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William Carey: Hold the Ropes

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13

“When the Baptist Missionary Society was formed in 1792, and their first missionary, Mr Carey, chosen, the remark was made by some one of the gentlemen, “There is a gold mine in India, but it seems almost as deep as the centre of the earth; who will venture down to explore it?” “I will venture to go down,” said Carey to his brethren, “but you must hold the ropes.” And they all engaged to do so.

What did they and he mean? Why, by “the gold mine” they meant there were many precious souls in India that wanted saving and setting high in heaven. By “going down into the mine,” they meant going there to try to save and bless these souls. And by “holding the ropes” they meant the work that those that were left behind at home would have to do to help the missionaries that should be abroad.”

William Carey (1761-1834) missionary to India, in “Holding the Ropes” in The Children’s missionary newspaper, volume 7 (Gall and Inglis; Edinburgh, 1850) 7.

It is fitting to find inspiration from Carey as I serve EFAC India in New Delhi today. With the same zeal of this pioneer missionary, I urge you to spend yourself in one of two ways: to save or bless others in challenging places at home or abroad or hold the ropes for those who are.

Those who sacrifice comfort and safety, who risk disease and danger, all for the sake of loving and serving others in the name of Jesus, need faithful people to spot them. Rather than live your life for yourself, give your life to God in either such sacrificial service or support.

For my part, the greatest encouragement I hear in my global travels comes in the form of two simple words: with you. I love it when people track with me and remind me that they are holding the ropes for me, as I give my life in service to others in the name of Jesus.

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Mother Teresa: Mistakes in kindness

Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14

“I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness than work miracles in unkindness.”

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997). I just had to quote her on kindness, on this, my first visit to Kolkata, the city where she served our Lord Jesus Christ.

The receptivity to biblical teaching on “governance and accountability” has far exceeded expectations. Thanks for your generous intercession for me.

I praise God for this, as I am just trying to teach with kindness and love. What a privilege to serve my beloved brothers and sisters of EFAC India.

Whatever you do today, do it with kindness and love. And, if you mess up, because we all do, keep that kindness flowing. Sometimes the light of Christ shines best through our cracks.

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Hannah Hurnard: Are you Much-Afraid?

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15

“It would indeed be best for you to leave the Valley for the High Places, and I will very willingly take you there myself. The lower slopes of those mountains on the other side of the river are the borderland of my Father’s Kingdom, the Realm of Love. No Fears of any kind are able to live there because ‘perfect love casteth out fear and everything that torments.’” Much-Afraid stared at him in amazement. “Go to the High Places,” she exclaimed, “and live there? Oh, if only I could!

Hannah Hurnard in Hinds’ Feet on High Places (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 1975) 7-8.

Today’s post comes from a classic allegory that portrays the journey of God’s children to press on to new heights of Christian maturity. If you have not read it, click above to download the PDF. It is the story of a young woman, Much Afraid, and her journey from her Fearing family and into the High Places of the Shepherd, and she travels there with two companions, Sorrow and Suffering.

God brought this allegory to my mind as I was praying for those I am serving here in India. Meetings went well in Mumbai, then I speak Hyderabad on Wednesday, Kolkata on Thursday, and New Delhi on Friday. Those I am serving are drawn not merely by the knowledge I am sharing but that the truth comes with love, perfect love that casts out fear and inspires them to move to the High Places.

Are you Much-Afraid? Seriously, does your generosity reflect that you live like you believe the Father’s promises are true and that He cares for you better than you could ever dream of caring for yourself. I find that when ministry leaders administrate in fear, it reflects the reality of their own situations. Fear dominates their own lives. They aim to avoid rather than embrace Sorrow and Suffering.

Those I have served here have thanked me for helping release them from the fear with truth spoken with love. I pray that wherever you are, if you are reading this, that you will head to the High Places. Live in the realm of love. Do this and with Sorrow and Suffering you will realize that you are on this earth to enjoy and share the abundant blessings of the Father. That’s kind and generous living at its best.

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon: An Opened Heart

One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. Acts 16:14

“The Lord Himself must open the heart, to receive the things which make for our peace. He alone can put the key into the hole of the door and open it, and get admittance for Himself. He is the heart’s master as He is the heart’s maker. The first outward evidence of the opened heart was obedience. As soon as Lydia had believed in Jesus, she was baptized. It is a sweet sign of a humble and broken heart, when the child of God is willing to obey a command which is not essential to her salvation, which is not forced upon her by a selfish fear of condemnation, but is a simple act of obedience and of communion with her Master. The next evidence was love, manifesting itself in acts of grateful kindness to the apostles. Love to the saints has ever been a mark of the true convert. Those who do nothing for Christ or His Church, give but sorry evidence of an “opened” heart. Lord, evermore give me an opened heart.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) in Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (Grand Rapids, MI: CCEL) evening reading for 10 December.

Do you have “an opened heart” like Lydia? Does it show by your obedience and love?

I have made it safely to Mumbai, India where I will speak to the first of four groups in four days tomorrow and encourage ministries to apply for accreditation with EFAC, the peer accountability group in India, like ECFA in the USA. Pray for safety and Spirit-filled speaking.

I will speak on “Governance and Accountability” and make remarks from two of my ECFA Press books, The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance and The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes. Pray for many people to attend with opened hearts.

Lord, evermore give me an opened heart that manifests obedience and love with grateful kindness.

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Evelyn Underhill: Wholly present

In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. John 1:4

“The spiritual life does not begin in an arrogant attempt at some peculiar kind of other-worldliness, a rejection of ordinary experience. It begins in the humble recognition that human things can be very holy, full of God; whereas high-minded speculations about His nature need not be holy at all. Since all life is engulfed in Him, He can reach out to us anywhere at any level. The depth and richness of His eternal being are unknown to us. Yet Christianity declares that this unsearchable Life, which is in essence a self-giving Love, and is wholly present wherever it loves, so loved this world as to desire to reveal within it the deepest secret of His thought.”

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) in Advent with Evelyn Underhill, edited by Christopher L. Webber (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 2006) 67.

As you are reading this I am somewhere between Colorado and India, likely in Germany, en route so the airport header photo seemed fitting.

Underhill reminds us today that our faith is not merely one of high-minded speculations but very humble and wholly present where it loves. Is this true for your life? This struck me because it has not been the case with me recently. I find that when I am busy, I get distracted, and then I am not wholly present to be a light to others and to dispense self-giving love. Let us ask God to fill each of us with His light and love so that at home or wherever we go (by car or airplane or whatever form of transportation) we are wholly present and loving. This generous kindness at its best!

Father in heaven, help us leave the work we cannot control in Your hands, so our hands are free to love others well empowered by your Spirit. Fill us with your unsearchable Life so that in even the mundane areas of living we can bring your fullness. Do this I ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.

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John Chrysostom: Cloak of Kindness

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Luke 9:24-25

“Disperse therefore, that thou mayest not lose; keep not, that thou mayest keep; lay out, that thou mayest save; spend, that thou mayest gain. If thy treasures are to be hoarded, do not thou hoard them, for thou wilt surely cast them away; but entrust them to God, for thence no man makes spoil of them. Do not thou traffic, for thou knowest not at all how to gain; but lend unto Him who gives an interest greater than the principal. Lend, where is no envy, no accusation, nor evil design, nor fear. Lend unto Him who wants nothing, yet hath need for thy sake; who feeds all men, yet is an hungered, that thou mayest not suffer famine; who is poor, that thou mayest be rich. Lend there, where thy return cannot be death, but life instead of death. For this usury is the harbinger of a kingdom, that, of hell; the one coming of covetousness, the other of self-denial; the one of cruelty, the other of humanity.

What excuse then will be ours, when having the power to receive more, and that with security, and in due season, and in great freedom, without either reproaches, or fears, or dangers, we let go these gains, and follow after that other sort, base and vile as they are, insecure and perishable, and greatly aggravating the furnace for us? For nothing, nothing is baser than the usury of this world, nothing more cruel. Why, other persons’ calamities are such a man’s traffic; he makes himself gain of the distress of another, and demands wages for kindness, as though he were afraid to seem merciful, and under the cloak of kindness he digs the pitfall deeper, by the act of help galling a man’s poverty, and in the act of stretching out the hand thrusting him down, and when receiving him as in harbor, involving him in shipwreck, as on a rock, or shoal, or reef.

“But what dost thou require?” saith one; “that I should give another for his use that money which I have got together, and which is to me useful, and demand no recompense?” Far from it: I say not this: yea, I earnestly desire that thou shouldest have a recompense; not however a mean nor small one, but far greater; for in return for gold, I would that thou shouldest receive Heaven for usury. Why then shut thyself up in poverty, crawling about the earth, and demanding little for great? Nay, this is the part of one who knows not how to be rich. For when God in return for a little money is promising thee the good things that are in Heaven, and thou sayest, “Give me not Heaven, but instead of Heaven the gold that perisheth,” this is for one who wishes to continue in poverty.

Even as he surely who desires wealth and abundance will choose things abiding rather than things perishing; the inexhaustible, rather than such as waste away; much rather than little, the incorruptible rather than the corruptible. For so the other sort too will follow. For as he who seeks earth before Heaven, will surely lose earth also, so he that prefers Heaven to earth, shall enjoy both in great excellency. And that this may be the case with us, let us despise all things here, land choose the good things to come. For thus shall we obtain both the one and the other, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.”

John Chyrsostom (349-407), doctor of the Eastern Church, in Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, 5.8.

In exploring the connection between kindness and generosity in Chrysostom’s writings, I located this gem. At least three comments are noteworthy for our own application.

Firstly, ask yourself if you bear a cloak of kindness rather than kindness. Those who lend freely follow God’s design, whereas those who practice usury, that is, who charge interest to their neighbor, are not helping but hurting those in need.

Secondly, rather than seek a return from usury, seek heavenly gain. In other words, don’t seek earthly financial gain with any wealth you may possess, but seek heavenly gain by storing up treasures in heaven. Practically speaking, both my son and daughter are engaged to be married. I will encourage them to pray about setting a goal to store up a target amount in heaven in their marriage whilst their peers set goals for hoarding wealth on earth.

Thirdly, read the Scriptures and enjoy classic homilies for encouragement. Chrysostom was a leading influence on modern influential voices like C.S. Lewis. I find that the writings of the doctors of the church inspire and edify me richly.

Taken together, these three comments inspire us to show kindness, to seek heavenly gain, and to get inspiration to stay the course from those who have gone before us. As I travel over the next week to places that closed to the gospel, such truths are like wind in my sails.

I pray they inspire you to join me in losing your life for the sake of Christ.

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Gregory of Nazianzus: Ask for the Kindness

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Isaiah 55:1

“O swiftness of His mercy: O easiness of the Covenant: This blessing may be bought by you merely for willing it; He accepts the very desire as a great price; He thirsts to be thirsted for; He gives to drink to all who desire to drink; He takes it as a kindness to be asked for the kindness; He is ready and liberal; He gives with more pleasure than others receive. Only let us not be condemned for frivolity by asking for little, and for what is unworthy of the Giver.”

Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390) on Oration 40, preached on 6 January 381 in Constantinople.

I was exploring kindness in the sermons of Gregory of Nazianzus and found this gem that he preached to start the year. He reminded God’s people that God wants us to thirst after Him. He is ready to be generous toward us. He takes it as a kindness to be asked for the kindness.

So what should we do?

We need to live in the reality of this. I am going through stretching times and God is telling me to rely on Him for everything. He does not want me to act like I can sort things and frivolously ask for the little that I feel I can’t sort. So, I intend to ask bigger.

I am asking Him for the nations and for abundant provision to mobilize a team to serve the whole world. This request relates to my new role as President/CEO of Global Trust Partners. I am thankful that “he gives with more pleasure than others receive.”

Understanding this, hopefully, will position me to be a conduit of divine blessing to a world that has no money, and to a world that needs to know that from our generous God they can buy everything they need without cost. God, shower your kindness on us, please!

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Gregory of Nyssa: Pearls to Pigs

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Matthew 7:6

The preface to Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius is entitled, “It is useless to attempt to benefit those who will not accept help.” How many times have you tried to help someone generously and yet, they would not receive it? Too often. Should we judge or condemn them? This preface gives wisdom rooted in today’s Scripture for what to do in such situations.

But first, let me put this text in context. Gregory of Nyssa was one of three Cappadocian Fathers who were known for their generosity. The other two were Basil of Ceasarea (mentioned below) and Gregory of Nazianzus. These men were known for giving away their wealth, for starting hospitals and monastic communities, for their prolific writings, and for transforming the faith of the people in their region.

In this excerpt, Gregory of Nyssa recounts that Basil of Caesarea aimed to administer spiritual help rooted in love to Eumonius. But Eumonius would not receive it, as he was torn apart by a secret sin he carried with him. Might those you desire to bless find themselves in a similar situation? Gregory concludes that as we attempt to pull people from “the abyss of misbelief” we must find our strength in Christ.

“It is useless to attempt to benefit those who will not accept help. It seems that the wish to benefit all, and to lavish indiscriminately upon the first comer one’s own gifts, was not a thing altogether commendable, or even free from reproach in the eyes of the many; seeing that the gratuitous waste of many prepared drugs on the incurably-diseased produces no result worth caring about, either in the way of gain to the recipient, or reputation to the would-be benefactor. Rather such an attempt becomes in many cases the occasion of a change for the worse. The hopelessly-diseased and now dying patient receives only a speedier end from the more active medicines; the fierce unreasonable temper is only made worse by the kindness of the lavished pearls, as the Gospel tells us. I think it best, therefore, in accordance with the Divine command, for any one to separate the valuable from the worthless when either have to be given away, and to avoid the pain which a generous giver must receive from one who ‘treads upon his pearl,’ and insults him by his utter want of feeling for its beauty.

This thought suggests itself when I think of one who freely communicated to others the beauties of his own soul, I mean that man of God, that mouth of piety, Basil; one who from the abundance of his spiritual treasures poured his grace of wisdom into evil souls whom he had never tested, and into one among them, Eunomius, who was perfectly insensible to all the efforts made for his good. Pitiable indeed seemed the condition of this poor man, from the extreme weakness of his soul in the matter of the faith, to all true members of the Church; for who is so wanting in feeling as not to pity, at least, a perishing soul? But Basil alone, from the abiding ardour of his love, was moved to undertake his cure, and therein to attempt impossibilities; he alone took so much to heart the man’s desperate condition, as to compose, as an antidote of deadly poisons, his refutation of this heresy, which aimed at saving its author, and restoring him to the Church.

He, on the contrary, like one beside himself with fury, resists his doctor; he fights and struggles; he regards as a bitter foe one who only put forth his strength to drag him from the abyss of misbelief; and he does not indulge in this foolish anger only before chance hearers now and then; he has raised against himself a literary monument to record this blackness of his bile; and when in long years he got the requisite amount of leisure, he was travailling over his work during all that interval with mightier pangs than those of the largest and the bulkiest beasts; his threats of what was coming were dreadful, whilst he was still secretly moulding his conception: but when at last and with great difficulty he brought it to the light, it was a poor little abortion, quite prematurely born. However, those who share his ruin nurse it and coddle it; while we, seeking the blessing in the prophet (“Blessed shall he be who shall take thy children, and shall dash them against the stones” [Psalm 137:9]) are only eager, now that it has got into our hands, to take this puling manifesto and dash it on the rock, as if it was one of the children of Babylon; and the rock must be Christ; in other words, the enunciation of the truth. Only may that power come upon us which strengthens weakness, through the prayers of him who made his own strength perfect in bodily weakness.”

Gregory of Nyssa (335-394) in Dogmatic Treatises, Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius, Book 1, Preface, in Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc. (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 48.

The advice regarding pearls and pigs may not be what you expected. People who are unreceptive to our help, likely have some deep-rooted issue or sin that led to their pitiable state. We must approach them with love. And, should they be unreceptive, let us carefully pursue them with the strength of Christ. On the one hand, like Christ did not give up on us, we must not give up on them.

We don’t, however, cast our pearls indiscriminately, and we don’t worry about the outcomes. In other words, whether or not the proverbial pig embraces the pearl we cast to them is not what we should worry about. We must be people who find our strength to live and love generously from Christ. When we live and love that way, we can transform the faith of regions like the Cappadocian Fathers did.

Three men changed their world and their legacy is legendary. Find two friends and change yours!

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Ambrose of Milan: Justice and Kindness

But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always. Hosea 12:6

“Great, then, is the glory of justice; for she, existing rather for the good of others than of self, is an aid to the bonds of union and fellowship amongst us. She holds so high a place that she has all things laid under her authority, and further can bring help to others and supply money; nor does she refuse her services, but even undergoes dangers for others. Who would not gladly climb and hold the heights of this virtue, were it not that greed weakens and lessens the power of such a virtue? For as long as we want to add to our possessions and to heap up money, to take into our possession fresh lands, and to be the richest of all, we have cast aside the form of justice and have lost the blessing of kindness towards all. How can he be just that tries to take from another what he wants for himself?”

Ambrose of Milan in On the Duties of the Clergy, 29:136-137, in Ambrose: Selected Works and Letters by Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 56.

We must be careful not to lose the blessing of kindness towards all. We lose this when we aim to amass for ourselves rather than serve others. It shows we are waiting on ourselves rather than waiting on God.

What would your bank statements say about justice in your life? As God has blessed you, would they say that you supply money where needed? Or would they testify that you have tried to heap up money, which is to cast aside justice?

The prophet Hosea would say that if you are doing the latter, then it’s time to return to God. His design for you is to bless others with all that He supplies through enjoyment and sharing. In a troubled world, don’t let God find you holding back for yourself in fear or selfishness.

Jenni and I made it safely to Florida to host a Korean delegation from Seoul and to enjoy some precious time with my parents and my brother, David,  and sister-in-law, Joanna. We are staying and David and Joanna’s home, pictured above.

Thank you, God, for special moments with loved ones who love justice and have the blessing of kindness towards all.

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Leo on Laurentius: The Kindness of Martyrs

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12

If stories inspire you, then this one is for you! Laurentius (or Laurence) was the chief deacon of the church in Rome who was martyred in the persecution of Valerian in the year A.D. 258. Here Leo the Great (c. A.D. 450) reflects on the kindness and most valuable example of marytrs in his sermon on the feast day that remembers Laurentius because “examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.” Notice how greed motivated the persecutions and the price Laurentius paid for his generous example of care for the poor.

“Whilst the height of all virtues, dearly-beloved, and the fulness of all righteousness is born of that love, wherewith GOD and one’s neighbour is loved, surely in none is this love found more conspicuous and brighter than in the blessed martyrs; who are as near to our LORD Jesus, Who died for all men, in the imitation of His love, as in the likeness of their suffering.

For, although that love, wherewith the LORD has redeemed us, cannot be equalled by any man’s kindness, because it is one thing that a man who is doomed to die one day should die for a righteous man, and another that One Who is free from the debt of sin should lay down His life for the wicked: yet the martyrs also have done great service to all men, in that the LORD Who gave them boldness, has used it to show that the penalty of death and the pain of the cross need not be terrible to any of His followers, but might be imitated by many of them.

If therefore no good man is good for himself alone, and no wise man’s wisdom befriends himself only, and the nature of true virtue is such that it leads many away from the dark error on which its light is shed, no model is more useful in teaching GOD’S people than that of the martyrs. Eloquence may make intercession easy, reasoning may effectually persuade; but yet examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.

And how gloriously strong in this most excellent manner of doctrine the blessed martyr Laurentius is, by whose sufferings today is marked, even his persecutors were able to feel, when they found that his wondrous courage, born principally of love for Christ, not only did not yield itself, but also strengthened others by the example of his endurance.

For when the fury of the gentile potentates was raging against Christ’s most chosen members, and attacked those especially who were of priestly rank, the wicked persecutor’s wrath was vented on Laurentius the deacon, who was preeminent not only in the performance of the sacred rites, but also in the management of the church’s property, promising himself double spoil from one man’s capture: for if he forced him to surrender the sacred treasures, he would also drive him out of the pale of true religion.

And so this man, so greedy of money and such a foe to the truth, arms himself with double weapon: with avarice to plunder the gold; with impiety to carry off Christ. He demands of the guileless guardian of the sanctuary that the church wealth on which his greedy mind was set should be brought to him. But the holy deacon showed him where he had them stored, by pointing to the many troops of poor saints, in the feeding and clothing of whom he had a store of riches which he could not lose, and which were the more entirely safe that the money had been spent on so holy a cause.

The baffled plunderer, therefore, frets, and blazing out into hatred of a religion, which had put riches to such a use, determines to pillage a still greater treasure by carrying off that sacred deposit, wherewith he was enriched, as he could find no solid hoard of money in his possession. He orders Laurentius to renounce Christ, and prepares to ply the deacon’s stout courage with frightful tortures: and, when the first elicit nothing, fiercer follow. His limbs, torn and mangled by many cutting blows, are commanded to be broiled upon the fire in an iron framework, which was of itself already hot enough to burn him, and on which his limbs were turned from time to time, to make the torment fiercer, and the death more lingering.

Thou gainest nothing, thou prevailest nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from thy devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, thou art vanquished. The flame of Christ’s love could not be overcome by thy flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within.”

Leo the Great (c. 400-461) in Sermon LXXXV on the feast day remembering Laurentius.

What are the lessons for us today?

I leave you with three, the first of which bears repeating: “examples are stronger than words, and there is more teaching in practice than in precept.” If you want to live a generous life, do it in actions, not merely words or principles.

Secondly, “sacred deposits” are people and not money. Laurentius had poured the revenues of the church into people. The early church won the world by using money to care for people. Life is short, so let us use what we have to show God’s love to people.

Thirdly, “wondrous courage” is “born principally of love for Christ.” If you want to leave the most generous example in an increasingly anti-Christian world, then focus on one thing: the love of Christ. Your generosity may lead to suffering, but your impact will grow exponentially in this life and your eternal reward will far surpass any momentary difficulty.

Yesterday was a great day with Shawn Manley, who now serves with me as CFO/COO of Global Trust Partners. I am praising God for how He is bringing the people together for that effort. We are still praying for provision to launch the organizational efforts more formally in July. Thanks for your prayers for that.

Today I fly with Jenni to Orlando, Florida, to host a Korean delegation visiting Warner University, where my brother serves as president. The Koreans are dear friends of ours. We were invited to host them for a brief visit so it is our privilege. It will be great to see my parents and my brother and his wife too.

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