Saturday, September 26, 2009

The people in your neighborhood

I got to talking to a greengrocer a couple of weeks ago at a local market. He's a guy we see quite a bit and share small talk with. Always a friendly hello and sometimes more. Here's a story he shared with us...

There is a homeless man that meanders outside of his shop and his wife and he decided to engage with this man just to offer him a bit of friendship. This homeless guy is out of it quite a bit but they started slow, offering him a sandwich and such. As they got to talking they realized that they knew him from the town they grew up in...that they had actually, long ago, been family friends. So they are just trying to listen, befriend, build trust and help this guy however they can.

The grocer knows what we do and occasionally asks our opinion on how they are proceeding. They aren't getting carried away. They have no illusions that they will "fix" his problem. They are simply meeting him with dignity with the offer of friendship and the opportunity to reciprocate, trusting that friendship will lead the way. What a wonderful example! After hearing his story, I told him that I had no advice for him because what they are doing is the only thing I know to do.

This grocer said he and his wife fell in love with quiet service the year a kid ripped their son's jacket off of him at school. They met with the other parents in the principal's office to resolve the issue, expecting the family to replace the damaged jacket. The other mother was distraught, saying she'd replace it but she couldn't afford jackets for their own kids. That's all it took.

The grievance was dropped and the grocer and his wife bought jackets for everyone. Ever since, they have anonymously bought jackets for a needy family as a "back to school" ritual. So beautiful...that's the gospel! Laying down our rights to help meet the needs of others.

Friendship, reaching out across whatever divides us, helps us see that people are just people. People respond to honest, if clumsy, attempts. You don't need a fancy program, just a few extra minutes and a good honest try.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

North! Or Be Eaten.

I became aware of Andrew Peterson's work long before he became an author. Please, indulge me to do a bit of set up for a review* of his latest book, North! Or Be Eaten. Book Two of the Wingfeather Saga.

I have a small circle of friends that grew close with Rich Mullins' music as the soundtrack of our relationship. Rich brought depth, creativity and voice to our common questions and longing. Have you ever come to the end of a story that you just don't want to end? When I first finished The Lord of the Rings and Samwise was home, I cried. The story ends beautifully, yes, but I also cried from mourning. My first thought was "Well, I did it. I've ruined every other book I will ever read by reading this one. I'll never find one better." That's the way it felt when Rich Mullins died.

Like the Steven Lawhead book that cured my broken heart for a good story, Andrew Peterson came along with dulcimers and guitars and thoughtful lyrics. His music did that thing that I had missed so much. In 2003, he made a rare visit to an obscure music festival in Northern California and a friend and I went out to hear him. We were part of a very small crowd.

After the concert, we were talking to Andrew and his accompanist and collaborator Ben Shive at the record table and they talked us into giving them a ride to another town where fellow Square Pegger, Jill Phillips, was singing. We, of course, were happy to oblige (even though they kinda made fun of my car). On that trip, Andrew Peterson told us about a story...

It was about a boy who grew up not knowing who he was. This boy lived an everyday life unaware of the wonder that lurked just beyond the peripheries of most people's view. The story was about the adventure he experienced learning who he was. This boy wouldn't always have the right perspective. In fact, he would end up making big mistakes and taking those closest to him for granted. He would act out immaturely. He wouldn't have the whole picture. The boy would have to experience pain, humiliation, the thrill of hope, the dark of doubt, tenacious friendship, challenging quests and the grace that comes from true love played out in an imperfect but committed community. The peril would be real but told with humor, elegance and with respect for it's audience. And in the end, we would have come on a journey of our own, not just observers of the story, but experiencing all that disappointment, fear, surprise and exhileration right along with the boy. Not an allegory, but a story encoded with The Story and like good music, giving voice to our longing.

The way Andrew talked about this story made me anxious to read it. And I did.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
would come out later that year and partly due to Andrew's rave reviews, I read all seven Harry Potter books.

North! Or Be Eaten, is book two in the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. If your heart broke in the Kings Cross railway station at the end of "The Deathly Hallows", come away to Aerwiar and run with Janner Igiby and his family away from the Fangs of Dang, past Toothy Cows, Rockroaches, Bomnubbles and Snickbuzzards and into all for which we read a good story. First, read On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness. Then continue on as Andrew spins his tale wider and richer. New cultures, landscapes and characters fill out the journey begun in "Dark Sea." This is a story for all ages. I laughed out loud, got scared, cried real tears and reached a point where I could not put it down and did that excited reading thing where you race ahead in the text hoping your suspicions are right. It's good. It's "break your heart" good.

This series may not see the phenomenal literary success of Narnia, The Hobbit or the Potter books (although I hope it does). But like all these stories teach us, the best treasures sometimes lay hidden. And when the time is right, the unsuspecting child in all of us opens a door and steps across a threshold to find courage to face danger, power to fight, light for the darkness and a world dripping with beauty, mystery and grace. And the occasional quill diggle.

*any similarity of this review to the forward (by Winkie Pratney) of "No Compromise, the Life Story of Keith Green" was purely intentional.

Find the books here...

More about Andrew Peterson here...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Two chairs

I know...there's actually three chairs in the picture but only two of them got used this particular morning. I've been meeting with my pastor on a weekly basis. "Meeting" makes it sound more formal than it is, it's really just having coffee with Ken regularly. There's no agenda other than to intentionally be together. Ken tells me stories. He has a great capacity to remember the strange, hilarious details. He's lived an epic life...grew up on a Native reservation, worked hard in remote Alaska, all kinds of history of odd jobs and serving in church and now, a pastor for a small Bible fellowship. He's got a lot to talk about. I love to listen and he seems to enjoy listening to me too.

Sitting with Ken this week made me remember a scene I observed in the Native community we were working in this summer. Mua is a large Samoan who came to Canada through YWAM, married a native woman and they live, work and raise their family in native community near Victoria. Their house is an open door for the kids of the community. They often share food and time and not in a programed, "this is my time at work" kind of way but with sincerity and grace. Things are a little messy but it's ok.

There are little chairs in Mua's front yard and in the cool of the evening, they sit outside, water the plants, talk and laugh. I spied Mua and his son, two big guys, our first evening there, sitting and talking in these little chairs. What struck me was the way they were sitting, very close, eyes locked, intent on each others words. It looked as if to Mua, the only thing in the world was his son.

Everybody needs this. I need this. I need it from God. I need it from other men. I need it from those closest to me. Just the opportunity to sit with no agenda and be heard. I need to look up and see eyes that are only seeing me.

Everybody need this. And that means all the other people in my wife, my kids, my friends and church family, the poor and lonely along the way, all need to look at me and see from me that they are important. They are heard. That someone is listening.

Oh, to drop the distractions, weed out the non-essentials and to remember that at the end of all things is God and people...the only thing that will last is these precious relationships. That means they are all that matter now.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Whitler update 9/9/09

Howdy all, Chris here with another small Whitler family update...this won't hurt a bit...

Everything moved!
- First and foremost, the address in our letterhead up there is now wrong (the phone number is still right). Right on the heels of our awesome camp (named Camp Awesome) and our great family mission trip to Canada, we had a little break with family in Portland on our way back home and then right into the fire of moving everything. Well, not our home (just yet), but everything else. Our small fellowship, New Hope, is meeting at a new property and that means our YWAM office is also some place new. It's a change we're all still getting used to but it has been and will be a very good change.

Our home address is The Whitlers - 5321 Avante Ln, Salida, Ca 95368

Our Church and YWAM mailing address is YWAM c/o New Hope Christian Fellowship - 300 Trask Ln, Modesto, CA 95354

And...our actual office is located with our generous friends office at Stanislaus County Youth For Christ. Now that's a bit to keep track of!

It's been a lot of work but the dust is starting to settle. Our team couldn't have done any of the move without the help of our wonderful community around us. Thanks to New Hope for a great place to work from all these years and your continued blessing to see our work go on, thanks to YFC for our nice little hub we can come to get the office-y stuff done. We are grateful!

Staying Faithful
- We are still faithfully on South 9th Street to bring food, friendship and hope to the folks that live there. We meet people in friendship and go where those relationships take us. It's not always easy. Pray for Rob who earnestly desires to be rid of his addiction. Pray for Mary who needs to find a better place to live and peace in her mind. Pray for Cheryl, for mental peace and clarity. Pray for Frankie who recently lost his Dad and is working hard toward getting his daughter into safe custody. Pray for Jim who seems to have no hope. Pray for Ken who is sick and alone. Pray for Helen who is so close to being ready to leave it all.

Our Kids Club
- We had a couple "kids club" times in August and both were wonderful gifts. First, North Modesto Church of God had us over on a Saturday afternoon for water games and ice cream...15 kids + hundreds of water balloons = awesome! Our volunteer group from Downy High School have mostly headed off to university, but before they went they used their own money to give our kids a great good-bye party...15 kids + pizza + pool = awesome again! So we're gearing up again and working to see what our time with these kids and their families will look like in the next season. Pray for us for creativity and flexibility.

Whitler family
- Like all kids, we have begun the year's school work. Unlike all kids, the first day was a field trip! It's good to be a home-schooler : ) Amie also is taking dance at Modesto Junior Collage and teaching dance with a small group of local women. It's been fun this summer having the whole family involved in our mission work and we are looking forward to new possibilities to all work together. Good stuff ahead!

The Future
- this Fall we are settling into all the change, hosting a couple of teams and I'll be teaching again at a YWAM school in Canada on evangelism in an urban context. YWAM Modesto will continue to reach out on our streets, develop partnerships locally with churches and ministry networks and internationally with Compasio and Global Youth Network.

Here's how to find us online and other ways...

Family site/blog -

Whitler podcast (teaching, music and fun stuff)-

Amie on Facebook - Chris on facebook -

YWAM site - YWAM blog -

If you would like to support our work financially, all donations are tax deductible when made out and sent to: YWAM / P.O. Box 3000 / Garden Valley, TX / 75771-3000. Our name must not appear on the check but include a separate note stating the gift is for the Whitlers in Modesto, CA. Thanks!

New Compasio Video

Our friends at Compasio have a beautiful new video about their work with street kids on the Thai/Burmese border. I couldn't get it to look right embedding it on the blog so please CLICK HERE to watch. So worth a 5 minute investment!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

All we need.

This is the Brunswick Hall. Our little church has moved and this is the way we gathered at our last service in the old property. We had already moved the sound board, instruments, screen, mics, CD get the idea. We left only the essentials, some chairs around the communion table. We sang, prayed, shared and ate the Lord's Supper together. We had all we needed. Now, in a new location, we still do: God and others.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness." 2 Peter 1:3