EPILOGUE

Epilogue

(June 27 – September 18)

 

I’m back!

Well, technically I’ve been back in Kona for a few days now. Sorry I didn’t get an update posted right away. I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting to hear how my time in the jungle went, so I’ll get right to it. (That sounds a little presumptuous now that I read it again. If you haven’t been waiting anxiously, it’s totally fine.)

Three flights, two layovers and approximately twenty-eight hours after leaving Kona, we made it to Brazil. Our first stop – Brasília. We spent only a few days adjusting to life in a new country before the class split up and our team headed for the Amazon. I should note one highlight during that time was our introduction to Brazilian BBQ – it’s amazing!

A short flight north towards the equator (that’s weird to say) found us in Belem. A couple more hours on the bus and we finally made it to Alcance Amazônico (Jocum). That’s Amazon Reach (YWAM) in Portuguese. This would be home base for the next six weeks.

However much we might have thought Brasília had gotten us ready, we were wrong. I never looked at the temperature (not that I didn’t try, there just wasn’t much cell service), but I’m pretty sure the temperatures hovered somewhere right around 98° (that’s an early 2000’s boy band reference for those of you who didn’t know) with humidity hovering at a steady 350% ALL THE TIME. In total, we visited four different communities were we stayed between five and seven days each time. We took the boat to all but one, although frequently a bus and taxi were also involved just to reach the port. We carried in our food, sometimes water too, and slept, not always well, in our hammocks. We stayed in a church, a school and homes that were opened up to us. We cooked and washed dishes constantly. Usually we had toilets. Sometimes they worked. Same goes for showers. Did I mention it was hot?

We were only on the base a few days before our first deployment outreach into the jungle. Why not kick things off with the farthest trip and the longest stay you ask? Apparently that’s what the base thought too, so they sent us to Arapapuzinho, where along with staff from the base, our days were filled with house visits, bible studies, kids’ camps and even preaching a few sermons.

While everywhere we visited was unique, our ministry in the next three communities pretty much followed the same pattern. Whether we were in Arrozal, Tauerá de Beja, or Tauerá Açú our goal was to share the love of Christ by spending time with people. Some time ago, Amazon Reach refocused their ministry. The bible has called us to make disciples of all nations. That doesn’t happen through a single prayer. Salvation is the starting point, but if we truly want to see people living their lives for Jesus, we must be willing to walk with them as they grow. Doing this means establishing lasting relationships. Once those relationships are established we have a better understanding of the needs in the community both spiritually and physically and are able to work together to solve those needs. Much of what they’re doing is elaborated on in the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett, if it’s something you’re interested in, I’d encourage you to give it a read. It definitely helped me look at things differently.

When we left the Amazon in mid-August, it was bittersweet. I’m going to be completely honest and a little vulnerable here. As incredible as our experience in the jungle was, our drive from the Brasília airport to the church with the cool evening air blowing into the car might have been the best thing I’ve felt in my entire life. We rejoined the other half our team and together we spent a couple of weeks in Brasília editing photos and finishing up our projects before heading back to the US for our final stop before Hawaii. Orlando was our base for the final two weeks away. We shared our stories at different venues, showed our gallery in an art studio and did some street evangelism using portable photo printers to let people know they were valued.

I wish I could say otherwise, but to be honest, I can’t point to a single moment or some incredible life-changing testimony that happened while we were away. Instead, it was as if the entire time was a constant reminder of the things God taught me during lecture phase. His faithfulness, how he much he cares about us (I got an aisle seat on every flight #FavorOfTheLord), and how he has called us love others just the same. There are things I’ve learned that I still haven’t finished processing. I suspect God will continue teaching me out of this experience for quite some time to come.

This has gotten a bit lengthy and I still have one more piece of news I want to share, so I better wrap things up with this. If there was an overriding them to our DTS Outreach, it was this: How can you use the gifts, talents, or passion that God has given you to connect with and impact somebody’s life for the Glory of the Kingdom of God?

What Now?

Panda Chillin' With this season of my life only days away from coming to close, you might be wondering where it all goes from here. (You are not alone. I have wondered the exact same thing.) For a while, I thought maybe I’d just hang out for a while like this Giant Panda. As it turns out God wants me to hang out where the Panda lives, not like the Panda. (I must have gotten confused. It was probably from a lack of sleep during outreach.)

Chengdu MapA small team including three of our DTS leaders and three of my classmates will be making a trip to Chengdu, China in October and God has called me to the join them. We’ll be applying the skills we spent the last six months honing to create a media kit encouraging international YWAM bases to engage in all the incredible things God is doing in China.

Just after I’d decided to go, my Chinese classmate reminded that during our first week of DTS I asked her about this random city in China I’d seen on TV called Chengdu. Long before I had any idea I’d be going God was already making plans.

It’s a short turnaround, that is for sure. I’ll have a week off before we get started with our planning, by mid-October we’ll head to China for three weeks and then back to Kona until early December so we can get everything put together. To make this trip a reality, I still need to raise $3000 by early October to cover all the expenses. I’d appreciate your prayers as I continue chasing after what God has called me to. If you feel moved to support me financially, you can send me a message and I’ll let you know what the best option is.

More Pictures

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CHAPTER 11

Week 11

(June 20 – June 26)

Eighty-one days!

That’s how long I’ve been in Kona now.

Some days it seems like ages ago that I waved goodbye to Sioux Falls, while others feel like I’m just finally getting settled in.

Near as I can count, I’ve eaten 154 meals in the cafeteria (others are over 200, but I rarely make it to breakfast), spent over 40 hours in the Kona Prayer Room, sang to the Lord during 60+ worship services, walked up or down in excess of 18,000 stair steps from our room to the classroom, and between lecture and weekly services in Ohana Court, listened to somewhere around 40 different speakers.

So, besides involuntarily working on my calves, what have I learned?

In short – Everything!

I’m no longer the same person I was when I landed here on April 6.

Every speaker we had left me with something new. Individually, these pieces might have just been cool quotes, little truths or different ideas, but when those pieces came together, it was time for a revelation.

For too long, I’ve let myself be defined by the world around me. I’ve been consumed by comparison. I’ve worried too much about what other people thought of me. I’ve let my identity be determined by what I was or wasn’t doing.

I was trying to find myself, when I should have been trying to find God.

I realize now that everything I am is in Christ. I can create an identity, but it will only be a lie. My identity was given to me by God. My worth isn’t determined by others. Jesus already did that and he said I was worth hanging on the cross. He says the same thing about you.

I’m not sure I can really convey how freeing that realization is. Somewhere along the way, everything finally clicked for me. “Worry is imagining the future without God,” said Shannon Casteel. (Of course it is. That makes perfect sense. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to figure that out, but better late than never I suppose.) Now, I understand that wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, who I am will never change. I am a child of God.

Everything going forward can flow out of that. “God is more interested in our hearts, than he is in our calling,” said a different speaker. Yet another added, “when you know your why, your what has more impact.”

Now that I know who I am, how can anything ever be the same again?

We leave for Brazil this week and all I can think about is how unprepared to share the love of Jesus I would have been just three months ago.

It’s been eighty-one days and I am forever changed.

CHAPTER 10

Week 10

(June 13 – June 19)

Love is in the air!

Sorry, just kidding! (I bet some of you got excited for a minute didn’t you?)

Sheldon knows best.

We did spend the last week talking about relationships with Blake and Shannon Casteel though. Not just romantic relationships, but relationships with friends, relationships with family, relationships with co-workers and so many more. Even the most casual interactions with the gas station attendant or grocery store clerk can qualify as a relationship on some level.

So, how did we cover all these different levels of relationship in just a couple of days?

Easy! From the simplicity of hello to the complexity of marriage the basics are always the same.

  1. The most important relationship you can possibly have is your relationship with God. Like nearly everything else in life, our natural interactions will mirror our relationship with God. If we set our thoughts and hearts to honor him in all we do, we will emulate the characteristics of God around others. When we are secure in our identity through Christ, we are suddenly no longer looking for someone else to fill a need that only God can satisfy. Instead, we look for ways to meet their needs and pour into their lives. Every relationship is an opportunity to overcome selfishness. If you’re in a relationship to get something out of it for yourself, you’re in it for the wrong reason.

    This is not the right way to approach relationships.

  1. Every relationship must be approached with integrity. So what the heck does that mean? Let’s take a look at the Google definition of integrity.
  2. Integrity

    I want you to focus on the second definition – the state of being whole and undivided.

    If we devote ourselves whole-heartedly to God through a relationship of complete sincerity and commitment, it should be impossible for us to live our lives with anything other than integrity. If we embody these noble traits (just look at the all the synonyms in both definitions) as we interact with others, how can our relationships not be improved?

That’s it! These two things are essential to having healthy relationships. Now go make new friends.

Part of our class watching the NBA Finals Game 7. Our relationships aren't built on what we get out of it, but on how we can support each other - unless they were cheering for Golden State.

Part of our class watching the NBA Finals Game 7. Our relationships aren’t built on what we get out of it, but on how we can support each other… unless they were cheering for Golden State.

CHAPTER 9

Week 9

(June 6 – June 12)

So… it was corporate week again.

Didn’t we already do this once? (We did. Week four.)

All corporate week really means is that every DTS on campus merges into one giant super group to hear the same lecture. Truth be told, the first time around was not my favorite. We go from a class of 15 to several hundred, move from a comfortable classroom to the outdoor Ohana Court and pause approximately every thirty seconds for things to be translated into Korean. The most conducive environment for focusing it is not!

Thank goodness the speakers were interesting or I could have easily come away with a whole bunch of random ideas, very few of which would have actually impacted the Kingdom.

Several people shared this week, but the general theme was the same. How can we impact people’s lives by showing them the love of Christ as we go into the nations?

Now, I’ve always liked the big picture stuff. I like to have an idea of what’s expected so I can prepare myself. Just so you understand how my mind operates, when I did Strength Finders, all five strengths ended up in the strategy (or as Will Ferrell portraying George Bush on SNL might say, “strategery”) column.

Naturally then, if we’re going on outreach or attempting to share the Gospel somewhere, I like to have some idea about what I’m heading into. I think a lot of you are probably the same. How often do we pray for strategies to reach the lost? Strategies for missions? Strategies for sharing about Jesus? Strategies for fundraising? We feel more comfortable is we have a plan!

That’s always been my thought process. Then one of our speakers dropped this on us.

“We don’t need more strategy. We just need the mind of Christ.”

The more time we spend chasing after God, the more time we spend making our minds like that of Christ through prayer and reading the Word, the more prepared we are to share his love wherever we are. Whether we’re at the office, on the street or in a third world country, there’s no need for plans or strategies or elaborate setups. We just show His love to those who need to feel loved, because that’s what Jesus would have done. It’s from this place that everything should flow if we hope to make an impact.

True impact isn’t measured in numbers; it’s measured in obedience. It’s not a matter of how many people we tell about God. It’s a matter of whether or not we reveal the love of Christ when, how and to who He calls us regardless of where we are!

it's not what we need!

it’s not what we need!

Thank You!

Thank you for all your prayers!

Every single person has now received the funding they need for outreach. Earlier this week, our class spent time praying for one another and blessing each other to the extent we felt God guiding us. By the end of that time, the total amount of money still outstanding as a class was down to right around $2800. With a prompting form God, one of our classmates made a single phone call and received a pledge to cover all that remained.

God is faithful!

CHAPTER 8

Week 8

(May 29 – June 5)

Let Creative Week commence!

Or, if you went on your own unsanctioned adventure to Maunakea last weekend, you can stay in your bed with remnants of altitude sickness and an extreme aversion to rides in a fifteen passenger van that seems to have been created only to induce motion sickness.

I choose option B. (To be honest, I didn’t really get much of a choice in the matter.)

For everyone else, the week was filled with adventures to picturesque locations where we were supposed to hone our photography and communication skills. I managed to make it to the southernmost point of the United States with them. You’ll never guess what it’s called.

Dang! You guessed South Point? You’re good at this.

Nothing between here and Antarctica but miles of ocean and giant waves, so probably not a good idea to go swimming here.

Nothing between here and Antarctica but miles of ocean and giant waves. Probably not a good idea to go swimming here.

Anyway, I also made it to editing day. Albeit without a lot of photos to edit. That’s okay though, because God provided perfect opportunities for me to get all the pictures I need for our assignments in just a couple days.

Sorry there are no big revelations this week, but I’m finally feeling back to normal and I’m sure I’ll learn loads again during the coming week.

Money Still Matters

 

Names are coming off the board and lots of money has come in, but a few of my classmates still don’t have everything they need for outreach. Campus leadership has granted them grace until this Friday to make their final payments. If you can keep them in your prayers, so we can all go together, we’d be grateful.

Say Cheese!

Even though I missed the adventures, I still managed to get a few pictures to share.

CHAPTER 7

Week 7

(May 23 – May 28)

Let’s play a game. I’ll describe someone and you try to guess who I’m talking about.

He’s got a beard that makes him look like he belongs at the Gas Monkey Garage, tattoos up both forearms and gauges in his ears big enough to stick a dry erase marker through. (I’m not joking. Someone asked him and he did it.) He wears black boots, black jeans, a black t-shirt and dangling from a heavy silver chain around his neck is a big old skeleton key. Finally, he’s got a combination Spanish-British accent that Frank Caliendo couldn’t master if he spent the next three years practicing.

Any guesses? You can rule out any baseball players, rock stars or bikers you might know.

Okay, I don’t have all day to wait around while you keep thinking, so I’ll just go ahead and tell. It’s Christian Vargas, and he is our week seven teacher. He came from London to talk about Identity and Freedom. This looked promising… err, interesting at least?

As it turned out, he’s not as brooding (or scary) as he looked like he might be based on first impressions. He’s actually a super cool guy who leads a YWAM base in London focused on using the arts to share God’s love.

His question for is this week – Who are you?

How do I identify myself?

  • Am I a South Dakotan?
  • Am I a Wingler?
  • Am I a marketer?
  • Am I whatever my job is?
  • Am I a YWAMer?
  • Am I a car guy?
  • Am I a photographer?
  • Am I a hunter?
  • Am I smart?
  • Am I funny?
  • Am I honest?
  • Am I a brother?
  • Am I a son?
  • Am I an uncle-to-be?
  • Am I a missionary?
  • Am I a Broncos fan?
  • Am I a basketball guy?
  • Am I a dreamer?
  • Am I creative?
  • Am I logical?
  • Am I a business person?
  • Am I chill under pressure?
  • Am I introverted?
  • Am I sunburned at the moment?

I might be all of these things at one time or another, but these are simply roles I play. They are not who I am.

I am loved. I am of a son of God. That’s who I am. That’s all that matters. It’s who you are too!

No matter where we are or what we’re doing, we are loved. It never changes. We we’re made to love and be loved by our Father in heaven. That’s it.

Christian knows who he is.

I’m learning who I am.

Who are you?

Money Matters

God's Will. God's Bill.

This is how much we need by Thursday.

I want to say thank you again to everyone who has supported me financially. Because of your generosity, I came to Kona with all of my outreach fees paid. It is such a blessing that I am able to focus on what God is teaching me without the stress of raising money for our trip to Brazil. Not everyone in my class was so fortunate. Some are still raising money ahead of this Thursday’s final deadline. If you could be praying that God provides every last penny we need for the entire team go it would mean the world (well Brazil anyway) to us.

Maunakea

(May 28)

On Saturday, a bunch of us took a road trip to watch the sunset from above the clouds on the summit of Maunakea. I guess now I can say, “Been there. Done that. Don’t need to do it again.” It was an experience! We’ll just leave it at that.

Video of our adventure is courtesy of my Kiwi roommate (he would say “flatmate”) Josh Gray.

CHAPTER 6

Week 6

(May 15 – May 22)

Hold on to your seats! Holy Spirit week just got over and it was crazy! Or so I thought it would be.

Get It? Holy Spirit = Fire...

Get It? Holy Spirit/Fire…

What could have easily been one of the most raucous weeks of DTS was anything but. The potential, maybe even anticipation, for the kind of unbelievable stories we’ve been trained to expect was there, but a week that could have easily focused on experiences and the manipulation of emotions wasn’t.

Instead, our speaker decided to take things in another direction. I should have realized something unusual was happening right off the bat. I mean, what’s normal about having a Messianic Rabbi from Seoul, South Korea teach about the Holy Spirit.

Rabbi Mathew Toller decided not to emphasize the gifts of the Spirit during Holy Spirit week. It wasn’t without good cause though. The Holy Spirit isn’t just prophecy. It isn’t just tongues or healing. The Holy Spirit isn’t just manifestations. It doesn’t only show up only when we sing a certain song in the prayer room. It is all of those things, but to attach such narrow labels short changes and diminishes the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Every trait we use to describe God and every characteristic we ascribe to Jesus can be found in the Holy Spirit.

I myself have been guilty of making the Holy Spirit a bit of a one trick pony. There have been times I’ve expected certain things and if it didn’t happen, then the Holy Spirit just didn’t show up. And that was fine, I was okay with it. The only problem is, it’s not true.

Whether we want to admit it or not, the Holy Spirit is always with us. We don’t need to invite it into the room. We don’t need to call down more of its presence. The truth is, we couldn’t escape His presence even if we wanted to.

Sin doesn’t separate us from the God. If anything, it causes God to pursue us even harder. That’s why God went into the garden looking for Adam and Eve.

Our sin didn’t put Jesus on the cross. Our sin gave Jesus the opportunity to prove his faithfulness by going to the cross.

We don’t get to choose our worth. God’s already done that and He says we’re worth Jesus dying on the cross.

So whatever you’ve done, whatever you think you’ve done, you’ve been made holy through Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Holy Spirit dwells within you. I think it’s important to note that holiness does not mean without sin. Holiness means anointed and set apart for God. Being “holy” is not a statement of value, it’s an adjective describing your relationship with the Creator, so don’t compare your holiness to someone else’s holiness. You were created with a unique anointing for a special role in the Kingdom of God.

CHAPTER 5

Week 5

(May 8 – May 14)

 

It’s been a few weeks since we had a guest on the blog, so before we go too far, Brad Pitt would like to ask an important question…

Hint: It could be you.

Hint: It could be you.

Our speaker this week was Joseph Avakian. (I’m contemplating calling them teachers from now on. Speaker just doesn’t do them justice. My only concern is rekindling some suppressed childhood memory I don’t know you have about an elementary school teacher who made you sit in the corner. They’re nothing like that!) Joseph is a graphic designer who specializes in co-creating with God. You guessed it! This week’s emphasis – Co-Creating with God. Now, before I lose any of you who might think this doesn’t apply because you’re not creative, I’ll drop this little bombshell he shared first thing Monday morning. If God is the creator and we are created in His image, how can we tell ourselves we’re not creative?

We put ourselves in a box, that’s how.

Sometimes we let other people put us there if we agree with how they define us, but mostly we do it to ourselves. Eventually, we wake up and realize we’ve accepted who we think the world says we should be. We’ve categorized ourselves to such an extent we’re trapped by the six strongholds the built the walls of our creative prison. We let fear, comparison, control, egoism, arrogance and negative criticism rule our lives. Always wanting more, but convincing ourselves that’s not who we are.

That’s the lie we believe. We should be wanting more, even expecting more, because our skills are combined with Holy Spirit’s guidance we can do incredible things. We either decide we’re going to change or we get changed by something else. Those are the options. Why not decide to take control? Be intentional about moving in the opposite spirit of these strongholds. Embrace unconditional love, an identity of uniqueness, freedom, generosity, humility and exhortation so we can change the world.

Six strongholds define the boxes we find ourselves in. Six truths can set us free. When the box is opened up, we see the power of the cross.

Six strongholds define the boxes we find ourselves in. Six truths can set us free. When the box no longer holds us captive, the power of the cross is revealed.

So often, I let comparison rule my life. I compare myself to everyone, because that’s what society has taught us to do. Smart, dumb. Tall, short. Attractive, ugly. Rich, poor. Healthy, sick. There’s always someone more and always someone less. I compare myself to the people I want to be like. People like the Navy SEALS and Tim Tebow. Who am I kidding, I’ll never have muscles like those guys. (Shoot! There I go comparing.) To a guy like Mark Zuckerberg who is roughly my age but worth right around a gazillion dollars. To our YWAM leaders and their commitment to the bible. To the Hollywood heart throb all the girls talk about. But the scariest one for me – I compare myself to who I wish I was. Then fear sets in. What if I never get to where I want be? Before I know it, the walls of my box are closing in around me.

The more time I spend growing in my relationship with Christ though, the more he reveals to me about who I am. Where my true identity lies. All the ways he’s made me unique. Comparison is the killer of joy someone wrote on the board one day. I’m not sure there’s ever been a truer statement. If we allow ourselves to be defined by our work, we become a what and not a who. I want the wall of comparison to fall, because I know fear won’t be far behind. And when that happens, how much longer can the box support itself? I can’t wait to feel that freedom. I can’t wait to see all the crazy things God wants to do with me.

Creativity isn’t art. It isn’t design. It isn’t a competition. It’s being who God created you to be through an intimate relationship with him. Yours won’t look like mine and mine won’t look like theirs. That’s the most beautiful part of the whole thing.

Most days the mountain top hides in the fog, but every so often, God reveals the fullness of his glorious creation.

Most days the mountain top hides in the fog, but every so often, God reveals the fullness of his glorious creation.

CHAPTER 4

Week 4

(May 2 – May 7)

 

One down. Five to go.

Even Five-0 isn't sure where all the time is going.

Even Five-0 isn’t sure where all the time is going.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Hawaii for a month already. While the first two weeks felt like forever (in a good way), the last two have screamed by so quickly, I thought about calling in McGarrett and Danno to investigate where all the time is going.

Week four was a little different than we’ve experienced so far. Because it was corporate week, every DTS on campus met as a giant group in Ohana Court.  Members of campus leadership shared stories that revealed the values of YWAM and the heart behind what goes on here.

Joe Portale was one of those speakers. He basically pioneered Christian missions in French West Africa, so it was no surprise that most of his stories (stories that included swarms of killer bees the size of a basketball court and getting lost in the thousands of square miles of sand that make up the Sahara Desert) focused on the challenges of doing something that hadn’t been done before. Then he said this – “What we do with the giants (opposing us in life) will dictate how we live our lives, either defeated and running away (like Saul and his armies) or courageous and victorious (like David with God’s help).”

We can’t run from the giants in our lives. We have to stand and face them if we want any hope of living the life we were designed for.

And, don’t tell me there are no giants in your life. If you do, I’ll throw the red flag and we can head straight to the review booth.

I have giants. I even have new ones since I got here.

When I left home, I gave up a dream job with no idea what I do when these six months are over and done. So, every day, I make a conscious decision to trust God’s plan even though I can’t see where it’s going. When I got here, I was thrown into a dorm room with six other guys – the closest to my own age is eight years younger. I haven’t shared a room with another person for almost ten years, let alone a bunch of guys that could just be starting college. So yeah, there are some obstacles there, but we’re learning and growing together, becoming friends along the way. Finally, can you say distractions? I came to learn about Jesus, but that doesn’t mean everything else I’m interested in just goes away. So again, every day, I have to make a conscious choice to focus on what’s important and ask God for his help in sticking to it. That means setting aside the time I previously dedicated to YouTube videos of Jay Leno’s Garage to instead finish my homework. (It’s still terrible. I absolutely hate it! Just not enough that I see it displacing Hot Dogs for #1 anytime soon.) It’s a sacrifice worth making though, because my relationship with God is worth more than anything else I can imagine.

As we head into the final two months before we leave for outreach, I want soak in everything I possibly can. I want to push myself more, focus harder, try things that make me uncomfortable, and commit to getting the most out of every day. I don’t want to waste my time on things without an eternal purpose when there is so much more to learn, because I’ve come to realize that here, at YWAM’s University of Nations, the juice is always worth the squeeze.

PS – I don’t dance, but it turns out lots of other people do. There’s a freedom to worship here that you don’t find everywhere else. (Like when leaderships sets aside their plans for a speaker to let the Spirit lead a spontaneous worship session.) Just look at the two images below. One isn’t any better or any worse than the other. Just different. Like everyone participating.

Reaching Out

Something else Joe said stuck with me this week too. He said, “outreach always begins with a clear word of the Lord.”

For me, that word of the Lord started many months ago. God made it abundantly clear that he wanted me to come here, so I followed His call. South America was one of two places I had on my heart for outreach, so when they announced Brazil everything felt right. Since then I’ve put my trust in our leaders. I have the utmost confidence in their ability to discern God’s voice and trust that whatever they have planned, God will reveal himself through it. As someone who’s often anxious about visiting new places, I feel remarkably at ease.

With that said (shout out to Gerry Wingler), here’s a quick overview of our tentative schedule.

We’ll leave Kona for Brazil on June 29 and several days (I’m told less than a week) in the capital, Brasilia. From there, our class will part ways for the next six weeks. My team and I will head for the Amazon, while the others make their way to Sao Paulo. Following that, we’ll all meet back in Brasilia, where we’ll visit various churches and organizations to share the stories we’ve collected.

Team Amazon (minus Harolin) practicing outreach at the Old Kona Airport

Team Amazon (minus Harolin) practicing outreach at the Old Kona Airport

Chapter 3

Week 3

(April 25 – May 1)

 

I got a new perspective on how much life can suck this week.

Disclaimer: Don’t worry, it wasn’t experiential.

Like everyone, I’ve gone through hard times. I’ve had jobs I hated and days I would have rather not woken up. I was once even accused of having PTSD as a result of my time on a beer delivery truck. If only they knew…

Anyway, now I’ve heard Dan Baumann’s story, and yeah, it takes the cake.

Dan’s a popular guy, so we didn’t actually have him for the entire week like we normally do with our guest speakers. (I know, I know, we got totally jipped, just because he has speaking engagements all over the world or something!) During the one day we had with Dan, he shared some of the most amazing stories I’ve heard.

I’ve been pondering it most of the week and I think this is the best way to describe Dan:
Dan is a yes-man to Jesus. When God says go, he goes.

After college, and feeling God’s call, Dan headed for a field hospital – in Afghanistan. For ten years, Dan served as an ambassador of Jesus in the wake of war. The odd thing is, Dan seemed to like it. Which is probably why him and a buddy decided to spend a two-week break in Iran sharing the love of Jesus.

As they were leaving Iran, they were arrested, beaten, imprisoned, charged with spying and sentenced to death. Dan spent nine weeks in one of Iran’s most infamous prisons before he was finally released. That’s a level of suckiness I’m not sure I can really comprehend.

If you want the whole story, you can get Dan’s book here.

The most amazing part of the story to me though is what happened next. Dan didn’t tell God he had already given him enough of his life. He didn’t hunker down in a cozy cottage by the beach somewhere. He just kept going. When God says, “pack your bags,” Dan packs his bags. Sometimes knowing nothing more than the country he’s destined for. He just gets on the plane and goes. Trusting God to reveal the next step when he lands. That my friends is crazy faith. I want faith like that.

I struggle enough with our community outreach sessions. Every Wednesday we go into downtown Kona and practice sharing the love of Jesus. (Honestly, it’s not my favorite part of the week.) I can’t imagine flying to a country I’ve never been to, with no place lined up to stay and no idea what I’m there for other than to talk about Jesus. Yikes!

Sharing about Jesus can be uncomfortable and while I remain skeptical that street evangelism will ever be the primary call on my life, I’m learning. Just because you don’t lead someone to Jesus, doesn’t mean it was a failure. Sometimes a person needs nothing more than a word of encouragement or a simple prayer to brighten their day, to show them they aren’t forgotten and the Father always loves them. When God speaks, follow his call. Don’t be scared. You never know impact it could have on someone’s life.

Dan said somethings that’s been spinning around in my head all week. Being 100% certain about what God is doing is overrated. He’s convinced that most Christian’s who follow God’s call are operating at between 51% and 99% certainty. They’re just more confidant they’re hearing God than that they aren’t. I thought that was interesting. I’ve always thought people who go the kind of places Dan goes heard something so clearly they didn’t feel like they had a choice. The truth is, they’re not any different than the rest of us. They just believe that with every ounce of their soul that wherever they are, God will lead them.

I want to be like Dan. I want to be a yes-man to Jesus.

Practice, Practice, Practice

And in between everything else – we practice.
Go Broncos!