Monday, July 27, 2009

How Small The World Is Really...

In the summer of 2007 I had the privilege of taking a trip to Kampala, Uganda with a group of students and leaders from our youth ministry. On this trip we experienced and felt many things that we could not have in the US. With 21 million people in its city, Kampala faces a 95% poverty rate we often faced images and human suffering beyond description.

We also faced what the term “joy” truly meant. For a US citizen the term joy is almost always associated with fun, pleasure, immediate gratification. However, as we partnered with the local church (Gaba Community) and one of the local orphanages (Bethany Children A.R.M.) we were reminded of a more biblical “joy”. The ability to find peace in who we were, not what we owned, or what we could do for someone. Day after day we ran into people young and old whose confidence was in their creator and who He had them to be in Christ. In the midst of whatever circumstance they faced, they knew one thing for sure; their hope and their joy remained, because it was in Him who is unchanging.

One of these experiences happened one day when we stopped by the daycare program for Gaba Community’s local families. We actually happened upon these little ones on our way to another program for their high school students, and knew we would have to stop back by to see them. As we approached this gated area with the 3 small classrooms, little ones began to be filled with wonder as all of these “white” men and women approached. Their teachers reassured them, and very quickly we were accepted as part of their group. As we played with these 1-4 yr olds, we learned of their stories, many of which were heart breaking, and the knowledge that their only true love came from their care givers each day, as their parents often were HIV victims or street people, that allowed the church to care for their little ones. About an hour later, it was time for these precious little ones to move on to their next part of the day, which meant out of respect for their teachers we needed to say goodbye. To our surprise, it turned out leaving these little ones became a much tougher task for our soul, then when we left the orphanage days later. Uganda does a lot of incredible work in the orphanages, but that topic is for another time. We were leaving children which beyond their care at Gaba, we were not sure what they would face.

A few days later, we were on a plane back to America. As we reentered the worlds we lived in, each of us fondly remembered out little friends at the Gaba Daycare center. About 6 weeks after our trip, a friend of mine and his father took a trip to Uganda and visited Kampala. When they returned, my friend Joey began to show me the photo book he had created from his trip, I enjoyed seeing similar faces to the ones I had met not long before. My joy turned to tears about half way through the book, which caught both Joey and his dad by surprise. There in front of me were a couple pictures of the little ones at Gaba Daycare. I knew their faces, as sure as I knew my own. As I regained my composure, I began to bombard both of them with questions. “where did you get these pictures?”, “how did you meet these kids?” , “did you get to spend time with the folks at Gaba Community?”.

I was reminded once again that the world is a much smaller place than I perceive it to be. There are 21 million people in Kampala, and many groups of believers my friends could have met to encourage. And of all of them, they met with Pastor Peter, from Gaba Community, and my little friends from the Daycare.

That story is one of many in my life that reminds me how small the world is really. Each person I make contact with, each group of humans that I end up on public transportation with deserve every bit of Jesus that I can live out. For we never know as believers, what God has planned for tomorrow, through what we have lived out today. It could be that the people that we have ignored on a plane, bus, or in line at the grocery, maybe a connection that the Father had intended for His purpose. In God’s Kingdom and in His viewpoint, the east shores of China, are not nearly as far from the Starbucks I am sitting in as I have made them out to be.

Before your day ends, may the Lord show you how small the world is really, Selah…

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our Last Night at Barefoot...

Over the week i have seen so many amazing things. Barefoot's agenda is simple, take students from every racial, economic, and environmental background, and put them together seeking Jesus together. Their goal; watch as Jesus breaks down every wall, and produces a family, on one fact; each of these young people are part of the family of God. This has happened over and over again at camp.

Friday night, we ended the evening with a practice called "carry your cross." Together these diverse teams would carry a large wooden cross from one side of the camp to the other, and then raising it up, nail all their hurts, their sins, their issues, to the cross, so that Jesus could carry their burdens for one and for all. It was a very deep significant finale to a cool week of God stuff. As each team finished, much prayer broke out. Not the typical pass the hat, now its your turn to pray stuff, i mean, deep groans that only the Holy Spirit could interpret and could do something with.

While the students and leaders were praying together, the Lord began to show me a picture of the battle that was at hand. At first it startled me, cause what i saw was men coming from the edge of the woods towards the students huddled together, these men carried large swords and other weapons. They were taking aim at the students, attempting to slice and dice them, yet to this point none of the students had been harmed. It took me a minute to realize that i was viewing; a spiritual battle happening all around us. So i began to call on the ministering spirits to show themselves. Slowing i began to see the angels not only protecting these students but also attacking the enemies. I was over whelmed by awe, so i prayed, Lord send more, send your protectors not only to this place, but to the hoods and neighborhoods these students are from. Send them in large battle ready forces. Send them now Jesus!

As this time of prayer ended, the group came together as one large group and the 90 or so of us began to worship together. Then we took the next step in the battle. One by one, students began to come up and share what they had seen God do in the life of another co-camper this week. Or talk about what another camper or leader meant to their life. This edification lasted a long time. What was interesting, is that there was very little fluff. These students in a weeks time had also found maturity. They were helping each other see themselves the way God sees them, and lose much of the false identity they had created on their own. As this time ended, we all knew who received the glory that night, Jesus. We also knew, who had been reminded he is defeated, the enemy.

Speaking of God's glory, here is a small list of the things He did in the lives of our campers that He should be magnified for: At least 4 students accepted Christ's gift of salvation for the first time. Many of the students broke out of their box, and left the need to be cool, in order to take on their acceptance as part of the family of God. On Friday, God touched the lower back of one of our campers who was injured and healed it, when they got to the hospital, no injury. Numbers of students were healed of addictions (Sexual, smoking, lying, cheating, self deprecation) and found freedom in Jesus, so that their lives may be free. Each day, reconciliation happened, as walls were trampled and divisions were no more, only family was left, it was awesome.

As Saturday came, I think we all knew that our lives would never be the same. Like in Joshua 3, many, many stones had been laid in the river, and the Hope had been ignited. So that in the years to come we would tell the story of what God did summer of 09 at the first Sr High Barefoot Republic Senior Camp ever on that campus. I hope many of you will find the Barefoot experience to be part of your journey in the years to come. PEACE.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Day 1, Post 1 - Barefoot Republic

Well, this will be a short one. Last night we finished our training as a staff at Barefoot Republic. What a diverse group of individuals from backgrounds, to race, to beliefs. And yet nothing was lost in our love for Jesus and focus on Him first.

As we prepped last night, God began to remind me of what His family looked like, here on earth. In the scriptures it says that his mother and brother came to see him, seeing a teachable moment, Jesus replied, "who is my mother and my brother"..... i assume silence as the question threw the crowd "those who do my Father's will, that is my mother, brother and sister". Such statements draw our team together. We have been around eachother less than 24 hours and already, we have found common ground to receive eachother as family. Only Jesus could do that.

Together, serving Sr Highers with just as diverse backgrounds, what a week that awaits us. All the glory to you Jesus.

Thanks to each of you for your words of encouragement and your prayers.

Peace - Steve