Where I’ve Been

Hi! Remember me?

I’m the guy who used to post on this blog.

Okay, it’s only been a couple of weeks, but it feels like FOREVER!

I have a real post simmering, but I just wanted to check in. I was meeting with one of the leadership teams in our church earlier in the week and had to give a report. And in giving the report, I recognized how much has happened in the past month. So many good things. So here’s a quick rundown.

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For the second time, our church hosted Clare Loughrige to teach a workshop on the Enneagram, and then she stuck around to teach at church on Sunday. The people of our church have come to love her.

On a personal level, hosting Clare in our home for the weekend is a real job-perk for me (and for Jennifer). We’ve both come to love our interactions with her. She’s a skilled spiritual director and asks probing/insightful questions in a gentle way.

As a pastor, it’s so good for me to get to interact with people outside of the church. It helps me get perspective.

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The next weekend we hosted Rob Morris. Rob is the cofounder and president of Love146. (You might remember that I went to Southeast Asia last fall with Love146.) I think many of us who know of Love146 were familiar with Rob’s story and had expectations, but he blew us away. (Link to the Teaching.)

And again, personally, I had the opportunity Saturday night to sit up super-late drinking whisky with Rob and a couple other guys. And it was one of those great, mutually stimulating conversations when time flies and you’re sad when it’s over. So good for my soul.

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And then it was Holy Week, and I spent 4 evenings sitting around a table at a local bar talking about Jesus with some people, and I loved that.

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And then, as soon as service was over on Easter morning, I walked to our already-loaded van and took off for Spring Break with my family.

What did the Deans do on Spring Break?

Nothing. We walked the one block from the house to the beach and back. We ate, slept, read, watched movies, played games, listened to Hamilton (a lot) and rested.

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Okay. Those are all my excuses. That’s where I’ve been. That’s why I haven’t written much. Life, in the last month, has been full of good conversations. Of course, between those good things there have been hard conversations, people have left our church, I’ve gotten angry at things and been wounded by others. But that’s life, ya know?

And so, that’s why the blog has taken a back seat. I’ve just been super, super busy, and have had lots of other things going on in my life and in my head. I hope to get back to a more normal schedule next week!

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Why I’m in Southeast Asia This Morning

On the day this goes to post, I’ll be visiting the Killing Fields in Cambodia. While most Americans are likely more familiar with Hitler’s crimes against the Jews in WWII, the 20th Century saw plenty of “gangster statesman*” murdering the masses. It’s estimated that Joseph Stalin killed somewhere around 50 million Russian, Mao killed 45 million in the four year “Great Leap Forward” and in Cambodia in the late seventies, Pol Pot  and the Khmer Rouge murdered somewhere around 2 million Cambodians – out of a population of approximately 8 million – in the late seventies. The Killing Fields are a number of sites where Pot and the Khmer Rouge slaughtered their countrymen and buried their remains.

(Can I pause for a second? Those numbers are staggering – the number of lives thrown away in the name of destructive ideologies. It’s really overwhelming.)

The reason I’m in Southeast Asia is actually about another kind of violence, though. Last spring, Jennifer and I went to New York with some friends where we were exposed to the work of Love146, an organization dedicated to “THE ABOLITION OF CHILD TRAFFICKING AND EXPLOITATION. NOTHING LESS.” My friend Peggy serves on the board, and we attended the Red Gala, where we were challenged by the reality of the problem and the work that Love146 is doing. (If you really want to hear the heart of Love146, you should listen to the founder, Rob Morris, on Alec Baldwin’s podcast, “Here’s the Thing.” I cried driving home from church late one night as I listened to Rob tell his story. Or, this video is powerful as well.)

There are wide-ranging statistics for the prevalence of human trafficking, but whatever statistics you choose to believe, what is agreed upon is that human trafficking, of which child trafficking is a particularly heinous kind, is a problem more prevalent than most Americans want to believe. (Here’s a Rolling Stone article that gives some perspective.) And southeast Asia is an area where the problem is particularly prevalent.

So, due to the gracious generosity of a family foundation, I am traveling with Love146 on their partner trip. I flew into Phnom Penh, Cambodia Saturday night, and will also visit Bangkok, Thailand and finally Manila, Philippines. Along the way, we’ll visit red light districts, talk to people doing the work of abolition and visit the Round Home, a safe home for girls rescued from the sex trade.

So why am I going? The truthful answer is, I’m not sure exactly. This isn’t a “let’s go build a house” type of mission trip. We’re there to observe, to see the injustice and what’s being done. The trip is a chance to put actual faces to a huge, and sometimes seemingly overwhelming, “issue.” I’m sure I’ll have a series of posts about it when I get home. But for now, I just know that this opportunity was something put in front of me, and it felt like an invitation to which I was compelled to say yes. I don’t know what I hope to “get out of it”; it just feels like something I need to do. So, I’ll take a cue from Pope Francis and ask you to pray for me.

I don’t know what kind of access I’ll have to the Internet, so I won’t be responding to any comments, but I look forward to seeing your comments and discussion when I get home.

* I borrowed this term from historian Paul Johnson and his book Modern Times. If you really want a great read of the twentieth century, the premise of Modern Times is that “ideas have consequences,” and the history of the 20th century is one in which the ideologies of the “gangster statesmen” has been a catastrophe in human history.

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