Thursday, December 31, 2009

Urbana 09: Money, DAY 3

Today was a good day for many reasons. I slept until 8am, a good 3 hour increase from the last couple of nights. I also met the person (living) who has most influenced my life: Shane Claiborne. Actually, it was a day filled with missions, WHM, and Shane. I met Shane in the early afternoon. I explained to him that I lived in Philly, a mere minutes away from his ministry, the Simple Way. He was very nice and sincere. He invited my wife and I to come over for dinner sometime at the Simple Way...I will definitely take him up on the offer!

DAY 3:
We have a great booth location. We are located right next to the only entrance doors, and alongside YWAM, we are the first mission organization to be seen as potential missionaries make their way through a complex, vast, and intimidating gymnasium filled with opportunity. And we have made the most of it. At the end of Day 3, we met a goal that we set for the effort of the entire week: 385 people had signed up on our facebook fan page. I have also had numerous conversations about who we are and what we do, and lots of encouragement from like-minded organizations. Most individuals I am speaking with have interest in our internship programs in which we work hard to help grow the missionary personally as well as make a tangible difference in the host country for Christ.

Meeting Shane Claiborne was a highlight of the day. Using Scripture and application, God has used him to change my worldview significantly...and judging by the reaction from the other 16,000...I am not alone. I attended a seminar he did in conjunction with Dr. John Perkins and it was quite riveting and memorable. Few things in this world move people like observing another who lives out what they believe...especially when what they believe in is Jesus and His Kingdom. That evening Shane was the speaker and was given the task of speaking on the issue of "money". Perhaps needless to say, he was prophetically brilliant. The call to missional Followers of Christ was to live incarnationally (dwelled among us) in hurting, marginalized places by partaking in their sufferings. This often translates into making sacrifices even to the extent to a "vow of poverty." We have countless indications and examples in Scripture of those who lived incarnationally like this. As Shane would quote from Gandhi concerning money, resources, and pwer, "There is enough for every ones need, but not for every ones greed." Amen.

Picture: Me and Shane Claiborne

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Urbana 09: Movements of Peoples, DAY 2

I still have pretty bad jet lag. I am waking up at 5am every morning, and am sure that is long before most college students are waking here!! Nevertheless, it gives me some time to reflect and think about my time here and how God is "dwelling among us".

Day 2:
The delegates at the conference sure do like our booth, our staff, and the handouts we are giving away for those who join our facebook fan page. We have added about 300 people to our fan page in 2 days...much higher numbers than we had expected coming in to the event at this point. Today I spoke with a young lady who wants to be a nurse in Uganda. It was a great conversation and took me back to the days when I was 18 and filled with hope, excitement, anxiety, fear, and every other emotion that naturally comes with missions. Laying down your life to serve the Lord in a foreign country is perhaps one of the hardest decisions any person can make in their lives...yet it is the most rewarding. Having been on both sides now, I am now tasked with helping nurture and counsel these young lives in this truth. You give up much, you get more! Its the Kingdom of God after all, and we all know that the Kingdom works on the same paradigm.

The theme for day 2 was "movement of peoples", which consisted of absolutely riveting talks from Ruth Padilla DeBorst and R. York Moore. I found myself getting choked up with tears as they described the world of immigration, sex trade, slave trade, etc. and how the gospel of Jesus confronts those issues. DeBorst made passionate claims for a complete and comprehensive understanding of God's children, that transcends nationality and ethnicity. "Love doesn't reach from afar, its incarnational," Deborst exclaimed. I am hoping InterVarsity puts her speech online...the whole thing was magnificent and moving. Moore was equally as passionate and compelling in speaking on slave trade. I remember saying he was born again..again, as he learned that salvation is much more than saving souls, its about saving the world. This sentiment was greeted by wild applause from the 16,000 gathered.

Today was moving for me. As a Follower of Christ dedicated to issues of social (in)justice, Day 2 focused on big issues surrounding our world in the 21st century. And missions plays perhaps the biggest role in this. The evening concluded with a powerful skit in which the prostitute Rahab was used for God's purposes and spared as she cried out for mercy.....God is reconciling the world. He is reconciling movements of peoples. Time to join in.

Pictures: The Urbana 09 theme,
Me and other WHM staff working our booth

Monday, December 28, 2009

Urbana 09: He Dwelled Among Us, DAY 1

I was up almost 24 hours straight in coming to Urbana 09, in St. Louis, via Switzerland and my Christmas vacation with family. After the first leg of my long trip, Geneva to Newark, I sat in the airport with a 5 hour layover...dead tired...feeling sick...worn out...and almost giving up. The thought crossed my mind numerous times to cancel my trip. I would think to myself, "If I start to feel even slightly worse, I am going to Philly to get better." That never happened. Now I am here at Urbana 09, the largest North American Missions Conference in St. Louis Missouri that happens every three years, and am so grateful I hung in there and that God gave me the resilience to push through...

Day 1:
I met up with my fellow co-workers from WHM, David and Caitlin, to finish setting up our booth at the Urbana Convention Center. By the time we were open to meet friends and potential missionaries at our booth, we were pumped with anticipation. Our booth is amazing. People who visit the booth hop onto one of our computers, sign into facebook, and become a fan of WHM on our fan page. Yesterday, open for 3 hours, we added about 100 friends! Besides that, I was able to meet and talk intimately with several individuals who are looking to hear God's call here at Urbana. They are looking to see if missions are right for them. A couple of times God allowed me to share my testimony of missions and how God has radically changed my life since my call about 6 years ago.

The night finished with about 16,000 people worshipping God in the Edward Jones Dome (where the St. Louis Rams play football). What an amazing scene and experience!! I still have yet to experience anything as exhilarating as this worship time at Urbana. If God is in the midst of us when 3 are about 16,000??? 'Nuff said!

"He Dwelled Among Us". The theme for Urbana 09. From the first chapter of John, this verse begins to define what the Incarnation means in all aspects of life.

Day 1 is complete....Cant wait for Day 2! Be back to share more!

Pictures: Worshipping w/ 16,000 brothers and sisters
Me at the WHM booth

Friday, December 04, 2009

Pre-Black Friday Day, aka Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was a nice time in the Poconos with my wife’s family. We shared stories of God working in our lives and our world, and new ministry opportunities blooming. We shared good food, many smiles, and many stories. Christianne and I had a 2-hour car drive home after this wonderful celebration. During this drive, I kept hearing commercial after commercial on the radio for “Black Friday.” Door busters. Huge sales. This weekend only events. Slashing prices and inventory. Etc. I then realized that as I was celebrating thanksgiving towards my Creator, the culture was beginning its celebration of consumerism. This thought I was contemplating in my heart was made concrete by a DJ who later said, “Thanksgiving anymore has turned into a day that merely gears up for Black Friday.” How true is that!

Not only has Satan used American culture to put a veil over Christmas, he has also found a way to undermine Thanksgiving. When Thanksgiving merely becomes a day to prepare for spending money, we have lost our way. When Christmas is more about feel good consumeristic church services, stacking up presents under a Christmas tree, and Santa Clause, we have lost our way. I am not saying that buying things, or giving presents to others is inherently evil or wrong…but what I am saying is that our culture can easily inform/persuade our beliefs, without us even being aware that it is happening. Are we practicing American Christianity, or Christianity in America? They are very different paradigms.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope and pray we can all be aware of what Thanksgiving and Christmas means as Followers of Jesus, that we can be aware of the seemingly pervasive way we have been duped by culture, and have the heart and ability to do something about it and take a stand. Me included.