Archives For Causes

Throughout our fostering experience, Elizabeth and I have taken some time to try to answer questions we hear, share the emotions (good and bad) that we feel, and raise awareness for the importance of fostering.

No matter how we describe fostering, words fall short.

One of the necessary parts of fostering is that the children are protected throughout the process as much as possible, so pictures are fairly limited.

There goes the “a picture is a thousand words” platitude.

About a month ago, a video was released, though, that communicates the journey and feelings that a foster child might feel throughout the process of being removed from their home, and placed in care.

It crushed me, in a good way.

It is by a producer who goes by the name “Heschle“, and he produced this video to increase awareness for the needs of foster children, and quality foster homes.

Will this answer all your questions and make everything make sense?

Nope.  But it is worth the 15 minutes of your time.

Have you ever thought about how a child feels when they are ReMoved?



I’m pretty sure when I wrote that title the only thing going through my mind was “Wow, that’s a lot of do’s in a title”.  Then again, I couldn’t think of a less wordy way of saying it, so there’s that.

I went to a conference in Dallas last week, and spent some time hanging out with my best friend from college and with some leadership from my technology team as well.  Like many worship pastors, I wanted to get away, to refresh and reframe my outlook as well as do some long-term planning.  It was a good time of self-reflection that brought up some interesting questions for me to ponder…as Jerod’s wife, Jennifer can attest to, if you put the two of us together (Jerod and I), it makes for laughter, long nights, and deep discussions that challenge both of us.  There was one question that kept coming to me, whether it was in a discussion about my personal life, fostering, my marriage, or my ministry:

Why do you do what you do?

Why do I do what I do?  It made me think and evaluate all angles of that question?  Does my philosophy in worship ministry happen because it is what God has placed inside of me, and empowered me to do, or because it is popular, easy, or perhaps unpopular or difficult?  Do I function in marriage the way I do out of my own selfish ambition or desires or out of a desire to grow closer to my wife and to grow together in our faith?  Is parenting an extension of the love God has placed within me, or a necessary evil based on our own life choices?  And then fostering as an addition to all of that…is it done because we feel called to do it, or because we feel like we have started something and have to accomplish our “goal” of adopting as well?

All of these thoughts (good and bad) were rattling in my mind as we went to an evening session on Tuesday night.  One of the groups that was leading worship that night was All Sons and Daughters with One Sonic Society.  Being familiar with their work, and loving the raw, authenticity with which they write, I was looking forward to hearing and singing with them again.  A few songs into their time, I realized one of their songs quietly answered the questions I had wrestled with during the week.

The song is called “You Have Called Me Higher”.  Powerfully simple, the song describes the heartbeat of the reason to go the extra mile, the calling to continue to learn, to not count anyone out.  Here’s a few tidbits of what it means in my life, and why I do what I do.

I could just sit
I could just sit and wait for all Your goodness
Hope to feel Your presence
And I could just stay
I could just stay right where I am

and hope to feel You
Hope to feel something again

Have you ever been there?  When you feel like you are playing the waiting game, wishing and hoping and praying that something will change while you think you are completely sinking in the quicksand?  I have, and am, and will be in the future.  My wife would probably tell you that our bed is made of quicksand, because I don’t want to get out of it in the morning, and she would be right.  Yet, simply waiting without any action, or hoping without any momentum will leaving you right where you are.  The greatest times of repentance, of redemption, and of growth in my life have been the times I stepped out knowing God desired my faith and obedience.

And I could hold on
I could hold on to who I am and never let You
Change me from the inside
And I could be safe
I could be safe here in Your arms

and never leave home
Never let these walls down

If the people around me truly knew how much this paragraph embodied the feelings of failure, insecurity, and defeat I battle with, and my desire to just shut down, they would probably throw me out with the bath water.  Actually, I’m pretty sure my closest friends do, and they love me in spite of it.  It’s amazing to me how natural it is for me to think if I just close everything else out, things will be better.  But that inner voice of love (shout out to my Nouwen friends) keeps reminding me to share my insecurities with Him, to let go of the shackles, to break down the walls.  And the chorus to this song explains exactly why.

You have called me higher
You have called me deeper
And I’ll go where You lead me Lord
Where You lead me
Where You lead me Lord

Ultimately, for all the words I can and will continue to share about ministry, for all the stories I will tell about the joys and struggles of fostering, It is done because I know I’ve been called to follow.  I’ve been called to hurt deeper than I believe I can bear, to love when I am not loved in return, to teach when the ones I teach think it is crazy, and to minister to anyone and everyone, no matter what shape, race, gender, or class.  I don’t do this because it is noble, because it right, or because I want to look good.

I do it because I am called.  Higher.  Deeper.  Where I am led.

Why Do You Do What You Do?


Adventures in Axum

January 28, 2014 — Leave a comment


We weren’t tired at all when we eating breakfast in the Addis airport.

Okay, maybe that was a lie.  We were tired, and we knew we were almost to the end of our flying, but we had one more flight to make.  After getting into Addis at around 2 in the morning, and outside of security just before 4, we made our way to the domestic terminal and had a nice breakfast around 5, and waited for our flights.  We were split up between two flights: Rodney, David, and I were on a direct flight, and Jim and Nicole got the “date” flight…where they touched down to pick up more passengers.  This put us into Axum at around 11, and we were met by Pastor Tomesgen, and John, our young guide who has been with us since the beginning.  We took the minibus to Shire, where we went to the Gebar Shire, which is a hotel that we stay at while we are there…here is a little view from Shire, courtesy of Dave…

We got a little time to rest, and then met with the regional leaders of the camp to get official permission to visit the camp confirmed, which we did…so we are go for launch!

By this point, we were pretty much exhausted, so we had dinner, relaxed, and went to bed.  This is an experience.  Between horns honking, karaoke blasting, and the call to prayer that starts at about 3 or 4, learning to tune out sounds (a helpful skill learned by young parents…) is a must.  But here we are, up and around this morning, preparing to leave for camp.  We look forward to connecting with the people of Mai Aini today, and reporting back with more good news!

P.S.  No truth to the rumor that Jim Brown has been nicknamed “Big Francis” by John…;)

We are in Addis!

January 27, 2014 — Leave a comment


And here is the crew (minus me) at Chicago, waiting to board…
We got a little exit row love…Qatar Airways has awesome legroom and service!

As I write this, it is 5:15 a.m. in the morning, and we are in the Addis Ababa airport waiting to take off to Axum.  We are looking forward to getting close to our final destination in Shire, as we have been on a plane from KC to Chicago to Doha, Qatar, to Addis, and now to Axum.  I’m sure by the end of the day, we will be excited to rest, but also looking ahead to the events of this week.  Pray for us as we meet with the camp leaders to get official permission once we land and arrive in Shire.  That will determine how quickly we meet with the rest of the leadership groups.  There will be more updates as time permits, and more adventures and stories as well.  There is no doubt in my mind that we will be presented with amazing opportunities to help, serve, share, and be enriched as again spend time with our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia!

Jim and Nicole relaxing in the Addis boarding area for our Axum flight…

 Winding Roads

The road in this picture is the road that is taken to and from the refugee camp at Mai Aini that was taken this summer.  As you can see, it is small, winding, and treacherous.  With that, there is a beauty that can be seen as you travel on it that is almost indescribable.  As we have planned and prepared to go back, I am reminded that just because something is scary or overwhelming doesn’t mean it is not worth pursuing.

This Sunday, there will be five people from our church and association returning to Ethiopia for a week to meet with the leaders of the Mai Aini refugee camp in order to put together and finalize a plan that will allow us to build a library that can be filled with English and native language books to be used by refugees for learning and reading.  The camp and government has given us permission, as well as a plot of land to build on, and we are meeting to find out what type of building is culturally acceptable, how it will be built, and what we need to do on the front end to make this project a success.  I am overjoyed to return to Africa and see the friends that we have made over the summer, and pray that we make much of the Gospel as we seek to provide a basic need for this camp: education.

Here are a few things that you can pray for as we travel and plan:

1.  Pray that the travel connections come together.  If you have ever traveled in a third world country, travel connections can be fluid.  As in, no matter what you plan, it can all be scrapped and replanned if necessary.  While we hope that things will smoothly, they may not.  That’s okay.  Just pray our bodies, hearts, and minds stay flexible as we journey towards Mai Aini.

2. Pray for the people that we will meet, both in Shire and in the camp.  The connections that we have made in the previous trips have provided wonderful opportunities for us, and we hope to foster and grow those relationships to create more opportunities for service, evangelism, and aid.  Being an outsider requires us to both understand and embrace the cultural norms in Ethiopia, and our desire is to respect and work within the needs of the camp.  Pray that our meetings would be full of understanding, and that we would convey the respect we feel for the leaders, as well as our desire to help.

3. Health.  Simply put, that we would stay healthy.  We struggled with sickness on our last trip, and recognize that is one of the things that happens with a change in environment.  Pray that our bodies stay healthy as we work, travel, and join in community with the people of Ethiopia and the refugees of Eritrea!

Thank you all for the support that has been shown, for the prayers and thoughts that have traveled with us, and for the blessings of resources through donations of clothes, books, and money that have begun to pour in as we undertake this process.  I will try to do a better job of updating with news, pictures, and videos of some of the stories we have and will encounter!

Do you have a mission trip or project that left a lasting impact on you?  Feel free to share below in the comments!

Over the past year of fostering, I have heard many statements like:

“I just don’t think I could foster, because giving back those children would be so hard.”

You are right. It is heartbreaking, especially if you are struggling with not supporting the situation, or have truly bonded in a special way with the child or children that have been in your home. There is a grief process, like any other loss. But you work through it, and move forward, looking to the next child that you can provide, love, support, and safety to.

“It just seems like this is a better place for them.”

On the surface, this seems like a nice, complimentary statement, but underneath the surface it says something different: It says that we know the exact answer for the child, and it is our way. But what if we aren’t the best place? And how would you feel if someone thought there was a better place for your child? These are things I try to remember when thoughts like this sneak into my head.

“I am afraid they are going to change my kids.”

You are right about this (but probably not in the way you think). Your kids will be changed. Ours have been completely, irreversibly changed. Our four year old will now tell new placements “don’t worry, you are safe and loved here!”, and our six year old will go over the house rules (which he himself may or may not follow). They learn empathy, loss, and how to properly grieve as each child leaves or stays. They learn bad behaviors, and how to react or not react. There are good and bad consequences, with the good outweighing the bad by far. They learn how to love someone who needs it desperately.

So why do I share these little tidbits with you? Because as hard as these different statements and questions are to work through, it isn’t what I would consider to be the most difficult part of fostering. Difficult, yes. Heartbreaking, yes. But not the hardest part.

The hardest part of fostering is saying no to a child you have fostered who needs to be placed again, and you know you can’t take them. To know that the right answer is they aren’t a fit, for whatever reason, and that it would be a disservice to them and to you to reacclimate them to your home.

It is as if you are looking at their desperation and then turning away to act like it isn’t there. It is gut-wrenching, as if you have rejected a family member, because you know it was necessary to be healthy. But it hurts.

Walking through that experience is like walking through a tragedy in slow motion. Everything is second-guessed, you assign blame to yourself as if it would make you feel better, knowing it won’t. You try to bargain, to hope for a miracle. But you know…and that makes it hurt worse.

I share this because I want people to realize that in spite of the pains of fostering, the hurt, anxiety, and questions that are spurred on by the different weaknesses that are so glaring in the system, we won’t give up. Even though we realize there are heartbreaking decisions that lie ahead, children that will go home to both wonderful and turbulent homecomings, we will still love them whether they stay a day or a year. Most of all, we see the potential for other families that are much more stable then our flawed, sinful, human family that would be wonderful co-laborers in this process.

Don’t let fear keep you from considering what love can provide for a child.

Nothing trumps His love for us.

1015341_10151998955654848_1941480621_oTo say that the benefit concert at Scooter’s on Friday night was a success would be an understatement!  We had literally hundreds of people that came through all day Friday as well as a great crowd camped out listening to music and supporting Africa by buying coffee and tipping us during the evening.  Courtesy of some of the folks that came, here are a couple of pictures to sum up the evening…

Coffee House Pics 1003657_10201417328736044_1020614843_nIf you look closely, you can see that there was a line during the music as well as people sitting and enjoying the beautiful evening.  Thank you to Scooter’s and to all of the wonderful baristas who donated their time, their tips, and their hearts to helping us out!


All of the time, the planning, the logistics, and the prayers come together today to culminate in a life-changing trip to Africa.  As we packed last night to prepare to leave today, I was reminded how small we are in the scope of the world, and yet even our footprint makes an impact.  In Ethiopia, it is my prayer that our impact will not just be measured by our own standards, or the amount of needs met, but by the relationships that are fostered, the truths that are conveyed, and the beauty of being changed by serving.  We understand that we are not going to impart any part of our culture, but to embrace the culture that exists, and serve in any capacity we can within that culture.  I am excited to meet the beautiful people of Ethiopia and Eritrea that we will encounter, pour myself into them, and allow them to do the same to me.

Thank you for going on this journey with us…I will be updating through Elizabeth or on this blog as best we can, but we are unsure what connections will be like as we go.  We won’t be able to receive phone calls or voicemails, but will be able to converse at times by text message.  Continue to pray for safety as we travel, flexibility as we serve, and wisdom as we work with the children of Mai Aini!




Through this entire little “countdown” to the Africa, you may have noticed that I have kept a logo at the top of each post that talked about today, Friday, June 28th.  There is a reason, and this is the story behind it.

A couple of weeks ago, I met with David Gritton, who is a fabulous marketer for Scooter’s Coffee…we were meeting to talk about ideas for having some outdoor music at the 23rd and Hwy 291 location in Independence, MO.  Since Todd Stanley and I have played several coffee shops under the name Stanley and Scholes, I thought it might be an opportunity to work together with Scooter’s.  I also recognized that we might be able to use tips from playing and/or promote the music as a benefit for Africa.

When I pitched the idea to David, not only was he okay with it, he got permission for us to take a percentage of the entire day’s sales, plus have the benefit concert as well as a chance to take in more donations.  Not only does this embody how amazing the owners of the Scooter’s franchise are, it shows the heart and soul behind Scooter’s…supporting the opportunities their community has to serve the world.

Why am I telling you this?  One, I want you to support a business that donates and pours into their community like Scooter’s does.  This isn’t the first time, and won’t be the last.  Businesses like this make Independence and Kansas City a better place.  Also, we want you to be involved!  Maybe you live in the metro area, and want to come relax with an evening of outdoor music…bring your lawn chair and come on!  While Todd and I won’t be playing, it will be my wife and I with a group of players from our church providing you with a mix of music from today, yesterday, and originals as well…and all for a great cause.  The money raised from tips, from sales, and from donations will be used to meet needs in a refugee camp that desperately needs it.

Whether you drink coffee, tea, chai, water, smoothies, or eat brownies, muffins, burritos, or nothing, we want you to be a part of this.  We hope to see you 7-9 for the concert, and throughout the day to help raise money!

I would love to hear your favorite coffee/mixed drink at a coffee shop…most creative one wins a prize!

CupsOfHopePosterFinal1Today’s post will be short, but probably as important as any of the posts I share.  As we leave, there are many needs that have been met financially, through donations, word of mouth, and zillions of other ways.  But as we journey, travel, and minister, your prayers will be priceless to us as we go to Mai Aini.  Here are a few ways you can pray for us:

1.  Travel

We are traveling in a country where we need to have the correct identifications, visas, permissions, and all can be slightly complicated at times.  Also, making sure all arrangements are still good, contacts are there to assist, and the normal flexibilities of travel abroad are okay will be a part of what we deal with on a daily basis.  Pray for grace as we travel and flexibility as we encounter “detours”.

2. Flexibility

This has been our mantra.  We have plans, we really do.  Whether any of those plans will play out the way we think they will…that is a whole different equation.  In spite of that, we know great things will happen in Ethiopia, and our ability to “go with the flow” will only increase success.

3. Durability

Ethiopia is a different environment, with different living conditions and climate. The places we stay will challenge us a bit, yet remind us of the culture we are engaging.  Strength, endurance, and joy in this will be important.

4. Wisdom

We know God is guiding this journey.  Above all, His answers trump ours, and His work is our desire.  As we use practical resources to bless these people, it is our prayer His wisdom will guide our mouths, our feet, and our lives.  Partner with us to pray for that!

Have you ever been overseas on travel?  Where to, and what challenges did you encounter that changed you as a person?

CupsOfHopePosterFinal1I thought I would make today’s post simple.  Where exactly are we going in Ethiopia?

We are headed to the Northern border of Ethiopia, near Eritrea.  The Mai Aini refugee camp is located in the Tigray province about 60 kilometers south of Endasilasie, which we know better as “Shire town”.  To give you a better perspective of this, I have embedded a Google Maps site that allows you to see a satellite view of the refugee camp.  If you go to Google Maps and click on the photos box, you can actually see some pictures that were taken by people who have visited the camp!  To see the camp, click on the View Larger Map link, and it will take you to the page where you can see better.

Continue to pray as we prepare to leave, and tell your friends about Friday night at Scooter’s coffee from 7-9!  Remember that any purchase throughout the day at Scooter’s at 23rd and 291 in Independence will go towards the 25% they will donate to us!

And now, for a random Africa poll: