thebigz

Posted February 2, 2007 by Matt Daniels
Categories: Uncategorized

That’s right, “the” “big” “z”. In high school theatre my friends all called me “Zeus” because they couldn’t get “Zathe,” my actual middle name. I was branded as “the god of stage left.” How flattering.

Well, I just thought, then, since there haven’t been too many postings here, that you might want to pop over to http://thebigz.wordpress.com, where there ARE some.

But of course, THIS is a new post, so what do we do about that? Hmmmm?

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finding fresh hope for the journey

Posted September 1, 2006 by Matt Daniels
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m getting really excited about being in Uruguay again. I came here excited once. I came here thinking how great it would be to be part of a move of God among a people who could care less about Him. What would it look like to see people suddenly ebullient over God’s great love for them? What would it be like to see a corrupt politician wake up one morning weeping and wailing over the damage he had done, begging God to forgive him, to invade him, and then heading out full of Jesus in his chest to right his wrongs? What would it be like to see the rich come out from behind their iron-fence clad houses, giving away heaps of food and clothing to the poor? What would it be like to see EVERY church, Baptist, Pentecostal, Anglican, Catholic, full and overflowing because God swept through in mighty power and told people that the plans were changing, that He was establishing His kingdom and that is was time to start dancing to a new tune?

But I lost that hope somewhere along the way. Some slow poison leaked into my soul and danced around in the back of my head, whispering that God doesn’t care about post-modern, post-Christian Uruguayans. Telling me that all this stuff is a product of my imagination. Telling me that my faith is merely a construct I bought into to give myself peace, and that now that it is my vocation, I am pretty much locked into it for my own financial security and for that of my family…

And then… well, Jesus was whispering a different story all the while, but it had been so long since I had taken the time to listen that deeply. But, by grace I am hearing it again, and hope comes. It comes flooding in. Here are some examples. Hope you enjoy the ride.

How Long Does it Take???

Posted September 1, 2006 by Matt Daniels
Categories: Uncategorized

by toni
silvana
It has been nine years since Silvana has been “doing life” with us.  And life has not been easy for her, nor for us accompanying her.  We’ve seen her marry, struggle in an abusive relationship, try to love an unfaithful husband, and make poor decisions based on her hurt and pain. 

Through it all we have met off and on for prayer and Bible study, but she really struggled to make faith her own.  “I’ve always believed there was a God,” she said to me a year ago, “but not like you do.  I know I don’t follow him like I should.”  It seemed she was never ready to accept Christ and all that He offers. 
My faith was weakening that she would ever make the jump.  After so many years of “discipling” my unbelieving friend, would she EVER come to faith? Then it happened.  God happened.  Grace (like rain) happened. 

It turns out she sinned grievously against someone she loved very dearly.  She knew she deserved to be punished, shunned, rejected, and shamed.  Instead this believer forgave her and in the midst of the pain offered reconciliation, relationship, friendship. Silvana was stunned, confused, and broken.  She had never experienced forgiveness, EVER.  Now, finally the concepts of grace and mercy became more to her than just out-of-reach theological terms. 

Just yesterday over a “café con leche” she shared with me that in the midst of the brokenness she has come to know her Savior.  “I’ve always believed there was a God,” she stated again to me yesterday, “but now I am ready to follow him.  And I will not let anyone or anything stop me!” 

Nine years… Our Lord’s timing is perfect, and I am learning to have faith in Him for the people he has called me to even if it takes nine years!

The Fog

Posted September 1, 2006 by Matt Daniels
Categories: Uncategorized

by Toni
In July Don Gilbert, one of our pastors and long time friends of almost 21 years, came through for a short visit.  In just three days he managed to encourage our missionary team here in Uruguay, challenge and share the gospel with several of our dear non believing friends, interview an atheist youth (and almost convince him to join a youth group that we don’t even have yet 🙂 ), and receive a picture from the Lord regarding the spiritual state of Montevideo. 

As he shared this “picture” during a church service hearts were touched and I cried my eyes out.  “When I saw the heavy fog settle over the city yesterday, the Lord showed me that is what Uruguay is like spiritually,” Don began.  “They are living in a dense fog that blinds them to the spiritual reality around them. They think things are fine, but what they do not realize is that beyond that fog is separation from God.” 

Don spoke prophetically. So many Uruguayans live in deception, disbelief, discouragement, and depression.  We live in this fog too. Sometimes it penetrates our very souls.  Confusion, depression, and discouragement set in even in the midst of God moving and people coming to faith. 

Many times we should be encouraged, but the fog is too dense.  Our Lord continues to say through his word “Do not be discouraged”.  He is building his church here and we just need to stand firm in the midst of the fog and let his light “burn it off”.  Thank you, Don, for coming and for being completely present while here.  Thank you for giving of yourself. 

Thank you Central for loving us so!!!

the Europe trip

Posted September 1, 2006 by Matt Daniels
Categories: Uncategorized

louvre
We went to Europe for so many reasons.  Most of all, we wanted to immerse ourselves in the culture of our new tribe, Christian Associates, at the annual Staff Conference.  For years, Christian associates has been talking about working in “Europe and beyond.” This year, “the beyond” showed up at their front door.
 
As we made pilgrimage toward staff conference, I had a chance to visit three different works sponsored by CA, two in Madrid and one in Paris. I made a bunch of new friends and took part in some really exciting ministry initiatives.

CA is passionate about seeing Christianity once again become a grassroots movement.  You know, the kind that happened in the first 300 years of its existence?  The kind that happened with the Reformation?  The kind that happened with John Wesley, and with the Great Awakenings?

Church Planting in Europe is trench warfare. It is like trying to convince ex-McDonald’s customers that they have YET to taste a true hamburger. Though you are RIGHT, none of them will believe you.  They’ve eaten McDonald’s and are convinced: hamburgers are dried out, stale, greasy, nasty affairs.

We face the same skepticism in Uruguay. So our thinking runs like this: if our friends in the European “graveyards for missions” are finding out ways to see a resurgence of a vibrant Christian faith in the “motherlands”, then maybe we can adapt some of that good liniment and apply it where we are as well.  

The conference was invigorating from beginning to end.  Conversations around tables with people from all over the world; prayer times and all-out worship; stimulating dialogue on new ways of being the church in a postmodern, post-Christian world.  All this, and much, much more!

The run-up to the conference was also wonderful. Toni and I took several days to fall in love all over again, complete with biking through the French countryside with loaded picnic basket in tow.  Prior to Toni’s arrival, in addition to being in Madrid, I was able to render homage to Ernest Hemingway in Pamplona and hang out for a few days with some monks out in the country, braving the heat and the flies during my annual personal retreat.

We are still nibbling on all the delicious spiritual and emotional morsels gathered during our trip, and we cannot thank enough all those who made it a possibility.  You know who you are (wink, wink)!

Christian Associates Staff Conference

Posted June 19, 2006 by Matt Daniels
Categories: Uncategorized

Thanks to a generous sponsorship from a Sunday School class who is close to our heart (!), Toni and I are able to attend the Staff Conference of Christian Associates this August, in Amsterdam, Holland. We start to realize that between rapid trips home to see friends, family, and church family, and the pace at which we work here, we rarely stop for deeply needed spiritual refreshment.

The staff conference is designed as a training time, a renewing time, and networking time. There we will be with 300 US and European church-planters whose ministry contexts are similar to ours, and whose vision and approach to ministry is similar as well.

Alan Hirsch, co-author of The Shaping of Things to Come will be the guest speaker as we consider new frameworks for conceiving of the church in this new century (millenium?). Breakaway sessions will afford us the time to network with church-planters from Brazil, and great times of prayer, worship, and reflection promise to be a spa for the soul.

We can’t wait to get there.

Oh yeah, and since we are ALREADY going to be there, Toni and I just might take in a few sights as well!

The Shaping of Things to Come

Posted June 19, 2006 by Matt Daniels
Categories: Uncategorized

shapingOkay, so I’ve read like 6 pages of this book, but I am totally pleased with it so far. It is iconoclastic, intellectually strong, appealing, written by a couple of energized Australians, and speaks to the next incarnation of the Christian Church worldwide. But that’s what they say ALL these books do.

THIS one, however, has some great theological venn diagrams. But that is not what get’s me most.

What gets me most about it is that I think I am going to spread my wings and fly after I read it… I am pretty scared about some of the conclusions that it might be suggesting. What might it mean vocationally? What might it imply for the current way my team is working? What if we are led to do something radically different then we are currently doing?

You can’t see it now, but deep on the inside my fingernails are between my teeth and I am shivering.

So hurry. Run out and buy a copy of this and see what happens!