Tonight we had a family paint night with my Mom and Dad. Each person did their own painting. Super fun!
In just a few weeks we will be opening up registration for our summer missions trips. There is a question I often receive that I thought would be good to address. A few months ago one of my students asked: Why do we bother going to countries that speak other languages? Wouldn’t it be more valuable to just go to English-speaking countries? Just a few weeks ago a woman sitting at the table with me at a church event asked: With all of the poverty and need in America, why don’t we just do missions work in the United States?
These are fair and valid questions. There are indeed issues within our own country and our own communities that present opportunities for service. Indeed, we must address these issues. But it is a false construct to pit ministry at home against ministry abroad. I heard a saying many years ago that I always emphasize: The light that shines the farthest, shines the brightest at home. It would be a mistake if all we did was serve abroad while paying no attention to the needs at home. However, it would likewise be a mistake if all we did was serve on our home turf without serving the greater needs of others around the world. The bottom line is this: It is not either-or, it is both-and. We seek to engage our students in ministry opportunities in our own back yard throughout the year as well as in other countries, typically in the summer time.
In response to the question about why we go into cultures different than our own, I point to the various levels of missions and/or evangelism. Donald McGavran has identified several levels needed to reach different groups of people.
E-0: Evangelism is needed to win church-goers to Christ. It produces internal growth.
E-1: Evangelism is needed to win those of our own culture to Christ. It, too, produces internal growth.
E-2: Evangelism is needed to reach those who are slightly different from us. It produces cross-cultural evangelism.
E-3: Evangelism is needed to reach those vastly different from us. It produces bridging growth.
This idea is rooted in Jesus’ words to His followers in Acts 1:8, which illustrate these levels of evangelism:
- Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 3): E-0 and E-1
- Samaria (Acts 8): E-2
- Ends of the earth (Acts 13): E-3
Through summer missions trips we are seeking to help you minister at E-2 and E-3 levels. It doesn’t negate the other levels (which we also seek to minister at), but we want to develop Christians with a global Christian worldview, not just ones that are sheltered within their own cultures. In this we are taking our cues from Jesus Himself. Jesus was the ultimate cross-cultural missionary. Philippians 2:5-11 says, “… Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Imagine if Jesus had just stayed where everything was familiar to Him. Imagine if Jesus only wanted to go where people “spoke His own language” (if you will). He would have stayed in heaven with God and never ventured to the earth where people desperately needed to know God and His purposes. Jesus said, “Go into ALL THE WORLD and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). The fact that we live in a time in history in which we have the technology to literally be able to go into all of the world is incredible. And so, following the example of Jesus, we want to have a heart for God’s whole world – all of His children and creation – and to go and serve in humility and love.
It’s interesting how different things catch your eye based on the season of life you are in. A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have even noticed it, but with a daughter just about 8 months away from heading off to college, when I saw the title, not only did I pull it off the shelf and read the back cover, I bought it and read it in its entirety. And boy, am I glad I did! More on this in a moment. First, some personal background.
I have been learning a lot about going off to college over the past year as we have taken Claudia on some college visits, met with admissions counselors, etc. Over 20 years ago, my college decision was simple. My dad worked at a college that trained people for ministry. That was exactly what I wanted to do with my life, so I only applied to one school; the one Dad worked at. Because it was a small, private college, they did not offer financial aid or scholarships – everything had to be paid as you were going along. Therefore, I never had to deal with applying for loans. The best thing was, because Dad worked for the college, I was able to attend at a significant discount, and I was able to do a work-study program to pay off my balance semester by semester.
When I went on to graduate school I had to venture into the waters of student loans, but through a series of fortunate circumstances I was able to sell my home precisely when I was to start repaying my loans, and I made enough from the sale to pay off my loan in full. So, I never dealt with the reality of making monthly payments over several years. This was a great blessing, but they offered me no real experience from which to be able to counsel my daughter. Thank goodness I stumbled upon that book in Barnes and Noble the other day.
The book is Beating the College Debt Trap: Getting a Degree Without Going Broke by Alex Chediak. Although I am very proud of Claudia, and excited about her heading off to college, to be honest, there are many things that I have been thinking, wondering, and worrying about as the reality approaches. Not least of which, how we are going to pay for her education. In the book, Chediack addresses several myths about college and addresses each one with a picture of reality and alternate ways of achieving the desired outcome of a degree without getting into the precarious, but all-too-common, position of having tens, even hundreds, of thousands of dollars in debt (and perhaps no real job prospects) to show for it.
Chediak’s insights were extremely helpful in understanding the world of degrees and college finances. His practical wisdom about choosing schools, degree programs, school loans, grants, scholarships, internships, work-study programs and more, pointed out many creative solutions that we intend to explore with Claudia and our conversations with her college. We want to ensure that when she finishes college she will have a degree that reflects her passions and giftings while opening doors to a sustainable and fulfilling career. We also want her to be able to head off into her post-college life without the nasty millstone of unrealistic debt around her neck. This book really increased our chances of making those desires a reality. I highly recommend it to anyone planning to take on the task of getting a college degree. Chediak also has two other books available: Thriving at College: Make Great Friends, Keep Your Faith, and Get Ready for the Real World and Preparing Your Teens for College: Faith, Friends, Finances, and Much More which I am sure are equally as good, and which I am planning to pick up myself.
We are enjoying having my Mom and Dad with us for Christmas this year. We enjoyed Christmas Eve service at Shelter Rock Church, then had payaya at our favorite Spanish restaurant, and went to watch a movie. Christmas day was spent at home. And the day after Christmas we went into NYC to watch the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, followed by a walk up 5th Avenue, through Central Park, and a stop in Times Square.
Had some fun on Saturday shooting some trick shots. Dropped these ones within about 3 minutes. Fun! Thanks to Rebekah Tanas for capturing them on video.
We are so proud of our beautiful daughter Claudia who is going to be competing for Miss Teen New York in January! If you would like to help her reach her sponsorship goal, you can donate here. Claudia’s e-mail for the form is firstname.lastname@example.org. Whether you can support her financially or not, please send her a word of encouragement, and pray that this will be a great experience for her. Thank you!