Monday, December 22, 2014

You Never Know Where The Road of Life Will Take You

About 12 years ago, while I was the Outreach Pastor at what was then Word of Grace, Gary Kinnaman preached a sermon that included the statement "You never know where the road of life will take you".  Those words have floated through my mind hundreds of times - never more than in 2014. 

After 15 years of living in Mesa AZ the road of life took us to Colorado Springs, CO (where we lived 20 years ago).  It also took us to Sri Lanka, to Canada, to various cities across the USA and to India (twice).  The road of life enabled us to renew friendships and make new friends. It also took us to a place we did not expect - the passing of Karl's mother.  It took our hearts and minds to see new things, to understand new life and ministry challenges and to focus on areas of ministry that had not been priorities for many years.  In many ways the road of life 2014 edition brought us back into the future.

                                        November 2

On Sunday morning, November 2, Debbie and I were in church when we received a call from my father. We were sitting near the back of the church, so I decided to step out and answer it. I said hello—and I heard my father say (in German) “Mama is dead”. I couldn't believe what I had just heard.  As the story unfolded I discovered that my mother told my dad to go to church so she could make lunch. She was happy and feeling well.  When my dad returned from church two hours later, he discovered my mother had passed away—either from a heart attack or an aneurysm. As you can imagine, this was a huge shock.  While my mother was 88 years old—this was not expected.  That afternoon I boarded a plane for Edmonton, Canada.  Debbie flew to Edmonton the next day—and we spent the next two weeks, preparing for the funeral and helping my father with scores of details. My father is now living with us in Colorado Springs until early January as we make preparations for him to move forward without my mother.  After 62 years of marriage, this is not an easy task.  Pray for us, and for Karl's father. None of us expected that the road of life would take us to this place.

On The Road to Colorado Springs

In January Karl started his new ministry with Development Associates International (DAI). Since their international office is in Colorado Springs we started packing, put our house up for sale and in May made the big move. After 15 years in one home, we discovered we have way more stuff than we thought - but with the help of the wonderful and amazing people in our Missional Community we packed up all our stuff. 

For 6 weeks we lived in an "apartment hotel" of less than 500 square feet while we went house hunting.  After looking at about 60 houses, we found our new home.

We love our new home.  We lived in Colorado Springs about 20 years ago - so in the words of Yogi Berra -"it's like deja vu all over again". We have already had several friends come and visit. We loved the wonderful, warm summer and are getting used to a Colorado winter.  Those 15 years in Phoenix have made us into "winter wimps".

                           What Are We Doing In Colorado?

While Debbie has been busy setting up our home, entertaining guests, checking out the local pottery community, rediscovering the area, and taking care of my father, I have been focusing on building cross-cultural partnerships, consulting with churches on global ministry, training leaders, and working with other DAI staff on facilitating the development of new leadership training partnerships in Africa, Central Asia and among immigrant communities (from Myanmar, the Hispanic world and Central Asia). While DAI works in about 45 countries, God is opening up some amazing doors here in the USA. Over the past year we have been in Sri Lanka (for the DAI international staff conference), and I have been in India (twice) and to several US cities.  

One thing that we have clearly seen is the incredible need for effective servant leaders.  Dr. James Engel who founded DAI said the following:

If we don't break the yoke of power-motivated, controlling leadership and unleash the resources of the Body of Christ, there is little hope that the world can be evangelized.  This is the CENTRAL challenge of the world-wide church.

It's been wonderful to see the impact of DAI in training and mentoring "on-the-ground" church, ministry and business leaders. In India I had the privilege of facilitating training for pastors, Bible translators, ministry leaders and Bible School leaders from Nepal, NE India and Myanmar.  These leaders came from 14 different language groups! God is changing the world through these men and women and it is a blessing to be part of encouraging them in their ministry. 

If you would like to be part of what God has called us to, check out DAI on the web and send us an email at We'd love to talk to you about ways in which you can partner with us.

                         Book Recommendations

Many of you have asked us for book recommendations - so here are some books we would recommend you read in 2015.  You can order all of them from WorldChristian.

  • A Wind in the House of Islam - David Garrison
  • Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible - Randolph Richards
  • Western Christians in Global Mission - Paul Borthwick
  • When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself - Steve Corbett
  • Generous Justice: How God's Grace Makes Us Just - Timothy Keller
  • Forgiving as We've Been Forgiven: Community Practices for Making Peace -  L. Gregory Jones


We want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and an absolutely wonderful 2015.

We so appreciate your friendship, prayer and support over the years.  The older we get, the more we have come to relish the times we can spend with our friends and family and the more we have grown to realize that it is our relationships that make us into who we are becoming.

Karl and Debbie

PS - We managed to get to the top of Pike's Peak (three times for Debbie) and Karl got a thrill when in August he was able to see and touch the Stanley Cup (it's a Canadian thing).

Friday, April 18, 2014

Is There Hope?

This is Easter weekend when we remember the death and resurrection of Christ.  Easter is a great time to be thinking about hope—and that’s what I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks. Can we really hope and have faith for those big, impossible things, or should we settle for what seems possible?  I know as followers of Jesus we are supposed to answer the question with “of course we should dream big dreams and have faith” - but do you and I really, in our heart-of-hearts, believe that is true?

What did the disciples really feel during the hours of Christ’s arrest, his trial and       crucifixion? I suspect that they wondered whether their faith in Jesus the Messiah had been misplaced.  Were their hopes and dreams of the Kingdom that Jesus talked about just a fairy tale? Had the last three years of their lives been a waste? Would Jesus rise from the dead?  After all, that was impossible!  Nobody had ever done that before.  

A couple of weeks ago while Debbie and I were in Colorado Springs we joined some of the international staff of DAI ( for dinner.  I had the opportunity to spend some time with the DAI leader from the Congo, and we started talking about hope. The Congo has experienced years of civil war, ethnic and tribal violence, grinding poverty and huge levels of corruption.  I asked my brother if he saw any hope for his nation.  After all, nothing seemed to work in his country—he even had to go to Zambia to get mail, since there was no mail service in his city of 5 million people.  Could there be large scale change in the Congo?  Was there hope?

For the last 8+ years Debbie and I have spent a lot of time in Malawi.  It has been exciting to see how God has worked in villages and communities to bring visible transformation. Children are being fed, the rate of HIV/AIDS infections have stabilized, a growing number of women are supporting their families, people are coming to know Jesus, and hope is springing up where there was no hope. But nationally, it is a different story.  Over the last two years there has been widespread corruption, over 10% of the     population is still on the brink of starvation and nothing much has changed.  Is there hope for even a small country like Malawi?

A few days after talking to my DAI colleague from Congo, Debbie and I spent some time with our long-time friend Steve.  For    almost 20 years Steve has talked about “discipling nations”.  His passion has been to see entire nations living out the Sermon on the Mount.  Villages and communities doing that are well and good—but Steve believes God wants to see entire nations follow Him. As we talked, I thought to myself—that is impossible, we have never seen that happen before—it’s a “pipe dream”.

But, this weekend is all about the impossible.  It’s about life where there was death.  It’s about hope where there was no hope.  It’s about the impossible happening right before our eyes.  As I write this I realize that perhaps my hopelessness needs to be    replaced by hope, my unbelief needs to turn into faith, and that I need to believe God for resurrection where there has been death.  After all, isn’t that a significant part of what Easter is all about?

Will you join us in believing God for the impossible?

Have a blessed Easter.

Karl and Debbie


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Does It Matter?

Norita gave 25+ years of her life to disabled children & adults in Turkey.  She wasn’t famous, she didn’t draw huge crowds, sometimes her family barely had enough money to live on. About 2 weeks ago she suddenly passed away. Perhaps many would say that she was not a success.  But it didn’t matter. Hundreds of people from all over the world expressed their love and appreciation for her life and ministry and told stories of the huge impact she had on their lives. Norita lived a life of significance and changed the world!

This week I met with a pastor here in the Phoenix area I’ll call Bill.  For the past 10+ years Bill has been on staff at two mega-churches.  Not only that, he planted a church that quickly grew to 800 people.  He was successful—great job, plenty of money, etc. Now that Bill is in his late 40’s, he wonders if the success he has had in ministry is enough.  He wanted to know if his life had significance.

I also think of a preacher who held a series of evangelistic meetings. One night he came home and his wife asked how the meetings were.  Not great, he replied—only a few people accepted Christ. One of those people was Billy Graham.  Perhaps the meetings were not successful—but they were significant. 

Finally, I think of an older home-bound lady who lived across from a high school.   Everyday she prayed for that school and especially for a small, scrawny young man named George.  George became a Christian and later founded Operation Mobilization, one of the largest mission agencies of the last 50 years.   

Our American culture loves success stories. We love to hear about people who grew up in poverty and now have large houses, expensive cars, great paying jobs, and social status. These people have arrived!  Our culture is a celebrity culture.  And, unfortunately, it seems like this “success” and “celebrity” culture has become part of our Christian community. 

We love big numbers, large churches, Christian celebrities and anything that brings the “WOW Factor”.  But it makes me     wonder about  whether we are missing the boat.  Someone once asked me “Do you want to build a big ministry/church, or do you want to change the world”? He was really asking—”Do you want to be successful, or do you want to be significant”?. While these two concepts are not polar opposites, seeking to be successful—looking for the “WOW Factor” can easily move you away from being significant. 

Think about the Jesus.  He was born in a manger.  He started his ministry in relatively remote Galilee—far from Jerusalem.  He picked a band of 12 ragtag men to follow him, and after 3 years he died—leaving behind about 500 followers.  Does this sound like the way to start a worldwide movement?  If we are honest with ourselves, we would say that Jesus was not a success.  In fact, when you read the Gospels, he seemed to do things that clearly went against being successful. BUT, nobody can deny His significance. He changed the world like no one else.

How do you become significant?  You follow the model of Jesus.  You build relationships.  You invest in people.  You serve.  You listen to the Holy Spirit and you don’t care about social status, money or fame.  You stay faithful to the calling of the Lord in your life—whether that be something in full-time ministry or as a doctor, nurse, firefighter, teacher,  or garbage collector.  Everyone of us has the opportunity to live a life of significance and change our world!

Thank you for your continued friendship, prayer and support.

Karl and Debbie