Archive for August 2016

Trouble with Toilets



  If you read nothing else in this blog, read the bold paragraph at the end on how sanitation is an issue globally, and how YOU can keep the generosity going, by helping those in need!

 There are certain things you can't learn about ministry from a textbook, things that must be experienced to understand. For example, the unspoken ministry law that things will not break on a normal Monday, on a week where nothing is scheduled and you have hours of uninterrupted time to call a plumber/electrician/roofer/contractor/etc. to solve the problem. Things WILL break when you have a church full of people, kids arriving for vacation bible school in just a few hours, and a big event on the schedule in just over a week. These are things they do not teach you when preparing for the ministry.
     It was a Tuesday afternoon when the missions team that was staying with us from Tulsa informed me the toilets weren't flushing in the women's restroom. I went to investigate the problem and discovered that none of the toilets were flushing. I then asked the men if the toilet in the men's room was flushing, it was not. The time was 4:30. with VBS scheduled to start at 6pm.
     The plumber showed up a half hour before 6, which meant we were paying overtime for what we hoped would be a small problem (like I said, in ministry problems don't conveniently arise, you must pay overtime). I was asked a bunch of questions I had no idea how to answer. The main part of our building is 77 years old, I have no idea where the pipes go, or what a clean out valve even is (I learned). Thus, instead of any easy fix, we scheduled for a camera to be run through all the pipes the next day.
     I got to see into the literal bowels of the church. Which was a bit intriguing (and at times a bit gross). I learned there used to be another toilet in the church under our back stairwell. I learned AGAIN that doing things the cheapest way might pay off for a short time, but costs a lot more money in the long run.
      The problem was bigger than we thought. The wrong type of pipe, installed incorrectly, and then where the clean out valve was, was covered in cement (which defeats the whole purpose of a clean out valve). It was going to take some time and money to fix it.... money and time we didn't have.
     The missions team didn't complain once about the hundredth time they had to run over to our house to use the restroom, the VBS kids ran home if they needed to go, so the week went amazingly better than it could have, but we had our huge block party on the schedule and needed our toilets.
      This is where the story gets good, so if you skimmed over the actual toilet issues, stop skimming and read this part. We asked people to pray for our toilets. It's a bit silly, because with all the issues in the world, this seems so silly, but our toilets enable us to do ministry here in ways you don't think of, until you don't have them. We asked that God would provide in profound ways, and that the pipe could be fixed before our block party.
      The total cost was $2,943. That is a lot for anyone, but especially for our little church plant.
       I said to the plumber at one point "I hate that we are spending money on this, when we could be spending money on helping people." He looked at me and said "You can't help people if you don't have toilets. The money you are spending on this IS helping people."
      I was convicted as I thought of the times people have rushed in just to use our toilets. When homeless people have come in for a cup of coffee and to use the restroom. The countless kids and adults on Sunday mornings who use the facilities. The Al-Anon ladies on Tuesday nights and Friday mornings who drive from neighboring towns. Not to mention, I use those restrooms regularly, and I am able to have office hours and hold meetings with people because I have restrooms. The plumber was right, this was important.
      On the recommendation of a friend, we put together a GoFundMe page. To raise $2500. We could handle any expenses over that, it might put our account at zero.... again... but at least the problem would be solved. In just over week, we exceeded the $2500!!! We raised $2943!!!
      God's people were mobilized, some gave a little, some gave a lot. Some were Nazarenes, many were not. They gave to help us continue our work here. God is good! God's people are good! We are grateful!
      Not only were we able to raise the funds, but the work took less time than anticipated, and we did not need to rent port-a-potties for our event.
      We have learned a lot from this experience. The first being, make sure to do things right the first time, because it benefits people for a long time to do so. More importantly, we learned again that God is faithful, and that God uses God's people to do great things. We learned that when churches aren't in competition with each other, when God's people aren't bickering and arguing, but work together on something, great things happen. It was this working together, that enable us to keep doing our ministry. That enable us to have toilets for the homeless at times, that enable me to have office hours, that enable us to host huge back to school events.
       We are humbled and stunned by the faithfulness of God, and we are challenged to never take seemingly small things for granted again. Things like the ministry of toilets, or the giving of a $10 gift. These small acts, even these small things done in great love, have potential to change the world for good.
  •    Having access to sanitation is a huge issue worldwide. Yesterday was world portable sanitation day, to raise awareness for access to portable sanitation. This is especially important for our homeless brothers and sisters, but for others world wide. Learn more here!  
  • Also 2.5 billion people worldwide don't have access to proper sanitation. There are MANY articles and organizations that talk about this here's the stats from WHO 
  •  If you are looking for a way to help, or you wanted to help with our toilet issue but were unable, I encourage you to look into World Vision's program WASH, as they seek to provide sustainable clean water and sanitation to those in need around the world! For more info or to give check out
As my plumber said "having toilets enables ministry to happen." I'll take it further, sometimes toilets are a ministry in themselves. You don't notice it until you don't have it. I've seen God mobilize God's people in our church, let's keep that going, and change the world!!

Tulsa First UMC

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    The last 2 weeks are still being processed in my mind. The pure chaos of everything over the last few days, mixed with the complete joy of seeing the kingdom of God at work, is resonating in my heart as I try to find the words to describe it all. The amazement at how God has moved, has made it difficult to write about, because I am still in complete shock at times.
     We hosted our first missions team 2 summers ago. We had only been here for 5 weeks, and the church was so full of stuff and mice, that they had to squeeze into our home and sleep on the floors. The bulk of their work was just cleaning out things so that we could even begin to think about ministry.
    Last week we hosted our only missions team of the summer, and what a difference 2 years makes. They got to worship in church service with us on Sunday. A service that was only a dream 2 years ago, was now a reality, and they got to take part. They interacted with people from the community almost every day of the trip, through vacation bible school, and through the random visits I am now getting on a much more regular basis.
     The presence of God was so present in their laughter, in their music, in their love for others, it re-energized me in a way that only being in the presence of teenagers can (a large piece of my heart still belongs to youth ministry).
      They did a lot of seemingly small things, that enables us to do ministry. Because we are still a small congregation, it is difficult to stay on top of tasks outside of the most important maintenance. Deep cleaning, weeding, organizing, etc. don't happen very often, because we just don't have time or the man power to do it all. This group did so much of that, which enables us to do ministry.
     They organized , a LOT!

      They weeded out in the hot sun.

      They painted.

      They sorted tons of bras for Free the Girls, to help sex trafficking survivors around the world.

        My favorite thing they did this whole week, was pour their lives into the lives of the kids in our church and community with their tremendous joy and willingness to look silly for the kingdom of God through our simple Vacation Bible School. 

     God showed up in amazing ways this week. In the silly and in the small, God was there.
     I told the group, they will never know the impact all of these seemingly small things have done for the kingdom, but that's how the kingdom of God is. The kingdom is like a mustard seed, it's small, but it grows.
      These small acts of kindness, of service, of compassion, of humility, are already growing. They have already enabled and equipped me to spend more time doing the relationship side of ministry, versus the maintenance side of ministry. They energized our congregation. They made the kids in our church feel so loved and valued. We will forever be impacted by the great work and the deep prayers of the people of Tulsa First United Methodist Church. Their gifts will grow and multiply into great things here in Hammond and beyond, and are so blessed to add them to the list of our extended God family we've had the great pleasure of meeting this side of glory.