Let’s Ride Discipleship Road Trip 2017 Day 5

Home sweet home! Today was the final day of our whirlwind discipleship road trip. We drove the final 448 miles today. After getting up and showering at the YMCA we finally found the Holy Grail that we had been searching for this entire trip. Krispy Kreme! O. My. Goodness! We went back to the church, packed up, ate the most delicious donuts on the face of the earth, then loaded up and departed at 8:45am. We drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, then had some Bible study and discussion about how God built a bridge to us, and how we are called to the ministry of bridge building as well. We watched the movie Ragamuffin and worked on our Scripture memory passages from the trip. We arrived home at 6pm, cleaned the shuttle, and sent some happy students home to some happy parents and siblings.

15 people. 2,217.50 miles traveled. Stayed at 4 churches. Visited 5 different sites that tied in with our daily themes. Bible reading, prayer, worship, Scripture memory, and lots of conversations. Amazing time #LetsRide2017 Discipleship Road Trip!

Two Mothers … Not a Poem … in Real, Modern Life

Yesterday I posted the powerful poem called “Two Mothers.” In searching for a picture to go on the post, I found the one you see below. I wanted to share the full story behind the picture. It was from a Ted Talk by two mothers connected through the tragedy of 9/11 who found forgiveness and friendship in the most unlikely way.

Speaking at Group Mission Trips Workcamp

Last week I had the great joy and privilege of speaking at a Group Mission Trips Workcamp in Pocahontas, Virginia. It was a blast being able to share and see students out serving. There were 216 campers from 14 churches and 8 different states. They served on 37 different work crews at 25 different homes and completed all of their projects. They served a total of 6,480 hours and also donated 2,050 cans of food to bless the community. So proud of them!

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Challenging Christianity

Comfort Zone/ Challenge Sign ConceptOne of my favorite lines that I repeat often to leaders, parents, and even to students, is that my job, our job in youth ministry (and as parents!) is not to entertain students, but to equip them for life. Our vision statement for our youth ministry is to see students become fully-devoted, passionate, life-long followers of Jesus. In order for that to become a reality, they must be challenged in their thinking and in their practice. We have to stretch them to do hard things … uncomfortable things.

Growth only happens by doing things you’ve never done before.

Just the other day, my friend Thom Schults, founder of Group Publishing, said, “Too many people think if it’s uncomfortable it must be wrong. This is one of the biggest problems in the church today.” How true a statement!

Then, just this morning I was reading Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey in which he quotes Shane Claiborne who said, “I am convinced that if we lose kids to the culture of drugs and materialism, of violence and war, it’s because we don’t dare them, not because we don’t entertain them. It’s because we make the gospel too easy, not because we make it too difficult. Kids want to do something heroic with their lives, which is why they play video games and join the army. But what do they do with a church that teaches them to tiptoe through life so they can arrive safely at death?”

As I am writing this, my daughter is texting me about some of the challenging realities of our upcoming mission trip to Jamaica. Because we love students and want to help them see the world as God sees it and want them to have a bold, mature faith, we do not shy away from difficult situations. Of course, safety is very important, we aren’t talking about being stupid and rash. I want to be very clear about this. We do indeed take safety very seriously. That being said, the truth is, if safety was our only consideration, we would never go anywhere new or do anything we’ve never done before. We have to have something higher than safety, and that is a vision.

God’s vision is for the whole earth to be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, and we are called to be a part of the advancement of His kingdom. We are called to be agents of light in a dark world. We are to take the light of Christ into dark places, and that inherently means we have to do hard things. So, we go with God’s vision, we go with God’s power (the Holy Spirit living inside of us who gives us wisdom and courage), and we go with God’s promises (not to be free exempt from trouble, but that He will be with us as we go through trouble). Therefore, we say yes to mission of Jesus, even when we don’t know exactly all that will happen, and we move forward with faith as our guide, not fear. Just some thoughts I have as I am spending time with Jesus this morning. I hope they are encouraging, challenging, and helpful.

Nicaragua Mission Day 3

This morning we heard a presentation about a mentoring program that Forward Edge has partnered with to help students in the community. We then loaded the bus and drove about an hour to the town of Leon where we visited a school that our youth team this summer helped to clean and paint. It was wonderful to see over 100 children in school. We visited their classrooms and served them lunch. Over lunch we talked with the pastors and school leaders about initiatives being undertaken to enhance the school, meet practical needs of students, support the teachers, and long-term goals for impacting the community. This afternoon, back at Villa Esperanza, we heard from Dr. Ravi about how Forward Edge has worked with the local people to develop strategies to effectively address community needs identified in their assessment process. After dinner we had more dialogue with Villa leaders, followed by a time of prayer.

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Nicaragua Mission Days 1-2

On Monday Pastor Jerry and I met up with 8 other church leaders from Long Island and the NYC area and traveled to Villa Esperanza in Managua, Nicaragua where we met up with another 5 church leaders from around the US for a vision trip with Forward Edge International. On Tuesday we heard from Forward Edge founder Joseph Anfuso as well as the Villa founders and leadership team about their vision for holistic ministry and community transformation. We then went to the town of Villa Guadalupe where we went to the homes of two families of girls who are in Villa Esperanza’s residential program. We then had lunch with educators, medical professionals, pastors, and community leaders at the local school and heard how they are all working together to address problems and raise the standard of their community.

This town was famous for years for its dump in which people would make a living by digging through the trash to find everything from scraps of food to things they could sell to make a living. Their extreme material poverty resulted in many abuses, most notably against young girls. While many strides have been made, including shutting down the old dump, creating a recycling plant, and much more, most of the abuse continues. You will notice in the pictures below one of a few houses. These houses were built by the French and Nicaraguan governments when they created the recycling plant. Unfortunately, most of the people were not accustomed to the furnishings provided in the homes, and seeing an opportunity to make a quick buck, they sold off the furniture. You will also notice that the windows are boarded up. This was the case of the vast majority of the houses. Why? Because evil requires darkness. Much abuse happens behind the covered windows of these homes. Forward Edge and Villa Esperanza are working hard to address the systemic issues that cause these things today as well as working on initiatives that will transform the community holistically and break the cycles for future generations.

During the afternoon we heard from Dr. Ravi Jayakaran about their process for working with leaders to assess the needs of their community and address those needs in an integral way. During the evening we had dinner with the girls of the Villa. For me personally it was such a joy to be reunited with the girls I met and fell in love with this past summer.

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