Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Never Met Jesus…

Sounds like an odd confession coming from this disciple, pastor, missionary guy, but stay with me….

The lady is an amazing woman who has affected my life in profound ways. I have watched her and learned from her. She has molded me and shaped me in many ways. I listened to her as she told stories, as she conversed with others, as she spoke in gentle whispers and in those rare occasions when deep anger rose to the surface. I followed her at times through great crowds of people…and sat near her around tables, on beaches and in cars. Her songs lulled me sleep…her voice called me to life in the mornings. However, the curious thing is that I never ‘met’ this woman—Mom was just always there.

Having grown up in the Church and in a Christian home, Jesus was just always there. From the Bible stories that my parents read to me at night…to the prayers around the table at meal-times…to the Bibles that seemed to form a part of my parents’ accoutrements—Jesus was just always there, simply part of the very fabric of life.

You should know, however, that the relationship has been in constant flux…both with Jesus and with my Mom. I have grown to know and love my Mom more deeply through the years. In my earliest years (especially those that I have no recollection of!), Mom was there caring for me, meeting all my needs…and I did take her for granted. But, as I grew older, as I matured and began to see the reality of life, I saw that Mom worked very hard cleaning, washing, cooking, taxiing, lobbying…all on my behalf. Now that I am a parent—Wow!—my estimation of my mother has grown even more. I now know not only the joys of parenthood but also the profound pains of parenting…and that gives me even more insight and appreciation for my Mom.

In the very same way, my knowledge of, my appreciation for, my love for Jesus has grown as I have come to know Him in a deeper and deeper way. While there is no time that I never knew Him, I clearly remember when our relationship took decided leaps—in 1972 when I began to understand what His act on the cross meant for me…and I followed in baptism at Central Baptist Church in Georgetown, Guyana; in 1976 when I began to see the scope of God’s immeasurability while sitting on a hill overlooking Mosquito Bay in Grenada, West Indies; in 1983 when the Fatherhood of God stepped in to fill the void left by the death of my father when we lived in Decatur, Georgia; in 1985 when I determined that I, too, wanted to be a real disciple of His as college student at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia; in 1989 when I experienced the very real presence of the Spirit of Jesus in my life in the midst, believe it or not, of a very dry, boring “evangelistic” service in Louisville, Kentucky; in 1992 when I sensed a call to join Jesus in ministering in the Church after joining Mt. Pleasant UMC while teaching in Cleveland, Georgia; in 2004 when my wife and I both heard the “call” to step out in faith to live and serve in missions after having served with the amazing people of Coosa UMC in Blairsville, Georgia. As with any living relationship, mine with Jesus has grown closer and deeper through the years.

Someone not raised in the Church or in a Christian family may arrive at any or all of these points in one fell swoop…and have that “conversion experience.” I imagine and have heard from many that it is an amazing, completely life-changing, joyfully shocking experience. Those, perhaps, cannot imagine coming to Jesus any other way…in the same way I cannot imagine what it would be like not to have always known Him. The Good News is that Jesus doesn’t really care how or when we come to know Him—it only matters that we know Him, whether we meet Him as a Stranger on the way…or whether we grow up and into a life-long relationship with Him. All I can say is…thank you, Mom and Dad, for making sure that I always knew Him, for making Him a bright thread in the fabric of our lives.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Madea: A New Discovery for a Late Arrival…

One of the “cool” things about living outside the US for so long is that I now return and so much is new to me. In the daily wanderings of life, I happen upon things that have long become “old news” for the culture-at-large…but are delightfully new and exciting for this boy.

Okay, so she’s a little crude…and the humor sometimes a little “off color” (so to speak!)…but the message and impact astound. In fact, I’ve only had two of these experiences so far, but each time I was brought to tears—quite literally—as I watched the stories unfold. Sometimes they were tears of laughter…at other times tears of emotions that welled up from within. I have to say, Madea is…”the bomb!”


Tyler Perry has created an amazing character. Rather, he has created an amazing slate of characters in his Medea movies. Of course, Medea is that delightful “Big Mama”-esque figure (the character brought to life in Martin Lawrence’s hit movies)…but she is deeper and more than Big Mama. She is hard, harsh, in your face…and in that key moment, she says just the thing that her family and friends around her need to hear. She is strong…and she has purpose…and she is no-nonsense. And, she keeps me laughing until I cry.


However, the Madea movies are far more than Madea. They are stories about relationships, cultural situations, ethics, family structures, social ills…and faith. We are confronted with love…and abuse, caring parents and children…and neglect. We see men and women who chose the ethical path…and the scoundrels who cast morals and ethics to the wind. And, we find faith…deep, sincere, painfully honest faith. We don’t find a sugar-coated “Jesus loves me” faith…we find that faith that “lifts me out the pit and sets my feet upon a rock” faith. We don’t find a white-washed Jesus of the Protestant work ethic who resides in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood…we find a Jesus who walks the hard streets of Atlanta, that trods through the power-hungry board-rooms and power-abused court-rooms…and then sits in the kitchen of the poor and outcast.

Far too often, when we see “faith” films they are cheesy…painfully and boringly predictable. In Madea we find real people, in real situations, interacting in the messiness of life…yet, holding on to faith that really and truly guides their actions and forms their personality and being. Oh, it’s still film…so it’s not real-real…but Perry manages to portray people—really bring them to life—in a way that I’ve not seen before in American media.

Now, of course, I’m going to be a bit partial to the films also because they are set in my American home-state of Georgia. After attending high school in Dekalb County…running the streets of greater-Atlanta—going to the Fox…enjoying bagels in Little Five Points…spending afternoons at Piedmont Park…and all the others things in that great city—I love seeing all those places in my memories in the background and infused in the conversations of the Madea films. They’re a joy.

And the real proof of these films?? As the film comes to a close, after seeing the family-ties, the impact of history—recent and not-so-recent, the sense of belonging, the profound interplay of life and faith…after all of that, I find myself wishing I were Black….

Thank you, Tyler Perry, for these amazing films…and may you continue to impact lives beyond your imagination as you share these stories of family, hope, forgiveness and faith.

Friday, September 2, 2011

E-Update August 2011…



Life on the Edge...

E-Update—August 2011

Jon & Jeanne Herrin

Jesse, Megan and Andrew

US/Mexico Border - McAllen, Texas



Some of you are hearing from us after a very long time...some for the first time! Well, it goes like this...Jon was cleaning up the 'address book' for our e-mail addresses...and, suddenly, all the addresses were gone. Stuff like that ever happen to you?? We're guessing it was that invisible creature that lives in our machine that did it. Anyway, we've pulled all our old address books from CD-backups, pen-drives and old files...and just put them all together in the address book. That means, some of you are receiving double dippin's...some of you who asked to be removed are back on again (just reply with "remove" in the subject line!)...and some of you are getting this who may have never seen one of our e-updates before in your life!! In any case, here's hoping that all of you receive this note with grace at the very least...and thanksgiving at the most! Feel free to forward it...and others can be added by replying with "add me!" in the subject line.



We are settling into our new lives here in McAllen, Texas, (a metro area of 700,000+, 90% Latino, on the border of Mexico) as well as can be expected. After some initial culture-shock and other forms of befuddlement, we are getting our feet on the ground and our lives in order...and in gear.

Of course, this new chapter of life and ministry comes after three years of service in Venezuela and then three more years in the city of Monterrey, Mexico, where we served and ministered through the John Wesley Methodist Seminary and the Laurens Institute. In both settings, we had the amazing and life-shaping opportunity to be a part of the formation of young men and women. And, we must add that YOU, too, had a great part in this ministry through your gifts and prayers. Thank you so much for partnering with us in this ministry that seeks to shape and transform lives through God's Good News.

On this side of the border, the ministry and service continues! We continue to find our way as God reveals the way. As we will relate below, ministry continues through church planting, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, on-going ministries in Monterrey and far-reaching ministries in Venezuela, Honduras and beyond!



Jon has already found an outlet through education by which he will be able to continue his ministry of teaching--of equipping and encouraging young men and women from all walks of life. Jon has accepted a teaching position at the local community college where he will be working with academically disadvantaged young people, helping them develop the skills, abilities and confidence to enter college-level studies. This is right up Jon's alley as he generously uses his gifts of teaching and encouragement in this setting.

Jeanne is opting to stay at home for this first academic semester back in the US. Jon and the kiddos need someone 'at their back' to keep all the wheels rolling smoothly as they go out in the world each day. However, Jeanne is not one to be tied down! She is already making friends and doing things with those new friends--the older lady who lives next door, a old friend from long ago found and re-united, spouses of other teachers at the college. In the two months we have been here, she has already opened our home to receive four families from Monterrey. Three of those families spent a few days with us and enjoyed her wonderful hospitality. Yes, while she cares for everyone in the home, she continues to reach out and into the lives of others.



Jesse now lives in Austin, Texas, where she studies to become a teacher. She is attending college full-time--in her second year now!--and is working 35 hours a week as well! This girl doesn't slow down. She presses on ahead with all her energy. We are so proud of her in her studies and work. Please pray that she is able to maintain that energy and excellence in her studies...and that she is able to find the right community of faith where she will find friends who will support her through the tough college years.

Megan begins studies at the community college this coming week!! Yes, as a home-schooler in her senior year, she is able to attend the college through the dual-enrollment program. So, Megan is excited to move steadily towards her dream of studying nursing. When she graduates from high-school next year, she will already have close to a year of college under her belt--Go, Meg!

In addition to her studies, Megan has become involved with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship--a ministry that reaches out particularly to college students, providing a place to grow in the faith and teaching students how to live and share their faith. Meg looks forward to continued involvement in this wonderful organization.

Andrew has begun high school!! For the first time since 1st grade, Andrew is back in American school...and loving it! He is taking courses like pre-AP Math, Spanish II for Native Speakers (of course!), English, Technology and other classes. With one week behind him, he is confident that this is going to be a really good semester. And, he was able to play basketball in the summer league through the local Boys Clubs. Energy unbounded! Go, Andrew, go!



Besides Jon's teaching, Jeanne's home and community service, the children's schooling, we find ourselves drawn to a new church plant here in the Rio Grande Valley. We have not yet been with them long enough to know if this is indeed the place for us, but we continue to fellowship with this wonderful, passionate group of folks who are striving the live the faith...and help others do the same. We'll let you know how this story unfolds in the days to come...but do pray for us as we strive to find the right place for us.

We also continue in ministry in Monterrey providing human and material resources for the seminary and the institute. We have already delivered over 2,000 books to the institute for their reading corner!, and are they happy! We go back in September to meet with the administration to see how we can continue to help these wonderful teachers and children to grow in their love for reading. At the seminary, Jon has been invited to teach a week-long course...and the Bethlehem Church in Dothan, AL, just provided a gift of bilingual New Testaments to be shared with seminary students and student teachers! So, the ministry in Monterrey will continue.

Finally, we have received invitations to go and teach in both Venezuela and Honduras in the coming year!! Now that we have come out of Monterrey, it seems that God is opening doors of opportunity--albeit 'short-term!'--into new places. In effect, God is increasing our borders...even when we thought we were shrinking our scope of ministry! God is good...all the time!



Aug. 29th -- Jon begins teaching classes for the community college for under-prepared students.

Sept. 3-4 -- Jon, Jeanne, Megan and Andrew get to go north to spend two days with Jesse!!!!

Sept.23-25th -- Herrin Family will be in Santiago de Nuevo Leon, Mexico, for a church retreat.

Oct. 7-9 -- Herrin Family will be in San Pedro de la Garza, Mexico, for a drama presentation (tentative)

Nov. 24 -- Honduran missionary families serving in Monterrey gather at the Herrin House for an American Thanksgiving celebration--five families, some 30+ people!! (Pray for us!!! ha,ha!!!)



--We give thanks and praise for God's provision of our needs.

--We are so grateful for all your prayers and your gifts....

--Pray for all of us as we continue to adjust and get accustomed to life on the border, "life on the edge!"

--Pray for our children as they study...and as they live lives of example before their peers.

--Pray for our family as we strive to minister as a family, as we form life-changing relationships in the community.

...and we pray for all of you in North America and all you are going through in this time of uncertainty in the midst of roller-coaster financial happenings.


As always, we are so grateful for your love, your prayers, your mission-heart, your faith, your support, your encouragement...your being faithful to the call of God in your lives.  Please stay in touch...and we shall do the same!

With much love and great thanksgiving...

Jon, Jeanne, Jesse, Megan and Andrew

You can extend your love and ministry through us to the Rio Grande Valley, to Mexico and beyond through a one-time gift, occasional gifts or an extended partnership:

The Mission Society

P.O. Box 922637

Norcross, GA 30010-2637

Designate gifts:  Herrin Support 5/290