Coldwater Wednesday

Today was a long one. We got up and went into the gas station for breakfast (which you can only do right in small town America!) and, after we’d eaten, went out to the parking lot to spin a direction and draw some mileage. It was feast or famine in the mileage department – lots of high numbers and 2 that would have had us staying in Grant. 257 was the number that Smashley drew, so we went back and packed up the tents and everything and headed East. With several stops and a little indecision about where exactly to stop, we got to Fairmont, NE late in the afternoon. Mile 257 from where we left the campground this morning was just at the edge of town, and there is a mile marker 257 along the highway in town as well. I also noticed a ton of gas stations where gas was $2.57. I hope someone finds some significance in that number because it made for a long day!

We didn’t take the most direct route today, thinking the roads would be better. The roads were ok, but it was all hills. The truck pulling the camper was getting pretty hot pulling all the weight. By about 150 miles, everyone was saying we should just go back to Grant. It was fun getting to know a few people there and making connections… It’s amazing the way a little dog biscuit vomit at the gas station can draw people together! (Ask me later – short version is that the quote of the week was Andrew, defensively: “I only puked because I ate a dog biscuit!”)

While the 257’s everywhere may have seemed confirmative, our initial foray into Fairmont was less reassuring. We saw very few people around town and not much movement. We stopped and I talked to a lady who was scraping and powerwashing paint off a house, but she was about to stop for the day and wouldn’t be back tomorrow, so she said she couldn’t really use our help. She did give me the name of the director of the senior center in town and pointed out her house. She said she didn’t know anyone who could use any help either, after listening politely to my explanation. There was a house with trim that was half painted, so Andrew went to the porch to see if we could help them finish, but there was no answer. Despite the lack of success finding something we could help with, we prayerfully pulled into the nursing home I’d noticed on our drive through town. Micah and I talked to a nice guy inside who gave us the name of the activities director. He said if we could come in the morning she could get us in touch with the residents and have some visiting and stuff for us to do. (Either that or he was thinking he’d pawn off these wackos on the day shift!)

Finding nowhere to stay in Fairmont, we drove North a little bit and are staying in York – in beds – with hot showers. Everyone’s a little worn from the day and getting on each other’s nerves a little bit, but a little pool time seems to have mellowed things in time for bed. And speaking of bed, there’s a stack of pillows calling me…
It was a funny dynamic this morning, drawing a distance to see where we’d be going. No one really wanted to leave Grant, but we felt like we should give God the chance to move us if he wanted to. He did (unless you want to just say it was random chance). No one really pouted, but there definitely was kind of that “Aww, man…” disappointment. Good to see the willingness to do what God wanted even if it wasn’t what we might have chosen to do on our own. I pray that the students would always have the attitude that they’ll do what He wants.

Coldwater Update

Hi. Sorry for the lack of prior updates. Wifi wasn’t to be found by my laptop and Verizon and Blogger apparently don’t speak the same language! (The last update was sent to my blog via my phone.)

The trip has gone really well. Grant was a nice little town and we stayed busy. I’ll post more later, but right now I’m in the McCook library while the group is making sandwiches in the park across the street (which has the most awesome playset I’ve ever had the pleasure of climbing over!). We’re on our way East, with about 160 miles to go today – we decided last night to draw again this morning and ended up with 257 miles and East-southeast. I’ll let you know where we end up via twitter updates (which appear on the left bar of this screen – or you can follow @6drews on twitter, itself). Just for the record, we all liked Grant – as evidence by the zero, and 1/2 distances that we put in the cup (I had the students write down a number and stick it in a cup for today’s distance) – we’ll miss you Grant…

Time to hit the road. Keep praying for safe travel, and also for a student who’s having a hard time back home right now, and for Randy and Tessa and their family (who were not able to make it to join us today because of a death in the family). Thanks.

Last minute thoughts before coldwater

Some quick, parting thoughts before I go…

-I hate packing.

-What kind of rational human being packs up for a week long youth ministry road trip without any idea where he’ll be going? (If you just read that and thought “rational people don’t go on youth ministry trips of any kind”, you should stop seeing this young generation as trouble and get to know them – they will amaze you!)

-What kind of parents let their kids take a week long road trip without any idea where they’ll be going? (Thank you parents for being awesome, God seeking individuals, for praying your kids will be the same, and for trusting me with them for this week!)

-I forgot towels. (I always forget towels!)

-I don’t know why we don’t have video monitors and couches in the lobby yet.

-Glad I remembered towels before we left.

-I hope it doesn’t rain and soak the tents on the first day out!

-Praying for God to use this time to strengthen His Kingdom – within our group and within the communities we visit and homes we work in.

-I hate cold showers.

-Cash for clunkers is a stupid name for a stupid program… and I wish I had ten thousand dollars sitting around so I could replace my 4runner with a brand new Avenger without having car payments again – thanks to Chrysler’s doubling of the gov money. Does that make me a bad person?

-I may be certifiably insane…. Dad???

-Should’ve made t-shirts (about coldwater, not about being crazy)

-Can’t wait to see what God is going to do this week!!!

coldwater in 5, 4, 3…

I’m really excited for next week’s mission trip to “somewhere”. There is something about jumping into the unknown in order to serve God by serving people He loves that has always appealed to me. I don’t want to have all the answers. I don’t want my life to be all orderly and tied up with a nice little bow.

It’s been fun to explain coldwater when people ask where we’re going. “We don’t know yet.” is my usual response.

“Oh… don’t you think you should decide pretty soon?”

We’ll know on Monday!
“Oh… when are you leaving?”
“ummm…. uh…..”
Exactly.” [By the way, yesterday, we found the spinner that will be used to determine which direction we travel – it’s from a Mickey Mouse game my kids have!] We are counting on God to get us where He wants us to be…
Yes, I’m aware of the random nature of a spinner and drawing numbers out of hats. But I wonder if the nature of discipleship is less ordered than we might think? I wonder if we’ve lost our awareness of God at work in our haste to meet Him “at church” once a week? (sidenote – What a stupid phrase: “at church” – church is not a place!) When Paul ended up in Macedonia, was it because everything went according to plan? Or did He notice God wanting to do something else, and faithfully respond to His Spirit? Not just for this trip, but for life, may we be so responsive to the leading of the Spirit of Jesus.
Please be praying for Sam, Andrew, Micah, Jadie, Ashley, Greg, and I – the coldwater team. We want to humbly serve wherever we can. I’ll try to keep things updated here next week and let you know where we’re going and what we’re doing – if we end up somewhere with service! Also pray for parents and families of those of us going – we’ll try to keep you as informed as we can.

Confidence in the Spirit

After Moses spoke with God on the mountain (in Exodus 34) his face was radiant. It shone. He reflected God’s glory. But Paul revealed later (In 2 Cor. 3) that it was a fading glory – so much so that Moses wore a veil over his face to keep his people from seeing the glory fade. Then Paul contrasts that to the unfading glory made possible through the Spirit’s transforming work.

It is this ongoing transformation in us that reveals an increasing measure of God’s glory. It is the Spirit of God within us that is transforming us into His image. The result of the Spirit for Paul was a confidence and freedom and a boldness and perseverance in making God known to the world. I have to confess, I don’t always live that way. I can buckle under the weight of self-doubt. I find myself shackled by convention and rules on occasion. And I’m pretty sure bold is not a word most people would use to describe me.
Maybe you don’t feel so bold either. Maybe you need to redirect your confidence to Someone more deserving than yourself (who ironically IS INSIDE YOU if you are in Him). Maybe you need to recall the hope to which we are called and respond with a confident offering of that same hope to those without it.
“We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Rely on that power. Trust the Spirit living in you. Let Him continue to transform you in order to show Himself to the people around you. There is work to be done that requires more than we have to give on our own. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

Another One Bites the Dust

Just got a call from another student who is dropping out of the coldwater mission next week. Ironically, the call came while I was in the middle of a discussion about students dropping out of the mission. I know this will be an experience like no other. I know this trip will stretch us in ways that are uncomfortable, but which will bring us to a deeper reliance on God.

That’s why Satan is using so many sneaky ways to convince my kids not to come. He fears what God can do. He hates the idea of young people putting themselves aside in order to serve someone else. He can’t stand the thought of someone getting a glimpse of the love of God for them, through the efforts of a bunch of students. So he’s doing whatever he can to snuff out the initial excitement that was raised months ago when we first starting working toward this mission. And one by one, they drop.
Please pray for our students – both those who are going and those who are not. Pray for my attitude toward the students who choose not to go. Many have great, legitimate reasons for not going. Some have the most pathetic excuses I’ve ever heard (seriously, I can’t write some out without laughing out loud – maybe later). Some students are not ready or called to go and serve on this mission – others are willfully ignoring the good they can do. Pray that I reflect Christ in my approach to each individual.
The way this is shaping up, I know God is working on something awesome. I wish some of the students who will be missing could experience it, but I’m very thankful for those who will and looking forward to working together to reveal God. I’m excited for coldwater. Excited to serve together and spend some great time being the church.
If you’re one of my students who’s dropped from the trip or the parent of one, please don’t make this post cause you to feel guilty about your choice. That is not my intent – I don’t ever want to use guilt to motivate you. I understand that you have other things to take care of. Please be praying for those of us who are going – and feel free to join us for the local road cleanup Sunday night at 7:00 starting here at our building, also talk to Marshall and see if you can help serve food Thursday night while we’re gone. God still loves you and so do I – don’t let Satan win in your life.

Starting Over Link

Just came across a great, challenging article from Francis Chan. Thinking about how it applies to student ministry in the church today. If we were starting over with nothing – shaping a ministry to make disciples of young people – where would we start? What would be absolutely essential? What would the boldness of the Holy Spirit look like in our ministry?

“I keep coming back to the truth that we need to be planting churches of boldness – churches that boldly trust in the power of the Holy Spirit; boldly foster authentic, 24/7 community; and churches that pray boldly.”
Go read the whole article. What could that type of mentality look like in our student ministries?

Thinking about Systems

I finally blocked out an hour of time and got to watch the Systems DVD from Andy Stanley that I got at CatalystWest a couple months ago. It was a great look at the way church systems don’t always match up with our mission and vision and cause a disconnect between reality and the change we want to see happen.

“If a new leader casts new vision and brings a new sense of mission, but doesn’t develop new systems, then nothing changes.” People will do what the systems reward them for doing, and often we reward behaviors unintentionally that we don’t really want to encourage. He ended with 3 questions to address: What are the behaviors we want to characterize the people in our ministry? What are we doing systemically to reward and motivate those behaviors? What are we accidentally doing to encourage behaviors we don’t want?
I also finished reading Sustainable Youth Ministry the other day. The book digs into what it takes to develop a healthy system for youth ministry that lasts.
Lots to contemplate for me…