Saturday, July 31, 2010


Today in Kisumu, Kenya, Overlake’s first Drop-In center was launched. It is a ministry designed to serve the street children of that community. It will serve as a safe place for kids who have no place, in Jesus’ name. It will serve food, for kids who have no nourishment, in Jesus’ name. It will be a safe harbor for kids who live in the storm, in Jesus’ name. It will a clear, loving, sober-minded refuge for kids who live under the tyranny of glue-induced haze, of lostness, of depression, in Jesus’ name. But most of all it will serve as a half-way house, preparing those street kids who desire it for adoption into a loving, caring HOME.

Overlake Christian Church is partnering with the local church community in Kisumu, and those dear people are also preparing themselves to open their homes for the adoption of the street kids who are sick of the street. This is an amazing thing. It’s a miracle of God’s love in action.

And here’s one more piece of the miracle: the funds to build, prepare, and launch this Drop-In center were all raised (are you ready for this?) by the Students of Overlake Christian Church. By Junior High and High School students. American students used their spring break to babysit, to mow lawns, to walk dogs, to create and sell jewelry, to host garage sales…they worked diligently…so that they might donate the funds necessary to launch this center. And today that hard work has come to fruition. This is an amazing thing. This is another miracle of God’s love in action.

All of this is under the umbrella of the vision God gave Overlake one year ago. OCC 2012 is a vision that has gripped this local body of followers of Jesus, and it is bringing great joy, even as we labor to fulfill it. God has given us initiatives that fall in with each of our three purposes: Love God, Love People, and Serve the World. The Kisumu Drop-In center is a Serve the World Initiative that focuses on Orphan Care.

Of course, now that the first Drop-In center has launched, we’re already in strategic conversation regarding the next one. And of course, our students are already dreaming about how they will be able to raise the funds for it, too. They’ve seen the miracle of the loaves and fishes firsthand, and they’re hungry for more. I love our students. I love the leaders who are right now on the ground in Kenya, enfleshing a miracle. And I love Jesus, our Lord, who places the lonely into families. I’m thankful to HIM, for the chance to be a part of a church like Overlake!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The MAGIC of Bing (and pure imagination)

So many of you have been following the story of our adoption, and the journey of the Howerton clan embracing, and being embraced, by Duzi. I thought I’d share another moment of PURE MAGIC (giggle).

After traveling for 26 hours, we were delayed on the tarmac in Atlanta, waiting for the final leg to Seattle to begin. Duzi had a window seat, I was in the middle, and sitting next to me was a really friendly Microsoft Employee named Brian. He asked me some questions about our adoption process, and was insightful, articulate, and kind. When I mentioned that our faith was a major motivator for us, he was respectful and affirming, even though he indicated that faith normally wasn’t his thing (I forget how he phrased this exactly, but he was cool.) He asked me if I had shown Duzi anything on Bing Maps.

Uh, no. I hadn’t. In the whirlwind challenges of adoption, Bing Maps didn't make it to any sort of priority.

So he pulled up Seattle on his computer. It was in a 3d, Birdseye view, which I thought was pretty cool. We tried to find Duzi’s hometown, but it was slow to load, and when it did, it was 2d Arial view. Just like Google Maps. Then we looked at my home…2d Arial view. By this time, Duzi was bored, so I put on Clone Wars on my computer for him. Brian looked up the Washington Monument, but Duzi was glassy-eyed with travel by then. I was a bit glassy-eyed myself, and as I fell asleep, with my son’s sleeping head on my lap, I noticed Brian looking up additional locations on Bing Maps, and I was honestly glad that he was excited about where he worked.

As we were descending, Duzi and I woke, and prepared to deplane. Brian and I shared a few more pleasantries…I believe we both wished one another well, which was sincere on both sides. All in all, a great plane buddy. NOW, check out the story from HIS perspective…I had no idea the pure MAGIC that was unfolding. The following I have left in Brian’s own words…apparently it was a pretty powerful flight for him. He put this on a Microsoft Work Distribution list. My comments are in parenthesis. PLEASE enjoy:

“Hi everyone,

“After telling this story to a few people in the office, it was suggested I write it up and send it out to the group. On my flight home from MGX last Saturday, a little boy and his father came to sit next to me and I overheard the father talk about the boy’s “new home in Seattle.” I quickly found out that this little boy was a South African orphan being adopted by a family from Redmond. The husband and wife already had an 11 year old girl and 8 year old boy but found it in their hearts to have a 5-year old orphan of a different race and background join their family. (Brian really WAS a nice guy).

“Halfway into the flight, the father and I got into a discussion about job and then about how the boy really didn’t know where he was going, how far he was moving from his old home, and what opportunities he now has. At the risk of being too forward, I asked the father if I could switch to the middle seat and provide the boy his first experience with a computer, first experience with the internet, first experience with maps, and his first opportunity to see his new country and new home. Providing all these firsts is an extremely rare opportunity these days and I was lucky enough to be on a flight with WiFi, and get a “yes” to my question! (NO chance in HELL that I would give an eager techie unrestrained access to my NEW, adopted son who was ALREADY in culture shock. This guy obviously doesn’t have kids.)

“I first showed him how far he was traveling and where his old and new homes were located. The boy, Doozier, originates from Durban which is on the East Coast of South Africa and the Southeast Corner of Africa. The fluid Silverlight navigation into his old orphanage and then out to South Africa, Africa, and then the World lit up Doozier’s eyes, and I got some amazement from the father too. (Only amazement that it didn't happen this way.)

“Then we explored his journey, which took him from Durban to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta which is a city in the Peach State. After a six hour layover, he was now on the last leg of his journey to Redmond, Washington. His new home is a really beautiful house in Overlake. The father was floored and Doozier reached over me to give his father a huge hug when he saw his house. Father and son already had super big smiles but we weren’t done yet. (Does this read like emotional porn to anybody else?)

“I let Doozier take control for a few minutes and watched as he scrolled in and out to random places all over the world. I had to teach him typing and mouse movement a little bit, but kids pick up technology so fast and once he seemed comfortable I gave him a directed tour around the US and the world. (Now we have loosed all semblance of reality and have embraced the flight into pure imagination).

“First, he searched for Washington, DC – the capital of his new country, and my home! The left-panel gave him a brief history of the city and we opened up the Wikipedia page to have him learn more. Then I had him search for the Washington Monument, learn about that, and then go Streetside so he could take a virtual fieldtrip to one of my favorite places to visit. At this point, I wished a camera magically appeared and took a snapshot of Doozier’s face. It was pure amazement, excitement, and happiness. (Or maybe just a hint of drool on his sleeping chin. Aren't ALL 5 year olds crazy to read more Wikipedia pages on our nations capital?)

“The father patted me on the back and I could see he was on the verge of tears as it hit him just how big of an impact he is making on this boy’s life. We say it and we hear it – but this…this was proof of the Magic of Software. (PUKE.)

“We spent around 30 more minutes doing tours like this - the Empire State Building, Ayer's Rock in Australia, the Taj Mahal, Mount Everest, and a few others. It was one of the most special experiences I’ve had and proves that anyone can make an impact, anytime, with just a little bit of technology. I’m thrilled to be a part of this team and hope this story was inspiring. Thanks for reading!

“Sincerely, Brian”

This is Mike again, and I’ve got a few thoughts:

Seriously? I’ve seen God move mountains, I’ve seen Jesus save, I know that the Lord puts the lonely in families, I’ve traveled around the world and invested blood, sweat, tears, and resources into adoption, Jodie and I have been to the brink of despair stuck in bureaucracy and we’ve felt the deliverance of God’s Spirit…we live in joy because we trust Jesus for everything, including our amazing son…and a 3d image on a Bing Map search is supposed to have some kind of emotional impact?

I like Brian a lot. I'm glad the ride with us was a special experience for you. But please. You need to set your sights a little higher.

Adoption is a bit larger than looking at pictures. The real world is full of amazing stories and wonderful people and all sorts of significant needs that you can be involved in filling. There's really not much else to say. There is a LOT of life to be experienced when you lift your eyes up from the computer screen. LIVE it.

Now a word to my friends in ministry: I know we’re all tempted to stretch the truth just a bit when we tell stories, analogies, illustrations…we want to make the biggest impact possible to move people to Jesus. We don’t just want people to get fired up about software (pardon me…the MAGIC of software), we want people to know peace through God’s love, we want them to know hope through Jesus…our desire for folks impacts eternity. But still. Whenever we take flights of fancy in telling people's stories (like Brian did with ours), we render illegitimate the very truth we are so passionate about.

The truth has nothing to hide.

It’s the truth that sets us free.

The Father is looking for worshippers who will worship in spirit and in truth.

So Brian, if you read this…I love you. I’m not mad at you. It’s a forgivable lie. I’ve been known to use a kernel of truth to create a whole meal of emotional fluff too…and I thank you for the reminder to keep it clean.

And if you Microsoft guys ever make a commercial about this story that is loosely based on actual events, then just remember to get the royalties to Duzi. Spelled D-U-Z-I. Thanks.