When Work Isn’t a Chore

     “Jeff, I thank God for you because God has used you to help me see that sharing our faith doesn’t have to be forced.”  This note from a pastor in NYC was so encouraging, a signpost that the work that Karen and I are doing is truly having an impact, not just on individuals but entire churches.

    We’ve been praying with and equipping pastors all across the country in how to reach, evangelize, and empower college students in their local areas.  We explain that ministry doesn’t have to be an activity that you switch on and off, or make extra time for in your schedule.  We can find communities that are part of our natural interests and live Christ to people in the stride of our life.

     For students, that might be with their dorm-mates, teammates, or people in a club they enjoy.  For other folks it could be breaking bread with seekers in a home group Bible study, making friends at the office, playground, or fishing hole.  I’d love to hear others echo this pastor’s words. “You’ve helped me see that when we’re open to welcoming others into our lives and willing to enter their world, God causes it to happen naturally.  We make new friends too!”

Filters of Hope

   When I felt the call to work with college students, I knew we weren’t directly serving the “widow and the orphan,” which is so central to the heart of God.  I also knew, though, that I’d have the chance to help mold our world’s future leaders to become more aware and compassionate toward those in need.

     This is one of the reasons I’m so thrilled about our partnership with Filter of Hope.  These folks, mostly former Cru students and staff, have refined an expert process for blessing the poor around the world.  We provide student laborers on Spring Break and Summer Mission trips to distribute water filters and share the gospel in communities they are working to serve. They seek life transformation both physically, by giving access to clean water, and spiritually, by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Each team installs filters and teaches about Jesus in individual homes where Filter of Hope has strategic local partners.  They have distributed 61,500 filters in 49 countries that produce over 9 million gallons of clean water every day!

     Students are transformed by these trips with a greater understanding of God’s love for ALL people, and more motivated to serve their campus and society.  You can come with us by visiting FilterOfHope.org. Also, learn more about how service and evangelism intertwine through JusticeAndJesus.com, a program Cru developed with International Justice Mission.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

   “Do you know your value comes from being made by God, not because of anything you do or any other reason?”  Karen shared this affirmation with our son in the car the other day just before a song came on the radio called God’s Not Done With You.  It was an emotional moment. 

            Do you ever feel like you’re not doing enough for God, like you’re a waste of His resources?  You know, even missionaries get that.  Sometimes God does lean on us to take bold steps for Him, and it can feel uncomfortable while we resist, but He is NEVER telling us we aren’t valuable.  God doesn’t make junk and, no matter what mistakes we’ve made—even recently—God will never give up on us or be done molding us.

There are times that this is hard to believe, in the midst of the swirl of feelings that hit us during the course of life.  A wise friend encouraged us to take time to pause regularly and really think about and accept how we are feeling.  Do you feel defeated, overwhelmed, incapable?  Those feelings are real and if we just shrug them off and keep plodding along, we’re not really moving forward.  After a while we feel, as Bilbo from The Lord of the Rings put it, “like butter scraped over too much bread.”

  I’m learning not to fight those feelings off (and later have people tell me that they can tell I’m feeling that way even if I’m unaware).  Instead, recognize and really grieve how you’re actually feeling, knowing that God is with us in that space (Psalm 34:18, Matthew 5:4, Psalm 23:5).  I picture having a house party when these feelings show up at the door.  Do I lock the door and find out later that they’ve climbed in a window, or do I welcome them in and walk them over to my guest of honor, Jesus, who knows just how to handle them?  I’m actually walking to the altar with my desires for control, safety, love and value.  As I surrender them, I get all those needs met by my Lord (Matt 11:28-29).

Art Ministry

      Of the now 64% of Christians who drop out of the church when they get to college, a majority of them are arts/entertainment majors who never learn how to integrate their subject with their faith.  We’re working to change that, and Christina is a good example.

     Christina is a student volunteer helping with audio on a faith-based entertainment industry podcast we’ve helped launch. With mentorship, she’s using her amazing talents in singing and audio production for God’s glory.  She just graduated from Full Sail University saying, “I’m excited to know that whatever I do as a career, the Lord will continue to give me His favor because I’m doing it for Him.”

     You can watch these video updates from our dear friend, Derrick Whitmore, on some of the other things God has done through our partnership with his art & faith ministry called Shattered Studios: tinyurl.com/Shattered2019.

Fall Retreat

   Megan and Paulina had never been to Cru or met anyone involved. Yet, somehow they decided to go to Fall Retreat last year. How did that happen?

     “My mom saw a Facebook post and told me about it. She said she’d completely pay for me and a friend to go.” So, Megan invited Paulina, whom she had recently met in class. Megan and Paulina got into a car with Elizabeth, one of the Cru student leaders, and drove up the mountain to Fall Retreat. They quickly connected with Elizabeth and others at the retreat, and they found themselves understanding the gospel more deeply through the guest speakers’ talks from Romans 8. They also saw the need to spread the gospel at their school. Back on campus, Megan and Paulina became a fixture at Cru events.

     Elizabeth asked if they would like to be part of a discipleship group she would lead.  She was super nervous because she had never mentored or discipled anybody before, but Megan and Paulina immediately said “yes.”

     Elizabeth reported that “each of them are eager to go out and share their faith with other students. It’ll be a priority every week!”  Elizabeth’s hope is that the girls she is discipling would start their own discipleship group this semester with other girls who are looking to grow in their faith. This multiplication is something that we want to see happen on every campus.

     Please pray with us that Megan and Paulina would mentor others, and that Fall Retreats happening all over the US this month would see similar transformation.  We’re so grateful for partners like you helping us make disciples on every campus!

What God’s Been Teaching Us

   Just the other day, Karen and I were blessed to participate in a Global Day of Prayer alongside Cru missionaries and partners from around the world.  While previous iterations have centered a lot around what God is doing and what we’d like Him to do across the various ministries, this time was much more intimate and relational-focused.  We prayed through Larry Crabb’s PAPA Prayer journey, which consists of Presenting yourself to God (as you are, not as you’d like to be), Attending to how you have been viewing God wrongly (ex. as a vending machine or a tyrant), Purging yourself of the things you’ve placed as higher priorities than God, and Approaching the throne of your loving Father in silent contemplation and relationship. 

     As we explored each of those steps in depth, I uncovered and really invited God to deal with some of the issues in my heart.  One issue is the pride with which I can gauge people against myself as the standard.  Too often I apply a version of “anyone driving faster than me is a maniac and anybody driving slower is a space cadet” to all kinds of issues.  As I seek to partner with people from many different cultures and denominations, I need to check my heart for the humility to look for how I can learn from others (Phil 2:3).

     I also explored how quickly I rush past the hard feelings of a situation to find solutions.  Karen and I spent a long time just acknowledging the difficult feelings and experiences we’ve had, without trying to solve or mitigate them (Romans 12:15).  It was a refreshing time of unity and growth!

Summer Missions

     One Cru summer mission trip took 14 high school students and two college students to Manta, a city on the coast of Ecuador, helping our national staff there expand to this new part of the country.

     In just ten days, they gave 160 classroom presentations and saw 1,722 students (as well as several teachers) put their faith in Christ!

     One new believer, Justin, came to church that Sunday with the team. On Monday, he asked to come to the next gospel presentation. By the end of the day, he was sharing his testimony with his peers and leading them through a prayer to invite Jesus into their own hearts! Please pray for Justin to continue to grow in Christ and impact others with his newfound faith. Pray also for the ripple effects of all our 200+ mission trips from this summer.