Investing in My Community

The summer has been unusually busy, but it has also been extraordinarily rewarding. Last summer a fledgling library was started in my rural community. We squished a few donated book shelves into a small store on main street. The store owners graciously allowed us to use their store, and we began accepting used books of every kind. This tiny town had never had, in its entire history, a library. The county library is 30 miles away for some of our residents, not convenient enough to make use of. Books poured in. Fiction filled half our space, but we also had sections for history, travel (if outdated tour books of Mexico count), pets, and of coarse self-help. A few people wandered in occasionally. More books were sent our way. And more books. And more.  

Colorful fiction fills our shelves.

It became obvious that we needed more space – and more patrons. We launched a community meeting and began looking at empty spaces around town. In our one traffic light town of 1,200 residents, there were not many options. We quickly ran into the ever-present wall: no money. The great thing about a small community is that everyone talks to everyone. News travels faster than a speeding bullet. We simply mentioned to a few people that we needed non-profit status and to begin fundraising. The very next day we were told that we had non-profit status under a community services non-profit in town. Someone had told the president, the president had sent out an email, all members voted in the affirmative by email, and it was done. They had become our umbrella.

We blinked our eyes and shook our head. “Wait! We aren’t ready.” It doesn’t matter. It was a done deal. Then the money began pouring in. People would stop by and hand us $100. “You are doing a great thing here!” they would say. And the books poured in.

Several months went by in the arduous task of looking for – and agreeing on – the new location. Though I hated the process of heated debate, the needed evaluation and discussion were very valuable. It was also a huge turning point for us. We went from a tiny store corner to our very own building. We also had to look into the face of a monthly commitment to paying rent and utilities. That was scary! We are just a tiny group of people in a tiny town. Many times, someone in the group would say, “We don’t have to move. Let’s stay here. We don’t have the money.” And it was true, we didn’t have the money. We only had a vision of what could be.

The local civic club handed us a check for $5,000. We put on a fundraising dinner and earned another $1,000. We were off!

Moving day was June 1. People came out of the woodwork to pack and move boxes of books. There we were, standing in a large open room – with only a couple of tiny mismatched bookcases. Now what were we going to do?

New book shelves – Lots of boxes of books.

Our president of the board stepped up and said he would build them. He designed, built, stained and clear coated each bookcase. We were all amazed! As soon as he set a finished bookcase in the new library, we would fill it with books. More books poured in. One trailer brought 30 boxes! We now have over 6,000 linear feet of book shelf space and we are still building.

Though the library is still a work in progress, last Saturday we were overflowing with visitors. A local celebration brought many people to town, and they all had to come and see their new library. Little ones found cute board books, pre-teens found chapter books, grandmothers found new fiction to read and the history buffs had more than a myriad of titles to choose from. The library’s copier, computers and internet access now give low income residents a place to connect with the world for no cost. Anyone can now walk in the door and engage their love of reading. Where there was once nothing, now there is a warm hub of friendship that links us with literacy.

And the best part of it all? When we volunteers are long gone, new generations will walk in this door and take a book off the shelf.

How have you invested in your community? What do communities need more of these days?

Have You Ever Wondered?

Have you ever been out people watching? Go to a public place: like a mall, coffee shop, or a park. Sit quietly and just watch. Listen carefully. What are people discussing? What do they argue about? How do parents handle their children?

Different cultures reveal their value systems by the behaviors of the people within that culture. It is difficult to notice, until you are plopped down in the middle of a foreign culture. That is when we begin to see people acting very differently than we would and we begin to wonder why. And that is when many of us begin to point fingers and accuse.

In Saudi Arabia, families have private, curtained booths in which to eat their fast food. The people who live there say it is to protect their women. Americans say it is demeaning to women. Americans value independence and personal rights above most other things – sometimes to their own detriment.

Philosophy is the study of problems about such things as language, values, reason, mind, knowledge and existence.

 My son, Matt Fujimoto, is currently working on philosophy research in Kyoto, Japan.

In his own words: “I am currently a Ph.D. Student in Philosophy writing my dissertation on comparative Japanese and Western philosophy in Kyoto, Japan. I hope, through my studies, to be able to bring a better understanding of Eastern philosophy to a Western audience.”

He has written articles such as:

  • A ‘language’ for everything
  • Call me Angel
  • Is Shinto a religion?
  • Informal Fallacies or “What could possibly go wrong?”

To read these and more, find Matt at: https://www.patreon.com/mattfujimoto/overview

What values do you see reflected in the culture where you live?

7 Keys to Teaching Children About God

Passing on our personal faith in Jesus Christ to children is one of the most important things we can ever do. A recent Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. 

https://www.barna.com/research/evangelism-is-most-effective-among-kids/

Sometimes kids can be difficult to teach. They need to bounce. They need to talk about their pets. They interrupt. But put a few tools in your teaching tool belt and the problems will smooth right out.

  1. Teach the kids – not the curriculum. Many times, teachers enter the room with prepared curriculum and are insistent that the class get through the material. I have watched kids sit through lessons as words fly past them. Then the kids get up and go home with no idea of what it was all about. Speak to them, look into their eyes, let them ask questions. If you don’t finish all the material, bring it back for a second lesson. It’s better for the kids to go home with one firm thought, than for them to leave with everything over their head.
  2. Ask them if they have any questions. I often start my lessons this way: “What questions do you have about God?” I am amazed at the deep questions the kids have, that no one has taken the time to answer. “How can God be everywhere at once?” “How can Jesus be God if he is on earth and the Father is in heaven?” “Why is the Bible so hard to read?” “How did Jesus know what was going to happen to him?” These are all very important questions. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, that’s okay. Just say, “I don’t know.” Then go find out and report back. Kids often feel shy about asking these kinds of questions, so I always let them know how important their questions are. The next time, they won’t be so hesitant.
  3. Give them hands on activities to connect with the ideas. Children are tactile. They need to see and touch – even taste. Let the kids act out Bible stories in mini-skits. They LOVE any kind of costumes. Keep the lines short and simple. Usually when we act out a Bible story, it only takes a minute or two, so we repeat it several times with different kids in different roles. Everyone is excited to try every role at least once! By the end of our time, they know the story very well. Paper cut outs, drawings, water paints, and clay molding all work very well too. Give them a theme and let them get to work. You will be astounded at some of the results.
  4. Respect their individual maturity levels. Some kids are full of deeply thought through questions while others just want to talk about their last soccer game. Don’t push kids. When they are ready, they will respond.
  5. Keep it short. Young elementary kids need a change of topic or activity every 10-15 minutes. Older elementary can maybe go 20-25 minutes, then change up the activity. Get them up and moving. Give them something to create. Watch for signs that they need a change. When the kids lose focus, they are not being disobedient, they are being the kids God created them to be.
  6. Really listen to them. What did they go through in the past few days or week that was hard for them? What excites them? Children often struggle with the death of a pet for far longer than we think they should. If they are still talking about something, it’s important to them.
  7. Teach in small groups. Five to eight students in a group is ideal. Any more than that and some kids will get lost in the crowd. Those are the ones who will most likely choose to stay home when their parents give them the choice or when they become teenagers. And they may never come back.

Children love hearing the stories of the Bible. And they love any adult who will sit with them and share their own stories of faith. I teach children because they pour their love right back to me.

What have you found helpful when teaching children? Let’s get a conversation going and reach those kids for Christ.

Commanded to Teach the Children

O my people, hear my teaching; Listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old — What we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonders He has done.

Psalm 78:1-4

We have been entrusted with a most sacred duty. We are to teach the Word of God – the Holy Scriptures to the children.

  • Truth
  • Christ, his death and resurrection
  • Secrets of life and death
  • The Holy Spirit
  • How to be filled with the indescribable Love of God
  • God’s guidance for living a godly life; wisdom, understanding, drugs, deceit
  • Knowledge for salvation

Our children are the very ones who will run our churches, marry and have children of their own to raise in the church.

The children come every Sunday, sit in these rooms, with eager minds and hearts, they want to know the truth. They drink it in faster than we can pour it out.

And we are too busy.

One parent, when asked to help teach the children said, “Spend time with the kids? No way!”

He (God) decreed statutes for Jacob (God’s people), And established the law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, Even the children yet to be born, And they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God, And would not forget His deeds, But would keep His commands.

Psalm 78:6-7

When no one teaches the children about God and His deeds and laws, then the children wander through life looking for the love they crave. They become lost. They become targets for those looking to use, abuse and destroy.

The children are the future. Will the future be one of life in God? Or will it be one of a living death?

It will be up to you.

All the Light We Cannot See

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All the Light We Cannot See    by Anthony Doerr

One of the very best books I have ever read!

The story is epic, an honorable tribute to those who refuse to not love.

The writing, down to the last detail, is masterful.

The characters are real. They are my neighbors, they are me.

Marie-Laure and Werner are now my good friends. And Papa. And Jutta. And Etienne.

Thank you for coming into my life.

Thank you, Mr. Doerr.

(I just recently discovered Mr. Doerr’s writing. If you have read this book, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought.)

nanowrimo

nanowrimo

https://nanowrimo.org/

Nanowrimo

National Novel Writing Month

 

OK! I’m going to do it!

The first time I heard about nanowrimo, I thought someone would have to be crazy to do that. Now, here I am, almost a year later, trying to convince my friends in my writing group to do it with me.

They think I am crazy.

Nanowrimo is the National Novel Writing Month in which we attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November. We enter our daily total number of words and watch the number climb.

Last year I wrote my first story. It is a children’s story about a boy growing up on a homestead in the Bozeman, Montana area. He meets an unusual neighbor who begins to mentor him in his relationship with God. The boy starts to really ask some important questions. Then difficult things in life begin happening – don’t the always? This boy begins to pray and watches as God does some amazing things in his life.

My first draft is finished, but I have learned so much about writing since I started it a year and a half ago that I really need to go back and smooth it out. Then I hope to find a publisher.

I have started a second story: this one a mystery set in 1916 Glacier Park. I will do my best to give all the clues to the reader yet see if I can hide the answer from them until the very end. I will definitely have to use my friends as guinea pigs before I look for a publisher.

So now, nanowrimo.org.

I have pledged to start a brand-new novel on November 1st and have all 50,000 words written before the last minute of November melts into December 1st.

Yes, I am a bit nervous. Writing just for word count is not how I usually write. I think that ideas are more important than lots and lots of words. I am much more succinct than most people I know. This will be a new experience and a challenging time for growth.

This new story is based on Jesus’ parable about the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18. A young woman living in Germany makes her way to America, intending to find work and send money home to her parents. She arrives penniless and is sold into indentured servitude.

Check out nanowrimo.com and see if you are up for the challenge.

Anyone else out there writing stories? Leave a comment, I would love to hear about it!