Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Answered Prayers

Many people pray. Even more doubt. But when all you have is prayer, you're much more inclined to hope.

This is where our team is at. We have realized that ingenious programs and persistence don't always pay off. We have gotten to the end of our rope and realized the most powerful place is on our knees when we come to God in prayer and ask Him to do it. When we really take time to seek and ask, instead of a prayer here and there. Its amazing to see the power of coming into the presence of God and making your heart known to Him. Of asking Him to work in situations where only He can. He is good and He does love to give gifts to His children. This doesn't mean things always magically go our way, but it does mean that we begin to see with His eyes whats going on and why and learn to trust Him. We can rejoice when amazing things happen and mourn when tough things happen, because that's what He does.

We all need to be reminded daily that there is a God and He listens to us because He loves us.

Here are a couple reminders...

This last 2 week we were praying that I could have a follow up meeting with a student I met a few weeks ago during surveys. I wrote about him in a blog post called "survey reflections." You see follow up meetings don't come easy. Most students don't want to get together and talk about spiritual things, especially if they have had a bad experience with the church. But low and behold he responded and we met for coffee. It was cool, we started our friendship that day.

One more story, this one started a year and a half ago on a road trip with my good friend and wise sage John who was letting me tag along as he took pictures of the mountains in central Oregon. As we drove he told me one of the lessons he learned in life. He said that he used to try to influence situations in ministry to go his way but as he progressed in years he has learned to pray more and let God give him the opportunities in ministry God wants instead of trying to influence them himself. He said that it is amazing to see things happen and opportunities he never would have dreamed of come true as God worked and John just prayed but didn't tell people his desires (this is the super condensed unquoted version).
Well, 4 months ago when we were still new in town one of the guys that helps run the youth program at church found out from a teammate I had done some preaching in the past and he said, "Hey we should have you come and talk some time at youth group." To which I replied "Sure, that would be great." Well nothing ever came from it and I was thinking about reminding them that I could come and speak sometime as I sat in church this last weekend. Then John's message came to mind and I decided that I would pray that if God wanted it to happen, He could make it happen. After the church service ended the youth leaders came and asked me to speak this week. Huh.
Thanks John.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Red-y or not, here I come"

Language is coming slowly for me.

Most of the time I can get by though there are days when I really wish I could speak the language. . . I guess the real reason I'm sharing this with you is to explain why I am now a redhead. . . Sigh. . . not that there is anything wrong with being a redhead. . .it's just not the "dark brown with deep red highlights" that I had described to the lady at the salon. . .Matt says he likes me as a redhead. I am glad for that.

Can you tell by the end that I was getting tired of sitting still for Matt's photo shoot? Yeah. . .I married a great guy!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I learned a valuable lesson

One day a month, for all Agape workers, is designated as "A Day With The Lord." On this day we have the freedom to spend some time doing whatever it is that helps us connect to God. Many on our team read the Bible, pray, listen to worship music, or whatever. I (Matt) decided to go for a walk up to the reservoir. I heard it had frozen so I wanted to go enjoy God's creation and to walk around on the ice as I prayed. And lets be honest, walking on ice can only help in keeping one focused on prayer. So it was pretty cool, literally. There were fisherman ice fishing in the middle of the reservoir which is about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile across and about 2 miles long. After three or so hours I met Nerijus, a young Lithuanian kid looking for someone to play with. So I said hi and we began to play. It started with throwing ice chunks, then progressed to running and sliding on the ice, and then to riding his skateboard deck (no wheels) down the hill. We then progressed to bigger hills and he taught me the Lithuanian word for extreme.

At this point I was praising God for giving me a chance to play as I enjoyed His creation, He knows I love to play outside.

Anyway, after one run down the hill and a good wipeout on my part, Nerijus had a concerned look on his face and when I got to the top of the hill he pointed to my pants. As I looked down I realized that after that last wreck or maybe even my first wreck I had blown out the crotch on my jeans. This was not a small little insignificant barely noticeable kind of rip, nope it was huge and we both got a good long laugh out of it and we kept boarding. Needless to say the 20 minute bus ride home was spent with my legs together and my bag covering the right spots.
So please learn from my lesson and don't snowboard in jeans kids.

In the picture below those dots on the lake behind the tree are fishermen and yes the wet spot is a water crack because its a reservoir and the water levels change so there are some expansion and contraction points.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Survey Reflections

Here's a little update on some ministry action from the K-town team.

So, on Wednesday our team met at the big fountain in our downtown area to pray and then break up to go to different campuses. Jason, Sharon, and I went to KTU to put some posters, (which advertise an Agape website for students), and to do some surveys. Yes surveys. To those of you who are not sure what that means, it is a method used by Campus Crusade to meet and talk with students. So basically, we walk up to students to see if we can ask some questions. Usually they give the typical Lithuanian response "of course." Our surveys usually have 3 to 6 questions about life, spiritual stuff, students needs, ect. These are the questions we used on Wednesday's survey (which we borrowed from the NW CCC office):

1. What are the worst things Christians have done in history?
2. What is the worst thing a Christian has done to you?
3. What did Jesus teach?
4. Do you think that those who did those hurtful things were truly following Jesus?
5. Would you like to learn more about what Jesus actually taught?

Our intent was to help students see that often times the hurtful things that have been done in Jesus' name or by his followers, do not really reflect Jesus' heart. We have talked with many students who have a huge mistrust of anything Christian because of the corruption, ugly things in history, or even the direct pain caused by people in the church. We want to show them the Jesus found in the Bible who hung out with those seen as the "sinners." The Jesus who stood up for prostitutes and helped them get off the streets. The Jesus who loved and cared for everyone. In fact, the people He had the hardest time with were the religious leaders of the day who had led people astray. Sure, Jesus called people out of their self centered ways and out of their sinful habits, but His purpose was not to come and judge the world but to save it (see John 3:17).

Jason and I got to talk with one student on Wednesday who had left the church because a leader in the church verbally abused him for not attending church regularly. He sees himself as a very spiritual person but felt like he could not go back to the church. Since then, he has become interested by other religious traditions like Buddhism and the Hari Krishnas (who we often see parading by our street on Saturdays). We had a great time talking and he wants to get togehter sometime for coffee to work on his English and discuss spiritual issues.

It breaks my heart that there are many other students like this who have thrown in the towel because they have never known the real Jesus whose love is unbelievably beautiful, whose grace is astonishing, and whose concern for where they are at is beyond comprehension. Instead they have only met weak humans who have done some pretty ugly things in the name of Christ and who will often let them down. And as angry as I get in hearing these stories, and as much as I want to distance myself from those in the church who have said and done hurtful things in Jesus' name, I must still identify with them as my brothers and sisters in Christ. And I must recognize and acknowledge the times when I have said or done things that have hurt others. I long to be a more clear reflection of who Jesus is and how He lived His life. I long to be a picture of Him here in Kaunas Lithuania. Please pray that we would be the hands and heart of Jesus here.