Dan, before we jump into the content of the book, let me ask you a question. “How did you overcome the natural fears that most aspiring authors have and actually write this ebook?”
That’s a great question! Even though I’ve finished writing this one, I’m still kinda freaked out! I’ve been a blogger for about five years. I’ve rarely (if ever) referred to myself as a writer, because bloggers really aren’t writers, are they? But I’ve had some people express their confidence in me as a writer, and that’s helped a lot. One author asked me how many words I have published on my blog, and realizing that I’ve written over a quarter of a million words, he told me that I’ve already been published more than many other authors he knows. I guess sometimes I’m too hard on myself, but that’s only because I don’t have any professional training or a big degree in writing. But sticking to it, consistently, has helped me earn the respect of others who have helped to encourage me. I just know that I have a story to tell, one that’s important to God, and the power of people who believe in me. That’ll get you though any obstacles!
In your book, you state that you believe in the “power of laity of the church.” This struck a huge chord with me, as I believe every Christian must be engaged in seeking justice. Can you expand on this belief?
Yeah… this is a big one for me. And as you read in the book you see that I’m just an average dude. I’m not the seminary-trained pastor, or anything fancy like that. I’m just an average guy who sits in the church like 99% of the rest of Christianity. But as I study the word, I learn that the work of the ministry is for everyone. We are ALL called to go impact the world for the sake of the Gospel. All of the other clergy of the church… they’re really just our support structure. But too often we look at them to lead us somewhere, when (I believe) we are the ones that should be looking at the world and calling out, “Hey! Look at this need over here! They need help, and I want to do what I can to help them… in Jesus name!” I love my pastors a great deal, but if I wait on them to deal with the poverty epidemic or orphan crisis (things that are important to me), then I may never see anything get done. But they have taught me, equipped me, and sent me out to go make a difference on my own. And that’s the way it should be for all of us!
In the ebook, you stated that you knew your life was going to change when you took your first mission trip. Why?
Doing something like going to Africa carries a certain expectation with it. We all see the commercials on TV with the kids with bloated stomachs who are dying of starvation. I knew that I’d probably see some of that, but I wasn’t sure how much. All I knew ahead of time was that diving head-first into an experience like that was going to provide a certain level of culture shock that I knew would be difficult to overcome. But being on that trip made me see lots of things differently. It made me think about how I could experience a similar culture shock by traveling just a couple of miles to another part of town that I usually try to avoid. But taking the time to get into these people’s worlds, understanding them on a personal level, and connecting with them as friends, it all made me see them as human beings who suffer extreme circumstances. And when a friend goes through something extreme, it impacts you. There’s just no way to go back to ‘normal’.
In chapter five, you talk about that it means to invest your talents. You wanted to make a tangible impact. Looking back, how did you do that and what fruit have you seen?
It’s hard to say, because I have little contact with the actual students who’s lives I had the chance to invest in. But I’m definitely seeing impact on this side of the equation too. The experience has impacted my family a great deal, especially my son. He’s learning at an early age that helping others less fortunate than us is one BIG way that we show the love of Jesus to the world. It’s funny, but even at eight-years old he is already sensing the presence of God in the times when we serve through global missions or local outreach ministry. I’m also seeing the fruit in others through the stories that I’ve been able to share. I’m seeing people who are becoming motivated to stand up and find little things that they can do to make a big difference… and THAT’s what it’s all about. Even if I haven’t left much tangible change in Africa, their lives have sent ripples throughout my life and the lives of those around me.
What advice would you give someone who’s never been on a short-term mission trip, and wants to go?
Start small. Don’t get overwhelmed with the idea of having to go on some big trip and do something huge. For me getting to Africa (my first short-term mission trip) started with writing a blog post about an organization who I thought was doing good work. In fact, it probably wasn’t even 300 words. But that little thing led to another little thing, and before you know it, I’m getting an email asking if I’d be interested in going to Africa. And that brings me to the other thing… pray constantly. I’m not talking about asking God, “Should I go to Africa?”. But I talked to him enough about this issue that when the opportunity came up it was kind of a no-brainer. I already knew that He was in it, and it was quickly evident that doing this trip was right where I needed to be. But it’s all about following God’s leading and just doing what you can with the things that He’s putting on your heart.
Great job Dan – To read this book in it’s entirety, go here for the Kindle Version, here for the Nook version and here for the PDF version. And, feel free to share this link on Twitter, FB and other social media outlets.