eMi Conference - Jackson Hole, WY

(Warning: This blog entry is longer than I'll normally do, but it explains as good as I am able why we feel eMi is such a huge part of global missions, and ultimately why we feel God wants us to be a part of it.)

PICTURES: Top - Us with Janet and Chad, 2 of the 3 current staff members in the Uganda office (Chad is the director). Next - Us at the conference - the soccer jersey was the only Ugandan attire I had for the theme dinner. Next - The eMi world staff - we're in the back right.
On Weds. morning at 6am, just over 33 hours after returning home from LA, Alisha and I boarded the plane in Medford to head to Jackson Hole Wyoming (via Denver). We'd never been there before (actually, Alisha went as a young child but had only hazy memories. It was very beautiful, though the terrain was surprisingly less "woodsy" than Southern Oregon. Rocky mountains (I didn't come up with that name) and rolling green hills with patches of thick pine trees (skinny, shorter lodge-pole pines), intermixed with green pastures.
But the conference was the main focus of our trip, and it did not disappoint. We didn't know what to expect, but we were hoping to get better armed to share what God is doing in our lives and why eMi was the vehicle he 's called us to serve through. And that goal was accomplished in a big way, though not how we would've expected.
The conference consisted of a couple days of continuing education classes which were very informative and will be most helpful in living and working overseas. Then on Friday night, it shifted to a more typical conference setting, with one large banquet room for worship time and speakers. On Friday night, I got everything I'd hoped to get out of the whole weekend.
The speaker was from India - a man by the name of Vishal Mangalwadi. He shared a lot of philosophy and history of Christian societies in his talk. About half-way through, the point he was making resonated with me, and I began furiously writing two full pages of notes. It's difficult to explain the full point that hit me in this format, but I'll try to give a brief summary.
Basically, he gave an example of how one day he happened to be in Jinja, Uganda (where I'd spent 2 weeks on my project trip) and he noticed something that bothered him. There, next to the Nile river with a couple of large dams and power plants, he saw women taking trip after trip down to the river to carry water buckets on their heads back home. He compared this with what he'd seen in India as well, where women would spend 3 hours a day walking the fields to collect cow chips that could be burned back home to boil the water to make it safe to drink. What struck him was how tedious and monotonous these tasks were, and why after so many decades and centuries of advancement in the West did the Africans and Indians not find an easier method for obtaining water.
He also saw the men not helping in this process, which also disturbed him. He went on to cite several more examples where people in these 3rd world countries were spending much of their day in pointless toil, and thought about the vast difference in the developed world. The difference: the developed world used not only muscle, but their mind to make life better.
He went on to explain how the different religions around the world kept these countries from advancing, whereas those countries where christianity was prevalent, the societies were always bettering themselves, using their minds to accomplish the menial tasks and toil so they could spend their time working and creating. This, he argued, is God's intended plan for the human race - not to spend their days in repetitive toil.
He went on to say that this was why he saw the work that eMi is doing around the world as so critical. eMi is using the talents and skills of westerners to better the societies in the developing world. Not just building buildings or homes, but teaching the local people that by making certain changes, they can build safer buildings that won't collapse, and water systems that relieve the women and children from making 20 trips to the river each day, and septic systems that properly disgard their sewage without contaminating the water and bringing vast sickness and death. On top of this, eMi brings the message of Christ to these people. When they see in a real way how God's word put in action can make their lives better, their hearts are softened to receive the gospel.
Even the byproducts of the work eMi does are significant. As the clean water, proper sewage treatment and safe building practices begin to spread in these countries, pretty soon the number of sick and dying people is reduced. This frees up humanitarian workers and money to focus on others. Billions and billions of dollars (mostly from the USA and a few other Western countries) are spent each year trying to treat the sick and feed the hungry. By going and bettering the society, a much larger impact is made on the developing world as opposed to just sending more aid money.
Well, this in a nutshell is why we've decided to join eMi, but even I didn't fully understand it until now. God has been preparing us to do this for a number of years now, though I don't think we were ready to do it until now. But this message of using our gifts (though I still feel underqualified) to further his kingdom by bettering the lives of the poor is the purpose I've been looking for in my work for many years.
There were a lot of other significant parts to the weekend, but this already feels like a marathon blog. Quickly though, another speaker there was Fred Markert with YWAM. He definitely WAS a dynamic speaker, and we got an awesome presentation about global strategies for sharing the gospel, and also fighting radical Islam and terrorism (no, he was not speaking on the USA's war on terror, but the church's; in his words, he is neither pro-war nor anti-war - he lives by the scripture that God works "all things" together for the good of those who love him, and so going to war or not going to war are both an "all things". - interesting). Anyway, Alisha and I sat next to him on the shuttle to the airport on our last day and had an interesting conversation with him. He was a very good friend of Keith Green. He was the one who got Keith interested in missions in his final years, and was the one who set up those trips Keith took overseas that changed his whole focus towards world missions (remember him saying "as christians, you don't need to be called to 'go', you need to be called to STAY!") So that was really interesting to talk to him.
Ok, that's all for now. I'll share more about the conference later, and more pictures too!

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Traci Morrow said…
You guys, I am continually overwhelmed at what God is doing in your lives. I watched your dvd while I held Brad and Joey and just cried as so many thoughts flooded my mind.

Cried at how God's blessed you with: a loving extended family, a house, property, nice clothes, a swingset in the back, nice cars, a house full of nice furniture.

Cried at how he's asked you to lay it all down to serve Him overseas to the poorest of the poor.

Cried at how you humbly and joyfully have said yes.

Cried at how BLESSED and how much RICHER your lives will be because you were willing to give it away.

Your faith speaks far louder than your words ever could. Your life is your witness.

A witness to a faithful and strong God who takes care of his own far beyond the riches this world has to offer, and what could be burned and lost tomorrow. What you are investing in will last for eternity. :)

The people in Africa are blessed to have you, before they even know that God has heard their cries for help. You are coming, and you are a direct answer to:
the prayer of an African father for his family.
A mother who has to give her child away because she is dying, and who has prayed that he/she will be taken care of by the Lord.
The people who love Africa already, and who have prayed for an engineer's heart to be bent to uproot and come to Africa.

I feel blessed to know you and call you my family. Oh what a ripple effect your big "kerplunk!" will have on the world you touch.

Love you guys! :)

PS dont you think God is so interesting that He brought my sons from Africa to live in America, and brought your sons from America to live in Africa? That is a very deep thought - far deeper than Jack Handy ever went I'll tell you that...... :)
Traci Morrow said…
And now that I went deep first, I will venture into the shallow waters.

Alisha, that picture of you in the red shirt with Brad in the cool Ugandan jersey? You look BEAUTIFUL! :)

You are like a model. :)

And I'm sure that will bless the Ugandan people as you come with your bright smile and eyes. :)

And cool necklaces.


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