Wednesday, June 5, 2013

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June 2013

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise."
-Isaiah 43:18-20

Greetings in the name of Jesus,

My wife and I went to a college where graduation was called Commencement. This past weekend here at His Mansion, during the graduation charge, Todd Battles, Director of Counseling and Christian Formation, spoke again of commencement. This concept that graduation, although a joyful, exciting celebration of 12 months of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, and the process of rebuilding the hearts, minds, wills and lives of our residents, is more significantly the beginning of something even greater, because of Someone greater.

Men and women come to His Mansion broken and desperate. It often takes hitting "rock bottom" for one to even consider the notion of entering a year-long residential recovery program. Five days after graduation, eleven men and six women entered our community in need of healing and with more than a hint of fear and skepticism, yet they came nonetheless seeking hope. The deep need and desire of each is healing from addiction, wounds of the heart and soul, fractured relationships, emotional pain and often acknowledging a bankrupt faith or spirituality.

What these men and women become physically a part of and slowly but surely embedded in, is a Christ-centered healing community. What does that entail? That means that we, both residents and staff, live in close proximity to each other. In some cases that distance is the four feet between a top bunk and a bottom bunk in the dorm but no farther apart than 400 yards, the distance between the two furthest staff dwellings. We partake in table fellowship together three times a day and learn what healthy conversations between sisters and brothers can be like. We work together tending our plot of land and all that resides on it, the buildings, the animals, the plants, the woods and our homes. We also tend to each other in classes and counseling, both individually and in groups. In the office, we tend to the needs of visitors, work groups, prospective residents and staff. We also tend to the financial, relational and logistical aspects of every person in the His Mansion family. All that said, the heart of what we do and why we do it is rooted in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We see this beautiful, messy, integrated community as laboring in vain if the Triune God isn't at the center and the living Word as our holy, loving guide.

We desire your prayers for all the concluding and commencing that is happening in this season. We desire that the name of Jesus Christ might be on our lips and He would be meeting us in our hearts as we do the daily work of the Gospel in a community of persons at His Mansion Ministries.

It was with great joy and praise to our Lord for the work that He has begun, that we recently celebrated the graduation of 2 women and 4 men from the His Mansion program. During the ceremony, each graduate testified to the transformative work of Jesus that they experienced in the last year. This will serve as the foundation from which they will launch and begin their life beyond the structure of the His Mansion community. Several of these graduates will soon return to the hill to serve in a very different role. They will enter the Servant Leader program, a transitional program designed to offer guidance and growth and develop maturity while on the path to serving as a Mentor.

The words shared during one particular testimony have continued to remain with me as I was deeply encouraged by God's love as it was experienced by this graduate. I hope that as you read these words that were shared on graduation day, you too are not only touched by them but left feeling awestruck at what our great God can and will redeem us from as He offers a new life and a new beginning only found in Jesus Christ.

In May of 2012, I arrived at His Mansion with multiple problems, in hopes of somehow finding resolve...I was convinced no one could help me, and the idea of being a loner or independent became a comfortable place. There, no one could hurt me, but no one could help me either. I had closed the depth of myself off to everyone. Yet God was still able to penetrate the barriers I had put up, and it was in that place of isolation where he met me and rescued me.

Slowly but surely, God taught me that community was part of his form of healing. I couldn't imagine how being around thirty-plus other men all the time would ever bring about healing, but it has certainly been a part of it. As time here has progressed, I have come to see that it is not the men around me, but it is God in the men around me, and as I have been able to learn to trust them more with what they say about my life, I am also learning to trust in God...

Through the year here, I often wrote in my journals about an impenetrable darkness that dwelled deep inside the core of my being. I felt it, and I couldn't get rid of it. I thought it was a permanent fixture of who I was. It was ever pulling me away from following God and ever resisting all of the good I was doing through prayer, reading the Bible, and living honestly with others. Yet somewhere back in January, right around the same time that I was able to have the conversation with my dad, and right around the time when we were breaking soul ties in our Phase II Inner Healing class, I was searching my heart in prayer, and I found that the impenetrable darkness of shame was conspicuously missing. I had no explanation for it, and I finally understood that God had done a quiet miracle in me one day and was waiting for me to discover it. Praise the Lord! In its absence, I feel incredibly unburdened and equipped with an ability to follow God. I am thankful and know that if God can extricate this driving evil that was in the core of my being, he gives me hope to believe in him to do other things that I would normally think are impossible; it's only a matter of time and waiting.

With this hope, God has given me an endurance I have never known before to continue to practice all of the ways in which he is teaching me to live. The layers are still coming off. God is showing me new and often difficult things about myself, like what has gone wrong, and what I need to do to allow him to fix it. Often, I have heard these different depths of healing in my life compared to an onion peeling back its many stinky layers, but I like to look at it like a blooming rose, ever opening more and more layers of petals, ever increasing in beauty. This is a work of the Lord, and only a small example of what he's doing within all the people on this hill, and in the body of Christ around the world. I give him praise for this journey upon which he has started me, and I look forward to seeing and being a part of how he will continue it.

June marks the arrival of our summer Practicum students from all around the country. During their eight weeks at His Mansion, the Lord will take them on a journey that will deeply impact their spiritual, educational and vocational growth. I have asked Dave McHale, His Mansion Institute Program Supervisor (and also a past Practicum student himself) to share about the unique nature of this opportunity and experience.

Imagine a professional baseball player in training who reads books on how to swing a bat, watches videos, observes others at batting practice, studies the physics behind a good swing (bat speed, swing angle, etc.), but has never actually picked up a bat himself and swung it. How good of a hitter is he going to be? How confident will he be when he stands in the batter's box for the first time, facing a 95 MPH pitcher, having never actually swung the piece of wood he holds in his hands?

Most people will agree that education, study, and preparation are good (and necessary). However, knowledge without experience and action yields little in the long run. In the same way, a person who learns and studies much about the topics of psychology, Christian formation, education, and counseling, is well-prepared, yet will be for the most part ineffective unless they put into practice what they have learned.

And for this reason, at His Mansion, we welcome students from all over the country to serve with us for the summer in our Practicum. Practicum students get opportunities to serve on the ground in ministry, allowing them to learn what it looks like to take that which has been learned and studied in the classroom and put it into practice. The practicum provides a platform for practical ministry experience, as well as helps some discern if they are called into one of the helping professions.

Students are encouraged to wrestle through questions that naturally arise in an environment like His Mansion such as "Where and how is God at work in situations of profound suffering?", "How do I walk alongside a person who is struggling with an addiction I have never experienced?" and "How do I love and have compassion for a person who is so difficult?"

We will be welcoming eight new practicum students to our community on June 8th to serve for eight weeks. They will be participating in our June Healing in the Context of Community course, after which they will begin serving in a similar capacity to that of a mentor. Please join us in praying that the Lord would work in their hearts and in the hearts of those they will serve. Pray that the Lord would not only teach them to love, but also that He might show them more of the glory of His love for each of them in Jesus through their time at His Mansion.

Although the first official day of summer is not until June 21st, here on the Hill we recognize summer as beginning when we welcome our first "summer" work group into the community. This year, a week-long visit by a hard working group of volunteers from Big Bone Baptist Church of Union, KY marked this kick off of summer. It was a blessing to have several repeat volunteers as a part of the group but to also have a few new faces too. Work groups come with the intent to serve us by working in our community yet the exciting thing is to see how God also ministers to each volunteer during their time here as well. Prior to coming, each person is asked the question, "What do you hope for God to accomplish in your heart while you're here?" The members of the Big Bone Baptist group came with some of the following hopes and desires:
  • To draw me closer to Him and to have a servant's heart in all that I do
  • Direction
  • To grow in Christ
  • To see Him move in my heart as well as our group and the (His Mansion) residents
  • To help me share my heart and to help me learn by other's experience
  • To serve without limitations and help others do the same
  • To learn more about our Loving God 
My desire for this group and for every group that visits us this summer, is that God not only meets these needs and desires while here, but that He far exceeds any hopes or expectations that a volunteer may come here with. I pray that the Lord's transforming work continues long after one's visit here and that He uses the experience of serving at His Mansion to grow and strengthen each person in their own relationship with the Lord as well as with each other in the group.

                                    Big Bone Baptist Church of Union, KY
We are so thankful for the visit from Big Bone Baptist and for the hard work they each put into their time here. In much the same way, we are so thankful to each of you who read this newsletter, pray for the ministry, and sacrificially give of what God has given you. As I conclude this letter, I am again humbled by God's daily provision, and it engenders in me a heart of gratefulness to write that we have paid all our bills. This speaks volumes about God's faithfulness to you and to us.

Seeking to live grace and truth in community,


Michael Tso
Interim CEO

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