Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Not A Robot, But A Ghost

So, the Youth Room progress is booming. I haven't been to the office in about a week and a half, so when I walked into what will be the Rock Gym this morning and looked to the section where the Youth Room will be, I was amazed to see what looks like an actual Youth Room. At least, it looked like the skeleton of a youth room. But either way, it looks like it will be exactly what we want!

If you look carefully, you can see a Kenyan man having a nap.

This place is going to be sweet! But it will take some more work. That dank looking cubby hole underneath the balcony will eventually be our youth office, tucked back in the wall to right where you cannot see. Still underneath that balcony and not tucked into the wall, but opposite of the office, will be a pretty chill hangout area where I will probably spend a fare amount of my office time. We may or may not get a dart board. I haven't brought it up with the others yet, but I have high hopes.
The Balcony will be the obligatory pingpong/foosball section of the youth room. I'm not sure how we are going to get those most essential youth room items, but the Lord will provide.
Those groovy lookin' steps you see are the way up to the Balcony and the way to the Student Seating Area, which brings me to my next portion of the room to point out.
Those bench looking steps, which are, in fact, made to be both a bench and a step (more the former than the latter, but we all know people will walk up and down them), will be our Student Seating Area for when we have a talk or a skit.

We're all really excited as the it get's closer and closer to reaching completion, but we have met some road blocks along the way. A lot of the necessary accoutrements (i.e. paint, carpeting, lights, sound system, etc. ...) are beginning to add up to be more expensive than we initially anticipated.
I don't want to say that this is hindering our ministry, but it's kind of hindering our ministry. We expected to have this room ready to use by last October, but with all the legal hoops that we had to jump through and all the monetary issues we are currently running into, we have been set back to it being finished in the month of...? We finally got through all the legal stuff and now are held back simply from the financial side of things.
Now let me explain myself when I said it is hindering our ministry to not be able to use this space. I am not saying that God cannot work through other means. What I am saying is that God has given our team a vision for our ministry here, which includes in a major way the youth room, and we really want to see that vision come to fruition. Furthermore, meeting in one person's house, although great for the kid whose house we are meeting at, is not great for everyone else. Our offices are in the middle of Diamond Plaza, which is a pretty good, central location for students to gather. Also, it's not someone's home, so there won't be the awkward feeling of "I don't even know the people whose house it is, so I'm not going." All that to say that we feel it will greatly advance our outreach opportunities.

For those of you who got lost as I was describing how and where our Youth Room will be set up, I have edited the above photo to give you an idea of what I was writing about. The edited picture is as follows:

For those of you who were wondering what my post had to do with robots & ghosts, it doesn't. I am currently on an Andrew Bird kick musically and that song is one of my new favorites. Look it up. It's worth your time.

For those of you who like to pray, please keep us in your prayers. We just sat down to map out what this semester's events will look like, and we really could use a consistent meeting place that we can call our own. Oh, yeah! And when you're praying, remember to thank God for the progress he's already granted us. We are very blessed!

Thanks for reading! If you want more to read, visit our blog at Adventure'sCalling!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Nature & Other Gods

       I was ambling along the other day and came upon a decision that ached to be made. Right or left? Throwing caution to the wind and royally spiting Bob Frost, I chose the sidewalk to the left. I was walking to not think, but it didn't help. You've had those days. You know what I mean when I say "overwhelmed with thought." This was a walk to forget. At least, I thought it would be. In fact, it turned out to be even more thought provoking than I anticipated. 
       The road I live off of runs straight past the UN and the US Embassy, both of which demand heavy amounts of traffic. Therefore the road is always being worked on or added to, as well as being driven on and walked on by all those who are on there way from A to B. What I mean to say is, the presence of man is blaringly loud. What provoked me toward what I thought at the time was unwanted thought was the proximity of this human cacophony to the unbridled wilderness that grew a mere stones throw away from it.
       After you get past the houses, roadside shops/shacks, various government or UN buildings, there is a Forest. It's got waterfalls, fields, dirt, and countless trees. And it's smack dab in the middle of Nairobi. My thoughts had been racing back and forth that day between this and that and other things that you don't really need to know. The only times it would pause were when I was thinking of excellent camping trips I had been on that I had experienced peace and contentment. I was (and am) craving to be out in the wild again. There is something about being out there that settles my heart. My thoughts came to this place over and over, probably due to the reading I had done earlier where men were talking about nature in a way that could replace the divine. I began thinking about how some of my best times were in nature, how they weren't that far from the truth, and then I found myself walking toward a Forest that truly is a haven in the midst of all the world's problems. 
       Occasionally, I would catch glimpses of the trees through all the buildings, or I would watch water running under the road trying to get away from the noise of these incessant people. Eventually I took the turn toward the forest that stretched for a 1/4 of a mile toward the Forest. As I walked, men were gradually filtered out of hearing by the trees that became more and more dominant the closer I got to the heart of the Forest. I was already shedding my anxieties and feeling more peaceful. Nature has that way about it. I didn't go far into the Forest before I realized that the sun was setting and I was 40 min away from home. I was hungry. I went home.
       The next day I read Psalm 74. This one's not a David psalm. This one was written and sung when God was not the only god in Israel. People all around the poet Asaph were not worshipping God. Worse, they were degrading him and tearing down his sanctuary. Imaging a crazy LumberJack (Is there any other kind?) swinging away at a big ol' tree, and that's the image you're supposed to get from Asaph regarding how people were destroying God's sanctuary. These people are the enemies of God, the followers of lesser gods. Their prayers, their sacrifices were overwhelming Asaph to the point where he had to cry out to God. These people were bowing down to images of gods that they made themselves. Images that they saw in nature, sacrificing to them and praising them for the blessings that they hoped they would bring. And can you blame them? They knew that they weren't in control so they prayed to the stuff around them that looked like it was. They're Pagans, livin' it up Pagan style. What else could they do?
It is interesting that they would worship these gods of nature. Asaph has a better grasp of the situation than they, and states the ridiculousness of the situation by singing various truths about God:

13 It was you who split open the sea by your power; 
   you broke the heads of the monster in the waters. 
14 It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan 
   and gave it as food to the creatures of the desert. 
15 It was you who opened up springs and streams; 
   you dried up the ever-flowing rivers. 
16 The day is yours, and yours also the night; 
   you established the sun and moon. 
17 It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; 
   you made both summer and winter.

       Who on earth are they praying to? Not the right God, that's for sure. God, why aren't you putting them in their place? Don't forget your people, your covenant. Don't ignore their noises, the noises of your enemies; those men revile you.
Asaph doesn't have a full grasp of the situation, though. He gets caught up in their misplaced worship and wants God to destroy them. He asks pleadingly, "Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!"

I took a walk beside a forest and practically worshipped it. Cool your jets, Asaph.

       I'm now sitting in the BlueSky offices, which are in the middle of a predominantly Hindu/Muslim building complex. Everyday, you can hear the Muslim call to prayer coming over the PA system in the wildly busy food court that surrounds the parking lot. On the way into the building, you pass a small temple to some small gods. The people here don't swing axes in their anger toward my God. They go the extra mile and tolerate him. Why destroy what you can degrade through toleration? They go home and sacrifice food to the small idols in their closets, or they roll out their prayer matt and pray to a God with no concept of grace. These people are the enemies of God. And some of them have become our friends.

Why do hold back your right hand, Lord? Why don't you just destroy them? Because you love them. 

       Anyone can fall to worshipping nature & other gods. You've put us here to show them the Truth. You've put us here to let them know that when they call out to whatever higher being they call to, that they're praying to the wrong gods. They yearn for the peace that only God can provide and they mess up when they try to find it. You put us here to help them find it. You've put us in the middle of a laughably non-Christian environment. Seriously, if any of you reading this make it out here, you'll know what I mean. It's the perfect spot to be a Christian.

So go take a walk in creation, think of the God who created it, and please keep praying for us. Make sure it's to the right God.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

What Would You Do?

       Imagine, if you will, a time and place like nothing you have ever experienced before. I know what your thinking. You're thinking, "Bryce, how can I do that? All I ever imagine is based off of previous experiences." And you're absolutely correct. You can't. So, I apologize for putting you through that useless mental exercise and now ask you to attempt something much more manageable.
       Imagine, if you will, a time and place that is similar, but different, to anything you have experienced. In this reasonable, but still exotic place, there is an endless amount of adventure waiting for you to simply stumble out into the wilderness. There are mountains here, with various routes and varying challenges. There are exciting creatures that you never get to see in your home country walking about in the wild. There is a whole realm of possibilities, which before now were not accesible. Now, add people to that time and place that are very different from you, but people that, although different, you would really enjoy getting to know better. There are people who are shorter than you, and people that are taller, too. There are people who have much more wealth than you, and people who are desperately poor. There are people who look similar to you, and people who you never imagined could look that way and still be human. There are people who you can't understand even though they are speaking the same language as you are. There are people who think they are speaking the same language as you are, but don't know that in actuality they are butchering it. There are people who you are getting to know better everyday, but still haven't gotten the feeling that you can have a deep conversation with. You just need a little more time.
       But, alas, this time and place will only last for a short time and you may not ever get to go back. It's not that you don't want to go back, it's just that you won't have the imagination or time to go back later on in life. And even if you did make it back, you would have lost all memory of the people you imagined since the last time you were there. (You might not know this about your imagination, but it has a pretty transient life style if left to its own accord.) It seems like you can't have your cake and eat it too. Too bad... it was a pretty awesome cake...
       Ok, now I want you to stop imagining that place and instead to just know that a lot of what you imagined is a real time and place, and I'm in it. And the place is Nairobi, Kenya. And there really are people who don't always look human.
       The more I'm here, the more I realize that I need more time. For example, I just spent the majority of yesterday with one of the guys in my small group. He comes from a confused background. I found most of this out yesterday. His Mom is a Jain and his Dad is Hindu, and he is not required by either of them to be a specific religion. He attends the Christian school near his house and the closest thing he has to an understanding of what Jesus has done for him is that, since he "became a Christian," he feels guilty when he does bad things. I don't know if he is a genuine heir with Christ, but clearly God is working in him. He comes to the early morning Bible study I have on Friday mornings. He came to the Christmas Eve service with me at the church I attend. He told me he will start coming to church with me more often. I see him almost every day. This kid is practically Screaming for the love of God, I'm just not sure he knows it.
       I don't want to leave. I'm starting to scratch the surface and it's been 7 months.

       I've seen different youth ministries come and go. I've seen different youth pastors come and go. I've seen great ministry happen in an amazingly short time. I've seen great ministry happen over the course of my life. Short term ministry has its time and place. I'm just trying to figure out if this is the place or time for me to think about extending my ministry.
       I'm going to let you in on a secret. I have thought about it. This is what I've come up with:

1) I'm 22. I have time to live in the states later. My parents are supportive of me living here (it means I'm not living with them). Besides friends and family (and citizenship), I don't really have any attachments to the US.
2) I do plan on attending seminary in the near future, so I won't be here forever. But what's to stop me for staying another year?
3) I have a job here. I could find one in the states, but I don't feel as though I'm being called back immediately.

       I'm going to let you in on another secret. That's not the full list. Some of it gets tedious after that point. But I also realize that living here is not merely a pros and cons decision to make. I can't just decide to stay here for my own selfish reasons. I need to follow the will of God. Part of how I know his will is through prayers answered or left unanswered. I've been praying about this. I've been asking other members of the body of Christ. I've talked with my coworkers. Now I want to ask you, who support me through prayer and financially, to consider supporting me further.
       I realize this is not a simple request, so please take time to prayerfully consider how you can support. Some of the people who read this might consider coming to work on staff for the summer. Some might consider joining the full time team (I know that seems crazy, but God could be working at getting you out here). Some of you I ask to consider continuing to support financially, while I ask that others would think about beginning to financially support. But to all of you, I ask that you would pray for the ministry being done here. Pray for the people that God reaches through us, that he would prepare our hearts and theirs as he teaches us to be his instruments and teaches them to hear his call.

       If any of you are interested in further participating or supporting in what is being done here, we recently have revamped our name and logo and tried to bring a bit more unity to the trifecta of ministry. Our new website is www.blueskyglobal.org. There is a plethora of information about Summer Camp if you are interested in that, and the general goings on thereof. There is a way to donate quite easily online if you feel that is where you can best support. There are numerous pictures of what goes on here (some are a bit old... but still good). Please check it out. Please Pray.