s been over a month since our Christmas outreaches.  Please pray for follow-up opportunities!  Pray for “A,” a young man I talked with after our Arabic outreach.  He had many questions about the gospel, and I look forward to continuing our discussion.

2 – One of my goals this year is to free up more time for one-on-one discipleship.  I am spending a lot of time with two young Afghans (“S” & “K”) who have the heart and gifting to be future leaders in the Afghan church.  Please pray for these refugee believers, our mentoring relationship, and their on-going ministry here.

– By the way, I plan to post a recent story involving “S” to the blog on Wednesday.  It’s about God using refugees to reach refugees with the gospel (my very favorite part about His work here).

3 – Would you continue to pray for the Nest (our shelter/discipleship house) ministry?  The Nest currently hosts twelve men.  I’m excited about our current group.  Please pray for “Z” – an Iraqi Kurd with whom I have began a bible study.  He is hungry for the Word (he approached me last week asking if I would be able to do a Bible study with him) and has a gift for languages (he speaks Kurdish, Arabic, English, Greek, and decent Farsi).  Pray that God would lead him to use these passions and gifts for the sake of the gospel.

4 – Continue to pray for our family.  Sofia is running (yes, literally) around the house.  Kristin does her best to limit Sofia’s damage (whether to our stuff or her own body), but chasing down a toddler is a full-time job.  Beginning in February, we look forward to hosting refugee friends and teammates in the house on a regular basis – sometimes for outreach, sometimes as fellowship, and sometimes as an encouragement to teammates.

Thanks so much for your prayers, support, and encouragement!

By God’s Grace –
Brett, Kristin, & Sofia

Friday Photos: 23/1/09

Happy Friday!  It’s been a busy week here, but a good busy.  I look forward to sharing some stories and testimonies with you next week.  Until then, enjoy some photos from our week here.


Kristin and Sofia enjoying the green season


As good a time as any to eat rocks


Bobbie (L) and Anna (R) in town for a visit

dsc061761Sofia up-close

Make Yourself at Home

Welcome to our new blogging home.  As with any visit to any new home, let’s begin with a tour.

1 – You’ll see six tabs at the top of the page (just under the title): “home” is the main blog page; “about us” offers a short introduction to our family; “the ministry” gives an overview about what we do here in Athens; “news” is an archive of our ministry newsletters; “give” provides information for supporting our ministry; and “contact” offers a few means of getting in touch with us.

2 – Under these tabs, you’ll see a personalized banner; the current one shows Sofia and I getting around in the rainy season.  This will be updated periodically, whenever the blog needs a fresh look.

3 – On the right hand column, you’ll find a number of features: “pages,” where you can connect to our personal ministry pages (the same as the tabbed pages described above); “recent comments” updates where to find the latest comments; “category cloud” lets you search blog posts by themes (e.g. testimonies or videos); “Flickr Photos” displays the six most recent photos we have uploaded onto Flickr; “archives” provides a month by month archive of the blog; and the “blogroll” gives links to our friends in other refugee ministries around the world.

So, make yourself at home here and enjoy! We will continue with our current Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule.  Thanks for following our ministry!

What's your dream?

Today we remember the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. I am always inspired by Dr. King’s speeches. I’ve posted the end of his famous “I Have A Dream” speech below. Read the entire speech HERE (the audio version is also available via the link).

Reading this speech (his passion for justice and reconciliation) brings one set of questions to my mind: What is my dream? What am I willing to fight for, to be jailed for, or even to give my life for? And then… What am I doing to see this dream out?

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

What is your dream?