Sunday, August 28, 2016

Do you Really Know?

I recently got back from a summer trip spent in Southeast Asia that consisted of nine other teammates all told to say the same thing to Immigration or anybody else when asked, “Why are you here?”- because where we went, it was illegal to share the gospel: the 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window is a term coined by Christian missionary strategist and Partners International CEO Luis Bush in 1990 to refer to those regions of the Eastern Hemisphere, plus the European and African part of the Western Hemisphere, located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator. It's a general area that was purported to have the highest level of socioeconomic challenges and least access to the Christian message and Christian resources on the planet. That was my location- in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.
Here, I encountered people who were kinder and more joyful than anyone I had ever known. These people who were more lost than words can say, taught me more about my faith than a lot of Christians I know today. I watched as they devoted every part of their life to their Muslim faith. I saw them at the end of Ramadan lay out newspapers in every part of the streets to bow down and pray. Five times a day they followed the call to prayer and spent their lives believing that their good works will get them into heaven, and that because of their fasting they will be forgiven of all their sins. I witnessed thousands of wonderful people bow down and pray to a god that does not even exist; a god that never hears their prayers, never sees their offerings, and can never give them a hope into eternity. So how is it that these people who get absolutely nothing in return from their god can be more devoted than the church today who receives graciously and endlessly from a loving Savior? I know “Christians” today that never even spend alone time with Jesus outside of church, community groups, house churches, or bible studies, not to mention spends five times a day with Him. They think they are spending eternity in heaven, when in reality they don’t even know Jesus personally any more than these Muslims do.
This was one of the most significant and challenging things I learned while being there: Do you really know Jesus intimately or do you just know about Him? My heart breaks for these people whose good works are all in vain, and for the American Christians who find their identity in their church than in Christ Himself.
Now am I saying that you have to stop everything you’re doing and bow down and pray five times a day in order to know Jesus personally? Well, no. But I am saying, try to spend some alone time with Him, because He has a lot to tell you- and it is more worth it than anything this world can tell you
M. Hibbard

Friday, August 26, 2016

It's okay to get ugly... cry ugly... be ugly

This summer, I had the opportunity to go to a city in Southeast Asia. This city was very diverse. It had Chinese, Indians, Malays, Europeans, Africans, etc. I love that about the city! With so many different cultures and backgrounds the city has, it brings a variety of religions as well: Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Free Thinkers, etc. It was so cool to meet different people and learn about their cultures and beliefs. 

For about a month during our summer, we had a condominium up on the forty-first and forty-second floors. We had amazing views from every angle of that condo and I loved to go out on one of the porches and just sit, look, and pray over the city. 

Then, it started to get hard. One of the first nights we were there as I was looking over the city, reading my Bible, and listening to music, a single tear escaped my eye. I quickly wiped the tear away, but the tears kept coming. At first, I thought I was doing something wrong. There was no reason to cry. I’m a big girl. But, the city. Most of the people I am looking out at are . . . lost. They have no hope. Then, I saw this mountain far out beyond the city with just a few lights on the tip of it, allowing me to be able to see it. The tears kept flowing. I can remember getting on my knees and saying, “hold on, just you wait. I’m coming. I’m coming.” Because, how can they call on the One they have not believed in, and how can they believe in the One of Whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (See Romans 10:14) I do not know anything about the people up on that mountain. I don’t know if they are Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or something else. All I know is what the evidence points to: they are lost. The reality is, if I believe the Bible is true without any mixture of error, if I believe that Jesus came, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, performed many miracles, died on the cross, rose from the dead three days later, if I believe Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus was, is, and is to come, and if I believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, then I have to face the fact that those who do not believe in Jesus as Lord are lost for all of eternity. And sitting up there, overlooking all these people, it broke me. 

I was broken, and I still am convinced I don’t need to be fixed. 

All I could do was pray. I cried out to God with deep, deep sobs. My heart felt like it was being ripped out of my chest. This prayer happened quite a few times during our stay in the condo. The more I prayed these tearful, ugly prayers, the more I realized that it was okay. It’s okay to get ugly before God. It’s okay to show Him our hearts. And the more I did it, the easier it was to hear His still small voice to go and talk to that girl on the train, to let the Holy Spirit work speak through me to my grab driver, and to lead with the Gospel and filter with the Gospel. 

Then I grew hungry. I could not get enough of His Word. I wanted it more and more! I wanted to not just read it, but to know it. AND I COULDN’T KEEP IT TO MYSELF. I had to go out and share it with people. All of this is because I believe broken and ugly prayers get the attention of God. 

It is okay to get ugly, cry ugly, be ugly. We are the most beautiful when we get ugly before God. And don’t let it stop there. Allow God to use your brokenness to further His kingdom. 

Let me say one more thing and then I am done. Please do not think that what I did this summer was in any way significant. Do not think I am qualified for the work He has set before us. I am not. If anything, I am disqualified. I have messed up in countless ways. But God, by His infinite grace and mercy, has qualified me. And God has qualified all who have carried their cross and followed Him. When we have done that, we have surrendered our rights to Him. We have given up all we have and all that are we are to do the work He has called us to! So if you think about it, what I did by going to Southeast Asia was not so significant, it was simply obedient. We are all called to GO, be obedient, and complete the Great Commission! 

So let’s go! Let us carry our crosses. Let us surrender our rights to Christ. Let us allow God to use us in ways we never thought we could be used. Let us shine our lights from the highest of the mountaintops to the bottom of the valleys. Let us follow Him into the Great unknown. Let us sing with all of our hearts, “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.” Let us need the Word of God like we need the water that we drink. Let us fight the battle of which the enemy has a head start. Let us plunder the gates of hell! And let us with every breath and every tear and every step fulfill the Will of the Father, starting on our knees with broken, wholehearted, ugly prayers. 

So Others May Hear and Live, 
Alex


Shared from Alex's personal blog, http://alexgraceanthony.blogspot.com/2016/08/its-okay-to-get-ugly.html?spref=fb

Friday, August 19, 2016

God Continues to Work

I'm wishing with all my heart to be back on the river with my team, but praying that God will continue to work in the lives of those who we made contact with.

-Kara
Dolores River, Philippines

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Best summer of my life

I cannot find the words to describe this summer! I have seen God's faithfulness, His power and His love on full display. I have met the kindest people, shared in the crazy adventures, and had the blessing of doing life and growing with seven amazing teammates. I have had the best summer of my life! I'm so thankful. Part of my very full heart will forever be in a city half way across the world. Until next time!

-Andrea
Global City Outreach Team

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Exciting News

I heard exciting news today! My friend from the (summer) was baptized yesterday morning! PTL!! Please continue to pray for the growth of our brother. Also, please pray for the other brothers and sisters. I have heard news that they are experiencing persecution. Their cost for following Jesus is completely different than what it is for us here in America. Yet how amazing it is to see that they consider Jesus worth it all. What an encouragement for all of us to be standing up for our faith. Thank y'all for your prayers!!!

-James

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reverse Culture Shock began with Automatic Toilets

Today marks two weeks back “home.” I put “home” in quotes because while I have been back with my family and some friends, life has not slowed down one little bit! It kind of feels like I’ve traveled across the world again in the two weeks I’ve been back. I wanted to write this blog post a little earlier than now, but with family vacation, retreats, and other events here and there I simply haven’t had a chance to sit down and write.
That being said… Reverse culture shock DID begin with automatic toilets, but that’s not all this post is about. Adjusting back to life in the US and the crazy busy schedule I had almost forgotten about has proved to be quite a challenge, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Getting back into an incredibly fast-paced life and full schedule is a challenge in and of itself, but trying to remember all that I learned this summer and attempting to process what it could mean in regards to my future brings a new sense of challenge to returning home. Sharing about how God moved this summer can be hard because 1) I still don’t really know what to say, and 2) some people simply aren’t really interested in listening – especially if too much rambling is involved. Both of these things are okay. We were warned about them at debrief, and they have probably been the most challenging to me when it comes to reverse culture shock, but it’s okay. I may not be sure who I need to share with or even what I need to share, but I know I need to share. God didn’t send me overseas this summer for me to stay quiet when I returned. So, knowing that reading someone’s personal blog is a completely voluntary, I’m going to start sharing what I learned via this blog post.

What is a World Christian?

At debrief, we were given advice about many things in preparation for returning home. Much of that advice has probably been forgotten due to jet lag, but thankfully I took lots of notes during our sessions. I’d like to share some of what I learned in those sessions with you today.
This summer, we did a Bible study that taught us what being a World Christian means and what roles we can play as a World Christian. At debrief, we were taught about how we can continue striving to live as World Christians once we’re back home and back at school.
A World Christian is a Christian who has discovered the truth of God’s unfulfilled global purpose to reach all peoples. There are three main things one must focus on to successfully live as a World Christian. These are God’s Word, God’s World, and God’s Work.
A World Christian knows what God’s Word says about missions beyond the four or five verses that are typically the “go-to” verses used for mission trip themes and t-shirts. Our calling as Christians to reach the nations, to reach ALL the nations, is found throughout the entire Old and New Testaments. God wants to be known among ALL peoples, and WE have the task of working to make that happen.
Check out these verses to see God’s desire to be known:
Genesis 1:28, 9:1, 12:1-3, 26:4; Deuteronomy 4:4-6; Joshua 2:9-10; 1 Kings 4:34; Matthew 24:14, 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; and Revelation 7:9.
A World Christian also knows about God’s World. He or she knows about the 10/40 window where 80% of the world’s poorest people live and where 95% of the world’s unreached people groups can be found. They know that most of the 3.5+ billion people that live in this part of the world are following religions that do not know Grace. A World Christian knows these statistics and wants to play a part in doing something about it.
Finally, a World Christian knows about God’s Work, about how he or she can play an important role in reaching the Nations with the gospel. Whether a goer, sender, prayer, mobilizer, and/or welcomer, a World Christian is involved in God’s Work no matter where they are geographically. Different seasons of life may equal different habits or roles as a World Christian.

[GO – SEND – PRAY – MOBILIZE – WELCOME]

World Christian: A Christian who has discovered the truth of God’s unfulfilled global purpose to reach all peoples, and knows that he or she has a part in that task.

The Challenge

During our last night at debrief, we were given a challenge and an opportunity to commit to being a World Christian in thoughts and actions. I will leave you with that same challenge today.
Really believe the Gospel. The Good News is the answer for the whole world, and saying you believe it is saying you accept your role in the Great Commission.
Really count the cost. This means understanding that your life is His, your plans are His, and your future is His. ALL for His glory.
Really love Jesus more. Love Jesus more than the things, people, and opportunities of this world.

{Believe the Gospel // Count the Cost // Love Jesus More}

With graduation a mere four months away, the possibilities of what could be next never stop swirling in my mind. As I try to understand what the next chapter of my life is to hold according to God’s will, I pray I am successful in really believing the Gospel, really counting the cost, and really loving Jesus more. 
“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” Acts 20:24

Friday, August 12, 2016

Is your schedule more important than your relationships?

What I learned about relationships while living in the Philippines.
During school, I often feel the weight of time on my shoulders. I run from class to class, from activity to activity, desperately trying to get everything done before I collapse into bed at night. It seems like an awful way to live when it's verbalized, but every single day I seem to repeat the cycle. I also continuously watch many of my peers enter into the same rushed lifestyle.
While spending time in the Philippines, the biggest culture shock to me was the relaxed attitude of the Filipino people. I could handle sleeping on the floor, cooking over a fire, having a very small house and bathroom (bathroom and house being a very loose term), even hand washing clothes, but sitting and waiting was awful. We would schedule a Bible study and an hour later, sometimes longer, it would finally start. Nobody seemed to care about the time or doing things in a timely manner. Everyone seemed to be oblivious to the urgency of our schedule. The first week in the Philippines I almost pulled my hair out. Read more of Cassidy's story....
-Cassidy W, 2016 Advance Team, Philippines