Friday, February 04, 2011

The Thrill of Discipleship: An Interview with Tony Melton

My friend Tony Melton has a goal for 2011: to get to Ethiopia. To that end he's written a "blook" (work with me here) to raise funds. The title of the blook? Buy This Book So I Can Go to Ethiopia. It's that kind of plainspoken, lighthearted craziness that makes people love Tony. Below you'll see him at his plainspoken, lighthearted, crazy best, talking about the book, the trip, and the thrill of discipleship. There's an audio interview that covers similar ground but gives you a more complete sense of the guy here. If you're interested in talking with Tony more about his blook or having him out to your church to talk about community ministry, global mission, writing or football, let me know and I'll put you in contact with him.

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Why do you want to go to Ethiopia? My brother adopted two girls from Arbogonea, a village in the Sidama region. And even after he changed the lives of those two girls, shockingly, there are still more people in the village who need help with basic things we take for granted, like water, food, electricity, education, and medical treatment.

How does buying this book help? With the funds raised from this book, I hope to be able to pay for the airfare, lodging and meals ($2,500). So each kind person who buys a book is 1/500th of the reason this could happen.

What’s a blook? How’d you come up with that? A blook is a book that’s like a blog – cool, huh? Instead of me just telling people how they should live their lives, it’s more of a discussion on how we can all figure out, in this case, what Jesus meant by LIFE TO THE FULL. How did I come up with that? Huh, I guess there are a lot of crazy ideas running around in my head.

The goal is Ethiopia, but the book is very local. Why is that? It’s cool! Think about it. The fact that people in Lombard, IL or Houston, TX or Green Bay, WI (wait, Packer fans don’t want to help anyone) could partner with folks in Arbogonea is awesome. And, I’m also a big fan of sharing!

How do you manage to keep both a local and a global perspective as you think about matters of faith? Why is it important to you? We are all God’s children right? I think God opens our eyes to some stuff for a reason. That may be right next door to you, or thousands of miles away. In a very real way, this just shows the family of God. If you really think about it, my brother’s girls’ brother, who still lives in Arbogonea, is my family.

You make some pretty dramatic suggestions in this blook—from “quit your job” to “don’t clean your house.” Why are such radical changes so important? They’re important to me because I really thought that’s what God wanted me to do. Now, I do think God probably has something pretty radical for us all to do. It’s just that age-old question, “Are we gonna do it?”

At the same time that you’re making radical suggestions, you’re encouraging people to “relax” and “stop biting their nails.” How did you learn to live radically while retaining a sense of inner peace? How do other people learn it? Want to learn how to live radically and keep an inner peace – READ MY BOOK. Just kidding. Really, that’s the hope that comes with this whole Jesus thing. He calls you to do some crazy stuff, but then He goes with you. And even though you may not see results right away, God’s gonna get done what God needs to get done.

Many of your stories involve people who are homeless. How did these people become so important to you? I hung out with them! I guess it’s just like anyone else – you start to get to know someone, for the most part, you start to like them.

What do you think causes such a divide between people who are well off (or getting by) and people who are homeless? How did you manage to cross that divide in the way you did? How can others do the same? I was in the shelter one day and a guy said, “Is that a Lost Acre’s sweatshirt?” Lost Acres is a bar in my hometown of Romeoville. Turns out, this guy knew a lot of the people I knew, played in a lot of the leagues I did, and went to the same high school as I did. But, he was at the shelter as a guest and I was there as a volunteer. There is not a lot that separates us! Sometimes it’s easy to forget that!

When you go to Ethiopia, what will you tell people there about people here? I will tell them that the people here are awesome! You will not find a more generous group of folks, a more caring community, more hard-working and spiritually real individuals than who God has blessed me with not only in the last couple of years, but really for 39 great years!

What's one of your wishes for the people who read this book? What do you want them to take from it? I would love for this book to start a community of people that are trying to figure out this LIFE TO THE FULL thing. I would love for tons of people to go to

www.buythisbooksoicangotoethiopia.blogspot.com

and interact with other people who've read this book. I would love for people to start thinking about new and creative ways to live out the life Jesus has for them, and then start experiencing it.

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