Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Losing Steam

I think I'm losing steam for blogging. I still really enjoy it and find it fun. But recently, I had these wacky ideas which would make me think, and sometimes say even stupidier things, like, "I'm a writer - I have a blog!"
I know - it's just ridiculous.
But it made me realize something that I had known all along. That the blog was not an end to itself. Deep down, most of you, if not all of you, are something besides bloggers. You aren't real writers. Sure, you write. Some of you write a lot, and most of you write very, very well. But I suspect that at the core you are something else.
For me, I'm not a writer. I do some other stuff, some of it I do well, some of it not so well. I like to write most of the times, but I'm not a writer. And the blog is an outlet so that I can share some of that other stuff and maybe it will help encourage, challenge and inspire someone else who might be trying some of the same stuff.
Now that I've articulated that to myself, blogging makes a whole lot of sense again.

Various thoughts about retreats

I just got the almost final roster for our high school retreat that is happening this coming weekend. The final numbers are 223 students from GCC, about 30 some from a guest church and some hundred or so volunters, including a kitchen crew, ropes course crew, speaker, nurse, and on site prayer team. Wow, that is nuts!
I'm on the onsite prayer team, that will be praying for the entire duration of the retreat. I have a feeling its going to be a pretty wild experience.
I wrote more about it here.
I've been thinking - Why are retreats so significant? I think a lot of us can fondly remember retreats when we were younger. A group of friends, some amazing speaker, some big decisions.
I think it has to do with four things. First, it is an intense time. It may not appear that way on the outside but if you think about it, I think you will agree. People are excited about it for weeks before, there is a speaker that is thinking about this weekend for months before hand, and there are groups of people that have devoted their waking hours to all the schedules, food, lodging, transportation, etc.
When the students get there, they are intent on making the most of their time there. It cannot be anything but intense.
Secondly, its away from the normal. No tv, cell phone, movies, routine, class, homework, practices, etc. It is a total break from the normal. I think for a lot of students, it's also a very needed break from the normal.
Thirdly, students are immersed in community. The friends factor is huge for retreats. They invite them, arrange to room with them, spend all weekend long with their best friends.
Finally, there is usually some kind of ground breaking knowledge that leads to a decision or experience, and usually the community (or a subset of it) remembers the experience. "Hey remember on that retreat when you decided to break up with her?"
I have always thoguht that one of the dangers of retreats is coming back down off the spiritual high. We must help students deal with that, assisting them in living in the normal life and being motivated to live out Jesus call when they are engaged with the world.
It has me thinking even more about this idea of a spiritual environmentalist that Erwin writes about. How are we doing that - creating and shaping environments where we meet up with God. What are we doing with these precious students that allows us to come back home and still meet God in the norm? Because we all know that life is not meant to live on retreat.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Article - Vibrant Cities

Interesting article "Vibrant Cities Find One Thing Missing: Children" found in the NY Times. The article talks about how vibrant urban cities are not able to attract young families with children, due to the high cost of housing.
Some snippets:

- Scottsdale, Ariz., a fast-growing Phoenix suburb, lost 571 students last year. San Jose closed three schools last year and expects to close three more soon.
- Between 2003 and 2004, only six states had an increase in their elementary school population, the census bureau reported in March.
- Even in San Francisco, where officials are preparing for another round of school closings amid a projected decline of 4,000 students in the next five years, city officials are aggressively marketing the city and its schools to young families.
- "If you took immigrants out of the equation, the United States would be like the rest of Europe," said Phillip Longman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a public policy research organization in Washington.

It reminds me of The Next Christendom:
"The stagnation of Northern and particularly European populations will be one of the most significant facts of the twenty-first century."

My question really, though, what kind of impact does this have on urban youth ministry?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Conjuring bordeom

Well, I'm home for a week without the fam - so I'm watching a lot of Born to Perform Card Magic. Of course, I've only had the house to myself for 3 hours, so it's probably going to get a lot more boring...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Skype - wow

Well, after just about an hour, I'm hooked with Skype. I talked to a lady looking for a husband from Peru, a guy from Toronto, one guy in China, a guy from Brazil who mentioned that the Lance Armstrong bracelets are impossible to get there, and a 35 year old father of two in Taiwan.
Talk about the next generation in communication. My mind is reeling.

skyped for the first time

Wow, very cool. 'tonytsheng' is my user name.

SPACE Spring 2005 Prayer Update

Dear SPACE prayer team,

Happy Good Friday! I'm hoping that this Easter season finds you encouraged and lifted by the fact that Jesus conquered death in order to start a revolution of worship among the nations.

Thank you for continuing to remember SPACE and the students involved in your prayers. God is moving in and among these students and you and your prayers are part of their momentum.

Here are a few highlights that could use your prayers:
- a prayer walking launch on March 31st at our local mall.
We are going to try to teach our students to see the Mall differently, by thinking and praying strategically.
- youth ministry retreats
The first two weekends of April see the youth ministry packing over 500 students, small group leaders, workcrew, ropes course staff and prayer teams for two weekend retreats. High school goes on April 1-3, middle school the following weekend. Pray for safety, soft and receptive hearts and for the Enemy to stay clear.
- senior mission weekend
We have the opportunity to take the graduating seniors on a combination mission/cultural/capstone weekend during May. We are calling it The Black Hole Experience and are keeping most of the vital details in the dark. I'm expecting a pretty great time as we help serve a great missions organization, see the future cultures of the world differently, and process what kind of difference God wants these graduating seniors to be involved in.
- summer mission trips
We have launched three out of a potential four trips off the ground, with leaders, dates and ministry sites. Currently, we have a team serving a GCC family in Trinidad in late July for two weeks, a weekend for middle schoolers serving our friends at CMTS
( and an experimental movement of students into Washington DC every Friday for most of the summer. I'm also pursuing an opportunity to take a team to serve another GCC family overseas and I've been invited to help serve and work with a very missions minded youth pastor in AZ for a few days. Plans for both of these are still pending. Pray for our team prep meetings as they start soon.

Other praises:
- Praise for our student that applied for a mentorship with SPACE has been accepted. Emilie will be starting to serve SPACE starting this summer, helping us with tasks such as serving, dreaming and envisioning the momentum of this experiment.
- Praise for our SPACE crew. These kids are so devoted and love what we are doing so much.
- Praise for more and more youth leaders being interested in SPACE and encouraging their students to be more missional.

Thanks again for praying for SPACE. You are an integral part of helping us shape how much the next generation cares about the nations.
Have a great Easter!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Spring Retreats Baby

The two weekends after Easter are our high school and middle school Spring retreats. These weekends are high impact, high energy, and great opportunities for leaders to focus on their kids. We go to Rockbridge Young Life Camp, about 4 hours away. Last year, we hired 5 tour buses. It's an overwhelming operation.
We bring a massive number of students and leaders. We also bring a team to run the high ropes course, a kitchen work crew staff and a program/worship team. This year, our youth admin/catalyst is actually also staffing an on-site prayer team. This team will pray during the whole duration of the retreat.
We also run a pre-retreat meeting the weekend before. This helps volunteers get a sense for the schedule, theme and general logistics of how a retreat flows. It's really helpful for first time volunteers. Last weekend, we had about 100 people come to the one that was combined for the upcoming weekends. Probably the biggest thing we did was pray.
I've got a few specific goals for the retreat, since I'm not really overseeing a group of students.
First - the prayer team.
Some of you readers might remember me going along to work on work crew last year, helping serve meals and bus tables when the meals were over. I was tired, it was a LOT of work, but very fun. It was cool to be able to serve the students so tangibly but serving them meals.
CP asked me this year to help with the Prayer Team for the high school retreat. As we talked in the pre-retreat meeting, I realized - this is probably WAY more work than helping with kitchen crew... It's a little daunting, realizing that I am signing up to be part of a group of warriors that are battling against the Evil One and his attempts to grab young lives. Even as I write this, I'm a bit spooked.
I'm going to try to print a big map of the property and bring one of those. We are also going to setup a prayer box right in the program room so kids and leaders can drop their requests and updates in there.
Second - the next iteration of SPACE crew.
I've asked our current SPACE crew kids to think about younger kids (9th and 10th grade) that they know aren't too committed to program already, but might have a sense for helping with SPACE crew. They will talk to them on the retreat about maybe jumping in and being part of the team.
Third - getting to know some more students.
It's just a great time to meet new kids. Last time, I had 5 or 6 significant conversations with kids about mission, so thats always a possibility too.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The State of Christianity in 2005

from the Friday Fax... The State of Christianity in 2005
In response to many requests, here is the State of Christianity in 2005. It is
based on secular and Christian sources, and probably the world's broadest survey
of such information, and is published every January by David B. Barrett
(Professor of Missiometrics at the World Evangelization Research Center in
Richmond, and publisher of the World Christian Encyclopedia) and Todd M. Johnson
from the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton.

I love this! I used it last Spring as part of our summer mission team prep material, just to help kids see how big the world really is. Take a look at some of those stats, it's pretty crazy.
On a side note, I tried to make it a little easier to read by repeating the header info in bold. Ahh, those were glory days - writing tables in HTML.




Annual growth rate (%)

Mid 2005

Prognosis 2025

Global population






Urban population






Population under 15 years old












Cities over 100,000






Cities over 1,000,000






Urban slum dwellers

260 million

700 million


830 million

1,600 million




Annual growth rate (%)

Mid 2005

Prognosis 2025

Christians of all kinds



























Annual growth rate (%)

Mid 2005

Prognosis 2025













New Religionists






Ethnic Religions





















Annual growth rate (%)

Mid 2005

Prognosis 2025







Unaffiliated Christians






Great Commission Christians









Annual growth rate (%)

Mid 2005

Prognosis 2025

Church attenders












Pentecostals & Charismatics






Martyrs per Year









Annual growth rate (%)

Mid 2005

Prognosis 2025

Members by Ecclesiastical Megabloc

























Roman Catholics






Christian workers (nationals)









Annual growth rate (%)

Mid 2005

Prognosis 2025







Church members' income (US$)

4,100 billion

15,680 billion


17,350 billion

26,000 billion

Computers used by Christians


328 million


440 million

1,2 billion

Christian magazines






Monthly listeners/viewers of Christian Radio/TV






Global missions plans since A.D.30









Annual growth rate (%)

Mid 2005

Prognosis 2025

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Public speaking ministry

Many times I have thought that a public speaking ministry would be fun. And I've often thought about how to break in to something like that. Rudy offers some good advice here. However, one of the comments on the post offers even more perspective.
I'm quoting the commenter, quoting a speaker he was talking to, "Public speakers are a dime a dozen, most live in nice homes, stay in great hotels, say the same thing but with their own personality infused… but the list is short of those who will give up all to go work with the urban poor overseas."
Very very true.

How many youth pastors would say this?

In honor of God, family and all things sabbath, I do hereby declare May to be a month of no official working with youth for the following people:
. . .
In May, Robert (who will be coming back from his 1 and 1/2 month break for baby sabbath) and Ben will serve the youth on Sundays and Wednesdays- awaiting the refreshing and returning of God's faithful servants for the slamming summer, including camp Barnabas (camp for serverly disabled kids), Gilbert Serve 2005, Summer Camp, and everything else.
. . .
Vacations are under-rated.
Change is great.
Comparmentalizing is bad....trying new things is good.
Non-organized events are just as important as regular events.
Love those closest to you with every breath.
Jesus loves his little children.
Just cause we are taking breaks does not mean you should not spend time with those you love.

Read the whole post from my friend Praying Mantis. What I love about it is that he is willing to give some rest to his youth workers, BEFORE an anticipated very busy and active, and most likely, fruitful summer. Is it hard to find people in ministry that are bold, courageous and willing to take really good care of their people?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Darfur People Groups

A graphic I jimmied from the article entitled "Desert Rose: Hope Admist Horror for the Peoples of Darfur", from the current issue of Mission Frontiers magazine, showing one estimate of people groups in the Darfur region and how many known believers. Note the ratio of approx 6M people to 34-51 believers.

The article also says:
"Patrick Johnstone, author of the acclaimed prayer guide, Operation World, has characterized Darfur as one of the least evangelized areas on earth. Less than 50 disciples of Jesus are known among all Darfur's peoples. Yet a millennium ago many Sudanese, including the Fur, were Christians - possibly spiritual heirs of the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8. (Some historians claim that the eunuch was Sudanese.)"

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Interviewing Mission Team members v. 2

Today, I spent a few hours helping the Trinidad leader team interview some of their candidates. All the students who have applied are strong and solid kids. It's fun to see that and think about what a great experience they are in for this summer.
The leader team came up with some more great questions I thought I would post:

- What would you say to someone if they asked you how to get to Heaven?
- When was the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?
(Of course, I had a tinge of guilt about this one. Are we as leaders living evangelistic lifestyles like the ones we call our students to? But that's probably for another post.)
- How would you honestly respond if you were not accepted to go on this trip?
Let's see about your heart.
- Who from your grade would you love to have as your partner and friend on this trip?
Talk about your friendships.
- What would your attitude be like if you were corrected or disciplined from a leader of the opposite sex?
(I wrote about our interviews previously here.)

Flickr bag meme

Check out the whatsinmybag tag at flickr. Fun.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Information versus Experience - Missions Conference

I was poking around the Biola University Missions Conference page a little bit tonight (thanks DavidT) and just thinking a bit about traditional missions conferences that I have been to. Or for that matter any conference. And thinking about how information simply does not transform. We can't expect that people can just sit in a room, listen to a speaker and decide to change the way that they live.
Looking at the schedule that Biola had set up, it impresses me that they are trying to integrate action and experience with the information that is presented naturally from a conference like this one.
Some of the experiential activities include:
- off campus explorations such as visiting a Buddhist or Hindu temple, working in a homeless ministry, helping a local school ministry.
- a global marketplace
- an ethnic lunch
- open air worship
- an international drinkhouse (I have no idea either)
Looks like a great missions conference. Seems like the people in charge realize that true transformation does not come from information alone.

Friday's story

Jenni of Vessel of Mercy writes here about a guy named Friday who came to one of the Mercy Ships to have a tumor removed. There is also a set of pictures to show his transformation - radical transformation. That the people we serve could have a spiritual change like that. (The morph at the end is awesome, but the pictures are a bit squeamish.)

France - from the Friday Fax

The below from the Friday Fax
France: new interest in Christianity
According to a study in 2003, 32% of the French who call themselves Christians
had recently returned to their faith. In 1994, the number was only 13%. "Is
Europe's most secular nation rediscovering its Christian roots?" asks Agnieszka
Tennant in Christianity Today. At the start of the 21st Century, the
post-modern French seem to have deconstructed Deconstructivism, seen through
Socialism's promised Utopia, and recognised that wine and other sensual
pleasures can only partially fill what French philosopher Blaise Pascal called
'the God-shaped hole in us'. "During the sexual revolution in the 1960's,
French intellectuals declared 'it is forbidden to forbid'," says Mark Farmer,
ex-pastor of a Baptist church in Paris. In his hotly-debated book 'Re-founding
the World: The Western Testament', Jean-Claude Guillebaud calls on the French
to examine and rediscover their own Judeo-Christian roots. "The 20th Century
was a century of disillusionment," he says. "Marxism, evolution, socialism,
hedonism, wars - what did we gain from them? Where does the human ability to
discern good and evil come from, which transcends every culture?" he asks, and
points to God.

God, your shares are on the rise!
"Bible sales are currently at an all-time high in France," reports the French
Bible Society's Christian Bonnet. Completely unexpectedly, 100,000 Bibles and
50,000 New Testaments were sold in 2003. La Bible Expliquée, a Bible with
explanations for seekers, sold 80,000 copies in the first month, even in
secular bookshops and supermarkets. "God, your shares are on the rise!" wrote a
business magazine in a 72-page report on the sudden rise of religious interest
in the post-materialistic age. "Since 1950, the number of Evangelicals in
France has multiplied sevenfold, from 50,000 to 350,000," says Tennant, and
many nominal Catholics have experienced a renewal of their faith through Alpha
Courses. Daniel Liechti, who researches church planting for France Mission,
estimates that one new church was planted in France every 11 days for the past
35 years.

Evangelical Catholics
40 million of the 60 million French population consider themselves Catholics,
but only 5 million attend a church service at least once each month. There are
some 5 million Muslims, 650,000 Jews and one million Protestants. "Up to one
third of the active Protestants have an evangelical mindset," says Liechti, and
the Evangelicals are growing: "There were 760 Evangelical churches in 1970; now
there are 1,850 plus another 800 to 1,000 immigrant churches." "The secular
climate has made allies of Evangelicals and Gospel-oriented or 'evangelical'
Catholics, as well as Reformed and Lutheran Christians," writes Tennant. The
Catholic Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, says that Catholics
have received two good things from the Protestants: the Charismatic movement
and the Alpha Course, which is booming in Catholic parishes: in 1998, five
Alpha courses were held; in 2004, the number had grown to 303. According to
Henri Blocher, French church leader and Bible School teacher, it is
predominantly the 20- to 30-year-olds who are throwing their socialist parents'
cynicism overboard. "They are Europe's Christian hope," he says.
Source: Christianity Today

Interviewing Mission Team members

One new thing we are doing with summer teams this year are face to face interviews. Its only with teams that are going overseas and so far, there is only one team right now - with 7 potential students. I decided to ask the Trinidad team if they would mind doing that for a few reasons.
First, I want our team leaders to know our students and vice versa. I want the team to gel, I want the leaders to know what motivates these kids, to get a pulse on what they are thinking about, their level of excitement, the way they personally respond to thinking about traveling to another culture to advance the Kingdom. A face to face interview is a great context to interact about these key issues.
Secondly, our mission trips are not reform school. There is a fine balance between an open spiritual community and a trip that is engaging different and possibly hostile cultures where a host has worked very hard long term for a positive influence. I want to make sure that our team leaders are setup to succeed in such an endeavor, and that they have the both process and evidence to refuse a student if they need to. The last thing I want is for one of our teams to arrive and ruin a long term ministry's reputation due to the bad behavior of a high schooler. Emotionally, that would just about sink this whole grand experiment.
Thirdly, I want to set this precedent for the future. I know their team pretty well, and I know that they know their team pretty well. I wouldn't expect any issues with their students. But I can't say it will always be like that.
I know a lot of people would disagree with my stance. Some would say that mission trips should be open to any student that has the desire. Some others would say that we should always allow prebelievers to be a part of any missional experience. I can't say that I disagree with both of these theoretically. I would say, however, that these interviews are for the end state of our summer teams, teams of students
that have done other trips in previous summers in preparation for cross cultural ministry. And we are having options for students that don't require interviews and probably don't even require that you are a Christian.
I'll be helping with some interviews this weekend and here is a list of potential questions. I will probably come up with more after I review their applications.
All in all, it's a fun time to hear the dreams of these brave, brave students.

Tell us about a person who has impacted your life for Christ.
Tell us some of your future goals.
How do you feel you can contribute to the Mission team and program?
Describe your present servant attitude.
What is the most important thing that you have learned spiritually
since last summer ?
How do you expect you will respond to the difference in culture ?
How do you expect you will change by the end of the summer ?

YWAM Baltimore

I don't know how long they have been around but Baltimore now has a YWAM base. Click here for more info. Sounds like a great resource for groups interested in missions and service in the city.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Generation M

A new study was published today, called "Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds". You can check out the whole report here. The study was based on 8-18 year olds, (a pretty relevant age for most of you readers, right?) sampling more than 2000 students on their habits of music, TV, movies, video games, computers and books. I found it quite interesting, although I don't think I spent enough time reading it. What I did read was intruiging. Here are some of the highlights that piqued my interest:
- Almost 75% of US kids live in homes that contain three or more TV sets.
- Fewer (participants) live in homes where an attempt is made to regulate media behavior than live in homes where no such attempt is made.

ie - more kids live without set boundaries when it comes to media.
- Young people in the US inhabit an environment that is not just media rich - it is media saturated.
-Despite concerns that parents often express about the impact of media on their children, the kids themselves do not report much parental effort to monitor or curb
their media consumption.
- In homes where there is some attempt to control amount of viewing, content viewed, or both, kids watch less TV, play video games less, listen to less music and spend less time on the computer. They also read more.

A few things come to mind as I think about this a bit. First, as if there were any doubt before this study, our culture is media saturated. I suspect you knew this way before reading it here. However, this fact should be a key component of how we do ministry to students. It is paramount that we are always considering how we minister based on the culture and saturation that our kids are involved in constantly. Does that mean you have to always show a video clip? I don't think so, but I think it does mean that when you do, it better be captivating and you better make good use of it.
Secondly, it sounds like the majority of students do not have any kind of boundaries set for media consumption. Not only that, it sounds to me like most students today do not have the learned skills to critically assess the media that they are constantly exposed to. (And I do mean 'learned skill.') Nor do they have someone who is modelling that for them. There is a minority of parents, mentors, and youthworkers that are teaching kids to assess the messages that they are getting from music and film, rather than the majority. There are kids that think reality is how they see it in certain movies. There are messages in movies that are taken as truth and principle.
Thirdly, I admit that I'm kind of torn. Most recently, I have felt like the Church needs to engage the culture we are in, including the elements of pop culture. We need have an awareness of current films, music, advances in consumer technology - especially as we seek to minister to students - so that we can reasonably engage people where they are at. Don't get me wrong. Our job is not to be hip. It's not about being cool or having the latest gadget. But I think some of it is about understanding the language and paradigms that our culture is using. Is there a danger in understanding our media saturated culture too much? Maybe there is a line between understanding our media saturated culture too much. Maybe it has to do with what we saturate ourselves in, the latest movies, music and trends, versus the Scriptures, the living Word that God breathed.
Check out the study for yourself, I hope that you gain some good insight regarding student ministry from it.

Your Left Hand

I was reminded a few times in the past few weeks that your left hand (and mine) are interesting members of our bodies.
The Iraqi Culture Smart Card:

I was chatting with a mother of one of my mission team kids. She mentioned how her son, with all the enthusiasm of the next generation, came home and stated, "Mom, THAT'S what they do with their left hands!"

Isn't that great! I love it because it shows a level of excitement about learning from a culture that is so distinctly different from their own. And that the excitement is coming from the, hopefully, next generation of leaders and shapers of the movement of Jesus.

AND, that we can be teaching and exposing these kids to engage a segment of the world (a huge segment of the world by the way) that they would never otherwise engage. So cool.

So today, thank God for your left hand.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Current Projects

For those of you that might be interested... here are a few current projects I'm working on.
* Summer SPACE crew trip
I've been hesitant to write about this because no plans have been firm. At first, it was maybe LA. And then there was a small possibility for China. As of now, it looks like Brazil might be the direction, working with a GCC family down there. We have an email dialogue with them, they seem to want to host a small team, it would be pretty cool for our team I think. The last thing was me sending him a bunch of ideas, team dynamics, etc. That has been almost two weeks ago. So I decided that I would call him this week, except I didn't have the phone number. This morning, the Missions Task Force passed out all these missionary prayer booklet cards, and lo and behold, their phone number was on their card. Their card was the only one to have a phone number on it. Hmm...
One other big idea with this trip is that one of my focuses will be on training the next generation of mission trip leaders. So a few of the key people helping with this are people that I see can come back in the next few summers and run trips for me. Not an easy thing to ask of people, but these are high caliber people who are sold out to Jesus, love students and believe that they have been called to mission in this context.
* Summer middle school trip
Date almost confirmed. Should be a good one though. Then I need to plan a parents info meeting and type up a packet.
* Trinidad trip for juniors
Apps were due today. They have 7 that applied. I will help them do some interviews next Saturday.
* Entry missions for high school
I haven't written much about this one either. It's a great idea, but needs to be thought out some more. Two big things have hit me in the past few months. First, that we should target DC every summer. We should be sending teams down there to pray and serve, it should be one of our consistent targets. Secondly, that we can put on some much better training than SEMP. I love SEMP, I think they do a great job. But I think within our context, of building students that have a passion for the nations, we need to train kids in evangelism in our own culture that captures the perspective of the global mission field. SEMP doesn't quite go that far. The flip side is that I'm just anal. It's almost as if I'm getting to the point where any pre-canned missions trip isn't good enough. Well, if they aren't, then they aren't.
The idea is to expand the idea of a missions trip, into something that is stretched out all summer, in terms of missions days, hopefully building some momentum as the summer goes on. Anyway, I think I've got a leader for it. She's way into it too.
* Black Hole Event for Seniors
I can't write any more about it.
* Spring Event for Sophomores
One of the leaders approached me this morning about doing an event for his grade. Very fun. Going to be thinking about that.
Wow. I can't quite explain it, but every month with SPACE gets more and more exciting. I hope you can kind of feel it too. How God has given me such a privilege.
If you catch a moment, I would totally appreciate your prayers about all of these things, that God's voice would be clear and that we would be open to His leading and plans.

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Psalm 116:15-16
Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
O LORD , truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.

March 3, 2003. A strange date, don't you think? Three 3's in a row. This was the date that my father in law passed away, after a two year bout with cancer. For me, it was my first full engagement with death. Up until then, I had never known death so close. I never had to deal with it, never had to address it, never had to show some sense of leadership and responsibility in the midst of it. I guess thats a part of growing up and having a family, you lead and are responsible in the midst of it all, whether you expected it or not. O Lord, I am your servant.
In our case, we did expect it. The Padre (a name I termed and unsuccessfully tried to have the rest of the family catch on to) was sick for about two years with lymphoma. It was initially a very good prognosis, and we were really hopefuly. In terms of cancer, it seemed to be the best kind that you could get, if you really had to have it. Things transitioned downhill from there. Radiation treatments, chemo, even a very hopeful bone marrow transplant. None of it worked.
The last time my kids saw him, he was in the hospital. We had decided that I would go home back to work and bring the kids home for the week while my wife stayed with her family, about 5 hours away. We all knew it might be the last time the girls saw him.
Before we left, we gathered around and held hands with him to pray. And that's when it really hit me. That the grandfather my kids knew would probably be no more to them after today. As I held my daughters hand on my right and my father in laws hand on my left - a literal connection between generations that would last mere minutes instead of for a few more hours, years, decades - like it was meant to - , instead of praying, I started to sweat, and cry. And then after what seemed like hours, I pulled myself together and prayed for his healing and his recovery. Looking back, it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. You have freed me from my chains.
Later that week, I was asked to call their pastor and let him know that death was imminent. How do you do that? How come nobody had ever taught me how to talk about someone who is going to die? It sounded like I caught Pastor Dave by surprise. It was a pretty jovial greeting until I broke the news to him. Even now, I wonder how I talked about it. I wonder more how pastors and ministers do it every day. Truly I am your servant.
In the end, the day of visitation was marked by a huge snowstorm, and still over 200 people came to the funeral home. A public school teacher - we knew the Padre wanted a snow day. When they did the final viewing for only family, my oldest put a container of M&Ms with him in the casket. At first anyway. Then she wanted it back.
The day we buried him was a crisp, clear, winter day, with a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. It was pretty glorious. And his memorial service saw over 300 people pay their last respects and the Gospel was clearly preached.
I don't know how people do it. How they tell their spouse for 30 years that its okay to go ahead and not hold on. How they sing at their friends funeral. How they speak when their dad has passed away. How they talk about a best friend who is no longer. Precious is the death of his saints.

Guat team prep notes

Here are my notes for Saturday night's team prep with the Guat team. (I just love saying that word 'Guat'.)
Previous posts about this team and trip here and here.

three things i want to do tonight -

1 - have you think about sharing the story of Jesus
Acts 17
Paul was an expert at reading other cultures
the truth is that you might never get to share your testimony with anyone during your time away
you might, however, get to share the Gospel in a way that is more relevant
think about your favorite story or film
'redemptive analogy'
its ok to choose 'Dazed and Confused' - inside joke for Andrea

2 - challenge you to realize that you will be under adversity
my first cross cultural experience was adverse
flight on dramamine
car trip to host home was a blur
paint in clothes
electricity turned off randomly
mosquito netting
got really sick
three weeks

Rom 12:5 all members belonging to one body
You MUST be completely devoted to the well being of one another
It is imperative not an option
Your relationships must stand the test of adversity
And it will be adverse
3 weeks away in a different country and culture
Satan will be attacking
You will not feel like the experience is significant
Some of you will be physically sick

50% of first time mission teams do not make it past the first year - all due
to relational/maturity issues
If we are to grow a generation of people willing to work together for the hearts of the nations, belonging to one body/mission is crucial

You must commit to the well being of each one of you
In order to help take the commitment to success -
The Hardy Personality
You will spend 10 minutes reading through the questions yourselves
Highlight/underline what resonates with you

Then break into groups of 4 - try to find one or two that you don't know so well
Share, take a risk, be vulnerable
The goal is not to exercise your teammates weakness but to understand it
To know yourself better

3 - have you think about culture
guess where the center of Christianity is?
read article this week - center of Christianity is Timbuktu, in heavily Muslim country of Mali, Africa
Want you to think about Jesus in light of another culture
Want you to see that there are some elements in Western Christianity that are maybe
not Biblical
In order for Christianity to flourish in another culture, it has to be within that cultural
Essentials in Culture activity


Will post later this weekend to talk about it. I'm looking forward to it, should be lots of fun.

UPDATE - Sat pm
Had a great time with the team. Lots of energy and discussion and just fun, tossing around ideas of culture, faith and mission.
Interesting side note - tonight my oldest daughter really wanted to come along and listen and learn from what we were talking about. I was pretty excited that she was so interested in this. So I took her along. She was a little more bored than she planned I think, but it was cool to have her there. She's in the picture, but not going on the team...

Friday, March 04, 2005

Baltimore Emergent Cohort

Some people around here are starting a Baltimore Emergent Cohort. I don't really know what that means, but Will does. Read more here and let him know if you are interested. It would be fun to go and check it out.

Youth Missions Network Forum 2005 - Response 3

3rd and final post in a series, here are links to 1 and 2.
Breakout #3 - Reaching youth in other nations.
Also some very good stuff in this breakout as well. Some highlights that resonated with me included:
99% of the world's youth workers work in the US where there is less than 3% of the global youth population.
That is an incredible statistic isn't it?
Go with big ears and big eyes before you go with a big mouth.
Treat the hosting ministry as a culture teachers, not just as a camp manager.
When I was in NYC this past summer, my team could literally sit at the feet of Larry, who could tell stories for days at end about his experience living in Brooklyn. He talked about Muslim store owners that loved to have him come in and talk to them, about little Egypt - a two block section of town owned totally by the Muslims, about how one neighborhood had been totally revitialized because Muslims had moved in and built a mosque, how he and another family from his church were getting ready to sell their houses and move two blocks over to be closer to all the Muslims that were moving in. Larry was a true teacher of culture, not just a missionary.

Centre of Christianity moves to Africa

From the article titled the same, found here.
- The geographical point at which an equal number of Christians lives to the north, south, east and west is now found in Timbuktu in the largely Muslim country of Mali.
- In theory, Europe's churches, including those in Russia, still have 531 million worshippers. Yet only about 10 per cent regularly attend services and in Britain, the figure falls to seven per cent. Moreover, Europe's Christians are ageing and their population is expected to shrink by 17 million over the next two decades.
- In Africa, by contrast, the Christian congregation has grown by more than 4,300 per cent since 1900, when it had fewer than 9 million worshippers. This rate of expansion is unparalleled since the early years of the Church.

What does this mean for the Western evangelical culture? I'm sure many things, but the first thing that comes to mind is that we had better be preparing the next generation of leaders in the movement of Jesus for a landscape of global Kingdom minded people that may look very different than our sterotype of a Christian. We also must, absolutely, engage the next generation in ways where they experience the global Church, not just church the way we think it needs to be done here in America.
For more info, check out the Center for the Study of Global Christianity and The Next Christendom.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Youth Missions Network Forum 2005 - Response 2

I decided to turn this into a little series. For those of you interested, the first post of this series is here.
Here are notes from the Forum on the 2nd breakout topic - Mobilizing Our Youth for Missions.
I thought I would offer some reflections from those notes.
"Greatest barriers for Mobilizing Youth"
Leaders without vision and skills to make it happen.
Totally true. The only way we get a vision for something like this is to get a perspective outside of our own experience. It's almost a catch 22, unless someone has gone, we don't see it. In my case, it took the Perspectives class to catalyze some of my previous mission experiences.
Not enough leaders have had missions experiences.
I would also add that not enough leaders have had missions experiences that have been more than just glorified vacations. If a trip to another country didn't bring about a change in what we care about, no wonder the experience isn't worth replicating to the next generation.
Not enough mobilizers.
Yes. True. It's harder to find mobilizers than people that will go.
Nominal Christians in the US.
Yes to this even more. In the US, it's okay for a person to call themselves a 'Christian' and yet have nothing to do with Jesus. It's perfectly fine for us to say we follow Christ and yet live like a pagan. And we wonder why the unbelieving world has all the disdain it has towards Christians.
Missions equals event for most Youth Ministries.
Scathing. This is one of the reasons why one of my favorite authors like to say that he doesn't believe in missions, but he believes in mission. (Name that author and I'll interview you on this blog for free! Hey - at least its a tiny bit of publicity...)
Great Commission doesn't fit into most Youth Ministries vision.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Youth Missions Network Forum 2005 - Response 1

In a post I wrote last September, I talked about the arm of the National Network of Youth Minister's youth missions component, called Youth Go Global. They sponsored a conference in Orlando in January where interested youth workers, missionaries and mission agencies got together to talk specifically about missions efforts with youth. Here is their summary of the conference titled Youth Missions Network Forum 2005. I wanted to go to this, but instead decided to spend my time away going to a Mosaic event, also in Orlando, about a week later.
Included on the page summary are pdf links to three breakout sessions that were held at the conference:
- Normalizing youth missions in the local church
- Mobilzing our youth for missions
- Reaching youth in other nations
I've downloaded all three documents and will plan on keeping them around as some good resource information.

The top of the first document states "A local church with youth missions as a normal part of its life and culture has addressed these six areas"
I would like to expand on each one of these and tell you where we are in each area.

1 - Leadership
We have made a significant investment in our culture by addressing the issue of leadership related to youth missions. My role, having been created in the past two years, is a big deal. I don't find many youth ministries with someone whose sole job is to do missions. In fact, I haven't found one person with my role. It's cool though.
I've also come to the understand that I need to build my own set of leaders. Our ministry is mature enough to where program teams and small group teams have kids who have graduated out of serving in those areas. SPACE needs to grow some leaders for the future.
It's a unique challenge because growing a mission team leader is not the same as growing a small group leader or someone that can write skits. I'm calling people to totally different tasks. Give up 10 days of your summer, 24x7, to travel, hang out, teach and challenge, and take full responsibility for a group of high school students, potentially in a foreign land. Have any bit of passion for sending kids all over the world? Loved having diarrhea in Haiti? Any takers?
2 - Intentional/Long Term View
So true. Our projects are intentional, ideally teaming up with someone who is in the other culture for the long haul. Even our launches (one day service projects) are intentional, and not just random acts of service. What inevitably happens is that people in the church ask us to do stuff just because we are youth. We firmly and politely say no.
3 - Training/Teaching
If you have read this for a while, you know I'm anal about training.
4 - Sending/Celebrating
Our middle school pastor has already set a Sunday morning in the summer for a sendoff. Very cool, he gets it. And last year, he felt bad that he didn't get it soon enough. And we have a big party when everyone comes home. We don't celebrate enough with kids that try something new.
5 - Opportunities
I'm trying on this one. The stark reality is that when you serve a ministry of hundreds of kids, taking a group to an urban child center in the city for an afternoon won't work. When huge numbers of kids sign up, it's easy to ruin a host ministry's witness. Same with a summer missions project. Hopefully, I don't become the bottleneck. That's why I have to be careful about kids that want to do their own thing.
6 - Resources/Communication
The www. The number of mission articles, newsletters, mission agencies, etc. is such an incredible resource. And I have a few books that I always give kids to read.
I like to think that SPACE has made a difference in light of these six areas. I believe we are on the road to making youth missions normal part of its life and culture.

Mission Safari - bringing his daughter

Tim Hutchison of Mission Safari interviews his daughter after she comes with him for the first time on a medical visit. (Tim is a medical doctor serving in Africa.) Great post, take a look at the pictures too.
I loved reading the account from his daughter. Reading her comments about getting used to the smell, knowing that the people were friendly, and having a chance to tangibly help her father (weighing and measuring kids), that is the Kingdom seen through a child's eyes.
That we could all be seeking experiences that would affect our kids like Tim.

SPACE Missions 2005 B - Light Company

Come and join other students from LC and impact more than yourself. LC will be going on a service oriented weekend to work and serve Christian Missionary Technical Services, a GCC supported missions organization located in Bernsville, PA.
CMTS serves missionaries in three unique ways:
- a furlough loaner car program that provides transportation for missionaries for short term.
- a car purchase program that provides a buying service for used vehicles and procurement.
- by purchase or donation, of hospital, kitchen, office and shop equipment, and other specially needed items and assistance in the shipment of these goods overseas.
While at CMTS, you will be serving them in a variety of tangible ways, which may include:
- washing and detailing cars and trucks
- landscaping and general yard work
- painting and cleaning
This is not a retreat, but a significant opportunity to bless one of our own missionaries on our way as we impact the world. More information will be available soon, including an information packet and a parents information meeting.

Blog - Alex McManus

Alex McManus blog

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

USA Today - study on teen crashes

Fascinating article which summarizes a study USA Today did on teen driving and crashes:
The risk to teen lives rises when:
- a 16 year old is at the wheel
- they are riding with other teens
- in teen driven cars after dark
- young driver loses control
- unsuitable vehicle
- they drive in more dangerous regions
If you are around students, take a few minutes to read the article. Via Thunderstruck.