Thursday, September 11, 2014

Culture Shift

Well the partners of First Assembly voted to move ahead with the Student Center project! We had a fantastic discussion as we sorted through questions, musings, concerns, dreams, fears... There is a clear need before us to more effectively and intentionally reach the youth culture of our community. And the vision seems to be clear to our church as well - people's hearts appear to be aligned with what God showed me out in the backyard last fall. There are still a lot of unknowns to be discovered. There will certainly be more discussions needed with the right people around the table to ensure we move forward with wisdom and supernatural guidance. But I AM READY! Let's get out of this boat!

One of the things that God has been slowly teaching me is that we need a culture shift to take place in the youth of this area. Before that can happen, the shift must first take place in our youth ministry. My good friend and mentor, Terry Parkman explained an observation he had about the way God effects long term change. He laid it out like this...

Vision --- Systems --- Behavior --- Culture --- Movement

It's a progression that is bookended by God - meaning both vision and movement only happen by God's hand. We can't manipulate or manufacture those things. God gives vision - and then we need to act. That's where the systems begin. It may sound like a corporate term and how could that fit into a spiritual environment? But every environment operates via systems. The human body is a miraculous combination of systems that function together to keep us alive. God loves systems! The systems lead to certain behavior, and after time that behavior becomes the culture of that group or organization. Makes a lot of sense right?

I believe God used Terry to teach me this principle because He was preparing me to make some changes in our culture. The vision came! And it's big and will require supernatural provision. So please pray for us. We have changed systems and developed some new ones because we know that a culture shift needs to happen. We will start by focusing on the internal culture of our student ministry. I don't know exactly what it looks like but we are on our way!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Trust Without Borders

For me, 2013 will be remembered as a year of venturing into deeper water. I have learned so much from our Good Teacher, the Holy Spirit this year. I'm sure you have heard someone somewhere say that we go through different cycles in life. I believe that now more than ever. But what I see a little differently now is that it's not just one cycle at a time. We are cycling in various areas of our lives constantly. At any given time, we are in a phase of breaking, listening, healing, learning, seeking, waiting, exaltation, breakthrough, etc. I can be going through another learning phase in my marriage, while being in the middle of a breaking stage in my finances, and simultaneously experiencing a revelation in ministry! 

In the life of a believer, these cycles are directed by God (well, they are for everyone, but believers choose to acknowledge it). We still try to control the cycles...we try to shorten the hard phases and stretch out the ones that involve blessing. But what I have come to understand more clearly is that my responsibility is simply to acknowledge what phase I'm in, and be obedient to what's in front of me. God's job is to direct the cycle - the duration, the intensity, the results. All I have power to do is respond to the Good Teacher as He speaks through whatever phase I'm in. The visual that God gave me to understand this is a surfer. I am fondly recalling the beautiful days living in Hawaii as I write this on a freezing cold day. :) 

Let your imagination follow me here... The power and magnitude of God is obviously represented by the ocean in this illustration. Its depths are unfathomable. Its behavior is mysterious and unpredictable to the human mind. It provides sustenance, beauty, and pleasure to those who experience it. At times, it even produces fear. And the way it swells, ebbs, and flows are like the cycles we go through in life. We have no control over the pattern of the waves. We have no idea when the swells will come. We cannot predict the size of the swell or where it will end up. We simply have a choice. Will I dive in? Will I furiously kick against the current because I can't see land anymore? Will I just stand on shore and watch because I can't swim and there could be sharks for goodness sake? 

I've done all of those things. When God has whispered vision into my heart, I have responded in so many different ways. I

could beat myself up about the times I was wrong or I may have missed it. But even through my mistakes over the years, the Good Teacher has been leading me to the next level. As I look back over my years learning to swim in this incredible ocean, I see how God's plan has been working under the surface, guiding the current, holding back the swell when I wasn't ready. As we head into 2014, He has clearly said "Stop paddling and treading water - it's time to ride the wave." There are cycles for everything. I'm looking right into the moment of opportunity to stand up, take my stance, and allow the power of a God-sized vision to propel us forward in reaching people for Christ in a new way. The swell seems massive - way too big for me to survive. The risks are immense. I may wipe out and look like a complete fool. And hey - I'm not alone on the board. What about those that will join me? What if I fail and disappoint them? 

But this is what it comes down to...I've wanted to surf all my life (I even drew pictures of it as a child - born and raised in the Dakotas)! The strength training and conditioning has been done. The swell is undeniable, even though the timing is mysterious to me. I am all in. I am stepping out. So what this means for me specifically is that I step out and ask our church to come together to provide a brand new facility to allow greater ministry to students in Yankton and the surrounding area. I don't know where it leads or how it really happens, but I sense the swell is coming and I want to be ready to ride the wave. Vision isn't about seeing the's trusting the One who causes the swells to heave, and taking action when He says "GO!" 

Be obedient to the thing that's right in front of us. God will direct the rest. Are you all in?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My1shirt Campaign

On November 24th, 21 students and leaders from Journey SM joined with many others in South Dakota to wear one t-shirt for thirty days. It was the last day of SD Youth Convention... I had introduced the idea during a youth service, so we had a bunch of students that were already raring to go. But during that service, DYD Mark Zweifel shared the vision behind My1shirt - and when he finished... we were so PUMPED to be a part of something way bigger than ourselves.

We never would have imagined the impact it would have in Yankton. A couple days before youth convention, I saw a post on Facebook from my friend, Rob. He works for our local newspaper, and that sparked the idea to call the paper to see if they might be interested in doing a story on our students! When I called the newsroom, they were immediately interested in the idea. So when we got home from youth convention, the reporter met us at the church to take a group picture. I was so excited to see that they put the story on the front page! We started to get comments from people in the community and it immediately increased our visibility. The day after it was published, I got a call from ABC 9 News in Sioux City! They saw the article and wanted to do a news piece on it the next day! I love it when God uses His influence to maximize His glory through our lives. The students did such a great job with their interviews. And even though there were a couple of minor details that were skewed, both press opportunities turned out really well! All credit goes to God - now it's our responsibility to use the momentum to maximize this opportunity for Speed The Light.

It's a minor inconvenience to wear the same thing for thirty days... But it has caused a significant shift in the worldview of our students. They have a new awareness for how others live across the globe, and now they're sharing that awareness with others. We are so grateful for those that have supported Speed The Light through my1shirt. Teachers, students, and even a sweet elderly lady that called from an assisted living center in town. May God multiply their investment to further the message of Christ around the world.

If you haven't heard...My1shirt started with a teenager in Minnesota. Here's Courtney's story (copied from - visit the website for more info):
Courtney Olson was a junior in high school when, at the beginning of 2010, she sensed God speaking to her about setting a Speed the Light (STL) goal of $10,000. She had no idea how she was going to raise the money, so she prayerfully brainstormed about creative ways to reach her goal. The one-month t-shirt concept was born. Courtney decided to have a special STL t-shirt made and wear it for one month straight. Thirty of her friends joined her effort. They collected donations daily or asked for one donation for the entire thirty-day period. In 2010, she raised $3,000.
Though she did not reach $10,000, she decided to go for the same amount in 2011. However, she implemented some changes to her strategy. She asked her youth leaders if there was a STL project that was associated with ministry to those involved in human trafficking. The team chose to focus on Project Rescue, a ministry to women and children in sexual slavery that focuses on providing physical, emotional, and spiritual rescue, as well as, holistic restoration. STL provides vehicles used by Project Rescue.
Courtney recruited 178 friends (both high school and college, saved and unsaved) to participate in wearing a STL t-shirt for a month. Each participant was required to pay $20 for the cost of the shirt, but an anonymous donor committed to pay back the $20 if students raised $100 or more. Before the group even started asking for donations, she had already matched her previous year’s STL total!
Students were divided into smaller groups so Courtney did not have to manage the entire group on her own. They met weekly at Centennial High School and Emmanuel Christian Center in Spring Lake Park, MN, to collect money and engage participants in the heart behind the project. Each student had the opportunity to hear and learn of God’s love for people and His desire for the lost to return to Him. At one of the meetings Courtney even presented the Gospel story, knowing that not all of the participants had made decisions to follow Christ.
Through her efforts many students came to know the love of God, and $16,957 was raised for STL in just one month. Even more incredible, because of her heart and passion for missions, in two years (but technically two months) she raised almost $20,000! Courtney is impacting the world and is an encouragement to everyone she meets. When students participate in STL, they too have the opportunity to see God do the miraculous.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer 2013

Summer is already winding down. I definitely have some emotional attachments to summer ministry experiences that are hard to let go of. How do I even begin to explain that?...

We start off with summer camps. Always a major reference point that students go back to over the course of the year. Their lives are affected so deeply and intensely that they are literally different after experiencing it. Yes they may go back and struggle with some of the same issues. But you can't undo what God does. You can't unexperience the incredible power of God's presence. It is imprinted on their minds and hearts, and those moments will replay by the Spirit's prompting just when needed most.

The connection with students in the summer is so unique. A lot of the stresses that they carry most of the year are shrugged off in the summer. Academic pressure, compacted schedules, constant barrage of what everyone else is doing and wearing and... In the summer - relief. Beach days, late night Facebook conversations, campfires and s'mores, concerts, revisiting hilarious cabin memories. Priceless.

El Salvador missions trip. Can I even articulate it... Being displaced in a culture that is beautiful but perplexing, surrounded by a language that leaves you lost and humbled, falling in love with people that are strangers, and seeing God supercede all of that through prayer and hugs and tears. It's a privilege that no Christian should ever miss out on. Its impact is varied from person to person, but it's undeniable. And the transformation is both instantaneous and residual. Again, the Spirit will prompt recollections of certain moments weeks and months later to rekindle that desire to be a world changer. There's no way to measure that kind of impact.

So I don't know that I can say I am ready or excited for the school year to start quite yet. Even though the structure brings that valued above bursts of amazement? Even though the commonality brings some that valued above the solitude of time on a mountain with God?

I guess it all goes back to balance. It always does. We can't live on the mountain top or in a new foreign mission field. After all, if you stayed, then it would become your new normal. So we are thankful for the incredible moments that God provided, and we pray that the ways it changed us will be evident to everyone around us. We pray that those moments will have eternal impact on us and on others we influence.

So here we go Journey Students! We are contenders for the faith! We serve the Ultimate Fighting Champion who has trained us for this very moment. We don't know what opponents we will face each day, but we know they will be there. And we have been trained for this. The fight is part of our destiny! The training, the victories, and the knock downs are all part of the Journey. I have a lot of treasures from this summer - and I know that they will serve as fuel for what is ahead of us. Are you ready, world changers?

I Timothy 6:11-12 (NIV)  But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


So we are going to host our first ever Rock-a-thon in Journey Student Ministries. The money we raise will go to Speed The Light. I did a rock-a-thon in youth group like a zillion years ago and it was a blast. What a fun way to raise money to help carry the message of Jesus around the world!!

Students are excited - now I'm praying that translates to them raising pledges to rock. GO SPEED THE LIGHT!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Last day of ministry :(

Tuesday was our last day of ministry. In six days, we did 24 programs in different neighborhoods around the city of San Salvador. Our national team leader, Wendy, said that set a new record for all the teams she has ever led. I am so impressed by our team. They danced and acted in every program like it was their first one of the day. The energy was always high and the smiles were constant. Regardless of whether we were at a school with 200 students or on the street with 25 kids, we gave our very best.  Going to high schools is definitely the most intimidating. Just like in the US, they don't wanna be vulnerable in front of their whole school, so they rarely respond to the salvation invitation. But we quickly learned that if you look around at their faces, you will always find students in tears...and they are so ready to have you pray for them. Once we approach them, they immediately soften and let us pray. I had the privilege of helping to lead several teens to the Lord with the help of our incredible translator, Katie. She is a missionary associate through the Assemblies of God and a huge help to our team! She has taught me so much about this beautiful country.  Students were able to pray for kids of all ages to believe for healing and problems at home. They got more bold as the week went on and began to speak into the lives of people on their own. It was incredible to see the response of people as they sensed the presence of God through us. We don't know the outcome of many of those we met, but we know the God of the Harvest knows each name. He knows Noemi and Leo and Samuel and Karen...He knows just what they need and where they are. I am writing down names of people I have ministered to and will continue to pray for them when I leave here.  I'm trying to ask God how I will ever be able to share the things that have happened here. There's so much to tell and words often fall short in explaining the experiences. So I will be in prayer about what and when to share, and I will have stories for the next several months. It is proven yet again that traveling overseas to share the Gospel is a life-changing experience for everyone involved. I am so grateful for those who helped me raise the funds to come on this trip. I am so thankful to God for all He has done. We are not quite finished yet, but my heart is truly full to overflowing. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Halfway Through...

Well we are just past the halfway point. I have to admit I feel sad thinking about it being over in a few days - although I miss my family like crazy. I wish I could bring all of you here to experience this.  We headed to the Dream Center in San Salvador this morning for church. What an AWESOME time together with the familia de Dios! We sang the worship songs in English while they sang in Spanish - and we all worshipped as family together. The presence of God was just like home, even though we were sitting on metal chairs under a giant tent in crazy heat with a few hundred people. They were having "Big Day" - which they have once a month - a different ministry does the whole service. Today was the youth ministry's turn. It was so great!! They had a pirate theme (pics on Facebook). It included a dance, skits, and several testimonies from students. It was powerful. The youth pastor preached a short message as well. Pastor Jacob was American! So he would interpret for us while he preached. It was such a blessing to be there with them. I couldn't understand everything they were saying, but they still felt like family!! God is so amazing... I feel like words are so inadequate to describe what God is doing here. So far, we have done 15 programs in various areas. We have prayed with over 100 children and youth to receive salvation!! We have prayed with many others for healing, comfort, provision, and deliverance. It absolutely blows my mind. And what is so exciting is that the local national churches are with us at every program so they know who to follow up with and begin to disciple. They call this form of ministry "spectacle evangelism". :) A bunch of Americans show up in a neighborhood with clowns, dances, skits and candy to talk about Jesus. I'd say that's a spectacle!! We draw them in with curiosity and the nationals preach the gospel. It's incredible!  The students are giving 100% at every program - even when we're dripping with perspiration and sometimes super crowded. We know that the results of what we're doing here will be fully revealed in eternity. But we can already see the influence of Christ coming through our songs and conversations. We are led by a wonderful team of nationals, whom I am getting very attached to. They are our voice to the people when we can't communicate effectively, and they are filled with a passion for the lost that is so inspiring. King's Castle's mission for this year is to present the gospel to every single child in El Salvador at least once. They work tirelessly toward that purpose. Their vision is clear and everyone here is passionate about it.  It makes me ask myself some questions that I would also ask you to consider... Do you understand what our vision is? Is your life driven by God's purpose or by your plans? Do you think about the eternity of those around you? What is your role in furthering God's Kingdom? If you are a follower of Jesus, you have a role! We are all a part of the body and if we don't do our part, it puts strain on the other parts of the body. They have to try to overcompensate and are never as effective that way.  This trip has been a powerful reminder for me about the importance of eternal priorities. There are things in life that may be important but are not eternal. But everything eternal should be the highest priority. Thank You Heavenly Father for reminding me and for allowing me to be here.