Summer Missions?

The Mission has Moved Online

   Though the 200 or so summer mission trips our students usually attend were cancelled due to the virus, the 106k students and faculty involved in Cru haven’t been idle. 

     Students connected with our missionaries online this summer, learning how to study the Bible, walk in the Spirit, fight for purity, share testimonies, and start spiritual conversations. 

     Ana from RVCC said, “In the busyness of life, my times alone with God have felt less substantial than before but, listening to the talk, I learned you can’t give what you don’t have.  Any moment, I could be called to spread the Gospel in some way, so I need to make sure I’m receiving so that I can fully give to others. Receiving involves resting in a relationship with God and relying on Him.”

     During one weekly meeting, they spent time in breakout rooms where they prayed specifically for two of the people they know who don’t know Jesus, and then sent messages to them to meet up (face-to-face or virtually). A great many were able to set up times to share with their friends. For some it was the first time they had ever really done that. 

     Even while ministering in their homes and online, Cru in the US has seen more than 44 thousand people put their faith in Christ so far this year!

Back to School?

     Most years, our biggest opportunity to reach new students comes on Freshman week, where club fair tables and a flurry of social activities invite first-year students into the beautiful community of God on campus.

     This year is different. Just as the high school class of 2020 did not get prom or graduation, they are also not getting Freshman week because of COVID-19.  

     But God has not forgotten them and neither have we! We are teaming up with InterVarsity and about 60 other college ministries in an online event called BACK-TO-SCHOOL on August 6, during which I’ll be able to engage directly with new students across the US! We are asking God to: 

1. capture interest of college-bound Christians

2. plug them in with churches and ministries who will 

3. empower them to run with Jesus in His rescue mission to their classmates.

Please pray for this event and tell others about it! Pray for God to move among the many students this year who will have a completely different experience of college!

WHAT GOD’S BEEN TEACHING US

  Regardless of where anyone reading this falls along the political spectrum, I think it’s obvious to all of us that there is a lot of hurt, anger, and division going on in our nation. All of us are wrestling with the Lord about what the source of all this is, what our leaders and churches should do, and what we as individuals can do to “Love God… and love your neighbor” in this situation (Mark 12:30-31).

     This has been the cry of my heart, as I have become more and more aware of the pain being experienced by those made in God’s image. “What can I do?” We were so blessed to be able to join pastors, the commissioner, county sheriff, the mayor, and the city police chief in what one pastor said was “not a march. This is not a demonstration. This is not a protest. This is a walk to mourn those who have been the victim of injustice in our nation. We must mourn together to heal together.” You can see this beautiful video of what God did.  We invited our kids to join us, who both felt God tell them to go, and we were so proud of them for listening and following cheerfully.

     Walking for a day is great, but what next? Executive director of Cru Inner City wrote a great article in which his primary personal challenges are to:

· Listen (neighbors and friends of color—here’s my best friend’s perspective),

· Learn (history of racism from a historian & theologian with the Colson Center)

· Mourn (article on biblical mourning)

I am still learning, and praying, and growing. May God lead us all to His perfect Oneness (John 17)

TRAINING MISSIONARIES

     This month, I’ve had the honor of coaching Cru missionaries from around the country so they can partner with churches in student ministry.  It may sound like a no-brainer, but Cru missionaries don’t always have the vision or priority to reach beyond the students they are working with directly.  They get so busy keeping the ministry going that they don’t feel they have the time to cultivate partnership relationships.

     I love the African proverb, “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”  In life, sometimes we can all be so hungry to get to the fast results that we think we’ve got to do it all ourselves.  We’re thrilled that these leaders from all over the country are investing their summers in the idea that the kingdom of God will go farther in and around their campuses if they go together with other believers, following Jesus’ lead in John 17:20-23.

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.