Friday, March 3, 2017

The Origin of Our Bags

A simple Google search for Coffee Bag Totes will net you over a million results. There are thousands of people making and selling coffee bag totes, purses and messenger bags. So who should get credit for the origin of the idea to make tote bags and messengers? The first tote bag traces its origin back to 1900. This style was popularized in the 1940's. The messenger bag design was used throughout history in such famous ways as by Pony Express riders. It became popular in the US mainstream during the 1950's. All current variations of these styles of bags owe their inspiration to unknown designers that are long dead. They are what is know as public domain. No one can claim ownership or rights to their design.

What was the inspiration for our bag designs? Early in our journey we were approached by a coffee shop that asked us to start making bags for them. We were looking for a product that would help us empower and employ people. My wife is an accomplished seamstress, so she began to research design ideas. She developed a design that was unique in structure and assembly. She made it so that unskilled workers could take part in the production and gain skills as they learned. The new venture was up and running.

Over the last 8 years the design has been modified for improvements and efficiency. The bags we sell today are much different and much better quality than what we started with. We have added products as the venture grew. We now have a small messenger, 2 sizes of journals, wallets, clutches, and have made many custom items over the years.

The reuse of burlap coffee bean bags not only makes for a great unique gift idea but also helps to curb a huge waste problem. Thousands of empty coffee bean bags are thrown into landfills every week. We can only play a small part in the solution to this problem. I am excited to see so many people making bags and other products from old coffee bags and helping to reduce, reuse and recycle these products.

So with over a million search results making totes and messengers from old coffee bags, why should you buy ours? Our bag business has helped numerous single moms get a second chance. All of the proceeds go to our non-profit and are used to rebuild our community. Your purchase helps people in a very real way. With millions of bags hitting the landfills every year we encourage you to pick up some bags from your local roaster, look at what is being sold out there and start sewing.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Talents


In the beginning...God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

I think God had something big in mind when He created man. Mankind must be some kind of special thing, some unique part of creation. It is the only creature that is made in the image of the Maker. It is the only creature that was told to subdue the earth and rule.

The LORD God formed man of the dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed...The LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.

Man is the only creature that gets life breathed into it. And in this verse, man is given a job – to work in and guard the garden. We come to see that mankind has a very special relationship with the Creator. They walk together and talk together. They share this special garden. Man gets to name other parts of the creation. God does not relate to the oceans or cattle or mountains the same way He relates to mankind.

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.

King David is rightfully astounded at this realization. This is from Psalm 8, a psalm that follows 7 other psalms that wrestle with the idea of God rewarding righteous men and punishing evil men, and how that doesn't always seem apparent. How can this prized creation be both wicked and righteous? How can God allow for such inconsistent and destructive behavior?

Not only that, but we are told that mankind – this wonderful unique creation – is so important that God clothed Himself as one. He gave up His glorious throne and humbled Himself, to walk in flesh and blood, experience pain, loss, discomfort, and rejection, only to be ultimately abandoned, tortured, and killed – for man. For man who hated Him. So that we could come to know Him fully, truly, as we did in the beginning, when we shared a wonderful garden together.

One day, Jesus, this God-as-man, tells a strange story. It is popularly known as the “Parable of the Talents.”
The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a trip. He called together his servants and gave them money to invest for him while he was gone. He gave five bags of gold to one, two bags of gold to another, and one bag of gold to the last – dividing it in proportion to their abilities – and then left on his trip. The servant who received the five bags of gold began immediately to invest the money and soon doubled it. The servant with two bags of gold also went right to work and doubled the money. But the servant who received the one bag of gold dug a hole in the ground and hid the master's money for safekeeping.

Jesus goes on to describe the master's return and how he responds to the servants. The servant with one bag of gold says, “Sir, I know you are a hard man, harvesting crops you didn't plant and gathering crops you didn't cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth and here it is.” Funny that he uses cultivation, mankind's job, to accuse his master of taking things that weren't his, while defending himself of neglecting to cultivate the master's riches that were given to him. I don't think burying the money in the ground like a seed was going to achieve the growth the master was looking for.

Rightfully so, the master turns the insult back around on the lazy servant and then says, “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.” And the servant is thrown out into the darkness.

God created mankind in a unique way. We were made to resemble our maker, and filled with His breath; Jesus made the way for us to be filled with His very Spirit. We were commanded to rule over this world and the creatures in it. We are to use well what we are given. We are capable of remarkable acts of wickedness and breathtaking acts of righteousness. Mankind has immense power, authority, and responsibility given to them by their Creator. We have the ability to crumble mountains, to wage wars, to create ghettos, to cheat workers, to destroy millions of lives. We have the ability to save lives, to invent medicines, to care for the poor, to comfort the hurting, to build homes. We can create desolation, or go and repair desolation. We can cultivate the garden, or we can poison it and burn it down. We can use well what we've been given, or we can bury it in the dirt and neglect our God-given ability to increase the Master's riches.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mission Trips


Sun Ministries is rewriting the book on urban ministry. We are setting a new paradigm that will impact the way the church lives and works in the USA. We are looking for like-minded people that feel called to minister in the most devastated and hurting areas of our country.


Sun Ministries is now booking mission trips for Summer 2017. We are working in the Hyde Park neighborhood of north St. Louis, MO, ministering in a way we call “Pastoring the Community.” We are creating businesses, rehabbing housing, and taking care of the neighborhood in a variety of ways. In addition to work projects, our mission trips will also include teaching and training on ministering in the inner city. Our missionaries will provide testimonies, songs, and stories, along with teaching on being the Church and walking in faith outside of buildings and structures. We are welcoming people who know the Lord and want to use their skills to rebuild the ancient ruins and their spiritual gifts to rebuild destroyed lives, as outlined in Isaiah 61:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”

The Details
We are booking groups for the following weeks:
May 21-27
June 4-10
June 18-24
July 16-27
August 6-12

Ages 18 and up are welcome. Due to space limitations and the nature of the work we'll be doing, children are not allowed. Volunteers do not need to be part of any sort of organization. All skill sets are welcome-- we have plenty of general labor, as well as projects for mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, artists, etc.

walking and talking. giving some context for the work.

Sun Ministries will house volunteers in our Leadership Center and provide meals through our Sun Cafe. Volunteers will arrive on Sunday, and dinner will be provided. We will provide 3 meals each day of the work week. Most days will be a mix of working and teaching, with free time scheduled in. Volunteers will leave Saturday, after breakfast. You are welcome to bring additional snacks and drinks (no alcohol).


Tools and safety gear will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own safety gear (please leave your personal tools at home; we don't want them lost or damaged). Sturdy, closed-toe shoes are recommended. Come prepared to work outside in the heat (water bottles, hats, etc).

Costs
Sun Ministries will supply lodging and all meals for the trip.

Meals: $115 per person for food (total of 17 meals, and endless supplies of coffee)
Lodging: Lodging cost varies depending on how much personal space you want on your trip. We have several rooms in our Leadership Center and other options for lodging.
2 to a room - $75 per person
3 to a room - $60 per person
4 (or more) to a room - $50 per person

Sun Ministries might be hosting multiple groups and individuals in the same week. The largest single group we can accommodate is 12. The smallest is one (but the individual will share a room).

If you are interested, please contact Jason Calahan at 314-437-3861 or jason@sunministries.org

To learn more about Sun Ministries and our work, please look over our website and blog. You can also download our podcast, The ResistanceRadio Show.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Focus

We have talked a lot about vision in our blog. It is essential to what we do. It is the “why behind the what,” as some people have said. It establishes our core values and directs all our decisions. It affects everything from how we run a business to how we interact with the homeless guy on the street.

So it's very important for vision to be clear. So what happens when you lose focus? Does the vision get blurry?

Ask any one of us, and we will likely agree that this past year has been rough. Our businesses have suffered, our health has suffered, we've had attacks on property and have lost much of our staff. In the midst of all that, we are still trying to run 6 businesses and keep the lights on in the middle of one of the most desolate areas of our city.

God started trying to get our attention about 6 months ago. He generally begins with restlessness – with a sense that something isn't quite right. Initially, we usually chalk that up to a failure to perform. Maybe there's just too much chaos with our employees, maybe we didn't plan well enough, maybe we need to manage better, maybe we forgot too much. But God kept applying pressure. Business would not turn around. Our personal interactions involved more friction. Our worship gatherings became lifeless.

As we became more aware something was wrong, we became more willing to listen to God's direction. He began to tell us that we had lost our focus. At first, it was the focus on spiritual warfare. So He turned our eyes back to the real spiritual battle that we are in every day, and the fact that we must be engaging it with great intentionality. And not just on our own, but together as a Body, as a united group of soldiers following one Lord into battle.

Through this, God was able to turn our eyes to other concerns. We had tried to escape the burden of constant physical tasks. Which is absurd, since God called us to start businesses so we could work next to those in need of hope. So He started showing us how to manage better and how to minister better in a work environment. Then He showed us that we had lost our first love – the making of disciples.

All the work of Sun Ministries began with a call to go outside the structured American church and make disciples that make disciples; to obey the Great Commission and set captives free. But this wasn't a call to add members to a church. This was a call to obey our Lord Jesus Christ, to walk in the same manner He did, to disciple people because that is God's design of reproduction. That's how He wants His church to bring transformation to others. It is a very costly form of relationship, but one that also creates life-giving environments. This seems to be God's pattern. “Give up everything so I can give you life more abundant.” We often fail to see how all the things we hold on to are small, temporal, and meaningless. The holy things of God are immense, eternal, and full of real goodness. Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Jesus will find it.

So what does disciple-making have to do with running a cafe in north city? Nothing, if your goal is to run a cafe in north city. But EVERYTHING if your goal is to bring any amount of lasting transformation. And this goes for anyone, whether they are a middle class college kid raised in the church, or a fifty-year-old homeless man who hasn't had a license in 15 years. God was intentional of His design for the church, and from the very beginning, Jesus was calling disciples. He then instructed His disciples to make disciples. And we see this play out in the midst of a church that was sharing all things, mourning and rejoicing together, and utilizing spiritual gifts together in order to build up the body in love.

Man has looked for many solutions to pain and evil. Conquest, Pax Romana, genocide, large-scale behavior modification, social welfare, education, fascism, socialism, communism, democracy, legislation, amendments, and a cornucopia of non-profit organizations. Though well-intentioned, these often disregard God's design for His creation. So what does this mean for us? Providing a job does not change a person's heart. Providing a space to live does not destroy the works of satan in their lives. Picking up trash, rehabbing houses, and publishing blogs does not transform areas long bound by oppression. And if you're just focused on trying to alleviate the chaos around you, you will do little to reform the church.

Discipleship is God's creation, His people, these little image bearers, taking the gifts they've been given and using them to help others come to know the Good Shepherd. It is laying down your life for your brother. Discipleship isn't a sunday school class, or a seminar, or weekend retreat. It is a way of life that unites you with others through the Spirit, and leads people to the goal of becoming Spirit-transformed followers of Christ.

Are you making a place for this in your life? Keep in mind that you are not meant to be alone. The Body needs to make a place for the “least of these”, to build each other up so that we can be united in the mission to make disciples and teach them what Christ has taught us.

As we move forward in 2017, we will be intentional to remain focused on the vision – to bring Good News to the afflicted, to share with them the good things the Father has given us, and to teach our disciples to obey Jesus and go and make disciples of their own.

-----------------------------------


If you'd like to know more about making disciples, you can download our free book (or order a physical copy), “The Disciple-Maker's Handbook” here.