Sunday, August 17, 2008

Learning To Love: Even Church People Too

One of the young ladies who used to be in my youth group when she was a young teen posted this as a note on Facebook today.
So who cares if I smell like baby shampoo?
And if I wear flat shoes and an ankle length skirt from India? And a beaded necklace made by a five year old? My favorite bead is the Polar Bear one...
Who cares if I only sing repeated worship song verses ONE time?
Am I not as Christian as the woman in front of me?

Does it matter that the tech boys in the back think I'm weird for slipping my shoes off whenever I pray?
I drink Lemonade instead of coffee. I hate coffee. Wait, am I suddenly un-fellowshiping? Every Sunday morning Christian I know drinks coffee.

Doesn't everyone say that we should "come to God as we are...."?
God loves me that way I am, right?
Then why do we try so hard to look like every other christian we see?
How many bible studies are cliches?
My hardest christian struggle is not having my devotions every day. How about you? Yours is probably the same; at least in front of all the other devotions-struggling Christian you smile at every Sunday it is.

Perhaps I'm the only one who feels like we are all faking it.
It's like everyone I see is asleep. What is wrong with our brothers and sisters? For some reason, the passion of David, the strong will of Nehemiah, the devotion of Noah, the Patience and Faith of Abraham, the strength of the Martyrs, the very background of our family's gone.
Since when has becoming an heir of the kingdom of God become a back burner project we turn to on weekends?

I feel like grasping the entire intensity of following my King in my hands and burning myself. Forget the back burner, I want a consuming fire for our nation, for our world.
WOW! That is the only thought I could think when I finished reading it.

I certainly had some of these exact same feelings at twenty years old. I did not respond like she did. When I really pressed into God at 18 I became so angry at the duplicity of the weekend pew warriors. I tried by 21 to pull away from God, but he would not let me go. He never let me go. Still, I always kept a distance between me and them. Their "safe Jesus" was way too dangerous for me. I needed the "unsafe Jesus" to give me comfort. When I was 25 I left paid church work mostly because although I had a depth of love for God and a love for the least of these worthy of any reading of the greatest commands, I just could not find a way to love "the Sunday saints."

So for years I have accepted the distance between me and them. I have accepted that myself and the majority of them are cut from very different fabric. I have preached to inspire. I have screamed passionately that they might catch a vision bigger than they have known. Yet always, when I stepped down from the stage, I have kept my distance to hide that I could not love my "fellow saints." I have celebrated the flashes of Kingdom in people's passion, only to watch them return to their normal mediocrity.

Then comes this past summer. Everything has changed. I find myself listening to the Spirit's leading and asking people if I can pray a blessing over them. I find myself weeping for people, rather than preaching at them. I find myself in love with these church folks, I have tried to keep so safely from. God is good, and I have been humbled to see how "least of these" applies to those with only religiosity. So now I go, and want to see them, see Kingdom come.... on earth (their lives, their homes, their minds personally) as it is in heaven.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Do You Really Think It's God's Will For You...

If you had asked me back in April how my summer was supposed to go it was something like this. "The house will be on the market by mid June. We will close on the house by the middle of August. Then Friday the 15 will be my last day at work. We will then go to the wedding in Texas and drive back to Georgia for training. The support that is not quite raised by that point we'll get while we're down there."

Instead, it is now the August fourteenth and my painter has not finished painting the house so the "For Sale" sign is not even planted into the ground. I checked my support account and I have $0 in committed monthly support from 0 supporters. All this would be OK except for the fact that I have now spoken and handed out support cards at our home church where we attend, the church I served on staff at for 4 years, the church I grew up at, and a couple others where I had friends. After tapping my family, my friends, and my connections the result has been a goose egg.

This is not a pity party! Instead it is a definitive answer to the question I hear most these days, "Do you really think it's God's will for you to go to Swaziland?" The answer is an affirmative "YES! We are going!" Although the sale of my house is not in sync with my time line, I still say, "Yes, we are going." Although my friends have decided so far not to be our monthly support, I still say, "Yes, we are going." Even though all my personal connections have come up nil, I still say, "Yes, we are going."

When I hear the question, "Do you really think it's God's will for you to go to Swaziland?" it feels like my friends have become my foes. As they are asking it I am hearing, "Why can't you just be good Americans, with good jobs, and a good retirement?" As they are asking it and I have no house contract to show them, and no monthly support commitment to defend my radical calling to uproot my wife and children to the take care of third world orphans, I feel their condescending victory over my refusal to "just be normal."
Psalm 13
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed over him,"
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
The Lord gave me this passage today as an assurance to His calling. Although the nay-sayers are more numerous than the supporters. Although the people who want us to "just be normal" are pleased by our seeming to fail in the time line we both felt God led us to. Although it seems to those looking with only physical eyes that God hidden his face, forgetting his commission to us in this endeavor we look with different eyes, we listen with different ears, we touch with different hands, and we trust with a different faith.

I trust in God's provisional love for our family, and for the Swazi orphans. I rejoice in God's saving us from the commodity of trudging forward as merely good employees. I sing because I have been filled with a bounty of more purpose and vision than I dreamed to be worthy of. I rely on the faith that caused Abraham to say, "WE will come back to you," as he departed in solidarity to the task of sacrificing his son.

Abraham walked his path in fraternity with God alone. We unlike him, walk this in fellowship with our friends, our family, and our church connections. Abraham did not hear the repeated jeers of his nay sayers, "Do you really think God meant kill Isaac? Maybe God was speaking figuratively." We walk seeking the unity of partnership between us who will go, and those being called by God to send.

We move forward with the same faith that caused Abraham to have "reasoned that God could raise the dead" and caused David to sing for the Lord's goodness. It is God's will for us to be ministering to the orphans in Nsoko Swaziland. As Paul said, "We live by faith, not by sight." We proceed by the promises of God knowing that we will be moving in Swaziland in January.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wrecked: Dare To Hope

Wrecked For The Ordinary is an E-Zine and one of the highlights of my week. As I stated a few months ago when they published my article, I wait for it with anticipation each week, because each week it inspires hope and challenges my comforts. This week did not disappoint.

Dare to hope, and you will be called naive. Reach out to someone people love to hate. Pray for someone forgotten and trampled over. Minister to someone stuck in their own impossible muck, and believe that God will finish the work He started in that heart. People will aggressively push you to lower the bar of your expectations and will remind you persistently why they are not worth it; do it anyway.

That is by Karen Swank, a regular contributor at Wrecked, and the entire article is even better than the excerpt. Surf over and read it, aand once you're there stay for a while, it's worth your time.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why Nsoko, Swaziland? Why The Bowmans?

Swaziland is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa. In 2002 the country had a population of 1.2 million people, today it stands at 860 thousand. By 2012 the Swazi population will be hovering round 500 thousand. Of that over half...nearly 250 thousand will be orphans. In the remaining adult population the HIV/AIDS rate stands at 42% today and that rate is continuing to climb. The country itself is one of the poorest nations on earth. 70% of the population lives on less than $1 a day with no access to clean water and improved sanitation. 40% of the population is suffering from starvation. Most of these are orphans, being raised by older siblings in orphan led households.

Because the community knows these are orphan led household it is commonplace for these unprotected children to be forced into oppressive labor or worse but no more uncommon for the girls to be repeatedly sexually abused. 80% of Swazi girls have been raped by their fourteenth birthday.

Those children who escape the terrors of oppression and abuse must still face the daily task of walking from their family homes to a care point where they will receive one to two meals and clean water. This process which can be distances as much as six miles each way occupies the children's entire daily life leaving no time for education, agriculture, or economic opportunity.

We do not believe this is God's will for the children of Swaziland. We believe that God meant it when he claimed that he would be the Father to the fatherless. We believe that God takes his title of "defender of orphans" most seriously. We also believe that God has staked his reputation on the church, and we as a family feel therefore called to make good on his promises to the fatherless orphans.

So after establishing the problem, and God's desired response of his church to the problem comes the question of why our family. In January of this year my wife and I traveled to Swaziland on a one week vision trip. While there our hearts were captured by God for His purposes for our life intersecting with these children. This led to an amazing chain of events upon our return home through which we came to be partnered with our sponsoring organization Adventures In Missions and their sister ministry G42 whose plan was to plant a village designed to raise these children in a safe enviroment. God has shown myself and my wife that our pasts and our skills indvidually will be joined together for his unique glory in the roles we will fill within the Nsoko Orphan Village.

In the security of the village the children will recieve food, education, agricultural and economic training, and most importantly be discipled so that when they "age out" of our program they are equipped with the skills, and love neccessary to partner with the Kingdom of God in caring for more of this overwhelming orphan population. Our plan is live among these kids and to love them in a way that instills the love of God for orphans into these orphans so that our work is recreated in their lives as they mature into young adulthood.

This vision will bring the hope of New Creation to the hopless realities of the Swazi orphans. That is why some one must go, that is why we must go.

Friday, August 08, 2008

10 Years - A Marriage Celebration

To say that I have the greatest marriage on earth, would probably not be incrorrect. Ten years ago my lovely bride and I, spring chickens that we were, exchanged our vows and began this adventure that is marriage. In ten years I can count the number of times we have had screaming fights on one hand. In ten years, it would take not even a single finger to count the number of times we have carried a fight into lingering silence. Don't get me wrong, we both get mad at each other, but our complementary personalities, and commitment to God's kind of marital love always work the problem out quickly.

Successful marriage is a lot more than a void of volatility, it is also a mutual passion for the same purposes. I have heard many times that the secret to a great marriage is comprimise. I disagree, because I have only rarely comprimised with Christi, and it has always been over minor decisions like dinner, an outfit, or meaningless things like that. The secret to our success is our communication and willingness to come to a shared vision for any decision. By buying in together into an idea or decision we have no reason to look back regreting and wondering if we made the things we gave up were worht the outcome.

This year, in addition to being a milestone, is even MORE EXCITING as I watch Christi in her new stage of life, as God has brought her an amazing freedom from her past addictions and the abuse that caused them, and opended the door to new oppurtunites for her to be a support for others who have shared similar pain. Even more than that, I am excited by the healing power this transformation will have as she invests into the women and children of Swaziland. It is so clear by her own healing, and my skills and passions that God has brought us together from the very begining to fill this purpose.

I think this post rambled a lot. So to summarize, I love my wife more than you can imagine, and am excited for the adventure God has in store for us. May the next 10 years, be even better than these first 10!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Partnership - An Invitation of Support

This message was preached at Cardinal Drive Church of Christ on Sunday, July 27th, 2008. It is designed to present a compelling presentation of the realities of the need in Swaziland, and as an invitation to join our family as partners in the work to these orphans.

Partnership - Joining With God For Nsoko from Kevin J Bowman on Vimeo.

If God is calling to partner with us in our work in Swaziland, please visit to give.

Water For Nsoko

Revelation 21 as it descibes the conclusion to this season of God's creation opens by saying, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea." The evangelist, John, is not stating that the New Earth will be the recreation of Pangea, but instead is speaking allegorically about the end of division. John is reminding us, that in the New Creation there is no separation between God and man.

Water plays an important role in the Biblical narritive. On the ford of the Jabbok Jacob wrestles with God and becomes Israel in his crossing. On the western edge of the Red Sea God divides the sea to complete his rescue of the Israel clan from the Kingdom of Egypt. Forty years later the priests of God stepped into a flooded Jordan river and the Lord stopped the waters upstream so His people could cross into their promised Kingdom. Over and over waters and seas are seen as symbols of the division between man and God. Even Jesus himself crossed into the Jordan and upon his baptism by John was raised from the water confirmed by the proclamation of heaven as Christ the Lord. Peter teaches in his first epistle that we too, cross the epic divide through water, "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you...through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."

Water is more than just an allegorical division. It is also a physical division. The United Nations and The World Bank define extreme poverty among other things as having no access to clean water. Water divides the classes of people in this world. From those of us who have an endless supply in our city taps, to those who must transport water from community wells, to those most impoversihed who must fend off sources such as dirty puddles, rivers, and rain collection for their water.

A person must first have water before any other need such as food, shelter, and rest. Yet, in a world with to much wealth for this to be a reality, nearly twenty percent of the world population, that is one billion people, do not have this access. Their constant need to find suitable water sources further deepens the divide of their impovrished reality by leaving little time for educational oppurtunity, agricultural oppurtunity and economic oppurtunity to improve their situation. Their lack of accessible clean water divides them from the remaining 80% of the world.

This reality is not suitable for our work in Nsoko, Swaziland. Through the diligent work of Gary Black, Gift Dlamini and Jumbo Gerber there is a well today at the future location of Nsoko orphan village. We celebrate that the orphans we will raise up as sons and daughters of God will not be burdened by this divide. The separation of their current situation will be replaced by oppurtunities to learn, grow, and develop. This well will serve like the a bridge between the despair of today and the hope of the Kingdom, not only for the orphan village, but for Nsoko, and for Swaziland. Praise God that the new creation has come, and there is water for Nsoko.

The verses quoted were Revelation 21:1 and 1 Peter 3:21

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Trip Into The City

Last night our family traveled to "The Bridge" as we do each Tuesday night. The service is located at a church near the corner of Cermack and Ogden in a neighborhood known as Lawndale. This is a very urban area with a great deal of poverty very apparent.

On Monday night we had bad storms come through Chicago. I slept through them, but many of my co-workers reported the winds bending the trees in their lawns. As we drove toward the city we passed a cemetary that had fully uprooted trees lying on the ground, and a great many branches shaved off the tops of the trees that had remained standing. It was the kind of storm that keeps electric and road crews busy.

I had an all new experience with the reality of disparty between the classes even right here in America as we were approaching the building for the service. As we were travelling down Cermack a full 20 hours after the storms, a giant tree still lay across 2 of the 3 lanes of the street. Now let's be fair, this is a major thouroughfare. It is a six lane divided road with 3 lanes in both directions. Even still, after nearly an entire day the city had not arrived yet to clear the impass.

I was puzzled, and bewildered once again by the realities of a whole different world only twenty minutes from the house.