My Life Speaks – Neply Haiti


Ben and Summer attracted the kids

my-life-speaksMy wife, Julie, and I have a list of goals and adventures that we want to share with our children to expose them to sports, culture, history and life experiences.  One of these goals was to take them on a mission trip where they can connect with other real people in another part of the world that has a very different life than we live in the United States.  I first heard about My Life Speaks after a friend shared about their family experience at this mission.  Through emotion and tears Julie shared My Life Speaks with me and it was pretty clear that I had little choice in the matter and we were going to Haiti.

As I considered the trip I realized how many friends and connections I had to Haiti.  I am happy to do any labor, but felt that if I were going to go to Haiti there were other areas of much higher value that I could contribute if I would do some planning ahead of the trip.  Most of my career I have worked to build a network of connections and find value in connection people and opportunity.  So I started to contact some of the people that had interest and investment in Haiti.  Kanakuk Kamps is associated with a group that operates many schools and a farm to teach people farming.  Focus On the Family has resources for the family and for abstinence based sex education curriculum that has been translated into many languages and successfully used across the world call No Apologies.  My Rotary Club has made 7 trips to Haiti to train and certify people in repairing of medical equipment in hospitals.  My parents introduced me to a couple from Haiti in their bible study class who had political ties in Haiti and had run for President of the country.  I have college friends from Baylor who are now pastors of churches that have missions in Haiti.  So I set about learning about the missions and making connections with the local missions in Haiti.  It did not take long to stir up lots of conversations, meeting and some excitement.  At the end my main goal was to connect the resources to My Life Speaks so that the various missions could know each other and possibly collaborate on mutual goals.  I also brought the Focus on the Family, No Apologies, resources in digital and print form to My Life Speaks in English and French. I had the most hope for building on the work to repair medical equipment that my Rotary Club had started.  They have certified and trained dozens of people to fix equipment and have technical support and inventory in Houston to supply parts and coaching.  They also have a stream of inventory that is continuously being taken out of service in the Texas Medical Center and could be shipped to Haiti.  All they really needed was an entrepreneur and leader in Haiti that could organize and build a business with one hospital and begin to employ technicians, execute the operational plan in one hospital and eventually grow to other hospitals and clinics.  All they need is one entrepreneur to be the catalyst to begin to make a difference to a clinic, community and a family through employment.  We have a local Rotary Club and individuals prepared to make connections and provide mentoring services.  We also have Rotary International that could build on a successful program and spread it across the world.

Port of Prince

Port au Prince

So armed with some contacts and a business plan I had hope we could make a difference for Haiti.  What I encountered when we arrived in Port of Prince and along the journey to the My Life Speaks mission was like nothing I had ever seen.  The lack of basic government services, crowded streets, shanty houses pieced together with relief tarps and remnants, burned out cars, cooking on the street, cows, chickens, pigs, goats and dogs going through the mountains of garbage piled up on the streets, in the gutters and filling the rivers.  The only word that could describe the appearance was apocalyptic.  I had come to Haiti with a great hope and my hope had taken a direct hit and was severely damaged by the circumstances that I witnessed as our van crawled through the dirty streets.

Arriving at My Life Speaks close to the coast and in the midst of sugar plantations was a much better sight.  Mike and Missy had moved with their family to live in the village.  img_0672The village does not have running water or electricity.  They have adopted several abandoned kids with various handicaps and sponsor 4 host families who have also adopted kids and live with them.  Mike and Missy are respectful of the community and have gradually earned trust and are now employing some of the villagers who identify kids in the village at risk from not having enough to eat.  My Life Speaks feeds 120 kids each day.  The groups that come from the U.S. serve the community by going to the homes of the elderly and doing their wash and make improvements to the sponsors homes to care for the special needs of the handicapped kids they have adopted.  The groups provide buyers for local entrepreneurs who sell drinks, snacks and hand-made gifts.  One of the sponsors has created a partnership with Austin Children’s Hospital who has established a clinic to take care of the medical needs of the community of 2,800 people for a $3 office visit if they can afford it.  We worship together, clean up garbage, have crafts and give back rubs to the elderly, and various other projects to improve the community.  I have been a skeptic of many “missionaries” that have asked for support and whose mission does not really involve living amongst the community and closer to an international study abroad program.  Mike told me that he plans to live the remainder of his life in this community and have a viking funeral where they put the body on a boat, set it on fire and push the boat out to sea.  Mike and Missy are the real deal and live every day with the daily hardships.  Mike happened to be in Nashville when hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and Missy rode out the storm with the village.

Sponsor Family home

Sponsor Family home

During our trip I mostly worked on putting screens and rat wire around the porch of one of the sponsor homes where Cami lived.  Cami has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheel chair.  She spends most of the day on the porch and does not have the ability to swat the flies on her.  Cami watched as we secured the frames, screen an rat wire.  Trapped in a body that does not function well is a beautiful person that enjoys being around people.  When I spoke to Cami her face lit up and you can see in this picture the little girl who was rescued and is now one of several kids that are in the care of My Life Speaks.

Cami can light up a room with her smile!

Cami can light up a room with her smile!

The village of Neply is an amazing place where people live differently than we do in the United States.  They may not have the material possessions or things we expect and take for granted, but they are are raising families, have love for each other, serve each other and are happy in the lives they live in this small sugar cane farming community.  We feel the need to help them be like America, but as they consider the opportunities that their american connections may be able to offer they are wise enough to recognize both the good and the bad that will come to the families and community with some of the conveniences we take for granted.  It was a great experience to live and work with the people of Neply.  It was a privilege to be invited into their spaces to pray with them.  They were nice enough to let us do a bad job hand washing their clothes in the river water.  They accepted us in their community and make us feel like family.  We got to teach their kids Bible stories and even put on a play of famous Bible stories for the whole community.  Our kids got to know and just be kids with the children of the village.  Can you imagine what the neighboring community thought when we all showed up in a bus to cheer on the Neply soccer team.



I want to commend Mike, Missy and their family for the commitment that they have made to this community, to the children that were left for dead, and to a life of service in a country and community that has been a forgotten nation and is close enough to be a neighbor to the United States.  Mike and Missy are examples of self sacrifice for the love of others.  Love your Neighbor.

Love your neighbor

Love your neighbor

Matthew 22:36-40  36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

How would you like to establish your heart without blame in holiness before your God and Father?  I Thessalonians 3:12-13 tell us how.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 – 12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else(Love your neighbor), just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.  


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Highlights from You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan

you-and-me-foreverWhat I really like about Francis Chan is his eternal perspective on life and the way he challenges us in the midst of our “normal” lives to take decisive action on the familiar commands of scripture.  My practice while reading any book is to underline thoughts and paragraphs that teach me something new or cause me to think or re-think about a subject. The following are some of the highlights for me from You and me Forever – Marriage in light of eternity by Francis Chan & Lisa Chan

P 11 – We are sad because godly marriages magnify God’s ingenious creation, but few marriages radiate that glory.

P 16 – These are the spiritually bedridden, resigned to spending the rest of their lives studying the Word without over making disciples or tangibly caring for others.

P 16 – Why not assume you should adopt kids unless you hear a voice telling you not to?  Wouldn’t that seem more biblical since God has told us that true religion is to care for the widows and orphans (James 2:27)?

P 25 – If we don’t stare at God, we’ll spend our time staring at lesser things.  Namely, ourselves.

P 29 – The words in your Bible carry an unparalleled power to penetrate to your very core.

P 52 – The Spirit fuels us so powerfully from the inside that His active presence is tangible and indisputable (see Gal. 5:22-24).  If the actions aren’t pouring out of your life, you have to ask yourself:  Is He in you?

P 54 – You are now called by God to showcase the power of His Spirit by the way you live.

P 55 – We are called to paint such an attractive picture of marriage that it causes people to long for the coming marriage with Jesus.  God calls us to display the love and humility of Christ through our marriages.

P 62 – Life is about Jesus.  We are not here to tell our story, but His.  We are here to live His story, not ours.

P 67 – We teach that even though Jesus lived simply, we have the right to live luxuriously(some prefer the term “comfortably”).

P 76 – He left the glory and comforts of heaven for you.  He endured torture and ridicule for you.  He endured the Father’s wrath for you.  No one will ever love you that much nor endure that much pain for you.  He didn’t sit passively in heaven criticizing you.  He zealously came after you.

P  81 – No woman wants t be led by a joyless man.  Let Christ fill you so you have plenty to give your wife.  Find all your security and worth in being a child of God, a member of Christ’s body.  He “nourishes and cherishes” you, which enables you to do the same for your wife.

P 98 – …you should sit down with your spouse tonight and figure out how to structure your lives around the command to make disciples.  This command should dictate everything about your life:  where you live, where you work, where you spend your money, how you spend your time – everything!

P99 – He wants us living life with others so we can demonstrate a life of obedience and teach them to do the same(1 Cor.  11:1).  True discipleship involves opening up our homes, schedules, and resources to others in order to allow them to see Christ and follow Him.  For more on this.

P 107-108 – You feel trapped in meaningless routine and everything in you knows you were created for more.  Life might be fun and relationships might be good, but you know something deeper is missing.  You sense that you were created for more.  You want to experience a deeper communion with God where the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit is flowing thorough you undeniably.  You want to touch God rather than merely talk about Him.  You long for a knowledge of God that goes beyond your intellect, the kind of deep knowledge that only comes from experience.  This happens only when you are on His mission.  His love and power flow through you to others as you seek to bring them into His kingdom.  There is nothing like it, and there’s no other way to get it.

P 116 – Can you really call your marriage “good” if your focus on your family keeps you from making disciples, caring for the poor, reaching out to the lost, and using your talents and resources for others?

P 117 – Marriage-centered marriages have become accepted and applauded rather than Christ-centered ones.

P 122 – I can testify that the mission is far more appealing than the safety of the status quo.  Yes, sometimes I am tempted to pursue an “ordinary life”.  There are moments when I just want to be selfish and not think so hard about what God wants.  But it’s too late.  Once you have experienced true life, there’s no going back!

P 154 – Lisa and I want to raise children who love Jesus far more than they love us.  We want them to trust Him more than us, to enjoy Him more than us, to find more security in Him than in us.  And we are convinced that the best way to teach this is to demonstrate it.

P 157 – Our kids must be taught and shown that the world does not revolve around them – it revolves around Jesus.  We live for Him.

P 168 – “You saw that there was nothing mom and dad were not willing to sacrifice for the gospel, not even our lives.  Now go and do the same.”  How many of us are living in such a way that we can say the same to our children?

P 169 – The greatest lesson you can teach your kids is how to make decisions with an eternal mindset.

P 174 – As important as a commitment to the church is, your kids need to see God’s truth shaping your lives throughout the week.  If they can see you living out the gospel in the most intimate relationship you have, they will have an authentic picture of what it means to live according to the Word rather than the world.

P 175 – Our kids hear us pray often that we would all love God more and more, Truly, that is the heart behind every prayer we will ever pray for them.  To love God more is the fulfillment of the Great Commandment (Mark 12:28 – 30).  It is the on e thing that will keep them in step with His Spirit and obeying His word.

P 188 – Wherever you are in the journey, picture how you want this life to end.  We make our best decisions in hindsight, so imagine yourself standing before God.  How would your ideal life have looked?

These are just a few of the things I underlined in my read of You and Me Forever.  I am personally challenged to take bold action and live out what I claim to be truth.  I have experienced the truth and reality to many of these claims and still want to be a shell fish and stay in my comfortable shell.  I know that the adventure and reward that God provides by trusting in Him, taking action, accepting risk and living out life for others is an abundant life that He calls us to live.  To live in our family, to live in our occupations, hobbies, community and church.  The Chan’s provide additional resources on their website:  You and Me Forever.

Thank you Francis and Lisa for this encouraging and challenging work.  May you continue to experience the abundance of life that God supplies for those that accept His calling and live to bring glory to His name.

5 minute video, Be INSPIRED:  THEIR STORY

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Ben’s Eagle Project



I am so proud of Ben and his efforts to achieve Eagle Scout.  Ben loves the outdoors and has really enjoyed his time as a scout.  Scouting has exposed him to so many skills and adventures.  Scouting has given him the opportunity to accept leadership positions, learn diverse skills and required discipline and perseverance.  Among other leadership positions, Ben served as the Senior Patrol Leader.  He went to numerous Boy Scout camps including hiking 100+ miles at Philmont where it was told that he carried some of the cooking gear to give the mule a break.  

I was briefly involved with scouts, but did not have the same experience as Ben.  My father and grandfather both earned the rank of Eagle Scout so Ben earns the honor to continue this tradition in the Applegate family.  

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America(BSA). The designation “Eagle Scout” has a long history since its founding over one hundred years ago. Only four percent of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill. Since its founding, the Eagle Scout rank has been earned by more than two million young men.[2]

Requirements include earning at least 21 merit badges. The Eagle Scout must demonstrate Scout Spirit, an ideal attitude based upon the Scout Oath and Law, service, and leadership. This includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Ben selected a project to provide a sensory garden that is used as part of equine therapy for the treatment of autism.


Special Cheers

 Special CHEERS is an occupational therapy center located just behind our home that treats children and young adults with physical and mental challenges utilizing a multi-faceted approach to achieving functional living skills.  The sensory garden that Ben and his troop built had 3 elements.  



On the scheduled weekend, Houston had major flooding and the project had to be delayed.  See these photos of us kayaking down Clay road and into Special Cheers.


This is Clay Road


Special Cheers – Eagle Project cancelled














The Teeter Totter is a exercise that works on balance and core strength as the horse moves across the tilting platform.  The platform also provides a different surface where the hoofs will “Klip-Klop” as the horse walks.  The therapist will walk along side the student to assist as necessary.


Building the Teeter-Totter


Teeter Totter













The Crunchy Course is a path of pea gravel that provides a different texture and sound as the therapist leads the horse along the path.  We had to fill areas of the path that were flooded prior to laying timber, ground cover, sand and pea gravel.


Building the Crunchy Course

Crunchy Course

Crunchy Course













The changeable hanging obstacle has foam noodles that the therapist leads the horse through.  This helps the horse become comfortable going through brush and allows the student to navigate the obstacle.  The noodles are secured to the cross beam with D-rings.  The therapist can change the obstacles by simply removing and adding new obstacles.  There is a flag on one of the posts that can also be raised and lowered.  Leaning to the side helps with balance and core strength.


Mixing cement for the posts of the Hanging Obstacle







Hanging Obstacle









Thank you to Bayou City Lumber for their generous support of our project!  It is a great testimony to the scouting experience that business leaders support the leadership and service activities of scouting.  Thank you Bayou City Lumber.  Ben has a great troop that was very supportive of his project.  We could not have completed our project in one weekend without their help.  Thank you Troop 13!


Ben’s friends from Troop 13 Houston Texas. Thank you!

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The Circle Maker

The Circle MakerI mostly read books to get new ideas, learn from others and get inspiration that I can apply to my own life and work.  As I read, I underline the statements or sections that resonate with me and I may want to recall.  If they are really good, I will write it on a note card and put it in a box if notecards that I specifically use as quotes or illustrations in other writings or lessons.

The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson is one of those books that encouraged me in a number of areas and I thought I would share some of the ideas and thoughts that I underlined.  The book is based on a true legend of Honi the circle maker.  He was a first-century Jewish sage whose prayer ended a drought and saved a generation.  I hope that you are also encouraged and inspired by some of Mark’s thoughts.

  • P.25 Define your dream, claim your promise and spell  your miracle.
  • P.37 But we should praise God for disappointment because it drives us to our knees.  Disappointment is like dream defibrillation.  If we respond to it in the right way, disappointment can actually restore our prayer rhythm and resurrect our dreams.
  • P.44  The older you get, the more faith you should have because you’ve experienced more of God’s faithfulness.
  • P.45 We lose faith in the God who gave us the big dream and settle for a small dream that we can accomplish without His help.  We go after dreams that don’t require divine intervention.
  • P.48  But if you aren’t willing to step out of the boat, you’ll never walk on water…In order to experience a miracle you have to take a risk…You cannot build God’s reputation if you aren’t willing to risk yours.
  • P.57   If you give beyond your ability, God will bless you beyond your ability.
  • P.58  Writing is praying with a keyboard
  • P.73  God is infinitely bigger than your biggest problem or biggest dream.
  • P.112  We want a one-week or one-month or on-year supply of God’s provision, but God wants us to drop to our knees every day in raw dependence on Him
  • P.127  I’m grateful for the moments God got in the way of my plans and rerouted me.
  • P.165 Those moments of absolute brokenness before God are too few and far between.
  • P.196  I’m not looking for the path of least resistance; I’m looking for the path of greatest glory.
  • P.213  When you dream big, pray hard, and think long, there is nothing God cannot do.

My hope is that these thoughts can also encourage you in the challenges you encounter and dreams you have.

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Art Briles Symbolizes the Loss of Innocence for College Athletics

Art Briles

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke

This week has been a horrible week for Baylor football fans.  Our beloved coach who finally brought the Baylor Bears football program to national prominence has found himself in a real mess.  The tragedy is that we know the core of Art Briles as a man of integrity, grounded in his Christian faith and extremely passionate for the game.  Art genuinely cares for his players and has an intense and contagious desire to win.  However, Art Briles is also human.  Conference championships, Heisman trophy winners, and new river-front stadiums create fame, National TV exposure on ESPN Gameday, fortunes, high expectations, and extreme pressure to win.

The boys who make up the program have just left the nests of their hometown and are experiencing independence and freedom living on their own for the first time .  They don’t have their parents, siblings, family and community to hold them accountable.  They have been recruited from their humble positions because they were good athletes in high school by powerful men that appeal to their egos and offer the very best the world has to offer. The very young men who are still early on in developing their own identity in one day step from a regular high school kid into the big-time college football world of power, fame and fortune that is totally unknown to most of us.  The young men who enter this program, wear the uniform, and drink from this fountain of success are in no way prepared to handle the privilege and responsibility that comes with being part of a successful college football program.

Operating under extreme pressure, 24 hour a day scouting, recruiting, planning, university appearances, fund raising, speaking engagements, preparing and coaching football we also expect our coaches to parent and police the activities of these testosterone-filled, recently independent and uniquely privileged young men on a campus surrounded by thousands of beautiful young women and party every day temptations.  It is an impossible task.  With all the responsibilities and expectations of our coaches it is certainly understandable to see how dismissing the many innocent mischievous events, looking the other way at a few general misconducts, and then working with authorities to downplay some criminal behavior can be rationalized, but leads down a path of destruction.  There is so much at stake.  First, the lives of the young women and others that are forever changed because of the poor choices of these young men.  Secondly, the efforts to recruit these young men, the talent that they possess, the personal relationships developed, the aspirations for their individual success and the tragic loss and impact to their future if they were dismissed from the program also weigh heavily on a coach.

The board of regents took the right action.  It was too late.  Evidently there was a pattern of concealing transgressions and looking the other way.  Had they admitted to the problem earlier, confronted the difficult decisions head-on and made the tough personal choices the fans, media and world would have had compassion on them, given them second and third chances to fix the problem.  It was too late.  Proverbs 28:13 tells us “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion”.  

We can all learn from this tragedy.  All of us are corrupted by small compromises.  All of us conceal transgressions.  We must recognize that these decisions and non-decisions will lead to destruction.  However, if we recognize our sin, confess this as sin and forsake it so as not to continue down this path we will receive compassion.  Compassion from our friends, family, co-workers, fans, media and even our God.  Remember 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Because of grace, we also all have the opportunity for redemption.  John 3;16 “16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His [a]only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

The situation we have created for our players, coaches and administrators in college football is an impossible situation.  It is impossible that the situation at Baylor does not happen every day in every major college program in the nation.  It is also too late for college football.  College athletics has forever changed from an athletic competition to an entertainment industry.  The loss of Art Briles symbolizes a much bigger loss –  a recognition of the loss of innocence for college athletics.

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We Are a Treasure Bearer

2 Timothy 1:14  "Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you."

2 Timothy 1:14 “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”

Imagine with me for a moment that you were on a trek deep in the mist-veiled Llanganates mountain range between the Andes and the Amazon.  You have heard the stories of this lost treasure of Inca gold and on your trek you have found this fabulous treasure of Inca gold and gems long-ago hidden from Spanish conquistadors.  You are overwhelmed with excitement about the find, the extreme riches that this will provide, and the blessings and gifts you can share with your family, friends and community.  You are making your way back home and recognize the great responsibility that comes with this treasure and realize the significant positive impact this can make on your world.  You are pregnant with anticipation and excitement to share this gift of unimaginable riches.

Have we forgotten? Do we not remember that we are children of the almighty God.  Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans 8:16-17 “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  As believers in Christ, we are fellow heirs with Christ and have a treasure far more valuable than Inca gold, a treasure of eternal life in the presence of our creator, redeemer and king.  We have a great responsibility that comes with bearing this treasure.  We realize the significant positive impact this treasure can have on our family, friends and community.  We bear the greatest gift one could offer and all we have to do is share this gift with others. 

Have you ever bought the perfect gift for someone?  A thoughtful gift that expressed your personality, filled a need, and would greatly please the person receiving the gift.  Can you recall the excitement and anticipation of watching them receive the gift?  One Christmas, I got my parents a gift certificate for a balloon ride.  They never would have guessed this gift and I could not wait for them to open it.  I attached a small basket to a balloon, put the gift certificate in the basket and wrapped it up in a box.  I knew it would be a life memory that they would have forever and enjoy the experience.  I think I received more enjoyment giving the gift than they did experiencing the gift and remember giving this gift decades later.

Brothers and sisters in Christ we bear this great treasure of inexpressible joy and eternal life to give.  Why does it seem so difficult to share this gift?  Is it simply a mindset or perspective where we do not recognize that the message of God’s love is such a great treasure and gift to share?  Do we think of it as a chore to share that may end up in rejection or worse, offensive?  I write this not because it comes easy to me, but that I must remind myself that I bear the greatest treasure ever given to man and it is my privilege to share this treasure with others.  The message is simple and the gift is truly amazing beyond all that we can think or imagine.  God loves us.  He chose the Jewish people and gave Moses a system that illustrates the high cost of sin in that blood needed to be shed through sacrifice to atone for our sins.  He then sent Jesus, His son, to shed His blood and be the ultimate sacrifice for sins.  That if we believe Jesus is God’s son and he was sacrificed for our sake, and raised from the dead then we are saved from our sins and judgement deserved from our choices. This gift was given not only to the Jews, but to all men of all nations and is not something that we can earn from doing right, but a gift if we simply believe.  It is not our burden to bear, but our treasure to share.  Remember that you have the greatest treasure ever given to mankind.  Maintain this perspective, be overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation again with the opportunity to give this gift to others.

The following is message given by Billy Graham ministries.

God loves you and has a plan for you!

The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” — a complete life full of purpose (John 10:10).

Man is sinful and separated from God.

We have all done, thought or said bad things, which the Bible calls “sin.” The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The result of sin is death, spiritual separation from God (Romans 6:23).

The good news?

God sent His Son to die for your sins!

Jesus died in our place so we could live with Him in eternity.

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

But it didn’t end with His death on the cross. He rose again and still lives!

Would you like to receive God’s forgiveness?

We can’t earn salvation; we are saved by God’s grace when we have faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. All you have to do is believe you are a sinner, that Christ died for your sins, and ask His forgiveness. Then turn from your sins—that’s called repentance. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you. What matters to Him is the attitude of your heart, your honesty. We suggest praying the following prayer to accept Christ as your Savior:

“Dear Lord Jesus,
I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness.
I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead.
I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior.
Guide my life and help me to do your will.
In your name, amen.”

Billy Graham Evangelistic Foundation

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Theology in Manufacturing

God CreatedYou might be thinking “Theology in Manufacturing”?  Where do you find God in manufacturing?  For some reason manufacturing lost its identity and image in the hearts and minds of America.  Somehow we decided that manufacturing was “yesterday’s jobs” that could be outsourced to other emerging countries who would take these dirty low-wage jobs and manufacturing was not worthy of remaining a part of the esteemed American economy.


USNS Bob Hope

Manufacturing is in my DNA.  My father worked for the big steel companies and I saw 4″ thick steel cable drag lines that he sold and were used in mining.  I heard about the navy ships and aircraft carriers that were built with precision weight steel that he sold to get top performance and speed.  I saw video of the launching of underwater structures taller than the empire state building for new oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.  During my career I had the privilege to work for manufacturers where we supplied components to OEM companies.  I participated first hand in the emergence, growth and eventual transfer of manufacturing to other countries first with Compaq Computer and then with Motorola and Nokia.  This was a fantastic time to live and experience the rapid growth and change in manufacturing and participate directly in the great technological advancement that radically changed our lives and culture.

Compaq Computer Manufacturing Lines Houston Texas

Compaq Computer Manufacturing Lines Houston Texas

I saw these companies build factories overseas, install the most modern equipment, train these emerging countries how to operate and hand over our manufacturing knowledge and experience.  First it was appliances, then computers, cell phones and then automotive.  I saw plants close and friends lose jobs or move to start a new life in Mexico or China.  I questioned whether I should leave manufacturing and start a new career in the service industry.  I tried that for a year as I sought to employ manufacturing techniques and operational metrics to the staffing industry.  During this year I had the chance to reflect and consider what I really wanted to do and decided I had to be involved in a career that made something.  I convinced myself that manufacturing was a noble career and there were niches that were relationship based, high value, service oriented and could be profitable and sustain growth in the United States.

The remainder of this article is my case for why manufacturing is a noble career and why I have chosen to put my God-given talents, finances, and energy to build a custom plastic injection molding company and why I founded the Gulf Coast Medical Device Manufacturers and Greater Houston Manufacturing Association to advance the image of manufacturing in Houston.  “Theology in Manufacturing” may seem a little extreme and is not making manufacturing a religion, but will reveal manufacturing as an honorable career that creates great value and is a worthy endeavor to apply your gifts and talents.

God introduces Himself as a manufacturer

Michaelangelo Creation of Adam

Michaelangelo Creation of Adam

How did God chose to introduce Himself to us?  Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God Created”. Choosing to introduce Himself as creator and describing the act of His Creation express the very essence of God and nature of Him.  The fact that He “spoke” creation into existence through His Word tell us of the mighty power of His Word.  Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the [a]worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.”

The incredible imagination and beauty of His creation is never ending.  The perfect order, balance and physical laws that cause the the universe to work in perfect harmony exhibit his careful planning, architecture and engineering.   The power, grandeur and immensity of His creation testify to His awesome power.  Psalms 8:1 “O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have [a]displayed Your splendor above the heavens!” Clearly the act of creation reflect the almighty glory of our God and He gives high value to creation.  

Psalms 8:3-9  “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?  Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!  You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

The final record in Gods creation was to create man in His image.  Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  We are created in the image of God.  When we participate in the act of creation we manufacture value and testify to the glory of our God.  Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”  Creation and Manufacturing can be a “calling” to bring glory to God through your work.  Regardless of the role you play in the manufacturing process you can glorify God in your work. Colossians 3:23-24  “23 Whatever you do, do your work [w]heartily, as for the Lord [x]rather than for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward [y]of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Manufacturing Expresses the Attributes of God 

Manufacturing encompasses the achievement of the entire creation process in human terms.  Manufacturing brings out the best attributes that God put in us and give us the privilege to reflect His glory back to Him when we participate in the act of creation.  Manufacturing comes to life in the process of working together to create a product.

Imagination  – The inspiration and power to dream of a new invention to improve our life or solve a problem.  The expanse of the universe, the diversity in the creatures that swim in the waters, fly in the air or crawl on the ground, the uniqueness of each individual testify to the unsearchable imagination of God.  He has given some the inspiration and talents to imagine a better world and create products to improve life.

Design and Engineering – Manufacturing includes the process of design and engineering to collect information, brainstorm ideas, modeling, testing, evaluating and improving on the idea.  I have lumped both of these disciplines together for simplicity as volumes of books have been written on the worth of these disciplines.  God reveals Himself and fills us with His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to participate in the creative act of design and engineering of products to bless us with enhanced quality of life.

Exodus 35:31-35 31 And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all [a]craftsmanship; 32 [b]to make designs for working in gold and in silver and in [c]bronze, 33 and in the cutting of stones for settings and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. 34 He also has put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with [d]skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in [e]blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs.

Planning and Organizing – Efficient manufacturing requires planning your materials, time and resources.  It requires ordering these resources in a way to maximize efficiency to eliminate wasted movement and loss of resource.  God instructs us commit our work to Him for His glory and if we follow His instruction we will prosper.

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 16:9 “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”

Colossians 3:23-2423 Whatever you do, do your work [w]heartily, as for the Lord [x]rather than for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward [y]of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”

Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.”

Leadership, Teamwork and Communication – Manufacturing requires Leadership, Teamwork and Communication.  Leadership is the ability to influence those around you.  Teamwork is the ability to accomplish more through the effort of a group and communication is the vehicle by which you accomplish both.  The Bible reveals God’s wisdom to us and provides many illustrations of leadership, teamwork and effective communication with men such as Moses, Joseph and David, but none more that Jesus.  No on has influenced the world more through leadership, teamwork and effective communication than Jesus and His disciples continue to this day to carry forward the “good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 . . . there has been born for you a Savior.”  No one has modeled leadership, teamwork and communication better than Jesus and if we follow his instruction we will prosper. 

Psalms 25:4-5 Make me know Your ways, O LordTeach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.

Deuteronomy 29:9 – “So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.”

Problem Solving – Those in manufacturing understand that working through problems is the path to eliminating waste and creating value.  We work to find truth as a means to solve these problems.  Understanding the issues and finding solutions requires wisdom and is worth pursuing.  Often the solution is what creates a competitive advantage and tremendous value to the organization when found.  Manufacturing allows us to draw on the wisdom God provides and return glory to him by following His truth.

Proverbs 2:2-4 “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, [a]Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures”

James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

Management – As leaders we seek God’s wisdom in finding truth and knowing what the right thing to do.  As managers we seek to apply discipline in training men to do things in the right way.  God’s word provides the wisdom and instruction on how to train and equip us to do this work.  The Holy Spirit, who lives in us, blesses us with characteristics to make our efforts effective and reflect God’s love to others.  When we reflect God’s wisdom in training men and manage by demonstrating the characteristics of the Holy Spirit we will be much more effective in building a productive team that respect each other and gives glory for their efforts back to God.

2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

John 13: 34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness,self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Analysis and Continuous Improvement – In manufacturing we establish a cycle of success by setting goals, measuring our performance, evaluating our progress, and setting new goals.  We seek to learn from our mistakes and become better from turning from our old ways and pursuing new goals.  I can’t help but see similarities in how the Holy Spirit works in us to recognize our own deficiencies and pursue improvement through the miracle of redemption given as a gift by God Himself and continuous practice to follow the right path by following God’s word.

Psalms 119:66 “Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments.”

Ephesians 1:7-8 – “In [a]Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He [b]lavished on [c]us.”

Psalms 119:9-11 – “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word. 10 With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments.  11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.”

Manufacturing is a noble and honorable profession where we share in the act of creation that creates high value and was uniquely inspired by God Himself.  Innovation and manufacturing are at the heart of the success of America and has created enormous advancement of prosperity and wealth for all nations who manufacture.  I believe you cannot separate manufacturing from innovation as innovation is birthed by solving problems through employing the processes involved in manufacturing.  Manufacturing in America is in a period of renaissance and the image of manufacturing is improving as we recognize the value and importance to our nation.  It is good to be a manufacturer and it is a great place to employ the unique gifts given to you by God to use for His glory.  Manufacturing requires and exercises the characteristics uniquely created by God in man and gives us the privilege to reflect His glory back to Him through our achievement.  I am proud to be a manufacturer and to know my creator better through participating in all of the manufacturing process.

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Big Sky Backpacking

Ben and Jeff in Bob Marshall Wilderness Montana

One of the great privileges a father has is to give his blessing to his son or daughter.  To memorialize the fact that your love for them is beyond circumstances or performance. To celebrate their practice of making good choices that follow the values that you have taught and modeled for them.  To recognize their transition from a boy to a man and the responsibility that comes with that transition.  To offer grace and encouragement for the times that they fail and the knowledge that you are there to help them anytime that is needed.  This is one of the great privileges of being a dad to your kids and I hope that I have communicated all of these truths consistently during their growing up.  I have planned for each child to carve out time to intentionally mark this event so that they will have a specific memory to point to that was the time that they were celebrated for the man or woman they have come to be.

Daniel shows us the way

Ben loves the outdoors and enjoys anything that involves exploration and engagement with nature.  To celebrate this occasion with Ben, I called my close college friend who pastors a church in Kalispell Montana and we planned a 3 day father son hike and fly fishing trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness National Park in Montana.  The weather was perfect and the scenery was spectacular.  The stars on a clear Montana night and the unspoiled wilderness testify of the God that loves us and created us for His glory.  Other than the game warden that arrived on horseback while we were fishing with licenses back in the car a 2 day hike in from the trailhead, we did not see another human.  We didn’t catch many fish, but that was not because the fish were not there.  The memories of hiking on blistered feet and bruised shoulders will fade and we will be left with an experience that we can share the rest of our lives.  What a privilege it was to me to introduce Ben to my friend Daniel and to share this time with our sons together.  I am proud of the man that Ben is becoming and look forward to being his father, friend, mentor and encourager in the decades to come.

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Boaz Demonstrates How to Develop High Performance Companies Through Culture, Leadership and Management

Ruth 2:4 "Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, "May the Lord be with you." And they said to him, "May the Lord bless you."

Ruth 2:4 “Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you.” And they said to him, “May the Lord bless you.”

Is it not so amazing how you can read the word of God many times and depending on your circumstances the spirit reveals something new and fresh that you have never seen before?  I was studying Ruth this week and was so impressed by this one verse.

Ruth 2:4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the Lord be with you” and they said to him, May the Lord bless you.” 

Such a simple verse that I would normally pass it by, but in my current situation I was impacted by the leadership demonstrated by Boaz and inspired to be different. I will highlight three evidences of the leadership style of Boaz that are foundation principles in every company and directly contributed to his great success.  These can also be applied to establishing and nurturing core values and harmony in your family.

Culture – The cornerstone of any company is their culture.  Culture is established and nurtured by the leader.  Notice the way that Boaz establishes and supports his culture by his greeting to his staff.  “May the Lord be with you.”  The greeting suggests that he sees great value in his relationship with the Lord and puts his own trust for his well-being and the well-being of his staff with the Lord.  Don’t miss the insight in the staff’s reply. “May the Lord Bless you.”  Not only does this acknowledge the trust in the Lord, but also supports the culture Boaz has established.  In our culture it so commonplace for the workers to be critical and cynical of management or ownership.  With Boaz’s staff they pray that Boaz would be blessed by the Lord.  As leaders in our organizations we need the prayer and support of our staff.

Leadership – The leader must not only internalize his vision and feelings, but must      actively verbalize his convictions to influence his team.  Boaz had conviction in his faith and trust in God.  He could have kept his faith to himself not wanting to offend those from other tribes or beliefs.  However Boaz verbalizes his convictions to his staff with encouragement and promotes the culture of trust in God and God’s involvement in our lives.  He was not proselytizing his staff, but was simply living out his faith and praying that the Lord be with his staff.  As leaders seeking to promote a culture in our organization it is our responsibility to speak our convictions and share our perspective.

Management –The story tells us that Boaz was a man of great wealth and owned the      field they were harvesting.  He could have been at the house and let the servants do the work, but he was in the fields with the workers.  He could have called his field supervisors to his office and give them instruction, but he went out to the field where the work was being done.  By going in the fields he could observe the situation, see how the reapers were reaping, he could hear directly from more people and be in a better position to make good decisions, and build good will with his servants by going out to them.  Popularized by management styles at Hewlett Packard and written about by Tom Peters, MBWA (Management By Walking Around) has been taught for decades as a way to build rapport by “wandering” around.  The idea is that random sampling of events and informal discussions facilitates improvements and morale.

List the actions you can take today to promote your culture, leadership and management of your business or family.

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Congratulations to Drew Applegate for Completing the Galveston 70.3 Ironman

1 Phillipians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

1 Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I have enjoyed training and participating in triathalons for many years and enjoy the challenge and the satisfaction in conquering something that seems too big to accomplish.  I believe endurance is developed by pushing on when everything tells you to quit.  Once you realize you can make it your confidence and ability to endure grows and you learn just how far you can push your body.  I appreciate anyone who even considers putting themselves in this position.  To aspire to tackle a big challenge that you know will push your body to the physical limit and will require you mentally overcome all the signals telling you to quit is a rare trait.  I am proud of Drew for not only aspiring to take on this difficult race, but committing to do it even though he had some injuries and lots of excuses that could make quitting easy.  He chose to take on the challenge and pushed himself beyond any distance that he completed in training.  A 70.3 Ironman involves swimming in open water 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and running 13.1 miles.  It requires planning, physical endurance, pacing, and most importantly mental toughness.  You have to plan out your fluid, energy, speed and most importantly talk yourself through the mental battles that compete in your head over the many hour race.  This was Drew’s first race and he finished!  The weather was “sketchy” and he was one of the only ones without a wetsuit.  He had suffered with an Achilles tendon injury that prevented him from running and we all were leaving an open door to back out.  He was determined not to back out and to finish.  The whole family spent the weekend in Galveston to cheer him on.  Congratulations to Drew Applegate for this big accomplishment.

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