Conviventia 2018: Invest in Others by Putting Your Talents to Work!

DSC01677Calling all teachers, chefs, project workers, sports enthusiasts, medical professionals, social workers, mental health providers, consultants, computer whizzes, and anyone with a servant heart. Do you want to learn about a new country, make a meaningful impact, feel appreciated, and experience the mutual joy of sharing your time and talents? If so, please consider joining a diverse team who will serve the people of Colombia during the summer of 2018?

IMG_3362Conviventia is unlocking human potential in Bogota, Cartagena, and Barranquilla by providing basic education, vocational training, and family strengthening through schools, community development centers (CDC), and services with a Christ-based worldview.  To continue the impact of transforming lives, they need and would appreciate the investment of your time, knowledge, and support through an ongoing relationship.  Our friends and family have all been blessed with experiences, opportunities, and talents that Conviventia would love to put in use.  Although the need is great, some of the more pressing opportunities for impact include:

  • Teach teachers, staff, and students (preschool, elementary, and higher)
    • Develop and lead English lessons
    • Share classroom best practices, theories of learning, discipline and strategies for working in large groups
    • Design and conduct classroom projects for math, music, science, and art
  • Teach business, vocational, and life skills classes
    • Cooking
    • Self-defense
    • Tailoring
    • Hairdressing
  • Lead construction projects that support and enhance the integrity of the facilities
  • Strategize and design programs that increase community safety, beautification, and neighborhood connection
  • Design and conduct a health brigade for parents and children
  • Develop and lead family strengthening activities:
    • Workshops on marriage, relationships, financial, conflict, handling a crisis
    • Family sports and activities
    • Parenting classes
    • Home visits
    • Vision/life projects
  • Evangelize with campaigns directed toward children, parents, elders and youth in the community
    • Plan and conduct vigils and camps
    • Teach a Bible class
    • Teach songs, do crafts, and orchestrate a class play
    • Lead sports lessons and activities

IMG_1261Have no doubts that everyone is equipped to do or share something.  What is on your heart to lead?  This list may not include your special talents, yet we know Conviventia can put them to good use.  Reach out and let us know how you would like to contribute.


About the Authors: Sandra and Darin Dillon have a passionate calling to organize and take teams on short-term mission trips to developing countries with the purpose of blessing both the teams and communities they serve.  Previous missions have included drilling water wells, installing water purification systems, leading business-as-mission workshops, and evangelizing as well as teaching hygiene and nutrition.  You can learn more about the Dillons by visiting their website at www.shinecrossingsministry.com.

The Power Of One

changtheworldMargaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”  I would add, “Never underestimate the power of one.”  It only takes one to make a difference—a hero—an every-day person who gives a part of his life to something bigger than himself.

To be a hero one must ask the question: “What can I give?” The answer lives in the difference between what is and what can be.  People rise up by lifting up others.  The truth—the world needs more of you and your unique gifts.  People ask, “How and what can I give?” People tap into their “power of one” by answering the following questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What can I do for others?

Heroism is unveiled in action. Where can you mentor, teach, help, encourage, and inspire? Heroism is like a boomerang.  The boomerang flies across the horizon only to return to its sender.  Heroes are motivated to give but find they get even more in return. In the process of giving, you may just create your best life ever—one that can be described as:

  1. A life worth living
  2. One with purpose
  3. One with love and laughter
  4. With significance

What will you do 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years from today?


 

Shine: Everyone Has Something to Offer

shine 2I believe everyone has something to contribute to this world—a light within them just trying to get out.  That light may be a creation, an innovation, a word of encouragement, a helping hand, or a quiet presence.  I lovingly refer to these gifts as Shine moments where people are at their best.  Some of my favorite Shine quotes include:

The Purpose of Light Is to Create More Light (Paulo Coelho)

Live to Let Your Brilliance Show

We Are All Meant to Shine

Sometimes More Sparkle Is Called For

The World Is Far Brighter Because You’re in It

Never Pass Up a Chance to Glow

Shine With All You Have

I Want a Brighter World Than Bright (John Keats)

Your Shine is Not Simply Seen—It should be felt

Always Keep Your Fire Lit

Be Brilliant—the World Needs You

Your Light Touches Hearts and Minds—It Changes the World

What are your Shine gifts?  When have you been most blessed by someone’s Shine moment?  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you” (Isaiah 60:1, NIV).  I encourage you to continue to search within yourself for those gifts that need to shine out into the world and fill it with more light!

 

Hurricane Harvey Is Like Going on a Mission Trip


Excerpt from Sandra Dillon’s El Salvador 2017 Mission Trip Journal: September 3, 2017

I feel as if I just returned from a mission trip by surviving Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath.  Many of our team and even our dear local friends have lived through what might be considered their most devastating emotional and physical experience. Although Darin and I were spared the physical destruction from flood waters, Harvey did rattle my nerves and produce a continuous supply of cortisol running through my veins, as the torrential rains caused flood waters to creep up the street and transform the empty ditch behind our home into a river.  Setting the alarm to check water levels every 2 hours in the night resulted in a mixed blessing: increased exhaustion meeting relief that our carpet was still dry.  We hauled everything we could lift to the second floor and waited for the flood waters to take most of the furniture that made our lives comfortable.

If truth be told, I suffered some anxiety, as I relived memories from my childhood during Hurricane Agnes in 1972.  At 10 years old, my 7-year old brother and I were awakened in the night by our mother, so we could wade into rising sewage waters to haul upstairs anything we could salvage.  Although more than 45 years ago, I can vividly remember the pressure to save what little our family had.  No doubt, this tragic experience re-shaped my worldview—how I believe the world works.  My response was not to become emotionally invested in things, because they can easily be taken away through no fault of my own.  Although I have worked hard, made good money, and enjoyed nice things, I have never become emotionally attached or strived to have the biggest, brightest, or best.

Hurricane Harvey has put every Houstonian on a mission trip as if they have stepped into a third world or developing country.  In the past, those who served on their first short-term mission trip came away with more questions than answers and a desire to live differently upon their return home.  Their personal paradigms had been shifted. Harvey created a mission trip for Houstonians in their own backyards and paradigms were shifted without having left the city.

My rule of thumb, based on taking numerous teams on mission, is that people have ~ 6 weeks to act on their new worldview or paradigm; otherwise, they will acclimate to their pre-mission lifestyles. Life goes on as it was!  So, the question for Houstonians impacted by Hurricane Harvey is “What will you do differently now with your new-found worldview?”  For me, I am actively purging more material possessions and encouraging Darin to do so as well.

As the flooding threat subsided and we felt comfortable bringing our “stuff” to the ground floor, I took the opportunity to go through closets, drawers, and every room to give-away or throw-away things I had accumulated.  As an avid reader, my most difficult assignment was giving away books.  I love the sight of words and the feel of paper on my fingertips but realized that our future lives in a 1200 sq. ft. home and RV will not hold many books.  Better to start the process now in shedding that weight.  I gave away ~ 30% of my books and will continue the book-shedding process for months to come.  What change might you make to align with a new worldview?

I consider myself a positive person and always look for the blessing in adversity. My prayer is that others embrace or continue to act on two concepts after the waters recede and a new normalcy returns.  The first concept is that relationships and community are more important than stuff lost.  By the stories shared among friends and through media, I think most people are living this out in the midst of this tragedy. I hope that the outpouring of love as demonstrated by personal sacrifice and service is a sustainable paradigm-shift that continues. My second hope is that everyone appreciates the necessity and gift of clean water.  Many Houstonians were stranded by Harvey, and probably for the first time in their lives, they did not have access to safe drinking water.  I pray this tragedy becomes a wake-up call to the struggle of clean drinking water for a significant portion of the global population.

When Darin and I announce we are going on another mission trip to Central America to drill a well, I hope we hear, “Go, God speed,” and not, “Why do you serve outside of this country when there are so many people who are in need here?”  I agree, there are needy in every country; however, when Texans finally clean up from Harvey, even our country’s homeless can go into a public restroom and drink clean water from the sink faucet.  The same cannot be said in other parts of the world. During what appears to be these unfavorable times, I take to heart: “To every thing there is a season, and time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1 KJV). May we all continue to be there for each other in our time of need.

The Impact of a Simple Thank You Letter

Sandra Dillon: July 22, 2017


pen and paper 1In December 2011, I started an annual tradition to select at least three people who had the most influence on my life that year and to write them a hand-written thank-you letter explaining why they had such an impact.  That year, one of my chosen few was Anthony Spagnoletti, who is the owner of an auto body repair shop in The Woodlands, Texas, who brought me to Christ.  On a Friday afternoon, in June 2011, Anthony changed my life by shooing away his employees and handing off his customers to spend two hours talking to be about God and providing answers to my questions about unexplainable events that were happening in my life.  When I left his office that day, all Anthony knew for sure was that he had sacrificed several hours of his valuable time to have serious conversation about God with a woman whom he had just met hours before.

I never had any contact with Anthony after I left his body shop until he received my letter in December.  Actually, I assumed he received it and hoped that I would hear from him again, even if it was just a thank you for the thank you.  No word!  In April 2012 while driving back home from a weekend in Austin, an email appeared on my iPhone which began with “This letter is long overdue…”  Anthony wanted to let me know that my thank-you letter had made an incredible impact on him and come just at the right time.  He was questioning God and his purpose, and my letter affirmed everything he knew God to be and why he was put on this earth.  I changed Anthony’s life that day with my simple thank-you note.

Wow!  I assumed Anthony would enjoy hearing that his two hours spent with me was worth the investment.  That long-ago Friday night, I thought about everything that we had talked about.  I then slept on it, and the next morning while lying in bed, I prayed “The Prayer” and asked Jesus to be my personal savior.  The Holy Spirit came in a way I cannot explain, and my life was changed forever.  I wanted to thank Anthony for giving me that gift.  What I could not have imagined was that I gave him an almost equal gift in return through the simple gesture of writing a hand-written thank-you note.

I wanted to share this story and encourage you to think about those people in your life who have made a difference.  Next, take the time to write and express your gratitude.  If they left an edible mark on your life, do they not deserve that little bit of your time to put your thanks on paper?  You never know what impact you might make on them in return!

There is a post-script to this story which shows how the impact can live on!  In July 2017, my husband, Darin, returned to Anthony’s body shop to get his rear bumper replaced. Over the course of some chit-chat, Anthony told Darin that my letter sits safely tucked in the Bible he reads every day.  He shared that this letter is the best gift he ever received. My note of thanks is not a one-hit wonder but a lasting legacy for one Godly man. Knowing that my letter continues to have a daily impact inspires me to continue writing those annual thank-you letters and encourage others to do the same.


 

Give the Gift of Freedom: Give Clean Drinking Water

 LWI El Salvador Photo CollageToday, July 4th, Americans celebrate their country’s independence and the freedoms they enjoy as citizens of the United States of America.  Although every country wrestles with its injustices and socioeconomic differences among its population, by world standards most Americans are extremely blessed with basic living necessities and luxuries. Clean, safe drinking water is available to nearly all Americans.  Even the homeless can walk into a gas station bathroom, turn on the faucet, and drink water from a spout that quenches their thirst and is free of bacteria and disease. Most citizens in third-world or developing countries do not enjoy this gift, because their water supply comes from local streams and ponds that are used for drinking, bathing, cooking/washing, and sanitation.

Living Water International (LWI) takes teams for short-term (1 week) mission trips to Central American countries to bring life-saving water to villages, schools, or communities.  This September, I am taking another team to El Salvador to drill a well, do pump repairs, and teach hygiene in a community that is in need of clean water.  As you celebrate your freedom today, I ask whether you feel called to join our team, working side-by-side with the local people, to free them from contaminated water.  Although I can’t give you your money back, I can guarantee that the experience will change your life.  Call me at 281.793.3741 to learn more about this give-back opportunity.

 

Giving To A Vision

vision signIn the non-profit world, many people struggle with how to secure resources, namely raise money, to support their cause. Despite a ministry’s worthiness, many struggle or never reach their full stride due to inability to secure volunteer time or funding.   Why does raising money seem so daunting?  Although God is the ultimate resource provider, why do some non-profit leaders receive an outpouring of funds while others not?  Although most situations cannot be attributable to only one reason, I would propose a significant contributor is the lack of a leader’s clear, compelling, and well-communicated vision for the ministry.  I believe people are inherently generous and predisposed to give of their time and resources, if the right opportunity is presented the right way at the right time. When done right, I expect people to respond with joyful hearts and generous giving.

One of the key responsibilities of the leader is to ensure the ministry or non-profit has a powerful vision, strategy, and plan that can be effectively communicated to potential donors.  From a Biblical perspective, Christians are called by God to steward their resources and use them to invest in Kingdom opportunities.  Therefore, a responsible donor would logically expect to understand the vision, the strategy/execution plan, and how the ministry will be held accountable.  If a leader cannot article the vision and supporting details, a donor is likely to assume the resources will not be well stewarded.

When I interviewed for a full-time fundraising position at MedSend, the CEO enlightened me that those who have significant wealth feel an overwhelming burden of responsibility to give back and are actively looking for causes where their donations can make a big impact.  They want to make a significant contribution to the world and want to invest their money in a vision that is greater than paying someone’s bills.  Think about it.  What criteria do you use for giving?  Aside from tithing, people give to people not organizations, specifically to people who have visions.

If you are fundraising for a cause for which you are passionate, take the time to paint a clear and engaging picture of your vision, so you can help your donors understand how their efforts will release joy and power.  Make it big!  Stretch your dreaming! If you can create a vision that you could accomplish on your own, it is likely not from God.  God does not dream that small.

A Tale of Three Trees: It’s Not What You Think!

Have you ever bawled like a baby when reading a children’s fable?  I have!  Several years ago, as I was browsing the small bookstore at The Homestead Heritage in Waco, Texas, I picked up The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale.  I guarantee you that this was no ordinary children’s story.   The tale tells of the dreams of three trees in the forest, who all long to grow into something that the world would value.  One wanted to be the most beautiful, the other the strongest, and the third the tallest.   After many years the woodcutters came to harvest these trees on the mountain.

Christ with CrossWhat these three trees wished themselves to be instead became how they were used to serve.   The purpose of each tree brought me to tears.  Can you guess how the tallest tree was used?  The third tree wanted to be the tallest tree in the land, and by some accounts this tree got what it wished for as it stood tall at Calvary with Jesus nailed to it.   This tree had one idea of its future, but God had another purpose and plan.  Despite the ugliness it endured as it co-labored with Jesus, the third tree had the opportunity to help bring Salvation to the world.  Now that’s worth both living and dying for!

We all have dreams, and the question we should ask ourselves is whether we are dreaming the right dream.  Are you pursuing your own dream or seeking to know God’s dream for your life?  Sometimes God’s dream for your life will take you through ugliness, harshness, and cruelty such as what Jesus experienced on the cross?  Much of the time you will never be made aware of the impact you are making and must maintain faith that God is using each faithful word and action for Kingdom impact.  On those seemingly rare occasions when I do get feedback, I find those are the fuel that keep me seeking the Lord’s will for my life.

What can you can learn about church in a parking lot?


Excerpt from Sandra Dillon’s 2017 El Salvador Mission Journal


March 6, 2017

How many of you have hung out with the homeless?  Serving and eating a meal with them?  Fellowshipping and praising God with them?  Well, Kate and Nate Stal gave Darin and me the opportunity to walk into their ministry by helping set up Motel Church this Sunday in the parking lot of an old strip mall on FM 1960.  Many homeless live next to the “Motel” or the old Century 21 building nearby.  Because Motel Church has had to flex where they set up on the first Sunday of the month, they have kiddingly dubbed this church the Parking Lot Church.

So how does Motel Church have any connection with our upcoming mission trip to El Salvador?  God is always creative in how he speaks into my life.  As I wrote in the last journal entry, God wrote the first book that culminated with the design and launch of World Changers on Mission (WCoM).  I wrestled with whether God would start a second book in the series, and if so, I questioned how a repeat mission trip to El Salvador with LWI would begin the first chapter.  I believe I have an inkling on what God might be scripting based on what He showed me during our two hours in church.  Before I unpack His message, I want to share with you my experience as contextual background.

Motel Church entered my personal world when Matt and Holly Smith invited Kate and Nate Stal to a World Changers on Mission meeting.  Darin and I specifically wanted to hear more about the call that God had put on Kate’s heart—bringing church to the homeless.  After hearing her stories over dinner, we decided to step into Kate’s world.  Kate’s passion was contagious, and we wanted to provide support to someone who was making personal sacrifices to follow God’s call.  Rain or shine, Motel Church was holding service.

Motel Church 1We met in the parking lot of a dilapidated but functioning strip mall which sat next to the motel where some of the homeless were staying.  You might call this motel a flophouse.  Other homeless church members had been living at an abandoned Century 21 building, but recently a fence had been installed around the property to prevent squatters.  When we arrived at the strip mall, the parking lot was sporadically full with parked cars owned by those who were attending either one of two small churches located inside.  The only sufficient parking area to set up tables was near the dumpster, which adjoined another building open for business.  Kate was nervous to set up the church so close to the business in the event the owners decided to call the cops. What an awful feeling to think we could not hold church because of the fear of prosecution.

After the business owner gave us his blessing, we waited for Nate to arrive with supplies and food, so we could set up church.  Kate knew many of the homeless members, so we engaged in conversation.  Darin and I offered them drinks from our cooler, and we arranged tables, chairs, and placed Biblical resources on the tables.  What I loved was how some of the homeless men helped.  Kate did not know how many members would come to church because of the looming threat of rain and the fact that some had dispersed when the fence went up around the Century 21 building.   Previously, they had as many as 30 attend this small Parking Lot Church.  From my perspective, the numbers did not matter!  God would bring the perfect number!  As several more church members arrived, the volunteers started to serve plates of home-cooked food.

Motel Church 2As we broke bread together, I was intrigued by the stories shared by James and Amy, a husband and wife, who lived in the woods behind the motel in a 3-bedroom tent.  They had previously owned a much larger tent but had to downsize to a smaller one for some undisclosed reason.  Before they could share more, dark clouds opened their flood gates, so we picked up the tables, chairs, and food and moved them under the shallow protective overhang that provided a sheltered walkway for the storefronts.  We traded in our chairs and tables to sit on concrete planter boxes with plates on our laps.  A few more folks arrived.  Darin and I happened to strike up a conversation with Miss Karen, a woman in her 60’s, who had on a McDonald’s employee uniform.  She lived in Greenspoint and took a bus to the stop in front of the strip mall, so she could then walk across the street to the McDonald’s where she worked.  When she got off the bus, Miss Karen saw our church, was intrigued, and eventually came over to find out more.  I asked her if she lived in Houston all her life, and after saying she was originally from Louisiana, she started to pull out old photos from a Ziploc bag.  Some photos were over 50 years old and showed herself and her twin sister when they were young.  She and her twin were separated at 9 years, when they went into the foster care system.  She never saw her sister until she decided to search for her as an adult.  This search brought her to Houston many years before.  Miss Karen’s story was painful to hear, yet she spoke of it as if she expected nothing less of life.  What was amazing is how she carried her most prized positions with her—these photo memories.

Jason started our church service with the third chapter in the book of James.  What I loved was how everyone participated.  Chris, one of the homeless church members who would not partake of any of the food, read some of the verses.  Although Jason led the sermon, many people participated in the Scriptural discussion, vulnerably sharing their own testimonies.  A youth worship team, who cancelled a few days before, left us without a praise and worship agenda.  However, that did not stop one of the homeless men, who was enthralled with the message of James 3, to put his plate aside, rise, take the mic, and sing A Cappella about how God’s not dead.  These few stories provide just a flavoring of what it was like to worship with Motel Church.  God kept nudging me with thoughts of Motel Church and El Salvador.  What do you want me to see, God?

God whispered that this is how he meant us to church.  I like to refer to it as a virtual church.  Matthew 18:20 describes church in its simplest version “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (ESV).  Motel Church was beautiful, because it reflected church in its simplest design.  A church is not a building but the gathering of those who are united in belief.  Recently, God has been tugging on my heart to re-read the Book of Acts, which describes the formation of the early church after Jesus ascended into heaven to be with the Father.  As described in Acts 2:46-47, “…breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people…” (NASB).

I have walked in severe material poverty in third world countries, but surprisingly not spent the same amount of time in similar poverty situations in my own country. On a relative scale, you might consider the American homeless as one of our more extreme poverty populations.  I found it strange how two active churches in the same strip mall were holding services, yet the homeless were not or did not feel welcome.  Walls can create boundaries that separate and protect those who are behind closed doors.  Are our church walls creating boundaries that separate the body of Christ?  On the other hand, does the concept of a virtual church help prevent the slow and insidious behaviors of putting up walls of exclusion?  What resonated with me was how active and participatory church could be in the virtual.  Everyone was free to contribute and participate.  In comparison, a church with four walls tends toward passive participation where the congregation sits and is fed from a pastor.

On our last trip to El Salvador, God told me that every one of us is equipped in some way where we stand, regardless of the newness of our faith.  Jason was equipped to lead the sermon, and many of the homeless felt equipped to read from the Bible and contribute their testimonies and views.  WCoM speaks to how church, business, and mission are integrated with connectivity, dignity, and the knowledge and faith that one is equipped.  I have a feeling that God wants to show me a vision of church and has tied an element of this message with our mission trip to El Salvador.  Perhaps the next book will speak to what the church should look like, how it should operate, and what it was intended to achieve.  I am reminded of the Book of Revelation, where a unique message was delivered to each of the seven early churches.  Each letter defined for the church how it was viewed through God’s eyes, a challenge or reproach, and a promise.  In today’s climate of conflict and judgment, providing an environment where people from all walks of life can come together to share in the common bond of the love of Christ is one of the best strategies that I know of to grow the church.  Only seven short months before mission departure!  A lot can happen in seven months!