About Me

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New Orleans, LA, United States
Family from South Africa, Born in New Orleans, Lived in South Carolina. Married to Annabeth since May 2004. We have three boys (Bolt, Mack, and Birk). Currently living in Uptown NOLA and serving as Lead Pastor of Vintage Church and Camp Pastor of Student MissionLab.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Surrounded by Good Men

I have the blessing of learning from some great pastors in New Orleans. There are some great men in this city that have been fighting the good fight for a long time. Most people love to complain about the churches in this city and they talk like they know what it takes to reach NOLA. We appreciate all prayers, love, and advice but you really don't understand how to do things unless you are actually in the trenches. Two guys who are in the trenches with me are David Crosby (Pastor of FBC New Orleans) and Jerry Kramer (Pastor of Church of the Annunciation). I have enjoyed having coffee with these guys and learning from their experience.

Here are two recent blogs that I received from their ministries:

THE SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENTS By David E. Crosby, Pastor January 6, 2009

The Feast of Epiphany, celebrated the twelfth day after Christmas, is in part about the New Year’s youngest murder victim, Ja’Shawn Powell, the two-year-old boy whose body was found Sunday in an athletic bag on Jackson Avenue. The king cakes we are enjoying in this season have a hidden baby inside because Joseph and Mary hid the infant Jesus from the evil King. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod was jealous of the baby and sought to destroy him. Thus unfolds the slaughter of the innocents when King Herod murdered all baby boys in Bethlehem who were two years old or younger. The two greatest figures in the Bible, Jesus and Moses, were both protected by their parents from kings who tried to kill them. These parents believed deeply that their baby boys were very special and important people. They risked their own lives to save them. We are not as far from Herod’s day as we want to think. The killing of babies continues in our world. It is an indication of our own moral bankruptcy, our failure to acknowledge the value of the little ones among us. When life gets hard it is just too easy to view the little children as threats to our own well-being and set them aside. Infants have been the targets of violence in every age and every culture on earth. I have stood in the ruins of Aztec and Incan temples where hundreds of little skulls were found. Religious authorities have sacrificed children along with political authorities. It is a scourge upon the planet, our treatment of the children. Any culture may begin to view the children as an unnecessary burden or an economic threat. Infanticide is historically one method of birth control and sex selection. Worldwide, infant girls are more likely to be left on the ice to freeze or thrown in the river to drown or suffocated with wet cloths over their faces or grass stuffed in their mouths. These practices are so common that they give birth to a specialized vocabulary—“decimate,” to kill one out of ten children; mabiki, to pull plants from a garden; and “baby water,” the bucket of water used to drown newborns. Jews, Christians, and Muslims have always taught that killing infants is a sin. Roman law elevated infanticide to a capital offense in 374 C.E. Despite religious and legal sanctions, the practice of infanticide continued throughout history and right up to the present. Largely now through abortion and the abandonment of newborns, Americans and others around the planet eliminate the inconvenience and economic burden of new mouths to feed. The hidden baby in the king cake is a message from Mary and Joseph to each of us. Every little life has infinite worth and should be protected. God gives life. It is not our prerogative to take it. Herod killed three of his own sons among many others. With his heart hardened toward his own offspring, it takes no imagination to see him wielding his political influence against innocent children. Communities may develop attitudes and practices that marginalize children whose basic needs compete for limited tax dollars. Schools become dilapidated while more “adult” facilities become pristine. Playgrounds take a backseat to golf courses. Day care facilities limp along without strong support as health spas and social clubs sparkle and shine. Every culture and community publishes its assessment of the value of children through such facilities. The median age of our population is older in post-Katrina New Orleans. Many of our young families fled the flood and never returned. Let’s resist the temptation, as adults who have already reared our children, to forget or marginalize the little ones among us. The children who live here are “our” kids, not “their” kids. Each little life possesses incalculable value. The children among us will always make do, usually without protest, when we redirect our time and money to more adult activities and facilities. Children do not usually show up at city council meetings or church business sessions. Part of restoring the mental, emotional, and physical health of our community is making the little ones our highest priority. Sometimes the children in a community become invisible to its power-brokers—like that baby hidden in the tasty pastry. Let Ja’Shawn’s murder be a wake up call to us all. Mary and Joseph took the right course. They adjusted their lives so that their child would flourish.

Here is an article written about my friend Jerry's church. He is an amazing example to us all.


Visiting the Free Church of the Annunciation always makes me feel hopeful. Even now, when it's having its worst financial crisis since the storm, it's a happy, uplifting place. "This is just another moment of faith," Duane Nettles said. "We kind of feel like this is what folks in New Orleans go through all the time." Duane, 31, runs the Annunciation Ministry at the Episcopal church in the heart of Broadmoor. He also crunches numbers, helps parishioners solve problems and tries to keep up with the Rev. Jerry Kramer, pastor of the church. "You know how a job description sometimes has 'And other duties as assigned' at the end?" Duane said. "This is the only place I've ever worked where those other duties make up about 90 percent of my job." --- Paycheck or paint? --- Duane isn't complaining. He loves being where he is and doing what he does. He grew up in New Orleans and is glad to be playing a part in its rebirth. He is also a seminarian at Nashotah House in Nashotah, Wis., an Episcopal seminary that allows students to do field work while they study to become ordained priests. He goes there four times a year. "I work full-time and go to school full-time," he said. Last week, he and Father Jerry didn't get a paycheck. "My choice was to pay us or buy materials so 45 volunteers could rebuild people's houses," he said. "I bought paint." It isn't the first time he has made such a decision. The ministry has struggled since the storm, when Father Jerry decided the church needed to play a vital part in rebuilding the Broadmoor neighborhood. "We often rob Peter to pay Paul," Duane said. --- Loaves and fishes --- Duane isn't really worried. He knows he and Father Jerry will keep operating on faith. He told me about the toys that poured into the church from around the country to provide Christmas presents for more than 1,000 of the city's neediest children. "It was like the story of the loaves and fishes," he said. "Santa kept handing them out, and the pile never went down." He talked about the 2,200 volunteers who came to Annunciation in 2008 to help rebuild New Orleans. "You're just so encouraged by these people who could go anywhere and choose to come here," he said. "They write us to say 'Thank you' when they get home. We write them back and say, 'You inspired us to go on working another week.' " And that's how they'll get through 2009: One week after another, one small miracle at a time.

Thanks guys for your friendship to Vintage and commitment to New Orleans.

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