The Starfish Story: An Update

In Dr. Scott Todd’s Hope Rising, the author shares not only the starfish story you may have heard growing up, but two new versions of the tale. Some friends from Fenton, MI, who lead a non-profit called, Till Kingdom Come, recorded me as I told the story and created this video from our recent trip to Haiti. It describes a glimpse of the goals we have on the field:

To financially support the work we do, please visit this site through our sending organization:

The Starfish from Till Kingdom Come on Vimeo.

Half Good Killer…the latest from Toy Gun Films

Toy Gun Films tells stories from all over the world with excellence and truth. In their latest short film, Half Good Killer, the line between prey and predator is blurred as we get a glimpse into the tragic life of a child soldier. I appreciate the filmmakers and their heart, mind and ability to tell a good story. This isn’t so much a movie review as an encouragement to watch everything they’ve ever produced. Here’s the movie:

Half Good Killer – Full Movie from Toy Gun Films on Vimeo.

The greatest tool to fight injustice is truth…mixed with dirty hands and open hearts.

The story behind the photo

We love coffee, and thought a coaster would be a great way to connect our vision with you. On the back of the coaster, we speak of partnering with our work with Convoy of Hope. We wanted you to know a bit more about the photo, and the work for which we’re asking for this prayer and partnership.

Here’s the story:

Pastor Tom, a wise leader in Uganda, looked at the Convoy of Hope Intern team and said, “Please show this picture to your friends in the USA and tell them that this is the water that makes my family sick.” As a show of respect to him, the photo is below. Josh Thomassen, who took the photo, knew the importance of getting clean water to this village.

We had talked about the truth that approximately 1 billion people lack access to a purified water source, that water born disease kills thousands each day, and that Convoy of Hope is working with local churches around the world to make a difference. Our intern team built a water filter in the village, and provided a way to clean over 99% of the contaminants in the water.

The little boy with this jug? He’s one of the villagers who is benefitting from the water filters. He joins people around the world who use water filters provided by Convoy of Hope and our teams. Many are significantly healthier. These filters are but one piece of our Children’s Feeding Initiative.

Finally, my life changed when I read Isaiah 58:10, “And if you spend yourself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness and your darkness will become like the noonday.” I wanted to be sure and include this on the coaster as well.

Here’s the picture of Pastor Tom. If you’d like one of our prayer coasters, please email me your address at mattwilkie (at) I’d be happy to send you one. Also, this is the second coaster in the series. You can read about the first here.

Again, we value your prayers and partnershipWe commit to: living with integrity and generosity, a strong work ethic, and with good communication to you. We thank you too.

Pastor Tim points out the water that makes him sick.



If Romney wins, then, but if Obama wins…

Tuesday, our country will elect a president. As a fan of politics, and in-person viewer of two inaugurations, I’ve been paying attention. I believe the results will have an enormous impact on the future of our country.

Here are my plans if Romney wins, and then if Obama wins…


If Romney wins…

1. I’ll still see Jesus as my king. While I’ll work to live as a good citizen on Earth, I’ll focus most on “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” As Petra sang in the mid-80’s, “We are strangers, we are aliens…we are not of this world.”

2. I’ll pray for him. While I’ll try to remember to pray for him daily, I won’t commit to this for fear of breaking the commitment, but he’ll absolutely be the subject of many of my prayers. 1 Timothy 2:2 says, “Pray…for kings and all who are in authority…”

3. I’ll love my family. I love my wife and Parker and Fisher. We love our time together, prayers together, playing games together, etc. That love will grow.

4. I’ll stand challenged to help those in need. My life changed as I read Isaiah 58:10, “And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkness will become like the noonday.” I plan to focus on serving Him by serving them more effectively. This will impact how I spend my time, money and focus.


But if Obama wins a second term, then…

1. I’ll still see Jesus as my king. While I’ll work to live as a good citizen on Earth, I’ll focus most on “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” As Petra sang in the mid-80’s, “We are strangers, we are aliens…we are not of this world.”

2. I’ll pray for him. While I’ll try to remember to pray for him daily, I won’t commit to this for fear of breaking the commitment, but he’ll absolutely be the subject of many of my prayers. 1 Timothy 2:2 says, “Pray…for kings and all who are in authority…”

3. I’ll love my family. I love my wife and Parker and Fisher. We love our time together, prayers together, playing games together, etc. That love will grow.

4. I’ll stand challenged to help those in need. My life changed as I read Isaiah 58:10, “And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness, and your darkness will become like the noonday.” I plan to focus on serving Him by serving them more effectively. This will impact how I spend my time, money and focus.


While I have some definite perspectives on this race (some of which I’ll tweet before Tuesday), these are the things most important to me. Thankfully, the political situation of our country doesn’t change any of life’s most important perspectives.

Samantha, Brittany and 100+ more…

Brittany with baby in El Salvador

When Amber asked if I’d write about some of our former Convoy of Hope interns for OnCourse Magazine, I got excited. The team members (past and present) make up an enormous part of my life…I love that God’s given me the opportunity to work with them.

Samantha & Brittany

Samantha was on our team to Bangladesh/Nepal/Mobile, AL, last year and is now in school. She’s preparing for full time work as a teacher in Tanzania. Brittany was on our Summer ’08 team to Nicaragua and El Salvador, and has done a ton of other international trips. She’s now working working with one of Convoy of Hope’s partners in Dallas, Buckner International…she helps provide shoes to kids around the world.

Samantha Shryack

Proud of each of them.

It’s fun filling out reference forms (got to fill out 3 this week…) and seeing where God takes our former interns…who we see as still a part of the family.


The latest? Here’s Andy…he just got hired with the development office of the Eastern Mennonite Missions in Pennsylvania. They’re lucky to have this guy….

The upcoming generation will do well…

I’m quite sure that the next generation of those who will serve and lead internationally will do so with passion and focus and a huge love for Jesus and people.

Do you agree?


Creative compassion part 2: Some ideas

I recently shared on the topic of “Creative Compassion” at a National Youth Worker’s conference in Dallas. During the talk we spoke of many different things such as:

Painting walls can be creative compassion...1. The Biblical reason for showing compassion.
2. Creative ways to show compassion.
3. Resources that either include creative ideas, or that have helped me in my understanding of the subject.
I asked for creative compassion ideas via the Twitter, Facebook, and at the conference. I said I would share them via this site. They follow:

  1. Elle from Jackson, MS, mentioned that in her city, Wired Espresso Cafe (connected with Crossings Church) will often take salad/tea/cookies/coffee/etc. to secretaries who are unable to leave work for lunch. No payment is required.
  2. Jose mentioned that his church, Northside A/G, learned that teachers in their town are required to purchase their own supplies. Their church members worked to gather supplies for every teacher/administrator in the middle school. They gathered enough supplies for over 60 school leaders to have a bag with $50-75 worth of needed supplies. It saved the teachers money, and showed that the church cared. This is a somewhat small congregation that delivered the supplies at a catered meal for these leaders.
  3. Paula’s son was shot, and her family struggled as part of the healing process. Instead of staying home sad, she led some students from her church (All Nations A/G) to help at a homeless shelter…serving food, playing with kids, and listening to stories. They even helped clean up at the end.
  4. Sean’s youth group is soon going to go to the home of elderly individuals with a 6-foot Christmas card. The card includes cut outs where students will show their faces and sing carols…They’ll do it at Christmas time 🙂
  5. Joey from Swifton A/G in AR worked with his group to rent a community center that they turned into a coffee shop. Free food/good music/snapping instead of clapping. Good times. I’m in a coffee shop as I write this, but I know that lots of towns don’t have such a place. Cool.
  6. Santana was part of pen pal club that would interact with people around the world.
  7. Madeline from Evangel Church International took a group of students to Haiti. I could share at length about the idea of going overseas to help show compassion…
  8. Jeremy is a part of The Tabernacle in Orchard, Park, NY. They’re working with churches, community leaders, and government officials to do a mini-extreme makeover in an inner city neighborhood.,
  9. Lauryn from the Lighthouse Tabernacle shared how their church would help single moms with a day for them to come to the church for pedicures, lunch a car wash, school supplies for the kids, and tools and support for them.
  10. One man is considering a car wash where his church pays the people who are getting their car washed.
  11. Kisha…adopt a neighborhood…cleaned yards. Lifepoint Church Prescott Valley
  12. Some youth groups have gotten permission from city leaders, and painted murals in rougher parts of town.
  13. Andrea’s youth group from Whitefish A/G in Montana, would purposefully do random acts of kindness..groceries/car wash/water/etc.
  14. The Dream Center in LA has a ton going on to help people in the community
  15. Shannon and Sara mentioned that Canyon Hills A/G in Bakersfield, CA, helped a person in the community by doing their version of an Extreme Makeover Home addition…cleaned blinds/etc.
  16. Mandy’s church, Bethel Temple A/G in Parma, OH, would supply Christmas gifts for kids in the community. This is much like Angel Tree, a great program through Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship, that supplies gifts for the children of prisoners…and the gifts is from the parent who is in prison, but being delivered by people from a local church.
  17. Sandy from New Horizons in Lowell, MA, mentioned that students from her church went to a local veterans nursing home and sang Christmas carols, providing residents with little packages with things like combs/etc.
  18. Shannon’s from Grand Prairie, TX, where her church would do many things on holidays for the community, such as Halloween Trunk or Treat for neighborhood kids, etc.
  19. Chelsea’s church, Valley Fellowship Yakima, WA, would deliver Thanksgiving meals when they knew families might not have one. Also, youth group in fall/winter they adopt a seniors mobile court–shovel snow, rake leaves.
  20. Chelsea’s group also would help people around the world through supplying funds through Kiva, to provide micro-loans to small businesses.
  21. Chelsea also mentioned “Make it, Take it” where her youth group would make fun gifts to give away. They find out what the family wants and take it to them.
  22. Tonya’s church in Chandler, AZ, would provide backpacks/school supplies/etc. for kids in group homes. They’d also help with birthday parties/etc.
  23. Some referenced churches that supply gift cards for the mom’s at Teen Challenge/etc.
  24. Royal Family Kids Camp is cool! Anytime the right students/adults can help at a Royal Family Kids Camp is a great thing.
  25. Karen’s college group would hand our soda/snacks to community college.
  26. Some churches had some incredible ideas for fundraisers to help those in need:
  27. The best place I’ve seen for ideas regarding fundraising for missions is through the Overflow Experience. On that site, students from around the USA and world share ideas they’ve used to raise money to help those in need. Here are a few ideas…
  28. Waylon Sears at Victory Worship Center led his students to raise funds by selling Hope For Haiti t-shirts. They sold a lot of shirts, and helped a lot of people through Convoy of Hope.
  29. Evan Courtney of The Fields Church in Mattoon, IL, wrote, “I tweeted and blogged about a specific organization each day, I was on a missions trip to Honduras. They gave me a shirt to wear for that day.” Love what Evan’s doing…
  30. Jessica’s church has shared their fine arts talents and raised funds at concerts/etc.
  31. Shawn Askinosie isn’t a youth leader, but he does make chocolate. He came up with a great idea called “Serve Someone” where you pick a family/individual that you’ll help until they don’t need the help anymore. He set up a website, to get ideas rolling, and to set up a system to help.
  32. Dawn and Jackie both mentioned how wonderful it is to have someone babysit the kids…especially special needs kids. When there’s not family around, the chance for parents to go on dates is a very nice thing.
  33. Bryce’s church has made sandwiches and more and taken them to areas where homeless people spend time. They’ll spend time with their new friend over lunch.
  34. Stephanie’s group in Georgia has taken 9 v batteries throughout neighborhoods where elderly people live around the time changes. They’ll give out batteries so people can change them in their fire alarm, and will offer to change them if it would help.
  35. Stephanie’s group will also go to neighborhoods and rake leaves, clean gutters and more.
  36. My sister’s church in Hammond, IN, adopts blocks in the area where they can help people near the church–cleaning up, etc. Other churches, such as Phoenix 1st AG have done this for years. Great idea.
  37. Our church in Republic, MO, has helped local schools with gardens, done free car washes and more.
  38. I walked through Convoy of Hope one day and saw dozens of students from Northpoint Church helping with opportunities in their own community. Great idea. Here’s their intro. video.
  39. Finally, I love being a part of Convoy of Hope and all we and partners around the world are doing to help those in need…can’t forget Convoy…

I’m positive there are many, many other ideas people have used to show compassion creatively. What are some ways you’ve seen?

10 things Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution can teach us about serving around the world

We watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. We love this new show (2 episodes so far) where a famous chef from the U.K. comes to the most obese city in USA with hopes to transform the food culture of the people. He cares about their health and the health of the USA and hopes a revolution is starting there in Huntington, WV.


As someone who leads groups around the world on various types of “missions,” I thought I’d share 10 things I see in the show that can teach us about serving cross-culturally:



1. Be passionate about what you’re doing, or don’t go. It can be way too tough to face whatever you’ll face if your heart isn’t 100% in it.  (The radio station host and some of the lunch ladies aren’t so welcoming.)

2.  Show respect to the culture you’re visiting. You are in fact, an outsider. Listen, observe and keep an open mind about things. Jamie gets flak from people who think he doesn’t respect them. The only ones who listen are the ones who feel respected.

3.  Connect with a local church. As someone who loves Jesus, I like this idea anyway for everyone, everywhere. In the show (episode 1), I love how he connects with a local pastor. Jamie doesn’t speak of his faith, but realizes the church cares about people in the community.  The pastor is a fabulous resource and ally.

4.  Look for local resources. Jamie looks around to see what’s available locally. What people get what he’s doing? Potential partners? Food sources? Especially when doing development work (I guess most types of international work), using local resources is a key!

5.  Don’t assume everyone will automatically agree with this good news you’re sharing. Actually, it looks like Jamie thought he might have more agreement than he’s received the first two episodes. He believes in what he’s sharing and he knows it’s true…shouldn’t everyone immediately jump on board? Whether sharing faith or medical information or the value of good education, perhaps not everyone will get or even care about what feeds your passion.

6.  Be flexible with ways to share your core values. Throughout the show, Jamie doesn’t change what he believes, but he works at finding the most effective way get the point across. If what he’s trying doesn’t work, he’s willing to alter the method (i.e. various school lunch menus and teaching methods.)

7.  It’s not just about the masses, it’s about the individual. He obviously cares deeply about an obese and struggling family with whom he connects. He spends a lot of time with them, studies their diet, speaks truth to them, and shows compassion with their hurts and frustrations.

8. Don’t be afraid to speak truth, even if it’s hard to share. He speaks truth after he’s built relationships and has a window to do so. People don’t always like to hear him, but it’s making an impact.

9.  Have fun with what you’re doing. He finds a way to enjoy the journey and laugh, even when things are tough.

10. Care for the people regardless of whether or not they listen to you. The show is just starting and we don’t know how each of the individuals will react to what he’s sharing. He seems invested in what he’s doing, and I hope he’ll continue caring for the people regardless of how they ultimately decide to apply what he’s telling them. If he’s just showing concern so they’ll believe him and change, it’s manipulation. People are worth more than having to endure manipulation.


There’s my top 10 list. What would you add or change? Are there shows that have taught you cross-cultural lessons?

The Gospel According to Lost by Chris Seay

I really love Jesus, and I love Lost…The Gospel According to Lost by Chris Seay is a fun book.  I just read it on my flight from Bangladesh and am glad we didn’t crash on a mysterious island on the way… 


April and I hesitantly joined the Lost bandwagon about 1 ½ years ago (here’s a blog entry from that era). Great choice. We’ve watched each episode, and smile as time deepens our confusion. In the midst of our wonder, we love the show and can’t wait to see what happens next.

Seay describes the purpose of the book as “not to erase the mystery, but to allow each of us to seek a posture that celebrates the things we do know and to embrace the mystery of things that have yet to unfold.” He does this well.

To show the connection of Lost and the Gospel, Seay points out references to faith, philosophy, history, literature, and relationships from the plot thick program. He also shares lessons from our faith that perhaps the writers never intended.   

Most chapters serve as a character study, highlighting the ways faith, doubt, fear, pain, guilt, insecurity, and history are seen in a certain Lost character.   

I enjoy the over coffee (or sushi) conversational style of the book. He writes things I can hear him say, such as, “If you didn’t cry in season four’s episode ‘The Constant,’ something is wrong with you; you were either distracted or, worse; it is possible you have no soul.”

Seay uses humor, insights, a love for Jesus, a respect for elements of pop culture and obvious passion for the program to craft the book.                                                                              

If you’re a Lost fan, I recommend the book as a fun read. Also, The Gospel According to Lost could be a great eye opening gift to Lost fans who may not be on your faith journey.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Worship, helping the poor, and other ancient things…

The earliest known Hebrew writing deals with worship and helping the poor.

This year, I’m reading through the Bible chronologically. I’m almost finished with Job, one of the earliest known stories in the Scripture. tenboomThroughout the book, Job refers over and over and over again to the fact that he felt he was doing what God wanted Him to do, he was helping the poor, orphans, widows, etc.  He wondered why he was chosen to face such a difficult time.

That was the point, he was doing what God wanted him to do, and that’s why he  was chosen as one Satan wanted to tempt.  Job understood a big part of God’s heart.

Feeding the poor, helping the widows and orphans…all while worshipping God.

About 1 1/2 years ago, some ancient pottery shards were found near the Elah Valley in Israel. They’re the oldest known Hebrew texts and they date to the time of King David.  The largest shard was recently translated by an expert. Here’s the text, as quoted in this great story of the Jerusalem Post.

1 you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].

2 Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]

3 [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]

4 the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.

5 Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.


I don’t feel comfortable calling the above Scripture, but it’s a great reminder that helping others is one of the great ways to follow the plan God has for our lives. Worship often does equal helping those in the greatest need.  Now, the earliest known writings in a biblical language indicates this truth.

h/t Sojourners for making me aware of the inscription. 


PS: That’s an old Bible (Grandpa Ten Boom’s to be precise) not the ancient Hebrew manuscript. Just wanted you to know that…

Coffee is better than cow poop

In Armenia just over a year ago, we worked with some wonderful people in the plateaus of the Caucasus Mountains. These Yezide Kurds are amongst the poorest people groups of the region. Those we met are hard working, wonderful people who earn very, very little money. We felt bad knowing they heat their homes and cook their food with bricks made of dried cow poop.  This photo shows a mound of hay which the animals can eat during the winter and mounds of cow poop to use in cooking/heating.


Their region provides very little wood for fires and they use the resources available to them.

A pastor with whom we worked said if he and the people of his church could help their neighbors utilize something besides the norm for their fuel it would make a huge difference.

Chad, one of Convoy of Hope’s former interns, is in Armenia right now. Among his various projects, he’s helping these Yezide Kurds use something much better than cow poop to use as fuel. Coffee.


Java Logs are bricks made of coffee ground.  They’re not a new thing, but they are in the plateaus of the Caucas Mountains. Chad’s using local resources, including coffee grounds from area hotels and restaurants to test java logs with these great people.

He’s still working on the best local resource for the wax that helps keep the java logs together, but from what I’ve heard from him, overall things are going well.  Pray for the right wax combination and source so the project can spread across the area…

I love innovation.

What are some innovative things you’ve seen to help people where you live or around the world?