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December 2008
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February 2009

The Sophia Fund

On January 1, I launched what I am calling The Sophia Fund. This is a humanitarian effort to feed the poor in Kenya and Zimbabwe.  I had an email from a reader asking for more information as he and his wife prayed about making a contribution.  You may have the same questions he did, so I thought I would share my edited comments to him with you:

The Sophia Fund will only be distributed to those who work and give in the name of our Lord.  Here's the lowdown.

1.  In Kenya, I have a lot of relationships, but am now part of an organization now called The GOAL Project.  You can check out their website here.  In the missions section, you can read about the SARAH Network, GOAL's affiliate in Kenya.  They are all committed believers who have some excellent grassroots connections.  When I go over in three weeks, I am taking a team of seven with me, two of whom are pastors.  They will be visiting the SARAH partners for a week and will be directing the first distribution of The Sophia Fund resources.  I also have an Anglican pastoral couple in west Kenya with whom I work. They are great people, trustworthy and able to get the help directly to the people.  They have no distribution costs or overhead and are also connected with GOAL and SARAH. 

2.  I have a friend in Zimbabwe named Joan. I helped position here in Zim 12 years ago and she has now adopted AIDS orphans into her home and cares for them.  She also directs many outreaches in her community and is a committed believer who works with a large church in Harare pastored by an American couple.  She is in the community, with no overhead, so her resources go directly to help the people.

Those are my two sources that I will work with at this time.  There may be more over time, but they will all be the same:  little or no overhead with committed Christian values who aren't just feeding, but using food as a token of God's love to give people the bread of heaven.

If you need any other info, don't hesitate to ask. We of course are keeping not one penny here but will pass everything on to those in need. 

May God direct your prayers and steps, as I know He will.  I appreciate you even praying about this.

In Him,

John

We have already raised almost $800 and I am asking every reader to contribute at least $5 toward the fund and hopefully more.  You can use the "Chipin" widget on this site to contribute, or go directly to my website to contribute there through PayPal, or send a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA  15221.  Make sure you let me know it is for The Sophia Fund. Don't delay; give today!  I leave for Kenya on February 11.


Seven Cities

I am sitting in the Grand Junction, Colorado airport on my way home.  I will go to Salt Lake and Minneapolis before I reach Pittsburgh, which means I will have touched down in eight cities on this trip -- Atlanta, Bentonville, Houston, Phoenix, Grand Junction, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis and then finally Pittsburgh.  One thing I have always said is that if you have seen one airport, you have pretty much seen them all. 

I had a great visit to First Assembly in Grand Junction.  Pastors Ted and Tami are doing a super job and the people are warm, friendly and open to the purpose message.  I spoke twice in the church's Stir conference and then met with 24 people one-on-one over a three day period.  With most of them, I used my battery of three profiles to help them understand who they are and how that relates to their purpose.  I try to give people new ideas of how they can move forward to be even more purposeful and productive.  One man said that quality questions lead to a quality life.  I try to give people better questions to ask about who they are and what they should be doing.

I have a busy weekend in Pittsburgh and then will go back to the Washington City Mission two days next week to do what I did here in Grand Junction.  Then I will spend three days working at Allegheny Center Alliance Church in Pittsburgh where I have taken more responsibilities lately.  More on that in a future post.

I was so busy on Tuesday that I didn't watch any of the inauguration.  I pray for the success of our new Commander-in-Chief.  it is unfortunate that the Chief Justice messed up the oath of office. 

I should be back in a better rhythm and schedule next week to write more.  I have to finish up the series on We Need to Change the Way We Do Church and have a lot more things to share.  Until then, take care and have a great weekend.


Busy Week

It's been a busy week with work at my church, my Tuesday night class, snowy weather (which requires twice as long to complete even the simplest trip by car), and getting ready for my trip to Arkansas and Colorado. Today I make two presentations to the management and trainers at Wal Mart in Bentonville.  I will be introducing The Pacific Institute training in the morning and doing a talk on servant-leadership in the afternoon.  Then I will move on to Colorado on Saturday (Grand Junction to be exact) to work with my friends Ted and Tami Miller at the Assembly of God church.  They are having a winter meeting for their church with the theme of "Stir!" and I'm sure the purpose message will do just that.

On the horizon is my trip to Kenya in February and the next class in my D Min program, which will be Biblical Counseling.  I think I am behind on my reading for that class and I know I am behind on my papers.  What's more, I have two of my cohorts papers to read and make comments due by the 17th.  I will have to do those on the plane at some point. 

Keep in mind, I am not complaining.  I am enjoying it all and the unknown of how I can possibly get it all done.  I am not even taking it one day at a time, but one hour at a time and savoring every moment.  After all, I am doing important work with wonderful people.  What's not to enjoy?  At any rate, I am about to get on a plane and I will spend the first part of my trip planning the next four or five days, planning my work so I cam work my plan.

At any rate, it's on to the next event.  Stay tuned for udpates from the road. 


Washington City Mission

I have been privileged to work with many outstanding people all over the world.  Since November, I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know the team at the Washington City Mission, located in Washington, PA, about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh.  I met last September with Tom Schaffer, Dean Gartland and Bob Scott and we talked about how my purpose work could be included in the work that they were doing at the Mission.  Since then, I have had four days with the staff as we talked purpose and team-building and studied profile results.

The Mission there is a dynamic work with resale shops, a donation center, and residence halls for not only men but also women with children.  Unfortunately and fortunately, the Mission is full and the residents there are receiving excellent care in a committed, Christian and loving environment.  Soon we will introduce the purpose message to the residents and make that a part of their recovery training.  That excites me.

I hope you will visit their website and be encouraged to do something to serve your community like they are.  Perhaps you will want to contribute to their work (I'm going to do that right now myself) or volunteer to help, if you live close enough to do so.  Maybe you can pray for the staff and residents.  What I would love to see is a Life Purpose Center there that would impact not just the residents, but also the volunteers, staff and general public in that area.  Wouldn't that be cool! Won't it be great when some of the residents and graduates help others find their purpose.  What a great story that will be.  Perhaps you can pray that the Center would become a reality there, and in many other places, too.

At any rate, keep up the good work WCM team, and I hope we can continue our purpose work together.  You guys are great! 


Slavery Awareness Day

Today is National Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Awareness Day,  I serve on the board of directors of a program called Born to Fly International that is working to raise awareness and money, and to develop programs to stop the abominable practice that continues in this modern age, even in my own country.  My sister-in-law, Diana Scimone, founded Born to Fly and I am so proud of the work she is doing. I just wish she didn't have to do it for such a cause. Her blog and website are outstanding and I know you will use them both as a resource from this point forward.  Diana is also an exceptional writer and is using her skills toward a worthy cause.  Way to go, Di! 

Sometimes the problems you hear about are so big and so "beyond" us that it is easy to think that you are powerless.  Read a few of Diana's entries on her blog and you will see that there is plenty that you can do to save a child, or even an adult for that matter, from the horrors of slavery and bondage.  If nothing else, at least consider contributing to Diana's work to commemorate this special day.

As Diana wrote recently, she is enlisting people to help so that she can work herself out of a job.  That sounds good to me. Won't you help us do just that?


Back to Teaching

Last night I returned to my part-time teaching career at the Center for Urban Biblical Ministry here in Pittsburgh.  I am teaching one three-credit course, Messianic Prophecy: The Old Testament in the New and it was a great first class (at least for me it was).  I have another one-credit class that is broken into three installments later in the term and I also have a class trip to Kenya in February.  I enjoy teaching, especially working with adult students who are serious about learning.  And speaking about learning, I have my next class in my Doctor of Ministry degree program at the end of February, this one in biblical counseling.  I am in the midst of my reading and writing preparation for that class. 

So what are reading and studying?  Are you taking any classes?  If so, tell us about them here so others will be encouraged to do something to learn and grow in their own world and life. 


Changing the Way We Do Church 6

It's time to finish up my series on church reform with these last two entries.  You can read the past five entries here to catch up with what I have been saying and, of course, you comments, criticisms and additions are most welcome.

The sixth step in church reformation is

6.  Move from fads, copycat programs, and trite and phony rituals, traditions and doctrines to creative initiatives in the Spirit of (but exceeding the results of) the early church.

I am 58 years old and I have known the Lord for 35 years.  I have seen a lot of movements come and go and have studied many others who came and went before I came and studied.  I have lived through discipleship, seeker-sensitive, charismatic, cells church, signs and wonders, and house church movements. I have seen spiritual "stars" and "celebrities" come and go with their followers willing to follow them off a spiritual cliff.

Today we have missional, emerging, G12, reformed seeker-sensitive and a few more that I am not even aware of.  I have studied the Reformers, the Quakers, the Shakers, the Salvation Army, the Christian Missionary Alliance and the Methodists, They have been launched, matured and taught by sincere men and women whose heart was to create an expression of the body of Christ that was consistent with biblical principles and their interpretations of the same.

The problem I see is that as soon as one of these emphases or movements is started, people flock to read and study them so that they can copy, emulate or assimilate their "best" traits, which are the ones that "work" best.  Others flock to attack the new movements, and the blogosphere is full of people devoted to one philosophy or another. 

My only recommendation is that we keep on seeking, listening and innovating where church growth and evangelism are concerned.  Don't just do something because someone else is doing it and they are having success.  For example, I have seen so many churches with the attitude, "We pray or worship a lot in our church and God is blessing it.  If you prayed or worshiped like we prayed and worshiped, God would bless you and you would grow, too."  Suddenly spiritual prayer becomes a technique and it loses its spirituality.  Then books and conferences on prayer-growth or worship-growth appear and people buy or attend them to learn how prayer or worship can "work" for them, too. People then become part of the prayer-growth-worship movement to the exclusion of everyone or anyone else. 

Then the prayer-growth emphasis becomes a movement and maybe even a denomination, which then regulates how you pray for effective church growth (or even non-growth -- some churches don't want to grow).  Finally, I have heard many churches state that they want a New Testament church.  I understand what they are saying, but I don't want a New Testament church.  I want a church that exceeds those results.  I don't believe that the early church met in homes because we should only meet in homes.  I think they adapted to what they had and they were successful.  Now we must adapt to our culture and do what they did:  prove that we can present a relevant gospel to our generation.

Whatever church emphasis you adopt or follow, please make sure it's a spiritual exercise and not some shortcut that exempts you from seeking the Lord for yourself.  And when you adopt it, don't try to make it an iron-clad, no exceptions philosophy that condemns or criticizes those who don't do it like you do.  If it is Spirit-led, then follow the Spirit and keep your eyes on Him.  If it isn't, well I've seen enough of those in my lifetime and I'm not interested in feeding any more of them with my enthusiasms or loyalty.  And I've had my expectations shattered again and again by men (and women) who had the "word" for the day, only to crash and burn when their initial insights could not stand up to the test of time or human limitations. 


The Sophia Fund: Lend the Lord Some Money

I wrote yesterday about the deplorable conditions in Zimbabwe.  I have not written about the equally deplorable situation in Kenya that I saw when I was there a few weeks ago.  I have worked in Africa since 1993 and have always tried to leave a deposit there of my teaching, trying to encourage, equip and strengthen whenever I could.  I was convinced on my last trip, however, that I needed to do more. 

As you know, Mother Stanko passed away last October 26.  My mother loved food. She loved to shop, cook, entertain, preserve and give away food.  Every Christmas season she made thousands of cookies to give away to everyone she knew.  Until the time she died at 92 years of age, she invited friends in to feed them.  My sister tells me that when beggars would come to our home when my sister was young, my mother always sent them to the back door where she gave them a sandwich and a cup of coffee.

So while I was in Africa, I was praying about something to do to honor my mother's memory and meet the needs of the people.  It was a no-brainer that I could honor my mother by helping to feed people, just as she did when she was alive.

So I have decided to start what I am calling The Sophia Fund through my nonprofit organization, PurposeQuest International.  My family and I are making a donation from some of the money that my mother left after her death to get things started and I am asking you to give as well.  Perhaps you have wanted to do something for the poor in Africa and didn't know what or how.  Now is your chance and The Sophia Fund is your means to do so.

The Bible is clear:  "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27).  The Sophia Fund will do just what the verse addresses:  we will feed the orphans and widows.  Every penny that comes in will go to the poor; we will not take out any administrative fees or overhead.  And specifically the money will go to Zimbabwe and Kenya, through reliable sources that I have developed over the years.

Now you can make a difference in the world right from where you sit.  For just $5, less than the price of a movie ticket, you can feed someone for a week!  For the price of one meal at a fast-food restaurant, you can feed a widowed mother or her orphaned children.  In these troubled times, you can make an investment that is sure to pay great dividends.  "He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done" (Proverbs 19:17). 

It's kind of a bizarre thought that you can lend something to God, who owns everything.  Yet it's true and I implore you to do just that today.  

You can contribute to The Sophia Fund via PayPal by clicking the orange ChipIn button:

Or go to my website where you can also make a donation through PayPal.  Mark the memo on your contribution The Sophia Fund and it will be directed to that Fund.  

You may be able to give $100 or you may give $5, but don't put off doing something another day.  If you prefer, you can write a check to PurposeQuest and mail it to PO Box 91099, Pittsburgh, PA  15221-7099. 

I will not include pictures of starving children.  I will not play on your emotions, but I am appealing to your heart that you not ignore the cry of starving people, people you can easily reach and help.  Don't underestimate your power to make a difference and then act today.  If you have any questions or comments, please post them to this site for all to read.  Thank you and together let's make a difference in the lives of those who cannot repay and watch God reward us accordingly.