GOSPEL IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

   One exciting branch of our campus ministry focuses on preparing education majors in how to be a light in their schools, navigating First Amendment rights as well as offering ideas for gathering high school and middle school students, and creativity with evangelism and discipleship opportunities.

     In a virtual event this month, 4 high school teachers led one “breakout room” and 4 elementary teachers led another, sharing their experiences in the classroom as well as how they minister to students outside of class.  It was so encouraging to hear how these folks see themselves as God’s anointed missionaries, sent into the world of education to represent Him there.  The passion, compassion, boldness, and wisdom they demonstrated were awesome for the students to hear.

WHAT GOD’S BEEN TEACHING US

     For a sermon series, we’ve been focusing on what God is like.  AW Tozer said that no people group has risen above its “idea of God.” CS Lewis, however, contended that what God thinks of us is more important, which is true (after all, our salvation is founded in the fact that God considered His rebellious creations valuable enough to redeem at the cost of His Son). 

     Bill Bright brought these two thoughts together beautifully.  Using an airplane as an analogy, he said, “our feelings of confidence or fear do not affect the ability of the jet to transport us, [but] they do affect how much we enjoy the trip.” In other words, having all our doctrine right may not affect whether we are saved from Hell, but a poor view of God can leave us stressed out, thinking we’ve got to perform for His approval, or that pain and failure means we need to try harder or give up.  In fact, Dr. Bright believed that “we can trace all our human problems to our view of God.”  He spent the latter years of his life focused on communicating this message, speaking constantly about the Character of God as well as writing a book to that affect and the commentary for a Study Bible.

     Carrying on his father’s legacy, Brad Bright has devoted his ministry to helping people Discover God and His Character.  Never stop searching the unreachable depths of who God is!

REACHING NEIGHBORS

     I think we’ve all needed to shift the way we do things because of the pandemic, and some of that has been incredibly difficult.  On the other hand, there have been lots of unexpected opportunities to see God work!

     Our family tries to get outside just about every day now, to stay in shape and to keep from going stir crazy.  We have met so many neighbors, and deepened relationships with several more.  One home near us contains a very friendly family who follow a Middle-Eastern religion you’ve probably heard of, and I’ve been getting pretty deep in faith discussions with the husband.

     He pointed out how his scriptures teach that Jesus was a prophet, but not God, and how they think Christians are polytheists (like Greek mythology).  Though they believe Jesus never sinned, they also believe he never died but was taken up to heaven.  They think our Bible was somehow distorted to add the godhood of Jesus.

     I pointed out how we have manuscripts from the Bible that date back earlier than the birth of his religion, and how even Roman and Jewish historians point out that Jesus’ disciples worshipped him as God and even died rather than recant that they witnessed His resurrection from the dead.  He has been asking gospel questions since then!  Please pray for “K,” his wife “Y,” and their kids!

CELEBRATING SENIORS

   The end of the spring semester is usually abuzz with sending off graduating seniors. This time, many students are experiencing loss (of loved ones, of celebrating milestones, of familiarity). And so, instead of adding to those losses, Cru sought out ways to still celebrate the 2020 class.

In Feb, Seniors discussed essential priorities in their walks with Jesus after graduation… over cheesecake!

     To help seniors see the ways God worked through them, underclassmen encouraged them with comments like “You showed God’s heart for people from all cultures, and you were always there to talk,” “You were so faithful as a leader and friend,” and “I thought I had to control the way people saw me. You told me God loves me as I am.”  

   Seniors then shared Bible verses and words of wisdom that God used in their lives. More than one senior focused on Matthew 6:31-34, “So don’t worry about these things… your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else…”

What God’s Been Teaching Us

  It seems like we’re doing everything differently because of the lockdown, and I think we’ve missed our church community more than anything else during this season, but we are so blessed with how our leaders have kept our community going so we don’t cease meeting together (Hebrews 10:25).  Some local churches are streaming their worship team and their pastors, and others are praising in the parking lots—beautiful examples of redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16). 

      Our church community here in town is a small one, full of older missionaries who have been such a blessing to us.  They had been focusing on developing a church service that had lots of opportunity for us to grow as a community before the world turned upside-down, and barely missed a beat when we had to switch to online.  They chose Zoom as our platform so the members could all see each other’s faces, have breakout prayer rooms, and have an interactive Q&A after the message.  It isn’t the most polished, and has its share of bugs, but the warmth from start to finish is so palpable, and isolation is overcome!

     It is hard not to have relationships drift apart and loneliness seep in when you can’t get out to visit people and hug people.  As parents of young children, sometimes we feel like we’re drowning in kid stuff.  For those living alone, a crowded house may sound like a dream come true.  Either way, we can all get hungry for a little peer interaction.  The smiling faces of our church family online at church services, small group Bible studies, and prayer meetings fill us with a warmth like a Thanksgiving reunion.  I encourage you in this season to reach out to your community, and let your smiling face be seen (1 Cor 12:12-27)!

Prayer Walking Campuses Online

     Around the world, God’s people are putting aside their differences to bind together, in answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20, and bring the gospel to every corner of society.  Here in the US, Cru has been working in greater unity with other Christ-centered campus ministries to prayer walk every single college by the end of 2020, and take steps toward launching gospel movements where there are none.

     Though we can’t get out on the campuses right now, we’ve been developing a strategy to “prayer walk” schools together online.  As part of that development, I’ve gotten to adopt a few of the unreached campuses in NJ and “playtest” this online prayer walk strategy. 

     I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with dear friends Tom and Nancy (below) as they showed me around all the facilities of a campus where she studied and he teaches!  What an incredible blessing to hear the inside scoop on what goes on at a school where we’ve had a difficult time getting started.

     Please pray for us as we work with Tom and Nancy to build a network of churches around the campus who can empower Christian students and professors at this beautiful little community of future world leaders.

Reaching New Jersey

   “I can find comfort and solace that the Lord loves me for the girl who I am, and I don’t have to prove myself to be worldly to be cool for the Lord.”  This was the revelation Lily discovered when she accepted Christ with Cru at Rutgers.  Our team there has been serving with the Lord to empower students like Lily on 25 campuses this year, teaching them how to know Christ and make Him known in this incredibly influential area.

     This month, the NJ team hosted their vision fellowship dinner (online due to the virus).  You can click here to see Lily share her story and hear from the leaders of the NJ team share about their vision to make Christ fully known on every campus (over 60 in the state).  Please join us in praying for these missionary and student warriors, and consider giving to them as well for materials to help reach next Fall’s freshmen with the gospel.

Preparing our Youth

   One joy this spring has been training a new team member (Mark on the bottom right), who has been learning the ropes of equipping and partnering with churches. He has a big vision to see Cru students return to their home church youth groups to let the high schoolers know what to expect when they get to campus (some of the dangers as well as how God can use them). Our goal is to create a training package so Cru around the country can bless local churches.

     We’re starting with a few cases, and Ezer and Ryan are an awesome pair of Guinea pigs :).  Ezer tried to tell Ryan about Jesus when they were in high school.  When Ezer got to college, he discovered that Ryan (a year older) had put his faith in Jesus and gotten highly involved in Cru! Now the two of them are excited to share their story and experiences in churches to help high schoolers stay strong in running for Jesus now and when they get to college. Would you pray for Ezer, Ryan, and the others stepping up to be used by God, and for the next generation of upcoming students they are trying to reach?

A New Way of Ministry

     Around the world, thousands of our college missionaries are off balance with the COVID-19 crisis, separated from the students they’ve been discipling and from the campus mission field to which they’ve been called. It is an interesting time for our team, however, who is used to coaching students all over the world over the phone and internet.

     This month, I was part of a 4-person team that coached 93 of our ministry leaders in how to prepare and run digital discipleship calls, virtual bible study tips, and 3 tools for sharing the gospel online (with strangers, friends, and as a group).  The recording has been circulating through grateful staff who have never considered ministry in this format before, and God has been conspicuously involved–we had already recently been preparing a training page for our staff on distance coaching! 

     One tool I want to highlight with you is Voke.  Originally designed as an app to help teenagers share gospel videos with their non-Christian friends, they’ve now developed group video studies with a communal space for answering discussion questions.  This has been an awesome tool for youth groups, especially while they are unable to meet directly, and puts evangelism into the hearts of those who’ve never considered it before.

What God’s Been Teaching Us (Lockdown Grief)

     Our leaders in Cru have been working hard to make sure all of us college missionaries are cared for as we pour out to so many others.  While we’re keenly aware of how much we have to be thankful for—and we know it’s right to keep our eyes fixed on things above—we also recognize that life’s no picnic for anyone right now.  We need to process what we’re experiencing in order to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5).  They’ve talked a lot about paying attention to how we are feeling, and have been helping us walk with the Lord through this time.

     In an incredible article called “Lockdown Grief,” we’re encouraged to go through a process of acknowledging, welcoming and expressing our feelings that helps get them from silently influencing us and into a state where we can manage them and even use these experiences and feelings for God’s glory. The Psalms are a wonderful guide God gave us for how we can worship Him with not just our praises, but our petitions, our pleas, and our pain. If we feel it, God wants to hear it. The article encourages us not to minimize our loss by comparing ourselves to those who may have it worse. “Big” or “small,” you have lost something!

     This was my favorite paragraph: In grief and fear some are tempted to avoid, ignore, or numb the pain through binging Netflix, gaming, turning to alcohol, substance abuse, etc. Brené Brown reminds us, “when we numb the dark, we numb the light.” Grief invites an “evade-encounter” dance. You need some levity in these uncertain times (evade), yet you must also face the realities and impact of your losses (encounter).

     It goes on to encourage us to express our feelings through conversations, journaling, exercise, sport, and art. “Grief needs movement to heal…. Some studies show that moving the body actually helps move the mind and soul as well. These outward expressions help soften the immediate emotional intensity and provide glimmers of hope.” As we’ve taken daily walks, the natural world around us has reminded us that God is still in control, and we can rest in His care (Job 12:7-10)