December 2010

A Gift of Words
By John Ashmen

Last month, via a group email blast, our office sent a simple, succinct Thanksgiving greeting to all AGRM members. Frankly, knowing how busy you all are during the holidays, I didn’t expect any responses.

But within 15 minutes of hitting send we had 15 replies. Within 30 minutes there were 40 responses—and they continued to come in all day long.

Here are a few samples (with names removed):

  • I know that email was sent to many people but it touched my heart today as I am frantically getting the mission ready for Thanksgiving and my family ready for our daughter's wedding this weekend. Thank you for praying for all of us and reminding me where my focus needs to be—on Jesus.
  • I had just returned from a hectic morning and a quick lunch at our [mission’s] kitchen and received your very timely and encouraging email.…I appreciate your words and thoughts and already sense God's provision of the patience for which you prayed.
  • Thank you for thinking of us. We appreciate who you are and what you do for us. We realize that you accomplish much for us that we don’t even know about. May God grant you a very fulfilling Thanksgiving season!
  • John, this is probably one of the nicest emails I have ever received. You understand, you’re praying for us, and you’re telling our story.  We are thankful for you and your team as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m not the mushy type, but I was deeply touched by the numerous unexpected answers. It was a good reminder of how we all need to hear that we are appreciated.

Rescue mission leaders are the first to say, “We are not doing this for the praise of men.” And I believe that. But Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to encourage one another and build each other up. The apostle believed that encouragement was crucial to success and one of the best ways to express Christ’s love. And this theme is found more than 80 times throughout the New Testament letters.

What if in this season of giving each of us gave the gift of encouragement to two fellow AGRM CEOs? What if we each stop what we are doing and take five minutes to email two brief messages? No wrapping paper, tape, or bows needed.

I’ll start and even let you in on my two. (Nobody has to read the two that you send other than the recipients.) Mine will go from coast to coast.

To: Michelle (and Ken) Porter
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Judi and I are inspired by your pioneering spirit. You left the very successful work you started in the prairies of Canada—and positions of esteem in Saskatchewan’s capital city—to move to the rock-bound coast of the Maritimes where you had no friends, only the vision of a new mission. I’ve toured your ministry in Regina and was struck by how much can be accomplished with simple humility and open arms. We admire your great optimism, excellent communication skills, and contagious enthusiasm. I believe exciting things are ahead. Our verse for you is Jeremiah 29:11. Know that you are appreciated.

To: Herb (and Carol) Johnson
San Diego, California

What I appreciate most about you is your transparency and vulnerability. You have one of the biggest challenges I know of in regard to your property—and it wasn’t an easy year for you. Yet every time we connect you still talk about the light you see up ahead. You are an extremely skilled administrator. If you paid them attention, corporate headhunters would circle you like moths do a flame. But your commitment to Christ keeps you focused. I still remember your going back to your house to get a pair of reading glasses for the lady who came to your mission with broken lenses and couldn’t see. My verse for you is Job 23:10. You are the real deal.

Now it’s your turn. Pass it on. Go surprise two AGRM leaders this week with your gift of words; consider people who are not likely to hear from someone. (You can even encourage three people if you want. We’re not counting.) Call us if you need somebody’s email address.

An uplifting note is
truly a gift that will keep on giving; you will motivate and encourage people whose countenance and attitude will rub off on the many they serve during this busy time of year.
  leaders are readers  

Here are my two book recommendations for this month. Think about adding these to your library.

Who Stole My Church? What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century  (Thomas Nelson, 2007)
Pastor and author Gordon MacDonald gives what I think is the most comprehensive analysis of the sweeping changes that have taken place on the North American church scene during the past 20 years. This book will keep you engaged as MacDonald writes it the format of a novel. If you work with churches—and who of us doesn’t—this a must-read, particularly if you are from the East or the South.

Snow (Bethany House, 1998)
Speaking of novels, here is a fun little Christmastime read by my favorite author, Calvin Miller. Set in a 1929 Pennsylvania blizzard, it’s the story of poverty, loss, love, and reunion. The cover teaser copy is: The slate skies on a winter’s eve gave no hint of the miracles to come. Find a copy and read two chapters a night to your family this coming Christmas week. has both new and used copies.


In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve switched things up this year. The convention early bird discount is only available until December 15—and only online. So if you want the biggest savings on convention fees, you need to act fast. That is one week away! Look through our digital brochure for details about the May 22–25 event, and register online to get the early bird discount.

Also one week away is the deadline to vote for district officers and board representatives. You should have received an email from Crystal Davidson with your ballot. If not, connect with her via email. This year, members in the Northwest, North Central, and Northeast districts are electing cabinet officers, a board representative, and an at-large board member. Members in all other districts are only electing the at-large board member.


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