Friday, July 5, 2013

July update

One of my goals for the upcoming year (my second year on staff with YWAM) is to become a better communicator.  In reality, what this means is giving more of a priority to communication with my family, friends, and supporters about my ministry.  I've had a number of people ask me in the past few months, "What do you do when the BSN isn't running?"  My most recent newsletter gives a tiny snapshot into what life and ministry looks like during the spring and summer months.  Enjoy!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

i bless the rains down in Africa

It's been a comparatively quiet week at YWAM Madison's Global Mission Center (the building where we run the BSN, where students live, and where I work--and sometimes feel like I live!)  Last week, two of our BSN outreach teams left for their respective locations: one team to Thailand and Japan, another team to Nepal.  Goodbyes are always difficult for me, and watching these teams leave was no different.  However, it's impossible not to be excited, knowing that they will be teaching, training, serving, learning, and growing as they take God's word to the nations.  Of course, I'm also glad for the fact that the separation lasts only six weeks and then we will all reunite for the final BSN graduation ceremony on February 23.

My outreach team is heading to the DR Congo, where we will run a BELT (Biblical Education and Leadership Training) seminar for between 100 and 200 local pastors and leaders.  It's the largest BELT seminar ever!  The seminar we will run is the first in a three part series called the Transformation Series.  This first seminar will focus on transformation of the heart and cover topics such as: the pursuit of truth, nature and character of God, design and purpose of people, the heart and destructiveness of sin, and the grace of God in salvation, among others.  After three weeks in the Congo, we will spend a little over a week in Tanzania, hoping to establish the groundwork for future BSN/BELT ministry with YWAM there.

If you had told me a year ago I would be helping to lead a BELT outreach in Africa, I would have laughed and thought it was a crazy idea.  But  here I am now, packed and ready to leave Madison in exactly seven hours, super pumped to go with this awesome team to take the word of God to AFRICA!!!

L to R: Amanda, Alex, Elisante, Jamie, me, Dow

Just a few of the many words that have been on my heart and mind recently as we prepare to go:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
                                                Hebrews 12:28-29


For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—
                                                Philippians 3:3


We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.  There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
                                                 1 John 4:13-18

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me.
    Because he is at my right hand,
    I will not be shaken.
                                                 Psalm 16:7-8

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 
                                                 John 15:4-5

Time to go bless some rains down in Africa! :)  Back in a month!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Outreach Trip to the DR Congo!


In about six weeks, I will be traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a team of students and staff from YWAM Madison’s Bible School for the Nations.  Wycliffe Bible Translators has invited us to come and run a Bible seminar for over 100 pastors who are desperate for Biblical Education and Leadership Training (BELT).  The seminar we will be running is part of a long term, ongoing initiative in the DR Congo through the ministries of Wycliffe, YWAM, and the Congolese church.

In order to go to the DR Congo, each person on our team needs to raise about $3,600.  To raise these finances, we are participating in a hot chocolate fundraiser on Thursday, December 6.  We plan to hand out free hot chocolate to passersby in downtown Madison, on the UW Madison campus, as a local outreach.  This sort of outreach has proven very effective in Madison in the past, so we are excited to once again hit the streets and reach out to university students and locals.

You can partner with us by making a pledge per cup of hot chocolate that our group hands out. Our goal is to hand out 1,000 cups of hot chocolate (maximum).  So if you pledge 1 cent per cup, you would support our outreach with $10; 2 cents = $20; 5 cents = $50; 10 cents = $100; etc.

I only need to raise $3.60 pledged per cup to go to the DR Congo! Please consider supporting us in this way!  Your pledge would benefit both the city of Madison as well as the DR Congo.  Please contact me to make a pledge!

[Also, you may have noticed that the DR Congo has been in the news a lot in the last several weeks because of political unrest.  I want to assure my friends and family that this is a situation we are continuing to keep in prayer.  Our team will proceed with wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Please keep this nation and our team in your prayers.  It is through prayer and the biblical truth we will be bringing to the DR Congo that can lead to transformation!  How exciting to be part of what God is doing there!  Read the latest about the situation here.]

Saturday, November 3, 2012

giving thanks

We've reached the half way point in the lecture phase of the BSN!  Everyone is working hard -- staff and students alike!  God has given a lot of grace for this season.  On Wednesday night, I came home from work, exhausted, and called my mom to unload a bit of my burden on her.  As I explained how overwhelmed I have been feeling, she encouraged me to thank God constantly.  So here goes...

I have so much to be thankful for:
  • A wonderful group of BSN students, as well as two families, who are fun and hard working
  • The greatest co-workers/friends I could ask for :)
  • I work with the most gracious leaders, men (and women) I strive to emulate!
  • My YWAM community, lots of opportunities for worship and intercession
  • Health!  I haven't been sick since the school started, even though I regularly run on a weird diet and little sleep.
  • So much revelation that BSN students have been receiving; thanks Holy Spirit!
  • A successful Kingdom of Israel module; I was on the team, and God really showed up powerfully to reveal His grace in the Old Testament
  • Two girls in the BSN who are my one-on-ones; it has been great getting to know them and pray for them during the school so far
  • The girls in my BSN small group, who ask tons of good questions and are so much fun to be with!  Also, my awesome co-leader for this small group :)
  • A trip to Michigan two weekends ago to attend the wedding of a close friend
  • Time spent with my family during that weekend, including good Chinese food!
  • My home and family here in Madison
  • The opportunity to continue studying kung fu and be a part of the SPM family (I received my sash and green stripe yesterday!)
  • Graduation ceremony last night for five girls from YWAM Madison's summer DTS
  • A good Halloween/Freakfest outreach last weekend... I even spent an hour talking with a Russian guy and his Polish American girlfriend!  Got their contact info, so hoping for continued friendship.
  • My church here in Madison, and especially my house group!
  • The decision has finally been made: I have the amazing opportunity to help lead a BSN/BELT outreach team to AFRICA this winter...!!!  More details to come...
  • Continued support (prayers and finances) from family and friends, as well as some new supporters!
  • Family, friends, and my church at home in Michigan, whom I miss very much
  • Skype conversations and phone calls/texts/FB messages from good friends around the world
  • News that two of my good friends (one German, one Russian) have received long awaited American visas!
  • A DTS friend who will be getting married on January 3 in Texas; I will be a bridesmaid! :)
  • Bubble tea, friends, and new acquaintances at my favorite coffee shop
  • The upcoming Kingdom of God module, which I am leading; I will have several opportunities to teach during the two weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • Looking forward to going back home to Michigan for Thanksgiving weekend, and hosting at least one friend during that time!
  • Recent reminder from the Holy Spirit to be a branch that remains in the Vine (John 15).  I've been meditating on this passage for the past week.
This is truly a month to be thankful!  God is good all the time!  Хвала тебе, наш Господь!  (Praise be to you, our Lord!)

African style worship in the BSN

We have been blessed with a number of gifted teachers, including BSN staff!
In this photo, Genae teaches on the book of Numbers during the Pentateuch module.

Worship and warfare time at the Training Center.  Here we are praying for Madison - the state capitol,
State Street (the city's popular pedestrian street that runs from the capitol to campus), Langdon Street
(where most of the UW fraternity/sorority houses are located), and the PHOS house (YWAM's student
 house on campus). 

Keri and I, kung fu sisters!  She received her black stripe and I have my green stripe!

A little tai chi helps wake up the muscles on a Saturday morning!  I'm very thankful for this outlet in my life,
 and the chance to get a little exercise!  Check out the Hurricane Fist page here!

Our BSN kids are all improving in their English abilities!  In this photo, Jemimah and I are exploring the toy
section at the store while mom and dad shop :)  We love having so many kids around the base!

We were blessed to have Mark Evans teach us for our Genesis week during the Pentateuch module.
I am looking forward to working with him and learning more from him during our BELT (Biblical
Education and Leadership Training) seminar in the DR Congo this winter!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

It's been awhile.

So much has been happening here in Madison; I don't know where to begin!

Well, first, I guess I'll admit that though I miss these days...


I'm glad to have these days back...!


Yes, that's right folks!  The Bible School for the Nations is back in business for 2012!  Hot summer days are behind us, and as the cooler temps rolled in, so did our 13 students BSN students, two with their families.  The BSN began on September 8.  Hard to believe that we just completed our third full week of classes!  So far we've covered an overview of truth, how to study and apply the Bible (hermeneutics), and the book of Genesis.  

It seems early to me for the leaves to be turning, but just as the trees in Wisconsin are already beginning to change, these students are also undergoing transformation in season.  Sometimes exciting, sometimes painful, it is impossible to encounter God and not be changed.  They are a studious group, full of questions, willing to wrestle with Scripture and discover the true God of the Bible.  Some of them are tearing down false presuppositions about Him that they've held most of their lives.  It's an arduous process, but a very good and rewarding one.

In August, before the BSN began, I took part in a two week training period along with approximately 15 other brand spanking new YWAM Madison staff members.  Following this we had a couple weeks of training specifically for the eight of us who are working with the Bible School for the Nations.  After a long holiday weekend and lots of preparation, we jumped in feet first to everything that is BSN.

Many or most of the YWAM Madison staff.  All of the people in this photo are involved in one or more
of YWAM's key areas: evangelism, training/discipleship, and mercy ministries.  Can you find me?

This good looking group is the BSN staff team!  L-R: Daniel, PD, me, Manuel, Genae, Evynn, Michael, Myk

Our classroom.  David teaching our group during week one on authority and trustworthiness of the Bible.
This beautiful group is the YWAM Madison 2012 BSN!  Look at all those kids in the front row!  The
students and staff in this photo range in age from late teens to mid-thirties and represent seven nations:
 Chile, France, Germany, Tanzania, the Philippines, Canada, and the US (including 12 different states!)

On Wednesday afternoons our group treks out to the Training Center, one of YWAM's facilities
located in the heart of the gently rolling cornfields, about 25 miles from downtown Madison.
There we join with the rest of our YWAM family (DTS students and other YWAM staff) to have a
time of worship and intercession.

A typical morning consists of a 1 or 1.5 hour time of worship, intercession, hemeneutics, or storying,
followed by 3+ hours of class.  There are always good snacks to be had during break time :)
(Thanks Genae!)

Intercession:
1:  the act of interceding;
2:  prayer, petition or entreaty in favor of another

And somehow we still find time to have fun :)

If you haven't been receiving my regular newsletter updates and would like to, please contact me.  For more information about YWAM Madison, visit www.ywammadison.org or www.facebook.com/ywammadison.  (Photo credits go to Daniel Becker, Jackie Streng, and other miscellaneous individuals who posted pictures on the YWAM Madison facebook page.)  Thanks to those who have been praying for me and supporting my ministry!

Bringing the kingdom of God to Madison and the nations (more info to come on which nations)!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

"So, what do you do?"

It's one of the most common questions asked when meeting someone for the first time.  On the street, in a cafe, at a party, at the gym; you meet someone, and after exchanging names and brief comments about the weather or whatever event you are attending, he or she asks you, "So, what do you do?"

This is the first photo I took in Madison, as I was
arriving in the city for my very first time.  Hard to
believe this was almost one year ago!
This question can come in different forms.  I live in a university town, and I look young, so upon meeting someone new I'm often asked, "So, are you a student?"  Or if my new acquaintance knows I'm not originally from this area, I might get, "What brought you to Madison?"  But the question behind the question remains the same: "So, what do you do?"

There are days when I wish I had a straightforward and simple answer to this question.  It would be so much easier to say, "I'm a teacher," or "I'm an insurance agent."  Somehow saying, "I'm a missionary," though accurate, doesn't quite capture what I do, nor does it usually capture my listener's interest.  In fact, most of the time it has the exact opposite effect.

Though I have days when I despise the question, most of the time I actually welcome it.  Here's why: I have found that there is no easier way to introduce people to considering the love of Jesus than to simply share about what I do for a living.

Earlier this week I was settling down to do a couple of hours of work at my favorite local cafe.  Within an hour I'd had the opportunity to share with three different people about the good news of the Kingdom of God.  I should note here that I am not a gifted evangelist.  The fact that I am extroverted, easily distracted, and a regular customer at this particular cafe, has opened up a plethora of opportunities to befriend new people there! ;)  But how did these opportunities arise in the first place?  Just from that simple question: "So, what do you do?"

I tell them I work with YWAM, and then inevitably, I have to explain a little bit about what YWAM is and what we do.  I try to be brief and talk fast so that I don't lose their attention.  But then I get into the good stuff: I tell them about the Bible School for the Nations (BSN).

Throughout history, many people have perpetuated hate in the name of religion.  Many evils occur in the name of religion, even Christianity.  But why does this happen?  Is it because Christianity is bad?  No, surely not!  The reason so many Christians do and say bad, hurtful, and even hateful things is because they do not have a proper understanding of the Bible and of God's heart for people.

If all people, especially Jesus-followers, truly understood that the Bible is a book about God's great love for us and how we are to love others, then maybe our lives would look a little more loving.  You see, in the BSN, we study the Bible, but we also learn about the different spheres of society and how to apply biblical truth to those areas in order to make them look more like the way God intends them.  

What would government look like if love was applied?  Corruption would be non-existent, for one thing.  What would our families look like?  Dads would no longer abandon their kids; there would be no more broken families, no more divorce.  What would education look like if biblical truth was applied?  How would businesses and economies be different?  The world of art and entertainment?  How would science and technology be redeemed?  What would the CHURCH look like?

Here's what I've discovered when I talk to people about the Bible and what it has to say about our world: Anyone who is open to reasoning can see that Scripture has a great deal to say about God's heart for what our world should look like, and if we truly applied it to every area of our personal lives and our societies, the world would look drastically different.  I have yet to meet a person who would not like to see the positive changes that would take place if people understood and applied the truth of Scripture to everyday life.

The gospel is not limited to Jesus' death and resurrection, or our personal salvation, the promise of eternal life.  This is, of course, the heart of the good news, but it is not all of the good news!  The gospel of the Kingdom of God extends to everyday life as well; it is not a gospel for the future, it is a gospel for TODAY! How would your world be different if you loved the way Jesus loves?  How would our world be different if every person loved the way Jesus loves?

"So, what do you do?"

I help teach people to love the way Jesus loves.  I'm part of God's plan to change hearts and transform nations.  Some days that means cooking for the students who are studying God's word.  Other days I am the teacher.  Some days it means sitting behind a desk sending emails; other days it means sharing with a new friend at my favorite cafe about the love of God.  In short, I change the world!

Last year's BSN students.  A whole new group of world-changers will be arriving in Madison in exactly one month!
Thanks to those whose love, financial support, and prayers are fueling this ministry!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I choose to praise

I've only been awake for a few hours, but it's already been a discouraging morning.  However, the Lord brought this song to mind this morning, one that is often sung at my home church in Michigan.  I choose to praise the Lord in the midst of discouraging situations.

God is good all the time.

My Troubled Soul

My troubled soul,
Why so weighed down?
You were not made to bear this heavy load
Cast all your burdens, upon the Lord
Jesus cares, He cares for you.

Jesus cares, He cares for you
And all your worrying won’t help you make it through
Cast all your burdens, upon the Lord
And trust again, in the promise of His love.

(I will) Praise that mighty name of Jesus
Praise the Lord, the Lifter of my head
Praise the Rock of my Salvation
All my days are in His faithful hands.

My anxious heart
Why so upset?
When trials come, how you so easily forget
To cast your burdens, upon the Lord
Jesus cares, He cares for you.

Jesus cares. He cares for you
And all your worrying won’t help you make it through
Cast all your burdens, upon the Lord
And trust again, in the promise of His love.

(I will) Praise that mighty name of Jesus
Praise the Lord, the Lifter of my head
Praise the Rock of my Salvation
All my days are in His faithful hands.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

falling in love...

On Friday, I went with two of my fellow YWAMers to downtown Madison to pray for the city and the campus.  As we parked in a garage in the heart of downtown, one of my friends suggested we go up to the capitol observation deck to pray, so that's what we did.

Looking southeast over MLK Boulevard toward Lake Monona.  (I cannot take credit
for the amazing photographs contained in this post--I found them on Google.)

It was my first time viewing the city from this angle, and it was majestic.  I spent the first ten minutes walking around the deck trying to figure out which street was which and which way was north.  The next ten were spent marveling over the beauty splayed out before me.  From this perspective, you wouldn't know the land has been suffering drought and the greatest heat wave of my lifetime.  The city was dotted with mid-rise buildings interspersed with the leafy green of trees, all outlined by gray-blue water.  Clouds and a gentle breeze provided temporary relief to weeks of the sun's oppression.

A view towards the northeast, straight up East Washington; my house is somewhere near the top left corner!

When I went to Perm to do my Discipleship Training School (DTS) three years ago, I remember feeling a bit of panic on the plane.  I'd been dreaming of that moment for months, when I would be released to Russia.  I did not know anything about the country except that I wanted to be there; I had been drawn there like a very small magnet to a very big refrigerator.  But in that second of panic, I wondered, "What if all my dreams and talk about going to Russia end up as nothing?  What if I'm disappointed?  What if I end up hating it there?"  I was truly distraught, for the first time realizing that there was a chance that Russia would not be everything I had hoped.

красивая России
About a week into my DTS, I had a different kind of moment.  I remember it distinctly.  I was sitting on a city bus with my fellow DTS students and staff; we were heading toward downtown.  As I looked out the bus window onto the early winter landscape, I took a deep breath and smelled Russia, the tar and cigarette smoke mixed with vegetables and candy and other unidentifiable things.  Ian Frazier describes the smell of Russia in his book Travels in Siberia: "Yes, it was all there--the tea bags, the cucumber peels, the wet cement, the chilly air, the currant jam... The smell of America says, 'Come in and buy.'  The smell of Russia says, 'Ladies and gentlemen: Russia!'"

It was in that moment of seeing and smelling Russia that I fell head over heels in love.  (As if I wasn't before!)  And my fears subsided because yes, I was in exactly the right place.

When I wasn't able to return to Russia after my DTS, I was pretty heartbroken.  Staying in the US was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, and I labored over it for weeks and questioned it for months.  Even now, everyone I know and work with knows that I just won't shut up about Russia.  I'm that girl who just can't keep her mouth shut about the country she loves.

But standing on the observatory deck, looking out over Madison, I had another one of those moments.  One of those moments when things that have been foggy come a bit more into perspective and you see a little bit clearer.  And you know that you just love it here because it's a beautiful city and God has a big heart for it.  I felt like for a few brief minutes as we prayed, I saw the city through God's eyes and from His perspective.  And in those minutes, I fell in love with Madison, my home and my battlefield.


We have a strong city; 
    God makes salvation
    its walls and ramparts.

               Isaiah 26:1


Lord, please make salvation the walls and ramparts of Madison!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

summer in the city

Summer is in full swing here in Madison, and all of our facilities are bustling with activity!  This summer we are hosting teams from all over the Midwest to take part in MadReach, local outreaches to the city of Madison.  We are also sending out 5+ outreach teams to overseas locations (Japan, Thailand, Nicaragua, DRC, and London Olympics)!  Currently we are running a six week Children at Risk seminar, as well as a Discipleship Training School (DTS).  I have been enjoying getting to know the DTS students, as I prepare meals for them twice a week and help fill in holes where needed.  On Wednesday, I was honored to lead a devotional time with the students, where we dug into Exodus 34.  Truly, when we spend time in God's presence, we can't help but become radiant like Moses, and we take on more of God's character: His compassion, grace, love, faithfulness, patience, forgiveness, and justice (vs. 6-7)!

If you would like me to send you my most recent update/newsletter, please comment with your email address or send me a note at amy.laur@gmail.com.

Cheers!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

For those who want a little more information about YWAM or BSN (what in the world do all these acronyms mean???) or about what in the world Amy is doing in general, welcome to the one-stop shop for all your questions!  Below you will find my informational/support letter that I have been mailing out in stages since mid-April.  If you have not received a letter and would like one, please let me know.  If you would like to receive periodic updates about my ministry with YWAM Madison, please also let me know!


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

May / Early June

So what has kept me so busy in the last month that I have not had the chance to update my blog?  In the last four weeks I've spent significant time in four different states: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  Let me share a few pictures to fill you in on what's happened since the beginning of May!

I have been enjoying living with this wonderful family in Madison!  Life stays busy
with kung fu, bike excursions, eating popsicles on hot afternoons, going for runs,
group dinners, trips to the farmer's market, movie nights, etc.

In mid-May, I attended my brother's graduation from Moody Bible Institute!

I spent a week in Indiana visiting friends and raising support for my YWAM ministry.  It was wonderful to
 reconnect with many of my old friends, profs, and co-workers from Taylor, as well as visit the church I
 attended during most of my college years.

Toward the end of May I attended a weekend YWAM staff retreat out at the Training Center (YWAM
 campus north of Madison).  I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know many of the families that I'll be
 working alongside of for the next two years (at least!)

For the last week, I have been back in West Michigan to raise support and visit with friends and family.
 On Sunday, I shared about my ministry with YWAM at my home church.  My mom helped me put
together this photo display highlighting my past experiences with YWAM.

For the past few weeks I have been meditating on Psalm 37:3a.  I will leave you with these words:
Trust in the Lord and do good...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

cathedral

Lately I've been taking part in an online reading/discussion group with some of my fellow future BSN staff members.  We usually read a few chapters each week, post some thoughts about them on facebook, and respond to one another's questions and ideas.  This discussion group has caused a lot of great thinking.  This morning as I posted in the group, I thought I would share what I wrote here as well...


Rather than write about what impacted me in these chapters, I wrote a poem. It was supposed to be my own Psalm 51, and it kind of is, but I think it's more of a poem or a song than a prayer. I haven't really written a poem since high school, so you'll have to excuse me. This poem represents and was inspired by a lot of things, but it's a little bit cryptic. One of the main ideas is letting go of the love of sin and trusting God, even though it can be really hard at times to say goodbye to the old life.

The cathedral theme was inspired by my favorite Russian church building, called Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, in St. Petersburg. After the Russian revolution, the church was ransacked, and during World War II it was used as a morgue and later as a storage building for vegetables. Finally, after 27 years of restoration, the church reopened in 1997 as a museum. The history of this church inspires me because it reminds me of how far I've fallen and how I've been restored by Christ!



Cathedral


That old cathedral in my mind
 
Reminds me of spilled blood every time
And shattered dreams
 
And broken hearts
And all those things I thought you wanted
When I guess it was only me

Now I’ve gone so far I can’t turn around
And act like it hasn't all messed me up
 
Cause I’ve been stained by love
Of what wasn’t meant to be
And somehow I know it’s hurting you 
More than it’s hurting me

This pain, these wounds, this mark upon my heart
I feel them so deeply now
And at times it feels hopeless
But I know I’m healing
You promised better things if I’d let these old dreams die
I do trust you, but it’s hard to say goodbye

Moving on, moving forward
Leaving all that other stuff behind
And I’m looking at that old cathedral
Restored, renewed with a story to tell
In every chime of that old bell
I’ll tell my story too



Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, in St. Petersburg, Russia;
AKA"Church on Potatoes" as it was known during it's storage years.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

"When I run I feel His pleasure."


"I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." 
                                                                                   -Eric Liddell

I am a runner. My usual route is a 5K stretch that takes me through one of the nicest neighborhoods in Madison. Actually, this neighborhood is it's own little entity within Madison, in a village called Maple Bluff. Think Vatican City and Rome, and you have an idea of what Maple Bluff is to Madison. One of my housemates introduced me to this route. It's safe, the houses are huge and beautiful, the hills are gentle, and it provides a breathtaking view of the Capitol from across Lake Mendota.

Now when I say I'm a runner, you need to understand that I use the term rather loosely. I am not fast, and I can't even claim to be very faithful. I buy expensive shoes every couple of years, read Runner's World magazine articles in the bathroom, and have a profile on mapmyrun.com. But I classify myself as a runner because the truth is, when I run I feel God's pleasure. 
Probably the only picture I have of myself running.  
Taken during a 5K race at Cedar Campus, summer 2009.

Lately I've been thinking about what it means to be a missionary. In some ways, being a missionary is similar to being a runner. Eric Liddell was both. When I was a child, I remember hearing missionaries speak at church from time to time. I was always fascinated by their stories of trekking through jungles, building schools, performing surgeries, and translating the Bible into languages spoken by people who wear loin cloths. It all seemed so exciting!

There are many exciting things about being a missionary. The moment when you see someone grasp the truth about God's character is amazing. I cannot think of anything more fulfilling than helping Muslim background believers understand their identity in Christ, or watching reconciliation take place between nations that have been at animosity for decades. Watching God do these awesome things, I feel high, like I just finished a long run in record time.

In truth though, the run itself can be painful. When it's windy and cold and I don't want to be outside, or when my my legs are still sore from my previous workout, or when I'm just bored, these are the times when running isn't really fun. Similarly, being a missionary (or even a Christian) is not always fun. God never said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will show you the time of your life!" He didn't 
promise a life of fun and ease. There are times when being a missionary is like that hard part of the run,
Feeling God's pleasure after that 
race with my Serbian friend, Vera!
perhaps that last uphill climb in my usual route. It's not always exciting; sometimes it's just hard.

Those stories of missionaries in Papua New Guinea or other exotic locations that I dreamed of as a kid have little in common with the experiences I've had in Madison. Unless the word exotic stirs up images of fair trade coffee, recycling, hybrid cars, and college kids clad in red t-shirts, then Madison probably doesn't fit the bill. But it's a city that's on God's heart, a city that God wants to use to reach nations for His kingdom. God gave me a heart for the nations, and when I sit behind my computer, answering visa questions for potential Bible students, I feel God's pleasure. Eating dinner with UW students, I feel God's pleasure. Befriending local business owners, I feel God's pleasure. Sending out fundraising letters, I feel God's pleasure. Studying, reading, and researching for my BSN responsibilities, I feel God's pleasure.

It's not always easy, but I feel God's pleasure here in this work. And that's its own kind of high!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
                                                                                 Hebrews 12: 1-2

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jesus, remember me...

As part of my training and staff development with YWAM, I have been participating in a reading and online discussion group with some of my fellow BSN staff and students.  We've been reading The Revival Book by Caleb Wilde.  My brain has been spinning, thinking through doctrine and theology, asking questions, searching the Scriptures, journaling, praying, and even laying awake at night wondering about the answers to questions on which even the most educated theologians disagree.

I went to my home church's Good Friday service a few days ago, and something struck me as though for the first time.  There were two criminals crucified next to Jesus.  Here is the account in Luke 23:38-43:

There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.  

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

What struck me was the simplicity of the plea of the second criminal.  He admits that his punishment is just, though Jesus is crucified as an innocent man.  And then he says these words: "Jesus, remember me..."

Have you ever been in a hopeless situation?  Have you ever known you were in a pit so deep that endless climbing couldn't find you the top?  Have you ever been brokenhearted?  Have you ever been consumed by the fact that you will never have all the right answers?  My friend, theology and doctrine are of utmost importance.  But it was not because of his correct theology that Jesus promised paradise to the criminal on the cross.  It was because of his simple faith.  All he could say in the hour of his despair was "Jesus, remember me..."  You see, theology is important, but simple faith is what is required.

That word, remember, is so full.  Samson prayed that God would remember him, and God gave him the strength to defeat his enemies.  Hannah prayed that God would remember her, and God gave her a baby.  Job prayed that God would remember him, and God restored his fortune.  Jeremiah, in the depths of despair, prayed that God would remember him, and God promised to rescue him.  The criminal on the cross prayed that Jesus would remember him, and Jesus promised him paradise.

I'll continue to wrestle with theology and doctrine.  But in my hour of need, I won't be clinging to my well established doctrine.  I'll be crying out to the Lord, "Jesus, remember me..."  Lord, make the complexities simple; let faith be simple.  Remember me.

Friday, March 30, 2012

photo shoot

I just placed an order for my first informational/fundraising letter... Yes, it is indeed well after midnight.  It's going to be glossy and pretty (and expensive).  Now I feel like a true missionary!

I'm thoroughly amazed at how much work goes into communication and support raising.  I knew this was going to be a big part of the job, especially initially, but I had no idea how much time would be eaten up by the process.  The letters are ordered, the envelopes (many, at least) are addressed, and they will be going in the mail shortly after Easter!  Hooray!

Sarah was not satisfied with the picture of myself I had put on the front of the letter, so we went outside for a short impromptu photo shoot today.  I brushed my hair, put on a pair of shoes, and we went into the backyard.  Within two minutes she had snapped several photos.  Here are a few of the good ones:




Signed,

Tired in Madison...zzzzzzzz :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

I had two church experiences yesterday.

Since coming to Madison in September I have visited several different churches.  Yesterday morning I went to a church on the east side of Madison, about a 10 or 12 minute drive from where I live.  It was my first time visiting.  The worship was fine, the sermon was fine, the people were fine, the whole experience was just... fine.  I probably won't revisit.

The weather in Wisconsin has been wonderful as of late.  I took advantage of my free day yesterday to hop on my bike to explore and get some exercise.  After filling up my tires, I took off toward downtown and biked along the edge of Lake Mendota, right in the heart of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Spring weather in March attracts people to the outdoors the way moths are attracted to light.  Students were out running, rollerblading, biking, and playing tennis and Frisbee.  Young families with strollers were going for walks.  Frat boys without shirts on showed off their manliness by grilling brats and hamburgers in their backyards.  Older couples walked hand in hand while girls sunbathed on the docks.  It was a picture perfect Sunday afternoon.

As I headed back towards the Capitol, the rhythm of drums began to resound in my ears.  I found the source of the sound near the Catholic Student Center.  This is what I saw:


A group of people were gathered playing various percussion instruments.  There were people playing djembes, rhythm sticks, shakers, and pots and pans.  Three or four women were scattered in the group of mostly men.  There were black men, white men, old and young, even children were hitting pans with sticks and shaking plastic maracas.  A couple of guys looked Middle Eastern.  I couldn't even guess at the ethnicity of the young man who seemed to be the leader of the pack.  A red headed guy who looked like a younger, shoeless, hippie version of one of my pastors wandered around playing different sets of pans.  Occasionally, the guys would switch drums and continue in the rhythm.

I was entranced.  I sat down between a college student and a middle-aged woman and marveled at the sight before me.  The musicians were of all different levels.  Some of the men were advanced percussionists, and they didn't show a hint of frustration at the kids who banged around off the beat.  The guy in charge (pictured sitting in the middle, with long hair and a red shirt) occasionally walked around to participants and leaned in, giving direction.  One overweight, middle-aged woman in the audience was beating a small cardboard box with a stick.  The long haired leader shuffled over and spoke to her, then in time he cut off the entire group of percussionists.  In the silence, the woman continued to beat her little box for several seconds until the leader cued the rest of the gang to join in again.  At another point, he cut the group off so that the clamor of the kids hitting pots and pans was the sole rhythm.  It didn't matter what the person's appearance or skill level, the long haired leader was glad to trust anyone who was willing with the responsibility of the rhythm.

I think I watched for over an hour.  I was still sitting there chatting with a stranger as the crowd dispersed and the musicians left.  The long haired leader began packing up the pots and pans into a rolling suitcase.  I only had time to say "thank you".  If only he could have understood how full my heart was.

Dudes and kids rocking out as the crowd disperses
It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed.  People from so many ages and backgrounds, of different races and different social classes, coming together to share something that they had in common.  It felt like a church experience.  I thought of one of my favorite verses, Revelation 7:9-10:


After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Everyone is invited.  Young and old, black and white, male and female, the retired guy with a bum knee and the hippie girl with dreads and a hiking backpack.  You don't even have to be good at it; you just have to be willing to follow the long haired leader.  He is excited to have a diverse and passionate group of followers.

Enjoying the awesome weather and
sweet sounds in downtown Madison!
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:12-13

In other news, I am happy to announce that I have been officially invited to join the staff team at YWAM Madison!  I have made a two year commitment with the base here.  I will be working with the Bible School for the Nations, the school that I recently completed.  I plan to send out information and support raising letters/emails in the near future.  If you would like to receive information or updates, or if you are interested in supporting my ministry financially, please contact me via facebook, email, or phone and let me know!

More news to come!  Love to all!