loren Eric Swanson: June 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stu Dodd's 50th

Last night Liz and I went to Chautaqua Park to help Stuart Dodds celebrate his 50th birthday. It was really a great time and if you know Stu and Carol and were not able to attend, you would have loved it. Carol did a very nice job planning the event--chips and guac under the apple tree as guests arrived...enchiladas for dinner and afterwards sitting around the Greer's living room (Carol's folks have owned a bungaloe in Chautaqua for years) telling funny stories about Stu--and there were a bunch of them as well as how much we appreciated Stu. Stuart came into our lives in 1981 after being cut by the San Diego Chargers...and then picked up by the Steelers, he turned down the opportunity to play football to join Campus Crusade staff at University of Colorado where Liz and I and John and Nancy Lamb were on directing the ministry. He went from CU to direct the work at Denver University for a number of years before launching the campus ministry in Costa Rica and raising up national staff. Since then, he has returned to the campus ministry where he and Carol continue their impact--even after a bout with cancer.

All the people in the picture have been touched by Stuart (he's the tallest one in the picture--used to have the same dimensions as Magnum PI (6'4"--215 lbs) but now is 10 pounds leaner.

Thanks for the life well-lived Stu. The best years are still ahead of you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Transforming a City—Urban-Suburban, Working Together

For the past few days I’ve been revisiting the book of Nehemiah—the quintessential manual for community transformation. Most likely this has been discovered before but I’m seeing it for the first time so it is fresh for me. The first observation is that those who rebuilt and restored the city of Jerusalem were not just those who lived in Jerusalem but were from the surrounding communities—the suburbs.
3:2 “The men of Jericho built the adjoining section…” Jericho was 18 miles NE of Jerusalem—about the same distance Boulder is from Denver.
3:5 “The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa…” Tekoa was 12 miles South of Jerusalem.
3:7 “Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah…” Gibeon was 6 miles NW of Jerusalem; Mizpah was 4 miles West of Jerusalem.
3:13 “The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah…” Zanoah was 10 miles West of Jerusalem.
3:16 “…ruler of the half-district of Beth Zur…” Beth Zur was 4 miles North of Jerusalem.
3:22 “The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region.” The surrounding region was…well….the surrounding region.

Why would people from the suburbs expend their labor on the city? Most likely they were of the persuasion that in the walled city was their welfare. As Jerusalem prospered they, in the suburbs, would benefit from its prosperity.

The second thing I saw in chapter 3 was the mishmash (not to be confused with the biblical city Micmash of Nehemiah 7:31) of workers.
“Eliashib the high pries and his fellow priest went to work and rebuilt the Sheepgate…” 3:1
“Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section…” 3:8
“…Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers made repairs next to that.” 3:8
“Rephaiah…ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem repaired the next section.” 3:9
“Shallum…ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.” 3:12
“The Dung Gate (think about the servant-heart these people must’ve had!) was repaired by Malkija…ruler of the district of… 3:14
“The Fountain Gate was repaid by Col. Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah.” 3:15
Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of…made repairs…” 3:16
“…Ezer son of Joshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section…” 3:19
“The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region.” 3:22
“…and the temple servants…made repairs…” 3:26
“…the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house.” 3:28
“Malkija, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs…. 3:31
“…the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs. 3:32

It takes all kinds of people to restore a city—pastors, families, government officials, the business community, craftsmen…all kinds of people.

On May 31st of this year, my own church, Calvary Bible of Boulder engaged in its fifth year of Sharefest. This year 34 churches worked on 34 different sites around Boulder County and north Denver. Families and business people, government officials, teachers and pastors all pitch in to make a sustainable difference in the community. Here is the write-up of the broadcast from Channel 9 News in Denver. (http://www.9news.com/news/education/article.aspx?storyid=92798&catid=129)

DENVER - If cleanliness is next to Godliness, then Kevin Snyder might be one of many angels working from Boulder to Denver trying to shine buildings back into shape days into summer break. Sharefest brings thousands of volunteers to clean schools

"There's graffiti and tape on the outsides of these lockers," said Snyder, part of the 75 person cleaning crew at East High School in Denver. "It's obvious they haven't been cleaned maybe 3, 4, maybe 5 years. There's a Kerry-Edwards sticker inside one." Snyder is one of more than 3,500 volunteers working with Sharefest. Sharefest is a community service campaign started five years ago by the Calvary Bible Church in Boulder. This year, members of more than 30 churches are cleaning facilities for non-profits, Boulder Valley Schools and East High in Denver. "It's been a heck of a lot of fun doing this," said Snyder. "This is a beautiful, beautiful building."

"Sharefest is a way for churches in our community to come together as one," said Angie Hendricks, site leader at East High. "And, that's our goal, too, is just to come together as one body and to break those boundaries." Hendricks says there's a real reward in helping school districts and non-profit groups who are always struggling for money.

"We know they're under-funded," said Hendricks. "We know they work so hard."
Lafayette Rockette is the facilities manager for East High School. Rockette says the volunteer crew at his school saved his staff hours upon hours of extra work. "It was just great, just great," said Rockette. "You know, I could hug them all. Just give them all a big hug for what they did – just more than wonderful."

The crews did more than clean. They did minor construction, painting, landscaping and repairs. At East High, the home of the Angels, volunteers painted the school logo and colors in the coaches' training room. "It was just another Angel moment done by angels," said Rockette.
Organizers estimate for the first four years of Sharefest, volunteers contributed more than $1 million worth of labor and materials. "We're really here to serve Jesus Christ, that's our deal," said Adam Pitale, volunteer, while staring at the new East Angels logo. "Ironic."
That's why Snyder comes back to volunteer year after year. He does this for the schools and for the people. But, most of all, he does it for God. "Church is not a bunch of people coming in on Sunday and for the rest of the week going about their everyday business, never being concerned with what's going on around them," said Snyder. "This is church for us and that's why it's important."
(Copyright KUSA*TV, All Rights Reserved)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Mixed Taste--Tag Team Lectures on Unrelated Topics

Last night Liz and I went with two young couples down to Belmar Lab ( http://www.belmarlab.org/) to hear the second of "Tag Team Lectures on Unrelated Topics" as part of a summer program called "Mixed Taste." Last week Liz and I went to hear Silent Films and Counterfeit Currency. Last night's topics were "Soda Pop," by Adrian Miller and "Extreme Death Rituals of Borneo" by Christine Kreps, assistant professor of Anthropology at Denver University. The evening started with a light buffet and drinks at 6pm followed by a brief introduction to the evening. Each speaker was given 30 minutes to present his or her topic. This was followed by 30 minutes of Q&A to both speakers. Questions that could find the intersections between the topics are exceptionally valuable. Adrian gave the history of soda pop. Soda is from the carbonation and "pop" comes from the sound when a carbonated bottle was uncorked. Very interesting stuff; Dr. Pepper was named after the father of a girl a young chemist was courting (they never married). Adrian is assistant deputy director to Governor Bill Ritter and is also writing a book on the history of soul food. Last month, a buddy of mine went out for soul food with Adrian at one of Denver's best soul food restaurants. He was also gracious enought to join us at our New Year's Eve dinner / party. He is a delighful man with a great sense of humor.
Christine started by saying that death rituals are important because life is very short and death is very long. After the event several of us joined the speakers and program hosts a block away at the Oven for pizza. Next week's topics are Maya Astronomy and Stanley Kubrick.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Starting a Nonprofit at Your Church

A couple months ago... Joy Skjegstad, recognizing that we connected around externally focused churches, contacted me asking me to review her book, Starting a Nonprofit at Your Church (with a forward by Mary Nelson). Today I finished the book and the one word that came to my mind was the word, "Stop!" If you are thinking about starting a 501(c)(3) from your church or independently this book is a "must read." Joy writes from the strength of serving as Executive Director of a nonprofit for 5 years and is more than well-versed in the ins and outs of nonprofits. Often I am asked about the benefits of beginning a ministry, or spinning off a ministry into a separate nonprofit organization. Until I find something better, this book will be my "go to" book that folks should read as they ponder the question, "Should we?" or "shouldn't we?"

Joy gives us a complete book that includes evaluative questions, forms, legal issues, pay guidelines, the role of various types of boards etc. There is nothing one needs to start a 501(c)(3) that is not included in this fabulous little gem. The book is available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Starting-Nonprofit-Church-Institute-Publication/dp/1566992656/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1212975508&sr=8-1

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Inaugural Books & Brew

Friday afternoon we kicked off the first of 6 Summer Books & Brew gatherings. The fellas showed up starved gobbling down hot wings, meatballs, sausages, chips and salsa, taquitos. Best of all we got to hear from John Lamb, who unpacked his doctoral dissertation on Celtic spirituality for all of us. Next week we'll begin discussing what each of us are reading.
We had a lot of rain this week and Colorado has really greened up--just beautiful.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Montserrat Monastery

I'm on my way home from four days of Campus Crusade's "Global City Movements" meetings at the beautiful Benedictine monastery in Montserrat, a short drive from Barcelona. For over a thousand years pilgrims have come to these mountains and stayed in the caves or the basilica, built in the 1500s. It is a place of extreme beauty and wonder. This was a very productive time hosted by Bob and Sandy Varney with participants from Europe, India, Africa and America--very good people...friends old and new. Bob put together a creative 3 days of interaction around the major questions around city and community transformation. It was very encouraging to hear of some incredibly innovative things these folks were doing. Mark Visvasum, from Chenai, India, for example has been working together with many of the 2,500 churches of Chenai. Although this city has seen tremendous growth of the church...with some estimates as high as 30% believers, the problems have grown ten-fold. Through Chenai Transformation Network (chennaictn@gmail.com)-- comprised of pastors, business leaders, parachurches and social service leaders, the churches identified over 45k people living on the streets of Chenai....sometimes for generations. The Catholic and Protestant churches of Chenai are adopting blocks of the city to care for these street dwellers--providing food and access to hospitals for medical care. They have identified 17k streets of Chenai and are talking of planting churches on every one of them.

Apart from the stimulating people and discussions, we shared all of our meals at set times, served by the monks of the monestary. This is not a public hotel but we stayed under a special arrangement, with each of us having a small, private room with a common bathroom down the hall. Each of us was given a napkin at our first meal with a numbered napkin ring, indicating that we were to use the same napkin for all 12 meals that we shared around the common table. The walking trails around the monastery were spectacular for nordic stick walking (yes I squeezed them into my suitcase). It's been a great time.

Part of the tension the church and CCC faces at this time is expressed by the painting that hangs in the dining hall (refectory) of Montserrat. A woman is in need of help...physical help. As one merciful fellow moves towards her, his companions stand at a distance and seem to be saying, "Let someone else help her--our focus is on the spiritual." It's always good to remember that the gospel is such good news that it is thick enough to encompass both words and works--compassionate deeds and passionate proclamation. Afterall we are not gnostics nor athiests, denying the physical or the spiritual.