Monday, January 13, 2014

Celebrating Our Best Year and Looking Forward to 2014

Carrie and I married nearly 13 years ago and immediately leaped into a life of ministry. As we have labored to live and share the ways, words, worth and works of Jesus with the world around us, we have seen lots of good times and a few rough patches as well. Without question, however, this past year has been our best one yet!

In the paragraphs that follow, we will offer snapshots of a few of the amazing and encouraging ways we saw God move in our midst this year. We invite you to share in our joy and to join us in giving thanks to our Father for His grace and blessing.

Jesus: Our Savior, Example, and Teacher

Peace Catalyst International exists to ignite a global movement of Jesus-centered peacemaking communities. To that end, Carrie and I are helping churches and believers embrace Jesus-centered peacemaking as a way of life, so that they are building bridges of friendship for the common good with those outside their fellowships. In this way, we want to challenge believers to take seriously all the ways, words, works, and worth of Jesus, believing that when we embrace all that He taught then OTHERS experience the blessings of the Kingdom of God and are drawn to Jesus and His teachings.

Blessing Our Community Group (BOCG)

In March, we led Fellowship of Christ Church in launching the BOCG, a group of Jesus-followers committed to learning to love all in the way of Jesus and learning to live for the peace and prosperity of our communities (Jer. 29:7).

Carrie with dear Muslim and Christian friends at a BOCG event

We host monthly training sessions and occasional Muslim-Christian events, all in an effort to help Jesus-followers build authentic friendships with Muslims and others and to love their new friends well. As a result of our work, Muslims and Christians are coming together—for play dates at the park with our children, for coffee meetings to talk deeply about life’s issues, for meals in one another’s homes, and for golf outings and hunting trips. Other highlights from the BOCG this year include:

Iftar Celebration in an Evangelical Church Facility:  In July, the BOCG led Fellowship of Christ in hosting a special iftar (Ramadan fast-breaking) gathering inside the church facility. We invited Palestinian and Turkish friends and asked them to teach us about Ramadan and Muslim food. At sunset, we honored our Muslim guests by serving them a feast that satisfied Muslim dietary laws. About 50 folks (Christians and Muslims) participated, and later one Turkish friend told me that it was his most meaningful iftar experience ever. In return, we joined our friends for other iftar gatherings both at the mosque and in their home.

The Breakfast Club: A close pastor friend is a key leader in the BOCG, and he decided to practice what he’s preaching by pursuing real friendship with some of the Muslim men he met at the iftar gatherings. This has evolved into a weekly Men’s Breakfast Club in which the pastor, one or two other Christians, and several Muslims gather in one of the Muslim homes to share a meal and to talk about marriage, family, and faith. This pastor loves these Muslim men, and they love him. It’s a beautiful thing to behold!

The Breakfast Club guys

Muslim-Christian Thanksgiving Feast:  The BOCG and Fellowship of Christ hosted a Muslim-Christian Thanksgiving Feast in mid-November. About 50 Muslims and Christians came together to give thanks to God for His provision and to share a potluck meal. My Muslim friends said it was a wonderful experience, and one Christian leader wrote that “it was the best Thanksgiving gathering for me thus far in my life.”

100 International Students for the Holiday: One great couple in the BOCG, both full-time engineers, invest their spare time loving international students. On Thanksgiving Day, they continued their long-standing practice of hosting about 100 international students for a festive celebration. Were it not for these Jesus-following engineers, many of the students would never see the inside of an American home. What an amazing gift to internationals who have nowhere to go for the holidays!

A Truck, A Retired Man, and Internationals in Need: Following the lead of our engineer friends, one kind-hearted senior in the BOCG decided he could use his time and his truck to help newly-arrived international students at the beginning of the semester. He spent many hours taking students to pick out and retrieve low-cost, second-hand furniture for their apartments. By the time it was all done, he had worn himself out in a very satisfying way and endeared himself to many international students.

Muslims, Christians, and White Elephants: In mid-December, four Muslim families (with roots in Palestine, Turkey, Thailand, and Kuwait) gathered in the Davis home for a light-hearted and festive Christmas party. We had a halal potluck meal, hot apple cider, a brief lesson on the real Saint Nicholas and why we give gifts at Christmas, and tons of fun with a White Elephant Gift Exchange! Just spending time with very dear friends was easily the best part, though! 

Muslim-Christian Christmas party at the Davis home

Afghanistan: A 19-Day Peacemaking Journey

In January, I traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, as the guest of an Islamic non-profit aiming to provide quality education for Afghan children in need. I trained about 30 teachers and administrators—offering a 15-day ESL seminar and sharing about Jesus-centered peacemaking.

Our Muslim friends in Kabul know that I am an Evangelical who wants all to join me in following Jesus. They also know my track record as an advocate for Muslims, and they invited me because they trust me.

Me with a kind-hearted Afghan friend—a former
jihadist turned educator and peace activist

For more, check out my Stories from Afghanistan blog series.

Indonesia—Three Wonderful Weeks

In September, I led two U.S. pastors on a journey to promote peace in the way of Jesus in three Indonesian cities.

In the first city, I gave a plenary talk to about 90 Muslim and Christian students in an event called “Students for Peaceful Change.” In the second city, the pastors and I led a four-day retreat for 11 expat Jesus-followers who are sharing the love of Christ through community development work. And in the third city, one of the pastors and I presented at an Islamic university, speaking about Jesus-centered peacemaking to about 120 students and faculty from the theology and philosophy departments.

This was a truly remarkable journey for us, as we visited old friends, made new ones, walked through unprecedented open doors, and saw a significant, ongoing Jesus movement. Key Muslim leaders invited us to return to teach in other Indonesian cities, as they believe our work with Muslims in the U.S. is a model for how Indonesian Muslims should treat Christian minorities in their midst.

Here's a three-minute video about our Indonesia 2013 journey:

Seminars, Teaching, and Coaching

Including my work in Indonesia and Afghanistan, I presented Jesus-centered peacemaking and lectured on the ways, words, worth, and work of Jesus in over 40 messages this year. In addition, I invested hundreds of hours in one-on-one and small-group coaching with pastors and imams and other leaders, with Muslim and Christian higher education professionals, with aspiring Christian and Muslim peacemakers, and with many others.

Me with PCI colleagues at a Raleigh Mosque event

Carrie’s New Role—Office Manager for PCI Raleigh

In addition to being an amazing wife and primary care-giver to our children, the lovely Carrie has assumed a formal, part-time role with Peace Catalyst International. She is serving as Office Manager for Peace Catalyst Raleigh. This is good for Carrie, as she can keep her administrative skills sharp. This is good for me, as I need an administrator to free me to focus more energy on what I do best—speaking, writing, coaching, and inspiring. And this will be good for our family’s bottom line—if we can raise the additional funds to pay Carrie’s  salary!

2014 Opportunities

We are dreaming big for 2014! In addition to our ongoing work, there are several notable items on the horizon. One, Neal Foster and I hope to publish our short book on
Loving Others in the Way of Jesus in the first quarter of 2014. Two, I am considering multiple international opportunities for 2014. Three, Arab friends have invited me to give an address in a North Carolina mosque—more details soon, hopefully.


So many of you, our dear friends, do so much to help us flourish in this ministry. You pray for us fervently. You participate passionately. You give generously. You encourage persistently. And we give thanks to God for you, your friendship, and your partnership in the Gospel. Thank you for loving us so much and so well and for helping us flourish in 2013! We have much love in our hearts for you.

Hoping in Jesus,
Thomas and Carrie

1 comment:

  1. What a great collection of meaningful events. I'd love to hear more in person some time. You are challenging me... In good ways. :)