We're looking forward to continuing to dig into what a life with Jesus looks like. Click the link below to get the after camp material on your phone. Once you download this PDF, wifi & data won't be needed. Hip Hip Hooray!
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
I went into this trip eager to learn. My whole life I’ve felt a draw to international missions and I was excited to see first-hand the amazing expeditions offered through a ministry I already loved so dearly. But even more so, I wanted to know how something so large and impactful could benefit the existing work we are trying to do in Southeast Texas.
Overall, the entire process was exactly what you would expect with a Young Life trip; Logistically, it was very well put together. From fundraising and communication beforehand, our schedule the entire time, and the staff that we worked alongside, everything was very well thought out.
Speaking of staff - That was my favorite part. Getting to serve alongside the staff in the Philippines was priceless. I learned so much from all of them. Just watching how they love and care for each other was one of the best training tools I’ve been exposed to in my life. I had this internal conflict in my head before leaving for this trip, wrestling with the idea of “is this trip worth it? Are short term mission trips worth it?” I wanted to make sure I was doing something that was of value and of course, responsible.
My favorite part of Young Life is the training that we receive as staff and the hardest part of Young Life is transferring that training to those we love and lead with in our own area. Watching and learning from the staff in the Philippines was such a blessing to me and taught me how to lead and love my team here. Then as a bonus, getting to experience that with one of my guys, Brandon Smith, who is wrapping up his freshmen year at Texas A&M University, was a beautiful picture to point to as he considers how he wants to give his life away for the Kingdom.
There was a day where we all took a break from the work and snorkeled near the Olango Reef Flat. As Brandon & I sat on the gently rocking boat, surrounded by blue water and rugged landscape, it was the conversation that was the real take-away. Seeing his eyes light up when he verbally processed what this life could look like surrendered to the King was a moment I’ll never forget.
I went into this trip probably a little too aware of what the Lord would do in our hearts. I knew that what He would do in our lives would be significant, but I underestimated what it would do in the lives of our Philippino friends. As we pulled away the last day, leaving our new lifelong friends there on their own front lines, their tears of gratitude were the reminder I needed that this is bigger than all of us. That the best part of this entire Expedition experience is better understanding the puzzle that the personal God we grow to know daily is absolutely omnipresent and sovereign. My fears of short-term missions somehow being poor stewardship were shattered. There is no deliverable that we can provide on an expedition that is greater than what has already been delivered in the hearts of those already there. Seeing that first hand and trying to wrap my mind around such a big truth rocked my world. That's what I took home. That’s what I believe the local staff in the Philippines were reminded of. That's what I'm applying here and speaking about to our students. In fact, when I think about it, there was nothing short-term about this trip at all. Expeditions like this one will be a trip that we continue to expose people to as long as the Lord allows. Our God is BIG and people all over the world are having their lives changed forever.
For the longest time, I placed the idea of travel high on my list for what you might see on a postcard; that one moment where the world we experience daily is replaced with one stripped of monotony and filled with wonder. Since I’ve been back, that longing has bled into my daily life more and more. Working with the understanding of a much bigger kingdom than the one we continuously attempt to build on our own is what turns a trip up to the school into the biggest opportunity of the week. It turns the mundane into the spectacular, the routine into adventure.
Young Life Expeditions further revealed what life with Jesus looks like and how grand the privilege of a life lived for Him is. Specifically in Young Life, going where our high school friends are, seeing that as an opportunity to love like Jesus first loved us, and engaging in the things that really matter; the life of every single kid.
So what's next? That's what has become abundantly clear. A passion for discipleship, working to create more opportunities to connect students globally in an effort to give every kid a vision for Christ’s love for every kid.
Last night we kicked off our Friday night meal series with the power couple themselves- Marci and George Brown. The grill master outdid himself, providing some of the most tasty fajita meat you've ever had. Maybe I'm over stating it - the last few times I've grilled fajitas, I've over cooked my pre-seasoned meat. So this was a real win in my eyes, especially when you pair it with the grilled vegetables that disappeared quicker than a kid during contact work.
Not to be outdone, Marci shined just as bright as George. When I got home from work Marci was already here unloading everything from drinks and cheese dip to forks and flowers. Yes - Flowers. The most beautiful Tulips greeted our guest warmly, right before they were hit square in the nose with all the mouth-watering smells.
We had the perfect blend of guest for night one! Young Life College was represented by James Havlock and he brought his buddy Grant, who is equally solid. West Brook leaders, Abby Vackar and Beau Tallarita made it out & Emily Priest carried the flag for Kelly. We even had some great friends from church, Ethan and Danielle Zeiger join the fun. Eleven total if you include Me, Brenna, Doc & Cal. We missed you WyldLife and Lumberton!
Walking into the living room this morning, the first thing that caught my eye was those fresh flowers positioned prominiently on the coffee bar. It brought a smile to my face - We have so many amazing leaders, spread thin and far, lighting up every room with the aroma of Christ. What a healthy root system we have in our loving committee spoiling us with all the fajita nutrients we need! Am I stretching for that analogy? Maybe, but that doesn't discount the truth it holds.
A public thanks to Marci & George Brown for helping us create the space to not be leaders and simply be friends.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
To the teams of West Brook & Kelly,
I hope your time throughout this holiday season has been unbelievably sweet. There were points where I forgot I even had a cell phone due to simply enjoying the time traveling with my family. Even as I write this I'm enjoying a warm fire at the beach, while we lounge on the couch under both blankets and the weather.
I've had the opportunity to catch up on a ton of reading in this down time as well, something I've been admittedly desperate for in the scrambling that we call Fall. '7 Men' by Eric Metaxas was one such book that I couldn't put down. Riding the coattails of a book I read on martyrs of the faith, '7 Men' focused more on living achievements with a truly notable deflection of glory - calling that a refreshing recovery read would be an understatement.
In a section on William Wilberforce, the British equivalent of George Washington to some degree, Metaxas said that "Wilberforce was someone who took the Bible seriously, and as a result of this belief, he literally changed the world." Think about how awesome that statement is.
I instantly began to think about our Campaigner friends and what we pray for them daily - "Lord, do in them what you're doing in us: eyes to see their school and a heart to see it know You." But do we really believe that this is possible? Do we really believe that the mass that is West Brook High School and the Mass of Kelly High School (pun intended) are ever really going to care about this whole Jesus thing? I mean, yeah they are showing up, but do they really care? I know we all can relate to Young Life's founder Jim Rayburn when he says "I can't wait to get to heaven to see if any of this stuff actually works."
New Years often comes with reflections and goals, a sentimental time, no doubt. So let me tug at your heart in this tender moment and remind you of the opportunity of a lifetime, the great adventure, the holy grail, the fight for freedom, the final match between Rocky and that Russian guy, Maverick on his motorcycle as the sun sets over an Air Force Base, etc. .. Actually, Etc. You were made for this dramatic life that has beat you down and spread you thin! You were made to be here, walking to yet another race of a semester, preparing to place your feet against the blocks, and if we're being honest, probably dreading the gun going off. All that anxiety to set the stage for the Hero in us all. The faint memory of why you signed up for this in the first place comes roaring back - that every kid deserves to hear that they are loved. Every kid deserves to hear the Gospel. There is a Hero for every kid and miraculously, you were made for this story.
In John Eldridge's short shot in the arm book, Epic, he writes about this story of yours:
"An Epic. Something hidden in the ancient past.
Something dangerous now unfolding.
Something waiting in the future for us to discover.
Some crucial role for us to play.
Christianity, in it's true form, tells us that there is an Author and that he is good, the essence of all that is good and beautiful and true, for he is the source of all these things, It tells us that he has set our hearts' longings within us, for he has made us to live in an Epic. It warns that the truth is always in danger of being twisted and corrupted and stolen from us because there is a Villain in the story who hates our hearts and wants to destroy us. It calls us up into a story that is truer and deeper than any other, and assures us that there we will find the meaning of our lives.
What if all the great stories that have ever moved you to joy or tears -- what if they are telling you something about the true story into which you were born, the Epic into which you have been cast?"
I reckon John 10:10 would have served just fine.. but isn't Eldridge's style fun?
The thief comes to kill steal and destroy, but I come so that you may have life and life to the fullest.
For both schools, Campaigners will look different this semester as we strive to communicate the grander story of these kid's lives. West Brook will be meeting together every week and splitting half way through to discuss in more focused groups. Pippins has some great ideas with Kelly that ultimately will result in the same style as West Brook.
We have an opportunity to share our lives with these kids. They're going through some pretty dramatic stuff, and frankly, they wouldn't have it any other way. They are longing for the dramatic - A place to call home, a leader, a hero, to grab them by their hand and take them on the adventure of their life. Are you up for the call? A semester of opportunities are under the metaphorical tree ready to be opened. And don't just take it from me, believe Doc when I write, a present is opened to be enjoyed!
"Wilberforce was someone who took the Bible seriously, and as a result of this belief, he literally changed the world." Let's go!
As we all know, a boring faith isn't something we are immune to. To place a cherry on this email by using a buzz word - we need community. We can't force this and I don't intend to so I ask you to please read this last part carefully. For all leaders, we are introducing a night called "Leadership" on every Friday night from 6-9 with dinner provided. It is 100% optional and Brenna & I will be hosting every night we are available. Nights we're not available will be moved to another leader's house. Each team will agree the month before on which Friday night will be mandatory for a team meeting. This way, you can pencil in every Friday night as an opportunity to be with other believers in a fun and encouraging way. And since it's already on the calendar as a "taken" night, leader meetings will simply fall in line. This will start the February 2 and you're welcome to invite friends outside of our leadership team. This is to build community, not place it in a box.
Lastly, do you want to write? 'younglifesetx.com' is technically our area's blog and I would love to see more writing take place. An open letter like this is something that I thought would be fun to kick it off, but please feel free to let me know if you have a desire to write about some topics worth sharing such as "Mark's take on the Gospel", "Leviticus Today", or of course "Best Burger Joints in Beaumont".
“Glory Be!” Said the Cabby. “I’d a’been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.” (C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew) You guys continue to change my life for the better.