Time to Quit?

(I wrote the following paragraphs in my journal while on a missions trip in the Philippines in April 2010. Only this evening decided to publish them.)

When is it time to realize you are defeated or you are needlessly fighting against an unbeatable foe? Is it not wise sometimes to stop hammering on a giant rock with a rubber mallet or move a mountain with only a teaspoon? Clearly there are times when this is the prudent course to take. On the other hand, how many times have enormous efforts been brought to a halt only inches or hours from a total victory.

Throughout history armies and organizations wisely saw that they were impossibly overwhelmed and retreated or surrendered in order to save lives and fight another day. Macarthur fled the Philippines in WWII with the famous “I shall return” and returned three years later as a conquering hero. Conversely, Churchill rallied the citizens of Great Britain with his stirring words; “…we’ll fight them on the beaches…on the streets…etc. and was known by his attitude of “never, never, never give up.”

While I think there is a time to retreat and regroup, I am more inclined to side with the sentiments of Churchill than I am with those expressed by Macarthur. More often than not those who win big are those who stay longest at the battle—even if they face seemingly impossible odds.

I was reminded of one of those occasions occurring not far from here. The ministries of the Clarkview Christian Center and their sister church, the Humphrey Center are doing a phenomenal job serving folks in Angeles City. Today I witnessed them serve over 500 indigent children a lot of love, a hot, nutritious meal AND the Gospel. Together they monthly serve over 2000 people in English and Tagalog—and they do it with passion and excellence. From the ranks of their membership have been hundreds of folks who not only found Christ but went on to productive lives in Christian ministry, education and public service.

In the decade after the devastation of Mt. Pinotubo we almost closed or abandoned this ministry several times. Fortunately God always had someone who would not give up on these people and on this ministry. Early on it was Dr. John Ray. He had been after me for 2 years telling me that God wanted him to go the Philippines and he was willing to go under the MTTM “flag.” When I relented he retired from his DODDs career as a teacher & administrator and shipped all of his personal goods in preparation for his life in the P.I. Before he arrived Clark airbase was evacuated, Pinutobo exploded and Clark with the surrounding areas were devasted. When I asked John if he still wanted to go to the P.I. he told me: “…it scares me to think about it but when I pray in the Spirit I KNOW I still must go.” He went and did much of our earliest relief work.

After my initial post-Pinatubo visit I was deeply touched by the suffering there but was convinced that the involvement of the MTTM was to be a short-lived one. We were to help with immediate humanitarian needs but then turn things over to the local national Church of God leadership that I reasoned would be better equipped to serve these people. Roy Humphrey, normally a military focused missionary, confronted me with a different perspective. Roy felt deeply that God had planted us in the P.I. and that we must stay there until God released us. He pointed out the plight of the thousands of Amerasian and street children that had no advocate. He also made clear that many of the people who were in our feeding lines were pastors and church members of the national church. How could they be expected to take over our humanitarian work-they needed help themselves? He became the tireless champion of the ministry to this area and still is to this day.

While in the midst of trying to extricate ourselves from this non-military ministry God used some retired military men who approached me after an MTTM retreat in NC. They had just heard the story of what was happening around the former Clarkview AFB and the Clark Center. They approached me with tears in their eyes and pleaded. “we can’t turn this ministry over to anyone else…this is our responsibility. We (the MTTM) must lead the effort to fund and restore this work until it can stand on it’s own.”

When I reflect on the fabulous ministry here today in Angeles City, I shudder to think what would have happened if we gave up. Can you make it just one more day?

Posted in Courage, Leadership | 4 Comments

So Let’s Begin Again

It’s been more than 2 months since my last blog. I’ve started journaling again but otherwise not writing outside of email and regular correspondance. I find that blogging helps me on at least two fronts; First, it helps me flesh out and clarify some things I’m learning or thinking about. Next, it puts my ideas out there where anyone can read them and challenge me as to their veracity and relevance. They also can remind me of what I said. 

The writer of Proverbs said life and death are in the power of the tongue.  Could this be true about the keyboard as well?

Posted in Courage | Tagged | 1 Comment

Is it Unity or merely “Group Think”

Couldn’t sleep tonight so I’d thought I’d write a bit.  Always dangerous.

Have you ever met a group of folks who bragged about how unified they were. Upon taking a closer look you have to admit they do seem to hang together. There is something troubling about it however that just does not quite ring true. They certainly don’t mind disagreeing with ‘outsiders’ or those not part of their group and resist confrontation or disagreement with members in the group.

Is this really admirable-or even healthy? If we dare not confront each other when we disagree or are uncomfortable how good can that be? Can we grow in such a group or can we ever improve?  Some churches want this. They want to be comfortable and agreeable but they do not want to change…unless it is in ways so slow and gradual as to be almost imperceptable.  Seems rather at odds to the very nature of the Gospel and the impact it is intended to have upon our world.

No, I want to be part of a group that cares enough about me to challenge me when I’m wrong but not kick me out of the circle. I want to know if my breath is bad, my attitude stinks or my ideas suck. I also want to know when I’ve made a contribution or my cheerfullness has encouraged someone else or if my inspiration may have a seed of genius.  My presence or absence or opinion should mean something to the other members. Don’t tell me we are ‘unified’ but then ignore me or exclude me if I dare to disagree.

I feel better now. I think sleep may come.

Posted in Courage | 8 Comments

Additional Musings about the Naked Emperor

I have recieved much helpful feedback on my last blog regarding leadership accountability & social networking. I intend to do additional research in this area. The thoughts around using technology and social networking were intriquing. Some of the inherent challenges to this method are quickly obvious. Persons who were dissatisfied customers of the organization could take advantage of the public forum to ventilate their anger toward one of it’s leaders in an unfair manner. The boldness of this approach could also work in the favor of the leader. What better way to quickly build trust than to make themselves open and vulnerable in this way. In today’s internet search engine world few matters of a leader’s public or even private life can long be concealed anyway. This could move a long way to increasing transparency and honesty. If a leader had distanced themselves from reality; surrounded themselves by ‘yes men’; or had become victims of group-think, the open-forum interaction via the blogs and FaceBook could prove to be an invaluable tool to remind the leader that his ‘talk’ was not lining up with his ‘walk.’

Posted in Courage | 6 Comments

Technology & the Emperor Who Has No Clothes

I started a blog a few weeks ago about leadership accountability. I suggested one of the challenges was the higher a leader rises in an organization the greater the need but less the chance people around him/her would speak the whole truth to… “tell the emporer he had no clothes.” I do not want to be one who just comments without offering a solution so here’s a radical one (at least in the eyes of some) for your consideraton and comment:

What if….

An organization created a page on the wildly popular social networking tool FaceBook. They could set up a page for each of the organization’s leaders. This could be further linked to a blog site encouraging folks to give them honest feedback and evaluation. All of the organizations workers and customers would be invited to view and participate in the blog. This could be a forum where the leader put his core ideas and values into print. He or she could even write about their views on current events and organizational goals in lite of current cultural, political market conditions. Visitors to the FaceBook site would be invited to make comments positive or negative depending upon their perspective of the leaders recent actions. The leader could choose to respond or not but they would at least indicate that they had read the responses to their blogs. They could receive both criticism and praise.

Posted in Courage | 9 Comments