Heading to Urbana 15

Faith Today Senior Editor Karen Stiller is a big fan of the Urbana Student Missions_DSC4649 Conference. She recently blogged about why she is keen on seeing 2,500 Canadians attend the five-day conference in St. Louis, MO., this December: 

“In 1993 my husband Brent and I travelled to Urbana, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship’s student mission conference that happens in the snowy days between Christmas and New Year’s every three years…

“We pledged, back then, that when we had kids the right age (grade 12 and university/college), we would make sure they got there. And we have. Three years ago our oldest son made it there. And came back refreshed and challenged. This coming year, Urbana 2015, he will go again along with his younger sister, in her grade 12 year. In three years we will make the trek again with our youngest.

That’s how good it is….”

Visit the Faith Today Blog to read more about Karen’s perspective on Urbana and discover why the magazine is underwriting the cost of the conference for a student! 

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Short-term mission a Camino pilgrimage

Written by Steve Colby, Director of Missions for Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.

I can’t say I was an overwhelming blessing on my first mission trip. In fact, I can say withsteve Colby lost some certainty that I was hopeless in Spanish, susceptible to stomach problems, but completely enamored with Mexico. My habit in communicating was to nod and smile and be affirming, even if I didn’t know what was being said, or being asked. One night I discovered I had unwittingly agreed to speak to the Presbyterian women’s society on the subject of sex! We enthusiastically led children’s programs and vacation Bible schools, but carrying out simple tasks – like laundry – was beyond us. The ladies would watch us lamely try and then insist on washing clothes for us. Coming to serve, we got out served. Royally out served. What is a short term mission really? What if we stripped away our need to get something done, and focused instead on how God is discipling us through the process? What if short-term missions were really pilgrimages, the beginning of a life lived in mission?

Discipleship as a Camino

Thousands of pilgrims each year walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostelle. The walkers say the crucial thing is to pay attention to God and how He is shaping you through the experience. Many take with them a question they are wrestling with or a challenge they are facing in their day to day life. Walking with God, doing His Camino, provides a spaciousness and focus to stay present to God.

Short-term missions have been a Camino for me of my discipleship. I have walked along the Camino in the Yucatan and grown taller – literally – as I found the heavy mud added layer upon layer to the bottom of my shoes. As I’ve walked with friends in unfamiliar places and enjoyed the hospitality of new friends, God has grown my sense of gratitude and perspective to be a global Christian. Through these experiences God has also challenged me. My pride and selfishness emerge in those dissonant moments, and I find, like I do on so many hikes, that I need to repent, make a U-turn, and get on the right path again.

Keep your feet moving

The short-term mission experience should be a journey in our discipleship. If we are going only for what we can do, or what we can add or say, then we are susceptible to believing ourselves too important, too integral, as If God cannot do anything without us. Short-term mission opens our eyes to God’s work in another context: it is not about the four weeks in which we change the world. It is about the four weeks in which God’s work in the world changes us. Getting a taste of God’s global work not only changes us, it makes us long for this food always. Walking along this Camino is the beginning of our life as a mission pilgrim. The aim of the pilgrim is to keep moving towards God’s kingdom, not to put up one’s feet and pack away the memories like old photos.

My Camino in missions has led me back to Mexico many times, as well as to many other places. I became conversant in Spanish and my stomach adjusted to the food quite well, (even now my mouth waters at the thought of my host’s cooking – que sabroso!). And yet, I still find I can’t avoid confusing situations and misunderstandings (although I’m happy to say I have not been invited back to speak on sex). I still find I need to keep learning, growing, and making U-turns to get back on His right path.

(Reposted from Mission Pilgrims blog from 5/23/2015)

Interested in exploring mission opportunities for your life? Join 16,000 other curious pilgrims at Urbana 15. 

 

 

Dreaming God’s dreams for this world.

Written by Steve Colby, Director of Inter-Varsity Missions.

In just under 300 days, the largest megaphone for missions in North America begins – Urbana 15.

Why GO?

When I was a student I was already committed to missions. I’d led three trips to Mexico and had my own plans for mission work set in stone. And yet, as I found myself walking into the hall at Urbana, I heard some challenging words from a Brazilian missionary:

“Don’t dream the wrong dreams. Dream God’s dreams for this world.”

Uh oh…

Were the dreams I was dreaming God’s dreams for my life, or were they my own? As I listened to Dan Harrison talk about the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the new opportunities that were emerging in Eastern Europe, I began to wonder at the wide window God had opened. I thought it was a great opportunity for students who spoke Russian, but didn’t think much beyond that.

Until my wedding day.

At my wedding, I overheard some friends chatting casually about their upcoming trip to Bulgaria. It was a pleasant, innocent enough conversation, until I heard my new wife Susie chip in and say, “We’d love to go!”

Um… Hello? Are we not going to talk about this first? “For richer for poorer, in missions, in sickness or in health,…” Where is Bulgaria anyway? And how do we know we are called to go? Abraham may have heard a voice — but what about us?

I didn’t hear a voice. I didn’t respond to a dream. But I did remember that speaker at Urbana talking about “Dreaming God’s dreams for the world.” And I realized that this is the sort of thing God is all about: sending folks without a lick of language ability or geographical knowledge to a foreign country to share the gospel.

Steve and his wife, Susie at the Rila Monastery, Bulgaria (1991).

Steve and his wife, Susie, at the Rila Monastery, Bulgaria (1991).

He did the same thing with an ancient man from Sumeria. “By faith Abraham went…though he did not know where he was going,” Hebrews 11 tells us. Abraham’s story captures our interest and draws us into his unusual pilgrimage of faith. He heard God’s voice and he went, and God reckoned this as righteousness.

But why is going so important? And what if you are called to stay?

Abraham’s own father Terah demonstrates why staying put is often not enough. Terah uprooted his family from Ur, intending to go all the way to Canaan, but he stopped short and settled in Haran. Why? Terah had even named one of his sons ‘Haran,’ but by the time they arrived in Haran this son had died. Was it the grief that stopped him, or the difficulty of leaving Ur and relocating with Sarah and Lot?   Or did he always intend to leave, but just never got around to it? Years of intention finally gave way to the familiar, making it harder and harder to uproot and leave again.

Brenda Salter-McNeil summarized the story of Terah at the Urbana 09 conference by saying, “Where you settle, there ya gonna die!”

The call of God to His mission involves a key response: Our going.

You might be called across the world or you might be called across town. It’s not about accumulating frequent flier miles in missions. It’s about saying “Yes” to God’s invitation wherever He takes us. We leave our familiar world and enter an unknown community, seeking to know and make known His gospel.

At Urbana 15 more than 16,000 students from all over North America and the world will gather in St. Louis, MO to hear from God and find their life in His global mission. Go and learn of God’s dreams for the world, and then live them!

You can find more information and register for Urbana 15 at www.urbana.org.

 

 

Update #2 from High School Ministry team in Guatemala

Cómo estás? Things are moving forward here in Magdalena, Guatemala. Our team has officially been in Guatemala for 7 days, 3 of which were orientation in Antigua, and the rest have been in Magdalena where we are serving.

 

Randy WSW-3

If you ever have a chance to talk to a North American who has visited Magdalena I am sure one of the first things that they will mention would be the fact that the town is built on the side of a mountain, or the large amount of stray dogs. They may mention the poverty in Magdalena and the surrounding communities, and how around 4:00pm men and women return from the surrounding mountains with their collection of firewood strapped to their backs.

However, what many people will also mention is that as you walk up and down the street everyone will say ‘Hola’ or ‘Buenos (Dias, Tardes, Noches). They will tell you about the amazing sense of family, the amazing views, and about how delicious the freshly made tortillas are.

Our team is quickly coming to love this town and country.  We are staying with host families with whom we eat breakfast and every other dinner. I am sorry to say that their english is better then our spanish, however the hospitality and love that we are trying to show one another goes beyond any language barrier. We are being blessed by their hospitality and patience.

Learning to wash laundry from the local women.

Learning to wash laundry from the local women.

Three people from our team are serving at a local school here in Magdalena. They are able to communicate not only through laughter, songs, and games but also in the ‘language of Math’. As the grade 1 & 2 Guatemalan students learn how to add and subtract, our team is learning how to count to 20 en español. We are being blessed by the children whom we are here to serve.

Please pray for our team as we are getting comfortable. Pray that we would continue to lean into the hard places. This trip is about serving the people here in Magdalena, but it is also about learning from God. We want to leave with more then just pictures and a few neat souvenirs. We want to leave with the names of people embedded in our memories, and have stories to share about how through our serving we actually learned more about ourselves, each other, the world, and God.

Adiós

Update from the High School Ministry team in Guatemala

GOOOAAAAALLLLLL! Cries of joy and sorrow erupted from the streets of Antigua, Guatemala as our high school team sat chatting on the roof of our hotel’s. There is nothing like being in Central America when the World Cup Final is happening!

There is also something very unique and special about taking high school students to a foreign country. This is Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship second year doing a high school global partnership. Once again, we are partnering with Student International to help serve and work in Magdalena, Guatemala. Before we go to Magdalena and actually begin working and living with the local Guatemalan people there, we have spent 3 days in Antigua learning about what it means to enter into different cultures and how to work in team. Below is one story from our time in Antigua.

Be Open, Watch, and Learn. These were the instructions for our team as we went out in pairs to the central square of Antigua. Surrounded by colonial spanish architecture and different shops students were invited to find a bench and ‘Be Open, Watch, and Learn’. The purpose of this exercise was to help our team begin to see beyond the tourists and shop stands and begin to ‘see’ the Guatemalan people. This exercise was framed with a study of the first half of this article (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/reject-apathy/things-no-one-tells-you-about-going-short-term-mission-trips) ending with studying Mark 9:33-37. With this article and Scripture shaping our experience, students pointed out all that they had seen and learned. They identified the different type of people groups who seemed to be walking around the square.

Students shared all the great things that they observed, and asked questions about the things that didn’t fit in their North American cultural worldview. Already, the team is growing in love and compassion for the people of Guatemala. Desiring to be open to the Guatemalan culture and to learn from it, but also desiring to move forward in reciprocal relationships.

It is Monday, and we are heading to Magdelana this evening to meet our host families and begin serving at our work sites tomorrow. There is a sense of excitement and hope in our team as we prepare to enter into the experience that we came here for. After our study of Ja’irus and the Bleeding Women, we are also aware that Jesus wants to restore us as well as those around us. Please pray for out team as we live, eat, serve, and laugh with the Guatemalan people and each other. Pray that God would soften our hearts for what he is trying to teach us about his heart for not only us but also the world he created. 

Montreal Urban Partnership update

An update from Stephen Schalm, Campus Minister of International Student Ministries at McGill University in Montreal and Director of the Montreal Urban Partnership.

Montreal Urban Partnership team of 14 students and 2 staff are exploring God's heart for the city of Montreal.

Montreal Urban Partnership team of 14 students and 2 staff are exploring God’s heart for the city of Montreal.

 Day 2 of the Montreal Urban Partnership (MUP) and already changing plans… While flexibility is the name of the game in a program like MUP, I was still nervous to announce to our team that we would be changing plans – turning a night of reflection and sharing into extended communal worship and prayer. I could already hear the potential responses, “But what I really want is alone time right now”… “What do you mean ‘cry out to God’?”… “Already showing how ‘P’ you are on the Myers Briggs, Steve?”… Regardless, it was obvious from some prayer preparation that God was asking me a hard question- will MUP run on human strength, solid teaching and thoughtful planning, good intentions? Or would it be fuelled by a move of the Holy Spirit? How deeply do we want to see the move of God to bring resurrection in us and in this city?

Many of you have been hearing about Montreal Urban Partnership for the past few years- we are at it again, this time through the month of July! A team of 14 students, 2 staff, with help from an ever-growing number of partners throughout the city, will be exploring the heart of God for the city of Montreal- especially for its more marginalized parts- searching for what it would look like for the shalom of God to break into places of brokenness, despair, poverty and injustice, and for us to participate in both receiving and partnering to bring resurrection here!

As we dig deeply into scripture, get to know some great partner communities/organizations, work through our own poverty and brokenness and learn to imagine urban redemption in Montreal, what we really need is Holy Spirit-renewal – Holy Spirit-driven justice, Holy Spirit- driven repentance and transformation, Holy Spirit-driven healing and deliverance, Holy Spirit-driven prophetic imagination… Pray for us through the month of July as we learn to cry out to God for an out-pouring of His Spirit among us to empower us to become a people of justice and righteousness who seek the shalom of this city we have been called to! And pray for Montreal- that it would be made whole again in the name of Jesus! Follow our team on Facebook!

Bangladesh Update #5

Bujhi na.

It’s become one of my favourite phrases here in Bangladesh.  I use it everywhere. As I navigate transportation in the city, when I’m hanging out with Bangladeshi students, and every morning at placement.

At any given point you can likely hear someone on our team say it, usually prefaced by “Oh no.”

Bujhi na.  It means “I do not understand.”

It’s because there are still a lot of things that we do not understand here.  Things about culture and gender and issues of justice. Even the massive language gap attests to how very much we do not understand on a daily basis

But in spite of our constant state of “bujhi na,” I’m amazed by the depth of relationships that have been built here in Bangladesh. Surely these are signs of the Kingdom, growing among us as we partner with our Bengali friends.

Today, the team went to placement for the last time.  After a month of building friendships at various locations across the city, it’s a sad and hard day.  But also a beautiful one. Together, we have witnessed the power of love and intentionality, especially when it’s in the name of Jesus. No matter how big the language barrier, there were many tears, a clear sign of the lasting impact these relationships will have in our lives.

As we enter our final five days in Bangladesh, there will be many more experiences like today.  These days will be filled with goodbyes, as we reflect on the ways that God has grown our love for the people of this country.

So It might be true that there is much we still do not understand, but our hearts have been irrevocably changed by this experience.

As we navigate this season of ending, would you please pray with us:

Pray for our placement locations—the students at the Student Friendship Centre and the HEED Arts School and the women and children at the Children Uplift Program and Centre for the Training and Rehabilitation of Destitute Women.

Pray for our team as we grieve and process this time of transition.

Pray for our Acts manuscript camp, as we  head into two full days of scripture study with Bengali students.

Israel Update: A (miraculous?) early morning encounter

One shouldn’t use the word “miraculous” casually. Within the natural order, many strange coincidences occur: the unexpected and the unlikely happen often enough but they still cause wonder. People of faith know that God our Father is the great choreographer in the dance of the universe.  And  we are in Israel, the land of many miracles, including the resurrection of Jesus, who was dead and in the grave and is alive forever more. So I will describe for you what happened and you can tell me what you think.

The student conference was over – it had been intense. As you would expect! Israel is a land of profound ethnic, religious and historic divisions. Students from many shades of belief and unbelief had gathered in the firm conviction that God’s love is for all people. The unity in diversity had been powerful. Now they had scattered back to their universities and families.

We – the thirteen Canadians – were exhausted and happy to have an evening to de-brief and rejoice. Dom announced that she was feeling unwell. Something she ate? Over-tiredness?  A flu bug?  She grew worse and took to her bed. The big danger in such a hot climate is de-hydration and she could not keep anything down.

At 3:30 am Ian decided to take her to the hospital and set off immediately, not sure where to find a hospital in nearby Tel Aviv. The roads were very dark and very deserted. Ian pulled into a gas station, uncertain if anyone would be there. Suddenly, a man appeared – he had been putting air in his tires and Ian asked the way to the hospital. The man replied in English, “I am a doctor. Can I help you?” Really?  A doctor? On an empty country road at 3am? Even, as a final twist of humour and assurance from God, the angel-like doctor was a Canadian from Montreal now living in Israel!

After careful questioning, he recommended that they not go to the hospital. “They have much more urgent cases. Give her lots of water and she should be fine soon.” Back to bed for Dom. Back to much needed sleep for Ian. All around relief.  And great thanksgiving to God. The doctor was right. Three more people had this slight flu and all recovered quickly. We went on our way rejoicing.

Vancouver Urban Partnership

Thoughts on pigeons from the Vancouver Urban Partnership (May 25, 2014).

Pigeon Park

Inner city neighbourhoods crawl with pigeons. They are kind of gross, eating everything, seen as unclean, avoid them at all cost! The rats of the air.

Doves were the birds for sacrifice. Except if you were poor: you brought a pigeon.

Pigeons are now a sign of Jesus’ presence in the neighbourhood for me.

Israel Update

From Susan Norman, National Advocate of Graduate Students and Faculty Ministry, May 27th, 2014.

“I am an ex-religious Muslim. I am searching for God but He does not show Himself to me. How can I find Him? –  a Technion student.

“The Koran tells me all I need to know about Jesus. He was a prophet.” – a young Muslim in a Bible study who, despite his opening statement, said he would like to come again.

“I used to be a Christian but I don’t want to follow a lot of rules.” – a medical student

Good questions! Fascinating discussions! I, personally, rarely find such open, serious search for religious truth in Canada. A pastor here told me, “In Israel, everyone believes there is a God. Everything else [what He is like and how we can know Him] is a matter of intense debate and division.” Of course, there are many secular Israelis, but there is a consciousness of Him here, where three major religions co-exist in a somewhat tenuous relationship.

A week ago, after the student conference, we ventured onto seven Israeli campuses in five cities, all feeling a little nervous, more than a little uncertain, but very excited to learn what campus life is like and welcoming the opportunity to go deeper in the friendships we formed at the conference. We stayed with families, in dorms, in student apartments, on the floor of a local Messianic congregation – great ways to mix.

Perhaps the biggest surprise has been our discovery that students here are much the same as friends and classmates back home. They have the same longings: to get a good education and find a place in the adult world, to find purpose and meaning beyond themselves, to enjoy the good things that life offers, to know others and be known by them, to love and be loved. Like Canadian students, they may seek for these things in all the wrong places: in drinking too much and indulging in casual sex, in materialism and academic success, in the idols of fame or instant gratification which cannot deliver on their false promises.

We have had great discussions with students with different shades of religious belief: Arab Israeli Muslims, nominal Arab Israeli Christians, Messianic Believers (the word here for Jews who believe in Jesus), practising Jews who don’t accept Jesus and who are suspicious of Christians, lots of secular Jews – who are atheists and agnostics or dabbling in Eastern mysticism. We have joined them in barbecues, Bible studies, discussion groups, for coffee and dessert. We have had the great privilege of visiting in their homes. One student took his new Canadian friends to his village where about 150 of his relatives live in close proximity. They went from house to house feasting, talking in at least two languages, and getting a taste of Arab hospitality!

Benjamin, David, and Sarah on campus at he Technion University in Haifa.

Benjamin, David, and Sarah on campus at he Technion University in Haifa.

I was about to write “The highlight for me was . . .” but then I realised there were many highlights! One was the regular Christian gathering at the Technion, which is one of the world’s leading universities in advanced technology. They have a small group of seven or eight who attend regularly but their invitation to “come meet our Canadian friends” attracted new people, including several Muslims curious about Christianity. We had to keep expanding our circle of chairs. We shared our stories of coming to faith and talked about the difference in Canada between nominal faith and genuine, life-transforming belief in Jesus. The questions were good; the one-on-one conversations afterwards were even better!

The following night, some of our Technion friends joined with the Christians from the University of Haifa for a delicious barbecue on the beach. We watched the sun set over the Mediterranean, sang songs in Arabic and English, and again talked about life and faith. Another highlight was a trip to Akko at the College of Western Galilee. We went with Rasha, who is the staff worker for all of the Arab students in this region. She had been asked by some of the students from the college to start a Bible study. We sat on the grass on the lovely campus and studied the story of Jesus healing and forgiving the sins of the paralysed man. That miracle happened a short distance from where we were sitting. According to Rasha this was the first ever Bible study on this campus. When the lively discussion ended, everyone said they wanted more. Please pray for Rasha and other staff workers, who move effortlessly from Arabic to Hebrew to English, who reach out with truth and grace to newcomers and inquirers.