Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Africa: Coming Back

"So when they were sent away, they went back to Antioch…" -Acts 15:30
Pardon my preoccupation with Africa for a while, but we've just returned from a phenomenal trip there and I'm still adjusting, both emotionally and physically. The time in Maun, Botswana was a tremendous time of ministry and friendship for the team of eleven that made the journey and with my brother-in-law, Brian. I know I need to turn the page and be all back in Branson. But I don't want to move on too quickly. I want to be sure I've soaked up and downloaded every last drop of our experience. I want to be sure we all take the lessons learned and make them matter where we live. Mission trips always seem to follow the same pattern: months of preparation that go by slowly, the trip arrives, and then a phenomenal time that flies by. Suddenly, we're sitting back in our offices and wondering if the trip ever really happened. Life just happens too quickly. It seems our circumstances change way ahead of our emotions. I bet Paul went through a bit of the same emotions in his day. As he returned from his missionary journeys, he always came back to his home church at Antioch and shared about what God was doing "out there." Then he was always ready to go back. That's where I am today. I'm really missing Africa. I'm missing Brian. I'm missing the team. I'm missing lots of things. African sunrises. Every morning we woke, grabbed coffee or hot chocolate and went to the back porch of Brian's home in Maun. Twenty yards from his porch flows the Thamalakane River and it is absolutely beautiful. Watching the sun rise over it's banks and listening to the silence was the perfect way to start a day. The people. This trip was less about projects and animals and more about the precious people of Botswana. Forgive my spelling, but Lingani, Kefilwe. Lovemore, Maprince, and so many others were a blessing to meet and become friends. The people of Maun are friendly and respectful. They have a need for Jesus just like the people of America and are eager to share God's truth with their fellow countrymen. Brian. He is such an inspiration to me personally and to the entire mission team. He slowly and methodically pours his heart and soul into the people of Maun. Every day Brian led a Bible study or a small group with the people of the church. He took a few of the team with him to each study and we observed the richness of relationship that he has earned with the people. Thank you Brian for your example to us all. The team. There were eleven of us that made the trip to Botswana. The comradery of the team was amazing. Everyone served selflessly and poured their hearts and soul into the building projects and into the people. It was truly the body at work and it was beautiful to watch. You'll be hearing more about the trip in the blogs to come. More than anything, I want the legacy of the trip to be in how we carry out our lives back here in the States. Brian's great work continues in Africa. May our work be just as intentional wherever we live. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.parentingyourteen101.com

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Headed to Africa

"But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord and he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches" - Acts 15:40-41
The idea of "Missions" probably came from the Latin word, in the 1500's, of "a sending abroad." Originally from the Jesuits, the Latin word missionem (nom. missio) meant "act of sending, a dispatching; a release, a setting at liberty; discharge from service, dismissal." Of course, when we think of "Mission trips," most of us think of Paul. All those maps in the back of our Bibles chronicle his journeys through Asia and Europe. Those maps got most of us through the boring sermons of our childhood. And they are a great reminder to us that we need to "go." Jesus commanded us to "go" and make disciples. Sure, for the people across the street, but when He leads us, we're to "go" across the ocean as well. Later this week, we will be "dismissed and released" to go to Africa. We've been planning this trip for months and it's finally here. Sponsored by First Baptist Church in Branson, eleven of us are heading to Botswana, the country right above South Africa. It's about the size of Texas with a total population a little less than Houston, about 2 million. We're going to share the love of Jesus with the people there. We're also going to support Brian Beadle, my brother-in-law, who has been a career missionary to the Botswana people for more than 12 years. I'm predicting one thing for sure: we'll be blessed as much as the people we're going to bless and we'll be loved as much as the people we're going to love. It seems that in those too seldom times when we give of ourselves, we always inherit the blessing. Funny thing is, we know that, but yet we're hesitant to serve. We just have so much we think we need to control around us that there is hardly time to be concerned about someone else. There's a harsh word that describes that cycle pretty well: selfishness. Yikes. Not a pleasant word. But true. One of the most amazing things about Paul and his travels of thousands of miles around the known world was the simple fact that he went. Today, that's no big deal, but back then, the culture didn't travel. I read once that in 1855, the average American never travelled more than 50 miles from their hometown. Of course, the Civil War changed all that. The war sent thousands and thousands of men all over America and we've never looked back. Jesus should provoke the same reaction in us. Why has America "never looked back?" Because Americans found out that there was so much to see and experience in America. Staying put was a poor alternative to "leaving." The spirit of God reminds us that we need to "go," not just geographically, but in our souls. Change is difficult because we're inclined to stay the same. Growth always requires a willingness to go because there's so much to see and experience in our faith. Though we have people staying in our home, we have to leave it behind and "go." In Maun, we're planning on doing construction work on Brian's church, help at the orphanage, and do a Bible school for the children. But we're open to doing whatever the Lord has in mind. It will be several weeks before I post to the blog again, but, in the meantime, we would sure appreciate your prayers. Not just for the Mission trip, but for our hearts to be changed. Then, even when we return, we'll keep "going." By Eric Joseph Staples © www.parentingyourteen101.com

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tribute to Andy

Opie said, “The cage sure looks awful empty don't it, Paw?" Andy replied, "Yes, son, it sure does. But don't the trees seem nice and full."
Andy Griffith passed away this week. Andrew Samuel "Andy" Griffith (June 1, 1926 – July 3, 2012) was an American actor, director, producer, Grammy Award-winning Southern-gospel singer, and writer. I won't share the details of his biography, you can read them on the Internet, but it's enough to know that he proved the validity of family- focused entertainment with a message. I've heard several interviews today with people that worked with Andy and they're quick to say, "His shows and writing were indicative of the man." Yes, Andy had phenomenal writers for his shows, but he reviewed all the scripts and added his flavor to every episode. It's a good reminder that who we are and what we stand for comes out in our daily lives. What we are is who we are. I just spoke to Janet, the program director for the NBC affiliate in Springfield, KYTV. I called to thank her and the station for faithfully showing the Andy Griffith Show at 12:30, Monday through Friday, for as long as we've lived here, over 30 years! Like I told her, "The show has been a breath of fresh air for our family. We need this show. Excuse me for saying it this way [I told her] but with all the trash on TV these days, it's nice to expect something clean". She replied, "I agree. I don't want my kids watching some of the programing that is popular today and Joey, you need to know we're under contract for the Andy Griffith Show for at least 2 more years." I said, "In the middle of sometimes difficult days, we need what that show provides: simplicity, humor, family and fun.” Simplicity. Life can be so complicated sometimes. Or at least we make it that way. Mayberry was simple and Andy commented in an interview that he modeled the show after his upbringing in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. We need the reminder that as intense and competitive as we can make life, we all need to stay in Mayberry. Interestingly, when CBS cancelled the show in the late 60's, Andy commented, "The producers felt that people didn't want the country flavor anymore. They wanted shows that are more sophisticated." Boy, were they wrong. How many of those sophisticated shows are still airing today? Simple will never go out of style. Humor. Andy was a master at hiring the right actors and employing the right writers. The writing staff for the show won numerous awards for their talent and episodes. And the humor wasn't "potty humor.” It was clean. We need to laugh not only at great jokes, but also at ourselves. We laugh at Barney because we all are Barney, in one way or another. We do dumb things, we try to cover for them and we're glad, in the end, that our friends still love us. Family. In a world that is struggling with the definition of family, we're reminded by Andy that a father's love for his son Opie, a cousin's love for his cousin, Barney and a nephew's love for his Aunt Bee are all what's most important. Through the ups and downs, Andy reminded us that family is the most important. And finally, fun. Television shows today are filled with graphic violence and reality life situations. Most shows last a season or less. Andy's show worked because he took everyday life and made it funny. Remember, the 60's were difficult days in this country: the Vietnam War, assassinations, race riots, etc. But Andy provided some relief and he still provides it today. Thanks Andy, for providing us with a gift. Thanks for using your God-given talent to provide good, wholesome entertainment for us. May you enjoy the simplicity of Heaven with a loving Creator. The world is definitely empty without you, but doesn't Heaven seem nice and full? By Eric Joseph Staples © www.parentingyourteen101.com

Monday, July 2, 2012


"By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going" -Heb. 11:8
Webster defines moving as "changing from one position to another." Changing positions is never easy. Whether we're driving our cars to the store or running down the track, moving always requires effort. It's simply easier to stay put. Not moving needs little effort while moving requires energy. But when the move is positive, it brings blessing with it. We spent the past week helping move Elizabeth, Mark and Reese to Des Moines, Iowa. We had never been to Iowa and found ourselves very impressed with the people and the atmosphere there. But anyway you slice it, moving is difficult. Change is difficult. Why? Because we like to put our security in where we are. If we're not careful, we can miss out on God's better plan somewhere else. Moving means we leave some things behind. As we packed Elizabeth and family, we filled the largest U-Haul, a flat bed trailer and several vehicles with "stuff." But we didn't pack it all. They decided to give some things away and to trash some things too. They left it behind. They discovered that they didn't need everything they possessed. They needed to leave some things behind. Moving also means we gain things for the future. As we moved them into their new home in Des Moines, we were so excited. Their home is wonderful and nicer than their home in Columbia. They lost some things but gained even more. Moving motivated by God beings new opportunities and blessing. Moving means we say good-bye to friends. When we leave where we've been, separating from those we love is difficult. Dear friends and family that we love and cherish stay put while we move on. Elizabeth, Mark and even Reese had to say bye to friends who were dear to their hearts. The day-to-day dependency we develop on God-given friends is hard to release, but a part of the process. But moving means we make new friends. Nearly every neighbor near Elizabeth's home came by to say, "Welcome to the neighborhood." And they already have a dear family that has adopted them. As they plug into a new church, new friendships will develop. Friends they don't even know yet are waiting to be ushered in under God's perfect timing. Moving means we disconnect. We say bye to all we've grown accustomed to living with. Where we eat, the teams we cheer for, the weather, and the people. So much is different where we're going. The language and the culture are different. Elizabeth and Mark are from the south and there were concerns about moving above the Mason-Dixon line. But moving means we reconnect. While in Des Moines, we found the people were actually very nice. We found MacDonald's and even a Chick-Fil-A. We even heard the "southern" Cicada's chirping at night. It was a lot like home and the people were so, so friendly. Previous friends remain friends forever, as they come to visit when they can. Moving is a challenge but staying put when God says, "go" is worse. We're so proud of Elizabeth, Mark and Reese for following God's plan, even though it's difficult. We already see how the Lord is blessing their move. God always blesses those who yield to His will, whether there's a Chick-Fil-A there or not. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.parentingyourteen101.com