Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What are you reading, Gayla Congdon?

In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day, by Mark Batterson, was recommended to me by one of our group leaders, Mike Flavin of Presbyterian Church of New Providence, New Providence, New Jersey. It is timely in that it deals with facing our fears as Benaiah did in 2 Samuel 23:20-21. On that day he chased a lion down a pit and, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it. Timely because we are living in days where fear is consuming us, so much so that I believe it is keeping us from doing kingdom work.

This book resonates with me in so many ways because fear is an issue we have dealt with since Amor Ministries was started. It was the issue we faced in 1980 and it has taken on a new life these past two years. Fear is paralyzing and it’s exactly what the enemy wants. Batterson talks about how faith does not bring certainty. He also thinks we should quit asking God to remove us from difficult situations, but ask him what he wants us to learn from them. I like uncertainty and the difficult situations in my life have been the most character building.

We have a monthly book club that meets over lunch at the Amor office. This year’s book will be In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day. One of our staff members will lead that discussion and I want us to discuss our own personal fears in the context of ministry. These past two years we have focused on the fears of our churches and participants. Now is the time we look inside at our own fears and how they keep us from doing kingdom work.

As for my reading process, I’m usually reading 2-3 books at one time. This summer on sabbatical I took my Kindle and downloaded books from all over the world. I am usually reading a book that challenges me intellectually from a secular point of view. Because we are now working in South Africa and I was there this summer just after the World Cup, I am reading How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer. In addition to that I am reading the writings of several female authors from South Africa including The Story of An African Farm by Olive Shreiner. This is in preparation for the women’s retreat that I will lead next summer to South Africa.

For our fall spiritual formation at Amor we are studying the book of Joshua. I have been utilizing the work of my favorite commentator, Warren Wiersbe, to help me prepare. It’s entitled Be Strong: Putting God’s Power to Work in Your Life.

Be assured though, I love reading novels and probably read about 15 over the eight weeks of our sabbatical. I love the stories that Maeve Binchy weaves about the relationships between family and friends from her homeland, and one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, Ireland.

Up next for me is Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street by Jim Wallis of Sojourners.

Scott and Gayla Congdon founded Amor Ministries in 1980 after confronting the spiritual and physical need found in Mexican orphanages. Having experienced the poverty of Mexico during their early ministry work, they desired to share their experiences and involve others in committing to serve the impoverished worldwide. Their goal is to instill the belief that a single act can truly make a difference. More than 29 years later, Amor Ministries is committed to: provide educational and mission experiences that radically change people; eradicate spiritual and physical poverty; and impact the future of the Church. Each year, Amor provides 20,000 volunteers an opportunity to serve poorest of the poor through its house-building projects.

Gayla Cooper Congdon holds the position of founder and chief spiritual officer of Amor Ministries. Gayla oversees the staff’s spiritual health as well as communicates the goals, mission, and purpose of the organization to its constituents. She has authored several articles for The Christian Standard on a variety of subjects, including “Serving with Cultural Intelligence.” Gayla has been a finalist for the San Diego Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business Award in 2000 and 2001. She earned a master’s degree in 1989 and was presented an honorary doctorate in Humanities from Northwest Christian College in June of 2000. Gayla was recently featured on the nationally syndicated Hugh Hewitt radio show. She has also served as a commencement speaker for Hope International University and speaks to churches and women’s groups on a variety of topics.

In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
Multnomah Publishers, 2006. 192 pp. $13.99

Available from Multnomah Publishers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Better World Books.

May also be ordered through the Hope International University Bookstore.

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