loren Eric Swanson: Madison, Hastings, Holland and Houston

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Madison, Hastings, Holland and Houston

This last week I saw more of what God is doing through externally focused churches in Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas. I started Wednesday afternoon with Rich Henderson with Blackhawk Church in Madison. Rich was 25 years with Intervarsity, working both locally and nationally so that was a good connection. I'd never been to Madison before and it is a very cool town--situated around a number of lakes with the student union of the University of Wisconsin planted right on the edge of Lake Mendota. Pretty impressive. Rich and I met at a pizza place called Ian's Pizza on State Street. On the recommendation of the proprietor I had a piece of macaroni and cheese pizza--their best seller. It was really good! We met that evening at Rich's home with a handful of passionate leaders that most likely will be part of the next Leadership Community that is forming.

On Thursday I caught an early-morning flight, via Chicago, to Grand Rapids and drove down through beautiful rolling farm country to Hastings where I met with founding pastor, Jeff Arnett and a couple of his key leaders to talk about what God is doing in their community. It's interesting how externally focused leaders are found everywhere. Thornapple Valley Church is a church with a weekly attendance of 1,500 in a town of 7,500 and a county of 55,000. Thornapple is doing a great job loving and serving their community. I then drove over to Holland Michigan. Of course I would have loved to have stopped for wooden shoes but I was meeting with Paul Brink, Trent Walker (candidate for Senior Pastor) and Daniel Maat at Harderwyk Ministries. These guys are passionate about what they do. Harderwyk's externally focused ministry is organized through "Neighbor's Plus" led by Sherrie Santos. I have known about Harderwyk's externally focus for three years but this was the first time I've been at their church. Harderwyk is another great church that has applied to be part of the next leadership community for externally focused churches.

Thursday night I connected to Houston via Chicago and on Friday morning met with ten staff / leaders from University Baptist Church in Houston. This was a day-long make-up meeting for a the last LC gathering in Sacramento that they had to miss because of Hurricane Rita. The team was great--smart and passionate. Because UBC is located so close to the Houston Space Center the church has a number of people who are in the space industry. So next week one of their deacons is leaving for two weeks in space...talk about "externally focused!" One of my favorite folks on the team is Harold Draughon. Harold was a flight director for NASA and was one of the 50 folks (working in 3 shifts) who was in the room on the Apollo 13 mission. Talking with Harold is like interviewing someone who was on board with Columbus. If you remember the part from the movie when they had to improvise and build an oxygen recovery system from spare parts, Harold said the toughest part of the assembly was communicating without images, the assembly procedure to the astronauts.

Both Senior Pastor, Robert Creech and pastor Jeff Waldo keep good blogs on what is happening in the kingdom. Robert chronicled what their church did during Katrina and and Rita and Jeff's records his recent successful kidney transplant and study in "Future Studies." They are found respectively at http://www.ubcsp.blogspot.com/ http://www.rrcreech.blogspot.com/and http://www.jeffwaldo.blogspot.com/


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